When the first hints of emerald, lime, and sage start to peak through the fields and forests of South Georgia my mind begins wandering to my favorite spring activities. I hear the crack of the bat hitting a homerun ball, feel the sun browning my bare toes as I kayak down the Ogeechee, and I smell the sweetness of a batch of strawberry preserves simmering on the stove at my family’s kitchen house. As the gloomy days of winter pass, I know the earth will soon flourish with new life.
Each spring I anticipate the drive down Hwy 17 to Jacob’s Strawberry Farm. The long beds of strawberries glistening in the sun are waiting to be picked by little fingers and grandmothers’ hands alike. My crimson stained hands dripping with the sweet juices of my labor inspire me to create new recipes and remember old favorites.
My love affair with strawberries began when my grandmother and I planted a strawberry pot. The urn shaped terracotta pot was placed at her back door where we routinely checked the plants for the first sign of a white bloom and as the blooms faded, we anxiously awaited signs of our newest berry. It seemed to take months for those green berries studded with tiny seeds to grow pink, then red and ripe for the picking. We enjoyed those berries warm off of the bush or sliced in our favorite cereal. She is gone now and I don’t know what happened to our strawberry pot. I know planting that sweet little pot each spring would evoke fond memories of our days together.
The recipe below is a combination of favorite dishes. The pecan crusted chicken is a throw back to my early career as a chef at Statesboro Brews. We served this popular dish with house made whole grain honey mustard with hints of dill weed. The pimento cheese and strawberries are reminiscent of The Plains Cheese Ring made popular by First Lady Rosalynn Carter. My grandmother served this at Christmas as an appetizer. The addition of the balsamic vinegar adds a nice acidic flavor to the strawberries and helps thicken the sauce as it cooks. Each element of this recipe could stand alone or be added to another dish to create a new recipe!
Mix pretzel crumbs, pecans, and chicken breading together. Dip chicken breast in flour and shake off excess. Dip in beaten egg. Then dip in pretzel pecan mixture. Press the breading firmly around chicken to make sure every piece is coated completely. Continue process until all chicken is coated. Heat oil in skillet and brown chicken on both sides. Place on pan and finish cooking in oven. Cook for approximately 15 minutes at 350 degrees or until internal temperature registers 160 degrees.
Mix all ingredients until well blended and refrigerate.
Place all ingredients in sauce pan and cook until thickened.
Once chicken is cooked completely top with pimento cheese and bake 5-10 minutes until cheese starts to melt. Remove chicken from pan and place on serving platter and top with strawberry glaze. Asparagus is a perfect accompaniment for this dish or it can be served atop a bed of greens.