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I’m going to write up an entire blog post about this book. It may be one of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s a memoir by Pat Conroy (an author I’ve long admired). He died a year or so ago – sad, that. In order to get the most out of My Reading Life, I recommend you BUY THE HARDBACK. I can’t say enough good things about this book. It’s an autobiography of sorts, but not really. He never wrote one, I don’t think, and I doubt he would ever have written one as he likely didn’t believe anyone would want to read about his (sad) life. In this memoir, he chronicles the books (and the people who recommended them) that influenced his life. Starting at his mother’s knees and continuing through influential teachers and mentors and friends. One of my book clubs read it, and I devoured it, cover to cover, with little plastic flags inserted all the way through to re-read some of the prose. Pat Conroy was a fabulous writer – he studied words from a young age and used them widely and wisely throughout his writing, but better than most authors would. He adored his mother, and hated (with venom) his aviator military father who physically abused everyone in the family, including his mother. They all took it like stoic Buddhas. I’m going to have to read Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel because of reading this book. I’ve never read it. Conroy says that book’s first page is the best first page of any book he ever read in his life. Wow. And maybe my book group is going to re-read Tolstoy’s War and Peace (Vintage Classics) too because of the chapter on that book. We might have to assign that to a 2-month or longer read. If you have friends or family who are avid readers, this would make a great gift, this book, My Reading Life. If YOU are a reader, it needs to be on your bookshelf, but in hardback, so you can go back to it and re-read his stories. It’s a series of essays, each one about a sub-section of his life. A must-have and a must-read.

Also read The Towers of Tuscany by Carol Cram. It was a bargain book through amazon or bookbub (e-book). Back in the Middle Ages women were forbidden to be artists. Their only place was in the home, caring for children and sewing and cooking. But the heroine in this book was taught to paint by her widowed artist-father (in secret, of course). When her father suddenly dies, all hell breaks loose and she must fend for herself. Much of the book takes place in Florence as she disguises herself as a boy in order to continue her life’s passion – painting. Very interesting story and worth reading.

Also finished The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: A Novel by Gabrielle Zevin. It popped up on a list I subscribe to and was available for $1.13 as an e-book. As it begins, you’re hearing from A.J., a grieving widower who owns a bookstore on an obscure island off the East Coast. He’s angry, rude and every other negative adjective you can imagine. A book rep comes to visit and he’s awful to her, yet she perseveres and manages to sell him a few books. You get to know his friends (a friendship with him is full of sharp points) and one day an abandoned toddler is found in his bookshop. In between the story line about A.J., the book rep, the little girl and others, you will learn all about A.J.’s book tastes. If you’re an avid reader, you’ll really enjoy that part. It’s a charming book; loved it.

Also read a quirky book, Goodbye, Vitamin: A Novel by Rachel Khong. She’s a new writer (newly published, I guess I should say) and this story is about Ruth, a 30+ something, trying to readjust to life without her fiance, who’s dumped her. She goes back home to help with the care of her father, who has Alzheimer’s. Written in a diary style, it jumps all over about her life, her mother, the funny, poignant things her father says on good days, and the nutty stuff he does on not-so-good days, her ex-, and her very quirky friends, too. Then a woman flits through who had had an affair with her father –  you get to observe all the angst from the mom about that. Mostly it’s about her father, as he’s relatively “together” early in the book, but then he disintegrates. Reading that part isn’t fun, although the author is able to lean some humor into it. I’m not sure I recommend the book exactly – I read it through – and felt sad. It doesn’t tie up loose ends – if you need that kind of book – you may not want to read this one.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Chicken, on July 23rd, 2016.

bff_crispy_chicken

Probably I’m old-school. No, not just probably, I’m sure I am. I don’t always get on the bandwagon with acronyms. But I do know what BFF means; it’s just that I wouldn’t have used it to name a recipe. But oh well, somebody else did.

To call these “chicken fingers” would probably make it sound like it’s just for kids, right? And these are definitely better than that! I made these for my granddaughter Taylor and her 2 friends who were visiting from NoCal. I was delighted to have them here – they’re all very nice girls – very helpful too. They cleared dishes and washed them every time I prepared a meal for them. They had a grand time shopping, beaching and walking around Disneyland until their feet were aching.

So, this dish. First I pounded 3 big chicken breasts until they were an even thickness of about 1/4-1/3 inch, then cut them into narrow little planks. Next, I set up 3 dunking or dipping stations – first it was seasoned flour, then eggs, then into a panko and Parmesan pan. They’re very briefly fried (really, like about 2 minutes total, maybe 3) in vegetable oil, then served on a bed of salad dressing-dressed greens. I made a watermelon salad with Feta cheese and fresh mint from my garden, and that was dinner. Vanilla ice cream rounded out the dinner with their choice of toppings.

Since I had some salad dressing (home made) in the refrigerator, I opted to not make the dressing you’ll see below in the recipe. However, because the recipe recommends you use leftovers in a sandwich the next day, and to garnish or spread the bread with the lemony Parmesan dressing, I have left that part of the recipe intact. Lots of people who made this, from Food52 land, used the dressing to DIP the chicken into as they ate it.

bff_crispy_chicken_narrowWe all enjoyed this – the chicken was hot and crispy right out of the pan. Each bite was eaten with a bit of the dressed salad. I did have leftovers, and I had them for dinner the next night and wished I’d had some of the dipping sauce. But I think the leftovers would have been great in a sandwich – and the creamy dressing would have been a wonderful treat with the chicken. All by itself, the chicken is good – I wouldn’t call it sensational – but it was very good. With the salad it was elevated to a much higher status in my book. Some readers of Food52 thought they’d try baking these to avoid the calories from frying.

What’s GOOD: a very simple dinner entrée. Especially for warm, summer dining as it was the night I served this sitting out on my patio. Although I didn’t make the dressing, next time I definitely will do so – it had great raves over at Food52. I enjoyed the piquant taste of the chicken served on the salad (I used arugula and baby spinach). Be sure to give the chicken sufficient salt – although Parmesan is salty, there isn’t all that much in it, so do season the flour mixture with both salt and pepper.

What’s NOT: some folks don’t like to dirty-up the kitchen range or countertop with fat spatters, and it definitely did need a bit of a clean-up. But no complaints at all about the taste of this dish.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

BFF Crispy Coated Chicken

Recipe By: From Food52
Serving Size: 4

3/4 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts — or chicken tenders
1/4 cup flour
Salt and pepper
3/8 teaspoon garlic salt
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups panko
3/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated Vegetable oil
DRESSING:
3/4 small garlic clove
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — finely grated
3/4 tablespoon crème fraiche
1 5/8 tablespoons lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon honey
4 3/4 tablespoons virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon anchovy paste — optional
Salt and pepper

1. Pound chicken breasts to about 1/3 to 1/4-inch in thickness. Cut into narrow planks (fingers). Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set aside.
2. Get breading stations ready. Mix flour and garlic salt on a plate. Next, beat eggs in a shallow but wide bowl. Then mix together panko and parmesan in another shallow bowl or plate. Put a clean plate at that end.
3. With one hand coat a piece of chicken with flour mixture and then drop into egg mixture. Pick it up, coat both sides with egg then drop into panko/cheese mixture. Using your other hand, coat both sides with panko/cheese. Set on the clean plate and continue coating the rest of the chicken.
4. Add enough vegetable oil to generously coat your nonstick frying pan and heat on medium high heat. Once hot, add enough chicken to fill the pan. Once the coating has turned golden brown flip each slice over, about 1 to 1-1/2 minutes. Add additional oil to make sure that the panko/cheese mixture can also brown evenly on that side, about a minute. When both sides are nicely browned, remove to a plate with paper towels and keep warm in a low oven until you’ve fried all the chicken. Do not over cook them or they’ll be dry.
5. The chicken can be served hot or room temperature. To reheat, heat in a 350° F oven or toaster for 5 minutes or until coating sizzles.
6. Dress the salad with the dressing and place chicken on top.
7. Pack chicken pieces into lunch boxes with a small container of ketchup.
8. Tuck pieces of chicken between two slices of your favorite toast with lettuce and tomatoes and the bread spread with some of the dressing.
9. DRESSING: Mash up the garlic clove your favorite way. Add garlic with Parmesan, crème fraiche, lemon juice and anchovy (if using) and mix thoroughly. Add olive oil and whisk until evenly mixed and emulsified. Taste and add salt, ample pepper, or more lemon juice.
Per Serving: 388 Calories; 22g Fat (50.6% calories from fat); 28g Protein; 20g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 162mg Cholesterol; 355mg Sodium.

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  1. Toffeeapple

    said on July 24th, 2016:

    Panko breadcrumbs are so much better than the normal sort – I wonder why that is?

    I’ve read about the process they use to make them, but it still doesn’t make sense to me, either. How can any bread product stay crispy like that? . . . carolyn t

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