Monthly Archives: February 2012

White Wine and Tarragon Brined Chicken to Spare

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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)

Garlic Cloves

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)

Tarragon leaves

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!

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Filed under Books, Cheaper Cooking, Cooking and Reading, Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck, Literature, Recipes, The Great Depression

Do You Take Irish Whiskey or Scotch Whisky With Your Bath?

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“Not even the touch on the skin of the delicious breeze heralding the arrival of summer, nor caressing a woman’s body, nor sipping Scotch whiskey in the bathtub until the water goes cold, in short, no other pleasure Wells could think of gave him a greater sense of well being than when he added the final full stop to a novel.”  From The Map of Time by Felix J Palma

I accidentally bought Irish Whiskey.  Incidentally, Felix J. Palma got his whiskey and whisky mixed up anyway, so I don’t feel so badly that I bought the wrong one.  It was interesting to have it in the bath.

This last post will close out my forays into British food.  My next project will be more economically feasible and should allow me to post more often.  I’m going to read Grapes of Wrath and cook my take on depression-era, low budget foods that should help folks stretch things a bit father in the kitchen.  No, I will not be making butter by adding yellow food coloring to lard and I won’t be making spaghetti sauce out of ketchup.  These will, for the most part, be my own ideas and recipes that fed me through the lean years of college and made those short pay check months a little more bearable.

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Filed under Cooking and Reading