Fresh From the Farm – Katie Malich

Where were you at 1:11 p.m. on 1/1/11?

I was watching the reruns of the Rose Parade with friends. My health-conscious hostess’ spread was just the thing for those with New Years diet and health resolutions. There was narry a chip or a dip in the entire house. Instead, those of us enjoying the cavalcade of color and marching band music of the 122nd annual Rose Parade were treated to hot, steaming mugs of homemade minestrone and whole grain crackers. Visions of sugar-free plums and healthy New Years resolution danced in my head. I made a mental note to ask my friend for her recipe for this week’s Fresh From the Farm. After all, January is officially National Soup Month and unofficially Let’s Start A Diet Month.

Yet a part of me was conflicted. This year’s Rose Parade Grand Marshal was comfort-food maven and celebrity chef Paula Deen. Mmmmmm. Comfort food. Warming, welcoming comfort food. With the rain and cold we’ve been having a hearty homecooked meal with all the trimmings was definitely enticing.

I remembered how disappointed I had been when visiting friends who’d relocated to Atlanta in the 1980’s. Excited to have California visitors, they promised a trip to one of their favorite restaurnts. My taste buds tingled with anticipation of authentic down home chicken and dumplings, mac and cheese, cornbread and sweet ice tea.. Or should I splurge and order Southern fried chicken, cheesy grits and summer squash casserole with pecan pie? I was definitely a happy camper as we headed off to dinner.

You can imagine my surprise when we arrived at our destination: the only restaurant in the city which served alfalfa sprouts and mashed avocado sandwiches on whole grain bread. California health food cuisine. Healthy? Yes. Tasty? Of course. Environmentally sound? Sure. Disappointing? To someone who was jonesing for a big farm-style dinner, you bet.
Fast forward to January 1, 2011. Can a California girl and health food fan welcome the new year with southern cuisine without jeopardizing any New Years resolutions? Absolutely.
Purchasing locally-raised chicken can help you reduce your carbon footprint, locavores and environmentalists maintain. Some large, so-called factory farms administer anitbiotics as a matter of course, hoping to avoid loosing too much of their stock to diseases often arising from crowded and restrictive indoor housing conditions. Buying directly from Tuesday market vendors means that shoppers can talk directly to the farmers who raised the poultry if they have any questions about the way their dinner was raised and processed.

If you’re hankering for some of Paula’s Southern fried chicken, check out these recipes from the Food Network’s website. And if healthy, lower-fat living is among your New Years resolutions, try the Southern Living magazine skinless oven-baked “fried” chicken recipe or a dietitian’s reduced fat make-over of Paula’s popular chicken and rice casserole.

Paula Deen’s Southern Fried Chicken

1 small chicken, approx. 1-2 lbs, cut into pieces
3 eggs
1/3 cup water
approximately 1 cup relatively mild hot red pepper sauce (Paula recommends Texas Pete brand; if you substitute another sauce, such as Tabasco, just be aware that other red pepper sauces can be up to two or three times as hot as Texas Pete sauce.)
2 cups self-rising flour
1 teaspoon pepper
House seasoning, recipe follows
Peanut oil, or other oil suitable for frying

In a medium size bowl, beat the eggs with the water. Add enough hot sauce so the egg mixture is bright orange. Combine the flour and pepper. Season the chicken with Paula’s house seasoning (see below). Dip the seasoned chicken in the egg mixture, and then coat well in the flour mixture.

Pour some peanut or other oil in a deep pot. You do not want the pot to be more than half full of oil. (You can use a lesser amount of oil, as long as there is enough oil to cover the chicken pieces.) Heat the oil to 350 degrees F.
Fry the coated chicken until brown and crisp. Dark meat takes longer to cook then white meat. White meat should be done in around 8 to 10 minutes, while dark meat will be done in about 13 to 14 minutes.

House Seasoning:
1 cup salt
1/4 cup black pepper
1/4 cup garlic powder
Mix ingredients together. The house seasoning can be stored in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

Paula Deen’s Basic Southern Fried Chicken

1 chicken (around 2 and  1/2 lbs), cut into pieces
Crisco shortening
3 eggs
1/3 cup water
2 cups self-rising flour
1 teaspoon black pepper
additional salt and pepper for seasoning as desired
You will need a cast iron skillet with a lid to make this recipe. If you’re like me, you may not have with cast iron frying pans with lids. I’ve found that a large lid from my stock pot or wok works in a pinch. A college roommate from Virginia used a copper-bottomed frying pan with a matching lid. However you manage this, you will want to have the melted Crisco heated to 350 degrees and a lid which will keep the heat in and prevent shortening from splattering out as the chicken cooks.

Put a generous amount of shortening in the skillet, cover, and place the covered skillet over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, beat the eggs with water in a small bowl. Put the 2 cups of self-rising flour in a shallow bowl and season with 1 tsp. pepper. In a shallow bowl, season flour with pepper. You can add salt and more pepper to taste as desired. Dip the chicken pieces in the egg mixture and then coat well in the flour mixture. Set aside on plate until you have enough coated chicken to fry in a batch. Carefully add the coated chicken pieces, being careful to avoid splattering hot shortening and replace the lid. You may want to put the dark meat first, as it takes around 13 or 14 minutes to cook thoroughly, and wait around five minutes before adding the white meat. If cooking in separate batches, allow eight to ten minutes for each batch of white meat. Fry the chicken at 350 degrees until it is brown and crisp. Remove to platter lined with paper towels to catch excess shortening and serve hot.

Reduced Fat Oven “Fried” Chicken Drumsticks

Southern Living magazine has reworked some beloved Southern recipes to reduce their fat content. Kids and grown-ups alike will enjoy these “fried” drumsticks. Buttermilk, cornflakes and parmesan cheese replace the egg and flour coating used in Paula’s fried chicken recipes.

3 c. cornflake cereal, crushed
1/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. ground red pepper
1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper
3/4 c. fat-free buttermilk
8 chicken drumsticks (about 2 lb.), skinned
Vegetable cooking spray

Skin the drumsticks if they are not already skinned. Combine the first five ingredients in a large zip-top plastic freezer bag; seal and shake well to combine. If you are serving the “fried” chicken to adults, you could increase the ground red pepper from 1/2 to 1/4 teaspoon. Next, pour the buttermilk into a shallow bowl. Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with aluminum foil coated with cooking spray. Dip two drumsticks in the buttermilk, and then place in bag. Seal the bag and shake well, coating each drumstick completely. Place drumsticks on the aluminum foil-lined baking sheet, and repeat procedure until all the drumsticks are coated. Sprinkle the remaining cornflake mixture evenly over drumsticks on baking sheet. If desired, lightly coat with cooking spray. Bake at 425° for 25 to 30 minutes or until drumsticks are well browned and done. Serve immediately.

Paula Deen’s Chicken and Rice Casserole

According to the Food Network’s website, this quickly assembled casserole is the most popular Paula Deen recipe on the site. It’s understandable that busy cooks might appreciate the convenience of its canned, boxed, pre-cooked and pre-grated ingredients, especially on weeknights. However, relying on canned and packaged ingredients leaves the home cook with less control over the sodium and fat content of the completed dish. WebMD registered dietitian Elaine Magee revised this Paula Deen classic to reduce fat, sodium and calories while increasing fiber content. The original recipe and the reworked version, both with slight revisions, are below.

Paula’s Original Chicken and Rice Casserole
(serves 6-8)
2 (14 1/2-ounce) can green beans, drained and rinsed
3 cups diced cooked chicken
1 medium yellow onion, diced and sauteed
1 T. olive oil or butter, melted
1 (8-ounce) can water chestnuts, drained and chopped
1 (4-ounce) can pimentos, drained
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can condensed cream of celery soup
1 cup mayonnaise
1 (6-ounce) box long-grain and wild rice, cooked according to package directions
1 cup grated sharp Cheddar
Pinch salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cook the rice and, if necessary, the chicken, while you are preparing the rest of the ingredients. Open the can of water chestnuts. Drain, chop and set aside. Open, drain and rinse the green beans; set aside. If you are grating the cheese yourself, do it now and set it aside. Dice the onion. If using butter, melt one tablespoon in a medium-sized skillet. If using oil, warm the oil in the skillet for 30 seconds. Add diced onion to the butter or oil and saute over medium-low heat until soft. Check the rice. Remove from heat when done. Open the can of pimentos; drain. Open the cream of celery soup. If necessary, dice the chicken. (Precooked chicken should be kept in the refrigerator until this step. Cooked chicken can be chopped as soon as it is cool enough to handle.) Measure one cup of mayonnaise. Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl. Add a pinch or two of salt if desired. Grease a 3-quart casserole dish. Pour the contents of the bowl into the casserole and bake for 20-35 minutes or until bubbly.

Chicken and Rice Casserole with Reduced Fat and Sodium
(8 servings)
10 3/4-ounce can condensed cream of chicken or celery soup, low sodium (Healthy Choice)
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
1/2 cup low fat sour cream
3 cups fresh green beans, trimmed, sliced on the diagonal and cooked or steamed until tender (if fresh green beans are out of season you can substitute frozen French cut green beans, which need not be cooked before mixing with other ingredients)
3 cups diced, cooked chicken breast, without skin
1 medium sweet or yellow onion, chopped
8 ounce can water chestnuts, drained and chopped
4 cups cooked long grain brown rice (or cooked brown rice and wild rice blend)
1 cup shredded reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese
Canola cooking spray
(optional) 1 – 4 ounce jar or can of pimentos
Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Coat a 9 x 13-inch baking dish (or 3-quart casserole dish) with cooking spray. Combine the soup, light mayonnaise and fat free sour cream in a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients and combine until they are coated evenly. Spread into prepared baking dish/casserole and bake for 25 minutes or until bubbly.

The Culver City Farmers Market is held on Tuesdays, rain or shine, from 2 to 7 pm on Main St. between Venice and Culver Blvds. The Culver City South Farmers Market is held on Saturdays from 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the northeast corner of the Westfield Culver City parking lot (near Slauson and Hammun Blvds.).
Katie Malich suggests checking the sodium levels of canned food before buying any; you’d be amazed how much salt some canned goods contain.

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