Good morning, readers.
Maisy Andrews has two requests this morning: "I am looking for a really good recipe for Tuscan chicken made with cream. And this may seem silly, but I am in need of expert counsel on grilled cheese sandwiches. I always make a mess —it's burned on the outside, and the cheese isn't melted on the inside. What kind of bread? What kind of cheese — Cheddar or Gruyere? Can you use grated cheese? My favorite tomato soup to serve with grilled cheese is the one you can buy at Target in the refrigerated section, but plain old condensed canned soup is wonderful too."
Sure enough, Ms. Andrews, we are entering grilled cheese sandwich season, and tomato soup is the required, or at least desired, accompaniment.
The chili conversation began last week, and surely Laura Grody was prescient in sending one secret instead of many details. "There are so many chili recipes to choose from." We expect to hear from some of you about the chili recipe famous in your kitchen. Use your favorite version, but add Ms. Grody's tip.
New Orleanian Nena Soler's daughter wrote, "I use my mom's secret when making chili. Add one 'pour' of apple cider vinegar or 1/4 cup at the end of cooking to the chili, while it is hot. This finishing touch really wakes up the flavors."
We are almost on the cusp of Thanksgiving. I think of my own mother, remembering her huge white crockery bowl, left out on the kitchen counter in the weeks before Thanksgiving and filled day by day with crumbled cornbread and biscuits. Soon there would be stuffing for the turkey, the biggest bird she could find.
Here's a beginning for such a bowl, though of course cornbread is an ideal accompaniment to chili in the first place. Nora Fitzgerald is sure her father's cornbread is the best she has ever tasted.
You will note that cast iron is favored by the Fitzgeralds, though daughter uses a skillet. "He always used a cast-iron cornstick pan, which made for a lot of crispy crust, which I loved, but still managed to give a tender interior.
"Please, no flour or sugar in this recipe. It just wouldn't be the same."
Michael Fitzgerald's Cornbread
I make in an 8-inch cast-iron skillet.
1/2 stick butter
1 cup medium grind yellow cornmeal (I use Bob's, organic if possible)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt (I use the smaller amount because I like to sprinkle a little bit of salt on the cornbread after it is baked, but before I eat it)
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
Put butter into the cast-iron skillet, put in the oven and turn the oven on, heating it until it reaches 425 degrees and until the butter is melted and a little bubbly.
In a bowl, mix together cornmeal, baking powder and salt.
In a separate bowl or Pyrex measuring cup, mix buttermilk, Greek yogurt (my father did not use this, but I add to give it a little extra tang and tenderness) and egg. Blend well.
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, and mix well.
Add melted butter, and mix well.
Pour immediately into the hot skillet, and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, depending on how crispy you want it. (Adjust time and watch carefully if you are using cornstick pans, as baking will be quicker.)
The cracker recipe Clifford Burdette found "came from the Chattanooga Times Free Press some time back. If you like Cheez-Its, you'll love these."
And who doesn't like Cheez-Its?
Spicy Cheese Crackers
1/2 pound extra-sharp cheddar, coarsely grated
4 ounces plus 1 ounce finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 1/2 cups (6 1/3 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/2 plus 1 teaspoons mustard powder, divided
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/4 plus 1 teaspoons cayenne, divided
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons ice water
In a food processor, combine the cheddar and 4 ounces of the Parmesan. Pulse until the cheddar is finely chopped.
Add the flour, butter, 1/2 teaspoon of the mustard powder, the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the cayenne.
Pulse until the mixture looks like small pellets.
Add the Worcestershire sauce and ice water, then pulse until just combined.
Pour the dough onto the counter, divide it into two mounds, then use the palm of your hands to smear each mound across the counter several times or until it comes together quickly when you press it with your fingers.
Transfer each half of the dough onto a 16-inch-long sheet of plastic wrap.
Shape into a 12-inch log (about 1 1/2 inches around), using the plastic as needed, then wrap tightly in the plastic.
Chill for at least 1 hour.
When ready to bake, heat the oven to 325 degrees.
Line 2 sheet pans with kitchen parchment, and position one of the oven racks in the center of the oven.
On a large plate, combine the remaining 1 teaspoon of mustard and 1 teaspoon of cayenne.
Remove one of the cylinders from the refrigerator.
Unwrap the dough, then roll it in the spice mix, rubbing off the excess spice.
Slice the dough crosswise about 1/3 inch thick. Arrange the dough rounds on the prepared sheet pans, about 1/2 inch apart.
Sprinkle each round with a pinch of the additional Parmesan cheese, and bake on the oven's middle and bottom shelves, switching places halfway through, until dark golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes.
Transfer to a rack to cool.
Start to finish: 2 hours 10 minutes (40 minutes active). Makes about 50 crackers.
We've read the coronavirus advisories about gathering at Thanksgiving and hopefully taken them to heart and to planning. As I think of virtual reunions, there is a hunger not so much for food, more so for presence, togetherness, touch. I hearken back to my mother's dressing bowl and massive turkey. Perhaps this year the groaning board won't groan so much, and the table will be less full of folks. So how about portions shared across the driveway, the neighborhood, the city? And what say we give thanks for memories and choose hope for the days to come?
* Tuscan chicken made with cream
* Advice on grilled cheese sandwiches
TO REACH US
Fare Exchange is a longtime meeting place for people who love to cook and love to eat. We welcome both your recipes and your requests. Be sure to include precise instructions for every recipe you send.
Mailing address: Jane Henegar, 913 Mount Olive Road, Lookout Mountain, GA 30750