Category Archives: SOUTHERN CUISINE

COLLARD GREENS WITH SMOKED PORK HOCK

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So I know you are asking yourself, what someone who was not born in the true South could possibly know about cooking collard greens. Well, I must admit that I knew next to nothing about the cuisine of the South until I started doing some serious study on the subject. And over the years I have learned a lot. And I must say, if there is anything finer than White Cheddar Cheese Grits (thank you Eden), Shrimp Gumbo or my new recipe for Collard Greens with Smoked Pork Hock, then I do declare, someone step up to the line (the Mason Dixon line of course) and show me the error in my thinking! Until then, I’m tellin’ you true. You can unassailably bet your best corn bread recipe on the fact that I am going to continue researching and publishing recipes that fit the category “all food Southern”. Because all you all, Southern food is the bomb!

So next time you want to fix a big old pot of “good for you” and “really tasty”, get yourself to your local market and buy yourself some collard greens. I am positive you, your family, and your friends are going to thoroughly enjoy this quintessential Southern dish.

  • 1 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 med. onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2 c. chicken broth
  • 1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
  • freshly ground black pepper (not too much)
  • 1 smoked pork hock (I prefer to use Sunny Valley Smoked Pork Hocks obtained in our area at Haggen’s Market)
  • 2-3 bunches collard greens (depending on the size of the bunches)
  • pinch of sugar, if required
  • hot sauce on the side, opt.

In a large covered pot, add the olive oil and the chopped onions; sauté until tender. Add the garlic and continue cooking for a minute or until the garlic releases its aroma. Add the chicken broth, red pepper flakes, pepper, and pork hock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer gently for about 45-60 minutes. (The simmer time helps the broth take on the delicious, smoky flavor of the meat!)

Meanwhile, remove the center stems of the collard greens by holding the leaf in one hand and stripping the leaf down with your other hand. (Tender young leaves don’t need to be stripped.) Stack 6 to 8 leaves on top of one another, roll up, and slice into ½-inch thick slices. Then cut those slices in half. Wash the collard greens thoroughly, drain and set aside.

When the broth has finished simmering for about an hour, add the cleaned and sliced collard greens. Cover the pan and cook on med-low heat until the leaves are tender, about an hour and 45 minutes. Stir once or twice during the cooking process. (You basically want to slowly cook the greens in the flavorful broth. They will wilt down as they cook.) After about an hour and 15 minutes, remove the pork hock from the pan and allow it to cool to the point where you can remove the meat from the bones, fatty and connective tissue without burning your fingers. Chop or shred the meat into bite sized pieces and add back to the pot. When the greens are tender, adjust the seasoning (including a pinch of sugar if the greens are particularly bitter) and serve piping hot.

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Note: I like to serve the collard greens in individual little bowls so everyone gets their share of the greens and the amazing liquid. I then pass around chunks of nice crusty bread or the more traditional corn bread to mop up the potlikker. The savory broth (or “potlikker” as we from the south like to call it) is an important part of the whole quintessential “collard” experience.

And OK, for those of you who know me, you know that my “south” is really the southern part of Bellevue, Washington where I lived for most of my adult years. That qualifies as “south”, doesn’t it?

Additional Note: Smoked turkey legs or wings can be used in place of the pork hock, but they are terribly hard to find.

For more Southern recipes, please look under the category “Southern Cuisine” on this site.

 

SHRIMP GUMBO

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I think many people shy away from Creole and Cajun food because they think it’s going to be too spicy. They hear words like gumbo filé and Creole seasoning and they automatically shy away. And it’s true, some Creole and Cajun dishes can be very spicy, but they don’t have to be. And this recipe, based on a recipe from Marcela’s Creole Cookery in Seattle, contains a bit of heat but only enough to compliment the other ingredients. And that’s good. The last thing you want is a sauce that is so spicy hot that the wonderful taste of your expensive shrimp is completely obliterated. (Along with your taste buds, I might add!)

So figuratively speaking, this sauce is the perfect foil for shrimp. Then all you need is a big old ball or two of cooked rice, and you have a simple and delicious one course meal.

Now like any other stew like dish, there are about as many recipes for gumbo as there are Louisiana residents. And many of them are fabulous. (The stews that is; I don’t know about all the residents!) But we especially like this gumbo recipe because it is fairly mild. (Did I mention that both Mr. C and I are both kind of wusses when it comes to really spicy food?)

So if you are a person unfamiliar with Creole or Cajun food, but consider yourself in possession of a sophisticated and educated uraniscus (palate), step on out of your comfort zone and travel “culinarily speaking” down to the land of Marti Gras, hush puppies, and bread pudding. Make yourself up a batch of this gumbo honey and there will be no turning back.

  • ¼ c. canola oil
  • ¼ c. flour
  • 4 c. chicken stock, heated to almost boiling
  • ½ small onion, chopped
  • 4 chopped green onions
  • 2 lg. stalks celery, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1½ tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. gumbo filé powder
  • 3 bay leaves
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp. commercial Creole seasoning or see recipe for homemade Creole Seasoning below
  • 1 lb. uncooked large shrimp
  • cooked rice

In a large covered saucepan, cook the oil and flour over medium heat until it is chocolate colored, about 25 minutes, stirring continuously. (If it burns, throw it away and start over!) Carefully whisk in the hot chicken stock, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.

Add the onion, green onions, celery, garlic, thyme, gumbo filé powder, bay leaves, pepper, cayenne, and Creole seasoning. Cover the pan and gently simmer for 1½ hours, stirring occasionally. (Add additional chicken stock if needed.) Adjust seasoning (probably will need salt), remove bay leaves, add the shrimp, and simmer until the shrimp are just cooked through.

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Serve with cooked rice.

Creole Seasoning:

  • 1/3 c. paprika
  • 3 T. dried oregano
  • 3 T. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 T. dried basil
  • 2 T. kosher salt
  • 1 T. cayenne pepper
  • 1 T. onion powder
  • 4 tsp. dried thyme
  • 4 tsp. granulated garlic

Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container. Makes about 1 cup.

 

BRAISED GREENS

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You know how some things are just meant to be; well this recipe from Sunday’s Pacific NW section of the Times was right there when I needed it. I had just gotten back from the grocery store with a big old plastic container of “Super Greens” and no real inspiration for how I was going to use them. When low and behold, I opened the NW section and there was the perfect answer to my dilemma. And when I say perfect, I mean perfect!

Now you need to know that Mr. C and I both love us our greens. But sometimes fixing greens can take time. Not this recipe. It’s almost ready to serve before it’s started! The only change we both agreed would be wonderful was the addition of a few toasted pine nuts. Some might consider pine nuts gilding the lily, but we are both willing to give it a try anyway. (Actually, adding the pine nuts was Mr. Cs idea. He may not know how to cook, but he sure knows how to eat!)

So thank you Vios Café for sharing this wonderful and easy recipe. I can’t think of any other veggie dish that is as delicious and good for us as this lovely way to fix a variety of greens. This recipe is now number one on the Chez Carr cavalcade of edible hits. So give it a try. You will be amazed just how good a few leaves can taste. Michael Pollan* would be so proud!

  • 2 T. + a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 10-12 oz. roughly chopped braising greens (red or green chard, mustard greens, tat soi (Spinach mustard), lacinato kale, arugula, spinach, etc.)
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • 2 T. cold water
  • fresh lemon juice, to taste
  • a few toasted pine nuts, opt.

Heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil to medium in a large covered fry pan. Add the garlic and pepper flakes and sauté for 30 seconds just to infuse the oil with flavor and soften the garlic. Add the greens and sauté until they begin to wilt, about 2 minutes. Season lightly with salt, add the water, stir to mix and cover tightly. Cook until the leaves are tender, about 3 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to cook until all liquid evaporated. Drizzle with a small amount of olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Serve with a few pine nuts sprinkled on top. Serves 2 (barely)

(And yes, the pan in the picture was full when I started. But as we all know, greens shrink when they are cooked.)

*Mr. Pollan is the author of “In Defense of Food” and a great proponent of eating as many leaves as possible.

 

SPICY FRIED CHICKEN THIGHS

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This has been my favorite recipe for fried chicken for many years now. And I know there are quite a few ingredients in the recipe as well as some planning time involved, and in truth the frying part isn’t that much fun either. But you are just going to have to trust me when I say I have tried to cut the ingredients and time down, but none of my attempts have been successful. I even gave it a go again the other night for our dear friends Jim and Margo. And although the chicken wasn’t bad, it simply was not as good as this recipe either. (I’ve tried, really I have.) So from now on I am just going to have to plan ahead and follow my original adaptation of Selma Brown Morrow’s recipe to a tee. But I promise you will not be disappointed if you too love a crispy crusted, tender and spicy piece of home cooked chicken. And yes I know, just looking at the ingredients you would imagine that the chicken would be way too spicy. Not the case. It merely has an attitude. Not too much of an attitude mind you, but enough to make it interesting. And we all know that the taste of chicken can be a thundering thumping bore if not given a little flavor enhancement here and there.

So give this fried chicken recipe a try. It will lift your spirits with just the first bite. And you will never have to be embarrassed to be seen in its company. No one could possibly consider you less than a true bon vivant for serving this dish or even being in the same room with it. And how many other foods, or friends for that matter, can you make that same statement about? Just sayin’!

  • 1 c. buttermilk
  • 2 T. Dijon mustard
  • 1 T. powdered onion, divided
  • 1½ tsp. granulated garlic, divided
  • ½ tsp. paprika
  • 1½ tsp. dry mustard, divided
  • 1½ tsp. cayenne pepper, divided
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt, divided
  • 2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1½ c. flour
  • 1½ tsp. baking powder
  • 8-10 skinless chicken thighs (not boneless)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 T. ghee, opt.

To make life easier, I suggest getting out a medium sized glass or plastic bowl with a cover and a large enough rimmed baking sheet to contain the chicken pieces in a single layer. (There are lots of ingredients that are duplicated in the marinade and the coating. So make life easier on yourself and touch each spice container only once.) So as we go, I will follow each new ingredient with “B” for bowl and “S” for sheet. Buttermilk (B), Dijon mustard (B), 1½ teaspoons powdered onion (B), 1½ teaspoons powdered onion (S), ½ teaspoon granulated garlic (B), 1 teaspoon granulated garlic (S), paprika (B), ½ teaspoon dry mustard (B), 1 teaspoon dry mustard (S), ½ teaspoon cayenne (B), 1 teaspoon cayenne (S), ½ teaspoon kosher salt (B), 1½ teaspoon kosher salt (S) 1 teaspoon black pepper (B), 1 teaspoon black pepper (S), flour (S), baking powder (S). (Looks much more difficult than it really is!)

Whisk the marinade ingredients in the bowl together. Whisk the ingredients for the flour coating together on the baking sheet. (Don’t use the same whisk until you have washed and dried it thoroughly.) Set pan aside because you aren’t going to need it until the chicken has marinated for up to 48 hours.

Place the chicken in the bowl of marinade. Stir to make certain all of the chicken has been exposed to the buttermilk mixture. Cover bowl and refrigerate for 24-48 hours.

An hour before you plan to fry the chicken, make certain that the seasoned flour covers every inch of the baking sheet. Remove the chicken from the marinade (do not shake off any of the marinade) and place each piece on top of the flour. Turn each piece carefully to coat thoroughly and let stand for 1 hour before frying. (Turn as needed during the hour to allow chicken to absorb as much of the flour mixture as possible.)

Pour enough olive oil into a large fry pan to cover the bottom; with a little more just for good luck. Add the ghee. Bring temperature to medium high. Place chicken in pan with the less meaty side down first. (In other words, if the skin were still on the chicken, the skin side would be closest to the ceiling.) Turn the heat down under the chicken until the oil is just bubbling nicely around the chicken. When the first side is a lovely dark golden brown (and yes you can carefully peak to make sure it’s a lovely brown) turn the chicken being ever so careful not to pierce the flesh or disturb the crust. Cook the second side until the chicken is done (internal temperature should be at least 165 °F) and the crust is a deep golden brown. When chicken is finished cooking, remove to cooling racks. Do not place on paper towels or the underside will get soggy. Best served at room temperature.

 

 

 

 

 

BISCUITS WITH SAUSAGE GRAVY

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As promised, this is one of my retro dishes that I mentioned I would share with you. I make this every once in awhile because I love a good biscuit and gravy breakfast more than just about anything else I can set on my plate before 9:00a.m. And I am definitely not alone.

When it comes to biscuits and gravy, there are very few people I know who don’t break out in spontaneous giggles at the very mention of this tantalizing combination. OK, there are some who would never touch a biscuit, much less a cream gravy. But for those of us who once in a while allow ourselves a taste of heaven, this decadent yet exceedingly simple recipe has all the right components.

First of all, the gravy is high in fat. (Any mouth worth its teeth loves the feel of food rich in fat.) Then of course, this recipe is loaded with bad carbohydrates. (Who in their right mind doesn’t adore the taste of bad carbohydrates to begin with, and especially when they come presented so deliciously?) Then of course, there are the idle calories. (Who among us doesn’t put idle calories into our bodies once in a while when life gets rough or we feel the need to celebrate?) The only thing this delightful combination doesn’t have going for it is an over abundance of refined sugar. (But no recipe’s perfect!)

So next time you feel the need to celebrate life or treat your family and friends to one of life’s little guilty pleasures, or just go wild and do something fairly innocuous for which you will still probably hate yourself the next morning, bake a batch of biscuits (see my recipe for Buttermilk Biscuits on this site) and stir yourself up some sausage gravy. Then sit back and savor every single solitary morsel of fat, bad carbohydrate and empty calorie. After all, we only have one life to live and once in a while it just feels good to break all the nutritional rules and simply enjoy the moment. That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it! Cheers!

  • 2 T. butter, divided
  • 1 lb. bulk breakfast sausage, either pork or chicken – as lean as possible (if you buy breakfast sausage from a good butcher shop it will be leaner than Johnsonville or Jimmy Dean, for example)
  • 3 T. flour
  • 1½ c. milk, plus more if needed (I use 2% milk because the gravy is rich enough without using whole milk, half & half, or cream)
  • 1½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ tsp. dried thyme
  • ¼ tsp. seasoned salt
  • freshly ground black pepper (not too much)
  • fresh parsley, garnish, opt.

Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a medium sized pan. Add sausage, breaking it up as it cooks, and fry until good and caramelized. (That means it’s a nice dark brown and there are tasty meat bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.) Add the remaining butter to the pan and whisk in the flour lifting the browned bits off the bottom as you stir the mixture. Let burble for a couple of minutes. Slowly pour in the milk and Worcestershire sauce (gently whisking the entire time) and when thoroughly blended add the thyme, salt, and pepper. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce heat and let simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. (The sauce will thicken nicely during this time.) Add milk if the consistency is too thick.

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When ready to serve, adjust the seasoning and serve dolloped over warm biscuits and sprinkled very lightly with fresh parsley.

BUTTERMILK BISCUITS

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There are just times when nothing will do but a biscuit. And I know, there is nothing wrong with toast, or muffins, or bagels – you name it. But sometimes, you need just that perfect vehicle for butter and honey or jam. And when that happens, there is no other bread type as perfect as a warm, straight from the oven, good old fashioned biscuit. And I’m not talking just for breakfast either.

The other evening I served a cold salad for a family dinner gathering and decided that biscuits would be just the perfect side. (I mean really, what do you serve as a side with a main dish salad?) Especially one like the Chicken and Wild Rice Salad on this blog that has the starch, meat, and all the veggies you can eat already represented. So I decided on biscuits. First of all, they’re easy. And they are just enough different to add a special quality to a meal. (Plus this recipe makes a lot of biscuits and I could serve them again for breakfast the next morning.) Luckily, they ended up being a nice side for the salad. And for breakfast, perfect with sausages and scrambled eggs.

So consider making biscuits the next time you want to change things up a bit at the dinner table. Your family and friends will love the soft texture and the depth of flavor imparted from the buttermilk. And I can’t begin to tell you how wonderful these biscuits are for breakfast all smothered with room temperature butter and jam. So be advised. If you serve your friends biscuits for dinner and they see that some are left, your friends might still be around in the morning. Make a note: Buy extra eggs when serving biscuits for dinner!

  • ½ c. lukewarm water
  • 1 pkg. active dry yeast or 1 scant tablespoon if you buy your yeast in bulk
  • 1 T. sugar
  • 5 c. flour
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • ¾ c. vegetable shortening
  • 2 c. buttermilk

Place warm water in a medium sized bowl. Sprinkle on the yeast and sugar. Set aside to proof. Meanwhile whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. (I use my KitchenAid mixer bowl.) Cut the shortening into the flour mixture until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the yeast mixture and the buttermilk and mix just until combined. Do not over-mix.

Scoop dough onto a floured pastry cloth or a floured clean work surface. Allow dough to rest for about 10 minutes. Dust top with additional flour. Using your hands pat the dough to about ¾-inch. Cut into round or square biscuits as large or as small as you desire. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet and let sit while you heat your oven to 400 degrees. Bake for about 10-12 minutes. (Since I have a convection option on my oven, I start the biscuits in a regular oven for 7 minutes and then turn on the convection option for the next 3-4 minutes or until a light golden brown.) Don’t over-bake. Serve warm with butter, honey, or jam.

Based on a Paula Deen recipe.

 

GRILLED MEATLOAF WITH BACON FLAVORED RED GRAVY

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We were in Salt Lake City visiting my son earlier this spring, and since it happened to be Mother’s Day, Sven and Mr. C decided to take me out for dinner at one of Sven’s favorite restaurants. So off we went to Ruth’s Diner, located in historic Emigration Canyon. (It’s a new little place; only been around since the 1930s.) And OMG – what a wonderful time and meal we shared that day. I felt like I had just been chosen queen for a day. First of all, I was with my two favorite men in the whole world. (What could be better than that?) And to top things off, my entrée choice was off the charts delicious!

Apparently Ruth’s Diner is famous for several dishes they serve, among them Grandma Claire’s Baked Mac and Cheese, Chicken Fried Steak, and Ruth’s Meat Loaf. So never one to argue with success, I ordered the meatloaf.

The grilled meatloaf (who ever heard of grilling meatloaf slices?) came lightly dressed with a delicious, not too highly seasoned reddish gravy. Nestled up to the meatloaf all cozy and warm, were creamy mashed potatoes, sautéed veggies, and a warm from the oven biscuit. Oh my. It was simply heaven on a plate.

So yesterday, even though everyone knows it is just plain wrong to serve meatloaf in late Spring/early Summer, I flew in the face of convention and attempted to reproduce my Ruth’s Diner experience.

Well boy howdy, I am here to tell you, once in awhile I create a blue ribbon winner. (OK, no one actually awarded me a blue ribbon, but I know a winner when I taste one!) So even though it is not technically “meatloaf season”, I’m going to recommend giving this new spin on meatloaf a try. (And yes I know, you may have known about grilling meatloaf for decades, but for me it was like waking up and realizing I’m no longer in Kansas!) Note to self: no more sneaking into the TV room late at night and watching The Wizard of Oz!

I hope you enjoy this different and delicious way to prepare and serve an all-American classic.

Grilled Meatloaf:

  • 2 T. chopped dehydrated onion
  • 1 T. dried parsley
  • 1 tsp. granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp. Montreal Steak Seasoning (comes in bulk in the dried herbs and spices section)
  • 1 tsp. seasoned salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp. dried savory
  • ½ c. dry bread crumbs (I use the Italian bread crumbs – also come in bulk at many grocery stores)
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ c. milk
  • 1 lb. bulk sausage
  • 1 lb. not so lean ground beef

In a large mixing bowl combine the onion, parsley, garlic, Montreal Seasoning, salt, pepper, savory, bread crumbs, eggs, and milk. Stir in the sausage and then the ground beef. I use a table knife for this purpose. Cuts through the mixture like a knife! (Pardon the pun….)

Form into 2 rectangular loaves. Place in a baking pan and bake for 1 hour in a pre-heated 350 degree oven. Remove from oven and let sit for at least 30 minutes. Just before ready to serve, cut into ¾-inch thick slices and fry on a lightly greased griddle or fry pan, just until each side is nicely browned and slightly crispy.

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Serve lightly spread with gravy. Great served with Cheesy Grits (recipe below) or mashed potatoes and sautéed veggies.

Bacon Flavored Red Gravy:

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  • 3 slices thick meaty bacon, chopped
  • ½ small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 T. flour
  • ½ tsp. smoked paprika
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • ½  c. strong coffee or ½ tsp. espresso powder and ½ c. water
  • ¾ c. beef stock or 1 heaping tsp. beef base and ¾ c. water
  • 1 T. tomato paste
  • ¼ c. half and half
  • milk – if needed to thin the gravy to desired consistency

Fry bacon until crisp. Remove cooked bacon from pan reserving bacon grease. Add onions to skillet and cook until onions are softened, scraping up any browned bits on pan bottom. Whisk in flour, paprika, and pepper; stir well to combine. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in coffee, beef stock, and tomato paste. Cook sauce until thickened, about 6 minutes. Add half & half and reserved bacon*; cook for an additional 5 minutes. Thin to desired consistency with milk.

*If you don’t want little bits of bacon in your gravy, save the bacon and add to scrambled eggs the next morning.

Bonus Meal Idea for Leftovers:

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Grill up some more of the meatloaf. Also warm up the leftover gravy, toast up some bread, and serve the grilled meatloaf on the toasted bread liberally slathered with gravy. Yum!

Cheesy Grits: (see picture at top of post)

  • 1½ c. whole milk
  • 1½ c. water
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • ¾ c. quick-cooking grits
  • 1 c. grated white cheddar cheese

Bring milk, water, salt, and pepper to a boil in a saucepan over high heat. Gradually whisk in grits. Reduce heat to low, and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, 10 to 12 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese. Adjust seasoning. If you like thinner grits, add a little more milk. Serve immediately.

 

 

 

 

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CRISPY SKINNED ROAST CHICKEN AND GRAVY

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For those of you who are addicted to chicken the way I am, there is just nothing that compares with a lovely roasted chicken with creamy rich gravy served over mashed potatoes and/or my Cornbread Dressing. Add a green veggie, Waldorf Salad with Dried Cranberries and Orange Zest, and dinner rolls, and you have a meal that will help you celebrate any special occasion in style. And coincidentally, will not break the bank or your budget.

For many people, the thought of massive amounts of leftovers after a large holiday dinner is overwhelming. With this fowl recipe (and yes, I got the spelling correct and the usage right if you consider that “fowl” is now used in colloquial speech to be nearly synonymous with “poultry”) you are almost guaranteed to have very few if any leftovers.

So treat yourself to this lovely roasted chicken anytime you want comfort food or to help celebrate a special occasion. In our house, any night we are actually home for dinner is a special occasion! Perhaps it’s time to slow down a wee bit. Yah think!?

  • 1 whole small chicken (4 1/2 – 5 lbs.)
  • 2 T. butter, room temperature
  • 1 ½ tsp. seasoned salt
  • freshly ground black pepper (just a couple of grinds)
  • 1/2 tsp. cornstarch (yep, cornstarch – it helps crisp the skin)
  • 2-3 (6-inch) sprigs fresh rosemary
  • ½ onion, rough chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, rough chopped
  • 1 small lemon, rough chopped
  • 2-3 c. chicken broth, divided

Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Combine the butter, seasoned salt, pepper, and cornstarch together in a small bowl. Set aside. Stuff the cavity with rosemary, onion, garlic, and lemon. Tie legs together with kitchen twine.

Place chicken, breast side up, on rack in a low sided roasting pan or large oven proof frying pan. (You don’t want to use a Dutch oven or any other tall sided pan because you want the air to circulate freely around the bird as it bakes.) Tuck wings under. Rub the seasoned butter all over the skin of the chicken.

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Pour 1 1/2 cups of the chicken broth in the bottom of the pan. (Not only will the liquid absorb any fat drippings off the bird thus preventing a smoky, messy oven, it will form the base for your gravy.)  Roast for 30 minutes in a pre-heated 450 degree oven. Remove from oven, and add another 3/4 cup of chicken broth (or more if the pan was completely or almost dry). Return to oven, rotating pan. Roast until chicken juices run clear and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh reaches 175 degrees, about 45 minutes more. Remove from oven and move chicken to a platter. Tent with aluminum foil and let rest for at least 15 minutes before carving. If you want gravy to serve with your roast chicken, see recipe below.

CREAMY CHICKEN GRAVY

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  • pan drippings from roasted chicken
  • flour
  • chicken stock
  • heavy cream or milk
  • ½-1 tsp. Kitchen Bouquet
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-2 chicken gravy mixes (just in case)
  • 1-2 tsp. cognac, opt.

Place the roasting pan on the stove after the chicken has been removed. Turn the heat to very low and begin making your gravy immediately. (Good gravy flavor and consistency require time to develop.)    Do not remove any fat from the pan, do not strain the liquid, do not do any of the things most cook book writers tell you to do to make good gravy (except me, that is!)

Whisk in enough flour to absorb the fat. Let burble for a couple of minutes. (This process takes time, so be patient.) Slowly whisk in equal parts chicken stock and cream (or any combination you prefer) until you reach the desired thickness you like. Add the Kitchen Bouquet (gives the gravy great color) and some freshly ground black pepper. No salt yet! Taste the gravy. If you think it needs more depth of flavor, begin by adding one of the gravy mixes and a small amount of stock. Let it simmer for a couple of minutes and taste again. Add salt at this time if needed.

Turn heat as low as possible and let the gravy simmer away for the next 10 minutes or so, whisking periodically. (You will probably need to add more stock during this time.) Also, after the chicken is sliced and plated, don’t forget to add the juices that have accumulated to the gravy.

Just before serving (and gravy should be the last item plated), taste the gravy and make any final adjustments to the seasoning. Stir in the cognac and serve piping hot.

CORNBREAD DRESSING

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Now, as far as I’m concerned, there are few dishes better than dressing. And because I love dressing so much I always make too much. I simply can’t stop myself. But for the sake of keeping to my mission of providing you with economical and smaller scale recipes to serve during the holidays, I was actually able to curb my natural tendency to be a dressing over-achiever, and kept the proportions to the perfect size to accompany my Crispy Skinned Roast Chicken or any other main dish for a smaller gathering.

Now of course, if you wanted to use this recipe to feed more people you could always just double or triple the ingredients. (See, already I’m thinking of a larger quantity. There truly is no help for me!) But I sincerely hope this recipe helps you when you are planning a small dinner party or to keep your holiday meal budget in line.

  • 1/2 lb. Italian sausage (pork or chicken)
  • 4 T. (1/2 stick) butter
  • 3/4 c. diced celery
  • 3/4 c. chopped onion
  • ½ tsp. dried sage
  • 2 tsp. poultry seasoning (or to taste)
  •  ¼ tsp. granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp. dried parsley
  • 3 c. cubed rustic bread (I like part sour dough)
  • 1 (8.5-oz.) box Jiffy Corn Muffin mix, baked per package instructions, cubed
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 c. chicken broth (not low sodium)

Fry sausage (crumbling it as it browns) in a large frying pan or Dutch oven. When browned add the butter, celery, and onion; cook until the onion is transparent.  Stir in the sage, poultry seasoning, garlic, and parsley. Remove from heat and gently stir in the bread cubes and cubed cornbread. (Don’t worry if the cornbread breaks down.) Whisk together the egg and chicken broth. Pour over the bread mixture and gently stir until combined. Now, if you are like me, you will want to taste the dressing at this point. Don’t worry that the dressing seems too sweet. After it is baked it will be perfect.

Spoon the dressing into a buttered casserole pan, cover with lid or aluminum foil, and either refrigerate until ready to bake or place in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 35-40 minutes. Remove lid and bake an additional 5 minutes or until starting to brown on top. Serve hot.

 

CHICKEN AND DUMPLING STEW

There are few foods as comforting to eat as chicken and dumplings. Every time I make this dish I am transported back to my childhood when chicken was the featured meat almost every Sunday. My grandmother was the queen of frying chicken and also of a dish she called Southern fried chicken. Her version of southern fried chicken started with chicken perfectly fried in lots of butter.  Then she adding cream, covered the pan, and baked it for 30-40 minutes. And on the rare occasions when she made dumplings to go on top of the creamy sauce, I was one very happy little girl.

Well now that I’m older than my grandmother was when she was preparing this dish, and much more aware of calories, cholesterol, and the importance of using less protein and more veggies in dishes, I came up with this recipe. It will never replace my grandmothers’ butter and heavy cream laden sauce, nor will the chickens I cook ever be as fresh or flavorful. (My grandparents sold eggs for a living, so the chickens we ate were grain fed, free to roam in a fairly large chicken house, and killed only a couple of hours before being cooked.) But regardless, the flavor of the sauce in this recipe is both rich and savory. The addition of fresh parsley and thyme to the dumpling batter help make them savory too. Plus the addition of corn meal adds a bit of density to the dumpling batter which prevents the cooked dumplings from having that “not-quite-done” consistency.

So next time you are feeling like a little comfort food is in order, prepare this easy and fairly inexpensive dish. Your family will love it! And although you might feel that a salad or something else is necessary to serve along with the stew, resist the urge. After all, you have all the basic food groups (except chocolate of course) covered in this one pot meal. Remember we are talking comfort food here, and you deserve a little comfort too. So instead of building a salad, have a glass of wine. I promise you no one will miss the salad, but you will miss out on the whole “comfort food experience” if you make the meal complicated. Use the KISS principle. Keep It Simple Sweetie!

Stew:

  • 3 large boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into large bite-sized pieces
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 T. butter
  • 2 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 c. finely diced carrots
  • 1/2 c. finely diced celery
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme, crumbled
  • 1/8 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. poultry seasoning
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 c. white wine (I use Pinot Grigio)
  • 4 c. chicken broth
  • 1/2 c. heavy cream
  • 2 tsp. + 1 T. minced fresh parsley

Dumplings:

  • 3/4 c. all-purpose Flour
  • 1/4 c. yellow cornmeal
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp. dried thyme, opt.
  • 3/4 c. half-and-half

Sprinkle chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Place flour in a re-sealable plastic bag and add the chicken pieces. Seal the bag and turn the bag several times until the chicken is completely coated with flour. Melt the butter and olive oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Brown the chicken pieces, remove from pan and set aside.

In the same pot, add the diced onion, carrot, and celery. Stir and cook for 3 to 4 minutes over medium-low heat. Stir in the dried thyme, turmeric, poultry seasoning, bay leaf, and white wine. Cook until the white wine is reduced to about 1 tablespoon. Add the chicken broth and cover pot; simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While the gravy is simmering, make the dough for the dumplings: sift together all dry ingredients and gently stir in the 2 teaspoons parsley, thyme, and the half-and-half. Set aside.

After the gravy has simmered for 20 minutes, add the cooked chicken, heavy cream, and remaining 1 tablespoon of parsley; stir to combine. Adjust seasoning.

Drop tablespoons of dumpling dough into the simmering pot. Cover pot halfway and continue to simmer on low for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, completely cover pan and allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.