When Adam and Jackie Sappington opened The Country Cat in the spring of 2007 they wanted their restaurant to feel welcoming. “Our vision with The Country Cat was to offer an all inclusive, family-friendly place that offers great food” Jackie says. “We took the white tablecloths off.”
Adam and Jackie met as two line cooks working under head chef Cory Schreiber at Wildwood in 1995. A pioneer in the local food movement, Wildwood forever changed how Portland restaurant’s sourced the foods that comprised their menus. “That whole philosophy was what Cory Schreiber brought to the Pacific Northwest” Adam says about Schreiber, “and that influenced me and Jackie’s vision.”
But what makes The Country Cat more than just a restaurant dedicated to creating dishes from local ingredients is the pair’s love for food, whether it’s midwest rustic or classic European. From a heritage inspired hamburger with onion rings to a brined and smoked duck leg with asparagus, cherry tomatoes, and summer squash tossed in gremolata butter, The Country Cat's menu highlights both the rustic and refined aspects of American cuisine today.
After Nine year successful years, a few James Beard nominations, and a couple of TV appearances, last year the pair, with the help of Ashley Garland, published the restaurant’s first cookbook: Heartland: Heritage Recipes from Portland’s The Country Cat.
Below we have Adam and Jackie's favorite recipes from the cookbook: Skillet-fried Chicken and Free-form Apple Pie.
Adam's Favorite Recipe: Skillet-Fried Chicken
Head chef of The Country Cat, Adam Sappington is originally from a small town in Missouri. "I grew up eating friend chicken and cube steak," Adam remembers, "sitting down and having fried chicken every Sunday night was a big deal." As a chef who studied food through the french technique, Adam wanted to recreate the fried chicken from his childhood and serve it to the guests that patron The Country Cat, which became the restaurant's signature dish, and is now a signature recipe in the cookbook.
For the home cook looking to recreate The Country Cat's fried chicken, first thing's first: you're going to need a cast-iron skillet. "It's key" Adam Say, "it's the soul of the chicken."
Second, Adam strongly recommends letting the chicken soak in saltwater and using beef tallow to season the pan, as Adam argues "the flavor is in the fat."
1/4 cup kosher salt
2 each skin-on boneless chicken breasts,
4 cups low-fat buttermilk
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup lemon pepper
1/4 cup garlic powder
1/4 cup ground celery seed
2 tablespoons onion powder
4 cups beef tallow or lard
I use boneless skin-on chicken meat to make
1. One to two days before serving the chicken
2. Remove the chicken from the saltwater and discard
3. When the chicken is ready, line a large baking sheet with
4. Line a separate large baking sheet with paper towels. In a
5. Transfer the fried chicken to the paper towel-lined
Jackie's Favorite Recipe: Free-Form Apple Pie
Jackie, the executive pastry chef of The Country Cat, grew up watching her grandmother bake cherry pies in Los Angeles, California. "I'm totally pie geeking out right now," Jackie says, "but there's a visceral, inner happiness and love when you pull them out of the oven."
Jackie's favorite pie to pull out of the oven that's featured in the cookbook is the Free-form Apple Pie. "It's quick," Jackie says, "and you can eat for breakfast lunch or dinner." What makes Jackie's apple pie stand exceptional is the pie crust.
"The key is temperature of ingredients and turning folding" Jackie says in regard to her pie dough recipe. She insists on cutting the butter into to dough mixture by hand, not to use a food processor, and that to ensure a flaky pie crust turn and fold your pie die when working it.
"If you work quickly with it and you're not afraid of it you're going to have great crust."
1 (10-inch) pie crust
All-purpose flour, for dusting
6 medium Granny Smith or Gravenstein apples,
3/4 cup (5.25 ounces/150 grams)
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed
1 1/2 tablespoons ground
1 large egg
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
1. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. On a clean, lightly floured work surface, roll the dough
3. In a large bowl, combine the apples, granulated sugar,
4. Using your hands, transfer the apples to the middle of
5. Viewing the pie like you would a clock, start at the 12
6. Transfer the baking sheet to the refrigerator and let the
7. Remove the pie from the refrigerator. In a small bowl or
8. Transfer the pie to the oven and bake for 20 minutes.