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!

Slow Simmered Collard Greens

Servings: 6 to 8
Preparation Time: 20 minutes plus 2 hours simmering

2 bunches collard greens
1 tablespoon olive oil
12 ounces bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
½ cup Balsamic vinegar
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Remove the tough center stem from the center of the collard leaves. Wash and dry the leaves. Place several leaves on top of each other. Roll up several leaves into a cylinder. Cut into ½-inch thick strips. Repeat until all of the leaves are sliced.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium high heat. Add bacon and cook until just beginning to crisp, about 5 minutes.

Add the collard to the skillet. Toss with the bacon.
Stir in the Balsamic vinegar. Pour in the chicken broth and the water. Press down the leaves until all are covered with liquid.

Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover the pan, and simmer the collards in the liquid until quite soft, about 2 to 3 hours. The liquid will evaporate as the collards cook.

Season with salt and pepper.

Oven Fried Chicken

Servings: 6 to 8
Preparation Time: 1 hour

½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup kosher salt
4 cups water
2 (4-pound) chickens, cut into 16 pieces
1 cup low fat yogurt
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 cups corn flake crumbs
2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees

To make the brine, place sugar, salt and water into a pot over medium high heat. Cook until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Cool to room temperature.

Place the chicken pieces into a deep pot. Cover with the brine. Cover the pot and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Whisk together the yogurt, mustard and thyme. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry.

Brush each piece of chicken with the yogurt/mustard mixture.

Place the cornflake crumbs into a shallow bowl. Dip the chicken into the corn flake crumbs. Place into a shallow baking dish, coated with vegetable oil spray. Repeat until all of the chicken is in the pan. Drizzle with olive oil.

Bake for 30 minutes or until the chicken is golden and cooked through.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Will & Kate, Plus 8 Great Reception Ideas

Starring Two Cakes, Two Drinks and Four Cocktail Infusion Flavors

There’s a lot of heavy stuff happening in the world right now, yet the royal wedding between the late Princess Diana’s son, William and his lovely bride-to-be Kate Middleton continues to capture headlines across the globe. The big day is scheduled for April 29th. How many millions will flick on “the telly” and watch these two exchange vows in GORGEOUS Westminster Abbey? Before she settled in for her royal breakfast reception, Princess Di and Charles brought in 750 million viewers! Wow.

Reading over all the whipped cream surrounding the event—fun stuff like what the bride and groom have planned for their individual wedding cakes, and where they’re honeymooning (I here they’re planning on Australia)—was highly addictive for an EXTREME party planner like me. Inspired by what I read about Will & Kate’s tastes in cake, I dusted off my best springtime event menus. Sure they went to sleep over the long winter, but now they’re back for a green and blossom-filled season, one that begs for a splash of elegance and ideal springtime table settings.

Groom Cake Drumroll…His Royal Highness Likes His Trifle!

There’s a charming story—very Knave of Heartsish—surrounding Prince William’s choice for the groom’s cake. According to the former chef who served the royal family in the late 90s and published his recipes in Eating Royally, William and his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, had a custom of taking tea together in the garden, eating Chocolate Biscuit Cake whenever he was home from college. The Queen shared the Prince’s love affair with this dessert, and paid close attention to whether or not anyone from the royal kitchen stole a piece—or so much as nibbled from an edge. In my Chocolate, Banana and Walnut Trifle, you have something very similar—it tastes dark and decadent, but it’s airy light too—a British classic. Well done, William!

Kate Middleton Chooses a Bride’s Cake that Screams for Edible Flower Decorations!

My Lady Marmalade Coconut Layer Cake is fit for a Duchess, bride-to-be or Chairman of the Board. The bottom line is, it’s elegant—a show stopper on any buffet table—not to mention tres au natural, just like the fruit cake, Kate has planned. This layer cake is the perfect canvas for pansies, rose petals, snapdragons and violas; it’s an eye catching, spring-fresh trend that helps GREAT party favor ideas materialize, like mini watering cans for every table and seed cards, as place cards, that can go home with every guest…and come up roses later! Two

Cocktail Recipes that Let You Create a “Signature Drink”

Nothing personalizes your wedding day, quite like a signature cocktail. With sultry weather on the rise, wetting one’s whistle while gently taking the edge off, is a matter of serving crisp, cool thin-stemmed flutes of Raspberry Champagne Cocktail or Bourbon Minted Iced Tea. These drinks can be garnished with many of the herbs that define the flavors and aromas of spring, like rosemary, sprigs of bright green mint, and other edible flowers, such as cherry blossoms, lilacs, lilies of the valley, peonies and the ever-popular daisy!

Look toward a companion blog on the royal wedding on Nana’s Kitchen where the new Favorite Thing is Cocktail Infusion Flavors, great for upping the anti on thirst quenching spring and summertime drinks. You can mix infusion sachets into virgin lemonade, iced tea or high-octane cocktails, creating such personalized medleys as Lavender Citrus, Lemongrass Mint, Silkroad Chai or a Sour Apple Twist. Just remember to stay sweet on each other! Best Wishes and Congratulations to Brides and Grooms everywhere, in Summertime, Wintertime, Springtime and Fall!

Bourbon Minted Tea

Juice of 4 lemons (about 1/2 cup)
1 ½ cups simple syrup
12 ounces bourbon
5 cups prepared iced tea
Fresh mint sprigs for garnish

1. Place lemon juice, simple syrup, bourbon and iced tea into a large pitcher. Stir.
2. Pour into 8 large glasses that have been filled with ice.
3. Garnish with lemon sprigs.

Raspberry Champagne Cocktail

1 bottle chilled champagne
Framboise liquor
Fresh raspberries

1. Place 1 to 2 fresh raspberries in the bottom of a champagne flute.
2. Add a few drops of Framboise liquor.
3. Pour chilled champagne ¾ full into the flute.

Chocolate, Banana and Walnut Trifle

Servings: 10 to 12
Preparation Time: 1 hour

6 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 ½ tablespoons cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 cups cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces

4 ripe bananas, sliced (about 2 cups)
¼ cup Kahlua liquor

2 cups cream
½ cup confectioner’s sugar

1 (15-ounce) angel food cake, cut into large chunks
2 (1.4-ounce) Heath bars, chopped

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 cup walnut pieces

1. Whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder, salt and milk in a saucepan over medium heat until smooth.
2. Stir in 2 cups cream. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes.
3. Pour in the vanilla, then chocolate, and stir until smooth.
4. Pour the pudding into a bowl. Whisk in the butter. Cover with plastic wrap and chill until set, about 1 hour.
5. Toss the bananas with the Kahlua in a small bowl. Set aside.
6. Use an electric mixer to whisk 2 cups cream with confectioners’ sugar until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
7. Toss the angel food cake cubes with the chopped Heath bar in a bowl. Set aside.
8. Heat 2 tablespoons butter with 2 tablespoons brown sugar, in a skillet, over medium high heat. Add the walnut pieces. Toss to coat. Cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
9. Assemble the trifle by placing a layer of the angel food cake and candy on the bottom of a trifle dish or deep, crystal bowl. Top with a layer of bananas. Add a layer of whipped cream. Continue layering until all of the ingredients have been used.
10. Top the trifle with the candied walnuts. Chill for 1 hour or overnight.

Lady Marmalade Coconut Layer Cake

Servings: 12 to 16
Preparation Time: 1 hour plus baking

3 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt1
½ cup milk
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1 cup butter (2 sticks), room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
5 large eggs

1 (14-ounce) jar orange marmalade

½ cup milk
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon coconut extract
Juice of ½ medium orange (about 2 to 3 tablespoons)
Zest of 1 medium orange (about 2 tablespoons)
3 cups butter (6 sticks), room temperature
4 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar

1 (7-ounce) bag sweetened coconut, shredded

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
2. Stir the vanilla and coconut extracts into the milk.
3. Use an electric mixer to combine 1 cup butter with 1 cup granulated sugar until soft and fluffy.
4. Add the eggs one at a time.
5. Add the flour and milk alternating 1/3 flour mixture with 1/3 milk. When combined, continue with 1/3 more flour and 1/3 more milk. Continue until all of the milk and flour are incorporated into the batter.
6. Pour the batter into 3 8-inch round cake pans that have been sprayed with vegetable oil spray and dusted with flour. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
7. Cool the cakes in the pan for 5 minutes. Invert the cakes onto a rack and cool completely.
8. Use sewing thread or a serrated knife to cut each cake into to pieces.
9. Whisk together ¼ cup milk, 2 tablespoons vanilla extract, ½ teaspoon coconut extract, orange juice and orange zest.
10. Use an electric mixer to combine 6 sticks butter with confectioners sugar until light and fluffy.
11. Stir in the milk in 3 additions on low speed. When incorporated increase the speed to high and beat for 1 minute until fluffy. If frosting it too thick add more milk, if too thin add more sugar.
12. Place one cake half onto a cake plate. Spread with frosting. Sprinkle with coconut.
13. Top with a second cake half. Spread this half with marmalade leaving 1 1-inch border around the edge.
14. Repeat with all of the cake halves alternating with layers of frosting and marmalade, finishing with a cake layer.
15. Frost the sides and top of the cake and sprinkle coconut all over.
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