HOME & HILL

Spring Picnic | for the love of the south

Tennessee. This is a lovely state in which I’m grateful to call my home. I’m enjoying discovering sweet family farms that sell fresh eggs, with their only advertising being a hand painted sign leaning at the front of their fence. Farmers markets with some of the most passionate farmers tending to their stands, making sure you choose the best possible produce for your weekend meals, and the whispers of the South’s history being sung in the graveyards and historic battlefields. I’m educating myself in tobacco-scented sorghum, golden benne seeds and wild emerald green ramps.

Thyme & Garlic Infused Fried Chicken | for the love of the south

It’s no secret that I’ve been enraptured by Tennessee’s seasonal displays of autumn and winter, but as I pass the gently green rolling hills of Franklin, white petals blow in the wind like gently falling snow. I begin to realize this is easily my favorite season yet. Lovely dogwoods and cherry blossoms reveal their beautiful blooms, enticing us for a picnic so we can revel in nature’s spring splendor.

Homemade Potato Chips | for the love of the south

So in preparation of a lovely spring picnic, I decide to create a menu of thyme and garlic infused fried chicken, gently bathed in buttermilk and cayenne pepper, paired with crisp homemade potato chips and a wonderful sweet delight of floral elderflower marshmallows.

Elderflower Marshmallows | for the love of the south

I pack all the picnic treats in a vintage wooden basket. Nestled paper bags filled with chips, silver bento boxes of marshmallows, and a lovely milk glass dish of fried chicken line the basket. Packing up anything, especially food, reminds me to take a piece of home with me wherever I am going, or in this case, my kitchen. As I pull out my everyday flatware, white flour sack dishtowels, silver Laguiole knives, and Mason jars filled with lemon slices among the green grass and blushing blossoms, I am reminded of my sweet home on a hill in Tennessee.

Spring Picnic | for the love of the south

I am grateful to be able to contribute to the lovely quarterly, Home & Hill, which is dedicated to people who love this state as much as I do. You can find these recipes exclusively in Home & Hill Issue No. 3. You can order the magazine here!

IT WAS THE BEST OF TIMES…

Garlic & Rosemary Infused Chips | for the love of the south

When food connects us to a memory, there is a sense of comfort and safety that transpires into our hearts and lives. This is an important statement for me to write because it was a great motivating force for this site’s existence, at least at the beginning of this journey. Not many people know, but this site was created during a difficult time in my life. Sweet days were behind me, smiling at me in the distance and waving to me in the days to come, but my present was not so bright. I needed a place to write and contemplate and share. This blog became that outlet. Every day I would sit in complete silence, shutting the door to my present that was constantly screaming at me for its attention. Daily, I just sat in my quiet, peaceful room, if only to remember. At once, I was transported to my grandmother’s kitchen, where the aroma of roux would forever be engrained in the walls of her home. Traipsing through gardens and discovering nature’s beautiful bounty engulfed my memory. The retention of family dinners, which seemed to last for days on end, brought a smile to my face. I was transported to a happier time in my life, and I connected food with those memories. This blog made me remember. It carried me through a dark time, along with family, friends and many many prayers. And now, I’m sitting on the other side of the ridge, still remembering, still cooking and still sharing.

So, today I want to encourage you. If you are going through a difficult time in life, to take a cherished memory out of your pocket and reflect on it. To live in that memory if only for a moment, then fold it back up with its tattered edges and deep creases and place it back in your pocket for safekeeping.

One of the fondest memories I keep in my pocket is having picnics with my mom, dad and older sister when I was around two years old (almost the same age as this blog!) We would find a small patch of grass next to the Oral Roberts University campus in Oklahoma and chomp on Burger King burgers and potato chips. Now that I’m older, I don’t eat many chips, but when I get a craving for this comfort food (or nursery food as comfort food is sometimes called) I infuse the oil with garlic and rosemary. Caution: they are more than slightly addictive.

Recipe: Garlic & Rosemary Infused Homemade Potato Chips

Serves 4

Note: The amount of oil you use when deep-frying really depends on the size of your pot. You want the oil to be at least 3-4 inches deep. Also, rubbing the rosemary in between your palms before placing them in the oil releases its natural oils.

4 cups of canola, vegetable or peanut oil (for frying)

1 head of garlic, unpeeled, cloves slightly crushed

4 springs of rosemary, gently rub in between palms

4 small Russet potatoes (or 3 large), scrubbed

Salt, to taste

Place 2 layers of paper towels on a roasting tray.

Pour the oil in a large pot. Toss in garlic cloves and sprigs of rubbed rosemary. Turn heat on medium-high. The oil is ready when a thermometer reads 350 degrees and the garlic cloves have browned slightly and rosemary has become crispy. Carefully remove the crispy garlic and rosemary and set aside to serve with the chips.

Using a mandoline, thinly slice ½ of a potato and carefully place into the infused oil. Occasionally turn the potatoes with a spider to make sure they are not sticking together. While the potatoes fry, slice the other half of the potato. Take the chips out of the oil whenever they are golden brown. Place on prepared towel-lined tray and season with salt. Continue frying the chips in batches.

Serve with fried garlic and rosemary. Consume immediately or store in an airtight container or a gallon-sized Ziploc bag for a few days (although they have never lasted more than 1 day in my house!)