Sunday, November 28, 2010

REVOLT! A Pox on Chicken Breasts!

There’s just no accounting for people’s tastes. That’s the only explanation I can come up with regarding the majority of ignorant diner’s obsession with breast meat when it comes to chicken consumption. It doesn’t matter if it’s broiled, grilled, roasted, stir-fried, or smoked; whatever form it takes is second-rate. All of the fried chicken joints charge extra for white meat; they are used to the demands of the dullard finger lickers. Most chefs and restaurant operators are afraid to use anything but chicken breast, because that’s what the customers crave. On top of that, these less than informed consumers want a skinless chicken breast. It’s not their fault, they just don’t know any better.

Here’s the problem with this scenario. Today’s processor-raised chicken breasts have absolutely no taste whatsoever, especially when the skin (which contains the precious schmaltz, or fat) is removed. As with all meats, fat equals flavor. These breasts also have a tendency towards toughness and stringiness, and they are prone to being overcooked. Most of the time, that skinless, portioned-controlled, nitrate-injected chicken breast arrived at the back door of your favorite restaurant as a chunk of frozen breast packed into a round indention on a plastic tray, a dozen to the tray, four trays to the case. To the casual observer they look like a pinkish-tan cylinder, an inch and a half tall, and three and a half inches across. Chefs call them hockey pucks, which is a good indicator of what they taste like.

With the typical Sysco/Tyson/Perdue/etc. puck, all of the tenderloin has been removed, along with part of the breast, to become chicken tenders for the fried chicken and fast food joints. The uneven edges of the breast are removed to be minced into oblivion, and reformed into pre-breaded fake chicken “tenders”, a misnomer, since they are actually breaded patties given quasi-natural tenderloin-like shapes. The tenders can be shaped and molded to resemble a portion of an actual chicken tender, or formed into patties which may or may not resemble anything that once clucked or had feathers. These are the frozen units that today’s youth are so addicted to; the easily microwaveable chicken-like unit that is every busy mom’s best friend. The fat content gets all jacked up with empty breading calories, and it’s pumped full of salt to give it some taste.

For a substantially cheaper price, the chef could instead order a boneless chicken thigh, preferably skin-on, but they could also order skinless. The big advantage to using boneless thighs, even skinless chicken thighs, is that they actually taste like chicken. They have residual fat content in the meat, which means they have rich flavor. Of course, a skin-on boneless thigh is blessed with even more fat, therefore even more flavor. Add the thigh bone, and it gets better still. A boneless thigh is tender and never stringy. It is much more forgiving when overcooked by some moronic fast food teen gastroworker. Since it comes with its own built-in flavor, it requires little salt to taste good, so it is healthier.

The only chicken breast that should ever be eaten is a bone-in, skin-on breast, hopefully from a bird that was raised frolicking in a verdant field full of bugs, worms, grains, and weeds. Barring frozen, “mechanically-pulled” white meat chicken, the hockey puck breast is the lowest form of chickendom, and frankly, we deserve better. Rise up chicken eaters! Demand flavor, tenderness, taste, and lower prices! Shake off the cloak of public shame and insist on eating chicken thighs. The next time you’re gnawing your way through a stringy, tough, tasteless hockey puck, imagine how good it could be if it were a rich, tender, flavorful chicken thigh with chickeny goodness that would make a Jewish grandmother proud. We deserve better.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Insults from the Golden Age of Language

Back before twitter and cuss words, folks had the ability to decimate their opponents with a few carefully chosen words. Borrowed from the Net. Witness:

The exchange between Churchill & Lady Astor: She said, "If you were my husband I'd give you poison." and he said, "If you were my wife, I'd drink it."

A member of Parliament to Disraeli: "Sir, you will either die on the gallows or of some unspeakable disease."......
"That depends, Sir," said Disraeli, "whether I embrace your policies or your mistress."

"He had delusions of adequacy." Walter Kerr.

"He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire."
Winston Churchill

"A modest little person, with much to be modest about." Winston Churchill

"I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure." Clarence Darrow

"He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary." William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway)......

"Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?" Ernest Hemingway (about William Faulkner)

"Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I'll waste no time reading it." Moses Hadas

"He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I know." Abraham Lincoln

"I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it." Mark Twain

"He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends." Oscar Wilde

"I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend, if you have one." George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill......

"Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second¦ if there is one." Winston Churchill, in response.

"I feel so miserable without you; it's almost like having you here."
Stephen Bishop

"He is a self-made man and worships his creator." John Bright

"I've just learned about his illness. Let's hope it's nothing trivial." Irvin S. Cobb

"He is not only dull himself, he is the cause of dullness in others."
Samuel Johnson

"He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up." Paul Keating

"There's nothing wrong with you that reincarnation won't cure." Jack E. Leonard

"He has the attention span of a lightning bolt." Robert Redford

"They never open their mouths without subtracting from the sum of human knowledge." Thomas Brackett Reed

"In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily."
Charles, Count Talleyrand

"He loves nature in spite of what it did to him." Forrest Tucker

"Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?" Mark Twain

"His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork." Mae West

"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go." Oscar Wilde

"He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts¦ for support rather than illumination." Andrew Lang

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Roads and Deer (Not Venison-Related)

Back in decades past, the University of Georgia did a lot of research on the hearing of deer. Don’t ask me why they did this, but trust me that they did. I found this out when I was calling around talking to assorted deer experts in connection with an idea I had for a product that was going to keep those pesky deer out of folk’s gardens. It was all about sonic deer deterrence. The sad result of this research was that deer basically hear the same frequencies that humans hear, although they hear those frequencies in a much more sensitive manner, since they can not only swivel their ears, but their ears are cupped and huge.

If deer hear what we hear, then those deer whistler doo dads that people attach to their front bumpers are completely ineffective. Do you hear any racket coming out of your deer whistlers as you motor down the road? Of course you don’t, and neither do the deer. There’s no telling how many millions of dollars have been wasted on worthless deer whistler sales over the decades, yet they are still being made and sold.

Deer and auto collisions are a very big deal, especially in deer country like Texas. During breeding season, known as “the rut”, sex-crazed bucks are the most likely to run right in front of (or into) your vehicle while they are chasing a doe, or battling it out with another buck for the right to chase some doe. In Texas the rut occurs in November and December, and if there’s any doubt about when it starts or ends, just check with your local auto body shop. You can also look at how fat and sassy the buzzards are that time of the year. In the U.S. every year there are 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions, costing an estimated $1 billion dollars. Of these, about 6% cause human injuries, and some even cause death. My insurance agent has told me horror stories about people from my own area getting killed by deer hurtling through their windshields, or fatalities caused by people swerving off the road to avoid deer and running into trees. I have a friend that sliced completely through the midsection of a deer on his very fast motorcycle one night; the deer died instantly, my friend spent three months in the hospital and almost died.

In these parts, collisions with feral hogs can also be a problem, and the rules for driving with deer apply to them as well. Deer are most active along the roads at dusk and dawn and very late at night when some drivers are seeing double or are tired and nodding-off. Deer especially like to cross roads near the crests of hills, and will often travel in groups, so if you see one cross the road, expect more to be following. During the rut, bucks are just plain nuts, so expect deer to come flying out of anywhere during November and December. Deer will often feed right along the edge of the road, especially during droughts, so watch for their eyes to illuminate in your headlights and be ready to stop if necessary. If they are focused on feeding they will probably ignore you as you drive past. Whenever you see a deer crossing sign, trust that it knows what it’s warning you about; they get placed based on patrol incident reports and feedback from the crews that pickup animal carcasses, as well as the blood spatter stains on the surface of the road.

If you see deer along the roadway slow down if at all possible and let them do their thing. Don’t honk your horn unless you absolutely have to, as this startles the deer, including the ones that you don’t see just off of the road. Whatever you do, never leave the roadway to avoid a deer collision; hitting a deer will mess up your vehicle, but a deer moves when it’s hit, and lots of trees, culverts, big rocks, etc. do not. If you successfully pass deer along the road and want to warn an oncoming vehicle of the deer’s presence, hit your warning lights. Some experts tell you to hit your high beams, but that can send mixed signals (cops ahead, dim your lights asshole, etc). When a driver sees you hit your warning lights, you can take it to be a legitimate warning.

Out where I live, on the edge of the Texas Hillcountry, deer collisions are a real concern. Maybe they aren’t that big a deal where you live, but at some point you’ll have to drive on a rural road (or even on Mopac) during the deer witching hours, and this bit of practical advice might just come in handy. You’re welcome, Mick