I must be honest. Sitting down to write this I felt a little anxiety. I was not 100 percent sure what I should, or could, contribute.
You see, although I am chef by profession, I also have the title of wife and mother. This means that most of the time, I have the same struggles as my clients, friends and family members.
What is that old saying, “sometimes the cobbler’s children have no shoes?”
Shocking as that may seem, sometimes the chef’s family does not get an elaborate dinner. It would be nice, if only for the sake of public perception, I could pretend that I cook elaborate meals each night, but that would be dishonest. We have enough stress in our lives being wives, mothers and professional women. I wouldn’t feel good about myself if I contributed to that guilt in anyway.
I, like many of you, struggle with balancing the responsibilities of wife, mother and career woman, and I often feel as though I am failing at least one of those jobs daily.
In talking with my family, I had a wealth of suggestions. It was difficult to narrow it down to just four. When I considered all the suggestions, however, I noticed a common theme—low maintenance.
As a family, we are usually pressed for time because we are getting in late, we have somewhere else to be, or I feel like I haven’t spent any quality time with them, and at this point in the day, I am not looking to spend all of it in the kitchen. Also, these kids grew up in the kitchen with me. It is where we have bonded, so I gravitate to home meals that allow them to participate in the preparation.
It’s no different at work or at home. I love it when I have an opportunity to have them in the kitchen with me. These recipes reflect my time with my family. They are things that we enjoy eating, either for a full family dinner or as movie-night snacks.
There is nothing I love more than to share a good meal with my family and connect with them face-to-face, without the interruption of technology.
It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it is time that feeds my soul.
“I grew up in a family of great cooks who believed that dinnertime was the most enjoyable part of the day—of life,” McAfee-Bryant says. She’s reported to have made her first apple pie (with a homemade crust) at the tender age of 13. After training at the Culinary Institute at JCCC, she’s gone on to fame as a winner of the Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen. Southern cuisine is her inspiration. “I honor the tradition of many old-school recipes,” she says. “But I give each and every dish my own creative flair.” Since closing her Magnolia’s Southern Cuisine Restaurant & Bar last year, she’s been, literally, on the move with Magnolia’s on the Move, a food truck that also caters events.
Biscuit Topped Chicken Pot Pie
This is something I would typically do midweek. At this point the name of the game is leftovers. The end of the week tends to be hectic, and with track practice, ballet, cello lessons, client and board meetings and catering jobs, it’s a comfort to know that I have something they can reheat!
2 tablespoons dry sherry
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken stock (low sodium if store-bought)
1 cup half and half, warmed
3 tablespoons chopped fresh garlic (please, not the kind in the jar)
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 large leek (rinsed and chopped)
1 small yellow onion, medium dice (about 1 cup)
1½ carrots, medium dice
1 10-ounce bag frozen peas
3 cups shredded chicken (about one small rotisserie chicken with white and dark meat)
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottom pot on medium heat, sauté garlic, thyme and leeks in butter until tender. Season lightly with salt and black pepper. Whisk in all-purpose flour, and stir until a thick paste forms. Continue to stir for one to two minutes until it reaches a nice blonde color. Deglaze the roux (flour/butter mixture) with dry sherry and whisk in chicken stock until smooth. Reduce heat to low and let simmer. Stir in carrots, diced onions and chicken and simmer 5 to 7 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Remove from heat and stir in the frozen peas. Taste to check seasoning and add more salt and pepper if necessary. Pour filling in a 2- to 3-inch deep casserole dish.
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
½ cup butter, melted
1½ cups buttermilk
Mix all ingredients in bowl until they form a sticky, lumpy batter. (It is important not to mix until smooth because you want the biscuits to be light and tender. Overmixing will cause toughness.) Using a wooden spoon or ice cream scooper, add dollops of the biscuit topping on the top of the casserole until it’s covered. Bake until the topping is browned and filling is bubbling.
Cast-Iron Seared Rib-eye Steak with Crispy Smashed Potatoes
We all love a good medium-rare rib-eye steak, and if it happens to be from a local farmer all the better. I prefer Hatfield Farm. If you can get your hands on a couple of those steaks, you are in for a real treat!
2 rib-eye steaks about 1½-inches thick (room temperature)
Kosher salt & black pepper
4 cloves garlic
2 sprigs fresh thyme
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
Blended oil to coat the skillet
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Place a 10-to-12-inch cast-iron skillet in the oven and heat the oven to 500 degrees. When the oven reaches temperature, remove the skillet and place on the range over high heat for 5 minutes. Coat the steak lightly with oil and sprinkle both sides with a generous pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper.
Immediately place the steak in the middle of the hot, dry skillet. Cook 30 seconds without moving. Turn with tongs and cook another 30 seconds, add the garlic cloves, thyme and rosemary, then put the pan into the oven for 2 minutes. Flip the steak and cook for another 2 minutes. (This time is for medium-rare steak. If you prefer medium, add a minute to both of the oven turns.) Remove from oven, add melted butter in skillet and baste the steak with butter, covering both sides. Remove the steak and herbs from the skillet, cover loosely with foil and rest for 2 minutes. Serve whole or slice thin and fan onto plate.
CRISPY SMASHED POTATOES
1½ pounds fingerling potatoes
Black truffle salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
4 tablespoons bacon fat (duck fat or olive oil can be used instead)
In a large saucepan, cover fingerling potatoes with water and bring to a boil until fork-tender. Drain in a colander and let cool slightly. While still in the colander, using a fork or your hand, smash the potatoes but keep intact.
Place the same skillet used to cook the steak over medium heat and melt bacon fat. Add the potatoes. (Do this step in 2 batches if pan seems crowded.)
Fry potatoes in fat until golden brown. (Try not to flip too often, as you want the potatoes to be nice and golden.)
Dr. Pepper Glazed Chicken Wings
Nothing says Friday night movies at our house like chicken wings. This recipe incorporated my love of Dr. Pepper and mustard. We typically make these wings and serve them with a salad for a weekend movie night. I also use the glaze on ham.
2 pounds chicken wings (whole wings not party wings)
Chicken seasoning (see recipe)
Dr. Pepper glaze (see recipe)
Peanut oil for frying
Dr. Pepper glaze (see recipe)
Peanut oil for frying
Season chicken wings generously with chicken seasoning. Heat oil to 250 degrees in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottom pan. In small batches, fry wings for 20 minutes, drain on paper towels. At this point wings can be frozen or refrigerated until ready for use. Once all the wings have been cooked and drained, heat the oil to 400 degrees. Cook the drained, room temperature wings at 400 degrees until crispy.
Toss in glaze and serve.
In food processor or coffee grinder add the following seasoning and blend, blend, blend.
¾ teaspoon ground celery seed
¾ teaspoon ground yellow mustard
½ teaspoon bay leaves
½ teaspoon granulated garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1 ounce kosher salt
DR. PEPPER GLAZE
1 pound unsalted butter
3 cups brown sugar
¾ cup Dijon mustard
10 ounces Dr. Pepper
In a heavy-bottom pot on medium heat, melt butter. Once butter is melted and frothy, stir in brown sugar and mustard. Simmer and stir frequently until the mixture is thick and completely incorporated. Stir in the Dr. Pepper and let reduce 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently. Toss with wings or use as a ham glaze.
Buttery Pecan Carmel Corn
To say we love popcorn would be an understatement; we eat it for breakfast, for lunch. Basically we love popcorn! This recipe is also great to send to family members for holiday treat bags, gifts to teachers and, by omitting the nuts, for class party treats.
1 cup butter (unsalted)
2 cups brown sugar*
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon baking soda
8 cups popped popcorn
2 cups chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Over medium heat combine butter, brown sugar, salt and corn syrup. Let come to rolling boil and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda, stir vigorously to ensure completely incorporated.
In large roasting pan add popcorn and pecans, stir to completely coat all the popcorn and pecans. Bake in the oven for one hour stirring every 15 minutes.
*The print edition of this article mistakenly left out the brown sugar. It has been added in the online recipe.