Friday, September 16, 2011

Battle Wounds

"...they come not single spies, but in battalions" Claudius, Hamlet IV.5

I do not speak of sorrows, but of life. I find that Claudius's maxim on the sorrows of the world, applies also to life in general. When life happens, it happens all at once. It comes in battalions. Life in the kitchen is no exception.

There are two sinks in the kitchen- a small one in the fore-room where we wash our private dishes- the mugs we use for coffee, etc- and a fairly large one in the prep room where we dump  our loads of vegetables to be washed and sorted. The big sink is a little bit essential. That week, it was also a little bit broken and by a little bit broken I mean the handle snapped off and couldn't be reattached. We would have to manage with one small sink. On a normal day, that would be difficult but within the range of not-chaos inducing. On that particular day, R. happened to be in kitchen prepping for a private catering event that she had later that day. This meant we had one more hand in the kitchen, which was useful, but it also meant that there was a whole lot more produce to wash and general stuff to be done than there usually is. We were all a tad bit uptight that day. Our dishwasher was testier than usual.  C. cut herself. And then, after, having been instructed to keep an eye on some cooking vegetables, I completely forgot and ended up with a nice pot of burnt. Broken sink. Burnt vegetables. Bleeding cook.  At that point I excused myself to the front to do service, both to avoid the wrath of the dishwasher, who hates nothing more than burnt pots, and to minimize my ability to screw something else up.

While doing service, as often happens, I ran out of whatever protein we were serving that day. I called to the dishwasher to pull me another pan out of the oven. He complied. He leaned in. I moved my arm back and felt a sharp pain on my upper arm. At first I thought I had cut myself on the sharp edge of the pan. I lifted my other hand up to feel. No blood. I continued service. Later, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and realized what I thought was a cut, was really a nice long burn. My first real kitchen burn. My first battle scar. For a few weeks I walked around in short sleeves as often as I could, showing off to myself a little bit. For all my tough-guy posturing though, I soon discovered, that a) it was uncomfortable and b) it was also healing quite nicely. I barely have a scar.

All the while, R., old hand that she is, was calmly prepping chicken wings, laying them in pans, pouring on sauce and sprinkling them with sesame seeds. Save her car breaking down on the side of a busy highway while transporting food to an important event (another story for another time), there is very little that rattles R. So in honor of the unflappable R, chicken wings.

Grilled Chicken Wings in Sumac
As usual adapted from The Book of New Israeli Food  by Janna Gur
(what can I say, I like this book)

Sumac is widely used spice in Middle East. Less so, in the States. It is deep, ruby red in color and sort of salty and tart. You can use it in marinades and dressings, as its used here. Or sprinkle it over hummus, or fatoush salad. It pairs nicely with thyme. You can probably find it in your local Middle Eastern grocery store.

For about 25 wings:

1/2 C olive oil
3 tbl sumac
Salt and pepper

1. Clean and prep your wings. Remove stray feathers and break off the tips. Save them for stock.

2.  Mix together the olive oil, sumac, salt and pepper and pour over the wings. Cover and marinate for at least 4 hours.

3. Heat your grill until quite hot. Grill the wings for 10-15 per side, about 30 minutes total, until they are done and nice and crispy on the outside. Alternatively, if you do not own a grill, do not wish to grill or are a non-Chicagoan in a Chicago winter (real Chicagoans don't let a little bit of snow stop them) you can grill the wings under a broiler of an oven set to 425 F.

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