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.

October 30, 2010

Sugar Tortilla Treats

Great with ice cream for desserts dishes and good treats for the kiddies.

Sugar Tortilla Treats  
Quick Elephant Ears  
10 servings  
1-1/2 cups sugar 
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 
Oil for frying 
10 flour tortillas (6 inches)  
    Combine sugar and cinnamon in a shallow bowl or large plate; set aside. In a skillet, heat 1/2 in of oil. Place one tortilla at a time in skillet, cook for 5 seconds; turn and cook 10 seconds longer or until browned. Place in sugar mixture and turn to coat. Serve immediately.

    October 28, 2010

    Fruit & Cheese Stuffed Pork Loin

    Yep, you read right

    Like most days, I knew pretty much what was for supper the other night - roasted fillet of pork tenderloin. Nothing fancy, just a good coating in seasoned flour and a quick roast. So there it was, the pork loin resting on the cutting board, looking simple and kinda lonely. So I asked it for inspiration, maybe it deserved to play a more interesting role in dinner plans. But, it just sat there, did nothing and said not a word. I looked at it and thought about a few things, some not worth mentioning. Then I did as I do so many times, I peered into the cabinets for my inspiration. After all, little pork loin wasn't helping one bit.

    Taking inventory, I remembered an appetizer I enjoyed many, many years ago. A moist plump dried plum stuffed with cheese and wrapped in a thin strip of fried pork. Delectable is how I remember it. The sweet, almost tartness of the fruit played joyfully in contrast to the creamy sharp cheese, a buttery compliment to the savory fruit influenced by a slightly little salty character coming from the pork.

    This is my vision of that - a sort of oversize version of that appetizer; entrée size if you will. Now I can think of many great cheeses to use here, Gorgonzola or any creamy young blue would be great giving that edge, even going toward a ripe brie or to the opposite and a milder tone like a buttery Amish or German Butterkase. But I used what I had on hand and the outcome was, well ... country delectable. Enjoy! 

    Fruit & Cheese Stuffed Pork Loin

    about 2 pound pork loin
    2 cups dried fruit - apricots & plums are my favorite
    1/3 cup sherry or brandy
    1 ounce cream cheese
    1/2 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
    Salt and Pepper
    Olive Oil
    2 tablespoons butter
    1/2 cup chicken stock
    1/2 cup whipping cream
    1 teaspoon red currant jelly or orange marmalade

    Place the fruit and sherry in a narrow bowl. Heat in the microwave for 1 1/2 minutes. Stir and let set for about an hour until most of the liquid is adsorbed.

    Mix the cream cheese and cheddar cheese together. Form into 1/2-inch balls. Refrigerate.

    Prep the pork loin by cutting a whole horizontally into the thickest end. Insert a long fillet knife centered into the end plunging toward the opposite and to about an inch from the outer end. Without enlarging the opening, move the knife toward one side, again cutting only to about an inch to the outside and slowly work the knife along the side slicing toward the end piece of the incision. Roll knife over and slice opposite side.

    Stuff the loin alternating with the two fruits and the cheese balls packing deep into the pocket. Continue until all fruit and cheese are inserted. Reserve any sherry from the fruit. You may have to hold the loin up on its end to achieve this but all of this will go into the meat if you cut properly. Close and secure the opening using two toothpicks inserted in an 'X' through the opening. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the entire loin rubbing it into the meat and dust with a coating of flour.

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

    Lightly cover the bottom of an oven-proof skillet or pan with the oil. Heat on medium high and when hot, sear the loin on all sides. Remove any oil and place fat side up in center of skillet. Place in the oven and reduce heat to 350 degrees. Cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until instant read thermometer registers 160 degrees when inserted into the thickest part of meat. Be sure not to take a reading on the filling.

    Remove loin to a warm platter, cover with foil and set aside.

    Add any remaining sherry that the fruit soaked in to the skillet along with the butter and heat to deglaze pan cooking out the liquid. Stir in the flour, cook for a minute. stir in the broth and cream stirring to make a thin sauce. Season with salt and pepper if needed and if desired stir in a teaspoon of red currant jelly.

    Slice pork loin after resting for about 15 minutes and serve with a good spoonful of sauce to the side.

    October 26, 2010

    Turnips with Pot-Likker

    Simple pleasures

    ...can mean many things but to me, a good bowl of seasoned turnips and hot cornbread to soak up the 'pot-likker' is one that tops my list.

    We southerners are fond of our 'likker' and if made correctly, could drink it from a cup, not to mention that's where most of the vitamins from the greens end up anyway.  I cook my turnips pretty much the same as I do collards. The secret to good greens is the seasoned stock and down here that means some form of smoked meat. I like to use smoked ham hocks, neckbones, hickory smoked sausage links even turkey legs along with bacon of course as this is one dish that requires bacon. Heck, if you're not using bacon, don't bother cooking a mess of greens, well, at least don't call them southern greens and what ever you do, do not use the words 'pot-likker' in the same sentence.

    One of my favorite additions to greens is pepper sauce, the almost clear liquid kind made from small green peppers and vinegar. Many fine eating establishments have bottles of this right on the table down here, which is a good thing and one I look for when choosing country-style eateries. I normally save myself the trouble of adding this at the end by going ahead and incorporating into the pot while simmering the stock. Any hot chile will do, jalapeno or Serrano is what I normally throw in.

    Now, lets get to cooking:
    smoked neckbones

    The Stock
    6 slices of bacon, chopped
    Chicken stock
    1 or 2 smoked ham hocks or pork neckbones
    1 large onion, chopped
    1 or 2 jalapenos, chopped
    1 good tablespoon cider vinegar
    1 teaspoon salt

    1 to 2 teaspoons sugar

    1/2 teaspoon black pepper

    In a large stockpot fry bacon until fat is rendered and remove meat. Add to the grease 3 to 4 cups of chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add the remaining above ingredients. Return to a boil and simmer on medium low for 30 minutes to an hour. Remove hocks to a plate, let cool to the touch and strip away any meat. Add the meat back to the pot and discard the bones.

    The Greens
    pot-likker & greens
    2 or 3 bunches of fresh turnips (or about 2 pounds)
    3 to 4 leaves of mustard or kale greens

    Clean greens thoroughly to remove grit by washing several times in cold deep water. Drain well. Remove the tougher stalks as needed. Chop greens into 1-inch squares. Add the greens to the pot; bring to a boil and reduce heat to low simmer for 30 minutes. Toss the greens around from time to time. Check seasoning and continue simmering on very low for 1 to 2 hours for tender wilted greens or 3 to 4 hours for good ol' southern style mushy greens.

    Note: When fresh greens are not available, the pre-cut greens in the freezer section will do, just choose a brand that you know will not have a lot of stalks in the bag as filler. The tough stems are not worth eating.

    October 23, 2010

    Sweet & Spicy 1-Day Pickles

    Finally, pickles

    I wasted the entire summer doing projects around the house, not one enjoying thing like canning the summer's bounty of fruits & vegetables, something I really get a kick out of and that is pleasurable to eat as well.

    So when I saw a pack of Kirby cucumbers in the grocer the other day, I knew I had to get in on something - even if it meant 1-day refrigerator pickling.

    Here is my version for super easy, quick as can be, crispy pickles that has just enough sweet kick to be called down-right-delicious. Enjoy!

    Sweet & Spicy 1-Day Pickles
    makes about 1 quart

    5 or 6 pickling cucumbers (Kirby)
    2 small white onions
    1 cup sugar
    1 tablespoon canning salt
    1 tablespoon pickling spices
    1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
    1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    1 cup white distilled vinegar

    Wash and dry cucumbers. Peel onion. Peel the cucumbers in stripes with a vegetable peeler. Slice into 1/8-inch rounds with a mandolin or sharp knife. Slice onions into 1/4-inch rounds. Set aside.

    Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl and stir until sugar and salt dissolves, about 3 minutes.

    Pack cucumbers and onions into a sterilized quart jar using a wooden spoon to nestle all in. Pour in the vinegar mixture and tighten lid. Shake several times to distribute spices. Refrigerate for about 5 hours shaking every now and then. Turn jar upside down occasionally too. These will do okay in the fridge for a month, if there's any left at that time.

    Note: These turned out so good, I think I will do English cucumbers during the latter months. Oh, and the ones left in the jar got hotter after the third day, so unless you like 'em like 'fire & ice' cut back on the red pepper, personally, I won't change a thing... great on roasted pork sandwiches.

    October 21, 2010

    White Bean & Roasted Chicken Chili

    Cozy & content
    as can be 

    One pot cooking is always a pleasure in my kitchen. Not only is it less clean up, but something about the simmering bubbling sound of a good stew, soup or chili brings about a sense of calmness, a feel of coziness and a solaced smile when the house fills with the wonderful aroma. It’s almost as good as putting on that worn-out, tattered sweater that Grandma made you, the one that makes everything feel right and shuns the world with its snugness ... almost. Like this hearty pot of chili that I think is darn-right delicious, it not only fills your belly but brings about that same feeling of contentment and well-being.

    Cannellini beans are great for this dish - big white kidney beans, they add a great creamy burst in every bite. Northern beans are a tad smaller and are a good substitute and sometimes I use them along with the smaller Navy beans for varying appearance. All three are good choices for white beans.

    Now if you have to, in order to save time, stop by the deli department at your local grocer and pick up a roasted chicken. I won't tell anybody. You can use any sausage link you find appealing to your taste, and in keeping with the 'white' theme, I like the taste of the kielbasa turkey even though the outcome with the tomatoes and spices produce a slightly reddish 'chili' base. Enjoy!

    White Bean & Roasted Chicken Chili

    1 -4 to 5 pound cut-up chicken, roasted & torn into bite size pieces -see below
    8 oz turkey kielbasa sausage, diced
    1 large onion, chopped
    1 large bell pepper -green, red or yellow
    1 jalapeño, minced
    2 garlic pods, minced
    4 cups chicken stock
    1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons chili powder
    1 tablespoon ground cumin
    1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
    1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seed
    2 -15 oz cans Cannellini beans, drained & rinsed
    1 -15 oz can Navy beans, drained & rinsed
    2 cups fresh or frozen white kernel corn
    1 -14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, with liquid
    Salt & pepper to taste

    In a large stockpot, sauté the sausage over medium heat until brown. Add the onion, bell pepper, jalapeño and garlic. Sauté until onions are clear. Stir in the cumin, oregano, chili powder and coriander. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for about 15 minutes.

    Stir in the beans, corn and tomatoes. Bring back to a simmer and add salt and pepper taste. Turn heat to low and simmer about 30 minutes. Add chicken and simmer on low for 10 minutes.

    Note: If you like your chili thicker, slowly stir in a tablespoon or so of masa flour before adding the chicken.

    Roasted Chicken for Stews

    1 large broiler or hen (about 4.5 lbs), cut up
    salt & pepper
    Olive oil

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
    Remove any fat from the chicken, wash under running water and pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place chicken on a baking sheet and sprinkle with olive oil rubbing oil over each piece.
    Bake for 30 minutes and reduce heat to 350 degrees. Cook another 15 minutes or until thigh meat tests done.
    Let cool before deboning for recipes.

    Note: Removing the skin will create less grease but cooking time should be shortened. I think the skin helps flavor the chicken.

    October 19, 2010

    Creole Casserole of Grits & Fried Grits

    Grits … Southern Polenta

    It always amazes me when foreigners, ya know, any one north of the Mason-Dixon line, turn squeamish at the mere sight of a bowl of grits. What’s the big deal, ya’ll eat polenta don’t you and what exactly is polenta anyway. Isn’t it bits of ground corn? Hey, that’s what we call grits. Now I might get some dissension over this one, but speaking of foreigners, I think southerners introduced corn to the soils in Europe. Polenta, made with ground chestnuts in Italy for centuries suddenly became anew. Corn grew quicker, harvested easier and stored much better than chestnuts and today, Europeans should thank us for their revised polenta, er, grits.

    There are three types of grits available: real grits (stone ground into coarse bits) sometimes called hominy grits, the ‘5-minute’ quick grits and at the bottom of the grit chain, instant grits. In my opinion, there are only two options, as the instant packages have no place in my home (maybe in the kitchen at the office). A good rule of thumb is to use a least 4 cups of liquid for every 1 cup of real or quick grits to achieve a creamy consistency and at least 1 good teaspoon of salt for every cup of grits. If you add salt after cooking grits, it will take much more and besides, they will never taste right. Real, unprocessed and stone ground grits are coarser than the quick grits and will take about 30 to 40 minutes to cook. That’s why the ‘5-minute’ grits are called quick, just so ya know. Many folks use water as the liquid but I like to use about half milk or at least 1 cup. It just makes it creamier and then there are some folks who use all milk. If using the grits in a casserole or in a fancier dish, use chicken stock as some of the liquid. Of course, ya gotta add a good dollop of butter at the end of cooking. The bottom of the pan has to be stirred every so often and after cooking, let it rest 10 to 15 minutes or longer, if you can wait that long. This resting period is what makes them so good.

    Now, here is the recipe for a casserole, a Creole version I made the other day to serve with my Grillades. And following is another version using grits to go with Grillades or other dishes that we southerners are just as proud of, fried cakes of grits. Enjoy!

    Creole Casserole of Grits
    grits cake & creamy grits

    2 cups water
    2 cups milk
    1/2 cup chicken stock
    2 teaspoons salt
    1 cup uncooked quick-cooking grits (any color)
    2 tablespoons butter
    1/4 teaspoon paprika
    1/4 teaspoon cayenne
    1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
    2 eggs beaten
    1 cup diced kernel corn
    1/2 cup chopped green onions
    1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
    1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese

    In a large pot over medium high heat bring the water and milk to a steady simmer. Do not let it boil over or let the milk scorch on the bottom. Add the salt and slowly, whisk in the grits. Reduce heat to medium and cook stirring the bottom often for 5 minutes or until tender and soft. Remove from heat and whisk in the butter, paprika, cayenne and garlic. Taste and add salt if needed. Cover pot and let set for 10 minutes.

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

    Whisk in the stock and the beaten eggs. Fold in the corn, onions and cheeses. Pour into a greased 3-quart oblong casserole dish and bake uncovered 25 minutes. Remove from the oven for a creamy casserole or turn off heat, and let set in oven to dry out if desired (cut into squares to make cakes).

    Fried Cakes of Grits
    You can use plain grits or elements of the recipe above if desired.

    For Fried Grits: Cook grits according to package directions. When done, allow to cool a bit and beat in 1 egg. Pour into a greased loaf pan, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerated until cold, best overnight. Invert and cut into 1-inch thick slices. Press each slice in cornmeal, Panko or a flour-breadcrumb mixture and fry in half-an-inch of hot butter or bacon fat until brown on both sides, about 4 minutes each side.

    Note: If using a recipe like the casserole above, reduce the stock liquid and do not cook in the oven. Pour in two loaf pans or in the oblong casserole, which can be sliced in squares or triangles. Proceed with the breading and sautéing as above.

    October 17, 2010

    Hearty Creole Grillades

    The comfort of fall foods

    Some folks turn to pumpkin bread or desserts, bean based chili or hearty meaty soups, while others stir around the kitchens roasting vegetables and simmering pots of delectable stews. Fall is certainly a time for comforting pleasures. I find no exception or reason to fall out of this pattern. Like many of you, I enjoy my time in the kitchen stirring up and reviving recipes that makes me feel good. Like the one today, I am at ease as can be with the more rustic if not pastoral dishes of our southern heritage.

    Grillades are the fare at fancy restaurant brunches today, served late night at buffets for after-the-ball gatherings in past years and this upcoming one as well, and were on sharecroppers’ tables in yesteryear. The origin is questionable of who or where Grillades first made its way into our way of southern foods. Country butchers down in Bayou country saved scraps of meat while preparing the boucherie and fed folks during the day with this sauce laden meat dish, normally over rice. Or was the creation during the Creole era in New Orleans, when Mmes Begue and Esparbe prepared this over grits for riverfront market workers and fed the butchers, fishermen and farmers who had worked since daybreak and were in need of something filling for late breakfast or early lunch. Whenever or whoever, we should all be glad to be blessed with this humble meal made for all levels of the social hierarchy.

    The preparation today differs too as to how to go about cooking the meat as well as the type of meat used. Looking back as to what is known of the history of Grillades, I suspect the tougher pieces of beef or pork were used and is why many recipes call for pounding the heck out each piece to tenderize it and in the long simmering method of cookery. Today’s restaurants might feature the tasty meat of veal, as it is easier and quicker to cook. It also will fetch a higher dollar on the menu. Ingredients vary too but the mainstay of flavor will always come from a good stock for the liquid, the holy trinity of onions, celery and bell pepper along with some form of tomato, fresh, canned or sauced. Seasonings vary widely form simple outright bland to spicy concoctions that will cause you to bite your tongue.

    In today’s recipe, I’m using a cheap cut of beef and after beating the heck out of it, I’ll do the simple, time honored technique of a quick sauté to give way to the slow marriage of delectable flavors of fresh vegetables, a roux-based stock and mild spices to please any palate. And in staying within the boundaries of the Creole way, I’ll serve my Grillades over a creamy, baked casserole of grits. Enjoy!

    Grillades, pronounced ‘Gree-yahds’ with a drawl or ‘Gree-odds’ without…

    My Hearty Grillades

    1 1/2 to 2 pounds beef shoulder or round steaks, about 1/2-inch thick
    1 tablespoon salt
    1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
    1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
    1 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
    1 teaspoon sweet paprika
    1 teaspoon black pepper
    1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
    1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
    1 cup All-purpose flour, divided
    1/2 cup vegetable or olive oil
    2 tablespoons butter or bacon drippings
    1 1/2 cups finely chopped yellow onion
    1/2 cup finely chopped celery
    1/2 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
    3 large garlic pods, minced
    1 bunch scallions (green onions) chopped, white and green divided
    2 bay leaves
    2 cups beef or veal stock, heated
    1/2 cup red wine
    1 -14.5 diced tomatoes or 3 large Creole tomatoes if in season
    1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
    Chopped parsley to garnish if desired

    In a bowl, mix the salt with the next 7 spices.

    Trim the meat of any fat and cut into 2-inch pieces. Sprinkle about 2 teaspoons of the seasoning mixture over the surface of the meat. Pound each piece with a mallet to about 1/4-inch thickness.

    In a bowl, combine 1/2 cup of the flour with 1 teaspoon of the seasoning mix. Dredge each piece of meat in the flour to coat both sides.

    Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium high heat until hot. Sear both sides of the meat until golden, about 2 minutes each side. Remove and set aside.

    Add the butter to the skillet, any left over seasoned flour and the other 1/2-cup of flour. Stir and cook the roux until medium brown scraping the bottom all while. Add the yellow onions, celery, bell pepper, garlic and the white part of the scallions. Stir to incorporate and add the bay leaves and 2 tablespoons of the seasoning mix. Cook for about 5 minutes stirring occasionally. Reserve remaining seasoning mix for the rice or grits.

    Add the stock to a large Dutch oven or stockpot over high heat. When boiling, add the roux with vegetables one spoonful at a time stirring to dissolve each addition. Stir in the wine and bring back to a boil. Add the browned meat, the tomatoes and Worcestershire. Bring back to a simmer and turn heat to low. Cover and cook for 1 to 2 hours stirring every so often the bottom of the pot adding more stock or water as needed if the sauce becomes too thick. The last 5 or so minutes, stir in the remaining green part of the scallions.

    Serve over white rice, stone ground grits or a nice, creamy casserole of grits (my next post) and with a sprinkle of parsley on top if desired.

    October 15, 2010

    Southern Style Roasted Rutabagas

    Root of Goodness

    I grew up eating rutabagas and have always loved the sweet, unique taste. We always added a pinch of sugar, a hot pepper, salt, pepper and lots of bacon to the pot before simmering them away for hours until, well, you ended up with a chunky mush.

    Things haven’t changed too much in the way I cook them now except I like to roast them prior to moving them to the stove-top. The sweet natural sugar seems to come out more pronounced doing it this way. I add the sugar of course to aid in the roasting process and the vinegar just 'cause I like the 'pepper sauce' taste. Doing it this way, I get the best of both - soft, creamy chunks with a roasted caramelized taste. Enjoy!

    Southern Style Roasted Rutabagas

    after roasting
    5 to 6 pounds rutabagas (3 medium-to-large)
    Salt, black pepper to taste
    1 to 2 tablespoons sugar
    1/4 cup olive oil
    2 slices chopped smoked bacon, optional
    1 jalapeño, seeded and diced
    splash of cider or wine vinegar
    1 to 2 cups cups chicken stock

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

    Using a sharp chef’s knife, slice away the outer peeling and wax coating of the rutabagas removing any green coloration from the root vegetable. Slice into 1-inch slices and then into 1-inch cubes. Place in a large roaster and toss with the salt, pepper, sugar and olive oil.
    Place in the oven and roast for 45 minutes to an hour. Toss the rutabagas around every 15 minutes.

    Cook the bacon in a large stockpot until brown and grease rendered. Add a cup of chicken stock for firm rutabagas or 2 cups for softer,  the jalapeño, vinegar and bring to a boil. Add the rutabagas and simmer on low for about 1 1/2 hours stirring every so often or until most of the liquid is absorbed. 

    Note: Some folks like to add butter at the end of cooking rutabagas. Sometimes I add chopped pickled jalapenos instead of the fresh pepper and vinegar.

    October 13, 2010

    Artichoke & Green Beans with Hot Bacon Vinaigrette

    Bring this one back, again...

    To accompany the Chicken Lombardy the other night, I wanted an easy, tasty side... something green with a mild vinaigrette flavor to go along yet not contrast with the wonderful sauce. I chose fresh green beans. But after starring at the trimmed beans, I thought they needed a little pick-me-up rather than the normal steam bath.

    Giving a nutty flavor to the olive oil drizzle is the brown butter, also known as Beurre Noisette. And aiding to the vegetables is a flavor reminiscent of salad bars once in restaurants, popular back in the late '70's. Do you remember this dressing, especially over spinach? I thought it would be neat to bring it back, in another form. Enjoy.

    Artichoke & Green Beans with Hot Bacon Vinaigrette

    1 1/2 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed & cut into 1-inch pieces (French haritots verts would be good)
    1 -9 oz package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed or 1 -14 oz can quartered
    Sea salt
    2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    1 tablespoon minced onion or 1 1/2 teaspoons onion flakes
    2 tablespoons minced red bell pepper or 1 tablespoon dried
    1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
    2-3 tablespoons chopped bacon (real bacon bits will be fine)
    2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
    1/4 cup olive oil
    Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (Parmesan or other hard cheese will do)

    Blanch the green beans in boiling salted water for 3 minutes. Drain and plunge in ice water to stop the cooking. Drain well.

    Spread the green beans in a 2-quart oblong casserole dish. Spread the drained artichoke hearts on top.

    In a small saucepan over low heat, brown the butter by swirling it until the milk solids turn light brown. Remove from heat and stir in the onions and red peppers. Toss and let cool slightly.

    Add the vinegar, lemon juice and bacon bits to the butter. Quickly whisk in the olive oil and drizzle over the artichokes and green beans.  Scatter the bacon, onion and peppers on top.
    Allow to set for an hour or about 15 minutes before serving.

    Top with a thin layer of freshly cheese and place in a 425 degree F. oven to heat and toast the cheese, about 10 minutes.

    October 11, 2010

    Chicken Lombardy over Angel Hair

    ... with cheese, again?

    I cannot imaging not having Marsala to cook with and aid in recipes. I just love the taste and use it many times, even when a recipe might call for something else. It just depends on the ingredients and how I want the outcome to be. Sometimes though, even with the best planning, I run out of my 'basic' ingredients.

    A decent substitution for Marsala, even though the taste will not be the same, is to, as in this recipe, use 2/3 cup of white wine with 1 tablespoon brandy. It will get you through a recipe.

    Now, this way of preparing chicken is favored in many southern homes along the coast. Thin cutlets of chicken, quick fried in butter and served with a delicate mushroom Marsala stock pairs with the nutty taste of, as in this case, butter and Fontina cheese. Normally served with white rice, I wanted to make it this time over sauce-laden angel hair. Here's how I did it. Enjoy!

    Chicken Lombardy over Angel Hair
    serves about 4

    4 skinless, boned chicken breasts
    All purpose flour
    1 cup butter (I used margarine)
    Sea salt, black pepper and cayenne
    8 oz thinly sliced button mushrooms
    3/4 cup Marsala wine
    1/2 cup chicken stock
    1/2 cup shredded Fontina cheese (Mozzarella will do)
    1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
    Angel hair pasta
    2 tablespoons AP flour
    1 tablespoon softened butter

    Slice each breast in half horizontally. Using a mallet, pound each piece as thin as possible, to about 1/8 inch thickness. (An 8-inch flat-bottomed iron skillet works in a pinch) Cut the chicken into bite size pieces. Lightly season with salt, pepper and cayenne. Dredge the chicken in flour lightly covering both sides.

    Place about 3 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook chicken pieces about 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Do not crowd the pan. Remove to a 3-quart oblong casserole dish.

    Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

    Add more butter to the skillet making about 2 tablespoons. Sauté over medium high heat the mushrooms until tender. Drain and sprinkle over the chicken. Add the wine and chicken stock, bring to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes stirring occasionally to loosen up any brown bits on the bottom.

    Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix the 2 tablespoons of flour with 1 tablespoon of softened butter to form a paste (
    beurre manié). Stir half teaspoon at a time into the sauce to thicken. Pour about half of the sauce evenly over the chicken.

    Cook the angel hair in salted boiling water al dente, about 2 minutes.

    Combine the cheeses and sprinkle over the chicken dish. Bake about 12 minutes or until bubbly and if needed, run under a broiler a couple of minutes to lightly brown.

    Toss the drained pasta with the remaining sauce and plate with the Chicken Lombardy on top. Serve with crusty French bread and a side vegetable if desired.

    October 9, 2010

    Taco Salad & Taco Seasoning Mix

    Nuttin' fancy, but good to the last bite...

    Momma made taco salads many times, especially on hurried days when little time was had for prepping dinner. We also enjoyed this at the beach during stays in the summer and still do now on vacations. It is quick, easy and good.

    There are so many variations to this meal, many of you have your own way of making it, but I thought I would share our way plus give you a spice recipe I have tinkered with over the years.


    Taco Salad
    serves 3 to 4 - double the recipe when company stops by

    2 teaspoons vegetable oil
    1 large onion, chopped
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    1/2 bell pepper, chopped
    1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced-optional
    1 pound lean ground beef
    Taco Seasoning Mix -see below
    1/2 cup tomato sauce (4 oz)
    1/2 cup chicken broth or water
    1 teaspoon cider vinegar, crazy I know, but it works
    Fritos corn chips or tortilla chips broken up
    Ranch style beans, refried beans or my Frijoles Charros
    Shredded lettuce
    Grated cheddar and/or Monterey jack cheese
    Chopped tomato
    Chopped green onions

    Other toppers:
    Sliced black olives
    Pickled jalapeno slices
    Picante sauce or salsa
    Cheese sauce
    Sour cream or Ranch dressing

    Heat the oil in a large skillet until hot but not smoking. Add in the onion, garlic, bell pepper and jalapeno. Cook until softened, about 2 minutes.  Add the spice mix and stir. Add the beef and cook lifting up from the bottom and breaking the meat up. Cook about 5 minutes until meat is no longer pink. Stir in the tomato sauce, broth and vinegar. Simmer on medium low uncovered for about 10 minutes stirring occasionally until liquid is reduced and mixture is thick enough to hold together but not dry. Check and add additional salt if needed. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve.

    Warm the chips in the oven.

    Spread chips on plates, followed with the meat mixture, beans, grated cheese, lettuce, tomato, green onions and more cheese. Add other toppings and sour cream or ranch dressing.

    Taco Seasoning Mix
    my take on Old Paso Taco Seasoning

    1 tablespoon Maize corn flour or AP flour
    2 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
    1 teaspoon smoked paprika
    1 teaspoon coriander
    1 teaspoon brown sugar
    1/2 teaspoon ground oregano
    1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt -adjust for recipe
    1 teaspoon onion powder
    1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
    1 teaspoon ground cumin
    1/4 teaspoon annato powder -optional
    1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    Mix together in a bowl thoroughly before using.

    For Ground Beef Tacos: Add to 1 pound lean ground beef after browning. Add 1/2 cup beef broth and 1/2 cup tomato sauce,bring to a boil and then down to a simmer. Cook about 10 minutes stirring occasionally until thickened. Or use my mouth-watering recipe like I make for salads above.

    For Chicken or Steak Tacos: Sprinkle meat with seasoning. Sear with a little oil in a hot pan, grill or broil until desired doneness. Let rest a few minutes before slicing in thin strips.

    October 6, 2010

    Creole Pork Chop Piquante

    When piquante is less than piquant...

    The classic sauce-piquant is based on the making of a fine, well balanced and seasoned Creole sauce, normally as in Shrimp Piquant or the cousin to Shrimp Creole. Piquant in these parts means 'hot and hurts your tongue'.

    Many times the flavored sauce is used with seafood; Crab and Shrimp Sauce Piquant for example, and I know of many recipes formed on the same tomato base made with seafood stock. Only a few uses beef, veal or fowl as enriching the liquid base. What all do have in common is the use of vegetables, always starting with the trinity of onions, celery, bell pepper and layering in aromatic herbs and spices.

    In my version, I wanted a rich Creole base with the elements of sauce piquant, but I wanted to make it with pork. Not unheard of I'm sure, but rarely have I seen any variation that I might like or anything that comes to mind as to the outcome in desired taste. The closest was in a Creole cookbook that is the basis for my desire. By using less tomato than say a Shrimp Creole dish, adding beef stock (in this hurried case, consommé) and by adjusting herbs and seasoning to adequate the use of pork, I managed to make one heck of a dish flavorful to my liking and with just enough kick to be called Piquante, which in my mind is not as hot as Piquant.

    So what did it taste like? Well, imagine a deep, robust gumbo stock simmered with well seasoned pork cutlets. Delightful, surprising and delicious.  Enjoy!

    Creole Pork Chop Piquante
    4 to 6 servings

    3 to 3.5 pounds pork chops, or pork loin cut 1/2" thick
    1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
    1/2 teaspoon crushed basil
    3 tablespoons olive oil
    2 tablespoons butter
    6 scallions (green onions), chopped
    1/2 cup minced onion
    1/2 cup minced green bell pepper
    1/2 cup finely chopped celery
    4 tablespoons flour
    1 -16 oz can Creole tomatoes or a good Italian variety
    1/2 teaspoon crushed thyme
    1 tablespoon minced parsley
    2 bay leaves
    3 garlic cloves, minced
    1 jalapeño pepper, minced - optional
    1/2 cup dry white wine
    2 -10.5 oz cans beef consommé

    If using pork chops, pound the meat a little to tenderize as close to the bone as possible. Pound pork loin to about quarter-inch thickness and cut into serving sizes.

    Mix the cayenne, pepper, salt, paprika and basil together and sprinkle both sides of the pork lightly.

    Heat the oil in a wide heavy skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat until hot. Add the pork and brown on both sides. Remove meat and all but 1 tablespoon of the oil; add the butter. When sizzling settles down, add the scallions, onion, bell pepper and celery. Sauté for 5 minutes. Stir in the flour, any remaining seasoning from the pork and cook another 5 minutes stirring occasionally.

    Add the tomatoes with juice, thyme, parsley, bay leaves, garlic and jalapeño. Stir in the wine and consommé. Simmer for 15 to 25 minutes until thickened. Adjust seasoning by adding salt as needed. Add the pork nestling into the sauce; reduce heat to low and simmer partially covered for about an hour.

    Remove bay leaves; turn off heat and let set covered for 10 minutes before serving. Serve over white rice.

    Note: Chicken cutlets would also be very good cooked this way.

    October 4, 2010

    Twice Baked Stuffed Potato Casserole

    baked, stuffedsmashed & creamy...all in one

    You may think I’m really into cheese lately or that we eat it with every meal in our household as this is another recipe loaded with varying kinds. We like cheese but it is not at the top of our pyramid. I probably cook with it about three times a week. Really.

    This recipe came about, as I desired a side dish for steak night, something besides our normal twice-baked potato. You know the kind I would like, one stuffed with the kitchen sink. Unlike most twice-baked potato casseroles that are nothing more than mashed potatoes using old baked spuds, I wanted the consistency more rustic, like smashed potatoes still with skins. This is a casserole that I think will go great with not only steaks, but chicken, pork roast and barbecue meats.

    A combination of twice-baked potatoes, smashed potatoes, stuffed potatoes and maybe a little potato au gratin… yeah, I think that’s the best way to describe this one. Enjoy!

    Twice Baked Stuffed Potato Casserole
    4 or 5 large baking potatoes, washed & scrubbed
    1 medium onion, chopped
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    2 tablespoons butter
    1 tablespoon flour
    1/2 cup milk
    4 oz cream cheese, softened
    8 oz sour cream
    1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided
    Salt, cayenne and pepper to taste
    2 ounces cubed cheese - American, Gouda, Swiss, Blue, Havarti, whatever you like
    1/4 cup chopped green onions
    1/2 cup small diced ham, bacon or cooked sausage (or any combination)

    Pierce each potato with a fork all over the surface. Place on a baking sheet and cook in a 350 degree F. oven for an hour or until soft when squeezed. Remove and let cool enough to handle. (Place in the refrigerator to speed cooling time.)

    Cut the potatoes in bite size pieces and scatter in a large oblong baking dish. Lightly season with salt and smash randomly about half of the pieces.

    In a medium saucepan, melt butter and sauté onions until clear. Add garlic and flour, stir to combine and add milk stirring until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the cream cheese, sour cream half of the shredded cheese. Season with salt, cayenne and pepper to taste.

    Toss the cubed cheese, green onions and ham with the potatoes. Pour sauce over the top and with a fork, gently prod to mix. Sprinkle with the remaining shredded cheese.
    Bake uncovered in a 325 degree F. oven for about 50 minutes or until bubbly and lightly brown.

    Note: I also added a little grated Pecorino Romano to the top - I just couldn’t resist.

    October 1, 2010

    Red Beans & Rice with Cajun Sausage

    That thing that makes you go... yummm

    I've given you my recipe before on cooking red beans and the recipe for making homemade the ingredient that brings about that famous New Orleans taste - pickled pork. To me, the underlying flavor just can't be beat and if you have ever enjoyed the taste of true New Orleans style red beans, then you know there is that something extra ingredient that sets theirs apart from other regions. The only way to describe it is to say that layered in with the sautéed trinity of Louisianian cookery, along with the spices and the rich broth, is a mellow vinegary brine that is so subtle, most folks can't tell exactly what the flavor is or even able to put their finger on it or in this case, their taste-buds.  But the flavor is there and it makes a big difference.

    Folks talk about comfort food from time to time but in our house it's one of the necessities of life. In fact, I haven't met too many platefuls that aren't comforting.

    What can I say? Nothing wakes your senses as a house filled with the aroma of good, homemade cooking. And today, my taste-buds are tingling with anticipation of some fine, southern Red Beans and Rice.
    Like many Creole or Cajun recipes, you gotta start with the trinity: onions, bell pepper and celery.

    In the case today, I sautéed a couple pieces of chopped bacon with a couple links of smoked Conecuh sausage to render a little grease and add a depth of flavor, and then wilted down the trinity. From there, I added the seasonings.

    The beans soaked over night in a slow cooker which prior had swelled during about 4 hours with the setting on warm. Now I normally use Louisiana red beans which are smaller than these light kidney red beans and today I also added some pintos in the mix. I know, not your typical red bean recipe, but sometimes ya gotta cook what you have on hand. Normally, I do not pre-soak my beans, letting the starch meld into the pot making for a thick sauce. But since I'm using pintos too, I drained off the water and will mash up a cup or so at the end to ensure creaminess. There is more than one way to cook beans.

    Into the slow cooker went the beans, the trinity mix, pieces of pickled pork and about 5 cups of chicken stock.

    From here, I just set the cooker on low for 10 hours and went about my way. Ended up adding more of the chicken stock toward the end.

    The result, as you see in the top photo, is some of the best red beans & rice I've made, or maybe I was just in the mood for some comfort food.  As most times, I like the sausage served on top and several cornbread muffins off to the side. I don't think there is nothing better in sopping up that juice that cornbread. Well, maybe that crusty New Orleans 'angel cloud' French bread, but I didn't have that on hand either.

    Here are the recipes from previous posts:

    Pickled Pork
    Red Beans & Rice