Shameless Chef

The Shameless Chef: Lemons, Lemons Everywhere

You'll want to jam this out as you cook. It'll make everything taste better.

I had a bit of a quandary this week. I was considering two dishes for the column, but both were too simple. Yes, there is a such a thing as "too simple," even for me, so don't be a smartass. Luckily, I realized the two dishes share a thematic similarity (lemon) and decided to combine them into one entry / theoretical meal. You could do this, too, and make it some kind of "Lemon Night" with your family. Drink some lemonade. Lay out on some lemongrass. Or hell, eat dinner inside a 1971 AMC Gremlin. (Get it?)

The first dish is the easiest chicken in the world. Okay, maybe microwavable chicken nuggets are easier, but this is seriously the easiest chicken dish that starts with raw chicken. Ready?

You will need: • Chicken quarters, or your favorite cut of chicken. I prefer chicken quarters because they've got the bones in, and if you've somehow figured out how to cook boneless chicken without it coming out as dry as a handful of pine needles, then go check on your disobedient apprentice to make sure he's not bringing brooms to life, because you are a sorcerer. • Lemon pepper, and plenty of it. • Olive oil.

It also helps to have this thing called a "broiling pan." If you cook the chicken right, it helps the skin turn out nice and crispy.

All right, here's how easy this chicken is: Preheat your oven to 350, then slather the chicken with olive oil and liberally sprinkle the lemon pepper on both sides.

Now slip them into the oven with the underside facing up and let them cook for about 20-30 minutes. Then flip 'em so the more photogenic side is facing up and cook 'em for 20-30 more minutes, depending on your oven, how thawed the chicken is, whether you're using white or dark meat, etc.

You're done with the main course. The chicken broils up all crispy and the lemon pepper gives it a flavor that really can't be praised enough. Don't tell your date how easy this was to make.

Now we come to the dessert.

You will need: • 1 box of these fantastic lemon cookies I found at Kroger near the Nilla Wafers. There appears to be no name-brand equivalent, so kudos to Kroger for showing some initiative. • 1 box of lemon pudding. • 1 box of lemon gelatin. I have chosen Jell-O™ brand gelatin mix, because Bill Cosby gave me his personal assurance that there would always be room for it, and I don't want to meet the jaded bastard who won't take the word of The Cos at face value. • Sugar • Milk

Mix the gelatin powder in with 4 tablespoons of sugar. It helps if you have a teeny little adorable whisk like the kind I've got, but if you don't, I'm fairly certain you won't screw it up too badly if you use a fork. Next, lay down a layer of lemon cookies on your favorite pudding-making dish. Sprinkle half of the gelatin powder-sugar mix over the cookies; the purpose of this is to add some tart flavoring in with the heaps and heaps of sweetness we'll be working with. Now, in a separate bowl, mix together the pudding just like it says on the box. You'll probably want to use some kind of electric egg-beater, since whisking it by hand will cause your wrist to snap clean off, and worse, will leave big globs of unabsorbed mix in the pudding. Once you've got the pudding mixed together, pour it over the bed of cookies and sprinkle the rest of the gelatin-sugar mixture over it.

And that's it. You're already done. Put some plastic wrap over it and let it set up in the fridge for about an hour, then enjoy. Well, traditionally, you would enjoy it after you've eaten the main course, which -

Okay, listen, I can see some of you looking at me the way a pigeon looks at a mime, heads cocked in mild confusion. The AMC Gremlin is widely regarded as one of the shittiest cars of all time, and shitty cars are called "lemons." Ah! There's that look of comprehension I was hoping for! Next time I'll try for something a little less esoteric for my opening joke, okay?

I am aware that the recipe for the lemon-pudding-thingy closely mirrors the recipe for banana pudding. For real banana pudding, though, you're supposed to cut up slices of banana into the mix, and I don't know what fruit you'd use for an equivalent with our lemon pudding, since lemon slices would probably be a bit intense for most people. I was thinking slices of kiwi, soursop, or maybe some starfruit? I dunno. This is a good chance for you guys to experiment and get back to me.

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John Seaborn Gray