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Update: Matt Petersen points in the comments to a series of podcasts on Lent from the folks at “Trinity Talks” that are a much more balanced Protestant perspective on Lent, which I’m happy to hear. You can find them here, here and here.

Since I’m making an attempt at reinvigorating the old blog, here’s a thought I had during Lent that seems particularly appropriate since we’re currently in another season of fasting for the Eastern Churches, the Apostles’ Fast which runs from the second Monday after Pentecost till the Feast of Ss. Peter and Paul.

I was happy to observe that this Lent, many Reformed pastors with blogs took up the subject of the Church’s foremost penitential season. But most of their thoughts were filled with trepidation about the practice of fasting.

Posts like Steve Wilkins’ here and Doug Wilson’s here and here are more open than usual to the idea of observing Lent and Advent, but the idea of their communities actually setting those seasons aside for actual physical fasting from food seems to fill them with fear. Read the rest of this entry »

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new_chickenWell, Lent’s almost here. In the Byzantine Church, we ease our way into Lent with Meatfare and Cheesfare Sundays. Two weeks before Lent we give up meat, one week before Lent we give up dairy, then the next week we’re into the full on fast.

So tomorrow being Meatfare Sunday, we decided to have one last meal of a nice piece of meat. We saw this recipe on Cook’s Country by America’s Test Kitchen this morning and decided this would have to be the one.

I’ve tried my hand at fried chicken a few times. I recall last year getting to a recipe that I like, but it wasn’t like really good restaurant quality fried chicken.

This recipe is it. Absolutely. The only thing we changed was using strips of boneless skinless breasts instead of a whole chicken. I would’ve like to do it the whole chicken way, but the wife was in the mood for strips.

This chicken will shift your paradigm.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups buttermilk, divided
  • 2 tablespoons table salt or 4 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 (3 1/2 lb) roasting chickens, cut in 8 pieces
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

Directions

  1. Remove 6 tbsp buttermilk and set aside. To remaining buttermilk, add salt and whisk until dissolved.
  2. Cut chicken in 8 pieces (2 legs, 2 thighs, cut each breast in half). Submerge chicken in buttermilk brine. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  3. In a bowl, whisk together flour, thyme, pepper, garlic powder and baking powder. Add reserved buttermilk and toss with fingertips to form pea-sized crumbs.
  4. Drain chicken and transfer to breading, 2 pieces at a time. Pack breading onto chicken firmly.
  5. Heat 4-5 cups vegetable shortening or peanut oil to 375°F It should be about 3/4″ deep in the pot. Place chicken into hot fat, skin side down. The temperature will drop to about 300°F; maintain the temperature at 310-315°F Cover pot and cook 8-10 minutes; check chicken after 4 minutes to ensure even browning, and move pieces around if needed. After 8-10 minutes, turn pieces over; cook another 6-8 minutes until the second side is also golden brown.
  6. Remove chicken and drain on paper towels. Allow to drain and cool 5-10 minutes before serving.

As of Sunday, Chili’s took it’s place on my List of Places I Won’t Eat At On Principle (Unless I Do). This list also includes such purveyors of crap as McDonalds and Subway. Now, I generally try to avoid fast food, but when I have to eat it, I try to make sure it’s not from places on my list if humanly possible.

Well congratulations, Chili’s, you finally sucked hard enough to make the list.

It’s a sad day for me, really. Growing up, all the cool kids at church would go hang out at Chili’s after services on Sunday nights or Wednesday after youth group.

It was a huge rite of passage the first time my parents let me go with. I remember the night clearly. It was the summer before my freshman year in high school. I felt so grown up, hanging out at a sit-down restaurant with my cool high school friends!

Chili’s was where all the cool stuff happened. That’s where all the older kids would go to talk about important high school stuff. That’s where the knowing, worldly-wise kids would make knowing, worldly-wise conversation about topics of which I understood only the mysterious fringe. It was tantalizing, to say the least. Read the rest of this entry »

I hate it when people claim to have the recipe for the “perfect” anything, so I won’t claim that I do, but I did bring together a recipe for a very good burger indeed last night. I record it here both to archive the details so I don’t forget them, and just to brag a little.

So here’s how it goes down. Per pound of hamburger you’re using, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the meat. This does a tremendous job of keeping the meat moist and juicy. The recipe I cribbed the idea from suggested mashing up 2 cloves of garlic and making a paste of that and the olive oil. Not having any garlic around last night (the horror, the horror!), I passed that one by. Add 3-4 tablespoons of worcestershire sauce and season to taste. Me, I threw in a splash of soy sauce, some tobasco, some steak seasoning and some kosher salt.

Here’s the other secret I stumbled on: once you’ve formed your patties, make an indentation in the middle of each patty with your thumb, deep enough that it almost goes all the way through. For whatever reason, this seems to keep the patties from shrinking, which is a huge problem I’ve had with burgers in the past.

Finally, toss them on the grill (one layer of hot coals, direct heat). If you like it pink in the middle, five minutes per side. If you like it with no pink, you should advance your tastes, but if you must ruin your burger cook it six and a half minutes per side, which will get you to no pink but not well done.

I have made some bad burgers in the past. This method produced burgers that made both myself and my wife very happy. The olive oil seems to keep the burgers so juicy that even when cooking to medium or beyond, they don’t dry out or burn on the outside.

So, praise God for Church and good dinner on Sunday, and a left over burger for lunch on Monday!

potato-salad.jpg…without knowing the difference between potato salad and German potato salad? I just figured the latter was merely an ethnic variation on the former. Turns out they couldn’t be more different. The one is a cold, slimy atrocity. The other is a delicious warm bacony delight! It has nothing in common with either potato salad or any other kind of salad. I was lied to.

So here’s the recipe that changed my life tonight.

Ingredients:

10 slices bacon, diced
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup vinegar (we used apple cider vinegar, I hear red wine vinegar works well too)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon prepared mustard (I used a spicy whole grain mustard and thought it could easily have used more of this)
1 dash cayenne pepper (also could have been significantly more)
10 potatoes, boiled
1 medium onion, sliced

1. Dice and fry bacon.
2. Add onions when bacon is about 3/4 cooked, continue cooking till bacon is done and onions are translucent.
3. In a small bowl, add eggs, salt, mustard, sugar, vinegar and cayenne pepper.
4. Beat well and pour into pan with bacon and bacon grease while still on the heat, stirring till thickened.
5. Add diced cooked potatoes and stir till coated with bacon mixture.
6. Serve hot.

Enjoy your whole new perspective on things!