Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

Winner, Winner Chicken Dinner 2Hugh Griffin is on the cusp of a secret that will change the path of John Welles’s life forever. The unspoken shared knowledge exists between Hugh and his daughter, Garland, who John loves dearly. The once competitive pair has become quite close although for different reasons. Their relationship reaches its pinnacle in the summer of 1929 when she invites him to her home to visit her father, Hugh.

The retired Lutheran pastor welcomes his daughter and her boyfriend with abundant graciousness. Hugh is the type of man who lives a simple life with excellence. His cooking is homey, delicious, and prepared with love. For the special meal, he takes a little extra time with the otherwise ordinary dish of roasted chicken.

The following recipe is the one I had in mind for Hugh to prepare when John and Garland visited. The extra steps of spatchcocking and marinating the chicken are simple and go a long way to making the humble roast chicken juicy and tender. Besides, half the fun of spatchcocking a chicken is saying the word spatchcock. While I could describe this process to you, it’s much simpler to direct you to a website on Spatchcocking a Chicken. Once you’ve spatchcocked your chicken, proceed with the following recipe.

1 4-pound chicken, spatchcocked


2 c buttermilk

¼ c plus 2 T olive oil

4 cloves garlic, pressed

1 T ground peppercorns (I used quad-colored peppercorns)

1 T sea salt

2 T rosemary

1 T honey

Mix the buttermilk, ¼ c olive oil, garlic, pepper, sea salt, rosemary, and honey in a bowl. Whisk thoroughly. Pour the mixture over the spatchcocked chicken in a baking dish to be covered with plastic wrap or place the marinade and chicken in a freezer bag and seal tightly. Refrigerate overnight or up to two days.

Preheat the oven to 400° F. Remove the chicken from the marinade and place on a rack so the excess can drip off. Prepare the seasonings mixture.

Seasonings Mixture:

6 T unsalted butter, cold and cut into six squaresWinner, Winner Chicken Dinner 1

1 t sea salt

¼ t oregano

¼ t thyme

¼ t paprika

¼ t ground peppercorns (Again, I used the quad-colored variety)

Combine the spices and salt. Dip one side of the cold squares of butter in the seasoning mixture and shove four beneath the skin across the breast of the chicken and one each beneath the skin over the thigh/drumstick area. Drizzle the chicken with remaining 2 T olive oil and sprinkle any remaining seasoning mixture across the skin of the chicken.

Place the chicken breast side up in a roasting pan or baking dish. Tuck the wing tips beneath the chicken. Roast for 45 minutes then reduce heat to 325° F. Baste the chicken and continue roasting until well browned and until juices run clear when chicken is pierced where leg joins thigh, about another 20 minutes.  Baste again when done roasting.

Place chicken on a carving board and allow it to rest for 10 minutes before cutting into serving pieces. Place a portion on each of four plates, and drizzle each serving with pan juices.


Spread the Love

One of my earliest memories of butter includes sitting on the carpet in the kindergarten classroom, all of us in a large circle, passing a massive canning jar from person to person as we shook the sealed jar full of whipping cream as hard as our little arms could manage. We’d been told that this would produce butter. I remember my skepticism, but since I loved butter, I gladly took part and watched the magic unfold.

It’s funny how many of my food memories are attached to my Grandma Smith, but I believe her kitchen is where I developed my love of butter.Butter versus Margarine There was something different about the sunshine yellow block that sat in her cut glass butter dish. It was lighter, sweeter than the golden-colored sticks of ‘butter’ we used at home. As a young child, any yellow, creamy substance that one spread on toast or crackers was referred to as butter. My mother provided the explanation of the difference, and I learned the definition of margarine. It wouldn’t be until decades later that I learned what an evil substance margarine is, but I digress.

Grandma Smith would bring me packets of real butter from restaurants where she had dined. Nothing against my mother, but she used margarine for years until I finally convinced her to switch. Glory be–my taste buds rejoiced and food became so much tastier.

Where is all this leading you ask? To my novel, The Secrets of Dr. John Welles, of course. I’ve already established that as an author, I love to feed my fictional characters. Twice I reference butter specifically, once in conjunction with biscuits and again with cornbread, but what I want my readers to understand without mentioning it every time is that butter is my fictional characters’ ingredient of choice when it comes to cooking and baking.

As I wrote the scenes involving food and envisioned the preparation, butter was always in the picture, sitting in a crock or dish, just within reach of the experienced hands that would lovingly incorporate it into the recipe. I’ll spare you the debate on the health benefits of butter versus margarine and simply say don’t fear butter and all things in moderation.

To sum up this post, I made butter with my son because I wanted him to experience how easy and fun it is. The added step of washing the butter is new for me based on research for this post. The instructions for this activity follow. I highly recommend doing this with your kids because the memories you’ll make are priceless.


Homemade Butter

2 c whipping cream (Raw cream from grass-fed cows is recommended, but store bought organic will work as well. This quantity will yield approximately ½ c of butter.)

sea salt

I used a stand mixer with a wire attachment for this process and chilled the bowl and wire attachment prior to using.

Pour the cream into your mixing bowl, filling the bowl halfway so it does not overflow as air is whipped into the cream. Mix on a medium-low speed to prevent splashing. As the cream thickens, you can turn it up to medium.

This process should take about 15 minutes but can vary depending on how much cream you are using and what type if mixer you have. Whipped cream will develop first. When the whipped cream begins to deflate, watch closely as your mixture can rapidly change to butter. To prevent splashing, cover the bowl with a lightly dampened tea towel.

When the butter begins to clump and stick to the whisk, it is done mixing. Pour the mixture through a fine strainer to separate the solids, butter, from the liquids, buttermilk. If you want it to last for more than a few days, you need to wash the butter. This will remove as much buttermilk as possible to keep the butter from going rancid. Put the butter back in your mixing bowl and cover with clean, cold water.

Use a large spoon to press the butter into the sides of the bowl. The water will become cloudy as the buttermilk is removed from the butter. Pour off the cloudy water and add more fresh. You can repeat this process until the water stays clear. Stir in a large pinch of amount of sea salt for every ½ c of butter.

Store in refrigerator or at room temperature if you will use it within a week or two.

Collie Mercer’s Cornbread

Buttermilk Cornbread Ingredients

Buttermilk Cornbread Ingredients

There are probably as many recipes for cornbread as there are people. Well, at least as many as there are people in the southern part of North America. I chose the following recipe because it was the one I had in mind when I wrote my novel, The Secrets of Dr. John Welles.

The year is 1907. For the three oldest Welles children, Stanley, James, and Eunice, December will hold an extra surprise this year. They will receive an early Christmas presents in the form of a new baby brother. Each has an opinion on whether or not another sibling is a good thing for their family.

After the three children get a peek at their baby brother, the midwife, Collie Mercer, sends them off to do their chores. Collie is a brusque, but kind woman, who makes sure the children have food in their stomachs before heading out into the cold. She directs them to cornbread and buttermilk on the kitchen table with the promise of a real breakfast once they return from the barn.

I love this recipe because it is rich and moist. Usually, I serve it with butter and honey, but the recipe is also good with the inclusion of herbs or spices, cheese, green onions or chiles; whatever you choose to add to make it your own. It is great crumbled up in chili, soaking up the broth from brown beans, or toasted and served with apple butter.


Served With Butter & Honey

Served With Butter & Honey

Collie Mercer’s Cornbread

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 cup cornmeal

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar (I use raw)

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Cooking Spray

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Lightly grease an 8-inch baking dish.

In a large bowl, mix together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs, buttermilk, and butter.

Pour the buttermilk mixture into the cornmeal mixture and fold together until there are no dry spots (the batter will still be lumpy). Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish.

Bake until the top is golden brown and tester inserted into the middle of the corn bread comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the cornbread from the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes before serving.

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