Thursday, January 6, 2011

She's the reason

I'm back in Oakland now. Before I came back I decided to take a quick train ride over to Philadelphia to stay with my friend Caroline for a few days. Mostly I went out and got coffee, chai, and hot chocolate with old friends over and over and over for two days.

I also made some dinner with Caroline, which turned out pretty well; I think the pictures that she took of it over on her blog are even better than the ones I take over here for my own blog, so you should just go look at those. I made chicken stock for her the next morning and she said that I should have a career just going to people's houses for them and making stock out of their leftover bones so their house smells amazing. I think that this is right now my second choice of hypothetical dream job, after Trader Joe's New Product Taster.

The chicken took a little--well, a lot--longer to cook than I had thought for a three-and-a-half pound chicken. I think that this is because I have been doing chicken on a bed of thinly-sliced potatoes and shallots recently--hey, it saves you getting a couple pans dirty making potatoes and it bathes the tender potatoes in lovely delicious chicken fat as they cook. At Caroline's I finally realized the reason for this dramatic increas in cooking time. Normally, I would cook the chicken directly in a cast-iron pan, so the dark meat on the bottom would get heat directly from conduction from the pan and therefore cook pretty fast. Doing it on a bed of potatoes means that heat can only reach the bottom of the chicken after coming up through the potatoes, and not only are potatoes a poor conductor of heat, but there's also a ton of air space in the bed of potatoes until enough of the chicken fat renders out to fill in the cracks. This means that not only is the bottom of the chicken is basically sitting on the best insulator you could ever make from foods readily available in your kitchen, but the dark meat on the bottom is the meat that needs to cook the longest.

So I think the next time that I cook a chicken this way I'm going to do it breast-side down for the first half and then breast-side up for the second half. That way the dark meat should get the maximum amount of heat for as long as possible, but the skin on the breast will get nice and crisp at the end. Just for future reference.

Also of note: Philadelphia in winter is apparently really fond of decorative cabbages.

I did a double-take when I saw this lovely planter arrangement, because even though the leafy red and green cabbages are visually striking next to the evergreen shrub, they're also something that you can buy at Berkeley Bowl. I'm assuming that the hotel outside of which this planter was sitting was not planning to take them inside and eat them later on. It was just weird to see something that you normally think of as food sitting outside in a non-edible context.

But then as I was continuing my short walk back to the train station I saw a whole patch of them.

And then a whole block of sad-looking cabbages that have already bolted and started to wilt outside of some bank on Market Street. Have I just been away from East Coast winters long enough that I have never realized that decorative cabbages are totally a thing. It just makes me hungry and makes me think of fiber. Then again, most things do that.

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