Bring Me Four Fried Chickens and a Coke.

January 31, 2012 § 3 Comments

I know, I know. It’s Super Bowl week, and I live in this year’s host city, so I’m supposed to be posting about Bowl party nacho cheese recipes and buffalo wings and how to make a bread bowl in the shape of a football, but you know what? I don’t give a shit about the Super Bowl. What I do give a shit about, is fried chicken. And I am not alone.

Friends and fellow co-workers, Jim Grey and Sherrel Harris, have embarked upon a mighty quest to find the best damn chicken in the state:

Sherrel visited a restaurant in southeastern Indiana that specialized in fried chicken and visited my office the next day extolling the virtues of this restaurant’s peppery chicken coating. He said, “We ought to go down there one day, you and me.” I said, “I hear there’s a tour you can make through southeastern Indiana, eating fried chicken at a bunch of different restaurants.” He said, “We ought to go all over the state eating fried chicken!” I said, “Yeah!” We began to scheme, and the Indiana Fried Chicken Tour was born.

Jim has been documenting their IFCT over at his blog Down the Road, and the latest installment is The Iron Skillet. No, not that Iron Skillet, with the truck drivers and sting of petrol at the nose, but a classy Iron Skillet that’s been putting out the poultry since 1956.

Jim talks about marinades and brines, different kinds of breading like batter and dredging. The dude knows what he’s talking about when it comes to the country fry. And they get off the beaten path, too, as evident by their visit to this fine establishment: Kountry Kitchen.

So if you live in Indiana and harbor a hard-on for the fried chicken, Jim’s IFCT travelogue is a must for you to follow. Hit it.

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What a Crock (Chicken) Pot Pie

January 29, 2012 § 2 Comments

My wife, God bless her, has somehow managed to stay sane over the past 2+ years of our marriage. She deals with my jackassery and poety-moodswings and even rewards me sometimes by cooking me something awesome, like this chicken crock pot pie she made a few weeks ago.

* * *

What a Crock (Chicken) Pot Pie

By: Brittany “The Wife” Newgent

I brought in the mail last week and was excited our magazines had come. Christopher could soon tell me about particles being teleported even farther and dream of ways we could develop human teleportation and put airlines completely out of business. I could soon teach him how to make five pieces of clothing in to twenty different outfits, which would of course mean I needed to go buy five new pieces of clothing.

I handed Christopher Popular Science. He spent maybe five minutes skimming the contents before he picked up Real Simple and proceeded to read every recipe it contained (with a kid in a candy shop smile). I started a grocery list as he was drooling over images of food like they were centerfolds. When I asked what to add to the list he said the following:

What You’ll Need How Much
crimini mushrooms, quartered 8 oz
carrots, cut into 1″ pieces 4
medium onion, chopped 1
flour 1/2 c
fresh thyme 2 sprigs
bay leaf 1 leaf
boneless, skinless chicken breasts 1 1/2 lbs.
salt & fresh cracked pepper to taste
puff pastry or biscuits 1 sheet or tube
frozen peas 1 c
fresh green beans 1 c
water 1/2 c
heavy cream 1/2 c

When he informed me it was a crock pot meal I was eager to try it, as we have 2 crock pots and have used each once since we’ve had the same last name.

Quick tips
1. If you want to throw this in a pot before you leave your home, prep everything the night before, or be prepared to be about 30 minutes late to wherever you’re going.

2. If you are awesome and love the taste of fresh, crisp green beans, use fresh rather than frozen. However, the green beans go in the pot for a short amount of time toward the end of the process along with the peas and cream. I chose to cut fresh green beans into 1-inch pieces and put them in the freezer while the rest of the ingredients cooked.

3. Add your favorite herbs and spices (such as rosemary and garlic) to give this dish a bit more of a kick. (Ed. note: we did think the recipe as prepared to Real Simple standards was a bit bland, and suggest giving this dish a rightful kick to the face with a spice boot.)

What You’ll Do
1. In a 4-6 quart slow cooker, mix together the mushrooms, carrots, onion, flour, thyme, bay leaf, and 1/2 cup water. Place the chicken boobs on top and season with salt and pepper.

2. Cover and cook until the vegetables look like a delicious mush and the chicken easily breaks apart. I set the cooker on low for about 7 hours. If you can’t wait all day, set it on high and cook for about 4 hours.

3. About 30 minutes before you plan to put this in your face, begin to make the biscuits or pastries.

4. Once the chicken is tender (about 10 minutes before you put this in your face) break the chicken into small pieces with a fork. Add the peas, green beans, and cream, and mix it well. Add more salt and pepper if desired. Cover and let cook for about 10 minutes.

5. Place the chicken and mush in/on your favorite dish (it deserves at least that) along with as many biscuits as you damn well please.

6. Put it in your face!

I Have a Book Coming Out | The Fullness of Everything

January 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

Not a cookbook, as you might expect from a dude with a food blog, but like a book-book. Or, part of a book-book.

This Book Has Teeth, the Better to Eat You With

The Fullness of Everything is a gathering of chapbooks by Tyler Gobble, Brian Oliu, and myself. I couldn’t be more excited to share a binding with these dudes. Tyler is an ecstatically good poet, Brian single-handedly made me believe in what lyric essays could be, and on top of all that, it’s being released on Roxane Gay’s Tiny Hardcore Press.

If you just want to take my word for it, the book is available now for pre-order and will be released in April 2012. (If you’re thinking about getting it, please pre-order. Publishers love pre-orders, and they especially love authors who can generate the pre-orders!)

But if you need more, here is all that back cover promo copy stuff:

In Christopher Newgent’s The Fullness of Everything, characters move about lives startled by the uncertainties of loss. A woman recognizes her own falling after witnessing a suicide jumper flash by her office window; a man afraid to rekindle a fiery alcoholism lives only on soups and vegetables; the sound of snow falling becomes the small feet of miscarried children. In these 12 elegant fictions, the most trivial things come to mean everything and nothing in light of the one certainty we all take for granted.

Tyler Gobble’s collection of poems, Goodness Is a Fine Thing to Chase, shouts amongst the whispers, striving to become the hollering itself. A baby burns in a meth lab explosion and we’re begged to put it out. The pets we hold are making us too comfortable and do we even know how we plan to deal with it? These poems reach out and want to talk, but no, they won’t calm down first.

Come See For Yourself is a series of stories about each county of Brian Oliu’s home state of New Jersey. Each piece tries to encompass the strangeness of the Garden State by retelling the stories of both the author and those who call New Jersey home. From the Jersey Shore to the Delaware Water Gap to the Ironbound to the Pine Barrens, the odd landscapes provide a backdrop for Oliu’s quest to pinpoint what makes a place that can be so foreign feel like home.

Scullery Skills: Dicing an Onion

January 26, 2012 § 4 Comments

First off, if you’re into reading and words and all that stuff, my poem “The Book of Ecclesiastes” was published at Punchnel’s Online Magazine yesterday. Check it out if you’d like. If you don’t believe in reading and you’re just here for the food, read on.

So far, 4 of the 5 recipes I’ve posted here require you to dice an onion. It’s a pretty necessary skill, and to be honest, most people have no idea how to do it right. Yes. There is a right way to dice an onion, and I’m about to show you it.

I went a vast majority of my life not knowing how to dice an onion the right way, to get consistently sized chunks of onion without taking forever, turning each cross cut on it’s side and doing some rainbow dance with the knife, all the while crying like a bitch and trying not to snot on everything. (By the way, if you want to know why onions do this, I’ll include some sciencey shit after the jump.)

Before we embark on this journey of learning together, I should tell you having a set of good, sharp knives is perhaps the single most important thing to have in your kitchen, tied only by a good set of pots & pans. For slicing vegetables, I swear by the Kyocera ceramic knife that appears in these pictures. I also have a solid set of JA Henckels Classic knives that have never let me down.

Now. Time for some onion knife-fu.

Dicing an Onion

Pro tip: put a damp paper towel under your cutting board to prevent slipping, and after you're done cutting, you can use it to wipe down the counter top.

1) Slice the ass end (not the root end) off your onion.

2) Cut the onion in half through the root end (if we're extending the previous "ass end" metaphor, you can imagine this as cleaving through the onion's dumb head).

3) Cut vertical slits in the onion, about 1/4" apart, depending on how small you want your pieces. DO NOT CUT THROUGH THE ROOT. If you do, the whole thing falls apart, quite literally. Also, note how my fingertips are tucked back from the knife, using my knuckles to guide it. This is important if you like your fingertips.

4) Holding the sides of the onion, make 1-3 horizontal slits in the onion, again depending on how small you want your pieces. Again, don't cut the root. Never, ever cut the root.

Here is a picture of my saggy ass while cutting onions. Thank you to my wife, Britt, for taking these action shots for me, and this picture of my ass.

5) Cut vertically across the onion. Again, note the fingertips tucked back from the knife.

6) For a little added flair, turn the knife on its side and use it to scoop the diced onion pieces up and deposit them in whatever bowl/pan/pot they go into.

And Bob’s your uncle.
Click here for some sciencey shit about onions.

Bruschetta, or Let’s Face It, Italian Chips and Salsa

January 23, 2012 § 4 Comments

All right. Let’s clear this shit up once and for all. The way you pronounce bruschetta is “broo-SKET-ta,” not “broo-SHET-ta.” If you want to get really Old Country on people’s asses, you can roll that R in the first syllable, but that’s where I disown you as a friend. (Unless you’re actually from the Old Country, then you can roll whatever R’s you want. You can also come over to my house and cook any time. Because all Italians are good cooks. Obviously.)

It’s simple Italian phonetics, folks. If you see a “ch” followed by an i or an e, it’s pronounced with a hard C sound, like a K.

But let’s be honest here, it’s tomatoes, onions, garlic, and some seasonings, which is essentially a simple salsa. And since everyone can actually pronounce salsa, we’re just going to call this one Italian Chips and Salsa.

Bruschetta, or Italian Chips and Salsa

What You’ll Need How Much
roma tomatoes, diced 2-3 lbs.
red onion, diced 1/2 c
garlic, minced 1 T
balsamic vinegar 1 T
fresh basil, chopped 1/4 c
fresh grated Parmesan 1/4 c
salt & fresh cracked pepper to taste
French baguette 1 baguette
extra virgin olive oil to coat

What You’ll Do

1) Seriously folks, if you can’t make Italian salsa, then you have bigger problems than I’m qualified to help with. Chop up all your shit (tomatoes, onion, garlic, basil), measure it out (Parmesan, vinegar), put it in a big enough bowl, crack and dash some salt and pepper, stir it all together, taste. Is it good? More salt and/or pepper? Add it. Stir. Repeat until awesome. Simple.

It should look something like this.

NB: The rad thing about bruschetta is it’s easily personalized. It’s all proportions. If you decide you’d like more onion in yours, add more. More garlic, add it. Not a fan of balsalmic, leave it out. You’re eating it; make it yours.

2) Okay, getting the bread perfectly toasted takes some skill. Open your oven door, put a rack on the very top slot, and turn that sucker on broil.

3) Slice the baguette into about 1/4″ thick slices.

3) Brush one side of the bread slices with the olive oil, and I like to season it with salt and pepper.

Pro tip: if you’re making a shit ton of the stuff, pour a thin level of oil into a plate, and dip the bread, but I’m talking thin, or else the bread absorbs way to much and end up more like a crouton.

Thin. See that spot in the middle where it looks like there's no oil? That's where I dip.

4) Slide the baking sheet in the oven, and keep an eye on it. Verily I say unto you, this will only take a minute. The slices in the back will naturally toast quicker than those in the front, so as soon as I see the front slices starting to brown, I give the baking sheet a turnaround for even toastage.

Even toastage is paramount to even tastage.

5) Put these toasties on a plate, spoon on a bit of the bruschetta, and naturally, put that shit in your face. Say Mmmm while you do so.

Should feed 6-8 faces.

Bruschetta

Scullery Skills: Holding Your Liquor (And Thus, Your Food)

January 20, 2012 § 8 Comments

If you like food, drinking responsibly is one of the most important skills to have. Probably more important even than good knife technique. At least you can fake your way through dicing an onion. You can’t fake your way through not vomiting when you’re doubled over a toilet doing your best Exorcist impression. And what’s the point of eating awesome food if you’re just going to get stupid drunk and throw it all up anyway?

Image Credit: Exploding Dog (click the picture to see more work by Sam Brown)

In the last post, I quipped, “everyone knows, no beer before liquor if you’re in for a long night,” which got me wondering if there was truth to this seemingly ubiquitous knowledge. It takes many shapes:

  • Liquor before beer, you’re in the clear; beer before liquor, you’ve never been sicker.
  • Beer before whiskey, always risky. Whiskey before beer, never fear.
  • Beer then wine, you’ll feel fine; wine then beer, you’ll feel queer.
  • Don’t mix the grape and the grain.

A quick Google search reveals what seems to be a limitless number of Answer.com’s and Snopes threads about possible explanations regarding the veracity of this comment, but the general consensus among the more credible sources says it’s a myth. What really matters is just, you know, not being a sloppy drunkard.

This bit from a New York Times article seems credible enough:

Dr. Roshini Rajapaksa, a gastroenterologist at the New York University School of Medicine, What matters most, she said, is the amount of alcohol consumed and whether it is combined with any food, which slows absorption and minimizes sickness.

There is also another explanation for the popular “beer before liquor” claim, said Carlton K. Erickson, director of the Addiction Science Research and Education Center at the University of Texas College of Pharmacy. “Most people do not drink a lot of beer after they’ve had liquor,” he said.

“The pattern, more often, is that people will have beer and then move on to liquor at the end of the night, and so they think it’s the liquor that made them sick,” he continued. “But simply mixing the two really has nothing to do with it.”

So, there you have it. It’s not what you drink, but how much and how quickly. Go forth with this knowledge, all ye lushes, and hold your liquor.

Road Food: Mr. Zubs in Akron, or Big, Big Hearts Beat Big, Big Beats.

January 18, 2012 § 2 Comments

Ostensibly, this post is about Mr. Zubs in Akron, Ohio. This is where Nick Sturm, organizer extraordinaire of the Big Big Mess Reading Series took Tyler Gobble, Layne Ransom, Ashley Ford, and me to stuff our stomachs with sustenance to keep us upright through the amazing evening ahead.

Mr. Zubs is a rad little sandwich shop attached at the hip to The Matinee, where you can enjoy a plethora-board of sandwiches named after various iconic movies like the Dirk Diggler (a foot-long hotdog a la Boogie Nights) or the Rick Deckard (a buffalo chicken sandwich named after the protag of Blade Runner). The menu was put together by someone with an obvious boner for typography, though I have to admit, it was a bit daunting due to the sheer size of the menu and the all-caps text. I love the look of it, but there was some readability sacrificed.

The cool part about its Siamese twin situation with The Matinee is you can get some good brew to wash down your sandwiches, which I didn’t notice until we were on our way out, but it’s okay, because I was on the hunt for bourbon. And everyone knows, no beer before liquor if you’re in for a long night.

Ashley and I both put down the above-mentioned Deckard, which was awash in a spicy good buffalo sauce and the bread was perfect. My only complaint is the chicken wasn’t apt to staying in the bun, so I kept having to stuff pieces of chicken back into the sandwich.

Tyler doubled-down with the Hightower (Police Academy), which was a monstrosity of a sandwich containing an abundance of macaroni & cheese and bacon, stuffed between two pieces of toast. Vegetarian options here are plentiful, too, as Layne and our hosts were primarily vegan/vegetarian, and all of them went away happy, though I didn’t take note of what they were scarfing.

I didn’t get any pictures of the food, because I’m new at this whole food blogging thing. Sue me.

So there it is. Mr. Zubs in Akron, OH. A perfectly sound place to get a good sandwich, beer, and some tater tots in northeastern Ohio. You can stop here if all you care about is the food. If you want to hear about the rest of the weekend’s chicanery, hit the jump.
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