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.

August 31, 2010

Almond Coconut Frozen Fluff or Tortoni

Italian influenced fluff

This post goes out to our Italian sweetheart Claudia and her many friends at What’s Cooking Italian Style where you will always find glorious recipes, warm family values and a whole lot of love.

As mentioned before, our family tree has no Italian roots as far as I know. And, as stated earlier, that doesn’t mean our family didn’t cook the foods from Italy or at least what we thought was Italian in nature. Maybe not real Italian cookery, but close enough for us. Spaghetti with a thick red meat sauce made from cans of store-bought tomato sauce and fresh ground beef, baked chicken with a Venetian lemon sauce, fried pork chops smothered in tomatoes & basil, veal cutlets in wine and of course, lasagna with a sauce pretty much the same as the spaghetti. All Italian, right?

Then there are the southern sweet recipes that aunts, cousins, even Momma made that we never thought of as being ‘foreign’ but just good eats. Aunt Tac’s Tutti Fruitti Candy, a chewy nougat loaded with candied & dried fruit, nuts and lots of sugar, grandmother’s buttermilk coconut & pecan cake iced and filled with her nutty cream cheese frosting and Momma’s fruit parfaits covered in a creamy Marsala custard. We knew these to be good eating, never discerned our thoughts of their origin.

When I sat out to find a tribute for Claudia, my first thought was to avoid her area of expertise since there are no Italian leaves falling from our tree. Then I thought of the sweets mentioned above lovingly made by my family and of the recipes unknowingly having hints of Italian influence. That’s when I remembered this one from Aunt Ida; a frozen dessert that follows a resemblance to Tortoni. It contains both the whipped egg white and cream mousse uninhibited by gravity, tastes of almond with chewy nutty bits and frozen as ice cream snuggled with crunchy essence of macaroons. Aunt Ida made hers with bourbon and pecans; I changed the recipe for Claudia and used brandy. Think of it as a 'melt-in-your-mouth' southern Tortoni if you please. Enjoy!

Aunt Ida's Almond Coconut Frozen Fluff
6 servings

1/4 cup chopped pecans or almonds
1/4 cup flaked coconut
Almond biscuit or vanilla wafer crumbs
6 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 to 2 tablespoons bourbon, brandy or dark rum
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 drops walnut or almond extract (depending on the alcohol)
1 cup whipping cream
1 egg white
4 maraschino cherries, chopped and drained
    Spread the almonds and coconut on a sheet pan and toast in the oven until coconut is slightly brown. Set aside to cool.

    Spread a teaspoon of biscuit crumbs in the bottom of 6 paper cupcake liners and set liners in a muffin tin.

    Whip the cream until fluffy, fold in 4 tablespoons sugar, brandy, vanilla and almond extracts.

    Beat the egg white to soft peak stage; add 2 tablespoons sugar and beat stiff. Fold the cream mixture into this followed with the almond and coconut reserving about a tablespoon to sprinkle on top of the servings.

    Mound the mixture into the liners, sprinkle with the reserved almond and coconut. Add a few cherry bits on top of each and place tin into the freezer for several hours. Serve frozen.

    Note: May be prepared and frozen several days in advance.

    August 29, 2010

    Seafood Artichoke Bake

    Local is Best

    This post goes out to my Floridian friend most call Pierce and to her readers on Life in the Slow Lane at Squirrel Head Manor. We have many things in common; one of them is a love for local seafood.

    When someone comments on one of my recipes, that makes me smile, proud and thankful. When a reader goes to the trouble to replicate and cook the recipe, that makes me beam with joy, confident in my way of cooking and appreciative of friends. Now, when they say they like it, well, you know the feeling – it’s a good thing. But, when someone cooks the dish again, comments on how good it is and goes and replicates it maybe a third time – well, I guess you might know that feeling too. It really is a good thing.

    Pierce is a favorite blogger friend and a great source in discovering new recipes, like on her Magazine Monday and her many posts of recipes from an array of cookbooks. How she finds the time in discovering these wonderful meals, I dunno. But I am grateful. She also like to discover fun and interesting places, eateries and things to do on her bike ventures tooling around her neighboring area, sometimes into other states too. Because you Pierce, love the area and ‘cause I know you like seafood, I set off on an adventure of my own; to create a recipe using fresh local seafood.

    With the waters of Mobile Bay now opened, local shrimp is a must for my recipes. I insist in buying local, it’s fresher and supports our area fishermen and shrimpers. That’s why you haven’t seen any shrimp recipes lately – no imports in my house. Mobile Bay has two types of shrimp. White shrimp that has a slight greenish gray shell and flesh that is pearly white, and summer ‘brownies’ with a reddish brown shell and flesh turns pink when cooked. White shrimp migrate within the cooler waters and are most abundant in spring and fall. They are my favorite.

    Bay scallops are tender and sweeter than sea scallops and the ones I like best come from our neighboring Florida panhandle. The bivalves inhabit the shallow waters of the bays and estuaries along much of Apalachicola. The bay around Port St. Joe and Apalachicola Bay at St. George Sound is a favorite place to wade and gather up a bucket full. However, the easiest place to find them is at the many seafood houses in the area. As for the recipe, if you cannot purchase fresh bay scallops or dislike the earthy seafood taste, crabmeat is offered in the recipe.

    I often add Cajun spice to give flavor and add to the experience of eating seafood. In this case, the seasonings are underlying, layered with the creamy onion sauce, the nutty flavor of cheese and earthiness of the scallops, mushrooms and artichokes.

    As for the cheese, I used Swiss that gave a slightly sharp edge, Gruyere might bring about a milder nutty flavor, a young Gouda would too and both melts well but for a gentler experience, use an aged Monterey Jack.

    Seafood Artichoke Bake
    This casserole, loosely based on an old Mobile shrimp recipe, has added layers of flavor and options in ingredients.
    8 to 10 servings

    2 1/2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled & deveined
    1 pound sweet bay scallops, small sea scallops or crab leg meat
    2 teaspoons Slap Ya Mama white pepper blend Cajun seasoning
    2 tablespoons butter
    3 garlic pods, chopped
    3 bay leaves
    Olive oil
    1 stick margarine
    1/2 cup all-purpose flour
    1 medium onion, minced
    4 green onions, chopped
    1/4 cup chopped parsley
    2 cups heavy cream
    1 cup dry white wine
    Sea salt to taste
    2 1/2 ounces Swiss, Gruyere or Monterey Jack cheese, grated
    Juice of 1 lemon
    2 -14 oz cans quartered artichoke hearts, drained
    1 -8 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
    1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano
      If using scallops, add 1/2 teaspoon of the white pepper blend, toss to coat and set aside. Add 1 teaspoon to the shrimp, toss and set aside.
      In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and sauté garlic and bay leaves until garlic is golden brown. Strain garlic and bay leaves from the butter leaving butter in the pan, discard garlic and bay leaves.
      Add the margarine to the saucepan over medium heat, add the flour and stir in the onions. Cook for a few minutes stirring all while. Add the parsley and slowly pour in the cream. Stir until heated through. Add the wine and return to a low simmer. Add in the Swiss cheese, remove from heat and stir until blended. Add just a little salt if desired. Allow the sauce to cool. Stir in the lemon juice.
      In a large skillet, add enough olive oil to coat the bottom. Over medium high heat, sear the scallops for just a few minutes on all sides. Do not overcook. Remove to an oblong casserole dish. If using crab legs, chop cooked meat into bite size pieces, sprinkle with the white pepper blend and add to the dish.
      Sauté the shrimp on each side for a minute or two until they just change to a nice pink color (bay white shrimp will turn translucent with just a slight pink cast). Add to the scallops.
      Mix in the sliced mushrooms and artichokes to the shrimp and scallops. When sauce is cool to the touch, fold it into the dish. Sprinkle the Romano cheese on top.
      Bake in a 350 degree F. oven for 20 minutes or until just bubbly.
      Serve over white rice or pasta with toasted French bread.
      Note: Slap Ya Mama is a Louisianan specialty. The white pepper blend contains in order: salt, red pepper, white pepper and garlic.

      August 27, 2010

      Slow Cooked Roasted Chicken & Roasted Chicken Salad

      Good Southern Comforts

      This post goes out to my neighbor, Lana over in Georgia and to her readers at Never Enough Thyme. She cooks as if she is a relative of mine, a woman after my heart (and stomach) with her down-to-goodness, southern recipes.

      There are many who believe bad blood exists between my home state and that of Lana’s. Much like the Hatfield and McCoy feuds, the latest squabble over the waters of the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa River Basin, including Allatoona and Carters lakes in northwest Georgia have been going on now for several years. Georgia has a lot of water, the folks downstream in Alabama and Florida have argued over the legal water rights of Lake Lanier too since the early 1990’s. The big sprawl of central Georgia has those fine folks worried about the allocation of water – theirs vs. the rivers, streams and estuaries that feed into the lower areas of the other two states. Disagreement has led to federal intervention.

      Another bad blood, one that only a few now may recall, is the historic Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket’s vs. Bear Bryant’s Alabama Crimson Tide. Back in 1961, then Coach Bobby Dodd and his team paid a visit to Tide’s stadium. Tech punted the ball, Alabama fair-caught the ball and after the fair catch, a Tide player continued play smashing an opponent’s face. The injury cause unconsciousness and a severe concussion to Dodd’s player. The incident let to a bitter disgruntle and along with other issues, like the South Eastern Conference schools' over-recruitment of players, the fed-up coach of the Yellow Jackets withdrew from the SEC. Now, that’s really bad blood.

      Then there is the much debatable feud, particularly in the lower counties of Georgia and Alabama, of who can grow or has the better cotton. Cotton was king for many years, until the nasty boll weevil came calling, wiping out farmers interest. This feud subsided as Georgians planted peanuts and Alabamians grew soybeans.

      Lana and I have too much in common to ever squabble despite our state’s view of one another. Both of us are were born in small southern towns, raised in a family that taught good manners and we both like good home style food. I’m talking about food that will make you cry in joy ‘cause it taste so good. Lana knows how to cook southern cuisine. Secrets that are only taught by your mother or someone from a southern family. How many of you actually use the chicken fat in your dough when making chicken and dumplings? Or add Karo syrup to bacon covered baked beans, use a real hambone in making soups, add butter to butter beans, bake banana pudding topped with browned meringue for a church dinner-on-the-grounds or how many of you even know what mayhaws are? We are few, I know. Lana cooks as if she belongs next door and I wish she were a closer neighbor.

      The recipes today are not traditional southern in nature, I knew better than to offer Lana something southern, besides, she would out do me anyway. But, the comforting flavor of roasted chicken is and this one is easy and downright succulent. The salad is a twist to the time-honored salad we both grew up eating. I hope you like it. Enjoy!

      Roasted Chicken Salad
      Great flavored, the sweetness of traditional southern salad with 'a little something-extra' taste. Love it on crackers, stuffed tomatoes and makes a fine sandwich

      1 1/2 cups diced roasted chicken, recipe follows
      1 green onion, thinly sliced
      1/4 cup diced celery
      2 tablespoons sweet salad cubes or diced sweet pickles
      1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
      Mayonnaise to moisten
      Good splash of lemon juice
      1/4 cup toasted chopped pecans or almonds
      Salt and pepper to taste
      1/4 cup chopped roasted red peppers
        Mix all ingredients together in a bowl except the red peppers. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Fold in the red peppers and refrigerate until ready to serve.

        Slow Cooked Roasted Chicken
        A seasoned, well versatile bird. Tender, moist and good eating.

        1 large roasting chicken
        1/2 teaspoon cayenne
        1/2 teaspoon black pepper
        1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
        1 teaspoon onion powder
        1 teaspoon dried crush thyme
        2 teaspoons paprika
        2 tablespoons salt
        1 large onion, sliced
        1 rib celery, cut in half
          Remove excess fat from the chicken and rinse under running water, pat dry with paper towels. In a small bowl, mix spices together and sprinkle the bird inside and out. Lay a few onions in the bottom of a slow cooker, place remaining onions and the celery inside the cavity and position in the center of the cooker. Cook on low for 6 hours.
          Transfer to a baking dish and broil in the oven if desired to brown the skin although as you can see, most of the time it is not necessary.
          Pour the drippings into a bowl and skim off the grease. This base makes delicious gravy. Cut the chicken into serving pieces or use the meat for other delectable dishes.
          Note: Reserve the drippings for later use and the carcass too. Together, these two are the start to a rich and tasty chicken stock.

          Sides for Roasted Chicken:
          Fresh Basil Scalloped Corn

          August 25, 2010

          Drick's Mojo Chicken

          Gettin' da Gris-Gris on Chicken

          This post goes out to a total stranger, Stanley Holloway, better known as Eddie Bluelights who is responsible for some bad hoodoo coming my way.

          Things haven't been the same since Marguerite went and put some hoodoo on me. Not intentionally, I know better than that, but a strange spell came over me when she respectably gave me an award. Now folks, I take things coming out bayou country very seriously.

          You see, Stanley passed the award to Marguerite, you know her over on Cajun Delights, and with her giving it to me, well folks, its really hard to explain but the jest of it goes like this: I have a handful of awards bestowed on me that I have yet had the time to honor. Work during the day, cook at night and in my free time I spend a brief few hours each week sharing recipes with you and trying my darnest to stay tuned to your fine posts. What time that is left over, I am currently repairing the outside of my 106-year-old house. Plus other things that I am just not going into or danger you with in my bellyaching. I know, my 24/7 is the same as yours. Now, like I said, with ol' Stanley lurking around plus the award meandering through hoodoo country, Lord knows what all is attached to it and like I said, things haven't been the same, procrastination is all around me. I take these awards just as seriously as I do hoodooism coming from the bayou.

          Stanley is a funny man with a spoofing sense of humor, this I know from just reading his comments on Marguerite’s blog. I also found out he roams the internet luring fine folks, normally giving them a good poke by roasting them on Sundays. Even, more reason to suspect the curse of my inauspicious state. In reality, this curse may be a blessing in disguise. I know I cannot in clear conscience pass on any award before removing any hex that might be associated with it and I know I must first make amends for my previous awards. I hope that this token to Stanley along with the recipe to all of you will cook up some good Mojo and rid me of my past sluggish scruples.

          So Stanley, in honor of the clips you are used to seeing from Marguerite, I throw this into the pot for more gris-gris, an offering I found, an oldie but goodie - surely it can only help. Enjoy!

          Louisiana Hoo Doo Blues
          'Ma' Rainey And Her Georgia Band

          Recorded: Chicago, May, 1925

          For the chicken remedy:

          The only way I know to rid this spell is to conjure up some good Mojo, you know, stir up some mumbo-jumbo brew, mix in a little goofer dust and get this jinx from around me. Gotta get my Mojo working again.

          Drick's Mojo Chicken
          Folks, this is my twist on Mojo marinade resulting in some of the best, tender and moist chicken I have cooked in a long time. Great flavor... Mojo must be working.

          4 split-chicken breasts, cut in halves
          1/4 cup olive oil
          2 to 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced or minced
          1 teaspoon crushed red peppers
          1 1/2 cups fresh squeezed orange juice
          Juice of 2 key limes, about 1/4 cup
          1 tablespoon brown sugar
          1 teaspoon ground cumin
          1/2 teaspoon dried crushed oregano
          1/2 teaspoon paprika
          1/2 teaspoon salt
          Good couple of rounds of freshly ground black peppercorns
            Heat the olive oil in a deep saucepan over medium heat. Add the spirit eradicating garlic, cook until fragrant, and well aroused, about 30 seconds. Do not let it brown or it will bite back, be bitter tasting. Add the crushed peppers to wake things up, stir and remove from heat. Add the orange, limejuice, the goofer dust (remaining seasonings) and bring mixture to a rolling boil. Toss a pinch of salt over your right shoulder, taste the sauce and add salt or seasonings if desired. Turn off heat and allow mixture to cool to build up courage.

            Remove excess lavish fat from chicken, rinse all bad off under running water and tenderly pat dry with paper towels. Add to the Mojo bag (sealable plastic bag) along with the Mojo sauce. Let the chicken rest peacefully in the refrigerator 2 to 3 hours rotating the pieces often.

            Remove chicken and reheat sauce to a rolling boil; simmer for 5 minutes on low. Pour half of the mixture in a bowl for basting on the grill. The chicken deserves this opulence. With the remaining sauce, add a teaspoon of chopped cilantro if desired and reserve for serving with the chicken.

            Preheat grill to medium heat (350 to 400 degrees F.) on one side of the grill if using gas or if using charcoal, position coals only in the center of the grill. Place chicken bone side down on direct heat and brown both sides. Baste with the Mojo sauce, give ol' Stanley a wink and your blessings. Place chicken on indirect heat skin side up, baste again, cover with lid and cook until internal temperature is 170 degrees F. about 45 minutes. Baste with the sauce often.

            Now for the Awards . . .
            Thank you Marguerite at Cajun Delights for this LIFE IS GOOD AWARD
            In order to accept this award, I must answer the 10 questions below and pass the award to six fellow bloggers.
            1. If you blog anonymously, are you happy doing it that way; if you are not anonymous do you wish you had started out anonymously so you could be anonymous now? No way, I do like people knowing the real me, including those who might just happen to come across my blog and say, ‘so that’s where you’ve been’. Plus, never liked the name, I rarely publish folks whose name is anonymous, I just can’t understand why their momma would give them such a ghastly name.
            2. Describe one incident that shows your inner stubborn side.
            Like working on the house, which seems like it's been a year replacing some weathered boards but really only a month, it would be easy to slap on a fresh coat of paint, but no... everyday I go out there, a new incident arises and stubborn me jumps head first, most of the time creating another incident.
            3. What do you see when you really look at yourself in the face in the mirror?
            When I face a mirror, some one that is blessed.
            4. What is your favorite summer cold drink?
            Same as winter, spring and fall - bourbon and coke.
            5. When you take time for yourself, what do you do?
            What do you mean, 'time for yourself', never heard of it…
            6. Is there something you still want to accomplish in your life? What is it?
            To be able to speak comfortably in front of large crowds or when being interview knowing it might air on tv. I just don’t make any sense ‘cause my tongue is tied and my knees are knocking. So embarrassing, you know, it’s like when you wet your britches . . . in public.
            7. When you attended school, were you the class clown, the class overachiever, the class shy person, or always ditching school? Describe who you were if not one of these.
            Golly, I think all of the above. Not as outgoing as I would have liked but then, my graduating class consisted of 24 classmates. It was somewhat hard to get lost.
            8. If you close your eyes and want to visualize a very poignant moment in your life, what do you see?
            These days, many moments that are touching to me blend together, of course, it could be the meds. I would have to say there are many sad ones as both parents, all grandparents and many relatives are deceased and I find difficult in trying to remember every detail about them. When I do, the warm thoughts, the great memories we shared inundate any of the sadness. On the flip side, I look at all the great things in my life now, of waking up renewed each morning and thanking God for my existence. When my feet hits the floor, that is poignant enough.
            9. Is it easy for you to share your true self in your blog or are you more comfortable writing posts about other people or events?
            No, it’s all about me. I could care less in what they are doing, if you read my blog you would know this ….
            10. If you had the choice to sit and read or talk on the phone, which would you do and why?
            I guess you’re not meaning as in listening to books on the internet. Rarely do I have just those two choices but it would certainly be sitting, oh and I would read some too.

            This Award, after it's cleansing, goes to:
            1- Cleanliness is Next to Godliness, cause you are my long lost cuz Emily
            2- Keep Learning, Keep Smiling, Mary, not many days go by without hearing your laughter in your comments
            3- Life in the Slow Lane at Squirrel Head Manor, anyone who cooks my seafood pasta dish, what 5 times now, knows about the good life, right Pierce?
            4- Mother Rimmy's Cooking Light Done Right, thanks for teaching this dog a few new tricks
            5- Tasty Trix, I know you are a friend for life, maybe it's da Cajun in ya
            6- What's Cooking Italian Style, cause you Claudia cook like I would love to, your recipes are always right up on my 'to-do' list
            Thank you JillyAn at Homegrown Gourmet and Kristy at My Little Space for the Versatile Blogger Award
            The rules state that I must reveal seven things about myself.

            1- I procrastinate, shocker I know
            2- My favorite color is blue
            3- I raised and showed steers for FFA as a youngun’
            4- My mother loved art and gave classes in oil painting - I cannot draw a stick figure
            5- I was an 'A' student in English, including wrightin bestest grammar
            6- I normally am disenchanted with the outcome of my cookery
            7- My favorite place is soaking in the turquoise Caribbean waters, drinking Mexican beer

            The next requirement for accepting this award is to pass it on to 15 other bloggers.

            1- Ardent Epicure, you three have to be the most versatile I know in cooking up fine eats
            2- Are You Hungry, always like a meal with substance and Kathy yours are always so tasty
            3- Bunny Cooks, love your passion, your style and your fab recipes Gwen
            4- Cajun Chef Ryan, a friend I can always count on, you always inspire me with your talent
            5- Cajun Delights, well, what can I say Marguerite, your videos get my feet tapping and your recipes keep me full as a tick

            6- Carole Egbert, between your art, wittiness and recipes, I never know what to expect
            7- Cocina Savant, Daniel & Dawn, the two of you keep me way too busy
            8- Cookin' Canuck, Dara, something about your cookin' makes me go back for second helpings
            9- Electic Recipes, Angie, you always have fresh, winning recipes
            10- La Cocina de Leslie, cooking real Mexican food, you are an inspiration 
            11- Memorie de Angelina, a man with passion & inspiration, Frank, you should quit your day job
            12- More than a Mount Full, friendly blogging & great recipes makes any dish better, but Dennis, you have big shoes to fill
            13- My Food and Life Encounters, busy mom Miranda in Florida who I wish was a little closer, I could help (every now and then)
            14- Never Enough Thyme, southern cooking, be still my heart. Thanks Lana for being a good neighbor
            15-  Saucy Gourmet, Shari, I wish I had your energy and skills 
            Thank you Chef Dennis at More Than A Mount Full - A Culinary Journey for these awards - the Stylish Blogger and A Blog with Substance

            Ten things about me:

            1- Virgo
            2- Hungry
            3- Thirsty
            4- Mellow
            5- Kind
            6- Forgiving
            7- Shy
            8- Joker
            9- Conceited
            10- Fibber

            Ten things that makes me happy:

            1- Seafood
            2- Creole
            3- Cajun
            4- Mexican
            5- Bacon
            6- Beaches
            7- Max
            8- Cookbooks
            9- Cokes
            10- & Bourbon
            These awards go to:
            1- 5 Star Foodie Culinary Adventures, anybody with this many readers gotta know something
            2- Eating on the Cheap, JodieMo, you make me smile and glad I'm a southern boy
            3- Brown Eyed Baker, Michelle, I want to grow up and bake just like you
            4- Cook with Madin, many thanks for trying out so many of my recipes
            5- In the Kichen with Nick, cause you stir things up and keep it interesting 
            6- Jeroxie - Additive and Consuming, always smart reading, always enlightening
            7- Las Vegas Food Adventures, when your recipes show up, always a knockout
            8- Kate's Kitchen, a fairly new friend who I have found exciting
            9- My Little Space, Kristy, you have taught me so many things from the other side of the world
            10- Fight the fat Foodie, thanks Scott for loving the baked catfish
            11- Patty's Food, always beautiful photos with interesting Northern Californian ideas
            12- Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker, Kristen I do love your stories & recipes
            13- Homegrown Gourmet, JillyAn, your food makes me want to go into catering just like you 
            14- Keep Learning, Keep Smiling, Mary, without your blogging, my stirfry and shrimp dishes would not be the same
            15- What's Cooking Italian Style, Claudia, I can always count on you everyday for a nice comment

            So if you would like to accept the awards all you have to do, is copy the awards and place them on your page, pass them along and do as I did, give them your blessing - but do it quickly.

            August 23, 2010

            Hamburger Skewers for Picky Pickers

            Picky is as Picky does

            This post goes out to our southern belle, Jodie Mo and to her family over in Georgia. Mother of twins, this gal knows how to stretch a dollar but folks, her meals taste far from Eatin’ On the Cheap.(NB: Jodie Mo and family now reside in Tennessee)

            Now first I need to say today’s post has been rewritten, that is, I pretty much had the jest of it down. A friendly howdy-do to one of my favorite bloggers out there, and I have quite a few, the intentions and message were to poke a little fun at Jodie, not in a mean spirited way of course. Many of you already know of her fun colloquisms, her grand humor and sense of storytelling in delivering to us stupendous recipes. She tells it like it is and we all love her not just for that, but ‘cause we can relate to the many tribulations in life. The post was to benefit her and her family values. It still is but Jodie stole some of the thunder in a recent post.

            For those who missed her stump-standing scolding on Picky Eaters, I whole-heartily suggest you give it a read, especially if you are pregnant, know someone who is or have a house full of youngun’ that are yet potty trained and can still be ‘food trained’. Again, she tells it like it is even if some of you do not like it. I did like it as I was fortunate to be reared in a home where picky eaters went hungry. I told her I didn’t like English peas and like most kids would hide them under the lip of my plate. Kids think the darnest things, as if the peas would magically disappear. Guess what? Momma would clear the table of everything except my plate. I had to sit there until the hidden peas were eaten, or most of them. Sometimes, she would not serve dessert until I ate my peas. Talk about some peer pressure, evil eyes from all other family members will get you gobbling pretty quick. Today, I love English peas.

            So Jodie Mo, with you standing up to your kids and as you say, their future kids, I give you some fun ideas (some from Readers Digest) in helping to make picky eaters eat better, plus a fun hamburger on a stick recipe I had. I hope everyone will like it, including you and hubby too. Enjoy!

            Tricks at the Table
            1- Take a tip from expensive restaurants. Serve small individual servings in fun cups, wacky bowls and tiny glasses. Think shooters, tiny appetizers, and mini sandwiches each served independently. Restaurants call it grazing, hey, kids do it too.
             2- Having trouble with broccoli? Steam large florets, plate a couple in a thick white cheese sauce like floating islands. Stick an oyster fork or small spoon in the mound and let them play treasure hunt.
             3- Kids like fun things. It’s okay to bring fun to the table sometimes too. Like adding cocktail umbrellas to drinks and food or making funny things out of good food.
             4- Serve foods on skewers, toothpicks, even corn holders making it fun to eat fruits and vegetables. Boys especially like things that have been stabbed. Not for smaller children.
             5- And last, when all else fails, turn down the lights or out and use votive candles. Making it hard for them to see what they’re eating might help add nutrition to their diets.

            Happy Cheeseburger Skewers
            These have a great flavor for adults too, great for football game-day too.

            1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef (85-90%)
            1 teaspoon salt
            A dash each of black pepper, garlic powder, ground ginger
            1 medium onion, minced
            3/4 cup grated mild or sharp cheddar cheese
            1/4 cup minced cooked bacon bits
            16 to 20 cherry tomatoes
            8 to 12 half-inch slices of pre-cooked potatoes, or large mushroom caps
            8 to 12 squares of bell pepper
            Wooden or metal kabob skewers
              In a large bowl or on a large platter, break the ground beef apart and spread out covering bottom of dish. Combine the spices together and sprinkle on the beef. Scatter the cheese, bacon and onions on top and completely mix mixture together. Shape the mixture into 12 compact balls and flatten just slightly into disks.
               If using wooden skewers, have them pre-soaked. Alternate the vegetables with 3 meat disks on each skewer. The next time I cook these, and I will, I think placing the meat disks horizontally on the skewers will allow for enhanced cooking.
               Grill on medium heat. Allow meat to set for 8 to 10 minutes, run a spatula under meat if needed and rotate brushing with a thin steak sauce if desired or my favorite, a mixture of Worcestershire, lemon juice, soy sauce and red wine vinegar. Or broil kabobs in the oven, 4 to 6 inches from heat source for 10 to 15 minutes or until done.
               Place skewers on plate, serve with a rice dish and let everyone have fun. For smaller children, arrange food in a comical way.

              August 21, 2010

              5 Simple Mexican Sauces

              Sauces for the Sous Chef

              This post goes out to everyone’s loving friend, Mary and to her readers on Keep Learning, Keep Smiling. A dear ‘long-distant’ friend for a while now, my day would not be complete without reading her happy, upbeat stories and recipes.

              The notion of offering to Mary this type of cuisine is the last thing in the world that I would ever think of, until last week. For almost a year, I have followed and learned so much about stir-frying, sweet and spicy Asian sauces, fruits, vegetables and ingredients from her native country, cooking techniques and her culture which all have increase my awareness and appreciation for her way of eating good foods. She is from Sarawak Malaysia. The fact that she now resides in Scotland may sometimes limit her accessibility of certain ingredients, but Mary has a knack of creating her Malaysian home cooking into incredible, flavorful dishes recollecting the foods of her native country. Most things are homemade, not as in unobtainable, but because she knows it will taste better and original to her homeland.

              So when, just last week her daughter showed an interest in Mexican foods and Mary quickly stepped aside as mothers often do in nurturing their little sous chefs, both began a love for a cuisine many of us take with a grain of pepper. I do applaud Mary in her effort of learning new tastes but more importantly, she quickly realized that packaged and canned foods are not the way to learn the real taste of a new type of cookery.

              Many of the Mexican and western foods I enjoy will often need a sauce, either layering it into the dish while cooking or as a finishing sauce as it is served. There are many - sauces for every type of meat, produce and time of day. Many recipes require a visit to the Hispanic market, an online store or if you are lucky, a well stocked grocer to come up with the needed ingredients. I thought it would be good to give Mary my four basic recipes (plus one in a previous post) all using basic cupboard ingredients that I think she should have no problem finding if not already on her shelves. Hope all of you can use these too. Enjoy!

              Western Sauce

              This is a simple sauce to make for meats, beans and the likes of enchiladas, relleno stuffed peppers and tamales. Somewhat similar to an Enchilada Sauce but creamier using buttermilk which is an old western custom. This one has been in my collection for many years and we like it a whole lot. Makes a generous amount for an entrée.

              4 Tablespoons bacon drippings or corn oil
              5 Tablespoons flour
              1 teaspoon salt
              1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
              1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
              2 teaspoons Mexican Seasoning, see below
              1 tablespoon chili powder
              3 cups of chicken broth
              1 cup buttermilk
                In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir the oil with the next six listings until thoroughly mixed and simmering. Slowly add the chicken broth until heated and then stir in the buttermilk. Cook over medium low heat stirring until it is the consistency of a thin sauce.

                Classic Red Chile Sauce

                Enchiladas with yet another sauce

                This traditional sauce is for any recipe needing a red sauce, is darker and thinner than the one above. Use it with beans, enchiladas, tacos, chilaquiles, tamales ... just about anything.

                10 dried red New Mexican chiles
                1 medium onion, chopped
                2 cloves garlic, chopped
                2 tablespoons bacon drippings or vegetable oil
                1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
                3 cups water, divided
                  Place the dried chiles on a flat cooking sheet and place in a 200 degrees F. oven for 5 minutes or until the chiles give off a toasted aroma. Be careful not to burn them. Remove and let cool. Remove the stems and seeds.
                  In a large saucepan, sauté onions and garlic in oil until soft.
                  Place all ingredients in a blender with 1 cup of the water and purée to a smooth sauce.
                  Pour the sauce into the saucepan and stir in the remaining 2 cups water, bring to a boil and reduce the heat simmering for an hour. The sauce should be smooth and thick.
                  Note: You can use dried California Red, Ancho chile or any mild to medium heat chile.

                  Mexican Chili Sauce

                  This recipe uses chili powder instead of dried peppers and is a little chunkier, fresh tasting with the addition of the vegetables at the end. An all purpose sauce.

                  3 cups rich beef broth
                  1 -16 oz can diced tomatoes -with liquid
                  3 medium onions -chopped
                  8 garlic cloves -peeled
                  1 tablespoon Mexican Seasoning, see below
                  1 teaspoon sugar
                  1 teaspoon ground cumin
                  2 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
                    Place ingredients in a medium pot and bring to a boil, reduce heat to low simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Pour into a blender and puree.
                    Return mixture to the pot and add:

                    1 medium onion -chopped
                    1 bell pepper -chopped
                    1 green chili pepper -sliced
                    1 1/2 tablespoons wine vinegar
                    1 teaspoon fresh cilantro -chopped
                      Return to a simmer and cook 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

                      Taco Sauce

                      An easy sauce for more than just tacos; we like it on Mexican salads, chalupas, burritos, tostadas… whatever you put it on, it will make you smile. Makes about 3 1/2 pints.

                      2 -28 ounce cans diced tomatoes
                      1 medium onion
                      1 small green bell pepper
                      3 teaspoons chopped jalapeño peppers
                      1 -4 ounce can chopped green chiles
                      2 teaspoons lemon or lime juice
                      1 teaspoon salt
                      1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
                      1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
                      1/8 teaspoon cumin seeds
                      1 teaspoon dried crushed oregano
                      1/2 teaspoon dried cilantro
                      1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
                      1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
                        Place the tomatoes, onions and peppers in a food processor and chop to a coarse consistency. Add to a large saucepan, add the jalapenos, chiles, lemon juice and simmer on medium low for about an hour.
                        Add remaining ingredients, allowing dry ingredients to rest on top of the liquid about 15 minutes to soak in before stirring to incorporate. Simmer for 45 minutes after stirring well.
                        Place a spoonful into a dish to cool for tasting. Adjust hotness by adding cayenne if desired.
                        For a thinner sauce, add a little water while cooking. Let cool and refrigerate sauce until ready to use.

                        Mexican Seasoning Mix
                        Double or triple this recipe to use later. Omit or decrease salt for recipes.

                        4 tablespoons salt, optional
                        2 tablespoons chipotle chili powder
                        1/2 tablespoon black pepper
                        1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
                        1/2 tablespoon granulated garlic
                        1 teaspoon ground coriander
                        1 teaspoon ground turmeric
                        1 teaspoon ground oregano
                        1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
                          Mix well and store in an airtight container.


                          August 19, 2010

                          Southern Oven-Fried Catfish with Tarter Sauce & Buttermilk Coleslaw

                          Cookin' up some kindness

                          This post goes out to my Canadian friend Dara way up yonder at Cookin’ Canuck where I can always count on good food and generosity. We have followed each other for about a year now and I think it’s time to show her a little southern hospitality.

                          When I think back on my earlier days, about a year and a half ago, of starting this recipe blog, it never occurred to me the many people so far away who would take the time to comment, leave a kind word of encouragement, a compliment, bit of guidance, even a helpful critique; not that Canada is that far away. I receive comments from the world over, hits from locations I have no clue of their whereabouts and from people I know I will never meet nor probably ever hear from again. So when I do find one, a person of interest and one that I like, I do my darnest to hold on and stay in contact. That’s not easy in a blogosphere when in one day, several hundred messages can unleash upon me from the several sites feeding from this post. Folks, I do my best.

                          Now I’m not a big fan of soaking fish in milk for long periods unless it’s really oily, dark or if I just don’t have a hankering for the taste. In this recipe, I wanted to give Dara a true taste of southern cookery plus I just didn’t feel like fooling around with an milk and egg bath. The buttermilk will do just fine replacing the egg-milk mixture and will give it just the right down-home tang I feel is needed.

                          Now Dara and everyone else, I have chosen to give you an ‘oven fried’ version of these fillets. You and I know, just like southern fried chicken, it ain't gonna taste the same as good ol’ fried but I know Dara is not into frying anymore these days. To be true to southern cooking, deep fry (like I did) these fillets for what I think is a tastier and better eating. Something about the hot oil setting up the crust of the batter and sealing in the moisture of the delicate flakey flesh doesn’t magically happen in the oven. On the other hand, we can cheat on some good potato logs I call Simply the Best Oven Fries and not miss any flavor. By pre-baking them first, the potatoes have enough time to steam to a nice texture and the seasoned coating along with the oil will seal in moisture all while creating a crispy outer crunch. To me, there’s nothing better to go along with crispy catfish than homemade fries, tarter sauce and creamy slaw.  Enjoy!

                          Buttermilk Slaw

                          1 large cabbage, shredded
                          1 carrot, shredded 
                          1 tablespoon grated onion
                          1/2 cup sugar
                          1/2 cup mayonnaise
                          1/4 cup milk
                          1/4 cup buttermilk
                          2 tablespoons lemon juice
                          1 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar
                          Sea salt & fresh ground black pepper to taste
                            There is one southern tradition I believe in and that is draining cabbage of its water before making slaw. Nothing worse than 'soupy' slaw after setting around a few hours. A head of cabbage has a lot of moisture and by tossing it with 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt in a colander, letting it drain for an hour will remove the excess water allowing the slaw to remain nice and crisp throughout the meal, even for the next. Just be sure to rinse well under running water, drain and allow to dry on a towel before proceeding with the recipe.
                            Mix the carrots and cabbage in a large bowl. Stir the remaining ingredients together and mix into the cabbage coating well. Refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to 6 hours before serving.

                            Homemade Tarter Sauce

                            1 cup mayonnaise
                            2 teaspoons minced white onions
                            1/2 cup chopped bread & butter pickles, sweet or dill relish, whatever you fancy
                            Lemon juice to taste
                            Salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste
                              Blend together and refrigerate until ready to serve.

                              Buttermilk Battered Fish Fillets

                              for each pound of fish fillets
                              good for catfish, brim, perch - any lake fish or fillets of choice

                              1/4 cup buttermilk
                              1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
                              1 tablespoon brown mustard
                              1/2 cup plain cornmeal
                              1 teaspoon salt
                              1 teaspoon paprika
                              1 teaspoon granulated garlic
                              1 teaspoon onion powder
                              1/2 teaspoon thyme
                              1/2 teaspoon black pepper
                              1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
                                Whisk the buttermilk, vinegar and mustard in a wide bowl and add the fish fillets coating well. Let set for 30 minutes. Mix remaining ingredients in a shallow bowl and set aside.
                                Coat a broiling pan with olive oil. Heat broiler oven to 475 F.
                                Remove fillets one at a time and dredge in the cornmeal mixture. Place on the pan separating the fillets about an inch apart. Turn up the broiler to 500 degrees and place pan about 4 inches under the broiler. Cook about 4 minutes per side. Test fillets with a fork checking the thickest part of the fish. Serve with lemon wedges and tarter sauce.

                                August 17, 2010

                                Cedar Plank Grilled Salmon with Lemon Paprika Butter, Mustard Seed Potato Purée

                                Boys in the Kitchen

                                This post goes out to Nick, you know, your personal NonChef over at In the Kitchen with Nick.  His axiom is ‘Together we can make it simple’ ~ it should be, “I can make it better’.

                                Many, many years ago when my sister married, I found myself enjoying fellowship with a newfound friend, a brother-in-law. The bond was set in place instantly and ragtag camaraderie took form almost as though we knew each other from boyhood times. Skip to a few years later, summer days at the beach, beer bellies and eating all of the Gulf’s bounties. Somehow, after much funning, name-calling, a string or cord surfaced with a purpose solely of measuring the girth of our stomachs, his and mine. Now, over the years, the marks on the cord wore away, we both became confused over which markings were whose and later it was lost, purposely I’m sure, then it came down to more boyhood babblings to the point that it always ended in “well, I don’t think it would even fit around your gut now anyway…”

                                Nick, this story has nothing to do with you. Well, maybe that in the little time I have gotten to know you and in the time I have enjoyed reading your blog and encompassing your brilliant recipes, I sense one certain thing – there is a playful boy inside with an enormous sense of spark, one who steps into that kitchen and delivers us dazzling dishes. I'm talking of taking foods to imaginative levels, layers built upon layers of incredible flavors … dishes only a few of us boys and girls will ever rouse to create one day on our own. Somewhere, along the way, crossing into your kitchen, you have found a way to charm us with that boyish notion that everything we set our mind on is achievable and that every thing will not only be simpler communally, but better.

                                I posted this salmon recipe over a year ago with a ribbing challenge to my brother-in-law as in whose cedar plank recipe was the best. It took him a while, but he did try it and in his best southern manners, he conceded this one was truly superb. Thank you brother-in-law.

                                So Nick, in my best sporting solidarity I offer this one to you and to go along with it, I also stepped into my kitchen to whipped up a versatile compound butter that I many time use and a side dish to complement and finalize the combined flavors. Enjoy!
                                Lemon Paprika Butter

                                This is my go-to butter for just about everything, love it on steamed vegetables and many types of fish.

                                1/2 cup unsalted softened butter
                                2 tablespoons minced flat leaf parsley
                                1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
                                1/2 teaspoon Hungarian paprika
                                1/4 teaspoon sea salt
                                  Blend everything together and place in a container until ready to use, or put on a piece of parchment paper, roll into a log and refrigerate. Slice as needed.

                                  Mustard Seed Potato Purée

                                  I am still a die-hard when cooking potatoes for dishes like this by boiling, leaving the jackets intact. Some folks disagree saying this causes potatoes to take up excess water and the correct method in cooking is to bake or microwave until tender. Either way you prefer, using the standby potato masher or a fork works just fine. No reason to mess up appliances for this dish. There is one important thing to remember. In order for the elements of the puree to bind together later on, the process of mashing must be done while the potatoes are steaming hot and starchy.

                                  About 2 pounds medium new red potatoes, unpeeled & washed
                                  1 cup heavy cream
                                  6 tablespoons butter, cut into small cubes
                                  1 teaspoon mustard seed
                                  1/4 cup Mild & Creamy style Dijon mustard with wine
                                  Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
                                  3 scallions, green parts only finely chopped
                                  4 teaspoons fresh parsley, minced
                                    When cooking new potatoes, I always bring the water to a boil before adding them to the pot. Boil the potatoes in a wide saucepan covered in lightly salted water for about 15 minutes or until tender.
                                    Meanwhile, boil the cream in a saucepan until reduced by half, set aside.
                                    Drain the potatoes well and place on a dishtowel gently removing the peelings. Cut into small pieces and place back into the pan. Place over the heat to dry out a bit over low heat. Using a masher, begin puréeing until no visible lumps appear. With a mixer, beat in the cream and slowly incorporate the butter into the potatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Fold in the both mustards, the scallions and parsley.
                                    Check the seasoning. Spoon potatoes into a warmed dish and keep covered in a low oven for a few minutes before serving.
                                    Note: If desired, wrap ramekins with greased foil about an inch high. Pile with the mixture and place on a baking sheet in a moderate oven for about 30 minutes. Run under a broiler to brown the topping. Add a dollop of Mascarpone for interest. Remove foil to serve.

                                    Salmon Grilled on Cedar Plank

                                    Dry Rub Seasoning for Fish
                                    2 teaspoons fresh ground pepper
                                    1 teaspoon dried, grated lemon peel
                                    1 teaspoon granulated garlic
                                    1 teaspoon dried tarragon
                                    1 teaspoon dried basil
                                    1 tablespoon paprika
                                    1 tablespoon sea salt
                                    2 teaspoons light brown sugar
                                      Place dry rub ingredients in a food processor or spice grinder and process until well blended. Transfer to a small container, seal tightly and store at room temperature until ready to use.

                                      1 cedar barbecue grilling plank
                                      1 -12 ounce salmon fillet, fresh or thawed, about 2 inches thick, skin removed
                                      1 1/2 tablespoons Dry Rub Seasoning for Fish
                                      1 lemon, quartered
                                        Soak the cedar plank for at least 5 hours.
                                        Place the fillet on wax paper. Sprinkle both sides of the fish evenly with the dry rub. Press the seasoning into the flesh. Refrigerate the salmon, uncovered, for at least 2 hours and up to 12 hours.
                                        Place the salmon in the center of the cedar plank. Squeeze half of the lemon over the salmon. If using a gas grill, preheat on high then turn down to medium before placing the plank on the grill. If using a charcoal grill, wait until coals are covered with gray ash. Place the plank on a grill. Cover with a lid. There will be some crackling and heavy smoke. Keep a water bottle handy in case the plank begin to flame. If they do, spray plank edges lightly and cover again. Salmon should take 8 to 10 minutes to cook, depending on the thickness of the salmon and the heat of the grill. Remove when the salmon reaches an internal temperature of 120 to 125 degrees F.
                                        Place remaining lemon on fillet and serve. We like this with roasted asparagus and a butter sauce.