For Canadian Thanksgiving this year, I had the usually fare: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, salad and vegetables. Of these, two recipes really stood out.
I know what you’re thinking. I’ve succumbed to the ever-present fad that is gluten-free. Let me assure you that I have done no such thing. But for many people, living with a gluten intolerance or sensitivity is serious business.
According to the CDHF, more than 330,000 Canadians are believed to be affected by celiac disease (a condition where people’s immune systems react to gluten found in wheat, rye and barley). In the U.S., that number is a staggering 1 in 133 Americans, or about 1% of the population (according to the NFCA).
With the help of Williams-Sonoma, gluten-free expert and author Kristine Kidd released her eighth book, Gluten-Free Baking, featuring 80 recipes that are naturally gluten-free. Ms. Kidd is a gourmet chef and was the food editor at Bon Appétit magazine for 20 years. After adopting a gluten-free diet due to an intolerance, she set to work developing recipes in her own kitchen, exploring an array of gluten-free whole grains with the goal to create baked goods with great flavour and texture.
One down, one to go. Just finished serving up a scrumptious Canadian Thanksgiving spread and I’m gearing up to dish out American Thanksgiving in a few weeks. And there’s a common element in both of my feasts. The turkey and the cranberry sauce.
Try out Food & Wine’s Apricot-Glazed Turkey. This roasted turkey tastes as good as it looks. It’s rubbed with olive oil, sprinkled with a mixture of coarse salt and pepper, and stuffed with bay leaves, lemons, garlic, thyme, roasemary and sage. The gorgeous mahogany colour comes from a glaze of lemon-infused apricot jam. The meat is flavourful and moist. And, it all cooks in less than three hours.
Bon Appétit’s Cranberry Sauce with Vanilla Bean and Cardamom is a tangy and flavourful relish. Fresh cardamom and vanilla seeds make for a version that’s sweet, sultry and exotic. It’s my family and friend’s favourite.
The nature/nurture debate ends right here. I’ve had a full-on obsession with Southern cuisine as far back as I can remember. It is my favourite food. If I ever have the misfortune of being on death row, my last meal request will be Leah Chase’s Fried Chicken, Patti LaBelle’s Over-The-Rainbow Mac ‘N Cheese, Lee Bros. Fried Green Tomatoes, James Villas’ Candied Sweet Potatoes, Mrs. Wilkes’ Boardinghouse-style Biscuits and some sweet tea with bourbon. I could then die in peace.
But where did I develop my admiration for Southern food? I mean, it’s a reasonable question and one that’s often asked. I’m a French-Canadian dude who lives far north of the Mason-Dixon line. I didn’t grow up under a cypress tree in Charleston nor did I visit any relatives in Augusta during summer break. I was raised squarely on escargots, soupe à l’oignon and Coquilles St-Jacques. Not a biscuit to be found for kilometers. So really, there is no explanation other than I’ve coveted fried okra and peach cobbler since my beginnings. I’ve long ago surrendered to the fact that I was just born with smothered chicken gravy running through my veins. And why should I fight it? There are worse fates than having an innate ability to cook fried chicken and shrimp & grits. When it comes down to it, I am drawn by the cuisine’s hallowed traditions and unique cooking styles, its use of fresh ingredients, but mostly to its ability to provide feel-good old-fashioned comfort.
It is for this reason that every year I play host to a group of friends who indulge me in my zeal to create a Southern tradition north of the border. And I’m more than happy to be their comfort food ambassador. Here are some pics from this year’s “Southern Dinner.”
Bon Appétit Skillet-Fried Chicken
Light, crispy, juicy, tender and delicious. This best describes Bon Appétit Skillet-Fried Chicken or as the magazine describes it, “the only fried chicken recipe you’ll ever need.”
Lee Bros. Cherry Tomato and Soybean Salad
Soybeans are married with sweet cherry tomatoes and tossed with a buttermilk-basil dressing. A good, fresh-tasting complement to any Southern meal.
Lemon Meringue Pots de Crème
Light, airy and tangy with a delicate lemony flavour, these pots de crèmes were the perfect ending to the feast.
This blog entry is as much about friendship as it is about food. I have been blessed with some of the most supportive and lovesome friends. Forever there to help, to lean on and to let me be me. Elbert Hubbard once said, “The friend is the person who knows all about you, and still likes you.” And for that I am ever so grateful. And tis no better way to give thanks to my inner circle of most beloved than with the annual Southern Dinner.
For me, life without fried chicken would be an unworthy existence. I’m confident that I was raised as a southern boy in a previous life. And I find solace in the fact that this type of food provides the ultimate comfort, to me and to my pals.
I had layed out the weekly menu on Monday so my employees were anticipating this day all week: Rib Day. “Make sure you don’t miss rib day” was my daily mantra to them. I think everyone can agree that ribs make most everyone happy. And my ribs, correction, Bon Appétit’s ribs, are amaaaaaazing. I had made them many times over and those tasters had unoffically voted them “best ribs ever.” So easy, so good. Salt and pepper the ribs, wrap them in foil, throw them in the oven for two hours, slather them with a reduced cherry cola sauce, 5 minutes on the BBQ or indoor grill and you have pure deliciousness.
|Bon Appétit’s cherry cola ribs|
So with rib day, our week came to an end. I work a four-day work week and on Friday they would have to endure a week’s worth of leftovers. I didn’t hear any complaints—my people were ever so grateful. I am happy that we got to spend some time together during this tough time at work. Oh, and the loved the ribs, btw. I knew they would!
Job cuts at work are imminent. My employees have to write a report which in affect will determine if they keep their jobs. It’s a terrible, terrible time. And to top it all off, I’m not allowed to help them write said report. I decided to assist them in another way. I made lunch for them the entire week.
First up for day 1: Fried chicken and coleslaw. I’m a southern boy at heart and I’ve tried dozens of fried chicken recipes over the years. Leah Chase is the gold standard. But this Bon Appétit recipe that I used to feed my employees is smack yo momma good. It’s pretty simple. Cut up a whole chicken, cover the pieces with a dry rub of spices, leave it in the fridge overnight. Dip the chicken pieces in buttermilk, then in flour, then fry it all up in peanut oil for ten minutes. Perfect fried chicken guaranteed.
|Bon Appétit’s Perfect Fried Chicken|
The coleslaw was pretty interesting. I spotted this recipe while watching an episode of Bobby Flay’s BBQ Addiction. I got a puzzled look from the Loblaws produce guy when I inquired about the location of the jicima. Luckily a cool dude at my neighbourhood Farm Boy knew exactly what I was talking about and led me to the stack of jicimas near the potatoes pile. Appropriate, since jicima tastes like a cross between a potato and an apple. Regardless, it was the key ingredient to this impressive coleslaw. Thanks Farm Boy Montreal Road!
|Bobby Flay’s Jicima Coleslaw|