Monday, January 4, 2010

Maxie's Southern Comfort's Fried Chicken and Mac & Cheese!

On Saturday night I had dinner at Maxie's Southern Comfort in Milwaukee, and it was a truly wonderful experience. I knew it must be a popular local eatery when we arrived and there was a 45 minute wait in -5 degree weather. But I have to say, if there is one type of cuisine worth waiting for on a bitter cold Wisconsin night, Southern is it! The food at Maxie's was heart-warming and soul-filling. The atmosphere, wine list and service were all outstanding. To make an amazing meal even better it certainly didn't hurt that I enjoyed it with one of my closest friends and fiance! Here are two of the dishes we enjoyed at Maxie's, and my recommendation for the best recipes to remake them at home! After all, who doesn't need a little soul food in January? You don't have to peel off those layers of clothes for many more months, so enjoy it while you can!

Chicken Fried Chicken with Tasso Gravy, Mashed Potatoes and Broccoli Rabe, Spinach and Carrots. 

This was one heck of a chicken dinner! The chicken was crunchy and moist, and the creamy potatoes soaked up the rich gravy. The veggies were light and flavorful, balancing out the feast!

White Cheddar Mac & Cheese

Best appetizer ever! This creamy mac & cheese oozed with gooey good flavor. The lightly toasted breadcrumbs on top added a nice crunch to this melt-in-your-mouth dish!

Recipe Recreations

Oven Fried Chicken
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of Paula Deen

2 cups Panko bread crumbs
1 cup grated Parmesan
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons freshly minced thyme leaves
Kosher salt and pepper
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons water
2 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/4 -inch thickness

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Place a cooling rack over pan and spray rack with nonstick cooking spray.

In a shallow dish, combine bread crumbs, cheese, 2 tablespoons olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper, to taste. In a separate shallow dish, combine mustard, water, salt and pepper, to taste, and remaining olive oil.

Coat each chicken breast with mustard mixture; dredge each in bread crumb mixture. Place on prepared rack in pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until chicken is golden brown. Serve immediately.

Tasso Gravy
Serves 4-8
Recipe courtesy of Food Network

*Ingredient note: Tasso is a highly seasoned intensely flavored smoked pork. If you can't find it you may substitute bacon or Andouille (Cajun) sausage.*

4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup sliced tasso, cut into 1-inch strips
1/2 cup flour
4 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
Salt and white pepper

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan over low heat. Add the tasso. Saute for 1 minute, browning slightly. Make a roux by adding the flour and stirring until well combined.

Continue to cook over low heat for 5 minutes. Stirring frequently until the roux develops a nutty aroma. Turn the heat up to medium and gradually add 2 cups of the chicken broth, stirring vigorously. Keep stirring constantly until the broth begins to thicken and is smooth. Gradually add the remaining 2 cups of broth, stirring constantly until the broth thickens into gravy.

Reduce the heat and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes to cook out the starchy flavor. Add the parsley. Simmer for another 5 minutes. Season, to taste, with salt and white pepper.

Mashed Potatoes
Serves 4
Recipe Courtesy of Ina Garten

Kosher salt
3 pounds boiling potatoes
1/2 cup milk
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a large pot, bring 2 quarts of water and 1 tablespoon of salt to a boil. Meanwhile, peel the potatoes and cut them into 1 1/2-inch cubes. Add them to the boiling water and bring the water back to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes, until the potatoes fall apart easily when pierced with a fork.
Meanwhile, heat the milk and butter in a small saucepan, making sure it doesn't boil. Set aside until the potatoes are done.

As soon as the potatoes are tender, drain them in a colander. Place a food mill fitted with a small disk/blade over a heatproof bowl. Pass the potatoes through the food mill, turning the handle back and forth. As soon as the potatoes are mashed, stir in the hot milk mixture with a whisk or rubber spatula. Add enough buttermilk to make the potatoes creamy. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and the pepper, and serve hot. To keep the potatoes warm, place the bowl over a pan of simmering water for up to 30 minutes. You can add a little extra hot milk to keep them creamy.

Broccoli Rabe, Spinach and Carrots
Serves 4

*Ingredient note: Broccoli Rabe is more slender, tender and flavorful than regular broccoli. If you can't find it regular broccoli can be used.*

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons sugar
8 cups broccoli rabe
4 cups fresh spinach
2 cups shredded carrots
1 tablespoon rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
Salt and ground black pepper

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add sugar and cook 1 minute. Add broccoli rabe and vinegar. Cook 3 minutes. Add spinach and carrots and saute 2 minutes more. Season, to taste, with salt and black pepper.

Macaroni & Cheese
Serves 6-8
Recipe Courtesy of Ina Garten

Vegetable oil
Kosher salt
1 pound elbow macaroni or cavatappi (see Note)
1 quart milk
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
12 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated (4 cups)
8 ounces extra-sharp cheddar, grated (2 cups)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 1/2 cups fresh white bread crumbs (5 slices, crusts removed)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the macaroni and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don't boil it. Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a large (4-quart) pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, cheddar, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and stir well. Pour into a 3-quart baking dish.

Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, combine them with the fresh bread crumbs, and sprinkle on the top. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.

Note: To make ahead, put the macaroni and cheese in the baking dish, cover, and refrigerate until ready to bake. Put the bread crumbs on top and bake for about 40 to 50 minutes.


  1. Wow! That looks delicious!! You can see the grease gleaming off of the fried chicken. Haha! I think I may try the mashed potato and macaroni & cheese recipes.

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