SAVANNAH, Ga. -- If you are looking for a genuine Old South meal, go to the Olde Pink House in Savannah on Reynolds Square. (First, make a reservation!) It's the real thing.
Located on one of Savannah's picturesque squares, it is an 18th century Georgian mansion with a front porch suitable for rocking and dining rooms decorated with stern Colonial portraits. It really is pink -- Caribbean pink with a look of slightly faded seacoast nobility about it. Table settings are gracious, service is polite and the food is a rare taste of Georgia's culinary tradition.
The veterans in the kitchen prepare perfectly delicious modern American cuisine; but the reason we recommend this place is their way with low-country classics that have nearly disappeared from most cooks' repertoires.
This kitchen likes to have fun, which we discovered when we brought home "The Olde Pink House Cookbook" and tried the recipe for chicken shortcake. It's an exercise in culinary tomfoolery in which chicken stew is served like shortcake, stacked up high atop corn bread instead of biscuits! An inspired idea, because the crumbly corn bread makes a wonderful sop for all the good gravy in the recipe. It takes some effort to prepare chicken shortcake, but it is truly delectable and makes a fine company dinner -- grand but not too fancy.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.
CORN BREAD SHORTCAKE:
3 tablespoons bacon drippings
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 egg, beaten
1 chicken (3 pounds)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 medium onion, peeled
1 cup sliced mushrooms
3 scallions, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup chopped pimientos
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup cooked baby lima beans
chopped hard-boiled egg as garnish
watercress as garnish
Shortbread: Melt 1 tablespoon of bacon drippings in a 9-inch-square baking pan. Place in oven at 425 degrees.
Mix cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
In a separate bowl, mix milk with melted butter and 2 tablespoons melted bacon drippings. Let cool to tepid and beat in egg.
Working quickly, pour batter into hot pan in the oven. Bake 20 to 22 minutes, or until golden brown.
Cut into 8 pieces. When ready to use, cut each slice in half horizontally, as for shortcake.
Chicken: Cover chicken with water in heavy pot. Add salt, pepper and onion. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, partially cover, and simmer 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until chicken is tender.
Cool chicken in stock. Remove meat from pot. Reserve 3 cups stock. Pull meat from bones and cut into bite-size pieces.
In a heavy saucepan, saute mushrooms and scallions in 1 tablespoon butter for 3 minutes. Sprinkle in flour. Stir 5 minutes. Stir in reserved stock. Continue stirring over medium heat until gravy-thick. Add pimientos. Stir in white wine. Simmer over low heat 5 minutes. Add lima beans and cook only long enough to heat them through. Return chicken meat to mixture.
To assemble: Place 1/2 piece of sliced corn bread on a dinner plate. Top with chicken mixture, a slice of corn bread, more chicken and finally a third slice of corn bread. Sprinkle top of stack with hard-boiled egg and garnish with watercress.
The Olde Pink House, 23 Abercorn St. (Reynolds Square), Savannah, Ga.; (912) 232-4286. (Reservations are advised, especially for dinner.)