The $30 chicken.

Longtime readers know I’m not much for New Year’s Eve. In recent years I’ve had to work on many of them, but even when it fell on a weekend, it just never seemed worth the trouble. For years now, our preferred celebration has been a better-than-average meal made at home, some good wine, champagne and a video on the telly. We kiss at midnight, marvel over the sound of celebratory gunfire in Detroit, and go to bed.

This year, Alan’s been attending some of the media events at the car companies, and came home with a request:

“I know what I want for Christmas dinner,” he said. “Pheasant.”

O rly?

He explained that the Ford shindig he’d been at earlier in the evening had featured some cold roast pheasant on the buffet, along with some sort of fruit chutney, and boy, it sure was good. After determining that our Christmas guest wouldn’t eat pheasant at gunpoint, we decided it would maybe make a decent NYE entree. So I ordered one from the butcher and started exploring recipes.

We really aren’t meant to eat pheasant, I determined. No one can agree on how they should be prepared. Mark Bittman suggested whacking them up and cooking the various parts separately. Another said this is the ideal bird for brining. A woman at one of the holiday parties we attended said no, pressure-cook it. One recipe went with a slow roast with lots of basting, another with a short one in a very hot oven. That was Emeril Lagasse’s recipe. I’ve noticed several chefs, all men, suggest roasting duck and other game birds in blazing-hot ovens, claiming the heat works the way a sear does on a grilled steak — trapping the scarce fats inside; otherwise, you end up with a dessicated fowl.

I think men are the ones who promote this method because, by and large, they don’t have to clean their own ovens. Personally, I despise any temperature above 425 degrees on my home oven, except maybe for pizza. It gets everything so hot grease splatters throughout the oven, which creates smoke, which sets off every smoke alarm in the house, etc. But still: Pheasant. If I can’t trust Emeril, who can I trust? I dialed the heat up to 500, turned on the fans, and started it in a jacket of bacon, as instructed:


This whole process was supposed to take less than an hour, I remind you. After 15 minutes, I removed the bacon; just opening the oven started the smoke alarm shrieking. (Alan took it down and stuck it under some towels.) We took the bird out when it looked like this; a few tentative pokes suggested its juices were running clear:


But when we flipped it over to do a bilateral carve, it still had plenty of blood left in it. Back into the oven for another 15, and that did it. It made for a pretty presentation:


And how did it taste? Eh, OK. It was still too dry. Alan got down to the bones, but I stopped at the white meat. Not a terrible dinner, but far from my best work. If I ever meet Emeril, I will ask him to come clean my goddamn oven. His sauce was good, however, a red-wine-and-orange-juice reduction.

That’s a wild rice pilaf on the side, by the way, with some toasted pine nuts. A very harvest-season meal.

Lesson learned: Some things are best left to the pros. Next year: Salmon.

How was your new year celebration? I finally watched “Midnight in Paris,” which was perfectly wonderful.

I’m a lazy girl on the bloggage today, but Gawker did all my work for me, in their best-of-2011-reading roundup. A few things are behind paywalls, but there’s some great stuff here, all of which I missed the first time around, including the incredible true story of the collar-bomb heist from Wired, a fabulous rant/takedown of “Eat, Pray, Love,” and finally, a piece that introduces and explains Courtney Stodden for me once and for all, so that I never have to read another word about her, thankyaJesus. All three worth your time, and probably even more at the Gawker link.

And so it begins, this 2012. I’m hoping it’s a good one. For all of us. Even the pheasant.

Posted at 12:30 am in Same ol' same ol' |

45 responses to “The $30 chicken.”

  1. Dexter said on January 2, 2012 at 12:46 am

    2012…Happy New Year to the Derringers (each and EVery One!) and to all the contributors who continue to educate me by expanding my world. I do not know who Courtney Stodden is, but I will soon.

    196 chars

  2. jerry said on January 2, 2012 at 2:45 am

    And a Happy New Year to everyone from here in England.

    54 chars

  3. David C. said on January 2, 2012 at 6:50 am

    I had pheasant once when I was about 8 years old. Grandpa road killed it and Grandma cooked it. I have no memory of how it tasted, but as Grandma was from the cook it until it’s good and dead culinary school, I imagine it was dry.

    232 chars

  4. heydave said on January 2, 2012 at 7:39 am

    Howdy, kids! Happy to report that my ManGrate( worked fine for a couple of sirloins. Sure, I should have gotten two, seeing as how they’re long and slender and didn’t, duh, really fill up my grilling surface as I had hoped. But I was giddy for the perceived/possible advancement, and as I said, they worked fine.

    Happy New Year Nancy! (And everyone else)

    388 chars

  5. Hank Stuever said on January 2, 2012 at 9:13 am

    I liked “Midnight in Paris” too, but, yow, James Wolcott didn’t. His tweet about it, a couple of days ago:

    Watching MIDNIGHT IN PARIS; so slack, so toothless, so freshman English, so unworldly, so yackety; I’ll never believe anyone ever again.<<

    276 chars

  6. coozledad said on January 2, 2012 at 10:06 am

    David C.: I watched one of our guinea fowl get nailed in the road by a log truck several years back. It tore the hood ornament off.
    I watched it flap around for a little while until its lights went out, then carried it back to the house and got my copy of Gail Damerow’s chicken book out and learned how to remove the feathers, guts and its sad little purple head.
    I’d pretty much stopped eating meat by that point, but I wanted the experience. I stuffed the body cavity with a quartered onion, oregano and a stick of butter before I put it in the oven, and it tasted OK, maybe slightly gamey.

    I gave the other half to our neighbor, who complained that it tasted of onion. I should have told him the onion masks the flavor of the amanita phalloides.

    754 chars

  7. basset said on January 2, 2012 at 10:31 am

    Frozen pizza and margaritas made from canned mix here, nothing like HFCS and fake citrus for that special festive taste.

    Mrs. B., B Jr. and one of his friends were just finishing “The Big Lebowski” when I got in from not shooting deer; we followed that with “Yellow Submarine” and “Dancing Outlaw” and I went to bed shitfaced at ten-thirty.

    Could have gone downtown to see Lynyrd Skynyrd play in the street but didn’t want to deal with the crowd.

    456 chars

  8. basset said on January 2, 2012 at 10:35 am

    Meanwhile, where else but here are you going to see a quote from the “chief executive of the British Liver Trust”:

    235 chars

  9. Jen said on January 2, 2012 at 10:46 am

    I loved that link to the piece about “Eat Pray Love.” That movie was truly awful, for all those reasons. Seriously, the main character, Elizabeth, bitched through the entire movie as she traveled the world. She is such a self-indulgent whiner and she never gets any better. In the end, she’s still a self-pitying whiner who STILL hasn’t figured out that the world doesn’t revolve around her. Just thinking about that movie, and its inexplicable popularity, pisses me off all over again.

    486 chars

  10. Ann said on January 2, 2012 at 11:19 am

    The “Eat Pray Love” piece really nailed it–and I can say that never having seen the movie because, unlike the reviewer, I HAVE read the book!

    142 chars

  11. alex said on January 2, 2012 at 11:19 am

    I think Emeril is full of shit and loves to steer people wrong. Maybe a commercial range in a television studio keeps a bird moist and doesn’t get splattered or smoky at 500 degrees, but I don’t think it’s possible in real life.

    For New Year’s Eve I got some bum advice, not from Emeril, as regards a lobster salad. I’d made a quite fabulous one previously with mayo, celery and dill, I seem to recall, but couldn’t find the recipe, so instead I made an Asian lobster salad that was truly awful. It had snow peas and napa cabbage and jicama, three substances that overwhelmed the lobster texturally while the soy-ginger rice vinaigrette dressing was ten times too strong for this salad unless it was intended to mask some rotten fishy-smelling meat. A thirty-dollar cole slaw, it was.

    788 chars

  12. LAMary said on January 2, 2012 at 11:35 am

    Broiled chicken, pan roasted red potatoes and sauteed spinach here. We watched Live from Lincoln Center doing Gershwin and some Leonard Bernstein compositions, then I found Oklahoma with Gordon Macrae and Shirley Jones and I remembered how really good some of those songs are. My childred deserted me when I was singing along with Oh What a Beautiful Mornin’.

    359 chars

  13. Heather said on January 2, 2012 at 11:46 am

    I made dinner for a new gentleman friend, so I didn’t want to get too ambitious: lamb chops marinated in garlic and rosemary, grilled polenta, and roasted root vegetables, all with a Barolo my sister bought for me for Christmas. (BTW grilled polenta is the way to go–crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside.) He made some amazing chocolate mousse. Also listened to gunfire in my Chicago neighborhood at midnight, but it was actually surprisingly quiet. New Year’s Day was going to see The Descendants for some Hawaii porn (and to look at George Clooney too), followed by a Puerto Rican feast–roast pork and rice and beans–at a friendly gathering. All in all one of the best New Year’s in recent memory.

    709 chars

  14. beb said on January 2, 2012 at 11:54 am

    Spent New Year’s Eve in Indiana, the best way to avoid the paranoia induced by so much gun-fire in Detroit. No special NYE’s meals. Watched a little TV, went to bed early. Can’t wait for all the year-in-review blog postings to fade away. New Year finds me at my more curmudgeonly.

    280 chars

  15. caliban said on January 2, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    Had to click that Courtney Stodden link to find out if that was a female Courtney or a male Courtney, and was honestly surprised not to find some connection to Godawful vampire/sex movies. maybe vampire sex, but not movies. And speaking of movies, really unfair to ole Lucky Doug. His portrayal of Percy Wetmore in The Green Mile produced one of the most loathsome characters in the entire history of movies. Lord help me, I clicked that video, and had to listen to Rebecca Black to cleanse my auricles. “timeless energy of beauty & thought”? Timeless beauty of energy and thought? Timeless thought of beauty and energy? Damn. Her fridge magnet poems must be slammin’. Was she inspired by Eat, Pray, Love? I suppose the movie had a built-in audience from what sounds suspiciously like a Mitch book written from the distaff side.

    We always have red beans and rice NYE, but I ususally make it with black beans instead, because they taste better, andouille and smoked ham. Our grocery had Yellowtail Bubbly on sale, which made an excellent accompaniment to the cajun good luck in the new year food.

    Thank goodness the Lions get Louis Delmas back for the playoffs. 480 yds. passing for Matt Flynn translates into frequent flier mileage for Drew Brees.

    And didn’t Courtney Stodden’s mom make a big deal about approving of the marriage, and what a great guy Hutchinson is:

    1515 chars

  16. nancy said on January 2, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    That’s a bookstore? All I see are candles and soap ‘n’ shit. Wait — it’s a “spiritual” book store. ‘Splains it.

    Her husband’s wearing a jacket and knit cap, and she’s nearly naked. Also, love them clear bra straps. That says “classy.”

    238 chars

  17. Connie said on January 2, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    Our two old TVs have both blown up in recent weeks, the last survivor two days before New Years Eve. We counted down to 2012 with Garrison Keillor live from Hawaii while eating ham and beans southern Indiana style.

    And just bought tickets to the U of Detroit Mercy men’s basketball game vs. Butler on Sunday. In Detroit.

    325 chars

  18. Little Bird said on January 2, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    Are you sure she’s 17? She looks at least my age, but trying to look young.

    76 chars

  19. beb said on January 2, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    The bra straps thing has to be a generational issue. Younger girls don’t seem to think anything about them showing. Of course with a lot of the clothes they wear these days there’s little or nothing to hid the straps under.

    I’m with Little Bird about questioning her actual age. She looks too well worn to be some high schooler. At I guess I’d put her in her mid-30s.

    And the sad thing is that while she’s trying to pass herself off as some kind of sexy young thang, she just comes across as a cheap tart.

    512 chars

  20. coozledad said on January 2, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    The bottom picture on the right looks like she’s preparing to catch something falling out of her skirt. If I were the proprietor of that store I’d be concerned she might be shoplifting, using a technique I’d be too embarrassed to confront her about.

    EDIT: Nah, lady. You can “keep” the sandalwood oil. Consider it a gift. Just get out of my store.

    350 chars

  21. Julie Robinson said on January 2, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    Totally agree about Eat, Pray, Love. I halfway listened to the book and wondered what the big deal was. And here’s the amazing thing: Elizabeth Gilbert had a contract to write that book! She financed the trip with a publisher’s advance. She must be great in meetings, is all I can say.

    Pretty low-key here for New Year’s Eve. We plonked some beef in the crockpot and watched IU beat #2 Ohio State. Then hubby went to a movie with his brother and I watched the same concert as Mary. Gershwin, Bernstein, Jean-Yves Thibaudet on piano–I enjoyed it way more than Sherlock Holmes, I’m positive. It’s been years since I cared about staying up til midnight and I wish I could say the same about the neighborhood fireworks enthusiast.

    736 chars

  22. caliban said on January 2, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    Back in the 80s, I met a guitar player from Austin TX at the great Cambridge MA music bar, Jack’s. He was a protege of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Joe Ely, and a big deal because he was just 16yo. Nice kid, superb musician, but somehow a rumor started that he was actually considerably older. He did have a grown-ass man voice, like Steve Winwood in Spencer Davis Group. At the time, that all seemed like a load of hooey based on jealousy. The kid was excellent:

    Charlie Sexton’s Beats So Lonely.

    But sorry, Courtney looks a bit older than Pam Anderson, without the refreshing air of self-parody. Pretty nasty.

    We watched Meet John Doe on New Year’s Eve. Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck, the perfect antidote to J. Stewart and Donna Reed. A terrific movie.

    861 chars

  23. alex said on January 2, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    Wowee, I could catch me some men with that swing set. Better-looking ones than the one she’s with. But if Courtney is seventeen, so am I and pigs are flying outta my butt.

    171 chars

  24. LAMary said on January 2, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    It was a nice concert, wasn’t it Julie? I liked the NY Phil shouting “mambo!” at appropriate times during the West Side Story dance suite. The Gershwin was great too.

    166 chars

  25. Judybusy said on January 2, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    Happy New Year to all here at nn.c! We did something for NYE for the first time in years. We had another couple over for a dinner of pulled pork sandwiches and beans; they brought a quinoa salad and Leinies. We played Yatzee and made it till midnight. Instead of resolutions, one of the guys suggested we do highlights of 2011. It’s been a good year for all four of us, and it’s always wise to recognize our good fortune. Unlike Elizabeth Gilbert, I never got a book contract to travel around the world. I also despised the book but finished it for some reason. Perhaps I just enjoyed seeing how much I could loathe this self-absorbed idiot. Thank you so much for sharing the take-down.

    I second Alex et alia: if Courtney is 17, check for monkeys flying out my butt momentarily. I don’t follow “news” like this, and only know about the Kardashians because Nancy posted about them here, and brief headlines on Yahoo. And now I know about Courtney, too.

    954 chars

  26. caliban said on January 2, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    “something falling out of her skirt”? Like her uterus?

    54 chars

  27. Julie Robinson said on January 2, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    It was terrific, Mary. I’ve already put the jazz version of Rhapsody in Blue that Thibaudet mentioned on my library queue. When it was over I flipped the channels for a couple of minutes and saw the rapping/lip-synching that passes for popular music. It made it easy to go to bed.

    BTW, it wasn’t until I saw his named spelled out on a CD that I realized Jean-Yves wasn’t Johnny.

    381 chars

  28. Sherri said on January 2, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    We spent New Year’s Eve the same way we have for years: at a board game party. This party has been going on for more than 20 years, originally in California, but now in Washington after the hosts (and a bunch of like-minded folks) migrated up here courtesy of Microsoft. Wild and crazy geeks – the party goes on all night.

    322 chars

  29. Jolene said on January 2, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    Lots of overlap here. I watched–and liked–the NY Philharmonic concert too. Was also put off by EPL, especially the “pray” part. Creeped me out for a person to worship another person in that way.

    196 chars

  30. nancy said on January 2, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    You know what strikes me about that clip from “Eat, Pray, Love”? How much more I want to see Viola Davis than shrieky Julia Roberts. Every time the camera cuts back to Julia’s rant, I’m thinking, “No! Back to Viola!” I love everything about that woman, from her gorgeous face to her even more gorgeous voice.

    308 chars

  31. Hexadecimal said on January 2, 2012 at 4:26 pm

    When it comes to wild game, cooking it like grandmaw (or great gramdmaw) did usually works best. Dredged through flour with salt and pepper, then fried in lard. Or, in the case of birds, in bacon grease.

    As for Courtney, a Pia Zadora in the making.

    251 chars

  32. Dexter said on January 2, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    As soon as any Olympics end, I instantly forget almost all the athletes. Johnny Weir, you just can’t forget. He just got married.

    237 chars

  33. caliban said on January 2, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    When it comes to wild game, I’m willing to go internet order and let the experts at Burger’s Smokehouse do the cooking: duckling, pheasant and quail, cured and smoked.

    167 chars

  34. Deborah said on January 2, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    New Years Eve in Abiquiu: I got season 4 of Mad Men for Christmas, we watched 2 episodes after having leftover stew with chicken and vegetables that Little Bird had made earlier the week before. We went to bed before 10 and didn’t hear a peep if there even was any noisemaking around here. Any and all food tastes amazing here, don’t know if it’s the altitude or the clear air that makes it so, even leftovers were a treat. Today we went back to Taos to visit friends who had gone out of town for Christmas. We stopped at a local grocery store called Cids (sort of Whole Foods-ish) where Julia Roberts shops when she’s in town (she has a ranch in Taos). Didn’t see her, although we did see her once on another trip.

    715 chars

  35. Linda said on January 2, 2012 at 8:44 pm

    Yes, I read Eat Pray Love and thought it wasn’t evil, just a big bunch of meh. I think some women idolize her for the same reason some men admire Hugh Hefner–because she can get away with doing a bunch of crap that they can’t, like taking a year off to eat and meditate on somebody else’s dime, and run around with a hunk.

    324 chars

  36. Kim said on January 2, 2012 at 8:46 pm

    The world is such a crazy place that those three stories can co-exist and find their fans (and by that I mean actual fans, not loveable haters like us).

    We had grilled salmon on NYE, with some Bittman root vegetable cakes. I think I made a salad, but was too busy inhaling the cakes (sweet & white spuds, carrot, cumin) to remember. I thought that was the meal of the week, but then I was inspired today to make that French pork stew that BobNG recommended. Oh. My. God. If you haven’t made it, do. If you wouldn’t because of dietary choices, reconsider. It’s better than bacon.

    Happy new year, all.

    609 chars

  37. LAMary said on January 2, 2012 at 8:51 pm

    We occasionally had pheasant when I was a kid, courtesy of my brothers’ hunting trips. I will always think of spitting out birdshot when I think of pheasant. I wonder how much lead I actually ate and if I can use that for an excuse when I do stupid things.

    256 chars

  38. Deborah said on January 2, 2012 at 10:28 pm

    On this trip I assumed I was going to be receiving some books for gifts so didn’t come prepared for reading. Received Joan Didion’s latest, Blue Nights which is good but brief, I read a couple of other books that were in the cabin where we’re staying and one that my husband brought, a John Le Carre novel, but I soon found myself without anything to read. So today while in Taos I bought myself Roger Eberts, Life Itself, which I have barely started but can already tell I will enjoy a lot. I also tried to buy Hitchen’s, Hitch 22′ but they had sold out. Of course.

    566 chars

  39. Dave said on January 2, 2012 at 10:51 pm

    Not the subject but former LAMary neighbor Stephen Bloom was on NBC’s Rock Center tonight. He says he loves Iowa and it was all satire. He was asked if he’d ever gone drinking and hunting and he said he hadn’t but he’d seen pictures.

    Pheasants must be considered great game birds to hunt, I worked with men who would go to South Dakota every single year just to hunt pheasant.

    383 chars

  40. moe99 said on January 2, 2012 at 11:12 pm

    My grandfather, Seth, and great aunt, Marg, used to hunt pheasant in and around Paulding, OH. I remember hearing about it growing up and seeing a picture or two.

    162 chars

  41. Crazycatlady said on January 2, 2012 at 11:41 pm

    That movie was so bad they should have called it “Eat, Bitch, Purge”. As if Julia ever ate a whole meal in her life! lol

    120 chars

  42. Dexter said on January 3, 2012 at 2:07 am

    When I was a kid in rural Indiana, once I scared off a covey of quail. It was the most startling event of my life. It was about 55 years ago and I recall it totally. This gives you an idea of the sound…just imagine it three times as loud, with the quail hidden, and I walk right up on the bevy.

    330 chars

  43. caliban said on January 3, 2012 at 2:40 am

    Dexter. When I was a kid out on Seventeen Mile Road, my mom used to scare up coveys with her TBird convertible. Never quite got a roadkill. But she would have tried the Bar B Cue, lit with gasoline. My question about the Eat Bitch Purge movie. How did Julia Roberts ever become America’s Sweetheart. She is a decent, not great, actress, and has hardly ever made a decent movie. Pretty Woman is a horrendous blight, and a blight on even Richard Gere’s career. The Pelican Brief is a good movie, but mostly because of Denzel. Erin Brockovich is an audience pleaser, but the Matt Damon one about the Leukemia victim is a way better movie and it has Danny DeVito, and goes straight for the heart of insurance company villains. Sleeping With the Enemy is somewhat compelling, but Julia looks like an endangered whale getting swimming lessons, and the movie relies on Patrick Bergin’s evil moustache for suspense, and I far prefer Jaylo beating her abuser to a bloody pulp in Enough. So, what’s so great about Julia Roberts? Was it her performance in the brilliant Mercedes Ruell part in The Fisher King? She was very good as the bruised and doomed Southron Belle in Steel magnolias, a great movie, but every other actress in that movie was better, and Debra Winger was way better in the same part in another, better, movie. Much better actress. Actually, Debra Winger made Black Widow, with Theresa Russell, which is a modern noir classic.

    1436 chars

  44. caliban said on January 3, 2012 at 2:50 am

    Actually, here in paradise, we don’t scare up coveys of pheasants, We get flocks of turkey vultures. These are God’s ugliest birds when they are feeding on carrion on the ground. When they take flight, it is like being in a cloud of WWI planes. Immense wingspans. So who are the great actors? Well Brad Pitt is mighty damn good, based mostly on 12 Monkeys. Melissa Leo. Whichever one of the multiple Cates that takes the ring and terrorizes Frodo. Can anybody tell the difference between these women. Mary Stuart Masterton. Fried Green Tomatoes is the greatest alleged chick flick of all times. And that woman is positively smart and gorgeous.

    643 chars

  45. Uncle Rameau said on January 3, 2012 at 9:04 am

    Crockpot Pheasant with Wild Rice Stuffing was a huge hit at the only Thanksgiving I spent at college in Lamoni, Iowa, in 1977. Pheasants were free from local hunting types, and there were only a few bits of birdshot to be worked around. About a $9 meal for 4 using 2 crockpots.

    And from my experience, Iowa is no more representative of the U.S. as a whole than the Ron Paul newsletters are. Which explains the polls a bit, I guess.

    439 chars