Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sunshine Daydream Chicken

A day without sunshine is like, you know, night.  – Steve Martin 
I've been waiting for that bright sunshine to show up and shine in my back door someday. – Luther Allison 
You've got to get out and pray to the sky to appreciate the sunshine. – Ken Kesey 
Our mostly shady yard
I haven't been able to cook in the solar oven in, like, forever. I did manage to make another coffeecake one day, but ended up bringing some chicken drumsticks inside to finish on another day's attempt. Our property is heavily treed and at this time of year the trees still have leaves and the sun is lower in the sky. Doesn't make for good solar cooking. Also, although we've had a few sunny days, some warm days, and even a hot day here and there, we've mostly had clouds and rain. And more rain. And even more rain. Including thunderstorms today.

We performed last weekend at the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival. We left on Friday around 1:30 pm for Saugerties, which is normally a 3 1/2 hour drive. As we neared the Throgs Neck Bridge we were listening to the traffic reports. The upper level of the George Washington Bridge was flooded, head for the lower level. But, oh no, there was an accident blocking two lanes so the Cross Bronx Expressway had heavy delays. It took us 45 minutes or so to get off at the Bronx River Parkway exit. I think that was about a mile. But, guess what!? That was backed up also and all traffic was being diverted. We went 5 miles in 3 hours. Apparently, all Hudson River crossings were flooded. And the rain kept coming down. We eventually made it to our hotel a little before 9 pm, exhausted, frustrated, and very hungry.

But the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival is the Woodstock of garlic festivals and we look forward all year to performing there. They have 5 stages of music and zillions of garlic growers, food vendors (including garlic ice cream), arts & craft booths, and fresh & prepared food vendors (like fresh peppers or prepared salsas). They can get crowds of 50,000 people if it's nice—and, thankfully, it was an absolutely gorgeous weekend after so much rain, although the grounds were pretty darn muddy. We played three one-hour sets each day with an hour break in between when we dashed around like chickens without heads to buy buy buy and eat eat eat. We ate garlic pizza, garlic chicken, garlic sausage, garlic pickles, pulled pork sandwiches with garlic, and Annalee even got a sticker for taking a garlic shot. We bought 4 lbs. of Turkish Red garlic and will use the biggest cloves for seed garlic. (Rick grew 80 bulbs of garlic in the garden also, so I think we're set there.) We bought 25 lbs. of onions, 30 lbs. of tomatoes, 5 pounds of hot peppers (jalapenos and Ghost peppers), and Annalee bought tubs of homemade pesto, aged balsamic vinegar, new pickles, and horseradish cheddar cheese. Besides garlic and hot peppers, Erica bought hot sauce appropriately named "Apocalyptic." She actually gave Rick money and asked him to pick something her boyfriend might like. I think the vendor was shocked when Rick licked the sample and said he loved it. He was waiting for Rick to break out in a sweat and faint or something. Which is about how Chris reacted when he took his first taste. I'm sure he'll get used to it, though.

So we've been cooking away here at home the past few days. I think Rick has outdone me. He's made jars of hot pepper relish, dried apples, dried mushrooms, and is busily dehydrating the tomatoes in our Excalibur food dehydrator. His dried tomatoes in olive oil are to die for. (Next year we'd like to try sun drying the tomatoes, but I think I'd rather build a simple solar dehydrator than use the sun oven, so I can keep that free for meals.) After all the drying he's planning on making hot pepper jelly.

While he's busy stocking up, instead of using my solar oven, I've been using my new Pomaireware ceramic bean pot, which was a present from Rick back in June. I had only used it twice before, but now I'm using it all the time and really liking it. The whole idea of making one pot (or close to it) meals was foreign to me, but I had to rethink my approach to what constituted a complete meal when I began solar cooking. Otherwise the whole idea of it was pointless. Why cook the chicken outside if I was going to cook 10 other things in 10 different pots inside. Okay, a bit of an exaggeration, but you get my drift. So, now I'm making meals inside in the clay pot with very similar results to solar cooking and trying to still keep it simple. I think I know what will be on my Christmas list (more clay pots!).

I made a yummy chicken dish tonight that I've renamed Sunshine Daydream Chicken since I've been humming the Grateful Dead lyrics all day. I didn't take any photos because it's so dark and dismal. Cut 1 1/2 pounds of boneless chicken thighs into huge pieces (I cut each thigh in thirds). Melt 2 tablespoons butter in the bottom of the clay pot (or the black enamel pot for the solar oven) and lightly brown the chicken. Add one large onion sliced really thin, several cloves of garlic chopped, a handful of parsley, salt, pepper, 1/4 cup tomato sauce, 1/3 cup good red wine vinegar, and 1/2 cup of chicken broth. Cover the clay pot and pop into the oven at 275º for 4 hours. Or cover the black pot and pop into the solar oven for a few hours. I admit I used another pot to make rice and poured the chicken over the rice to serve. On the side I made a cucumber salad, fresh homemade semolina bread, and some of the fresh pesto Annalee had bought at the festival.

Okay, tomorrow's forecast is for partly cloudy skies with a stray shower or thunderstorm possible, and rain highly probably on both Saturday and Sunday. But, but, but . . . as of now, incredibly, the forecast says sunny all next week. Cross your fingers 'cause it'll sure be good to see some sunny and dry weather!!!

Sunshine daydream, walkin' in the tall trees, going where the wind goes, blooming like a red rose... – Grateful Dead, Sugar Magnolia

1 comment:

  1. I did not have a good year with my crops. The same for my brother-in-law next door. Too much rain? When I couldn't get jalapeno plants, I really lost interest. Besides, I added a new soaker hose and installed it backwards. (Yes, I'm Italian!)