Something cool happened the other day – I got to be on a call with Food Network star, Amy Thielen! Her show, Heartland Table, is set to premiere its second season beginning March 8th, at 9:30. Amy is a mom to a 6 year old boy, loves food, and grew up and currently lives in the Midwest. Totally relatable.
Then of course there was the whole studied under famous chefs David Bouley, Daniel Boulud, Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Shea Gallante for 7 years, wrote and published her cookbook, The New Midwestern Table, and of course… has her own show. I haven’t checked those things off the list quite yet.
Here are some of her thoughts I found interesting.
On being a mom:
Everything changed when she got pregnant. (Doesn’t it always?) She went from working 70-80 hours opening famous French restaurants in New York to moving back home and establishing a new path for herself. The best way for her to be an ‘in the moment’ mom was to make sure she got the space she needed to get her work done. When her son was two, he was in day care for two days, when he was three it was three days, and so on and so forth. She found that when she had the time to truly focus on developing her new career, she could be totally in the moment with her son when they were together. She now tries to end her work day at 3:45, which is when her son is out of school.
On how her career changed:
Amy always knew she had a passion for writing so combine that with food and bam! Suddenly she was writing for various sources such as Savuer and then began to work on content for her own cookbook. This then grew into her Food Network show.
On feeding a picky eater:
Why is it that the people that love food the most seem to get dealt the pickiest eaters? I found this part so interesting because L barely eats a thing. What I found interesting about how Amy feeds her son is that she discovered he loves breakfast food. Loves it. So, she focuses her efforts there. She makes him eggs, bacon, and pancakes almost daily. She says she feels better that there is a good foundation there for his day, and if he doesn’t eat as well after that at least it was a good start. I love this tip as L happens to love breakfast as well!
On differences between East coast food and Midwest food:
Amy mentioned a few times that to her, the people and food weren’t really all that drastically different. I found this surprising as the East coast seems like a whole different world to me. She did say something that stood out to her as a major difference was the entertaining style. It’s all a bit more high end – more of a show on the East coast, where as people in the Midwest will plop a big tray of something on the table and that will be that. I’m with her there.
And with that let’s end with a bang – check out her awesome and ever so comforting recipe for Midwestern Fried Chicken. You’re welcome.
- One 4- to 4 1/2-pound chicken, cut into 10 pieces
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2 3/4 teaspoons fine sea salt, plus more for the gravy
- 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, plus more for the gravy
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
- 7 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 1/2 cups plus 5 teaspoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup finely ground butter crackers, such as Ritz or Club (about 1 sleeve)
- 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
- Lard or canola oil, for frying (about 2 cups)
- 1 small bunch fresh sage
- 2 1/2 cups chicken stock, low-sodium store-bought or homemade
- Mashed potatoes, for serving
- Put the chicken pieces in a large bowl. Add the buttermilk, 1 teaspoon of the salt, 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper, the thyme and 4 of the garlic cloves. Marinate for at least 1 hour at room temperature or, refrigerated, overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and set a baking sheet fitted with a rack on the middle shelf.
- Meanwhile, prepare the chicken coating: In a large bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups flour, the ground crackers, paprika and the remaining 1 3/4 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. One at a time, take the chicken pieces from the buttermilk and dunk them in the flour dredge, pressing hard to make the coating adhere to every spot. Set aside on a plate.
- In a large, high-sided cast-iron pan, add lard or oil to a depth of 1 inch. Heat over medium-high heat until a droplet of water sprinkled on the surface sizzles loudly.
- Give the chicken pieces a fresh roll in the flour mixture if they've absorbed it, and add as many pieces of the dark meat (thighs, wings and drumsticks) as will fit comfortably in the pan. Fry, turning as needed, until all sides turn dark golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken to the baking sheet in the oven. Continue frying the rest, saving the white breast meat until last, and being careful not to burn the residue forming at the bottom the pan; that's your gravy base. When it is browned, add the chicken to the baking sheet. (Ideally the dark meat should bake in the oven for about 20 minutes and the white meat for about 10 minutes, until cooked through.)
- Pour off most of the fat in the pan, leaving 2 tablespoons of oil and the brown sludge at the bottom of the pan. (If any of it looks burnt, discard that as well, because that is the base of your gravy.) Let the pan cool down for a minute. Then add the remaining 3 garlic cloves and the sage, and fry for 1 minute. Add the remaining 5 teaspoons flour and cook, stirring, until the mixture is smooth and light brown, about 2 minutes. Add the stock and whisk until smooth. Cook the gravy over low heat until it thickens softly, about 5 minutes.
- Season the gravy with salt and pepper, remove the garlic and sage, and pour it into a spouted pitcher to pass behind the hot chicken and the mashed potatoes.
- Yield: 4 to 5 servings
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 40 minutes
- Inactive Prep Time: 1 hour
- Ease of preparation: intermediate
- Active Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
- Total Time: 2 hours 10 minutes (includes marinating time)