Richard and I were just talking about how we didn't really love fried chicken growing up. Not that it was a regularly occurring dish in either of our childhood memories but it wasn't anything either one of us lusted after or remember craving. I should also share with you that while we were having this conversation, we were hovered around (and going to town on, I might add) a single plate of leftover fried chicken. We hadn't even bothered to get two plates because it just seemed pointless to bother with all that fuss. In between drizzles of honey and Texas Pete hot sauce, we sat so close, licking our fingers loudly and wondering if we had been missing out on fried chicken, I mean really good, fried chicken, all these years.
I should back up a bit, to Saturday. We had been planning to have a relaxing, Southern style afternoon and evening, prompted by the Kentucky Derby. A thing that neither of us is particularly interested in but we'll celebrate anything if it involves food. We started with a bag of fava and fresh black eyed peas, ready for shucking, and cocktails - gin, blackberry liquor, soda water and mint. A perfectly refreshing drink and a perfect match for shucking beans on the front porch.
In between the shucking, I made a Kentucky Chess Pie. Something neither of us have either made nor had. When I posted a picture of it, someone referred to it as magic pie, which makes total sense. It's an easy pie to string together and it looks like not much is going to happen, then all of the sudden, you have pie. The oven starts at 350, gets lowered to 325 and then once the pie sets, it just slowly cooks in a cooled oven. The result, if you've never had it before, is a custardy pie that reminded me of an un-lemoned lemon bar that was studded with cornmeal. It was a hit.
Lastly, I made some grit cakes while Richard wilted some collard greens in some rendered chicken fat. The beans ended up in a simple salad with the favas and black eyed peas joining Kentucky long beans, which are really just like flat green beans with a satisfyingly heartiness to them. I tossed them simply with some lemon and mint which balanced out the crispy fattiness of the chicken and gave our palates relief. Back to the chicken - it was two days in the making. First, Richard brined it in a blend of salt, sugar, lemons herbs and bourbon and all flavors really came through with each bite. The batter itself repeated a lot of the flavors that were in the brine, resulting in one of the most flavorful pieces of fried chicken I've ever had. The flesh was plump and laced with flavor while the juices that were running all over made for a delicious mess.
I'm thinking we need a lot more nights like this. I'm feeling a Southern cooking phase coming on in our house...
Three Bean Salad with Lemon and Mint
This recipe is very versatile with lots of room for creativity. Really any combination of bean will do, as will any citrus and fresh herb, or a combination of a couple. It can also be made into more of meal with the addition of protein or a grain. Of course, cheese is also welcome too.
1 cup fava beans, freshly shucked
1 cup black eyed peas, fresh or canned
2 TBS extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 cup Kentucky long beans (or green beans), rinsed and trimmed
The zest of 1 lemon
2 TBS fresh chopped Mint
2 TS extra virgin olive oil, divided
Salt to taste
Have a bowl of ice water at the ready and boil the fava beans in generously salted water for about 3 minutes, or until their skin gets translucent. Put beans into the ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain the beans and remove the outer white layer, reveling the green fava bean. If using fresh black eyed peas, boil them in water for about 3-5 minutes or until they are tender to the bite. Shock them in ice water and remove them from the water once they've cooled and add them to the bowl with the favas.
In a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil over medium - high heat. Add the trimmed beans and salt. Sauté the beans until they are warmed through but still have their crunch, about 2-3 minutes. Add them the other beans and toss with mint, lemon zest and juice. Season to taste. Serve at room temperature.
Kentucky Chess Pie
Recipe from The Merry Gourmet, http://www.merrygourmet.com/2010/09/a-taste-of-history-grandmothers-chess-pie/