Archive for the ‘Southern’ Category

Fish Tacos, Southern Style

November 12, 2018

It’s dark and rainy and there are new episodes of the Great British Baking Show waiting for me.  That translates to about 15 minutes of interest in making dinner.  Fortunately these fish tacos only take about 15 minutes to make!

Fish tacos usually have halibut or cod – maybe fried, maybe grilled.  They’re often topped with shredded cabbage, queso fresco, lime juice and salsa.  And I love them that way.  But in this house they come with catfish and the cabbage comes in slaw form, as all good cabbages do.  Not much else to them.  Some Tony Chachere’s on the fish and some hot sauce on the top.  Corn tortillas.

Catfish is cheap.  And you don’t need big gorgeous filets.  You’re going to chop them into pieces anyway so if you can get catfish nuggets for half price, get those.  It takes about 1 filet for two tacos.  Once it’s cut up, put it in a bag with the seasoning.   I use Tony Chachere’s.  Shake.  You’re ready to go.

Cabbage is cheap too.  Even if you buy it shredded in a bag.  Not a kit, just the cabbage.  In my world, passed down from my MeMa to my mom to me, slaw has 4 ingredients:  cabbage, Duke’s mayonnaise, salt, and pepper.  Make the slaw ahead of time if you can.  If not, it takes less than 10 minutes.

Heat a little canola oil in a cast iron skillet.  When it starts to smoke add some of the catfish pieces.  Don’t crowd the pan.  You want them to cook quickly.  Turn them in 1-2 minutes, depending on how thick they are.  Cook them another minute. Remove from the pan and finish the rest of fish.

While the fish is cooking, heat the tortillas in the oven.

Pile some fish, slaw and hot sauce in a tortilla!  I had some cilantro and green onions left from the other night so I threw that in too.  SO GOOD!

I could eat these many more days than not.  The house does smell slightly of fish for the evening, but there’s minimal cleanup.  I’ve been known to eat these sans plate just standing over the sink. The lunch leftovers, if you have any leftovers, are pretty darn good too.

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Fried Green Tomatoes

August 26, 2018

It’s been several years since I’ve done a post on just fried green tomatoes so, here it is!  I haven’t read the old one to see if I’ve changed how I do it, but probably not. To me fried green tomatoes signal the beginning and the end of summer.  In the beginning when the tomatoes appear on the vines, sometimes you just can’t wait for them to ripen so you pick them green.  At the end of the summer you have to pick the last of the tomatoes before the frost gets them.  We’ll have tomatoes a few more weeks in Central Virginia, but I couldn’t resist these at the farmers’ market yesterday.

I’ve tried a few different ways to bread them – flour only, tempura batter, flour and panko, cornmeal only – but this is my favorite.  Plain white flour, egg wash, seasoned corn meal.  They look a little rustic when they’re done, but man are they good!  I always end up frying mine in bacon grease, but only because I only seem to make them on the same days that I fry bacon.  Might as well make use of what you have.  You can do them just as easily in vegetable oil.

Nothing disappoints me more than to order fried green tomatoes out and have them come sliced so thinly that you can’t taste the tomato at all.  I like the taste and the texture of a green tomato so I slice mine 1/4 – 1/2 inch thick.  This is two tomatoes, sliced.

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Next comes the coating.  It’s a 3 station set up.  I don’t have a breading station.  (I’m not really trying to make breading and frying food easier for myself)!  You can use plates for the dry parts and any wide, shallow dish for the egg.  These old TWA Airlines dishes work perfectly.  I work right to left, probably because I’m left-handed.  Plain flour first, then egg, then cornmeal.  The key is to use  one hand for the dry ingredients and the other hand for the egg wash.  That way only one hand gets all gummy.  I actually did these one handed so I could take pictures with the other.

You may have to use your hands to pat the dry ingredients on both sides to get an even coating.  Then lightly tap the side of the tomato on the plate to remove the excess.  These are thin coatings of flour and cornmeal.

Time to fry!  Add enough oil to cover the bottom of a heavy skillet.  I use cast iron because it holds heat well and helps keep the oil hot.  Make sure the oil is hot.  If it smokes just a little that’s ok.  DO NOT flick water into the oil to see if it’s hot.  It will spatter!  You can drop a little flour in there and see if it fries if you want. They key to frying is making sure the oil is hot enough.  Greasy fried food is greasy because the oil wasn’t hot enough. Hot oil allows the coating to form a crust really quickly which prevents the oil from soaking into it.

Do your tomatoes in batches.  Every time you add a tomato to the oil, the temperature drops a little.  See above for the importance of making sure the oil is hot!  Make sure there’s room between them.

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It takes about 2 minutes on each side depending on how thick your tomatoes are.  Be careful when you turn these.  They’re heavy and if you try to flip them like eggs you’ll have grease everywhere!  I try to lean the tomato up on the side of the skillet and then ease the uncooked side back down into the pan.  Just don’t scrape it down the side of the pan or you’ll lose all the coating you worked so hard on!

Salt these while they’re hot.  I usually salt the top side while they’re still in the pan and the bottom side is cooking.  Then drain them on a paper towel or a cooling rack.

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Resist the urge to eat one right away! (You won’t).  You don’t want to burn your tongue (You will).  The insides of a fried green tomato are nuclear hot.  Consider yourself warned.

I’m a purist so I eat my tomatoes plain.  People dip them in ranch dressing; serve them with remoulade; and cover them in pimento cheese.  Have at it.  I like them just as they are.

If you have leftovers reheat them in the oven.  The toaster over will do fine if you have one.  That will allow the coating to crisp up again.

Pretty hard to beat a Sunday brunch with fried green tomatoes and a bunch of other stuff from the farmers’ market!

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Seafood Sunday Shrimp and Grits

August 12, 2018

For some reason Sunday has become seafood day here.  Maybe because I often have time to go to the good market and pick out something nice or something I can’t get in my regular grocery.  It’s just shrimp today, but feels special anyway.  Elegant comfort food.

There are as many ways to make shrimp and grits as there are people who make it.  Pro and con tomato.  Pro and con meat.  Pro and con cream.   Pro cheese grits, pro regular grits.  I tend toward pro meat, neutral tomato and con cream.  I love cheese grits, but not with shrimp.  I’m not a cheese and seafood person for the most part.

Tonight I had a recipe from The New York Times as inspiration – added some ham, removed some tomato paste, butter grits instead of cheese.  It’s not my favorite ever shrimp and grits, but the worst shrimp and grits I’ve ever made is still better than a lot of things I’ve made.  And on a very rainy Sunday with my basement taking on water, it was lovely to have.

A couple of comments before we get started.  One – make your grits first.  They’ll keep.  If you have both things going at once your grits will stick to the bottom or your shrimp will overcook or you’ll forget something.  Just get the grits done before you move on to the shrimp and sauce.  Second – do your prep work.  Get your shrimp peeled and deveined.  Get your chopping done. Put stuff in bowls so once you get started, you can just dump stuff in the pan.  It’s more dishes, but really worth it.

Step 1:  Make the grits

  • Follow the instructions on the package.  Use stock instead of water if you want.  Add cheese instead of butter at the end if you want.  I used half chicken stock and half water.

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  • NOTE:  Unless you’re sure you’re going to use all of the grits for this dish, don’t use your shrimp stock in the grits.  If you have leftover grits, and I always do, they’ll be a lot more versatile if they don’t taste like shrimp.

Step 2:  Make the shrimp mixture

Here’s what you need: (see, chopping already done)

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  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • ¾ cup chopped onion
  • ½ cup chopped bell pepper
  • 2 gloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2-3/4 C diced country ham
  • 1 cup diced ripe tomatoes with a little of their juice (chopped canned tomatoes are preferable to less-than-perfect fresh tomatoes)
  • ½ teaspoon dried Herbes de Provence
  • 1/2 tablespoon flour
  • 1 pound medium to large raw shrimp, shelled (reserve shells for stock)
  • ½ to 1 cup shrimp stock
  •  cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 dashes Tabasco

Here’s what you do:

  • For the shrimp, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat and sauté the onion, pepper, garlic and ham until softened, about 3 minutes.

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  • Add the tomatoes and juice and Herbes de Provence; bring to a simmer. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes.

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  • Sprinkle with flour and stir well.
  • Add the shrimp and stir constantly until they begin to turn pink, about 2 minutes.
  • Add 1/2 cup stock and cook for 2 to 3 minutes more.

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  • Add the cream, Worcestershire and Tabasco and more stock if needed to make a spoonable sauce that generously coats the shrimp.
  • Heat thoroughly, being careful not to let it come to a boil. Taste for salt.

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Favorites: Squash and Rice Casserole

July 10, 2018

I don’t make many new things during the summer.  There are barely enough weeks to get in all my favorites!  This is a favorites week.  And this is a dish I’ll eat three meals a day until it’s gone.  I “even it up” in the dish the way some people do with cake.  Ok, I do it with cake too.

If you’ve ever been to a summer potluck in the South you’ve had your pick of squash casseroles.  And if you haven’t, get yourself to one ASAP.  There’s not much better in my book than a table full of six kinds of macaroni salad and nine squash casseroles.  Throw in some deviled eggs and fried chicken and I might never leave.  But I digress.  I love squash casserole.  All kinds of squash casserole.  But this is the only one I ever make at home.  That should tell you something about how good it is.

I found the original recipe for this many, many years ago in a Cooking Light magazine. You’ll see that I’ve made some modifications such that it’s not so light anymore.  Mostly that’s because I don’t believe in low-fat or fat-free cheese.  I have used brown rice instead of white, but I don’t like the texture much.  I have used plain yogurt instead of sour cream, which works fine.  I increased the squash to rice ratio as well.

So, here’s what you need: (ignore that cottage cheese in the back, you don’t need that)

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  • 6-7 C sliced summer squash and/or zucchini (I like both)
  • 1 large sweet onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 C cooked rice
  • 1/2 C sour cream or plain yogurt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 6 oz sharp cheddar, grated
  • 1/2-1 C bread crumbs, stuffing mix, and/or panko

Here’s what you do:

  • Preheat the oven to 350.
  • Bring 1-2 C water to a boil in a medium sized pot
  • Add the garlic, onion, squash and some salt
  • Simmer until the squash is cooked, but not mushy

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  • Drain the squash in a colander, pressing out excess liquid with the back of a spoon
  • In a large bowl add the rice and sour cream.  Stir until mixed.
  • Fold in the squash

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  • Stir in the beaten egg
    • TIP:  The mixture in your bowl is probably really hot.  You don’t want to scramble the egg.  So, either set your egg out early so it’s closer to room temp when you add it, or add 1-2 pieces of the hot squash to the egg to raise the temperature slowly without causing a curdle.
  • Fold in most of the cheese (leave a little for the top)

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  • Stir in the bread crumbs (I used half panko and half stuffing mix)
  • Dump everything into an 8×8 glass baking dish
  • Bake 30-40 minutes until the cheese is slightly brown and the edges are bubbly

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This is SO good.  It doesn’t cut into squares, so spoon it out.  Then even it up as much as you want!

Too tired Friday

June 15, 2018

It’s been a long week, y’all.  And it’s not quite over.  Still, a girl needs her comfort food.  Lucky for me I had some leftovers and a few odds and ends to make a dinner that felt about nice enough to get me through.

Summer Friday night is often a little piece-y.  I’m always down to the last few items from last Saturday’s farmers’ market trip.  Tonight that meant a few fancy lettuce leaves; a baby squash; a sweet onion; and a mostly green tomato.  Here’s a tip. If you buy a green tomato to use as a green tomato you need to use it in 5-6 days.  As it sits around it’ll start to pink.

Combine the lettuce with the leftover peas and rice from earlier in the week.  Main course done.  My first squash and onions of the summer.  First side done.  And some barely pink fried green tomatoes.  Not a ton of effort, but tastes a lot like loving care to this girl.

What’s the first sign that a yummy dinner is on the way?  All three of my cast iron skillets on the stove at the same time.

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I’ll direct you to a previous post to get details on making fried green tomatoes.  For tonight I can tell you that going the lazy route doesn’t pay off.  A breading station has 3 parts:  flour, egg, cornmeal in this case.  I cheated.  Cornmeal, egg, cornmeal.  It’s not the same.  The flour on the bottom makes the coating fluffy underneath.  The egg in the middle makes everything stick.  The cornmeal on the outside makes a crispy coating.  Your other option is cornmeal on the bottom.  Egg in the middle. Panko or breadcrumbs on the outside.

Two layers of crispy isn’t the same.  Don’t misunderstand, they were darn good.  And I burned the tar out of my tongue eating the first one when it was still too hot, as always.  But there is a better way.  And this is it.

The second sign that a yummy dinner is on the way is that it takes more than one dish to get it to the table!  It’s not the prettiest meal I’ve ever made, but it did taste like summer.  And it did feel like a little comfort, so it did its job plus a little.  Some days that’s the best you can expect.

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Ode to Summer (and a Southern Salad)

June 9, 2018

I love Summer!  I love that my neighbors sit on front porches and wave as you walk by.  I love that our vegetable gardens are in front yards because dogs and chickens are in the back.  I love that there’s plenty of mint for juleps and mojitos and salads.  And I love that my Friday nights are spent with a lap full of cookbooks making plans for the wonderful things I’ll find at the Saturday farmers’ markets.  And so it was last night – Hardywood’s Mamaw’s Mean Peach Cobbler beer and Vivian Howard’s Deep Run Roots.

It’s still early summer.  In Central Virginia that means cucumbers, green beans, early squash, late radishes and spring onions. My garden also has a little arugula ready to bolt.  We’re all ready for corn and peaches and tomatoes and field peas, but we’ve got a few weeks to wait yet.  So, salads are still kind of the thing.

My farmers’ market also has the best bacon I’ve ever eaten.  Crabill’s Slab Bacon.  I call it Crack Slab Bacon.  Since I discovered it I haven’t been able to give it up. I buy extra all summer so it will last me through the winter.  So tonight we’re working with arugula and bacon salad.  Leave it to Vivian Howard to make wonderfulness from that.  This is a modifed version of her Sprouted Hoppin’ John Salad with Hot Bacon Vinaigrette.

Hoppin’ John is my traditional New Year’s Day food so I was surprised to be drawn to it on a 90 degree day.  I was hoping there might be early field peas to be had at the farmers’ market, but had to settle for frozen black-eyed peas instead.  I love black-eyed peas, so no problem there.  Hopping John is essentially rice, black-eyed peas and bell pepper often with smoked ham or turkey.  This salad, done my way, is all those things, but with bacon instead of ham and served over salad greens.  Use whatever greens you want.  I used lettuces and arugula, but spinach and chard would work just fine.

I cooled the rice, but left the black-eyed peas warm.  The lettuce and peppers are salad cold and the bacon cool enough to crumble.

The key is the dressing.

Hot Bacon Vinaigrette
  • 8 ounces sliced bacon
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced scallion white part only
  • 1 garlic clove, grated on a mandoline
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar (I used rice wine vinegar)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey (I used Southern Hot Honey)
  • 1 teaspoon smooth Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  1. Add 2 tablespoons of bacon fat back to the pan. Over medium heat, stir in the scallion and let it sizzle for 10 seconds. Then quickly add the garlic followed by the vinegar, lemon juice, honey, Dijon, and salt. With a wooden spoon scrape all the little bacon bits, or fond, from the bottom of the pan.
  2. Once the dressing begins bubbling furiously, pour it over the salad. Stir it up and serve with the crumbled bacon on top. The arugula will wilt, and that’s the point.

As always, I have leftovers.  Salads can be difficult to eat leftover.  The greens get wilty and then slimy if you dress them.  For storage I mixed the leftover rice, peas and dressing.  I can reheat all of that together without damaging any of it.  When I add the warmed rice mixture to a fresh bowl of lettuce and peppers the greens will wilt just as they’re supposed to without being soggy!

I enjoyed this salad immensely!  It’s a complete meal all by itself.  It’s a wonderful combination of flavors and textures.  Using field peas, or the sprouted peas in the original recipe, would make the flavors less earthy and more green, but still good!

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Shrimp and Grits

January 28, 2018

After running with some dogs at the Richmond SPCA, I spent my day cleaning the house.  I’ve had a sick pup so the rugs needed some serious attention.  I knew that after a day with the carpet shampooer I’d need a nice dinner.  Shrimp and grits is the best way to combine comfort food with treating yourself a little fancy.  And there are a million ways to make it.  Some people feel very strongly that there’s one “real” way to make shrimp and grits.  I can be happy with them just about any way they come.

Tonight I went a little fancy with grits cakes.  I made the grits this morning so they’d have time to cool and firm up.  I like my grits stiff enough to eat with a fork so the texture is right.  Use quick cooking grits for this. Not instant.  Never instant.  For savory dinner grits like this I often use some kind of stock instead of water and/or milk.  I had some chicken soup base in the freezer so I diluted that and added some salt.  At the end a little Parmesan and some butter.

Tip Have you ever had grits at a restaurant that tasted like nothing?  And no matter how much butter or salt you add, they still taste like nothing?  It’s because whoever made them, they didn’t salt the water.  You have to salt the water.  The salt has to cook into the grits.  If it doesn’t, you can never put enough salt on top of them to make them good.

Ok, if you want to make grits cakes your grits should be thick enough in the pot that they stick to a spoon.  Then you spread them in a jelly roll pan that has parchment paper lining the bottom.  Let them chill in the fridge for a few hours.  Then you can cut them in whatever shapes you like.  Tonight I used a biscuit cutter to make pretty rounds.  You could just as easily use a knife to cut squares or triangles.  With rounds you’ll have some edges leftover.  I’m all set for breakfast for a few days!

For the shrimp: peel them, remove the tails; devein them.  Please remove the tails.  It’s messy to remove the tails with a knife and fork and weird to have them left in your bowl at the end of the meal.  Besides, you end up leaving the tail meat behind.  Leave the tails on for cocktail shrimp or peel and eat, but if you need utensils to eat the dish, do yourself and your guests the courtesy of removing them.  Then run the tip of your knife down the back of each shrimp to remove the vein. You can use the flat of your knife to scrape the vein out.  Or, you can buy them already peeled and deveined.  Just don’t buy them already cooked!

For this version of shrimp and grits, there’s bacon.  Can’t go wrong there.  And again, I have plenty leftover for breakfast!  The only other ingredients are peppers, onions, garlic, more stock, white wine and lemon juice.  I added a little flour as well to thicken the sauce, but you could easily cook the sauce down instead.

Reheat your grit cakes in the oven and serve the shrimp and sauce over them.  Yum!  I even did one as a beautiful appetizer.  Perfect for an elegant dinner party or dinner for two or as the start to a lovely dinner for one!

 

Here’s what you need:

For the grits

 

  • 4 C stock
  • salt
  • 1 C quick grits
  • 1/2 C Parmesan
  • 1 T butter

For the shrimp

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Tip  I keep a few of those little wine bottles around for occasions like this.  If you need a little wine for cooking, but don’t plan to open a bottle for drinking, they’re just the right thing.  It’s not the best wine you’ll ever have, but it’s absolutely drinkable.  And if you’d drink it you can cook with it.  For me, this is a great way to have 1/2 C for a recipe and one glass with dinner.

  • 3 slices bacon, cooked crisp, 1 T bacon grease reserved
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 T flour
  • 1/2 C stock
  • 1/2 C white wine
  • 1/2 lemon
  • salt, pepper, Tabasco to taste
  • sliced green onions for garnish

Here’s what you do:

For the grits

  1. Bring the stock to a boil.  Add salt to taste.
  2. Stir in the grits and cover.
  3. Stir often to keep them from sticking to the bottom.
  4. Cook 15 minutes or so until the grits are cooked, but still slightly toothy.

For the grit cakes

  1. Spread the cooked grits into a jelly roll pan lined with parchment.
  2. Chill in the refrigerator 2-3 hours or up to overnight.
  3. Cut into shapes.
  4. Place on a baking sheet.
  5. Heat in a 300 degree oven 8-10 minutes, until warm through.
  6. Keep warm for serving.

For the shrimp

  1. Fry the bacon, drain and set aside.  Pour off the grease, leaving 1 T in the pan.
  2. Add the pepper, onion and garlic.  Stir until they soften.
  3. Stir in flour until it disappears.
  4. Add stock and wine.  Stir until the sauce begins to thicken.
  5. Add the shrimp.  Cook 3-4 minutes, flipping 1/2 way through.
  6. Squeeze the lemon over the shrimp.  Add salt and Tabasco to taste.
  7. Serve over the warmed grits cakes, topped with the green onions.

Luck and Money for the New Year!

January 1, 2018

Happy New Year everyone!

New Year’s Day here means few things for sure:  a First Day 5K; the end to 2 weeks of eating junk and drinking too much, otherwise known as the Fat Fortnight; collards and black-eyed peas for dinner.

It’s a Southern thing.  Collards and black-eyed peas for the new year to represent luck and money.  The whole truth is that this is filling food for cheap.

Most years I start these with a pot liquor made with smoked turkey wings or ham hocks.  This year I went vegetarian and I’m not sorry.  These were easy, didn’t make a mess and tasted great.  I’m looking forward to leftovers!

Here’s all the stuff you need:

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1/8 cup canola oil

1 yellow onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

2 lbs. collard greens, stemmed and chopped

1 tsp. red pepper flakes, toasted. (Toast the pepper flakes in a dry sauté pan over medium heat, tossing constantly.  Leave this out if you’re heat averse.)

1/2 cup white wine

2 cups cooked black -eyed peas

1/2 an onion, diced

1 garlic clove, minced

1 1/2 C vegetable stock or water (enough to cover the peas)

salt to taste

 

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

2 T butter

1 tomato, chopped

Hot sauce to taste

If you haven’t worked with collards before just know that this is a sturdy leaf.  They have to be cooked a long while to make them tender and cook out some of the bitterness.  They’re available chopped and bagged at the grocery store.  I don’t buy them that way because they have the stems in them.  I prefer to remove the stems.  More industrious people than I pickle the stems to use as garnishes.  I just toss them.

I like to chop these kind of small.  They work better in soups that way and they mix better with rice and peas.  Place the leaf face down on your cutting board.  Run your knife down either side of the stem and stack the two leaf halves on top of each other.  Set them aside.  Stem all of the leaves before you begin the chopping.

Stack 4-5 leaves on top of each other and roll them up together.  Slice the roll in half longways, turn it and slice longways again.  The roll is now in four sections.  Cut it crosswise in small pieces and you’ll end up with something that looks like a dice.

Normally you cook these in enough liquid to cover them, but this recipe is fairly dry.  The collards are easier to use when you don’t have to drain them.  Just be sure that you use a pot big enough for the collards and then to add the peas to.

Start with oil, I use olive oil for nearly everything, but canola or safflower or whatever will work here just as well.  I sauteed the onions and garlic together.  This saved me the trouble of making the roasted garlic butter that the recipe calls for.  You may need to add the collards in batches to make them fit.  Once they’ve started to cook down add the wine.  If you don’t want to use wine use vegetable broth here.

You’ve got 30-40 minutes to cook these until they’re really tender.  If the collards start to stick to the bottom of the pot add a little water and stir.  Cook them with the lid off the pot.

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While the collards cook, start the black-eyed peas.  In this part of the world you can get fresh peas for New Year’s, so I recommend that.  If you can’t, frozen are the next best thing.

Again, start your pot, a small one this time, with a little oil.  When it’s hot, but not smoking, add some onion and garlic.  Saute until the onions are soft.  Add the black-eyed peas and enough water or vegetable stock to cover them.  Salt the water to taste.  Bring them to a boil and then cut the heat back to simmer.  It’ll take 15-20 minutes to cook these.  I like mine pretty soft, but be careful that they aren’t mushy.  You want them to hold their shape when you mix them into the collards.

Use a slotted spoon to remove the black-eyed peas from the cooking liquid.  Save that liquid for cooking the rice.  Add enough water to the cooking liquid to make 1 1/2 cups.  Add the rice to the small pot with the liquid, bring to a boil, and simmer, covered, until it’s done.  About 15 minutes.

And, back to the collards.  Add the cooked peas and vinegar to the collards.  Throw in the butter and salt to taste.  Cook everything another 10 minutes.  Serve over the rice.  Garnish with a few chopped tomatoes.  Add a few dashes of Tabasco or Siracha or other hot sauce if you like

I had this as my dinner tonight, but later this week it’ll make a great side dish and maybe some breakfast hash.  Stay tuned!

This is based on a recipe from Garden and Gun magazine.  Check it out here!

Hope the new year brings you all the luck and money you need!

Black-Eyed Pea, Collard and Ham Soup

January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!  Welcome to 2013.  In this part of the world collards and black-eyed peas are a good luck tradition for the new year.  They’re supposed to bring wealth and prosperity.  The story goes that black-eyed peas saved the starving Civil War South because Sherman’s troops considered them to be food for livestock and thus left those crops  while other foodstuffs were stolen or destroyed.  Most often you serve them as part of Hoppin’ John.  I love Hoppin’ John, but I was looking for a new way to have collards and black-eyed peas this year.  I stumbled on a soup recipe.  New Year’s Day in Central Virginia is gray and rainy this year.  How smart do I look for planning soup?! 

Black-eyed pea and collard soup

The original recipe actually calls for chickpeas and swiss chard, but it offers black-eyed peas as an alternative. I used the last of the black-eyed peas I put up from the farmers’ market.  I decided to use a large bunch of collards instead of a small bunch of chard.  Since collards are hardier than chard I figured they’d hold up better in soup anyway.    I also punted the chicken stock.  I had to make pot liquor for the collards anyway so I decided to use that as the broth.  That allowed me to leave out the bacon.  And I left out the tomatoes.  Tomatoes are a precious commodity around here this year because I didn’t get to do any canning last summer.  The few quarts I have left have to last 7 more months.  Now that I think about it the soup I made only vaguely resembles the recipe that I started with, but I really like it.

The pot liquor that I used in the soup and that I’ll use on the rest of the collards today is made with ham hocks, garlic salt, Seasoned Salt and Tabasco.  Sometimes I make it with smoked turkey instead of ham hocks, but pigs are good luck for the new year and fowl are not.  I used 2 ham hocks to make 3 quarts of pot liquor.  Just put the ham hock and seasonings in a big stock pot with 3 quarts of water.  Bring it to a boil; reduce the heat and let it simmer for an hour or so.  You’ll end up with a smoky, slightly salty broth with a little kick to it.

 This is a very earthy soup.  The collards and the peas both lean in that direction.  The carrot adds a little sweetness.  Next time I’d probably use 2-3 carrots instead of just one.  I love the smoky flavor of the broth and the kick from the broth and the added red pepper flakes is terrific.  Of course you can adjust that to your taste.  One note about the collards.  For New Year’s you’re supposed to cut the collards in long ribbons to represent long prosperity.  That’s what I did.  Gotta tell you eating long ribbons of greens out of a soup bowl is not a pretty business.  The soup is yummy so tuck your napkin under you chin and enjoy!

Good? Good and good luck too!
Easy? Sure, prepping the collards and broth takes time, but it’s not hard.
Good for company? Not fancy, but makes plenty for sharing.
Special shopping? Nope. I had a devil of a time finding black-eyed peas this year, but normally that’s not the case.

Black-Eyed Pea, Collard and Ham Soup

Ingredients

1 T olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 large carrot, diced
1 (6-ounce) piece smoked ham steak, diced into 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
l bunch collards, stemmed and sliced into thin ribbons
1 quart smoked ham hock broth
2 C fresh black-eyed peas
Hot sauce, as needed

Directions

Add olive oil to a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium heat. To the same Dutch oven, add the onion, garlic, and carrot, and saute until the vegetables are tender, roughly 4 minutes. Add the ham steak and red pepper flakes and adjust the seasonings with salt and black pepper, to taste. Add the collards and saute until they begin to soften.

Stir in the broth and black-eyed peas. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and let cook for 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if necessary. Add hot sauce to taste.

Smoked Turkey, Collard Green and Shrimp Gumbo

October 15, 2012

This post has been a while in coming.  That’s kind of fitting because this dish takes a while to make.  I ended up making it over two days.  That’s definitely a way to do it if you don’t have 4 hours to hang out fairly close to the stove. This is one of those times when reading the recipe carefully all the way through before I started would have saved me a little inconvenience.  Turns out it doesn’t work well to start this at 5:30 thinking that you’re going to have it for dinner that evening.

 This is a rich, dark, smoky, salty gumbo.  Good stuff.  It’s a traditional flour and fat roux cooked to a dark brown.  Add some Guinness and it gets darker still.  By the time you’ve let some smoked turkey cook for 3 hours you’ve got a dark and smoky gumbo that’s reduced by about half.  Because it reduces so much be careful about the salt.  Don’t add any until the very end.  It concentrates.  That’s all I got done the first night.  I had to have time to let it cool before I put it away.  The next night I heated the gumbo, added some water and made a little extra roux so it wouldn’t be runny.  Then I added some fresh chopped collards and some I’d already cooked in smoked turkey pot liquor.  It took about 40 minutes for the fresh collards to cook down.  Five more minutes for the shrimp and you’re done – a mere 1 day and 45 minutes after I started.

A few tips.  The next time you’re going to make collards make 3-4 cups more pot liquor than you need to cook the collards and save it for making this gumbo.  You can freeze it until you need it.  Then cook enough collards that you have some for this recipe.  Freeze them until you need them.  Then chop the smoked turkey legs or wings from your collard pot and freeze it until you need it. (Are you getting the idea here?  Use your freezer!)  This way you’ve got most of the components done.  You just need to make the roux, chop the vegetables and add the elements you made ahead of time plus the shrimp.  I’m guessing you could do the whole thing in about 45 minutes that way.   

The truth is that this is worth the trouble.  I love the dark and smoky flavor.  The rice keeps it from being almost too rich to eat.  But it is rich, so start with small portions.  I made a half recipe and got 6 servings out of it.  Next time I’ll make a whole recipe and, you guessed it, freeze it!

Good? So, so good.
Easy? Not at all.
Good for company? My company enjoyed dinner and the leftovers I sent home.
Special shopping? Nope.

Smoked Turkey, Collard Green and Shrimp Gumbo

Usually I give you the recipe the way I made it, but since I messed up the timing I had to make some adjustments you won’t need now that you know what the timing is. What you see below is the original recipe from foodnetwork.com.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups small diced onions
3/4 cup small diced celery
3/4 cup small diced green, red, and/or yellow bell pepper
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 (12-ounce) bottle stout beer (recommended: Abita Turbo Dog)
8 cups dark chicken stock, chicken stock, or water
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
4 teaspoons Essence, recipe follows
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 pounds smoked turkey legs
1 pound collard greens, stemmed and rough chopped
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
Steamed white rice, for serving

Directions

Heat a large, 6-quart, wide-mouthed Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the flour and oil to the pan and stir to combine. Cook, stirring constantly, until the flour mixture is a deep chocolate brown color, about 20 minutes. Add the onions, celery and peppers to the roux and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic, stir, and cook the garlic for 1 minute. Add the beer to the roux, stir, and cook for 2 minutes. Add the stock, thyme, bay leaves, 2 teaspoons of Essence, salt, and cayenne to the pan. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the turkey legs to the pan. Cook until the turkey legs are falling-from-the-bone-tender, about 3 hours.

Remove the turkey from the pot and transfer to a plate to cool. Add the collard greens to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. When the turkey is cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones and tear into bite-size pieces. Discard the skin and bones. Return the turkey meat to the gumbo. Season the shrimp with the remaining 2 teaspoons of Essence and add them to the gumbo during the last 10 minutes of cooking.

Taste the gumbo, re-season if necessary. Serve with steamed white rice.