Sunday, March 2, 2014

Of My Own

To say that I am an introvert is a gross understatement. I am so far on the introvert scale, I fall off the edge. In order to face the world, I need a lot of quiet, alone time. These past weeks have been a haze of running around this very unpublic transportation friendly city looking at one apartment after another (spoiler alert: I have not yet found a new apartment). Needless to say, I have been a little bit low on energy lately. I'm pretty prone to finding things overstimulating on a relatively quiet day, and these have not been quiet days. So I treasure my alone time. I am greedy for it. I take pleasure in cancelling plans (I have cancelled plans with one specific friend so many times in the past weeks, I am surprised she still likes me). This is not to say that I don't love my friends and want to spend time with them. I have spectacular friends and I love spending time with them. I love the joy and comfort and laughter they bring to my life. They are my emotional bulwark. This is also not to say that I have become a hermit and disavowed any form of social interaction. I go out. I see people. I go to work and make small talk with my equally awkward and intoverted co-workers. I do things. I attend satirical academic conferences on the importance of cake. (And cake is very important as we all know.) But life is so much right now and feels so pressing that I find myself clawing and fighting to carve out some time just to sit, just to be, just to find myself again.

Usually, weekends are for friends- for sharing food and conversation. Meals are eaten in a group- dinner parties or potlucks. Sometimes I host, sometimes I am a guest, but Friday night dinner and Saturday lunch are almost always spent in the happy company of other people. A few weeks ago, though, faced with the prospect of having no plans for Saturday lunch, I realized that I didn't want plans. Even if plans had materialized, I would have said no to those plans. I needed some "me" time. So instead of eating with friends, I made myself a lovely citrus-fennel salad (even better the next day) and a variation on a chicken recipe my mother used to make when I was a kid.  I sat in the quiet and ate my delicious food. I read, I slept, and thought thinky thoughts. I was still until nightfall when I stood up, shook myself off and went out into the world again.

My mom's corn flake crumb chicken- exactly what it sounds like, baked chicken coated in corn flakes- was a delicious staple growing up. It is one of my ultimate comfort foods. However, me being who I am, I couldn't help but tinker with the recipe. A while ago, a friend of mine, or rather, a woman who served as a surrogate mother figure of sorts all these years I have been far away from my own mother, gave me a recipe for breaded chicken with mustard. It's a good, quick recipe and I used it a lot. Eventually, it too, evolved. Mustard became a mix of mustard and tehina and as of a few weeks ago, bread crumbs became corn flake crumbs. This is how new recipes are born. The chicken is moist and flavorful, the coating is crispy and wonderful. It's a good recipe to have alone or with friends.

Corn-Flake Crumb Chicken with Mustard and Tehina

Adapted from Ricky Krakowski, Carol Toff and many others

This is not a precise recipe- think of it more of a list of suggestions and ratios. Want to add more mustard? Go for it. Don't have corn-flake crumbs? fine- use panko or plain old bread crumbs. Don't have time to marinate the chicken overnight? Also, fine. This chicken will be great if you leave it let it sit for an hour, or even just 20 minutes. It's all good and delicious.

1 chicken, in 8 pieces
1/3 cup tehina paste
1/4 cup mustard (Dijon is preferable, but plain is fine too)
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram or oregana
a good pinch coarse salt
a grind of black pepper
corn flake crumbs.

1. The day before you bake the chicken. Mix together the tehina, mustard, marjoram salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the chicken and mix to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge overnight. (If you don't have time, just coat the chicken with the mustard-tehina mixture and leave it for as long as you can.

2. Take the chicken out of the fridge and bring to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Pour some corn flake crumbs on a large plate and coat the pieces of chicken entirely, pressing down to make sure the coating sticks. Place in a baking pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the chicken thigh reads 165 (you know the drill).