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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Picnic With The Pope

We used to have elaborate Christmas Eve dinners.  Big  productions of Roast Prime Rib, Feast of the Seven Fishes, Roast Goose, Filet Mignon, and Peking Duck. Not any more.  Christmas Eve service at our church cuts a big chunk of time out of an evening for cooking. We wouldn't have it any other way.

Now, we snack on Christmas Eve, drinking gallons of Bailey's and coffee with hopes of staying awake for Midnight Mass with the Pope on television.  Last Friday was no exception.  No chips and dip this year.  Ruffles with french onion dip will have to wait for the Super Bowl.

Last Friday, we had crackling fried chicken wings for our picnic with the Pope.  No forks needed. We settled down with glasses of wine after church and basked in the soft glow of our living room tree. Toward midnight, Michael fired the coffee pot for our coffee drinks while I prepped for our picnic.

Pulling from the asian tradition for crisp fried anything, I dredged the wings in cornstarch and let them rest for an hour in the refrigerator.  The resting period allowed the coating adhere to the wings when frying.

After heating peanut oil to 365 in a cast iron skillet, I carefully nestled the wings into the shimmering oil.  I turned the chicken a few times until well browned before sliding them into a a warm oven to hold while I whipped together  a couple of sauces. In one bowl, I mixed together melted butter, brown sugar, Chystal hot sauce, and Georgia Peach Hot sauce.  In an ajacent bowl, I tossed reduced teriyaki glaze, minced ginger, sesame oil, and a splash of rice wine vinegar.

Of course we had the requisite celery sticks.  I wanted a salad, but I really hate juggling finger food with fork food.  Bothersome.  I made a finger salad with  snipped ends of spicy bitter escarole tossed in a light lemon vinaigrette. For texture and tatse, I threw in roasted red pepper, spanish olives, and pickled banana peppers.

I pulled the wings from the oven, tossed half in the hot sauce, half in the gingered teriyaki glaze, and plated them on a platter separated with bunched fresh parsley.

At the stroke of Midnight, we climbed the stairs with our platters of wings, suaces, and sides; and plopped down in front of the television as Midnight Mass began.
As the gold gilded Pope made his way into St. Peter's Basilica, we ate. Although well coated with sticky sauce, the chicken remained incredibly crisp.  The skin snapped and crunched like spicy brittle, revealing juicy sweet chicken meat. Chilled celery cut through the sticky heat with clean wet bites. It was odd eating salad with our fingers, but it seemed appropriate.  Messy fun. The vinaigrette-dressed escarole provided needed acidity to the sweet gooey midnight madness. 

We were covered in chicken goo.  Lip-smacking goodness with teriyaki hot-sauce brown sugar facials.

It was a terrific Papal picnic.

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