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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Spicy Chicken Strips, Fried Pickles, and Homemade Buttermilk Ranch Dressing inspired by The Sookie Stackhouse Series

Spicy Chicken Strips, Fried Pickles, and Homemade Buttermilk Ranch Dressing
Anticipation.  One of the main components in loving a particular series of books.  Anticipating what will happen in the world of the characters whose world you invest yourself in.  But also the anticipation of the next book.  It always seems to take so long until the next one is released.    And the thing is, I WISH that I could savor it once it actually hits shelves.  But no.  In typical me-fashion, my fingers are eagerly fumbling with the pages before I can even make my way out of the library doors.  Or the bookstore.  Or wrestle the book from its mailing vessel.

And as badly as I want it to last, I'm equally fervent in devouring every last word.  And for one...two if I'm lucky...brief days, I visit the world I've been missing.  Before I start fantasizing about what's to come next time.  And plead with the "author gods" to make insert name here write faster!

So was the case of the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris.  I didn't discover it right away.  As a matter of fact, though I just finished reading the lastest (book 12), I didn't actually begin reading them until just before book 11 was released.  This would be the beginning of 2011.  I remember eyeing the new books as they came out over the years.  The covers are attention-grabbers.  But I'd never picked them up.  I don't remember exactly what spurred me to start reading them.  It must have been some sort of discussion about True Blood (the HBO series based on the books).  And some friends talking about the books.  Saying how much they enjoyed them.  And me looking for a new series to love...which I often find myself needing between release dates of "my" other beloved series.
Spicy Chicken Strips, Fried Pickles, and Homemade Buttermilk Ranch Dressing
I do remember, however, picking up book 1 and 2 in paperback.  I was at the grocery store of all places.  The books were hanging out in front.  I decided that was as good a time as any to take the plunge.  And to be completely honest, I almost missed out on a fabulous series.  Because I wasn't too in love with the first book.  It was okay.  But there was a lot of bloody vampire sex in it.  Which is to be expected, I suppose.  The first season of True Blood stays pretty true to the book (and that's the only season that does).  I'm not a prude or anything, that's just not my thing.  It was pretty explicit.  But I like to finish what I started, so I read book two.  And was hooked.  I'm so glad that I kept on reading.  Especially since book 3 remains one of my favorites in the series.

Anyway, I snatched up the remaining books in quick succession and was finished and eagerly awaiting the release of book 11 when it came out a couple of months later.  And then of course I finished it way too quickly and had to wait a whole 'nother year for the next book.  Since I'd already caught myself up (I like to read series in order).  So when book 12 hit shelves the first day of this month, I had my library copy on reserve.  I was finished reading it the following day. Grrrrrr.  I can't wait to read it, but I want to savor it, but I can't put it down, but I don't want to finish.... it's a vicious cycle.
Fried Pickles with Homemade Ranch
I don't want to give any spoilers, in case you want to read the series and haven't yet.  Or if you're caught up but haven't read the new one.  I will say, however, that I've heard talk (on Goodreads, etc) that some people think the series has runs its course.  That it's getting old.  I couldn't disagree more whole-heartedly.  I still adore it.  And as a matter of fact, I shed a few tears in this book.  Sadly though, my friend Kim went to a book signing with Ms. Harris at the beginning of the month and she announced that there would only be one more book in the Sookie series.  However, she also said we'd be seeing some of the characters making appearances in some of her upcoming books.  Including one of my favorite characters, whom I always wished would have been more prominent in this series, Quinn (the weretiger).  Yay!  I'm thinking Sookie will finally choose somebody good for her in the final book.  And without giving anything away, all I can say is FINALLY!  Unless I'm totally anticipating/foreshadowing in the wrong direction.  I look forward to finding out, though.

In Deadlocked (the latest), Sookie seemed to be serving a fair amount of fried pickles to go with the cold beers at Merlotte's.  So I decided that I needed to make some fried pickles and a couple of other goodies that get cooked up in the small kitchen of the bar I can imagine myself sitting in.  Fortunately, in between books, Ms. Harris gives us bits and pieces of Bon Temps in her short stories and in the Sookie Stackhouse Companion.  So these recipes are inspired by and adapted from "actual" Merlotte's recipes.  Just me.  Hangin' out at Merlotte's with Quinn.  Or Alcide.  Or Sam.  Yes, I like the hot-blooded supes.  I mean, I like to feed people afterall.  And I'm not talkin' blood here.  And I like to eat.  And I can't imagine not having the social aspect of all that goes along with food.  Sookie can keep the vamps.  Although, I admit that Eric is pretty sexy to look at (in my mind and on the series inspired by...).

Fried Chicken Strips

Spicy Chicken Strips
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by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
Prep Time: 8 hours (to marinate)
Cook Time: 20-30 minutes
Keywords: fry entree chicken spice American

Ingredients (serves 6-8)
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne
  • 2 teaspoons adobo sauce
  • ~3 pounds. chicken "tenderloins"
  • ~3 cups all-purpose flour
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • oil, for frying
Combine buttermilk, cayenne, and adobo sauce. Place chicken tenderloins in a gallon-size zippered baggie. Pour buttermilk mixture in over the chicken. Seal the baggie tightly. Squish it all around so that all of the chicken is coated. Marinate 8 hours in the fridge.

Heat a couple inches of oil in a large, deep skillet.

Place the flour in a brown paper bag and season generously with salt and pepper. Add a few chicken tenderloins at a time, fold the top of the bag over, and shake it up. Slide chicken (one piece at a time) into the hot oil. Do not overcrowd the skillet, do this in batches.

Fry until golden and cooked through. Lift out of the hot oil using a slotted spatula or tongs and let drain on paper towels. Serve hot with Homemade Buttermilk Ranch Dressing for dipping and some Fried Pickles on the side.

-adapted from/inspired by The Sookie Stackhouse Companion: What's Cookin' in Bon Temps

Fried Pickles

Fried Pickles
by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Keywords: fry snack side vegetarian pickles American

Ingredients (varies)
  • 1 cup self-rising flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • couple dashes of Tabasco
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup beer
  • whole dill pickles
  • oil, for frying
Sift the dry ingredients together. Whisk in Tabasco, milk, and beer.

Blot the outsides of the pickles dry and then slice into thick chips, ~1/4" thick. Dip the pickle chips into the batter and turn to coat. Gently lower into hot oil. Fry, turning once or twice until nice and golden brown.

Enjoy with a cold beer...and maybe some Homemade Buttermilk Ranch Dressing for dipping. Add Spicy Chicken Strips to make it a meal!

-slightly adapted from The Sookie Stackhouse Companion: What's Cookin' in Bon Temps

Homemade Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

Homemade Buttermilk Ranch Dressing
by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: n/a
Keywords: salad condiment vegetarian buttermilk sour cream American

Ingredients (~2 1/2 cups)
  • 1 cup sour cream (more as desired)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried chives
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon paprika
Whisk all ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.

Pour into a jar with a lid. Refrigerate and let chill a couple of hours before serving.

Keeps well for at least a week in the fridge.

If you prefer your dressing a bit thicker, stir in more sour cream to reach your desired consistency.

-adapted from The Sookie Stackhouse Companion: What's Cookin' in Bon Temps
So I'd love to hear from other Sookie fans out there.  Are you still enjoying the series?  Or are you happy that it will be coming to an end?  Who is your favorite character(s) from the books?  Did I mention how much I adore Quinn?  And Alcide?  And Sam?  Who do you think Sookie should end up with?  And I know she thinks it's a bit of a curse most of the time, but how cool would it be to be a telepath!?

And tell me I'm not the only one who contemplates which Supe they would be were they in Bon Temps or somewhere close...