Category Archives: From our Old Mill Restaurant

Easy Hushpuppies for Your Next Fish Fry

As summer winds down, weekends become even more important for gatherings for family and friends. A weekend spent fishing can reel in more than just a good catch. Around here, we have lots of favorite fishing spots, but you don’t have to catch it to enjoy it. As a matter of fact, the conversations in the kitchen and around the table make it all taste better anyway. We love a good fish fry and we like to experiment with flavors, so we’ve taken inspiration from our Corn Fritters and added corn to the hushpuppies. It’s a great savory treat with just a hint of sweetness from the corn.

Easy Hushpuppies

Ingredients:
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons fresh corn kernels
1 tablespoon finely chopped jalapeno or bell pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped onion, if desired
Vegetable oil for frying
Directions:
Place the hushpuppy mix, egg, and buttermilk in a mixing bowl. Stir with a fork just to combine. Fold in the corn, pepper, and onion, if desired. Set aside.
Place enough oil in a large, heavy skillet or pot to measure 2 inches deep. Heat over medium-high until the oil is hot, 365 degrees on a thermometer. Scoop or spoon generous tablespoons into the hot oil. Cook, turning once, until golden brown, about 3 minutes.
Makes 12 hush puppies.
We also have a great Catfish Breading, so stock up on both!

Old Mill Jams, Jellies, & Preserves – Meet the man who makes them

Here at The Old Mill, we take canning seriously. It’s a craft well known in the mountains, for it was the way we preserved one season to the next. In our kitchens, John Wethington keeps the craft alive by creating small batches of berry jams and preserves for us. He cans about 40 jars at a time.
Made with strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries grown by local farmers, these jams are made the old-fashioned way. Which is how John learned to make them. He learned how to skim off the impurities that turn to foam when the jam is cooking, and how long to boil down the jam so it sets. “It’s time-consuming, but I enjoy it,” says John.
For the Old Mill Heritage Line of jams, jellies, and preserves sold at the Old Mill, the fruit comes from local growers. Blackberries, elderberries, and muscadine are just a few of the ingredients that go into John’s jams. It’s a way for us to share a taste of the mountains with you, and it’s a way for The Old Mill to support local farming. Farmers in nearby Madisonville, Maryville, and Greenville, TN, are contracted by the Old Mill to grow fruits and berries.
John works his craft out of the Farmhouse Kitchen and the Candy Kitchen depending on which jelly or jam he is making, and for which line. Come see him! During summertime, when peak berry season has arrived, John makes plenty of Triple Berry Jam, The Old Mill’s best-seller. He makes about four batches a day, or about 750 jars a week to keep up with the summer demand. He also makes gallons of the Triple Berry Jam for the Old Mill Restaurant to serve to every table at breakfast, seven days a week. Strawberry is typically the first berry we get in each season, and for a limited time, it is being sampled at breakfast too.

We Love Southern Fried Chicken

 

Here in the Great Smoky Mountains, we appreciate the legacy of the simplest and most powerful southern recipe – fried chicken. In our Old Mill Restaurant we fry up more than 100 pounds of chicken each day, and it, by far, is the most requested menu item.

Why? Our chicken is crisp on the outside, and it’s moist inside. Which for the home cooks can be a bit of a struggle. One of the earliest recipes for fried chicken was in the 1828 cookbook called the Virginia House-Wife, written by Mary Randolph. Her instructions were clear – find fresh chicken, cut it up, soak in salted water, toss with flour and seasonings, and pan-fry.

For the past seven years, Randy Tucker has been in the kitchen at the Old Mill Restaurant, in charge of frying the 100 pounds or more of chicken that is served during lunch and dinner.
What makes the chicken so special is how it is cooked, says Randy. The Old Mill has two large pressure cookers, in which the chicken is both fried and pressure cooked to doneness. This keeps the crust crisp and the inside moist – two hallmarks of great fried chicken.
“Chicken has to be crispy, but it can’t be overcooked,” according to Randy, who has been cooking all his life in the East Tennessee area. “I like chicken that’s really moist and tender. So we just use fresh chicken, bread it with the Mill breader, add some garlic and seasoning of our own, and fry it.”

But without a pressure cooker/fryer at home, Randy realizes the home cook cannot duplicate exactly the famous Old Mill chicken. You just have to come here to enjoy it, he says. The closest you can get to it is to pan-fry it to golden and then finish cooking it in the oven. When he is at home in his kitchen, Randy fries boneless chicken pieces, and after browning them in hot oil, he covers them lightly with foil and places in a 300-degree oven for about 30 minutes to cook through.

“Cooking is a lot of fun,” he says. “I learn something new every day.”

Sounds simple enough. Fried chicken has simple ingredients – just chicken, seasoning, flour, and oil for frying. But therein lies the dilemma – how to do it best. Because the simplest recipes are often the most difficult.

First, the chicken. The best is whole and you cut it up yourself. Buy as small a chicken as possible, under three pounds if you can find it at your supermarket. And to cut up the chicken, it goes something like this: With a sharp boning knife and a pair of poultry or kitchen shears, remove the legs, thighs, and wings. To separate the breasts, press down on the chicken, and cut through the cartilage that connects the two chicken breasts. You will have eight pieces of chicken for frying. Or, you can purchase chicken pieces – thighs, legs, wings, breasts – separately and fry what you like.

Some people soak chicken first in buttermilk, but purists like Mary Randolph recommended just salted cold water. Then toss in seasoned flour. The easiest way to do this is to place 2 cups of flour in a brown paper sack, add 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, then shake and fry. Or, use the Old Mill’s Chicken Breading, which makes frying even easier!

Easy Oven Fried Chicken

Old-time tradition meets modern convenience in this fried chicken recipe. First, fry chicken in peanut oil. Add about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of it to a deep cast iron skillet and heat to about 350 degrees F. You brown the chicken in the skillet, but you remove the pieces after browning and bake them to doneness in the oven.

Easy Oven Fried Chicken 

1 whole chicken, cut up

2 cups Old Mill Chicken Breader or 2 cups Old Mill Plain Flour seasoned with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Vegetable oil for frying

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Let the chicken pieces air dry on a rack while you prepare the breading and heat the oil.

Place the Breader or flour mixed with seasoning in a large brown sack or a large bowl. Toss the chicken with the breading to coat each piece well. Set aside.

Place enough oil in a 12-inch cast iron skillet to measure 1/4-inch deep – about 1 1/2 to 2 cups. Place the skillet over medium-high heat, and when hot, about 350 degrees, place 4 pieces of chicken in the oil at a time to cook. Place the thighs and breasts, skin-side down. Let cook, undisturbed, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the skin is deeply browned and crisp. Turn with tongs to cook on the other side until browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the chicken to a plate to rest. Repeat the process with the remaining chicken pieces.

When all the chicken has cooked, drain the oil from the pan. Place the chicken back in the pan and place the pan in the oven. Bake until the chicken has cooked through (165 degrees), about 20 to 25 minutes. Makes 6 to 8 servings.