29 March 2010

Comfort in the kitchen

Every morning Seth cooks himself a fried egg while I cook oatmeal. We're usually in the thick of keeping the boy and the dog from destroying the house while we both itemize the tasks ahead of us in the day. I enjoy this time, especially since it's usually the one meal we all share each day, but I still miss time in the kitchen with other women.

Every time I return home I find myself in my mother's kitchen and in my mother-in-law's kitchen chopping onions, cooking dinner all while we catch up, gossip and chat about this and that. It's one of the things I miss the most about living so far away from my family. That chance to be together in the kitchen with such casual purpose, just being ourselves.

Last night I hosted my book club girlfriends plus one nice, brave man who joined us as a guest. We had just read "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett about a racially divided town in the early 1960s and one junior league woman who sets out to tell the stories of the southern small town's hired help. My menu was a traditional nod to the culture with fried chicken, buttermilk mashed potatoes and cream gravy with a green salad with buttermilk ranch dressing and cornbread served with honey butter.

It sounded delicious, but by the time the guests started arriving, things took a downturn. I'd been up most of the previous night with a sick kid and spent most of the day wishing someone else would cook that meal. I was running behind and wasn't keeping my eye on the chicken while I should have. That's when my friend Kim stepped in. She finished unloading my dishwasher and then made the salad dressing. Then she started in on the gravy. We laughed about our goofs and came up with a few quick fixes while the others enjoyed a glass of wine and chatted in the other room.

In the end, the meal was fantastic. Not because of the food, but because a group of friends sat around the table and laughed the night away. It made me appreciate how nice it is to have good friends, and it made me remember how much I enjoy another woman's company in the kitchen. Whether it's drying dishes or trying not to burn gravy, it's so much more fun with a friend.

Here's one little recipe from the night. It's a fantastic cornbread recipe from Fannie Farmer and the delicious honey butter to serve it with. I hope you have someone to cook with soon. Everything is just a bit more fun when you have company.

Corn Bread
The Fannie Merritt Farmer Boston Cooking School Cookbook

Mix and sift together
3/4 cup corn meal
1 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 egg, well beaten
2 tablespoons shortening, melted*

Bake in a shallow buttered pan, 8 by 8 inches, at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.

*I used butter, but the book notes that butter, bacon fat, chicken fat or beef drippings can be used.

Honey Butter

1/2 stick butter, room temperature
2+ tablespoons honey

Combine the butter and honey in the bowl of a stand mixer and whip together until thoroughly combined. Taste for sweetness, add more honey as desired. Once honey butter is made, you can spoon it into a shallow bowl, fill molds with it and refrigerate or create a log and refrigerate. I filled a round mold to make a disc and placed the disk in a shallow bowl. Be sure the butter is soft when serving.


Kim Blau said...

Ok girl, you made me tear up. I am just getting caught up on my blogs after computer woes.

That night I too was thinking about far away family and how I miss drying dishes in my grandmother's kitchen after dinner. How at home I felt while doing it.

So glad to have been a part of a lovely evening in your kitchen. Thanks for making me feel at home.

Amy said...

Oh, Kim, I should be thanking you! So nice to have friends in the kitchen.