Valentine’s Day

February 23, 2009 at 7:58 pm (Entertainment, Valentines Day) (, , , )


By Eydie Wight

With Affection And Regard.

Sammy and I had Valentine’s Day off! An unheard of phenomenon. And, we had an EVENT planned. Sammy had gotten us tickets to see the “Fab Faux,” a Beatles review band that was coming to the Harrisburg Forum stage on Valentine’s day. Cracker Barrel and the Fab Faux We had plans to go to Cracker Barrel for dinner. I admit it, Sammy is a Cracker Barrel addict. Is it the fried okra? The broiled catfish? The cole slaw? or the chicken and dumplings? Yeah. Usually it’s all of them. Plus he likes the old time music, TV shows, toys, and candies that are always for sale. Sugar Babies, Mallo Cups, Teaberry gum, and maple sugar. And, what’s not to like about the decorations from times past. Old advertisements for Mr. Suds and Caro syrup, Dutch Maid cleanser and Bromo Seltzer.

We slept in very late indeed, exchanged cards and kisses, got each other coffee and did only the bare minimum of house chores (fed the fish, dogs and cats.) I did not (Granny, cover those angel ears of yours) make the bed. I did not wash the dishes, scoop the cat litter, wash, dry or fold any laundry, mindlessly tidy any out of place items or pick lint off the carpet.

Sammy got dressed in (of course) a Beatles t-shirt with a camp shirt worn open over it. The camp shirt had an acoustic guitar printed on it. I wore (no, Big Brother, I did not wear my pajamas, how come you think I never wear anything else? — Brother John here… well… ??? 🙂 ) a black lacy shirt under a beautiful jacket printed all over with butterflies. And a long jeans skirt and my cowboy boots. I love my cowboy boots and I always wear them over my bare feet. No socks. Just supple leather and low heels that make that satisfying boot sound when I walk.

And walk we did. We arrived for the show in plenty of time, soon realizing that city folk must know the parking genii because we circled round and round for blocks. Every open space was handicapped, permit only, reserved for government employees, fire lane, delivery only, or alternate Tuesdays in July. We finally found a space we could squeeze into in the nearest (but not so near) parking garage. Sammy had to let me out before he eased into the space because the scratch-wary Lexus owner two cars down had taken more than his share and thrown everyone else off. We then walked the multiple blocks to the Forum in the cold, in the sleety rain, in the bitter wind, in my cowboy boots with no socks. But, I stuck my hand in Sammy’s hand inside his pocket and we kissed in the middle of the sidewalk. We were middle aged, in love, and about to hear lots of Beatles music on Valentines’s Day. Plenty of warmth for me.

The Forum is a beautiful venue. The ceiling is painted with signs of the Zodiac. Sammy did comment more than once that Miss Virgo had some pretty perky breasts. I thought the Gemini could have used a little more chest hair. Our fellow audience members, mostly, probably, had seen more than their share of the original Beatles in concert. I saw broomstick skirts and brightly colored shirts, bangle bracelets and shoulder length earrings, and lots of .people ready to enjoy themselves. And the band, oh MY they were good. They don’t try to dress or look like the Beatles, but they try to duplicate every nuance of each song exactly as it sounds on the albums. All the harmonies, alarm clock, rooster crows, clapping, muttering, funny sounds and sound effects. The “Tangerine Strings” (violin and cello) played an “Eleanor Rigby” that melted my heart. The “Hogshead Horns” provided a four man horn section that was top notch. I was toe tapping, singing along, smiling ear to ear having a good time. My only two small criticisms were that my legs are a little long for the closely knit Forum seating, and that we had the token “drunk chick” two rows behind us who kept shouting at the top of her lungs “Play Hey Jude. Hey Jude. Heeeeeeyyyyy Jude!!.” Oh, and the husband of the woman sitting beside me kept mistaking my hip for that of his wife and patting it until I would place his hand back on his wife’s hip. Of course he was the token drunk guy yelling “Free Bird! Play Free Bird!”

We kissed our way back to the parking garage after the show was over, snuck a little (more) mead from the bottle that somehow gotten under the car seat, and drove happily home to wood stove and pajamas.

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The Woodsplitter

February 23, 2009 at 6:17 pm (Family, Mead Drinking, Mead Making, Roger, wood, Wood Splitter, Wood Splitting) (, , , , , , , )


By Eydie Wight

So much better then that olde wooden handled axe!

Well, it’s nice to have Brother John back from the throes of learning new Internet languages (do they have a Rosetta stone for that?) and able to post for us again. Let’s see what happened over the last month or so in the continuing adventures of Eydie and Sammy.

Nothing Left But Sticks and Twigs!

We realized about the end of January that the woodshed was nearly empty. What had seemed like a treasure trove of cut and stacked wood back in the fall had now become a puny pile of sticks and twigs and a couple of weeks worth of mouse nested middling sized pieces. I was puzzled, I’m usually pretty good at estimating how much wood will get us through a winter. And that’s with me stoking the stove enough to keep the house comfy and toasty warm even on the coldest of days. I blithely wander throughout the house in shorts even when the wind chill outside is -30 degrees (as it was a couple of weeks ago.) (Brother John here… but… but… I thought you ONLY wore pajamas when home. Perhaps it was just an urban myth?)

Hey Baby! It's COLD out there!!!

Sammy and I discussed the necessity of going over to our neighbors, who generously offered us all the fallen and standing deadwood we want in return for clearing it away. The only problem was that we had had several days of light snow alternating with ice, and we knew that cutting frozen wood with a chainsaw while standing on snow covered, ice coated, treacherous, stone and hole booby trapped ground was not really something we wanted to do.

And then I had the epiphany. Not the one where I realize that the cell phone I’ve been frantically looking for all over the house is the same one I’ve been talking on to my mother for the last hour, but the one where I realized that we have, neatly stacked against the woodshed wall, at least a month’s worth of beautiful huge chunks of cut wood. The only problem is that it was still in big pieces that needed to be split before they could go into the wood stove. That was where the rest of my wood calculations had gone!

Feel the POWER!!!

So, Sammy went into town to the local hardware/rental/landscaping/lumber store (behind the police station) and rented a wood splitter. We had to set the splitter up on the graveled flat part of the driveway, due to the ice and snow we couldn’t pull it up the hill to the woodshed. Neither could we get the farm truck up the hill, even in 4 wheel drive. Which meant someone had to bring that mountain of heavy, unsplit wood to Sammy Mohammad. Since we’re currently empty nesting with Rog trying life in his own apartment, that someone was me. So, I got ready to brave the cold, the ice and snow, and the wood pile. Picture Nancy Sinatra in white go-go boots, then change the boots to white rubber coated snow boots, and you get the picture. (Well, sort of. Put Nancy in red plaid flannel pajamas and an old gray chainsaw-oil stained sweat jacket with a bright orange knitted hat and work gloves layered over gardening gloves, and make her plump, 50ish, and wearing glasses. THEN you get the picture.)

Mead, Comic Relief...

I began schlepping the chunks down the hill to where Sammy was set up. At first I would carry each piece down to the splitter. I did that four or five times until my feet flew our from under me on the icy hill and me and my wood chunk slid down on our backsides. Then I had a scathingly brilliant idea. I loaded seven or eight chunks on the plastic tarp that had been covering the pile. I thought that if I dragged it over to the hill and got it started, that I could sort of sled it down the hill. And I still think it could have worked. (Brother John here… Uh Oh! I don’t think I like the sound of that… 🙂 ) IF I hadn’t accidentally stepped on the tarp, which was even more slippery than the icy ground, and fallen part way on the wood and part way on the ground, causing enough forward momentum to push me ahead of the loaded tarp as it went down the hill. We ended at the bottom with me backwards and my pajama bottoms full of snow. And I got a boo-boo on my elbow. Sammy was, wisely, silent. I don’t think though, that the tears in his eyes were either sorrow at my plight or from the cold. He just had a little sip of mead from the bottle we had stuck in the snow in the back of the farm truck, and kept on splitting.

I went in the house, changed into sweatpants, abandoned the tarp idea and instead would carry each chunk to the top of the hill, toss it down to roll as far as it would, and repeat that until I had a good sized pile at the bottom of the hill. Then I’d carry that pile, piece by piece, over to the splitter. Sammy, by this time, had a huge pile of split wood ready to be stacked under the deck. We have both split our share of wood using an axe (or my favorite, the maul and a wedge) but in four hours time the wood splitter had gone through enough wood to stack an eight foot wide by eight foot tall stack under the deck. I know because I stacked it. Sammy and I high-fived each other, tarped our afternoon’s labor, and went inside to stoke up the wood stove. As Sammy and I sat together on the downstairs couch, basking in a job well done, I heard the unmistakable sound of my woodpile falling over and crashing to the concrete. I took one look out under the deck and stormed upstairs, breaking my New Year’s resolution not to say: @*$^&#*@*$^&*@!!! By the time I got up the next morning Sammy had re-stacked my woodpile, made breakfast, and brought me coffee. Why I love the man.

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Southern Fried Chicken with Pan Gravy

February 18, 2009 at 9:00 am (Pan gravy, Recipes, Southern Fried Chicken) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


By Brother John

Fried Chicken with Pan Gravy

Ask any southern woman the best way to her man’s heart, and she will tell you it’s her crispy Southern Fried Chicken! Today I’m going to walk you through making my version of this all time favorite. We’re going to make Southern Fried Chicken, Mashed Potatoes with Pan Gravy, and a nice veggie side. Yummy! You’ll get the step-by-step right here, and I’ll include a recipe on our sites “Food and Wine Recipes” section to go along with it.

Mixing a dry rub.

For extra flavor, I like to first make a dry rub that I’ll use to directly coat my raw chicken pieces. It gets flavor directly onto the chicken skin, (or if you are eating healthy, directly onto the chicken meat). Just mix up some sea salt, black cracked pepper, garlic powder, and paprika. Apply generously to your fresh chicken pieces.

Mixing a dry rub.

The moisture from your fresh chicken will allow the rub to stay in place with enough remaining moisture to hold onto the first layer of the crispy coating that’s coming up next. Be sure to generously coat both sides of each piece!

The Crispy Coating

Next, we want to prepare the crispy coating that will go onto the chicken. I like to use a combination of flour, sea salt, cracked black pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper (since I always enjoy a touch of heat). You’ll want to mix these ingredients into a bowl large enough to easily dredge your pre-seasoned chicken. I like to double coat my chicken so we’ll use this mixture in two stages. The first stage is done right after applying the dry rub (mentioned above), and the next stage will occur right after soaking your chicken in an egg wash.

Making an Egg Wash.

I like to mix up a simple egg wash to which I add a small amount of hot sauce. But that’s just the way I roll!!! Your chicken will then have a layer of pre-seasoning, and an initial first coating of seasoned flour. With that said, it’s ready to take a dip in the egg wash. Your flour coating should get moistened (become a bit gummy) but should not be allowed to actually wash off the chicken. Do this carefully, and slowly. You’ll need enough moisture to later dredge back through the flour mixture a second time. We (in the cooking trade) call this: “Double Dipping”. It makes for a very crispy/crunchy final product!

Chicken 'Double Dipped' in Flour Mixture.

So, let’s review what we now have. We have a pre-seasoned layer, another layer dredged through our flour mixture, an egg washed layer, and a final layer dredged through our flour mixture one more time. Our pieces are ready to be fried in hot oil. (At this point, you could also deep fry these, which is probably better and faster, but I’m going to want to make pan gravy from the rendered fat and oil).

Chicken Starting To Fry.

As always when working with very hot oil (350°), please be sure to carefully lower your chicken pieces so that you won’t get burned. I use tongs and try to lower each piece by its front, then middle, and then its back. (If any splashing were to occur this way, it would be away from me, not toward me).

Fry Until Golden Brown.

You’re best bet for crispy fried chicken is to let it bask in the hot oil and don’t mess with it!!! I like to fry my chicken in just two passes. Since it takes about 30 to 45 minutes until done, turn your chicken after about half that time. The goal is to have it turn golden brown in the time it takes to be completely cooked (but not overcooked). Practice makes perfect it’s true, but it’s also not that hard to judge if you keep an eye on it from time to time.

Ready To Eat.

When golden brown and crispy lower your heat (medium-low) and carefully remove the chicken pieces from the hot oil. Place pieces onto paper towels to drain off any excess oil, then we’ll let them rest in a warm oven (175°). The pan gravy will happen fairly quickly so our pieces won’t have to rest in the warm oven for long.

The Gritty/Brown/Good Bits.

And now for the pan gravy. This will be a milk based gravy that starts out with all that gritty brown goodness at the bottom and sides of our pan. We need to drain off all but a few tablespoons of oil, (but we need to be very careful not to lose any of the gritty stuff!). Believe me when I tell you, the bits left behind are full of flavor!!! Next we’ll add some flower to make a roux (pronounced “Roo” or “Rue”). A roux is made from equal parts flour and oil. You slowly whisk in your flour until the mixture is thick (think plaster of Paris or cake frosting). It’s important to keep whisking/stirring so that the flour will be evenly cooked by the oil. We want the thickening properties of the flour, but none of that raw flour taste. Eventually the flour will begin to brown. You can stop browning at any point between light golden to mahogany in color but don’t go beyond mahogany. The darker the roux, the more flavor added to the gravy. And don’t have your heat too high! You’ll go from white flour to burnt!

Creamy Pan Gravy.

Once we have our roux paste, we can begin to slowly add cold milk to it. You must always add cold liquid to a heated roux and we’ll do this a little at a time. As we add the milk, we’ll keep whisking/stirring it so it stays creamy and free from lumps. As the roux begins to absorb the milk, it will begin to thin out. At that point you can pour in the rest of your milk but continue to stir! To get best flavor, you should simmer the gravy for about 10 to 20 minutes. That will allow all of the remaining flour to absorb the liquid making it silky smooth.

Creamy Buttery Mashed Potatoes.

And nothing goes better in the world with homemade pan gravy then creamy buttery Mashed Potatoes!!! Now I know that some of you will pour some of the pan gravy onto your crispy southern fried chicken and that’s fine. But me? I’m a purist. I like my southern fried chicken to stay crispy/crunchy on the outside, and tender/moist on the inside. But don’t worry… I always make up for it with extra helpings of mashed potatoes! Yummy! The only thing left to do is to make up a side veggie. I’m partial to french style greenbeans so that’s what I’ll make. And now… it’s eatin’ time!!!

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