When I go out and meet people socially, the icebreaker question (after "How are you doing today?") is "What do you do?"
Most often, I begin to answer this question with a sigh and a languid gaze to the ceiling. How do I tell these people "what I do?" I'm still trying to figure out how to make my answer short and sweet. I'm a chef, a writer, a butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker? Did mention the cooking classes. Oh, how about the catering?
All of that is my personal hang-up. I'm sure I can tell a captivating story about myself that will make people want to gather 'round the fireplace with mugs of brandy or buttered tea.
This prompts one of two responses:
a) the person wants to tell me about the last dinner they prepared and how good it tasted.
b) the person wants to tell me about a restaurant where they ate "amazing fried chicken."
It's always fried chicken. Never marinated tofu, Brussels sprouts, or baked fish with herb jus lie. ALWAYS fried chicken.
Also, people ask me what my favorite foods are or what my specialty is.
"Did you just not hear my litany of jobs? I do and make EVERYTHING." Nothing is off-limits. But when it comes to the end of the day and I look at my bare fridge (even though I have 7 different types of cheeses and no bread or crackers in sight) I revert back to my roots.
You know what it is...
It's been pretty lean around here (most everywhere else, I imagine) and the simpler the better is my mantra these days. I don't do one-pot meals, generally. I'm too modest to prepare expensive, luxurious food items right now. Sorry, porterhouse steaks! I'll see you later, escargot!
So here we have it: Black beans, fried chicken, and cornbread.
Normally, I'd prepare a pot of pinto beans complete with ham, bacon, and some smoked turkey wings. It's the cassoulet of the Southeastern U.S. But I didn't make them this time. Christy at Southern Plate did. Please check her out!
Someone gave me a bag of dried black beans and a bag of chicken wing flats (the part of the wing that isn't the drum). How frugal can you NOT be when people are GIVING away food?!
Once again, no real recipe here.
Nikki's Black Beans
Two 1lb bags, black beans
2 cups red onion, chopped
1 cup carrots, grated
1 cup celery, diced small
6 oz smoked ham, lower sodium
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp white vinegar
Whole and ground cumin
I soaked the black beans overnight (12-15 hours, approximately) and rinsed them throughly before adding them to a large stock pot. I added 10 cups of water and put the beans on high. While the beans were beginning to cook, I cooked the mirepoix (celery, carrots, onions) with the butter until everything was soft and translucent.
To this, I added the white vinegar, and a few dashes here and there of the oregano, thyme, and cumin. I used whole seeds and freshly ground cumin. I added this mixture to the now simmering beans and stirred. I let the pot cook for an hour. I added more oregano, thyme and cumin after tasting a few of the beans.
I also added salt. How much salt? I don't know. Maybe 1/4 cup, a small palmful. And my hands are not that big. After another hour, the water had been cooked away and the beans were thick and flavorful.
You'll be seeing these beans later on in the week. I hope you're impressed...Stay tuned.
adapted from myself & Sunny Anderson
2 cups orange juice
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 lbs chicken wing pieces
3 Tbsp Sriracha Hot Sauce
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
Canola oil, for frying
In a large bowl, whisk together orange juice and vinegar until combined. Add chicken pieces and enough water to coat and soak 1 hour in the refrigerator. Chicken should be completely submerged in mixture.
In a large pot, heat oil until a deep-fry thermometer reaches 325 degrees F. Line a sheet tray with paper towels and/or a wire rack.
In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, Sriracha and black pepper. In a plastic container (like Tupperware), put a lid on and shake together flour and cornstarch. Drain chicken from brine and dip in batches first in egg mixture then shake in flour mixture to coat. Set on wire rack to let coating sit for 10 minutes to set. In 2 batches, fry chicken until golden brown cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces. Remove from oil to drain on paper towel-lined sheet pan.
One more time. Mmmm!
Nikki's Grandma's Cornbread
4 Tbsp butter, cold
1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
1 cup fresh corn kernels
water, as needed
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Put butter in a cast-iron skillet and place in the oven. Combine the cornmeal and flour, then mix in the egg and milk. Add water slowly, until the mixture is pourable (like thick pancake batter). Stir in the corn kernels. Take the hot pan from the oven, pour some of the melted butter into the batter, then pour the batter into the hot pan. Place back in the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the outer crust is golden brown. Serve hot, with whole, cold butter.