Joni Woolf: Exercising and eating — how they fit together

Published 11:16 am Saturday, March 30, 2019

One of the benefits from being part of the Silver Sneakers exercise program at Southwest Georgia gym is getting to know all kinds of people — and learning from them. Recently, Stick Miller was telling about a recipe for chicken thighs (a food he was not particularly fond of), and how delicious it was, once you wrapped it in bacon and added a few spices. Then Frances Meneely joined the conversation, telling about a chicken thigh recipe she had just tried (similar to Stick’s) and promised to bring me a copy. Before that happened, I wanted to try it so much that I went to the internet and found a recipe for chicken thighs wrapped in bacon. It was good enough. But Frances’ recipe is better.
Another friend at Silver Sneakers, Dianne Harrison, brought me one of her heritage cookbooks (we exchange reading material occasionally). This one is called “Sook’s Cookbook,” and was written about the well-known Faulk family in Monroeville, Alabama. Sook Faulk was the premier cook of that family and, according to the book’s jacket, “her special fruitcakes are lovingly portrayed in Truman Capote’s ‘A Christmas Memory.’” The book, written by Capote’s aunt, Marie Rudisill, is a journey back in time, to be savored, studied, and when possible, copied for loved ones who value a taste of the past. Her “receipt” for Chicken Jefferson is included here, and combines ingredients I never thought of putting together. This recipe was served at a ball in Birmingham, Alabama, celebrating New Year’s Eve, 1873, and “the passing of cholera and the opening of The National Bank of Birmingham” (if you want to throw a party, almost anything can be an excuse). Rudisill says “Truman remembered this receipt fondly saying, ‘After many Sunday dinners and idle conversation, we could at last sit on the doorsteps in the moonlight, utterly content — nice memories.’” It is a bit unusual in its mingling of flavors, but not at all difficult.
Chicken is inexpensive, easily accessible in all our food markets, and can be prepared a thousand ways. These are two worth trying.

Jalapeno Cream Cheese Bacon Teriyaki Chicken Thigh Roll-Ups
8 chicken thighs, boneless and skinless
4 oz. cream cheese
16 slices jalapenos (from a jar); remove seeds and break each slice into a strip
8 slices of bacon (regular, not thick)
Teriyaki marinade, purchased or homemade
Rinse thighs. While chicken drains, prepare jalapeno slices. Cut cream cheese into 8 equal slices. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Surround 8- x 11-inch glass casserole dish with all ingredients for assembly. Open out thighs. Place a slice of cream cheese and 2 strips of jalapeno on each one. Roll up in your hand, securing any dangling pieces inside. Wrap bacon snugly around the stuffed chicken to hold it together. Evenly space thighs in dish and coat each one generously with teriyaki marinade (either spicy or sesame flavored). Place on middle rack of oven. Bake 1 hour. After 40 minutes, baste juice on top of thighs with large spoon. Delicious served with rice or potatoes.
(Frances Meneely notes that she has used spicy marinade which everyone liked, and also the teriyaki, which is good. She says the dish usually cooks in 1 hour, but if thighs are large, it could take a few minutes longer.)

Chicken Jefferson
8 chicken breasts
½ cup butter
3 tablespoons sherry
½ pound fresh mushrooms
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon thick tomato paste
1 fresh bay leaf
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon fresh pepper
1 cup fresh shrimp, cooked
1 sprig fresh mint
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Saute the chicken breasts in half the butter until they are golden brown. Spoon on the sherry. Put the chicken in a baking dish and cover. Bake for about 30 minutes. In a skillet, saute the mushrooms in remaining butter and blend in the flour. Add the chicken broth, tomato paste, and seasonings and simmer until the mixture thickens. Add the cooked seafood and simmer until thoroughly heated. Serve the sauce over the chicken.
(The recipe does not state if this chicken dish was served over anything, but I would suggest serving it with a mixture of white and wild rice. It would be tasty and attractive.)

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at