Friday, September 2, 2011

Friday night KFC

The prospect of fried chicken focused my brain like a laser today. I had been struggling -- it's so hard to concentrate the day before the long weekend, and I've been looking forward to this one extra, because my husband and I have rented a house in the Catskills with my cousin and her three chef friends. There has been talk of oysters, kielbasa, pie, barbecue...ahh!

With so much to look forward to, it was hard to focus. I promised myself that if I could get through my to-do list, I could rush home make a batch of Korean fried chicken to eat with my husband before he took off for his gig at Brooklyn Winery. If I couldn't get through the list, dinner would be scrambled eggs. It was magic motivation. (Scrambled eggs isn't actually a bad dinner. It just doesn't hold up to KFC.)

Korean fried chicken is the kind of fried, savory tastiness that is so crave-inducing that you'll risk a burnt tongue to get at it as soon as it's lifted from the hot oil. I used to make it by just marinating cubes of chicken in soy, mirin, ginger and garlic, then dredging the cubes in cornstarch and frying them in oil at some indiscriminate temperature until they seemed done. For me, this was a passable technique. All I really wanted was a delivery system for ginger-y, soy-y, fried chicken. But then I read an exhaustive effort to recreate the flavors of classic fried chicken hof style at ZenKimchi, and I had to try their way. I used the Two Two Chicken recipe, with potato starch, and I marinated the chicken for about 30 minutes in enough soy to cover the cubes, a glug of mirin, two cloves of garlic, minced, and a thumb-sized knob of ginger, grated. The crust fell apart on my tongue almost like pastry, and it had that grit of salt and pepper that makes you want to lick your lips. The chicken was tender and bursting with juices. It was just what I'd hoped for.

Now it's 11 p.m. and the smell of hot oil has finally filtered out of the apartment. The neighborhood is eerily quiet -- usually there's a horde of teenagers who play a game of tag/catch/hide-and-seek well into the night on Fridays. Perhaps they're at home with their families, getting ready for their own weekend getaways.

Besides the fried chicken, there were lots of other One Really Good Thing contenders today. Two of the best: sitting in Bryant Park on my lunch break, eating a puckeringly tart Fuji apple and reading the last three pages of Rick Moody's latest: The Four Fingers of Death. Rush out and get this book! You'll be glad you did, especially if you are, like me, simultaneously sarcastic and sensitive, skeptical and sentimental. Dark, funny, heartachingly-touching. I loved it.

And, reading -- bear with me -- the Time's obituary for the co-inventor of the colonoscopy, Dr. William I. Wolff. Check it! This guy invented a tool that amounted to "a quantum advance in abdominal surgery," because it so successfully saves people from dying of the second most common type of cancer. If that's not enough to love him, the end of the piece described him as someone who "delighted in veering from conventionality." Once, the story said, "a patient from Chinatown could pay only in homemade dumplings, and that was fine with him."

That made me very happy.

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