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Music and cooking practice for the birthday party

August 20, 2010

Tim’s finally back from vacation—one that took him from Alaska to Ocean City, MD—and Jen’s back from her meditation retreat, so Midway Fair is back into the practice room. We’ve been building a set list in a much more democratic way for this show:

We go in circles and each pick the next song. I’m used to dictating the set list, and the results this time around are interesting. I found myself wanting to play “Second Thought” for the first time since the CD release, and Jen spontaneously added harmony, which is new. We jammed on an Indigo Girls song, one that we’ve never played before. We’ll see what else comes out in the next couple practices. There’s some other news I’d like to announce, but I promised to save it until the party.

All the basic tracks for the album are now recorded. We’re in overdub land now. It ended up only being 11 discrete songs (at this rate, the tenth CD I record will be three songs), but the album is filled with strong material. We did a few almost final mixes . . . but I have to be good and hold onto them for a bit.

I’ve also been tagged to copyedit and write for a new music review site, Driftwoodmagazine.com. My review of the latest album from Celtic music gods Solas will appear this Sunday on the Magazine’s first day. It’s been a lot of work and has eaten up a lot of my spare time, but it’s come together to be something very professional.

I thought our WordPress followers might like a sneak peak at the food for our birthday party dinner. Pictures of the chicken and pizza . . . welllll, it shouldn’t be pizza, but the topping is what’ll go on the pasta . . . came out well. Pictures of rice just look silly. Pictures of pork shoulder? I can’t eat a whole pork shoulder, so that’s not getting cooked until the real event.

Plated chicken in a pot. Served with some sauteed squash, eggplant, and green tomato and croûtons.

“Chicken in a pot” is a classic country French dish. It is not braised; the only moisture comes from the chicken itself. It is slow roasted at a low temperature. This creates and incredibly strong chicken flavor with a concentrated jus. It may not look as pretty as a crispy-skinned chicken, but once you break it into limbs and plate it, who cares what it looked like at first?

The jus from the chicken gets skimmed of some of the visible fat, then I puree the vegetables. This is the same technique used with hunter’s sauce, which is similar to the sauce served on hassenpfeffer. It thickens into a gravy (I was a little impatient, so it’s not quite as hemogenous as it ought to have been) without the need to use flour. Some of my friends can’t eat wheat, so I wanted the dish to be gluten free. The original recipe discarded the vegetables. What a waste.

How to make it: Pat dry one chicken. It’s best if it’s never been frozen. Discard the guts (although I leave the liver and neck inside while it’s roasting). Add about a teaspoon or two of salt and pepper to the outside and, in a dutch oven large enough to hold the whole chicken, brown it on all sides (about 5-8 minutes per side). You should not need any oil for this; there’s enough fat in the chicken skin.

Add 1/2 a small yellow onion (chopped), a carrot (quartered), two cloves of garlic (whole is fine), and a celery stick to the pot when you first flip over the chicken. They should get slightly caramelized by the time the chicken skin is browned.

Cover the pot, lining the lid with tin foil, and cook on 250 degrees for 2-3 hours, depending on the size of the chicken.

I’ve never gotten the chicken out of the pot whole. The chicken is that tender.

Once you get it or its constituent parts out of the pot, strain the jus and reserve the veggies. The chicken will need to stand for about 10 minutes. Skim some of the fat from the jus. Don’t skim it all. It contains a lot of flavor. Puree the veggies and slowly add the jus to create a smooth gravy-like texture. Reserve any remaining jus.

I plate it by spooning the sauce around the bottom of the chicken leg and topping it with some herbs and a little of the pure jus.

Pizza with garlic oil, tomato, fennel, onion, and sausage topping. The pasta for the party will have the same topping minus the sausage.

This one I’m not telling how it’s made yet!

I’m off to play a few songs at The Black Hole in Dundalk, MD now. Solo acoustic—I haven’t done that in a while. But I need to meet some new faces.

—Jon Patton

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