Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Derby Time Makes Us Crave the Southern Classics

The Secret to Really Good Oven-Fried Chicken, Collard Greens and Pecan Pie

We all know and love the term, “Spring is in the air,” but imagine, too, the divine way it smells, sliding into summer with our barbecues, mint juleps, potato salad and corn on the cob. Whether you’re setting an elegant table, or wearing a Kentucky Derby hat as you graze an outdoor buffet, three of my freshest traditions in American cuisine are laid out for your perusal.

Something to Toast the Most Exciting 2 Minutes in Sports With…

You can round up your friends, serve fried chicken and all the fixins, and tune into live Kentucky Derby coverage; click here for all the broadcasting info. Encourage frilly hats and sundresses on your party invitations, and channel pure Paula Deen when it comes to the menu. One day of butter n’ bacon never killed anyone—and I’ve got some twists and turns on the old Southern classics that’ll make your party guests start humming My Old Kentucky Home. Just make sure you serve plenty of Authentic Mint Juleps before the karaoke begins!

Fried Chicken: Every Southern Girl’s Favorite Food

For my Oven Fried Chicken, brining the chicken pieces makes the end result extra juicy; then, when you bake it in the oven, expect a crusty coating that’ll make you reach for thirds. Looking for spirits to drink with it? My summers in the Blue Ridge Mountains got me excited about wine—asking around and doing a little taste testing, yielded the answer I was looking for: a hearty young Argentine red (click here for best reds between $10 and $20 a bottle) is the way to go when you’re looking for the perfect pairing with fried chicken.

Collard Greens EXTREME--There’s nothing quite as flavorful as Slow Simmered Collard Greens. My gal pal, Cindy, makes the world’s BEST collard greens. Her secret is the addition of Balsamic vinegar—hopefully, Cindy won’t mind this, but I found a way to kick up the dish even more: by adding kielbasa! Just slice the sausage into thin rounds, and brown it in a little olive oil. Toss in the chopped collard greens and stir, adding chicken broth and water until it all comes to a slow boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for at least 1 hour, and up to several hours adding liquid as needed. Remember that younger collard greens cook more quickly than older ones. If you are using purchased chicken broth, be sure to use a low sodium product for this dish. Kielbasa is plenty salty on its own!

What’s for Dessert, Darlin’?

This traditional recipe is a winner on every dessert table; I feel so strongly about that, my Southern Pecan Pie has already been featured on my entertaining blog as a must have Thanksgiving treat. But it’s great for a Derby party too, and begs for a little Southern comfort…I mean, experimentation! Try substituting black walnuts for pecans and Bourbon for rum. Yumm!! And take even more Southern comfort in the fact that you can use prepared pie dough for this recipe; no one will notice—especially if you add ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips to the filling, for a chocolate-pecan pie.

Enjoy your taste of the Derby…whether it’s from your living room, or under the twin spires and a deep blue Kentucky sky, it’s all GOOD!

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