Just when you thought the culinary world had gone stale, a scandal of sorts recently hit the internet. It occurred in another state, but involved one of Mississippi’s most valuable resources.
After reading about the incident in which fast food chicken was substituted in a chicken and waffles dish, I felt proud knowing this would never happen here. Mississippi chefs are born knowing how to fry chicken to perfection. On a positive note, it caused me to recycle recipes with store-bought or unusual ingredients.
At a California restaurant, an alert diner spotted employees carrying boxes of Popeye’s Chicken into the kitchen. The timing of his recent order of chicken and waffles at a restaurant whose ads proclaim they “stay local” and “everything is made here,” and the arrival of fast food chicken boxes was more than a little suspect.
The owner confessed, but justified her actions by calling Popeye’s “the best fried chicken anywhere.” I could live with her answer, except that in my opinion, KFC slightly edges out Popeye’s in the fast food chicken race. However, her statement that the restaurant is not set up to fry chicken was further proof this would never happen in Mississippi, where a fryer is an integral part of most kitchens.
Despite her subterfuge, I did feel bad for the restaurateur. After all, her restaurant is in a state known for its obsession with healthy eating.
According to California friends, adding chopped meat or a light dressing to a kale salad constitutes a hearty meal. No wonder fried chicken isn’t in her culinary wheelhouse.
While reading the story, I realized there are many delicious recipes that rely on store-bought ingredients.
I love Tortellini Meatball Soup, but I don’t always have time to roll and bake meatballs, make homemade pasta, or boil chicken for broth. Picking up a bag of frozen meatballs, box of organic chicken broth, and fresh cheese tortellini from the supermarket means I can sample one of my favorite soups in less than 30 minutes.
I can make time-intensive jambalaya from scratch, but don’t always have a few spare hours. When time is short, I reach for a box of jambalaya mix.
After browning a pound of sliced sausage in a little olive oil, I add a 28-ounce can of diced, un-drained tomatoes along with a half cup of water, and bring the mixture to a boil. The rice mix is added to the pan, covered, and cooked for the recommended time on the box. Finally, a pound of frozen shrimp that has been defrosted is added at the end. The mixture is then cooked for 3 to 4 more minutes until the shrimp is cooked.
Other store-bought-intensive dishes include homemade calzones from packaged pie dough, chopped deli meat, and cheeses; French bread or biscuit pizzas courtesy of a jar of pizza sauce, deli cheese, and sliced pepperoni; baked ravioli using a package of fresh pasta, jar of Alfredo sauce and frozen peas and rustic apple tart made with puff pastry and pie filling.
Last weekend, at the last minute I was asked to bring a dessert to a Southern Miss tailgate party. In need of one that would be easy to pick up and eat without a fork, I whipped up a recipe that triples as a dessert, coffee break snack or breakfast-on-the-go. It’s made from scratch, but is deceptive in its own way. A brown top and coarse texture lends it to be labeled a different type of bread.
It’s not overly sweet, but “Looks, But Doesn’t Taste Like Cornbread” Cake was a hit on the dessert table.
“Looks, But Doesn’t Taste Like Cornbread” Cake
4 large eggs
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup canola oil or a stick of melted butter
1-1/2 cups self-rising flour, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla or your favorite flavoring (lemon or almond)
1 cup chopped pecans, slightly toasted
Powdered sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and spray a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with Bake Easy. (I used the Perfect Brownie Pan). In a large mixing bowl, add eggs one at a time, lightly beating after each addition. Then, add remaining ingredients in order listed. Pour into pan and bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until top is lightly browned and toothpick comes out clean.
Remove from pan, cut into squares, and dust lightly with powdered sugar.