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Fried Chicken, Mashed Potatoes and Corn Bread

southern dinner

The title says it all, we’re talking about southern comfort food. It doesn’t matter where you come from, north or south, everyone loves a little slice of southern food. I know, I know, you are thinking I thought she’s from the Midwest, northern Midwest at that. This is true. However, this one may just be a win for nature vs. nurture, nature 1 nurture 0. I was never raised on southern food nor taught to cook it. So I’m going to have blame my penchant for it on my culinary DNA. For many generations prior to mine, my family resided in Tennessee. There are stories of my great-grandmother and her famous fried chicken, fresh green beans cooked with bacon fat, and corn bread served in a glass of milk. So there you go, it doesn’t get much more southern than that. This is the one meal I make that embodies my love for southern food: fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn bread and creamed spinach. The creamed spinach is my substitute for collard greens. I love well made collard greens, however, it’s one thing I just don’t have the patience to make. All the trimming and slow cooking, eh, I’ll skip straight to the chopped frozen spinach and parmesan cheese. All this meal needs is a pecan pie for dessert. Bon appetitie ya’ll!

Oven Fried Chicken
adapted from Ina Garten

3 pounds chicken drumsticks
1 quart buttermilk
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon fresh ground pepper
vegetable or canola oil

Place the chicken pieces in a large bowl and pour the buttermilk over them. Cover with plastic wrap and marinade in the refrigerate for four hours or overnight. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Combine the flour, cayenne, salt, and pepper in a large bowl or shallow dish. Take the chicken out of the buttermilk and coat each piece thoroughly with the flour mixture. Pour the oil into a large heavy-bottomed stockpot to a depth of 1-inch and heat to 360° F on a thermometer.

Working in batches, carefully place several pieces of chicken in the oil and fry for about 3 minutes on each side until the coating is a light golden brown (it will continue to brown in the oven). Don’t crowd the pieces. Remove the chicken from the oil and place each piece on a baking sheet. Allow the oil to return to 360° F before frying the next batch. When all the chicken is fried, bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is no longer pink inside. Serve hot.

Mashed Potatoes

2 pounds red potatoes
4 to 6 tablespoons salted butter, room temperature
1/2 to 3/4 cup heavy cream
kosher or sea salt to taste
fresh ground pepper to taste

Note: I really enjoy my potatoes whipped. In order to make whipped potatoes without any lumps, whip them with an electric hand mixer while they are still very hot. You may also heat your heavy cream so it doesn’t cool your potatoes before serving.

Peel your potatoes and rinse them thoroughly. Chop potatoes into about one inch cubes and add them to a large saucepan. Cover potatoes with cold water by about 3 inches. [Cold water is important to ensure the potatoes cook evenly.] Bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until the potatoes are fork tender, about 40 to 45 minutes.

Drain the potatoes in a colander in the sink. Put potatoes into a large mixing bowl and add butter and heavy cream. Whip potatoes with a hand mixer for 5 to 10 minutes, until fluffy and you’re left with no lumps. Season with salt and pepper and adjust to taste.

Creamed Spinach
adapted from Tyler Florence

1 16 ounce package chopped frozen spinach, defrosted and excess water removed
1 cups heavy cream
2 fresh bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 sprigs fresh thyme
3 cloves garlic, peeled
freshly grated Parmesan, to taste
salt and freshly cracked black pepper
lemon, juiced

Place a saucepan of cream with bay leaves, rosemary, thyme and garlic over medium heat and simmer until reduced and thick. Remove the spinach from the package and allow it to drain in a strainer. Push any excess water out of the spinach using some paper towels. Set aside. When ready, remove herbs and garlic from cream and fold in the spinach. Add Parmesan, to taste, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Old Fashion Corn Bread

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoons salt
1 cup milk
1/4 cup shortening

Sift flour with sugar, baking powder, salt, and stir in cornmeal. Add eggs, milk, and shortening. Beat with electric hand mixer until just smooth, do not over beat. Pour into greased 9 by 9 by 2 in pan. Bake at 400° F for 20 to 25 minutes.

{photos by Avocados and Pancakes}

I Like My Fish Filleted

Fish HeadWelcome to my blog Avocados and Pancakes! I never would have believed that one day I’d be starting a food blog. This is simply because I didn’t particularly enjoy eating and I especially didn’t enjoy cooking. Eating to me was just one of those things, a necessity of life, that got in the way of living. Oh, how wrong I was! What I began to discover four years ago is that I just never tasted food the way it was meant to be eaten. Once I discovered eating I discovered cooking.

I grew up in a small Midwestern town with no particular culinary heritage. I suppose I ate what most small town American kids eat, the small repertoire of things your mother knows how to cook. Usually dinner was some form of spaghetti, meatloaf, hamburger, pizza, mystery casserole, and plenty of “home cooked” meals from a box. (Who knew you could make your own stuffing?) No offense to my mother, she is a great cook now, just not then. Yes, my culinary appetite was starved but I didn’t know it yet.

Then, I moved out on my own to a big tall skyscraper in a big tall city and the thing that changed most about me was the way I ate. Sure, at first I stuck with what I knew. Ramen noodles anyone? Admittedly, I thought I was clever when I added broccoli to it. Eventually, I was acquainted with Italian food the way the Italians make it and middle eastern food from the Palestinians. I finally discovered the way food was meant to be eaten. With this realization, I found myself in the kitchen cooking more and more. For the past four years, I’ve been cooking almost every night and learning what our great grandmothers knew about cooking. It’s better when you make it yourself.

So, because I am recently new to this whole wide world of food, there’s a lot left for me to explore. I don’t believe in pretentious ingredients. I’ll leave the truffle oil and lavender scented foam to the pros. I don’t think I’ll ever suck a fish head or eat a raw oyster, but I’ll continue to try new food and new recipes and this blog is where you can witness my kitchen successes and failures.