Sista-hood..and making the gumbo….
August 14, 2012

This was the 3 sistas in Uganda this spring….we look a little tired, and I think we were!

When my sisters and I get together…even if we haven’t seen each other for months…it’s like we were together yesterday. I know those who don’t get along with their sisters…it’s more like they’re competitors, who just happen to have grown up together and share the same parents. I can never understand that, just because I are so close, and we always have been really. I can’t even remember being in a real argument with them…maybe a little tiff when we were younger, but today…never.

This crew is familiar with seafood, but not cracking crabs, Maryland

So when the sisters, my niece and her daughter came for a visit, it was a whole houseload of female…plus my daughter came over to spend a couple of nights with us too….yeah…girls. Lots. We had an amazing crab feast on the back patio, with corn, wine(no beer, sorry)…a lovely, …girlie evening.

I did a pretty good job on these but we had 6 leftover crabs.
They were not wasted…

And some of the leftover crabs came in handy….But that leads me to a cookbook my sister brought me…

Crazy Sista Cooking….great gumbo recipe inside!!

My older sister Audrey(she hates it when I call her that…older sister) brought me Lucy Buffett’s new book…Lulu, as she is known, is the sister of the famous Margaritaville singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffet…she has a well-known seafood restaurant in Gulf Shores. First stop at the stove: gumbo!!

Lucy’s Summer Gumbo…

Lulu says it takes courage to take the roux to the color of mahogany, and yet not burn it(’cause if you do you just have to start over)….no likee.

Just keep stirring until your arm falls off….

Honestly I didn’t get there. I chickened out right at the end, and figured  it was dark enough, at least a light mahogany.

Add the chopped onions(and later the green and red peppers) and
saute in the roux. MORE stirring.

The recipe doesn’t call for chicken…but gumbo is what you make of it…

these are chopped chicken pieces….

And to me, it’s not gumbo without some sausage…andouille or kielbasa…

Note the queen made vegetables underneath the sausage!

Fat and Juicy…good stuff….

One does need some refreshment during the day long process of gumbo…Lulu suggest bloodies…I concur. And Fat and Juicy-here…is amazing…smokey, horseradish…yum.

Getting ready to add the chicken and sausage….the shrimp
right at the end….And

And…the finished product.

Sorry this isn’t my picture, but I forgot! (bloody Mary’s??)

Just in case you want to make this amazing gumbo for yourself…here’s the recipe from Alabama food. Really, I think it was the best gumbo I’ve ever made…and that’s saying something. Piece of advice…get a couple of sous chefs(husbands, daughters, friends) to help do the chopping and sauteeing…makes it so much easier.

Vacation cooking….southern food, mountain style!
June 16, 2011

Pan-fried of my favorite dishes!!

I don’t think it’s wrong to start this post with a big skillet of pan-fried okra….which is in my mind, the only way okra should be fried. Yes, restaurants always batter and deep fry it…but take it from me…this takes away the flavor of the okra, and makes it too bready(and fattening). Just toss it with some plain cornmeal, and pan-fry it in a small of vegetable(or olive) oil. You will need to add a little oil as you go along….salt and pepper….done. Some people like it darker(burned), like my sister…I prefer mine a little greener, as above. Either way, you’ll love it.

from left: my sister Jan, the lovely Jennifer, my precious daughter, me, my sister Audrey, and my son!

And we cooked a lot in North Carolina….and why not? We had a huge, killer kitchen with a large island(and a 6 burner stove), so lots of people could prep(aka stand around drinking wine and peeling and inhaling 5 pounds of gulf shrimp my sister hauled from Gulf Shores-that’s what my son is doing in the picture)….and socialize at the same time, of course. My fav way to prepare a meal…not alone! Occasionally we did eat out….

Hey, can I borrow that lip gloss???

Watch the roux, or it will burn, baby!!

We made a fabulous gumbo one night….with chicken, Andouille sausage and shrimp…in a big pot. But of course you start with a roux(oil and flour cooked to a carmel brown), and add the peppers and onions and garlic..the step you see above.

Serving up bowls of gumbo, Paul Prudhomme style...

We listened to Clifton Chenier during gumbo prep… NOLA music…

Dinner on the porch(right after I check my Blackberry)my bros-in-law Jack and George in foreground...

How lovely is that??

Our VRBO house thru the trees….as we called it, our “big-ass house”!
Highlands….you’ll love it!

Tomorrow….”cake surgery” on a birthday cake that…ummmm….wasn’t up to code!

Gumbo ya-ya, hon….and tales of corned beef hash…
November 8, 2010

Have I ever confessed my love for corned beef hash?

 OK, let’s just  say it out loud….I LOVE corned beef hash…all stemming from a childhood trip I made to California many years ago. My parents threw us three girls into the family Chevy station wagon, and off we went on a road trip see visit relatives in L.A. Oh, the glamour of living in California, to 3 southern girls from ‘bama. One of them even had a pool in their backyard…ourlittle  jaws must have hit the ground. Anyway, as we saw the USA from our Chevrolet… once we entered Oklahoma and parts west, weird things started showing up on breakfast menus, like corned beef hash(and other familiar things, like grits, disappeared). It was shocking to me, having had nothing more adventurous for breakfast than pancakes or scrambled eggs(with cheese when Mom felt like it). Corned beef hash with a crisp hot crust on top, seemed like…a culinary revelation. I ordered in Flagstaff Arizona, and have loved it ever since.

And since Cafe Hon in Hampden makes their own corned beef hash(though it must be said, I’d still order it if it came from a can)…I enjoyed the real deal this weekend for breakfast, with two gloriously poached eggs on top. Simply delicious. I want some right now.

It was a little chillier than this, on Sunday...

Hadn’t been down to the farmer’s market under the JFX for a month or so, and was surprised to see that lots of veges and fruits are still available..even tomatoes. I went down to score 5 jars of Maryland honey for a friend( I still don’t know why she needs 5 jars of honey but hey, who am I to judge)…which we found, no problem. One loaf of French bread, 5 tomatoes, a bunch of tiny potatoes, one blooming Amaryllis, and 3 pounds of shelled fresh black beans and field peas later…we left.

Classic gumbo, a la Emeril....

My afternoon project was sausage and shrimp gumbo….with a homemade roux, which I’ve never done before.  I used an Emeril Lagasse recipe-here, for classic seafood gumbo and proceeded to change it, of course. But making  the roux is a labor of love…and one involving a couple of burns on your hands if you aren’t careful….which I was, but still.

The roux is a pale tan...still has a way to go...

A roux is oil and flour, mixed and then cooked until it reaches the desired color…in this case, a milk chocolate color. It gives the gumbo body and consistancy…and flavor. Some people use okra instead….I actually use both. I love okra in almost anything(except my corned beef hash, and actually it might be pretty good in that). But you have to stir the stuff, and it’s thin and splashy, for about 25 minutes…easy does it.

A little Dixie chic....grilled pimento cheese...

But the gumbo kicked off a little cooking frenzy…I made a big batch of  pimento cheese, and a pot of black bean soup. The pimento cheese was inspired by a recipe I saw from a high falutin’ restaurant in Atlanta, where they make grilled pimento cheese sandwiches-recipe here. That sounds amazing…I have the pimento cheese made(complete with smoked Spanish paprika-my new fave spice), can the grilled cheese be far behind? Doubtful….

Comfort food in a cozy setting….
December 5, 2008

The parlor...warm and cozy...

The parlor...warm and cozy...

I wish I could say I discovered Feast @ 4 East Madison, but that would be fibbing. I read about the place this week in Elizabeth Large’s column in the Baltimore Sun.  Sounded intriguing…like dining in someones home, good food, b.y.o.b….all things I like. And since last night I was at the Washington Monument Lighting…in the rain…it sounded like a good idea to try out a new place that was just a block away, knowing I would need sustenance…quickly.

Bottom line? I loved Feast…everything I needed last night. Welcoming staff who took all my drippy wet bags(I had hauled a lot to the lighting) without any bad looks, sat us promptly at a pretty table right by the parlor, put down menus, poured water, and opened the wine. Good start. Our waiter was urbane and funny…just the right touch of friendly. When we observed the tealight candle had burned out, he whisked it away and brought  a new one…..happily.

Red beans and rice with Louisiana sausage..sensational, dark complex flavors…yummy. Basque organic chicken….very good, and I brought half of it home…it was an entire half chicken! The pate’ starter was just so cute, served in a china teacup. The server mentioned it would be slightly sweet, made with Marsala wine, and it was….but it was fabulous. A field green salad with warm goat cheese, beets and pecans with a pecan vinaigrette(how do they do that?) was just perfect. All in all, a lovely dinner, and there are several vegan options for those so inclined. The owner (and chief chef) Sandy, came out to chat with the different tables as dinner was ending…she said she was looking forward to making some gumbo, after hearing how much we loved the red beans and rice. I’m looking forward to it too.

These days, when people do eat out…they’re looking for value….and comfort. I found that  and more at Feast…try it.