By MATT CRANE
For Starkville Daily News
The last time Dodie Maynard was featured in a newspaper for cooking, she won a blender. It safe to say, however, that Dodie Maynard does not so much cook, as she creates.
“I don’t usually use the exact recipe. Ever,” she said in her kitchen while waiting on one of her dishes, Creole Pork Chops, to come out of the oven.
“Pork chops are an easy, quick supper,” she says before her husband of almost three years, Stan Maynard, chimes in. “They’re one of my favorite. Of course, that salad is one of my favorites, too.”
“That salad” he says referring to is Dodie’s signature dish. “The salad is something that if I took it somewhere, everybody would know it’s mine.”
The recipe, a version of a salad found at Franke’s Cafeteria in Little Rock, Ark., is a refreshing, unexpected twist to the traditional congealed salad so popular amongst us Southerners.
Born in Forrest City, Ark., Dodie Maynard started early learning how to cook, providing meals for her father, a farmer in rural Arkansas, and the farmhands he employed.
“My dad made sure that I could cook, but I always wanted to be out on the tractor,” she says, reminiscing about days on the farm with her family.
It was during her younger years that Maynard started showing a knack for creating meals, sampling dishes with her best friend, then trying to recreate them from what they had tasted.
“We kept coming up with a lot of different flavorings,” she said.
Before coming to Starkville almost three years ago and working as an associate administrator in grants management for Mississippi State University’s Sponsored Programs Administration, Maynard served as executive director of the Flowers Manor Retirement Community in Clarksdale.
Working closely with the Flowers Manor’s food manager, Maynard began creating her Creole Pork Chops.
“The combination of Ro-Tel tomatoes and the green olives really tenderize the meat, and you can use any kind of pork chop,” she said.
She leaves the room for a moment to retrieve some fresh parsley from her herb garden. “There,” she proclaims.
Presentation is something Maynard learned at an early age, allowing her yet another outlet for her creativity.
“If you don’t enter into a little creativity in your work or whatever you do, life’s going to be a little boring,” she said.
While serving a sampling of the pork chops, Maynard said the feeling of cooking for people is an accomplishment, attributing much of it to the careful planning that goes into place.
The meat is perfectly tender, and the flavor from the tomatoes and green olives is an unexpected welcome. Maynard offers basic culinary advice by saying it is not about knowing how to cook but knowing where to buy.
In the end, Maynard says what she likes cooking the most is “just plain food.”
“I’ve never been too precise, but you can throw parsley on anything and make it look nice.”
Creole Pork Chops
1 can Ro-Tel tomatoes
1 jar green olives
clove garlic or to taste
Brown chops on stovetop. Place in oven suitable dish. Pour blended tomatoes and olives over browned chops. Bake covered for 45 minutes to 1 hour at 350 degrees until tender and tasty. Serve with rice. (Any type of pork chop will do — breakfast or butterfly — ingredients will help tenderize)
Dodie’s Congealed Salad
2 (8 oz.) packages of lemon or lime Jell-O
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 C. sugar
1 qt. mayo (light)
1/4 C. pimiento, finely chopped
1/4 C. onion, grated
1/4 C. green pepper, finely chopped
1 qt. celery, finely cut
1 qt. cottage cheese
Mix Jell-O according to package. When gelatin begins to set, blend in mayo then fold in other ingredients. (You may omit sugar and salt. Use a sugar free Jell-O for a lighter version. Original recipe from Franke’s Cafeteria in Little Rock, Arkansas)