Friday, March 14, 2008

Not so smooth

I learned to cook at a pretty early age. By six, I was able to fix myself an omlet for breakfast, could make brownies, basic stuff. In middle school, I went through a dessert phase where I conjured up all kinds of confections. By high school, I would cook more complicated meals for my family and for potential suitors.

It's all my mom's fault, actually. While everyone else's mom on the street was fixing Hamburger Helper, my mom was making Chicken Country Captain or grilled flank steak with stirfry vegetables. She has never been one to pull a Stouffer's mac and cheese out of the freezer - she would make the homemade 4-cheese variety. We never had junk food in our house - no prepackaged foods, no potato chips, no bagged cookies. Everything was homemade, and I thought that everyone else ate like that at home, too.

I'm not sure exactly when it was that I realized that there were miraculous things like Cheetos and Gino's pizza rolls. All these new foods were like the forbidden fruit, and heaven forbid if my mother caught wind of me ingesting these delicacies because it was sure to incite a riot. Just ask me sometime about my mom's lectures about the horrors of Kraft Parmesan Cheese in the green can (or as we refer to it in our house, shaky cheese).

Anyhow, I love to cook when I have the chance. For a few years, I was an active participant of a private internet bulletin board of women who were fantastic cooks, and we shared a lot of recipes together. And even though I don't have as much time anymore, I still bust out the roasting pan every now and then or whip up something good for dinner. It's my thing. How do you think I roped Joey into marrying me, huh? The second date involved fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, homemade biscuits, and pie. That's how.

On Wednesday, the day that Monkey Man feigned sickness forcing me to leave work early, I decided that I was going to fix a roasted chicken dinner. And throw in an extra chicken to send home with Cat Door for he and The Mrs. to have for dinner. The menu was rosemary and lemon roasted chicken, smashed roasted potatoes, a salad with toasted cashews, Craisins, mandarin oranges, and balsamic vinagrette, and some salted thyme flatbread. Sounds good, right?

Part of my mom's culinary training involved brining chicken before you cook it. You put some salt in a bowl, fill it with water, and soak the chicken in it for a good hour if not longer. Something about pulling the blood out of the meat but it does make the chicken juicier...not to mention I think it's almost psychological but it seems cleaner. Yes, I know I'm weird.

So I brought two 7-pound oven roasters home (probably should've gone smaller because they turned out a tad on the dry side) and prepared two bowls of brining for them. There was a little iciness in the packaging so it wasn't going to hurt anything to soak them for a while.

While all this was going on, I had not only the tile people coming in and out of the house trying to finish up the shower, I had Cat Door bopping around working on some shelving he's putting in our basement. The tile guys are all Italian, and until that day I had met like 5 different workers, none of which showed up on concurrent days. The last day, I had one guy that I'd seen a few guys, the foreman guy, and then a new guy that for ease I'll call Fabio.

Fabio was hot. Seriously, like swarthy Italian Hot Guy. Tall, olive-skinned, some stubble on the face, shoulder-length wavy black hair...mmm. Yummy. His English was actually pretty good, so we chatted a little as he came and went through the kitchen. I was brining the chickens as I was baking the potatoes in the oven...he would stop briefly and take a deep breath as he inhaled the aromas wafting from the oven. "Oh, that smells wonderful!" he smiled.

Oh yeah, baby. Then he came through a different time and peered over my shoulder into the sink where my chickens were brining. "'What are you planning on doing with those beautiful birds?" he purred. I detailed rubbing them with olive oil, rubbing spices into the skin, using some cut-up lemons and rosemary to stuff the cavity...roasting them in a hot oven...his eyes gleamed with approval. "That's something you don't see much, women that know how to cook! Your husband, he is a lucky man."

I was on Cloud Nine, floating around the kitchen when Cat Door came bursting through in his usual gangbusters fashion. He peered over my shoulder into the sink...

"What the HELL is that?" I told him that I was brining some chickens and his eyes grew as big as dinner plates. "I don't know what brining is, but I've never seen a big dead naked chicken before. Not in person. That is gross!"

So smooth and suave, that Cat Door. Jesus.

Must not have been too gross, because he said there were no leftovers.


g-man said...

I'm sure you were batting your eyes and flipping your hair pondering rubbing that olive oil all over.

Love ya!!

Esmerelda said...

brining chicken? just salt?

I've cooked my way into DC's heart. If I can make him juicy chicken...ha ha...HOME RUN!

Builder Mama said...

G-man - Me? Never! And if you believe that, then you don't know me very well. Love ya, mean it!

Es - yes, use heavily salted water. I'm also a big proponent of cooking at lower temps for longer time...this last time I did a Martha Stewart thing where you baked the chicken at 425 for 1.5 hours and it was kinda dry. Still moist, but not as moist as if I'd followed my original instincts. Sigh. And, BTW, I think you already have DC wrapped around your little finger, juicy chicken or no juicy chicken!

Mitzi Green said...

i wish i still had time to cook. i kind of miss it. rather, i wish i still had time to cook, and didn't have a "top-chef" wannabe husband who would stand over me the whole time if i DID have time to cook trying to interject every 15 seconds...

Gretchen said...

Sounds wonderful!