The weather has been so nice lately that Sarah and I decided to take advantage of it by having an evening walk. We’d eaten three full meals that day and figured there could be no harm in a little exercise, so we opted to take a short stroll down our native city of Rockville with it’s expanses of concrete and its rush hour traffic and the tantalizing aroma of car exhaust…
Maybe not reflective of the blooming springtime we tried to experience, but better than nothing.
“So,” I started as we meandered through the neighborhood streets outside our apartment, “what do you think the Obama administration has done for the state of our economy over the last seven years?”
Sarah gave me a strange sideways glance. “Since when do you have an interest in politics?”
“The affairs of our government directly impact the quality of my life. I’d like to make the progress of national policy my business, you know?”
She maintained her skeptical look.
“I heard that, uh, some laws were passed or something…”
Sarah cleared her throat. “Maybe you should stick to what you know…?”
“Are you saying I’m one-dimensional?”
“Hey!” I exclaimed, a sudden thought occurring to me. “If you leave a cantaloupe out and bugs eat it, can you call it an ant-elope?”
Despite the relative urbanity of Rockville, there were still some startlingly pretty signals of the oncoming spring. The smell of fresh cut grass and newly blooming hyacinth perfumed the cool breezes. Daffodils lit up the sidewalk despite the rapidly darkening twilight, like fields of a dozen persistent suns determined to fight away the chilly nights of a struggling winter. I brushed my fingertips against the hundred blooms of a lone cherry blossom tree. The vibration of bumblebees, muted slightly by the increasingly intermittent traffic, buzzed quietly in my ears. A dozen deer looked up in alarm at our passing, and cheerily, I bid them good evening as we strolled by at the casual pace that good conversation and warm weather bring…
“…And that,” Sarah said with a satisfied sigh after finishing her life story, “is why I decided to become a photographer.”
The thought of a cold beer and a big bowl of fruit salad emerged suddenly in my mind.
I abruptly yanked myself out of my reverie. Sarah stared at me, expectation clear on her face.
“That’s, uh, auspicious?”
“I mean ambitious – hey, wait, where are you going?”
She abruptly changed route, turning down a side street and resolutely ignoring my pleas.
“Hey, hold on, I just – I just liked the story so much I wanted you to tell it again…!”
It took a while for Sarah to forgive me for the rude, insulting wanderings of my mind.
“I’m really sorry,” I said for the tenth time. “I’m just stupid. You know that.”
Sarah rolled her eyes. “You’re not stupid. You’re just an idiot.”
“If people had warning labels, mine would definitely say that.”
Finally, I got her to laugh.
It was at that point where we both paused, reveling in the optimism of new life and warm weather and outdoor gatherings, an effect of the spring weather which was only slightly dampened by the unmistakeably unnatural neon glow of a nearby McDonald’s.
Sarah stared thoughtfully at the golden arches. They stood only a few yards away from where we’d stopped. “Wait a minute,” she mumbled. “Didn’t we pass the McDonald’s already?”
“Yeah, yeah we did.”
“So, then, this one…”
“…Must be the one that’s four miles from our apartment.”
Simultaneously, we inhaled.
“$@#&,” we said.
Then, through the psychic connection of close friends, or perhaps the gastrointestinal one of perpetually food-obsessed people, our hunger hit us.
“You’re cooking,” Sarah said without room for argument.
Then we walked the four miles home.
Tequila Chicken with Roasted Veggie Salad
This method of roasting chicken results in a juicy bird and super crispy skin – as in, so crispy you can drag a fork across and hear how crispy it is. The sauce is comes out like a Mexican style sweet and sour, and if you’ve never cooked with añejo before, you may notice some subtle spice/very light bitterness in the aftertaste, but in an entirely pleasant way.
Ingredients for the Rub:
- 1 whole chicken (2 – 4 pounds), cut into halves or quarters
- 2 tsp. each of salt
- 1 tsp. each of cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cayenne (less if you don’t like the heat)
Ingredients for the Pan Sauce:
- 1 cup of añejo tequila
- (You can try it with other types, but I can’t guarantee it’ll turn out as well!)
- 1 tbsp. butter
- 1.5 tbsp. flour
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1 tsp cumin
- 4 cloves of pressed garlic
- juice of 1/2 lime
- juice of 2 oranges
- salt to taste
Ingredients for the Salad:
- 2 ears of corn, de-cobbed
- 2 tomatoes, diced
- 2 cups of kale, cut into thin strips
- 4 to 5 sprigs of cilantro
- Salt to taste
How to Put It in Your Mouth:
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Rub the chicken down with the spices, making sure to get underneath the skin as well.
- Put the chicken in a heavy bottom pan (I know it’s tempting to use cast iron here, but you’re going to deglaze the pan, so resist the urge), throw in some halved and seeded jalapeños if you like, and pop the pan in the oven – no lid!
- After 40 minutes, pull the pan out of the oven and place it on the stove. Remove the chicken and jalapeños onto a plate.
- Pour the tequila into the pan, turn the burner onto medium-low heat, and let the alcohol simmer out for about two minutes.
- Add the rest of the sauce ingredients, using the flour last and whisking constantly as you add it.
- Top chicken with sauce. Put it in your mouth.
…And for the Salad:
- Heat a large pan on medium-high, then add the corn and roast until fragrant and starting to char
- Remove the corn into your serving bowl, then roast the kale until wilted and starting to char
- Remove the kale into your serving bowl, then roast the tomatoes until starting to char
- Roughly chop the cilantro and add it to the bowl
- Salt to taste, mix it up, and enjoy!
TIP: Don’t overcrowd the pan or you’ll end up steaming your veggies instead of roasting them.