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Bon Appétit, Y’all!

I’m in Paris at the Paris Cookbook Fair — and, that would be Paris, France, not Paris, Texas! It’s been crazy. I’ve been interviewed by Japanese television and there are so many different cultures represented I feel like I am at some sort of culinary United Nations.

Yesterday I did a demonstration in the International Kitchen — and I got all sorts of Southern on everyone. I prepared Fried Chicken topped with Country Ham, Grits and Greens, and finished things off with Buttermilk Biscuits!

It’s been so amazing. I am thrilled to be here. First thing yesterday morning I went to purchase my ingredients. I was practically skipping. Then, I went into the kitchen and got to work.There were some students from Le Cordon Bleu helping me. Made me smile to think about what those young students may have ahead of them. I remember how excited I was to be in France cooking for the first time. And, you know what, I was just that happy all over again.

Cooking up some Grits

Kale and collards are no where to be found, so I used arugula for the greens. Seemed to make sense and they tasted great. Silly me forgot My Southern Pantry cornmeal and grits, but the jambon de montaigne was pretty close to Allen Benton’s unsmoked country ham!

Patty Cake, Patty cake

The ingredients are a little different. I didn’t tote any White Lily over and I used a fermented milk instead of the delicious buttermilk from Johnston Family Farm.

Poulet Frite avec Jambon Montaigne (Fried Chicken topped with Country Ham)

The truth of the matter is that simple country cooking is pretty much simple country cooking all over the world. We served samples and the response was great. I was floating on cloud 9!

Happy Chef Grrl

I wasn’t the only one happy yesterday. The awards were last night. Congratulations to Denise Vivaldo, Dorie Greenspan, and all the other winners!

Here are the recipes from my demo. I’m posting pictures all week so follow me on Facebook, too!

Bon Appétit, Y’all!

Fried Chicken Breasts with Country Ham
Serves 4 to 6

4 to 6 (8-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
16 to 24 tarragon leaves, plus more for garnish
8 to 12 paper-thin slices country ham, prosciutto, or Serrano ham (about 6 to 8 ounces total)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil, plus more if needed
1/2 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup chicken stock or low-fat, reduced-sodium chicken broth
Coarse salt

To prepare the cutlets, place a chicken breast between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and pound to slightly over 1/4 inch thick. Repeat with the remaining chicken. Place 4 fresh sage leaves on each cutlet; top with 1 or 2 slices of ham and press lightly to adhere. Place on a baking sheet and refrigerate to set, at least 10 minutes.

Place the flour in a shallow dish and season with pepper (no salt is necessary because of the salty ham). To cook the cutlets, heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Working with 2 pieces at a time, dredge both sides of the chicken in flour, then shake off the excess flour—the chicken should be lightly dusted. Without crowding, add 2 pieces of chicken to the skillet, ham side down first, and saute for 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a warm platter and cover loosely with aluminum foil. Repeat with the remaining chicken, adding more oil if necessary.

To make the sauce, pour off any excess oil from the skillet. Return the skillet to the heat. Add the wine and Marsala and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, scraping up any browned bits. Add the stock and increase the heat to high. Cook until the sauce is reduced and slightly thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Spoon the sauce over the chicken, and serve.

Grits & Greens
Serves 4 to 6

You could simply stir the raw arugula into the greens, but it is more flavorful to take just a few moments and saute the greens with the garlic.

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 onion, preferably Vidalia, grated
2 cups whole milk
2 cups water
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup stone-ground or coarse-ground grits
Tangle of Winter Greens (see below)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (about 3 ounces)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until transparent, about 2 minutes.
Add the milk, water, and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Whisk in the grits, decrease the heat to low, and simmer, whisking occasionally, until the grits are creamy and thick, 45 to 60 minutes. Stir in the cooked Tangle of Greens, butter, cheese, parsley, and chives. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper.

Tangle of Winter Greens
Serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons canola oil
3 medium cloves garlic, mashed into a paste (see sidebar)
1 16 ounce box arugula
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and greens; season with salt and pepper. Cook until the greens are bright green and slightly wilted, 3 to 4 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper.

Buttermilk Biscuits
Makes about 20 biscuits

2 cups  White Lily or other Southern all-purpose flour , or cake flour (not self-rising), more for rolling out
1 tablespoon  baking powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
4 tablespoons  (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits and chilled
3/4 to 1 cup  buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 500°F. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal. Pour in the buttermilk, and gently mix until just combined.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead lightly, using the heel of your hand to compress and push the dough away from you, then fold it back over itself. Give the dough a small turn and repeat 8 or so times. (It’s not yeast bread; you want to just barely activate the gluten, not overwork it.) Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough out 1/2 inch thick. Cut out rounds of dough with a 1 1/2-inch round cutter dipped in flour; press the cutter straight down without twisting so the biscuits will rise evenly when baked.

Place the biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet about 1-inch apart. Bake until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool just slightly. Serve warm.

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Please note that this post may contain affiliate links. (That means I make a commission if you use my affiliate link to buy the product.)

Published by Virginia Willis

Georgia-born French-trained Chef Virginia Willis has made chocolate chip cookies with Dwanye “The Rock” Johnson, foraged for berries in the Alaskan wilderness, harvested capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, and beguiled celebrities such as Jane Fonda, Bill Clinton, and Julie Chrisley with her cooking -- but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen. Virginia is a chef instructor for the digital streaming platform Food Network Kitchen and author of Secrets of the Southern Table: A Food Lover’s Tour of the Global South, Lighten Up, Y’all, Bon Appétit, Y’all, Basic to Brilliant, Y’all, Okra, and Grits. Lighten Up, Y’all: Classic Southern Recipes Made Healthy and Wholesome received a 2016 James Beard Foundation Award of Excellence. She is the former TV kitchen director for Martha Stewart Living, Bobby Flay, and Nathalie Dupree; has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants; and traveled the world producing food stories – from making cheese in California to escargot farming in France. She has appeared on Food Network's Chopped, CBS This Morning, Fox Family and Friends, Martha Stewart Living, and as a judge on Throwdown with Bobby Flay. She’s been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Eater, and Food52 and has contributed to Eating Well, Garden & Gun, and Bon Appétit, and more. The Chicago Tribune praised her as one of "Seven Food Writers You Need to Know." Her legion of fans loves her down-to-earth attitude and approachable spirit. Learn more about Virginia and follow her traveling exploits at

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