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.

March 30, 2011

Cheesy Pepper Jack & Mac

Reckon this will do too

Some times, ya just can't get enough side dishes to fill up your plate, you know the ones I talking 'bout. The ones that you pile on when your eyes get bigger than your stomach 'cause ya just know you're not gonna be able to stop eating once you get going.

This is one of those and pretty near like any mac and cheese I reckon. Can't say I've had too many I didn't care for. This one is just like the way I made my Macaroni and Pimento Cheese, again using 3 types of cheese, except I changed out the cheese of course and left out the roasted red peppers replacing it with just a smidgen of bacon. Add a chopped jalapeno if you really want to get your taste buds happy.

Cheesy Pepper Jack & Mac

1 -8 oz package of your favorite macaroni, I used half elbow and mini-rotini
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup of milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
dash crack black pepper
1 cup grated Cheddar cheese, divided
1 cup grated Pepper Jack cheese
1/4 cup grated Swiss or Gouda cheese
2 strips of bacon, chopped

Preheat oven to 375. Cook macaroni according to package, drain and rinse with cold water.
Meanwhile, melt butter in a large saucepan. Stir in flour, salt and pepper until smooth. Slowly stir in the cream & milk and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and simmer for a few minutes to thicken. Remove from heat and stir in half of the Cheddar cheese, all of the Pepper Jack and Swiss or Gouda cheeses until smooth. Mix the sauce with the macaroni and fold in the bacon. Pour into a greased oblong casserole dish or a round deep 2-quart dish for extra creaminess.
Bake for 20 minutes.
Sprinkle remaining Cheddar on top and run under the broiler to brown the top.

March 28, 2011

Cajun Alligator or Chicken Croquettes

Never go skinny dippin' after dark...

Now first of all, we don't get alligator meat too often. I suppose it would be rare in fact to have any as hunting alligators along the Delta has a short open season. I don't even know if we're in season or not. I have never been out all night on a hunt for gators so I really don't know when it occurs but I think it's in the fall. In case you're wondering, I have no desire to test the water, to go near gator play grounds during the night for that matter. Some do and I suspect some don't live to tell about it. And for those who do go hunting, maybe you can tell me if it's legal to keep the meat. I know of some neighbors who go out all night, coming back each morning with some real big stories to tell, but no gators. Occasionally I come across imported meat from Louisiana or Florida and heck, I've heard alligator meat is now on several fancy menus around the US so I thought it only fittin' to serve it up to you.

This recipe is an adaption to one going back a long way folks, back to 1903 from a cookbook entitled, La Cuisine Créole À L'Usage Des Petits Ménages by Célestine Eustis or better known as Cooking In Old Créole Days, the classic expositions in Creole Cuisines. Printed bilingual in French and English and with some fine illustrations.  

However you obtain your alligator meat, or chicken for some, be sure to simmer it slowly in seasoned water on very low temperature until tender. Use only the choicest meat, as told in recipes, and reduce the stock to make it extra rich for added flavor.

Cajun Alligator Croquettes
or Chicken if ‘fin you’re not from the deep south

2 cups chopped cooked alligator (or chicken meat)
12 large oysters, reserve the liquor (or 8 oz jarred mushrooms, reserve liquid)
2 tablespoons diced green onion
2 tablespoons diced red onion
2 tablespoons diced celery
1 garlic clove, minced
Good pinch of fresh thyme and parsley, minced
1 or2 tablespoons Cajun seasonings
Yolks of 2 eggs
1/2 cup (4 oz) milk
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup (4 oz) strong chicken stock
1/4 cup (2 oz) heavy cream
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 eggs mixed with a little cream
plain flour
Freshly toasted breadcrumbs

Chopped the alligator meat with the drained oysters (or chicken and mushrooms) to a fine consistency. Add the vegetables, seasonings and herbs and put aside.

Beat the egg yolks with the milk and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, add the butter over medium heat and when melted stir in the flour until absorbed. Slowly stir in the chicken stock, cream and the oyster liquor (or mushroom liquid) with stock if needed to make an additional 2 ounces. Stir to form a thick sauce and then stir in the alligator mixture (or chicken) along with the vegetables, seasonings and lemon juice. Remove from heat and fold in the yolk mixture. Stir to incorporate and return to heat stirring until heated thoroughly and very creamy. Remove from heat and pour into an oblong dish to cool. Place in refrigerator.

When mixture is completely cold, remove and using your fingers dusted heavily with flour, quickly gather a little of mixture (over a quarter cup) to form into a ball. Use enough flour to keep mass from becoming sticky and flatten between you palms to form a croquette. Dust with flour and quickly brush the tops with beaten egg mixture and sprinkle well with the breadcrumbs. Invert and repeat coating other side with breadcrumbs. Place on a tray and let these dry out for about an hour.

Fry these in hot lard or oil to a delicate brown color and drain.

Serve with your favorite sauce or try my Creole Tarter Sauce, Roasted Red Pepper Sauce or my choice for this one, Horseradish Sauce.

March 25, 2011

Southern Collards & Greens with Dodger Dumplings

Spring done sprung

There is one thing we are fortunate to have in my area, in regards to the weather, and that is moderately cool nights for such a long time. From mid November to late April most years we enjoy a slew of crops like fresh turnips, kale, mustard greens and my favorite, collards. So I thought before the season ends, I might dabble with a hankering I've had for a while now, a taste I've had on the tip of my tongue ever since I thought about a memory from long ago.

Now I've cooked greens many ways and have even posted a few like an old southern, Collards with Beans, an African American version of cooking; Willie's Collards is one from my hometown, so simple it's downright dishonest, and I also shared my favorite way of all to cook greens, Turnips with Pot-Likker which has that southern vinegar-pepper-sauce-taste cooked right in. But this one folks just might beat all, I mean it reminded me of Sunday dinners sitting 'round the big table back at Mama Perry's where the men folks ate first while the women waited until time to clear the table before helping themselves - of course, after a full round of dessert was served to us. I guess in some customs that might still exist, thank goodness it don't at my house.

What makes these greens different than Willie's? These still have that great underlying smoky flavor and just enough peppery bite to say it's been cooked below the Mason-Dixon line, but the sweetness of the brown sugar and honey combined with the just acid tad of vinegar melds together a flavor that indeed will make you slap your Mama. Enjoy!

This is really a two part post. One for the greens and one for the cornbread dumplings, so here goes...

Southern Collards & Greens
oh so good with pot-likker - good to the last drop

2 large bunches fresh collard greens
1 large bunch fresh turnip greens
1 handful mustard greens or kale
1/2 pound smoked bacon, chopped
sliced smoked ham hock, turkey leg or smoked cured meat
1 large onion, chopped
2 jalapenos chopped
2 garlic cloves minced
3 to 4 quarts chicken stock
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup native honey
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon ground black peppercorns
Salt to taste

First and most important - wash and clean your greens. Some folks use the washing machine to rinse the collards but I use my deep sink (turnips like pictured here, I suspect might be too tender). Fill full with water and one leaf at a time, vigorously wash under water. The dirt will sink to the bottom. Remove to drain and continue until all greens are clean replacing the water ever so often. This is a good time to spend reflecting on life. Remove the thick stem parts of each leaf and any discolored areas. Chop greens into 1 or 2-inch pieces.

In a large stockpot, cook the bacon to render the fat. Add the smoked meat (if using turkey, remove bone) and stir in the remaining listings. Bring to a boil and add the greens by the handful a little at a time. Stir to coat as you add remaining greens to the pot. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to low. Taste and adjust stock for salt. Let cook for 1 to 3 hours depending on how soft you like your greens, I like mine really soft. Spoon into bowls with plenty of the pot-likker, 3 or 4 of the dodger dumplings (recipe below) or as Mama Perry did, with a thin slice of onion on top.

~     ~     ~

Now as most of you know, dodgers and dumplings are two different animals. Let me explain.

A batter of fried cornmeal takes on many names: conepones, johnny cakes, hush puppies, spoonbread, hoecakes (actually baked on the likes of a garden hoe over an outdoor fire as in field-hand days) .... you get the idea. But we ain't frying today folks.

Take a batter of corn meal mixture, precook it somewhat and in some form or another you may end up with, coush-coush, grits, polenta, mushbread and yes, if you steam it, continue to fry, you'll end up with corn dodgers. Dumplings as I said, are just what you're thinking. Raw dough dropped into a simmering liquid. This is my version of something in between a corn dodger and a dumpling made for soaking up the likes of vegetable pot-likker, saucy chili, broths from stews - oh the possibilities are endless.

Green Onion Dodger Dumplings
good idea for soups, chili, stews ... 

3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup buttermilk
4 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 cups white cornmeal mix
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup minced green onions

Prepare a steamer or use a large saucepan with a collapsible steamer basket, colander or insert and a tight fitting lid. This is how I did it. Add 1 or 2 inches of water to the saucepan and place the basket so it rest just over the water level. Make sure you have a tight fitting lid. Remove basket and spray with cooking spray, set aside.

In a small saucepan, combine the milk, butter, salt, sugar and bring to a simmer. As soon as the butter melts, remove from heat and fold in the cornmeal, baking powder and green onions. Do not over work. Let sit for 5 minutes.

Bring the water for the steamer basket to a boil. Moisten your hands and spoon the dough into the palms of your hands forming about a 1-inch ball. Roll the dough between your palms to form small elongated dodgers. Place them side by side in the basket, one layer and place the basket into the pan of simmering water over high heat. Cover with the lid and lower the heat to medium high. Steam the dodgers for 15 minutes. Do not uncover during this time. Remove basket and separate dodgers which should be puffy, firm to the touch and slightly shiny. Keep dodgers warm until ready to serve.

March 23, 2011

Smoky Texan 'Ham'-burgers

Dadgum Gud Burgers
Don't mind me, it's just the way I tauk!

Hasn't the weather just been 'mazing? At least in my part of the world it is pretty as you please and everyone I see grins like a big ol' possum. Sure does help everyone's disposition too. Still, I have something to say, something to po' mouth about as we say down here.

Continuing with a feeling I shared earlier of trying to save money at the check-out lane, I have forced myself to just look at some of my favorite packages of beef when passing by the meat counters. Sure, I pick one up every now and then, press on a nice tenderloin roast, run my finger across the marbling of thick rib-eye steaks or just hold a couple of good rumps in both hands as though I'm really deciding which one to choose, only putting them down and walk away as if I changed my mind...  But I'm not trying to fool anyone ya know, just waiting patiently like most everyone else to get to the ground beef area.

And that's okay, as long as the weather is raht purty, might as well do what I like best and that's fire up the grill. This is a recipe I have been toying with, in my head at least, all winter waiting on the weather to git right. A real hamburger as in one with real ham. You see, my thinking is to develop a deeper, smoky flavor using smoked ham and bacon. Add to that a sweet Texan style taste to round out the flavor and punch it with a good wallop of onion for depth. Then, grill it to perfection and top it with more bacon and everything else the buns will hold.  And in case you're wondering, it tasted right darn good. In fact, I don't think I will change a thing and for those of you that know me, that's saying something. Enjoy!

Smoky Texan 'Ham'-burgers
my tasty hamburger recipe for 2011

1/2 cup minced cured ham
1/4 cup minced onion
1/4 cup minced green bell pepper
2 tablespoons minced celery
4 slices cooked smoked bacon, minced
1 -1 ounce package onion soup mix
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1/4 cup Texas Style BBQ Sauce
2 1/2 pounds ground chuck beef

Combine evertyhing in a large bowl except the ground beef. Mix well and let set 10 minutes.

Break up the beef in small pieces adding to the mixture and with a large spoon, mix to incorporate.

Form into 6 patties (or 8 smaller ones) a little more than an inch thick. Make an indention in the center of each patty and refrigerate for about an hour to set.

Grill over medium high heat turning once. Be careful as these are soft, juicy burgers. Remove to a clean pan, cover with foil and place in oven to keep warm until ready to plate.

March 20, 2011

Braised Beef Short Ribs (Boneless)

Remember when there was such a thing as a cheap cut of meat? 

I set out to cook short ribs, a dish I had not made in quite a while, and like purchasing a new vehicle, I was shocked by the sticker price. I understand all the fuss now, I mean, the glamor associated with this by-product rib section of our beloved beef. Per ounce, it prices out to be pretty close to Prime meat. You know, as in the upper crust of grading meat, above US grade Choice which is about all I can afford these days.

What are beef short ribs anyway? Unlike pork spare ribs, beef short ribs are larger and usually more tender, meatier. A full rack of short ribs are only about 10-inches square and contains just 3 or 4 ribs that protect the fat marbled meat which normally, after removing excess layers of tendons and fat, leaves only 2 or 3 inches of this marvelous meat. Okay, so it ain't the cute little filet mignon of the tenderloin but to a rib eater, I guess it's the next best thing.

So, after deciding whether to purchase the short ribs or pay a utility bill, I set my sight on a lessor priced cut of meat - boneless short ribs, which is from the chuck part of the cow, which I believe is next to the rib section... now ain't that something?

This recipe is a result of many actually; a combination of the French braised short ribs with a wine reduction, the southern classic of grilled short ribs sweetened with apple induced caramelized vegetables and a little Creole touch thrown in for good measure. Enjoy!

Braised Beef Short Ribs
my southern version of the French Bourguignon classic

4 to 5 pounds beef short ribs, either boneless, English or flanking cut
Kosher salt, fresh ground peppercorns
Olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, sliced
5 shallots, sliced
2 celery stalks, diced
3 carrots, diced
1 cup dry sherry
1 cup port wine
1/2 cup apple cider
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
handful of parsley
2 cups beef stock
1 crisp apple, peeled, cored and sliced

Sprinkle the meat with salt and pepper and coat with oil.

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add a little oil and add a few pieces of the meat pressing down to make good contact with the bottom of the pan. Cook about 3 minutes on each side or until nice and brown. Remove meat to a platter and continue cooking remaining meat. Keep seared meat in a warm area while making reduction.

Add the garlic, shallots, celery and carrots to the pot. Cook stirring occasionally until softened. Remove to a bowl, cover and keep warm.

Add the remaining ingredients except apple to the pot and heat to a boil. Cook until reduced 1/3 in volume. Strain reserving the stock and discard the herbs.

Add the cooked vegetables to the pot. Place the short ribs on top of the vegetables and pour the reduction over the meat. Scatter the apples on top.

Cook in a preheated 325 degree F. oven for 3 hours.

Remove meat and vegetables to a serving platter, reserving the sauce for use and if desired, further reduce in a saucepan.

March 17, 2011

Baked Macaroni and Pimento Cheese

This here is some kind of good

We all have our favorite recipe for Macaroni and Cheese, I know I have several.  And one of our favorite summer foods for snacking with crackers, on celery, making sandwiches and using in between and on top of just about everything imaginable (think fried green tomato sandwiches) is our beloved pimento cheese spread. And I know for that we all have our favorite family recipe we bring out when company comes calling. Again, I have several. So that got me thinking....

This recipe is based on two family favorites; a creamy mac and cheese loaded with 3 types of cheese and a pimento cheese spread using roasted peppers. Enjoy!

Baked Macaroni and Pimento Cheese
my take on a new classic comfort dish

1 -8 oz elbow macaroni
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup of milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
dash crack black pepper
1 cup grated cheddar cheese, divided
1/2 cup grated American or jack cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup diced roasted red pepper, drained if from a jar

Preheat oven to 375. Cook macaroni according to package, drain and rinse with cold water.
Meanwhile, melt butter in a large saucepan. Stir in flour, salt and pepper until smooth. Slowly stir in the cream & milk and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and simmer for a few minutes to thicken. Remove from heat and stir in half of the cheddar cheese, all of the American and Parmesan cheeses until smooth. Fold in the mayo. Mix the sauce with the macaroni and fold in the roasted red pepper. Pour into a greased oblong casserole dish or a round deep 2-quart dish for extra creaminess.
Bake for 20 minutes.
Sprinkle remaining Cheddar on top and run under the broiler to brown the top.

March 15, 2011

Porcupine Meatballs with Red Wine Gravy

A childhood memory…

Ground beef made its way to our table many times during my youth as Momma sometimes pinched pennies when times got a little tight. Just like then, today I use it too although I think Momma would shriek merciless at the butcher if she saw today’s prices. I know I do when I look at each package. But in all, a pound or so of lean ground beef, along with the ground sausage in this recipe, will feed about six folks or enough for a second night of leftovers for us.

Momma called these porcupine balls and made these with uncooked rice simmering them in a broth spiked with a little wine for a long period of time. I do not have her recipe, but I remember the taste very well. This is pretty close yet made my way, with cooked rice and baked in the oven to remove as much of the grease as possible. The delicious wine based gravy is similar to hers and makes for one fine meal served with my favorite, Momma’s Lumpy Mashed Potatoes. Enjoy!

Porcupine Meatballs with Red Wine Gravy

1 pound lean ground beef (10 to 15% fat)
1/2 package (4 oz) bulk pork country sausage, like Alabama’s Dean Sausage Co
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup cooked cold rice, seasoned
1 teaspoon Season-all
2 1/2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup dry red wine
2 to 3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups beef broth

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Season the cold rice with a teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce, a dash of each: ground thyme, ground basil and granulated garlic.

Crumble beef in large bowl. Add the chopped onion, parsley and seasoned rice on top. Press the sausage across the top and into the mixture. Sprinkle the pepper and Season-all across the top and combine mixture well.

Form mixture into 1 1/2-inch diameter balls (about 20). Place meatballs on a baking pan and bake for 40 minutes or until brown. Remove and set meatballs aside to drain.

Melt butter or oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add flour and stir until flour turns a light tan color, about 3 minutes. Turn heat to medium and cook to a dark brown color stirring all while, about 10 minutes. Combine the wine with the tomato paste in small bowl and whisk to blend. Slowly whisk in the beef broth to the skillet and bring to simmer, followed with the wine mixture. Continue to cook until gravy thickens slightly stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper; add the meatballs to the skillet and reduce heat to low. Cover and let simmer 10 to 15 minutes. Serve over mashed potatoes or cooked noodles.

March 12, 2011

Artichoke, Chiles & Spinach Dip

Dipping duh

Of the many dips I like to make, this one always hits the spot, even though I have not made it in some time. When I did recently during Mardi Gras, many friends and family asked for the recipe. Yeah, it's a repeat as I told you then, it's already on my blog.... meaning, you can find it if you do the search thingy either by typing in the name or an ingredient in the search bar or even if you go to the trouble and look it up under 'Mexican Dips', at my 'Recipe Index' page.

Okay. I know that is a lot to ask. I know you will not do it. I know you will continue to hound me until I give it up so here it is......again. Enjoy!

Artichoke, Chiles & Spinach Dip
a Mexican remake of spinach dip

2 -8 ounce packages cream cheese -softened 1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 -10 ounce box frozen chopped spinach -thawed and squeezed dry
2 tablespoons minced onion
2 cloves garlic -minced
1/4 cup canned chopped jalapeno peppers -drained
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 -12 ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts -drained and chopped
2 tablespoons chopped pimento
1 -4.5 ounce can chopped green chiles -drained
1/2 cup Mexican cheese blend
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, mix the cream cheese and mayonnaise together. Stir in the spinach really well. Stir in the next five ingredients and fold in the remaining three.

Spoon mixture into an oblong baking dish,top with the Mexican cheese and bake for about 30 minutes or until slightly browned on top.

Serve with your favorite chips.

See also Kicking Chicken and Artichoke Dip

March 9, 2011

Creole Shrimp Vinaigrette Rémoulade

Whew, it's over...

Of the many good foods we had over the Mardi Gras season, I want to share with you this recipe. In fact, my neighbor asked for the recipe so here it is - glad to oblige Simona - plus it should be great during the Lenten season.

Many times I make up a bowl of the more famous version, you know, the creamy sauce from the classic and somewhat French variation consisting of Creole mustard, paprika and cayenne bound in a mayonnaise base. But this time during carnival I made the piquant Rémoulade sauce that is a Creole classic here in the south. It's a reddish vinaigrette version unique to our area and is full of parsley, scallions and celery giving it a nice, clean taste and is so, soooo good with boiled shrimp, crab claws and crawfish tails too. Both have many of the same elements like Creole mustard, paprika, cayenne and celery, but the taste between the two is entirely different. Enjoy this fine sauce folks!

Creole Vinaigrette Rémoulade

1 small finely chopped shallots (about 2 tablespoons)
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons Creole mustard
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
Juice of 1 medium lemon (about 3 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup light olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped celery tops and leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped scallion

Put the shallots and garlic through a garlic press or mash with the flat side of a large chef knife and scrape into a medium bowl. Whisk in the next seven listings well. With a steady whisking motion, slowly drizzle in the olive oil to emulsify into the mixture. Stir in the celery, parsley and scallion. You can keep this vinaigrette 2 or 3 days in the refrigerator.

Serve as a dressing or a dipping sauce but I like to serve it as a salad by marinating boiled peeled, deveined shrimp in it for at least 12 hours and over a bed of mixed salad greens with tomato wedges.

As for the shrimp, I find it is best to just under-cook them if you are marinating the shrimp in the Rémoulade sauce 8 hours or more. I like to use a mild bath consisting of lemons, bay leaves and Creole seasonings. The vinaigrette mixture will further cook the shrimp much like ceviche but the flavors will be so much better by allowing the shrimp to marinate in the sauce. Do not do so more than 24 hours or the shrimp can become tough.

March 7, 2011

Southern Comfort Pound Cake with Glaze

Lundi Gras

See Mardi Gras in Mobile for a little explanation and understanding, like the image below of Folly chasing Death in tomorrow night's OOM parade.

Here's a Mardi Gras Cake I made from a cream cheese pound cake recipe in my cookbook and combined with a glaze I adapted from a Southern Living magazine. I like to have this on hand during Mardi Gras or when friends stop by and desire a little southern hospitality. Hope you make this delicious cake too and add a little southern comfort in your life. Enjoy!

Order of Myths Parade

Southern Comfort Pound Cake

2 1/2 sticks (10 oz) butter, softened
1 -6 oz cream cheese, softened
2 1/2 cups sugar
6 eggs
1/4 cup Southern Comfort, bourbon or whiskey
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 cup whole pecans, dusted with flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
Southern Comfort Glaze -below

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and lightly flour a 12-cup Bundt or tube pan.

Using an electric mixer, cream butter and cream cheese at medium speed until nice and creamy. Slowly add the sugar beating at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time on low speed in 30 second intervals blending batter together after each addition. Blend in the liqueur and extract until just blended on low speed and gradually add the flour in at least three additions waiting until all is incorporated before preceding with the next addition. Increase speed to medium and beat batter for 30 seconds to improve elasticity.

Sprinkle the pecans in the bottom on the cake pan, then the brown sugar and pour in the batter.

Bake for about an hour or until internal temperature reaches 210 degrees F. You can also test with a toothpick inserted in center. If it comes out clean, the cake is done, otherwise, continue baking and check every 5 minutes with a clean toothpick.

Make the glaze during the last 15 minutes and remove cake when done. Slowly spoon the hot glaze over the cake while still in the pan gradually allowing it to soak into the cake. Use up all of the glaze waiting after each addition. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for at least 2 hours. Invert on a large cake plate with a lip when ready to serve.

Southern Comfort Glaze

6 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup Southern Comfort (or bourbon)
3/4 cup sugar

In a small saucepan, bring all ingredients to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium low and stir constantly for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and use quickly, or keep warm until ready to use.

March 1, 2011

Drick's Chicken & Cajun Sausage Gumbo - Number 1 Favorite Mardi Gras Food

Believe it or not...

Chicken and smoked sausage are the two most used ingredients in the south when making gumbo, more so than seafood like shrimp, crab or oysters. In fact, this gumbo is most popular during the Mardi Gras season, even in my house when large crowds come-a-calling. It's fairly simple to make, feeds a crowd and holds well during the afternoon or evening as guest come and go.

The basis for a good gumbo always starts with a good roux. Everyone has their own way I suppose, but I believe a dark roux (dark Creole brick color) works best for light foods like chicken and seafood, a blond roux (the color of light brown sugar) does better for dark meats like duck, turtle meat, so on, and in the middle is the medium tan roux (peanut butter to milk chocolate in color) that does okay for most everything, especially okra or a greens medley like Z'Herbes. What's the difference? All in the taste. You see, the darker the roux the more intense the flavor, a nuttier, almost roasted flavoring agent that adds an element of taste in Creole and Cajun cuisine. Now, the darker the roux, the more you will need to add in volume to aid in thickening, normally four times as much as that of a light roux. Depending on the type of gumbo I am making, I like to toss in the onions immediately when the darker roux color is right and quickly toss them around. They will sizzle, pop and hiss at you but that's all right, the brown caramelize flavor will add a totally different depth of flavor; you see, adding all of the vegetables at once sometimes puts just too much stress (or liquid) for the roux.

Gumbo is almost always thickened with a roux, sometimes with both a roux and okra and sometimes with file'. All three are thickeners but are also very different in altering taste. I believe file' should never be added until the end of cooking, while removing from the heat as simmering can affect the taste and break down the thickening power. I normally serve file' at the table allowing guest to sprinkle it on at will, more for taste than for a thickener. I depend on a roux and okra for binding.

On special occasion, shrimp or oysters are added to Chicken and Sausage Gumbo making for holiday or Sunday fare.  The type of sausage depends on your region but in respect to a good gumbo, a good spicy smoked sausage is a must. Andouille, Cajun Smoked or any good flavored smoked southern sausage is the choice. And as for the chicken, why a good ol' stewing hen works just fine. Something to be said 'bout tough old birds.

So, after years of making this for friends and family stopping by before or after parades, normally doubling the recipe making it in two large stockpots, I share with you my Mardi Gras Gumbo... Enjoy!

Oh, and here are a few snaps on my phone as I left work today...

large props coming in from a party

Buckets ready to load for next event

Now for the recipe:

Drick's Chicken & Cajun Sausage Gumbo

1 large (5 lb) stewing hen
1 large onion, quartered
1 rib celery, halved
1/4 green bell pepper
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper
3 pounds Andouille or Cajun Smoked sausage cut into 1 inch slices
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons fat, lard or oil
1 cup flour
2 large onions, diced
3/4 green bell pepper, diced
2 ribs of celery, diced
2 tablespoons Creole seasoning
1/8 or more cayenne
1 -14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
2 cups 1/2-inch sliced fresh okra or 1 -20 oz bag frozen

For garnishment:
Gumbo File'
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
Several varying bottles of hot sauce
White rice

Place the hen and the next 4 ingredients in a large stockpot. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover with at least 2 1/2 quarts water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes. Remove chicken and set aside to cool. Strain the stock into a large container and discard the vegetables. Return the pot to the stove and cook the sausage on medium low with a little water for about 15 minutes. Remove sausage and discard the liquid and grease. Wipe out the pot.

Meanwhile, skim and remove the grease from the stock and keep the stock hot.
Add the fat or lard into the pot over medium high heat and stir in the flour to make the roux. Stir with a flat tip paddle spoon lifting the flour from the bottom of the pan as you stir. Turn down the heat to medium low as the roux begins to brown, normally around the tan stage, and even lower as it darkens, about 30 minutes total in making the roux. Remove from heat and stir in the onions mixing well. Toss a minute or two until caramelized and stir in the bell pepper and celery. Cook and stir another 5 minutes returning pot back to the stove.

Add about 2 quarts of stock to the pot, a little at a time stirring all while to incorporate into the roux slowly. Add the tomatoes, okra and the seasonings, stir and bring to a simmer. Cook covered for about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, de-bone the chicken and break meat into bite size pieces. Spoon a little stock over meat to keep moist.

Add the chicken and sausage and cook another 15 minutes.
Serve with white rice, a sprinkle of file' and a spoonful of chopped green onions and parsley.

Notes: I many times after cooking, add the gumbo to a large slow cooker or two, and hold at warm temperature until guest are ready for a bowl or second helping.
Also, like many south Louisiana gumbos, this recipe makes a thinner base than most seafood type gumbos but it thickens by the second day, when gumbo is really its best.