Cooking with Lady Smokey: Chicago to Nashville

Having lived in several different places over many years now, I’ve come to really appreciate the quality time spent with out-of-town friends. It is hard to keep track of all your people and it really takes some coordination and thoughtful planning. With Nashville being in the middle of Tennessee and bordering so many other states, we periodically get the opportunity to visit with friends who come to town for art shows or music gigs or who are just passing through on their way to other places.

With local friends, you get many brief sightings and the day-to-day small talk that happens when you run into people you know. Often time, we take these small inconspicuous visits for granted and never realize how special they are until suddenly you or they move on in the world and you are no longer part of each other’s daily or weekly equation.

Those long-distance friends, though, we miss often and hard but when good fortune arises and those paths cross, it can be so special. I cherish the brief, concentrated visits of out-of-towners. They sometimes seem so much more productive and meaningful than all those brief encounters. You usually know from the get-go that you have a definite amount of time together and you feel compelled to make the most of it. Lucky for us, last week brought Dolan & Ali Marie to Nashville again as they were in town for Artclectic.

There was some honky-tonkin, of course, as Grant had some gigs while they were here.

Downtown Honky-Tonkin’ on Lower Broad, Sarah Gayle Meech at Robert’s Western World with Grant Johnson on guitar and Chris Scruggs on steel guitar.

We decided to put together a feast and celebrate!

While Dolan and buddy Chris manned the art booth, Ali Marie went grocery shopping with Grant and myself. We had to stop for lunch at Sloco to plan our meal. Sloco is in the 12th South neighborhood and serves local and sustainable sandwiches. So delicious!

So after lunch, we started cooking! For appetizers, we made some Deviled Eggs. We mostly followed Hugh Acheson’s recipe which we found in my A New Turn in The South cookbook, with the addition of Sriracha sauce and lots of chopped fresh parsley.

We also made blue cheese stuffed dates and pistachio filled bacon-wrapped dates using bacon we purchased from our local butcher shop, Porter Road Butcher. Mmm… delicious!

Grant was in charge of the Grill. He made Dolan’s favorite BBQ Chicken Thighs and some BBQ brats we also picked up at the butcher shop.

Big Smokey’s BBQ Chicken Thighs
Dry Rub:
• ½ cup Sugar
• ½ cup Sea Salt
• 2 Tbsp Garlic Powder
• 2 Tbsp Ground Black Pepper
• 4 Tbsp Chili Powder
• 12-16 Chicken Thighs

Mix Rub Ingredients together and rub literally over chicken thighs. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

• ½ Cup Cider Vinegar
• 3 Tbsp Butter
• 1 Cup Ketchup
• 3 Tbsp Molasses
• 3 Tbsp Brown Sugar
• 1 Tbsp Salt
• 2 Tbsp Black Pepper
• 1 Tbsp Mustard
• 2 Tbsp Worchestershire Sauce
• Tabasco Sauce to taste

Heat butter in pan over medium until melted. Add all other ingredients and blend. Simmer over low for 15 minutes or until flavors meld.

Prepare and preheat grill using soaked hickory chips, charcoal and set up for indirect heat.

Remove chicken from fridge and let sit at room temp for 20 minutes. Place chicken thighs away from heat, cover grill and smoke for 30-40 minutes. Place chicken over heat source and slather sauce onto each thigh turning frequently and basting until the skin has caramelized (approx 15 mins) …

Alternative oven method:
Bake at 300 for approx 30-35 minutes. Raise heat to 400. Baste with sauce and cook 15-20 minutes until skin is caramelized.

Ali Marie and I made many vegetables and sides to accompany Grant’s BBQ Chicken for a big harvest dinner! We made one of all of our favorites, Roasted Brussels Sprouts. We seasoned them with dry mustard and smoked paprika.

We prepared a root vegetable gratin with some fresh herbs. Roasted vegetable dishes are so simple to cook and once you get the dishes in the oven, it allows you time to work on other dishes. This one is so colorful.

Beet & Carrot Gratin

• 4 medium sized Beets, peeled and very thinly sliced
• 4 large carrots, very thinly sliced
• 3 Tbsp Butter
• small bunch of fresh Thyme, stems removed
• 1 ½ – 2 cups shredded Cave-Aged Gruyere
• Sea Salt & Black Pepper to taste
• small bunch of fresh Parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 375. Place half of the beet and carrot slices in an oven safe baking dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, thyme, little pats of butter, and half the cheese. Add another layer of the carrots and beets and repeat. Add the parsley on top. Bake for 30-45 minutes.

We also made a Mushroom Barley Risotto with Kale. I just adore mushrooms in the fall. Barley is a nice grain for this time of year, too. This dish takes some stirring time so it’s nice to get all the ingredients prepared ahead of time so you can focus all your attention on stirring.

Autumn Barley Risotto

• 2 Tbsp EV Olive Oil
• 1 small Onion, chopped finely
• 2 cloves Garlic, crushed and chopped finely
• 1 cup Pearled Barley
• 4-5 cups Vegetable Stock
• ¼ cup Port
• ¼ cup Tamari
• 1 handful of Shiitake Mushrooms, sliced
• 1 bunch Lacinato Kale, washed, stems removed, and chopped into thin strips

Heat stock in medium sauce pan. (If not making your own stock, I like to add chopped onion, garlic and mushroom stems to the stock.) Once it comes to a boil, lower temperature to simmer. Heat oil in large flat pan on medium heat. Add onion and saute. Add garlic and mushrooms. Stir. Cook for a couple minutes. Add barley. Stir. Add wine and port and stir until liquid is absorbed. Gradually begin to add stock in, about half a cup at a time and continue to stir. Stir until most of the liquid is absorbed.

Add another addition of stock and stir until most of the liquid is absorbed. Repeat this process until the mixture is creamy and a bit loose; the barley should still have some chew to it. The process will take about 20-30 minutes. Right when you think you are getting close, add the kale and then continue to cook for a few more minutes.

Jeff & Sara brought a yummy Kale Salad with candied pecans, blue cheese, pears, bacon, and a great dressing.

Balsamic Fig Vinaigrette
• 1 cup Balsamic Vinegar
• 1/4 cup Maple Syrup
• ¼ cupe Fig Jam
• 4 teaspoons Dijon Mustard
• Salt and Pepper to taste
• 2 cup EV Olive Oil

Place vinegar, maple syrup, fig jam, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper into a blender. Pulse to combine, then add the olive oil in a steady stream with the motor running.

All together, dinner looked like this…

Dinner is Served!

Our dear friend Allison brought one of our favorite desserts, Hummingbird Cake, and our sweet friend and pastry chef extraordinaire, Rebekah, brought an amazing little collection of some of her homemade cookies. I hope to be able to share some of Rebekah’s amazing cookie recipes here very soon. For now, here is Allison’s Hummingbird Cake recipe.

Hummingbird Cake
• 3 cups Cake Flour
• 2 cups Sugar
• 1 tsp Salt
• 1 tsp Baking Soda
• 1 tsp Cinnamon
• 3 Eggs, beaten
• 1 ½ cups Vegetable Oil
• 1 ½ tsp Vanilla Extract
• 1 (8-ounce) can Crushed Pineapple, undrained
• 2 cups chopped Pecans, divided
• 2 cups chopped Bananas

Combine all dry ingredients; add eggs and oil, stirring until dry ingredients are moistened. Do not beat – just use a spoon, no need for fancy mixers here. Stir in vanilla extract, pineapple and 1 cup chopped pecans, and the bananas. Spoon batter into 3 well greased and floured 9” round cake pans. Bake at 350º for 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in pans 10 minutes, remove from pans and cool completely. Spread cream cheese frosting (recipe follows) between layers and on top and sides. Sprinkle with other 1 cup of chopped pecans.

Cream Cheese Frosting

• 2 (8-ounce) packages of Cream Cheese
• 1 cup Butter
• 1 (16 ounce) box of Icing Sugar
• 2 tsp Vanilla

Combine cream cheese and butter, beating until light and smooth. Add sugar and vanilla and blend well.

And the following weekend, we were visited by more Chicagoans, the legendary Mister Jon Langford and his Waco Brothers.

They were joined onstage by Nashvillian Paul Burch for a show at the new venue, The Stone Fox, which is owned by super nice guy and amazingly talented guitarist, William Tyler, and his sister. The Wacos and Paul have a new album out together. You can check it out here.

I’ll close with this youtube of Paul Burch with The Waco Brothers…

And one more, a classic, from The Waco Brothers…

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