Spicy Pepper Chicken

Nashville is famous for its “Hot Chicken.” I like to get mine from Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack. It’s crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, and it comes decorated with a thin round of bright green pickle that calls to mind a gold medal. Prince’s chicken is so hot, it can make a body see things. Speak in tongues. Change lives. This chicken is also fried. Now, I’ve already told you what I think about regular fried chicken—that it’s a bad boyfriend you’ve just got to give up.

But this hot chicken here? You can eat my Spicy Pepper Chicken whenever you like, and it’s a friend you’ll want to keep around. You feel me?

Spicy nashville hot chicken recipe

Serves 4 to 5

Ingredients

2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
1⁄3 cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
Salt
1 (3- to 4lb) chicken
Pepper
Preparation

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Mix the cayenne, olive oil, garlic, and ½ teaspoon salt in a small bowl.

Remove the giblets, neck, and liver packet—anything stuffed in the interior of the chicken. Rinse the chicken inside and out, and pat dry. Put the chicken in a baking dish with low sides. Season it generously with salt and pepper inside and out. Starting at the neck of the chicken, and making sure to break no more of the skin than you have to, rub the oil mixture onto the chicken flesh, including the legs. The whole chicken should appear reddish.

Roast the chicken for 20 minutes to crisp the skin, then turn the heat down to 400°F. Continue to roast the chicken until it reaches an internal temperature of 160°F. The juices should run clear and colorless when you pierce a thigh. This can take another 25 to 40 minutes.

Remove the dish from the oven and let the chicken rest for 15 minutes before carving and serving.

The above excerpt is taken from Soul Food Love by Alice Randall and Caroline Randall Williams (Clarkson Potter, 2015)

New School "Fruit" Salad

Fruit salad is a soul food staple. Whether we’re talking about delectable-enough-for-the- Christmas-table ambrosia, or old-school fruit cocktail eaten straight from the can, mixed fruits in various forms and fashions were served in Dear’s, Grandma’s, Nana’s, and Mama’s kitchens.

But let’s just admit right now that commercial fruit cocktail is an abomination that should never be served to anybody’s child. The way the fruit is processed, there’s almost no fiber, few vitamins, too much sugar, and too many calories. It needs to be stricken from school cafeteria menus, from recipes, and from pantry shelves. Instead, make this new-school fruit salad, which tastes great, looks beautiful, packs nutrients, and rights old wrongs.

What other old wrong might that be? Stigmatizing eating watermelon. We know black families who refuse to this day to let their children eat watermelon in public because they don’t want to reinforce stereotypes. But guess what? Watermelon is a fat-free taste treat that everyone should enjoy. So we chop what was traditionally sliced and introduce new fruits to the mix. As an added bonus, this salad is also something of a botany lesson. Many people forget that avocados are fruits. Same with tomatoes. This recipe is a tasty reminder.

Watermelon salad summer salad

Serves 8

Ingredients

3 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Pinch of salt
2 pinches of pepper
1⁄4 medium watermelon, preferably seedless
1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 avocados, diced
3⁄4 cup crumbled feta cheese
Whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper together in a small bowl.

Remove the rind from the watermelon and chop the flesh into ½-inch cubes. Combine with the tomatoes and avocados in a serving bowl, and gently toss.

Add the feta cheese and the dressing, and toss again.

The above excerpt is taken from Soul Food Love by Alice Randall and Caroline Randall Williams (Clarkson Potter, 2015)

Roasted Bell Peppers

Read about how I came to know and love this dish here!

Caroline Randall Williams roasted pepper recipe

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 3 Bell Peppers
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the broiler

Put the peppers on the top rack of the oven, directly under the broiler. Allow the skins of the peppers to blister. When they have blistered on one side, turn them to another. Use tongs, and be careful not to burn you hand! When they peppers are blistered on all sides, put them in a clean paper bag.

Allow the peppers to steam, then rest in the bag until the bag is cool. This should take about 30 minutes.

Pull of the tops of the peppers, peel off the skins, and remove the ribs and seeds. Slice the skinless pepper flesh into ½ in wide strips, transfer them to a platter, and douse them with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. These will last 2 or 3 days in the fridge, if you don’t get hungry and eat them up before then!

Honey Peanut Brittle

Makes 12 pieces

Tammy Horn is a professor at Berea College who wrote Bees in America: How the Honey Bee Shaped a Nation. She notes that many enslaved African Americans came from beekeeping countries and brought their honey-hunting skills to America. From looking at recipes and songs, she concludes that some Africans used honey before coming to America and incorporated it into plantation menus. Native American groups bartered beeswax and honey with enslaved people as well as French traders and English, German, and Dutch settlers.

This candy deliciously celebrates those all but forgotten intertwinings in early American society. It also celebrates George Washington Carver, who advocated for everything peanut— as well as sweet potato. And for us most important, it celebrates B.B. Bright, the fairy-tale princess I invented in the doctor’s office when I was about three. B.B. is a brown beekeeper. If you’re going to eat candy, we think you should make it. Having to make my own certainly cuts down on the amount of candy I eat.

 Ingredients

1 tablespoon unsalted butter,
plus more for the pan
4 cups dry-roasted peanuts
1 cup sugar
1 cup honey
1⁄2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
Preparation

Butter a baking sheet.

In a deep pot, bring the nuts, sugar, honey, and lemon juice to a simmer over high heat, mixing constantly to make sure not to burn the sugar. Boil the sugar mixture until it reaches 300°F on a candy thermometer. (If you don’t have a candy thermometer, another way to test the temperature is to drop a bit of the mixture into a glass of ice water. If it hardens, you’re all set!) Once the sugar begins to darken, carefully stir in the baking soda, butter, and salt. The sugar will fluff up from the baking soda, so be careful. Pour the brittle mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and allow it to cool completely before breaking it into pieces.

Put the brittle in a sealed container or plastic bag, and store it somewhere cool and dry—if you’ve got any left once you’ve tasted it!

The above excerpt is taken from Soul Food Love by Alice Randall and Caroline Randall Williams (Clarkson Potter, 2015)

 

Pepper Peeling

When you Google “bell peppers,” the first thing that pops up after their Wikipedia page is a link to The World’s Healthiest Foods.

I love that. Bell peppers, to me, are so southern, so summer, so nostalgic AND so healthful! My grandmother made pepper jelly in the warm weather, that would come out in all of its green and red gloriousness around the holidays. I’ve got a recipe for her jelly, and a fun treat I like to call Pepper Jelly Coins in the “Sips and Bites” section of the cookbook!

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One of my favorite stories about red bell peppers, though, is one my mom tells. She and my dad lived in the Philippines when they were first married, and she would be a young wife on a tight budget, faced with entertaining her husband’s work colleagues. Roasted peppers became a go-to for her—they’re beautiful, inexpensive, delicious, and can be made way in advance then served cold! All necessary traits for a cheap dish.

I’M AN IMPATIANT GIRL

—so I never used to gravitate toward this dish. I used to burn them all the time, and still manage to undercook the insides.

There is an art to pepper roasting. It goes something like this:

Turn the oven on to its broiler setting. Put the peppers on the rack. And wait.IMG_2064

Check the peppers to see if they’re blistering. And wait.

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When the peppers begin to blister, turn them. And wait.

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When the peppers begin to blister on their new side, turn them. And wait.

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See where I’m going with this?

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Then, when they’re all lovely and blistered on each side, you pop them into brown paper bags to steam themselves. And wait.

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They are kind of cute sitting there all in row though, aren’t they?

 

A FAMILY AFFAIR

The thing about the peppers, and all the waiting, is that for all you’ve got to check in on them, there’s not a whole lot else they ask of you.

This means that if you’ve got someone you love hanging out with you, or tunes you love and some dance moves, then making the peppers becomes this wonderful kitchen hangout experience.

My mom and I spent my pepper making time this Sunday shaking it to Aretha and Solange and Mary J. Not so bad, if you ask me

 

DO RIGHT, ALL DAY….PEPPER

Once you’ve let them sit for about half an hour, you take them out and make sure they’ve collapsed. They should look something like this:

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Then, you peel them.

This is the other part I used to mess up, not letting them steam long enough. But the skin should really come right off if you’ve given them the right amount of time. If the skin is being hard-headed and oppositional, then its time to add another conversation topic, or put on another track. Then, off it comes!

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I hope this helps any of you out there wanting to roast peppers for summer afternoon snack! Click here for the full recipe for marinated roasted bell peppers!

Love

For my first LOVE blog post, I wanted to share with you a poem* I wrote in honor of my co-author and mother, Alice Randall, set in our favorite room of our house! 

Kitchen Door

The kitchen door, charred black from where it must be kicked in the bottom left-hand corner in order to align the lock and twist it open, has an upper half of warped pane glass. On a Saturday morning the light tends to shine in at an angle toward the island. The expressive curve of Alice’s bottom punctuates the scene most mornings, and the light streaming as it does makes a vamp of the deer-white nightgown—she could be naked, such is the view. She defies nature. The excess of her flesh, though made lumpen in its quantity, sits, bottom-like, high above the thighs. There in the kitchen, a shelf, a reason never to diet, a revelation of heft—inspires fear, joy, hope, a looking to the future! Black women get married, have sex, are loved, in spite of cruel genes, threatening ever, to make a thousand Mammies out of a thousand breasty, hippy girls. There is no double consciousness in this house, with its beaten door and its streaming glass. Its sweated tiles and refrigerator.

 

* “Kitchen Door” first appeared in the Fall 2012 Issue of the Massachusetts Review.

Food

With graduation season upon us and spring about to turn into summer, it seems as good a time as any—no, scratch that, it seems like the PERFECT time to start my blog. I’ve been cooking and writing and sharing into the world for a while now; why not pull all of this soulfoodLOVING I’m doing into a place that lives outside of my book?! I love the promise of Spring, and the invitation of Summer. Promoting the book has kept me so busy that I’ve hardly had the time or energy to do the cooking I need, deserve, and soulfoodLOVE. That all changed last week, When I began a spring cleaning of my kitchen and of my body! I’m trying to eat SoulFoodLove recipes, at home, as much as possible heading into these warm months.

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Me cooking turkey burgers in my favorite apron. “Bon Appetite Y’all!”

I stocked my fridge, and made a bunch of meals ahead—no “I’m in a hurry and can’t cook” excuses! Check out my fast food situation—SoulFoodLove “Spring Cleaning” Style!

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That’s “New School Fruit Salad”, one of my favorites. I also made a bunch of grab-and-go “Eggplant towers with Mashed White Beans.” Ate one for dinner the other day—you might have seen me share it on Instagram!

I’m so happy to share my Spring Cleaning treats with you from the SoulFoodLove blog—stay tuned for more entries on the Spring to Summer menu!

SoulfoodLOVE,

Caroline

 

Soul

Earlier this week, I went back to Ruleville, Mississippi for the first time since I’d finished TFA. When I was teaching at Ruleville Central High School, we had a book club that met on Saturdays. I loved it. There was a core group of girls that came pretty faithfully—those girls graduated from high school this Saturday. I can’t tell you how proud I am of them.

I wasn’t able to get down to the Delta in time for graduation, but I knew I had to do something to celebrate their accomplishments. So I invited them to lunch.

They are a busy bunch of young ladies, working jobs, preparing to start college (all of them are continuing their education, YESSSSS!!!), so I wasn’t able to get the whole group together, but I did get to take nine of them out to Lost Pizza, in Cleveland, MS.

I know, I know. Not quite healthy Soul Food. But that’s the whole point, that none of us are perfect, and this particular outing was about taking them out for what they wanted, a well-earned celebration of their graduating. They wanted pizza, so they got pizza. Just the once! They are all getting copies of SoulFoodLove in the mail, and I’ve tasked them with trying a recipe and sending me a picture—I can’t wait to share the results with you all. Happy graduation season to you and yours, and go RCHS Tigers!