A few weeks ago, we went to a luncheon honoring James Farmer, one of my favorite writers and authorities on all things Southern. I’ve followed his blog for years, finding inspiration for table settings, family meals, and even wedding calligraphy. I have been after a set of the china that his Aunt makes ever since before Michael and I got engaged. And after much persistence, I finally got a set of my very own just a few days before the luncheon. It was perfect timing. James’s talk at the luncheon focused on the importance of bringing everyone together at the family table. What you serve is less important than being together, which to him, is only slightly less important than the table setting. As his Mimi used to say, “you feast with your eyes first” so the table should be just as beautiful as the food you’re about to serve. He also talked about how he used to make fried chicken and biscuits for all of his friends during his days at Auburn. So in honor of James and his Aunt Kathy, I thought it would be fitting to make fried chicken and biscuits for my first meal on our new china.
Having never made either before, I opted to invite over some of our closest friends to serve as our guinea pigs. As with all things new, it took longer than we thought, and I also think I forgot the baking powder in the biscuits, but hopefully they had fun anyway and subscribe to James’s philosophy that it’s really all about being together. With practice, maybe next time the togetherness will accompany a more timely presentation. Fingers crossed! Regardless, once it all finally got to the table, everything was really good. I made the biscuits again the next night when we had my mom over for leftovers and got the kinks out, so we’re already a step ahead on those for next time. If you want to start practicing for your own Sunday fried chicken dinner, here are a few pointers to get you started…
Fried chicken just tastes better with a salad with ranch dressing. This homemade version was really good and something we’ll for sure make again. It’s adapted from the recipe for blue cheese dressing that we made over the holidays.
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 garlic clove minced
Lemon juice and zest from 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon each of minced flat-leaf parsley, chives, and dill
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper
Whisk together, taste and adjust seasonings. Keeps in the refrigerator for about a week.
These were awesome. Just don’t forget the baking powder, like I did, and they will come out perfectly plump, buttery, and amazing. I have to be careful about how often I make these, because they disappeared pretty quickly, and I caught Michael using the last one to make a breakfast sandwich the next morning. So be forewarned…
(Adapted from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc)
2 cups cake flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 sticks of very cold unsalted butter cut into a small dice
2 to 3 tablespoons melted butter to brush over the tops
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
Place all dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add in the butter and pulse just a few times until the butter is incorporated and all mixed in. Place the mixture in a bowl and add in the buttermilk in a little well. Mix together using a wooden spoon and turn over onto a large cutting board. Pat the dough out into desired thickness and cut into rounds using a cookie cutter. Place onto a greased baking sheet and brush each one with a little butter and a sprinkling of salt. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes until golden brown. Serve with butter, hot sauce and honey.
Braised Collard Greens
For the collard greens, wash and trim the greens and cut into large pieces. Render the fat from a few slices of chopped bacon in a large Dutch oven. Remove the bacon once it’s crisp, and add in a half of a chopped yellow onion. Once the onion is translucent, add in the collard greens and toss until just starting to wilt. Add back in the bacon, and deglaze the pan with a little white wine. Add in some chicken stock and cover to simmer while you finish up the rest of dinner.
Having made it myself once, I’m hardly an authority. We soaked ours in a little buttermilk and then dusted with flour and a Tabasco spice blend that came in our monthly BeshBox. It was delicious once it got to the table, but here are the real instructions, straight from the horse’s mouth…
“Remove chicken from the fridge. Cut up and season with Tony’s seasoning. I use enough to make it tasty. Dredge in flour and set aside. Wash up and then add oil to the Fry Daddy and put in a few kernels of popcorn. It should take about 10 minutes to get hot. When the kernels pop, the oil is ready. By now the chicken should have been out for about 20 minutes and not so cold. Recover in flour if needed and fry 3 or 4 pieces at a time. Don’t crowd in the Daddy. White meat usually takes about 10 minutes and dark meat about 15. If you have a smaller chicken, it may take less. It is done when it is cooked to golden brown and the juices run clear when you pierce with a knife. Set aside and do the second batch. I’ve tried all sorts of other things, but I find this tastes great. Good Luck!!! MOM”