Growing up, my mom's family frequently enjoyed tomato sandwiches and fried chicken for supper on Sunday. This idyllic view of a simple Sunday meal inspired me for today's post.
The majority of this menu can be made ahead, but frying chicken is a laborious process, so take that into account. I made the iced tea, ranch dressing, and strawberry pretzel pie the day before, so all that was left to do before eating was fry the chicken and make the tomato sandwiches.
I am completely addicted to unsweet tea. I guzzle it down by the buckets in the summer. My favorite's are from Henri's Bakery and McDonalds, but also love the tea we brew at home. I'm partial to the Luzianne tea bags that are specially blended for iced tea. Steep 4 family size tea bags in 4 cups of boiling water for 16 minutes, then pour over a pitcher of ice. Add more water, if needed, to make 2 quarts. You could add sugar if you like it sweet, but I prefer mine sugar-free with a squeeze of lemon.
I've talked before about how good the deviled eggs are from OK Cafe (first mentioned here). While there's a plethora of delicious deviled egg recipes out there, I'm perfectly happy to enjoy store-bought ones and would highly recommend OK Cafe's.
I am extremely picky about ranch dressing and cannot stand the grocery store bottled ones. Ina Garten's buttermilk ranch dressing is the best recipe I've tried. It was delicious over iceberg lettuce with crumbled bacon, as well as with the fried chicken. It's also good on shrimp. Honestly, I'll put ranch on almost anything and can't recommend Ina's more.
Get the Recipe: The Barefoot Contessa's Buttermilk Ranch Dressing
My mom has very strict rules when it comes to making a tomato sandwich, and while we gently mock her for this, she does make a delicious tomato sandwich.
Becky's Rules for a Perfect Tomato Sandwich:
You must use white bread (Sunbeam is best, Wonder Bread is acceptable).
You must not toast the bread.
You must use a generous amount of mayonnaise on both pieces of bread (only Hellmann's will do).
You must use roadside stand summer tomatoes.
You must salt and pepper your tomatoes.
You must not add anything to your sandwich besides tomatoes (bacon and lettuce are great, but then you've got a BLT, NOT a tomato sandwich).
You must cut your sandwich in half diagonally.
You must serve accompanied by a pile of napkins (eating this over the sink is acceptable and encouraged).
All joking aside, tomato sandwiches in the summer when the tomatoes are at their peak are scrumptious. I picked up some beefsteak tomatoes from Rick's Farmers Market in Sandy Springs. They're at peak ripeness and don't need any other flavors competing; perfect for a tomato sandwich. To make ahead, salt tomato slices and allow them to drain on paper towels. Make the sandwiches, then place damp paper towels over the bread, cover with a dish cloth, and leave in the fridge for up to an hour until ready to serve.
Fried chicken - I have lots of thoughts after making this... Before this blog post, I had never fried chicken. Truthfully, I had never really fried ANYTHING. Health reasons aside, the hot oil scares me. For artistic integrity, I decided to attempt to make fried chicken and was successful... sort of. As I said earlier, this was a time consuming endeavor, definitely not a weeknight meal. This took me twice as long to make as the recipe implied it would, and while this could be because I didn't know what I was doing, it was frustrating. I picked up a cut-up chicken from my butcher, which I soaked overnight in buttermilk, then dredged it in a mixture of self-rising flour, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. With a fire extinguisher on hand, I fried the chicken in peanut oil at 375 degrees. This is where things got a little dicey. The FDA recommends that chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Once my chicken reached a desired level of crispy outside, the internal temperature was too low. The recipe I used said that if this happened, you could finish your chicken in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes. 40 minutes later, the chicken was finally safe to eat. While it was delicious, I don't think it was any better than the chicken you can buy. In the future, I may try a different recipe, but I'm also content picking up chicken from the local Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken.
I'm choosing not to share which recipe I used, as I was not entirely happy with the results (although this is probably operator error, not the recipe). Any tips on frying chicken are welcome - ha!
I served another southern classic for dessert - strawberry-pretzel icebox pie. While I've been very vocal about my hatred for making pie crusts, this pretzel crust is so simple, even I can make it. I crushed up the pretzels in a ziploc bag with a meat mallet (which doubles as a great stress-reliever). Add brown sugar and melted butter, then press it into a pie plate. I used a metal measuring cup to evenly press the crust. Bake your crust, then the rest of the pie requires no baking. After the crust is cooled, fill it with a mixture of cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk, strawberry gelatin, fresh strawberries, and whipped cream, then freeze overnight. The next day, I made more whipped cream for topping the pie. You could artfully pipe the whipped cream to decorate your pie but, truthfully, I was too impatient to do that. Place the pie back in the freezer until the whipped cream is firm. I would recommend letting the pie sit at room temperature for maybe a half hour before serving, as it makes it creamier and easier to slice.
Get the Recipe: Southern Living's Strawberry-Pretzel Icebox Pie
Get the Look:
I served this meal casually at our kitchen table with the food on a nearby buffet table. I set the table simply with some linen striped napkins, woven chargers, white dishes, and some green hydrangeas, which I placed in a pitcher.
Thanks for reading!