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Just finished News of the World: A Novel by Paulette Jiles. One of my book-reading friends said this is one of the best books she’s ever read in her life. That kind of praise required me to read it and I just LOVED it. It’s about an old man (a widower), who was a former military captain, during the 1800s, who goes from town to town to read out loud the current news of the world (yes, there WAS such a job.) Newspapers didn’t make it to small towns back then. By chance he’s asked to take a 10-year old girl to East Texas to reunite with relatives. The child had been captured by an Indian tribe as a baby (her parents were killed in the raid), raised by the Kiowa and as was often the case of such children, she wants nothing to do with leaving. So the “hero” in this story has his hands full. And yet, they learn to trust each other on the journey. Reaching the destination, there are lots of complications (of course!). This book is truly a wonderful read – I didn’t want it to end. The author has a gift of description and the severe dangers and difficulties of a old west horse and wagon journey. The relationship is tender. Now I’ve got to investigate the author’s other books, of which there are many.

Winter Journey by Diane Armstrong. Have you ever read about forensic dentistry? I sure had not, so I found it fascinating reading. It’s a debut novel for the author, and what a story. Halina, an Australian, with Polish roots, specializes in this obscure profession as a forensic dentist, and is asked to go to Poland, to help identify bone (and tooth) fragments, to put to rest a sad event in the story of this small town, when many, many people (Jews) were murdered. Was it the Nazis? Or was it the local townspeople who disliked the Jews. What a tangled web of intrigue, including Halina’s own mysterious past. I really enjoyed the read. The author does a great job of developing the characters (which I always like). This is no light read if you consider the subject matter, although it IS a novel (but based on fact). Nor is it a spy thriller – it’s more just an historical novel with lots of interesting people throughout. There’s a romance thrown in too, and a whole lot of angst about the discoveries found in the mass grave. But, the subject expanded my knowledge about forensics.

The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr. I just LOVED this book. I’ve never been much of a fan of Caravaggio’s paintings, although I’ve seen plenty of them (many are extremely large) in museums around the world. His paintings were dark, often with dark subjects. But as with many of the old masters, occasionally some obscure work surfaces, perhaps credited to another artist, even, that turns out to be one done by “the” master. In this case, Caravaggio. Although this book is written as a novel (with dialogue, etc.) it’s historical through and through. It begins with two young women art scholars, in Italy, who are asked to do a research project. One thing leads to another, and to another. All true.  If you enjoy books about art – I learned some things about the paint and the canvases of the time – you’ll be intrigued as I was.

Eye On the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press, by James, McGrath Morris. Each year my AAUW book club reads something related to Black History Month. This is a biography of a woman you’ve probably never heard of, Ethel Payne, and about her life-long journey in journalism, struggling to keep her head above water financially, but staying true to her purposes of telling the truth about the black stories and black racism of the day. Sometimes biographies aren’t all that riveting, but I found this one to be so, and I savored each new chapter. We had a really good discussion of the book, and the ups and downs of Payne’s life, especially during her years as a Washington reporter. You’ll not be sorry to have spent the time reading this book. It’s well-written, as well. I was thrilled when the author, Morris, left a message here on my blog, thanking me (and my group) for reading his book.

H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald. This one has been on the best seller list. It’s a memoir about a woman who takes on a personal challenge of taming a wild hawk. Prior to reading this book, I knew next to nothing about the entire subject of hawking, or taming any of the big, wild birds. The book is equally about the writer’s inner journey. She’s a consummate writer, and every page was a joy of words, for me. My only problem is my own – I found it hard, the more time that went by, and the more time the writer spent trying to tame this bird, to scream out “let the bird go.” Perhaps it’s because I spent time in Africa in 2015, seeing animals in the wild, that I felt more for the bird than I did with the writer’s discontent with herself and the taming process. Little did I know what a hard job it is to tame a hawk. I actually didn’t finish the book. It was a book club read, and highly recommended by several of our members. And I ended up not being able to attend the meeting as I had a cold. So perhaps there is some great ending to it that would have made me feel better. I haven’t gone to the end to find out. I just had to stop reading it. But I’m not NOT recommending it. If nothing else, read it for Macdonald’s sublime proficiency with words.

Also read George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution, by Brian Kilmeade and Dan Yaeger. Here’s what it says on amazon: When George Washington beat a hasty retreat from New York City in August 1776, many thought the American Revolution might soon be over. Instead, Washington rallied—thanks in large part to a little-known, top-secret group called the Culper Spy Ring. He realized that he couldn’t defeat the British with military might, so he recruited a sophisticated and deeply secretive intelligence network to infiltrate New York. I won’t exactly call this book a riveting read, but it was interesting. Relating facts that few people knew about, this Culper Spy Ring. It’s a little chunk of American history researched in depth by the authors. An interesting read.

Also read The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel by Nina George. If you’re an avid reader, you probably have the same kind of longing as I do for a quaint, independently owned bookstore right around the corner. So few exist anymore. This novel is about a very unusual book store, and book store owner. In Paris. On a boat/barge. It’s not a typical book store, and the writer takes you on a journey of discovery about (likely) her own lifetime of book reading. You’ll learn all about a variety of existing books and why they’re a good read. But it’s all cloaked in a story about this book store and the owner. And the customers. Very fun. I’m reviewing it for one of my book clubs next month.

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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