Arts

Passing On The Southern Family Heirloom, In Recipe Form

The "Meal in a Skillet" before cooking, left, and during, right.
The "Meal in a Skillet" before cooking, left, and during, right.
Credit Nick Rogers

In the South, the family recipe is an important heirloom, passed on from one generation to the next.

As “City Lights” commentator Nick Rogers puts it, “Meals are a possession that is shared by the entire family at once,” whereas an inherited pocket watch or ring can only be used by one person at a time.

In this installment of his series “Fried Pies and Moonshine,” Rogers explores the role cooking plays in connecting him to his family’s past, all the while learning a new recipe to bring back to Atlanta (see below for recipe).

Rogers is currently working toward his Ph.D. in sociology at Georgia State University, and he is the director of the short documentary “In Queso Fever: A Movie about Cheese Dip,” as well as, the founder of the world Cheese Dip Championship.

MEAL IN A SKILLET

Ingredients:

1 whole chicken cut up, or precut pieces, with bone and skin

2–3 bell peppers, cut into ¾” strips (mix of colors looks nice)

2–3 onions, peeled and cut into wedges (purple onions work well)

3 ripe tomatoes cut into wedges (about 6 wedges per tomato)

8 oz. whole mushrooms, cleaned and stems removed – optional

1 bottle of sherry

Salt, pepper and flour

Vegetable oil

Note: Quantity of vegetables used depends on the size of your skillet. I make this in a deep electric skillet with a domed lid and really pile on the veggies. Seems no matter how many you put in, they will all be gone! My mom made this for a family of four and there were never leftovers.

Combine salt, pepper and flour. Wash chicken and pat dry. Lightly salt and pepper chicken and then dredge in the seasoned flour. I put the flour in a small paper bag and shake 2 or 3 pieces at a time in the bag.

Heat about ¼” – ½” of oil in your skillet until hot. Add your chicken pieces and cook just as you would for fried chicken. When both sides of the chicken are brown, but may not be fully cooked in the center, drain excess oil and pile all your vegetables in between chicken pieces and pile on top of chicken – however much your skillet will hold and the lid still fit. Sprinkle salt and pepper over all the vegetables. Pour ¾ of a bottle of sherry over the chicken and vegetables and turn the heat to simmer and cover. Check periodically to make sure there is still sherry in the bottom of the skillet. If it is getting low, add the rest of the sherry. You will need to simmer at least 20 minutes, 30 is fine if the simmer is low and there is still liquid. If the liquid gets low before the simmering is done you can add a little water – you just don’t want to eat it until all the liquid is gone. This is sort of trial and error the first time. Ideally there will be a small amount of the condensed sherry when you are done to spoon over the chicken.

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