Arnold, Bubba, & Bug Juice

Posted by Robert on April 26th, 2010

I gave up carbonated beverages eight weeks ago.

I don’t think I gave them up for good, but for the immediate future I am laying off of all soft drinks.

Friends who know me well, don’t believe it. I have been a huge consumer of soft drinks all of my life. I was probably drinking close to a gallon of Coke Zero a day just eight weeks ago.

The last time I have gone more than a couple of days without a soft drink was when I was 13-years old at summer camp where they served some type of cheap, generic fruit punch they called Bug Juice. Bug juice came in two flavors— red or purple— no distinguishable flavors just colors.

I’m not on a mission against carbonated beverages; I just decided to lay low for a while. I am sure I’ll have another Diet Coke or Mountain Dew one day.

I have been drinking a lot of iced tea lately. Actually I’ve been drinking Arnold Palmers. An Arnold Palmer is half iced tea, half lemonade.

I don’t like ordering it by the name “Arnold Palmer.” I don’t know why that is, I guess I’m just worried that the server might not know what an Arnold Palmer is and think me pretentious. I just like to say, “I’ll have a half unsweetened tea and half lemonade.”

There’s a promo running right now for ESPN’s Sports Center— developed by whatever genius ad agency does their work— where Arnold Palmer is in a cafeteria setting mixing his own iced tea with lemonade. Sportscasters Scott Van Pelt and Stuart Scott are behind him in line with their trays. They whisper, “That was awesome,” after watching the man prepare his namesake drink.

This whole tea-lemonade thing wasn’t a contrived move on my part. It actually came from the fact that I like so much lemon in my iced tea that I got tired of asking servers in restaurants to bring extra lemon and then even more lemon with my iced tea. One day, for expediency’s sake, I said, “Do you have lemonade?”

The first glass of iced tea I ever drank was when I was 18-years old. No kidding. I am as Southern as the next guy. Actually, I am more Southern than the next guy. I am so Southern my great-grandmother was called “Bubba.” That’s a true statement. She was a petite little society lady from Nashville, but we called her Bubba. She drank iced tea every day and lived to be 101-years old.

I grew up in the deepest corner of the Deep South, but I drank milk during my youth. Well, milk and soft drinks. My grandmother served sweet tea with formal and informal meals, but I preferred milk. I drank milk for breakfast. I drank milk at school out of those never-cold-enough half-pint cartons, and I drank milk for supper. I even drank milk while eating pizza. I’ve never broken a bone in my life.

Today I drink tea mixed with lemonade. Actually, I’d rather have two-thirds lemonade and one-third tea, but I’ll take it any way I can get it. Anything’s better than Bug Juice.

John Fleer’s Sweet-Tea Brined Fried Chicken

1 lemon
1 quart very strong tea
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup kosher salt
8 chicken legs and 8 thighs

4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups masa harina
2 tablespoons crab boil seasoning (recommended: Old Bay)
1 tablespoon chili powder
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
Vegetable oil, for frying

To make the brine: Zest, then quarter the lemon. Put the lemon zest and quarters in a saucepan. Add the tea, sugar, and salt. Simmer the mixture over medium-high heat until the salt and sugar dissolve. Add 1 quart of ice water and the chicken. Brine the chicken in the refrigerator for 48 hours. Drain the chicken and blot dry.

Combine 2 cups flour, the masa harina, crab boil seasoning, chili powder, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. In another bowl, beat the 8 eggs with the buttermilk. Put the remaining 2 cups of flour in a third bowl.

Prepare a breading station by lining up the bowl of flour, then the bowl containing the egg and buttermilk mixture, and finally the bowl of seasoned crust mixture. Roll the chicken in the flour, then the egg mixture, and then the crust then put the legs and thighs in a single layer on a plate or baking sheet. Set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Fill a large deep pan with enough oil to completely submerge the chicken. Heat the oil over medium heat until it reaches 300 degrees F. Add the chicken and cook until it is golden and the juices run clear, 15 to 25 minutes. Drain the chicken on a rack then serve.


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