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.

January 29, 2014

Tender Asparagus with Mushroom Cream

For special occasions or for someone special.

Sometimes you want to impress and that impression can even be a side-dish of remarkable depth of flavor. Sometimes in order to make that impression, you go through a whole lot of work spending hours to reach that mark of excellence. This is not that recipe. Although it does require several steps, once you get going, it comes together rather quickly. Like all recipes with several steps involved, the key to making it easy is the staging. Get all of your prep work out of the way first, lay out all ingredients, utensils and vessels in an orderly fashion and set your mentally timer to the desired finished end time. When ready, get going, don't stop and in no time flat, you'll have a perfectly prepared dish expertly finished to perfection.

Crisp, tender asparagus drenched in a sophisticated thin cream sauce of mushrooms with a French Creole taste ... that is how I describe this recipe. Enjoy!

Asparagus with Mushroom Cream Sauce
serves about 6

1 pound thin asparagus
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

Mushroom Cream Sauce
1 pound mushrooms, trimmed and sliced thick
1/4 cup chopped sweet onion
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt-free Creole seasoning
1 tablespoon dry sherry
Chopped chives for garnish, optional

Wash the asparagus and snap away the tough ends at the natural breaking point. Discard root ends.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, remove from heat. Add the asparagus and allow to set until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water and pat dry.

Heat 1 tablespoon butter and the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter melts, add the mushrooms and onions increasing heat to high and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have given up any liquid, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, salt and pepper to taste and stir cooking about 2 minutes. Stir in the wine and simmer until liquid just about evaporates. Stir in stock and reduce liquid to half volume, about 4 minutes. Add the cream and at simmer, reduce heat to medium stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Stir in sherry and keep warm.

Melt the butter in a large skillet and toss the asparagus into the butter until heated through, about 2 minutes. Transfer the asparagus to serving bowl and ladle the mushroom sauce over the top. Garnish with chives if desired.

January 25, 2014

Country Split Pea - Bean Soup with Ham and Smoked Sausage

Cold Weather Soup

Nothing beats a piping hot bowl of thick, make-me-feel-good soup when the weather has been horrid as it has lately. It makes the kindest folks sort of ornery, and that ain't a good thing.

This is one of those feel-good foods, the kind you wish your Mamma would've made ya when you were growing up instead of that easy canned stuff. If she did make something this good, then she was something special.

The thing I like about this soup is that it comes out really developed in the slow cooker and can be ready for the table when you get home from work, and inside from the bad weather. Weather like yesterday when it was raining ice here in Mobile. I believe it's called sleet but I cussed and called it something else. Now all ya got to do to enjoy this comforting bowl of goodness is, well, just cut-up everything the night before, soak the navy beans and next day, throw it all in the slow cooker. The worse part is waiting all day to get home for your supper. Enjoy!

Country Split Pea - Bean Soup
about 10 servings

1 cup dried navy beans (about 2 1/2 cups soaked)
1 pound dried split peas (I used yellow)
2 1/2 quarts water (10 cups)
1 1/2 cups diced smoked ham
1 pound smoked sausage, small cubed
4 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules (or 4 cubes)
1 onion, diced
1 1/2 cups diced carrot
1 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 bay leaves

In a large quart slow cooker, add all ingredients. Cover, and cook on LOW for 8 hours.

Remove bay leaves before serving.

Serve with hot crusty homemade bread or cornbread muffins.

Note: Soak navy beans in about 3 1/2 cups of salted water overnight at room temperature. I suppose you can cook this on High for about 4 hours, check and cook some more in needed.

January 22, 2014

Crispy Seasoned Oven-Fried Chicken

When Fried is Better for You.

Why is it that we 'adore' oven-fried thingies? Healthier? Most likely; depended on your ingredients and lets face it, anything not fried in deep oil is gonna be better for you. Creates less of a mess? Maybe a tad and I guess that comes down to how you go about preparing your thingies. I suppose we are talking about a batter coating thingy and our choice could be between disposable baggies or bowls that will need cleaning. And of course, there is no oil spatter all over the stove-top to deal with. Do you think oven fried thingies are tastier? Contains more moisture? What about the crunch factor?

I don't know about you but I think oven fried is all of that but the real kicker for me is the simple fact that it is so darn easy. Now who doesn't need a little of easy in our lives, right?
This recipe is actually from an old one I make many times using a flour and buttermilk batter and it is one of my favorite ways to oven fry. This time I used Panko to give it an update and to make the crust extra crispy and I replaced a little butter with olive oil to make it a little better for us. Enjoy!

Oven Fried Chicken with Crispy Seasoning Coating
Cut the chicken breast into strips for great appetizers.
4 servings

4 boneless skinless chicken breast or 8 thighs
salt and pepper
1 1/2 cup plain Panko
2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon grantulated garlic
3/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 1/4 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons EV olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Wash and pat dry chicken. If using breast, cut each piece horizontally in half. Remove as much fat as possible on thighs. Lightly salt and pepper each side.

Combine Panko, parsley, garlic, poultry and Cajun seasonings with the salt in a wide bowl. Combine butter and olive oil in another. Dip each piece of chicken in the butter mixture followed with a good roll in Panko mixture coating all sides evenly. Place on a rimmed baking pan a few inches apart.

Bake in oven for 35-45 minutes or when tested done. Turn oven to broil the last 2 minutes to brown the top if desired.

Note: For a Cajun twist, add a tablespoon of hot pepper sauce to the butter mixture.

January 18, 2014

Slow Cooker Roasted Pork Loin with Mushroom Marsala Sauce

Perfectly cooked, mouth-watering taste.

I am all about comeback foods which to me, are recipes that are good enough to resurface every few years. Of the many, the slow cooking method is making a comeback as well for its ease, convenience and helpfulness to folks who have busy, daily lives. Folks like me. Nothing is better than coming from work, opening the door and being overwhelmed with a home-cooked aroma awarded from an all-day slow-cooked pot of delectableness. And gosh darn it, foods just taste better slow cooked. Here’s a meal that I didn’t have to spend the afternoon preparing and it tastes better than if I did. Now ain’t that something? Plus, slow cookers save energy and normally involves less clean-up. Now that is something.

While many recipes using Marsala will tell you to reduce it down to almost a syrup before incorporating into the broth, this is not necessary when cooking for a long period. Granted, the liquid is not going anywhere in the slow cooker, in fact, this recipe produces an abundance of liquid and a very thin, gravy.

There is a reason this is called a comeback recipe: It's 'cause you will. Enjoy!

Pork Roast with Mushroom Marsala Sauce
8 servings

1 -5 to 6 pound boneless pork loin roast
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 teaspoon cracked (coarse) black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried minced onion
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed thyme
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
16 oz button mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and sliced
1 leek, white and light green part
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/2 cups chicken broth, divided
1 cup Marsala (dry)
1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, optional

Slice the leek lengthwise down the center cutting only half through. Spread apart and rinse under running water to remove any grit. Pat completely dry. Thinly slice and add to a bowl with the mushrooms.

Rinse pork loin under running water and pat dry. Trim roast of fat layer and silver-skin. No need of the fat for the slow cooker and the silver-skin will cause it to draw up. Combine sea salt, cracked pepper, garlic, onion, oregano, thyme and flour together and rub over all sides of the roast. Spray the bottom and sides of slow cooker with cooking oil. Place seasoned roast in the cooker, insert an in-oven thermometer for best results.

Toss the mushrooms and leeks with any remaining dry rub mixture. Scatter this over the top and sides of the roast. Pour the chicken broth and Marsala over the mushrooms followed with the butter.

Cook on LOW for about 5 hours or when internal temperature reaches 145 degrees F. Turn cooker to warm setting and allow temperature to rise to 160. Remove roast to platter and let rest for about 5 minutes.

Slice roast and serve with mushroom Marsala sauce. Sprinkle with parsley if desired.

Note: Sauce is very thin so it you like a thicker sauce, which we do, pour sauce into a saucepan and add about 2 tablespoons of Beurre Manié (blended equal amounts of butter and flour), stir over medium heat until thickened.

January 12, 2014

Camp Stew for Today's Southern Cook

The brewing of Camp and Brunswick Stews.

This is a stew similar to the Brunswick one, you know, the one from the cities and counties of the same name and the riff that caused many hard feelings between Georgia and Virginia. Feuding between the two has been going on since the 1800's and I don't reckon it's gonna end anytime soon. Each one of 'em claims to have the best. Why, there's contests and cook-offs to prove the winner each year. And after a recent victory in Virgina, a winner declared "I guess it's only right for Georgia to come up here and aspire to claim Brunswick Stew as theirs," and with a sly pause adds, "one day when they learn how to cook it, we will think about it." Georgia replies with "Yeah, well, something went terribly wrong. I should have known better than to trust y'all with the water." And thus the feuding starts all over again.

Now North Carolina tried to get in on the ruckus but I don't recall much of anything coming from it, at least, I don't think anyone got hurt. Not much anyway. I guess Camp Stew is the term made everywhere-else other than that from the fighting states. Camp stew is to us, well, our Brunswick Stew. Camp stew began similar, much like the first Brunswick did back in 1828 when "Uncle Jimmy", the cook for Dr. Creed Haskins prepared a meal for his hunting party near Nottoway River in Virginia. Brewed over an open fire in a large cauldron over the course of many long hours, the stew consisted of mainly onion, a few spices and the catch of the day: Squirrel meat was the offering to the cook. Over time, the buckshot loaded squirrel was replaced with larger game which was a bit more friendlier to the teeth. Nowadays, out of convenience I suppose, we use meats from the market like chicken, pork, lamb, beef and maybe, if the cook is lucky, a little wild game for that woodsy taste. In other words, we throw whatever we can into the pot.

This Camp Stew is just that and created in the same spirit of our beloved gumbo. It is a pot of hearty goodness that is made with whatever is thrown into it. I like to use up left-over bits of grilled steak, scraps of smoked ham and of course, lots of chunks of dark chicken meat for added flavor. You can use part of a pork loin and finely chopped cooked smoked bacon which will taste good too. The vegetables can vary but in the spirit of truism, try to keep potato, corn and lima beans in the mixture. Enjoy!

My New Camp Stew
6 to 8 servings

8 to 10 chicken thighs
1 medium onion, quartered
3 smashed garlic pods
2 quarts water
1 cup diced smoked ham
1/2 cup finely chopped grilled steak
1 large onion, chopped
1/4 cup chopped bell pepper
1 celery stalk, sliced thin
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1 -16 oz diced tomatoes with liquid
1/2 cup whole corn kernels
1 cup baby lima beans
1 cup fresh green beans cut into bite-size pieces
1 medium potato, small cubed
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon Lea and Perrins Steak Sauce
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (I used Trappey's brand)
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

In a large stockpot, add chicken, onion, garlic, water and a little salt. Heat over medium high heat and at simmer, reduce heat to medium low. Cook until chicken is tender and easy to pull apart, about 1 hour. Remove chicken and allow to cool. Strain stock reserving the liquid and discard the solids. Tear chicken into large or bite-size pieces.

Return stock to the pot adding enough water or chicken broth to make 2 quarts. Heat over medium high heat and add ham and steak (or whatever meats you are using) and bring to a low simmer. Reduce heat to low and cook for about 15 minutes.

Add onion, bell pepper, celery, sherry and increase heat to medium. Stir in remaining ingredients (except chicken) and allow to come back to simmer. Reduce heat to low and cook about 30 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender. Stir in chicken and allow to heat thoroughly.

Serve hot with saltine crackers for a really classic way to enjoy this dish or with hot buttered cornbread.

January 5, 2014

Creamed Fresh Baby Spinach

Easy and tasty, all-year 'round...

We use baby spinach in many dishes from salads, soups, pasta and risotto dishes, stuffed meats and even omelets and eggs. This young version of spinach is of the immature stage of the mature sturdier textured spinach used in recipes requiring longer cooking times. I think it is important to under-cook baby spinach or add it last in most hot dishes as the texture is lost and somewhat undesirable.

This is why I think baby spinach is too delicate for use in typical creamed spinach recipes but if left with a bite to it, partially cooked and coddled in the cream sauce, this is my preferred way to use this year-round vegetable in such a way. Enjoy!

Creamed Spinach Using Tender Greens
4 to 6 servings

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
2 slices thick-cut smoked bacon, finely chopped
1 -11 oz cello-box baby spinach, stemmed and torn into bite-size pieces
1/2 sweet onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
7 oz whole milk
1/4 + 2 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Add 1 tablespoon butter to a 2-quart casserole.

In a medium 3-qt saucepan, cook bacon until light brown rendering fat. Remove bacon, put aside and discard all but 1 teaspoon of renderings. Add remaining butter, onion, garlic and sauté until onion is light brown around the edges. Add flour, stir and cook for a minute or two and stir in the milk. Stir in seasonings and simmer until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup of cheese.

Allow to cool slightly and add in bacon. Fold in spinach, one handful at a time tossing just enough to coat. And yes, all of the spinach will fit into the 3-qt saucepan after it wilts a bit from the warm sauce.

Heat casserole dish to melt butter and coat bottom. Spoon spinach mixture into casserole, top with additional 2 tablespoons of cheese and bake for 5 to 10 minutes or until warm. DO NOT OVERCOOK. Allow the spinach to retain a little texture.

Note: If cooked too long, the spinach will become stringy, the sauce runny and overall, the dish undesirable.

Baby Spinach in Cream Sauce sans bacon

January 2, 2014

Broccoli Cauliflower Soup with Roasted Leeks and Sweet Pepper

The Simple Joys of Complex Taste

Sometimes I want a meal that is 5-star quality, as if I were dining in a really fine restaurant. Sometimes it is nothing more than a simple soup. But most of times, I realized in order to achieve that standard, I must go the extra distance in developing depth of flavor, one that on the first and last bite, everyone at the dinning table will crave for more. It is a process of turning simple ingredients into a complex taste.

This is such a soup. Starting with a chicken and ham base, adding a layer of roasted leeks, sweet peppers and celery, the broccoli and cauliflower vegetables ride high on savor even coddled within the flavorful Béchamel or actually, a modified Mornay. My thought when preparing and writing down the ingredients as I assembled this, as I often do, was to make a bisque whereby the consistency would yield velvet smooth on the palate. But, just before the last step, I decided to leave the vegetables with somewhat a bite, with a coarse chop-like feel.


Broccoli Cauliflower Soup
with Roasted Leeks and Sweet Pepper
serves 4 to 6

1/2 cup finely diced smoked ham
2 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 large bay leaf
3 cups broccoli florets
3 cups cauliflower florets
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 thinly sliced leek, white part only
1 large sweet banana or mild pepper
1 celery stalk, sliced thin
3 tablespoons butter
2 garlic cloves, diced
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 cups milk
3/4 cup heavy creamy
1/4 cup medium dry sherry
1 tablespoon 'Better than Chicken' bouillon or granules
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup Emmental, Fontina or Extra Sharp cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a medium stock pot, add ham, chicken broth and bay leaf. Allow broth to simmer on low for about 20 minutes. Remove bay leaf and using a hand-held emulsifier (or place in blender), blend until ham is coarsely chopped. Add the broccoli and cauliflower, cover with lid and allow to simmer on low for about 10 minutes or until cauliflower is tender yet still firm. Reduce heat to lowest setting.

Meanwhile, place leek, pepper and celery in a bowl and toss with olive oil. Place on a large baking pan (I used non-stick foil) evenly spread out the leek mixture and roast for about 15 minutes. Check after the first 10 minutes and redistribute if needed. Roast until leeks are lightly brown on the edges. Remove and add to the broccoli cauliflower pot. Use a potato masher to break down the florets. Or, if a bisque is desired, blend with emulsifier until smooth.

In a large saucepan or saucier, melt butter over medium heat, add garlic and when fragrant, stir in flour. Cook to make a light roux. Slowly whisk in milk, adding half cup at at time until thicken. Whisk in cream, sherry, bouillon, pepper and salt. Stir until thicken, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cheese to blend.

Fold cheese sauce into the large stockpot and covered, increase heat to medium low. Cook about 5 minutes but do not let soup come to a boil.

Serve immediately with warm toasted bread and fold in a few strips of extra cheese for contrast as I did.