The Magic Ingredient

By Dr. Linda Mitchell
Have you ever tasted something so wonderful you just had to get the recipe, and then when you prepared the dish –just as the recipe directed – it didn’t taste quite as special as you remembered? Is your memory at fault or your method?
Perhaps it was missing the magic ingredient…you know… that dash or pinch of something that makes it so special that when someone takes a bite his taste buds jump to attention. That item on the recipe that seemed too tiny to bother making a trip to the store when it wasn’t in the pantry, after all, how much difference can a pinch of this or a dash of that make. Oops! Often it is little things in life that make the difference in the kitchen, in a job, and in a marriage.
I traveled across the state recently with several teenagers. We were teaching technology workshops in rooms packed with little children, so by the end of the day we were all starving. One of our favorite dinners was at Webster’s in Greenwood where we enjoyed delicious food in a beautiful outdoor setting. Two of the entrees were so unique I came home and tried them myself. (One of my first jobs out of college was in the test kitchens of Litton where we might make 15 different brownie recipes to come up with the very best combination of ingredients). I love eating figs straight off the bush. I imagine in times of old, figs were about the closest thing to candy a traveler could hope for and they’re still sweet and delicious all by themselves or combined with other ingredients.

Sweet Fig, Bacon, and Caramelized Onion
(Sounds like an odd combination but it works)

10 slices bacon
2 medium sweet Vidalia onions, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 Sweet Pepper, sliced
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
16-18 fresh figs
1/4 cup honey
4 ounces shaved Monterey Jack Cheese
1 large loaf of your favorite bread
1/2 cup melted butter

Place bacon in skillet, cook until almost done, sprinkle with sugar and add onions. Saute until bacon is crisp and onion is transparent. Add peppers and vinegar. Cut figs in half, remove stems and place cut side down in skillet. Cut bread into 8 slices, butter each and place in oven under the broiler until browned. For an open faced sandwich, spread with fig and bacon mixture, drizzle with honey and top with cheese. Place back under broiler to melt cheese.

Apple Cider Chicken
4 boneless chicken breasts
1 quart apple cider
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup kosher salt
1 quart cold water
Combine apple cider, sugar & salt and simmer for 5 minutes until salt and sugar are completely dissolved. Pour in cold water to cool brine. Submerge chicken in brine overnight. Remove to a wire rack and allow chicken to drain.
At this point you may fry, grill or broil the brined chicken. It’s great all three ways.

Apple Cider Barbecue Sauce
3/4 cup apple cider
3/4 cup ketchup
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 Tablespoons steak sauce (any kind)
3 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 Tablespoon lemon or lime juice
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Combine the apple cider, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, steak sauce, brown sugar, lemon juice, liquid smoke, onion and garlic powders, and pepper in a heavy saucepan with 1/4 cup of water and gradually bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
Reduce the heat to medium. Let the sauce simmer gently until slightly reduced, thick, and richly flavored, 6 to 8 minutes. If sauce is too thick or intense, thin with a little more water.
Sauce will keep in refrigerator for several weeks.

Blackened Chicken Pizza
(Secret ingredient: white garlic sauce)

Pizza Crust
Make the pizza crust according to package directions. Form and place in pizza pan to rise. While the pizza crust is rising, prepare the blackened catfish and white garlic sauce.

Pizza Toppings
Blackened Chicken pulled apart into small bites
White Garlic Sauce
3/4 cup whole kernel sweet corn
1/2 cup diced tomatoes,
1/4 cup red or green bell peppers
1 cup mozzarella

Blackened Chicken
1/4 cup melted butter
2-3 chicken fillets
Any brand Blackened seasoning mix
Brush melted butter lightly over chicken fillets and sprinkle with blackened seasoning mix. Repeat for other side. Be sure to completely coat each fillet. Tip: You can place seasoning mix in a 1 gallon plastic bag, add fillet and shake gently to coat.
Heat 3 Tablespoons oil in skillet (cast iron skillet works well). Place the chicken fillets into the skillet and cook about 4 minutes on each side. Carefully turn with a spatula. The seasoning mix will cause a little smoke. Remove from heat and set aside.

White Garlic Sauce (easy as can be-just add garlic to a basic white sauce)
3 cloves garlic 4 Tablespoons butter
4 Tablespoons flour 1 cup milk

Mince 3 cloves of garlic and sauté in 4 Tablespoons of butter. Once it has softened, add 4 Tablespoons of flour and stir continually over medium heat for a few minutes. Add 1 cup of milk and continue stirring over medium heat until it thickens. This will only take a few minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Spoon the white sauce mixture evenly on top of the pizza crust. Sprinkle the top with mozzarella cheese, chopped green pepper, diced tomatoes, and sweet corn.

Bake the pizza at 400 F for about twelve minutes or until the crust is golden brown.