Good Grief A Beach House

It’s been 3,079 days since I lost my son and two years to the day, I bought a beach house because of a rock. Yes, you read it. A rock, but not just any rock. Seriously, grief makes one do crazy, impulsive things that you never thought you would or could. It’s true. 

If you follow the blog, I suspect you already know the effect the rock had on me, but for the others, let me explain. I believe my son died before he was ready to go and with that keeps a presence here. There wasn’t a day that went by that he did not end a conversation with an “I love you” and thus he continues to show himself to me with an occasional heart sign. I call these moments “whoosh” and along with seeing a heart I feel a squeeze in my chest as if he is hugging me.

So, it was two years ago while on a vacation I happened upon a house just a few doors down from our rental that was for sale. Just for fun, my husband and I took a walk through the house never intending to buy it, but as we were leaving the property there was this rock nestled in the crushed shells of the driveway. I gravitated to it and my husband immediately said, “he wants us to buy this house.” The rest is history.

The beach house has been a large part of the grief journey not only for me, but for my husband. The property is a stunning, peaceful wildlife refuge on one side with gentle ocean waves on the other. Surrounded by nature it’s a birder’s paradise with nesting osprey, herons and eagles plus all the sea creatures one can imagine.

There is also an 8-point buck that hangs out. He is here.

Swayed by emotion? Trust your instincts. Find your refuge.

A Visit with Revittle

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Continuing to move through this month with some Good Grief activities to take my mind off things I invited my husband to join me in taking a food judges’ class sponsored by the Steak Cookoff Association. Bill is my chief taste tester and having him always support my cooking adventures and antics with enthusiasm has been a blessing. Driving 2 1/2 hours to the western part of the state would take us through Harrisburg which sparked a brilliant thought to visit an on-line cheese shop known as Revittle.

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Revittle came to my attention through a “Best of” Philadelphia Magazine food piece. The article highlighted the best pizza in America made with a Pennsylvania sourced gouda cheese and a cheesesteak made “wit” another local farmer’s cheese. Always looking to try the best of anything in and around here I learned these artisan cheeses are only available through Revittle whose address just happens to be Harrisburg. I was hoping they had a brick and mortar store where I could sample and buy.

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Otterbein Acres Shepherd’s Delight

An email exchange with the owner, Mark Zimmerman, revealed no physical store, but he enthusiastically invited Bill and I to his beautiful office in an old historic building on the river to sample some cheese and cured meats along with his business partner, Tim Pianka. While all the bites were quite delicious, Shepherd’s Delight was hands-down my favorite. How could one not love a cheese whose shepherd grazes his sheep only on the youngest grass? What a labor of love herding the animals from acre to acre seeking that green sweetness. Well aged, salty and sweet this Tomme style cheese is totally addicting.

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Food people are the most welcoming generous kind. Bill and I quickly felt at home with Mark and Tim as they relayed the story of how Revittle came about. Each bite of their delicious products included interesting tid-bits of their close-knit relationships with local farmers and chefs. Sharing with us was a real gift.

“Revittle was started on the principle of working with the best artisanal producers. Let us introduce you to the families who take pride in the quality of their products. Together, we put healthy, regionally produced foods and wines on your table.”

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Cheese boards and charcuterie seem all the rage these days. Whether offered as an appetizer or a dessert who doesn’t love an array of farm fresh goodness accompanied by sweet and tangy condiments and crispy crackers? Arranging a cheese board is an art I have yet to master, but that won’t stop me from enjoying the delightful contrasts in tastes and textures and layers of flavors offered from local farmers.

As luck would have it Bill and I were invited to visit and sample an Ah-mazing line up of award winning Pennsylvania farm cheeses and Charcutiere/ Cured Meats with Mark and Tim. We are friends now and I have nothing, but gratitude for our chance meeting. Check out Revittle on their web site to see their array of locally sourced and might I add reasonably priced products. Bonus: use the promo code GOODGRIEFCOOK to receive 20% off your purchase. I gain nothing from your purchase. I’m just here to tell you about great products from really nice people.

oops forgot to mention….if anyone wants to buy and share that 11 pound Gigi brand whole prosciutto…I am in!

A Little Bit of Chicken Fried at the World Food Championships

 

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It was 2008 when the Zac Brown Band came out with their hit “Chicken Fried”. The song was an instant Will Keys favorite with its uplifting country beat and lyrics of love for family, friends and the USA. I can still see him turn up the volume, hear him sing it out loud and flash that big smile of his. That song made him happy and inspired one of my best recipes, yet. Once again I am reminded that this blog is all about a celebration of his life, love and the healing power of food.

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Filled with self-doubt, but encouraged by my husband & daughter (#1 recipe tester…she has incredible taste buds) and supported by Team Saucy Mama, I ventured to the World Food Championships in Orange Beach, Alabama along with my long-time best friend and sous chef, Lynn Beamer. Never in a million did I think my signature dish, a little bit of chicken fried, would score a 99.625 out of a possible 100 points. It was the high score of the Recipe category and in spite of a few technical difficulties launched me into second place after three recipes and two rounds of cooking. Hats off to Team Canada who beat me by 1.2 points.

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WHOOSH ❤ Don’t you know that when I was accepting my Top 10 medal that Zac Brown Band song came blaring over the loud speaker. A Little Bit of Chicken Fried and a bear hug from above. Just like that William is up on that stage with me. It’s the most uncanny thing. I just believe and all the doubt washes away.  I will keep cooking because it keeps him close. Like the song says, “Feel the touch of a precious child And know a mother’s love”. He somehow never misses a beat when it comes to cheering me on.

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Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!

And now for the best fried chicken sandwich you will ever eat. Asian inspired and served on a steam bun, it’s all about the crispy well seasoned coating and the juicy flavorful chicken inside. I suggest using boneless chicken thighs, but you can substitute boneless breast, if you must. Top it with the most magical black garlic hoisin, spicy slaw and a crisp sweet potato pickle and call it a winner. Oh, goodness-there is bacon in the mix as well.

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Asian Fried Chicken Steam Bun with Spicy Gingered Slaw & Sweet Potato Pickle

2 cups tempura mix

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup buttermilk

1 egg

2 tablespoons Saucy Mama Sweet Heat Marinade

6 chicken thighs, boneless, skinless

Lane’s BBQ Brisket Rub seasoning

peanut oil for frying

6 plain Asian steam buns

1/4 cup hoisin sauce

1/4 cup Jelly Queens Black Garlic Rosemary Sauce

toasted sesame seeds

Gingered Slaw (recipe follows)

6 slices cooked crisp bacon

Sweet Potato Pickle (recipe follows)

fresh cilantro

Whisk tempura mix and salt on a plate. Whisk buttermilk, egg and marinade in a bowl. Season chicken thighs with brisket rub. Dredge chicken in dry tempura mix then drop in buttermilk mixture to coat. Spoon 3 to 4 tablespoons of buttermilk mixture into remaining dry tempura mix and stir with a fork forming small clumps. Dredge chicken again in tempura mixture pressing so clumps adhere. Heat oil to 375F. in large skillet. Fry chicken until a deep golden brown on all sides and cooked to an internal temperature of 165F. on an instant read thermometer. Cook buns in steamer basket until soft and heated through, about 5 to 8 minutes. Open buns and spread inside with hoisin sauce and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Top with gingered slaw, bacon, chicken, sweet potato pickle and cilantro. Close with wooden skewer.

Spicy Gingered Slaw

½ cup mayo

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon Saucy Mama Spicy Garlic Wing Sauce

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro plus additional for garnish

½ tablespoon packed grated fresh ginger

1 bag Mann’s broccoli slaw mix

½ teaspoon kosher salt

few grinds fresh black pepper

Whisk dressing ingredients; toss with broccoli slaw. Season with S&P

 

Sweet Potato Pickle

1 small red onion, sliced

1-cup Mann’s Sweet Potato Ribbons

1 star anise

5 peppercorns

½ cup water

½ cup white vinegar

1/3-cup sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Place vegetables in heat proof bowl. Add star anise and peppercorns. In small saucepan, bring remaining ingredients to a boil, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Pour hot mixture over vegetables; let stand until ready to use. Drain. Can be stored in the refrigerator for a week.

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Big shout out to my Team Saucy Mama. You ladies are my family and I love you to the moon and back. So blessed to have your support and encouragement. I also need to thank the Mann’s Company for their recipe contest that qualified me to get back to the WFC and for their amazing fresh cut vegetables that saved me so much time in the kitchen arena. I made it to the judges table with 1 second to spare in round one. WHEW!

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hugging the winningest sous chef of 2017

 Further thanks to Springer Mountain Farms and The Jelly Queens for sponsoring the Recipe category this year at the World Food Championships. Amazing products created with love and great care here in the USA make the best food.