Southern Alabama Specialties

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

Grilling Year-round on the Gulf Coast

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

Cake Making in the South

A real classic ~ Lemon Pound Cake with Citrus Glaze.

Sunday Dinners are Sacred in the South

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

Gulf Coast Seafood Recipes

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

February 27, 2013

Confetti Rice Casserole

A baked rice casserole recipe worth serving.

Running down through Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi is an area known as the Southern Rice Belt and from here, a significant portion of the nation's rice crop is grown. Positioned along side the Mississippi river, this land yields much of our conventional rice such as the long-grain white rice found in every southern kitchen. Creole cooks from long ago discovered the grain characteristics which result in the rice cooking dry and flaky, not sticky.

Then there are the specialty rice grown for the specific needs of niche markets which usually command a premium market price. A few interesting varieties are: Neches - a glutinous (waxy) long grain cultivar that is used by the starch and flour ingredients industry as a way to reduce the imported waxy rice. Lotus - a popcorn-scented long grain cultivar. Louisiana Pecan - This long-grain rice is grown only in the bayou country of southern Louisiana. It's similar in flavor to Basmati, but the flavor suggests a nutty flavor and has a rich aroma. Texmati - A wonderful long grain rice with a dry, fluffy texture when cooked. Bengal, Jupiter and Neptune - All are medium grain rice grown mostly for expansion rice and used in breakfast cereals, confections and snack type products. Southern medium grain rice is also grown for its creamy consistency to use in desserts and puddings. It is not considered a good choice for serving as a stand-alone white rice as it is not as clean tasting as japonica varieties. Cooks in the southern states prefer to use it in foods containing spices, beans, meat and sauces.

This recipe is an easy way to make a rice soufflé-like casserole with savory overtones. This dish will accompany most any entrée and is one you will be glad to serve at your next dinner, supper or Sunday meal. It is especially good served under creamed chicken which, is an old southern way to use up left-over chicken meat by melding it into a flavorful and creamy, milk-base gravy.


Confetti Rice Casserole
6 to 8 servings

1 tablespoon butter or margarine
3 cups cooked long-grain white rice
1/2 cup grated mild cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 cup grated Gouda cheese
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1/3 cup diced onion
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
3 eggs, well beaten
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire
good dash of hot red pepper sauce

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

In a 2 quart round (or 3 quart rectangular if you want to cut into squares) casserole, melt the butter and coat the bottom and sides of the dish.

Combine remaining ingredients and spoon into the casserole. Bake for 1 hour or until a knife inserted into center comes out clean.

Let rest about 5 minutes before serving.

February 24, 2013

Very Special Red Velvet Cake

Special Occasions Call for Special Cakes

A birthday came calling last week, a very special one, one marking a milestone of importance. Not mine mind you, I don't think I have ever baked myself a birthday cake. This day was to say hello to an occasion worthy of a favorite cake and the cake of choice, well, you've already gotten a look at that.

There are many special cakes to mark such a day: Yellow Cake with Fudge Icing, German Chocolate, Carrot with Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting, Caramel Cake, Lane Cake, Coconut, Very Chocolate with Creamy Chocolate Icing, Hummingbird, Lady Baltimore, on and on... what's yours?

Now, as I made this cake, I pondered its origin. Y'all should know by now I rarely let sleeping dogs lie. I vaguely remembered an urban legend of the cake coming from the Waldorf-Astoria in New York from around the 1920's. It was the tale of a guest billed for the Waldorf cake recipe much like the famous cookie recipe was to the Neiman Marcus fraud. Much like the cookie, the red velvet cake also goes by many names; the Waldorf-Astoria cake, the $300 cake, so on, so on. Later, as the cake cooled on the counter, I really started searching and discovered the cake began its notoriety much earlier, in the late 1800's by a family-owned food colorings and extracts entrepreneur. You see, housewives during the Great Depression had no desire for extracts much less food colorings. Thus, to boost interest and sales, displays throughout the South and the Midwest showcased large, full-color photos of the reddest-of-red chocolate cake ever imagined. Of course, free recipes for the cake were handed out with every purchase of John Adams' butter and vanilla extracts along with two bottles of red food coloring. And as they say, the rest is history.

Now, for this special cake, I used my grandmother's recipe from our family cookbook, Grits to Guacamole, changing only the way the cake is made, not the ingredients in the cake. And I used her Cream Cheese Icing as a filling and to frost the sides. And, because the birthday guest is really into chocolate, I added a ganache to each layer. Enjoy!

Red Velvet Cake

3 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
1 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
2 ounces red food color
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons soda

Be sure to have butter, eggs and buttermilk at room temperature.

Grease three 8-inch cake pans. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper. Grease and flour the bottom (parchment paper) and sides. Tap out any excess flour; put aside.

Position oven rack in center and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Sift flour, salt and cocoa in a bowl and put aside. In mixer, cream butter with sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time beating well after each addition. On low speed, add in the food color and vanilla. Scrape down the sides and blend on low.

Mix the buttermilk, vinegar and soda together. On low speed, add alternately the dry ingredients with the buttermilk mixture. Scrape down the sides with a spatula insuring a smooth and will blended batter.

Divide the batter into the three pans evening out the top. Place in the oven and bake about 30 minutes or until center of each test done. Do not overcook. Remove to a rack and allow cooling for 1 hour. Invert onto the rack and cool completely before frosting or adding a filling. (Be sure to remove parchment paper.)

Frost with Cream Cheese Icing below or an older, southern birthday cake frosting known as a vanilla cream icing and made with sweet milk, sugar, flour, butter and/or shortening.

Note: Many times I have, like my grandmother, sliced each layer in half making a 6-layer cake. If you do, be sure to increase your frosting or filling.

Cream Cheese Icing
Increase this recipe 1 1/2 times if you want to frost the top layer.

1 stick margarine
1 -8 oz cream cheese, softened
16 oz confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 to 1 teaspoon liqueur (I like Southern Comfort) -optional
1 cup toasted pecans, chopped

Cream the margarine with the cream cheese. Blend in the confectioners’ sugar until smooth and then add the vanilla extract and liqueur. Add to layers and/or frost sides; sprinkle with pecans.

For the much more decadent version, add the chocolate ganache to each layer before assembly.

Chocolate Ganache

1 cup heavy cream
1 -16 oz good quality semisweet chocolate chips

In a double boiler or bowl over barely simmering water, melt the chocolate into the cream. Whisk to blend completely. Remove from heat source and allow cooling just a bit. Pour ganache onto each layer forming an even puddle and with the back of a spoon, push it to the edge but do not allow it to run down the sides. Allow the ganache to set completely, about an hour, before continuing with frosting the cake.

February 20, 2013

Irish Immigrant Stew

Beef or Lamb Stew Recipe

When emigrants arrive to the United States, they bring with them their native way of cookery. America is blessed with such a rich diversity of food cuisines from a wealth of countries. The south is no different as I have mentioned many times and I believe it is here, where a most homogenize merging of foodstuff comes together, just like in a good gumbo.

Most historians when mentioning the Irish migration tend to focus on the settlement of the New England states, although during the 18th century, the Irish flourished heavily in Georgia and the Carolinas as well moving onwards into the Delta areas. It is here that many became prominent citizens, rising above the immigrant mentality held in the upper New England states of New York and Massachusetts. Much of the rise came about from the Irish fighting in the American Revolutionary War and doing so won the hearts and camaraderie of fellow southern citizens. It is here, in the south where the Irish found tolerance and where their heritage was welcomed. And it is in the south where Irish families felt acclimated, becoming part of a community while gaining foothold and persevering tenacity.

After 1815, the Irish immigration rose to over 33,000 per year and of those, the laborious work of digging, forming canals for waterways and moving earth to make way for railways in the south was done by many of the Irishmen. Others became doctors, lawyers and plantation owners. During this time, New Orleans, which was the largest city in the south, became one-quarter Irish. It is no wonder there is such an influence of Irish character in New Orleans. Mobile had its share of Irish influx too and even today, Callahan's Irish Social Club exists just a couple blocks from our house.

Which brings us to the recipe today, one of those peasant style, home-goodness, one-pot meals that slowly comes together in making a full-bodied, hearty stew of pleasantry. It blends together the distinctive characteristics of the southern Irish, a little of my momma and a whole lot of me. You see, the recipe is based on one my momma made many times and in making her version of Irish Stew, she used cubes of lamb shoulder along with large chunks of carrots, potatoes and turnips. You could too, either way . . . enjoy!

Irish Immigrant Stew
4 to 6 servings

2 pounds beef roast, boneless short ribs or stewing meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves toes, minced
1 bottled beer, like the clean and crisp Harp Lager or the somewhat hoppy Murphy's Irish Red
4 cups rich beef stock
1 tablespoon Worcestershire
1 large bay leaf
pinch of cayenne
good pinch of thyme
4 whole carrots, roughly sliced bite size
1 pound red potatoes, unpeeled and chopped bite size
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

In a medium bowl, sprinkle the beef cubes with a little salt and pepper. Add enough flour lightly coating each piece. Spread on a pan to keep dry.

In a stockpot or Dutch oven, heat the oil and butter over medium high heat and when butter begins to brown add the beef, just enough to cover the bottom. Sear bottom side of the beef to a light brown, about 3 minutes and turn meat to sear the other side. Remove to a plate and sear remaining beef cubes. Tent the plate of beef with foil and keep warm.

Add the onions to the pot and cook stirring onions until the onions caramelize from the fond in the pot. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two. Add any remaining dusting flour along with enough to make about 1/4 cup. Stir flour into the onions and cook about 3 minutes. Pour in the beer (at room temperature), beef stock, Worcestershire and add the bay leaf, cayenne, thyme and sugar. Allow liquid to come to a simmer on its own (not increasing heat to do so) and at simmer add the browned beef. At second simmer, reduce heat to medium low (barely simmering) and cook covered for about 2 hours.

Stir the carrots and potatoes into the stew mixture. Cook 30 to 45 minutes covered or until the potatoes are tender. Add a half-cup of hot water to the stew if the mixture becomes too thick.

Serve with a sprinkle of parsley and hot crusty French bread, cornbread muffins or soda bread.

February 16, 2013

Slow Cooker Roast Beef for Debris Po-Boys

The World's Greatest Sandwich
 ... if you ask me.

Debris: pronounced 'day-bree' and means the bits and pieces left behind from roast beef. Read the history of the po-boy sandwich from an earlier grilled Cajun chicken post.

During Mardi Gras, I decided to feed my staff, at least the ones in our retail division lunch one day (the Special Event Crew setting up the many balls missed out) and I thought nothing would be better than my favorite Mardi Gras food. That would be a good ol', dripping messy, and I mean run-down-your-arm kind of messiness, French bread sandwich filled savory bits and shreds of beef and a full-flavored beefy gravy. If you have ever had a NOLA roast beef sandwich, then you know the kind we southerners prefer, or rather, demand. If you have not, then you should know that the NOLA type of roast beef is a misnomer as it is not roasted at all, rather boiled or braised in liquid, veggies and spices until it literally falls apart, thus becoming debris.

I have several recipes for roast beef sandwiches and the one today is similar to one I shared during a contest back in 2011. Scroll down that post to find it. I used the slow cooker this time to cook the roast beef and used a whole sirloin tip roast (it was really a good buy). By cooking it in the slow cooker, I was able to do so slowly overnight and by lunchtime, it fell apart which was perfect and so well received.

Now, I am not saying this po-boy, the recipe today, is the world's greatest sandwich, but it is a darn good one. To me, as mentioned, a roast beef sandwich is my very favorite. One taste of the sandwich today brings out flavorful depths of braised beef with savory onion and slight garlic undertones, a taste that from only one bite, will seem like your very first, and one being a taste of homecoming. Enjoy!

Roast Beef for Debris Style Po-Boys
using a smaller roast will result in the same flavorful beef, just more of the delicious gravy
serves about 30

1 -10 to 12 pound whole sirloin tip roast (rump roast is my normal preference)
salt, cracked pepper, garlic powder or your favorite roast seasonings
flour for dusting
1 small bell pepper, diced
6 garlic toes, smashed and mince
3 large yellow onions, sliced
1 tablespoon steak seasoning (I used Bahia)
1 -15 oz can condensed beef broth

Unlike the NOLA method, I like to sear my roast and this time I did it quickly in the oven.

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F.

Remove roast from the packaging, rinse if desired and dry completely. Remove the silver skin left on and any visible fat. Normally there is a vein of silver and fat running through the center. Season the roast all over with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Dust lightly with flour completely. Place in a roasting pan and roast in the oven for about 15 minutes turning the roast over midway or until the meat is seared all over. Remove from oven.

In a large slow cooker, place half of the bell pepper an garlic in the bottom and lay the roast on top. Sprinkle the remaining bell pepper and garlic. Cover roast with the onion slices and with the steak seasoning. Pour the beef broth over the onions.

Cover and cook on low for 10 to 12 hours.

Remove cover and if needed, shred roast with two serving forks or chop on a large cutting board. I stirred the roast around enough to dislodge most into bite size pieces and then continued cooking on low another 4 hours. At this point, the meat fell apart and was ready to serve.

Serve on French style pistolettes, cut French bread, Po-Boy loaves or even submarine type loaves. In true sense, the sandwiches would be served "fully dressed" with mayo, lettuce and slices of tomato. Horseradish, red onions, bread-and-butter pickles and Creole mustard are optional; some folks even like a dab of BBQ sauce (a sacrilege act if you ask me).

February 9, 2013

Creole Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

Spinach and sausage inside, tasty savor on the outside.

Nothing better than a good stuffing and I'm not just talking about me. For some reason, we love to stuff all kinds of foodstuff from vegetables, loaves of bread to critters of all kind. Many enjoy a stuffed bird but I kinda shy away from that, I mean, I enjoy pan-style dressing with roasted poultry. It's just the way I was brought up I guess.

Now, stuffed vegetables I can eat my self crazy and beef or pork roulades, why, dey ain't nuttin' better if you ask me. This is another way we enjoy eating pork - stuffed tenderloin southern style. Enjoy!

Creole Stuffed Pork Tenderloin
serves 6-8

1 1/2 to 2 pound pork tenderloin
Poultry seasoning, salt and white pepper
1/4 pound mildly spiced ground bulk pork sausage, cooked and crumbled
1/4 cup diced celery
1/3 cup diced onion
1/4 cup diced green bell pepper
8 ounce baby spinach leaves
1/4 cup toasted blanched almonds
1 tablespoons minced white raisins (dried cranberries would be good too)
2 tablespoons
1/2 cup soft breadcrumbs

Prep the tenderloin by slicing down the length about 1/2-inch depth with a sharp fillet knife. Turn the knife to one side and begin slicing horizontally while rolling loin along as you proceed until the tenderloin becomes a flatten, rectangular rolled out piece of meat, sort of steak-like. There are many ways to prepare the loin, some prefer cutting downward in the center and then cutting to each side; the cut would resemble an upside-down 'T'. And there is the cut that resembles an angular 'J'. I like the rolled version as the piece of meat becomes more of a roulade.

Lightly sprinkle the inside (cut side) with a little poultry seasoning, a light sprinkle of salt and white pepper. Cover and refrigerate to allow rest while proceeding to prep the veggies and cook the sausage.

In a medium skillet, brown sausage over medium heat and remove any grease. Add the celery, onion and bell pepper to the sausage and cook about 3 minutes over medium low, just enough to soften the veggies. Add the spinach and stir until wilted. Add the almonds and raisins; remove from heat. Stir in the bread crumbs. Allow to cool and give all a rough chop on a cutting board.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Remove roulade from refrigerator and set aside. Place the mixture in the center of the roulade. Spread the mixture to one end (the thinnest) and begin rolling just like a jelly-roll. Use kitchen twine to truss the tenderloin in several places securing it together.

Place the tenderloin cut side down on a baking pan and place in the oven. Turn the temperature down to 375 degrees. Roast about 25 minutes or until internal (meat part) temperature reaches 150 degrees F. Remove from oven, cover with foil and let rest about 10 minutes before cutting.

Notes: This time, I mixed a little soy sauce with red wine vinegar and brushed on the tenderloin before placing it in the oven. Not Creole but it gave it an outdoor flavor.
Many folks prefer to brown the tenderloin on the stove but I think a good hot oven does just as well and leaves only one pan to clean.

February 6, 2013

Refried Beans - Southern Style Mexican redux

Southern Refried Beans with Tamales
Mexican Refried Bean Style Recipe with a Southern Twist.

This recipe is from an older way of cooking pinto beans using the flavors of pork; first by creating a stock from ham and later by binding the beans in bacon fat. Southern elements like bay leaves and small tabasco peppers are mingled with the traditional onion and garlic for flavor. By the way, tabasco peppers are the only chili pepper whose fruit is juicy on the inside, as opposed to the dry ribbed, seeded membranes of others, It is also the pepper used to make Louisiana's Tabasco hot pepper sauce and the favored chili pepper used to make the flavored hot pepper vinegar we southerners have to have on our collards and turnips.

As mentioned before, our south is a land of bounty influenced from hundreds of years of foreign progression, including foodstuff and cookery. This cradle of many ethnic groups is what makes our food culture, to me, so interesting and worth writing about; researching the older ways and developing recipes for cooking in today's time that tastes the same as it did for our ancestors. This is just one example of how a very basic bean recipe from Mexican cuisine intertwined within the kitchens of our Creole South.


Southern Style Refried Beans
Southern taste using the custom of Mexican cookery
makes about 10 servings

1 pound dry pinto beans
salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 large onion, chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground bay leaves (or 2 medium)
2 tabasco peppers (jalapeno or serrano will do)
1 1/2 cups diced cooked ham
3 strips thick-cut smoked bacon
1/2 large onion, diced
2 garlic toes, minced
Sazon Completa to taste (Badia Complete Seasoning)

Rinse and sort the beans under water, drain and wash under running water to remove dirt. In a medium stockpot, add the beans and cover with 3 inches of water. Add the four seasonings to taste (I added about 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon each pepper, garlic and onion powders) along with the vinegar. (You should know by now the reason.) Bring to a boil and cook on low heat for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and allow to set several hours. I did it overnight.

Drain the beans and rinse out the stockpot. Add about 1 1/2 quarts of water, the 1 onion chopped, bay leaves, tabasco peppers and ham. Bring to a boil and reduce to low heat. Allow to simmer for about an hour.

stock for the beans

Add the beans and at second boil, cook on low for another hour or until the beans are very soft. Remove and reserve about 1 cup of bean stock. Drain the beans well. Remove the tabasco peppers and the whole bay leaves if you used it.

Clean the stockpot or use a large skillet. Heat over medium high heat the bacon and fry until bacon is crispy and fat is rendered. Remove bacon and put aside. Add the 1/2 chopped onion to the hot grease and saute about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and saute another minute. Add the beans and about 1/4 cup of the bean stock. Mash with a bean or potato masher adding additional bean stock as needed to acquired consistency. We like ours kinda lumpy and the bits of ham helps with this. Add the Complete Seasoning to taste or your favorite seasoning salt.

Remove from heat and serve in a bowl topped with grated cheese, chopped green onions and the crumbled bacon if desired. Or, use the refried beans in your favorite Mexican recipe for a little south Alabama flavor.

Note: Ground bay leaves are much more flavorful than using whole, but be careful and use wisely. You cannot take away the flavor but you can always add to it. As with this recipe, I think using 1/4 teaspoon for 2 medium bay leaves did just right.
Also, add a chili powder blend or Chipotle chili powder for a deeper flavor if desired.

February 1, 2013

Gumbolaya - the best of Gumbo and Jambalaya

A New Orleans and Mobile Flavor.

A rich, full-bodied gumbo is the essence in many southern kitchens across the south but most folks think of New Orleans when the name of gumbo comes up. And that's okay. There is nothing wrong with New Orleans. Now when folks mention Jambalaya, many too think of the Crescent City. But as I have written previously, the name hails from Mobile, not New Orleans.

According to an essay by Andrew Sigal, the first mention of Jambalaya in English print appears to be from Mobile AL. Submitted from Mobile to the American Agriculturalist journal in May 1849 is a mention of ‘Hopping Johnny’ with Jambalaya in parentheses. Later in 1878, the Ladies of the St. Francis Street Methodist Episcopal Church in Mobile published ‘The Gulf City Cook Book’, which features a recipe titled ‘Jam Bolaya’. The recipe contains oysters and chicken giblets along with the familiar tomatoes and rice.

This recipe melds the deep flavors of a Cajun style chicken and sausage gumbo with the savory essence of a Creole chicken and pork jambalaya. Combining the two is a passage into a whole 'nother territory and folks, it is a good place to be.  Enjoy!

Cajun Gumbo marries Creole Jambalaya
about 10 servings

1 pound hot smoked or Cajun sausage, 1/4-inch sliced
1 tablespoon bacon grease or cooking oil
3 to 4 boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 pound center-cut pork chops, cubed
2 large onions, chopped
1 large green bell pepper
1 small red bell pepper
1 cup diced celery
4 garlic toes, minced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
6 cups chicken stock
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons Creole seasoning
2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon Worcestershire
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1 -10 oz frozen cut okra
1 -14.5 oz can diced tomatoes with liquid
1 cup uncooked long grain rice
1 cup chopped green onions

In a large stockpot over medium high heat, add the sausage and oil. Cook until sausage is light brown. Add the pork and cook until brown on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate. Add the chicken (half at a time) sautéing until each side is nice and brown, about 4 minutes each side. Remove chicken to a plate and keep meats in a warm place.

browned meats for Gumbolaya
Add the vegetables and sauté to brown, about 15 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook stirring until light brown roux forms, about 5 minutes. Add the stock, seasonings, okra, tomatoes and cooked meats. Allow to come to a boil and reduce heat to low. Cook covered about 20 minutes.

Add the rice and when the Gumbolaya begins to maintains a simmer, cook uncovered about 30 minutes or until the rice is tender.

Serve in bowls with a topping of green onions. We like hot crusty Fresh bread but cornbread muffins are equally good.