My baby boy, Jack

I ran into an old friend at a wing and rib restaurant last week.  It was her young daughter’s birthday and when asked what she wanted for supper on her birthday, her daughter responded, “some meat on the bone!”

I’ve since done some reflecting on my own children’s love for “meat on the bone.”  Our 9-yr old, very petite daughter, Maddi, could eat a dozen wings, a full rack of ribs or six chicken legs in one sitting without blinking an eye.  And clean those bones too!

It makes sense, though.  I don’t know if this is a Southern thing or if we’re just Clampett crazy, but every baby in my family cut their teeth on pork rib and chicken leg bones.  My dad was once entrusted with watching my friend’s baby for an hour while she and I ran an errand years ago.  When we walked in the door, I literally thought my friend had choked from the look on her face because there sat my dad and baby Aubrey with a chicken leg bone hanging out of her mouth.

When I had my babies, I’d save bones in a gallon zip-tip bag in the freezer for them to gnaw on when their teeth started troubling them (cartilage, etc. removed, of course).  I always imagined the ice-cold temperature and remnants of flavor were what did the trick.  I used them so much that I got in the habit of cooking just legs instead of whole chickens quite a bit (recipe below).

I still save bones in the freezer.  Not for more babies (no thanks!) but for soups and stews.  My husband once made a move to throw a ham bone in the trash and I all but clotheslined him before he could take another step (for God’s sake, at least give it to the dog… damn).

Here are a few of my “meat on the bone” recipes.  I hope you enjoy!

Slow Roasted Chicken (recommended for dark meat)

  • 10 chicken legs (leg quarts or thighs work well too)
  • Chicken Seasoning*

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.  Line large baking pan with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray.  Season chicken pieces liberally with the Chicken Seasoning, place on the prepared pan and bake for four hours.

Chicken Seasoning

I came up with this recipe years ago when trying to concoct something similar to the rotisserie seasoning in the grocery story delis.  I probably use this every time I bake or grill chicken.  The white pepper and thyme just go so well with chicken.

  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Cajun Ham and Bean Soup

There is nothing particularly special about the preparation of this dish but it is one of my favorite soups.  I grew up eating dried beans and ham so when my dad used the Cajun 15-Bean soup mix instead of the white butter beans I was used to, I was skeptical.  It is phenomenal.   The secret is in the seasoning packet in the bean package.  I hope you can buy this in your neck of the woods.  If not, ask your grocer.  This recipe is worth it.

  • 1 pkg. Hurst’s Cajun 15-Bean Soup beans*
  • 1 ham bone or smoked ham hock
  • 2 quarts water**
  • 2 cups ham pieces
  • Red pepper to taste
  • Salt to taste

Place dried beans, ham bone and water in a large stock pot.   Simmer on very low heat for 4 hours.  Add ham pieces,enclosed seasoning packet and pepper and continue to cook for 2 hours.

Taste soup base for salt and add if necessary (soup will draw salt from the ham, so it’s best not to add additional salt until all ingredients have cooked together for several hours).  Remove ham bone or hocks from soup.  Trim the meat away from the bones and add back to soup.  Continue to cook until all beans are tender.

*Disregard recipe on the package but be sure to use the enclosed seasoning packet.

**It may be necessary to add water throughout the cooking process.

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Mandy Richburg Rivers

Mandy Richburg Rivers

Mandy lives in Lexington, South Carolina, is a contributing writer for the Food & Drink section and is currently working on her first cookbook. Mandy is an award winning recipe writer and judges regional cook-offs and other culinary contests.

“I'm just a gal that likes food. Of course I like to eat, but what I've discovered about myself over the years is that there are more ways for me to enjoy food than just eating it. I like to shop for it, read about it, cook it, entertain with it and write about it. And when it's really good, sometimes I'm tempted to throw it on the floor and roll in it."