Submitted into Contest #100 in response to: Write about a character preparing a meal for somebody else.... view prompt


Fiction Funny

   Foodies: this one’s for you.

   “Broasted chicken”, says Wayne. “I have a taste for broasted chicken like That Place.”

   “That Place? Which place?”

   “That Place—the 50s diner in Hart. My mouth waters just thinking of it.”

   Hitting all the recipe sites with the avidness of Einstein, the tenacity of a bulldog, and the dream of a Martha Stewart-worthy dinner, I scanned through AllRecipes.com, Yummy Tummy, and Taste of Home, among others. Who knew there’s a blog devoted to broasted chicken? Or that it was invented in Wisconsin, where, I wonder, if they have a patent on it? I found a site that began with: “The recipe is a secret,” then went on to describe the full recipe.

   Backtracking a moment, I asked my son-in-law, known for his gourmet cooking, if he knew how to prepare it?

“It must be broiled and then roasted to get that fried crispy coating.”

That made sense, but I needed a further, Ethernet-true explanation before starting this roasting and broiling. Which first anyway?

My discovery fed me the fact that the chicken is fried, but deep fried (I’m going to haves to use eight cups of oil? Ugh!) in a pressure cooker, technically known as a pressure fryer—like I have one of those handy at home!

   This gave me pause, because...

   I’m not known for following precise directions in a recipe. Maybe not following them at all, rather simply scanning the process and searching for a similar ingredient to substitute.

  That red velvet cake my daughters asked me to bake for Christmas? It tasted good enough, but resembled a caved in mountaintop ripping with a red snow avalanche. Those yearly gingerbread hovels? They were hovels, never houses, and after a week soaking in hot cocoa or coffee made them pliable enough to eat, they would still zip at your tongue with too much spice...

   Oh well, tonight was to be a broasting with a six pound chicken, which I didn’t know was an issue until it came to cutting into meat— stuck red and raw to the bone, on the inside.

  Since I couldn’t decide between three five-star recipes, I chose to combine all three.

   Number One listed the following ingredients: 2 tablespoons olive oil, 4 medium (2 1/4” to 3” diameter, raw) red potatoes, cut into large cubes—that ingredient stopped me in my tracks. Was I supposed to measure each potato before cutting into cubes? Why didn’t the directions call for the size of the cubes? And should each cube be measured for even cooking?

   I had finger sized potatoes on hand. Cut in half they might be considered cubes.

   OK. Next ingredient?

   One (16 ounce) package carrots, cut diagonally into bite-size pieces. Why don’t I cut the potatoes on a diagonal too? They would match. Especially since the next ingredient is one stalk of celery, cut diagonally into bite-size pieces.

   One Sweet onion, sliced-divided. Am I supposed to divide each slice, as in separate them so that each ring is one layer thick? There are no sweet onions in my pantry, but I have a large patch of chives out back and they are tasty. If they’re put into...

   You know what? From here on out I’ll just improvise on the veggies.

   Chives are sort of like onions. I don’t have a package of carrots, but there is a butternut squash hanging on a vine in the garden ready to harvest.

   Celery? I’ve been told bok choy has the same mild crunch, so it could serve as a good substitute. How about if I add a little broccoli and the left-over ratatouille? Ratatouille has always been a favorite—and second time around, the flavors are enhanced.

   So, following recipe number one, I preheat the oven to 385 degrees F (or 196 degrees C), or using recipe number two, I preheat the oven to 425. Or, according to recipe number three, I heat eight cups of oil to 325.    Choices, choices, choices.

   Not having a deep fryer, I decide 350 degrees is the normal oven temperature for baking, and save myself seven and three-quarters cups of oil.

   Except for a variation specified in recipe number two, says that I should put my 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a large bowl and toss the veggies before laying them carefully arranged in either a large cast iron skillet (recipe #1) or a greased 9X13 inch pan (recipe #2) so that the colorful carrots, bright green broccoli and mellow yellow yams show more predominantly than the bland celery and potatoes.

   Now I’m asked to cut the backbone out of the chicken.  This is not even a polite request by the cookbook author. It reeks of barbarity. As a former vegetarian of thirty years, this strikes me as brutal and disgusting. I do cut off extra fat and the skin that hold the wings and thighs tight to the chicken.  Before I place the bird face down on the colorful bed of vegetables—even without a head it’s facedown, I hold it up like a marionette and shake the body, chuckling as the limbs flop and flap. My attempts at hacking through the backbone lead only to me having greasy, lard-laden poultry fingers.

   I spread the bird out in a ski-accident splat!

   Last step before roasting? A coating. The option written up in the Sicilian recipe means I sprinkle salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder and oregano over both sides. That would mean I have to lift up the raggedy Ann carcass with all its saggy-baggy bones again. No thanks—far too pathetic.

   Second choice: I simply scatter “margarine pieces” and minced garlic over it. Doesn’t sound like much flavor. So, second choice is an easy discard. If I were on the computer, I would press the escape key now.

   My last choice is the chicken, which hasn’t been placed into buttermilk, salt and smashed garlic, nor has the buttermilk been “worked into the chicken pieces” or covered with plastic wrap or dredged in flour after marinating. None of those directions can be listed in my kitchen accomplishments today, due to lack of time (or so I defend myself), and, lastly, I haven’t added panko or pressed it into the chicken.

   To distract myself from the Land of Frustration, I open the refrigerator and peer inside to  consider options. The honey mustard salad dressing looks promising. It has a good color that would coat the pimply white bird with a healthy tan. And that’s the sauce served with chicken tenders at Wendy’s and McDonald’s. Both are known for their accommodation to American tastes.

   I spread a heap of that on the chicken’s back with the back of a large spoon, but think it looks too globby: it needs both more massaging and more flavor. I find a jar of barely-used barbecue sweet and spicy sauce and blend that in well. The chicken will toast as it cooks with this combination.

   Into the oven it slides with an aluminum foil cover to seal in the juices.

   After one hour, I switch the oven dial to broil, and remove the covering.

   Fifteen minutes later I smell the brittle odor of charcoal. When I open the oven, I note some deviation from the recipe. The bird is black. Solid crusty black.

   Even searching with avid eyes, I can’t find a dark brown tint anywhere.

   The next ten minutes I spend hoping no one will come into the kitchen to witness this abomination. I agonize at what I can possibly do to redeem this should-have-been centerpiece of the dinner.

 I attempt to remove the black lava flow atop the spread-eagled bird with a sharp knife and my easily burnt fingers. When that crunchy coating is mostly gone, the chicken looks a little naked, so I sprinkle on some bourbon molasses spice and cumin and paprika. Better. It all blends in with what appears to be an overly zealous sprinkling of large pepper granules, the remnants of that burnt crusty mess.

   I let the spreckled bird cool, and look at it again with such disgust that I plunge two huge knives in the wasteland of a meal, along with pair of enormous forks and a spoon for the veggies. Now the dish looks like a village ransacked by drunken Vikings, spears poking out every which way.

   All I can think is—I wish I could find one single redeeming factor to this meal. For looks? I give it a D-. For taste, maybe a C-, because it isn’t cooked through. Overall impression? If I were a judge, it would fail without bail.

   A few tentative bites and it goes back in the oven, with broil turned back to bake...and husband and I wait another hour before coming to the conclusion the ghastly dish ought to go directly into the freezer, (I think my husband might have muttered compost, but I heard ‘freezer’) so I do not to have to deal with this fiasco for an indeterminate length of time until the unimaginably far distant future.

Fingers crossed, that far distant future lies months, if not years from now.

June 26, 2021 03:16

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