Allow me to introduce Jackie McLean, a creative “foodie” who loves to experiment in the kitchen. Jackie recently came up with a waffle recipe that earned her an invitation to appear on the Rachel Ray show! She wasn’t able to travel from her home near Pittsburgh on short notice to be there in person, but she made a video of herself cooking the recipe and part of it was shown on TV.
On my blog I usually focus on creative Canadians, so “where’s the Canadian content?” you might be asking. It just so happens that the inspiration for Jackie’s waffle recipe came from Montreal, a city she loves, so I’m giving her honourary Canadian status! And I thought it would be fun to ask her a few questions about her passion for cooking and creating recipes.
Jackie, what’s the story behind your waffle recipe?
Mike (my husband) and I went to Montreal for his 50th birthday, and we took along a “must-go-to” list from one of Rachael Ray’s shows. On one particular day we went to Creperie Chez Suzette in old Montreal. I had this amazing lunch – a crepe with chicken supreme inside and on top of it. It was out of this world. The crepe was delicate and the chicken supreme was flavorful, with the peas that popped in my mouth… my taste buds leapt for joy.
It sounds like a very memorable meal!
It was a very special day, I was meeting a pen pal of mine, Audrey and her boyfriend Roger for the first time later that evening. There were many mushrooms in the dish and I love the flavour of mushrooms but cannot handle the texture of biting into one… maybe it was the excitement of what was to come later that I could tolerate the mushrooms for one day!
When we returned home I tried recreating the dish a few times. At first I made the recipe as a crepe, like the dish I had in Montreal, but I had no patience for the crepes! Then, after seeing a Rachael Ray show about waffles I got the idea for a savory waffle, and I tried a few times until I found one that was a hit in my book.
Do you often experiment with recipes?
I have always loved to cook. At times I have something in my head and I just create and make a dish, and other times I use a recipe, but I never use a recipe 100%. I look at it and read it over for an idea then look around at what ingredients I have or what I think I have may make it even better. I am famous for taking one recipe and combing it with another and creating a whole new idea. I always say a recipe is like a science experiment. A little of this, a little of that, and hey, wonder if I add this what would happen? Ya never know until you try, right? I ask questions, and at times I even guess, and many of my guesses have turned out very succesfully. There have been a few not-so-successful guesses, but I have been able to cover them up! And the biggest experiment is sharing ideas with friends. It’s amazing what dishes have been created by having a conversation with a friend or co-worker.
Do you have a favourite utensil or gadget that you couldn’t live without?
It would have to be my kitchen knives. They are my pride and joy, especially my 8 inch Santoku. I am lost if I do not have them to use. My favourite appliance is my Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer. When remodeling our kitchen last year one thought that was key in our plans was that there would be room so that my mixer could sit out on the counter all the time for easy access. As for gadgets, my most used is my hand held Chef’n Fresh Force Citrus Juicer. I constantly seem to need fresh lime or lemon juice in a lot of dishes and beverages, and this gadget is the best quality and is incredibly easy to use and clean. Everyone should own one. And one last item I cannot live with out in my kitchen is a box of vinyl gloves. These are the best for handling hot peppers, or handling messy items, or items you may cook for loved ones that you happen to be allergic to yourself. It’s an inexpensive investment that goes along way and saves your eyes if you cook with hot peppers.
I asked Jackie about her favourite flavours, and I love how her answers were as much about memories and loved ones as they were about food.
I have a few favorites that hold cherished memories and bring me happiness:
- Thanksgiving dinner feast with all the works ~ roasted turkey, sausage stuffing, gravy, cranberries, mashed potatoes, squash, mom’s creamy lime jello salad, her pumpkin pie, apple pie and oh, those amazing blackberry pies…
- Chicken Riggies, Utica Greens, Fried Dough, State Fair Chicken, State Fair Sausage & Pepper Sandwiches, Tomato Pie, Italian Rum Cake, Hemstrought’s Half Moon Cookies, Finger Lake Wines, Dinasour BBQ Sauce…. oh the foods of upstate New York, how I miss them so. Central New York food is what influenced my tastes growing up – cooking with my parents and grandparents and going out to eat, attending many festivals and state fairs and cooking at campgrounds with my folks. The world of food was opened to me in Central New York where I ended up attending college for Food Service Administration/Restaurant Management.
- When it comes to comfort food, my favourite that takes me back to many meals w ith my parents and grandparents is homemade perogies swimming in real butter and sauted onions and good quality kielbasa with good old fashioned yellow mustard to dip the juicy meat into. Every time I have that dish I remember many Christmas Eve dinners after midnight mass, sleepover dinners and grandma’s house. Just last year I went to my favorite spice store, Penzeys, and happened to pick up a Polish spice (Krakow Nights). The first time I used it I actually felt a presence in my kitchen, as if my grandmother was standing there with me approving that I finally found her secret spices. My kitchen smelled just like her home on Post Street in Clinton, New York. When I was growing up I had many meals there, helping her cook. When cooking can take you back to a place and time, you know what is being made is made with love.
- I will add the best dessert ever was while on vacation with my father. We went to Emeril’s down in Orlando and I had a slice of Banana Cream Pie. I have never had a slice of banana cream pie like this before in my life!
- One of my signiature items to make is a jalepeno carrot cake with margarita icing. Ever since making my first homemade carrot cake I have never eaten a boxed one since. Again, this recipe came from reading an article, then many trials and errors, and still to this day I keep trying to change it up and make it better because I always feel I need to, even though my friends say it tastes great.
You always seem so interested and curious about trying new foods and flavours, what’s your most interesting recent discovery?
I would have to say it’s been the discovery this past year of using my waffle maker for other than just morning waffles. And that a pinch of baking soda makes a much smoother batch of iced tea.
Now that’s one I haven’t heard, I’m going to have to try that!
Savory Herbed Waffles with Chicken Supreme
1 – 10 oz. package of frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
1/3 cup butter
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic minced
1/3 cup all purpose flour
½ tsp seasoned salt
¼ tsp. black pepper (I prefer shallot pepper)
1 ½ cups chicken broth
½ cup dry vermouth (dry sherry works great too)
1 tbsp chopped fresh poultry mix herbs (thyme, rosemary & sage)
2/3 cup milk
3 cups shredded cooked chicken
chopped fresh parsley for garnish – optional
Melt butter with olive oil over medium high heat in a deep sautee pan on stove. Add onions and saute till soft, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic & fresh herbs sauté 1 minute. Stir in flour, seasoned salt and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly until mixture is bubbly, Stir in dry vermouth, broth and milk and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute. Stir in vegetables and chicken. Heat through. Serve atop savory herbed waffles and garnish.
Savory Herbed Waffles:
2 tbsp chopped fresh poultry mix herbs ( thyme, rosemary & sage)
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 ¾ cup milk
1 ¾ all – purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1tbsp granulated sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
8 tbsp butter, melted
coarse sea salt for garnish
Place the fresh herbs, garlic and milk in a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Turn off heat and allow the herbed mixture to steep for 15 minutes. In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Pour herbed milk mixture over dry ingredients, then whisk in eggs and butter to thoroughly combine.
Cooking your waffles will depend on your waffle machine. Ladle generous amount of batter into waffle iron using your particular iron’s cooking directions. Cook waffles till desired doneness.
When using a rotating waffle iron, use a middle setting and about 2/3 to ¾ cup of batter. Once the waffle is complete put waffles on a platter or cookie sheet, sprinkle with sea salt and place in your oven to keep warm till all waffles are made and ready to serve.
Place hot waffle on plate, sprinkle with sea salt, top with chicken supreme, garnish with chopped parsely and enjoy!
all photos courtesy of Jackie McLean