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 26, 2014

a look at Mardi Gras Parade Floats

'The Joker' from the Mobile's Mystic Stripers 2007 parade

Mardi Gras 2014: All about Floats

Mardi Gras floats are like roaming theaters or better known as 'rolling tableaus.' Each parade tells a story centered around the theme chosen by that parading society. These works of art also provide a platform from where the crewe members toss their 'throws' to the spectators along the route. And the throws are tossed by the tens of thousands during every parade. Beads, toys, stuffed animals, doubloons, cups, even packaged snacks are but a few of the many items thrown to the denizens of revelers. Regardless of the Mardi Gras locale, floats are without a doubt the most visible marker of parades as these very complex creations 'float' down the parade route.

A Brief History of Mardi Gras Floats

Around the mid-1800's, horse drawn carts and wagons became the norm of floats but before that, the carts were pulled by people. These early floats were accompanied with flambeaux carriers, often by young slaves and free men of color, and the torches lit the way for the floats and bands parading along the streets. Today, there are only a few organizations that use these torch carriers along the parade routes from Mobile to New Orleans.
Flambeaux carriers in a New Orleans parade    
With progression of time and development of the auto, tractors and trucks replaced the horses. The bigger the float and cargo, the bigger the truck, in some cases a semi tractor-trailer is opted for the more sizable crewes. Each year, thousands of dollars and hundreds of man-hours go in to produce the floats needed to carry the members along the parade route.

Exactly What's on a Float?

Floats are built strong and yet made with the lightest materials possible. The cargo of each float is measured in tons not pounds. Each float may accommodate a dozen or more, some into the twenties, Mardi Gras crewe members and of course, along with their food and drink are very sizable amounts of 'throws' stored in bags. Many floats have hired help to feed the bags to them as their supply runs out, and it can run out in a hurry. Imagine a pillow case filled with trinkets. Now image shoveling this out to the masses of parade goers lining the streets. Most members say a bag will not last more than a five or ten minutes. Most parades are several hours long. And of course, being contained in an area, partying and drinking means a bathroom has to be on board too. Some of the larger floats have a den of sorts with a bartender inside the middle enclosed area. Floats are built to accommodate its members, haul an unbelievable amount of weight and made to withstand a good amount of abuse by its often rowdy members.

How a Float is Constructed

Floats are redesigned every year according to the theme with feature parts removed and replaced but the basic shape may remain the same. Many are of the classic style, that is, with a bottom row of members standing in front of a thematic wall of art and with a skirting of pillowing designs finishing out the bottom of the float.
'Archie' double decker float, Order of Polka Dots 2012 parade

Most all are two-tier structures, some three and a few having multilevel or platforms for the members to stand. Most all have a featured design work at the front and many have one also at its rear. There are a few floats called emblems, title and officers’ floats, that do not get a makeover, maybe touch-ups, as these remain the same year-end year-out.
Float designer Craig Stephens, owner of Carnival Artists
Longtime Mobile Mardi Gras float builder Craig Stephens employs eight or nine artists through his company Carnival Artists and will increase his labor force to about 14 before the season is over. His company will overhaul 70 floats and will refurbish over 10 of the permanent emblems this year. Every refurbished float is meticulously crafted to the drawing approve by the group's committee and set to the theme chosen for this year. One of Stephens' most creative tasks this year is for the Mobile Mystics Association where he drafted the concept for their theme "Mobile Mystics Do Hollywood". Stephens graduated from the University of South Alabama in the mid-1980s with an art degree and he mentioned in an interview with, “There aren’t many jobs you can do as an artist where you have as much freedom, we’re building floats in a Mobile tradition. The ones we build here are different from (the ones) in New Orleans. They’re (Mobile's) sculptural and they’re traditional paper mâché” he said. He is in his 27th year designing the huge structures for Mardi Gras.
Artist Robert Blanco refills paint in front of a 'Davy Jones' float

The Nitty Gritty of Mobile's Floats

Another float builder in Mobile, Ari Kahn, says the floats in Mobile parades tend to be larger than those used in New Orleans, and change radically each year according to the theme of the parade. This means a constant flow of large papier mâché sculptures to attach to the float. He and most artisans start with a simple wooden or PVC pipe armature. To this, torn strips of corrugated cardboard saturated with a latex water-based contact adhesive is applied to build up the shape of the sculpture. One nice thing about this adhesive is that it's waterproof, he says. After drying and after the general shape is achieved, the sculptors will smooth out the surface with torn sections of thin chipboard which is also coated on both sides with the waterproof contact adhesive. The process of applying these layers goes quickly as there is no drying time in the sculpture itself. The final process involves an application of dry cardboard and chipboard and after that, they're ready to go to the finishing stages.
'Sexy Escimo' from Northern Lights float

Torn white or brown butcher paper is applied with wallpaper paste in layers to smooth out the surfaces and to give a finalized surface for painting. (See 'Sexy Escimo' photo) The paint most used is an ordinary exterior grade latex, one that is custom tinted with powdered pigments. A few of the societies Kahn has worked for are the Infant Mystics, the Mystic Stripers, the Knights of Revelry, the Order of the Polka Dots, the Order of LaShe’s.

Where a Float Goes to Rest

Floats are pulled from their dens or barns for one day each year, well most are as some are rented to other organizations after their initial debut.  After the riders exist the floats, the huge 'stages' are escorted back to their respected warehouses known as dens or barns depending on the society. A few of these barns are open throughout the year for the public but most are secretly closed and only opened toward the Mardi Gras season for a 'barn party' by its members to view and load the floats.

 One well known company which is opened year-long to the public (for a fee) is Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World right across the river from the French Quarter in New Orleans. It is is a massive warehouse and prop shop that houses tons of floats used in New Orleans’ annual Mardi Gras parades. Of the many warehouses, the public can view the creation/design studios as well as the storage/maintenance facilities.

Blaine's 'Prop Shop'

The dens and barns are where floats are stored through the off season, and then, months before Mardi Gras rolls around, they undergo an intensive process of refurbishment, and redesign. To some float companies, it is a year-long business. Each crewe will choose a new Mardi Gras theme for the coming year and the floats are then redesigned, painted, and upgraded to reflect that theme according to the specs of the designer's sketches. One of the most well known float designers is Brent Amacker of Mobile. Amacker is responsible for many memorial years of Mardi Gras.

Amacker's 'Archie' original design drawing, Built by Steve Mussell's MIRTHCO, Inc. the float sculpture (above) stays pretty true to the drawing!

Amacker's 'Northern Lights' featuring the 'Sexy Escimo' for Neptune's Daughters, 2009
The process of cleaning, painting, and refurbishing a float for Mardi Gras will take months, and costs thousands of dollars. Each society takes great pride in making sure their floats are in prime condition and fit for parading to their level of standards. It is up to the artisans to painstakingly sculpt the props and set pieces that fill a typical Mardi Gras float out of foam, paper, plywood, plastic, and other materials. Although the parade spectators will only see them for a brief few moments, these top design companies will take the extra time to paint a sparkle in the eye of a princess, the stern winkles of a weary warrior or execute the exact copy of a hero's tattoo.

Artist Robert Blanco of Mobile paints a "Lord of the Rings" themed float 'Gandalf'

Amacker's drawing for 'Sirens of the Sea'

Mystics of Pleasure's 'Sirens of the Sea' float on parade route in Orange Beach AL

Note: Mobile societies are many times referred to as crewes while in New Orleans, they are known as krewes.

Acknowledgements: Credits and special thanks to: Sharon Steinmann,, Edgar Mater, Brentoons Media, Thomas Scoggins, Rusty Blazenhoff, Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World, Jonni Good,

~  ~  ~

Need Recipes to get in the MARDI GRAS spirit?

Try a few of my favorites:

Mobile's Bayoubaisse (Seafood Stew) with a look at Parades and Barn Parties

Shrimp and Grits - two very different recipes

Gulf Coast Seafood Gumbo and a look at Mardi Gras street foods

Hearty Creole Grillades - Bayou cookery meets fancy Creole tastes

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo - Mardi Gras' #1 food

Sugar Cured Creole Ham - a double dose of southern glaze

Roast Beef for Debris Style Po-Boys - savory roast beef with delectable jus

Red Beans and Rice - the real deal with the favored New Orleans flavor

February 22, 2014

Drunken Pinto Beans with Chorizo

Mexican Pinto Beans Gone Wild.

While most recipes use a beer from whatever Mexican region desired, I thought of using something from the Jalisco area, that is, making a more authentic Frijoles Borrachos with the real flavor of Mexico - Tequila. I mean really, if you're gonna get the beans drunk, let's speed it up, right? But then, we all know the alcohol cooks out so what the point? Well, I'll tell ya partner: Flavor.

This may be the most flavorsome pot of beans I have cooked in a long time. 

Let me repeat: This is a really good recipe (if I may say so myself) and it comes from several attempts of perfecting it. I have made the below recipe as written several times now and I know I will not dabble with it again, and ya'll know I how just love to change things up. Well, not this one.  Enjoy!

Drunken Pinto Beans with Chorizo or Frijoles Borrachos con Chorizo
8 to 10 servings

3 tablespoons lard or crisco
1 pound pinto or pink beans
3 serrano chiles, 1 whole and 2 chopped
1/2 cup Mexican chorizo
1 medium white onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons Añejo Tequila
Salt and fresh cracked pepper
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves, optional

In a medium stockpot over medium high heat, add the beans and enough water to cover about 3-inches above the beans; bring to a simmer along with 1 tablespoon of lard and the whole serrano chile. Reduce heat to low and simmer covered for 1 hour. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and continue cooking another hour. Drain the beans and set aside.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of lard in a cazuela or medium stockpot over medium high heat, add the chorizo and cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until brown breaking it apart as it cooks. Add the onions, garlic, and chopped serrano peppers stirring well to combine. Cook about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, chicken stock, 1/3 cup tequila and stir to combine. Allow mixture to come to a boil and cook uncovered until reduced in half. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add beans, stir and reduce heat to low. Allow beans to come to a low simmer and continue cooking uncovered until most of liquid is evaporated, about 30 minutes. Add remaining 2 tablespoons tequila, stir and spoon into a serving bowl. Sprinkle cilantro on top if desired.
+Drick Perry +Drick's Rambling Cafe

February 20, 2014

Stuffed Chicken Divan

 Chicken Divan Make-Over.

I mentioned in an August 2012 post of our love for chicken divan, in fact, this is now my fourth recipe on the subject, each with a difference twist. But unlike the other three which are all casseroles and all truer to the original recipe from the by-gone Divan Parisien Restaurant in New York, this one is in my opinion, taking it to another level in that the broccoli and cheese is stuffed into the chicken breast and a creamy sauce embellishes its top. Doesn't that sound divan, I mean divine? Sorry, I couldn't resist.

This recipe's innovation comes from the Television Food Network; I cannot take the credit with the idea of stuffing a chicken breast, in fact, I am sure it goes back much further than the Scripps channel operation. What I liked about the FN recipe is the presentation; a much more elegant entree. The appearance is pleasing to look at rather than a mass of the better known casserole. What I did not like about their recipe is that the broccoli became lifeless, almost overcooked with out any texture which is fine if serving on cruise ships for senior citizens. And their sauce, although much healthier than mine, just did not have a walloping appeal needed to meld with the elegant prepared chicken. It just lacked the extra depth that only heavy whipping cream brings to a sauce and needed too were a few more elements of flavors.

This is my adaption of the recipe with changes in cooking technique and texture of stuffing along with a change up in flavor and depth in the sauce. Enjoy!

Stuffed Chicken Divan with a Sherry Dijon Sauce

4 servings
Cooking spray
2 cups (4 ounces) fresh broccoli florets, cut in half
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated white cheddar cheese
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons mild shallot, thinly sliced and then diced
4 (6 to 8-ounce) boneless skinless chicken breast halves
1 1/2 tablespoons extra light olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Divan Sauce:

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup dry sherry
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon creamy Dijon with wine mustard

Preheat the broiler. Mist a shallow rectangular baking dish with cooking spray. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Remove from heat, add the broccoli and submerge florets under the water for a couple of minutes until bright green and crisp tender. Drain well in colander and run under cold water until cold. Drain well again and lay on paper towels pressing out excessive water with more paper towels.

Coarse cut the broccoli and toss into a bowl with the cheese, garlic and shallot. Insert a paring knife into the thickest part of each chicken breast to make a 3-inch deep pocket. Stuff each chicken breast with equal amounts of the broccoli mixture. Mix 2 teaspoons olive oil and thyme together and rub both sides of the chicken breasts with the oil mixture. Season both sides with salt and pepper.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot, about 3 minutes. Add remaining olive oil and put the chicken in the pan and cook until golden brown and just cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. If the chicken begins to brown too quickly, turn the heat down to medium to finish cooking through. Transfer to the baking dish.

Meanwhile, combine the cream and stock in a small pot, season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stir the sherry and cornstarch together until smooth and pour, whisking constantly, into the sauce. Cook until just thickened, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the Parmesan. Top each chicken breast with 2 tablespoons of sauce.

 Place chicken in oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven.

Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes and then cut each breast in half on an angle. (I did not when I took these photos.) Transfer chicken to plates (whole chicken breast for each serving). Whisk the mustard into the remaining sauce and spread a heaping tablespoon onto each chicken piece.
+Drick Perry +Drick's Rambling Cafe

February 15, 2014

Saucy Beefy Burritos

Mexican Saturday made easy.

One of the more popular posts that folks like to read is the article I wrote a few years ago including several recipes for Mexican Sauces. It gets more hits week in, week-out. And it's no wonder: Everyone I know loves Mexican food and everyone likes a simpler recipe. Well, the Burrito Sauce recipe today is as simple as it gets but padre, it has a walloping good flavor. And it is so simple, did I mention that?

Many of you know we enjoy Mexican foods on Saturday, it's a specialty of the house. And if I'm not in the mood to cook, we dine out to get our fill.

Note: Photos show only four burritos or half recipe since it was only two this night.

for the Burrito Sauce:
1 1/2 cups tomato juice
1 package Mrs. Dash's Taco Seasoning
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup beef broth

for the Beef Burritos:
1 pound ground beef round, 85/15
1 medium onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, chopped
1 -15 oz refried beans
1 1/2 cups Mexican blend cheese, divided
8 -8 inch flour tortillas

pico de galo
avocado slices
sour cream

In a medium saucepan, mix tomato juice, Mrs. Dash Taco Seasoning, oil and salt. Heat over low heat until simmer. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a skillet over medium high heat, cook beef until browned stirring to crumble and drain away any grease. Add onion and jalapeno and allow both to sweat. Stir in refried beans and 1/2 cup of Burrito Sauce. Heat until mixture comes to a simmer and cook about 5 minutes stirring occasionally. Remove meat mixture from heat.

Meanwhile, heat tortillas in microwave between paper towels for a minute or two or until pliable. Stir the beef broth into the Burrito sauce.

Spray a 3-quart casserole with cooking spray and heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of cheese on each tortilla. Spoon about 3 mounded tablespoons of meat mixture in the center and enclose the burrito. To do so, fold the edge closest to you over the meat, fold the two ends toward the center and roll burrito over forming an envelope pattern on the underside. Place seam side down in the casserole. Continue making burritos leaving about an inch between each one.

Pour sauce over the burritos making sure to completely cover each one. Place in oven and cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until sauce begins to bubble.

Sprinkle remaining cheese over the burritos and heat about 5 minutes  or until cheese melts.

Serve and top with your choice garnishes.

February 12, 2014

Best Darn Southern Peas Ever....

...well, we think so.

Recipes for southern peas are a dime-a-dozen. Heck, I have posted several myself, hopefully you will agree that mine are worth at least a quarter. Now, good ones, I mean a really keeper will turn these hard legumes into tasty gems. And folks, that is in my humble opinion, is what this recipe is all about. Making that package of dried peas into a very delectable, mouth-watering, momma-slap-me-for-eating-too-much side-dish that you are proud to serve to family and friends. Yup, this one is that good.

In case you are wondering, here's another favorite recipe from June 2010 on cooking peas and with an explanation of the varying types.

Now the one below I think tops all, I mean, I think is is pretty good, as stated, the best darn one ever. Enjoy!

recipe for turning dried peas into something special 
makes about 6 cups

1 -16 oz package dried cream peas (any peas will do like field, crowders or black-eyed)
3 thick-cut slices hickory smoked bacon, diced
6 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon salt
2 garlic toes (cloves) minced
1/4 cup minced onion
1/4 cup chopped mixed bell pepper
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed dried thyme
1 teaspoon brown sugar

The day before, sort the beans to remove any inferior ones (as well as foreign objects) and rinse under running water well. Cover in a large stock pot with cold water allowing water to come at least 2 inches above beans. Let soak overnight.

Drain and rinse. In same stockpot (cleaned), heat over medium high heat and add bacon. Stir and cook until brown. Remove all but 2 tablespoon of grease leaving bacon in pot. Add broth and remaining ingredients including beans. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat ot low. Simmer for about 1 1/2 hours or until beans are nice and tender.

Note: I used cream peas (also known as Lady Peas) and cut cooking time to 50 minutes.

February 8, 2014

Kosher Dill Pickles –Refrigerator Method

Summer flavor in Winter.

Humans are strange creatures; take me for example. In late January I found myself with two days off from work, stuck at home during an unheard of ice barrage that fell upon our city. Some folks in Mobile took three days off and most schools closed four. Two to four inches of ice covered the entire city, our roadways were Teflon-like coated, making it impossible and dangerous to get about. No one did except the police and careless fools. The police and first responders were there to rescue those fools. As I glazed out the windows of our kitchen, the only color besides the stark white of frozen ground were the dark, limp green branches of our evergreen shrubs. Gone are the six year old planted plumbagos, the pintas and the firecracker bushes both being around for at least four years and planted for our well traveled hummers.  It was not a pretty site as I eagerly awaited the hourly arrivals of the several red birds that visit our songbird feeder; not only are they precious to watch but now, their color ever so welcomed.

During these two days, highs were in the low 30's and the lowest at night fell to 15 degrees F. Our average January temperature as history tells is a low of 40 degrees. Mobile is some 20 miles north of the warm Gulf of Mexico. As I found myself with so much time on my hands, I went about doing what I enjoy the most: Cooking and experimenting with recipes. Of course, I made the usually cold weather soups, a hot peppered flavored chili, enjoyed a full, all out breakfast (which is rare in our house) and even filled our southern appetite with country baked chicken, rice and gravy, speckled butter beans, fresh green beans, collard greens and warm, buttery cornmeal muffins. The only thing missing was a condiment of chow-chow for the butter beans but alas, I had pear relish my sister had 'put up' back in the summer.

Now, while most Mobilians went about doing, whatever it was that occupied their time, I went about doing something most folks do in the summer: Thinking about 'putting up' pickles. Yup. It just so happened during this cold blast, our local grocer stocked some beautiful, bright green cukes. And the rest, as they say, is history. Enjoy!

super crunchy Kosher Dill Pickles
makes about 5 pints of chips or about 7 pints of spears
I made 4 pints of spears and 2 pints of chips

1 quart (4 cups) distilled water
3 tablespoons Kosher salt (not table salt)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/3 cup white vinegar (5% acidity)
4 to 5 pounds pickling cucumbers (about 15)

into each pint:
2 heads or small bunches of fresh dill (or about 3/4 teaspoon dried dill seed)
1 teaspoon dried minced onion
heaping 1/4 teaspoon mustard seed
4 whole black peppercorns
2 to 4 garlic toes

Be sure to have your jars and lids clean and sterile. A run through the hot cycle of your dishwasher will do just fine or use soapy hot water. Allow to dry.

Wash and lightly scrub the outside of the cucumbers. I like to cut off about 1/2-inch from the stem end and at least 1-inch from the blossom end cutting the lenghts to fit jars. Leaving the blossom end on can cause pickles to become mushy.  If making spears, slice lengthwise into halves or quarters depending on your preference. If making chips, slice cukes into uniform, thick disks, almost 1/2-inch thick.

Add the dill, minced onion, mustard, peppercorns and garlic among the jars. Pack cucumbers into jars.

In a medium stockpot over medium high heat, add water, salt, sugar and vinegar. Bring to a rolling boil and stir with clean spoon until salt dissolves. Remove from heat.

Pour the hot brine mixture into the jars leaving 1/4-inch head-space. You will have some brine left over. Cover with lid or cheesecloth and place in refrigerator. Pickles are ready in a about a week, better after two and will keep for months, if they last that long.

Notes: For a southerly Delta style pickle, add a bay leaf and a few hot chiles or red peppers to each jar.

February 5, 2014

Rib Eye Pepper Steak with Mushroom Sauce

Refined Taste Made Easy.

Pâté de Foie Gras or vienna sausage tapenade? Brie or velveta? Truffle vodka or moonshine? Beluga caviar or Texas caviar? Chateaubriand or cubed steak? A bottle of Henri Jayer Vosne-Romanee or grape juice? Are you getting the gist?

If not, I will ask one more. A humble entree prepared fancier with rib eye steak or made humdrum with left-over scraps of meat from the butcher?

That's what I thought too. Why not make a simple dish worthy of fine compliments. That really wasn't a question... The sauce is similar to one used in Creole homes back in the days when entertaining meant many long hours of full course dining. I have modified it to my liking. Enjoy!

Rib Eye Pepper Steak with Divine Mushroom Sauce
4 to 6 servings

2 beef rib eye steaks (about 1 inch thick)
1 tablespoon black peppercorns, crushed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, divided

Divine Mushroom Sauce
16 ounces sliced cremini mushrooms caps (young or old)
1 large shallot thinly sliced, about 1/3 cup
1/2 cup julienne bell pepper
1/3 cup port wine or other sweet red wine
1 cup beef broth
1/2 cup tomato juice
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon no-salt Creole seasoning
3/4 teaspoon whole grain Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon butter, room temperature

Dry steaks with paper towel. Cut into 1x3-inch strips. Season with crushed peppercorns and salt; set aside.

Rinse mushrooms under running water to remove any residue. Place in bowl.
In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 teaspoon butter until sizzling. Add mushrooms and cover cooking for about 5 minutes or until mushrooms release liquid and start to become tender. Stir occasionally. Remove cover and cook about 5 minutes or until mushrooms are tender and golden on both sides.

Transfer mushrooms to a bowl; put aside. Add remaining butter to the skillet over medium-high heat. Add the steak pieces (in two rotations if needed) and sear on all sides, creating a brown crust but not cooking more than 5 minutes total for each pan. Remove and tent with foil to keep warm.

Add shallot to the skillet and cook up to 1 minute or until starting to brown, all while stirring. Add bell pepper and stir until softened. Stir in wine and scrape bottom of pan to loosen up brown bits. Cook until wine reduces in half, about 4 minutes. Stir in broth, tomato juice, Worcestershire, rosemary, and bring to a simmer. Cook until reduced by half, about 8 minutes longer. Combine the 1 teaspoon flour and butter together to form a paste and whisk into the sauce until thicken over medium heat.

Remove from heat and whisk in Dijon. Add steak and toss in the mushrooms to combine all together. Warm if necessary but do not overcook steak.

Serve immediately over rice.

Note: If desired, cut the steak into bite size pieces but be careful not to overcook. The steak should have a slight pink center when served. 

February 1, 2014

Cheesy Chicken Tortilla Soup

Another fine bowl to rid the cold humdrum.

This recipe is one I made earlier this week when Mobile shut down from the ice storm which past through. Oh yeah, I know many of you deal with it everyday, for months on end. We do not. We live in a sub-tropical area. Or that is what is was prior to our arctic blast. Many counties shut the roads down to all non-emergency traffic, an unheard of thing. It crippled our area because we have no experience in dealing with ice. I mean, we deal with hurricanes all the time and before and after one hits, we are able to deal with it, at least maneuver around our city. But not when the streets are covered in a thick layer of ice. This is more crippling that a hurricane. We are not equipped to handle ice.

So here is something I whipped up to warm our senses and make us feel a little better. This is one of those 'feel better foods' that everyone enjoys when we're, in our case, literally under the weather. This recipe is altogether different and faster to make than another recipe I posted back in 2011. Enjoy!

Easy Chicken Tortilla Soup with Cheese
about 4 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 boneless chicken thighs
1/4 cup diced bell pepper
1/2 cup diced onion
1 -1 oz package No Salt Taco seasoning (Mrs. Dash)
1/4 cup mild salsa
3 cups beef broth
1/2 cup corn kernels
1 -14.5 oz dice tomatoes, with liquid
1 -15 oz red or pinto beans, rinsed and drained
4 -8 inch flour tortillas
1 1/3 cups shredded Mexican melting cheese blend

Remove any visible fat from chicken and cut into smaller-than-bite size pieces. Sprinkle with a little salt.

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. When hot, add chicken. Allow to lightly brown before stirring. Add bell pepper and onion, cooking until both are tender. Stir in Taco seasoning. Add salsa, broth, tomatoes with juice and beans. Stir and add salt to desired taste. (I added about 1/2 teaspoon) Allow soup to come to a simmer and reduce heat to low. Cook for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut tortillas into thin, strips and toast in a 325 degree F. oven for about 5 minutes or until light brown. Remove and when cool, break into 1 to 2-inch lenghts.

When ready to serve, ladle soup into bowls and top each with 1/3 cup of the melting cheese. I like to serve the tortilla strips on the side and add a few at a time.

Note: Use good quality bouillon cubes or granules to make an easy, instant base.