Baseball season always means my mom’s chicken. Without the games, it’s filling a void

Manuel Roig-Franzia

THE WASHINGTON POST – When I was a skinny kid growing up on a farm in Northern California, the ballgames on the radio kept me company, whether I was hoeing weeds or flinging a rubber ball against the sliding, wood shanty door.

A baseball broadcast hews to a rhythm – long, languid, dreamy patches, punctuated by frissons of excitement when the batter sends one on a deep arc, maybe, just maybe this time, headed for the stands. The announcers become faithful companions. When there’s a game on the radio, you’re never alone.

It was a major event in our house for us to drive the hour-and-a-half out to San Francisco a few times each summer to see a Giants game in person at the ill-conceived, wind-strafed concrete hulk on the bay called Candlestick Park.

It was a dump. But it was our dump, and I loved it.

In those days, ballpark fare was atrocious. Limp, boiled hot dogs on soggy buns. Flaccid, lukewarm fries. My mother could not abide.

Baseball Chicken. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

And so before each game, Norma Roig packed elaborate picnic lunches to properly sustain us while watching the game. Tortilla Española, stuffed zucchini, rice torta and this simple, silly dish that, of course, my little brothers and I adored: We named it Baseball Chicken.

Truth be told, it’s absurd that I pine the most for Baseball Chicken, of all things. My mom was and still is an artist in the kitchen. She fills the house with the aroma of fragrant shrimp-shell fumet. She conjures the elusive alchemy of the absolutely perfect sofrito. She makes her ravioli from scratch and adorns it with a homemade mushroom gravy so rich and earthy that I could eat it by the spoonful.

Here I am, a grown-up, posting pictures on Instagram of dishes I’ve prepared as if I’ve scaled Mount Kilimanjaro. Mom creates daily masterpieces as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. Why would anyone make a fuss?

But, even with all that spellbinding cooking in the archives of my mind, I found myself one recent afternoon overcome by nostalgia, mopey about the absence of ballgames and veering to one of the most mundane dishes ever to come out of mom’s kitchen: that Baseball Chicken.

BASEBALL CHICKEN

Active: 45 minutes | Total: One hour 45 minutes

Four to six servings

Storage: The chicken can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to four days.

Ingredients

Half cup biscuit mix, such as Bisquick

Three tablespoons cornmeal

One teaspoon crushed dry rosemary

One teaspoon salt

One teaspoon sweet paprika

One quarter teaspoon garlic powder

Half teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Four tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

One whole chicken, cut into eight to 10 pieces

Steps

Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees.

Place a paper bag inside another paper bag to reinforce it. Then, in the inner paper bag combine the biscuit mix, cornmeal, rosemary, salt, paprika, garlic powder and pepper.

Spray the rack of a broiler pan with nonstick spray.

In a shallow microwave-safe bowl, melt butter in the microwave on high for one minute. Working with a few pieces at a time, dip the chicken into the melted butter. Gently shake the chicken pieces and use your fingers to remove excess butter, allowing it to drip back into the bowl.

Place the buttered chicken in the bag, or container, and gently shake to coat. Shake off the excess coating from each piece, then place the pieces on the broiler rack, so they are not touching. Breasts and thighs should be bone-side down.

Bake, uncovered, for one hour until golden brown and skin is crisp.Let the chicken rest five minutes before serving.

Nutrition | Calories: 196; Total Fat: 11g; Saturated Fat: 6g; Cholesterol: 89mg; Sodium: 471mg; Carbohydrates: 4g; Dietary Fibre: 1g; Sugars: 0g; Protein: 22g.