Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Lemon Chicken

Lemon Chicken

My mom sent me an email from for lemon chicken. It looked pretty good.

I basically see cooking as a circus (those of you who have seen the mess I can make in a kitchen will see the sense in this), so I see components of a dish in rings. This dish was a three ring circus. First, I had to get the chicken together, then the dipping sauce, and then the email (which came to my mom via mentioned at the bottom that I could throw some cauliflower in a food processor and then toast it up to serve with the chicken.

So, I start with the first ring. It was a dipping sauce that involved chili garlic paste. I was way too lazy to go find a store that sold that, so I found a recipe for it. I didn't write down what kind of chillies I needed for the recipe, I just wrote on the back of a piece of paper that some asshole had left on the floor (by the trash can) of the computer room at the hotel, "2-3 oz. chillies" and left it at that.

Well I got to the store, and there were all kinds of chillies. I usually shop at a tiny little grocery store across the street, but I needed some stuff that they don't carry so I was at a great big grocery store, and I had basically forgotten how big that place was. There were all kinds of dried chillies to choose from. After getting opposing information from around the country from the people I trust to know about chillies, I was about to give up.

Then a guy and his wife walked up to the chili display and started talking in rapid-fire Spanish. I decided to ask him which chillies are the mildest. I retained enough of my two semesters of Spanish to get out, "Pardone me, necissito chillies pero no me gusta caliente. Por favor?" This was the wrong thing to say. He started in with me in Spanish like we were old amigos from Ecuador with shared fond memories of being weened on pablanos and fried rice. Oh hell no. I stopped him with, "That's all the Spanish I know."

He said, "okay. Okay!" and smiled and handed me a bag of little chillies. "Caliente!" he declared proudly. I said, "Um...gracias. Pero, no me gusta caliente." And I held my stomach and tried to convey to him with pantomime what would happen with caliente. His wife giggled. He took the bag back and handed me a bag of great big chillies. He said something that I told myself was along the lines of, "Ok, nice lady, here are some nice, mild chillies. Have a great day!" but was probably more like "Alright, you bland, unimaginative, gringo, here are your bland-ass chillies. I hope you choke on 'em." Given his wife's ensuing guffaws, I'm sure it was the latter. I digress. Here are the chillies:

I finally did find a jar of the chili garlic paste, over by the soy sauce. Here is what I found:

It was only $1.50 and I figured I could definitely use a back-up.

So I got home and started in making the dip, an ingredient of which was the chili garlic paste. First, I soaked the chillies in boiling water for half an hour:

While that was going on, I went to pummel the chicken. I don't have one of know, the mallet things, so I improvised:

Just trust me, that's a half an inch. Boy, that was fun!

The chillies still had some time left for soaking, so I went on with the second ring of the circus: the caul-rice. This sounded kind of gross to me, because a caul is actually a...well, it's not pleasant, and there's no need to bring it up. Here, it's short for cauliflower-rice, which is basically chopping up some cauliflower in the food processor and then toasting in a wok. And so:


The chillies were done soaking, so I drained the water into a separate bowl and cleaned the chillies. This basically meant taking off the stems, cleaning out the seeds, and rinsing off the chillies. This was boring and seemed to take forever. I'll cut to the chase:

I went from this:

to this:

to this chili/oil/garlic concoction:

So the paste was done. Now I needed to make the rest of the dipping sauce. That was easy, just throw some stuff in a bowl. Don't even have to cook it, just stir it up with a fork.

So, one ring down, one ring nearly finished, and one ring to go.

Instead of dipping the chicken into the bowl of marinade, I poured the marinade into the Ziploc baggie and shook it up. Then I heard a commotion outside and went to go see some drama! It was a false alarm. That extra time with the marinade probably did the chicken good, though. Right?

So I threw the first chicken breast in the pan, set the timer for five minutes, and went to start cleaning up the horrendous mess this meal had created. After a minute or two I went over and started messing with the chicken. I didn't want it to burn, so instead of letting it cook for five minutes on one side and then flipping it like the recipe said, I started flipping it and kept doing that for the next ten minutes, in between washing dishes.

That one seemed done, so I put in the next piece of chicken. As that was cooking, I started to toast the caul-rice. That was pretty boring. So I made a second dipping sauce with the pre-made chili garlic paste. That was a shitload easier, since it was just opening a jar instead of all that soaking and cleaning.

Anyway, the second piece of chicken was starting to look pretty well burnt, so I put it on a plate with some caul-rice.

I took both dipping sauces and tried each of 'em. The one with the home made chili paste was pretty damn bland. I didn't put any of the seeds in there, though, so that explains it. The dipping sauce with the pre-made paste had a lot more kick but the vinegar was way too strong.

The chicken was okay. I guess I don't understand chicken. I can't get it to cook right. My friend Ed said I should poke holes in it with a fork since I'm too cheap to buy one of those things that injects the flavor into the chicken. Maybe I'll try that next time. Or maybe I'll start making the kind of friends who go out and buy that shit for me.

In all, it took an hour and a half to prepare, half an hour to clean up, and it wasn't worth it. It had real potential, but only part of the chicken - the outer part, naturally - tasted like anything. It was good, but it wasn't worth the trouble.

The caul-rice was fucking awful. Maybe I didn't let it toast long enough, because every bite became a mouthful of caul-water. Nasty.
Next time I'll poke holes in the chicken, let it marinate overnight, and use cous-cous instead of caul-rice. Also, the email I got said to serve the dipping sauce on the side, but I think it would have been better on the chicken. I honestly think that in this instant glory world that we've created, there is probably a pre-made marinade for this. I'll keep an eye out for that for the next time. I mean, this didn't even taste like it involved lemons, and the whole point was that it was lemon chicken.

Whatevs. The kitchen is clean now and I'm heading to bed with a heart full of disappointment and a belly full of cous-juice. Whatever horrid dreams may come, I know I've brought them on myself.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Friday's Feast

Name something you would categorize as weird.
My family.

What color was the last piece of food you ate?
Multicolored: Jack's thin crust with pepperoni and sausage.

On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being highest, how much do you enjoy being alone?


Main Course
Fill in the blank: I will _________ vote for ___________ in _______.

try to, the lesser of two evils, November.

Describe your sleeping habits.
I like to sleep with my arm curled up under my pillow, which is why my shoulders are bothering me lately.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Friday's Feast


Name a color you find soothing.

When the sun has just dipped down over the horizon, leaving us to our own devices for the evening, and half the sky is a dark and mysterious blue and the other half is a lighter, more hopeful blue, there's a blue that binds them together. I guess it's closest Crayola name is Royal Blue. But it's more than just royal to me, more than the stuffy pomp and circumstance that that word intones. It's the color I think of when I hear "My Blue Heaven," the color I tried so hard to dye my hair when I was young and easy to please.

Royal, rambunctious, lovely blue. It's where my peace lives.


Using 20 or less words, describe your first driving experience.

Don't remember exactly, but I do remember my mom freaking out when I got the car up to 30 mph.


What material is your favorite item of clothing made out of?

Cotton. The commercials are cheesy but they don't lie.

Main Course

Who is a great singer or musician who, if they were to come to your town for a concert, you would spend the night outside waiting for tickets to see?

Paul Simon and Tom Waits.


What is the most frequent letter of the alphabet in your whole name (first, middle, maiden, last, etc.)?

Erm, with my legal name it's A, but with any of my nicknames it's M.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Friday's (late) Feast

Invent a new flower; give it a name and describe it.

The Megret flower has a thick stem and slighly opaque, blue petals. It's shaped a little like a ukulele.

Name someone whom you think has a wonderful voice.

My friend Kristi has a great singing voice. My friend Heather has a great speaking voice, but both of these women already know that about themselves.

On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being highest, how clean do you keep your car?

1 is the lowest I can go? Because I'm thinking -23.

Main Course
How do you feel about poetry?

Most of it is superfluous. I like Bukowski, though, and I'll never turn down a good limerick.

What was the last person/place/thing you took a picture of?

There's a door to the stairwell of the parking garage at the hospital where I was on Saturday morning that had some, I don't know, graffitti (or maybe it's just peeling paint) that looked like Sloth from "The Goonies." I got home and uploaded the pictures I took, and now it looks to me more like if Sloth and Jabba the Hut had a baby.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Still just a rat in a cage (or, "Why does my comptuer freeze when I Google the candidates?")

I had my computer playing music while I cleaned tonight, playing through all my songs at random. I sat down for my scheduled break of Diet Coke, a single cigarette, and all the Tri Peaks I could fit into that cigarette. (Don't hassle me, I'll quit again when math class is over.)

The line that caught my ear was, "And what do want? I want to change." To me, it sounds like he's singing "I want change." Which suddenly turned this fantastic song from my misspent youth into a political track.

We do want change. But it makes me cringe when I hear people talk about whether they're going to vote for the black guy or the white lady. Even fewer people talk about voting for the white guy, but that's beside the point.

I just got done reading "Assassination Vacation" by Sarah Vowell, which was recommend to me by a good friend whose opinions I respect (though I can't say the same of his puns). The author had gone on a few trips to see places and pieces associated with the three assassinated Presidents who were linked (however loosely) to Lincoln's son, Robert Todd Lincoln. I've had the Presidents - past, present and future - on my mind all week while tearing through this book. So sitting here at two in the morning with a kitchen and a bathroom yet to be scrubbed, I decided to sit down with you a minute and talk about the election.

Yes, we can make history this year. We can elect a woman for president. It's been stirring for years, this idea of a woman running the country. The speculations about what a woman in the White House would mean have run to each end of the spectrum, from "Finally! Someone in charge who can show some compassion and bring a little ladylike dignity to the White House," to "That's all we need! Women are crazy! Especially post-menopausal women!"

We could also make history with the election of a black man. We are two hours past the 40th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, and this weighs heavily on the minds of voters as well. The speculation here is also far-flung from one end ("A man who knows what it's like to be a working man!") to the other ("He's gonna ruin it! I don't want a damn [n-bomb] in the White House! He'll be up there listening to his damn rap, poppin' a cap in a ho and then where will we be?"). I won't even discuss the whole "He's going to turn us into Muslims!" theory, which is beyond absurd for many, many reasons.

Nobody talks about the issues. Nobody talks about what kind of change Obama would bring. Nobody talks about what Hillary's experience can do for this country. Nobody I know even talks about McCain, but that's groupthink at its finest.

Have the politics in America become so redundant and insipid that they no longer factor into the politics of America? Have we become so jaded, so ready and willing to accept failure as our leader, that we can't be bothered with issues?

Well, yes, they have. We have.

All I hear about the candidates lately is that they're trying to woo Super Delegates. They don't care about us, they don't know you or I. None of them. And the way things are going, they never will. I'm furious about my useless vote, irate that nothing I do will matter and these rich, privileged, snot-nosed jerks are going to be in charge of my life - my money, my privacy, my body - for the rest of my irate years. I'm irritated that people only want to vote for a gender or a race, and not a qualified leader.

I guess that's why this old song hits home so hard for me. There's nothing I can do. I want change. But, despite all my rage, I am still just a rat in a cage.