Confession No. 47 – How does one control taste? Through laws, of course.
When the word ‘law’ is used in my home, we aren’t typically talking about Newton’s Laws, Murphy’s Law, the Healthcare Law or even Law & Order SVU — although all of those generally apply. And, though she owns the position of long arm of the law around these parts, we also aren’t usually referring to my wife.
I most often use the term to describe the food laws that I have adopted over the years. Some rules go without saying — hand-washing, clean utensils and unexpired fixins’. My food laws are more dish or ingredient specific.
Family members, including the long arm, believe that I’m a flake. Still they abide — or acquiesce — most of the time.
The Pizza Law
America’s most popular fast food deserves a rule, or two — especially since more than one person tends to handle the goods. Probably the oldest food covenant on the books, my Pizza Law has no real loopholes.
For starters, never grab the slice with the biggest bubble unless you are paying for the pizza. Despite that the bubble is indicative of improper dough proofing, that slice is the prize. And why shouldn’t it be? In addition to everything that one likes about pizza, the bubble slice includes a thin, chewy pocket of yeast-flavored steam. It’s akin to the thimble-sized amount of chocolate at the very bottom of a Nutty Buddy ice cream cone.
Section Two of my pizza law is simple: After the first slice, work your way clockwise or counter-clockwise … and not otherwise. Grabbing a slice out of the opposite side of the pie will get your hand slapped around here, no matter your age. Why this rule? Because I have OCD tendencies, for one. But also, you cool the pizza more quickly with such shenanigans.
The Mustard & Soy Sauce Law
No, I don’t drink my beer at room temperature as a result of the war in Vietnam. But, I’m insistent when it comes to the temperature of yellow mustard and soy sauce. Both should be kept in the pantry or cupboard and not in the refrigerator. Why? Because they taste better that way.
Now before anyone starts to debate me about the ‘refrigerate after opening’ instructions on the side of the bottles, don’t. Show me a single bacteria that loves hanging out and getting its freak on in vinegar or salt; or show me one case of even a slight headache as a result of a similar practice, and I’ll still insist. Mustard and soy sauce are room temperature condiments in my home.
No straws allowed
I adopted my ‘straw law’ only for me, but I encourage you to heed my warnings, especially if you have one each of X and Y chromosomes. I do not use straws for any reason — including snorting or sipping. This law is part guy-thing with some germaphobia thrown in.
I’m not Jerry Falwell and I am not likening straws to Teletubbies. But, unless you’re in a frat house playing a drinking game, grown men and straws don’t mix. I feel the same way about convertible cars, frozen cocktails and cupcakes.
And why would anyone choose to use a straw, knowing that someone else touched it as they put it in the dispenser, or worse — in your glass?
Straws are good for stirring a frozen Sonic slush, but not for drinking them. You’ll avoid brainfreezes drinking directly from the cup. Truthfully. Straws are also really good for having someone roll up both ends around their fingertips, creating an air pocket in the unrolled part. Thumping it creates a nifty popping sound.
The one thing you won’t see me doing though, is drinking from one.
A few more simple rules
- If salmon croquettes are served in my home, they will be accompanied by soft pan-fried potatoes and onions, ketchup (served cold) and Heinz 57 sauce.
- Table salt shall first be shaken into one’s hand and then sprinkled upon the food. Why? Because not all salt shakers are created equally.
- Additional napkins should accompany every meal in a restaurant, unless the establishment provides linens. Cocktail napkins do not satisfy the terms of that rule.
My technique for barbecuing chicken is far removed from the stuff I ate growing up, which was basically grilled chicken with barbecue sauce slathered on it near the end of cooking. My version takes a little more time, but the results are well worth it. The marinade imparts a deep barbecue flavor, while the dry rub applied near the end of grilling offers up a warm, stickiness. A cool side of Bowtie Pasta Salad is the perfect complement.
8-10 lbs. — Chicken pieces -or- 3 chickens, halved (leave skin on)
1 batch — Marinade (recipe follows)
1 batch – Dry rub (recipe follows
Combine chicken and marinade in large (non-reactive) container. Marinate at least 4-6 hours, but preferably overnight.
Remove chicken from marinade and placed on pre-heated grill. Cook on low-to-medium heat for about 15-18 minutes, turning 2-3 times and rotating pieces/halves to and from ‘hot spots’ on the grill. The chicken should appear almost done when you sprinkle dry rub over pieces. When pieces have cooked 2-3 minutes, turn chicken and sprinkle other side with dry rub. Cook another 2-3 minutes — you are essentially trying to caramelize this coating. Turn chicken one more time and liberally add more dry rub. Close grill and allow to cook another minute, or so. Turn off grill, allowing chicken to rest there for 5 minutes, or so. Remove pieces/halves and serve.
Serves 10-12 people.
Marinade (Inspired by Jack’s Old South)
2 quarts – Apple juice
3/4 cup – Worcestershire sauce
1 cup – Orange juice
1/2 cup – Light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup – Kosher salt (if using standard salt, use less)
1/2 cup – Lemon juice
1/2 cup – Apple cider vinegar
1/8 cup – Louisiana-style hot sauce
1/2 cup – Vegetable oil
Combine ingredients in a large saucepan. Heat to boiling. Stir until sugar and salt are dissolved. Cool.
1/2 cup – Light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup – Kosher salt
1 tsp – Ground cayenne pepper
2 TB – Black pepper
2 TB – Chili powder
1 TB – Garlic powder
1 TB – Onion powder
1 tsp – Dried oregano
Bowtie Pasta Salad
1 pkg. (16 oz.) — Bowtie (Farafalle) pasta
1 bag (12 oz.) — Broccoli florets, trimmed and rinsed
1 can (dry weight 6 oz.) — Large Black Olives, sliced thinly
1 jar (6 oz.) — Roasted (sweet) red peppers, drained and chopped
1 jar (12 oz.) — Marinated artichoke hearts, drained and cut into bite-size pieces
Bottled Italian or Caesar salad dressing
Kosher salt & coarsely ground black pepper, to taste
Freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
Cook pasta according to package directions. Rinse and cool. Combine pasta and all vegetables in a large bowl. Add desired amount of dressing (you can easily use up to 2 cups, but taste and adjust.) Season with Kosher salt and black pepper. Refrigerate at least 3-4 hours. Top with sprinkling of Parmesan cheese just before serving.
Optional add-ins: Grape or cherry tomatoes (8-10 oz.); Chopped fresh basil (2-3 TB)