Andre’s Fried Chicken (345th new thing).

December 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

There’s nothing that screams southern cooking like fried chicken, and over the past year I have tried a variety of the dish, from Popeye’s fast food to LeRoy’s lard cooked version. To complete the trifecta my friend Andre came over to my house on Day Three Hundred Forty-Five to teach me how to make my own fried chicken.

We began with a defrosted chicken. Andre graciously separated the bird into friable parts. Break the breastbone and hack at the body. It wasn’t the most enticing sight, but Dre’s skill with the knife proved efficient and quick.

Shake 'n Bake has nothing on this fried chicken.

Shake ‘n Bake has nothing on this fried chicken.

I grabbed a plastic freezer bag and per Dre’s instructions dumped a whole bunch of flour into it. Maybe like four cups. The mark of a true chef, my friend measures by eyeball and taste. I added some salt, then some more, and more still. A few quick turns of the pepper mill next. Then the garlic powder and Tony’s seasoning (Andre hails from the fair city of New Orleans). And more Tony’s because I apparently have a light hand with the seasoning. It’s my English heritage and love of bland food, says Dre. So we didn’t put as much Tony’s in the mix as he would normally. We followed up the coating with a healthy amount of dried thyme and…more Tony’s.

We coated the first batch of chicken pieces in the seasoned flour while the oil heated in the pan. It was actually a combination of vegetable oil and Crisco. The vegetable oil was a small bottle to begin with and I had used half over the year making various dishes that weren’t risotto. The Crisco was a throwback to some pie I made at some point. Together they merged in the pot to just be enough to fry some bird.

Before and After.

Before and After.

Once the oil temperature reached whatever it is supposed to be (Dre eyeballed it), we gently set a few pieces of meat into the pan with a sizzle. Little rivulets of blood oozed into the liquid. Once that subsided, I turned the pieces over with a pair of tongs. After ten minutes or so, Dre determined that they were done. I picked them out of the oil and set the pieces onto a paper towel draped plate to drain. Then we repeated the process until all of the chicken parts were floured, fried and drained.

Perfect Southern Deliciousness.

Perfect Southern Deliciousness.

We supplemented our meal with some Andre-approved smashed potatoes and cornbread. And it was delicious! The skin was crispy and flavorful, the meat moist and tasty. Sorry, Days 87 and 116, Dre’s fried chicken trumps yours. And I did it myself (or at least mostly solo).

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Improv! (321st new thing).

July 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

When I was 17 I had an internship at an improv club. They were filming their live performances for a TV show on the now defunct Turner South. I enjoyed watching the productions every week, but never took a class myself. Until Day Three Hundred Twenty-One when I attended my first one with Automatic Improv at Relapse Theatre with my friends Andre and Robert.

Andre missed the first class and Robert was late; I was quite nervous walking in on my own. I sat down in one of the chairs set in a circle in the middle of a huge room. I glanced around at my new classmates as we all made small talk. It felt like the first day of school, and in fact, it sort of was.

Once we’d all gathered and money and role-call had been dealt with, we went around and introduced ourselves, describing why we were taking the class. Some people had heard about it via word of mouth and others were there to combat anxiety and public speaking nerves. I, of course, talked about my adventure in new activities.

Next we  all stood up and played a name game warm up. One by one we added an alliterative adjective to our first name, paired with a bombastic gesture. Super Sarah with a step forward and fist thrust into the air. Jet Pack Jeff with arms at his side and on tip toes. Loquacious Laura with a finger twirl and bow. The game worked well and soon we were mimicking each others’ words and motions.

Next we learned a few warm up games like “Go.” While still in a circle you ask another group member’s permission to go. When they say the word (“go”) you move to their place in the group. We also pranced around the stage as various animals which reminded me of my “Intro to Theatre” class in college. And we practiced dying dramatically, which is always a good time.

By the end of our two hour introductory class I found myself having a lot of fun. The difference in the interaction of the group at the beginning and the end was astounding.

From our Level Two Graduation Show. Doesn’t this look like fun?

Now I’m in the Level Three class with six others who attended that first course. Despite Patrick’s mocking I really do enjoy learning and performing improvisational comedy. Sometimes I’m funny or witty and other times I fall flat on my face. Both experiences are worth it, especially when they happen while I am surrounded by the new and old friends I’ve taken classes with for the past several months. If you’re in Atlanta, don’t miss our next (and final) grad show in August.

The Dumbest Thing Ever (319th new thing).

July 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

I have this friend, Andre. And every time I would ask him for suggestions of new things to try throughout my twenty-ninth year, he would respond the same. “Walk through a door backwards. I bet you’ve never done that.” So on his birthday, I decided to take his advice, and try to walk through every door backwards. Hello, Day Three Hundred Nineteen.

I failed miserably. I thought I would start off on shaky feet, but quickly, as the day wore on, I could add walking through doors backwards just another part of my routine. Maybe a little OCD, but it shouldn’t be too hard.

Do you know how many doors we walk through in a day? A lot.

I perfected my walk/twirl method but only managed to show it off once a peer reminded me of my daily task. I went to a birthday party for Andre that night and needless to say, he was a bit disappointed in my lack of effort. To make up for it, I decided to add another new activity to my day.

Energy, Alcohol, and great tasting to boot!

I tried Four Loko. The energy drink that comes in 16oz cans and contains 10% alcohol.

I didn’t go crazy or anything. The drink tasted like carbonated kool-aid with an extra cup of sugar. It was gross. I had a couple sips (to say I tried it), and then moved back to my home brew.

Four Loko Crazy! Thanks for the taste, Aimee!

In the end, I actually participated in two new experiences on Day Three Hundred Nineteen. I walked through doors backwards (you should really try it sometime) and I tasted Four Loko. Two of the dumbest things ever.

Happy Birthday, Andre.

Turkey Turkey (259th new thing).

January 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

My friend Andre hosts an event every year, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. It’s deemed “Turkey Turkey Tuesday,” and from its inception involved a massive roasted holiday bird coupled with a bottle of Wild Turkey. The Tuesday in the title is quite self-explanatory. There’s only been one year since I’ve known Dre that this momentous event has not occurred. Even while we were in Grad School in Newcastle, we celebrated, albeit on Thanksgiving Day proper. However, this year, on Day Two Hundred Fifty-Nine, the dinner was not held at anyone’s house, but rather at the Highland Inn Ballroom. So for the first time in its history, Turkey Turkey Tuesday was held in a bar.

The chef at TTT a couple years ago.

I had actually arrived back in Atlanta from a rainy Montgomery commute right before the ballroom opened its doors to an assortment of friends and acquaintances. Patrick picked me up at Thrifty, where I happily left the minivan and we headed to the bar. I was curious how Dre would be able to accomplish a TTT of this magnitude. He cooks all day, and for several leading up to the Tuesday. He makes everything. And this year he finished it all off in one of the Highland Inn’s kitchen equipped suites.

Unfortunately, I was only a spectator this year, and did not hold the coveted taster position as I may have in years past. See, Dre doesn’t eat vegetables, so in return for peeling a few dozen shrimp, the tasting role includes trying all of the glazed carrots and green beans and giving approval.

We didn’t stay too long, as I was knackered from the white knuckle journey back into Atlanta and had to work in the wee hours of the morning the following day. Having the celebration in the Ballroom was pretty cool, but I still miss the intimacy of a cozy kitchen in someone’s home. Maybe next year I will volunteer our house. Or at least I’ll volunteer myself as a taster again.

 

Remembering Franky (167th new thing).

September 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

Franky J Cassidy was one of the most positive people I have ever known. He played softball with us and no matter what mistakes anyone made, he would respond with a dimpled grin and say that we’ll get them next time.

Franky

After our games, most of the team would go around the corner to the U-Joint for a beer or two and maybe some food. Every time we went, Franky would order a Corona, but the bar only served Corona Light (weird, I know). So Franky would say, “Yeah, that’s fine,” and once the beer came we would tease him about drinking the low calorie version of such a typically light beer in the first place. It became a happy, friendly routine with Andre leading the mocking.

Unfortunately, Franky’s life was cut short in a car accident a few days before our final softball game of the season. After that game (which we lost), the team met up at our usual spot and remembered Franky, his happy attitude, encouraging disposition, and the way he was never, ever negative, about anyone or anything.

And we drank Corona Light, but only after ordering a regular Corona and being told that the U Joint only has the lower calorie version. Appropriately enough, there was only one bottle left, a bottle which we placed in the center of our pushed-together tables and each took a sip from. It sounds overly dramatic, but the symbolism was comforting for all of us.

Franky J was an amazing guy whose life ended far too soon.

We will miss you.

Eighty-Seven. Popeye’s.

June 16, 2011 § 2 Comments

Andre likes Popeye’s. Lurves it. But I have never tasted the wares of this fine chicken establishment. Eating there had been on my list of things to try this year from the beginning, but Day Eighty-Seven was the first time I managed to make it happen.

Dre was impressed with the cleanliness level of our local Popeye’s. Apparently you can slide across the floor in sneakers when you walk into a Church’s Chicken. We went to the counter, and I asked Andre what I should order. He orders the three-piece Real Meals combo and suggested I choose the same but with only two pieces. I was pretty hungry, but not being a fried chicken aficionado I went with Andre’s suggestion. The guy behind the counter asked me if I wanted white or dark meat. “White,” I answered, and then, “Wait. What pieces come with that?” If it were two breasts, that would be a lot of food. I kind of wanted a leg. Dre told me it was a breast and a wing, but that I could also mix it up. The clerk asked me what pieces in particular I wanted, and I was able to order a breast and a leg. Mild. Definitely not hot. Such service!

We headed to a table to wait for our order. I went all out and chose a Strawberry Fanta as my drink. I’d never tried the sweet carbonated beverage before. It was very sugary. I don’t think I finished it, but it washed down the chicken nicely.

Our baskets came out and I started to get nervous. I’ve known Dre for a number of years, but I’m kind of weird about eating food off the bone. Chicken, ribs, wings, it doesn’t matter. So I gingerly picked up my chicken leg and took a bite. And it was hot, burning my mouth hot. That chicken was freshly fried. Dre suggested I try the fries while the meat cooled.

And the fries were pretty tasty. And when the chicken cooled enough to eat, it was scrumptious too. And the biscuit…I think that was my favorite. The meal ended up upsetting my stomach, so I doubt I will go back anytime soon, but I can see why Andre is such a fan.

Eighty-One. Turkey Leg at RenFest.

June 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

I hadn’t visited the Georgia Renaissance Festival since I was fourteen. I went with my European History class and frankly, do not remember much except the wax hands that many of my classmates had made. I was a bit jealous. Before that, the only memory of Ren Fest was as a young child with my parents and grandfather. As we waited for the mud wrestling to begin, an MC type asked if anyone knew any knock knock jokes. So proud of myself for knowing a joke, and wanting to impress the grandfather who had taught it to me I stuck my hand high in the air. And was called upon. It was the banana-orange joke, and I thoroughly botched it up. My five year old self was mortified. I wanted to leave right then as the crowd looked at me with pity. It was probably my most embarrassing moment, at least until I turned into an awkward thirteen year old and found everything mortifying.

So I wasn’t a big Renaissance Festival fan, and Patrick even less so. Regardless, on Day Eighty-One I dragged him with me to this adventure village and planned on trying a turkey leg, something never before done.

We headed straight for the “food court” upon entering and Patrick waited for the prized turkey leg while I checked out the other vendors. “Nuggets of Deep” piqued my interest as Dre is often talking about them. I think his baritone makes them sound something better than what they were-fried mac n cheese. Since I had never tried fried mac n cheese before either, I figured I could get a little side to go along with our TL. Unfortunately, the pimply teenager behind the counter informed me that they were out of change. Like no ones, fives, or tens. It was a bit unbelievable, but I accepted it (after some harsh words about planning for a crowd to Patrick), and headed over to eat some leg.

What's up with all the "Y"s?

The Turkey Leg was kind of strange. I mean, it was smoky deliciousness, but I get really weird about the texture of food. I kind of sniffed around it for a minute before I dove in. Patrick didn’t have that problem.

A long legged Turkey

A little trepidation

After we had consumed our meat, we headed to the jousting arena, where some knyghts were soon set to fyght it out. We were supporting the bad guy I think. He was wearing black and fought dirty. I wondered what they did apart from the RenFest. Medieval Times, perhaps? (Note to self: go to Medieval Times)

Next I wanted to go to the Mud Show, mostly because of the humiliation I suffered there nearly twenty-five years ago. No one asked for knock knock jokes (not that I would have offered), so I was spared any further embarrassment. The show was clever, if not a bit contrived. The actors performed their show full time, as in it was their main source of income. I did some RenFest research when we got home and was really intrigued with the idea of being a traveling performer at these type fayres (or faires or fairs or fests). A good chunk of your life would be spent acting out another century.

Mud Show

Patrick understood neither the appeal of performing nor attending such events in costume. He was especially marred by the horrible English accents that surrounded us. A little kid started talking to his mom in some Americanized cockney, so I joined in. Patrick wasn’t amused. In fact, I think he may have threatened to leave me stranded at RenFest. I guess I’ll have to find someone else to go to Medieval Times with me.

Closest to costume Patrick will ever come

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