by Kate Heyhoe
I have been fortunate to know many great chefs in my life, none of which are famous in the traditional sense. One of these was Rosalee, a cantankerous old woman of the Deep South who cooked for my godparents in Dallas. Rosalee had light blue hair and dark black skin, and long elegant fingers which she would wave about wildly, particularly when she wanted you out—that's O.U.T.—OUT!!! of her kitchen. Too many people come visiting back here, makin' such a fuss, interrupting my cookin', she would say. Truthfully, the real reason we invaded her kitchen was because, if we didn't stop by to say howdy, then her feelings would get all hurt and she'd start feeling like she was just a person hired to work there, which she surely was not. She ran that home, a bit wildly sometimes, but nonetheless the household was definitely under her command. My godparents used to say that it was really Rosalee's place and she was just gracious enough to feed them to let them live there.
We loved Rosalee and her wild ways, which seemed to get wilder the longer she stayed in the kitchen. Like many a great chef, Rosalee would take a little nip as she cooked. Some chefs, such as Britain's Keith Floyd, slurp wine. Rosalee slurped bourbon, and by the time dessert rolled around, she was feeling no pain. After all, these were multi-course meals we were eating, and dinner typically included appetizer, soup, salad, entree, dessert and coffee. Combine that with the ever-present stimuli of semi-famous and semi-brilliant conversationalists, and you can see how the whole meal could easily stretch into the three-hour zone. During that time, Rosalee could become pretty well acquainted with her fifth of bourbon, which, as we all knew, she kept secretly hidden in a cabinet. The bottom one just to the right of the refrigerator.
Rosalee was well-respected and admired for her cooking. Like the great chefs of European royalty, Rosalee always made an official appearance at table during the end of each meal, an act of honor which we requested. Sincere praise and plaudits for her cooking were lavished upon her, and she drunk it all in just like her fine Kentucky mash. She enjoyed this moment of glory, rightfully earned, and we enjoyed it with her. Besides, we never knew what she might say and conversations with her in this state were a bit like playing Russian-roulette. She could be fun or foul-mouthed, depending on her mood, but that was just part of Rosie. She was, deep down, a very dear soul with a spirit for life that was hard to harness.
Rosalee could make food taste like nobody else, and she knew it. To this day, I have yet to taste Southern fried chicken, spicy with black pepper and crispy light, anywhere near as good as hers. I am quite sure I never will. of course, when asked, Rosalee would gladly give out her recipes, but only a fool would expect them to be accurate. She always cunningly omitted the secrets of her success.
This is not Rosalee's recipe, and even if it was, it wouldn't be. Not accurately, I mean. This is my personal recipe, based on childhood memories of a woman who made us all feel better simply by the way she fed us. Eating Rosalee's food was like being wrapped in the warmth of a loving mother's arms. God bless you, Rosalee. I wish I had the ability to cook with the same magic you did. If I ever do, I'll have to say that I learned it from a real pro, a wild one with blue hair, waving long, bony, fingers, with the wicked fire of bourbon on her breath.
To make the cobbler:
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Mix together 1 teaspoon of sugar with the cinnamon. Set aside.
Prepare the peach filling as directed below.
Sift the flour with the baking powder, salt and the remaining 2 teaspoons sugar. Cut in 2 tablespoons butter until pea sized balls are formed. Gently mix in the cream, then pour out onto a floured board. Knead for 30 seconds and roll into a ball. Roll out the dough to fit an 8x8-inch pan (or equivalent).
To assemble the cobbler, pour the hot peach filling into the pan. Lay the dough on top of the peach filling. If the dough falls apart in certain areas, that's OK; this is a light, airy biscuit dough and need not be perfectly pressed. Brush the dough with milk, then sprinkle on the reserved cinnamon and sugar.
Bake 30 minutes, until bubbly. Serve warm with cold vanilla ice-cream.
To make the filling:
Mix the cornstarch with the water until dissolved.
Place the peaches in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the brown sugar, salt, cornstarch mixture, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, lemon juice and cream. Cook until the mixture becomes very hot and the sauce thick, about 5 minutes.
This page originally published in 1994 as part of The Global Gourmet Cookbook.
Copyright © 1994-2007, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page modified January 2007
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