The Modified Look
Well, it was one of those evenings where you waddle in through the front door tired and foot sore. It had been a long day afield, and all you want to do is procure a manly beverage and plant your prostate on your favorite man chair and watch some Clint Eastwood. But you can’t. Turns out your wife has had plans for you all day to grill her up some big, juicy cheeseburgers, patron to the pit.
“But darling”, you croak, “I haven’t but one ounce of energy, just let me tarry here in my chair a few hours more!”
Then she gives you a modified version of “the look”. Every man knows the look, but this one is slightly different. It’s the usual, you-better-obey kind of look, but then it’s modified somehow with a droopy, puppy dog face sort of thing going on, and it is all but impenetrable. And so you shrug your shoulders, pull your boots back on, and set off to work again. This, after all, is the life we pit masters have signed up for. And you got to take it in stride.
“Oh, can you make some ice cream too?” my wife said, batting her eyelashes.
Turns out her supper plans for me were borderline extravagant for a run of the mill weekday night. And before I knew it I had the ice cream maker sitting out at the pit with me, churning away in the dark. That accompanied by the soft, wispy plumes of smoke coming off the charcoal chimney, well, I started to get into my little ambiance there, dug out in the snow. I don’t think I have ever made homemade ice cream on a January evening in Minnesota before, but when your wife says she wants a chocolate shake with her cheeseburger, well a fellow ought to oblige if he can, right? And I could. So I did.
On the note of ice cream, and just to share with you guys, here is our secret ice cream recipe honed through the ages.
Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream
1/2 gallon whole milk
2 cups sugar
1 carton of egg beaters
splash of vanilla extract
Yeah, it’s complicated stuff! Not really, but it surely is delicious, and would make a fine compliment to our cheeseburgers tonight. A brilliant stroke, really. But it gets even better. Two words…French Fries!
My bride had recently acquired one of these doodleboppers. A little french fry making technology sure to up our game, giving your normal, boring french fry, the crinkled edge often coveted by french fry connoisseurs, such as yours truly. Never used one of these before, but it seemed to do the trick. These spuds were then lowered into a bubbling vat of peanut oil, and deep fried there until golden brown. If you haven’t made your own homemade french fries before, you’re missing out people. And they are not that hard to do either. Anyways, back out to the pit.
The burgers sizzled away like burgers do. And I loitered out there some, I must admit. The night wasn’t as cold as I thought it would be, and the companionship of the coals seemed particularly abiding this eve. Their orange glow, set in a field of frozen white seemed “just right”. And for while at least, I was glad I got up off the couch and made supper like I was told. This was nice. Good to be manning the faithful kettle grill again. Feels like it’s been a while. Near the end of the cook, I flipped the burgers over direct heat for a bit to form a modicum of crust, purely for textural appeal. I knew the fries were nearing their end game too, and the ice cream was ready. The culmination of an wintry evening’s efforts were soon at hand. It was just about time to head inside to our home diner.
The Home Diner Experience
My bride and I are creatures of nostalgia, in particular the 1950’s. Which is odd, because neither one of us even existed in the 50’s. Or the 60’s. Even so, we are smitten for the past. So much so, in point of fact, that we re-created this little 50’s style diner nook just inside the patio door. Purely for fun of it, of course. As much as I like to eat in my man chair by the TV, I knew it would be nostalgic blasphemy not to ingest this meal, “proper like” in the diner. And thus to this end, we did.
Toasted kaiser rolls, fresh tomato slices, lettuce, mayo, ketchup, hark, the works people! Sided with a lovely bouquet of homemade crinkle cut french fries, and a tall, homemade chocolate shake. Glory be! If eating a burger at home gets any better than this, I haven’t heard of it! A top notch culinary experience. And to think, I just wanted to sit on the couch and watch Clint Eastwood. Mercifully, my wife saw the better in me, and she was pleased. Come to think of it, so was I. Amen.
“I do not know what it is about women and cheese, but I wager a good block of it will catalyst even the most apathetic of them into action.” -Me
Evening was soon to draw across the Pond-Side Pit, as I henceforth gathered my plunder in the soft, waning light. A glorious light of which is fleeting this time of year, for the supper that which teases the hollow rumble of my belly. I soldier on. I bank some fiery coals to the back of the old kettle grill, setting it up for a quiet spot of indirect cooking. Poker in hand, and shamelessly doting over the orange-glowing rubble, like they were precious gem stones in a cauldron of enameled coated steel. It’s March, on the 45th Parallel, and the breeze is as cool as it is sweet, summoning the best flannel shirts your closet has to offer. Indeed, I had mine on as I tended the fire, enjoying it’s radiant heat on my hands. Admiring the comradeship of the coals, whilst I waited on my lovely bride to shred the cheese.
She openly volunteered to shred up some Parmesan cheese for our supper tonight. I do not know what it is about women and cheese, but I wager a good block of it will catalyst even the most apathetic of them into action. Women love cheese. Leastwise mine does. And so she shredded me a large quantity of it, like a crazed beaver to Cottonwood tree. Swiftly earthing a pile of cheesy goodness into a modest, porcelain bowl. That and an equal part bread crumbs too, these for to play the supporting cast in tonight’s grilling ensemble. Parmesan Crusted Grilled Chicken Breasts, patron to the pit, of course.
What we did is this. We rolled the bone-in chicken breasts in a warm, slippery bath of melted butter, and after saying a quick prayer, liberally packed on a delightful preponderance of that cheese/bread crumb mixture we just talked about. Pack it on thick, people, and don’t be shy. If you want to give your woman what she wants, well this is it! Well, this is it this side of an empty wallet coming out of a jewelry store anyhow.
Kind of looks like coconut chicken, but it isn’t. This is where you must wield your meat with the authority and delicateness of a brain surgeon. Your dear chicken is in it’s most fragile state right now, so be mindful young pit jockeys, not to knock off that which you have so fiercely labored for. Place your lovely proteins with a gentle hand opposite the hot coals. Place the lid on next, and dutifully step aside. We didn’t use any smoke wood this time. The crusty cheese to come will do all the talking here.
It doesn’t take long before you lift the lid and see something like this going on. A beautifully textured crust – the highly edible marriage of Parmesan cheese fused with lightly toasted bread crumbs. This at last to usher these lowly chicken breasts unto their utmost culinary ideal. Glory!
Of course when confronted with nicely crusted proteins, such as these, I cannot help but to tarry pit-side in a bevy of my own thoughts. Here we have two ingredients, that which make up this crust. Two entities. That of Parmesan cheese, and the other of plain old bread crumbs. The Parmesan cheese is like my wife perhaps – white, and silky, and very good. Very forgiving. Gets better with time. And better, by and far, than I deserve. And I am not unlike the lowly bread crumbs here, even whiter still, and if left to my own devices, will likely only make a big mess of things. But here is where the analogy gets interesting, and far better for me. When married together on the charcoal grill of life, the cheese adapts like good cheese does, and works it’s way amid every nook and hollow presented thee by the flaky bread crumbs. In time, the cheese holds the humble bread crumbs together, even, and gives them support and reason and flavor. The bread crumbs thus toast to perfection, coming of age, if you will, and the two together form the most beautiful Parmesan crusted chicken you’d ever want to lay thine eyes upon.
It’s weird what comes to your brain whilst puttering over your pit. It’s all about relationships, my wife keeps telling me. Relationships. Maybe this is what women want. Just to love and be loved – together. Seems reasonable, I guess. And sure seems to be the case with my chicken tonight, I can tell you that. And in the pale light, I plated up said chicken, plunked the old kettle lid back in place, turned heel, and made way from whence I came. To my sweetheart residing warmly inside. Amen.