My ______ would be so proud, I finally make great ______.
Grandmother, fried chicken.
Fried Chicken and cream gravy (aka white gravy, milk gravy)
1 fryer, cut up
Louisiana/Crystal/Durkee's style hot sauce
juice of 1 lemon
oil or lard for frying - depth of roughly 1/4" in cast iron skillet(s)
Milk (for gravy)
Rinse chicken, place in freezer bag or large bowl. Add roughly 1/2 cup hot sauce, plus lemon juice and seasonings to taste (but go a little heavy on all), turning to coat. Marinate, covered, for at least an hour, 30 of that on the counter, bringing up to room temperature.
Meanwhile, mix roughly a cup and a half flour for dredging with more garlic powder, salt, cayenne and black pepper, again to taste but going a bit heavy. Shake excess marinade off of chicken, dredge in flour mixture and place on wire rack. Allow all pieces to sit on rack while you bring your oil/lard up to medium high heat. Starting with thighs, drums then breasts and wings, dredge and shake off excess flour one more time if the chicken pieces are moist. (May or may not be necessary due to your kitchen conditions.)
Fry in medium-hot oil until lightly golden browned on each side, roughly 5-6 minutes each side. Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking and turning to brown evenly for about another 10 minutes. Finally, reduce heat to low if your chicken is getting too browned and finish cooking for about 10 more minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the meatiest part of thigh and breast registers about 160. Remove to warmed oven while you make gravy.
For gravy, pour off excess grease, leaving about 3T of drippings/crunchy pieces. Add equal amount of flour (I use the excess from dredging the chicken and I swear you will not die from it, I promise!), plus a heavy hand with cracked black pepper and salt. Whisk while cooking over medium-high heat, 3 or 4 minutes, adding roughly 2 1/2 cups milk all at once. Reduce heat to low if using cast iron, medium low if anything else, and continue to stir occasionally with a whip until thickened. Adjust seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. (Cream gravy should be peppery, so I find a mix of fresh cracked pepper plus plain grocery-store ground pepper works perfectly. Don't be tempted to use white pepper - the black pepper is.. well, necessary.)
I realize this is the simplest of comfort food, but it was a revelation to be able to turn out juicy, golden brown, perfectly seasoned food of my youth. (Incidentally, if you are spice averse, this is more gently flavored than you'd think, but you will get a bit of crust here and there which has a bit of kick.)
Grandmother, roast turkey soup.
My revelation came from realizing that, instead of needing to have pan drippings from a whole roast turkey, I could roast turkey necks instead to get an equally deep and delicious flavor.
Roasted Turkey Soup
3 large turkey necks, skin removed
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. Smith & Truslow poultry rub
1 1/2 quarts (6 cups) water
3 ribs celery, diced
2 large carrots, diced
1 medium parsnip, diced
8 oz. chanterelle mushrooms, cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 a medium-sized green cabbage, cut into 1" squares
1 tsp. kosher salt (or to taste)
5 oz. medium-width egg noodles
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Place turkey necks on a foil-lined sheet pan.
2. Drizzle the turkey necks with olive oil, then sprinkle liberally with poultry rub. Use your hands to rub the blend evenly into the surface of the turkey necks.
3. Place pan in oven, roasting necks for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until nicely browned and cooked through.
4. Place the turkey necks in a medium-sized dutch oven (mine is 4.5 quarts). Add the water, then bring up to a simmer over medium heat. Turn heat down to low and let simmer for an hour and a half.
5. Remove turkey necks from the pot and add the celery, carrots, parsnip, chanterelle mushrooms, cabbage, and salt. Let simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.
6. While the vegetables are simmering, remove the meat from the turkey necks and chop it up if any pieces are larger than bite-size. Discard bones and add the meat back to the pot.
7. When the vegetables are cooked through, add the egg noodles to the pot and let simmer about 7 minutes, or until cooked through.
8. Season to taste, adding a pinch more salt if desired, then ladle into bowls and serve.
Daddy. Although we were so very fortunate, that I did have the opportunity to make them for him in his lifetime. He enjoyed reminiscing about his childhood, when they would have contests to see who could eat the most in one sitting.
The dish is Szilvas Gomboc (Hungarian plum dumplings). I make it once a year, when the plums are in season. Nowadays, with modern transportation and whatnot, I'm sure I could get the same ingredients year-round, but making them in season makes them special.
Here is one good recipe that is similar to how I make them. Like most classics, though, the texture of the dough is more a question of “feel” than exact measurements. Warning: They’re pretty much irresistible. If you decide to make them, be ready for wholesale quantities.
These knödel are made with Italian plums, which come into season toward the end of the summer. If you want to make them at another time of year, you can make them with apricots, in which case they will be an Austrian dish called “marillenknödel.”
Grandmother, dressing. It was the first year that I truly dedicated myself to making a dressing for the turkey, after years of eating the boyfriend's family's version. I was mixing in the last of the sage, and the smell rose up out of the stockpot, I realized that I had managed to make my own grandmother's dressing. I remember I whispered her name (she passed away years ago), and I cried a little. It was a nice cry though, and a wonderful batch of dressing. It made my Thanksgiving, and now I always look forward to that part of that hectic morning. It's like my holiday touchstone.
Mom...piecrust. Thanks at looong last to the CI vodka crust recipe. She'd get the fantods if I told her that I put vodka in it (WHY? when it's so easy to make?). Now, if I could get my rolling out in a circle not resembling a map of China or Hello Kitty's face down, I'd be satisfied.
My mother would be so glad I finally make great scallops.
My mother got into Julia Child when I was in college, and she sent me a copy of The French Chef Cookbook, from which we cooked Coquilles St. Jacques over the phone together one night (as best we could in the pre-speakerphone era). I didn't have white wine, so I used red, and of course the whole thing turned a shade of purple I have only ever been able to replicate once, when I made a raspberry souffle.
And of course, it became a big joke in my family.
I've been cooking scallops lately, inspired by a recipe in Rozanne Gold's Radically Simple. I've sauteed them, using various combinations of herbs, (white) wine, lemon, lime, garlic, butter and olive oil. They've been perfect every time. I haven't made Coquilles St. Jacques again, though, lately. I guess I ought to.
re: Jay F
Great imagery, and now I'm hungry. Your attempt reminded me of the Christmas Eve my mom made an incredibly decadent seafood gumbo in her cast iron dutch oven for a late, after-mass supper. But something reacted with the pot, turning the entire dish this sickly gray/black, leaving the flavor unaffected. We ate in front of the fireplace... but not so close as to illuminate the gumbo more than necessary.