Whole Fig Preserves
Southern Deviled Eggs
Deviled Eggs were a staple in our household growing up; they were ever-present on Easter Sunday, a favorite for picnics, and one of the best sides you can make to go with a platter of fried chicken. Over the years, as Southern cooking has become more popular, many cooks have done some serious experimentin’ with this dish. I’ve sampled a number of attempts at fusing the yolks with a variety of spices and ingredients that took the old deviled egg to places it has never been before. And to be honest, I never cared for any of those trips abroad. I like mine the way Mama used to make them, with real mayonnaise, yellow mustard, sweet pickles, and a good dash of black pepper along with her secret add-in, juice from the sweet pickle jar.
My advice here is to not take the short cut and use sweet pickle relish; the sweet gherkins may need chopping, but their flavor is more distinct and well-spiced, and the juice makes a world of difference in the final taste.
12 large eggs
¼ cup real Mayonnaise
2 teaspoons yellow mustard
2 teaspoons sweet pickle juice
2 tablespoons finely grated sweet pickles
¼ teaspoon finely ground black pepper
Salt to taste
Smoked sweet paprika or diced pimento for garnish
1. Place the eggs in a large pot and cover with water by 1”. Bring to a boil, gently moving the eggs a couple of times during the heating process to keep the yolks centered. When water comes to a boil, reduce heat to a low boil and allow to cook 7 minutes. Remove eggs from pot with a slotted spoon and place them in a pan of iced water; allow to chill for 5 minutes. They are then ready to peel.
Mama prepared her figs as actual preserves, and not into jam. She left the fruit whole, and kept a short part of the stem attached to each individual fig. She said this helped keep the figs intact as they cooked, which resulted in perfectly clear syrup. You’ll note that her recipe does not call for adding lemon slices, which is popularly done by many cooks. Mama found, as do I, that the rind can lend a bitter taste, and does not always complement the subtle flavor of the figs.
Be careful that the fruit is ripe, but not overly so. When picking or choosing some from your purveyor, throw out any that are bruised or overly soft -particularly if the bottom of the fig has split open. Also, make certain that they are dry, and not allowed to sit in a hot, covered container. If so, you will end up with a mushy, or even spoiled, cooking of preserves.
Mama’s recipe card for her figs is rather short; actually it only lists the ingredients. She never wrote down the actual process. Here is how I remember her making them, without aid of written instruction.
6 quarts brown, firm figs
3 quarts sugar
2 quarts water
1. In a 3 gallon stock pot or other pan, place all ingredients.
2. Over medium high heat, bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to a simmer.
3. Continue cooking for 2 ½ to 3 hours, stirring very gently during the process being careful not to break the figs.
4. The preserves are ready when the syrup is thick, the color of iced tea, and coats a spoon.
5. Place into sterilized jars and seal.
Makes 12 half pints or 6 pint jars.
The classic recipe cooks to become a shiny, delicious confection. Our family ate sweet potatoes throughout the year; they were baked and served in their jackets with a little butter, sliced and roasted in the oven, or maybe mashed into a casserole, but the candied ones here were special and usually reserved for the holidays.
Unless you have a very large pot and can double the recipe, you may need to make two batches if feeding a large crowd. It is important not to overcrowd the pan; if you break the potatoes while cooking, the glaze will not be as clear.
½ cup water
1 ½ cups sugar
Dash of salt
4 medium sized sweet potatoes, of about the same circumference, peeled and sliced crosswise into 2” thick circles
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
¼ scant teaspoon vanilla
1. Mix the water, sugar and salt in a large stock pot or Dutch oven; heat over medium high stirring, until sugar is dissolved.
2. Add the potatoes one at a time, trying, if possible, to get them in one layer. If they are not, it is fine, but you’ll need to pay more attention to the cooking process.
3. Cook uncovered on a steady simmer over medium high heat for about 10 minutes; the potatoes will start to shrink as they cook. If the potatoes are in layers, gently move the ones on top down into the pan, careful not to break them.
4. Turn the potatoes over, again gently, so that the cooked bottoms are now facing upwards.
5. Continue cooking for another 15 minutes or so, until the potatoes are tender.
6. Mix the butter and vanilla, and pour over potatoes. Mix very gently.
7. The potatoes should be a rich, dark reddish orange color and the syrup a thick, clear glaze.
8. Serve immediately. If not serving when finished, reheat in a warm oven until hot.
Boiled shrimp, hot out of the pot and served with a spicy cocktail sauce, is one of my favorite dishes, bar none. These treats go so fast at a party, you have to be careful of flying shells, as folks are tearing into these delicacies with abandon. One important note here: please, please only use US caught wild shrimp. Don’t make the mistake of buying some offering at the grocery store that was raised in a pond in Malaysia and flown half-way around the world. The taste, texture, as well as the quality, are all incomparable.
Too, make sure you cook the shrimp until they are just done. They are ready when the tail end curves up to almost meet the head end of the shrimp. Overcooked shrimp are rubbery, and there is nothing you can do to rectify the situation once they’ve gotten tough.
For the Shrimp:
2 quarts of water
1/4 cup Old Bay (or other Chesapeake style seafood seasoning)
1 pound large,fresh, wild-caught US Shrimp
1. Bring water and Old Bay to a rolling boil in a pot
2. Add the shrimp, stir, cover the pot with a lid and remove from heat. Stir after two minutes, place lid back on pot and allow to continue to poach another 3 minutes. The shrimp are done when their tail portion curves inward, almost but not quite touching the other end. A note of caution for the cooking time - if your shrimp are not large, it will not take as long for them to cook and you will need to adjust the duration of the shrimp in the hot water.
3. Drain in a colander (do not rinse) and serve immediately with cocktail sauce.
For the Cocktail Sauce
I read somewhere years ago that a secret to a zesty and bright cocktail sauce with the addition of a little dry gin; try it and see how it will liven up (even more) this wonderful dish.
1 cup good quality ketchup
3 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons dry gin (optional)
Mix all ingredients together, cover, and chill for 2 hours. Will keep, covered and refrigerated, for 2-3 days.
Candied Sweet Potatos
Peel & Eat Shrimp with Ginned-Up Cocktail Sauce
JB's Bourbon Barrel Smoked Pepper & Herb Encrusted Prime Rib of Beef with Horseradish Cream Sauce
Rainbow Trout with
Lemons and Green Onions
There is nothing like a perfectly roasted prime rib of beef that can set the stage for a fabulous dinner party. While these are not inexpensive, they are usually several dollars a pound less than a tenderloin, and you can often find them on sale around the holiday seasons of Christmas and Easter. These roasts are not difficult to prepare, so don't be intimidated by the task; the most important part of the whole process is timing so that you don't overcook your meat.
I do a quick marinade of plain Worcestershire Sauce, and then spread onto the roast a dry rub that browns up nicely, creating a crispy and flavorful crust. The secret to this seasoning is the use of coarsely cracked black pepper that has been cold smoked in Kentucky bourbon barrels. My very good friend Shirley Ussery, of Damariscotta, ME and Lake Wales, FL, sent me a jar of this magnificent spice which is produced by Olive Fusion. There are also similar smoked black pepper blends
from other reputable sources that you can find; the bite of the pepper with the rich smoke flavoring - particularly that of bourbon - is an incredible combination of flavors for a roast.
I always have a side of a creamy horseradish sauce to serve with the meat, and if you'd like, you can save some of the pan juices and have an au jus as well. So many things pair nicely with this dish, just use your taste buds as a guide: potatoes au gratin, mashed sweet potatoes, sautéed asparagus, creamed spinach, roasted root vegetables......and remember, keep the leftovers! One of the most wonderful breakfast dishes I ever had was in Victoria, British Columbia; the restaurant made a hash out of prime rib (I believe the beef was a dinner special the night before) and served it with poached eggs - stunning way to start the day. Of course, you can also use the meat cut into strips for a main-course salad, or make a substantial sandwich. Too, the meaty bones can be frozen, and used later as a base for a big bowl of hearty soup.
Enjoy! As Julia Child once said "Diet food is what you eat while you are waiting for the steak to cook!".
JSB's Bourbon Barrel Smoked Pepper & Herb Encrusted Prime Rib of Beef with Horseradish Sauce
5-6 pound Prime Rib of Beef
3 tablespoons of Worcestershire Sauce
2 1/2 tablespoons Bourbon Barrel Smoked Black Pepper (or other good quality smoked-infused pepper blend)
1 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried thyme
Horseradish Sauce (recipe follows)
1. Preheat the oven to 425.
1. Brush the entire roast with the Worcestershire Sauce.
2. Combine the dry ingredients in a small bowl; mix. Sprinkle a bit of the mix on the bottom (rib side) of the roast. Using the remaining spice mix, rub and pat into the meat to cover the rest of the roast.
3. Spray olive oil on the top and sides of the meat to moisten. Pat again to make sure the spices adhere.
4. Sit the roast rib side (bone) down, fat side up in a shallow pan.
5. Cook at 425 for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 325, and continue to cook for 50-55 minutes. While all prime rib cuts are thick, some are thicker than others. Check your meat at this point; it should register 125 in the thickest portion for rare. If you want your meat a little more well done, place back in the oven and cook for another 3-5 minutes. Remember: after the meat reaches a temperature of 125 or so, it begins to cook much more quickly, so you will need to monitor often so as to not overcook.
6. Remove from oven and allow to sit and rest for 15 minutes, allowing the juices to center back into the roast.
7. To carve, place the roast on a cutting board bone side down - just as you had in the baking dish. Using a large two-pronged fork, hold into place and slice away the bone - it should come off very easily. Be sure to handle the prime rib carefully, as you don't want to rub off any of that wonderful crust. With the fork holding the roast in place, slice to the desired thickness.
1 scant cup good quality, real mayonnaise
1/3 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons (plus more if needed) finely ground horseradish
Mix ingredients; taste and add additional horseradish if you would like a spicier sauce. Cover and allow to chill for two hours. Serve with prime rib or beef tenderloin.
It is interesting to note that, when it comes to fish, Southerners are accused of knowing how only to fry them. Yet when I've visited New England as well as the British Isles, their restaurants and pubs always seem to have a deep fat fryer on site to serve up platters and baskets of their famed Fish'n Chips. Pot calling the kettle black, hmm? Anyway, observations aside, while I was growing up we did batter many a fish and cook them in hot oil, but we also had them served baked or broiled. Mama would often take a large bass filet, place it in a foil wrap with a few pats of butter, a little salt and pepper, and maybe slices of lemon and onion, and bake it in the oven - the same concept as Fish en Papillote. Guess we could have called it Fish en Reynolds Wrap.....
And then there was the way she prepared her trout. Each summer we would visit Barrett relatives in up in north Georgia and fish for Rainbow and Speckled Trout. One of my Father's favorite ways to eat these flavorful fish was baked in a cast iron skillet with just a hint of spice. I've adapted that way of preparation and enjoy eating any number of fish, including the aforementioned trout, as well as flounder, snapper, and bass, in this manner.
The fish gets a good zip from the fresh lemon juice and baked lemons, and I've added just enough seasoning to enhance that citric flavor so that this dish is not just healthy and easy to prepare, but also incredibly flavorful.
2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
4 5-6 ounce filets of trout (or other fish)
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon each Kosher salt, black pepper, smoked paprika and dried thyme
4 green onions
2 lemons cut into 12 slices
1. Preheat oven to 375.
2. Rub the skillet or baking dish with the butter.
3. Pour the lemon juice on the fish and brush to coat all sides.
4. Sprinkle the top (not the skin side) of the fish with the dry spices, and place in the baking dish.
5. Tuck the sliced lemons around and in between the filets; place the onions in the pan as well.
6. Spray the filets until just coated with olive oil.
7. Place fish in the oven, and cook 10-12 minutes, until just done (the timing will vary on the thickness of the fish).
8. Remove pan from the oven, and set aside. Turn the broiler on to 500; when it is fully heated, place tray back in the oven for 5-6 minutes, until the top just begins to brown. Serve immediately.
JB’s Pea & Asparagus Casserole
I am showcasing here a Sunday dinner or holiday favorite in Southern kitchens, the Pea and Asparagus Casserole, giving it a 50+ year update from recipes found in the 1950's. The one Mama used was featured in the Sorosis Club of Perry's 1957 cookbook, Cooking at the Crossroads. While these older adaptions using LeSueur products are still good and hold up, at least to my taste buds, we now have readily available fresh asparagus, mushrooms and English peas to modernize this Southern classic.
Serve this flavorful dish alongside a baked ham, curried fruit, hot dinner rolls, and maybe another old stand-by, tomato aspic, for a special dinner that will walk you down memory lane.
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup green onions, white and light green parts only, chopped
1/4 cup four
2 cups whole milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 pound of fresh asparagus, bottom portions (2" or so) removed and discarded
2 cups frozen baby English peas, thawed
4 boiled eggs, sliced crosswise into 1/2" pieces
1 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. in a sauce pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium high heat. Add mushrooms; sauté, stirring occasionally. Cook until moisture has evaporated and mushrooms are starting to brown, about 7 minutes. Set aside.
3. Make the béchamel (white) cheese sauce: Melt the butter in a pot over medium to medium high heat; add the green onions and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add the flour and whisk, cooking for 1 minute. Stream in the milk, whisking. Continue to whisk, until the mixture is thickened, about 5 minutes. It should be thick enough to cover the back of a spoon. Add the salt, pepper and cheese; whisk until cheese is melted. Set the sauce aside.
4. Spray a 13x9 baking dish with olive oil. Spread half of the asparagus spears and 1/2 of the peas into the pan. Layer the sautéed mushrooms on top, and then place the sliced eggs into the vegetables, spreading them out evenly across the pan. Spread half of the cheese sauce over this layer.
5. Add the remaining vegetables on top of the sauce, followed by the remaining sauce.
6. In a bowl, mix the breadcrumbs and remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil until thoroughly mixed. Spread the oiled crumbs over the dish, pressing down slightly into the sauce.
7. Bake for 30 minutes until hot and starting to bubble. (If the crumbs start to brown too quickly, cover lightly with foil).
Manhattan’s, Johnathon Collins, and the Boulevardier
Many people choose to drink their bourbon neat, or simply on the rocks, which I enjoy during the winter, reading a good book with the fire going, and my dogs curled up next to me on the couch. Sipping bourbon like this is also a great way to relax and get yourself into a contemplative state of mind.
In the mix of company, though, I tend to gravitate to one of the classics in terms of bourbon cocktails; my favorite by far is a Manhattan served straight up in a big, chilled martini glass. I also enjoy the Manhattan's cousin, an Old Fashioned, and the occasional Whiskey Collins, which I've aptly renamed a Johnathon Collins for my servings. Recently I was just introduced to a magnificent new (to me) recipe called a Boulevardier, which I had at the Bourbon Bar Lounge in Atlanta's Hotel InterContinental Buckhead. I've included the recipes for each of those cocktails below. I hope that you imbibe (reasonably) and enjoy.
The Manhattan recipe is an easy one to make, but the quality of your ingredients makes a huge impact on the outcome of your libation. Cheap liquor and cheap vermouth will result in ..... a cheap-tasting drink, which is not worth the effort. While I have a great deal of Scottish blood in my gene pool, and watch my dollars, I can appreciate the value of using the best items when cooking or simply making a cocktail.
First of all, the cherry is part of the signature of this concoction. In many bars and restaurants you find these drinks made with little Maraschinos that are dyed bright red, have the consistency of wax, and don't taste like fruit at all. My choice, Luxardo, is rather expensive selling at around $ 20 a jar, but even with my frugality I find them well worth the money. Made in Italy since 1821, the cherries are hand picked and packed in their own juices. If you can't find these, or don't want to drop an Andrew Jackson, I also like Tillen Farms, which have no red dye, are 100% natural, and come in at about half the price. There are also other gourmet brands out there that fit the bill. You'll also need a good vermouth, like Noilly Prat, another Italian product. Make sure that you chill your martini glass either in the refrigerator or by floating ice cubes and just bit of water before pouring to insure your drink stays at a nice temperature.
3 ounces bourbon
1 teaspoon sweet vermouth
3 dashes Angostura or other good quality Bitters
splash of juice from the cherry jar
1 gourmet cherry
Place a handful of ice in your martini shaker; pour in all ingredients except for the cherry. Gently swirl half a dozen times until chilled then pour into a cold martini glass. Add the cherry and enjoy.
Old Fashioned Recipe
Supposedly the first Old Fashioned was mixed at Louisville's Pendennis Club in the late 1800's. The traditional glass we use for a poured cocktail, the short and squat 8 to 12 ounce size, eventually became known as an "Old Fashioned Glass" due to the popularity of the drink. The wonderful taste of the mulled orange makes this a very distinctive libation.
1/2 slice of an orange
1 or 2 gourmet Maraschino cherries
1 teaspoon sugar
3 dashes Angostura or other brand gourmet Bitters
2 teaspoons water
3 ounces bourbon
Place the orange, cherries, and sugar in a glass. Add the Bitters. Bruise the fruit in with the sugar and bitters with a muddling spoon, or back of a regular spoon until mixed together. Add water and swirl to mix. Fill the glass with ice, and pour the bourbon over the top. Stir gently and serve.
Johnathon Collins Recipe
The Whiskey Sour and a John Collins are very similar, and I enjoy the taste of these drinks especially on a hot summer's day. I did a little dabbling with the recipe to come up with my own version and with tongue in cheek call it the Johnathon Collins.
For this drink, and any that call for a sweet and sour mix, I recommend you make your own formula. Ignore those plastic jugs full of mix on the grocer's shelves; even the gourmet brands come up short when compared to what you can do easily at home. Here is the platform to make about 2 cups of the mixture, enough to prepare 8-10 drinks.
Sweet & Sour Mix
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
Add water and sugar in a small saucepan, bring to a boil, stirring. Reduce heat and simmer for a minute or two until the sugar is dissolved. Allow to cool to room temperature. Add the simple syrup you've made here to the juice, cover, and chill.
2 ounces Bourbon
2 ounces Sweet & Sour mix
Splash of soda
gourmet cherry and slice of orange
Fill a tall glass with ice. Add two ounces of bourbon followed by two ounces of sweet and sour mixture and top with another ounce or two of club soda. Stir gently and garnish with the cherry and orange slice.
The Bourbon Boulevardier
A cousin to the Negroni, this recipe replaces gin with bourbon to create an excellently rich cocktail. I sampled my first with Drew, an expert mixologist at the Bourbon Bar Lounge in Atlanta's Hotel InterContinental Buckhead. Drew took this recipe a couple of steps further by upgrading the ingredients, replacing the standard Campari and shelf-served sweet vermouth with Aperol and Carpano Antica.
The Finished Boulevardier
2 Ounces Roses Small Batch Bourbon
1 ounce Aperol
1 ounce Carpano Antica Formula Sweet Vermouth
Mix the ingredients well; pour over ice and serve with a large slice of orange zest