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.

June 30, 2010

Grilled Steaks ~ Perfected My Way

Send me home, where the cows roam…

I like a good steak and when I say good I mean mine. Okay, that may sound a bit presumptuous, but I’ll have you know I’ve eating at a lot of fancy steakhouses and their steaks are pretty good. What sets them apart from mine is the atmosphere and service. Now, if you still think I’m bigheaded well, let’s just say I’m also a homebody.

Growing up a farm, one that raised cattle, it should not be a surprise that we ate beef and a lot of it. Grilled steaks were one of our favorite choices, weather permitting, which was most of the time. Momma preferred cooking Delmonico style, which is lightly seasoned with salt, basted with melted butter and grilled over a lively fire. Simple, served with natural au jus is just good eating. I follow her lead and grill a steak in this manner every so often sending me back in time, if only in remembrance and serve it with au gratin potatoes in true Delmonico fashion.

Then there is the other way, one that I mentioned a while back and that is to grill a steak with a simple rub of oil, a little sprinkle of salt and pepper and serve it with my Marchand de Vin Sauce. Now, that is fine eating too, one for special guests or occasions and as I mentioned in the post, a sauce that can turn a choice cut of meat into one tasting like prime.

Now, on to today’s grilling….

Choose your cutRibeyes are our favorite because of the marbling of fat, perfect for grilling. Tenderloin or filet mignon is supple but lacks any fat and needs a good dose of oil massaged into it, as does the top loin or New York strip. Both of these cuts to me benefit with added seasonings. Then there is the mother of all steaks, the porterhouse. Because of its size and flavor, this one needs to be chosen carefully, cut by a trained butcher and really needs to be prime beef, after all, it is in my opinion, the top of the steak chain. T-bone steaks are a good choice too, just select one with good marbling. Then there is the top sirloin, the bottom of the steak chain but one I grill many times because of affordability and one I know I can make taste extraordinary. Again, select one with as much marbling as possible and this one will definitely need coaxing with added seasonings like below and a finishing sauce.

Prepare the steaks by removing excess fat and by that, I mean trim off any fat on the outside that’s thicker than say 1/4 of an inch. Any area that is thicker and has to remain make cuts in 2-inch intervals through the fat but not into the meat. This will keep your steak from curling. Now, pat the steaks with paper towels to remove moisture on both sides and if it is a bone-in, brush off any remaining bone particles. Rub the surface with oil, either a good vegetable oil or olive oil massaging it into the meat. Do this generously on both sides. Place steaks on a clean tray. Let the steaks set out at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

these 2-inch beauties ready for the grill

Season the steaks by sprinkling with a mixture of choice. For the puritan, salt and pepper with maybe a light touch of garlic. Of note, notice I used salt after rubbing in the oil. Salt on raw meat will draw the natural juice to the surface and the steak will not brown properly. I believe the oil not only helps to brown but also acts as a barrier still allowing the salt to penetrate as the meat cooks. If you gotten this far and want to experience my kind of steak, I mean, that is why you’re here, right, then use this steak rub. The thicker the cut, add more rub.

My Steak Rub
use a little or a lot - adds depth of flavor

1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon cayenne
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons dry mustard
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
1/3 cup brown sugar
Mix together well and store any unused in an airtight container.

getting ready for the 4th

Let's get to cooking. Prepare the grill by heating to high on direct heat either gas or charcoal to 400-450 degrees F. No need to oil the grates as the steaks are already oiled, remember?

Place on your steaks and cook covered 3 to 5 minutes each side or until a nice brown crust forms. Lower heat or move steaks away from fire and cook until desired doneness depending on the thickness of your steaks. Keep cover closed as much as possible. Use tongs to turn your steaks over, never use a fork, as there is no need to let the natural juices escape before hitting the plate.
Another way is to use an internal thermometer cooking steaks to your liking:
120°F to 125°F, (49°C to 52°C) = Rare
130°F to 140°F (55°C to 60°C) = Medium Rare
145°F to 150°F (63°C to 66°C) = Medium

When is it done? Take a peek every now and then. Look at the juices on the surface. The meat begins to turn darker but there will not be any natural red juice released on the surface of a rare steak. You should see red juices form as the steak approaches medium rare, more as it becomes medium with increase sizzle of drip over the fire. And, when the red juices start to turn brown, the steak is approaching medium well. 

I like to sprinkle my Jim Bean Steak Marinade over each steak just as I place them on the grill and again when I turn them. To me, this makes for a delicious addition to a flavorful steak. When ready, remove from the grill and let rest, uncovered for 5 minutes before serving. This allows the steak to reabsorb the favorable juices. If you must hold steaks any longer, lay foil loosely over the plate or keep them in a warming tray. Thin slices of butter, seasoned or not, is often used to finish off steaks.

The Jim Bean Steak Marinade recipe can be found here, where I also use it to glaze the Smokehouse Hamburgers and many other meats.

June 28, 2010

Barbecue Pulled Pork

Eating High on the Hog

When it comes time to barbequing, there ain’t many finer eats than pulled pork, not in these parts of the country at least. Whether you grill it, smoke or cook the roast in the oven depends on you, your time and I guess the weather. Smoking is by far the best but I know a lot of you folks may not have a smoker so today, we’re gonna grill a pork roast that will come out just as good. I promise.

To me, the best roast for pulled pork is from the pork shoulder, by far. The terminology for pork shoulder can vary widely depending on the region. Pork shoulder is the top portion of the front leg of the hog, that’s a fact. Now, the Boston blade roast comes from the upper part of the shoulder and is also called the Boston Butt. This is located near the loin and hence contains the shoulder blade bone. The lower 'arm' portion of the shoulder is the arm picnic. According to the National Pork Board, “in pre-revolutionary New England and into the Revolutionary War, some pork cuts (not those highly valued, or "high on the hog," like loin and ham) were packed into casks or barrels (also known as "butts") for storage and shipment. The way the hog shoulder was cut in the Boston area became known in other regions as "Boston Butt." This name stuck and today, Boston butt is called that almost everywhere in the US ... except in Boston."

This is the way I enjoy cooking a Boston Butt, but any pork roast will do as long as there is a nice layer of fat on top and good marbling running through it. You need this to keep the meat moist, as the fat will cook out. The secret comes in three steps: the rub, the smoke and the wrapped cooking stage. You will also need a good meat thermometer. Go ahead, go out, buy a butt, and let’s get to cooking…

BBQ Pulled Pork

First up is purchasing a good butt. Choose one about the size of a football; say 8 to 10 pounds with a nice layer of fat (1/4 to 1/2 inch thick) covering the top. Trim the layer of fat to an even 1/4 inch. I like a bone-in but if you get a boneless, make sure to tie it up good. Some folks like to rub down the roast with all sorts of things like mustard, pepper jelly, you name it, and that's okay, to me too much sugar just causes the outer part to burn. I like to massage the roast with cooking oil and use a good spice rub, like the one today without sugar, again, no cause to burn the roast.

Now for the rub, I’ve posted this before and like I’ve said it’s a versatile rub for pork but oh so good. Use your own if you think you’ve got one better.

BBQ Rub for Pork

4 tablespoons chipotle chili pepper
3 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons dry mustard
2 tablespoons crushed oregano
2 tablespoons finely crushed dried rosemary leaves
2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 1/2 tablespoons black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
    Mix well. Store any that’s left in an airtight jar.

    The Cooking Method:

    Sprinkle the roast generously with the rub and coax it into any cavities. Wrap roast in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours or overnight. Remove from the fridge for about 45 minutes before grilling.

    Prepare your grill for indirect (off the heat cooking) on either gas or charcoal. Soak wood chips for an hour, I like hickory with maybe an apple blend the best and prepare a chip box or make a foil pack like I sometimes do. You can see how I make my foil pack here on my Cowboy Beef Brisket post. Get the grill going and the temperature to 250 degrees F. You need to keep it between 225 and 250 during the cooking process.

    Place chip box or foil pack on the fire side and place the roast on the cool side with fat side up. Close the lid and wait, this is all you can do for now.

    July 4th Grilling
    After about an hour and after the smoke from the wood chips has disappeared, open up the lid and stick in your thermometer. Insert it into the meatiest area not hitting any bone. Continue cooking until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F. Also during this time, moisten the roast with a liquid to keep the outside moist. Use my Mopping Sauce or mix a mixture of cider vinegar and apple juice. I personally think pork needs the vinegar for tenderizing and the apple gives it a fruity background. Keep the lid closed as much as possible.

    When 165 is reached, remove roast and wrap tightly in heavy-duty aluminum foil mopping one last time. I use two layers of foil. Replace the thermometer and place roast back on the indirect side of the grill. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 193 degrees F. which is perfect for pulling. Remove and set aside for at least 30 minutes or for an hour or two.

    At this point you can slice it, chopped it or dice it – but why come all this way without shredding it folks. That’s why we’re here, right? It should be tender enough to pull with your finger if you want large chunks. Now, if you want the shredded version, take two forks and working against each other, start at one end of the roast and pull the meat apart.

    Serve with your favorite barbecue sauce, reheat the mopping sauce to moisten the meat or sprinkle it with a little black pepper, cider vinegar and apple juice for a real southern taste.

    June 27, 2010

    A Man's Hamburger

    Who’s Your Daddy Burger

    So what’s up with the title you ask? I use the word daddy meaning supremacy of fine eats, not as in sugar daddy or parentage and certainly not to conjure the question 'who’s your baby daddy?' This post was meant to be for Father's Day but I fooled around and messed up on the cycle. So it is fitting I deliver it this week when I go once again to the grill for some serious time in preparation for the Fourth of July weekend.

    First up is this all-time classic around our house we sometimes call the Smokehouse Burger. Now getting back to the title, if my daddy was still alive, this is the burger he would appreciate. Big, bold and meatya man’s burger so big on flavor and smokehouse taste it would remind him of the days back on the farm. Yep, they had a smokehouse and after a day of hard work, I suspect he would have eaten two of these bad boys. These burgers rate supremacy over the pure essence of what a burger should be, in my opinion - meaty, moist and juicy, savory with a bold flavor and a caramelized crust. To me, these are the daddy of all burgers.

    The recipe is based on one my momma made with a raw onion and Lipton soup mix. I’ve juiced it up a little adding A-1 and liquid smoke and while grilling these, I like to glaze them with my bourbon marinade I use when finishing off my steaks, that’s what helps form the crust and gives it an extra unexpected flavor. It’s just a winning combination if you ask me. Enjoy!
    Getting ready for the 4th

    Smokehouse Burgers

    1 large red onion, finely diced or grated
    1/2 medium green bell pepper, finely diced or grated
    2 packages Lipton onion soup mix
    2 teaspoons liquid smoke flavoring (I use hickory)
    1/2 cup A-1 Steak Sauce
    1 to 2 tablespoons Worcestershire
    1 tablespoon garlic powder
    1 teaspoon black pepper
    1/2 tablespoon salt
    2 pounds ground chuck beef (80/20), use chili style ground beef if possible
    1 1/2 pounds ground sirloin beef (90/10)
    Recipe for Jim Beam Marinade -see below
      In a large bowl combine all ingredients except meat and marinade – mix well. Break ground beef into small pieces and add to the bowl incorporating meat into mixture with a large spatula. Avoid using hands keeping the fat content cold.

      Divide into eight equal portions and form into balls dipping hands in ice water if necessary. Place on large baking pan and chill for several hours.
      Shape into patties about 3/4 inches thick, again, dip hands in ice water if needed. Make an shallow depression in the center to keep the burgers flat during cooking.

      Preheat grill on medium high. Grill patties for 5 minutes per side or until desired doneness. Baste both sides with some of the steak marinade while grilling.

      Stack on the cheese, bacon, lettuce & tomatoes and enjoy a taste we like at our house and one daddy would sure to love.

      Jim Beam Marinade

      6 tablespoons soy sauce
      1/4 cup Jim Beam (or other bourbon)
      2 tablespoons Worcestershire
      2 tablespoons Wesson oil
      2 garlic cloves -minced
      1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
      1 tablespoon black pepper
      1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
      1/8 teaspoon red pepper
      *2 tablespoons water
        Mix everything is a small saucepan and simmer over low heat until dissolved. Store mixture in a sealed jar or a shaker bottle. *I use the water to rinse out the pan.

        June 26, 2010

        Fiesta Stuffed Bell Peppers

        Pepper Pots

        Si amigos, it’s Saturday and I am still into types of stuffing recipes. Now Poblano peppers first came to mind and rightly so. Been there, done that with my Chiles en Nogada recipe.

        Today it’s a kitchen sink or rather a cupboard version using ingredients I found in my cabinets and fridge. Nothing fancy but man, what a great outcome. Some days I just surprise myself. You can use green, red or yellow bell peppers, whatever you have on hand or whatever is on sale, I happened to have a couple each of red and green. In the notes below, I mention steaming the peppers which I think brings about a sweeter taste but you can boil them in simmering water if you want, just keep them submerged for a few minutes until the flesh becomes pliable. You can also leave out the meat if you like; it has enough good stuff to satisfy an appetite without missing a beat.

        One good thing about this type of dish is it freezes well after preparing. Divide it up, cook what you want and freeze the rest for another night. Just thaw and cook accordingly. The dish is really cooked after assembly but by allowing it to further cook in the oven, everything sort of melds together, the cheese forms a topping and your senses and hungry tummy gets a workout. Enjoy!

        Fiesta Stuffed Peppers
        serves 4 really hungry folks, or 8 regular servings

        4 large bell peppers
        1 pound lean ground beef or turkey
        1 medium onion, chopped
        2 garlic cloves, minced
        2 teaspoons ground cumin
        1 tablespoon chili powder
        1 teaspoon crushed oregano
        1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste
        salt and pepper to taste
        2 cups brown rice, cooked
        1 -15.5 oz black beans, drained
        1 -14.5 oz can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
        1 -15.25 oz can kernel corn, drained
        1 -6 oz can tomato paste
        Mexican style shredded cheese

        Wash the peppers and cut them in half lengthwise, removing the seeds. Position a rack in a pan of boiling water so that the rack is just above the water level. Place peppers cut side down in a single layer on the rack. Steaming peppers will give them a much better taste. Cover with a lid and steam for about 6 minutes or until just about soft. Do this in batches if needed.

        In a large skillet, cook the meat in a little oil if needed until brown. Drain off grease and add the onion, garlic and spices. Cook until onions are soft. Add rice, the beans, corn, tomatoes with liquid and stir in the tomato paste. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

        Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spoon mixture into the pepper halves and place in an ungreased casserole dish. Choose one so that the peppers fit snugly inside. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes.

        Remove foil. Sprinkle each pepper with a little cheese and bake another 5 or so minutes or until cheese melts. Serve warm.

        Note: This would be great with a cheese sauce spooned over the top.

        June 25, 2010

        Sausage Stuffed Artichokes

        Little Green Gems

        I know, I know, it's Friday, fish day but the fish ain't a biting folks. Well, maybe a few speckled trout near the mouth of the bay, but that's too close to the oil for me. Now if you still got a hankering - you can get your fill from some of my previous posts. Just look over at the sidebar and go fishing.

        Now for a real treat, it's going to be an Italian Friday. An appetizer to get the weekend rolling. I dunno why, just because I'm in the mood and maybe because I spotted some small ones at the market ... on sale. I'm still stuffing things around in the kitchen and this is what I dug out of the box for today. Just pure good if you ask me. Enjoy!

        Sausage Stuffed Artichokes
        12 small artichokes
        2 sourdough rolls, torn into bits
        1 cup milk
        1 small onion, diced
        1 clove of garlic, minced
        1 rib of celery, finely diced
        2 ounces cooked minced ham, about 1/4 cup
        5 ounce Italian sweet sausages, casings removed, cooked and drained
        2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
        1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
        1/2 teaspoon minced fresh mint
        1 egg
        salt and pepper
        olive oil as needed
        2 ounce Fontina cheese
          Peel the artichokes down to the hearts.

          Make the filling by mixing in a bowl the bread softened in the milk along with the onion, garlic, celery, ham, the crumbled sausage, parmesan cheese, thyme, mint, egg, salt and pepper.

          Boil the whole artichoke hearts briefly in hot water, then drain and dry. Press an indentation in each center, fill the depression with the filling and  drizzle with olive oil. Cover each with the grated Fontina cheese.

          Bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees F (200° C ) for 30 minutes.

          June 24, 2010

          Mascarpone Strawberries

          Sweet Poppers

          Thoughts of something sweet and offerings of desserts, candies or confections featuring a stuffing for today’s post kept me pretty busy … for a short while. I mean, sure there are many, all sorts of sweet things from éclairs, scones, muffins, fruit hand pies; I could just go on forever folks. But, I wanted something simple, something fresh for summer and something for boys and girls to enjoy.

          Okay, strawberries filled with sweetened cream cheese or a sugar frosting is kinda of girly-girly. That’s why I’m adding a little more sophistication as in better ingredients with a taste all grownups can appreciate. The mascarpone mixed with the cream cheese is a delightful contrast to the wee tartness of the cranberries along with the subtle hint of orange from the liqueur and when combined with the sweetness and flavor of a ripe strawberry – oh my goodness. You’re just gonna have to give it a try. Enjoy and thank me later!

          Mascarpone Stuffed Strawberries
          Omit sugar for a less sweeter appetizer

          8 ounces mascarpone cheese
          3 ounces cream cheese
          1/4 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped
          1 1/2 tablespoons Cointreau or Triple Sec
          1 1/2 teaspoons powdered sugar
          24 large strawberries, halved
          toasted walnuts for dusting if desired 
            Combine mascarpone and cream cheese, dried cranberries, liqueur and sugar in a food processor to blend.

            Cut a thin slice from stem end of each strawberry forming a base. Cut each strawberry into four wedges, starting at pointed ends and cutting to but not through stem ends.

            Pipe the cheese mixture into the strawberry halves using a pastry bag fitted with an open star tip. The tip should be large enough so the cranberry bits do not clog the tip.

            Chill until time to serve. Dust with walnuts crumbs.

            June 23, 2010

            Crab Stuffing for Shrimp, Flounder...

            Stuffing like no other
            stuff away folks

            Since I’m talking stuffing, I might as well bring back a favorite. A wonderful crab stuffing I use for flounder, lobster tails and shrimp and with a little addition of shrimp with the crabmeat, I use it for deviled crabs too. Heck, if ya feel like it, use it for wonderful croquettes or boulettes.

            Shrimp this size costs a little more than the extra large size as they don’t have the luxury of spending their days idling leisurely away in the gulf waters. I suspect these big boys are busy avoiding the trawler’s nets.

            I’m always surprised by folks not knowing what to do with shrimp of this size. Some suggest boiling - HA!, never boil shrimp this big. Grilling is good, great in fact, but nothing beats a good stuffing. This is how I do shrimp when the big ones start coming in on the boats. Jumbo shrimp size average 21 to 25 in count while extra jumbo runs about 18 per pound. Enjoy!

            My Stuffed Shrimp
            about 6 to 8 servings

            40 jumbo shrimp, de-headed
            1 stick butter or margarine
            1 medium onion, finely chopped
            1/2 large red bell pepper, finely chopped
            1 1/4 cup finely chopped celery, divided
            1 pound lump or claw crabmeat
            3 eggs -beaten
            4 slices stale bread, crust removed
            3 green onions, thinly sliced
            1/2 cup chopped parsley
            1/2 teaspoon salt
            1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
            1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
            1/4 teaspoon ground thyme
            1 teaspoon black pepper
            A few dashes of Tabasco sauce
            1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire
            1 teaspoon grain mustard
            1 tablespoon melted butter
            1/2 teaspoon season-all
            3/4 cup cracker or breadcrumbs or Panko
            2 tablespoons plain corn meal

            Wash the shrimp under running water and remove shell leaving the tail on. Butterfly each shrimp by running a sharp knife down the backside to the tail. Lightly salt and pepper and place on a plate until ready to add stuffing. (Sometimes I marinate these in a little Creole seasoning and hot pepper sauce in the fridge for an hour. I think this makes them extra tasty.)

            Add the stale bread to the eggs and let soak about 15 minutes.

            Heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium low; add the onions, bell pepper and 1 cup of celery and sauté on low until soft. Stir in the crab meat and cook for 10 minutes reducing the heat to low.

            Meanwhile, remove bread from the eggs, squeeze a bit and quickly mash with a fork into the sautéed vegetables until the bread is a mush. Stir in the green onions and the next 8 ingredients mixing well. Cook a couple more minutes. Remove from heat until cool enough to handle. Stir in remaining celery.

            Mold 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of stuffing onto each butterflied shrimp.

            Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place shrimp on a baking sheet in a single layer about half-inch apart. I used non-stick foil.

            In a small bowl, combine the mustard with the melted butter and mix in the season-all, crumbs and cornmeal. Sprinkle the tops of each shrimp with this mixture.

            Bake in the oven for 12 to 18 minutes or until the tails curl up and shrimp meat is bright white. Now watch closely towards the end of cooking as you don't want to mess up this kind of shrimp. Place under a broiler a couple of minutes to brown the top if desired after about 18 or 20 minutes. Again, don't overcook these please.

            Serve with drawn butter and lemon wedges or over a rice dish of choice with a vegetable if desired.

            June 22, 2010

            Between the Sheets & Pere Ripiene

            Between Sheets & Pears

            Unfortunately, there is no correlation in the title except that I am keeping with my promise in posting about ‘stuffing’ recipes. I am also making good on another promise featuring cocktails and appetizers on Tuesdays, at least occasionally. And, something else I’m been meaning to do is to post a tribute to friends every so often. Today’s recipes go out to my dear and wonderful Floridian friend, Claudia at What’s Cookin' Italian Style. I think she will like both of these recipes.

            The cocktail today features three types of liquor and a little lemon, nothing more and nothing really fancy. It is nothing more than an improvisation on the better-known Sidecar. The silky addition of rum, for Claudia’s sake, is what makes the difference.

            Claudia, from an Italian family, will appreciate the appetizer or dessert, as I believe it is eaten in Italy. According to an old Italian proverb, “Never let the peasants know how well cheese and pears go together.” Blue cheese or Roquefort makes a memorable combination if Gorgonzola cannot be found. Seckel pears, because of their size and butter flesh, are the ideal pears but are only in season in fall through December. Any small ripe pear will be satisfactory. Hope you enjoy this folks and you too Claudia!

            Between the Sheets
            for each cocktail
            1/2 jigger brandy
            1/2 jigger light rum
            1/2 jigger Cointreau or triple sec
            1/3 jigger lemon juice
              Shake well with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon wedge.

              Pere Ripiene
              Cheese Stuffed Pears
              12 small pears, Seckel when in season
              2 tablespoons lemon juice
              1/4 cup (1/2 stick) sweet butter, or try it with cream cheese
              1 cup Gorgonzola cheese, Blue or Roquefort will do
              1 cup finely crushed walnuts
                Peel the pears and cut in half lengthwise. Remove seeds and core out the center. Sprinkle pears with lemon juice coating all surfaces.

                Beat butter, cheese together until creamy, and spoon into the pear half by teaspoons. Place halves together forming a whole pear. Use more mixture if needed to adhere pears together.

                Dip pear in crushed walnuts and set on a platter.

                Cover with wrap and chill until serving time.

                June 19, 2010

                Chile con Queso

                ¿Qué pasa?

                A delicious appetizer dip, as its name implies, is this one made with chiles and cheese. There are many who say this dip hails from Texas, and I’m not quarrelling with a Texan. My brother-in-law happens to be from Texas and he is always right.

                In Mexico, a white cheese is used, usually Asadero, Oaxaca or Chihuahua. For the chiles, they like to use roasted and peeled poblano or Anaheim chiles. In Tex-Mex cooking, Chile con Queso is made with mild cheddar cheese and canned jalapeño chiles. Some folks add a little smoked provolone giving it a nice flavorful facet. To spice up canned chiles, adding a little minced jalapeño or Serrano chile with the onions will help hide the canned taste. Then there are the ones who use the canned tomatoes, onions and chiles all-in-one. Now, do real Texans use Rotel?

                Fellow amigos in Mexico eat this dish by scooping the cheese onto either a hot corn or flour tortilla and rolling it up, but folks in Texas and the rest of the states (and in tourist areas in Mexico) know it makes an excellent party dish with tortilla chips. This is the Tex-Mex version, simple, using canned goods with the little tricks in making it taste great. Enjoy!

                Chile con Queso
                1 ounce butter
                1 onion, finely chopped
                1 small serrano chile, seeded & finely chopped
                1 -8 ounce can tomatoes, chopped with juice
                1 -4 ounce can jalapeño peppers, drained, seeded & chopped
                1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder, optional
                12 ounce cheddar cheese, grated
                4 fl oz sour cream
                3 or 4 green onions, chopped for garnish
                  Melt butter in a skillet and add onion and serrano pepper. Sauté until softened. Stir in the tomatoes with the juice, the jalapeños, chile powder and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until thickened.

                  At this point, I like to remove mixture to the top of a double boiler over gently boiling water. Add the cheese and cook very slowly until it has melted and the mixture is smooth. Heating cheese too rapidly can cause it to become stringy, or at least it has happened to me. Stir in the sour cream. If the dip becomes too thick, dilute it with a little milk. By using the double boiler, you can keep the dip warm.

                  Spoon the dip into a serving bowl, sprinkle with the green onions and serve with hot corn tortillas or chips.

                  June 17, 2010

                  Southern Peach Blueberry Crisp

                  Gathering de Wits

                  This time of year, two of our summer favorites, peaches and blueberries, are out there for the pickings and folks, that's a good thing.

                  These two are perfect together - a combination coming collectively into a blissful marriage of pleasantries for all taste buds alike and exciting sparks of ecstasy for the otherwise insane wits of summer. Okay, it's a fruit dessert sprinkled with a streusel topping making for happy eating.

                  I think the key is to have just enough topping for taste and texture. The original recipe just didn't live up to it's name to me, I mean it turned out to be a peach blueberry sog, not a crisp. Okay, maybe the fruit was too juicy, maybe it was the way I baked it, the streusel was too strung - I don't know but I came back around, tweak it to my liking and now I'm happy with the outcome. My taste buds thanked me and my senses told me it's okay to reason out the joy of simple summer satisfaction.

                  Peach Blueberry Crisp
                  Photo from / recipe adapted from former Fine Living

                  2 oz. (4 Tbs.) unsalted butter, softened; more for the pan
                  3 oz. (2/3 cup) all-purpose flour
                  1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
                  1 tsp. ground cinnamon
                  1/4 tsp. table salt, divided
                  2/3 cup coarsely chopped pecans
                  1/3 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
                  3 cups (about 1 lb.) room-temperature blueberries, washed and drained on paper towels
                  3 medium peaches (about 1 lb.), halved, pitted, and sliced 1/2 inch thick
                  1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, optional (for tartness)
                  1/4 cup granulated sugar
                  3 Tbs. cornstarch
                  1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
                    Tip: Be sure to use room-temperature berries. Cold fruit straight from the refrigerator will prevent your dessert from baking evenly.

                    Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F. Lightly butter a 9-inch square metal or ceramic baking pan.

                    In a small bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and 1/8 tsp. of the salt. With your fingers, work the butter into the flour mixture until the mixture readily clumps together when pressed. Mix in the pecans and oats.

                    In a large bowl, toss the blueberries, peaches and lemon juice. In a small bowl, combine the granulated sugar with the cornstarch, nutmeg and the remaining 1/8 tsp. salt and toss this mixture with the fruit.

                    Spread the fruit into the prepared baking pan. Pressing the streusel into small lumps, sprinkle it over the fruit. Bake until the fruit is bubbling in the center and the topping is crisp and well browned, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool slightly and serve warm.

                    June 16, 2010

                    Gulf Shrimp Pilau

                    Perfect Pee-loe

                    The word pilau refers to a rice dish that has been prepared in a seasoned broth of onions and vegetables and served with shrimp, crawfish, crabs, chicken or game. It arrived here in the states with African slaves where it became popular along the southern states and up the eastern seacoast.

                    Good pilau comes from the cooking techniques of the folks that make it. The secret is in the stock, one that uses the shells of the seafood or the bones from the game. True bayou cookery calls for throwing in a couple of live crabs into the pot when making the stock, just to season it correctly.

                    This is the way I like to make mine. Even in the heat of summer, late in the evening, nothing is finer than a plate of seasoned rice and shrimp cooked the way it is meant to be – and the way we were taught. Enjoy!

                    Gulf Shrimp Pilau
                    2 pounds fresh shrimp, heads and shells on
                      2 large yellow onions, finely chopped, divided in half
                      2 carrots, chopped with tops preferred
                      2 celery stalks, chopped with tops preferred
                      1 bay leaf
                      Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
                      1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
                      1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
                      1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
                      8 slices bacon, cut into small pieces
                      1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
                      1 1⁄2 cups long-grain rice
                      1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
                      3 large ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped saving the juice (or 1 -28 oz can whole tomatoes, undrained and chopped)
                      1/2 teaspoon salt
                      1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
                        Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Remove heads and shells from shrimp and refrigerate the shrimp meat. Combine heads and shells with half of the chopped onion, all the carrots, celery, the bay leaf and a light sprinkle of salt and pepper. Roast in oven for 20 minutes.

                        In a large stockpot, place roasted vegetables along with the heads and shells in 1 quart of hot water. Add the thyme, oregano and parsley. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain broth into a container discarding the solids.

                        In the same stockpot, if you wish, cook bacon until crisp. Drain bacon on paper towels. Sauté remaining onion and green pepper in the bacon fat for about 5 minutes over medium heat. Add rice and cook until rice is transparent, about 5 minutes. Season with the red crushed pepper. Add tomatoes, salt, parsley, and 2 1⁄2 cups shrimp broth. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer covered for 20 minutes adding more stock if rice begins to get dry.

                        Add shrimp to the rice, cover, and cook another 10 minutes. Stir in the bacon and serve with crusty French bread and a side salad.

                        June 14, 2010

                        Cajun Fried Crab Balls

                        They're bigger than you think...

                        ...well, at least for those of you wondering, these balls are anyway.

                        Fried and served for years in Acadian country, these tasty treats are made from what the land and waterways provided during our earlier beginnings down here in the south. It's what we cook up and eat at parties and festivals and when friends come a calling.

                        These are wonderful served with shrimp or crawfish stews, bisques and the likes of jambalaya and etouffee dishes. They also make great little dippers ~ just make 'em about tablespoon size for bite size morsels. Come on, make up a batch and celebrate the heritage of our south. Let me know and I’ll be right over. Enjoy!

                        Fried Crab Balls
                        2 medium white potatoes, peeled and grated
                        2 pounds crabmeat (or shrimp or crawfish)
                        1 small onion, grated (1/2 cup)
                        1/4 cup finely minced celery
                        1/4 cup grated bell pepper
                        1 teaspoon salt
                        1/2 teaspoon black pepper
                        1/4 teaspoon red pepper
                        1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
                        2 teaspoons minced fresh parley
                        1 egg slightly beaten
                        1/4 cup plain flour
                        Fish fry meal, Panko or plain bread crumbs
                        Oil for deep frying
                          Clean and pick through the crabmeat, break up any large pieces. If using shrimp or crawfish, run through a meat grinder or food processor.

                          Mix the crabmeat with the vegetables and seasonings. Add the egg and mix well, add the flour and incorporate until fully blended.

                          Gather about 2 tablespoons in your hand and roll mixture into a ball. Roll each ball into the fish fry meal. Place on a pan and refrigerate for an hour or so to set.

                          Heat oil to 370 degrees. Add several balls at a time and fry until golden brown. Drain and enjoy this all time classic.

                          Serve with slices of lemon and your favorite sauces or try any of my favorites: Creole Rémoulade Sauce, Creole Tartar Sauce or Tabasco Cocktail Sauce.

                          June 13, 2010

                          Marchand de Vin Sauce

                          Fancy-Smancy Sauce

                          When company’s coming, I enjoy heading to the butcher and selecting a nice, prime cut of meat to cook and share and maybe making a nice, flavorful sauce. One like I’m making today to compliment a roast, not that a sauce is needed with a fine, prime cut of meat but I still like to serve this on the side, it just adds depth to the meal.

                          There are days however, when going to the butcher or buying prime cuts is a not option – as in saving time or trying to cut expenses. That’s when you need a good sauce in your range of cooking skills.

                          Marchand de Vin, French for ‘wine merchant’, Sauce is a classic red reduction sauce made by, what else, reducing red wine with chopped shallots. This is simmered in a basic demiglaze and is perfect for steak and roast beef. I like the Creole version better that is still a wine reduction along with sautéed vegetables in butter and to me; it is tasty made with beef broth, ham and other Creole elements. It is even decadent on a favorite breakfast dish, Eggs Hussarde. We also like this with grilled steaks.

                          This recipe is very similar to the one from the famous Brennan’s in New Orleans but tweaked to my liking. I have made this sauce using homemade broth made from roasted beef bones and vegetables (and simmered all day) and have made it using double strength beef broth (red can) and to be honest, with everything else going on, I can't tell much difference. Enjoy!

                          Marchand de Vin Sauce
                          makes about 3 cups

                          6 tablespoons butter
                          1 medium onion, finely chopped
                          3 garlic pods, finely chopped
                          1/2 cup finely chopped green onions
                          1/4 cup finely minced cooked smoked ham
                          8 ounce thinly sliced mushrooms
                          1/3 cup all-purpose flour
                          2 tablespoons Worcestershire
                          2 cups rich beef broth
                          1/2 cup dry red wine, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir or Merlot
                          1/2 teaspoon dried crushed thyme
                          1 medium bay leaf
                          1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne
                          Salt and black pepper to taste
                          1/2 finely chopped fresh parsley
                            In a large skillet or saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Sauté onion, garlic, green onions and ham for about 5 minutes or until onions are tender. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook stirring another 2 minutes. Blend in the flour and cook 4 minutes stirring twice.

                            Add the Worcestershire, beef broth, wine, thyme, bay leaf and cayenne. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour stirring often to prevent scorching until the sauce thickens slightly. The sauce should coat the back of a spoon.

                            Remove bay leaf, add salt and pepper to taste and stir in the parsley. Serve immediately or keep warm.

                            June 12, 2010

                            Crazy Mexican Grilled Chicken

                            Call me crazy

                            Grilling in hot weather just suits me fine. That and a tub full of ice cold cerveza.

                            While the chicken soaks in this zesty, flavorful marinade – that’s the time I enjoy kicking back and enjoying the pleasures of late afternoons and early evenings. I know that in just a short time, I will enjoy some of the finest mixed-up Mexican flavored chicken ever. I hope you will try it too – it’s a whole nutter experience folks. Enjoy!

                            Pollo a la Parrilla Loco
                            4 hearty servings

                            1 cup white vinegar
                            1 cup olive oil
                            1/2 cup white wine
                            Juice of 1 Mexican lime (or key west)
                            3 garlic toes, crushed
                            1 teaspoon salt
                            1 teaspoon crushed dried oregano
                            1/2 teaspoon crushed dried thyme
                            1 to 2 teaspoons red pepper sauce
                            1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
                            4 chicken halves
                              Combine ingredients; marinate chicken at least 2 hours or up to 8.

                              Grill over medium low fire turning several times. Add 1/4 cup of water to the marinade and baste the chicken often cooking until skin is crisp and thigh meat is done. Call me crazy but I like to dunk the halves into the marinade as I turn them.

                              Serve with fresh salsa, roasted corn and frijoles rancheros. Sprinkle with additional fresh herbs if desired.

                              June 11, 2010

                              Grilled Grouper with Mango Salsa




                              A wonderful taste sensation and so refreshing!
                              I’m not going to say anymore…

                              Grilled Grouper with Tropical Salsa
                              2 servings

                              Tropical Salsa
                              1/2 cantaloupe or mango, peeled, seeded, cubed
                              1/4 cup chopped red onion
                              1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
                              2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
                              1 1/2 tablespoons fresh limejuice
                              1/2 teaspoon grated lime zest

                              Sea Salt
                              1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
                              10 to 12 ounces grouper fillets or other firm whitefish
                              1 tablespoon oil
                                Prepare grill (medium-high heat) or preheat broiler.

                                Mix first 6 ingredients in non-aluminum bowl. Season to taste with salt. Let stand at room temperature at least 15 minutes or cover and refrigerate up to 2 hours.

                                Brush fish with oil. Season fillets with salt, pepper and crushed oregano.

                                Grill fish until just cooked through, about 3 to 5 minutes per side depending on thickness.

                                Transfer fish to plates. Spoon salsa over fillets and enjoy.

                                June 10, 2010

                                Chocolate Custard Ice Cream

                                Go ahead, do the song

                                Sing, scream, dance a jig even - do what ever you like and after you finish, enjoy one of life's greatest pleasures - chocolate ice cream.
                                Creamy, chocolaty rich – this is the way ice cream is suppose to be, in fact it is the way it was made for years. Grandmother, Momma and now me. So I say, why fiddle with a good recipe? Enjoy!
                                Chocolate Custard Ice Cream
                                makes about 3 quarts
                                2/3 cup Hershey's Cocoa (or Hershey's Dutch Processed)
                                2 cups granulated sugar, divided
                                2 tablespoons cornstarch
                                1/4 teaspoon salt
                                2 cups milk
                                3 eggs
                                1 tablespoon vanilla
                                3 cups light cream
                                2 cups heavy cream
                                  Combine cocoa, 1 1/2 cups of the sugar, cornstarch and salt in a saucepan. Gradually stir in the milk. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil and stir for 1 minute more. Remove from heat.

                                  Quickly beat eggs with the 1/2 cup remaining sugar until well blended. Blend a small amount of the hot mixture into the beaten eggs to temper and add egg mixture to the saucepan. Continue cooking stirring all while until temperature reaches 170 degrees F. on a candy or instant read thermometer. Remove from heat. Blend in vanilla and both creams.
                                  Remove to a container and chill.

                                  Freeze in ice cream freezer according to manufacturer's directions.

                                  Note: 6/27/10 - Not to fiddle with a good thing, but today I added a tablespoon of Southern Comfort along with the vanilla and before placing in the freezer, added about a cup of toasted sliced almonds. Momma would approve! 

                                  June 9, 2010

                                  Hangover Shrimp

                                  Believe it or not

                                  "The best cure for a hangover is to not drink"

                         said my grandmother many times, normally after a party. This recipe is very tasty and a remedy said to cure hangovers. Well, I don't know about that, I think just eating helps but this is a sure way to cook up some shrimp that will keep everyone feeling great.

                                  And for those of you wondering - no, I do not have a hangover; it is Wednesday for goodness sake.

                                  Hangover Shrimp

                                  1 -32 ounce can V-8 juice
                                  1 bottled beer (what ever you have left from the previous night)
                                  3 to 6 jalapeno or habanero peppers, halved 
                                  1 large onion, chopped
                                  1 teaspoon salt
                                  2 garlic toes, chopped
                                  3 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
                                    Place all ingredients, except shrimp, in a large stockpot and bring to a rolling boil.

                                    Add shrimp, stir and remove from heat.

                                    Cover and let stand about 20 minutes to steep.

                                    Drain well and serve warm or layer shrimp with ice to chill.

                                    Serve with a trio of sauces, like the ones below, with plenty of lime and lemon wedges, and with lots of crackers.

                                    Creole Remoulade Sauce
                                    Tabasco Cocktail Sauce
                                    Louis Sauce

                                    June 7, 2010

                                    Creole Okra, Corn & Tomatoes

                                     Lady Finger Medley

                                    Now I just can’t let a Monday go by, especially after spending a week talking about southern vegetables, without mentioning a favorite medley of Creole flavors. Many of you I’m sure have this recipe in your everyday collection, some of you may have tried a similar recipe and hopefully, there will be a few of you that will see it for the first time.

                                    This is another one of those recipes that varies from house to home and from within regions. Grandmother liked to stew down a pan of fresh okra with tomatoes and onions. Mother made one similar to the one today using a can of Rotel. My Aunt Jinx from New Iberia LA made hers using what else, red-hot peppers along with the corn, tomatoes and okra. How do you make yours? Let me know.

                                    This is one of my many recipes in my collection that I like to pull out when fresh okra comes around in the markets and now that tomatoes are ripening into juicy red globes of goodness and sweet tender ears of corn are piling up – I just couldn’t think of anything better. I hope you agree. Enjoy!

                                    Creole Okra, Corn & Tomatoes
                                    • 4 thick slices of smoked bacon
                                    • 1/2 cup chopped onion
                                    • 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
                                    • 1/2 cup chopped celery
                                    • 1/2 pound okra, trimmed & cut into 1/2-inch pieces
                                    • 4 ears of sweet corn, kernels cut from cob & cobs scraped, or 1 -11 oz can kernel sweet corn
                                    • 2 ripe tomatoes, seeded & chopped
                                    • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
                                    • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
                                    • Salt to taste
                                    • Hot pepper sauce to taste
                                    In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove the bacon and crumble, set aside.

                                    In the reserved drippings add the onion, green pepper and celery cooking for about 5 minutes until tender. Add the okra and cook another 5 minutes or until tender stirring occasionally. Stir in remaining ingredients, cover and cook another 5 minutes or until heated thoroughly. Serve with the crumbled bacon.

                                    Note: Add a little fresh basil instead of the oregano if desired. Some folks even sprinkle a tad of filé powder on top when serving.