24 May 2012

Cross Creek Cookery

Cross Creek Cookery is one of my favorite cookbooks.  It is that great combination of recipes and stories about them.  It was written by the Pulitzer Prize winning author, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.  She complied it shortly after writing a novel of the same name.  In fact, like many a Southern cookbooks, most of the recipes in Cross Creek Cookery actually belong to Idella Parker, who was Rawlings maid for ten years.  Parker wrote of their time together in a memoir entitled, Idella: Marjorie Rawlings Perfect Maid.   I believe she still lives in Florida and is 98 year-old, now.

Miss Idella at the stove.

Rawlings bought a 72-acre orange grove in a little Florida town named Cross Creek.   Since she was a child, Rawlings had wanted to be a writer.  She became acquainted with the legendary editor, Maxwell Perkins.  She sent him several historical novels and chatty letters about life in Cross Creek.  Perkins finally told her that her novels sucked but the stories about Cross Creek were wonderful and advised her to white about where she was.

She headed Perkins' advice.  Her most famous novel, The Yearling, grew out of a tale about a boy, his father and a young deer he raised.  It was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1939.  Not everyone in Florida liked the way they were portrayed by Rawlings.  One woman threatened to horse whip Rawlings until she was dead and another sued her for libel.

I adore this recipe for Mother's Jellied Chicken.   It fits perfectly into the Molly Hollifield Jones Dinner we wrote about at Lucindaville.  Harry Lowe and I always laugh, however, as we are pretty sure Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' mama never made this dish nor did Rawlings.  That job usually fell to Miss Idella.

Mother’s Jellied Chicken

Boil a whole, dressed chicken, about three and one-half pounds, in enough water to cover, until very tender.  Remove the chicken and boil the liquor down to one quart.  Cut the meat in small pieces, cutting across the grain to give square or rectangular pieces rather than shredded fragments.  Discard any portions of the skin that may be too coarse.  Season the meat lightly with salt and pepper.  To the quart of hot stock, add two tablespoons of gelatin soaked in two tablespoons of cold water, one tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, and more salt to taste.  Strain the stock over the chicken, mix lightly but thoroughly, and put into a fancy mould or into a long deep rectangular loaf tin.  Cool, and chill in ice box until set.  Serve on lettuce with mayonnaise on the side.  Serves eight generously.

In her rich commentary, Rawlings goes on to further describe the dish stating:

The secret of the goodness of this jellied chicken is its very simplicity.  I have had jellied chicken fixed up with an assortment of celery, cucumber, carrots, hard-boiled eggs and green peppers and pimentos and what-not.  All these alien and dressy ingredients destroy the melting flavor.

 My recommendation is to serve it up with a little horseradish sauce, to give it a kick.  

UPDATE:  Check out our mould of Queen Elizabeth in Mother's Jellied Chicken.

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