Wednesday, January 22, 2014

50 Chefs For 50 Years and John Currence's Southern Supper

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Oven fried chicken, collard green gratin and biscuits!
So, I need to get going on these 50 chefs!  I doubt I will be done by my 50th birthday, but I will finish!  My last post was a Southern blondie which I made to test the recipe before I sent it out to our Supper Club.  As I rounded out our Southern Supper menu, I used John Currence's recipe for the main.  The entire dinner was delicious, and I was emailed by a dozen folks saying thanks for a delicious dinner.  I wrote the menu, and 20 couples in the neighborhood cooked and ate it.  We are a very well organized club, and usually I get huge anxiety writing the menu.

Let's start with John Currence.  He is a chef based in Oxford, Mississippi, one of the most charming Southern towns ever.  He operates 4 restaurants there, and we have been to three of them.  City Grocery, Snack Bar and Big Bad Breakfast.  City Grocery is right on the Square in Oxford, and is a charming place, famous for Shrimp and Grits.  Delicious stuff. Snack Bar is a little off the beaten path and a customer told me it was her favorite Oxford restaurant.  It's small and quaint, and the menu when we went was delicious.  Great cocktails too!  Bubba Brasserie is how the website describes it, quite accurately!  And the last of his restaurants I have been to is Big Bad Breakfast.  Located next door to Snack Bar, pick up a Bloody Mary and wait on the porch for a table.  You will wait.  In the summer on Saturdays, the farmers market is set up and you can wander around the booths while you wait.  But trust me, breakfast is worth the wait.  Tabasco cured bacon, home made biscuits....everything is so tasty!  CNN also named it one of the Top 10 Breakfasts....IN THE WORLD!  He has one more restaurant Boule which I have yet to visit, but the menu looks great, and it is on the square.  Looks like a Saturday trip is in order.  Food, books, strolling.  I love Oxford, and Chef Currence has made me fall in love with the essence of Southern food.

So on to the menu.

Shrimp Toasts
This is a basic cream cheese based appetizer that you spread on a crostini and broil until bubbly.  There are a jillion versions of the recipe, and they key is to keep them small, so the cheese gets bubbly.   I chose this specifically for Mr. Preppy.  It was right up his alley.

Crisp Winter Greens With Sweet and Sharp Dressing 
The salad was a big hit.  The dressing was really delicious, and everyone cleaned their plates.  In the future I would use a heartier choice of lettuce, and maybe even put a little kale in there.  The dressing wilted the artisanal lettuces, and I really wanted some crunch.

The rose from Spain was perfect with dinner!

Collard Green Gratin
This was beyond delicious.  My friend who made this for our group, has made this recipe before, and she did a little tweaking.  Most noticeably was the assortment of greens she used.  Collards, spinach and kale.  It was my favorite dish of the evening, and I only ate half of my piece of chicken.  This was all I needed!

Dinner is served.

Oven Fried Chicken Breasts
This recipe is from John Currence, and it is mighty delicious.
The brine is the secret!

The breasts are brined in sweet tea, Tabasco and Worcestershire.  They were tender and juicy after a dredging in seasoned flour and a pan fry in butter and oil.  I made these for a party of 12, and I did have to clean out the pan a few times as the butter will burn.  Next time, clarified butter may help with that. They finished in the oven in about 15 minutes, which however, was not long enough for the gravy to really come together.  The gravy was fine, but mine never really thickened up.

Biscuits and Cornbread with Honey Butter
In the Food and Wine article where the chicken recipe is found, Chef Currence has a recipe for Salt and Pepper Biscuits.  I knew this would not go well over for the hostesses, so I suggested any kind of biscuits.  My friend Nancy brought frozen biscuits which were fantastic slathered with honey butter.  I never tried her cornbread muffins, but they were popular at dinner too.

Caramel Brownies with Brown Sugar Frosting
I blogged these last time, and they were such an unexpected treat.  Sweet, yes, but as my neighbor said, nothing a little ice cream can't cut.  Indeed, who would think that vanilla ice cream would cut the sweetness  of anything!  These will make another appearance around here for sure!

If you missed any of the previous chefs, here they are.  And stay tuned, we have a long way to go!  What are you waiting for?  Get in there and cook!

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