You Gotta Stick The Landing

There has to be a special circle in Hell reserved for people like me who go to the trouble of marinating chicken in whey for 24 hours and then can’t be bothered to make proper fried chicken with it the following evening. I look forward to seeing what delights await me; I imagine it’s like that scene in Being John Malkovich where Malkovich himself goes through the door except that everybody is Paula Deen and they speak only in emoticons. Probably the frowny face ones with the tears, on account of it’s Hell and all.

I took the marinated chicken, shook off the whey, and dredged the pieces in seasoned panko before frying them. In any case, the story here is not the half-assed fried chicken, which was A: still pretty good to eat, due in no small part to the fact that it B: sat proudly atop a mound of scallion mashed potatoes, napa cabbage coleslaw, and C: was itself topped (not that way, gross) by some pretty skippy yuzu gravy made with the same whey that I so diligently marinated it in and yet still totally dropped the ball by not making some proper batter because it was late and we were hungry and I find that disappointing my family on a regular basis helps to lower their expectations. I took no pictures, because by now you’ve figured out that the same technique works handsomely on blog readers.

The real story, and the heartwarming third act redemption that is sure to have Hollywood clamoring to option this post for next year’s clear Oscar favorite, is the pot pie that I made later. I say third act, because there was an intervening day between the loser loser and winner winner chicken dinners. We made pizza that night, with homemade crust. The kid decorated his own, and I see a lot of potential for him to become to melted mozzarella what so many lit majors have become to foamed milk in coffee shops all over the country.

So, the pie. I cut the leftover chicken off the bones, making sure to keep all the crunchy panko and skin in the mix. I got some mirepoix from the freezer going, along with chopped leek and turnip and more carrot, then added some liquids: fish sauce, vinegar, a bit of fermented chili brine (the peppers are long gone but their genius brine lives on) and a bit of the tomato purée left from pizza night. There was copious leftover gravy, which I had preemptively thinned it down before pouring it into a jar the night I made it so that it wouldn’t be a solid hunk of gelatinized starch when I wanted to use it up. It didn’t exactly pour out, but it did jiggle amiably out of the jar like the happy fat ghost in Ghostbusters. No spoon required.

I let this get all snuggly, tinkering with the seasoning a bit, and then covered it with a crust and slid it into the oven. The compound interest of the various value-added leftovers made this a splendidly edible pie. It’s worth remembering that all these sorts of dishes were invented to use leftovers; if you set out to make pot pie from scratch you’re doing it wrong. When you have yuzu-whey gravy and homegrown vegetables and the inimitable oily savor of fried chicken all hot and cosseted under the best crust of all time, you’re doing it right.

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  1. John
    March 6

    What does soaking the chicken in whey do? There’s no Wikipedia entry on the subject. — I’m soaking some chicken in whey now, but I haven’t cooked it yet and need to know what I’ll be looking for so I can congratulate myself on the extra effort. — As always, love your writing.

    • Peter
      March 10

      It’s much like soaking it in buttermilk: it adds moisture and a lovely sourness to the meat. Sorry it took me so long to respond; I hope your dinner was a good one.

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