Thursday, June 2, 2011

The manner of dimentia and the patience of a saint...

My Dutch grandmother was a woman above reproach. When she and Grandpa parted, she never so much as dated ever again. Men were tyrants or rascals, no in between. She was a deeply religious, stern and serious woman who wouldn't say "shit" if she had a mouthful. Often, she would scowl and raise that eyebrow so very high. She liked living alone. Her house was meticulously clean, her yard and flower gardens were healthy, and neat as a whistle. And she never wore slacks. Only floosies wore pants. And in conversations, if you weren't speaking only of The Lord, then you were doing the Devil's work. In other words, there wasn't a more perfect person than her for this funny thing to happen to.
No one in their right mind would accuse her of any untoward sins. Upon meeting new people or your friends, the first question (which was moreso an inquiry) would always be,"What church do you go to?" She would disarm you with her handsome smile, and if you said you were Catholic, that sweet expression would quickly shift into her scowl of disapproval. Oh yes, you felt it, all right. She was intense, as Scorpios tend to be.
Jeanette was a registered nurse in a convalescent hospital. The resident parrot in the lobby would squawk and whistle with delight when she reported for work,"Mrs. Van!..Mrs. Van!" I was quite jealous of Grandma's mojo with that bird.

There was a new female patient in her wing, a case of extreme dimentia, and she was always giving Grandma a rough time of it. An angry and hostile woman who Grandma would agonize over when we would give her a ride home from work. I was privy to this episode of her career and I wondered why on earth anyone would want to be a nurse in a place such as that. Every day, this woman would accuse Grandma of trying to steal her husband. Mom and Jim and I were hysterical with laughter that anyone could think such a thing about her, of all people. She was hurt and infuriated by it and she didn't understand why we thought it was so funny. Heathens we were, slated to burn in Hell at birth.
One day, she'd had quite enough of this nasty old woman who, once again, accused her of trying to steal the husband. Grandma looked the woman dead in the eyes and said," Now, you know better than that. I would never do that to you". The woman fired back," Well, it wouldn't do you any good, anyway. He's been dead for twenty years!"
I'm sure it was a dead goldfish moment.

There is nothing new about cooking chicken or fish in Wishbone Italian Dressing. Despite that many know about it, there are just as many who don't. It can be fried or baked. I prefer it fried because it is more zingy than baked. Either way, what looks like 'burned' isn't really. It makes the most delicious skin! But here, we will go with it baked with special potatoes.
I don't know where the recipe originated. Mother made it , 30 years ago, and it is still one of my favorite ways to eat chicken. Mind you, it must be Wishbone brand Italian Dressing.Over 30 years, I have found that none of the other brands I've tried have that special "zing". And you will be amazed how tender it makes the yardbird.
The potato butterflies came from one of those recipe cards that come in the mail, to tempt you into joining a recipe club. I found it in Mother's recipe box, one of the many she never tried. My mother hated cooking, and her baking never came out right. It was because she wouldn't grasp that there is a difference between dry and liquid measuring cups. Time and time again there were tears and frustration over her latest flop, and I would reiterate that you don't measure flour or sugar with a liquid measuring cup. She saw this as an opportunity for one-upmanship rather than as a helpful tip. Easier to snip and snap,"Well, I'VE never heard that before, so, it can't be true"....Moms piss me off, sometimes.

Serves 4

4 large chicken thighs (leave skin on)
1/3 bottle of Wishbone Italian salad Dressing
4 whole potatoes, peeled and rinsed
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter, salted or unsalted, and melted (or 1/4 cup garlic olive oil)
One huge clove of Elephant garlic, sliced thin or roughly chopped, if using the oil
Light olive oil, if using instead of melted butter for potatoes
Fresh parsley, chopped fine for garnish (if dried, sprinkle on potatoes to bake)

1. One day ahead, make the garlic olive oil, if using instead of butter for potatoes. In a small, clean jar with a lid, pour in light olive oil to desired fullness. Thinly slice and, if you like, chop roughly. Add to the oil. Attach lid and place in cupboard, and allow to infuse for 24 hours. Then take a big whiff and do the Happy Dance.
Preheat oven to 350F with rack in middle of oven.
2. Squirt a little Wishbone in bottom of casserole baking dish. The dish should be only large enough to snugly fit the potatoes and chicken thighs. Place chicken thighs in dish atop the little bit of dressing. Set aside.
3. Peel and rinse off the potatoes and pat dry with a paper towel. Place one potato alongside a wooden spoon on cutting board. Hold securely in place with one hand and using a large knife, gently slice 1/8" to 1/4" sections, as you desire, meeting the knife blade to the wooden spoon to prevent cutting too far through the potato.

Be extra careful not to cut the tips off. If you do, it won't ruin the potato, but it will lose its poetry in presentation. Do this with all 4 potatoes and place, sliced sides up, in casserole with the chicken thighs. Slightly fan out the potatoes and with a spoon,drizzle the garlic oil or melted butter over them and in between the sliced sections. If using dried parsely flakes, sprinkle just a little over the potatoes. It's okay to scoop a few garlic pieces out of the jar and place on top of the potatoes, if you like. Over chicken only, squirt Wishbone, enough to coat tops and sides. Coat only; do not fill the dish.

4. Bake, uncovered, for one hour, 10 minutes more if chicken isn't done. Skins should be browned, and any blackened areas are fine. 15 minutes before it is done, squirt more Wishbone on the chicken, and baste the potatoes with the bubbling chicken fat, then put back into oven until done. Check the potatoes at 40 minutes into the baking, and if they are getting too brown, loosely cover casserole dish with foil until chicken is done.If using fresh parsley, sprinkle it over the potatoes at this time.

1 comment:

  1. LOL I loved the story of your grandmother and the patient! I suppose it made sense to the patient at the time! :P