This episode begins with how we're American idiots and forgot how calendars are read in the rest of the civilised world. We made plans with a friend from Scrib, Dawn Chapman, to stay with her and her husband in Burscough, Lancashire, starting Sept 9th. We booked our airfare from Dublin to Manchester and a train from Manchester for 8/9/2014... which is actually 8 September.
Fortunately, our mistakes are at least consistent. We woke up on 8 Septmember, fully believing it was the 9th and caught our flight wiithout ever being corrected... then surprised the hell out of Dawn and her husband by arriving a day early.
Thankfully, they're good sports and hurried to get us anyway. They've set us up very comfortably for the week in a camper parked in front of their house, even going so far as to give us our own wifi hub so we can get caught up on writing stuff - both fiction and the dazzlingy unsexy transcription and copywriting work that's helping fund us while we travel.
Our writing den for the week, and the ridiculous hand-knit sweater you were all waiting to see.
Burscough is a lovely village, and the west Lancashire countryside is gorgeous. Dawn's husband Paul is a bus driver, and he gave us a very scenic lift through Southport to Liverpool for a day's exploring. We checked out the World Museum and the Walker Art Gallery and had a picnic lunch (with most of the rest of Liverpool) in St John's Garden's.
Burscough and the Lancashire countryside
Every Renaissance Faire performer who's ever been asked "you mean they wore all that?" and tried to argue that it's cooler in the UK plus the 16th century was mini ice age, etc - it's still drastically cooler, ice age or no. I've never before compared climates so drastically as to complete a hot, sticky closing weekend and get on a plane to Dublin the following morning, but in Dublin the temps ranged from 40-60 F night/day and here they range 45-65F. Without being prompted, both Alan in Dublin and Paul in Burscough commented on how unseasonably warm and sunny it was. It peaked at a whopping 68F at 1pm yesterday, during our picnic.
These ones are for you, mom.
The antiquities exhibit in the World Museum included commentary from Romans on Brittania: "There is not an ounce of silver or profit to be found except in slaves, and the climate is wretched, all mists and fog... still, the soil is good and most things will grow except grapes, olives, and those crops which require the sun."
In the Walker gallery, aside from all the more famous works, this in particular blew my mind... in that it's not a photograph, it's a pre-Raphelite painting.
It's been a relaxing week of wandering about, writing, and very pleasant dinners with Dawn and Paul, so in lieu of any hilarity or drama I'll leave you with the recipie for Jerry and Laura's Kick-Ass Chicken and Waffles that we're making for all of our hosts. It's the same one we serve for Whiskey Tasting Like A Pro.
Are you hungry yet?
- Chicken or tofu
- Masa Cornmeal - we're carrying Maseca around.
- Blackening spice (mix your own to taste)
- Buttermilk or whole milk
- Kettle-cooked chips (us) / hand-cut crisps (uk)
- Frying oil
Can be done with boneless or bone-in, strips or large pieces, skin or no skin. All depends on the depth of the pan you have available, as the chicken must be completely immersed in oil. Also works beautifully with tofu.
Soak the chicken in milk with a squeeze of lemon for fifteen minutes. In a mid-size ziploc bag, combine 50% cornmeal with 50% blackening spice. We make our blackening spice differently each time with whatever is available, but usually it's 25% sugar (brown or raw ideal) 25% salt (seasoned or bacon salt is great) and 50% common bbq-esque spices - black pepper, paprika (smokey spanish paprika is excellent) or ancho chili, cayanne, garlic, onion, organo, rosemary, thyme, basil, etc. Totally works with Jamican-style jerk spices or whatever inspires you. Toss the chicken in the cornmeal and spice mix to coat. This step can also be done in a bowl if you prefer, but the bag is much more effecient.
Beat 1-2 eggs in a bowl and crush crisps in a large bowl (crush them as fine as you can get them. The bigger the chunks of crisps, the easier they'll fall off in the fryer). Dip coated chicken in egg wash and roll in crushed crisps. Deep fry. (Fully immerse in hot oil.) If you have a deep fryer, fantastic, but totally works in any pot or pan so long as you can safely fill the oil high enough to cover the chicken. If frying in a pan, be sure to handle the chicken with heat resistant tongs such as intended for grilling, or cooking chopsticks - fluted tongs meant for salad get hot fast and are a sure way to burn yourself.
The reason this has no specified quantities is that it can be scaled any way you like. One whole chicken cut into parts, or one package of four-six boneless breast or thighs, or about 1.5 blocks of tofu will serve about 4-6 people and require about 2 eggs, about 1 cup of milk, about 1/2 cup of cornmeal and spice mix, and most of a American family-size bag of crisps (or about 2 bags of the largest size widely available in the UK) and take about a litre of oil to fry.
Pancakes or waffles:
- Masa Cornmeal - we're carrying Maseca around.
- Wheat Flour - as in flour that comes from wheat. Can be whole grain wheat, brown, white, whatever you like. (optional)
- baking soda
- Oil or spray oil
Beat egg(s) in bowl. Per one egg, approximately a half-cup to a cup of cornmeal makes batter for 2-4 people. Can be done with 100% cornmeal or up to 50% flour. Wheat flour will make the pancakes fluffier but dilute the awesome cornbread taste. Adjust according to preference and gluten tolerance. Add one tablespoon to 1/2 cup sugar depending on taste. We prefer 100% cornmeal with just a spoonful of sugar, but those used to American pancakes may prefer up to 50% flour and a half-cup sugar. A pinch of salt and add milk, stirring, until it makes a pleasantly batter-like consistancy. Add baking soda a teaspoon at a time until it is a bit bubbly in the bowl and rises the amount you want in the pan. (There is no way to explain what "good" batter looks like until you've tried it in person - put dollop in the pan and see if you like how it turns out. More milk = thinner battrer, such as for crepes. More baking soda = more bubbles, more rise.)
Can be used in a waffle iron if you have one or in a pan if you don't. If you're using a waffle iron, don't forget to generously spray each side with some kind of aerosol oil. The first pancake is the "trial" or "sacrificial" one - in which you determine if you've got the pan set at the right heat or if you're going to burn it, if you've got the batter thin enough for satisfactory spread or too thin, if you like the amount of rise or want to add more baking soda, if you like the sweetness level in the final product. Unlike with bread or cake (or god forbid, scones) which will be ruined if mixed too much, you can keep adjusting quantities and trying another test dollop until you have the batter as you like it.
Asian, yet distinctly American - oh Huy Fong, how we love you.
Salsa brava / spicy tomato aoli:
- Mayonnaise or salad cream
- Hot sauce (we tend to use sriracha, sambal, or similar Asian ones, but will work with any hot sauce)
- Ketchup or tomato paste
- Maple syrup, honey or sugar (optional)
1:1:1 creamy base, hot sauce, and tomato component. Mix thoroughly. Adjust or sweeten as desired. Start with a VERY small amount, like 1 teaspoon of each ingredient for four-six people. A little goes a long way, and as you adjust by adding more of one thing or another you'll quickly find you've made enough for a year.
This might be the best thing produced in America.
Don't fuck around. Get the really good, grade B, organic, small production stuff. Bourbon barrel aged is always a plus. Yes, it should cost like $20 USD for a 375 ml bottle. We're currently dragging two bottles of BLiS around Europe.
Everywhere I travel, this is what I bring to represent myself and Chicago.
Also don't fuck around. You want a high quality small production bourbon or other American whiskey. We're currently carrying bottles of Koval Oat and Millet. Other favourites include High West and Michter's.
Now stack it up and make it pretty: waffles and pancakes arranged artistically on bottom, chicken piled high on top, drizzle with kickass maple syrup, top chicken with dabs of aoli, and maybe even sprinkle green onions or chives if you're feeling really fancy. Serve with some goddamn whiskey and toast each other as follows: "'Murcia!"