Friday, June 18, 2010

Baby girls...

My baby girl called me tonight to get advice on cutting up an organic, free range, certified humane killed chicken. By doing that, she made my day, my month, my year, and my life.

Now, we had been through this drill before. For her 27th birthday, Kathy and I took Danika all over the city to see the various resources available to a serious cook in Chicago. We went to a Halal lamb slaughterhouse on South Halsted which was a vestige of Carl Sandburg's "hog butcher to the world" and the last slaughterhouse in Chicago.   We travelled to Chinatown to pick up a Peking Duck as we enjoyed an exotic fruit smoothie and I told Danika boring stories of how Chinatown had its own Police and Fire Department until the early 1960s.  [Interestingly enough, at least to me, the police cars and fire vehicles in Chinatown still have Chinese inscriptions on their sides to this day.] We went to Randolph Street to check out a Greek Butcher and an old time Produce Market which had a faded, politically incorrect picture of a naked young Greek lass with pert nipples surrounded by various fruits. Finally we ended up at Danika's dreaded Fish store, Issacson and Stein:

Later that evening we would cook a wonderful meal for our entire family,

Several days later, I bought three chickens, which I taught her to cut up according to the method which the butchers at Paulina Meat Market taught me in the early 1990s. That day we made my mom's Fried Smothered Chicken with Milk Gravy and Mashed Potatoes.

But, as things go, sometimes lessons need to be retaught and relearned. As I told her how to cut the chicken over the phone, I was in a parallel universe, thinking, "I am so lucky to have my daughter look to me for advice!"

You see, my relationship with my parents was tortured by the difficulty every first generation son in the United States feels about their parents. My parents had seen incredible things and had survived unimaginable stresses, but they were uniquely unprepared to understand what their son was going through as he tried to navigate growing up in American culture. There was no way they could understand a situation in which the German immigrant's son identified with the students at Kent State, rather than the National Guardsmen of the Great State of Ohio.

I was embarrassed by my parent's difficulties in navigating American culture. A vivid memory of mine is when my older brother Kurt, who was well on his way to becoming a millionaire (when a million dollars was a "million dollars"), took our family out to the rotating restaurant on top of the Holiday Inn on Lake Shore Drive. I was maybe ten years old. Everything was OK (in spite of what I, in retrospect, see now as tension between my father and Kurt) until dad ordered an after dinner drink and, without knowing proper ettiquete, gulped it down. In my brother's face, I saw disdain for Dad's lack of knowledge of American ways. It was as if the snake in the Garden of Eden had opened my eyes and I saw what nakedness was. Later, at home, when my mom marvelled at how Kurt's wife could order a "Grasshopper" drink for some obscene price, my loyalties had shifted to my brother and his wife.
You see, don't you, that my parents didn't deserve my disdain? They loved me as best they could, but just weren't flexible enough to adapt fully to 20th Century American culture. I was immature as, of course, I would be at that age, yet I still loved them. We were put at cross purposes through the circumstances of life and neither of us had a sufficient understanding of the psyche to ferret out the salient issues and work on them in a productive manner. So, as I said earlier... "I am so lucky to have my daughter look to me for advice!"

Danika's Wok on the Left. Mine on the Right.
25 years difference in color.

Mom's Smothered Chicken with Milk Gravy

1 Chicken, cut up into 6 or 8 serving pieces. (Save back for stock)
1 cereal bowl, half filled with milk
1 Tbsp Tabasco (My addition, NOT MOM'S)
1 egg
1 cup flour
2 Tbsp Salt
1 Tbsp Pepper
1/2 teaspoon Mc Cormick Poultry Seasoning
Peanut oil to coat bottom of 12" Fry Pan, preferably Cast Iron
1 large Onion, Sliced thin
5-6 Tbsp Additional flour
Salt and Pepper to taste
Mc Cormick Poultry Seasoning to taste

1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees.
2. Beat egg and milk together. (And Tabasco, if desired.)
3. Combine flour, salt, pepper and McCormick Poultry Seasoning on a large plate.
4. Soak chicken in milk (and Tabasco) for 1 hour.
5. Dredge chicken in flour and lay on a rack for 1/2 hour.
6. Fry chicken in Peanut oil over medium high heat, turning every seven minutes, until it starts to brown on both sides.
7. Add sliced onions, placing them under the chicken, and then lower the heat slightly.
8. When the onions start to brown, turn heat to low, cover pan and continue braising for an additional 30     minutes.
9. Remove chicken and place in baking dish and place in oven.
10. Add 5 to 6 Tbsp of flour to pan and create a roux, cooking over medium heat for about 5 minutes.
11. Add milk until you reached desired consistency of gravy.  Take your time adding the milk.
12. Adjust salt, pepper, and a touch of McCormick Poultry Seasoning to your taste.
13. Serve Chicken on a platter, Gravy in a bowl.  Mashed potatoes along side!

To die for... just ask Danika.  By the way, mom, this is one of my favorite dishes, ever!

1 comment:

  1. Some recipes are just better made for you. I think this one might be one of "those" recipes.