Friday, February 10, 2017

Fried Chicken, Cheese Sauce, and Little Girls Becoming Grownups

First of all, I've got to say that making meals got a WHOLE lot easier since my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, bought us a small capacity deep fryer last month. In fact, there was only one thing we didn't like about it: it had a 1.1 liter capacity, and that meant I had to go through about four cycles to fry a chicken. So, we bought THIS one, which is a 4 liter model, and gave the 1 liter model to son Moose & daughter-in-love Anna as a very very late wedding present.

I needed some comfort food last night, after spending all day fooling around with good buddy Uncle Mylon and Diesel the Wonder Dog, trying to recover Vanessa's broken down car from the side of southbound I-75 in Atlanta. The first three solutions didn't work. (And just because the key LOOKS like the key to the Toyota from a distance, I will now check closely, because Hyundai keys are similar.) It's the alternator, by the way. And a word to the wise: when a red icon starts flashing on the dashboard, tell someone who knows how to do stuff. I'm just sayin.'

So, the comfort food I decided on was fried chicken. And in order to make sure there were plenty of left-overs, I bought TWO chickens.

And I decided it was time for Alicia Ann, who is 11 and in her LAST year of elementary school (sob), to discover that frying a chicken was something she could do. I cut open the bags, pulled out the giblets, and showed her how to rinse the chicken thoroughly, then place it in a colander for draining. I should have been more specific.
Alicia thought the giblets (gizzards, liver, heart, neck) looked disgusting. So, she left them in the rinsing pan, and washed them in warm, SOAPY water. Rinsing was NOT going to do it for these nasty little pieces! After an attempt to explain to her the wonderful benefit of chicken livers, I gave it up as a lost cause. These succulent bits went into the trash.
We set up an assembly line. I cut the chicken up, showing Alicia Ann where and how I was making the cuts, and placed them in the milk bath. Alicia took them from the milk, and dropped them into the bag with the batter components (4 parts flour, one part corn meal, salt, pepper, and Slap-Yo-Mama Cajun seasoning) and then dropped the battered pieces into a fry basket. When the deep fryer reached the proper temperature, we dropped the first fryer basket, and then started on the second chicken.

Now, those of you with more cooking experience than I have may already know what's going to happen. If so, give yourselves a gold star, a big hug, and kiss yourself on the lips. I had never cooked TWO chickens before, and did not realize the error I was making.  
Do you remember how you made glue in kindergarten? You mix FLOUR and MILK, and it makes a nice paste. And since we were dropping pieces of battered chicken into the two small fry baskets WHILE the big fry basket cooked ( and that took maybe 10 minutes, plus another five minutes additional cook time for three particularly meaty pieces), the two smaller baskets were forming a sort of sculpture. Glued together chicken pieces. It was okay, until I dropped them into the hot oil.

But then I had two baskets, each with a single large chicken structure welded to the sides and bottoms of the basket. I discovered this when I tried to dump the chicken, and NOTHING CAME OUT OF THE BASKET.

I fixed it, of course, and the chicken was delicious. Just: some parts weren't picture perfect. Even looked like they were chewed.

The rest of the dinner was french fries (Alicia's choice) and steamed broccoli florets. After steaming the broccoli, though, I thought it looked kind of bland. So: cheese sauce. I dashed into the man cave, and looked up 'Quick Cheese Sauce.' Easy peasy. Butter, flour, milk, cheese. In a saucepan, mix melted butter and flour together until smooth, slowly add in milk and cheese, stirring constantly,  Heck, I can do THAT, even if I have never made cheese sauce before.

A lot of butter and a HALF-CUP of flour later, I realized my error. I had a lovely, smooth ball of dough in my sauce pan. Fortunately, I knew what to do: I added milk to the dough, whisking continuously, until I had sauce-consistency again. Then I started stirring in the cheese. Just slices of American yellow cheese. About a half-pack of cheese, because it took a LOT to flavor that much sauce.

The broccoli dish wasn't really broccoli with cheese sauce; it was more like cheese soup with broccoli. And I still had a LOT of sauce left. Well, I believe some people have eaten french fries with cheese sauce. So I served the rest up in a bowl.

Vanessa and daughter Tobiyah RAVED over the entire meal. Kenneth and Alicia liked the fries and the chicken, but only ate the broccoli under duress.

Because she is still, partly, a little girl, Alicia Ann had INSISTED I cut the wishbone out as a separate piece of chicken (like my grandmother used to do) instead of including that as part of the breast meat. I'm good with that.

I don't mind going to extra steps in order to keep some vestiges of her childhood, as long as I can. At the same time, I feel a sense of accomplishment at making her an integral part of the meal prep, and providing one more aspect of the skill set she will need as an adult.

But I cannot promise you that I'm ever going to closely follow a recipe.

Well, today's Friday. Wear something RED if you can. Remember Everyone Deployed, until they all come home. (In memory of my brother, Garvin Ray Bell, biker, farmer, master of concrete, and evangelist exceptional.


  1. Kids love cheese sauce. If you let them, they would probably treat it as a beverage. Sounds like a winner to me!

  2. Hah! And today I reposted the picture of my daughter and I walking the aisle for her wedding.
    Little girls grow up. Little girls get married.
    And dads cry. But she's given me two beautiful daughters of her own as compensation!

  3. Got a good laugh out of this one!

    Have you ever tried roasted broccoli? It's much better than steamed (IMO). You could still put cheese sauce on it, I suppose (we can't eat the flour, so we don't make cheese sauce anymore), but really it's great just tossed in oil, seasoned, and roasted.