Remain Calm

31 Jul

On my way into work today, I noticed something odd. That I noticed anything at 8am is remarkable. But I digress. What I saw was about a dozen large ants scurrying about the side of the building.

Now, I don’t mean meandering along the ground. No, I mean zigzagging their way up and down the exterior. Vertically. Which made me wonder, do the ants ever realize that they’ve left the ground?

One minute they’re doing their thing searching for food on the sidewalk, and the next they’re making figure eights on the brick wall. They happen to look, I dunno, out or down, and see the ground far below them. Do they panic? I don’t think so. The ones I watched didn’t freeze in their tracks or hesitate. They calmly and unwaveringly kept doing their thing. Not at all like people.

Not at all like me this week. The last of my work deadlines is due today. Once I cross that off my list, I’ve got to switch gears and get ready for tomorrow’s dinner for 8. Back when I organized this get together, I had every intention of presenting a wonderful home cooked meal. But life does come at you fast. And I realized I was scaling the side of a building instead of plodding along firmly on the ground.

So I’m outsourcing. Instead of spiced rub picnic chicken, I’m serving some of the Colonel Harland Sanders’ finest extra crispy take out. And I’ve tapped the bbq expertise of Andy Nelson for some righteous pulled pork. I can pull it together enough to make sides and dessert and still get the house presentable for company.

But if I had the time to spend fussing about in the kitchen a bit longer, here’s what I would have made. I first made this earlier this summer, back when I was tearing around the kitchen. I myself didn’t follow the prep instructions as closely as I should have (lightly tent means just that) and didn’t get crispy, paper thin skin. But even without that, the chicken was moist and flavorful and totally worth running an oven at 450 to 500 degrees in June. Serve cold, at room temp, or gently reheated in the microwave (as SFC likes to do).

Cook’s Illustrated Spice-Rubbed Picnic Chicken

Serves 8

From CI: If you plan to serve the chicken later on the same day that you cook it, refrigerate it immediately after it has cooled, then let it come back to room temperature before serving. On the breast pieces, we use toothpicks to secure the skin, which otherwise shrinks considerably in the oven, leaving the meat exposed and prone to drying out. We think the extra effort is justified, but you can omit this step. This recipe halves easily.

5 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces (breasts, thighs, drumsticks, or a mix with breasts cut into 3 pieces or halved if small), trimmed of excess fat and skin

2 tablespoons kosher salt

3 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 tablespoons sweet paprika

2 teaspoons ground black pepper

1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (instead of cayenne, I used chinese five spice powder)

1. Use sharp knife to make 2 or 3 short slashes in skin of each piece of chicken, taking care not to cut into meat. Combine salt, sugar, and spices in small bowl and mix thoroughly. Coat chicken pieces with spices, gently lifting skin to distribute spice rub underneath but leaving it attached to chicken. Transfer chicken skin side up to wire rack set over rimmed foil-lined baking sheet, lightly tent with foil, and refrigerate 6 to 24 hours.

2. Secure skin of each breast piece with 2 or 3 toothpicks placed near edges of skin.

3. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 425 degrees. Roast chicken until thickest part of smallest piece registers 140 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 15 to 20 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 500 degrees and continue roasting until chicken is browned and crisp and thickest parts of breast pieces register 160 degrees, 5 to 8 minutes longer, removing pieces from oven and transferring to clean wire rack as they finish cooking. Continue to roast thighs and/or drumsticks, if using, until thickest part of meat registers 170 to 175 degrees, about 5 minutes longer. Remove from oven; transfer chicken to rack and let cool completely before refrigerating or serving.

CI Recommends:

SCORE: Scoring the skin (but not the meat) provided outlets for melting fat, yielding more fully rendered, paper-thin skin.

RUB: Applying a salty spice rub both on the skin and beneath it ensured that neither exterior nor interior came out bland.

CHILL OUT: Air-drying the rubbed parts on a rack in the refrigerator overnight gave the flavors time to penetrate while also drying out the skin.

PIN DOWN: Securing the skin with toothpicks just before roasting kept the skin from shrinking up into an unattractive bundle.

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2 Responses to “Remain Calm”

  1. flakyartist 31 July 2008 at 1:35 pm #

    You are delightful, my friend. I’m still “outsourcing” for the big party but this would be nice to make for a small one.

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  1. Pecking Order « Exit 51 - Washington Boulevard - 12 September 2008

    […] September 2008 by pmf1852 The ants are back.  Instead of climbing the walls of the building, they are swarming our trashcan.  There […]

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