A Tale of Two Chickens

Their names are Bobby and Cissy, after the dancers on the Lawrence Welk show. Cissy is the one with the white patch on her head.

Technically, it’s four chickens–two live ones, and two chicken dishes. But “A Tale of Four Chickens” just doesn’t have the same ring to it, now, does it?

We got new chickens–chicks, really–last week. They are darling. When they cheep they sound like songbirds. They are palm-sized, so small that we don’t have anything to hold them except for a cardboard box.  At night we take them up to the attic (the only place they will be safe from the cats, one of whom has been eyeing them with obvious relish); during the day they get to roam around the backyard and eat bugs. Mmm, bugs.

It’s a little strange eating chicken dishes when we keep chickens as pets–pets with eggy benefits, as my friend Fernanda says–but we all love to eat chicken, especially when it’s coated in panko, fried, and dipped in ranch or blue cheese dressing. So we compartmentalize the meals and the backyard egg machines, and it all seems to work out fine.

We had just gotten a lovely bunch of Thai basil from the CSA (they also had purple basil, lemon basil and–get this–lime basil. Lime basil! What’s next, pomegranate basil? Chipotle basil? Cheddar basil?), so I decided to make some Thai Basil Chicken for the grownups. Of course, the grownups partook of the nuggets, too.

That place mat looks like it belongs in an ice cream parlor, doesn't it?

I make my children’s nuggets from scratch, because I find the packaged, processed ones only slightly less terrifying than the Michelin Man (who, obviously, terrifies me for reasons that I suspect have to do with my father, but that could be pure conjecture). Years ago the kids and I went to a playdate and were served a lunch of microwaved, dinosaur-shaped nuggets. It was all I could do to keep my mouth shut, let me tell you. Yes, homemade nuggets are a lot of work compared to ripping open a plastic bag, but they’re worth it. And I usually make a large batch and freeze some.

I mean, it’s not like I make my own hot dogs, for crying out loud.

Anyway, here’s how I make my nuggets:

  1. cut chicken breast into pieces
  2. coat in flour
  3. dip in egg wash–this is my one exception to my ironclad rule to never pair chicken and eggs in the same meal, which is just creepy
  4. coat in panko, which are special Japanese breadcrumbs that make things especially crispy. I don’t know how they do it, but from what I know of the Japanese, I imagine robots are involved
  5. Fry in vegetable oil until golden brown
  6. Enjoy.

I can wrap shit in lettuce just like P.F. Chang (who I suspect is fictional anyway). Where's my restaurant chain?

Thai Basil Chicken

½ pound ground chicken (I made my own, using my Vitamix. Not to brag or anything)
1 shallot or small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
3 T fish sauce
1 T soy sauce
1 T brown or raw sugar
minced Thai chilies*, Sriracha or hot pepper flakes, to taste
1 bunch Thai basil
cooked jasmine rice
large, wrap-like lettuce leaves

Heat coconut or olive oil in a large skillet or (preferably; ask me how I know) wok. Stir fry the onion and garlic until fragrant; add the chicken. Cook, breaking up the chicken into pieces, until the chicken is no longer pink. Add the sauces, sugar and source of hotness and stir-fry for a minute. Add the basil; stir and fry until the basil is wilted.

Serve with rice or in lettuce wraps.

*be careful with those little buggers. I mean it.

Charred Meat and Swiss Chard

This is why I don't grill.

I love to entertain. In my secret Walter Mitty life, I’m a trophy wife with more money than God and a cadre of devoted and adoring friends who spend weekends at our lake home; I spend hours planning and preparing elaborate dinner parties and brunches and picnic lunches to take on the yacht. I make things like “reductions” and “coulis.” My butcher knows me by name. And of course I have a personal trainer and/or liposuctionist to help me fit into sleek Prada cocktail dresses, so I look fabulous while refilling everyone’s Prosecco (it’s the new champagne).

The reality, however, is that most of my entertaining is done in a backyard littered with brightly colored plastic toys, and the menu usually involves some form of processed meat. I do love me some Zweigle’s.

I burned the bread, too!

This weekend’s festivities were pretty impromptu; Long-Suffering Husband was out of town fetching some heirloom furniture from his folks, so I gathered a few good family friends to grill up some dogs and burgers. At the eleventh hour, I stumbled upon this delectable little number over at Sippity Sup: Chard Wrapped Grilled Mozzarella.

Unfortunately, I skimmed the recipe and missed the step in which you blanch the chard leaves, so they were a bitch to fold around the cheese. And I had no kalamatas, but I did have roasted red pepper. The end result was, as is so often the case with my cooking, not so very nice to look at, but pretty darn tasty nonetheless.

We plopped ’em atop the burned bread (or in the case of a gluten-free guest, atop a burned hamburger). They were the hit of the afternoon, not least because they weren’t charred to a cinder like the other foods. I’m excited to make them again, the proper way, and to experiment with other add-ins.

All in all, it was a good time. Much laughter, much shrieking from the children, and when it was all over (to quote an ex-roommate), my feets hurt. Both of them. Still, I’m glad that next time, I can turn the BBQ tongs over to my husband, and go back to swanning around with a bottle of Prosecco in my hand. Who knows, maybe I’ll even act like a trophy wife and share.

Something About the Salmon

Full Disclosure: we love salmon around here. At least, 3/4 of us do. Or 3/4 of us think we do…I remember a day, not too terribly long ago, when Mister Six-Going-On-Seven (aka the New York Times Restaurant Critic) would gobble down salmon like it was going out of style–even without ranch dressing to dip it in. These days, it’s a different story, and one that I will spare you.

After all, if you wanted to read tales of surreal hopelessness, you’d already be curled up with your dog-eared copy of the Kafka Omnibus.

Long-Suffering Husband, Baby Girl and I all still cop to loving salmon. There’s something about it, however, that puts me in an Asian-y mood. One of my all-time favorites is Firecracker Salmon, but we’ve had that a lot, and I get burned out easily. Also, I had recently come across Francis Lam’s Scallion-Ginger Sauce, and although I have to take issue with his assertion that it makes literally anything tasty (sheetrock? that deflated soccer ball in my backyard? Hot Pockets?), I was intrigued. Also, I had something like four or five bunches of scallions in my fridge. Don’t ask.

It made our broiled salmon damn tasty. With the salmon and sauce, I served brown rice (happily, this time I was able to actually identify raw brown rice and, ergo, to cook the correct grain) and some green beans sauteed in sesame oil, seasoned with red pepper flakes and sesame seeds. See what I mean? Asian-y. Emphasis on the -y.

No recipe, folks. You can broil salmon, right? And read? Yes. Of course you can.

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