Grilled honey-soy chicken.

With the temperatures as high as they have been lately, it’s been an ideal time for getting your grill on. It’s just not as satisfying to stand around a grill with a heavy jacket and skullcap, as it is to hang around in a tank top and shorts. At least, it’s not as satisfying to me. The other night, chicken was on the menu, but the seasoning decision was a little up in the air. We were cooking for the family, and while some of us like it spicy, others can’t eat anything much more than some barely-applied black pepper. Cullen had to step out for a while, so everything got left up to me. I decided I’d halve the seasonings between blackened and… something else. A few minutes of searching Epicurious yielded Grilled Lemon-Honey Chicken Breasts, and it sounded just like what I was looking for. Even better, I had everything in the kitchen to make the marinade!

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A revival, with a promise. (Recipe – Torta Española.)

Yes, my dears, I know it’s been a while. Almost three months, in fact. And I have no excuse for my absence – a lack of Internet (old news), but more relevant, a lack of motivation and inspiration. Even beyond that, a feeling of not quite right – maybe I shouldn’t blog, I don’t belong, my blog is useless and the name is all wrong and it doesn’t even match my URL. (that really does bother me more often than not, but it’s my fault.) so I’ve been thinking this thing over in my absence: to be or not to be? Despite the trials of keeping up, I didn’t take long to decide to be. Especially given that my last post was the 100th post on boonie foodie (huzzah!).

Being, of course, requires more organization and discipline and I have considered that as well. And I want to address other areas of my life besides just food, too – other areas that are related to food – or rather, food is related to those areas, like the garden I hope to grow in the backyard, the farmer’s market in town and the eggs I buy from a county local; or the quiet decision to live more sustainably and what that really means for me and mine. The real meaning of words and using them to their best. And of course, bettering my photography skills to something besides “i takez pix.” (Maybe I’ll even build that DIY lightbox that’s floated through almost all blogs, one day.) The point of this creation is not only to share myself with the rest of the world, but to better myself in the process – as it was, I was just writing and posting to post, following an arbitrary internal desire to follow a schedule that never really manifested.

My first desire is to set up a more dependable schedule – one day, food; one day, gardening and green, maybe two; and hopefully Menu Plan Monday. It depends on how much I can find to say. Hopefully my schedule is finally nailed down enough that I can schedule posts on Saturday for the following week. I’ll be working on a buffer in the next two weeks so I can actually get this in effect. In the meantime, I intend to clean up the blog overall: visual design, tags, language – all but the content and the photos. (The really poor posts I can use later for slow-thought days – remake and retry.)

In honor of this revival, here is the first recipe I’ve been inspired to put up in quite some time. It’s not new to many, and it’s not fancy; what it “is,” is filling, cheap and lovely in its own homely way. Many people have made it and loved it; I am now one of those fortunate folks. Torta Española or torta de patatas (or tortilla de papas, or a combination of these as your preference or region dictates) is nothing more than a layer of oh-so-thin potato and onion slices lightly browned, then covered with egg and cooked as an omelet. Simple to make and as versatile as you like it, my only recommendation is that you make it in batches that are manageable enough to flip, or beware that yours may end up as ugly as mine.

Oh, and add cheese.

Torta Española

serves 2-4

ingredients:
1 medium waxy potato, thinly sliced
1/2 white onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp unsalted butter
salt and pepper
5 eggs
2 tbsp water
2-3 oz cheese

directions:
Slice the potatoes and onions as thin as possible, using a mandoline if available. Heat the olive oil and butter in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; when the foam subsides, add the potatoes and onions and season generously with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Stir to coat, then let brown as a single layer for 2-4 minutes on each “side.”

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, beat the eggs with the water and a light sprinkling of salt and pepper. Shake the skillet to settle the potatoe-onion mixture into an even, flat layer. Pour the egg mixture into the pan and turn the pan to distribute the egg evenly. With one hand, stir the eggs in one direction while shaking the pan in the other. Do this until the eggs thicken a little, add cheese, then let cook until the eggs are browned on the bottom. Flip the omelet and let cook until the center is just set. Serve warm with ketchup.

A Georgia tradition–chicken mull.

While it is not unusual for me to proudly proclaim my Kentucky heritage, there are a few things that, like Kentucky’s hot browns and Ale-8, Georgia has all to its own. I’m going to address one of them today, and that is chicken mull.

Yes, indeedy, you read that right: mull. Not unlike “church fluff” and “funeral potatoes” in its own right, chicken mull is something you’ll often see at a church potluck or family gathering, usually in the colder months (when they make an appearance). It is also one of those foods that just doesn’t venture too far from its origins – chicken mull, to the best of my knowledge, doesn’t exist far out of North Georgia, quite possibly not even out of the general Athens area. I know it definitely didn’t exist in my houses when I was growing up. Chicken and dumplings, chicken and stars, chicken noodle – chicken mull was nowhere to be found. Don’t confuse it with chicken stew, which is a different animal altogether. Stew involves vegetables, is mostly broth and leaves out the cream.

Though the origins of chicken mull elude me, I can be fairly sure that it was created in a time of a short-listed pantry. It’s pretty simple to make – shredded chicken, stock or broth, milk, crackers and salt and pepper. If you buy a whole chicken, as seen here, instead of chicken in a can and stock in a box (or can), you add cooking time but save money – poaching the chicken gives you plenty of stock and more than enough meat, but requires shredding by hand and straining the stock (my preference) before adding the meat and remaining ingredients into your liquid. You also have the option in such case to control what goes into your mull – always a plus in my book. The frugality appeal is what has made it so popular as a church potluck – cheap and easy, in monstrously gigundous rather large quantities if needed.

(Behold, my ugly CrockPot. Ahem.)

Mull is comfort food at the top of the list – creamy, thick and velvety on the tongue. Easy to make, and enough for leftovers to eat the next day or freeze for another time.  Fix it with a salad and have a full meal. The best way to eat it is hot out of the pot, with a generous helping of Texas Pete (no Tabasco, please), and maybe some extra crackers.

Chicken Mull
A Family Recipe

ingredients:
One whole roasting chicken (4-5 lbs)
2-3 cups chicken stock or broth
2 cans of evaporated milk or 3 1/2 cups milk or cream
2-3 sleeves of Ritz (or crackers of choice)
Salt and pepper to taste

directions:
Boil chicken in deep stockpot or crockpot, with enough water to cover, until meat is done and tender. Remove chicken from stock, let cool enough to handle, and shred meat from the bone. Strain stock back into cooking pot, add shredded meat, milk and additional broth. Let cook to a simmer, add crushed crackers and salt and pepper, and cook to desired thickness. Add more crackers if needed. Serve with hot sauce and extra crackers if desired.

It really is as simple as that. More crackers means a thicker mull; using milk or cream means a richer mull than using evaporated milk. It’s extremely forgiving, and very tasty. I promise you won’t regret making it the next cold night that comes around!

Homemade pizza; or, another exercise in trust.

Ever since I picked up Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food at my puny local library, I’ve been inspired. Grow my own. Prepare simply, eat simply. The nine principles in the beginning of the book are simple in themselves, and easier than expected to follow in most cases, especially when you’re like me and love to make things yourself. The pages in the first half are descriptive and loving – roasted chicken with crispy skin, pan-seared fish, handmade pasta and pizza. Handmade. I love that word.

The handmade pasta I’m looking forward to at another time – I have an unearthly desire to make black pepper pappardelle, or spinach ravioli with ricotta – but the pizza dough was last night. And this is where the lesson in trust comes in.

Pizza Dough - Stretching

I am not, in my opinion, a seasoned baker by any means. Adventurous, a little impetuous, yes. Not seasoned at all. I do enjoy baking, which still occasionally surprises me because I used to hate baking. Too much work, too much fiddly preciseness. But now I love it, almost as much as I love cooking and grilling. They all have their own draws, different but nonetheless appealing. Yeast, especially, used to scare me. A lot. But then I manned up one day and made bread, and it hasn’t really had the same scary tack to it since.

Mostly.

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The classic, the not so troublesome, tasty French onion soup.

I was going to make baked potato soup last night when I got home – ambitious of me, to bake 2 pounds of potatoes, then dice and mash them and cook them down into a soup. All this after a good, solid martial arts workout? I don’t think so, scooter. But I told 354 that I would cook supper for him, and like a good, trusting man, he didn’t eat anything so he could have supper when I got home (around 2100 zulu). What’s a girl to do? I suggested French onion soup, his eyes lit up and the deal was done.

Had I ever made French onion soup before? No. (Had I ever eaten it? No.) Was I scared? No! I had recipes galore – Julia, BHG, Cooking, the entirety of the Internet at my fingertips! What was to be scared of?

After two to three hours looking through recipes online and in-hand, I decided. Enough was enough. Enough of the recipes said onions, beef stock, butter, flour and a very, very small amount of sugar, and generally some dry white wine, so I figured it couldn’t be that hard to replicate. And on the whole, it wasn’t. There were pieces and parts of things that I will definitely do differently next time, but the soup itself, like soups should be, was simple.

(Remainder, including pictures, under the cut.)

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