Lemon Chicken

Where’s the Chicken?

My main man HD Thoreau wrote, “Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify, simplify! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail.” I have done this with my lemon chicken recipe, which I have been obsessed with for years.

Sauce

Juice of one large Meyer Lemon (or two smaller other lemons)

Sugar

That’s it. MJ and I ate this dish a hundred times at a Chinese restaurant in Tuscaloosa, and it took me years to realize the Zen truth of simplicity.

Chicken

Cubed Chicken Breast

Cornstarch

Salt and Pepper

Peanut Oil

The last is for deep frying, and an inch and a half is enough. Serve with rice and green peas. Nosh away, as this is fantastic.

Blooming Today. Where Baby Lemons Come from.

Just writing this makes me hungry again.

2021–In Praise of Chicken Excrement

Black Gold

When you get up early on New Year’s Day to feed the chickens, and the low temp is 67 F, something is seriously wrong. That something is Anthropogenic Climate Disturbance, aka Global Warming. It’s fine now, but the summer will be when the bill comes due.

There is one constant, however–the wonders of chicken excrement. Americans in general treat chickens like a protein machine, caged, abused, and thrown away and eaten at a very early age. Our flock of eight ramble around all day, eat greens and high protein food, and we get eggs by the dozen. Better, possibly is the giant piles of excrement, which I compost. I am just beginning to use it as fertilizer. It could be the GOAT (greatest of all time.)

Chicken excrement and I go way back. When I grew up on the old farm, that was our main fertilizer, and sometimes the only one. As it turns out, industrial scale chicken production produces industrial scale chicken stuff. We had tons of this stuff at a time, which means we had tons of vegetables, and pounds and pounds of beef–we fertilized the pastures with chicken stuff, and even had to buy a giant stuff spreader to be able to do it.

So the moral for this new year is, what goes around, comes around. I have been fertilizing my mustard greens with chicken stuff, and feed the greens to the chicks, and the egg quality just gets better. I composted my garlic plants (forty in total,) and they took off like weeds. I just layered my young asparagus patch with several inches of compost. I better get the asparagus steamer ready for spring.

Film at eleven.

The Curse of the Colonel

A Slugger?

Spring is just around the corner here, on the first day of winter, and Spring Training will be here in ein Augenblick, or the blink of an eye. The “Boys of Summer” will be back at it, and could there be fans this season that aren’t cardboard cut outs? But there is a food related curse that should be known to every baseball fan. Naturally, it involves the Japan League, Kentucky, and fried chicken.

A favorite Christmas meal in Japan, according to Deutsche Welle, is a big box of KFC fried chicken, which is known as a “party barrel.” KFC restaurants will decorate their Colonel Sanders statues in Santa suits as well, which is better than the Tokyo department store whose Christmas display was Santa nailed to a cross (a definite holiday mix-up there). “Party barrels” may include wine and cakes with fried chicken, which makes them so not KFC USA. So why would the revered Colonel curse part of Japan?

The Hanshin Tigers could be considered the equivalent of the Cleveland Sports ball team of the MLB American League. You win some, you lose some, at about an equal clip. The Tigers, however, became the sworn enemies of the fried chicken gods in 1985.

The Tigers won their only Japan League title that year, and the celebration turned both epic and Dionysian. Revelers gathered on the Ebisu Bridge in Osaka, and began throwing people into the river below (canal, actually,) who resembled members of the team. One problem–their star player was an American slugger named Randy Bass, who had a beard. There were no Americans with beards in the crowd.

Therefore, a plastic statue of Colonel Sanders was thrown in instead. Within moments, the Colonel was swimming with the fishes, and the curse was on.

Curses make much easier excuses than bad management and crappy players. Eighteen years of last and next to last place finishes ensued. In 2003 the team won a division, and over 5,000 fans jumped into the canal. The Colonel was unimpressed, and the Tigers lost in the playoffs.

Finally, in 2009, pieces of the Colonel were rediscovered, with eventually everything but his glasses and left hand being found. These were reproduced, and the Colonel returned to KFC. Sorry, but it didn’t work. Still crappy players and mediocre management.

They need to follow the example of a perennial doormat like the Atlanta Braves. They finally sign Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz, three Hall of Fames pitchers, and Bobby Cox as Manager, who racked up 162 Manager Ejections (a record by far for Managers,) but also racked up a bushel of league, and one World Series, title. Funny how talent beats a curse every time.

Moocher’s Compost Bin

Mooched!

The mooching lifestyle is far more under appreciated in the US than it should be. A person could practically live off of discarded items, and I am certain that many people actually do. There’s no tax on throw aways, either.

I am only a part time moocher, but I have dumpster dived and mooched in numerous locales. I pulled a fancy desk chair out of a dumpster, worth several hundred dollars, and then spend my time at the computer sitting in an old post and rung oak chair, that I mooched for $5 at a flea market. My latest mooch could prove to be my best: a flat bed truck full of cinder blocks, and the wood pallets this compost bin are made of.

The story is this. We have been have been showering the in-laws with free eggs, and one couple had just had a retaining wall replaced, and needed to get rid of the left over and used cinder blocks, more commonly known in these parts as “see-mint blocks” (cement blocks.) As my mooching has become a valuable reputation enhancer, they offered us the blocks, and with free delivery. We countered with an offer of thirty eggs. It was a deal.

The sweetener was that the blocks are to used in the construction of a smokehouse, and we offered free use of that as well, once it is completed. The blocks arrived quickly after that offer. I helped unload them, and they had been sitting on two pine pallets on the truck. My brother in law asked if I wanted them. He didn’t know I been looking to mooch two wooden pallets as well.

Three deck screws later, and I had a new compost bin, attached to the back of the chicken run. It is now being filled with table scraps, leaves, and chicken manure in various states of decomposition. It will be half full in no time.

Free Fertilizer

Next spring we will have mooched fertilizer as well. Which reminds me that it is almost time to grab a shovel, and get to work.

Four French Hens

Proper Eggs need a Proper Basket

I don’t know the name of the sadist who wrote that never-ending Christmas song, “Twelve Days of Christmas,” but I fixed it by buying four French hens. To be precise, four ISA Browns. They could easily bury any of us in an avalanche of eggs.

Ethel the Brown Guards the Mail

These birds are hybrids, and bred to lay more eggs than a large family can eat. We are currently supplying five families with eggs, with only eight chicks, four Browns and four Barred Rocks. Do the math.

Ethel: “This is my Best Side.”

They are also remarkably handsome birds. There must be a passage in the French constitution, after all that stuff about liberty and equality ( thank Mr. Jefferson and Monsieur Lafayette for that,) that all French exports must look great. I don’t have a problem with that.

Christmas advice: Buy American Cast Iron! Buy German Tools! Buy French anything that has to do with Food! Have a Joyous Noel!

Great Southern Cookbooks, Part Three–Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ Book, by Chris Lilly

Alabama is the crossroads of BBQ. We probably ended up with the “world champion pitmaster,” because we have every style of pork barbecue imaginable, and at least one place that serves a pineapple bbq sauce. We even had one poor sod who tried to sell Texas style beef BBQ. Tried.

In short, we have more BBQ joints per capita than any other place in the States. We have one large multi-state chain of restaurants, Jim and Nick’s, which was started by two chefs of Greek extraction. Nick Pihakis, an acquaintance of mine, besides having created this pig empire, is one of the founders of “The Fatback Project,” whose aim is to return pork production to small farms with free range pigs (he even bought his own meat processing plant.) This is definitely a battle cry for those of us who have had enough of the disgusting practices of “Big Hog.”

He’s only resting and Getting a Tan. I swear.

This book is so good, just go and buy a copy. Archduke Bezos sold me this excellent used copy for three bucks, and the restaurant is only about thirty something miles from here. There is a chapter titled “Ode to Pork,”(take that, Schiller,) that quote from one of my favorite Roman poets, Ovid, who died in exile, and the recipe for “Eight-Time World Championship Pork Shoulder.” Don’t read this book while hungry.

In case you didn’t figure out that this is one smart guy who wrote this, Chris Lilly married in to the Big Bob Gibson family, after he graduated from the University of North Alabama. It just occurred to me, that I forgot to ask MJ that most important question, “Honey, does your family own a famous BBQ joint?” The Big Bob signature white sauce recipe is in there as well, though it is also widely available online. Yes, there is a mayo based BBQ sauce. Pure Alabama.

Let’s leave with a pic of Big Bob sporting his goods in 1956.

I be Big Bob

Pig out.

Tomato, Shallot, and Morel Omelette

If you want to make an omelette…

Though there was a small mountain of peas to shell, and a bowl of pecans to crack, nothing can stand in the way of MJ and myself enjoying a nice Sunday breakfast. As usual, we just went with the ingredients we had.

The Raw and the Cooked

Ingredients

3 medium Eggs

2 small Tomatoes, chopped

5 small dried Morels, reconstituted in hot water, chopped

1 medium Shallot

Morel soaking liquid

Grated or soft Cheese

Chopped Parsley

Salt and Pepper

This is an easy recipe, but we scored some authentic long shallots (Echalote traditionnelle longue) from France, and nothing goes together like morels, shallots and eggs.

First cook the shallots and morels together in olive oil. (It helps to have a really heavy cast iron skillet.) Add the chopped tomatoes, and simmer until softened.

Combine the eggs, cheese, and some of the morel juice, with salt and pepper.. When the veg and fungus is cooked, add the eggs to the mix. Cook on the stove top until the eggs begin to set firmly, sprinkle with chopped parsley, and pop the whole thing into a 400 degree F oven. That’s the entire whang dang doodle.

Thank you, Birds

This can also be made with some fried new potatoes as the base, in which instance it becomes a massive breakfast. The key is quality ingredients, as with all things.

The eggs were donated by our ISA Brown chicks, and the chopped parsley was harvested from a pot on our countertop. We grew one of the maters, and the other came from the Festhalle. Which reminds me that I have maters to get ready for canning.

I turned Italian, and have begun straining out my leftover morel juice for use elsewhere. There will be no flavor left behind.

The Chicken Run

Things to do

Our chicken run is 16′ by 24,’ or 384 square feet, which is the size of an apartment in some cities. It houses eight hens, and they make sure to inspect every inch of it daily.

I just completely cleaned out both coops this weekend, and added ten gallons of pine shavings to various places. MJ was mowing with our electric mower, and added three bags of grass clippings and dried leaves. Those birds will be busy for days.

We have four sections to the run, the junkyard/compost bin, the run itself, and the large and small coop. I’ll describe each in turn.

Junk Yard/ Compost Bin

Junk in the Run

By far the favorite place for the birds to hang is the compost bin and junkyard combination. It’s small and shady, and the compost draws in bugs and worms. I did upgrade the mailbox nest by putting a scrap 2×4 in front of where the door once was, to keep the birds from scratching out all of the shavings as soon as I put them in there. It worked, as I found three eggs in there this morning.

Junkyard Chicks

The Run

Chicken Run with Running Chicken

The run itself takes up about two thirds of the enclosure. It has three watering stations, and the ground is usually covered in shavings and clippings at this time of year. There’s room here for the birds to run, flap their wings, and scratch for hours. In dry weather I also dump out various food for them to scrounge around and find. If I want to start a real chicken riot, I’ll stand on the outside, and throw small chunks of various goodies in there, one after another. To the fastest bird goes the spoils.

The Big Coop

Snack Time at the Big Coop

This decent sized pre-fab coop easily houses six grown chickens at night, and we fill it with four Barred Rocks and two ISA Browns. The browns have taken over the top part of the coop, which leaves three quarters of it to the Rocks. This coop is also right next to the junkyard, so the birds can pop in for a quick bite at any time. My two additions are a homemade PVC feeder, and a one gallon watering jug made from a Sterilite container, which has been drilled and fitted with five little automatic, spring loaded watering devices. The foundation is 4×4’s, another addition of mine, so this thing is not going anywhere.

The Small Coop

Cozy for Two Birds

The small coop is a snug fit for two grown birds, but they have food, water, and a comfy perching area in the top section. This doubles a rabbit hutch, so it didn’t come with a nesting and perching area in the top section. I made both out of wood from my scrap pile. the next step is to double the 4×4 foundation, which will give an extra 3 1/2″ of head room in the lower section.

Any future plans? No more layers in the near future, unless a dog breaks in again, and kills a few. Plans for next spring are tentative, but the idea is to have another pen, with a door into this one, to raise that famous meat bird that originated in Bresse, France, that has blue legs. I would also like a breeding population of those. so I can hatch out my own. Fortunately, a farmer in Mississippi has a good genetics line from birds he imported from France. It may be time for road trip next spring.

Hoya! Don’t use Sawdust in a Chicken Coop

Once again, the chicken experts on the interwebs have struck Hoya! I have now been told that sawdust is deadly to chickens. Tell that to the more than 100,000 chickens that we had while I was growing up. Admittedly, they all now are dead, but blame that on the soup company they were sent to, to be beheaded.

I shoveled untold truck loads of sawdust for our nest boxes, and the birds didn’t have a problem with it, as they turned out far more than a million hatching eggs. I personally filled up the nesting boxes, and gathered most of the eggs.

For those who are not familiar with Hoya!, it’s the stuff you don’t want to step in when you’re in the horse’s stable. The interwebs is et up with Hoya.

Mailing It In

Egg Tsunami is Here

The two eggs on the left are from ISA Browns, the other three are from Barred Rocks. The Browns lay slightly longer eggs that are a little lighter, whereas the Rocks lay the slightly darker shorter eggs.

We had three eggs by nine this morning, and one was the first to be laid in the mailbox nest. The Browns are only beginning to lay, and according to the interwebs, they are egg layers supreme.

Here’s the mailbox again, for all the people who have worn out old farm stuff lying around. The size is XL.

Chickens like junk just as much as the flock of sheep in Shaun the Sheep.