Tuesday, October 13, 2009


I live in North Carolina but I am a native Jersey girl.  When I meet people, one of the first questions people ask is "Where y'all from?" I think the way I say coffee (pronounced CAWfee) alludes to the fact that I'm not a southern girl.  And by the way, in case you were never taught this very important lesson in geographical etiquette, please note the following: I can say 'Jersey' because I was born and raised there. If you're not from New Jersey, you are not allowed to say 'Jersey'. We find it offensive. We are also offended by anyone with the opinion that 'The Garden State' has nothing more than a nasty airport, parkways and turnpikes to offer it's visitors.  There are parts of New Jersey, beautiful parts, that weren't shown on The Sopranos.
Getting back on track, I am not a southern girl, but in my heart, I am.  I love living in the south.  The music, the food, the people, the food, the weather, the food. I love it all. But I really love the food. I've loved southern food since I was a Yankee in a New Jersey zip code.  Southern food is homey. Comforting. Don't get me wrong, I love all types of cuisines, but southern food is what's written on my heart.  It's simple food.  But simple is not easy.  Family recipes are passed along to the next generation, and family recipes don't like imposters. They're not recipes so much as they are remembering what she did when you were looking over mama's shoulder while she was fixin supper.  Frying chicken, making biscuits, making sausage gravy to go with the biscuits, baking a red velvet cake or making Carolina pit barbecue (the good kind - with vinegar). And don't forget the slaw that belongs on top of your pit barbecue. 
My first food love was not baking. It was cooking. I know my way around a kitchen. I'm known to make beurre blanc on special occasions. I know what an 'amuse bouche' is.  I'm familiar with 'sous vide' cooking. For me, cooking is nothing like baking where precision is required. Cooking frees the rebel within us. There's nothing like grabbing what's in the pantry and creating a meal your family talks about for days. In my humble opinion, this is the foundation of southern cooking. Take available ingredients and make a meal that sticks to your ribs. The kind that tastes so good it makes you want to 'slap your momma'. (No mom, I don't want to slap you, it's just an expression!) It's simple food, cooked well. And it's an art.   

I have struggled for years to make fried chicken. I have tried battered, I've tried floured, I've tried oven fried, I've tried deep fried. What was once my nemesis is now something that I have gotten just good enough at that my family actually requests it. And they ask me to make extra for snacks or tomorrow's lunch. I'll share the recipe with you and it is my wish that you too can acquire the skill it takes to fry a chicken in such a way that one, it's cooked; two, it's not burnt (a nice amber, not burnt) and three, it tastes so good that the faces at the table are looking at you with their mouths agape in disbelief.  (Don't worry; the same thing happened to me.  If it weren't for the inaudible expletives coming from the kitchen as hot oil bungee jumped from the pan, my family would have thought it was take out, too!)  I don't think it's the ingredients so much as the method of cooking that helped this recipe become part of our rotation.  For the fried chicken challenged, it might unlock the door to fully cooked, juicy, perfectly browned fried chicken.

I fry chicken in two cast iron skillets. Depends on how much chicken you're cooking but don't crowd your pan or your chicken wont cook right.  Sometimes I brine the chicken in a gallon of water with a cup of salt (anywhere from 1-24 hours) or sometimes I soak it in buttermilk that's laced with Texas Pete. That's hot sauce to you Yankees. Wink.

As for the chicken, I am a thigh girl, my kids like the drumsticks cause of the built in handle and my husband is a cliche. Yep.  He's a breast man, culinarily speaking.  
When I can make biscuits like my southern cooking hero, Mrs. Jarod Benson, I'll share that with you, too.  If I can get into her house, even if I have to tackle her on the linoleum, I will. Her biscuits are THAT good, bless her heart. In the mean time, if you've got the recipe and the technique that's going to make me a Paula Deen stand-in, and you're willing to pass it along, this girl, southern at heart, is always up for a challenge. 

Just Plain Good Fried Chicken
1 cup shortening
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 2 to 3 pound chicken, cut into pieces, skin on

Heat the shortening in a large, cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. In a brown paper bag, combine the flour, salt, and pepper. Shake the chicken, two pieces at a time in the bag to coat. Place them in the skillet. Repeat until all of the chicken is coated and in the pan.
Fry the chicken over medium to medium-high heat until all of the pieces have been browned on both sides. Turn the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 25 minutes. Remove the lid, and increase heat to medium-high. Continue frying until chicken pieces are a deep golden brown, and the juices run clear. 

And may the fry gods smile upon you as you write your own fried chicken history.

Monday, September 28, 2009


Here it is, my first post. It's odd to me that I am just now beginning to blog. It's really a big commitment. It takes time. Energy. Thought. Rare commodities these days. Having pages did you wonder what to say? Did you pause and try to think of something witty?  Did you type and then delete it before you committed and actually pressed the ENTER key? Did you hit enter and immediately get cold feet and delete it? Does any of this sound familiar at all or am I just babbling like I am on a bad, blind date? Being on two popular social networking sites, is a blog really necessary? I love blogs. My home page happens to be my favorite blog. I follow a ton of blogs. But blogging makes me question myself, my writing skills. Just how entertaining am I? Do I need to be? When you started your own blog, when you wrote your first tweet, when you answered your first "what are you doing',
I hope I'm slightly amusing. You may find me more so as I begin to make public my 'adventures'. That sounds better than mishaps, right? I'll share successful adventures too! I'll share about cake decorating. You will surely find these adventures amusing. If you don't believe me check out cakewrecks. Nothing of mine is there, thank the cake Lord.  I'll share recipes. Not my cake recipes. Other, non-business recipes that I won't mind you having or sharing. Cake decorators are peculiar. All of us have our own little treasure chest that is sacred. And it has a security alarm. We will tell you we don't, but we do. Think of it like Grandma's recipe box.

I'll share about my children. They're a riot. Especially my youngest. He's four. And adorable. And at the age where everything is repeated, only it's like a translation for other young folk. I'll give you a for instance. We where watching Tyler's Ultimate on the Food Network and Tyler was enlightening us with the ingredients for a lovely cranberry chutney to go along with his yummy chicken. Well, Little Guy thought it sounded delicious. What four year old thinks cranberry chutney sounds good? Mine. Only he called it Jancherry Chubby. And I happen to think his sounds much cuter and less pretentious.  

I'll share about raising my spoiled six year old, very precocious, only daughter who adores her dad and thinks I am satanesque in my 'why am I the only one who doesn't cater to her every whim?' style of parenting. I'll  beg for the help and experience of moms who are familiar with children whose heads are covered with impossibly thick and bologna curled hair that collects remnants of every meal they eat and possibly provides shelter for small animals. I'd hire someone to style it if I could afford to.  Maybe without the parental bond a hairdresser could tune out the shrieks and ignore the tears in the morning when a brush stands still in defiance, refusing to move.  

I'll share about how fun it is raising a teenager. How all the things my mother said that I swore I'd never say to my children fly across my lips on a regular basis. Now I know what the sign adorning the refrigerator in my childhood kitchen meant that said 'Hire a Teenager While They Still Know Everything'. I didn't get it then, but now, oh now, I get it. My teenage son wants to start a skateboard company. He wants his own brand. And he wants to order T-shirts with his logo on them to give out to friends. Such a generous spirit he has.  Don't ask how he'll pay for them. We haven't gotten that far yet. He wants to go to college. On a sports scholarship. Or maybe he'll be a graphic artist. But whatever it is, he wants a Corvette. When he turns 16. And a mansion. For his first house. He wants to invent something that will make millions. Overnight. Oh to have the world in the palm of your hands and not talk yourself out of dreaming so big. What it must be like to be 13 and not yet own the well-seasoned skillet of reality...

I'll share about my husband of 14 years. He's a borderline OCD neat freak. And good-looking. When we were first married I thought it was cute. I could keep up with his disorder when we had no children. I kept up after our first. Even after the the second I managed pretty well but after the third? Not so much. He works from home.  He's really good at what he does.  And he's got a secret addiction to doing laundry. I am an enabler. He's an awesome father. He's silly and goofy with our kids. They love him. I love that he's goofy with them. It's sexy to me. And he still makes me laugh. When he's not looking at the dust on the ceiling fan.

I don't know how often I will blog. I don't know how long the posts will be. This was a 'get to know me while I get my feet wet' post.  I am challenged when it comes to staying focused on the task at hand. Also, I have internet ADHD. I always start with a specific destination. But then it's like I have multiple personalities and they all take over at once.  When I snap out of it there's 38 open windows of links I've clicked, search engine results and flickr photostreams. I'm easily distracted on the internet. Martha would faint if she saw the state of my bookmarks. Most of them are cake related. I need to find a local support group for the cake obsessed. Maybe they have one online. Oooooh!!!! I can multitask.

So if you haven't fallen asleep, thank you. Let me know if there's anything you'd like to hear more about. And leave a comment so I know you're out there!