Tag Archives: Southern

Country Captain or Southern Curried Chicken

This is one celebratory dish and after the magnificent wedding of the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex I strongly believe we need more dishes like this.  Don’t you think this world could use a few more celebrations?  Perhaps a bit more kindness and recognition of actual joy?  I guess it boils down to BEing NICE instead of just sporting the “be nice” bumper sticker on the back of your car.  I don’t long for days gone by as much as the respect, consideration and honesty which I grew up knowing and that now seem to have been thrown to the side of the road.  Kindness in the form of philanthropy is back “in”, as is Botswana, and I am thrilled.  I’m fully aware our world is still a troubled place and I will do my part to make this world a better place, however, I also crave celebrations of love and joy and peace and I kind of think the rest of the world does, too.  We were privy to some of the royal couple’s dating and engagement details showing us, in no uncertain terms, these are two people who want to be of use and come to the aid of those who have nothing.  I don’t mean to preach but, really, how hard is is to buy a deli-sandwich, a bag of chips and a jug of water for the homeless man with barely any teeth in his head standing outside the grocery store?  You’re about to buy food anyway, so how about helping someone who’s life is so fragile?  A bunch of wings and a jug of water could make an enormous difference in someone’s day.  Celebrate the joy and happiness you feel by spreading a little love to those who so desperately need it.  You may not BE a royal when you give but you certainly will feel royal.   Deli mac ‘n cheese never tasted so good!

Country Captain is  an easy dish, perfect to prepare for festive gatherings or Sunday dinner.  Served over fluffy, long grain rice, this chicken dish is also great prepared in advance and here’s some more good news.  The flavors really bloom and become full and mellow the following day so leftovers are a delight.  Country Captain is not a spicy dish but a perfectly seasoned one.  It hails from the South, specifically Georgia, and is a favorite throughout the state served often at brunch and on stately sideboards..  I suppose we can thank all the curry spices coming into the port of Savannah.  This aromatic one-pot stew is well-rounded and flavorful, dotted with green peppers, onion and garlic, bits of sweet tomato and fat raisins.  It is truly a delight.  I brown in butter both skinless boneless chicken breasts and thighs to add more of a rich flavor.  The thighs also add to the richness and, in the end, everyone seems to get the piece they want.  Country Captain can be prepared in a high-sided skillet or a heavy bottomed dutch oven.  I use both.  Either golden seedless or the common brown raisin may be used with excellent results and the recipe doubles easily.  I hope for your next gathering you’ll try this dish.  It’s quite the celebration!

Country Captain or Southern Curried Chicken

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, each half breast cut into thirds
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 green bell peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 generous tablespoons good quality curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 28-ounce can plum tomatoes with juice
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
  • hot cooked rice, to serve
  1. Mix flour, salt and pepper together in a bowl and lightly dredge chicken, shaking off excess flour.  Set aside.
  2. In a high sided skillet of dutch oven melt the butter over medium high heat.  Add the vegetable oil.
  3. Working in batches so as not to crowd the pan, carefully add the chicken and brown on both sides but do not cook all the way through.
  4. Remove from the pan and add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, curry powder and nutmeg stirring well.  Cook about 3 minutes the vegetables are soft but not browned.
  5. Add the tomatoes and juice and stir well.
  6. Add the chicken and any juices plus the raisins to the pan covering the chicken with the sauce.
  7. Cover the pan, lower the heat and simmer for 45-60 minutes so the chicken becomes tender.
  8. Garnish with almonds and serve over hot, buttered rice.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

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Bacon Gravy…omg!

This is the week before Mother’s Day and plans need to be made for all the glorious Moms out there!  My wonderful mother died three years ago and I’ve got to tell y’all, not a day goes by that I don’t think of her throughout the day.  She taught us so much beginning when we were small and instruction and advice ended the day she stopped speaking.  She was positively brilliant, wise, just, scrupulously honest and incredibly kind.  Even now, when I find myself in a pickle, I think to myself, “What would Mama do?”.  Funny, because I always know in my heart what she would have done.  To get her point across she would often tell me a story of something which happened when she was a girl on her father’s farm in Puerto Rico.  Growing up she lived in the country, outside of the town of Fajardo, with her parents, four sisters and five brothers.  My grandfather’s property sprawled down to the ocean, easily containing a cooling stream for the children to play and the boys to fish.  My grandmother had, I’ve been told, an exquisite rose garden.   My grandfather had horses and rode extensively to inspect his holdings.  The five boys all had horses and dogs but not the girls.  Oh my no! No.  The girls had china dolls, paints, smocks and easels, poetry…sigh.  That’s how it was in that household.  Anyway, Mama said when she was a little girl she was inside the house, standing next to an open window, simply looking out, longing to run free.  It was a glorious day.  The sun was shining brightly and fat bumblebees hovered over sweet meadow flowers giving Skipper, Swallowtail and Harlequin butterflies a run for their money.  Mama was stuck in the house with nothing fun to do while the boys were out having life altering adventures.  She stood quietly, staring out when, from around the corner of the house, came little Antonio, skipping along as happy as one could be.  Antonio was the youngest son of Pedro and Angelina, who lived on the farm.  Pedro drove my mother and her siblings to school and back everyday in my grandfather’s coach.  After dropping the children off, he continued into town with a list of items needed that my grandmother had drafted earlier in the morning.  Mama watched as her little friend pranced and hummed oblivious of any eyes on him.  He, too, was captivated by the beauty of the morning.  And then my mother thought, “Oh! I would give anything to be Antonio!”.  She watched as the boy disappeared into the meadow.  Minutes later she was still staring out of the window when she saw Angelina, Antonio’s mother, coming around the same corner of the house.  She, however, wasn’t happily ambling along.  No.  Oh, no.  She came angry and red in the face.  Her back was up and her blood was boiling.  In her hand Angelina slapped a brown leather belt while she bellowed, “Antonio!  Antonio!”.  Mama knew Antonio was going to get it and get it hard.  Her first thought was, “Oh, thank you, God, that I’m not Antonio! I don’t want to be anyone except myself!”.  And then Mama told me you never know what’s around the corner for other people, you never know what life is going to throw at you, be it good or bad  so be happy in your own self and with your life.  I’ve never forgotten that lesson, Mama, and I thank you for this one and so many others you’ve shared with us.  Happy Mother’s Day to all!

This is an old Southern recipe used when there’s no sausage to make gravy.  It’s heavenly!  Serve it over biscuit or country fried steak.  In the photos I made home fries topped with thick, broiled tomato slices.  There may have been fresh mozzarella melted on the tomatoes:)  Over the cheese I heaped flash sautéed fresh spinach, I covered the spinach with a fried egg and finished with a liberal pour of bacon gravy.  Sounds like Mother’s Day brunch to me!

Bacon Gravy

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 10 thick cut slices bacon
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped onion or 1 small onion
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  •  2 cup half and half plus extra if needed to thin out gravy
  • salt and black pepper
  1. Cook bacon until crispy.  Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain.  Reserve bacon drippings separately.
  2. To a heavy bottomed pan add two tablespoons of bacon drippings.
  3. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and cook over medium heat until the vegetables are soft.
  4. Add the flour and whisk thoroughly for a minute or two so the flour is cooked.
  5. Add 1/2 cup of half and half and continue whisking until the gravy has thickened.
  6. Continue adding the half and half in 1/2 cup increments until the gravy has thickened almost to the consistency you want.
  7. Crumble the bacon into the pan and whisk in.
  8. Continue whisking the gravy until it reaches the desired consistency.  Or if the gravy is too thick add a tablespoon or two of half and half and whisk in until the gravy is to your liking.
  9. Taste for salt and pepper and serve immediately.

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Southern Dark Chocolate and Mayo Cake

Yes, I’ve been gone a while.  I can blame it on all manner of events and situations.  I was in the Holy Land…okay, so that accounts for two weeks.  I help my 95-year old father.  THAT is a constant but one that I typically enjoy.  I have tons of yard work.  I truly do and love getting dirt under my fingernails but the fact of the matter is I got tired.  And discouraged.  And my creativity ran dry, Dry, DRY!  However, with summer being firmly ensconced in South Florida, my mind tends to run to hot weather food…and dishes I relished as a child and as a young adult.  Recalling meals I discovered in my early days or travels has me hovering over the butcher block, knife in hand or in front of the oven pulling out a cake pan to test for doneness.  That brings me to this cake.  During my college days in Georgia, I was exposed to all manner of dishes; from brains to cheese grits to chocolate mayonnaise cake.  Made popular in the early 20th century, mayonnaise was the perfect substitute for pricy eggs and milk.  While the Hellman’s company didn’t invent the chocolate mayo cake they most certainly made it popular.  Here in the South, a loved mayonnaise is Duke’s and that’s what I use here.  Keep in mind, you are not including the moisture of butter and milk so, regardless of the brand of mayo you use, do not make the mistake of using non-fat or reduced fat.  You will find this cake to be incredibly moist and tender. It is the stuff of dreams.  Also, if you’re not a fan of dark chocolate, regular unsweetened cocoa may be used in both the cake and the icing and you’ll still have a magnificent work made by your own two, capable hands.  No one will ever mistake this cake for a boxed cake or, even worse, a grocery store cake.  And since mayonnaise is essentially eggs and  vegetable oil there is no tell-tale taste…nothing more than a drop dead, gorgeous, mouth-watering chocolate cake!

Southern Dark Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • shortening to grease pans
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder, Hershey’s makes one and it can be found in the baking section of your grocery store
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 2/3 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup mayonnaise, not fat-free or reduced-fat
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup cold, strong brewed coffee
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Dark Chocolate Frosting
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350°.  Grease, line bottoms with parchment paper and grease the parchment paper three 8-inch cake pans.  Set aside.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, beat at high-speed the eggs and brown sugar for 3-4 minutes.  The mixture will become light in color and fluffy.
  4. Beat in the mayonnaise until just blended.
  5. Add the coffee to the cup of water.
  6. Alternately mix in the flour mixture with coffee-water, beginning and ending with flour mixture.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl in between each addition and do not over beat.
  7. Divide equally between the three prepared pans.  I measure about 15 ounces per pan.
  8. Bake for 20-23 minutes, checking at the 20 minute mark for doneness or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean.
  9. On wire racks, cool for 10 minutes, then remove from pans, peel off parchment paper and place on racks to completely.
  10. Spread Dark Chocolate Frosting or frosting of choice on cake when completely cool.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

Dark Chocolate Frosting

  • Servings: 3 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 2/3 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder, SIFTED.  If the cocoa powder is not sifted you will have lumps that are impossible to get out.
  • 7 tablespoons boiling water, plus more is needed
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups confectioner’s sugar, SIFTED, plus more is needed
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. In a large mixing bowl add cocoa powder and boiling water.  With a wooden spoon, stir by hand until the cocoa and water is smooth and completely combined.
  2. Using an electric beater on low-speed add the softened butter and mix until completely combined
  3. Add the confectioner’s sugar and vanilla and beat on low until most of the sugar has been incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and continue beating on medium until the frosting is smooth.  The longer the frosting is beaten the lighter in color and the more fluffy it becomes.  If it too stiff add hot water one teaspoon at a time.  If the frosting is too loose add more SIFTED confectioner’s sugar one tablespoon at a time.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

 

Deep South Tomato Pie

The end of tomato season is almost tragic.  Not only is this favorite food lying low for four or five months but it’s an obvious sign that summer is over.  Pools are way too cold to dip a toe in.   Cotton nightgowns have been put away and it’s dark out at 6:00 p.m.  I told a friend it makes me feel like Persephone on her way to the underworld.  I hate you, Hades, and your stupid pomegranate, too!  On the upside we have college ball which I’m crazy about.  Plus this is the time of year when Trader Joe’s carries brussel sprouts on the stalk, figs are in season and one can work out outside and not faint from heat stroke.  Tomatoes, though, are not the sweet, juicy apples of love they were just last month.  It’s okay if the last of the tomatoes just don’t have enough flavor because this is the recipe which will make them sing.  Baked with a generous amount of fresh basil and grated cheeses, this pie is heaven served next to a homemade mixed green salad.  Tomato Pie has been around forever in the South and not only makes wise use of the last-of-the-season fruit but is a perennial favorite at baptisms, first communions, funerals, brunches and pot lucks.  I always make two; one for my house and one to give away or take to one of the aforementioned functions.  The pie needs to be enjoyed relatively soon after baking as the bottom will get soggy if it sits around too long, as with any pie.  It can be re-heated but only in the oven.  Heated in a microwave turns this little jewel into a squishy, wet mess.  It’s super easy to prepare and the crust is merely Bisquick and milk mixed together and patted into your pan.  There’s no ice-cold, cubed butter or rolling out involved.  And everybody loves it.  So when you’re craving some ‘maters but Mother Earth has other ideas, try this recipe out.  It won’t let you down and Fall’s injustices will turn into Autumn’s glories!

 

Deep South Tomato Pie

  • Servings: one 9 inch deep dish pie
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 packed cup fresh basil leaves, stacked, rolled and cut into thin ribbons
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup good mayonnaise, Duke’s or Hellman’s
  • about 2 pounds not-so-ripe tomatoes, peeled, sliced and drained on a thick layer of paper towels.  It’s okay if you don’t quite have the 2 pounds but you don’t want more as the ingredients will over flow when the pie is baked.  We’ve all been there!
  • coarsely ground black pepper
  • 2 cups Bisquick
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350° and cover lightly a 9″ pie pan with non-stick spray.  Set aside.
  2. Place cheddar, basil, parmesan and mayonnaise in a medium-sized bowl and mix until completely combined.  Set aside.
  3. While the tomatoes drain on the paper towels, mix the Bisquick with the milk in a medium size bowl until a dough ball has formed.
  4. Dump the dough into the pie pan and lightly grease your hands.  Gently press the dough evenly over the bottom of the dish and all the way up the sides.
  5. Using your fingers or a pastry brush spread the mustard over the pressed pie shell.
  6. Sprinkle tomatoes with the black pepper and layer the tomatoes evenly over the pie shell.
  7. Cover the tomatoes with the cheese mixture and spread evenly.  I find breaking it apart with my hands is easiest.
  8. Bake in the oven for 60-90 minutes until the cheese turns a warm, golden color.
  9. Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes prior to serving to make for easier slicing.

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A Bacon, Lettuce and Fried Green Tomato Sandwich…the Southern BLT

Although the Tar Heels lost their football game on Saturday, Merritt’s is always a win for a BLT.  Our son, James, went back to UNC this past weekend to visit friends, hang out at the house, catch the game and drop by some of his favorite dives he enjoyed during his college days.  Anyone who went  to UNC knows Merritt’s.  Their BLT’s, pimento cheese and sour dough bread are probably known world wide.  Okay, well, if it’s not known world wide then at the very least it’s wildly popular in mid-state North Carolina.  James took us for lunch during one of our first trips to visit him and we flipped over the place.  Merritt’s stacks generous mounds of bacon strips entangled in a crispy, salty jumble.  Added to the sandwiches are juicy slices of ruby red tomatoes and cold, crunchy leaves of lettuce .  All this is bound together with a liberal slather of good mayonnaise on the bread of your choice.  Our mouths drooled while our eyes were wide open with wonderment.  It was the first of many adventures, culinary and otherwise, we shared with James.  In fact, ALL our weekends with him at UNC were sensational.  Our favorite boy was genuinely excited to see us, a marvelous host and a most fun master of ceremonies.  He introduced us to UNC football and basketball games, Parent’s Weekends for both school and fraternity and all the best restaurants on Franklin Street and in Chapel Hill.  We became acquainted with James’ friends and fraternity brothers, shop keepers, bell hops and waiters .  I look back at those days with such happiness and fondness.   Our son is always loving, thoroughly enjoyable and nonjudgemental even the time when Mama may have skirted the boundaries of proper parental behavior.  Yes, there is one Parent’s Weekend that comes to mind.  His fraternity had a cocktail party at the house Friday night.  They had a band set up in the formal room or big hall, I don’t recall the name of the room and I don’t dare call James at his work and ask because he won’t want me to write this and may become slightly irritated with me soooooo… anyway the boys had several kegs tapped and ready to pour and a myriad of handles out; the pledges had spent the day cleaning so the house sparkled.  Everything seemed to be perfect.  The only hitch was the cocktail party started at 11:00…at night.  Gentle Reader, I am IN THE BED at 9p.m. and, more often than not, lights are out at 10:00.  It was tough staying awake that night but no one was going to call me a party pooper.  Oh, hell no.  I had to keep up and keep up I did.  Drink after drink, before dinner, during dinner, after dinner… honey, time we hit that party this girl was LIT.UP.  James gave us a tour of his room, introduced us to more brothers all the while the band played on, cranking out hit after hit and, of course, we kept on sippin’.  Don’t want to let anybody down.  And what a time we had!  James and I danced to song after song reassuring me he’d have plenty of dances later with his gorgeous date after Daddy and I went back to the hotel.

Shaggin’ the night with away with boysie!

 

What a time we had!  While dancing it occurred to me the band sounded incredibly familiar and it turns out I HAD heard the band, Doug Clark and the Hot Nuts, at some party somewhere when I was in college!  It was positively magical.  Until James walked up and shouted in my ear so only I could hear, and these were his exact words, “It’s time to go home, Mama.  C’mon.  Time to go.”  He told me the following morning at the 9:00a.m. Bloody Mary tailgate he realized it was time for me to go when he looked over and saw I was dancing in the corner by myself.  Ouch, that hurts.  But James, prince that he is, has never made fun of me or thrown it back in my face.  No.  He’s quite aware I may get a bit out of hand every now and again…we all do and there’s just no nice reason to be holier than thou.  But, boy, did we have fun.  And I’ll end this story by adding my husband, Jimmy, has never poked fun at me over this.  Nope.  Not a word.

Probably the first time my Yankee husband ever set foot in a frat house. You have to admit though, we had a pretty good time!

Happy Parent’s Weekend everybody.  Hope all of yours are as splendiferous as ours were.  And I expect all of you to explore the towns where your kids are studying, their friends, suitemates, the town folk and all the foods and customs that go with them!

Bacon Lettuce and Fried Green Tomato Sandwich

  • Servings: 2 large sandwiches
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 4 slices bread of your choice, toasting optional
  • 1/2 cup good quality mayonnaise
  • 1-2 tablespoons Sriracha or hot chili sauce of your choice
  • 4 thick, fried green tomato slices.  If you need a recipe type “fried green tomatoes” in the upper right search box.
  • bib lettuce leaves, washed, dried and stem taken out
  • 5 slices thick cut bacon already cooked
  • freshly ground black pepper
  1. Lay out bread slices.
  2. In a small bowl mix mayonnaise and chili sauce until completely mixed.  Add additional chili sauce to taste.
  3. Divide evenly and spread mayo-chili sauce mixture on one side of each slice of bread.
  4. Place one tomato slice on two of the four slices of bread.
  5. Break bacon slices in half, vertically, and arrange 5 pieces on top of the tomato slices.
  6. Carefully place lettuce over the bacon.
  7. Top the lettuce with another slice of tomato and dust with black pepper.
  8. Place the remaining bacon on top of the tomato slice and top that with the second slice of bread.
  9. Gently press down when slicing in half.
  10. Serve immediately.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

Chicken and Cracked Black Pepper Dumplings

There is nothing like a warm, comforting bowl of chicken and dumplings at the end of a long week.  There’s a saying in the South, “Your mama doesn’t really love you if you come home and she doesn’t make you chicken and dumplings!” It’s a special meal, a Sunday dinner dish served in your best china for friends and family alike.  In this world of the hurry-up-and-eat syndrome, chicken and dumplings makes you want to linger at the table and catch up with your nieces and nephews, finding out whom they’re dating, how that weekend in Charleston was or how the internship is working out.  Summer or winter, it matters not as this dish is held in high regard by all.  The dumplings are drop dumplings, light and fluffy, speckles of freshly cracked black pepper riddled throughout and surrounded by a fragrant and savory chicken broth.  Oh, but this is a most satisfying meal!  And guess what?  There’s also a quick method of preparing it.  Yes.  It’s called rotisserie chicken.  This recipe reheats the following day quite well, however, chicken and dumplings don’t freeze well, at least not any I’ve ever made.  I’ve found the wider the pot the dish cooks in the better the dumplings, as a large surface area gives them room to spread and remain tender.  Stewed green beans, collards, baked or fried okra, broccoli and creamed spinach are all delicious sides to serve.  I hope you prepare this classic.  Your family will think you slaved over a hot stove all day and love you all the more for it!

If you choose to use a store-bought rotisserie chicken make certain you purchase either a plain one or a flavor that marries well with the dish, certainly not BBQ or fried.  Pour half of the chicken broth into the pot, add the vegetables and bring to a gentle boil.  While the vegetables cook, shred the chicken by hand.  Add the shredded chicken to the pot once the vegetables are tender and prior to adding the dumpling batter.

Chicken and Cracked Black Pepper Dumplings

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 3 pounds chicken, whole or cut up. If cut up then both white and dark meat, all bone in.
  • 2 quarts chicken broth, divided. I find Publix brand organic, “Greenwise” is fabulous.
  • 1 large onion, peeled
  • 5 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 4 carrots, finely chopped
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-2 tablespoons freshly cracked black pepper
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg, well beaten
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  1. To a large pot add the raw chicken, half the broth and onion.  Cover and bring to a gentle boil.
  2. Leaving the broth in the pot, remove the chicken and set aside to shred when cool enough to handle.
  3. Add the celery and carrots to the pot, cover and cook until tender.
  4. While the vegetables cook shred the cooked chicken or rotisserie chicken. Discard bones, skin and any fat.
  5. In a medium size bowl add the flour, pepper, baking powder and salt and mix well so all ingredients are thoroughly combined.
  6. In a separate bowl combine buttermilk, egg and butter mixing well.
  7. Return the shredded chicken to the pot.
  8. Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and stir to combine.  The batter will be thick and very stiff.  Any unmixed flour will be included in the pot.
  9. Using a soup spoon, drop spoonfuls of batter into the pot each roughly 3″ in diameter.  Add any flour bits to the pot as they will thicken the broth.
  10. Gently pour remaining broth over the dumplings, cover and allow to simmer 10-15 minutes.
  11. Remove from heat, uncover and let cool 5-10 minutes prior to serving.

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Deep South Co-Cola Cake

This past weekend was the annual oratorical competition for the regional at Saint Demetrios church here in Fort Lauderdale.  Middle schoolers and high schoolers from Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Louisiana, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi came for the weekend each hoping to take home the gold, a chance at the national competition to be held this June in Boston.  Although it is voluntary, “the oratorical” was a mandatory exercise for our son James; mean, demanding parents that we are.  But James did well.  Extremely well and, I have to say, the competition certainly honed James’ public speaking skills.  To this day he has no self-doubts, fears or hesitation taking a microphone and making a presentation in front of any one, no matter the number of people gathered.  Representing the southeast region, James competed the last three years of high school traveling to New Orleans, Knoxville and Clearwater.  It was in Clearwater, his senior year, that I met a girl who made such an impression on me.  We were drawn to each other like magnets and the more we talked the more we found in common with each other.  Her name was Harriet, born and raised in Rome, Georgia, a sassy, stunning Southern belle through and through.  At the Saturday night celebratory dinner in Clearwater, I invited the moms at our table for a late night drinking and gab fest in the lobby of the hotel where all of us were staying.  Any mom could join us the only caveat being was you had to wear your pajamas and bring your own hooch, every Southern girl’s dream.  The kids all knew each other, the Greek network is positively astounding, and had planned a midnight pool party.  Sippin’ and sassin’ in the lobby also allowed us to keep one eye on the kids.  It goes without saying, we had a blast!  All of us tried to outdo the others with tales of our husbands and children.  We screamed and cackled with laughter until tears came out of our eyes.  At some ungodly hour the bottles of booze were empty and we all stumbled back to our rooms but not before Harriet and I exchanged emails and cell numbers.  By then we were solid, blood sisters.  Back in our home towns we texted and emailed frequently, learning about each other and liking each other more and more.  She lived in Warren, Georgia, a rural town, with her husband and two hunky sons on a working farm.  They had a lake or stream where the boys brought home tons of freshly caught fish all neatly strung waiting for Harriet to fry ’em up.  Harriet’s role on the farm besides wife and mom was raising baby lambs.  All this was straight up my alley but this was the clincher…she, also, had a blog.  We gave each other shout outs on our posts, commiserated one with the other frustrations we encountered,  encouraged and  supported the habit of daily writing .  We shared intimacies only lifelong friends divulge.  Serious stuff.  And we laughed.  Boy, did we laugh.  Harriet had been published several times in different local publications, her forte being daily life in rural Georgia.  I recall one Thanksgiving article she wrote dealt with the most shameful fact that she, the only living Southern woman, could not, to save her life, make gravy.  She crept into the local Piggly Wiggly, surreptitiously grabbed a couple of jars of ready made gravy and casually ambled up to the check out line.  Her heart was pounding like a rabbit on crack as she looked around to see if anyone she knew had seen her.  Didn’t matter.  She knew she was dead meat…small town like Warren an’ all.  Sure enough, the jars wouldn’t scan.  The sweet check out girl took one look at them and asked, “Miz Jacobs, you shore you wont that gravy stuff in the jar?  Whah don’ chew jes make it?”  In spite of Harriet’s protests the check out girl reassured her saying, “Now don’t chew worry, Miz Jacobs, ah kin git that price fir ya.”  Harriet hissed, “No!  No!  Ah don’t wont it!  Stop!  It’s okay.  Ah don’t wont it.”  Too late.  BobbySue, the check out girl was on the microphone an’ you know what she was sayin’.  “Price check own aisle 4.  Ah don’ know wah, but Miz Jacobs wonts some a that store bought gravy an’ ah don tole ‘er is B-A-D, bad but she wonts it so could somebody puhleeze check the price?”  The manager replied on HIS microphone, “Miz Jacobs wonts that? Joo tell ‘er it ain’t as good as homemade?  Wale, okay…ah guess.  Tell ‘er tuh hang own an’ ahl check.”  Harriet and I howled with laughter.  “Oh, my stars! Whad joo do?”, I asked.  “Ah jes threw some money down, grabbed the gravy and ran.  I had to have gravy fer Thanksgiving!  My boys get hungry an’ wont all the fixin’s!”  Oh, my goodness, but that girl could tell a story.  Tragically, she died in the Fall of 2014 and I miss her terribly, as I would blood.  I still cry for her in the privacy of my bathroom, where I do my best crying.  I wasn’t able to attend the kid’s presentations at the oratorical competition yesterday.  Brings back too many memories.  But I made this cake.  An old-fashioned, Southern, country cake, sinfully sweet made in her honor.  Meanwhile, Harriet, I know you’re in heaven showin’ everybody just how Southern sassy’s done!

This is probably the sweetest cake I’ve EVER tasted!  Consequently, a little goes a long way.  All the recipes I have call for 2 cups of sugar.  I cut it back to 1 1/2 cups.  Also, most of the recipes list 1 1/2 cups of miniature marshmallows to be mixed into the batter.  I’m not a fan of marshmallows so, like Cracker Barrel, I chose to spread Marshmallow Fluff over the still hot out of the oven cake followed by a chocolate coca cola frosting.  Some recipes call for a scattering of toasted, chopped pecans either in the cake batter or on the icing and I happen to embrace this idea.  The savory pecans offset the wallop of sweetness each bite delivers.  It’s best to let the cake cool for a few hours prior to serving so that the icing can set.  Wrapped tightly with tin foil and left in the pan, this cake will keep for a good 3-4 days out of the refrigerator.

Deep South Co-Cola Cake

  • Servings: 15-20
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup Coke
  • 1/2 cup whole buttermilk
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 7-ounce jar Marshmallow Fluff

Second icing:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa
  • 6 tablespoons Coke
  • 4 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Cover a 9×13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 350°.
  3. Toast chopped pecans in oven for 7-10 minutes and set aside.
  4. Pour flour and sugar in a medium size bowl and sift together.  Set aside.
  5. In a heavy bottom pot melt the butter then add the cocoa powder and Coke and bring to a boil stirring well.  Take off the heat.
  6. To the pot add the flour sugar mixture and stir well.
  7. Add the buttermilk, eggs, baking soda and vanilla extract mixing thoroughly until all ingredients are combined and the mixture is smooth.
  8. Pour into the prepared baking dish and bake for 30-35 minutes until the middle of the cake springs back when touched.
  9. Remove the cake from the oven and, using all the Marshmallow Fluff, immediately drop four or five dollops (the entire jar) on the top of the hot cake.
  10. With a spatula or the back of a spoon gently spread the Fluff taking cake not to tear the cake.
  11. While the cake and topping cool a bit, prepare the second icing.
  12. In a medium saucepan melt the butter and add the cocoa and Coke.  Stir until completely combined.
  13. Remove from the heat and add the confectioners sugar and vanilla extract to the pot.
  14. Mix until smooth and there are no lumps.
  15. Spoon the icing over the Marshmallow Fluff stirring the icing all the while.
  16. Allow the cake to cool at least 2-3 hours before serving to allow the cake and icings to set.

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