Monday, March 31, 2014

Last Day of Pi Month: Pecan Pie

You did know it's pi month, right? March 2014 AKA 3/14? In honor of the last day of the month, A Book of Cookrye is pleased to make pecan pie! And not just any pecan pie- we're going way back in time, all the way to before the Karo people got their hands on the idea.  Also, after the disappointing Crocus Carrot "Cake," I want good pie. Also, pecan pie just makes me inexplicably happy. No matter what's happened to try to ruin my day, pecan pie and only pecan pie make me feel all better. So when I'm making it in the middle of the night after a good day, the week gets a really nice start.

This is the original recipe I started from:

Texas Pecan Pie.
One cup of sugar, one cup of sweet milk, half a cup of pecan kernels chopped fine, three eggs and a tablespoonful of flour. When cooked, spread the well-beaten whites of two eggs on top, brown, sprinkle a few of the chopped kernels over. These quantities will make one pie.--Ladies' Home Journal.
 ---Goshen Daily Democrat, [IN] November 26, 1898 (p. 6)  Source

I've made this before. You may have seen the picture of me slightly crazy-eyed while holding one.

One of these days I ought to get an actual pie pan.
I actually didn't veer very far from the recipe (aside from skipping the meringue)- all I did was put in more pecans. This pie is practically as easy as the corn syrup one people make these days, and (I think) a lot better.

Pecan Pie
1 c sugar
1 tbsp flour
3 eggs
1 c milk
¾ c. pecans*
1 baked pie crust

Heat oven to 350°.  Fill the bottom of a double boiler with water but not so much it'll touch the top when inserted. Put it over high heat- reduce to medium when it comes to a fast boil. In the top of the double boiler, stir together the flour and sugar (mixing them together while everything's still dry takes a handful of seconds and will prevent flour lumps). Beat in the eggs thoroughly, then stir in the milk and pecans.
Set the top over the hot water and cook, stirring frequently, until thick enough to coat a spoon, about 10 minutes.
Put into a baked pie crust and bake until instead of sloshing around like a liquid, it more kind of jiggles like a gelatin but holds its shape, and a knife, skewer, or toothpick (which I never have) come out with no liquid filling on them (though little clumps of filling are OK). It'll be about 20 minutes or so.

*I've tried halves and chopped, and I think chopped is better for this.
If you haven't got a double boiler, just set a heatproof bowl over a pot of water. Just be sure the water doesn't touch the bottom- the idea is that the steam and not the water heats the top.
Story time!
When I was a kid, we had a pecan tree that a previous owner had inexplicably cut off every branch up to about 20 feet over the 2nd story of our house. It looked like those trees you see in nature documentaries that the giraffes have been munching on.

It looks like sugar, but it's actually got the flour mixed in.
My grandparents always came up to see us around the time its few remaining branches would drop pecans. My grandfather always showed us one of his "old Indian tricks" (this term despite not being part Indian). This one was how those without a nutcracker can set a pecan on the patio, tap each end lightly with a hammer...
Every pecan pie recipe I've ever seen, no matter how varied otherwise, calls for three eggs.

...and the pecan would remain completely uncracked. But that's all right because you can tap it a little bit harder on each end...
Not pictured: Putting the camera down and beating the crap out of this until the eggs gave in.
...the nut will go straight from whole to pulverized and you can pick out the tiny pieces of nut meat while your grandfather said "Well, it did come open." It wasn't until I was 25 that I ever saw a pecan cracked with a hammer without getting smashed.
(On the small chance that my grandparents are reading this, Hello! Love you!)

Ready to go on top of the stove!
This smells so good as it cooks, and the nuts flavor the custard as it cooks (that doesn't sound dirty at all at 5:30AM). You can even see it starting to get darker as the pecan flavor seeps out.
If you're making this, I suggest turning off the stove vent so the smell radiates into the house.

It gets a really nice brown, and I can't help tasting it as I'm stirring.

Finally, it actually gets thick enough to coat a spoon. Or, you might say thick enough to kind of hold a pecan piece onto the spoon. Honestly, at this point you could put it all in a bowl and put it into the fridge if you don't feel like doing a pie. It's seriously that good.

I think this one is a lot better with a graham-cracker crust than a regular one. For once, it's not just that I don't want to go through the bother of making an actual pie crust. The tastes really do go together better (but for this recipe you really do need to pop the empty crust in the oven and get it a bit toasted- it tastes so much better). A lot of people get finicky and try to measure the exact amount of anything when making them, and that's just boring.
So, I am pleased as present How To Make A Graham Cracker Crust, Book of Cookrye Style!
1. Put a lump of butter about (around half a stick or less) or so into the pie pan, set it right on the stove burner (those using glass can shove it in the microwave).
2. When it's melted, take it off and put in piles of graham cracker crumbs and sugar about this big.
3. Mix. Melt and add more butter if it's too sandy and won't hold together when you try, sugar if it's too bland, or graham crackers if it's too sweet (or if it's kinda sludgy).
4. When it's sandy but a clump holds together when you squeeze it, you're done.
5. Press a bunch of it onto the sides.
6. Press what remains onto the bottom, moving it around to cover any bare spots that remain.
7. Bake at 350
° for 10 minutes or so, or just pop it in the preheating oven and take it out after a while.

After the pie filling goes right in the crust, I cannot recommend spit-polishing the pot and spoon enough. If your raw-egg worries have kept you from trying cake batter, cookie dough, and brownie batter, this is the recipe for you to finally experience the joy of smearing your finger all over the sides of the pot and eating what built up on it. The eggs are cooked, and it's delicious.

I'm putting in this shot of cooling because it was a beautiful night which the sappy part of me thinks made the pie taste better.

And here's the finished pie.
Sometimes I think I could have called this blog "Things I Have Made In My Cousin's Cake Pan Besides Cake."

After I'd sliced it and carried it around a bit, some of the excess crust on the edge knocked off the sides and into the filling, which I thought made it look prettier. I might do it on purpose next time.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Crocus Carrot Cake Is Actually a Pie

Today we have another entry in the carrot cake series on A Book Of Cookrye! I found this one on Food Timeline, a site I find oddly addictive. I read this and wondered why they called it a cake when it's clearly a pie. Then I decided that if I ever served it, I'd make a Boston cream pie just so I can say "I've made cake and pie. No, that one's cake and that one's pie."
Anyway, my carrots are reaching the point of needing to be peeled before I use them, so which would cause a lot of people to just throw them out. I, however, am too daft for that.
This is as appetizing a picture as any to start a post about cake-pie.
Crocus Carrot Cake
Rub four good sized cooked carrots through a sieve. Add two tablesoons ground almonds, three tablespoons sugar, the grated rind and strained juice of half a lemon, the well beaten yolks four eggs, three tablespoonfuls melted butter and the whites of the eggs beaten stiff with a pinch of salt. Pour into a small baking tin lined with pastry. Bake in a hot oven until ready* and serve hot or cold, cut in square.
"Woman's Page: How to Fight the High Cost of Living," Odgen Standard [Ogden UT], June 11, 1913 (p. 7) Source

*It was about 25 minutes, 350°.

See the article title? In today's "How to Fight the High Cost of Living" column, the Ogden Standard is going to show us how to have tasty desserts that cost less. Also, this is from 1913! If someone's great-great-grandmother clipped this, it might be a family recipe by now.

But first, I had to come up with the four cooked carrots. If you've ever tried to boil carrots, you know they take forever. Which is why I did this.
Six minutes!
Since it was somewhere between 3 and 4AM (being part Irish, I became nocturnal partly as a defense against the sun), no one was there when I started singing Microwave Love as the carrots and the soggy paper towels sandwiching them spun around and around. (side note: Les Horribles Cernettes, in addition to being in the first photograph ever on any website in the world, are awesome. How could you not like a group of CERN employees singing science humor?)

I was worried about the small amount of sugar, but then I tried the cooked carrots and they were really sweet. And anyway, I'm economizing.

4 pulverized cooked carrots, and what looks like 3 spoons of almonds.
I thought it was supposed to be 3 spoons of almonds, but checked and saw it's meant to be 2. A little extra almond never hurt anyone. So into the mixing bowl (which is not at all the stewpot someone's left in the kitchen these past few weeks) they went. Then I added the tiny ration of sugar. Since I still have no measuring spoons, I poured in three spoon-sized splops and figured they'll do.

As promising a beginning as any.

Then at some point I realized that at some point I'm going to wish I had a pie crust ready. I find regular pie crusts a pain in the ass to make think crusts from graham cracker crumbs are tastier.

And if the pie comes out bad, I'll pick off and eat the crust.

My mom separates eggs by pouring them back and forth between the shell halves. I never could do that, so I go with the easy way.
Note the awesome egg holder I've got in the background.
So now we've got yolks and the melted butter in the carrot pulp, time to beat some egg whites into submission!
This is the last moment before I discovered my mixer scratches the hell out of aluminum pots.
So after stirring a couple of spoonfuls of egg-white foam to soften the carrot pulp, I try the always-dicey operation of carefully folding them in without deflating them.
Some stewpot-tilting may be required for proper folding when you were too lazy to bring down your bowl.
All mixed!

They weren't kidding when they said "a small baking tin."
All right, so it's going to be a thin pie cake thing. You don't fight the high cost of living putting all of your butter and sugar into one pie. I checked the recipe and got to the last line: "Bake in a hot oven until ready." When the hell is that? How the hell am I supposed to know it's ready? Did the Ogden Standard consider putting in some little line telling me how I'd know?
I tried the stick-something-in-the-center test, and it came up clean before the thing was even warmed through. It seemed to be getting firmer on the edges, so I left it in the oven until it was set. Partly influenced by this pie being called a cake, I went with seeing when it springs back when lightly pressed.
It got a bit dented from vigorous and impatient testing.
So I took it outside to cool, nipping off and eating little bits of the crust as I went.  It cooled just slightly and was tantalizingly warm, so I was really anticipating this.

It tasted nice, buttery, kinda toasted... I liked it. Then I realized I was just tasting the graham cracker crust. I carefully bit off some filling, and tasted.... nothing. No carrot, no almond, no lemon, nothing. So I'd made a nice crispy graham cracker crust with pointless foam on top. When you're fighting the high cost of living, a crappy "dessert" that tastes like nothing is adding insult to drudgery, especially since they'd have had to boil the fricken carrots forever instead of microwaving them for 6 minutes (which is a long time to microwave anything) and then make the pie after first making dinner. And then wash all the dishes from both.

But something really amused me at 5AM after I was cleaning up from a crappy recipe- the bag I had the lemon in tore as I was putting the other half away and I thought it looked cute in the biggest piece remaining. If you were cleaning up a kitchen at 5 in the morning after not had any tasty dessert, you'd likely have been going "Awwwwww...." too.

It's a good thing I'd figured I'd serve this with Boston cream pie. I'd end up saying "I've made cake and pie. No, that one's cake and that one's pie. Don't eat the cake."

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Hump Day Quickie with inadvertently surreal pictures: 1-2-3-4 Cake

So it turns out taking a picture of a cake with white icing against a white background will yield... interesting results. I'm going to say I was going for conceptual, paradigm-shifting pictures.

Today's quickie is named for the quantities of the ingredients (just read the numbers going down the list), like how a pound cake has one pound each of butter, sugar, flour, and eggs. 1-2-3-4 is a really dense, chewy cake that's halfway toward being cookie squares instead. A friend said it was like soft shortbread, only sweet like cake. It's marvelously rich, really good, and has a short ingredient list. I made half (1-2-3-4-Over-2 Cake?) since I don't know what to do with a whole 9x13 one.

1-2-3-4 Cake
1 c. butter
2 c. sugar
3 c. flour
4 eggs

Heat oven to 350°. Mix butter and sugar. Add eggs (you're less likely to get lumps of butter that never break up if you mix each egg in thoroughly one at a time). Stir in the flour. Spread into a greased 9x13 pan (it's easier to do with your hands).
Bake until golden on top and it springs back when pressed lightly in the center (the toothpick test doesn't work with this one; it may lead you to take it out early). This takes a bit longer than other cakes, from 30-45 minutes usually.
I like it iced with a thin layer of buttercream icing spread on right out of the oven so it melts in.

Seriously, look at how easy this sucker is to mix:
Don't judge me for mixing it in a saucepan. I already had it out from supper and didn't want to have to carry a bowl upstairs too.
1. Butter and sugar, mixed.
2. Eggs, added.
3. Flour, stirred in. Done.

Finally, realize you forgot cooking spray.

And yes, it's supposed to be this thick.

Pinch some off and eat it. You'll be glad you did.
I usually try to spread it with a spoon, give up, and pat/spread the rest with my fingers. When it looks like this I figure "eh, close enough" and that it'll melt the rest of the way flat (it does).
There is no certificate and cash prize for Flattest Cake Batter anyway.
And here it is iced:
You must transcend the subject.
...Um. This is the dreariest picture of a cake I've ever taken. I'm trying to think of when I've seen another one that looked more lifeless. I was trying to have the light kind of rake over the icing and be artistic. It's like the time I took a picture of a kissing couple (shamelessly linking to my photography) and someone looked at it and thought he was dead.

All right, let's see if I have any better luck with a slice.
Maybe if I dyed the icing so it wasn't all so white..
Ah hell. Well, at my hand coming through the closest thing to a plate that happened to be at hand looks kind of interestingly trippy. I hope. Well, let's try the classic tempt-the-viewer-with-a-cross-section shot:
It's easier to slice a cake with a fork handle than the business end. Also, I haven't got a cake server.
This is a camera-shy cake if I ever made one. But you can totally take my word when I say it's so good that I'm posting this even though all the pictures look like this.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Son of Carrot Cake is Actually a Cake

As I said the last time I made one, I unexpectedly have a lot of carrots in my refrigerator. Therefore, A Book of Cookrye will have frequent carrot cakes until I go through all of them. You'd almost think carrot cake was one of my favorites. The first one was really disappointing (even though it came from a Louisiana Junior League cookbook!) and was more of a fat-flour paste than a cake, so today's crack at carrots doesn't have a lot to live up to.

Carrot Cake
¾ stick (6 tbsp.) butter
1 c. sugar
Cinnamon, cloves to taste
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
2 eggs
1 c. flour
1½ c. shredded carrots

Heat oven to 350°. Soften butter, cream with sugar. Stir in spices and leavening. Add eggs and beat thoroughly. Add flour, mix thoroughly. Stir in carrots. Pour into a greased square or round pan and bake 30-40 minutes.

If these cakes are going to be mediocre at best, at least they're easy to make. And maybe I'll find one that's actually good enough that at the end of this I actually get more carrots (at a later date!) to make it again.

One thing no recipe has made clear yet: Do they want the carrot shreds measured after packing them down into the cup or kinda fluffy like they fall out of the grinder or cheese grater? Just to get rid of the carrots be sure, I decided on the former.

Grinding the carrots straight into the measuring cup  doesn't work.

I forgot to soften the butter so I just microwaved it. I may or may not have forgotten to check if it was ready.
I softened the hell out of that butter.

I added the sugar and oy, the excess fat sloshing around! Not as bad as the egg-and-oil goop from last time, but this cake won't be good for you either.

This is how much cinnamon and cloves I put in. You can see the little smattering of cloves to the left and a bit above the spoon (cloves are one of the few spices you can actually use too much of).

And here we have finished cake batter (except the carrot shreds which you're supposed to add at the very end). I tried it without the raw carrot shards and it was a really good spice cake. So I had high hopes for this. There's not much cake batter since this only makes one little cake.

Or at least so I thought until I added the carrots. There was only 1½ cups of them, but I think they started breeding upon contact with cake batter.
and breeding so fast. PS- my finger's totally not in front of the lens.
It filled up my cousin's cake pan which she will eventually get back (or not). I thought it was going to overflow while baking.
That's either cake batter or some decent sloppy joes.
Fortunately, it instead didn't overflow. It was in the oven for 40 minutes, and didn't rise all that much in the baking. I was slightly concerned that I may have another flour-oil paste in the making. If I really liked carrot cake I'd have been worried.
Despite a lack of carrot cake enthusiasm, I was impatient to try this, so I took advantage of the fact that it's around 45° (That's about 7° or 8° for all you Celsius folks) and windy and set it outside.
I like how old-fashioned setting things outside to cool feels to me. I think it's because the only time I've seen it done is in 40's and 50's cartoons where inevitably someone gets repeatedly smacked away trying to steal one of the pies.

But I was hopeful that this one'd be good. The batter was tasty, and it didn't have any signs of being like the last one. The top looked like the top of a cake should.
Look, bubbles from leavening and everything!
Reeeally look at it.
You know your standards for a cake are low when you're relieved it looks like cake. Then I cut out a slice and was really happy to see it actually was fluffy like a cake ought to be!

As for the taste: surprisingly good. The spices got a lot subtler in the baking and went well with the carrot flavor which went nicely sweet after they got cooked. It definitely tasted like a carrot cake and not a spice cake.

Maybe I'm on an upward trend with respect to carrot cakes and the next one will be better than this.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Baked Chicken from 1591 (with Surprise Mincemeat!)

Today we have something really special- a recipe from the cookbook I named this for! You may be wondering "Whyever did you name this for a random old cookbook?" I shall answer: When I decided to write a blog, I had no idea what to name it and went with the closest cookbook at hand when I had to come up with a title.
I love reading really old cookbooks- food from the past is often as foreign as food from the opposite hemisphere.
 I've made a few recipes out of A Book of Cookrye, and have found the results very good (but like I said, the taste is so different you have to taste it with the same open mind you have trying foreign food). However, you do have to allow for changes in English when reading the recipes- for example "To boyle a Cony with a Pudding in his Belly" would today be called stewed stuffed rabbit and does not involve injecting the stomach of a rabbit with custard. Similarly, Farts of Portingale (you know that one's coming up) today would be Farts of Portugal.

Today, we present this:
To bake Chickins.
Season them with cloves, mace, sinamon ginger, and some pepper, so put them into your coffin*, and put therto corance dates Prunes, and sweet Butter, or els Marow, and when they be halfe baked, put in some sirup of vergious, and some sugar, shake them togither and set them into the oven again.
Bake Sparowes, Larkes, or any kinde of small birds, calves feet or sheepes tunges after the same manner. 
*Coffin: Free-standing pie crust. Some brief reading told me that instead of using pans, English cooks used to encase everything in a crust- sometimes it was an inedible container, other times it was meant to be eaten.
Corance = currants. Many words are easier to figure out if you read them out loud.
Vergious = verjuice: juice of unripe grapes (at the time, it also came from unripe apples). Used waaay back in the day to add a sour flavor to foods.
-A Book of Cookrye: Very Necessary for All Such As Delight Therin, 1591

And here's how I had at it (obviously, we're not going for authenticity):
Baked Chicken
Heat oven to 350°.
Take a lump of ginger root* about the size of a new potato, peel it, and grind it. Add a lot of pepper, a lot of cinnamon, a generous but not excessive shake of mace, and a few shakes of cloves. (Cloves tend to get unpleasant used promiscuously.) Mix it with to a paste with the ginger and set aside.
Remove giblets from the chicken and set it in a covered roaster.
Mix together around 6 ounces of raisins and about a third of a pound of dates§. Stuff the chicken with this at both ends. Put any excess under the chicken skin which you have pinched and pulled until it's loose enough to slip your fingers under. Any excess can just go into the pan with the chicken- since you've touched it with raw-meat hands you weren't exactly going to keep them for snacking on anyway. Rub the chicken with about half a stick of butter (ie a quarter cup) and then with the paste. Cover and bake until a meat thermometer inserted into the thigh but not quite touching the bone reads 160°.
Meanwhile, set about three-quarters of a cup of verjuice to boil and dissolve enough sugar in it that it's as sweet as pancake syrup (in retrospect, I should have used more verjuice). Set aside.
When the chicken's about half done (and it'll be a while since it's so tightly stuffed and all that, mine took around 2 hours), pour the syrup all over the chicken and cover it back up. Leave to bake until it's done.

*In my experience, ginger powder has just about no taste to it. So if I can't get it fresh, I leave it out.
Black pepper is best used by the heaping tablespoon. And use several of them.
Apparently the word currants used to be interchangeable with raisins. Also, I couldn't find currants (dried or fresh) anywhere.
§You may have noticed I didn't mention prunes. That's because I forgot to get them.
I found it in a middle-Eastern store. If the bottle label's telling the truth, verjuice is often used in Iranian food, which is worth keeping in mind when trying to find who the hell still sells it.

I'm not gonna lie, I was really excited by this. I've never had chicken seasoned like this or stuffed with all this dried fruit. I had no idea what to expect. So herewith follows my experience making this!

First, I tell you I spent forever trying to find verjuice. The stuff was used practically as often as salt back then, and these days no one has even heard of it. I looked up online and saw a few people selling it for embarrassingly high prices, and someone suggesting you call some wineries to ask if they sell it since they usually thin their grapes before they ripen. Purely for the heck of it, I went ahead and called every winery within about 2 hours' drive to ask if they made verjuice. Responses ranged from "Sorry, we've never heard of it" to "Is this an obscene phone call?"  One woman sympathetically explained that given the drought we've had, they were "using every grape." Then I happened to see this when I was at the middle-Eastern supermarket:
I'm as surprised as anyone else.
I was embarrassingly excited to find the one ingredient I've never found for half the recipes in this book, snatched a bottle off the shelf, and decided to make this chicken.

I've tried using vegetable peelers and paring knives to peel ginger, but the best thing I've used is a cheese grater.
Just break it up to reach any crevices where you can't get to the skin.
However, I didn't feel like bothering to grate the whole thing, that gets tedious and finger-nicking.

Now, to dump in a bunch of spices!

I was a bit afraid I hadn't made up enough spice paste, but didn't feel like running out to get another ginger knob.

I set out dates and raisins so I wouldn't ruin the rest reaching into the bag with chicken hands. I mashed and pressed the fricken dried fruits in and realized that I had overestimated the chicken's capacity. Afterward there were still this many on the counter:
Either that or some very wrinkly ants and roaches are swarming.
Someone dumbfoundedly watching me shove raisins up a chicken asked "Are you sure that counter's clean?"
I answered "Eh, they're going up a raw chicken anyway."
And since I'd gotten icky raw-chicken hands all over them picking up handfuls to shove up the bird, I decided that rather than throw the rest away, I'd do just like I did with the mushrooms and shove them under the chicken's skin.

A quick rub with the butter, then with the spice paste (why didn't I just mix the two?) brought us here.
Chicken phthiriasis strikes again!
And now, reposing in a covered casserole after being very violated with dried fruit, it bakes. After a while, the kitchen smelled like I'd detonated a Christmas shop in the oven.
This is my covered casserole. It is also a mixing bowl and cake pan.
I thought it odd to make syrup for a baked chicken. Then I realized that some barbecue sauce is practically as sweet, and we pour that all over meat without thinking anything of it.

For something that was such a pain in the ass to find, verjuice looks so ordinary once it's in the pot.

 And here we are, syrup poured halfway through (okay, so I poured it on 30-45 minutes too early),
baked, and ready to eat!
Flee for your lives! The chicken has ruptured and now the phthiriasis lice are swarming out!
This is one of the scarier-looking baked chickens I've seen. One leg and both wings fell off as I lifted it out of the saucepan roaster, which I took as a good sign of how tender this was going to be. This is the bird fresh out of the roaster before I even touched it with a knife:

Does anyone else think it looks like a gigantic beetle has landed on it? Between the last chicken having a horrid mythological disease and this one spontaneously turning into a beetle, I think we can safely establish that if you stuff things under a chicken's skin, it's best not to let anyone see it until you've got it carved.

And if you're carving it Fanny Cradock style, don't let them see you doing that either.
And now we finally reach that magical moment, when we put it on a plate and get ready to be wowed!

I took a bite and... well, it tasted like baked chicken. It's definitely a good baked chicken, but I'd really been hoping all those other flavors of the raisins, dates, spices, and verjuice had gotten in there a lot more. It was delicious, but anticlimactic. Maybe I should have baked it backside-up so the breast meat would be immersed in the pan sauce. The sauce tasted like something off a Christmas table, but it went well with the chicken so I dunked each forkful in the sauce.

Then it occurred to me... meat, dried fruits, all those spices (which definitely flavored the fruit if not the chicken), I think this is could be where mincemeat comes from. It's easy to imagine the cook chopping up the leftover chicken, mixing it with whatever fruit remains, and pouring some form of alcohol on it to make it keep.
Or was I supposed to chop up the chicken meat to begin with? I mean, nowhere did the recipe say that it was supposed to stay whole. Recipes this old often leave out instructions like that assuming that the cook would have known. Elsewhere in A Book of Cookrye a fish recipe lists everything for the stuffing and seasoning and doesn't tell you to get out a fish.
Since the chicken really was best swimming in the pan gravy, so it shall be.
The potted plant is creeping up to the table to steal my food.
I poured off the pan gravy and refrigerated it long enough for the fat to solidify so I could just lift it off instead of tediously spooning it up while it was still liquid. The next day I threw out the fat, chopped the chicken, sliced the dates (the raisins were already small enough), and mixed all of it up with the pan gravy. It's really good, but the sauce was hardly thicker than water (you can see it puddling in the plate). If I make this again (which won't be unless I see dates on special) I'll add something to thicken it. Also, I may or may not have upended my plate and drank the sauce (seriously, it's that good) when I finished the food on it.
 It was better after a night in the refrigerator. The only thing is when I'm cutting up chicken there's always little bones I miss and then find midbite.
All in all, this was surprisingly normal yet delicious recipe.
Later I was thinking, the chicken-pieces-in-syrup I ended up with is a lot like the chicken in Chinese restaurants; maybe next time I'll fry the chicken like they do and see how that comes out...