Cow and Chicken

Chicken Chicharrones

I resent Chick-fil-A for three reasons. Long before I’d been unlucky enough to live within a drivable distance to the fast food establishment that considers itself above operating on Sundays (I am a staunch advocate of separation of church and chicken, so that’s reason number one), I worked in the screen-printing sector for a spell, where I came across the ambiguous logo for the first time. I assumed the pronunciation was “chick fillah,” and figured the company had been founded by a surly aviculteur with a strong Boston accent, who supplied chicken filling for nuggets, patties, and the like. Obviously, reason number two addresses the all too common liberties taken with the alphabet.

Reason number three arose the first time I acquiesced to BK’s pleas for a Chick-fil-A kid’s meal from our mall’s food court, a routine I was unaware Mr. P had allowed to develop. I’ll note that our mall, though relatively close by, is actually in another state, one that boasts a long line of historically bad ideas. To my delight, I saw that the nuggets looked homemade, identifiably chicken, and lightly breaded. But then I tasted one, and a specific rage rose up out of my chest, one reserved for the slap in the face that is misleadingly appealing fare. I don’t know if the trademark “flavor” originates intentionally from a specific “seasoning,” or if I’m just experiencing the complex flavor profiles of grease, but those obsequious cow mascots need to offer at least bearable fare if they don’t want to end up in my sandwich.

I recently came across a recipe for chicken chicharrones on the always reliable simplyrecipes.com, and jumped at the chance to impress Mr. Tilde with some flavors from the mother protectorate. Upon plating the piping hot, shimmering with oil yet obviously crunchy little chunks, I noticed a hint of physical resemblance to the insipid little orts slung by CfA, but hoped that half an hour marinating in rum, lime juice, and soy sauce would yield a much more palatable product. Palatable is an understatement, and elastic waistbands are called for once again, as well as a table-side candy dish filled with Tums. A squirt each of lime juice and hot sauce are legally mandated in this case, and I find diners are especially delighted if the lime wedges are presented in a small communal bowl.  I’ve never been much of a deep-fryer, especially when peanut oil is involved, but I’m going to need to start that new gym membership, now that I’ll be eating this three nights a week. And when I finally have a few too many chicharrones sometime after Christmas, I’m coming for you, beefcakes.

The Cakening

Calgon Key Lime Cheesecake


It’s almost time to start making lemon meringues! To tide me over until the July 4th season opening for cool custard-based desserts, I rolled the dice on the Smitten Kitchen’s Key Lime Cheesecake the night before last. Win! The citrus cuts the heft of sixteen ounces of cream cheese brilliantly, lending a lovely antacid effect and enabling the diner to put away an impressive helping. I’m not much for mini-anything these days, so instead of buying a special pan with a dozen tiny spring-forms, I opted for the nine-inch single unit. It’s less climactic than the individual cakes, since you can’t count on the whipped cream topping and mango slices to keep as long as the headliner, and until she’s done her hair and makeup, she’s not much to look at.

This necessitates one to whip, seal and chill a half cup of cream each morning, as well as maintain a sealed container of mango slices in lime juice to facilitate enjoyment throughout the day. I’m about the only person I know with that kind of time on their hands, so save it for a group you know will leave no leftovers (college students, children of vegan parents, anyone wearing elastic pants – I have temporarily joined this particular group and have to say it opens up a whole new world of comfort and capacity). By last night, the cream was being dolloped as opposed to spread, and you can see it pictured here next to some apricot and mango salad – time was of the essence, and I wasn’t about to waste valuable snacking minutes arranging mango ribbons. Take care not to become too transported; I had yesterday’s afternoon wedge on the porch with my feet in Billy the Kid’s inflatable pool, and as my cabana boy poured water on my ankles with a watering can, a wonderful sense of smugness settled over me in which I basked drunkenly until realizing how similar I am to Steve Martin’s character in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

We’re having pork for dinner. Yes, again.

Cuban Roast Pork Loin

In mental preparation for Billy the Kid’s introduction to trick-or-treating tomorrow, Team Peña will sit out this particular date night and pack it in early after a big hot supper. It’s a great season for loin, and this is an easy way to pull of an unconscionably succulent piece of meat. As opposed to Pork Tenderloin with Guava Chutney, this recipe uses the intact, unsplit tenderloin and roasts rather than broils it. The resulting presentation is more handsome than dainty, but surprisingly light due to the not-too-sweet citrus marinade.

1 whole pork tenderloin
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 C fresh orange juice
1/4 C fresh lime juice
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter

Combine the garlic, oregano, salt, pepper, and 1 tbsp olive oil in a small bowl and mash them together with a fork to form a paste. Go ahead and rub that all over your loin. Put the seasoned meat in a gallon ziplock bag and pour in the lime and orange juices. Seal it up and stick it in the fridge for 2 hours.

Set your oven to 325. Put a medium roasting pan over two burners on your stove and turn both to medium. Heat the butter and the remaining 1 tbsp of oil in the pan until the foaming subsides, then brown the pork on all sides (this takes about 8 minutes in total). Turn off the stove, pour the marinade into the pan, and cover it up with aluminum foil. Roast the loin for 45 minutes until cooked all the way through (always 160 degrees for pork), then let it stand for 10 minutes before slicing into 1/2-inch rounds.

I’d like to take a moment to remind everyone to inspect their garlic at the store before checking out. In my hustle to complete today’s grocery trip quickly and spare my favorite market from a certain grabby-hands, I selected what appeared to be a perfectly healthy bunch from the bin. Back at the kitchen, I broke off the first clove and my eyes immediately teared up from the physical smack of Satan’s breath mint. I  consider myself fortunate to have lived this long without encountering bad garlic, and after one more hour airing out the house, this lesson should hold me indefinitely.

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