Man, are you in for a treat. Are you ready? Imagine a slice of fresh, milky mozzarella that’s been coated in panko bread crumbs and fried. That sounds pretty good by itself, doesn’t it? Now imagine that on an eggy roll (Hawaiian sweet bread) and topped with both basil aioli and a spicy tomato jam. It’s hard to even wrap your head around, but I know it’s a real thing that exists because I ate it at the Burnt Truck at the Orange County Fair and ever since it’s been haunting my dreams. Making this at home wouldn’t just be an act of selfishness (I NEED TO HAVE MORE), but an act of charity because if I figure out this recipe that means you get to eat it too and you’ll be just as happy and haunted as I am.
Give me credit. It’s been a while since I’ve declared something “the best ___ of your life.” There is, of course, the broccoli, which brought all of you to my blog in the first place. Then there’s the chili which, as far as I’m concerned, has never been topped. The brownies remain unrivaled and the curry is definitely the best I’ve ever made.
Now, into the pantheon, comes this fried chicken which–as you’ll soon discover–has nothing to do with a specific recipe and everything to do with a piece of equipment that costs a minimal amount of money ($33.31 on Amazon) but makes all the difference in the world.
It began with an off-the-cuff remark. Craig mentioned that his movie was going to play at the Edinburgh Film Festival and I said, “See if they’ll bring me out too.” I never expected that to actually happen but, somehow, some way, it did and before I knew it we were on a plane flying over the ocean. Edinburgh is a funny city for me because I’d actually been there once before, only I was too young to appreciate it. (I spent a summer at Oxford after my junior year at Emory and we did a two-day trip to Scotland.) My memories of Edinburgh were so foggy, in fact, that Craig hardly believed it happened. “Do you remember this from when you were here before?” he teased me as we made our way from the hotel lobby (after dropping off our suitcases) out into the city upon arrival. “Shut up,” I said. “Oooh look at that castle.”
I have a distinct memory of a spring day in New York, back when I lived in Park Slope, at Brooklyn Fish Camp. Craig and I were sitting outside at a picnic table with benches and under that warm blue sky, the first of its kind after a harsh winter, a waitress presented us with the basket of hush puppies that we ordered. I didn’t know much about hush puppies; they just sounded good to me. And seeing them there in that basket–fluffy orbs of corn meal that had been deep-fried in oil–I suddenly felt the winter drop out from beneath me, and felt the heat of summer rising up at full blast.
It occurred to me last Thursday that one of the best recipes in my repertoire isn’t even something that I consider a recipe. It’s a thing that I’ve done for years and years–I talked about it in my video “How To Roast a Chicken”–and, yet, when I look at it by itself, separate from the main event, this thing that I do is pretty extraordinary. And that’s cutting small potatoes in half and placing them cut-side down around a whole chicken before it goes into the oven.