What To Eat Wednesday: Cast Iron Chicken Pieces



Ingredients:
Six Chicken Legs
Can of Black Beans
1/2 Head of Cauliflower

Seasonings:
Vegetable Oil
Red Wine Vinegar
Grated Parmesan Cheese
Salt
Pepper
Lime Juice

Now I don't know how you feel while living a sinless life, but I find that after a while I get a little tired of chicken breasts all the time. It's not that they're not lovely or versatile or wonderfully inexpensive,  it's just that there is a lot of visceral pleasure to be derived from masticating something off a bone; breasts kind of rob you of that pleasure.

This particular recipe comes down in part from my mom's mom and is the best I can do for homage.

What makes this different is in the dressing. Normally I am an apostle for extra virgin olive oil and a syrupy balsamic vinegar, but grandma knew her stuff, and nothing beats a light marinade of Wish Bone Italian Dressing (or whole food approximation) for zipping up some poor fowl's leg.

Okay . . . let's prep.

The Meat:
First things first . . . rid yourself of that pesky (delicious) skin. I know that sounds terrible, and yes, you can go ahead and leave it on if you like, but before you make that decision . . . take off your clothes and look at your naked body in a full length mirror.

I like to make a circular cut around the bottom knob of the chicken bone then pull the skin down from the top making small incisions whenever brute force isn't working. Leaving a little bit of skin at the base does two things. One, the crispy skin when all sizzled and golden gives you a good visual indicator that the meat is done, and two, it adds just the tiniest bit of fat to the pan.

Repeat after me: Fat is flavor.

Put the pieces in a bowl and drizzle around 6 tablespoons of vegetable oil, 3 tables spoons of vinegar, 1 tbsp of grated parmesan, sprinkle salt/pepper, and spritz the amount of lime juice that you would put in a vodka tonic.

Mix with a spoon and refrigerate for an hour or more.

Pro Tip: Don't forget that I am Certified in Food Safety, as well as being a Junior Lone Ranger, so trust me when I say you can't be too careful when it comes to handling any type of chicken.

Make sure you cover the bowl with some kind of plastic wrap, or cover. Make a space for the bowl at the bottom of your fridge so that it's at least a few inches from anything else. Wash everything you used and everything else in the sink with anti bacterial soap. Scrub your hands (especially your fingernails) then . . .  set fire to your counter with a flame thrower. If you don't have a flame thrower, bleach will do.

Okay . . . when you're ready to cook, preheat your oven to 385 and put a little fire under your cast iron pan (I'm using a 10" for this). Add a dash of oil to the surface. Once you can feel the heat coming  off it, start laying out your pieces back and forth, kinda like Charlie's grandparent's sleeping arrangement in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Meaty side down. Let 'Em sizzle for about five minutes on one side, flip them with a good long set of tongs, and then place the whole pan in the middle of the oven.

Immediately wash the bowl, the tongs, your hands, the sink, and your neighbor's car.

Never too careful.

Cook for a half hour to forty five minutes, whichever is longer.

While that's going, and after you've killed 99.99% of all the bacteria, you can start rocking your side-dishes.

For this one I went Black Beans (open the can, put it in a pan, heat it up, good to go.) and Cauliflower (chop up into bitable chunks, steam, don't boil)

The difference between making this a meal . . . and actually masterminding cuisine . . . is that I will add just a little splash of the lime and sprinkle of parmesan to the cauliflower in order to tie the flavors together.

You don't have to be a super-genius to figure that out . . . but trust me, it helps.

Once the chicken is crispy (eye the leg fat), take it out, plate it up, and ring Anita Ward's bell.

Additions/Substitutions:
This works for chicken thighs as well. Same rules. Not however for wings. (Has anyone else noticed how ridiculously expensive chicken wings have gotten? It's like they're a fad or something. Forget about 'em.)

You can also add some dried or fresh parsley to the dressing. The only reason I don't is because my son won't eat something if he sees little green flakes, but if you do do it, make sure you also add a bit to the cauliflower . . . because . . . you know . . . super-genius.

If you start drinking vodka tonics early (cause what else are you gonna do with the rest of the lime?) you can substitute the vodka with gin, but then you have to substitute the tonic with an olive because you know as well as I do . . .  that the dry-vermouth has turned. And now you have a lime problem again.

This recipe also works great on the barbecue (the chicken, not the beans), and if you really wanna fall in love with putting things in your mouth, you should absolutely replace the cauliflower with my grandmother's potato salad (A recipe I will gladly share when we get to summer foods.)

Good Wine Pairing: Wine

Great Wine Pairing: White Wine

Genius Wine Pairing: Oaky Californian Chardonnay

Super Genius Wine Pairing: Beer

Feeds Three(ish)




HTT: How to Professional

I've always been of the opinion that professionalism was relatively simple. Show up on time, showered, reasonably dressed, and if you can manage an entire cup of coffee before-hand, do that too.

Whatever happens next is out of your control.

Mostly.

However, I have found that if you master those basic principles, you're gonna win at life.

Not always, but mostly.

And the same is true if you choose a life on the corporate ladder or if you would prefer to disappoint your parents and become an artist. Any kind of artist, doesn't matter.

(That's a joke of course. I don't know any artists whose parents aren't proud of them, especially my own.)

True Story Though:
I may have purposely derailed my acting career during an audition for MFA Program in San Francisco in the late nineties because the auditionors showed up 45 minutes late. I honestly felt if they couldn't respect me enough show up on time, then they had nothing of value to teach me. Certainly nothing that would be priced at around $90,000. I changed my monologue at the last minute to something that was only a quick paragraph cause I just didn't want to be in that room any longer.

Knowing what I know now hasn't changed my mind a bit.

Not even a little.

They are jackasses and their training is virtually useless.

Prove me wrong.

Yet . . . as I was thinking about that story, I realized that there is a significant problem with my "Show Up On Time" model when applied to making the transition between amateur and professional.

The problem is . . . there is no time, there is no place, you have to personally manufacture them and be emotionally prepared that finding a "needle in a haystack" is a cliche because it is exactly and painfully apt.

The worst part about having to cast a wide net is that there are sharks in the water. Even as savvy as I consider myself, I've been duped once or twice, and nearly duped a hundred times over.

You may know to stay away from things that are "too good to be true"

But it's also important to stay away from things that are "too mediocre to be false"

So for today's "How to Tuesday" I thought it might be apt to share a few personal stories of my own little journey of suffering in that limbo between not having having access to the Big Boys and not being conned by sharks.

How do you find the middle?

You guessed it . . . Professionalism.

And not just any professionalism . . . simple professionalism.

Timing, cleanliness, and caffeine enhanced attention.

True Story Number 2:
I got invited to join a national booking agency. My website had been found, my promo videos watched, an email had been sent. The terms of the shows were predicated on ticket sales, which is the very very low end of what I do, but . . . it's a gig . . . a gig I don't have to chase down . . . and I can can usually make my gas money back in tips.

So I wrote back . . . yes please . . . sign me up.

And I waited.

For three weeks. And then I finally got an email showing me how to sign up and the laundry list of special terms that weren't made available on the previous email. Terms like me being responsible for ticket sales prior to the shows. Which, okay, terrible deal, and very nearly the antithesis of what I do, but hey you know, get the gig, make a feeble attempt, sell an album or two, and at the very least meet some other local artists. Again . . . I've done more for less.

And I waited.

Two weeks later I get an offer to do a local gig. And the terms got worse. Price per ticket? $10 (double what it normally is) My cut per ticket . . . $1 (ridiculous and irresponsible, but since I didn't have any intention of selling tickets aside from a link on my website, I shrugged it off).

The venue was odd too. It was an art gallery, opening flooring, no stage. Good for poetry slams, but clearly not right for a rock show.

And then the final kicker: I would be given a 20 minute time slot.

WTF?

Dude . . . I normally play from 2 to 4 hours per show.

I wouldn't know what the hell to do with only twenty minutes. See . . . this agency broke all three of my professionalism rules. They didn't respond to me in a timely manner, they're tactics were mildly dirty (borderline offensive), and despite having insisted that they had looked over my work, they assuredly were not paying attention.

I declined the show (which is only the second time in two years that I've done that) and haven't heard from them since. Too mediocre to be false, almost got me that time.

Which brings me round to True Story Number Three:

My first book is under review right now. It's a process and not an easy one. Just think about all the things that have to line up in order for my written words to reach print.

First, it's a staggeringly saturated amateur field. Everyone thinks they have a book in them (maybe they do, who am I to judge?), and if even a minuscule percentage of those actually finish one, that makes for somewhere around 100,000 Great American Novels being solicited every year.

Walls . . . have . . . to . . . be . . . built.

Most publishers won't even take submissions. They can't. It would be impossible. More so now that the margins for books in print are so small. Not a fools errand, but certainly one where being humble in the face of it is a virtue.

So I've made it through several hoops now, and to my detriment, I got impatient.

I sent off an email.

Not a nasty one (I'm not stupid), but . . . you know . . . a delicate "How's it going?" kind of nudge.

And to my utter delight . . . I got a response a day later.

"Sorry for the delay, hundreds of submissions to review. You should hear soon."

The full email was super nice, clearly hand written, and the exact sort of thing I didn't expect.

This publisher could have ignored me. Could have even been curt. Could have even lied. But they repaid my impatience with kindness and even though a rejection letter is still most likely coming my way, I feel good about it. These are the kind of people you want to work with.

Timely, well mannered, attentive.

That's how to professional.





Got Grass?

What rhymes with Lawn?

Yawn. Pawn. Dawn. Ron. Con. Fawn.

Yes indeed . . . I could go ON!

But I won't.

Actually, I was looking for something pun-like to say, but I couldn't think of any good lawn puns.

Something about grass, vice presidents, and the Hunchback of Notre Dame, which would eventually end with Lawn Chaney, but I decided that the grass is actually greener on this side of that particular mountain.

Why lawns all of a sudden?

Because of sheer neglect. That's why.

See . . . I've been preoccupied of sorts. Gone are the days where I would make a  conservative list of daily tasks and treat my passions like they where chores, moving one little piece at a time.

Now I sort of just zero in on one thing at a time, ignoring life, limb and of course . . . lawn.

My front lawn to be precise.

I didn't plan on letting the whole thing wither and die (though spiritually I couldn't care less), I assumed, as we all did, that there would be rain, and I could pretty much do what I've always done this time of year, which is nothing.

We'd been talking it over, my wife and I, and had sorta agreed that it could be one of those "We'll get to it when we get to it." Making little strides here and there. A trip to Home Depot. Borrowed seeds. Some YouTube videos on lawn care. Baby steps.

But today, being Monday, and having stored my manual typewriter away until I get a fresh idea, and taking a shower that was as long as one can take without incurring the wrath of god, I decided to pull my green thumb out of my butt-hole and do some yard work.

It's a lot harder than I remember.

That or I've been sitting on my butt for too long.

You take the stairs, I'll take the latter.

But my hands are all red and swollen, my back is tight, and I even think my belly fat is sore.

Not uncomfortable, just angry.

But I raked away the dead and or decaying matter, poking holes as I went, spread the seed and turned the sprinkler on for the first time since September. I've got about five to ten day (so says the packaging) before the grass gets green again and I can return to looking my neighbors in the eye.

A lush, well manicured, deeply green lawn is probably one of the most ecologically disastrous things we could do to the planet, what with the chemicals and the gallons of wasted water, we're practically killing Gaia for curb appeal. But honestly, there's a little Hank Hill in us all, and a straight weed-wacked line is as pretty as my wife in a sundress.

Which is really dang pretty.

Anyway, the point I was making is that it's okay to get to things when you get to them as long as you eventually get to them.

Unless it's a finely crafted pun with Lawn Chaney.

That . . . you can let slide.


Spring Cleaning

It is time once again to take a break from my daily editorials and do a little revamping and finish a few neglected projects (my front lawn being one of them).

Wait . . . Dad? Will return on Monday, March 2nd, 2015.

Have a great week folks. :)

TBT: Say . . . You Wanna Revolution?

Today was the day Benedict Arnold was passed up for a promotion.

That went well.

Not too many years later, it's also the day that Aaron Burr was arrested for treason. Shoot Alexander Hamilton . . . fine, but try to lead an army of Mexicans and start your own country . . . well . . . we're gonna have to call your bluff.

How come history gets so much more awesome as you get older?

This is also the day that Copernicus was born. I know you know the name and you're probably remembering something about him and astronomy and you'd be totally right.

Here's how it all worked out:

65,000 years ago, we all just assumed that the earth was the center of the universe. Not a bad assumption considering there was no cable TV. But then after looking up at the sky for a while, some indigenous peoples noticed that there were a few stars up there that didn't behave like they were supposed to. They didn't make a neat pass around the sky like everyone else.

Then Ptolemy does a bit of math and decided that those rebellious little stars, which we now call planets, had their own little spinning system, like little children who know they should be brushing their teeth but are instead running up and down the hallway making cartoon noises.

We all found this to be a perfectly acceptable explanation for another thousand years.

Then Copernicus comes along, and thinks to himself, gee, Ptolemy was a smart dude, but his math was like totally wrong. In fact, none of this makes sense unless you consider a whole new galaxy model, with the sun as the center.

His math was published just before he died.

Procrastination isn't modern.

However, from him and his heliocentric concepts, the flood gates are now open and the world is just waiting for it to rain.

Galileo gets a hold of it, and with his handy-dandy telescope, fixes the math. (Apparently Copernicus was a huge fan of neat little circles, which don't work either, and someone should remind Megan Trainor that it's actually "All About That Ellipse")

So Galileo gives us the solar system, but that, like Benedict Arnold's failure to climb the corporate ladder, did not go so well either.

Eventually though, Isaac Newton comes along, and in the twilight after a full day of trying to turn his pee into gold, we get a gravitational influenced cosmology.

Newton was a life long Alchemist, which must have been very frustrating. So no transubstantiation, but . . . you know . . . calculus.

Also frustrating.

But for vastly different reasons.

Okay, so we've got two revolutionaries revolting after the Revolution and an Earth spinning around the sun . . . but wait . . . there's more!

Guess what Thomas Alva Edison patented on this day?

Yup.

The Phonograph.

It . . . like Copernicus' neat little circles wasn't perfect. It was actually Alexander Graham Bell that cut the first record. (Alex was to Thomas what Japan is to Detroit).

But the record industry is born.

Which is kinda weird, cause we still call it the Record Industry, but it hasn't made records in a long time.

Yes, I know vinyl is like the coolest thing ever, but I'm actually waiting for the day when a blu-tooth cochlear implant can read the synaptic firings in my frontal lobe and decide which song will produce the most positive emotional effect.

Like . . . if I'm bored, I might get a podcast of This American Life, and if I'm sad, I might get Toni Basil singing "Mickey"

Or . . . you know . . . next year when I'm writing about revolutions I might get a little Dead or Alive . . .

"You spin me right round, baby right round . . . ."

How to Fat Tuesday

There aren't a lot of Tuesday Holidays.

Which is a shame.

Tuesday just doesn't have much celebratory fare. It's kinda of the forgotten middle child of the seven day week. Monday has got it's own comic strip (Garfield), Wednesday is Hump Day (whatever that means) Thursday is named after Thor (and of course Thanksgiving), the rest of the week are essential party days, but Tuesday just isn't all that interesting.

It's a day to vote every few years, and of course, Mardi Gras.

So there's a Super Tuesday and a Fat Tuesday. Starbucks is currently lobbying for a Vente Tuesday.

Mardi Gras, or Carnevale, is a Saturnalian adopted party to usher in the first day of Lent.

Let's go crazy before we have to give something up for forty days.

One last gasp of debauchery before the bishop christens our foreheads with ash.

I won't be partaking in the revelry, sorta, since I'll be performing, but there will be beer and music and happiness. All good things.

But before the five o-clock bell rings, I thought it might be nice to consider the whole "Giving Up" of something before the easter break.

Now . . . I didn't grow up with any formal religious education, so I didn't really learn about Lent until I became almost but not quite Italian. The idea is one of personal sacrifice to honor the gods (plural), or part of the trinity (singular) : )

Originally you were supposed to give up meat (except fish and sometimes poultry) for the entire time. But that makes goat farmers a bit nervous, so it was scaled down until you weren't supposed to eat meat (except fish and sometimes poultry) on Fridays.

That's not much of a sacrifice so a personal twist was added. Now, you should consider something in your life that you may be, ahem, addicted to, that you can drop for just shy of three fortnights.

Taking stock of my own life (not that I am in any conceivable way moral or healthy) I couldn't find anything of visceral value that I am either able or willing to give up.

I mean, I could give up alcohol. Which would be a fantastic thing, but there's an Oscar party on Sunday night that I am not going to miss, nor do I plan to turn down an offer of a glass of wine, so I'd fail miserably after, what . . . like four days.

I could give up mindlessly checking my email. That'd be good. Remove it from all of my mobil devises and stick with checking it once . . . or twice . . . maybe another during lunch . . . and you can see that I've already failed that test.

I could give up flossing.

No, that's a terrible idea.

I could kill my television. But with the season finales of both Justified and The Walking Dead on the near horizon, I feel like I wouldn't be honoring my wife which would be almost but not quite like breaking one of the ten commandments.

The problem here is is that we're supposed to take a long look at our lives and our habits and decide for ourselves what kinds of sacrifices we could make.

Making sacrifices is a good healthy thing, so I'm not gonna knock it.

But what if we flipped the notion?

What if instead of making offerings of sacrifice, what if we made and offering of productivity?

I could spend all day listing the things I need to start doing as opposed to the things I need to stop doing.

What if we spun it so that Fat Tuesday is a celebration more like New Years Eve where we just come to some resolution?

I prefer that idea.

It's more democratic.

But this isn't about Lent . . . its about Fat Tuesday.

So assuming you take my advice and decide to give-up/start-up, here's what you do in the mean time:

First, pick something. Doesn't matter.

Second, tell someone. A priest, your wife, all six of your Twitter followers. Telling someone makes it real, and makes it harder to cheat.

Third, post your progress. Somewhere, anywhere. Go ahead and Facebook it if you need to. I like to keep a running tab on my refrigerator.

Fourth, notice things. Anytime you put a change into your routine, something different is bound to happen. Could be good (loose weight, climb a flight of stairs) Could be bad (cranky, achy, sore). But notice those things. I can't prove that there will be any metaphysical epiphanies, but when you notice things, you start to live 'in the moment' (so to speak) and it's a nice change of pace.

Fifth, cheat. Don't give up . . . just cheat a little. Road bumps are the key dissonance to a positive resolve. Those who cheat, just a little, are actually statistically more likely to continue rocking.

Finally, if you're going to cook pot-roast on a Friday, don't tell your mother-in-law. It's not that she's crazy, it's just that she worries.

Nobody wants to end up in heaven alone.


Freeing Radical

Have you ever had a pet peeve?

That little thing that just nags you when it crosses your path or is whispered on the wind.

Kind of a silly question though . . . isn't it? Of course you have one or two of those. Probably several. Probably many hundreds of those nagging little things, and different ones in different situations.

We can all agree that people who don't use their blinkers while trying to change lanes, or people who write checks at the grocery store are fundamentally hated, so that can't be considered a "Pet" peeve as much as it is a universal hatred for our fellow man.

Nope . . . a pet peeve has to be something almost uniquely personal. It might even be the kind of thing that you keep to yourself in mixed company, heck, it might even be the kind of thing you never express outloud so as to not commit yourself to a fight with the person you're sleeping with.

Anyway, 

I've had this one festering for a couple of years now.

It's the term "Radical Islam"

Not the Thing (that's for better writers to tackle) I mean the Term.

Now I write the words "Radical Islam" and immediately what comes to your mind are images of ragged men in deep black beards, women covered from head to toe, AK47's , sand, and a language which is beautiful when spoken poetically, but terrifying when shouted at the stream of conscience.

. . .  and you'd be wrong.

You're actually thinking of the militant wing of Islamic Fundamentalism.

There's no such thing as Radical Islam and I'll tell you why:

Now by the time I was in high school, the word "Rad" was pretty much out of fashion. That didn't stop me from using it both ironically and unironically.

It, to this day, it is one of my favorite words. In fact, I made a bet with a co-worker that I could bring the word back into the common vernacular simply by replacing epic, awesome, cool, wow, and damn, every chance I could.

My dream hasn't come true, but I won't actually lose that bet until I'm dead AND forgotten.

Rad . . . or Radical . . . isn't a synonym for extreme (though you will find them together in any standard thesaurus), it's actually a term to describe a revolutionary shift away from the common understanding and to reimagine the universe with a new set of rules.

The Declaration of Independence was radical. The General Theory of Relativity was radical. A television network that played nothing but music videos was radical.

In terms of political spectrum, radical is the word used to describe the far, far, far left. It is literally the line between revolutionary and . . . well . . . crazy. As in, it is radical to consider animal rights legislation in the constitution, but crazy to suggest that my nephew's guinea pig be issued a social security card.

There is a reason why the word radical is almost always paired up with the word new. 

The reason why I love the word is because it is the exact opposite of strict interpretation.

I don't believe in the strict interpretation of anything. Not the laws of man, not the laws of god, not the laws of math or the laws of the universe.

(Actually . . . that's not entirely true. You should really read Ikea instructions thoroughly or you're gonna have a bad time.)

Fundamentalism is anything BUT radical. In fact, the word you're looking for here is "Reactionary." A term that is used to describe not a step forward, but several steps backward.

And please don't get me wrong here. Reactionary is also NOT crazy. Hippies wandering off into the woods to create a small socialist utopia is a reactionary return to a simpler form of existence. Following Jim Jones into South America is crazy.

A good example is this: The NRA that fights tooth and nail for the succinct rights spelled out in the second amendment is reactionary. The NRA that fights tooth and nail for gun safety is radical. Same organization with extreme views, not opposing views, and in a very real sense, complimentary.

You don't hear about the fight for gun safety, but I promise you, it's in their original charter, in fact it's the reason why the organization began in the first place, and you don't hear anything about all the safety programs/classes that they put in place for any would-be gun-slingers because it just isn't the sexier part of what they do. No sex . . . no headline.

Anyway . . .

Back to my pet peeve.

Somewhere, somehow, the word radical became the go-to word to describe the people whose fundamentalism has relocated them to Crazy Town.

And I can totally see the allure. Just about everything that we can think of that might be described as radical, was once seen as crazy. Only time . . . sometimes . . . can differentiate between crack-pots and genius. So I can see why the term "Radical Islam" can be uttered by the mouths of babes on Facebook, MSNBC, and the Huffington Post.

But I heard it used on NPR the other day, and the BBC right after that.

Now, I don't hold any news organizations to exacting standards, I've met too many people in this world to consider that. But NPR and the BBC are pretty excellent with their lexicography, which means that the word "Radical" is mutating to mean extreme, hard to port, stubborn and probably, most likely, nuts.

Thing is though . . . I want my word back.

I want radical to be adopted by the people who want to blow my mind and not the people who want to blow out my brains.

And I think we need to fight it. We need to rise up and take back, not just radical, but all kinds of words that have mutated from the positive to the negative. I want the word liberal to become generous again, and I want the word conservative to become responsible again. How great would the "Great Debate" be if only we could learn to use our words correctly?

And maybe, just maybe, we can conceive of a world that doesn't need to hurt people in order to make it's point.

Which . . . you know . . . would be totally rad.