Friday, 12 February 2010

Brining chicken day

It's only 0935 and today has already gone off the rails. It's my fault, which I'm quite surprised about. I'm pretty organised, you see - it's one of my great qualities. I don't lose things. I know my National Insurance number AND my passport number off by heart. I'm never late. It's just sad that these qualities are offset by my monstrous laziness and the fact that whatever I'm doing, I'd so much rather be in bed reading a book or eating an egg sandwich with a lot of salt on it, or watching back-to-back episodes of Glee.

I am mostly really organised and efficient so I get all the neccessary shit done so that at my earliest convenience I can jump back into bed with Nicholson Baker, or get those eggs in a pan, or take a running jump onto the sofa and fire up the V+ box.

But today it's all slipped out of my grasp. Tonight I am making for Giles some Thomas Keller fried chicken, which I've been boring you all about. It's a long process, which involves brining the chicken in a salt-and-herb mixture for 12 hours. Well, that's out of the window immediately, because I didn't do it yesterday and so I had to do it this morning. But by 8am, it was already 12 hours before dinner. And I hadn't made the brine yet, which you have to boil and then ALLOW TO COOL. Damnit all to hell. Why didn't I read the recipe more carefully yesterday?

So now it's cooling down in the kitchen. And my 12 hour soak is being reduced to a 10 hour soak. Will it matter? Will it all just be a terrible waste of time? And then, I was pretty loose in my interpretation of Keller's brine instructions.

Standing blinking and barefoot in the kitchen in front of the ad hoc cookbook, having thrown a teaspoon out of the window at that horrible black cat who always does huge poos in our nice fern garden, (and usually I love cats), I was brought up short at the ingredients for "2 gallons" of brine. O I hate Americans and their stupid strange measurements - cups and gallons and sticks - blast you all! So I took a deep breath and just winged it. I filled a medium sized stewing pot about 4/5 full of water and threw in an approximation of Keller's brining ingredients which were:

3 lemons, halved
One head of garlic, cut across the equator
Bunch of thyme (which I got out of the freezer and just plunged into the pot, refusing to contemplate the idea that it was going to go brown and die - like plunging a lobster into boiling water)
About ten bay leaves
Bunch of parsley
200g salt (!!!!!!)
About 2 tbsp of honey

I was going to throw in some cloves, but I've tried to be clever in the past like that, with terrible results. So I just left it at that. Then I put the lid on and put it on the scariest burner on my stove and boiled it up, stirred it to dissolve the salt and then left it to cool down. I've just stuck my finger in it and it's almost there. So, I may be able to sneak a 10-hour-ish brining time out of it.

And then there's nothing to do but wait. To kill the time, I could tell you the story of the deep-fat fryer. We got it as a present - or rather, Giles got it as a 39th birthday present. I thought it was quite a funny gift. I didn't know if the present-giver was taking the piss, Giles being a bit of a health freak and everything. But it seemed quite a large and expensive present to give as a joke. Anyway, I was quite pleased with it. For a few months we had regular fried chicken nights (although not working to Thomas Keller's recipe), until it became very obvious that we were going to have to change the oil, which was a quite traumatisingly gross process.

I don't like to think of myself as a squeamish person, but unfortunately I think I might be. I'm not crazy about other people's blood, or being stuck in traffic behind a rubbish van, or our own compost bins, or pulling out all that crap that collects in the kitchen sink plughole strainer. And changing the oil in the deep fat fryer scored about a 7 on a scale of yuck. And then I didn't know what to do with the old oil. I didn't want to throw it down the sink, or in the bin, so I drove it all the way to the dump and put it in the special oil-disposal unit.

Well, after that the deep fat fryer's days were obviously numbered. I'm not doing that more than once a year. Or ever again, frankly. So into a cupboard it went. And I really must get rid of it, now, because it's taking up valuable space that I need for all sorts of other kitchen equipment that has fallen out of favour and needs a half-way-house between the counter top and the shelves of Oxfam.

But I thought that seeing as I now have this ad hoc cookbook with the best fried chicken recipe in the world, I ought to give the old thing a last workout before it finds a new home among the patrons of the Oxfam shop of Kentish Town Road.

9hrs 45min possible brining time left. And I'm not sure what to do with myself for the rest of the day. Glee may be featuring strongly.

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