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You don’t have to get fancy for a great meal.

I suppose most people think about dressing up and going out for a date night. For me, once it turns cold, I really enjoy just cooking something special and staying home. This time, the “special” is a bit of a throwback.

I’ve been sorting through some of my mother’s recipes. She passed away a few years ago and I cherish anything with her handwriting on it. She wrote with the most elegant script — kind of unreadable, but definitely beautiful. She was also a really good cook. Oh, not in some fancy gourmet way. She cooked and baked basic, tasty food. And somehow, when it turns cold outside, that’s what I want. I’m sure it’s called comfort food for a reason.

On busy work days, we find ourselves cooking one bowl meals. We make a sizable amount of rice or pasta on the weekend and then during the week, throw it together with vegetables and some kind of protein to have supper on the table in a flash. We’ve also tried the home-delivered ready-to-cook meals and that works, too. But for special nights or when we have a bit more time, it’s fun to cook something that needs a bit more time and attention.

And although we don’t eat dessert often, I just have to share the story of my mother’s chocolate cake recipe. It starts with the direction: melt butter on back of stove. I never questioned why it was written that way until I was an adult. My mother laughed when I asked her and she explained that it was her mother’s recipe and everyone had a wood or oil stove in those days so it was always “on.” The back of the stove kept warm, but not hot. It was the perfect place to melt butter.

So back to supper. My mother made delicious chicken — it rivalled the famous one about licking one’s fingers. But it takes planning to have all the spices on hand. And she always insisted that the tastiest part of the chicken is the thigh. Doing it her way took time. She bought fresh chicken thighs and then using a very sharp knife, she painstakingly removed every bit of bone, skin and fat. I cheated and bought fresh, boneless, skinless thighs from the Co-op that’s right in our neighbourhood. She also had a trick to make her own buttermilk. She just added a splash of white vinegar to milk and let it sit for a while – it really does turn into a close facsimile of buttermilk.

She would wet the chicken with the buttermilk and then coat it with her famous mix. After browning it in a frying pan with butter, she would transfer it to a cookie sheet and bake for 18 to 20 minutes. She knew when it was perfectly done by touching it — but for those of us less seasoned at this recipe, the internal temperature should be 85 degrees Celsius.

I’m a fan of roasted potatoes — the new little ones we can buy easily now. She baked big russets and served them with a sizable amount of butter and sour cream.

Whatever you like to serve with chicken will work. I also like brown basmati rice. You choose.

Here’s the secret recipe to coat the chicken:

¾ cup flour
1 ¼ tsp salt
½ tsp celery salt
½ tsp poultry seasoning
½ tsp dried basil leaves
¼ tsp dried thyme
¼ tsp dried marjoram
¼ tsp dried savory
¼ tsp dried rosemary, lightly crushed
¼ tsp onion powder
¼ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp paprika
¼ tsp cayenne pepper

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