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RBR Tailgating: Chicken in Beer

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Rage against Tennessee. Pull out all the stops. Get your dinner drunk if you have to. Just rage.

“Oh what a tangled web we weave

When first we practice to deceive.”

I don’t know that anyone keeps stats on such things but my guess is that the above is among the most misattributed quotes in the English language. At first glance it looks like Shakespeare. It sounds like Shakespeare. But brother, it ain’t Shakespeare.

The credit goes to Sir Walter Scott, but we can’t be blamed for immediately thinking of the bard. I won’t speak for everyone, but one of the lasting psychoses bequeathed to me by high school English teachers is the reflexive assumption that any lines of rhythmic, rhyming poetry that sound even in the slightest bit archaic must be iambic pentameter (even when they are not) and attributable to Shakespeare (even when they are not.) Let’s call it Post Traumatic Poetry Disorder.

Sometimes it doesn’t even have to be metered. The following is also often erroneously credited to old Will, probably because of the use of the word “thee”:

“To the last, I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart, I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee.”

A quick Google search and you’ll see that the above quote was penned hundreds of years after Shakespeare shuffled his mortal coil off. “Ahab!” say the legion of helpful quote sites, earnestly setting the record straight. They attest to the beauty of Herman Melville’s writing and the monomania of his doomed captain defiant in the face of nature’s relentlessness in the great American novel, Moby Dick. But they would be wrong too.

The “from hell’s heart” et al line was likely penned by Jack B. Sowards, screenplay writer for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The evidence is here.

I say “likely penned” because movies are a collaborative effort and it is just as possible that Nicholas Meyer or any of the other writers attached to the project could have written the line. Heck, I suppose Ricardo Montalban could have ad libbed the whole thing, but lacking any evidence to the contrary I think Sowards, the head guy, should receive the accolades.

If you glossed by the link to Khan’s final moments above, go back and watch it. See the rage. That’s true hatred. More than just a burst of activity in areas of the medial frontal gyrus, right putamen, premotor cortex, and medial isula; this is the personification of a single emotion. A man abandons perspective after perspective until a single aspect is left. He is the blistering final eruption of primordial hate.

To borrow a phrase, he got his cotdang mind right.

A real live human being such as you or me will never achieve the emotional singularity of a fictional character like Khan Noonian Singh. Fictional characters have authors who can filter out errant and unwanted thoughts that can distract from an attempt to purely focus emotion. Real people have too many things to worry about. “Did I remember to lock the front door on the way out?” “These pants are too tight.” “Is it left or right arm pain that’s bad?” And so on. But it’s hate week. Tennessee is on the horizon. We have to do our best.

So while we may not be able to reach Khan levels of hatred, there is no reason we can’t hold him up as an ideal, an aspirational patron saint of the week leading up to and including the third Saturday in October. Let him be our hate week idol. If that doesn’t help, there’s always alcohol to angry up the blood.

On that note, let me introduce this week’s offering. It’s a chicken drowned in belligerence-inducing beer, so that even your game meal might add a little to the cause.

(Before any of you embarrass yourselves by pointing out that Khan ultimately lost, let me say this: I was not suggesting that we look to adopt Khan’s tactics, just that we strive to approach his attitude. Besides, everybody knows that the Kirk/Khan battle in the Mutara Nebula was ultimately won because of depth. Granted Kirk was leading a training mission with raw recruits when he was pulled into the conflict but you have to assume that the recruits chosen for duty on the Enterprise captained by the legendary Admiral James T. Kirk were basically all five stars. Yes they were inexperienced, but there was no end to the fresh talent on that ship. Contrast with Khan’s crew. His first string was literally superhuman, but as they went down there was no one to pick up the slack. Tennessee has recruited admirably the last few years and they have some seconds with good wheels on them, but when it comes to depth, we are clearly the Kirk in this obscenely overplayed analogy.)

Chicken in Beer

3-4 lbs. Assorted Chicken Pieces

1 cup Diced Yellow Onion

1 cup Diced Carrots

1 cup Diced Celery

3-4 Smashed Cloves of Garlic

1 Handful Chopped Fresh Italian (Flat Leaf) Parsley

4-5 12 oz. cans Lager

Olive Oil

All Purpose Flour for Dusting

Salt & Pepper

There are a variety of reasons why I like this recipe but one I should highlight now is how amazing it makes your house smell. Most of the work is weighted toward the front end. So if you time it right, you can do all the heavy lifting relatively light lifting and start the hands free, hour long simmer right before your guests arrive for the game. When they walk in they will comment on the aromas coming from your kitchen. It’s a good way to start things off.

I listed 3-4 lbs. assorted chicken parts. You can use any pieces in whatever combination you please. I prefer and think this recipe works better with dark meat, so I went with half drumsticks and half thighs, but let your taste buds be your guide.

Pat the chicken dry, liberally salt and pepper, and then drudge them lightly in the flour. You only want the slightest dusting of flour so give them a shake or pat to remove any excess.

Heat, on high, a few glugs of olive oil in a Dutch oven or similar deep pan and brown the chicken, in batches, on all sides. When sufficiently browned, set aside on a plate.

Turn the heat down to medium, give the pan a moment to drop to the new temperature, and supplement the oil and grease in the bottom of the pan with a glug or two of olive oil. Add the onions and sauté until translucent then add the carrots, celery, and garlic with a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the carrots and celery start to pale. Pour in two of the beers with the parsley, turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil.

While waiting for the beer to boil, be sure to scrape the little burned bits of chicken from the bottom of the pan and stir them into the liquid. They are surprisingly full of flavor and will add a lot to the your final sauce.

When the beer boils, reintroduce the chicken to the pan and arrange in as close to a single layer as possible. Pour in two more beers. Think about icebergs at this point. You want the beer to more or less cover the chicken but ten percent above the liquid is good too. If four beers isn’t enough, add the fifth. If it is, add the last beer to an ice cold glass and relax. All you have left to do is bring the contents of the pot back to a boil, reduce to a simmer and, with the exception of turning the chicken over at the thirty minute mark, leave it alone for an hour.

After an hour the meat should easily come off the bone when pulled. Take the chicken out of the pot and set aside on a plate. If you want you can cut into the thickest part of the largest piece with a knife to make sure it’s done. I’d go ahead and do that if you started with some particularly large breast but after an hour I’d be surprised if anything needed any further cooking.

Once satisfied that the meat is cooked, turn the heat back up to high and start reduce the beer sauce for five or ten minutes depending on how viscous you want it to be. Salt to taste.

I like this over mashed potatoes with a small salad, but it lends itself to all manner of sides.

I’m never sad when UT loses, but I will admit to a bit of disappointment over not being the ones to put an end to that absurd run of comeback “magic” they were keeping Butch Jones’ cardiologist all worked up about, but that honor fell to the Aggies. I suppose we still have to watch out for a forward fumble and keep our players helmeted lest they draw a flag and put the Vols into Hail Mary range, but I’m trusting our coaches and players to take care of business.

I wonder if the Bryant-Denny janitorial staff hates this rivalry. It can’t be easy to get the smell of cigar smoke out of the locker room. Of course they’ve had some practice at it.

Enjoy, no injuries, and Roll Tide.