Forty Years of Chicken Creole

There is one thing that my ex-husband was right about and I was wrong.  Chicken Creole.  It was the early 1970’s.  He was a medical student and I was a graduate student.  We lived on my teaching assistantship; we lived on very little.  Chicken was about 25 cents a pound, so we were always looking for recipes.  He found a recipe in my aunt’s “Fairyland Cooking Magic” cookbook, copyright 1955 by Fairyland P.T.A., Lookout Mountain, Tenn.  I love my aunt’s Fairyland cookbook which I still have along with a Watkins Cook Book copyright 1943.

“I may eat the chicken, but that sauce sounds terrible.”  I ate those words along with licking the dish clean.  That began my love affair with chicken creole.

I typed the recipe on my college, portable Smith-Corona typewriter, as I did with all of my favorite recipes.  As the years went by, changes were made to the recipe.  I started using diced boneless chicken.  I wanted that sauce covering as much of the chicken as possible.  When I’m wrong, I’m really wrong.  It became a family staple.  My children were raised on chicken creole, starting with it being ground in my little baby food grinder.

In 1984 I shared the recipe in our church cookbook.  It was probably the only recipe in the Baptist cookbook with alcohol.  The amount which by the way, over the years had doubled from the original recipe.

 

When my children became adults, I delighted when they called wanting to know how to make chicken creole for a special occasion.  The recipe continues to evolve.  Made with fresh, ripe heirloom tomatoes, green pepper, fresh herbs and a bottle of dry white wine captures a summer garden and is my current choice.

All this talk of chicken creole and I can almost taste it right now.

Zucchini Bread — yum, yum

If you’ve gardened, you know how easy it is to grow zucchini — not only easy, but so prolific!  My favorite is to pick them when they are tiny and tender.  About four inches is the best.  Sliced and sauteed with a little garlic, fresh tomato and olive oil is the perfect vegetable dish.  The difficult part is picking them small.  It seems that zucchini double (maybe even triple or more) over night.  If there is moisture in the ground, you could probably watch them grow.  I haven’t had the extra time to actually check this out.  So, what to do with those HUGE zucchini — yep, zucchini bread.  Warm zucchini bread with a big pat of butter is one of the things that keep me from being vegan.  (Not to mention, bacon keeps me from being a vegetarian)  It’s also great to toast it the next day and add a big pat of butter.  Here’s my favorite recipe:

Combine dry ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 heaping (I love) tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 cup chopped pecans (the nut of choice for us southerners)

Then combine:

2 cups shredded zucchini (probably one big one will do it.  Shred without peeling, and I only shred down to the seeds)

3 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Add the dry ingredients to this mixture and stir until the flour is moistened.  Spoon into 2 greased and floured loaf pans.  Bake at 350 for an hour or until a wooden pick or knife in the center comes out clean.  Cool. Serve.  YUM!

 

Recipe for Health and Prosperity

Of course, I also dabble in the kitchen.  One of my sort-of-crafty goals is to make a recipe book for my children — our life as told through food — a cross between family history and a recipe book.  Being a southern woman, it would be mandatory to include the traditional New Years Day menu.  One (especially not a southerner) can’t hope for health and prosperity in the new year without a taste of black-eyed peas, hog jowl and collards.  Here’s my recipe for Hoppin’ John which we enjoy much more than one day a year.  The hog jowl is replaced with pancetta, and  I serve it with Swiss chard (the rainbow variety is my favorite) sauteed in olive oil, chopped garlic and a splash of vinegar.

Family Favorite Hoppin’ John

Saute 4 oz of pancetta in enough olive oil to lightly coat the pan.  When fat is rendered, add one chopped yellow onion and 4-5 chopped cloves of garlic.  Continue sauteing until onions are clear, but not browned.  Add either one can of black-eyed peas (drained and rinsed) or about 2 cups of cooked fresh black-eyed peas.  Add one cup of long grain rice along with one can of chicken broth with enough water added to the broth to make two cups. Salt and pepper to taste.  And then (this is very important!), splash on a generous amount of Tabasco.  Cover and  continue to cook for about 20 minutes until rice is tender.  Serve with greens and enjoy!

Your belly will be happy and you can look forward to a healthy and prosperous 2011.