Simply food

FEELING PEACHY

I’m channeling peaches as they ripen in the orchards of the Niagara Peninsula, which I hope to call home soon.

The State of Georgia in the US is famous as the peach state, but Ontario farmers do a pretty good job in the Niagara area microclimate, with the fruit ripening a few weeks later. The first peaches we see in the markets are from the South, but now in late summer they are coming into season. Bizjak Farms appeared on my Market to Table TV series; both Milan Bizjak, who has a stall at the Wychwood Barns farmers market and his sister Mimi at the Brickworks. Late into the winter, we will often drop by Milan’s laden tables to pick up his delicious bottled peaches.

The Olde Angel Inn

I featured a sweet and tasty PEACH CRISP using Milan’s fruit, in an earlier blog, so I won’t repeat myself here, but while we were exploring our potential new home in Niagara-on-the-Lake recently, I devoured a wonderful and inventive CHICKEN AND PEACH PIE at The Olde Angel Inn. My version, informed by their recipe, follows.

Another interesting use of peaches is in a version of coleslaw I had once in a PoFolks restaurant, just across the border from Georgia into Tennessee, in the wonderfully named town of Soddy Daisy. Sadly, the chain folded in 1988 and there are now only a half dozen locations left in Florida. We were in Tennessee to shoot some video for a client at their factory nearby, and let me tell you it was back in the woods in scary red-neck country. That story for another day, but my PEACH COLESLAW recipe follows.

While thinking of Georgia, I was reminded of a long-closed Toronto restaurant, whose founder came from that state and where peach cobbler was a favourite dessert.

The Underground Railroad opened in Toronto in early 1969, on the north side of Bloor Street East, overlooking the Rosedale Ravine, then moved to the south side of King Street East in 1973, relocated to Church and Front in 1989 and finally closed in 1990. The décor was always the same. Just by being there, you grasped what a stop on the Underground Railroad might have looked like. The rough wood, the barn beams, the tin lanterns all added to the feeling. The waiters wore period railroad worker overalls. The food was southern: succulent ribs, smothered steak, ham hocks, or southern fried chicken with sides of collard greens, sweet potato pie, cornmeal hushpuppies and ANNAMAE SALAD. Dessert was spice cake or PEACH COBBLER. The music was a blend of local and international jazz and gospel. Toronto Argonaut quarterback John Henry Jackson, who was from Georgia, partnered with fellow Argo Dave Mann, whose dad had been a chef, musician Archie Alleyne and chef Howard Matthews. Between Alleyne and Matthews, with his amazing vocalist wife Salome Bey, music was a large serving of any visit.

I’m bored with the little hat of puff pastry that chefs lodge atop a serving of their pie-of-the-day, so for the following recipe I have substituted a topping of fluffy mashed potatoes, which brown up nicely in the oven.

CHICKEN AND PEACH PIE

Chicken, peaches and peas before sauce and topping are added

Shopping list

  • 2 cups (500 mL) chicken stock
  • 1 cup (250 mL) dry white wine
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • pinch salt and pepper
  • 1 lb (454 g) boneless, skinless chicken, cubed
  • 4 TBSP (75 mL) unsalted butter
  • 4 TBSP (75 mL) fine white flour
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) whipping cream
  • 2 cups (500 mL) skinless peaches, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup (250 mL) frozen peas, defrosted

Topping

  • 1 kg / 2 ¼ lb floury potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 TBSP unsalted butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Pie hot out of the oven

Preparation and cooking

1.Cook the potatoes in a saucepan of lightly salted boiling water for 15-20 mins, until tender.

2.In the same boiling water, and using a slotted spoon, dunk each ripe peach for no more than 30 secs, then drop into a bowl of iced water. The skins will pop right off without even needing a knife. Cut into halves to remove the pits then cut into chunks and set aside.

3.Drain the potatoes well, return to the pot and mash with butter until smooth. Season well and set aside.

4.In a large, heavy bottomed saucepan, bring the chicken stock, wine and celery to the boil. Add a bay leaf and a pinch of salt and pepper. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 10 mins.

5.Add the chopped chicken and simmer uncovered for a further 10 mins.

6.Strain the stock into a bowl and put the dry chicken mixture in the dish you are going to use for the pie, which should have an 8 cup (2 L) capacity and be fairly deep. Mix in the chunks of peaches so that they are evenly distributed. Measure out 1 1/2 cups (355 mL) of the new stock and add more chicken stock or water if there is not enough.

7.Preheat the oven to 200°C / 390°F.

A gentleman’s portion of pie

8.Back in the saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook, whisking constantly, for about 2 mins, then add the hot stock and whisk until smooth to make a ROUX. Bring to a boil, reduce, then cook for about 5 mins until the sauce thickens. Lastly, stir in the cream and cook for a final 2 mins.

9.Tip the sauce over the chicken filling in the dish and stir to coat well. Don’t overfill; you may have some sauce left over. Add the peas (making sure they are thawed) and mix in gently. Try not to break up the pieces of chicken.

10.Top with the mashed potato. You can just spoon it on and make furrows with the back of a fork, or you can get fancy and pipe it on using a piping bag and a wide star shaped nozzle.

11.Place the pie on a baking sheet and cook in the oven for about 35 minutes or until turning golden and bubbling hot throughout. Rest for 5 mins before serving.

Coleslaw originated in the Netherlands: in Dutch koosla means cabbage salad. Coleslaw has been popular in the United States since at least 1770. Kentucky Fried Chicken is famous for its tangy version, which includes tarragon vinegar and Miracle Whip, a lighter version of mayonnaise.

COLESLAW

Shopping list

  1. ½ small tight white cabbage, shredded
  2. 1 large carrot, peeled and coarsely grated
  3. 2 green onions, topped and tailed, thinly sliced
  4. 4 TBSP good quality mayonnaise
  5. 1 TBSP white wine or tarragon vinegar
  6. 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste

Preparation

  1. Make the sauce by blending mayonnaise, Dijon mustard and vinegar together.
  2. After shredding the cabbage, grating the carrot and slicing the green onions, add the sauce and gently mix together until the ingredients are thoroughly coated. Season well with salt and pepper.
  3. Serve immediately.

PEACH COLESLAW

Shopping list

  • ½ red cabbage, shredded
  • 1 cup fresh or canned peaches, skins off, sliced
  • ½ cup sliced almonds or cashews
  • 4 TBSP good quality mayonnaise
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 2 tsp cider, rice or white wine vinegar
  • Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste

Preparation

  1. Using a mandoline slicer, shred the cabbage into thin strips. Leave in a bowl of ice water for 30 mins, then drain and pat dry.
  2. Drop the whole peaches into boiling water and remove, after no more than 30 secs, into a bowl of ice water. The skins should pop right off without even using a knife. Cut into chunks and place in a small bowl. Squeeze the lemon over to prevent discolouration.
  3. Make the sauce by blending mayonnaise with vinegar.
  4. To the drained chilled shredded cabbage add about half the sauce and mix in well. Add more until the cabbage is well covered but not drowning. Stir in nuts and season well.
  5. Just before serving, drain the peaches and discard the lemon juice. Add to the salad and mix in gently. Serve in a chilled glass bowl for a decorative effect.

The Underground Railroad’s ANNAMAE SALAD recipe appeared in my first cookbook, in tribute to many pleasurable evenings spent at the restaurant, and appears here for the first time since the 80s.

ANNAMAE SALAD

Shopping list

  • ½ small tight white cabbage, shredded
  • 1 red eating apple, cored and diced, but not peeled
  • 4 TBSP good quality mayonnaise
  • small can (8.25 oz / 245 mL) of pineapple tidbits
  • ½ fresh lemon, squeezed
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ¼ cup shelled walnut bits
  • Sea salt to taste

Preparation

  1. Using a mandoline slicer, shred the cabbage into thin strips. Leave in a bowl of ice water for 30 mins, then drain and pat dry.
  2. Wash and dry the apple, but do not peel, as the skin adds a decorative touch top the dish. Core and cut into small pieces and place in a small bowl. Squeeze the lemon over to prevent discolouration.
  3. To the drained chilled shredded cabbage add about half the mayonnaise and mix in well. Add more until the cabbage is well covered but not drowning. Stir in paprika, cayenne, walnut pieces and salt.
  4. Just before serving, drain the apple and discard the lemon juice. Add to the salad and mix in gently. Serve in a chilled glass bowl for a decorative effect.

Featured image: Peaches ready to pick (photo courtesy Sugar Bee)

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