James Neal is a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy. But one thing he’s learned in his 17 years of marriage to wife Renee is that he’s just going to have to put up with the spicy stuff on a fairly regular basis.
“He’ll say, “Oh, no, here we go again,’” Renee says. “But I can’t help it. I can’t stand plain, basic food all the time. I’ve got to have my spicy stuff.”
In her Cullman County kitchen, she notes, jalapeno peppers are as much a staple item as flour and sugar. Given her penchant for eye-watering, sinus-clearing cuisine, it isn’t surprising that, when asked to share her favorite recipes in this month’s “Country Kitchen,” Renee came up with a few that have some kick to them.
Not included here is an original and, of course, spicy Southwestern-style pork chop dish that won Renee first place in the 1999 State Pork Cooking Contest. Talk about zip–that four-serving recipe calls for a whole jar of jalapeno relish.
“I came up with the basic idea for that recipe and then just kept playing around with the flavors until I got it right,” she says. That recipe, by the way, is included in The Country Kitchen: A Second Helping. Check it out; it’s definitely a winner.
Renee enjoys creating her own recipes, but she hasn’t always been that way.
“When we got married, all I could make were chili, hamburgers and brownies,” she says. It was as a newly-wed living in Auburn, while her husband earned his poultry science degree, that she began gradually honing her cooking skills.
She doesn’t have as much time to cook these days as she’d like, but it’s for a good cause: She’s in her junior year as a secondary education major at Athens State University. Between her school and James’ job as hatcheries manager for Ingram Farms in Cullman, “seems like we eat KFC and Burger King more than anything else these days,” she says.
Renee is thrilled to have the chance to share her favorite recipes in “The Country Kitchen,” because she’s found her share of great dishes in past columns.
“Every month when we get our Neighbors, I read Mr. Newby’s message first, and then I head straight for the recipes,” she says.
In addition to Renee’s hot-and-spicy dishes that follow, she also shares two special cake recipes from two special ladies: her mother, Mary Ann Lee of Cullman, and her mother-in-law, the late Dot Neal, an extremely active Alfa Farmers member. Renee, Dot would be proud.