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On Cooking Southern: Here’s the Skinny on Life and Chicken

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SOUTHERNISM OF THE WEEK
You’d call an alligator a lizard: The way folks in the Yellow Hammer State have been talking about the outcomes of their “A” games since last Saturday night. Sorry people, NOT ALL great SEC football programs reside in Alabama.

The past 10 days have been memorable on many levels.

During the week leading up to the now-historic Ole Miss-Alabama game in Tuscaloosa, the Old Bride was in Saint Petersburg and Tampa for the annual Association of Food Journalists conference. Trust me when I say that nothing beats hobnobbing with foodies from around the nation in one of America’s most fertile landscapes. Even the fast trash was epicurean.

During moments between feeds, we honed our writing skills and tweaked our electronic-device capabilities under the tutelage of acclaimed journalism scholars. We even got to celebrate how wonderful we all were at an awards banquet.

The Florida Gulf humidity may have rivaled the moistness inside an over-ripe watermelon, but I didn’t mind the climate’s Don King effect on my frizzy-curly hair. The world around me was too stimulating to be thinking about appearances.

Life was good.

My Florida excursion concluded on a high note with a 20-minute cab ride to the Tampa airport. The cabbie, a Yankee like most Floridians, waxed eloquent about his past (good) experiences hauling custom cars to the Magnolia State. He shook my hand after unloading my luggage, and yelled Hotty Toddy like a native as he drove away.

In that moment in time, life was better than good.

And then there was that SEC game of the week in Tuscaloosa on Saturday night. For us early birds, staying awake to watch it was a challenge, but our night owl friends and families kept us in the game to the end. What a way to nod off to dreamland.

Rolling red-eyed out of bed the next morning was mandatory for most of us Oxonians who hadn’t crossed the state line on Saturday. After all, giving thanks for Help from On High and Hugh Freeze is just good Southern manners.

Folks around here could be coasting in the wake of last week’s local excitement. But like the rest of the nation, we’ve been abuzz over a once-in-a-lifetime national event.

Il Papa has come to America.

Pope Francis, the first western hemisphere-born leader of worldwide Catholicism, is a genuine rock star. Keith Richards and Kim Kardashian better beware. The people’s Pope eschews pomp and circumstance in favor of regular shoes, gets his glasses from a local optician, and prefers to meet as many people as his day will allow.

His humility is inspirational for honest, spiritual people of all faiths. Plus, he scoots around in a Fiat. Even His Holiness’ car inspires fondness and a desire to cooperate.

Those of us who haven’t traveled to New York, Philadelphia or Washington to join the many thousands of Pope well-wishers have been watching continual news feeds about the Pope’s activities. I haven’t seen so many sides working together for this long since my family completed a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle on Monet’s Water Lilies painting.

Bless our hearts!


TUCK A LITTLE CLUCK INTO YOUR TAILGATE BASKET

The weather has turned slightly cooler, so it’s time to break out the chilled and hot dips and the hors d’oeuvres. The two recipes I am sharing this week are perfect for tailgating. BONUS: The Whiskey Jack Honey Wings freeze well. So make up a triple batch and freeze a stash for future use.


SKINNY BUFFALO CHICKEN DIP
Thanks go to the Florida Dairy Farmers Association for this recipe. It has become one of my favorite “chicken salad” variations. The hot sauce adds zing to the dish, but feel free to omit it. Use 2 large chicken breasts, or the breast and thigh meat from a rotisserie chicken.

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2 c cooked chicken, chopped or shredded

4 oz (1/2 pkg) softened low-fat cream cheese or Neufchatel

1/3 c plain lowfat Greek yogurt

3 T light Ranch dressing

2 T crumbled blue cheese, or lowfat blue cheese dressing

2 T buffalo wing sauce (I use Frank’s RedHot)

1/4 c fine-diced celery

1/4 c fine-diced carrots

Mix the cheese, yogurt, ranch dressing and buffalo sauce in a bowl until completely blended. Scrape into a microwavable dish and microwave on high for 1 minute. Remove and stir until smooth. Gently fold in the chicken, celery and carrots. Serve as-is, or chilled, with celery sticks, crackers or pita. Or, slap it onto party rye squares and garnish with sweet gherkins.


WHISKEY JACK HONEY WINGS
Put a Southern twist on your “buffalo” wings by incorporating Tennessee whiskey or bourbon into the finishing glaze. I recommend using pre-cut chicken wings in order to simplify preparation, but large whole chicken wings work well if a cook is ready to use a bit of elbow grease. Sharp kitchen shears make the job easier.

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2/3 c flour

2 T paprika

2 tsp garlic salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

2 tsp Creole seasoning such as Tony Chachere’s

6 T salted butter

15 whole chicken wings, tips removed (makes 30 hot wings)

2 T butter

1 c fine-chopped sweet onion

3 cloves garlic, sliced thin

3/4 c whiskey such as Jack Daniels

1 c ketchup

1/2 c hot pepper sauce such as Louisiana Hot Sauce or Frank’s RedHot

8-oz can of tomato sauce

3 T packed light brown sugar

3/4 c honey

Preheat oven to 425˚F. Thaw wings if using frozen. If using whole wings, cut off wing tips at joint, and cut apart the two remaining sections at the joint. Trim away excess fat.

Combine all dry ingredients in a non-reactive bowl and transfer into a plastic baggie. Add wings, a few at a time, and shake well to coat completely. Position coated wings, not touching, on a platter to rest.

Line a baking sheet with foil (releasable foil is best). Add the butter and melt in oven. Remove from oven before butter bubbles. Place wings on the melted butter; carefully flip once to coat second side with the butter. Bake for 30 minutes, remove from oven and flip each wing. Return to oven and bake an additional 15 minutes until crispy.

Make Whiskey Jack glaze while wings are baking. Melt second (2 T) butter in a large saucepan on medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté for about 5 minutes. Stir in the whiskey and boil until most of liquid has absorbed, about 6-8 minutes.

While onion mixture is simmering, combine the ketchup, hot sauce, tomato sauce and brown sugar. Reduce heat to medium and add the tomato mixture. Simmer 5 more minutes, stirring in the honey until incorporated. Turn off heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Remove wings from oven and transfer with tongs to a rack positioned over a second baking pan. Use tongs to dip wings in the bourbon glaze. Place wings back on rack so excess glaze will drip onto pan, turning once after about 5 minutes. Serve wings hot, or refrigerate and serve cold with blue cheese or ranch dressing.


Laurie Triplette is a writer, historian and accredited appraiser of fine arts, dedicated to preserving Southern culture and foodways. Author of the award-winning community family cookbook GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’, and editor of ZEBRA TALES (Tailgating Recipes from the Ladies of the NFLRA), Triplette is a member of the Association of Food Journalists, Southern Foodways Alliance and the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. Check out the GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’ website and follow Laurie’s food adventures on Facebook and Twitter.

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