I can't seem to do anything but throw things in the crockpot lately. My momma was talking about a neighbor of hers making white beans with ham and potatoes. I thought that sounded pretty good, but we are trying to eat a little better. It is the first of the year after all, and I have set a goal of running the Disney half marathon this coming January. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not currently in what I would refer to as running shape. I asked several friends to join me, and the most popular answer has been "I only run if something is chasing me." So, this particular dish has chicken sausage in hopes that it will somehow get us both in a little better shape...a shape that is less round. I put the sausage, white beans, carrots, potatoes, hot sauce, pepper, and garlic in the crockpot with a little chicken broth and water to cover. About an hour before I served it, I added spinach. This was actually pretty good, if I do say so myself. It was more of a soup than I was aiming for, but it works. If you are not in training and can stand the splurge, I would probably use regular sausage. I think I will use just regular chicken next time.
I feel like I have been making a lot of soups lately. It's hard to get motivated to cook a lot of meals these days, so I rely a lot on soup. Now, I did make this from scratch. It was pretty easy. I wasn't completely satisfied with it. It tasted a little too much like the water from our sink. I even altered the recipe a little and cheated with a can of cream of chicken soup. My husband and momma both loved it. I found it mediocre, and I'm really not that tough of a critic. I tried cooking the rice in the chicken broth made from boiling a couple of bone-in chicken breasts. For some reason, that didn't work as well as I would have liked. It was in the recipe however. I think it needed more hot sauce. I'm not one of these hot sauce addicts, but sometimes you need a little spice. The proper Southern baby girl took a tiny taste of one of the carrots. She was not impressed. Overall, I would make this again although I think chicken and dumplings are the best.
Even though the weather warmed up a bit this week, I felt the need to make one of my favorite comfort foods. I did not make my momma's version, even though she makes a mean chicken and dumplings. She typically just uses chicken breast, and I wanted to use the whole chicken and make the broth. She uses Cream of Chicken soup to add to the broth, and I wanted to see if I could do it the way they did before Campbell invented cream soup. The first step was to boil a whole chicken, fat and all. Please don't buy a skinless chicken for this recipe. Basically, I stuck the chicken in the pot and covered it with water and added poultry seasoning, salt, pepper, garlic salt, and parsley. I let the chicken boil for almost two hours. This led to a bit of difficulty in removing the chicken from the broth. It fell completely apart. I strained the broth from the chicken, saving the broth of course. I let the chicken cool a little and then pulled the meat from the bone. Then, it is time to make the dumplings. My momma typically uses self rising flour and cold water. I think I prefer this style best. I tried something a little different. I mixed together 2 cups of self rising flour with 1/2 cup skim milk, a 1/4 cup of oil, and an egg. Then I patted the dough out by hand and cut the dumplings and added to the boiling broth and chicken. I let the mixture boil for about 15 minutes. Do not mix the dumplings before they have cooked. They break apart, if you didn't know. This version was softer than my momma's. They still tasted pretty good, because the broth was excellent. My husband said it was more like something his mom made, so he was a fan. Just make sure you add plenty of pepper. Chicken and dumplings are nothing without pepper.
My sister said that my mom was the one who told her to add water to hot grease. When my sister said, "Didn't you tell me that Momma?" Our mother replied, "Oh no, that sounds dangerous." So, my advice is definitely do not add water to hot grease while frying chicken. I may revisit fried chicken another day down the road, but for now I am over it.
I'm beginning to find fried chicken disgusting. This is probably good for my waistline. Still, I had to give my sister's interpretation of my grandmother's process of frying chicken a try. I do think I am learning to manage the oil temperature, which everyone has said is the key. This was much better. My husband insists that soaking the chicken in salt water is scientifically sound. He said something about the salt water getting hotter and some other things that were pertinent but which I cannot currently recall. I have included a photo of the finished product and of me adding the water to the hot grease. Taking a photo with one hand and adding water with the other is a cooking safety violation, I'm certain. I don't know what my husband was doing, but he disappeared when I started adding the water. I'm not sure that adding water to hot grease is for everyone. I might just keep the oil on medium, although I needed to keep it hotter a little longer. I don't feel that the chicken browned quite as it should. I may be trying one more version of my grandmother's recipe. I have an aunt who may know the secrets. This will possibly confirm what my sister has said about the process. I'll let you know.
Also, I have had a request to examine sweet tea next. If you have family recipes or hints on how to make real Southern sweet tea, let me know.
I've added a link to Milo's Sweet Tea. It is the best you can buy at the grocery store.
My sister's chicken looked and tasted so much better than anything I had cooked. It was boneless chicken, so I suspect that is considered cheating. Very good, cheating or not. She uses skinless chicken, and I think I vaguely recall Grandma's chicken being skinless. Then, she soaks it in salt water overnight. She coats the chicken in flour. No need for salt, since it has absorbed enough while soaking. Again, the temperature of the grease is important. She was cooking on medium on her gas stove. After the chicken was brown, she put a little water in the grease to cool it down. She says that Grandma did that and it makes the chicken tender. I'm going to give this a try with the chicken I have left from the first try. I do predict tremendous popping and possible pain as I add water to hot grease. My sister didn't have that, but I tend to injure myself while cooking. I am also including a photo of the cake my nephew decorated for my brother-in-law's birthday, because he is a little genius and center of our universe. The evening ended with an indoor baseball game. I have rug burn on my knee from trying to get my nephew's Grandma out at the first base sock. I got her out...no mercy. I also punched my husband in the stomach, while getting him out at second base sock. My nephew is going to have quite the advantage when he starts t-ball. I just hope he doesn't punch anyone. Other parents don't approve of tackle baseball.
My house still smells like burned chicken. I will even go so far as to call it burnt chicken, which I believe to be worse. I'm wondering, if I cook salmon patties, will the smells combat one another and disappear. Of course, they could combine and create a super smell that would require a Hazmat team to be summoned. Also, my sister informed me today that she knows the secret to frying chicken like our Grandma Leona. She said she overheard people saying this and that about how Grandma cooked chicken. I do not know where I was when whoever these people are were talking about this. I suspect either a television was on or I was trying to figure out where the pie was. Anyway, she is going to show me the secrets on Monday, and I will let you know how that goes.
I thought that frying chicken would be a good place to start, but it almost cost me my life. I had gone to the grocery store to pick up the ingredients, and a woman in a truck almost backed over me. I had to jump back, which was no small feat with the giant pieces of chicken I had bought. I would be upset if I had not come to expect it at every shopping center in America. Today I tried the recipe of one of my friends from Tennessee. She is quite a good cook, and I am often a disappointment to her in this realm.
So I start by seasoning the chicken, forgetting that I need to dip it in buttermilk. I backtrack and reread the advice she has given. She said that the temperature of the oil was very important. I got it good and hot. I truly excelled at that part. The first photo shows you the result. I'm not certain I've burned anything quite that bad, except for the marshmallows that I purposely catch on fire. Grease popped and smoke filled the kitchen. We determined the first trial to be less than edible. The cats didn't even show an interest, and they love chicken. The second try turned out a little better. The crust was crispy and very pretty. It was edible. I do wish that I could say the same about the inside. I would call it medium rather than medium rare. We are still waiting to see if our health will be affected. I'm not certain that my husband will be ready for try number two, but we must proceed forward. Next is my mom's recipe and advice.