Hush Sweet Charlotte Puppies

NY-0208Hot and Spicy Hush PuppiesOh lovely thing, you.

Hush puppies are glorious Southern food.

And versatile.

This is a basic recipe that I find just about perfect.

You can doll it up a dozen ways from sweet to spicy to fit any meal.

It may seem like a poor girl’s meal, but it is not.

Do try.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 c of cornmeal, yellow or white
  • 1/2 c flour, unbleached or regular
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c buttermilk (you can use milk if you wish)
  • 2 tbsp bacon grease (optional, but you really should)
  • enough oil to deep fry (at least an inch deep in your skillet)

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Combine all dry ingredients and whisk together
  2. Add the egg to the buttermilk and whisk until incorporated.
  3. Add the liquid to the dry just until it comes together in a mash. I like mine very thick.
  4. Melt the bacon grease in a skillet, and add the rest of the oil (canola is my choice) until it’s nicely hot. A drop of water should sizzle, but I’m guessing 375° if you want to be accurate.
  5. Using an ice cream scoop, drop scoops in the oil. As soon as they are brown, turn over. They are done in just a few short minutes. (break one open and check to see that the inside is no longer wet)
  6. Place on some paper towelling to drain. Makes about a dozen.

SERVES: 6

NOTES: You can add chopped onion, finely grated cheese, finely chopped chiles or use any herbs that you desire, fresh or dried.  Also add corn and bacon crumbles to the batter. A great way to use leftovers the next day is to melt some butter and roll each puppy in that and then in a cinnamon/sugar mixture. Some people like a sweeter hush puppy and if you do, I would add 2 tbsp sugar to the batter.

SOURCE: Sherry Peyton

Mashed up Cauliflower with Cheese

mashed cauliflower with cheddar chives 600x watermarkThis is just a great little side dish. It’s wonderful on those days that you are just potatoed out, when you have mashed and baked and fried them to death and are looking for something different.

It’s a simple recipe and requires no special ingredients (though you could probably add all kinds of spices to alter it to a specific meal).

So do consider doing something with that sad little cauliflower that sits on the shelf in the grocery story begging to be adopted by somebody.

It should be kid friendly in case that matters.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 head of cauliflower, roughly chopped.
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 oz cream cheese
  • 1/4 c cream
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 c cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 c shredded Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 scallion in thin, thin slices

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Place the cauliflower in salted water and cook until just fork tender.
  2. Drain and return to the pot over the turned off burner to further dry.
  3. Pour the cauliflower into a food processor and add the rest of the ingredients except the scallion.
  4. Puree
  5. Adjust seasonings.
  6. Scatter the scallions across the top.

SERVES: 6

NOTES: You can do this with a potato masher for a more rustic dish. Also consider using other cheeses and perhaps nutmeg or other fresh herbs.

SOURCE: Adapted from Griffin’s Grub

Parmesan Polenta

parmesan-polenta_1Polenta is a versatile dish, and one that you can make in so many different ways that it truly will shock you. It can be used as a savory side or a dessert base. It can be cut into slices or served in a pourable version.

It’s simple.

Did I say it was versatile?

I’m going to give you the basic recipe that can be either eaten in its pourable version or set up to a slicing consistency. Time is all that is needed to move from one to the other.

And there is little effort in making basic polenta.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 c diced up mushrooms of your choice
  • 1/4 c shallots, minced
  • 1 lg clove of garlic
  • olive oil for cooking
  • 2 1/2 c of chicken broth, white wine, water, vegetable broth, (don’t use all wine, but add up to a cup if you wish of the 2 1/2 c total)
  • 1 c polenta (yellow cornmeal)
  • 3/4 c freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Heat up a saute pan and pour in a tablespoon or so of EVOO. When it glistens, add the mushrooms, shallots and garlic and stir, sauteing until they are softened. Set aside.
  2. Bring the liquids to a rolling boil in a saucepan.
  3. Pour the polenta into the boiling water, whisking as you do to prevent lumping.
  4. Continue stirring until it starts to thicken and returns to a boil.
  5. Reduce heat to very low and cover, cooking for 15 minutes, stirring every five minutes.
  6. When done, put the mushroom mixture in and stir.
  7. Add the cheese and stir.
  8. Salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Grease a 9 x 9 baking dish.
  10. Pour the polenta in and smooth.
  11. Cool 1 hour and then refrigerate until cold.
  12. Cut into whatever size you wish. You can now grill or saute in olive oil each slice before serving.

SERVES: 8

SOURCE: Sherry Peyton

NOTES: If you want creamy soft polenta, eat immediately after step 8. You can store the refrigerated polenta for a good three days before using. You can add any cheese you prefer, most liquids (even milk works), and many different vegetables as you desire. Polenta, either in the pourable or sliced form is great for breakfast with some maple syrup and fruit. Enjoy.

Onion Oh Precious Rings

Ya gotta eat a lot of bad rings before you find a good one.

It’s just a fact.

And I’ve eaten my fair share of lousy onion rings.

I’ve tried a whole lot of “best ever” recipes, only to find that they were dull, tasteless, limpy, batterless, too battered, messes of goo. And given how messy making them is, that’s really really frustrating.

Now this is not a great recipe. I’ve probably not found that yet, but this one is good. It comes out as pictured. Nice light batter that actually is strong enough to stay on the ring. Flavor it up with plenty of seasoning, and it goes nicely with your burger or ribs, or whatever it seems good to go with to you.

A tip or two to make it easier to do, and you are on your way.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 large onion, cut in 1/4 inch slices, push the rings apart, and save the centers for some other use.
  • 1 c flour (more or less)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tbsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 c milk
  • oil for frying

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Cut up the onions, and let sit for a few minutes to dry a bit.
  2. Heat up the oil. About 1 inch in depth. I’m thinking around 325° but frankly I don’t measure the temp, just a sizzle when you scatter a droplet of water on it. A bit higher than medium on the electric range.
  3. Mix all the dry ingredients with a whisk. Then add the milk and egg, whisking until smooth.
  4. Batter should be thick enough to coat the onion ring, and be visible. Drop one in and see how it goes. The batter should remain and should, after browning and turning look very much like the picture. The onion ring should sink into the batter, not sit on top, but not be so drippy watery that it is just wet. Got that? Your test ring will help you. Either add a bit more flour or more milk to get it right.
  5. Then continue on frying, removing rings as they are done and depositing them on a jelly roll pan lined with paper towel and covered with a cooling rack. Place in a 250° oven to keep warm and crisp until ready to eat.

Serves: 4

Note: I use two wooden skewers. One to fish out the onion ring from the batter and drop it in the oil, and another to turn it over and fish it out of the oil. This makes the process ever so less messy. No hands, no gummy mess with a pair of tongs.

Also, adjust seasonings as you desire. The cayenne is optional of course.

Caramelized Pearls

I just love these onions. They are so sweet and succulent.

They are also a pain to fix. So I tend to make them at holidays.

Do yourself a favor and prepare them for cooking the day before. You won’t have the patience for it on the big day.

It’s really not that bad.

You know how sometimes you get frustrated with peeling an onion where the papery skin won’t slide off, and you just take a whole good layer and get on with it?

Well pearls are awfully little, and if you do that, you won’t have much left. So don’t do that!

I’ve come upon a decent way to clean them without too much of a rise in blood pressure.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 bag of pearl onions (about 20-25 in a bag)
  • 3 tbsp butter or oil, or combination

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Cut off just the very top of the tip end, (NOT the root), and lightly score down the side to the root without slicing into the next layer.
  2. When all are done, place in boiling water for no more than 30 seconds. Have a slotted spoon ready to pull them out. Let them cool, and you should be able to remove the papery outer layer fairly easily. Store in a plastic bag until ready to cook.
  3. Melt the butter in a saute pan and place onions in the pan on medium heat, shaking the pan often to roll them around. Once browned nicely, reduce to lower heat and continue until done and nicely soft. Shake pan now and again to keep from burning. This will take between 30-45 minutes normally.

Serves: 4

Treasure Hunt Mash Potatoes

I love potatoes.

I love mashed potatoes.

I get tired of mashed potatoes with gravy or with just butter.

The PioneerWoman gave me the ingredients for this.

The amounts are not so important.  Fudge it around depending on how many you are serving. Leftovers here are good, but the treasures may soften up on ya, so I’d say it’s best eaten up!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 med-lg russet potatoes, peeled and cut up for boiling.
  • 1/3 stick butter
  • 1/2 c sour cream
  • 6 slices bacon, cut up in 1/2″ pieces and cooked until crisp, drained.
  • 4-5 scallions chopped with some of the green parts
  • 2/3 c French’s fried onions (or other similar brand)
  • salt and pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Boil the potatoes until fork tender, drain.
  2. Add the butter and cream and mash.
  3. Add the scallions and bacon, stirring just to incorporate.
  4. Place in serving bowl and sprinkle all over with the fried onions.

Serves: 3-4

Eureka! That’s Mac & Cheese

Mac and cheese is easy. Make a bechamel sauce, add cheese, stir in the macaroni, dump in a baking dish, cover and cook until bubbly.

Except that it sucks pretty much. It’s okay when you first eat it, but when you reheat it, it’s tasteless, dry and just plain blech.

My husband has eaten (during periods in his life) a ton of mac and cheese. He pretty much could take it or leave it. Okay, honestly, mostly leave it.

Until I found this magic secret from Ms. Carla at The Chew. Add some cream cheese. And don’t bake it. (I guess you could if you wanted.)

And I did that, and added a bit of my own idea, and didn’t add some of hers, and well, I can tell you, my husband declared this to be “the best mac and cheese I’ve ever eaten.”

With Carla’s additions of onions and bacon, this is a main dish. I made it without and used it as a side dish to barbecued ribs. We feasted!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 3 Tbsp flour
  • 1 1/2 – 1 3/4 c warmed milk
  • 2 cups shredded cheese (any combination of cheddar, sharp, medium, jack, pepper jack, Gruyère, etc.)
  • 4 oz cream cheese at room temperature
  • salt and pepper to taste (or any thing you might like such as a bit of chipotle powder or cayenne)
  • 1 c toasted bread crumbs (homemade or not as you choose)
  • 1 c caramelized onions
  • 6-8 slices bacon, cooked, and crumbled
  • 2 c elbow macaroni (or other pasta), cooked and drained

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Melt butter in a large sauce pan, add the flour and cook for one minute.
  2. Add the milk and continue heating until it boils and thickens.
  3. Take off the heat, and add the cheeses and stir until melted.
  4. Taste for saltiness, and add any needed salt and as much pepper as you like
  5. Add the cooked macaroni, and stir until combined.
  6. Add onions and bacon if using.
  7. Spoon into a serving dish and place a nice coating of bread crumbs over. Serve.

Serves: about 6 as a side, less if it’s the main dish obviously.