June 9, 2012

Creation and Chicken

Creation is often not a straight forward proposition. Curves and about-face movements abound. Even momentum changes as things come together or get stuck for awhile. This cookbook started out quite a few years ago as a way for me to handle my grief after the death of my father.

I come from a large family and have always loved to cook and bake. Somehow it seemed that putting together a collection of recipes from the time when life seemed simpler seemed simple, too. I wanted to gather the flavors and favorites from when my siblings and I were all living under one roof instead of scattered around the country like thistledown after a good wind.

 Everyone was asked to contribute recipes or ask for what foods they would like included. Ten months or so later, with lots of help from Mom and siblings, I gave each one a spiral bound copy of the cookbook. It was typewritten, black and white, and since I had neglected to check my manuscript before giving it to the printer, the index page was missing. The response was underwhelming but I think that is because most of us were still trying to get used to a world without Dad and a family reunion without him was a very strange affair. Perhaps I should have chosen a different time...

Years later my brother made sure that an index was included in the Internet version of the cookbook and years after that I discovered that the original cookbook had been put to good use by many in the family. Some were actually in tatters. Time for new copies to be printed. Unfortunately the original manuscript had gone into hiding. Fortunately I had just finished a class in InDesign, a page layout program which is just perfect for creating books.

For the previous 12 years I had earned a Graphic Arts certificate and worked in the field for a while, plus spent over 6 years writing a food blog at Feeding My Enthusiasms (and, for a short while at The Bread Bakers' Dog during the height of my obsession with baking bread). I had taken hundreds and hundreds of photos of food for the blog, too. After a few false starts I began to design a cookbook based on that original family food cookbook but this time I not only included an index, but also added new recipes, gave some updates to a few others and corrections to others. Stories were added and the seasonal organization of the first gave way to a more traditional organization. Best of all I added lots of gorgeous photos of food! Not every recipe has a photo of the finished dish but many do.

So why should you care if you are not a member of my family? Well, you might be interested because many of the recipes are a sort of window into how a large family ate in the mid-century of the 1900s. You might want to have some good recipes for foods like Waffles and Creamed Corn and Hush Puppies and Sugar Cookies. You might want to feast your eyes of photos of things like Oven Fried Chicken or Chocolate Cake that will make you want to forget your diet and cook them right away so you can crunch into that perfect golden crispy skin or lick a bit of the deep dark chocolate icing from your finger. Maybe you don't know how to make that perfect comfort food - Chicken and Dumplings. Now you will. Perhaps you collect small cookbooks with great recipes...it doesn't really matter. If you love cookbooks you will love this one.

My bet is that you will enjoy what you find inside, especially if you are having your family return to a shared meal at dinner time, or want to. We always knew that we were expected home for dinner and there is a lot to be said for sharing that meal time with your family. It builds a cohesiveness. The bonds we made are still felt even though the distances in miles that separate us have made it difficult to be together as a family as often as we would like.

Here is a link in case you are intersted in purchasing a copy:
So, just to give you your first taste of my kind of comfort food, here is the Oven Fried Chicken recipe, straight from the book. Many fried chicken recipes tell you to do all of the cooking in the oil on the stove top. This one is different because you do the initial frying on the stove top, but then put the chicken on a rack in the oven to finish up. While in the oven the chicken releases some of its remaining fat from the skin while retaining the juices within. You end up with crispy, moist irresistible chicken that tastes wonderful hot or cold. I don't cook this dish very often but I'm always glad when I do.

Oven Baked Fried Chicken

1 cup flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 frying chicken, cut into 8 pieces
Vegetable oil for frying

In a deep dish or pie pan stir together the flour, salt, pepper and poultry seasoning. Coat chicken in the flour mixture, shake off excess and set aside on a piece of waxed paper.

Heat oil (1 inch deep) in deep frying pan or chicken fryer until oil is quite hot (350-3750). Brown chicken a few pieces at a time. Place on cooling rack set in a cookie sheet with sides.

When all pieces are brown, finish cooking chicken in 3250 oven until tender (about 20 minutes more).