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I have a July 4th tradition, if you can go so far as to call it that.  Just the once each year, I make fried chicken, using the great buttermilk-brine formulation from Cooks Illustrated’s The New Best Recipe.

But this year, I wasn’t at home on July 4th, and I wasn’t going to set out on the hair-raising adventure that is fried chicken from an unfamiliar kitchen.  I almost decided to forgo it altogether.

But over the long days of summer, I found myself thinking about fried chicken a whole lot.  And when it came right down to it, waiting a whole ‘nother year for that crunchy, oily bacchanal just seemed out of the question.  So maybe it was 34 days after the holiday, but there was no delaying the matter any longer.

So out came the giant plastic pitcher for marinating the chicken.  Out came the 3 heads of garlic and the bay leaves and the salt and the mallet (for crushing the garlic into the salt).  Out came the big yellow enameled cast-iron pan and the three trays for breading.  Out came a gallon of peanut oil.

In the 90-degree heat, outside on a propane burner, I fried 30 pieces of chicken and hustled them into an oven to finish (the oven part’s not in the recipe, but I’ve learned the hard way you can’t do without it) before throwing my own sweaty, begrimed self in the shower.   Good friends brought beer and sides, and the twelve of us set upon those gilded, crusty parts like there was no tomorrow.

But as it turned out, there was a tomorrow.  We had a handful of leftovers, which I thought very seriously of hiding (though I didn’t, in the end).    I thought about them, with a view to lunch, from the moment I woke up this morning.

Now, needless to say, the leftovers too are gone, and I am walking off their aftereffects at the treadmill desk even as we speak.  I think I can last another year before I get fried chicken again.  ‘Cause after all, it’s not even a whole year.  It’s only 330 days–not that anyone’s counting.

The subject today:  Wheat-Free Noodles, the Joys of.

In today’s Kitchen Window story on NPR, we explore noodles that even the most observant gluten-free diners can enjoy.

Pictured at right is chap chae, the Korean sweet-potato-noodle dish.  This particular chap chae had the very last bit of sirloin from my local-beef buy in the fall, and the single, minute crop of spinach from my garden.

After taking the picture I devoured it in 90 seconds flat, not even bothering to replace the lens cap on my camera.

After more or less weeks of recipe-testing where I didn’t use the same cookbook twice in a row, I found myself a few nights ago with an excess of the ingredients above: miso paste, limes, and ginger beer.  The miso paste, well, I’m like most people–it takes me months to work through a container of miso paste.  The limes were a 5-pound bag from Costco, aging fast.  And the ginger beer was for my nightly Mailbox Cocktail, but I always have a few leftover, going-flat ounces.

So I threw them all in a Ziploc, tossed in some chicken thighs, and let them all hang out together in the fridge for the day.  Popped the broiler on at 5pm, preheated a ridged grill, and called it dinner–a mighty fine dinner, too.  Goes to show, you don’t always need a cookbook.

If you like to cook, chances are you have a fridge full of extra ingredients,  odds and ends that need using up before their sell-by date.  At the moment, I have about 500 square feet of an extra ingredient–stinging nettles.  I’ve made and loved nettle ravioli, but truthfully, they’re kind of a pain to make.  So tonight I made nettle soup.  With plain old bread and butter, it’s great!  Sweet, earthy, and just a little grassy as it lingers on the tongue.  You heard it here first: nettles are the bacon, the veritable bacon, of weeds.

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