Cliff: What I love about cooking is what the motto of my business is: "Telling life's story on the plate and through the palate". There's something therapeutic about knowing that the food you make is not just something to be eaten but experienced, appreciated, and loved as a way of nourishment, entertainment and even respected art - just on the plate.
Soul Society 101: Tell us about your start in cooking. What inspired you?
Cliff: My ability to cook was always there, but it really took the tragedy of losing my mother. Finding a way to heal is when I realized that cooking is what kept me going and kept me sane as I continued life's journey into young adulthood. Quite frankly -- food was always a love of mine, but it took that situation for me to really acknowledge it as my life's passion and purpose. What inspires me is nature and fashion.
Soul Society 101: Where do you want to see in the long term for your career as a chef?
Cliff: I want my long term career as a chef to count.
Soul Society 101: What dish have you created that gets the most love from consumers? What's your favorite? Are they the same?
Cliff: I get a lot of love for my wonton lite bites (which are usually done for parties) and any of the sauces that I make to accompany a dish, such as my coconut cream sauce.
Culinary Cliff’s Kitchen: There’s no way we’ll have a moment to recognize comfort food and not tap into southern roots of the US. Well, let’s dive into my recipe of a classic but with a twist – Chicken & grits! Get your palate and belly ready. Oh, and grab a blanket with a good movie or show 'cause you’re going to want a nap after this.
Cast Iron Fried Chicken & Creamy Blue Cheese Polenta Grits
Chicken Quarters or Whole chicken cut & clean
Salt & Pepper
1. Take your chicken and let marinate in a mixture of buttermilk and hot sauce. Place in container and let marinate at least 2 hour but overnight is recommended.
2. Heat your vegetable oil in a large cast iron skillet. It should be at 300-350 degrees. Make sure to not have the oil too hot or your chicken will burn before being fully cooked.
3. Once oil is heated – add 1.5 cups of flour, 1 cup of corn starch, thyme, paprika, and creole seasoning, salt & pepper to a container. Add drained chicken pieces to the batter. Shake and coat until fully covered in batter.
4. Carefully add chicken pieces to frying pan. DO NOT OVERCROWD. Allow each piece to cook at a medium heat to prevent burning and even cooking. Some pieces take longer than others but this is a labor of love process. Nothing less than 15 minutes for a piece of chicken at the minimum. Flip pieces halfway through cooking time.
5. Now, in a pot add 2 cups of water and 2 cups of Greek yogurt. Bring to boil and take the heat to medium as you add your 1 cup of polenta. Continuously stir. Stir and cook polenta 15-20 minutes until thick and creamy. If liquid quickly dissolves add more until fully cooked and smooth consistency. At the end of cooking add a couple of tablespoons of butter and a dash of creole seasoning to smooth it out. Lastly, add crumbled blue cheese to taste.
Once chicken is cooked allow a couple of minutes to drain on a rack or on a paper towel lined plate. Now, assemble your grits, chicken, and choice of vegetables and you’ll have a “down home” filling meal for you, your friends, date, or family.
Live right! Eat well! – Cliff Hunt of Culinary Cliff