Half-Pint in the kitchen

Melissa Gilbert, who played Laura Ingalls on "Little House on the Prairie," will be at the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Roseville at 7 p.m. Sept. 17, to discuss and sign copies of "My Prairie Cookbook: Memories and Frontier Food from My Little House to Yours " (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $24.95). We suspect you are asking why. Well, it's the 40th anniversary of the long-running, much-beloved TV show, which depicted Wilder's years in Walnut Grove, Minn. The 80 recipes are accompanied by Gilbert's recollections, photos and behind-the-scenes glimpses about "what Michael Landon was really like," according to press materials. Sample recipes include ginger-melon gingersnaps, crispy chicken with sherry vinegar sauce, prairie peach cobbler and cornmeal-fried catfish. From the bookstore: Numbered vouchers will be available starting at 9 a.m. that day, necessary for those who wish to have their book signed.

General Gilbert's California Fried Chicken with Pan Gravy

Serves 4-6.

Note: Gilbert writes that they ate a lot of fried chicken on the "Little House" set because it would have been an authentic pioneer meal item — except that what they ate came from Kentucky Fried Chicken. She prefers her own recipe.

• 2 c. plus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour, divided

• 5 tbsp. Old Bay seasoning

• 2 tbsp. salt

• 1 tbsp. freshly ground black pepper

2 (4- to 5-lb.) fryer chickens, cut into pieces, rinsed and patted dry

• Vegetable oil for frying

• 2 c. warm milk


Mix 2 cups of the flour, the Old Bay, salt and pepper in a large zip-top bag. Drop in the chicken pieces (you will probably have to do this in batches) and shake to coat.

Pour the oil in a deep 12-inch cast-iron skillet to a depth of 1 inch. Heat it over high heat until a drop of water bubbles. Shake any excess seasoning mix off the chicken and put it skin side down in the pan, cooking in batches, if necessary, to avoid overcrowding. Cook on one side for 15 minutes, then turn the chicken pieces over and fry uncovered for another 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Drain the chicken on paper towels. Keep it warm in a low oven while you finish frying all of the chicken.

Pour off the oil from the skillet, leaving approximately 3 tablespoons in the skillet and turn the heat to medium. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour to the skillet while whisking, mixing in the crunchy bits and cooking for 5 minutes. Pour in the milk and bring it to a low boil, whisking constantly and cooking for another 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with the fried chicken.


No doubt, you've already sighted that first sign of fall: the return of pumpkin flavors to the marketplace. Bloomberg News reports that the flavor shows no sign of ebbing after sales of pumpkin-flavored items rose 14 percent in 2013, to about $308 million. Caribou Coffee has its new pumpkin ginger latte — along with pumpkin white chocolate mocha, pumpkin chai latte and pumpkin bread. The big drivers are the pumpkin-spice lattes offered by McDonald's and Starbucks, but Dunkin' Donuts will offer pumpkin crème brûlée coffee and Baskin-Robbins introduced pumpkin-cheesecake flavored ice cream this month. There's also pumpkin-pie vodka from Pinnacle and pumpkin-spice Jell-O from Kraft Foods. Quaker has a pumpkin-and-spice-flavored instant oatmeal for a limited time, and General Mills has put pumpkin in a Betty Crocker cookie mix, Pillsbury cinnamon rolls and Yoplait yogurt. Rumors persist of a pumpkin-flavored Oreo in the works, according to Bloomberg. And let us not forget our four-legged friends: Purina has introduced a salmon, egg and pumpkin blend of its Purina Beyond dry dog food.


Plan ahead for Kohler bash

The annual Kohler Food and Wine Experience in Kohler, Wis. (midway between Milwaukee and Green Bay), always is a celebrity-studded event. This year's lineup for Oct. 23-26 is no exception. The presenters include, from Chicago, Stephanie Izard‚ of Girl & the Goat and Little Goat Diner and Bravo's "Top Chef" winner (2008); Rick Tramonto‚ chef, author and culinary director at Tramonto Cuisine, and Graham Elliot of Graham Elliot Bistro. From New York comes chef and restaurateur Geoffrey Zakarian of "Iron Chef" and "The Kitchen"; and from America's Test Kitchen, a team that includes Christopher Kimball. Hotel packages are available with exclusive access to signature events and celebrity chefs. To learn more, visit www.americanclubresort.com.