“YOU’RE COOKIN’ IT COUNTRY” REVIEWED

By Gannett News Service
Chicken `n’ dumplin’s, beans `n’ taters, `possum and peanut butter fudge.

When Loretta Lynn married Oliver “Doolittle” Lynn at age 13, she wasn’t much of a cook.

“He threw out everything I cooked for at least three months,” she writes in her cookbook, “You’re Cookin’ It Country” (Rutledge Hill Press, $24.99).

“The first time I tried to make chicken and dumplings for Doo, they wasn’t too good,” she writes.

In the book, she tells of her first efforts at cooking, modeling her dishes on those her mother made. When she was growing up in eastern Kentucky as one of eight children, pickings were slim, so mostly she learned to cook “beans and taters and taters and beans.”

Today, she’s mastered those chicken and dumplings, especially when she is cooking for company, as she did for friend and music collaborator Jack White of The White Stripes when he came to Nashville, Tenn., to work on her new album, “Van Lear Rose.”

“That time they came out great,” she says. “I had green beans and a salad, and I made homemade bread. He really loved that bread.”

“You’re Cookin’ It Country,” is more than a collection of 150 of her family’s favorite country recipes. Between recipes, Lynn shares stories of her times in the kitchen. You can almost hear her voice as she describes her family, the memories of people in her life and the experiences she had growing up in Kentucky.

She reminisces about famous people she’s known, including her last conversation with the late June Carter Cash and the stewed rabbit Patsy Cline loved so much.

Some of the recipes, such as roasted `possum, might not find their way to your dinner table, but the story about how her mom would go out and set traps and “track them dadgum animals down” will pull you into Lynn’s life story.

She writes, “I know people will holler, but `possum was my daddy’s favorite dish. If they lived where I lived, they would think it was a great dish, too.”

Other recipes, including her country fried cream corn and chicken and dumplings, are about as traditionally Southern as you can get.

Then there’s her peanut butter fudge.

“I was probably 11 or 12 the first time I ever tasted peanut butter,” she writes. “I thought it was the greatest thing God ever made.

“I still love peanut butter. I like to put peanut butter in candy and cakes and stuff like that, that I make.

“My kids don’t think it’s special, but I do. I imagine it’s from the time when I was a kid.”

Regardless of whether you cook from this book, by the time you read the stories and enjoy the photos of Lynn’s life, you will feel like this legend in the world of country music is an old friend.

RECIPES:

Loretta Lynn’s Chicken and Dumplins For the chicken:

1 large fat hen, skinned

3 garlic cloves, crushed

Salt and pepper

For the `dumplins’

3 cups self-rising flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup water

1 egg, beaten

6 to 8 cups chicken broth

1/2 cup cream

1 tablespoon cornstarch, optional

In a large pot boil the hen with the garlic in water for two hours. Add additional water as needed. Drain the hen, reserving the broth. Cut into pieces and discard the bones.

For the dumplings, in a large bowl, sift together the flour and salt. Gradually add the water. Stir in the egg. Knead the dough thoroughly and roll out onto a floured surface. Cut the dough into strips. Bring the chicken broth to a boil and drop the dough into the boiling broth. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the cream and chicken pieces and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes longer. Add 1 tablespoon of cornstarch to thicken, if needed (see note).

Note: Dissolve cornstarch in small amount of cold water before adding to hot liquid.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 344 calories, 31 grams protein, 36 grams carbohydrate, 1 grams fiber, 7 grams fat, 86 milligrams cholesterol, 1,192 milligrams sodium.

Serves eight.

Loretta’s Best Peanut Butter Fudge

3 cups sugar

1 teaspoon cocoa

3/4 cup water

1 stick butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup smooth peanut butter

In a large bowl mix the sugar and cocoa well. In a saucepan bring the water to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and add the cocoa mixture. Cook to soft ball stage or about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and add the butter and vanilla. Stir until the butter melts. Remove the pan from the heat and quickly add the peanut butter. Stir just until blended. Pour immediately into a greased 9-by-9-by-2-inch baking pan. Score 1- inch squares while warm. Let cool about 20 minutes and cut when firm.

Nutritional analysis per square: 196 calories, 3 grams protein, 27 grams carbohydrate, 1 grams fiber, 9.5 grams fat, 11 milligrams cholesterol, 91 milligrams sodium.

Makes 24 squares.