Episode Four: I Hate Frasier Crane, with Fried “Chicken”

Now that we’re up to episode four of Frasier we’re at the point where we can get some actual plot, as opposed to the first three episodes which were all variations on Frasier’s uncomfortable relationship with his father. Of course; that relationship is still explored here, all in good time my friend. The episode is called I Hate Frasier Crane and wastes no time in showing us why it was named thusly: we open with Frasier, Martin and Daphne (plus Eddie the dog staring at Frasier as though he is “a large piece of kibble”) getting ready for dinner. Niles appears, and we get a nice bit of classic Frasier humour as Frasier yells at the dog for staring at him while he’s saying grace, and Niles thinks he’s being reprimanded for staring at Daphne. Mistaken identity, things overheard and misconstrued, and apparently-necessary falsehoods that have to be upheld are the absolute bread and butter of this show. Anyway, there’s no mistaking the intent of local Times columnist Derek Mann, who has committed to print that he hates Frasier, and naturally Niles has a copy of the paper with the passage highlighted for show and tell. 

As is so often the case, Frasier cannot let this go; the next day on his radio show he delivers a very Frasier-y monologue to his listeners about how pathetic Mann is. He concludes with “for one day, this man shall be joining the Pantheon of the immortals”, and while I have no idea what that actually means, it’s a pleasure to hear Kelsey Grammar intoning such meaty prose with gusto. One of the things I really love about Frasier is the highfaluting language the show employs; I mean I say this as someone who read the dictionary for fun as a child, so. Naturally, Frasier can only be on his high horse ever so briefly before falling off it: after running off at the mouth about Derek Mann again on his radio show (to be fair: in response to a second column deriding Frasier, like, why are you so obsessed with me, and yes I’m quoting the Mariah Carey song, Derek Mann?) The Mann himself rings up and challenges Frasier to a fight, squawking at him like a chicken to goad him into action. Old-school Martin wants Frasier to stand up for himself and resolve this dispute with some honest fisticuffs, Frasier, having one episode prior practically injured himself doing a high five, and having suffered a childhood of rampant bullying, sees otherwise. In a rather heartwarming conclusion, Martin, feeling bad for the pressure he put upon his son and seeing that Frasier will get completely pummeled, organises for the police to shut down the fight in a manner that allows Frasier to save face. There’s a sweetness to this behind-the-scenes protective nature which we haven’t really seen yet in the series; you also get some of Martin’s perspective: while Frasier and Niles had to endure a life of bullying for the fey effete-ness that came naturally to them, Martin in turn was raising these two boys whose priorities were completely different to his, to his continuous bafflement. 

By the way, has anyone in real life ever done something they didn’t want to do because another person made chicken noises at them? If television is to be believed you can make someone do pretty much ANYTHING if you cluck at them provocatively. Mind you, television also had me thinking that everyone in America gave Christmas presents to each other in boxes with removeable lids, turns out that’s just to make multiple shots and continuity easier. 

I decided to make a mock chicken type dish - the significance of which doesn’t require too much delving now, does it - using jackfruit in place of the meat. I’ve recently got into jackfruit, it’s fairly inobtrusively pleasant flavour-wise (the same could be said for chicken, I guess) but when cooked it acquires a properly meaty, almost sinuous texture and is extremely delicious. You can buy it cheaply from Asian supermarkets, just make sure you look for the stuff in brine, rather than syrup. This recipe is really very easy, and incredibly delicious, with crisp golden coating giving way to tender jackfruit in a very “I could get used to this fulltime” kind of way. Don’t leave out the Chinese 5 spice powder - it gives the coating this intense savoury-sweetness that really seems to echo the flavour of fried chicken. If dairy isn’t a problem for you then marinate the jackfruit in buttermilk instead, either way the brief dunk in some liquid seems to give it a real juiciness and slight tang that you might get from chicken treated similarly. 

“Fried Chicken”
  • one can jackfruit in brine 
  • 250ml/one cup almond milk
  • two tablespoons cider vinegar
  • two garlic cloves, crushed
  • one and a half cups flour
  • two tablespoons fine cornmeal/instant polenta
  • one teaspoon smoked paprika
  • three teaspoons Chinese 5 spice powder
  • salt
  • vegetable oil for frying
Drain the liquid from the can of jackfruit, and cut them into smallish pieces if they’re not already. Put the almond milk, cider vinegar, garlic cloves, and a pinch of salt in a bowl and stir in the jackfruit, then leave it to the side to sit while you get on with everything else. 

In another bowl, mix together the flour, the cornmeal, paprika, 5 spice powder, and another good pinch of salt. 

Heat an inch of vegetable oil in a good-sized pan. 

Coat each piece of jackfruit generously in the flour, then quickly dunk it back in the almond milk, then put it back in the flour and thoroughly coat it again. It’s easiest to use a spoon to dredge each piece, but there’s basically no avoiding getting flour and almond milk all over your hands. 

Once the oil is very hot, fry the coated jackfruit pieces for a couple of minutes on each side, till they’re very dark golden. Remove with tongs or a slotted spoon or something, and, there you have it. 

Favoured quotes: As the series goes on the characters become so inextricably part of each others’ lives that it’s hard to believe but at this point in the series, Niles and Roz don’t really know each other. When Roz is all “we’ve definitely met,” Niles comes back with “Oh of course. It was at the...it was during the...well, I’m far too successful to feel awkward about this.” I’m far too successful to feel awkward about this? Incredible. Iconic. My new favourite comeback. (Though “I’m far too awkward to feel successful about this” is probably more apt for me.) 

My usual, please: Despite a decent chunk of the episode taking place in Cafe Nervosa, no one ever actually audibly orders a coffee. We’ll get em next time!

Em-Maris-ment of Riches: Maris is absent because she had a run-in with a rude directory assistant operator which “shattered her calm” - I suppose the most laughable thing there is the thought of her being calm in the first place. Also, way to hark back to the anarchic days before Google where you had to go to so much more effort to find stuff out! 

TFW there’s a mariachi band set up outside where Frasier is going to have his fight and you want to get their card for yours and Maris’ summer barbecue


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