Home-cooked: Southern night

I feel fortunate that on the whole, I really enjoy what I do.  That’s not to say it doesn’t take some effort to haul my ass out of bed on cold winter mornings, or that I often loathe being cooped up all day, or that I question the way certain things are done.  But I believe in the larger mission of my company, which I understand as providing high-quality (both in content and form) book products to the educated general reader.  Since I work specifically with books on philosophy and cultural, Asian, and literary studies, and the myriad crossroads where they meet, it’s a good thing I also believe in the preservation of the humanities, even as I see my own interests slanting toward the social sciences.  I believe in my authors, who for the most part are ambitious, thoughtful, well-intentioned people, if a bit untimely with their manuscripts, inaccurate with their word counts, or naive about permissions.  Even if I don’t always have the time or brainpower to grasp the ins and outs of their arguments, I believe they have something important to say and that my job is to help them be heard.  Which sounds nice, but I’m not idealizing my job.  There are moments–ideas, discussions, sentences–that leave me elated.  But there is no denying that day to day, it’s gritty work.

The end of a particularly gritty work week demands comfort food, and in a fortuitous convergence of interests, my roommate EK was fancying a hearty Southern meal.  He was all over this 7 cheese mac and cheese after being inspired by one too many episodes of “Throwdown with Bobby Flay”.

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I was skeptical at the amount of half & half this recipe called for (6 cups!), but in collusion with the eggs and cheese, it created a creamy, mousse-like environment that held the penne in picturesque suspension.  I can’t say that I tasted all 7 cheeses (two types of cheddar, asiago, gruyere, mozzarella, muenster, and monterey jack), but I can say the dish was deliciously cheesy indeed.  We decided next time to bake the mac & cheese on a flat baking sheet so as to optimize the surface area of the crunchy top layer, which I think is synonymous with the coveted crusty, bottom scraps of bi bim bap rice.

We also teamed up to make fried chicken. The chicken legs soaked in a buttermilk bath for a couple hours and were given a quick and light flour breading before we fried them in a cast-iron skillet. I was adamant about not baking them afterward (as EK’s recipe instructed), so while I was frying, I strategically started knifing through the leg’s meatiest point to ensure it would be cooked through. I gather it looked more hectic than that sentence made it sound– it was actually more of prod, poke, and dance sequence as I would test a leg’s done-ness, puncture it quickly, then jump away to avoid the disgruntled oil that splattered. Lesson learned: semi-cooked meat is much easier to penetrate than raw meat. So if you deploy this strategy, aim your pokes at parts of the meat that are semi-done.

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Some of the skins turned out more well-done than I would have liked, but we were okay with that in exchange for not having to bake them for 30 minutes in the oven. I would also keep in mind for future reference to make sure that the chicken is seasoned extremely well; ideally, seasoned before being dredged in the flour mixture, which should also contain lots of salt. More than you think is necessary.

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For “something green,” we made mashed potatoes with sour cream, rendered healthy with the addition of some carrots.  I am always amused at how illogical logic re: food can be. For dessert, what I am attempting to make our household tradition since my roommate H first demo-ed these last year: ice cream sandwiches. These with dark chocolate chip cookies and mint chocolate chip ice cream:

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You know you want one. Have a classy weekend!

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2 thoughts on “Home-cooked: Southern night

  1. Pingback: 2010: It’s a wrap « the lay gastronomer:

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