Sweet potato casserole
November 15, 2014, 4:59 pm
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Recently I purchased a buttload (that’s a Southernism for “a whole lot”) of sweet potatoes with the intention of experimentational (that’s a word, really.) purposes. Not to make Frankentater or that sort of experiment, but to determine which method of preserving is preferred by the household. Half of them I sliced thin and dehydrated, upon the advice of some internet health-guru vegan who promised earnestly that they were just as good as a Lays potato chip and far healthier and our children would thank us gratefully for caring so much about their well being. They are not as good as a Lays, and my children gave me the hairy eyeball and drove to the store for Doritos. So, dehydrated sweet potato chips were vacuum packed and stored for later use by rehydrating and mashing into casseroles, which is why God made sweet potatoes in the first place.

The second half of them were canned. 4 quarts were prepared. The first was water packed, the second with light (10% sugar) syrup, the third with a 20% sugar pack, and the fourth with light syrup and whole spices (3 allspice berries, 2 slices of fresh ginger, 1 cinnamon stick).  They seemed ok after coming out of the canner, but after a day, the liquids were cloudy and that wasn’t what I was aiming for. Himself (who knows many things) opined that there were interstitial spaces involved and assorted chemistry and physics stuff involving heat and some other stuff. I replied with “cooperative extention service directions” and “but but”. I was not uncertain about the quality of the canning, as everything was bubbling even after it was cooled off, which means a good solid vacuum was in there, they just weren’t clear jewel toned jars like I envisioned.

So, instead of putting those ugly things on the shelf, I went ahead and made sweet potato casseroles, one for Thanksgiving and 2 for later on.  I started with a good basic Southern standard recipe, and tweaked it, because in this house, recipes are suggestions, not instructions. Oh, and when I tasted the spiced sweet potatoes….DELICIOUS. When I do succeed in making pretty canned ones, you can bet a few of the jars will be spiced.

Here’s the recipe, with the tweaking in parenthesises…parenthaseez…you know….

Sweet Potato Casserole

3 cups peeled, cooked, and mashed sweet potatoes or yams (1 quart home canned)

1 cup sugar (Nope. Since the sweet potatoes were syrup packed, no sugar necessary)

1/2 cup butter, melted (Browned. Melt it in a skillet, turn down low, and cook about 5 minutes until it starts to turn brown and smells toasty)

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla (Here’s where Ina Garten is right with her snobby “Good Vanilla”. At the very least, make sure it’s real vanilla extract and not imitation vanilla flavoring. Alternately, you can use a tablespoon of bourbon)

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (Seems excessive to me, I used 1/2 a teaspoon)

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

(Also, 1 teaspoon ground ginger. I love ginger.)

1/4 cup heavy cream, half and half, or whole milk (unsweetened almond milk. It’s what I had)

Preheat the oven to 325. Mix everything except the milk. Beat with a mixer (or you could do it with a stand mixer, whatever) until smooth. Add the milk and mix well. Pour into a greased casserole dish. Sprinkle the topping evenly all over.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Topping                                                                                                                                                                                      1 cup brown sugar

1 cup walnuts, chopped (I used pecans. They’re More Southern.)

1/3 cup all purpose flour (A little less than 1/4 cup)

3 tablespoons butter, melted ( 1/3 cup browned butter)

(1/2 cup rolled oats. I like oats in a crumbled topping)

Mix it all together really well, and sprinkle on top of the casserole.  This makes a good topping for an Apple Brown Betty, too.

Now, in the interest of Journalistic Integrity, I had 4 quarts of sweet potatoes and used all 4 to make a casserole for Thanksgiving, and 2 more to put back for later. So this recipe was 4 times as much. The kitchen smells like brown butter and spices, which is not a tragedy.

Also, a lesson I learned recently, because I am thick like that, keep your nuts in the freezer. (I will pause for adolescent guffaws to subside…………………….                                                                                                                                            ……………………………………………..

Ok. Nuts are like candy to insects. So unless you use them all up at one go, which I never do as nuts are bought in bulk around here, keep them in the freezer. Not only will that keep bugs out, it will preserve them longer so they won’t go rancid, what with all those lovely oils they have.  But then you probably already knew that.

Fall Vegetables
November 8, 2014, 12:31 am
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On Monday, our 15 year old got on a school bus and went to Washington DC and Williamsburg for a week. Shortly after (like maybe 5 minutes), Himself and I got in his truck and went to the north Georgia mountains for 3 days.


After spending a couple of days and more than a couple of dollars on an assortment of antique and vintage items, we went through Atlanta, and spent a couple of hours at My Happy Place, where I threw many items of fresh produce and all sorts of spices and dried beans and this strange sugar that resembles cat litter, complete with suspicious chunks. It is delicious in oatmeal.

While there, we ate at their amazing cafeteria, which can always be depended on for ideas. This time, it was a casserole made of broccoli, cauliflower, and spinach. The sauce was white and tangy and it had buttery crumbs on top. It was delicious and Himself says the gustatory spectrometer in my mouth was pinging (it makes noises like OOOOH and MMMMM and other sounds probably less ladylike), and I decided it would be delicious for Thanksgiving Dinner. Naturally, the cafe there never has a cookbook or anything like that.

So, for dinner tonight I tried to knock it off…and pretty much nailed it. Here it is (they called it Broccoli Cauliflower Casserole, but it had spinach in it as well, and something oniony without being onions. I decided they were leeks)

Ingredients for the casserole

2 broccoli crowns, cut into floeuetters…fleurettes…y’know…little pieces

1 small cauliflower, also little pieces

2 small leeks, white and light green parts, sliced thin

1 big bunch spinach, washed and stems removed….oh just whack them off, Don’t be prissy about it.


Boil a big pot of water, and blanch all that except the spinach for 3 minutes. Scoop it out and drain.


Drop the spinach in the hot water for about 30 seconds until it wilts. Scoop it out and put all the vegs in a big bowl. Set aside.


Make the sauce:

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup flour

1-1/2 cups milk

4 oz plain goat cheese

salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour and stir until it’s foamy and starts to smell toasty.


Add the milk and stir until it starts to thicken. Add the goat cheese, stir until it’s all creamy and wonderful. Salt and pepper to taste.


Pour all this over the vegs and mix well.


Pour this into a greased casserole dish, bake at 375F for 30 minutes.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Pour into 1 cup of bread crumbs (Panko, or whatever bread crumbs, Cracker crumbs I guess…) and mix well. Put on top of the casserole and bake for another 15 minutes until the top is toasty brown.


Himself is a lover of Brussels sprouts. I was not a fan until we had these at a restaurant a couple of years ago. Now I am a fan. The DFM has fresh ones that are lovely and crisp.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

A bunch of brussels sprouts…maybe 2 pounds. i don’t know…however many you need to feed however many people are eating them. Cut them in half longways and put them in a bowl.


Mix together 1 part balsamic vinegar and 2 parts olive oil. Add a pinch of salt and some ground pepper. I put this in a pint jar and shake the heck out of it.


Pour this all over the sprouts and toss well so they’re all coated.


Put in a pie pan, or on a cookie sheet and roast at 375F for about 30 minutes,


until brown and crisp on the outside and cooked inside.


Also…winter squash. Who doesn’t love them?

Acorn Squash

per squash:

Cut it in half longways. Scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff. In the little cup left in the middle, put 1 tablespoon of butter and one tablespoon of dark brown sugar (or honey, or sorghum syrup). Sprinkle on a pinch each of salt, ground cinnamon, and ground ginger.


Bake at 375F for a out 45 minutes, until soft.


Yum, y’all. No meat necessary, but this is probably what’s going to go with a smoked turkey (ginger, honey and orange glaze…recipe later) and cranberry chutney (ditto). And dressing.

Peppermint Marshmallows
December 11, 2013, 11:34 pm
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Ok. I LOVE marshmallows. They’re goofy and bouncy and silly and happy sorts of things. They are a candy, only not, because they’re full of air, only they are because they’re mostly sugar, only not because somehow when I was a kid, marshmallows weren’t forbidden like everything else was. They go on top of hot chocolate, or on a stick and in the fire, or passed around for people to eat.

Huh…you say. The ones from a bag are fine, thankyouverymuch. Sure they are. So is white bread from a bag. Stale white bread. It’s kind of filling and holds cheeze together for a grilled cheeze sammich. Homemade marshmallows are…well, like a fresh loaf of homemade bread still warm, with real butter from a cow and a couple of slices of gouda cheese from the dairy down the road O Yes. Do you understand? Do you get it?!

The first time I made…well…attempted to make marshmallows was not quite a dismal failure but they sure weren’t anything I’d give to adults. They didn’t quite set up right, maybe the sugar syrup wasn’t cooked long enough. They were…um…mucusish. Like snot. Gross. Only, the boys were in middle school at the time and they were delighted. So I let them wrap blobs up in waxed paper to give to their friends, who also were delighted. So it wasn’t all bad, but it wasn’t the result that was hoped for.

Last year I tried again, this time with a different recipe, a candy thermometer, and the proper equipment. By proper equipment I mean a heavy stand mixer with a whisk, and jelly roll pans.

This time I was patient, I let the stuff whip in the bowl for a long, long time- that’s why you’ll want a stand mixer.  I suppose if you want to be all “but I’m Old School and I want to do it the Right Way” you can go right ahead and whip it with a big wire whisk in your big crockery bowl and go at it for 20 minutes until your arm falls off, but I am a proponent of modern technology (most of the time, except with the stupid smart phone and I really want my flip phone back even though the candle app is neat). By letting it whip a good 15 minutes you can get everything else cleaned up or even start on a blog post or something!

Peppermint Marshmallows

Gather up your stuff! Also, have some powdered sugar and a bottle of good peppermint extract.

Gather up your stuff! Also, have some powdered sugar and a bottle of good peppermint extract.


  • Vegetable-oil cooking spray
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 4 packages (1/4 ounce each) unflavored gelatin
  • 3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 cup peppermint candy chips (or mini chocolate chips, or colored sprinkles or nothing at all)
  • 1 cup sifted powered sugar…sifting is important so there’s no lumps.

Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil, making a lip up the sides, and spray with non stick spray.


Using a pot bigger than you think you need (trust me on this), put the sugar, corn syrup, and 3/4 cup water in it and put this on the stove on medium-high heat. Stir constantly until it comes to a  boil, then stick a candy thermometer in and boil until it comes to 260 (soft crack) degrees. While that’s coming up to temp, go do the other stuff.


Put the egg whites in the bowl of the stand mixer, and with the wire whip, whip until it’s got stiff peaks. While that’s whipping, go to the next step.


Put a pot with about an inch of water in it on the stove and bring it to a boil.  Put 3/4 cup water in a heat safe bowl or pyrex thing, and add the gelatin. Let it sit a minute until it’s all in the water and it’s pretty thick. Then set it in the pot of boiling water and stir constantly until it’s all liquid and kind of translucent. Add the peppermint extract. Set aside


When the sugar syrup reaches 260 degree, pour in the gelatin mix. IT WILL FOAM UP, this is why you need a big pot!


Pour this mixture into the egg white, with the mixer on medium. When it’s blended, turn up to high and let it rip for about 15 minutes. Just let it go, and clean up or write a letter or something. When it’s done, it will be glossy and very thick, and will have cooled off substantially.




marshmallows 1.3


Pour all this onto the greased foil and do the best you can to spread it out evenly.



Sprinkle the peppermint chips all over evenly and press into the gooey stuff.


Let this sit for several hours (at least 3) UNCOVERED, you can go longer, but you don’t want to let it sit less than 3 hours. Overnight is fine…whatever works.

After a couple of hours (or whenever you get to it), flip the whole thing over on another piece of foil, and let it sit for several more hours. Then dust it with some powdered sugar.


Cut into squares and toss each one in some sifted powdered sugar so they won’t be sticky. I recommend using a big knife with a heavy blade, and make one big chop to cut the slice. You can run the blade through the powered sugar before you make the cut, if it helps.




Package up nice and pretty!

Tastes Like A Brownie hot chocolate
December 9, 2013, 5:12 pm
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When I was a kid, Mom made hot chocolate mix ever year. It was the one made from the Nestle’s Quik chocolate milk stuff, instant creamer, and powered milk. Now, I grew up with that and like it just fine. But, because this is how we roll around here, I wanted to do something MORE and BETTER, without the powdered instant stuff (well, except for the milk, I guess) and it needed to be Too Good For Children. Of course, that is up to you, what you do with it, sharing and all. I wanted it rich and dark and real and even a little scary, maybe. Like dessert or mousse or something.

hot chocolate4

So, I looked up Alton Brown’s recipe, because his recipes are nearly always wonderful, only I didn’t want to use powered sugar because I’d bought a couple of things of turbinado sugar and I like that different flavor it has. And no cayenne pepper. I know it’s all the thing this past few years to go full-on Mayan and add cayenne pepper to the chocolate but I am all “Hey this is the Deep South where we like things the way Mama did it” and Mom didn’t add cayenne to the hot chocolate tho I am pretty sure if someone had told her about it she would have. Mom still is a culinary adventuress. Maybe I will add come cayenne to hers and see what happens.  Anyway, I read another recipe somewhere that added grated up white chocolate to make it richer. Then, the though occurred that if adding white chocolate is good, then adding milk chocolate as well would only be better. Then I decided that dark cocoa would be nice, because really. Dark chocolate. Right? Right.  So it’s not his recipe anymore. Now it’s mine. David taste tested it, and he said “huh. It tastes like a brownie, Mom.” Thus the name.

Ingredients! Use real stuff, not fake stuff!

Ingredients! Use real stuff, not fake stuff!

Tastes Like A Brownie, Mom hot chocolate mix.

1 large bar REAL white chocolate

2/3 bag of milk chocolate chips (real chocolate, please)

2 cups Special Dark cocoa powder

1 cup turbinado sugar (or regular white sugar)

2-1/2 cups powdered milk

2 teaspoons corn starch

1/2 teaspoon salt

Shred the white chocolate in a food processor. I use the grater disc. Put in the large blade and the chocolate chips. Process until it is all a fine powder.

Grated white chocolate, milk chocolate chips

Grated white chocolate, milk chocolate chips

Add everything else (the food processor will probably be pretty full. I know mine is.) Turn it on, and let it mix for a while. How long? Until it’s all mixed and there’s no lumps or bits or anything. Maybe 5 minutes? Something like that.

Put it into containers for gift giving! Little mason jars would be perfect!

Serve with a spoon or a peppermint stick and stir it a lot while drinking

Serve with a spoon or a peppermint stick and stir it a lot while drinking


Use 2 heaping spoons full in a 6 ounce cup of very hot water. It needs to be nearly boiling in order to melt the chocolate. You can let it cool a bit after, but the nearly boiling hot is important. Trust me, it’s worth it.  When you serve it, stick in a spoon and stir it a bit as you drink it, to keep the chocolate from settling to the bottom. A peppermint stick would make a good stir thing. Marshmallows! Of course! I haven’t made them yet. That is for another day.

a creepy Santa mug is the perfect thing to serve it in.

a creepy Santa mug is the perfect thing to serve it in.


Roasted chicken with new potatoes, onions, and garlic.
May 8, 2013, 11:33 pm
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Is there such a thing as too much garlic? Probably. Eventually. That roasted garlic french stuff was too much garlic. If your very polite friend says you smell of garlic then tries to backpedal by saying it might be her husband, that’s too much.  Tonight was not too much garlic. In fact, Himself request more garlic next time this stuff is made and he may be right.


I need a kitchen camera. Just a cheap one, that it’s ok if grease gets splattered on it. I am cautious with the Nikon D90 W/fancypants lens. O yes, can take great pictures but not in the kitchen with all the stuff everywhere. Thus, no pictures but if you have any kind of imagination…bear with me because this was the kind of meal that made me sigh with satisfaction and wish I had a bigger stomach.

Did you know May 4 (my birthday!) is International Respect For Chickens Day?  I respect the chicken. I respect it’s dedication at providing eggs and it’s commitment for giving it’s life that we may have fried chicken, roast chicken, chicken broth, chicken pot pie, and King Ranch Casserole.

honor the chicken

My favorite roast chicken. It is how I honor the bird who gave it’s life for me. I want to treat it with respect, not shove it in a can and coat it in mayonnaise.  So, I use a bird that has lived a long enough life to get a layer of fat on it. (no wonder my thighs…but really…at my age…whatever). A roasting hen, not a fryer. Also, little new potatoes, the red kind omygoodness so creamy. And Vidalia onions. Not Spanish ones or yellow ones or white ones, but Sweet Vidalias grown right up the road about 15 minutes from here. Sweet enough to eat raw in a salad but also amazing when roasted in chicken juice and fat omygoodnessyespardonwhileiclosemyeyesandsigh. Also garlic. the biggest cloves you can find. I used 6 or 7 cloves and it was suggested that perhaps a whole head might be better because we were all sort of fighting and stabbing each other with forks to get at the roasted-in-chicken-juice garlic. I caught Himself picking through the bowl of potatoes hunting for garlic.

Easy peasy but this is the first time I’ve done it this way and I tell you what, it’s happening again because….chicken juices and fat and potatoes and onion and garlic are quite possibly the second most delicious thing ever (right after that little fatty tail on a ribeye that’s been cooked to medium rare perfection on a hardwood charcoal grill). And SO easy!

Ok, here’s how you do it:

Roasted chicken with new potatoes, onion, and garlic

1 5-6 pound roasting hen, washed and dried inside and out

Several long stems of oregano from the garden

olive oil, kosher salt, and fresh ground black pepper

2 pounds-ish red new potatoes, cut in half (I have no idea how much…I had about 12 of them)

1 large Vidalia onion, sliced thin

6-7 fat cloves of garlic (or a whole head, if you trust me), lightly smashed and peeled

Put the potatoes, onion, and garlic in a large roasting pan

Set a rack over the veggies.

Put the chicken on the rack, coat it in olive oil,and salt and pepper it. Stuff the oregano up inside the body cavity.

Roast at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes per pound of chicken.

When the chicken is done (crispy and golden and the leg is loose when you mess with it) set it aside to sit for 10 minutes or so. Then cut into pieces. Put the vegs in a bowl and pour the pan juices all over them.  Keep a wooden spoon handy for whacking hands of anyone who tries to pick out the garlic, or eat the really crusty potatoes first. Also whack the hands of anyone picking the skin off the chicken because that’s COOK’S PRIVILEGE.  The Son Who Ate With Us opined that the potatoes would be excellent as hash alongside an omelet. Next time I’ll have to make more because there was only enough left for Himself to have for lunch tomorrow.  However, I am not sure that there will ever be enough of those potatoes.

There was a salad to go with:

1 Vidalia onion, sliced thin

2 large ripe tomatoes, chopped coarse

1 large can little black olives


1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves (loosely packed)

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Put all the dressing ingredients in a blender and whizz up.

Pour the dressing over the onions and let sit for an hour or so.  Right before serving, mix in the tomatoes and olives.

This would also be good with some feta cheese thrown in, or maybe those little bitty pearl mozzerella balls.

Use your imagination to figure out what a golden brown roast chicken on a bed of crispy new potatoes, roasted sweet vidalia onions and buds of roasted garlic look like. Close your eyes and imagine the aroma of all those sweet roasted vegetables and a chicken stuffed with oregano. Imagine the family drifting in on the wafting scent like what’shisname Jetson when whatsername Mrs Jetson cooked something, feet flapping and riding the waves gently…

Maybe for Mother’s Day I’ll get a small kitchen camera that I won’t worry about getting greasy or floury.

Also…someone needs to invent smell-o-vision. srsly.

Roasted garlic salad dressing
April 23, 2013, 11:06 pm
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Ok, the last post was a Proceed At Your Own Risk sort of thing.

This one involves the same ingredient- roasted garlic, but with MUCH happier results.  The recipe was taken from Epicurious.com, found during a search for a broccoli salad recipe that didn’t involve raisins or cheese. I didn’t make the salad exactly as the recipe said, but I did make the dressing as such and I must say it’s probably the tastiest dressing I have EVER made. Ever. Even better than the garlic and lemon peel and black pepper sauteed in olive oil and blended with rice vinegar, which is my favorite for fresh salad greens from the garden in May.

This stuff. Wow. Rarely (with the exception of a friend’s coconut pie exchanged for sewing services) have I wanted to take something and sit on the kitchen floor, assume a defensive posture hunched over it like some sort of hyena guarding an antelope carcass, and eat it with a spoon. Calories be damned. This is so good it’s worth a little cellulite.

Creamy and amazing and OF COURSE there’s no PICTURES. But, you know what mayonnaise looks like. And buttermilk. Imagine the fresh Spring chives cut from a pot on the patio, and pepper from a grinder on the kitchen counter.  Imagine a couple of golden heads of roasted garlic, oily and gleaming in a pie pan. Close your eyes and breathe in the aroma. Now imagine a 23 year old outside, manning the grill and tending the beefsteaks cooking on it. But the salad is the star of the show, no doubt. As per usual, I didn’t make the exact salad it called for. I never do. BUT, as it was a broccoli salad I was looking for, that is what was made.

I don’t really like broccoli, unless it’s in a salad with a delicious dressing, or drowning in a cheese soup. Broccoli has unpleasant childhood recollections attached to it. I was forced to eat it, and I don’t like being forced. However, if it had been presented with this stuff on it, I would have eaten it and asked for more.

Creamy Roasted Garlic Dressing.

2 heads of garlic

a little bit of olive oil

1 cup mayonnaise…c’mon, use the good stuff. I like Duke’s but that might be a regional thing.

1/2 cup buttermilk

1-1/2 tablespoons of minced fresh chives. yes. Fresh. not dried. please. Not dried.

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon celery seed (Epicurious recipe said 1-1/4 teaspoons celery salt but I never use the stuff and have to watch the salt anyway)

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground (yes, please) black pepper. I have no idea how much I put in. Probably more than that but I like the stuff.

Cut the garlic heads in half through the middle (how do I explain that?) so each clove is cut in half…get it?  Drizzle each cut side with a bit of olive oil and wrap them all together loosely with aluminum foil, or (like I did) put them in a cake pan and cover with a pan lid.. Roast at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes. Check after that to see if they’re soft and turning golden. If not soft yet, put the lid back on and put them back in the oven, heat turned off, for about 10 minutes.

Put all the other ingredients into a blender (ok, Epicurious said get all fancy and precious and mix everything by hand blah blah blah) and whiz up (or mix gently by hand with a wire whisk made by Turkish metalworkers who’ve been doing it for generations and using methods passed down from their ancestors…whatever). When the garlic is done, pop each clove out (SO EASY!) from the papery skin and drop into the blender with the other stuff. Whiz it up again.

Taste it and adjust with salt and pepper and try to restrain yourself from hiding in a closet with it and a spoon and eating the whole blender full then serving the salad with a disappointing Ranch dressing from a bottle.

Now, the salad I made was 1 head of Romaine lettuce (Epicurious said use a bunch of overpriced hearts of Romaine but I am feeding Philistines who wouldn’t know a heart of Romaine from a bag of iceberg), chopped kind of small. I hate big pieces of lettuce. Also 2 heads of broccoli, florets cut VERY small then the stems shredded like cole slaw, and a fresh spring onion (from the garden of my 14 yr old) chopped fine.  It could possibly have been improved with the addition of something like sunflower seeds or pepitas, but I didn’t have any of those.

Admittedly, I probably ate too much salad, if such a thing is possible.
“too much salad”…did I just say that?

I will probably reek of garlic tomorrow, as will Himself, but if both people in a romantic relationship eat too much garlic, no one who matters will notice.

Not exactly a how-to post
February 15, 2013, 2:10 pm
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It’s more like a Proceed At Your Own Risk post.

I love garlic. It is probably my favorite seasoning of all time, and yes. It’s a seasoning. Not a vegetable seasoned with something else. Or it shouldn’t be,anyway. I have experience with this.

The other night, Mr. Rootie was out of town on business, and I took the opportunity to make something New And Different.  To me, anyway. I’d never made it before.  Since we in this household are enamored of roasted garlic, it seemed like a good thing.

And if one head of roasted garlic in a pot of tomato sauce is good, then how much better could 4 heads in  a pot of broth with a few noodles be? LOTS BETTER, I TELL YOU WHAT!

I am not posting pictures, because the ones on that web site are lovely, so look at them. Also, those are pretty much exactly like what I made, only I used a rich homemade chicken stock instead of water. Because stock is almost always better than water in a soup. Right? Right.

The soup was made and eaten like French Onion Soup with a slice of crusty bread and cheese on top (I used asiago because gruyere is hard to find in this town).

It was delicious. Pungent, but delicious. Comments were made about a low risk of intestinal parasites in the future.

The next day, when Himself returned from his trip (it was Valentine’s Day) he gave me a hug and said “you smell like garlic.”  I was horrified mainly because this was late afternoon and I had gone all day long being around people and completely unaware that there was an aroma utterly unlike the C.O. Bigelow Lemon perfume I typically wear. The horror was then doubled with the realization that garlic and lemons only really go well together on a roasted (or grilled) chicken or possibly in some hummus, and I am neither of those things.

So. The moral of this story is two-fold:

1. If you make the soup, make sure your significant other eats it as well.

2.If you eat the soup, either sequester yourself for a few days (if you are self-conscience as I am), or at the very least wear that aroma with pride.

3. and don’t eat it within several days of taking a long flight on an airplane.

ok, three-fold.

Then there’s this: If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

Roasted chicken pot pie

It’s that whole Fall thing, that desire for rich and creamy and not-exactly-lite fare.  Frankly, I am tired of salads. Around April, I get excited for them, with the snow peas and baby greens and all, but come September we all start a’hankerin’ stews and pot pies and anything with an obscene amount of buttery gravy and possibly alcohol.

Chopped veggies, a chicken, olive oil,salt and pepper

Now that it’s mid-to-latish October and we actually get to put a real blanket on the bed and not just another sheet pretending to be a blanket, I am making rich fattening filling meals. Because Winter is coming and we need that extra subdermal layer of adipose tissue to provide energy during the hibernation period. Except that we’re not bears or squirrels. O well.

Perfectly roasted, do not let the skin go to waste, even though it doesn’t go in the recipe! mmmmm crispy skin….

Ok so we don’t need that, but isn’t there something wonderful about knowing that your house has the aroma of roasting vegetables, garlic, and chicken, and you can catch a whiff even as you turn into the driveway and KNOW that you did something RIGHT and your family will approve? Yes, there is.

In the bowl, waiting for the gravy. See, no skin. It would just get nasty and limp. Go ahead and eat it.

This chicken pot pie recipe was first spotted in a Fine Cooking magazine eons ago…I don’t remember which issue, but in the interest of full disclosure, this is not my own unique recipe. However, I have made a few changes, particularly in the top crust.

Pour in all that lovey silky gravy. Don’t forget to add the crusty bits from the deglazed roasting pan!

I am not a pastry chef. Whenever possible, I buy the pie crusts in the refrigerator section of the store. Sometimes I use those crescent rolls.  The original recipe had you making this buttery puff pastry from scratch and the 3 times I tried it, it turned out this greasy unpleasant stuff. So, I switched to a biscuit top. Who doesn’t love that?  I reckon you could use canned biscuits, but with so much effort going into the filling, I’d rather make semi-homemade. Yes, you could make biscuit dough from scratch and it would be lovely. I am tired. I have spent the entire day making the filling and doing endless loads of laundry so I used a biscuit mix.   I wanted biscuits with herbs mixed in and that’s hard to do with canned ones.  They are slightly customized with buttermilk (add a bit of baking soda to the mix) and lovely chopped oregano and thyme.

Biscuit mix,chopped herbs, artfully photographed in sunlight through a window. I call it “Biscuit Mix With Herbs In A White Bowl.”

As always, after picking all the meat off the chicken, I roasted bones with an onion and a couple of carrots, then threw it in the crockpot with a gallon of water to make stock. I am mildly embarrassed to admit that I used commercially made stock for the recipe, because I was all out of the homemade. It was a sad state of affairs, but one punts when one has to.

Daisy was feeling lazy and was pouting because I didn’t share the chicken skin with her.

This recipe makes a very large amount, so divy it up into 2 casserole dishes, and then cook one of them until the biscuits aren’t quite brown, cover it with foil, and freeze it or give it to a sick friend, so they can warm it up when comfort food is required.

mmmm with a glass of white wine and a blanket, and a good movie…perfect.

Roasted Chicken Pot Pie

1-4 pound whole chicken

6 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks

3 cups baby carrots (or 6 carrots, cut into 1 inch chunks)

3 large leeks, white and light green parts only, cut lengthwise then sliced thin

2 heaping tablespoons minced garlic

olive oil

salt and pepper

generous handful of fresh chopped oregano and thyme  (or parsley, or AND parsley)

1/2 cup white wine (or water, tho wine is very nice)

3/4 cup unsalted butter

3/4 cup flour

1- 32 oz carton chicken broth


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Put the cut up vegetables and garlic in a big bowl and drizzle them with olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Put them all in the bottom of a really big roasting pan, and put the chicken on top. Drizzle a little oil,salt and pepper on the chicken. Put it in the oven and roast for an hour, until the chicken is crispy and brown, and the veggies are brown and it all smells so good your 24 yr old son wanders in and announces that he’s hungry.

After an hour, take it out of the oven. The vegs underneath the chicken might not be completely done and that is OK. Also, the chicken might not be 100% done and that is OK too. Let it cool long enough that it is easy to handle (about the amount of time it takes to fold 2 baskets of laundry and watch an episode of CSI you DVR’d last week). Pick all the meat off the chicken and tear it into small pieces. Put it in a huge bowl, and scrape the vegs over into it too.  Add the chopped herbs.

There will be crusty stuff in the roasting pan. If it’s a metal pan,set it on the stove and turn the stove on to medium. Add the white wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up all the crusty bits.  Set that aside.

In a pot, melt the butter and stir in the flour. Let this cook on low, stirring occasionally until it is a light toasty brown and smells like something you want to eat all by itself with a spoon.. Slowly pour in the carton of chicken broth, stirring with a whisk. Turn the heat up a little. Scrape the crusty wine stuff from the roasting pan into it. Stir frequently until you have a nice medium-thick gravy.

Pour the gravy over the chicken and vegs in the big bowl and stir it all up.

Spray a couple of casserole dishes with no stick stuff, and put the filling in each dish. I used a 9×9 and an 8×12 oval pan.

For the topping:

3 cups Jiffy or Bisquick biscuit mix

1 teaspoon baking soda

a generous handful of the same herbs you put in the filling

1-1/2 cups of buttermilk (maybe more, you want a sticky dough)

Stir it all together.

Drop by generous spoonsful onto the filling.

Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes,until the biscuits are brown and the filling is bubbling up.
(The thicker the biscuit crust is, the longer it needs to cook. Check it after 40 minutes to see if the dough is done underneath. If not, give it 10 more minutes.)

The Perfect Trifecta: mirapoix, roux, and andouille.
October 17, 2012, 11:14 pm
Filed under: Philosophical, Southern

Ok see, it’s gotten cold here. Coldish, anyway. Enough so that we had to put a quilt (as opposed to a thin cotton blanket) on the bed, and I actually closed the windows a little because wide open was TOO cold.

Anyway, I love Creole and Cajun food. They are similar but not exactly the same. Also, this post is about how I am feeling, due to situations with work stuff, not about a fancy pants recipe that you need to be impressed with…I mean (in order to refrain from offending my English Teacher Friend)…not about a fancy pants recipe for which you should be impressed.

Did I mention that I am on my second pear vodka with mango juice and Pellegrino water? No? It’s good. Equal parts each. You’re welcome.

Anyway, I found this recipe for a gumbo type stew (not actual gumbo as there’s no file’ nor okra…but that’s ok. They are forgiven due to the mirepoix and roux and andouille)

So I fixed it today. It’s cool. The weather is approaching the semblance of cool fall weather that asks one to give up the salads and embrace the stew.

Also? It has beans. Lots and lots of many different kinds. I love beans. They’re cheap and high in protein and wonderful.

Anyway, the roux. It smells like…toast and butter and angels wings and babies after a nap. Throw in some mirepoix and let cook a minute before you add it to the cooked beans and the angels start singing loud songs and warming you with their angel-breath (which smells like butter and toast)

Do I have clever pictures, artistically photographed with stylish bowls and comfortable spoons? No. Of course not.

However the roux with the mirepoix…oh my heavenly saints and angels that smells good. Then, after the whole mess is dumped in the stewed beans and sausage, scraping the pan of the last little tidbits of butter and toasted flour flavored with the onion….happy sigh. So flamin’ good.  I am waiting for the family to all go to bed so I can shamelessly lick the pan.

It’s the kind of thing you want to keep eating even though you’re full. You want to eat it until you throw up so you can eat some more.

Gross? TMI? maybe…but the Roman would do it and I used to think that was weird but now I totally understand why.

Continental Catfish
October 9, 2012, 11:08 pm
Filed under: Fish, salad, Southern

Look at all those ingredients! So complicated!

Once upon a time, a long time ago (22 years ago! Wow!) we lived in L.A.  Lower Alabama, that is, in a sweet little town called Monroeville. Among it’s multitudinous charms, there is a lovely restaurant called David’s Catfish House.   Best. Catfish. Ever.  It’s served family style, with big bowls of fabulous cole slaw and creamy amazing cheese grits. Do you know what they do? They use evaporated milk in the recipe (which will follow). It makes for amazing and creamy grits.

Tricky to assemble, too.

Anyway, back when we lived there, the boys (now 24,22 and 21…#4 hadn’t been born yet) were 3,1, and An Argument Thanksgiving Weekend. David, our second son, quickly learned that he and the restaurant shared a name, and it became His Restaurant. It was obvious, what with his name right there on the sign and also written in the linoleum tiles in the entrance.  All the boys learned that when I said “I think we should eat catfish tonight” didn’t mean fishsticks from the oven.  It meant hot, crisp fried catfish,rolled in cornmeal and fried in fresh peanut oil. They didn’t fry it until it was ordered, so it was always piping hot and delectable.

Worth the effort, tho.

However, I am not writing about their (amazing and…throw in a few more adjectives…) fried catfish, but instead about the baked ones.  One day I didn’t want fried catfish (seriously?? I cannot imagine it now that the restaurant is a solid 8 hour drive away) but instead tried the Continental Catfish- a spicy baked version.  It was delicious and the kitchen was happy to share the recipe, even though it is so simple it meant I probably wouldn’t order it anymore, because it could be made at home in the amount of time it takes to put 3 preschoolers into the minivan and drive to the restaurant.  That’s ok though, because I’d still order the delectable fried ones.

Just look at that lovely stuff, will you…

Here’s what you need:

2 pounds catfish fillets (8 or so)

1/2 cup lemon juice (from the bottle is fine)

1 stick of butter, cut into 8 pats (or however many fish fillets you have)

Your favorite Cajun or Creole seasoning blend. I use Zatarain’s Creole Blend, but Emeril’s or Tony Cacheries’  works too.

Put the frozen catfish in a 9×13 casserole dish. Pour the lemon juice all over (it will freeze onto the fillets, which is very cool), and put a pat of butter on top of each fillet. Sprinkle generously with the seasoning blend. Use however much seasoning you like. Bake at 400 degrees until the catfish is opaque and flakes easily.

How easy is that?!

More complicated than the fish. Start it earlier if you’re using long cooking grits.

Serve with Cheese Grits:

4 cups water

1 large (12 oz, I think?) can evaporated milk

1 cup long or quick cooking grits (NOT instant! Those things are a travesty!)

1 teaspoon each salt, ground black pepper, garlic powder

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, depending on how hot you like stuff (or use paprika if you absolutely don’t like hot pepper)

1 to 1-1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese (or mild, or colby, if sharp cheese isn’t your thing)

Season them up!

Put the water and canned milk in a pot and bring to a boil. Slowly stir in the grits and seasonings. Turn the heat down to simmer and put the lid on it. Stir frequently to keep it from sticking on the bottom of the pot. Cook until the grits are done and nice and creamy. Stirring frequently is important. I use a whisk to break up any lumps, as my husband says “life is too short to eat lumpy grits.”  When the grits are done, stir in the cheese. Taste it and see if it needs more cheese, salt, or pepper. Adjust the seasoning to suit your taste.  Turn off the heat and put the lid back on.  Serve with the catfish.

mmm creamy goodness

If you put the catfish in the oven, then you can make the grits in about the time it takes for the catfish to bake, if you use quick cooking grits. If you use long cooking (like I do), make the grits first, give them about 20 minutes to cook before you make the catfish.  The grits I use are actually really coarse, so they take nearly an hour to cook. As long as you keep stirring them so they don’t stick, you really can’t overcook them (even with the quick cooking ones) and as long as they don’t scorch, the longer they cook the creamier they get.  Use as low a temperature as you can to keep them at a simmer.  Low and slow…that’s the idea to get creamy grits.

An attempt at an artsy picture of shredded cheese

Serve them up with your favorite cole slaw. Terry likes the simple kind- no fancy ingredients like dill or white wine vinegar or blood orange juice., Just simple Southern Style slaw:

Cole Slaw

8 cups finely shredded cabbage

2 cups shredded carrots

1 cup good mayonnaise (Duke’s, if you can get it. Otherwise Hellman’s or Kraft)

1/4 cup sweet pickle relish

2 tablespoons yellow mustard

Mix together the cabbage and carrots. In another bowl, mix together the mayo, relish, and mustard. Stir that into the cabbage mix. Do not make this way ahead of time, and the dressing will draw water out of the cabbage and you’ll get watery slaw.  Mix it up right before you serve it.