Sunday, October 24, 2010

Fall Comfort Food

E and i are on vacation! that's right, 10 whole days of sleeping, eating, reading, napping, snacking, drinking, hiking, napping, drinking, eating, and sleeping with some family quality time thrown in. did i mention we would be sleeping and napping? pure heaven i tell you. in fact, this is our current front porch view.

ok, maybe i should back up a little. friday am, we packed up the car and directed the car south. after 7 1/2 hours of driving, napping, eating, and stopping later we were welcomed by AJ and UG to their beautiful mountain house in NC. wait, stop! "what did you eat on the drive down?" you ask. well, we had some fall comfort food as i like to call it. i figured as we were enjoying the sights of fall and the changing colors of the trees, we could be eating some of fall's bounty as well.

hours 1-7 of driving

one of the best things about road trips is eating junk food. driving long distances gives you a good excuse to stop and eat the only thing one can find on the open road - fast food and gas station food. i am too ashamed to admit what some of my favorites are but in an effort to "get there" as E says, i packed us up some good eats so the only stopping we would be doing was for loo breaks and gas.

fried chicken is one of my all-time favorite comfort foods. this dates way back to my early childhood and more specifically, Emma.

Emma was my grandparents housekeeper at meadowvale for as long as i can remember. but she wasn't just that, she was/still is family. when mommom's mind was taken by the thief we call alzheimers, Emma stepped in and took care of the 3 grandchildren like a grandmother would. she loved us, looked after us, and even made her unparalleled fried chicken and sweet potato pie for us. hers was fried chicken like no other and although i don't know her recipe or technique i do know she let the chicken sit in buttermilk overnight.

so, i did the same. then came a dip into flour, followed by a dip in egg and another dip in flour. i fried those beautiful skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs in peanut oil until golden brown on each side and then baked them in a 375 degree F oven for 20 minutes. now hot, crispy, fresh-out-of-the-oven chicken is my favorite, but E convinced me cold fried chicken was delicious as well. turns out, he was right, its not quite as crispy but it did still manage to have a crunch to it and we gobbled it down somewhere between JMU (go dukes!) and roanoke, va on 81 south.

we also had bite-sized apple cornbread and garlic kale chips. both the apples and the kale were farmers market finds and remind me of fall. the apple cornbread was yummy but we both agree it tasted even better the next morning toasted with a slathering of butter. crispy edges and buttery top make it out of the world.

the kale chips were massaged with garlic gold olive oil and sprinkled with garlic gold nuggets and pepper. a slow dehydration in the oven at 200 degrees F for 2 hours made them perfectly light, airy, and crispy.

as fate would have it, our evening would end with another Emma favorite - sweet potato pie. when we arrived in the mountains, we had a wonderful dinner with family and friends of shrimp etouffee over basmati rice with crusty bread and a spinach salad. a friend brought over some southern sweet potato pie for dessert. (i have asked her to get the recipe out of the baker if they are willing to part with it - stay tuned.) a dollop of whipped cream on top was the perfect finishing touch to our fall comfort food day.

i couldn't help but think of Emma all day today. a visit to my dear adopted grandmother will be at the top of my to do list when i return home. i hope to get her fried chicken and sweet potato pie recipes out of her as well:)

Apple Cornbread

1 cup corn meal
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 apple, peeled, cored, and chopped fine

preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

mix together eggs, milk, butter, and honey. add dry ingredients and stir well to combine. fold in chopped apples and pour into a 8x8 baking dish.

bake for 20-25 minutes until edges are golden brown and middle is cooked through. a toothpick should come out clean. remove from oven and let cool completely before cutting.

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