I hate to brag, but we did Father's Day RIGHT. If you're wondering what that means, here's a hint: Fried Chicken. Mmhmm.
There's this game we love to use when we have people over for dinner called "Table Topics." Each card has a fun question like, "which of your ancestors would you most like to meet and why?" or "if you could invent any holiday what would it be called and how would people celebrate it?" They're great icebreakers and are fun ways to get to know new people. We were doing some with my parents and the card was "describe your ideal meal." I rattled on about queso, pizza, iced coffee, and tiramisu, but Fath had his answer polished and ready. Fried chicken with squash casserole and mom's brown bag dutch apple pie. When Father's Day rolled around, we decided it was the perfect occasion to give him his ideal meal.
Rob and I prepared Michael Ruhlman's Rosemary- Brined Buttermilk Fried Chicken (recipe here). It was a two day process but it was completely worth it. We started with an aromatic brine of onions, smashed garlic cloves, and fresh rosemary sprigs from the garden. The chicken is supposed to soak in the brine for 8-24 hours, then sit, thoroughly dried, in the refrigerator for another 24 hours so the skin crisps properly. Then you bread it (twice! glory be!) and fry it.
Frying chicken is fun because it is an excuse to sit on the porch with your people and drink sweet tea and talk. We had a small fryer so it took a little while, but it was nice to just make a slow, thoughtful meal. We had to sample one of each batch that came out, naturally, so it turned out that we ate a good bit of our meal before we even got to the table. Rob manned the fryer while I picked through the bowl of chicken, looking for any of the crispy skin that might have fallen off.
I was particularly excited about this meal because my dad's reaction to good cooking is part of what made me come to love it. My dad has always been my biggest fan- praising all that I'm good at, and helping me laugh about all the things I'm not good at. When I was ten years old and had been watching Iron Chef with my aunt Sandy for a good long time, I decided that I wanted to be a chef. So my parents bought me an Emeril kit (BAM!) and I started cooking. One triumph in particular stands out. I made some peanut butter balls, rolled them in raw oats, tucked a whole almond inside, and then stuck them in the freezer for half the day. Then I proudly offered them to my dad when he got home.
I can only imagine that they were horrible, as I, the chef, did not want to eat them. But Dad took a bite, nodded, said, "Mmm! Good!" and popped another in his mouth. FROZEN PEANUT BUTTER Y'ALL! I don't know how he even ate it! No matter what I made though, he always told me what a great cook I was and how lucky I was to have been taught by such a good cook, my mom.
I really hoped this wouldn't be one of those though. I wanted it to actually be good. When we pulled out the first batch of fried chicken, I offered him one of the wings. He hem-hawed, weighing if he should just wait for dinner, but then he took it, took a bite, and was very silent. He looked up and said with conviction, "Man, that is good. Well done, Catie."
After everything was ready, we went in and had our chicken with mom's squash casserole and green beans with new potatoes and bacon. The casserole was really just everything- sweet summer squash suspended in melted cheese and cream and dotted with bell peppers and glory.
But the crowning achievement of this Father's Day feast was Mom's. Brown Bag. Dutch. Apple. Pie.
I have had this pie once before, but I have heard about it many times, mentioned by Fath in hushed and reverent tones. We have heard stories of the Brown Bag Dutch Apple Pie, always followed by a "hoooo" and smacking of the lips.
Imagine this: Sweet, thinly sliced apples laced with cinnamon and nutmeg, garnished with a sweet crumble, tucked into a brown paper bag and stapled shut, so none of the magic escapes. The presentation is priceless. Mom pulls this slightly charred paper bag out of the oven, and you really can't smell apple pie yet. But then she cuts it open, and there sits the most perfect apple pie I've ever seen, and suddenly the whole house smells like pie and the ice cream is just begging to be close to those warm, caramelized apples and we were so full but now we are so hungry again because that pie has awakened some sort of primitive desire in us and we must have the pie NOW.
Robin had his second slice for breakfast, and both of us would totally endorse that approach if you decide to make it. It has a crumbly topping so you could almost venture that it's like a crisp, which is prime brunch food. There! Dessert for breakfast, justified.
Brown Bag Apple Pie
very slightly adapted from "Cooking with W.M.S. and friends 10th District AME Church"
- 4 or 5 large apples, peeled and sliced
- 1 c. sugar
- 2 Tbsp. flour
- 1 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1/2 c. flour
- 1/2 c. butter
- 1 unbaked pie shell (if you want to make your own crust, Joy the Baker has a recipe here)
First things first! Put Ray LaMontagne's "You Are The Best Thing" on repeat. Now! Prep your pie pan and preheat the oven to 450. Place sliced and peeled apples in a large bowl. Combine 1/2 c. sugar, 2 Tbsp. flour, nutmeg, and cinnamon and sprinkle over the apples. Toss to coat well and spread them into the prepared pie pan. Drizzle the apple mixture with 2 Tbsp. of lemon juice (please don't skip the lemon juice.) Combine 1/2 c. sugar and 1/2 c. flour for your adorable little crumble topping in a separate bowl. Cut the butter into the sugar mixture with a pastry cutter or your fingers and sprinkle evenly over the apples.
Slide the pie into a heavy brown shopping bag. Fold bag over and staple closed. Doubt the process for only a second, push through, and place the bag on a cookie sheet. Bake at 450 for 1 hour. Gather everyone around you for the opening of the bag. Cut the bag open, ooh and aah appropriately, and allow to cool. (or realistically, serve within five minutes topped with vanilla bean ice cream.)
I might add in a sprinkle of cardamom because I like to party. Eat with the people you love!