Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Basics to Brilliant Y'all.

I don't cheer on too many teams. My days of watching and supporting professional sports have faded into the misty fanaticism of my youth (a certain cross country Winnebago trip to feed the Washington Redskins ribs as they prepared for the Super Bowl fixed that). These days my cheerleading is reserved for the health and well being for our country as a whole. GO USA. However there is one team that I am wholeheartedly on the Winnebago for. That's Team Willis. It's pretty easy to figure out why. Whether getting quoted in the NY Times about wistfully hoping for gay marriage rights in Georgia, coming to terms with being "a big gal", pulling the curtain back on making of a cookbook or sharing her love of all things seafood, Virginia is a kindred spirit that I love seeing success rain down on her self described offensive lineman's shoulders.

Photo by Angie Mosier

If you've followed this blog at all you know I've been casually cooking my way through Virginia's most excellent first cookbook, Bon Appetit Y'all. It's not just beautiful and graphically amazing, I have not yet found a bad recipe. But you just knew that Virginia had more than one delicious cookbook's worth of recipes tucked away in the nooks and crannies of her chef's jacket. Now comes Basic to Brilliant Y'all, her second stunning offering.

Right off the bat I have one minor issue. Really, just a little one. It's this recipe right here....

Photo by Helene Dujardin

...and the fall release date of this book. You see, to prepare a dish the best way you sometimes have to cook seasonally. This recipe of grilled soft shell crabs with lemon gremolata really only should be prepared with fresh soft shell crabs. Which for yours truly, will not be available until the next spring. Let's just say it's going to be a long, cold winter before I can satisfy my hunger for that particular tidbit. But that's OK because when digging into a new cookbook, I like to make the very first recipe the author lists and since the theme of this cookbook is basics, it's only appropriate that we start with chicken stock (and participate in Virginia's Virtual Potluck). Now again, if you readers have been following along you also know I jibe pretty closely with the Cook's Illustrated and America's Test Kitchen crowd. I've been using their basic chicken stock recipe and have not been disappointed in the flavor. But then again, they don't use chicken feet.


That's right, Virginia suggests that two pounds of well washed chicken feet would make an excellent chicken stock. I just happen to frequent a grocery store that has a well stocked meat counter with big piles of chicken feet. Which brings us to the weirdness factor of your basic American cook. Why am I a little skeeved out handling chicken feet? I know why.....the fact that we (mostly) are generations removed from killing and butchering our own meat. My grandmother made a mean fried chicken but that meant starting the process of the meal by chopping the head off a chicken. Attending yearly hog butcherings at an early age keeps you from being squeamish about meat but still, chicken feet are skeevy. Of course that didn't stop me from making the stock.

VW chicken stock2

Liquid gold, baby. I'll probably make Virginia's Meme's Chicken and Rice.

VW chicken stock

You will be sad because you won't be able to just drop in to see what I'm cooking.


froggy said...

We are lucky enough to include real live family farmers in our family tree. I consider it a huge gift for my children. My BIL and SIL (wheat and lentil farmers) have a huge vegetable garden and raise chickens, beef and pork on the family place. My SIL put in a herb garden. She placed it by the pig pen. While she was watering the herb garden the pigs got into the habit of coming over for a shower and she obliged. It was a very sad day when the pigs made their way to the freezers. She didn't make that mistake again.

MakingSpace said...

This post made me smile big. I'm really looking forward to more posts from this cookbook.

However the post also generated questions:
1. Feeding ribs to the Redskins? Details, woman, details!!

2. No batter-fried chicken feet to test out the taste and consistency?

3. If chicken feet start off this series, or at least its formal introduction, does this mean that by the end you'll have lured us into an appreciation of Brilliant Haggis?

4. Liquid gold indeed. Enjoy.

Dani said...

Hmmmm...not sure about the chickie feet.

Big Shamu said...

Yes Froggy, you learn early on not to name farm animals. I don't think most people realize what happens to FFA projects they see with their blue ribbons.

MS, that's a post for another day. Let's just say I had early experiences with Fame Chasers.
No, no batter fried. We have Dim Sum for that. Sorry, no haggis recipe in Virginia's cookbook but thanks for asking, didn't know it was on your culinary bucket list.

Dani, they are almost reptilian. Skeevy.

Dani said...

***nodding head***

I didn't know about Virginia until I started following her through your FB. I love how she loves herself as is. It's refreshing. And her food is soul comforting.

MakingSpace said...

Haggis is not on my culinary bucket list. Just to set the record straight. Heh.

Chicken Feet are Skeevy sounds like a single off of a punk band album.

Buzz Kill said...

Chicken feet in the lead-off recipe scares me a little. I've been in commercial chicken coops and have seen what the chickens step in. I'm not too sure you could ever get them clean enough. But it seems to make a nice, rich looking stock, so maybe there is truth in the feet.

Susan said...

yum to the chicken stock
um ... to the chicken feet
& Missy D says can't wait for Spring

xoxo les Gang

virginia willis said...

LOVE THIS - thank you. Thank you.
Best VA

Big Shamu said...

No, THANK YOU Virginia.

Captain Obvious said...

Captain Obvious says:

Captain Obvious likes chicken feet. Captain Obvious is also glad to see BS making fresh chicken stock and not using some commercially made stuff.

Captain Obvious makes chicken stock or broth once a week starting in the Fall.

And yes...if you've made it correctly, it should be gelatinous when refrigerated :)

Captain Obvious has ALWAYS believed in nose to tail cooking. If you're going to kill something, you'd better be respecting that animal and doing justice to all parts!

Captain Obvious does not reside in the cling film-wrapped, pre-cut, boneless chicken breast world.

Lastly, thank you Viginia for using the feet and showing people that you can make something magical!

chickory said...

if this practice for stock overtakes the neat little cartons of Swanson's, Virginia might find herself on the wrong side of Marie Laveau. Nice nice shot of the stock jar with flash of light - just like a sun rise on the surface of one of those red moons. very nice. and the photograph of the feet = wow.