Brazilian chickens have really been kicking my ass these days.
Not these chickens though. Aren't they pretty? They are Angola chickens - from D'Anestis' sitio. Angolas are my favorite chickens.
No, instead my chicken problems were bought in the grocery store. To celebrate Tuesday's historic events, I invited an American friend and her husband (who is actually Romanian - we are almost as much of a mishmash here as we were in New York) to watch the inauguration and have a good old fashion Americana lunch. Fried chicken of course was on the menu, along with potato salad, corn on the cob, baked beans and watermelon (which was promptly forgotten about when our friends showed up with ice cream).
Frying chicken isn't exactly nuclear physics, but for all the trouble it gave me it might as well have been. Thighs and legs were the order of the day and while I managed to get them nicely breaded and coated and didn't make too much of a mess with the oil in the fry pan, I simply couldn't get them to cook through. Following the time indicated on a recipe, I fried those suckers 7 minutes a side - 14 minutes total. But when we got our picnic settled in front of the TV and started cracking jokes about Wolf Blitzer's lame-o commentary and the googly eye he's always giving Soledad, we cut into the chicken and it was bloody inside! I hauled the mess downstairs, and cut it into smaller pieces and re-fried them until they were dry as cardboard and the coating was burnt. Disaster.
Then yesterday, clearly not having learned any lessons but undeterred, I put a little fryer, probably not more than 2 1/2 pounds, into the oven to roast. I wouldn't normally be making chicken two days in a row (I wouldn't normally be cooking two days in a row - I'm not that domestic) but we had already defrosted it and I didn't want it to go bad. Wanting to avoid another undercooked episode, I left that puppy in there for an hour and twenty minutes. Unstuffed. Even checked that juices ran clear at the thigh joint. But the chicken gods were not on my side this week. We sat down to eat, cut in, and low and behold! Bloody chicken.
We hacked off a few pieces, fried them to shoe leather in a pan and I made soup out of the rest. I'm staying out of the kitchen now for a few days.
After doing a little internet research to appease my frustration I discovered the root of my problems. Commercial chickens, stuffed with grain and hormones to get them up to weight faster are often sold at the tender age of 6 1/2 weeks. This means their young bones are porous and they bleed marrow into the meat. Yum. Apparently both times I had cooked them long enough to kill bacteria and, while being terribly unappetizing, were perfectly safe to eat.
We're going vegetarian for a while. We rarely eat much red meat anyway and I'm now on the hunt for a free-range chicken source. But the last time I paid a premium for one of those, no amount of pressure cooking could soften up that gnarly old hen. Maybe I'll just have to wait until we can raise some ourselves up in Ibitipoca. Although killing your own chicken does come with it's own set of challenges, as Geraldinha has previously pointed out to me.
Okay, I realize I've been posting a lot about chickens lately. I promise I'll give it a rest for a while.
I'll leave you instead with my second favorite topic - bugs! A moth to be exact.
Isn't it lovely. So furry. And a little worse for the wear, poor gal. I put my hand in there so you could get a sense of scale. This one is actually pretty small. I've encountered them as large as my two hands poised to make a moth shadow puppet. One flew into our kitchen over Christmas and my mom was sure it was a bat.
In Brazil they call them bruxas, or witches, and they are considered ugly and scary. But I think they are beautiful. Maybe because they make me think of my friend Miss S. and the time she showed up to a Halloween party I threw dressed as a moth, complete with fuzzy proboscises. She spent the evening dipping them into peoples drinks and shuffling around in tiny geisha steps, because, she determined, that's how a moth would walk. If moths wore slippers. Maybe she's right.