Soulful Gourmet: Chicken & Grits

Each month, we’ll go inside the kitchen and bring you one of Chef Ken Dempsey’s personal recipes!
Last month, I shared my recipe for buttermilk fried chicken paired with my beloved grandmother’s recipe for biscuits. Since I know you have practiced and conquered that buttermilk fried chicken now, I wanted to share another delicious meal using that recipe.
As you might have gathered, I love chicken. At first glance, it can be a pretty dull meat that your family tires of eating; however, the possibilities are endless. Not only can you prepare chicken in dozens of ways, but it’s currently one of the more affordable meats to purchase.
This recipe is for a buttermilk fried chicken (using either boneless thighs or breasts) over a creamy jalapeno polenta atop fresh spinach leaves drizzled with Italian dressing, and topped with smoky gravy. Trust me on the Italian dressing. This tangy addition is just the right accompaniment to the rich polenta and chicken. Some people don’t like for chefs to instruct them how to eat a meal, but in this case, I’m going risk your wrath and tell you to try the perfect bite of all the ingredients together. You won’t be sorry. This is actually a rather simple meal to create and serving the spinach right out of the bag will save you a step. The spinach directly under the polenta and chicken will wilt as you eat, however, both the raw and wilted bites are equally delicious in this soulful gourmet chicken dish. Enjoy!
To start, prepare a mix of salt and pepper that is 1/2 cup salt-pepper mix (equal parts kosher salt & coarse black pepper). I use it throughout all of my recipes.
Smoky Gravy
5 slices of thick-cut hardwood smoked bacon cut into 1/4 inch pieces (I use Wrights)
pinch red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt-pepper mix plus 1 pinch coarse black pepper
4 tablespoons flour
3 cups 2% milk (this varies depending on how thick or thin you like your gravy)
1. Cook bacon in small pot on medium heat until fat is rendered and bacon is crisp (there should be about 3-4 tablespoons of bacon fat).
2. Add flour to cooked bacon and whisk for about 1-2 minutes (mixture should resemble chunky peanut butter).
3. Add salt-pepper mix and red pepper flakes.
4. Add milk slowly while whisking (this prevents lumpy flour… nobody wants lumpy flour).
5. Cook gravy until it thickens a bit (if it’s too thick add milk a little at a time until desired thickness is reached).
6. Cover and keep on lowest heat while preparing everything else.
Roasted Garlic Toasted Polenta (with a kick)
6 minced garlic cloves
1 small diced onion
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups of polenta (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
1/2 cup white wine (optional)
2 cups Bulgarian buttermilk
3 cups water
1 1/2 tablespoons jalapeno juice
10 chopped, pickled jalapenos
1 1/2 teaspoons salt-pepper mix
1 1/2 cups cream
1/2 cup 2% milk
1. Heat olive oil on medium heat for 1-2 minutes.
2. Add garlic and onion and sauté until aromatic (I ask my wife if she can smell it from the other room yet).
3. Add polenta and toast until it smells like fresh cooked popcorn.
4. Add white wine and whisk together.
5. Add jalapenos and juice.
6. Add water and salt-pepper mix until well combined, whisking regularly as polenta thickens.
7. Cook polenta mixture until tender.
8. Add cream and milk and whisk until combined.
9. Cover the polenta and keep on low heat while the chicken is prepared.
Click here for the buttermilk fried chicken recipe from last month.

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