Thursday, January 31, 2008

No such thing as "too much" of a good thing, if the "good thing" is BUTTER!

Several years ago I was looking for...something. Can't remember what it was but in the looking, I stumbled across The Gumbo Pages and I've been an avid fan ever since. Found this recipe there and it has been a keeper...often requested and always enjoyed! I'm thinking I'll do this as my contribution for this year's Super Bowl feast.

This is one of those dishes for the friends you really love. We do it with tubs of beer setting around the table, and we eat on vinyl tablecloths so you can just pile up the shells. I add red pepper flakes in the cooking, and then have bottles of Tabasco out on the table. NAPKINS. The key word here is LOTS of napkins, although we put out rolls of paper towels last time. Butter is good.

New Orleans Barbecued Shrimp

2 pounds butter
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
6 ounces beer
1 medium onion, minced
4 tablespoons chopped parsley
5 pounds shrimp
2 tablespoons creole seasoning
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
10 cloves garlic, minced
3 ribs celery, minced
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Melt a stick of butter in a skillet. Saute the garlic, onions, celery, parsley, rosemary and seasoning blend for 2-3 minutes. Add the rest of the butter and melt it, then add the beer (drinking the rest of the bottle to get you in the mood). Add the worcestershire and lemon juice.

Drown the shrimp in the seasoned butter, using as many baking dishes as you need. Make sure the shrimp are more or less submerged...if they're not, melt more butter and add to the sauce. (What the hell? What's another stick or two when you're already up these butterfat levels?) Bake in a 350 degree oven until the shrimp turn pink, about 15 minutes.

Serve in big bowls...I have a gorgeous Italian pottery platter that measures about 24 inches across and I just dump the entire concoction out on that platter. Roll up your sleeves and if you're kin to this family, wear a bib. Serve with plenty of French bread to sop up da sauce!

"This dish has nothing to do with a barbecue pit or barbecuing. Why is it called "barbecued" shrimp? Beats the hell out of me. If you're really curious, ask someone at Pascal's Manale Restaurant on Napoleon Avenue in New Orleans; it's where the dish was created. Me, I don't care. This dish is so good you can call it whatever you want. Just, um, don't have it every day. You'll know why immediately when you see the first ingredient listed."

This is one of the ten best things I ever tasted in my life. I like it with extra rosemary but then, that's me.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Spectacular Soup Debacle

I think that everyone who is good at something should occasionally experience monumental failure in their area of expertise so as to prevent them from getting too big for their britches.

Or for her apron as the case may be.

Yesterday was The Hubster's birthday and he wanted to invite a friend and wife over for dinner. Did I hear somebody say, "Special Birthday Dinner?" Hooo-Law! That is right straight up my clean, well-lighted alley.

Steak? Check. Scalloped Potatoes? Check. Check. Out of season, imported from Peru, Barbara Kingsolver forgive-me-for-I-have-sinned Asparagus? Found it. Winter salad and the Birthday Boy's favorite rum cake? Yupper.

But what about a soup course? Wouldn't it be special to have a salad course AND a soup course? And we dooooo love us some French Onion soup...Okay, twist my arm. I'll buy a $10 block of Gruyere and take a stab at this French Onion thing. How difficult can it be?

Ha! Haaaaa-haaa-haaaa-haaaaaa! :: Gasp :: Aaaaa-haaaaa-haaaaaaa!

Let me tell you that I spent one week of lunch hours online researching French Onion soup. I JOINED Cooks Illustrated online to learn the technique (add $24.95 to the soup tab). I bought the best onions. I made beef stock from scratch.

I followed those damn instructions to the LETTER. Never left the stove to multi-task. Stood right there for almost two freaking hours*. I reduced and I scraped and I deglazed. And then I reduced and scraped and deglazed some more. And then I did it all again.

Like most cooks I taste as I go along, and I thought straight away that something was baaad wrong.

Hey, Shakespeare, you want to know what was Rotten in Denmark? Some housefrau making French Onion soup.

Bitter does not begin to describe how hideously....okay, BITTER, this soup was.

I let Hubster try it just to make sure I wasn' t over-reacting and for the first time in ten year - TEN YEARS of cooking almost nightly - he looked at me and said, "Oh, God. You can't serve that."

"It has a funky back note, doesn't it?" She asked going way too easy on herself.

"Oh, Darlin', that isn't a back note, that is full-on bitter."

He later compared the effect of the soup on his tortured taste buds to getting a mouthful of that icky skin between the meat and the shell in a pecan. UGH. Have you ever accidentally eaten that evil, vile crap? Yeah? Well, then you also know what my soup tasted like.

So there is no recipe to accompany this post. I am going to give the folks at Cooks Illustrated the benefit of the doubt and assume I did something horribly wrong.

But now, NOW I am determined to conquer this beast of a soup. More research, more testing and undoubtedly more unceremonious disposal at the nearest Superfund site.

And when I do perfect it - and oh, I will - you can be damn sure I will proudly post that recipe and a freaking video tutorial right here on this blog.

This is WAR, soup.

Stay tuned.

Image Credit:

It's a really cold night so let's have chili and hot bread

My cousin, Adrienne, lives in Atlanta...really, Marietta. She won her tennis club's chili cook-off with this recipe. Reckon I ought to call and tell her it's in here?

BadaBing Chili
1 pound ground turkey
1 pound ground sirloin
2 cans black beans
2 packages French's Chili-O Mix
1 26-ounce can chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 4-1/2 ounce can chopped green chilis
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 bunch fresh cilantro

Brown meat and garlic. Add everything else, except cilantro, and cook 45 minutes. Add chopped cilantro just before serving.

Then, there's Beer Bread. The simplest Save Your Ass bread recipe on the planet. The first time I made it was with that high-dollar mix from that gourmet food aka Tupperware Treats party organization. Great bread. Not seven dollars worth of great. So, here's the cheap/just-as-good version. Thank you very much.

Beer Bread
1/4 cup sugar
12 ounces beer
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 cups self-rising flour

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a loaf pan and set aside. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar and beer and mix well. The mixture should be sticky. Pour into the loaf pan, pour the melted butter on top and bake for 55 minutes. (This makes a crunchy top crust. If you prefer a soft crust, brush the butter on three minutes before you remove the bread from the oven.) Serves 8.

Fresh herbs in the batter are good. Right now, I have rosemary and three kinds of thyme and either would be lovely. Or dried herbs in the butter.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Bobbi's Blue Cheese Dip

This is one of those...well, DUH's! Too, too simple and too, too good. A friend brought it to a branch party once and we had to take the bowl away from my little brother...he was just scooping and eating.

1 cup sour cream
3 ounces cream cheese
4 ounces blue cheese
2 tablespoons green onions
1 teaspoon Tabasco
4 slices bacon

Cook bacon until crisp, drain and crumble. Mix sour cream with cream cheese and mix until smooth. Add blue cheese, chopped green onions and Tabasco and fold to combine. Stir in half the bacon, and sprinkle the other half on top. Serve with bagel crisps.

Now, I usually use gorgonzola instead of the blue cheese, but for Christmas this year I got a FIVE POUND chunk of Point Reyes blue cheese and we are currently just liquifying it and mainlining it. And putting it in my breakfast pasta. Or putting it in this dip.

And four slices bacon? Puh-leeze. I normally cook eight slices, put seven in the dip and sprinkle one on top. BUT. Should you ever get the chance: If you are traveling up or down the center of Alabama on Interstate 65 you will pass a town called Cullman. There are three exits. If you take the middle exit and turn east, RIGHT THERE is a place called Smith Farms. Their smoked bacon is absolutely TO DIE FOR. Without reservation. In fact, it is SO smoky to die for that the last time I was down there? And bought bacon? I put it and the Amish butter in the same insulated container and then had...smoked butter. Which, on cheese bread, is something someone should have thought of a long time ago.

Point being, if you have REAL smoked bacon, you might want to cut it back down to four slices. Although I don't.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Cafe Iguana Margaritas

We found this recipe on the computer and I'm not sure how far from the original we've strayed. There's an annual music festival here and every year I pack up a picnic, mix this up and pour it into a red plastic gas can, and we CELEBRATE!

3 cups water
2 cups sugar
2 cups fresh lemon juice
2 cups fresh lime juice
1 cup tequila
1/2 cup triple sec

Make margarita base: Mix sugar and water in a saucepan and stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil, set aside and cool. Mix syrup, lemon and lime juices and chill until cold. Can be made one week ahead. When you're ready to serve, add the tequila and triple sec.

The first time we made this no one had a juicer. BIG mistake. Even WITH a juicer it's still a lot of trouble but's a LOT of fun!

(And yes. I know that's not enough tequila. Handle it.)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Carpenter's Tacos

This would be the older couple who lived at the end of the street Carpenters. As opposed to...bricklayers or sheetrock finishers or roofers.
He was retired from Bell Helicopter. She was...what do you call a Texas Southern Belle? 'Cause you know they ain't doing it the way the rest of us do it. Texas...belle? I guess. I can't believe I don't know that. But she was thoughtful and gracious and every time she visited her daughter in California, she brought me back a bottle of champagne (sparkling wine) from the local vineyard.
The neighborhood street parties that caused such a stir? (Saving for later...they'd never heard of chicken stew. And dove wrapped in bacon on my grill.) For football games and this was Texas and Troy Aiken was on every other billboard for about TEN MILLION MILES, we'd have Kirk's Cornbread, and Mr. Carpenter would make these tacos. After the first time, I offered to come help because...for 40 people? Which is what we ended up with by the time everyone's family showed up? YOU NEED HELP. And it was a great learning experience which most of my recipes have been.
Then, we had an auction at my kids' Alabama school, and another parent and I got together and auctioned off a Texas Sunset River Cruise. I made these, packed them in a cooler with a microwaved wet towel in a ziplock bag, and served them, Kirk's Cornbread, salsa and chips, and Cafe Iguana margaritas. It was a the tune of about $1800. For the school, thank you very much.

So here are the Carpenter's Tacos.

*6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or 3 pounds Boston Butt)
*10 fresh jalapeno peppers
*1 large onion
*1/4 cup ground chili blend (this is my Top Hat, from Pendery's in Fort Worth) or 1 package taco seasoning mix
*4 large potatoes
*Green onions
*Grated cheddar cheese
*Flour tortillas

Put the chicken breasts and about one cup water in a covered saucepan and simmer 20 minutes, until chicken is done. Cool. In a blender, puree the pepper and onion in the chicken cooking water. Dice the chicken. Return the chicken and pepper/onion mix to the saucepan, add the chili blend and simmer until most of the water is cooked out. In the meantime, small dice the potatoes and fry them CRISP in vegetable oil. (Yes. It's okay to use frozen O'Brien potatoes.)
To assemble the tacos and this can be done ahead of time, just wrap each taco in foil: Heat a black skillet or griddle over medium heat. Lay a flour tortilla on the griddle, leave it about 30 seconds and then flip it. It should puff slightly, at which point you fold it in a clean dish towel. (You're not browning the tortillas, just warming and softening them. Keep them covered.) Put about 1/4 cup chicken down the center of each tortilla, top with fried potatoes, minced green onion and cheese. Serve with the usual suspects: salsa and sour cream.
A thing I picked up later: We have a wonderful little couple in Athens AL who get up every morning and make homemade corn and flour tortillas. Taco Blanco. And when THEY make tacos, the smear about one teaspoon guacomole down the center of each tortilla before assembling the taco. This works. NOT A LOT of guacamole. Just a smear.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Fish Pie

Our good friend, M, whose birthday was Saturday, went to boarding school in the UK. There, on a regular basis, she and the other girls were fed fish pie. The majority of girls hated it. She loved it. The ensuing nickname that's stuck with her to this day? Fishguts.

I, too, love fish pie. Unfortunately I attended public school in the good old nutritionally-bankrupt US of A, where the closest we got to pies were the Hostess fruit 'pies' in the cafeteria vending machine.

During cold, damp winter months I make fish pie for The Hubster. He loves it. It's just like Chicken Pot Pie only with silky chunks of cod and dill. What's not to love?!

This is a great cold-weather dish and it freezes well.

Cod Pot Pie
(Makes one deep dish or two average pies)

2 lbs cod fillets, cut into 2" cubes (they shrink)
1 russet potato, cut into 1" cubes, separated
2 Tbsps olive oil (not XV)
1 onion, chopped
2 large carrots, finely chopped
3 celery stalks, finely chopped
4 tsp butter
4 tsp flour
2 cups milk or cream (the heavier, the better) - warmed in microwave
1 Tbsp fresh dill or 2 tsps dried (warning - I love dill, be careful)

Pie crust (home made or refrigerated, I don't judge)

Preheat oven to 350F.
Season fish with a pinch of dill, kosher salt and pepper.
Boil potato, drain, set aside.

Saute carrots, celery and onion in oil until translucent. Transfer to seperate dish.
Add butter to pan, cook until lightly bubbly, add flour, wisk and cook until lightly tanned.
Add milk/cream SLOWLY, wisking constantly.
Add remaining dill, one tsp kosher salt and pepper to taste, wisking constantly.
Bring back to simmer.
Add fish and cook 2 minutes, wisking constantly (this'll scorch if you don't keep it moving).
Remove from heat, add back vegetables, stir it all up and put it in a pie pan.
Top with pie crust, pinch edges, vent, brush with milk and/or egg wash and bake according to your crust recipe/box instruction.

Alternate ending: Put filling in a souffle dish or large individual-serving ramekins, top with home made or refrigerated biscuits, bake until biscuits are brown.

Fishguts, fishguts, eat 'em up - YUM!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Let's talk Texas for a bit...

I haven't checked with City Girl on this but I don't think I have to. She'll have a trick up her sleeve. Or five.

We accidentally lived in Fort Worth for five years. Texas is not a place so much as it's a state of mind, and my mind wasn't born there. But we had a GREAT time and met some wonderful people and...ate our way throughout the Southwest. Honey, it doesn't matter WHAT you crave, you live in Fort Worth and your heart's desire is no more than 30 minutes away. Doesn't matter what it is.

I moved out there with a premature baby and a 15-year-old. And somehow or another God got me to Willow Springs Road. A dead-end street 20 miles from ANYTHING, and it was the answer to a prayer. There were only about ten houses on the street. Originally the neighborhood and the golf course it bordered had been a family farm, and four of the ten houses belonged to various and sundry family members...none of whom were speaking to each other.

Enter my clueless ass. Let's have a block party! Great idea! And you know, it was? Because all of the feuders were afraid not to come because we all don't show, you're the one everyone talks about. And over the course of the years, we had some GREAT parties. And I got some GREAT recipes.

THIS recipe is a gem. Kirk and Paula lived at the end of the street, and their son was the same age as my baby. Kirk is the first person to ever tell me, "People who drink light beer just like to pee a lot." He was SERIOUS about his beer. (I drink Milwaukee's Best Light. By choice. Sue me.) Paula grew a great garden every year...I never could get that Oklahoma wind under control...and I ate out of her bounty every summer. I miss them often.

This recipe came to Kirk in another form and he worked with it for a while. The first time I ever tasted it it nearly KILLED me...he forgot to mention the jar of jalapenos. But the next time, I had the beer already open and I am telling you...this is ADDICTIVE. It's one of my most requested recipes, in this neck of the woods.

Kirk's Jalapeno Cornbread

3 large eggs
1 tablespoons sugar
1 small onion
2 packages corn muffin mix (I use Jiffy)
8 whole jarred jalapeno peppers
2-1/4 cups milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4-5 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
1 teaspoon baking powder
Following the instructions EXACTLY, mix all ingredients. Pour the mixture, which will appear thin, into a greased 13x9 inch glass baking dish, cover and refrigerate overnight. Let it come to room temperature, then bake 40-45 minutes at 400 degrees. The cooked appearance is a dark, almost burnt-looking, crust with a moist interior.
Combine cornbread mix, sugar and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Add:
First blender: Eggs, cheese, chopped onion and 1-1/4 cup milk. Blend until smooth and add to dry ingredients.
Second blender: Peppers, oil and one cup milk. Blend until smooth and add to dry ingredients. Stir until all ingredients are well combined...I use a whisk so as not to over mix.

The peppers are to taste...I used fresh peppers once (not a good idea) and they had NO heat, and my friend Robin's dad took the leftovers home with him. For people who don't do heat, four peppers will do. In this house and for my friends, I stem an entire jar of whole jalapenos and blend them right up. The original recipe calls for grated cheese, as well as grated onion. Don't bother. Cube them both and let the blender do the work.
A little factoid: When I was looking for the picture? Something said that one way to gauge the heat in a jalapeno is by the number of little scars it has. I didn't know that.

This is a great take-along's just as good room temperature as warm. Perfect with chili, chicken stew or any soup. Also good with...Carpenter's Tacos. Recipe to follow.
P.S...and I posted this as a comment last night and IT'S NOT THERE. Cut this into very small pieces to's rich. And it is NOT MEXICAN CORNBREAD. Not even close...the recipe creator was always admanent about this. The overnight rest makes it lose the cornmeal texture...this is really smooth.

Friday, January 18, 2008

What started out as Crab Bisque

Year before last we were in Nashville for my mother-in-law's extended family's Christmas celebration. Never mind that the VALENTINE decorations had just come down we were, BY GEORGE, having Christmas. And my husband's cousin had made crab stew and oh, people, at the first bite I fully intended to eat until I was sick. It was lovely.
Turns out, the secret was in the seasoning. (Now, my spice place of choice is Pendery's, in Fort Worth. Great little family-owned business where I get my Top Hat chili blend, online at, and I LOVE that place. But that's not what this is.) The cousin gave me the recipe, I came home and made the stew wasn't right. My bad, I thought, so I made it again. And again, it wasn't right. At this point I got smart and called the cousin and in the course of explaining that something was missing, she mentioned that oh, it might be the seasoning.
The recipe had called for Old Bay. So I used Old Bay. But for the stew we had for Christmas/Valentine's, they had used Penzey's Chesapeake Bay seafood seasoning and Oh Joy! That was IT. Now, in this neck of the woods I usually order it online, but if you live in a real city there are Penzey stores everywhere. And the secret IS in the seasoning.

So here is Paige's Crab Stew. Which I make with crawfish but hey, that's me.

1/2 cup butter
1 package frozen seasoning blend
1/2 cup flour
2 cups milk
2 cups cream
1 pound crab (I use crawfish. Shrimp works, too.)
1 tablespoon Penzey's Old Chesapeake
1/4 cup sherry
Optional: 1 20-ounce roll frozen creamed white corn
Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the frozen seasoning blend. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until the vegetables are soft. Sprinkle with the flour, stirring to incorporate, and cook for two to three want to cook out the raw flour taste. Slowly add the milk and cream, stirring so that there are no lumps. Add the seafood, the Penzey's and the sherry and simmer for ten minutes, stirring frequently. (Optional: Along with the milk and cream, stir in a thawed roll of the creamed corn.) Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, Worchestershire and tabasco to taste.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

More Mustard Madness

Sometimes this gets scary.

If you said...Okay I need two people. I need them from OPPOSITE backgrounds, family life, geography, upbringing and general LIFE issues...then you would have City Girl and me.

Totally opposite from where we come from.

And then stuff like this happens all the time.

We do IDENTICAL things, like...totally off-the-wall IDENTICAL things.

This is MY mustard drawer. One drawer. JUST for mustards. And hey, I'VE got the yellow stuff. Because little kids will do that to you.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Condiment Recovery

Hi, everyone. My name is City Girl and I’m addicted to condiments.

*Hi, City Girl.*

God, grant me the ability to season the foods I cannot palate,
The courage to try savory jellies,
And the wisdom not to confuse Miracle Whip with mayonnaise.

I’ve been asked to share with you today my story of hitting rock bottom and realizing I need help…kicking the condiment habit.

*murmurs of approval*

The other day my husband was making a sandwich and asked me where he could find the mustard.

“On the refrigerator door, middle shelf, on the right” I replied.

“No, I’m not looking for weird mustard, I want sandwich mustard” he said firmly, staring into the box.

So I went to him, squinted into the 15 watt brightness, pointed to the mustard shelf and said, “It’s right here….” before recoiling in horror as I realized I actually have an entire refrigerator shelf dedicated to housing mustard.

The Hubster, unrelenting, said, “You have seven different kinds of mustard in here, and none of them is plain, yellow, American.”

I reviewed: coarse grain French mustard, whole grain French mustard, coarse grain hot Polish mustard, sweet and hot German mustard, wasabi mustard, brown American mustard and an old, forgotten Food & Wine magazine brand champagne mustard.”

“Oh, well, we can get rid of that Food & Wine mustard – I don’t know how long that’s been in there.”

“That doesn’t solve the problem of my naked sandwich.”

“Well, use the brown mustard – it’s American.”

“It isn’t yellow.”

“You just made fun of me for harboring seven different mustards in our home and now you want me to add another? You – YOU – are an enabler!”

And so here I am with you tonight. I want to get better. I do. I’ve been to Fresh Market twice recently without purchasing a single new condiment. Not even a new curry sauce…but that’s another testimony for another day.

Best. Steak. Marinade. Ever.
This is awesome on Rib Eye Steaks.

2 Rib Eye Steaks
4 Cloves of Garlic
½ Cup Coarse Ground Mustard
½ Bottle Moore’s Original or Dale’s Marinade

1. Early in the day rinse and dry steaks, poke all over with the end of a knife.
2. Pepper both sides to taste.
3. Mince garlic and rub into both sides of both steaks, working it into the knife slits.
4. Smear 1/8 cup mustard on each side of each steak.
5. Gently slide steaks into a gallon-size Zip-Lock bag.
6. Add marinade to bag, zip bag 99% closed, and squeeze out all the air.

Refrigerate all day. Remove bag from fridge and turn upside-down on the counter two hours before grilling – meat should always be at room temp when you throw it onto the flames.

Cook to order. Open beer. Consume. Repeat as often as necessary to achieve a full and happy life.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Let's get this one out of the way...

Bless its heart, it's lumpy and ugly and oh, honey...this cake will make your heart sing. Happy Birthday, Faye!
This is, technically, just a strawberry cake. Just. A. Cake. But in 2005 I made SIXTY-FIVE of these for other people. By request. I made 12 for a Master Gardener meeting and there were three left over. THEY AUCTIONED THEM OFF. No lie.
In 2006 I MIGHT have made four, because the rush was OVER. I was so sick of that cake I could scream and hey, I don't even EAT cake! Last year I eased up a bit, but not much and then I found myself making the second of three for this week and thought, "Whoa. It's time to put on the brakes!"
So here, by request, is That Damn Cake. That's how it's entered in my cookbook program, and it's what the kids call it. That Damn Cake.
It really IS good, and there are a couple of factors I think make a difference. You can't make cake with fresh strawberries. Can't control the ripeness and you sure can't control the moisture. Fresh strawberries just...take up space. Ugly, soggy, frozen berries, on the other hand, have something to PROVE. By george. And they do a very good job of it.
Another thing is the tube pan. A friend of mine who caters said she thinks that helps because there's less surface area to release moisture. That works for me. So here. Have at it but I'm WARNING you, these things can get you in trouble.

That Damn Cake

1 box white cake mix
1 small box strawberry jello
2/3 cup vegetable oil
4 egg whites
1 bag frozen strawberries
1 box confectioners sugar
1 stick butter
4 ounces cream cheese

Dump the frozen strawberries into a bowl and coarsely chop. Let thaw. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a tube pan...and I don't mean spray it with Pam. Get a sandwich bag, put it over your hand and scoop up a hunk of Crisco. Smear that baby down, making sure to get the bends and curves. Dump in a handful of flour, tap around until all the Crisco is coated with flour and then tap to empty the remaining flour. If you DON'T do this, it's gonna stick. I promise.
In a mixing bowl, put cake mix, jello, oil, egg whites and one cup strawberries. Beat until smooth, about 2-3 minutes, scraping down the sides. Pour into the tube pan and bake for 50 minutes. Remove from the oven, let rest in the pan for 10 minutes and then invert onto a cooling rack. Cool completely.
While the cake is baking, mix butter, cream cheese, 1/2 cup strawberries and confectioners sugar until light and fluffy. Refrigerate.
Take the remaining strawberries, sprinkle them with one teaspoon sugar and set aside.
When the cake cools, use a long serrated knife to slice it into two layers. Spoon the reserved strawberries onto the bottom layer. Spoon about 1-1/2 cups icing (thereabouts) onto the bottom layer, top with the top layer and ice the entire cake. It has to be refrigerated!
Yes, you can use two round cake pans instead of the tube pan but it's just not the same. This may be the same principle as the woman who cut off the end of her ham to bake it, but I promise you...people who don't eat cake will GROAN for this one.

Just ask City Girl.
(A P.S. as of January 17th...I made one of these yesterday for my nephew's birthday, and when I opened the cabinet the only cake mix in there was a Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Butter Recipe Golden. So I used it, ASSUMING no one would notice the difference and...they did. For the better; they said the moistness and density was better. Since I don't EAT cake I don't know this, but these people have been eating this cake through it's many evolutions for 40 years and they probably know. ALSO, the strawberries that go in between the layers? I left them in a bowl out on the counter and the little kids ate them. So I spread a couple of tablespoons of black cherry jelly in between, instead, and THAT was a hit, too. Like I aren't orders, so much as directional suggestions!)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Got it! Catholic King Cake for Mardi Gras

New Orleans King Cake

2 packages dry yeast
½ cup lukewarm water
½ cup lukewarm milk
½ sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 stick butter or margarine, room temperature
4 ½ cups to 5 cups all purpose flour, divided
Filling (recipe follows)
Glaze (recipe follows)

Dissolve the yeast in warm water. Stir in milk, sugar, eggs, margarine and 2 ½ cups of the flour. Beat until smooth. Mix in enough remaining flour to make dough easy to handle. Turn the dough on to a lightly floured board and knead until smooth and elastic, (about 5 minutes).
Place dough in a greased bowl and turn greased side up. Cover, let rise in a warm place until double in bulk, about 1 ½ hours. Dough is ready if impression remains when touched.
Punch down dough. Turn on to a floured surface and roll into a large rectangle about ¼ inch thick. Sprinkle with filling to about 1 inch of all edges. Moisten the edges with water. Start on the long side; roll dough into a jellyroll. Next arrange the dough into a circle on a greased pizza pan or baking sheet. Pull the dough to stretch into a longer tube. Seal the ends together by dampening fingers with water and pinching.
Let rise 30-45 minutes or double in size. Moisten top and sides with a beaten and mixed with 1 tablespoon milk. Place in 350 degree oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Cake is done when golden brown.
Insert prize into the bottom of the cake. Drizzle on glaze and decorate with colored sugars.

1 stick butter or margarine, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup broken nuts
Mix all ingredients in a bowl until well blended. Crumble over dough and proceed with recipe.

2 cups confectioners sugar
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
Milk as per directions
Mix the sugar and vanilla in a small bowl. Add small amount of milk and stir. Keep adding small amounts of milk until a smooth, thick glaze is made. Pour over top of cake and let it run down the sides. Immediately sprinkle on stripes of colored sugars, green, purple, and yellow. Serve and enjoy.

The person who gets the prize is the king of the party and tradition says they are to bring the cake for the next get together.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

WalMart and King Cake

There's a chance I've got the wrong blog but...we're waiting on an email response.

I hate WalMart. If you are my age then you really miss the home-town shops that were here for all of your formative years and then...weren't. Because WalMart put them out of business. So we get to Mardi Gras.

Year before last, The Not Nice Child got the baby, so last year we were supposed to bring the king cake. No big deal. I can handle this. So Fat Tuesday we leave a little early and go by WalMart to buy our king cake.

WHY? You might ask? WHY are you going to WalMart to buy your king cake when you HATE WalMart? Because WalMart put our 50+-year-old bakery out of business. Culpeppers. And Culpeppers did king cakes every year but since it was GONE and it was seven o'clock in the morning, I HAD to go to WalMart. It happens.

My children attend Catholic school and we're Methodist. Which really only means that at school communion, my children cross their arms across their chests and don't take the wine and bread but DO get blessed. Thank God for small miracles. :)

So, the entire Lenten season is a BIG. DAMN. DEAL. around here, no matter your faith because even those lazy-ass Methodists pay attention to...OH YEAH! He's back! And it can get REALLY complicated because in the middle of this is all that saint stuff...St. Valentine and St. Patrick. We party for months.

So. We need a king cake. And guess what? WALMART DOESN'T DO KING CAKES. Or at least, they don't do them in THIS neck of the woods. And there's not a damn thing you can do about it...Culpeppers is gone, WalMart isn't and it's not doing king cakes. So what. About ten o'clock that morning my father-in-law found a king cake about 30 miles away, went and picked it up and took it to school. Thank you.

My friend, G, called last week to tell me there's a king cake recipe in the paper. But I've emailed my Catholic buddies because hey, I may be slow but I'm not STUPID. Catholic religious recipes MUST be better than other religious recipes. Because, as I've explained to my Methodist kids when they complain that the Catholic Lord's Prayer ends BEFORE IT'S OVER...

"They had it first."

So. We're on stand-by for the REAL King Cake recipe.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Mikey hates everything...

...but the people in this house will eat ANYTHING.

I have this for breakfast say, four mornings a week. Keeping in mind I don't have to go to a job, I eat mid-morning. And I snack a time or two but my next meal is supper because THIS makes me happy. It also works for ANYTIME...late supper, rushed supper, weekend lunch.

Garlic, Red Pepper and Sundried Tomato Pasta

Put water on to boil for the pasta...your favorite type is what's called for here...I use linguine. In an omelet pan, or such, pour 1/4 cup olive oil. When it heats up, add one heaping tablespoon garlic and one heaping tablespoon chopped sundried tomatoes. (I'm currently using sundried tomato tapenade and LOVING it.) Sprinkle in red pepper flakes...your taste determines how much. Cook over medium heat until the garlic is lightly browned.

This brings us to a point a friend of mine made last week. We were talking about something...a chef or cooking school or whatever and she explained that whomever we were talking about had stressed that you only cook garlic until it is fragrant...never more. Well, that raven don't fly here. In some dishes, just fragrant is good. But in THIS case, I LIKE my garlic browned. I like the bitter edge.

SO. Cook the pasta while the garlic browns. When the pasta is done, turn the tomato-garlic oil up to high, dump the pasta into a strainer and let most of the water run out. Then turn around and, with the water still dripping, dump the pasta into the oil. Turn off the stove-eye and fold the pasta to mix it with the oil and goodies and cook off the last of the cooking water. Portion it into your dish and top with blue cheese sprinkles.

This justifies a glass of red wine with breakfast.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


If you notice, jambalaya seems to be a base and two meats/seafoods. Sure, you can put anything you have in the refrigerator in there, but it does seem to work best with two contrasting/complementary tastes. Up to you. Chicken/ham/smoked sausage. Shrimp/crawdads/lobster/scallops.

I prefer using crawdad tail meat to shrimp in most things...just a preference. If shrimp is easier to find where you are, have at it.

Last summer at a branch party one of our friends picked up a lobster on the way out. Turned it loose in one of the small pools in the creek and then just stood back. The kids thought Godzilla had come to Alabama! Even funnier was standing there, counting the college-educated ADULTS who fell for it!

Crawdad and Ham Jambalaya

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 package frozen seasoning blend (onions, peppers & celery)
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
4 bay leaves
1 pound ham, cubed
1 pound crawdad tails
1 14-1/2 ounce can diced tomatoes w/juice
1/2 cup water or chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoons cayenne
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup rice
1/4 cup chopped green onions

Heat the oil, add the seasoning blend and garlic and saute about five minutes or until soft. Add the ham and bay leaves, saute for 2-3 minutes. Add crawdads, tomatoes, water and spices and cook for ten minutes, stirring often. Add the rice, stir to mix, cover and simmer for 30 minutes until the rice is tender. (Sometimes I have to add more water if it gets too thick before the rice is done.) Let stand about five minutes, stir in the green onions and serve.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Yankee Pralines

In keeping with the Mardi Gras theme, and because I'm feeling like I need to do some of the heavy lifting around here, I am sharing with you my super-secret recipe for spiced pecans, aka Yankee Pralines. Which ain't a prawlin atall.

I give these at Christmas. My Father-in-Law would rather find them under the tree than a Lowe's gift card. Hell, sometimes he even kicks in the pecans - he just wants me to 'fix' them.
1 egg white
1 tsp.-ish water
5 cups pecans (Peh-kahns..."peh" rhymes with "feh")
1.5 cups sugar
~1 tbsp. cinnamon
~ 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
~ 1 tsp. kosher salt

Combine the egg white with water and whisk it until good and foamy (add more water if the egg white is sticky and won't loosen up). Toss in peh-kahs.

I swear to you this won't work if you call them pee-kins. WTF is a pee-kin? That's what you do to your man when he's in the shower, right?

Okay, so you have your pecans all coated.

In a small bowl combine the sugar and spices and then mix into pecans. Adjust seasoning accordingly. I like salty with sweet so I add more Morton's, I pump up the cayenne for my Father-in-Law.

Dump onto an oiled cookie sheet and press into a single layer. Put into a 200 degree oven for about an hour.
THIS IS IMPORTANT - Stir the pecans every 15 minutes.
DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP or you will have Yankee Praline Brittle which is synonymous with Inedible Crap.


Holy crap on a cracker... The teevee just said Hillary's won New Hampshire. Whoda thunk it?

A little explanation of our quirks and foibles

Posting the Red Beans and Rice, I realized that I am "assuming" (and we all know THAT little saying) things that might just not be obvious.

City Girl and I cook for fun, entertainment and to satisfy one of the original seven sins. And in our world recipes are...guidelines. They are NOT cast-in-stone directions but maps, and you just feel perfectly free to find your own way.

I LOVE frozen seasoning blend. This is chopped onion, bell pepper and celery, sold in bags in the frozen vegetables section. I REALLY love frozen seasoning blend. One, things sit around here and get lost and then when I need them, I can't find them. Or two, things sit around here and get lost and when I find them they have...morphed. Into moldy, moving things. FSB can be counted on to be sitting there, in the freezer, fresh and tasty and ALREADY CUT UP. There's a lot to be said for that. Having made that statement...if the stuff is here and I have the time, I'll chop and dice. (Reference the cast-in-stone thing.) I've wasted too much of my life waiting until things were "just right" I realize that if you can't chop fresh onions, prepackaged make the trip just as much fun.

I have an issue with recipes that unnecessarily call for portions of prepackaged foods. DON'T ask for 12 ounces of tomatoes if it's a 14-ounce can...that's just dumb. UNLESS that two ounces is REALLY going to make that much difference usually won't. So if there's an item listed in a recipe and it doesn't work for you? Experiment. How wrong can you go? (Having said that I'm gonna tell you right off the can't substitute wax paper for parchment paper when you're baking bread. You can go REALLY wrong.)

All seasonings are to taste. When we make cheese straws for home, we use one tablespoon of cayenne. When we make them for public consumption? One teaspoon does it. Use YOUR judgement, YOUR taste and YOUR family's expectations. There's a lot of wiggle room out there.

Also, there are NO food snobs here. My favorite cheese is Explorateur and I have to drive to Birmingham to buy it, but my favorite afternoon snack is a bean burrito with no red sauce from Taco Bell. Eighty-nine cents and throw in a large, unsweetened tea and you eat for two-and-a-quarter. Can't beat that!

Mardi Gras, continued

For 17 years, I had a Gingerbread House Party every year. Started out small, cookies and kids; ended up out-of-control when the newspaper covered it and the wire services picked up the story. I had friends and relatives coming OUT of the woodwork. Haven't had that party in...three?...years. But when I DID, this menu was what I served. Sure, it was Christmas time but hey, everyone else was cooking ham and turkey.
Red Beans & Rice
Old Fashioned Bread Pudding (Preceding post)
French bread
That and cold beer is all you need, it can all be prepared ahead of time and there's something there for everyone.

Red Beans & Rice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bag frozen seasoning blend
3 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon dried thyme
4 bay leaves
2 tablespoons Worcestershire
1 pound ham, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 package smoked sausage
1 pound dried red beans

Rinse and sort the beans, cover with water and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and let stand , covered, for at least an hour...overnight is okay.

Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute the seasoning blend and garlic for about five minutes. Add salt, cayenne, pepper, thyme and bay leaves, saute for another couple of minutes and then add the ham and sausage. Lower the heat to medium-low, cover and let everybody make friends, about ten minutes.

Drain the beans, add them to the pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer, uncovered, for about two hours. Stir occasionally and add water if needed. THEN, and this is how you get that texture, every time you wander past the pot, take a wooden spoon and mash some of the beans against the side of the're aiming to mash about half. Cook for about another hour, stirring occasionally, until the beans are soft.

Serve over rice. I like the boil-in-a-bag stuff; I have friends who swear by Zatarain's.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Where to start, where to start?

Around here, when life is flowing smoothly (re: its regular bumpy course) we pretty much live from holiday storage box to holiday storage box. We pack up one batch and bring another down. So, since yesterday was Epiphany, I am assuming (!) you decorated for Mardi Gras. (Like my friends, B&G, because this really IS their house. Banners complements of Katrina evacuees.)
So let's do a Mardi Gras recipe! This one came from SR, who died a couple of years ago. When her son married, in another state, B&G and I, along with Mary Virginia, packed up a van and drove to Jackson Tn, and fed the rehearsal dinner people. In a lovely old ROUND building that had once been a library. SR made...I think 14...of these, which reminds me they freeze beautifully. And the secret is just TOO TOO tacky, but I'm promising you, you're gonna love this bread pudding.
At some point in the wee hours of the about three a.m...we were staggering through the hotel lobby. I was barefoot with a cigar in my cleavage, a bottle of champagne in one hand and three champagne glasses in the other. (I'm sure, at the moment, this made sense.) And Mary Virginia kept saying, "Let me put that bottle in my purse," and the rest of us kept insisting: "There might be someone here who needs a drink!" We meet a lot of interesting people that way.
Sharon's Old-Fashioned Bread Pudding
2 cups scalded milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 large eggs, beaten
1 package hamburger buns (really!)
Whiskey Sauce:
1 stick butter
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons bourbon
Lightly grease an 11x9 inch baking dish. Combine milk and butter in a small saucepan and stir over low heat until butter is melted. Let cool. Mix sugar, salt and cinnamon together. Pour milk/butter mixture into beaten eggs; add sugar mixture. With kitchen scissors, cut buns into cubes. Put bread cubes into a large bowl and pour liquid mixture over. Toss to moisten but don't overdo! or you'll get mush.
Pour into the baking dish, place that dish into another baking pan filled half full of water. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Remove from the hot water. Best when served warm with Whiskey Sauce.
Sauce: Melt one stick of butter, add two cups powdered sugar and bourbon. Mix until smooth and serve warm. (SR swore you'd go to hell if you didn't use Jack Daniels. I'm a bourbon person (Jack Daniels is NOT bourbon) so I prefer Makers Mark. You can just suit yourself, but it doesn't matter...this is wonderful.)
We'll do Red Beans & Rice, and Jambalaya, later.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

One is NEVER Enough

You knew this was coming, didn't you?

Like one blog could possibly ever be enough to contain Country Girl and myself and our myriad interests and things to bitch about.

Not only are CG1 and I bound by an abiding love of bourbon, but we are twins separated at birth when it comes to good food.

And the problem, over at CG/CG, is that 40-ish percent of our readership is male. And of those men who I personally know...nobody cooks. They eat, to be sure, but they don't particularly care about how it all gets put together.

So as a remedy to that situation, we bring you, "No Place for Picky Eaters." Because picky-damned eaters will drive a serious cook absolutely to the brink of dispair.

What is WRONG with you picky-eating people? Did your mothers raise you on PB&J and mashed potatoes? Because if they did, then shame on them.

For the rest of you who LOOOOVES some good eatin', stay tuned.

Image Credit: Some dude's Myspace Account. Think HE spends many nights alone?