Alabama Memories of Julia Child
October 27, 2009

Hughes Kennedy and Julia, 1973I’m freshly back from ‘bama, where I had a great visit with my Mom, one of my sisters, one nephew, one brother-in-law, two sisters-in law, and my Father-in-law and his new love. It was one of those somewhat hectic visits where there is sooooo much more that you’d like to do and see, but there are lots of people to get to and only so many hours in the day. You know what I mean…

And my Mother is still an avid reader of the Birmingham News…wouldn’t go a day without reading it cover to cover, though as with many newspapers these days (including the venerable Baltimore Sun) it doesn’t take as long as it used to. But she had saved a couple of things she thought I’d like…and she was dead on, both times.

The program from Julia's program in B'ham.....The first was an article about Julia Child, and a visit she made to Birmingham 36 years ago to give a series of cooking demonstrations at the Civic Center. She stayed with a Dr. Hughes Kennedy (seen with Julia in the top photo)at his home. My Mom asked, “Do you recognize him?”…and both my sister and I were clueless….”Nope…who is he?” She replied, almost scandalized that we didn’t know, “But he was your pediatrician!” Seriously, I don’t remember him at all, but she does.

And he must have done pretty darn well in the kid doctor business, because he had not one, but three kitchens in his home, and a dining room that would seat 100 guests. Good Lord. Dr. Kennedy hosted a dinner party for Julia while she was his guest, for about 125 people… he said he was too naive to be intimidated by cooking for the great Julia Child…they just dove in.

7 easy is that??He made his signature dish, a pretty simple chicken casserole with celery, onion, cheddar cheese and slivered almonds called Chicken Riggins. And even though it calls for only seven ingredients, Julia was impressed by it, so much so that she later requested the recipe for her garden club and named the dish, after Dr. Kennedy’s partner Wendell Riggins

My Mom said a group at church years ago saw the recipe long ago and made it for a Christmas party…it was such a hit  that they served the same thing year after year. And I plan to give it a try, though my mind reader Mother(who knows me well) said, “And don’t change any of the ingredients!” I was secretly  thinking…TWO CUPS of mayonnaise?? I can only imagine Dr. Kennedy didn’t eat this too often, as he’s now 85 and still kicking it. But I’ve provided the recipe below…and it does sound sinfully delicious. Let me know if you make it and how it was. Just loosen the belt buckle.


3 cups diced chicken

2 cups diced celery

1 cup diced onions

1 pound sharp cheddar cheese

1 can slivered almonds

2 cups mayonnaise

Bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook 4 chicken breasts and 4 thighs with salt, pepper and celery tops until tender, about 20 minutes. Cool and dice. Dice 2 cups celery. Saute onions and cube 1 pound sharp cheddar cheese. Mix above with 2 cups mayonnaise and almonds. Place in 3-quart casserole, sprinkle with bread crumbs and bake at 350 degrees until bubbly and golden on top (approximately 20 minutes).

I got an A!! The all important boarding pass….
October 22, 2009

I got and A, I got an A!!!

I got and A, I got an A!!!

I’m headed to the heart of Dixie this weekend…that’s right, Buhminham, Alabama honey. I never got down this summer as I thought I would, and I need to spend some time with my little 89 year old Mommy, while I still have her. Bless her heart, she is starting to have trouble talking,. as there is something going on with her vocal cords, so that it’s really difficult to understand what she’s saying over the phone. And if she loses her voice…it’s her last lifeline to the outside world. We’re hoping a specialist can help her.

But when you fly on Southwest Airlines, as I do 100 % of the time when I go to B’ham….as it is the only airlineto go there nonstop. And for those of you who also are Southwestaphiles….you know getting the all important A boarding pass, has become more of a contest than ever. Nowadays, most people are computer literate, and plugged into how the system works…you can go online 24 hours before your flight leaves, and not one second before. Now, it used to be that if you got online within a couple of hours, it was all good….but no longer.

Today I tried to log in, got there a couple of minutes early, (you get a message-sorry you’re too early, idiot) went to get something, came back I swear, two minutes later…and bang. Yes, you’re in the A group, but at the back of the pack with 59. 59!! That means that 58 other people cleverer than I, quicker than I am, maybe smarter than I am will board before me….possibly filling all the overhead compartments with their junk, this creating a problem for my junk

Whatever….I’ll make it. But I always feel sorry for people with truly lousy C boarding passes…then you really have no chance at any overhead space at all. Don’t they know the system? Don’t they care? No computer? Not as competitive as me? Sometimes I want to whisper to them the secret of the A boarding pass, but that would only add to the onslaught when the witching hour comes….24 hours to the second before your flight leaves. Oh, Southwest will take care of it for you….for $10. No thanks….I can do it my self. For free. I’ll say hi to Mommy for you!

A Seafood Pirlau….how to say it, how to cook it….
October 12, 2009

Frank Stitts fabulous cooking.....

Frank Stitt's fabulous cooking.....

Did some cooking over the weekend, and my first ever Low Country Pirlau(some people pronounce it per-loo), from Frank Stitt’s Southern Table Cookbook from Highland’s Bar and Grillin Birmingham(you know you’re somebody when author Pat Conroy writes your foreword). If you’ve never eaten there, let me tell you it’s a culinary kingdom and Stitt holds the keys to the castle. His cookbook came out in 2004 and won several big awards…my late Mother-in law Shirley, bought me a signed edition of the book, for which she probably stood in line. Great lady,  that woman….I miss her all the time, and especially when I use the book. So what is a pirlau? Here is one definition I’ve been able to find on a low country website….

Pirlau (there is no one accepted pronunciation, “pur-loo” being just one variant) is a rice porridge with African roots; the name reflects the dish’s international origins, as it is related to the Middle-Eastern pilaf and the East-Indian pilau. In its essence, it is a thick stew based on chicken (or wild game bird), vegetables and spices with a great deal of long grain rice mixed in. It may contain the mucilaginous vegetable okra as a thickener, in which case it might masquerade as a gumbo.”

red and yellow maters from farmers market

red and yellow 'mater's from farmer's market

Mine did not masquerade at all…I would say a pirlau is kind of like a bouillabaisse, or a paella….though thicker than the former and a bit soupier than the latter. But no saffron. And there aren’t many recipes on line for pirlau…..I found this simplified recipe on the Baltimore Sun’s website….it’s  kinda close one to the one I used, though Stitt’s called for 4 ripe tomatoes, not one, and used chicken broth which you turned into seafood broth by simmering the shrimp shells in the broth for 10 minutes. His also called for a red bell pepper and an onion chopped and sauted(which I think are crucial), and couple of cloves of garlic…and the seagood is key. I found some wild caught Gulf shrimp, which are just soooo  sweet and yummy…It was a fabulous dish. And there was no okra in mine, though I think it might have been nice addition.

The Wine Market....

The Wine Market....

Friday night we ate out at The Wine Market, celebrating a family birthday….remember how  pleasant it was Friday? We dined al fresco on their lovely  patio…may be the last time it’s used this year…though you never know in Maryland…there could still be more Indian Summer days ahead of us.

A New Kid in Town, and no I’m not getting married
October 20, 2008

Went to the Performance Workshop Theatre in Federal Hill Sunday afternoon for the last performance of  A Time to Speak, based on the Holocaust memoirs of Helen Lewis, a one woman show starring Joan McCready, a long time friend and neighbor of mine. She was fabulous, as always….I only regret that there are no more performances for any of you to see. PWT is as intimate a theatre setting as you will ever see….only room for about 25 or so people.

Theres a new chef in town...

There's a new chef in town...

We wandered for a while in Federal Hill on South Charles…and stopped in at Junior’s Wine Bar….hadn’t been in since it was an Italian place that closed a long time ago….I had forgotten what a great space it is. In the center of the restaurant, a step up from the front section is a HUGE round table that seats at least 10 and maybe 12-14. As I was staring at it(the place had just opened for the day and no other customers were there yet), a man comes over, sticks out his hand and says, “Hi, I’m the new chef here, Anthony Marini….can I help you with something ?” He then explained how they hope to do chef’s table dinners at that very big table….arranged in advance, of course, for groups or parties….and small world…he’s from Birmingham Alabama…my hometown, and had a couple of restaurants there! We chatted for just a moment…he’s only been in town for a week….but his new menu looked very interesting . I looked him up on line and found a review from a restaurant of his in Birmingham that talked about the 10 course dinners….sounds fabulous and daunting.

Oh, a couple of days ago, a very nice woman came up to me in the supermarket, and said, “Donna congratulations on getting married !”…..and when I told her that it is my son getting married, not me (already there), she seemed a little disappointed, but pleasant about the whole thing. And yes, wedding plans are now coming fast and furious…I’m just keeping my head down.







Cool (and affordable) website gift suggestions!
December 8, 2007

OK, who doesn’t love a real summer tomato in the middle of winter…if you could get one, that is. And now you can. My Momma likes to send me clippings from the Birmingham News, and while I get an awful lot of comics she thinks are funny(and they are Momma, they are), this one I really like…just as she thought. Blackjack Gardens in Birmingham is offering Their greenhouse tomatoes for sale and shipping this year. They are greenhouse grown, not hydroponically, but in an “organically rich medium of topsoil, leaf mold, compost and sand”. And without pesticides, natch. $45 for 5 lbs, plus 9 bucks shipping. Not a cheap gift certainly, but if you know a foodie, maybe a memorable one.

Ok, and I feel like I’m cheating on this one…the Today Show had the lego IPOD dock/speaker yesterday, but I did a little further legwork for you on this website….called The Sarut Group…and they have some really wonderful smaller gifts, or maybe stocking stuffers..though I’m not sure they’re cheap enough for that, but that depends on the wallet of the giver. You know.

Check out this cute little doggie leash…one of many patterns, and they a couple of eat dog collars for the dog lover…or a doggie cake server.

And I ordered one of these hairbrushes for my niece for Christmas. I love it!!