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Cooking Through Fiction: The Sea of Monsters — Country-Fried Stymphalion Bird

Thomas Wolfe wrote a novel called You Can’t Go Home Again. I'm pretty sure this phrase isn't meant to be taken literally. Have you ever returned to a place only to find that it wasn’t exactly as you remembered? Maybe the grass wasn’t as green, the trees weren’t as tall, and the mist across the lake wasn’t as magical.

Maybe the roller rink where you hosted your birthday parties was torn down and now it’s a pet store. Maybe the football stadium looks dingy, and you can’t imagine hiding with anyone beneath the bleachers without wanting a tetanus shot.

In the The Sea of Monsters, book two of the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series, Percy returns to Camp Half-blood and discovers his favorite place on earth has changed for the worse. The magical tree is dying, monsters are breaking through the borders, and their beloved camp director has been replaced with the cursed Tantalus.

“Tyson didn’t mind. He plunged his bare hands right in and stated scrubbing, but Annabeth and I had to suffer through hours of hot, dangerous work, especially since there were tons of extra plates. Tantalus had ordered a special luncheon banquet to celebrate Clarisse’s chariot victory—a full-course meal featuring country-fried Stymphalion death-bird.” (Riordan, Rick, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Sea of Monsters. [New York: Hyperion Books for Children, 2003], 85)

Even though Tantalus hates Percy and punishes him after dinner, I bet Percy enjoyed the Stymphalion death-bird. I know I did!

Country-Fried Stymphalion Death-Bird

(served with steamed white asparagus and purple mashed potatoes)


3 boneless chicken breasts

1-½ c whole milk, plus up to 2 c for gravy

2 whole large eggs

1 c all-purpose flour

1 c blue cornmeal

¼ tsp Cayenne pepper

healthy pinch of black pepper

Canola oil, for frying

salt and pepper, for both meat and gravy

How to Make

  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Drop in a few sprinkles of flour to make sure it’s sufficiently hot before cooking.

  2. Create an assembly line of dishes for the meat. Add milk mixed with eggs in one bowl or small casserole dish. Mix flour, cornmeal, and spices in another one.

  3. Work one piece of meat at a time. Season both sides with salt and pepper then dip in the milk/egg mixture.

  4. Next, place the meat on the plate of seasoned flour. Turn to coat thoroughly.

  5. Place the meat back into the milk/egg mixture, turning to coat.

  6. Place back in the flour and turn to coat.

  7. Place breaded meat into the skillet.

  8. Cook meat, three pieces at a time, until edges start to look golden brown; approximately 5-7 minutes each side.

  9. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate and keep warm.

  10. Repeat until all meat is cooked.

How to Make Gravy

  1. After all meat is fried, pour off the grease into a heatproof bowl.

  2. Without cleaning the pan, return it to the stove over medium-low heat.

  3. Add ¼ c grease back to the pan. Allow grease to heat up.

  4. Sprinkle ⅓ c flour evenly over the grease. Using a whisk, mix flour with grease, creating a golden-brown paste. Keep cooking until it reaches a deep golden brown color. If paste seems more oily than pasty, sprinkle in another tablespoon of flour and whisk.

  5. Whisking constantly, pour in milk. Cook to thicken the gravy. Be prepared to add more milk if it becomes overly thick.

  6. Add salt and pepper and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until gravy is smooth and thick. Be sure to taste to make sure gravy is sufficiently seasoned.

Percy Jackson & the Olympians series

Book 1 The Lightning ThiefBlue Waffles

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