Baked drumsticks and fevered kneading

Tonight I baked a huge sheet pan full of skinless drumsticks for Alanna and me, and boneless skinless breasts for Kris.

Drumsticks are only 1 pt each on WW, and they’re pre-portioned, flavorful, and cheap. Until last year, I had stopped eating dark meat after hearing it had more fat than white. Yeah, it does, as this chart shows – but only a tiny bit more!

Another plus – dark meat is better for stews and soups, because it won’t dry out and seize up when surrounded by a salty broth like white meat does. Dark meat is pretty comfortable with its fat content.

I used a bunch of different seasonings to try to approximate the flavor of Publix’s Mardi Gras wings. Have you tried these things? They are salty, herby, garlicky, and spicy. Their fans are legion – just google and you’ll see link after link of people praising them and looking for a recipe.

I opted for heavy sprinklings of

  • McCormick’s Rotisserie Chicken (grade: B)
  • Spice Islands Garlic Rosemary grinder (grade: A)
  • Badia garlic powder (grade: cheap)
  • my new best friend McCormick’s Ground Chipotle (grade: how soon can a woman marry her favorite spice? also, don’t put off buying it because it is $5 – it goes a LONG way. also, try it on a tuna melt. mmm)
  • and Publix lemon pepper.

Then I spread the breasts and drumsticks out on a half sheet pan that had been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray (the blue Crisco can – I love that there’s no cap to fiddle with when my hands are greasy).

In keeping with my “cook once, eat until it’s gone” philosophy, I made a 3-pack of breasts and a 12-pack of drumsticks. Value note – they cost the same, and that was with the breasts “on sale” for $3.49/lb.

Baked for 15 minutes at 400°, turned and seasoned the other side, baked for 10 minutes more. I was guessing on the time – I knew a sheet with over 2lbs of chicken would take a while to cook.

Because my sister was watching at this point, I pulled out my new handy-dandy instant read digital thermometer and actually checked the doneness the right way. I come from a long line of rule-of-thumb/commonsense cooks, who consider chicken done when the juices run clear, while my sister comes from a long line of managing restaurants with ServSafe certification. When in Rome.

Remembering that white meat cooks faster, I checked its temp first, and it was perfectly ready. The drumsticks needed 10 more degrees – about 5 minutes.

While the chicken was going through that 10-minute interval, I made the broccoli rabe. It was my first time cooking and/or eating it, so I got Alanna to look up how to cook it for a side dish (ie, not part of some fancy pasta dish). Quick consenus: blanch and saute or just saute.

But first, to wash. The bunch of rabe was so big around I had to split it into 3 smaller bunches just to be able to keep a grip on it under the running water. Then I realized the pieces while slender (like average asparagus) were too long to fit into my larger skillet. At this point, the resourceful chef pulled out cutting board and knife and sliced each bunch into thirds lengthwise.

This created a dauntingly large pile of leafy, broccoli-y, stalky goodness which was now too TALL for my skillet.  Poor lonely skillet. I know you were all dressed up with olive oil, but you will have to yield this dance to the stock pot, who is better equipped to accommodate such volumes of cruciferae.

By this time, I had decided to cook it just like I usually do spinach. Heat olive oil and some chopped garlic in a heavy-bottomed tall pot. Add a few big handfuls of greens and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir so the garlic doesn’t burn. Add more greens, salt, pepper. Stir. Add more oil if things start sticking before the greens give off moisture.

This process basically works, but as soon as the rabe heated up, it gave off a smell. I had expected it to smell and taste like broccoli because it looks so much like it, with the little flower heads and all, but I was wrong. It smelled just like dark leafy greens, like kale or mustard or turnip greens. I was a little less excited, but I dutifully kept stirring.

On the bright side, it was on sale for $1.99 (usually $2.99) and cooked quickly. When it got brighter and the leaves were just soft enough to eat, I turned off the heat and covered it, so it could steam itself done while the chicken finished its last few minutes.

On the dark side (?), it tasted just like it smelled, meaning it was a little more dark and leafy than I am generally comfortable with. Also, I should have cut it a little smaller, maybe into quarters, as some of the stalk pieces were awkward to poke in my pie hole.

Kris and Alanna loved it with pepper vinegar because they are good people who inexplicably really enjoy healthful foods.

But what of the chicken, upstaged by the upstart rabe? It turned out pretty good – very tender and (clear) juicy – but nowhere near the excellence that is the Mardi Gras wings. I think they needed more fat (skin) and rosemary, whole dried pieces and not just ground.

They were surprisingly filling, so we ate only 2 each even though I had budgeted for 3. I sent Alanna to her sleepover with a quart-size ziploc stacked full of 8 tasty legs. She protested mildly – “I’ve never done anything so country in my life as show up at somebody’s house with a bag full of chicken” – but who would not be happy to see it coming their way?

One further note. I tried making the Cranberry-Pecan Bread, which some of you will recognize from the bookmarks. It was a FLOP. I made the classic mistake of trying to change too much at once. Instead of using the bread machine (because I no longer have a good one), I tried to do it by hand with a long slow rise. I also got greedy and substituted 1 cup (1/4 of the flour) for King Arthur’s white-wheat bread flour, instead of using all white flour.

I was only emboldened to try these things because of the runaway success of the Oatmeal Buttermilk Bread.

Oh yes – I also waited too long to put the eponymous cranberries and pecans into the dough. Despite fevered kneading, I ended up with one milky way galaxy arm of pecans stretched across the loaf and some cliquey cranberries that did not deign to mingle.

Another use for the thermometer: I used it to check that the bread was done and it worked. 190° to 200° is the right range, so I opted for 195°. You can slip the loaf out of the pan and stick it in the bottom, but I just poked the top because I knew, even then, that it had turned into a lost cause learning experience.

After the required 30-minute cooling period, we tried a slice with some butter and the mayhaw jelly Daddy sent me home with today after lunch. (Ruby Tuesday’s petite sirloin is surprisingly excellent and only 6 points! Their balsamic vinaigrette is passable at 1pt/oz.)

Bottom line: eww. Stick with the all white flours and just eat less, if you’re trying to up the fiber content of your breads because you’re on WW and trying to game the system. Otherwise, your bread will have that particularly unappealing wheaty wang. Also, if you’re making bread by hand and won’t get that *beep* from the machine to tell you to put in the add-ins, don’t wait. Add them as soon as the dough comes together.

The mayhaw jelly was excellent, though. Kris said it was the best she had ever had of any flavor. Exceptionally high praise, because she has gone through 3 or 4 jars since xmas. I look forward to trying it on something that won’t make me yarf.

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