In Pakistan anti-American protesters set a Kentucky Fried chicken restaurant on fire. The protesters mistakenly thought they were attacking high-ranking U.S. military official Colonel Sanders.”
– Jimmy Fallon, Comedian
Buenos Aires – We, that is U.S.-type Americans, love our fried chicken. Regardless of what part of the country, it’s almost more the national dish than a hotdog. Almost. So when several folk who’ve attended Casa S dinners suggested a big ole fried chicken dinner, I jumped at it and put it out there on the calendar. We quickly filled up the evening with reservations. And then the calls and e-mails started arriving, all more or less exemplified by “I got so excited about the idea of having fried chicken for dinner that I went ahead and made it myself. Sorry I won’t be coming…” That’s the risk one runs with a dish that’s basically simple home cooking. We ended up with one reservation, our friend Michael, and decided just to scale back the multi-course dinner and just have a family style table with a couple of friends. He brought the fixin’s for mac’ & cheese, he and another friend brought the wines, I went for the fried chicken, green salad, and a pie.
Working backwards, even though we didn’t eat that way and just because I feel like it, the pie was Marion’s Lemon Kiss Pie that I made last year for Labor Day, which is a personal favorite. It think some folk find it almost a touch too intense, but that’s exactly what I like about it. Michael thinks it needs meringue, a substance I’m not fond of, so it’s never going to have that on it when I make it. But maybe a little whipped cream… something to consider I suppose.
I’m having trouble figuring out baking soda baking here. I’m not sure what it is, but every attempt to make a bread that involves baking soda seems to, while not fall completely flat, head that direction. Stuff just doesn’t seem to rise the way I’m used to. I’m not sure if it’s a difference in the flour, or the baking soda itself, but the results aren’t the way I like them. So, I made biscuits for biscuits and gravy, and while the flavor was fine, the texture came out dense, and they just didn’t puff up – we ended up with flat, ½” thick buttermilk biscuits. Something I’m going to have to keep working on to figure out. The chicken spent the afternoon marinating in cream, lemon juice, cinnamon, black pepper, paprika, and salt, and then got floured with a mixture of flour, salt, and cayenne pepper. I first fried it up until it was browned on all sides, then transferred it to a baking pan and stuck it in the oven at medium heat until cooked through – unfortunately, between waiting for one friend who never showed (maybe he was busy making his own fried chicken?) and for the mac’ and cheese to finish cooking, it got a little soggy in its own juices – I need to get racks to fit in those baking pans so things can drip… The gravy a simple roux made from the drippings in the frying pans with more flour until lightly browned, then milk, salt, and a bit of black pepper to taste, simmered until thickened.
Good macaroni and cheese seems simple, but somehow rarely works out. This did. We cooked the pasta, drained it, then mixed it with grated cheddar cheese, butter, milk, and salt. Poured it into a buttered baking pan and topped it with more grated cheddar, paprika, and cayenne pepper. Then tossed it in the oven, covered with foil, to bake and absorb, followed by a few minutes under the broiler to create a nice browned top. That’s about as simple as it gets outside of the famed blue box… and so much better!
Is that… an iceberg lettuce wedge? There goes my street cred on the information super highway. But yes, it’s a wedge of iceberg lettuce, or as it’s called here, lechuga capuchina – which could be translated related to nasturtiums, monkeys, or monks – I have no idea why. It’s also a favorite simple salad – and I’m not the only one who thinks that way – our friends were delighted – and I used to order it regularly from a restaurant in Manhattan called Fressen, where chef and friend Lynn McNeely used to do it pretty much as simply… just with some shavings of parmesan. I decided on a simple homemade ranch-style dressing… ½ cup of mayonnaise, ¼ cup of sour cream, ½ an onion, 1 garlic clove, ¼ teaspoon of dill seed, salt and white pepper to taste, and just enough milk to thin it to the desired consistency – all pureed together.
Wines for the evening – a bottle of 1998 Mer Soleil Barrel Fermented Chardonnay from the California Central Coast brought by our friend Nestor – rich, golden color, lots of baked apple pie flavor, well integrate oak, hints of spices (like any good apple pie), and a long finish, quite good. For the red, Michael brought a bottle of a wine that he’d made back in his winemaker days – 1984 Artisan Wines “Michael’s” Cabernet sauvignon, Summit Vineyards, Napa Valley (the vineyards of which are now Pride Vineyards) – decanted – and initially showing a sort of stewed fruit and spice character, but opening up beautifully after about half an hour to show ripe red fruit, coffee, and leather notes – really quite delightful.