On Chicken.

I don’t know why chicken sometimes gets the short end of the stick.  Is it not as “exciting” a protein as beef?  I mean, I love a nice rare steak, but few things are as comforting as chicken pot pie, as versatile as a chicken breast or as pretty as a burnished roast bird straight out of the oven.  The golden crispy skin, the promising plump meat, the fun of eating a drumstick with your hands…  There isn’t a beef equivalent of that.

So, now that I’ve gone on a bit about the culinary virtues of poultry, you’d think that I’d be cutting up chicken left, right and center (and saving the bones for stock, of course).  The sad truth is this: I’ve never even roasted a whole bird.

I know, I know.  Shameful.  I haven’t a good excuse either.  You know what else I haven’t done, now that I’m in a confessional sort of mood and am listing all of my shortcomings? Deboned a chicken.  I swear, I am not scared of chicken — you know I would tell you if I were.

When I saw that this recipe called for a boned bird, I decided to not take the easy road, buying breasts and thighs.  I was going to disassemble a chicken, dammit.

If you haven’t yet taken apart a bird, please take two pieces of advice: get your hands on a sharp knife, and don’t try to figure this out on your own.

The whole procedure is really quite simple, but only if you follow some instructions.  I propped open my copy of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall‘s excellent River Cottage Meat Book to use as my guide; not only does Mr. Fearnley-Whittingstall clearly explain each step, there are also helpful photographs as well.  Also, the kitchn has got a great post and accompanying video that will take you through the entire process.  Personally, I prefer the book method, not because I am a technophobe (how can I be? I have a blog, I tweet and carry around an iPhone) but because I’m kinda grossed out at using my raw-chickeny fingers to constantly pause the video while I catch up.  And, oh yes, you will have raw-chickeny fingers.  You’re going to have raw-chickeny hands, so you may as well embrace it.  Just don’t embrace anyone or anything until you’ve washed.

There are so many things that you can make from your freshly broken-down chicken, and it’s far more economical to buy whole birds and take them apart than to purchase the pieces.  If you’re really on top of things, and I oftentimes am not, you could buy birds and freeze the parts you don’t use for another date.

Or you could just make this recipe, which is even simpler than deboning a chicken and far more appetizing.  I’ve made this both for a crowd and for just Keith and me; I think it’s safe to say that you’ll satisfy pretty much anyone.

Another plus: the flavors are so big that anyone will think the meal was a lot of effort, rather than child’s play (though with that sharp knife, maybe another phrase would be best).  The bulk of the work is done by a yogurt-based marinade and your oven.  All you have to do is chop some cilantro, slice a couple onions, mince a bit of garlic, roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty.  The most strenuous part of this meal is scrubbing your hands after finishing prep.  Oh, and fighting over who gets first dibs on the pieces.

Easy Chicken Masala, from Bon Appétit
Makes six portions

1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon garam masala
2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1 large garlic clove, pressed (I mince)
1 4- to 4 ½-pound roasting chicken, cut into 8 pieces, backbone removed
2 small onions, cut into ¼-inch-thick slices

  1. Mix yogurt, chopped cilantro, olive oil, garam masala, salt, and garlic in 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Add chicken to marinade, 1 piece at a time, coating all sides. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate at least 2 hours. Note: Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep refrigerated.
  2. Position racks in top third and bottom third of oven; preheat to 400°. Arrange onions in thin layer on large rimmed baking sheet to form bed for chicken. Top with chicken pieces in single layer, spacing apart for even roasting (chicken will still be coated with marinade). Discard remaining marinade.
  3. Roast chicken on top rack until cooked through and juices run clear when thickest portion of thigh is pierced with knife, about 1 hour. Serve chicken atop onion slices. Spoon pan juices around.

Five Things About Me: 86 87 88 89 90.

86. I love love love getting into a bed made with freshly-laundered sheets.  It just might be the best feeling in the world.

87. Part of the reason why I haven’t hopped on the whole Twitter bandwagon is because I know my tweets would mostly be links to cute animals or say things like “Practicing sitting” and “I want a sandwich.”

88. I don’t drive that often, but I do drive often enough to have a list of driving peeves, such as drivers who neglect to use their turn indicators, tailgaters and driver who park so close to me that I can’t even get into my car, let alone move it.  The turn indicator things irritates me the most though.

89. My dream date would include walking a dog, getting my back scratched and a bottle of Saracco Moscato d’Asti.

90. I have four binders in my cookbook cabinet, one for each season of the year.  Inside, I store the recipes I’ve torn out of magazines, newspapers and similar under tabs labeled by month.  It might be the most organized aspect of my life, along with our bookshelves (which are alphabetical) and my section of the closet (which is sorted by category, i.e. “layering pieces,” “camisoles,” “lightweight cottons,” and “sweaters”).  Everything else that I own is in shambles.

Dinner at Betty’s Wok + Noodle Diner.

At first, I had a few reasons why I was so very hesitant about joining Facebook. Here were my three big arguments:

  1. I already had a blog (a different one, years ago) and it was pretty easy to track me down online, so I  was beginning to feel as though my Internet anonymity was fully slipping away.
  2. Considering that there were (and are) so many social networking sites out there already (Flickr, Flixster, Friendster, LibraryThing, LinkedIn, MySpace, Twitter, et cetera — and that’s just what I came up with off the top of my head!) I could see no excuse as to why I needed to sign up for another one.
  3. I like to communicate with my friends in person.  There are days when the thought of emailing or IMing just makes me want to chop my fingers off, or at least toss my laptop out the window.  This is why I make phone dates with my non-local friends — I like laughing at the tone of their voices, not at their spelling mistakes.

Finally, though, I caved; after all, I knew I was going to keep blogging, and I knew I was going to start writing more, which meant an online presence could be a good thing.  As for Facebook, my joining had a lot to do with the fact that my friend JD made it his personal mission to get me to sign up, sending me invites on what was practically a daily basis and bringing it up whenever he saw me (which was often).  And, you know, I don’t regret it — don’t tell JD — and here’s why: I have gotten back in touch with so many long lost friends via Facebook, more than any other site.  In fact, I went to dinner with two such friends last night.

Golnar, Joanne and I couldn’t remember the last time the three of us had gotten together; Golnar guesses it was something like six years, but I can’t even conceive that.  Regardless, we made a plan to meet up at Betty’s Wok and Noodle Diner for some drinks, some noodles and a bit of a gossip. I hadn’t been to Betty’s in a while, so it seemed a fitting place to get together with old friends.

Betty’s has a proper menu with entrées, appetizers and desserts but I tend to skip past all that to the “Customized Dish” section.  I like to think of it as a kind of a dinner DIY hobby kit because you get to pick the type of sauce you like, the type of noodle (or rice, as the case may be) and the type of meat.  Then, should you so desire, you can choose the produce that you’d like added to your bowl from the veggie bar. There’s a handful of assorted sauces to choose from, as well as four varieties of noodles (wheat-flour, egg, chow fun and soba) and two different kinds of rice (brown and jasmine).  I chose the Shanghai wheat-flour noodles with hoisin sauce, shrimp and fresh vegetables ($18.00), though after I loaded my hobby-kit bowl with tofu I realized the shrimp was superfluous.

Maybe it’s not cool to admit it, but here goes:  I’ve always gotten a kick out of places like this, ever since my parents starting taking me to a Mongolian barbecue joint when I was in elementary school.  I think that’s why, when it comes to Betty’s, that I’m able to look past things such as dreadfully uneven service (entrées arriving before we finished our edamame, hovering waitstaff that vanish when needed) and the plain fact that I’m perfectly capable of making this meal perfectly at home.  The thing is, there’s no one at home to make me a  cocktail like the Loca-Motion (sake, passion fruit, coconut with grenadine-sugar dipped rim, $7.00).  Are the cocktails enough to get you to Betty’s?  They’re good, that’s for sure.  The truth of the matter is that Betty’s is kinda fun, especially once you take the throwbacky and retro décor into consideration.

As for Facebook, well…  it can be terrifyingly addictive.  I’ve recently put a badge up on the sidebar linking to my profile — let’s be friends!

Betty’s Wok + Noodle Diner
250 Huntington Avenue
Boston, Massachusetts 02115
617.424.1950
bettyswokandnoodle.com

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