Southern Alabama Specialties

Recipes and folklore from the Gulf Coast. Like this favorte recipe, Garlic Shrimp Linguine, gets a nod from Creole cookery and blends new and old world flavors in making one fine dinner.

Grilling Year-round on the Gulf Coast

Life is good on the Gulf Coast as you'll find folks grilling and barbecuing all types of fine foods. Burgers, dogs, steaks, wings, ribs, pork, chicken, beef, seafood, gator, heck ... if it lives around here, we eat it!

Cake Making in the South

A real classic ~ Lemon Pound Cake with Citrus Glaze.

Sunday Dinners are Sacred in the South

An establishment in these parts, sitting down at the dinner table for a family meal is a way of life for many of us. It is quality time well spent sharing our blessings. Enjoy our recipes.

Gulf Coast Seafood Recipes

Platters like this are often on tables around Mobile Bay especially when there is a Jubilee. A Jubilee only occurs in Mobile Bay - find mouth-watering recipes under the Fish and Seafood categories.

February 28, 2010

Momma's Beef Tips & Mushrooms

My Momma was a believer in searing meat to 'seal in' the juices. Of course, now days we know searing doesn't help one iota in producing juicer meat, at least not when cooked properly. We sear meat for appearance, to brown the outside, to form a crust and to form flavors that simple braising alone cannot do. Using a dry heat method, this process is done really fast over very high heat, nothing below 320 degrees F. and normally 450 degrees or higher. Using a little oil helps to speed this process along with keeping the meat from sticking. To sear correctly, the meat is rotated on all sides to form the crust. Cooking meats at a lower temperature than 310 degrees F. will not generate enough heat to form a crust and moisture from the meat will escape producing a moist-heat method. Cooking in this manner or braising, is for tougher cuts of meat and requires much longer cooking times yet still yielding a tender, juicy piece of meat.

In the recipe below, Momma used tenderloin tips, which takes to the searing method nicely. She may not have realized why she cooked this way, quickly browning the outside for appearance sake and to improve flavor, but she knew it worked and it was good. Tenderloin is much pricier now than it was back then. The fact that we raised cattle and knew the butcher may have helped but I also know she used sirloin cubes as well. Today, what we find at the grocery stores labeled 'beef tips' are really odd cuts of meat, scraps and trimmings from all over the cow. Unless labeled as to what cut of meat the tips are from, it is always better to buy a small roast and cut it up yourself, many times saving money. Beef tips are used for many things - like my favorite addition to chili, great grilled for fajitas or slow cooked for beef stew to name a few. I've made a few changes in her original recipe like decreasing the butter and adding olive oil, adding capers for depth and fresh thyme instead of dried. I hope you will try it.

Momma's Beef Tips & Mushrooms
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/4 lbs beef tenderloin tips or sirloin, cut into 1 inch cubes
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tablespoon minced shallot
1 1/2 pounds mushroom caps, cremini or baby portobello, brushed clean and halved
1/2 cup dry sherry
1 cup beef broth
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire
2 tablespoons capers
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
    In a sauté pan over high heat, add the butter and olive oil. When it reaches the smoke point, add the beef tips and sear evenly on all sides. Reduce the heat during this process if necessary to keep from burning the oil. When seared, remove the tips to a warm dish and allow them to rest. Add to the skillet the garlic, shallot and mushrooms. Sauté until mushrooms are tender. Deglaze the pan with the sherry. Add the broth, soy sauce, Worcestershire, capers and heavy cream. Allow sauce to reduce over medium high heat until it thickens. Stir in the fresh thyme. Remove from heat, add salt and pepper to taste and stir in the beef tips. Serve over buttered egg noodles, rice or pasta. Garnish with the fresh parsley.

    Note: If using dried thyme, add just a pinch when adding the broth.

    February 27, 2010

    Chili Cook Off

    American Cancer Society Chili Cook-Off

    Team Press Register 2009
    Today is the 21st Annual Chili Cook-Off in Bienville Square, downtown Mobile. The charity event features a fun-filled day of food and entertainment where chili teams will cook up the best chili in town and compete for bragging rights for 2010. There are four categories – all meat, vegetarian, wild game and meat with beans.

    Last year, over 20,000 chili testers attended the event sampling from 126 cooking teams and raised over $250.000 for local patient support programs and for fighting the disease. The defending champs, Team Press-Register, is among more that 125 teams already signed up and they will once again go for a win in the meat and bean category. Their Entirely Adequate Chili now has a longer title and is the feature recipe for today.

    The recipe below makes about 15 gallons, more than enough for home use. The recipe is also broken down for about 10 servings as shown in brackets, measurements are approximate.

    Award Winning Entirely Adequate Chile
      Award Winning Chili
    35 pounds ground chuck [1 1/2 pounds]
    5 or 6 large onions, chopped [1 medium]
    5 or 6 large bell peppers, chopped [1 medium]
    5 heads of garlic, minced [3 or 4 cloves]
    2 bunches celery, chopped [2 or 3 ribs]
    5 or 5 jalapeño peppers, seeded and chopped [1 small]
    3/4 cup of sugar [1/2 tablespoon]
    3 #10 cans chopped tomatoes [1-14.5 oz can]
    2 #10 cans tomato sauce [1-8oz can]
    2 to 3 beers (Dixie, Pabst, any cheap beer) [about 1/4 cup]
    2 to 3 cups chili powder [3 to 4 tablespoons]
    1 to 2 cups ground cumin [1 to 2 tablespoons]
    1 #10 can navy beans [about 4 oz]
    1 #10 can black beans [about 4 oz]
    1 #10 can light red kidney beans [about 4 oz]
    Cayenne pepper to taste
    Salt and black pepper to taste
      Brown beef in a cast-iron skilled or Dutch oven. Heat a little oil in another iron skillet or pot and sauté vegetables (except garlic) until the onions are clear, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute or so being careful not to burn it.

      After the meat is brown (drain) and dump it into a large pot. They use a 100-quart seafood boiling pot. Add remaining ingredients except for the beans. Bring to a low boil and cook uncovered for as long as possible. The longer the better and 3 hours is fine. Stir frequently throughout the cooking time using a long-handled paddle.

      About an hour before serving, add the beans and continue to cook, stirring more frequently. Check seasonings and adjust if needed.

      February 26, 2010

      Bluefish Salad

      Bluefish are present in the Gulf of Mexico throughout the year and found off the Atlantic coast of Florida during the winter months before migrating as far north to Nova Scotia. They are also found world wide with various names. Ranging upwards of forty pounds, Bluefish are voracious, predatory fish and are the only fish in this class known to kill for the sake of killing. To land one is pretty easy as they will strike at just about anything especially when they are in a feeding frenzy. Bluefish are somewhat oily and strong flavored, much like Swordfish, Pompano, Tuna and King Mackerel. Unlike many fish, bluefish needs to be bled or gutted right after the catch and iced down immediately. The outer darker flesh is often discarded while the lighter blue-gray flesh is the best and much milder in taste. This is the meat that is used in the recipe below. Enjoy!

      Bluefish Salad
      about 6 servings
      2 pounds Bluefish fillets or another fish like Tuna, King Mackerel, Swordfish, Shark or Florida Mahi-Mahi
      1/4 cup orange juice
      3 tablespoons lemon juice
      1/4 cup chopped green onions
      2 teaspoons fresh chopped cilantro
      1/4 cup olive oil
      1 tablespoon fresh chervil or 1 teaspoon dried
      3 tablespoons wine vinegar
      1/2 teaspoon salt
      2 tablespoons capers
      1/2 teaspoon white pepper
      3 garlic cloves, minced
      1 cup fresh corn kernels or canned
      2 medium tomatoes, chopped
      Mixed tender salad greens
        Cut fish into 1-inch pieces, toss in a bowl with the orange and lemon juice. Let set for 15 minutes. Arrange on a baking pan and broil 5 to 6 inches from heat for 3 to 5 minutes until it flakes easily.

        Remove from heat and transfer to a cool plate. Set aside.

        Combine remaining ingredients, except tomatoes and salad greens and place in a flat-bottom container with a lid. Place fish in a single layer in marinade and close lid tightly. Chill two hours.

        Strain off marinade liquid. Mix the tomatoes and salad greens together and gently fold in the fish mixture. Serve with toasted bread points or a crusty bread.

        February 25, 2010

        Macaroon Apple Pie

        This is a recipe I adapted from Taste of Home.  There was nothing wrong with the original version. I just like my apple pie with brown sugar, cane syrup and bourbon. Let me know what you think.

        Photo from Taste of Home
        Macaroon Apple Pie
        6-8 servings

        1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
        1/2 teaspoon salt
        1/2 cup shortening
        2 to 3 tablespoons cold water 

        4 cups sliced peeled tart apples
        1/2 cup sugar
        1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
        1/2 cup toasted pecan pieces

        1/2 cup all-purpose flour
        3 tablespoons sugar
        1/4 cup brown sugar
        1/2 teaspoon baking powder
        1/4 teaspoon salt
        1 egg
        2 tablespoons butter, melted
        2 tablespoons dark Alaga Syrup or any cane syrup
        2 tablespoons bourbon
        1/2 cup flaked coconut

        In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Cut in the shortening until mixture is just crumbly and gradually add the cold water. Work gently with a fork until a ball forms. Roll out pastry to form into a 9-inch pie plate.

        In a medium bowl, toss apples with sugar and cinnamon and spoon into the crust. Bake at 375 degrees F. for 20 minutes.

        Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine the first five topping ingredients. Stir in egg, butter, syrup and bourbon until smooth. Fold in the coconut. Spoon mixture over hot apples and carefully spread to cover. Bake 30 minutes longer or until apples are tender.

        February 24, 2010

        Roasted Shrimp Salad

        This is a great shrimp recipe anytime of the year, not just for the summer months. It is refreshing in the winter and it will remind you of good things to come. If you can, grill the shrimp on skewers on a outdoor grill or use a grilling pan on the stove. The method below is for when you just can't get outside and the oven is the only option. Either way you do it, it will turn out just as great. Enjoy!

        Roasted Shrimp Salad
        about 6 servings

        2 1/2 pounds medium shrimp
        3 tablespoons olive oil
        1 tablespoon limejuice
        3 tablespoons orange marmalade, warmed
        1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, optional
        Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
        1/2 cup mayonnaise
        zest of 2 oranges
        2 tablespoons orange juice
        1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
        2 tablespoons minced fresh chives, dill or cilantro
        1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
        1/4 cup pitted Niçoise olives, roughly chopped, optional 
        2 tablespoons capers, drained
        2 tablespoons minced red onion
          Peel and devein the shrimp, wash under cold water. Pat dry and place in a glass bowl. Mix the olive oil, limejuice, marmalade, pepper flakes, salt and black pepper together and toss into the shrimp. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Place on a sheet pan in a single layer and roast in a 400 degree F. oven for about 6 to 8 minutes or until shrimp just begins to turn pink and the flesh is firm and cooked through. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
          Make the sauce by whisking the mayonnaise, orange zest, juice and vinegar together. Season with salt and pepper if needed. Fold in the cooled shrimp along with the chives, tomatoes, olives, capers and onion. Allow to set for 30 minutes before serving or refrigerate until served. Best if served at room temperature. Serve or lettuce leaves or whole wheat bread.

          February 23, 2010

          Oyster Rockefeller Soup

          Harvesting oysters is a big business along the Gulf Coast. Eating them is a common aspect of living here as oysters are available year round, every day. The winter months are the best. Oysters seem to be a little sweeter in the cooler months. Remember the old saying, only eat oysters in the months containing an 'r'? Years ago, it rang true due to the lack of refrigeration or ice. Today, the saying should be oysters are better in the months containing an 'r'. That's because in the summer months (no 'r'), oysters are spawning, they are less flavorful and have a softer, watery texture.

          Now, who ever came up with the idea to take the signature dish from Antoine's Restaurant in New Orleans and make it into a soup, was a pretty clever chef. The earliest reference occurs in the early '80's. This is my recipe. Enjoy! 

          Brennan's Oyster Rockefeller Soup
          Oyster Rockefeller Soup
          about 8 servings

          2 pints shucked oysters with liqueur
          1 cup melted butter
          3/4 cup chopped celery
          1 cup chopped red onion
          1 leek, chopped
          3 garlic cloves, diced
          8 oz fresh spinach leaves, washed, stemmed and coarsely chopped
          3/4 cup all-purpose flour
          3 cups chicken stock
          2 bay leaves
          1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
          2 cups heavy whipping cream
          1/4 cup Herbsaint or Pernod
          salt, white pepper to taste
            Drain oysters reserving the liqueur.
            Set aside. In a stockpot, add the butter over medium heat and stir in the celery, onion, leek and garlic. Sauté until tender. Stir in the spinach. Add the flour and gently toss blending mixture together. Slowly add the chicken stock a little at a time and then the reserved oyster liqueur. Add the bay leaves and bring to a low simmer. Cover and cook for 30 minutes.
            Stir in the parsley, heavy cream, Herbsaint and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the oysters and cook until the edges begin to curl. Remove from heat and serve warm.

            Note: There are so many varying recipes but I think this one is pretty darn good. Add a cup of Parmesan cheese when adding the cream for a richer soup. You can also omit the butter and flour by adding the vegetables to the simmering stock but you will need to thicken the soup with about a half cup of cornstarch mixed with a half cup of liquid, like white wine.

            February 22, 2010

            Creole Loaf with Tomato Gravy

            From the homes of well-to-do aristocrats and those who mimicked their lifestyle, came the Creole way of cooking. To many, Creole is a term associated with Louisiana and rightly so. It was and still is the melding pot of French, Spanish, Italian, Caribbean and Mediterranean cuisine as well as Native American, African and even German food fare. The manner of Creole cooking is a more classical style than the peasantry of the Acadian Cajun. These are two distinctly different types of cuisine. From the French Quarter in New Orleans to the county plantations spread along the southern gulf coast evolved our knowledge and understanding of the pre-Civil War Creoles. Since that time, lifestyles have changed but the basis of preparing Creole dishes remains much the same, and that's a good thing.

            There are many recipes similar to today's offering. The much older ones rely on mincing beef and pork, incorporating the meats with vegetables, seasonings before forming into patties or mini loafs; often seared in a cast iron skillet before enjoying a bath of beef gravy using a roux base or a tomato sauce like the one today. Thanks to modern methods and techniques, cooking time is much quicker but the taste is ever as good. Enjoy!

            Mini Meatloaf with Creole Gravy
            makes 8

            1 1/2 pound ground lean beef
            1/2 pound ground pork or mild bulk sausage
            1 small green pepper, grated
            1 small onion, grated
            1 rib celery, grated
            1 garlic clove, finely minced
            1 egg, beaten
            1 teaspoon ground mustard
            1 teaspoon grated horseradish
            salt and pepper to taste
              In a large bowl, combine the above ingredients well and shape into 8 small, oval loaves. Make an indentation in the center of each to help with the shape in cooking (and to hold the gravy) and place in a baking dish about an inch apart. Place on a wire rack if desired. Cook in a preheated 350 degree F. oven for about 35 minutes to render fat. Drain off the grease and cover with the tomato gravy below. Reduce heat to 300 degrees F. and cook another 15 to 20 minutes until bubbly and hot.
              Note: These are good wrapped in bacon with or without the sauce.

              my Cajun mini loaves
              Creole Tomato Sauce

              3 tablespoons lard, shortening or cooking oil
              3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
              1/2 green pepper, minced
              1/2 small onion, minced
              1/2 stalk celery, minced
              1 garlic clove, minced
              1 cup milk
              2 -14.5 oz petite diced tomatoes, drained
              1 tablespoon Worcestershire
              Creole Seasoning to taste, or salt & pepper
                While meat is cooking, make the sauce by melting the lard in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook stirring constantly making a rich brown roux. Add the chopped vegetables, stir and let vegetables soften. Stir in the remaining ingredients and let come to a boil stirring often. Simmer for about 5 minutes.

                February 21, 2010

                Eggplant Custard and Spinach Artichoke Casserole

                Sunday Dinner Ideas

                Side dishes are just important as the main course and the selection of these dishes should complement the meat or main dish. Vegetables are always welcomed and two or three dishes of these are adequate for normal family gatherings. The basic rule I was taught when planning a meal goes like this: for every meat course, plan on two or three vegetable servings, one fruit, one starch like rice or potato and one bread serving. The salad could count as one of the vegetables. However, in my family, we often had bowls and platters filling up the table with five or six vegetables and two starches to chose from even though there was only one meat dish. That's just the way we ate.

                Today I give you two vegetable dishes. The first is really good, actually both are, but the latter is one I know you have made many times. Hopefully, you have not had the eggplant cooked in this manner. Enjoy!

                Eggplant Custard
                serves about 6

                4 large eggplants, peeled and roughly chopped
                1 1/2 cups celery, finely chopped
                2 large white onions, finely chopped
                1 stick butter plus 2 tablespoons, divided
                1 teaspoon sugar
                Salt and pepper to taste
                a few dashes of Tabasco (hot red pepper sauce)
                4 egg yolks, beaten
                Ritz crackers, finely crushed (butter type cracker)
                  Cook the eggplant in water with salt until tender. Drain throughly and mash through a ricer or use a food processor. Sauté the celery and onion in the 1 stick of butter until soft. Stir in the sugar, eggplant pulp and season with salt, pepper and the Tabasco. Mix in the egg yolks and pour into a greased casserole dish. Melt the 2 tablespoons of butter and mix with the Ritz crackers. Sprinkle over the casserole. Bake in a preheated 350 degree F. oven for about 30 minutes or until eggplant is set and crumbs are brown.
                  Note: This is also great with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese on top.

                  Spinach Artichoke Casserole
                  serves about 6

                  2 -10 oz packages frozen spinach, thawed
                  1/2 cup melted butter
                  1 -8 oz package cream cheese, softened
                  1 -14 oz can quartered artichokes
                  1 teaspoon lemon juice
                  Breadcrumbs, crushed crackers or panko
                    Cook spinach in boiling water and drain well. Squeeze out any water. Add butter, lemon juice and cream cheese to spinach and mix well. Add salt if needed. Place artichokes in the bottom of a greased casserole dish and top with the spinach mixture. Sprinkle the crumbs over the top and bake in a preheated 350 degree F. oven for about 25 minutes.

                    February 20, 2010

                    Chasing Tequila

                    Tequila Chasers

                    Today on Sabado Mexicana, it's a celebration for all shooters who happen to love Tequila. The spirits of the Mexican agave are a favorite for a reason. Folks just can't get enough of downing shot after shot of Tequila. First up is a nice and concise video about Tequila from Tres Agaves in San Francisco. It also explains the three types.

                    Most folks follow tequila with a slice of lime and salt. There are many varying techniques on how to go about this but the simplest is to bite into the lime and incorporate its juice with salt, which complements the taste of the tequila. Some do this to kill the taste of tequila, well, I have to wonder - why shoot it in the first place if you don't like the taste. Many choose to do the lime/salt thing but before consuming, add the shot of tequila, shish it around in the mouth and then swallow. How do you shoot Tequila and do you chase it with anything? I would like to know.


                    1 whole lime
                    1/2 lemon
                    4 dashes Tabasco
                    1 dash salt
                    1 dash Lawry's seasoned salt
                    2 pinches pepper
                    1 dash Worcestershire
                    Tomato juice
                    Tecate ( or other Mexican beer )
                      In a chilled pilsner glass with a salted rim, squeeze in juice from lime and lemon. Add Tabasco, salts, pepper, and Worcestershire, and then fill glass 1/4 full with tomato juice. Fill the rest of the glass with Tecate or other Mexican beer. Garnish with lime wheel or wedge.

                      In many parts of Mexico, a fine quality shot of tequila is normally served with a shot of this chaser. It is spicy-sweet and a perfect complement for tequila. 
                      2 anchos chiles, toasted, stems and seeds removed
                      2 tablespoons minced onions
                      1 cup orange juice
                      1 cup tomato juice
                      juice of one small lime
                      salt or seasoned salt to taste
                        Soak the chiles in hot water covered for 20 minutes and drain. Use gloves when peeling and de-seeding chiles like these. In a blender, puree the chiles with the onion, orange juice, tomato juice, lime juice and salt to taste until thoroughly blended. If the mixture is too thick, add more lime and orange juice.

                        Blood Orange Margarita
                        There are many who swear by a margarita after a shot. It's like adding fuel to the fire . . . but, as long as it tames the tongue . . . .
                        1.5 oz Lunazul Silver Tequila
                        1/2oz Elderberry Liqueur
                        1 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
                        2 oz fresh squeezed blood orange juice
                        1/2 oz agave nectar
                          Shake with ice and pour into pint glass

                          A Natural Healing
                          Lots of water and vegetables like cucumber or jícama that consist mostly of water can eliminate the flavor and nose from the last spirit sipped. A simple bite of a flour tortilla can also disperse any remaining agave flavors.

                          February 19, 2010

                          Orange Roughy, Southern Style of Sort

                          Orange roughy or red roughy is a relatively large fish found in deep, cold waters. It has a firm flesh with a mild flavor and light in color. This recipe is one I found tucked away in a file but since orange roughy is becoming over-fished, I urge you to use another type of fish with similar characteristics. To name a few are Alaskan pollock, Grouper, Mahi mahi, Pacific ocean perch, Rainbow trout, Red snapper, Walleye and White sea trout or White sea.
                          Baked in the oven, these fillets are almost as good as southern fried without the added oil.

                          Orange Roughy, Southern Style of Sort

                          1 to 1 1/2 pounds orange roughy fillets, thawed if frozen
                          1/4 cup flour
                          1/4 teaspoon salt
                          1/4 teaspoon lemon pepper
                          1 egg white
                          1/4 cup panko or plain bread crumbs
                          1/4 cup cornmeal
                          1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
                          1 teaspoon minced fresh basil
                            Cut orange roughy fillets into serving-size pieces. In a shallow dish or pie plate, combine flour, salt, and lemon pepper; set aside. Beat egg white until frothy. Combine panko, cornmeal, lemon peel, and basil. Dip top of fish fillets into flour mixture, shaking off any excess, then dip into egg white, then coat fillets with bread crumb mixture. Spray a shallow baking pan with nonstick spray coating. Place fillets in baking pan coating side up, tucking under any thin edges.
                            Bake fillets at 450° for 8 to 12 minutes depending on thickness, or until fish flakes easily with a fork. I like to squeeze lemon juice over the fish when served.

                            February 18, 2010

                            Chocolate Pecan Tube Cake

                            Chocolate Goodness!

                            I set out yesterday to make a cake. Trust me when I say, never attempt to make a cake in a hurry. My first choice would have been a four-layer Devil's Food cake with a creamy vanilla fluff icing but with limited time, I chose a tube-style cake with chocolate icing and crowned it off with a pecan fudge-like topping. The topping I simply made up in helping the appearance.

                            I started with my Grandmother's Chocolate Pound Cake recipe. I like it because, well, it is not just a part of my family but because it is so good. Also, it would save time in not having to ice between layers. 

                            Here's her recipe:

                            Elsie Lee’s Chocolate Pound Cake

                            2 sticks butter
                            1 sticks of oleo (Margarine)
                            3 cups sugar
                            5 eggs
                            1 cup milk
                            1 teaspoon vanilla
                            3 cups all-purpose flour
                            1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
                            1/2 teaspoon salt
                            1/2 teaspoon baking powder
                            1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

                            Cream together the butter and oleo and add the sugar. Mix the eggs, milk and vanilla in a separate bowl. Sift together the flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder and alternating with the egg mixture, beat flour mixture into the bowl. Fold in the pecans and pour into a greased floured tube pan. Bake in a preheated 300 oven for about 1 1/2 hours or until center is done. (Mine tested ready after 1 hour 15 minutes) Let cool before icing.

                            For the Chocolate Icing:

                            1/4 cup granulated sugar
                            1/3 cup water
                            1 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels

                            Bring the water and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan. Turn off heat and stir in the morsels. Whisk until melted. I placed the pan in a bowl of ice chips and stirred until desired consistency. Ice the cake.

                            For the Topping:

                            I did not measure anything. Started with a little cream, added some sugar and stirred over low heat until sugar dissolved. I added about a cup of milk chocolate chips and stirred over low heat until the chocolate had pretty much melted. I added about a cup of toasted chopped pecans and then let it cool down a bit before I spooned this over the top.

                            February 17, 2010

                            Shrimp Pie

                            Shrimp pies are somewhat a southern coastal dish. I guess we have such an abundance of fresh seafood, we cooks are always conjuring some way to cook 'em up.

                            Shrimp Pie
                            Serves about 6

                            1 onion, diced
                            1 red bell pepper, diced
                            1 stick margarine, (4 ounces)
                            1 can cream of mushroom soup
                            1 can cream of celery soup
                            1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
                            salt and pepper, to taste
                            1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
                            3 hard-boiled eggs, diced
                            2 pounds shrimp, peeled and de-veined
                            pastry for a two crust pie

                              Sauté onion and pepper in margarine. Add soups and seasonings. Add diced eggs and shrimp. Line a 2-quart casserole dish with half of the pastry. Pour in mix and cover with pastry. Dot with butter and bake at 350 degrees until brown, about 45 minutes.

                              If you don't care to use cream soups, you could sauté about 1/4 cup each of chopped celery and mushrooms with the onions, and use about 2 cups of thick, seasoned white sauce.

                              February 16, 2010

                              Fat Tuesday

                              Join Cajun Chef Ryan covering New Orleans and me in Mobile for this Mardi Gras Series

                              Fat Tuesday
                              Mardi Gras Day

                              "Throw me something Mister!"
                              This is the day we anticipate, known to many as Shrove Tuesday and the day before Ash Wednesday. The term Mardi Gras is French for "Fat Tuesday" referring to the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season. It is also a day to party like there is no other.

                              Celebrations begin early on Mardi Gras day. Downtown, the long parade organized by the Order of Athena rolls first, followed by the Comic Cowboys, founded in 1884. The evening ends with a spectacular night parade of illuminated floats decorated to a theme chosen by the Order of Myths. Each parade follows a defined route so that viewers can plan attendance along particular streets or balconies.

                              Some parades are long and circular so that viewers can walk to a second viewing spot and catch more throws, as the floats circle back. It allows more time to see performances as well.

                              Marshalls for Order of Athena
                              The Fat Tuesday parade schedule is as follows:

                              10:30 am Order of Athena Parade
                              12:30 pm Knights of Revelry Parade
                              1:00 pm King Felix III Parade
                              1:30 pm Comic Cowboys Parade
                              2:00 pm Mobile Area Mardi Gras Association
                              6:30 pm Order of Myths Parade
                              Numerous smaller parades and walking clubs also parade around the city.

                              Scenery for the 2010 Queen's Luncheon
                              For me, the season began in November. Since then, the company I manage has provided decorations for 42 balls and events related to the Carnival season. We provide stage sets for the opening tableaus of many Mardi Gras organizations. This consists of opera type backdrops, stage legs and moving theatrical parts, 3-dimensional components, stage effects such as smoke, lighting, pyrotechnics and even confetti and balloon drops.

                              Setting the Queen's Table with china
                              Tablescapes of props, paper mache themed objects, floral centerpieces, table cloths, place cards, even china and crystal when needed. We have a warehouse full of party props, scenery and all needed for conventions, parties, receptions and yes, Mardi Gras balls. If we don't have it, we contract it out. So, you see, Mardi Gras and Carnival is in my blood. I've been doing this for almost thirty-five years. That is why when Mardi Gras Day or Fat Tuesday finally comes, I am so ready for it. It is the one day when I can relax and enjoy the festivities of the day. My work is done and after today, it's time to move on to another year.

                              View of the main table and guest's tables
                              Today is a day I really get to appreciate and enjoy having friends over for lunch, a snack or just having them stop by for a cocktail. Now, I have cooked many things for my guests during the years but my two favorites are always Seafood Gumbo or Red Beans & Rice. Check out these past posts for my recipes. Either one is a favorite with my friends and, well, I never seem to have any one complain of the repetition.

                              Seafood Gumbo

                              Red Beans over Rice
                              I hope you have enjoyed this series on Mardi Gras and I want to thank my good friend Ryan from Cajun Chef Ryan for making this endeavor so interesting. I have enjoyed immensely his articles and recipes while he covered New Orleans. Be sure to check in with him, view today's post about Mardi Gras in New Orleans and tell him how much you enjoyed this series too.

                              More about this series:

                              February 15, 2010

                              Lundi Gras

                              Monday means Lundi Gras

                              Mardi Gras in Mobile, Alabama is the oldest annual Carnival celebration in the United States, having begun in 1703, 15 years before New Orleans was founded in 1718. The festival was a French Catholic tradition, reflecting the French colonial status of the first capital of La Louisiane. Settlers celebrated until midnight on Mardi Gras (French for "Fat Tuesday"), before the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday. Carnival and Mardi Gras in Mobile have evolved into a citywide multi-week celebration across the spectrum of cultures. The city has declared official school holidays for the final Monday and Tuesday (some include Wednesday), regardless of religious affiliation.

                              Although Mobile has traditions of secret mystic societies, who hold formal masked balls and create elegant costumes, the celebration has evolved over the past three centuries to showcase public parades where members of societies, often masked, go through the streets on floats or horseback. They toss gifts, called "throws", to the general public. The masked balls or dances, where men wear white tie and tails (full dress or costume de rigueur) and the women wear full-length evening gowns, are oriented to adults. Folks who belong to the society wear masks. Some mystic societies treat the balls as an extension of the debutante season of their exclusive social circles. Various nightclubs and local bars offer their own particular events.

                              Beyond the public parades, Mardi Gras in Mobile involves many various mystic societies, some surviving since the 19th century, while new societies continue to be formed. Some mystic societies are not parading societies, but rather hold invitation-only events for their secret members, with private balls beginning in November.

                              The Monday before Ash Wednesday is known as "Lundi Gras" ("Fat Monday"), after the French tradition of eating good foods this day as well as Tuesday, in preparation for dietary restrictions during Lent. In Mobile, Lundi Gras is traditionally a family day. The Infant Mystics (1868), the second oldest society that continues to parade, introduced the first electric floats to Mobile in 1929 and parades today, on Lundi Gras. The OOM emblem float is probably the most famous of all in parades; Folly chasing Death around the broken pillar of life (see image) followed with the Knights of Revelry Emblem: Folly dancing in the goblet of life which parades on Fat Tuesday.

                              So, what's a great way to end this day? A mouth-watering chicken dish comes to mind with a sweet, bourbon sauce. Served with a side vegetable and French bread ~ it is all we need to finish off a day of festive activities.

                              Bourbon Chicken

                              1 pound chicken leg or thigh meat, cut in bite size chunks
                              4 oz soy sauce
                              1/2 cup brown sugar
                              1/2 tsp. garlic powder
                              1 tsp. powdered ginger
                              2 tbs. dried minced onion
                              1/2 cup Jim Beam Bourbon Whiskey
                              2 tbs. white wine
                                Mix all the marinade ingredients and pour over chicken pieces in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate (stirring often) for several hours (best overnight). Bake chicken at 350 for one hour in a single layer, basting every 10 minutes. Remove chicken. Scrape pan juices with all the brown bits into a frying pan. Heat, and add 2 Tbs. white wine. Stir and add chicken. Cook for 1 minute and serve over white rice.
                                For a completely different version and a little history, see Southern Bourbon Chicken.

                                February 14, 2010

                                Joe Cain

                                Today is Joe Cain Day

                                A Brief Story of Joe Cain

                                The civil war had halted all revelry. Joseph Stillwell Cain was a store clerk in Mobile, Alabama in 1865, who had noticed how much the war had mentally worn down the populace. He, like most of his fellow Mobilians, were still under Union occupation, but the mental war between the ex-confederate soldiers and union authorities still raged and was taking a toll. During the occupation several edicts had come down from Union leaders in an effort to totally break the the will of the the Mobilians. To make matters worse, finding themselves "men without a country" following the end of the Civil War, members of any branch of the Confederate forces were forced to sign "Amnesty oaths", to restore their citizenship rights.

                                After all, these were the people and soldiers that kept Union forces at bay, even after the battle and fall of Mobile Bay to the Union Navy in 1864. During the "bread riot of 1863, and the Union blockade which substantially reduced the trade in Mobile for the duration of the war, its people endured. Disruption of foreign trade persisted after the war, as Union occupying forces, which took the city of Mobile in April 1865, closed the port to foreign trade until late in August 1865.

                                Joe Cain knew however, that to openly voice any opposition to the occupation of Mobile by the Union troops would be viewed technically, as treason. The mental drain, however, had to be stopped, and the spirit and pride of the Mobilians has to be restored.

                                It was against this back drop that Cain, in 1866, decided the best way to accomplish this renaissance of the spirit, was to revitalize the Kraft parade, the celebration of Mardi Gras in Mobile, which had been halted during the conflict. One night, he led a group of revelers in a parade through the city, using a "borrowed" coal wagon and dressed in improvised costumes depicting a Chickasaw Indian chief from the local Wragg Swamp, he called himself Chief Slacabamorinico. The significance of choosing this character was a backhanded insult to the Union forces as the Chickasaw, had never surrendered during the civil war. He mocked the union military that controlled Mobile at the time.

                                This celebration gave the Mobilians a much needed boost, when the Union leadership learning of the, "one horse stunt" were furious at the man, but couldn't touch him because he had voiced no opposition.

                                In 1867, Cain reappeared, this time with a group of confederate soldiers, who were also musicians, calling themselves the Lost Cause Minstrels (and they paraded until 1879).
                                The parade continued to give Mobile back it's spirit and pride and allowed the city to hold its collective head up, and continue to progress and to some degree, move on.

                                Joe Cain is currently buried at Church Street Cemetery in Mobile, Alabama.


                                The Joe Cain Procession was started in 1967 by a local folk singer, historian, writer named Julian Rayford. He wanted to bring recognition to the man who revived Mardi Gras activities in Mobile. Julian Rayford dressed as Chief Slacabamorinico in his coal wagon. Cain's Merry Widows follow, a mysterious group of women in black, throwing black roses and Mardi Gras beads. The number of participating groups has grown over the years, now at 32 (a limit set by the Mobile Police Dept.). Julian Rayford also petitioned for Joe Caine and his wife's body to be moved from Bayou La Batre to the Church Street Graveyard in downtown Mobile, which has been closed to new burials since 1898. Julian Rayford died in 1980, and his body was buried right next to Joe Cain's. After the Joe Cain Procession, Cain's Merry Widows partake in a Mardi Gras funeral at the grave site of Joe Cain. Weeping, dancing and tossing beads in memory of Joe Cain.

                                Cain's Merry Widows

                                The widows will mourn in 2010 for the 36th year. These ladies toss moon pies, beads, and black roses to the procession revelers. The Merry Widows now ride in the procession in a mock trolley car.

                                Thousands of spectators gather in the old graveyard, listen to Mobile's Excelsior Band, and marvel as Cain is memorialized by Mobilians dancing atop his grave. When the ceremony begins in the graveyard, several veiled women dressed in mourning robes, know as Cain's Merry Widows, cry aloud and lament his loss to the world. Joe Cain Day remains one of the most popular events of Mobile's Mardi Gras celebration, and its public parade is seen by many Mobilians as a response to the stiffness of the traditional mystic societies.

                                So, before, during and after the parade, what do we enjoy eating and munching on to soak up the day's libations? Normally I make a big ol' pot of red beans to top off a big ol' bowl of rice and a few links of sausage for each guest. Today, however, I am working on the Queen's Luncheon set for tomorrow. I have in place at home a little of everything ~ onion dip and a shrimp & crab spread to go with crackers, a platter of cold cuts with ham, turkey, roast beef and various cheeses, homemade pimento cheese and my chicken salad for sandwiches. The chicken salad is one we enjoy all year, especially during the summer at the beach. Today, it will go great on crackers or between slices of plain ol' white sandwich bread. Enjoy!

                                Drick’s Chicken Salad

                                4 to 6 large chicken breasts, depending on size
                                1 cup finely diced celery
                                1/4 cup finely diced onion
                                1/2 cup chopped bread & butter pickles
                                2 to 4 hard boiled eggs -grated
                                2 tablespoons lemon juice
                                Salt & pepper to taste
                                1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans or almond slivers -optional
                                  Remove skin and cook chicken in lightly salted water until juices run clear, cool, de-bone and finely chop the meat. Mix vegetables in a bowl adding pickles, eggs, lemon juice and nuts if desired. Fold in the chicken, add just enough mayonnaise to moisten, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

                                  Keep your chicken salad simple. Remember, it's chicken salad. The other ingredients are incorporated with the chicken to moisten, add crunch and create a southern flavor I grew up eating.

                                  February 13, 2010

                                  Yucatan Style Seafood Ceviche

                                  Sabado Mexicano

                                  Every time we have this ceviche, it reminds of snorkeling in Half Moon bay, Akumal Mexico and seeing such wonderful underwater fish. Afterwards, a nice bowl of marinated seafood with Mexican flavors awaited us, along with a chest of ice cold cerveza. This recipe is certainly gonna be a star in your repertoire of Mexican appetizers. Loaded with seafood and flavors of tropical Mexico. Enjoy! 

                                  Yucatan Style Seafood Ceviche
                                  6 servings 

                                  1 1/2 pounds white fish fillets such as grouper, sea bass or even halibut or cod
                                  3/4 pound large shrimp, peeled
                                  1 large sweet onion such as Vidalia, Maui or Walla Walla
                                  3 medium habanero peppers
                                  1 cup fresh lime juice
                                  1/2 cup fresh orange juice
                                  1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
                                  1/2 cup tomato, seeded and diced
                                    Cut the fish in 1/4-inch slices; remove any bones as you go. Place the fish in a glass or glazed ceramic dish large enough to hold it in one layer. Shell and devein the shrimp, rinsing them only if necessary to rid them of grit. Slice the shrimp in half lengthwise and chop in small pieces. Layer the shrimp over the fish. Slice the onion in half lengthwise, then crosswise in thin slices. Layer the onion over the fish and shrimp. Toast the habaneros for 3-5 minutes in a dry skillet to release the oil from the cells. Wearing rubber gloves, stem, seed and sliver the habaneros and scatter them over the onions. Season the dish with salt and pour on the lime and orange juices. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight, or until the fish and shrimp are opaque. Pour off most of the marinade to reduce the carbs from the fruit juice. Add cilantro and diced tomato, toss and serve at cool room temperature.

                                    February 12, 2010

                                    Trout Meunière

                                    Here's a really great recipe from my Creole, Cajun and Mardi Gras collection I am working on. Enjoy!

                                    Old-Style Trout Meunière
                                    6 servings
                                    1 1/2 cups flour
                                    1 tablespoons Creole seasoning
                                    1/4 teaspoon salt
                                    6 -8 ounce speckled trout fillets, or firm fish 
                                    1 1/4 sticks butter
                                    1 cup veal stock, or other stock 
                                    2 tablespoons lemon juice, strained
                                    1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
                                    2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
                                    Peanut oil, for frying
                                    Lemon wedges
                                      Combine the flour, Creole seasoning, and salt in a wide bowl. Rinse the trout fillets and pat dry. Dredge the fish in the seasoned flour and shake off the excess. Place on a wire rack.
                                      Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. When it begins to bubble, add the remaining seasoned flour and cook stirring constantly until the roux turns a medium brown.
                                      Put the stock (veal stock is the best) into another saucepan and place over medium-high heat. Whisk the roux into the stock until smooth. Add the lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and vinegar and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and keep the sauce warm while you prepare the fish.
                                      There are several ways to cook the fish. A simple pan sautéed in butter, oven broiled if you watch calories, but as a rule, Creole cooks like to fry it in about an inch of oil heated to 375 degrees. Whichever way, cook the fillets until golden brown on the outside yet translucent and flaky inside. Spoon the sauce over the fish to serve and add lemon wedges on top.