I haven’t actually started reading Grapes of Wrath yet. It’s downloaded on the Kindle and ready to go. I will probably start reading it later tonight.
I thought I would start this portion of the cooking adventure off by retelling a story that my grandmother told to me.
My grandmother was born just before the start of the Great Depression. She spent her young years on a chicken farm north of Boston. Her father never owned a mechanical plow but as a farmer during those times, he was entitled to gas rations. He sold them, possibly on the black market, to make a little extra money to help the family through those dark years. He hitched up his team of horses and drove them back and forth across the fields to make the straight furrows of his farm. Family legend holds that it was the horses that kept the straight line those days as Grampa Hoop was mightily fond of his whiskey (or was it whisky?).
My grandmother remembered a day when a man and his son came knocking on the kitchen door to beg for a meal. They had walked all day and were clearly in a desperate state. Grandma told us that because of the farm goods and the money from the gas rations, her mother was able to give that man and his little boy a whole chicken to take away with them. She was able to do this at a time when so many people had nothing for themselves, never mind enough to spare for strangers.
I don’t remember my grandmother ever roasting a whole chicken, though I’m sure she did. By the time we had come around and technology had made things so much easier for women in the kitchen, she was in love with the skinned and sliced and neatly packaged chicken breast. We sure enjoyed plenty of those. But when money gets a little tight and the grocery bill starts to get a little steep, the best way to save is to buy the whole chicken and roast it off. And because times are not so tough as all that, I can also afford to spread a little of the generosity that I learned from my family and invite some guests to share my dinner.
White Wine and Tarragon Brined Chicken
1 young roasting chicken (about 5 lbs, but any size will do)
A bottle of the cheapest white wine that’s not completely disgusting
About a wine bottle’s worth of water (or enough to fill your brining container)
1/4 cup salt
Fresh ground pepper
In a large ziplock or a large bowl or tupperware, combine all the ingredients and let them sit in the fridge for a day or two. Many brining spills have taught me that no matter how sealed a ziplock may look, you should still give it a little support, so before tucking it in the fridge, I propped my bag up inside a large pan, just in case…
Most of these ingredients I had around in my kitchen, but I would estimate that the whole cost of this adventure might be $15 and you’ll see that the payoff in creative leftovers will be amazing. Add some vegetables and rice and you might be looking at $20-25 for a week’s worth of meals (creative leftover recipes to follow). You can cut a lot of corners on this one too, if you don’t want to splurge on the wine (or “waste” it), you can use plain water and more spices, or up the ante and use beer, apple cider, or buttermilk; you can toss in some lemon juice or vinegar as well. Just check out what’s in your kitchen, think about the flavors you like, and throw it all in the bag. I’ve brined with maple syrup and brown sugar in the mix too.
Check back in a day or two to see how it comes out and what deals I can find on side dishes!