Saturday, November 27, 2010

Chicken and Dressing Skillet Bake

This one's a winner, folks.  No, really!  When Sue Gulledge entered this recipe in the 1997 National Cornbread Festival, she took home first prize for the year.  And I can see why - the taste of good ol' fashioned cornbread dressing, but some of the work has been cut out for you.  Granted, it's not quite the same texture as that famed dish, but it certainly hits the spot.

Chicken and Dressing Skillet Bake
Yields 6 servings

1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped onion
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon oil (I used canola)
2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten
1 (8.5 oz) can cream-style corn (I couldn't find one this small, so I used 2/3 of a regular can)
2 cups self-rising corn meal mix
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
3 cups chopped cooked chicken, seasoned with salt and pepper (or shred a rotisserie chicken like I did)

  Start off by preheating your oven to 450°F.  On the stove, put a 10 1/4 inch cast iron pan on medium heat.  Melt the butter in the pan, and cook the celery and onion for about 10 minutes, or until they are tender.  Pour the cooked vegetables and butter drippings into a large mixing bowl and set the bowl aside.  Pour the oil into the skillet and put it into the oven to heat up - 5 minutes.

  Return to the mixing bowl with the celery and onions.  Add in the rest of the ingredients.  Stir until everything is well mixed.  Take the skillet from the oven, and carefully pour the cornbread batter into the hot skillet.  Return to the oven and bake for 25-35 minutes, or until the cornbread is golden brown.  Split the cornbread into 6 wedges.  If you want to, you can garnish with fresh sage and top with chicken gravy.  I thought the cornbread was pretty darn good as is, but some people enjoy their gravy, too.  

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Kitchen 101: Seeding a Pomegranate

  It was in Mrs. C's 7th grade reading class I had first heard of this 'exotic' thing, the pomegranate.  We were studying Greek mythology.  There's a story that explains the change of seasons - it had all the elements of a good read: a mother whose love transcends everything, a dark stranger, forbidden desire, and food.  Well, okay, maybe it wasn't a stellar read by our standards, but it stirred base emotions.  Demeter, goddess of fertility and vegetation had this beautiful daughter, Persephone.  Now we all know, that's a curse of doom for women - the Greek gods just could not resist a good lookin' woman.  Many tried to court Persephone, but Demeter didn't think any of them were good enough for her girl.  No sir.  None of 'em.  So, Demeter hid her off and left her picking flowers in the meadow, oblivious and innocent.  Bam!  The earth opened up and Hades, god of the underworld, erupted forth on his chariot, stealing away Persephone.  Demeter launched a full-scale search, and in her anger and sadness, the crops withered.  Eventually, Zeus grew tired of the mortals' cries of hunger and sent Hermes to fetch Persephone from Hades.  Wouldn't you know it?  Persephone had gotten hungry herself, and Hades tricked her into eating seeds from the pomegranate.  While she would return to her mother, she would come back to reside with Hades a month for each seed she ate, giving the world seasons.   Interesting story, but no way I could just pop a few seeds and be satisfied.  Poor girl must have been a twig.

  Pomegranates are an intriguing fruit - you eat the seeds, better known as arils.  They pop with a tangy, sweet and sour juice.  To harvest the arils, be prepared for some tricky business - but there is a way to do it with minimum fuss.

You'll need a cutting board, knife, a big bowl filled with water, colander, and some paper towels.

  Start off by finding the crown, the part of the fruit that looks like Jughead's hat.  Trim off the top 1/2 inch.  You will get a little juice spurting out on the cutting board.  Turn the pomegranate around, and trim off the bottom 1/2 inch.  You'll see parts of the aril pockets hidden inside the white pithy insides.  Take the knife and score sections all around the fruit, going from top to bottom.  Put the scored pomegranate in the bowl of water, and carefully start pulling the fruit apart, working underwater. 

Here's my pom after I pulled it into two halves.

 Working with a section at a time, take your fingers and work out the arils from the white part, again in the water bowl.  You'll see the white pith float to the top and the arils will sink to the bottom.  After you've freed all the arils, skim the top with a spoon or just pick out the stuff that's floating.  Pour the water and arils into your colander to drain.  Spread them out onto paper towels to dry a bit.  Move them to a plastic container, topped with a paper towel and seal.  Stash in the refrigerator, and these lil' rubies should last for 7-10 days.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Pumpkin Pie Spice

  Some of you out there are taking inventory of your spice racks, making lists to prepare for the holidays.  If you've got these four spices, don't shell out for pumpkin pie spice.

Pumpkin Pie Spice
Yields 1 teaspoon

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Mix together and use wherever pumpkin pie spice is called for.