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.

April 30, 2014

Cooking Cabbage for Company

Fancy Fixin' Cabbage.

So, what's in a name? Cabbage is cabbage, but how you use your head makes a difference in a big way on presentation, appearance and taste. Sure, you can do many things with a head of cabbage like make slaw, sauerkraut, Kimchi or cook it in just about any fashion from smothered, stir-fried, roasted, braised, boiled or even stuff it to name a few.  We southerners like it somewhat stewed down in a pan of bacon, a little vinegar and a lot of black pepper. And when company comes a callin', we like to spiff it up a bit, like adding refined flavors that enhances our southerly tastes. This recipe is much like a cross between braised cabbage with bacon overtones and a warm, mildly seasoned slaw. Enjoy!

Company Cabbage

4 to 6 servings

2 slices thick cut smoked bacon, chopped
1/2 onion, halved and sliced thin
1/2 green bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1/2 green cabbage, quartered and sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon local honey
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1 1/2 teaspoons grained Dijon mustard with wine
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, optional

In a large skillet over medium heat, add bacon and cook until it begins to brown.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the sugar, honey, sherry, mustard, salt, pepper and cayenne together.

When bacon is brown and crisp, stir in the bell peppers, cabbage and garlic tossing gently with the bacon and renderings. Stir in the Dijon mixture and at boil, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer about 5 minutes or until cabbage is crisp tender.

Serve immediately or remove to serving bowl and keep warm.

April 26, 2014

Fresh Spinach Tips and Recipe for Escalloped Spinach

Cooking Spinach is So Easy, and So Good.

With fresh spinach available year-round, there are so many delightful recipes to try and new ways to serve spinach than ever. One of our favorite is a simple sauteed with a hint of onion, lemon and fresh basil. There is the ol' standby, not new at all, the creamed version that we adore but is so calorie laden (find the sauce recipe in my using baby spinach).  But spinach itself is really healthy, as long as you do not add too many fats and carbs to it.

A few interesting facts:

  • Cooking spinach actually increases its health benefits! Just half a cup of cooked spinach will give you thrice as much nutrition as one cup of raw spinach. That’s because the body cannot completely break down the nutrients in raw spinach for its use.
  • As an exception to the advice above, research studies show that taking spinach in juice form is actually the healthiest way to consume it. Blend spinach with other vegetables or fruits to create a delicious glass of juice,
  • Freezing spinach diminishes its health benefits. The way to get the best from the leaf is to buy it fresh and eat it the same day.
  • Everyone talks about the benefits of spinach in nourishing the eyes and building bones. What few know is that it also very good for digestion. Spinach eases constipation and protects the mucus lining of the stomach, so that you stay free of ulcers.  It also flushes out toxins from the colon.
  • Another lesser known benefit of spinach is its role in skin care. The bounty of vitamins and minerals in spinach can bring you quick relief from dry, itchy skin and lavish you with a radiant complexion. source

Selection and Storage:

Look for leaves that are crisp and dark green. Avoid leaves that are wilted, yellowed or bruised as well as those with thick central stems. Always sort and discard undesired leaves, even in prepackaged bags, as soon as you get home. Place unwashed leaves in a clean plastic bag (the veggie bags are worth the extra pennies) and store in vegetable bin up to 3 days.

Preparation and Cooking:

Wash away the sandy soil that clings to the leaves by gently agitating in a large basin of water. I use my sink allowing the leaves to float to the top. Remove the leaves to a large colander and repeat the rinse 2 times  or until no more trace of grit appears. Be sure to rinse the leaves from the packaged bags too to rid of any bacteria or storage solution. I always add a little white vinegar to the water and allow the leaves to set for about 5 minutes before draining. There is no aftertaste of vinegar.
Cooking spinach is so easy. A quick steam or saute is all that is needed to cook fresh spinach. You want to cook it until it is just limp, about 3 to 5 minutes depending on the quantity and tossing it about in the pan if sauteing. Flavor enhancers for fresh spinach, especially larger leaves that can sometimes become slightly bitter, are fresh basil, chives, oregano, parsley, rosemary, thyme and using freshly grind peppercorns, minced garlic, grated or diced onions along with a squeeze of lemon are the most common.

Escalloped Spinach

the spinach is coddled in a delectable "makes-as-it-cooks" sauce 
about 6 servings

2 bunches of fresh spinach leaves, washed and stemmed
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, divided
1/4 cup rich chicken stock
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons grated onion
1/4 cup breadcrumbs or panko

Heat 1 tablespoon butter and chicken stock in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add spinach and cook about 4 minutes or until spinach is just limp. Remove and drain. Squeeze out moisture.

Add spinach to a shallow casserole or pie plate. Sprinkle the garlic and onion on top and pour the cream over the spinach. Place in preheated 350 degree F. oven and cook for 15 minutes or until bubbly around the edges. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top and place bits of the remaining butter scattered over the breadcrumbs. Cook another 15 minutes or until top is brown and most of the cream has cooked down in the spinach.

April 22, 2014

Country Style Potato Casserole

With cheese, bacon and onions - what's not to like?

Country cooking is to many southerners a desire to relish the home-style taste of our generation before us. It is a unique cuisine that many of us take for granted yet there are more and more cooks today wanting to learn the 'secrets' of why this food style is becoming ever so popular. Well, for those of us born in the south, we know that reasoning is simple; it is because it taste so good. Country style cooking is more than using bacon with everything you cook. Heck, sometimes you can use sausage, ham hocks, smoked turkey necks or wings ... seriously, most foods cooked in this style does have some kind of smoked flavored essence wrapping under the natural vegetables you are cooking.

A favorite for holidays, cookouts, a make-ahead-dish for a lazy day breakfast and perfect for brunch, this is one casserole that has everything, including great taste appeal, going for it. Yup, it is indeed a great side dish to have on hand for just about any occasion. Put in in your recipe box if not in your oven today - you'll be glad you did. Enjoy!

Hash Brown Casserole, Country Style

6 to 8 servings

5 slices of thick hickory smoked bacon
1 large sweet onion, chopped
3 garlic toes (cloves), mince
1 -32 ounce southern style hash brown potatoes (potatoes are cubed), thawed
1/2 cup (light) sour cream
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/3 cup diced red pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground thyme
1 -10.75 oz condensed cream of mushroom soup (low sodium and reduced fat)
1 1/2 cups Kraft Triple Cheddar shredded cheese, divided

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook bacon until crisp; remove to drain and set aside. Discard all but 1 teaspoon of drippings from pan. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and thawed potatoes. Cover and cook about 15 minutes stirring twice. Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, stir together the sour cream, green onions, bell pepper, salt, pepper, thyme, undiluted mushroom soup and fold in half of the cheese.

Gently add the potato mixture to combine. Place into a lightly greased 2-quart casserole. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top.

Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight or at least 8 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Allow casserole to set out for 20 minutes before baking. Place in oven with foil cover for 30 minutes. Remove foil and cook another 30 minutes or until potatoes are bubbly around the edges and the topping is brown.

April 12, 2014

Old-Fashion Barbecue Chicken Grilled Outdoors

Whiffs of Summer

Long days filled with bright sunshine can only mean one thing: Spring is here and the official barbecue season of summer has begun. All across the south, early evening strolls will encounter waffling aromas of grilling and with every house passed, every corner turned, you are bound to sense that barbecuing is happening. If you are not doing it, your neighbor or several on your block are getting into our favorite pastime, one that we enjoy spring and summer, heck, fall and winter too.
Cooking outdoors is a way of life in the south be it on a gas or charcoal grill, over a fire-pit or spit-fire, smoker or fryer. We just love doing it, eating it and enjoy being around it. It is like a culture to us, of sorts. 
There are more recipes for our outdoor cooked foods than you can shake a stick at but I just know you need a few more. Good barbecue chicken is hard to beat and in my opinion, nobody does it better than those before me. So, here are some recipes and cooking methods based on grilling chicken from long ago. ENJOY!

Old-Fashion Grilled Barbecue Chicken

4 to 8 servings

4 large chicken breasts with skin, rib plates removed (or whole, cut-up)
Chicken Marinade
Chicken Basting Sauce
Old-School Barbecue Sauce

Always wash the chicken and pat dry before using, at least that is what I was told. Remove excess fat but make sure to keep as much skin on the breast side as possible. Now I like to cut the breasts in half to help get the marinade working deep into the fibers of these large breasts but that is a personal choice. It also speeds up cooking time.

Mix the Chicken Marinade in a large zip-lock bag and add chicken. Seal removing as much air as possible and refrigerate 2 to 4 hours turning breasts over after halfway point.

pump in moisture and flavor with the marinade

Make the Chicken Basting Sauce and place in a shakable or squeeze bottle (a used soy sauce or Worcestershire bottle works great). Make and simmer the Old-School Barbecue Sauce and keep warm. And then, get to grilling.

To grill:
Heat grill or have coals at medium to medium-high heat. As told, it is best to cook at a lower temperature especially when using an oil base marinade with skin-on chicken. Place chicken first bone side down on grates and cook for 50 to 60 minutes basting with the Chicken Marinade for the first 30 minutes. Turn chicken every 10 to 15 minutes to keep from burning and move to cooler area of grill if flareups are frequent. Use the Chicken Basting Sauce the latter part of the cooking time to keep the chicken moist and to reduce flareups. Remove from grill to a warm plate when internal temperature reaches 170 degrees F.

moist, succulent and flavorful thanks to the marinade and basting sauce

Serve with the Old School Barbecue Sauce

Chicken Marinade:

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup aged white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic

Chicken Basting Sauce:

1/3 cup water
2 teaspoons aged white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt

Old School Barbecue Sauce:

1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons minced celery
1/2 cup minced sweet onion
1 cup ketchup
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons Worcestershire
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne

Serve With:
Mushroom Brown Rice
Tomato Gratin
Country Corn Casserole
Fresh Green Beans and New Potatoes

April 9, 2014

Southern Steak - a.k.a Country Fried, Chicken Fried, Blue-Plate Special...

Somewhere under this mouth-watering gravy is Fried Cubed Steaks

A Classic Recipe with Many Names.

Diners all across the south feature 'specials of the day' menus and almost all will have a smothered entree on it at any given time. The specials are given in many different ways from chalkboard easels out front, on scribbled paper hand-outs and most often, announced from your friendly grinning waitress. Of course, more than likely, you are not going to find outrageously gourmet prepared food and truthfully told, that is not the reason for our interest or visit to a diner in the first place. What we will find is a well prepared, honest-to-goodness, home-style meal that reminds us of a comforting setting, sitting at at table somewhere along the likes of Aunt Bea, June Cleaver, Donna Stone or maybe Olivia Walton. Yes, I go back that far...

And like all of these good eating establishments across our country, families in every state enjoy the same frugal way of Diner cookery: Preparing good, homey cooking using economical choices of ingredients. And, any way you cook it, Southern Fried Steak is just that, a less tender piece of beef that is cooked using a moist heat method. In this case, the meat is southerly battered, quickly pan fried and then allowed to tenderized itself by swimming and soaking in a revitalizing bath of seasoned gravy. Now I doubt Aunt Bea or any of the TV moms used packaged gravy, but my Momma did from time to time and in this recipe, it only adds to the savory tastiness.

Most often, round steak is used in this type of recipe. Be sure to keep in mind that the three cuts from a full round have different characteristics. Top round is the tenderest and it is often broiled or pan fried without any need of prior tenderizing. The eye of round needs to be pounded and the bottom round does best cubed. In the recipe today, I choose cubed steak, mostly because it was on sale, but also because I think it provides the best 'adhere' surface for the crusty coating that tenderly melds into a thickened gravy-laden covering for the beef steak. Enjoy!

Southern Fried Steak with Creamy Gravy

also known as Country Fried Steak, Chicken Fried Steak, Smothered Cubed Steak, etc.
4 servings

4 pieces cube steak (or round steak tenderized with meat mallet), about 1 1/2 pounds
1 tablespoon Creole Seasoning or Cajun
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup Crisco or vegetable oil
1 cup milk
1 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon Badia Complete Seasoning (Sazon Completa)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 -.87 oz McCormick Brown Gravy, 30% less sodium
2 tablespoons minced sweet onion, optional

Place flour in a wide shallow bowl. Place buttermilk in another wide shallow bowl; both are for preparing the meat with the flour coating.

Season one side of each steak with a light sprinkle of Konriko Creole Seasoning and lightly dust with flour. Sprinkle other side of steak with salt and with a light dusting of flour. Dip each steak into the buttermilk quickly coating each side and dredge in the flour patting flour into the crevices of the meat. Place steak on a wire rack while to rest while continuing with remaining steaks.

In a large skillet (I cooked 2 at a time), heat oil over medium high and brown steaks on both sides. Remove to plate draining on paper towels.

Remove all but about 3 tablespoons of pan drippings.

Add flour from the dredging bowl (about 1/3 cup) and whisk to a smooth consistency. Cook over medium heat for a couple of minutes and slowly whisk in the milk and half of the chicken broth. Mix the McCormick gravy mix with remaining broth and whisk this into the skillet. Add seasonings, more if needed to suit your taste, and stir until gravy is creamy and thickened. Add more broth if needed for a fairly medium bodied sauce. Stir in sweet onions if desired.

Add steaks to the pan, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for about 20 minutes.

Serve over hot rice or mashed potatoes.

Note: Some folks like to serve the steaks 'as is' right from the frying pan (a truer Chicken Fried Steak way) and add the gravy at serving time. That's okay with me, but just don't call it smothered.