Perfect Moment Monday is about noticing a perfect moment rather than creating one. Perfect moments can be momentous or ordinary or somewhere in between.
Photo credit: By Visitor7 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
We try to eat pretty healthy around here. (Corned beef not withstanding.) But yesterday I had a hankering for my grandma’s fried chicken.
My grandparents were genetic marvels. My grandfather smoked two packs of cigarettes a day. Their daily meal plan began with bacon and fried eggs, and ended, often, with fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, and corn on the cob. They both lived well into their late eighties.
My grandparents lived above the bookstore they owned and operated, so my grandfather would flip the open sign closed, and head upstairs for his lunch and dinner. Their days were completely run by routine, with no level of spontaneity. My grandmother, a glamorous kind woman, would dress in her everyday attire (usually a beautifully printed dress, with a cocktail pin and earrings, and always, a pretty apron) with full makeup and begin beautifying her lovely home at about 7 AM. She was the tidiest woman I have ever known, and she mopped her floors everyday and washed the windows three times a week. She was constantly dusting, polishing and scrubbing. She made all of her delicious, (if cholesterol-ridden) food from scratch. She also always made a batch of iced tea every morning. She would go downstairs with a pitcher, occasionally, to refill Grandpa’s supply.
I’ve made fried chicken before, but I don’t have my grandmother’s recipe, which totally bums me out. I’m finding as I get older that I am getting more sentimental about food. Proustian, even.
The next best thing I have is The Carefree Cook’s “Fried Chicken with Blue Cheese Dressing”. Darcy is a HUGE aficionado of wings, so the dressing is a big hit with him. I think the title “The Carefree Cook” is somewhat of a misnomer, though. While not Martha-esque, the prep work in most of the recipes makes me feel a bit careworn. However, the food usually tastes fantastic, so there’s that.
I’m not very good at pounding down the chicken breasts with the mallet. If anyone has any tips on how to do that better, that would be great. Is it purely a time issue? Maybe I get impatient and leave them too fat.
My favorite part is dredging the chicken in the buttermilk/tabasco mixture, then the flour/salt. Really messy but satisfying.
Next, the oil prep. Rick Rogers, the Carefree Cook himself, suggests that you heat the vegetable oil hot, and wait for it to shimmer. The shimmer looks a bit like the haze on the asphalt of a desert road in August. Then, he suggests you fry the chicken for 5 minutes on each side.
Yeah, that didn’t work for me, because I suspect the chicken wasn’t flat enough. I ended up cooking them about 10 minutes on each side, then cut into the biggest piece, to make sure there was no pinkness/salmonella. Drained on paper towels, the end product looked like this:
The blue cheese dressing was easily made, the weird thing was that you had to keep it at room temperature while you fried the chicken. It consisted of mayonnaise, Danish blue cheese, garlic and celery seeds so I was a little wary that it would go bad, but it didn’t.
I made mashed potatoes with buttermilk (Joy of Cooking recipe), and a salad with mixed springs greens, pink lady apples, more Danish blue cheese and my mother’s famous vinagrette. If I shared that recipe, my mother would disown me.
I’m terribly sad that my children will never meet these wonderful folk, their great-grandparents. (And that’s what they’d want to be called, folk.) My Grandpa wore bolo ties and western belts, and read Louis L’Amour as well as Hemingway, Faulkner and Bellow. He used to reserve some ginger ales from the soda bottling company down the street when he knew I was coming for a visit, and he called it “pop”. I wasn’t allowed to have soda as a girl, so this was a rare treat. My grandmother was a beautiful person, kind, with an edge of style and reserve: she shyly shared her soap operas with me, and allowed me to sip her iced tea. Such wonderful memories, these are. I hope I am passing the whiff, the osmosis of that experience to my children. Like many things, the scent of old books, the crisp, sweet taste of ginger ale “pop”, the beautiful pearl broach I pinned to my wedding bouquet, these sensory and material experiences bring them back to life, if just for a few transient moments. I felt their presence as I smelled the kitchen air, redolent with frying. It was a perfect moment, filled with the the sweet past. And the promise of future moments where family long gone can return to us, if only fleetingly.