Story and photos by JOYANNA LOVE/ Editor
Chilton County peach season will soon be here and Nathan Wilkerson, 2017 Peach Cook-Off winner, has shared one of his favorite savory dishes using the flavorful fruit.
This peach-glazed chicken dish started as a recipe he found on the internet, but Wilkerson changed some things to make it better and make it his own.
“I love this recipe because it is a one skillet recipe,” Wilkerson said.
He said using one skillet is good because it saves time and means fewer dishes.
“I have a big household,” Wilkerson said. “I have six children, five of them are still at home with me so anything to save time and effort is a great thing.”
While any cut of chicken or other meat could be used for this dish, Wilkerson prefers chicken thighs.
“I love chicken thighs,” Wilkerson said. “I love the darker meat. It is a lot more tender it has a lot more flavor.”
The chicken is cooked until the exterior is browned, then chopped sweet yellow onion is added. Wilkerson said it is important for each piece to be chopped to the same size, so it cooks in the same amount of time.
He said the mixture should be cooked until the onions start to release moisture, but before the onions are brown. Apple cider vinegar and spices are added at this point.
The chicken is then removed and the peaches are placed in the same pan with some brown sugar. Once the sugar forms a glaze consistency, the chicken is added back in to finish cooking. Wilkerson said the meat should be put in amongst the peaches to absorb the juices.
The peach sauce created for the dish is “flavorful and works well with a lot of meats,” Wilkerson said. Wilkerson likes using fresh peaches that have been frozen for the sauce because it helps breakdown the fruit.
Wilkerson changed the cooking time from the original recipe, so the peaches do not totally disintegrate.
Instead of rice, Wilkerson serves the chicken with quinoa, which is technically a seed. He uses two different colors to create a unique look.
“It is one of the more complete protein containing seeds,” Wilkerson said, commenting that this makes it a good choice for those who are watching their carbohydrates.
He cooks the quinoa in stock, instead of water.
“You always want to add more flavor,” Wilkerson said.
Wilkerson said he became interested in cooking because his family enjoyed cooking.
“We all love to cook,” Wilkerson said. “We all love to eat and that’s where all our family memories are.”
He said the aromas of a meal make long remembered memories, especially when shared with family.
“I love the food, obviously, but I love the memories that come with it,” Wilkerson said.
Some of those memories include cooking with his grandmother.
Wilkerson completed his culinary certification at Virginia College’s Culinard and worked for hotel kitchens for five years. Now, he caters events for family and friends.
Wilkerson said culinary school and working in culinary has allowed him to experience a variety of new foods.
In addition to being a part of the Peach Cook-off, Wilkerson has also been a part of presentation to 4-H students about food safety and cooking contest.
“It was just incredible to watch the kids come and present,” Wilkerson said.
He said it is important to pass on knowledge of cooking to young people.
Wilkerson said once people learn the basics, like making a sauce, they do not really need recipes because they know how to do what they want to do.
The 2018 Peach Cook-off will be held June 30, and Wilkerson plans to be a part of it, either as a participant or a judge.