Having read over 20 of the Fifty Shades of Grey parodies that have popped up on Amazon, I can safely say that parody cookbook Fifty Shades of Chicken by "FL Fowler," complete with its bedroom-voiced book trailer, is one of the most creative — and certainly the most useful. It manages to skewer (pun intended) the kinky romance but also create a food love story of its own, told between recipes, which is amusing and appetizing by equal measures.
Here, our innocent lass is Miss Hen, a chicken who just wants to be loved for her natural flavor, and her experienced foodie suitor is Shifty Blades, who knows his way around a kitchen knife and twine. Christian Grey's older lover who turned him on to BDSM transforms into "culinary cougar" Julia Child, who moved him away from frozen dinners (the horror!) on his path to being an exacting gourmand. There's even a safeword — two, actually: "Golden" (when approaching doneness) and "Black" (for overcooked).
But this isn't just a joke book; this is a real cookbook, albeit one with instructions like using a rolling pin to "gently slap the breasts into submission" (sautéed chicken breasts with garlic, olives, and wine) and "Let marinate in the fridge until the chicken is begging you for it, about 6 hours or overnight" (for baked chicken with apricot jam, sage, and lemon zest).
I made two of the 50 chicken recipes in the book, plus one of the side dishes. I skipped the more complicated ones, though if you want to learn to truss a chicken, there are elaborate (and elaborately risqué-sounding) instructions on the book's website. First up were the bacon-bound chicken wings, with a maple soy glaze (above), and a side of "taters, baby," which were so good, I stood over the stove peeling them off the tinfoil and eating them right there.
My bacon ribbons were less bondage-tight and more gently wrapped around the wings, but that worked. A word of warning: Line your baking sheet with extra foil; the sticky maple glaze wound up seeping through the one layer of foil on my baking sheet. Bonus: These taste great cold, straight out of the fridge. They'd also be great for a party, Fifty Shades–themed or not. The recipe, courtesy of publisher Clarkson Potter:
Maple Glazed Wings with Bacon
¼ cup maple syrup
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup chopped scallions, white and green parts
1½ tablespoons rice wine or apple cider vinegar
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
15 chicken wings (about 3 pounds), patted very dry with paper towels
8 strips bacon
1. In a large bowl, combine the maple syrup, soy sauce, scallions, vinegar, garlic, and pepper and mix well. Add the chicken wings and toss them gently so they are bathed in the heady liquid. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.
2. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Slice the bacon in half lengthwise to yield long thin ribbons, perfect for restraining your bird.
3. Remove the wings from the marinade and wipe off any clinging garlic or scallion pieces. Tightly tie up each chicken wing in a bacon ribbon and lay the chicken wings, wing tips up and expectant, on a large baking pan. Cover the pan loosely with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover the dish and continue to bake until golden and crisp, another 10 to 15 minutes. Serve hot, using your hands to devour.
Fowler follows the twists and turns E.L. James takes in her trilogy expertly. Near the beginning, Shifty Blades warns Miss Hen, "Chicken, I'm not the right man for you. You're perfect as you are. My singular tastes would only lead you astray. You should stay well clear of me." Does she? Of course not! Her "inner goddess is swooning in her red velvet coop" when he rolls her in flour for fried chicken. When they agree to make it official, he tells her, "…you will surrender your body to my gastronomic virtuosity. You will be my obedient Ingredient — warm or cold, dressed or undressed, whole or in parts." Even when she finds out that he's had 15 previous Ingredients, a nod to Christian Grey's kinky past, all Miss Hen wants is to be his one and only. She is rewarded by all sorts of sauces and preparations, which find her being fondled and stroked and lubed up with oil, thighs spread in elaborate detail. "Is stir-fry like this for everyone? I'm surprised anyone ever goes back."
The vertical roaster scene is the most overtly sexual and, dare I say, it actually works on that level a bit. Fowler ekes every nuance of erotic potential out of the cooking process. "I stiffen a little and my legs pull almost painfully against the twine, but I hardly notice. This is the most agonizing, exquisite feeling. My juices surge as flavor detonates up and down my body." And here's what happens when Blades gets busy with hot sauce harissa: "My back arches as I open myself to the consuming, punishing, heavenly sensation…pushing me, pushing me…Scoville unit after Scoville unit…spiraling into a peppery paroxysm."
The taters, by the way — Yukon Gold potatoes with garlic and thyme — were delicious; all you do is boil them, crumble them up with your hands, mix in a few ingredients, then bake them. They can be cooked longer for extra crispiness.
The third recipe I tried was white wine–steamed chicken breasts with sesame oil and scallions, which sucked me in with its prelude: "He holds a tiny silver spoon above me, letting fall, drop by tantalizing drop, a dark, mysterious dipping sauce. It's the slowest, most sensuous thing imaginable. In her crushed velvet coop my inner goddess fans herself with both wings." Later, Miss Hen gets angry at his two-time wining and dining: "'You've used this same sauce before. With who?' I'm trying not to yell." (Spoiler alert: She's steaming mad, but eventually she comes around.)
This was extremely simple to make, the hardest part being acquiring the chile and sesame oil. I used a rice cooker to steam the chicken breasts, which you can also do in a pot; the wine is just to give it moisture and a bit of extra taste, but the sauce that goes on top is the main flavoring agent. It turned out wonderfully, especially paired with thin buckwheat noodles. It's simple and inexpensive (I used a $6.99 bottle of Barefoot Chardonnay), and it could be served at a dinner party or anytime dinner.
The full cookbook interweaves sexy anecdotes with more chicken recipes — roast chicken with brandy-vanilla butter, chicken with horseradish and herbs, roasted chicken thighs with apples and cinnamon, chicken liver crostini, trussed roasted chicken with chorizo stuffing, grilled beer-can chicken with Cajun mayonnaise — plus a few sides like the taters, rival radish salad, and beaten chocolate foam for dessert. And just like in the trilogy, there's a happy ending — a simple roast chicken with herb butter. Fowler clearly knows his or her way around the kitchen.