Thursday, September 11, 2014

Granddad's Chicken



I like to cook.  I've enjoyed it since the time I stayed home sick from school and made potato soup with my mom.  She let me add the spices.  I added a fist full of garlic powder, more garlic powder than should be palatable.  It was the best soup ever.  I was probably 8 or 9.

My dad didn't care for my pancakes.  To be fair, I was experimenting with the ingredients and would often added too much baking powder.  I really thought pan cakes should be cakes.  Unfortunately the centers would rarely cook before the outsides were totally burned.  He had good reason to dislike them.

Sometime early high school/late middle school the grill became my responsibility.  It was a perfect fit.  Fire and I go way back.  I was very good at steak (back when I actually ate such things regularly).  The best steaks happened when I took a few pieces of the old fence wood piled in the back yard and added them to the side of the coals just before I put the grate on the grill.  They made for a smokiness that I've never been able to duplicate.  I'm sure true grillers are mortified.  I was always one to experiment.

My best dish on the grill is still my best.  I call it "Dad's Chicken" although I'll have to modify that soon to "Granddad's Chicken".  Robin will never get to know my dad, but he will know his grilled chicken.  For those of you playing at home the recipe is simplicity.   Buy chicken thighs with both bones and skin intact.  Melt equal portions of butter, soy sauce, and lemon juice in a sauce pan.  Heat the grill to medium and set it to indirect heat.  On gas, just light the outer burners.  On charcoal split the coals into to piles on either side of the grill.  Place the chicken down the middle of the grate and baste lavishly.  Put the lid on.  Turn and baste the chicken every 10 minutes for about an hour, then move the chicken, skin side down over the coals to crisp up the skin.  You can tell the chicken is cooked when the juices run clear.  Try not to over cook them.

My real transition to cook happened post college.  There were no real opportunities to cook in college, other than helping my friend Joe brew beer.  After college I met Wil, and Wil introduced me to Alton Brown's Good Eats.  Alton has probably made many a guy like me into a cook.  He has the same spirit of food that I do, and he's not afraid to try out crazy meals.

Now I am the primary food preparer the house.  Alice Louise is an awesome cook, but I have taken on the duty.  Generally I cook dinner every night and we eat the leftovers for breakfast and lunch. When a meal or recipe doesn't turn out as I'd hoped, Al is generally kind enough to eat it anyway.  She is a good measure of an experiments success.

I'm kinda righteously proud that we only ever opened two bottles of baby food for Robin, and that was more because we had them rather than any real need for them.  I'm fond of saying that one of the greatest hoaxes ever pulled on the people of the world is convincing us that babies need special food.  Robin eats what we eat and so far is a good eater.  Of course the other shoe of pickiness could drop anytime,  I'm also proud of the snacks I've made for him.  I'll post my recipe for fruit rollups at a later date.

I also like to bake bread.  Hoax number two of the food industry is that baking bread is hard.  It's not. It takes four ingredients.  Flour, water, salt, and yeast.  Try this.  Mix  500g of flour with 350g of water with 10g of yeast and let sit for 20 minutes.  Yeah, I like to weight my ingredients.  After 20 minutes mix in 10g of salt with another 25g of water. (1g ~ 1ml of water) and mix by squishing the dough through your hands.  If you're going to be around all day, turn the dough every 30-60 minutes by grabbing the bottom of the dough and folding it on top of itself.  Turn 1/4 a turn and do it again until you've done it 4 times.  After 4 hours the dough will be puffy and not so sticky.  Pour the dough out onto a baking pan lined with parchment and shape into the type of loaf you want.  Then cover with a moist tea towel and let it rise until your ready to bake it.  If you are not going to be around all day, after you add the salt, put the dough in the fridge.   An hour before you want to bake it, get it out of the fridge and put it on a baking sheet lined with parchment.  Fill a pie pan with water and place it on the bottom of the oven, then set the temp to 425.  The water creates a moist environment in the oven which keeps the crust from setting before the bread has expanded while baking.  Bake the loaf for 40 minutes, rotating 180 deg halfway through the process.  This will reward you with beautiful bread.

I love to cook.  As Alice Louise likes to tell people, it is my current creative outlet.  It's the activity that makes me most feel like I'm contributing to the well-being of the family.  My hope is that as Robin gets old I can interest him the joys of cooking, in the science of food and the artistry.  But mostly I want to instill in him a life long love of eating good healthy food.