Tag Archives: comfort food

Kickin’ Sweet Vidalia Onion Dip

For someone who tasted flavor only when in friends’ homes, I vividly recall many first tastes.  Butter…Ann Avery’s house.  That was  beyond stellar.  Tuna salad would be at Andrea’s house.  Her mama mixed in a teaspoon of mustard that certainly made it the chicken of MY sea!  Pork chop gravy  at Dana’s house was seared into my flavor bank.  I had never had ANY gravy before and her mama made it from scratch.  Where has this stuff been hiding?!?  I experienced a double first at my neighbor and classmate, Susy Tankard’s, house.  We had come in from playing “Man From U.N.C.L.E.” outside, all hot and sweaty.  Her mama and mine were very close but worlds apart when it came to cooking.  Susy’s mom baked, cooked and liked it.  My mama couldn’t give a fig what went on in the kitchen nor would she have recognized a fig if there had ever been one sitting on the counter.  Anyway, that noteworthy day stands out because it is the day Susy offered me an English muffin with strawberry jam.  I had no idea what either one of those things were.  At first bite I was head over heels in love with both.  But probably my favorite first was a double of potato chips and onion dip, both processed, filled with preservatives and loaded with salt.  Holy smoke.  Talk about a lifelong passion for that kind of bad.  And I’m still a fool for chips and dip but now I prefer the real thing.  Homemade onion dip is from another realm.  Once you make homemade you will never go back to that powdered stuff in an envelope.  After caramelizing naturally sweet onions, you’ll end up with a skillet brimming with the flavors of a savory jam, all thick and gooey.  I add fresh thyme leaves and that brings out the earthiness and allows the dip to “pop”.  The addition of cayenne pepper lightens each bite and keeps the onion dip from becoming too heavy.  It’s always one of the first dishes to fly at a party; in fact, you’ll be hard pressed to stay out of it before you leave your house.  Perfect for a beach or pool party, whether it’s game day or not, this kickin’ onion dip will become a life long favorite!

This recipe makes quite a bit which is great for a party but if you don’t need that much, it’s easily halved.  It’s an incredibly flavorful appetizer so if you’re not a fan of heat, rest assured the cayenne pepper may be omitted and you’ll still have a fantastic dip.  Take your time caramelizing the onions.  You don’t want them to burn but to release their liquids and sugar.  Give them a good stir every now and again, cook them uncovered letting all excess moisture evaporate and you’ll achieve the flavors and consistency you want.  I tried a mess of chips to see which really brought out the flavor of the dip and this is my conclusion.  The best potato chip turned out to be Kettle Chips.  They were sturdy enough to stand up to the stiff dip both in structure and potato taste.  But my number one chip pick wasn’t a potato chip but a plantain chip.  Holy smoke!  They really complemented each other, not to mention, the plantains were much better looking.  In closing, I hope you’ll take the time to search out Vidalia onions as their sweetness truly stands out and makes a huge difference in this dish.  Enjoy!

Kickin' Sweet Vidalia Onion Dip

  • Servings: 6 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 3 pounds Vidalia onions, about 3 large Vidalia onions
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream
  • 1 heaping tablespoon fresh thyme leaves plus additional to garnish
  • 1 teaspoon to 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  1. In a large, heavy bottom skillet melt the butter over medium heat.
  2. Add the olive oil, chopped onions, one tablespoon of salt and stir well until the onions are thoroughly coated with the olive oil and butter.
  3. Lower the heat to medium low and cook the onions uncovered until they are golden brown in color and all liquid from them has evaporated, anywhere from 45 minutes to one hour.  Stir often to keep onions from browning or sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  4. Remove onions from heat and allow to cool.
  5. In a large bowl mix the cream cheese to loosen.  Add the mayonnaise and whisk until completely smooth.
  6. Add the sour cream, thyme, cayenne pepper and remaining teaspoon of salt.  Mix until smooth.
  7. Add cooled onions to cream cheese mixture and mix until thoroughly combined.
  8. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight.
  9. Serve chilled with chips and crudite.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

 

 

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Southern Buttermilk Biscuits

Nothing says southern hospitality more than hot biscuit straight out the oven, especially when you have a house full of people.  Buttery and fragrant, these biscuit can be the foundation of a great southern breakfast.  They’re not the easiest…then again, I wouldn’t say they’re hard to make either.  I guess the best description would be messy.  Yes.  They’re a big, fat mess but well, well worth it.  While testing this recipe I found out several things. 1.  If you eat too many biscuit you’ll get sick of them and never, ever want to eat them again.  At least for a day or two.  2.  If all your ingredients and tools are in place this recipe is infinitely easier.  And 3.  If you are the least bit fussy or persnickety, making these biscuit will most assuredly help you lose that type A mantle we all sometimes wear.  The messy part is when you gently mix together the flour and butter with the buttermilk.  You DON’T want to over mix the dough yet it seems impossible to mix as it all clumps up on your hands.  I’m here to tell you, it’s okay!  When I couldn’t mix the dough anymore because it was stuck like a big, heavy ball on both hands, I squeezed it off each finger, back into the bowl it went and onward I mixed…gently…almost coddling the dough.  After that it was pretty smooth sailing.  Here are some tips I wish I had had prior to baking these nuggets of love.  Believe me when I say, freeze your butter.  You’ll use a box grater to grate it into the flour and you don’t want it  to melt while you grate.  Clear off your counter.  You’re going to need more room that you think.  Do not use parchment paper.  For some reason the bottoms of the biscuits kept browning waaaay too fast when I used it.  I used a large, non-stick, light-colored baking sheet.  Have it out and placed next to the area you plan to roll out the dough.  Generously flour the area where you will be rolling out the dough with all-purpose flour, not self-rising flour, along with your rolling-pin and bench knife if you have one.   If you don’t have a bench knife then grab a sharp chef’s knife.  Keep your flour bag for dusting close at hand.  Have a ruler close by to measure the rolled out dough if you can’t eye-ball it.  I can’t.  I have to measure everything so I keep an old, thin ruler in a kitchen drawer.  It also has all the presidents on it ending with President Clinton so I like to impress myself with all the presidents I’ve forgotten.  Could you identify President A. Johnson?  Didn’t think so.  It’s my favorite as it’s plastic so it can quickly be washed then stored.  I think the last tip would be to move as quickly as you’re able to maintain a cold dough.  Wait, one more tip.  Never twist the bench knife, knife or biscuit cutter while cutting the biscuit dough.  Cut straight up and down and you’ll have lots of pretty layers.   I prepared 3 sweet butters  to serve with the biscuits.  Cinnamon butter which consisted of butter, confectioners sugar and cinnamon.  Blueberry butter made with blueberries, butter and confectioners sugar.  And the last was strawberry butter prepared by finely chopping a few strawberries and mixing them into butter and confectioners sugar.  Add to this breakfast some thickly sliced bacon prepared in the oven for easy clean up,  some spicy Southern sausage, a beautiful, freshly made fruit salad and you are a belle of a hostess!

As I mentioned above I baked these biscuit on a light-colored, non-stick baking sheet.  If a dark-colored baking sheet is used make it a point to keep a close eye on the biscuit bottoms as they will brown much faster.  You might want to consider baking them at 400° so as to avoid rapid browning.  I haven’t tried it with these so I’m not certain what the outcome would be but it is a suggestion.  These biscuit don’t color up much; the tops remain blonde so don’t go by overall color in terms of how done they may be.  I cut this dough into squares in order to have fewer scraps to re-roll.  Feel free to use a round or square biscuit cutter, just make certain it’s sharp.  A soft wheat flour will make all the difference in your biscuit.  White Lily is my all-time favorite but King Arthur and Bob’s Red Mill are perfectly fine.  Try to find buttermilk from a local or small dairy.  Whole Foods has a great one by the name of Lazy Meadows.  It’s whole, not homogenized, non-GMO and from north Georgia.  Good stuff!

Southern Buttermilk Biscuit

  • Servings: 30-35 biscuit
  • Difficulty: moderate
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  • 5 cups self-rising flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) salted butter, frozen
  • 2 cups ice-cold buttermilk
  1. Pre-heat oven to 425°.
  2. In a large bowl mix flour and salt.
  3. Using the large holes of a box grater, grate the butter directly over the flour.
  4. Using a pastry cutter or a fork, cut the butter into the flour until the butter is coated with the flour and the butter is in lumps the size of peas and smaller.  If you have naturally cold hands you may use your hands to cut the butter into the flour.  If they’re naturally hot, as are mine, use either the pastry cutter or fork because the heat from your hands will melt the butter.
  5. Make a well in the middle of the bowl and pour in the cold buttermilk.
  6. Using your hands gently mix the ingredients together, scraping the dough off your fingers when you need to.
  7. When the buttermilk is almost incorporated into the flour transfer the dough, with your hands, to a floured board or counter.
  8. Gently fold the dough over and over, maybe 7-8 times, then gently roll out or pat into a 11″X9″ rectangle.
  9. Cut off any rounded edges and set the scraps aside to re-roll if using a square biscuit cutter or cutting the dough with a sharp knife.  If using a round biscuit cutter, cut out the biscuit and set the scraps aside to re-roll.
  10. Place the cut biscuit on a baking sheet, close to each other if you like an all-soft biscuit or 1″-2″ apart if you prefer crispy corners.
  11. Bake 13-15 minutes or until golden on the bottom.
  12. Serve immediately.
  13. To re-heat, warm in a 225° oven for 10-15 minutes.  These biscuit are warm and tender again after re-heating.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

 

Way Southern Grits and Greens Casserole

All y’all Southerners out there know and love this casserole.  It’s rich with cream,  two kinds of cheese and lots of bacon.  However, the addition of collards and tomatoes shine brightly through to make this one damn fine dish.  I’m crazy about grits.  I could eat them every.single.day.  But I wasn’t raised on them.  Oh, no.  Remember, Mama couldn’t cook, she grew up in a world where nice girls didn’t cook…”we have help for that”, besides grits ain’t Puerto Rican.  No.  I was introduced to grits when I was in college in Macon, Georgia.  I was close with some girls in another sorority, I had pledged the wrong sorority but that’s neither here nor there, and consequently ran around with a few Phi Mu’s who are still incredibly close to my heart.  These are girls who grew up in Macon… Southern… utterly, thoroughly, to the core, Allman brothers, Fincher’s Bar-B-Q, ATO, SAE, fix your hair, put on lipstick, Southern.  I don’t remember what BettyGeorge’s daddy did, but Parks’ daddy was a physician and bred roses.  All the girls in Macon called Parks’ daddy the minute they were engaged, “Doctuh Popejoy? Hey! It’s Elizabeth Louise and I’m gettin’ married in May.  Do you think you might could do the roses for the weddin’?”  Every girl wanted Dr. Popejoy’s roses.  Anyway, the morning I first tasted grits, Parks was to pick me up in her car and then we were to go on to BettyGeorge’s house and from there probably to some day drinking party or something event I’ll never recall.  I always thought “George” was Betty’s first or middle name but years later I found out it was her last name, though, to me, she’ll ALWAYS be BettyGeorge, one name, first name.  Regardless, Parks pulled up to my dorm, tooted the horn and off we went.  We laughed and chatted as she flew through the twisted streets of Macon when suddenly we slowed, entered huge wrought gates and stopped in front of the most gorgeous, majestic estate encircled by enormous, ancient trees dripping with Spanish moss.  The windows were floor to ceiling; the front door double and very, very thick.  The house was positively exquisite in every possible way. Now, Gentle Reader, I had traveled a good bit.  I had seen many a stately home.  I had not just fallen off the turnip truck.  But this was something else.  My jaw actually dropped.  As Parks popped out of the driver’s side of the car I turned to her and asked in complete disbelief, “THIS is Betty George’s house??”  Parks whooped and laughed while announcing, “No! I just always wanted to do this!  C’mon…we gotta get outa here before we get caught for trespassing!”  Gosh, but that was one good-looking piece of property.  Two seconds later we pulled into BettyGeorge’s house, Park’s let herself in and we met BettyGeorge in the kitchen.  Her parents weren’t home so we flopped down as teenagers are wont to do while BettyGeorge poured us glasses of sweet tea in faceted glasses, none of that plastic stuff.  As I sat I spied a cast iron skillet on the stove with a few golden rectangles each about the size of a pack of cards still glistening with oil and I innocently asked, “What’s that?”  They both whirled around and replying, “That?  Are you kidding?  You can’t be serious.”  “No, really.  I mean, I don’t know.  What is it?”, I questioned, embarrassed that I, clearly, didn’t know what “that” was.  “Those are fried grits,  shug!  Haven’t you ever had ’em?”  “No!”, I emphatically answered, “My mother doesn’t cook.”  They shot each other that pathetic, “Oh, God. Poor li’l thang” look.  I didn’t care.  I’d gone my entire life hungry and I did not care.  Just explain it to me, okay?  You don’t have to feel sorry for me, only will you please fill me in?  And they did.  Both girls ever so patiently explained to me that all manner of dishes can be made from grits, whether they be left over from breakfast or not.   All manner of ingredients could be added to them from cheese to sausage to greens.  There were only two rules.  The first, and most important, never, ever prepare quick or instant grits.  Ever.  Just don’t do it.  It’s nasty.  Only old-fashioned, regular grits will do.   You WILL know the difference.  And number two.  Always, always, always stir the liquid to make a “tornado” while slowly pouring in the grits.  And there ya go.  I’m pretty certain those girls have absolutely no recollection of that morning in BettyGeorge’s kitchen,  but I do.  It was magic.  Southern magic.  Make this.  You’ll swoon.

This casserole is beyond perfect for brunch or a special occasion.  It’s one of the dishes I’ll be serving this Easter Sunday.  It’s rich and gorgeous and everyone goes crazy over it.  All ingredients can be prepared in advance except the grits.  That said, cook up the grits before church, mix it all together, slap it in the oven and take off.  When you come home the casserole will be all warm and bubbly.  Btw, sliced spring onions scattered over the top right before serving are really great.

Way Southern Grits and Greens Casserole

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 15 or 16 regular bacon slices or 10 thick sliced bacon slices
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely grated
  •  1 1 pound bag frozen, chopped collard greens
  • 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, well-drained
  • red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups grits, not instant or quick cooking
  • 1 1/4 cups parmesan cheese, grated and divided
  • 1 1/2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, grated and divided
  • 2-3 pinches red pepper flakes, optional
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350° and grease a 9X13 casserole dish and set aside.
  2. In a large skillet cook the bacon, set aside to drain on paper towels and discard bacon fat leaving 3 tablespoons in the pan.
  3. Add the onions and garlic to the pan and cook until soft and clear.
  4. Add the collards, stirring continuously until completely coated with the onions and garlic.
  5. Add tomatoes and pepper flakes, stir well and turn off heat.
  6. To a large pot add the heavy cream, half and half, chicken broth and bring to a boil.
  7. Drop the heat to simmer, and stirring the liquid with a large whisk, slowly pour the grits into the boiling liquid.
  8. Continue whisking until the grits are done according to the package directions, 15-20 minutes.
  9. Add to the grits 1 cup of parmesan and 1 1/4 cups of Monterey Jack to the grits, stirring until melted.
  10. Add the collard mixture to the grits and gently fold until well combined.
  11. Pour the collard and grits mixture into the baking dish.
  12. Top the dish with the remaining parmesan and Monterey Jack.
  13. Crumble the bacon and scatter over the casserole evenly.
  14. Bake until golden on top or serve at room temperature.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

Creole Cornmeal Fried Shrimp…sweet Jesus!

Oh, y’all.  Taking these photos is killing me.  I crank the music loud and that’s okay except if I hear loud music often I pour a drink…regardless of the time of day.  This recipe liked to kill me.  I had several ideas for props and one of them was to stack a few biscuit hot from the oven in the background.  I baked them off and although I  didn’t even use them in the photos I ate two.  I’m filled with shame.  I thought maybe I’d toss a few potato chips behind the photo of the shrimp po’ boy.  As I walked down the chip aisle at my neighborhood Publix, my eyes fell on “Hot ‘N Spicy Pork Rinds”.  Well!  I’m half Puerto Rican.  Pork rinds hold deep meaning for us.  Into the cart they went alongside the frozen biscuit I knew I wouldn’t eat because…c’mon, they’re frozen.  I don’t eat that garbage.  I ‘magine that’s why I only ate two.  I stopped by the bakery to pick up a few freshly baked hoagie rolls for the po’ boy photo and I can honestly say all I ate of THAT product was the tip I cut off of one roll for aesthetic purposes.  People, I was like the mayor in the movie “Chocolat”, who also went crazy during Lent.  He couldn’t control himself from eating chocolate and that’s how I was with all these tempting carbs while taking these photos.  I didn’t touch the shrimp…I needed them and this was the fourth and last time  was frying them to take some photos.  No.  I focused on the biscuit and pork rinds…and my cocktails…at 2:17 in the afternoon.  Ugh.  I keep thinking, “Can I get any fatter?”, and the answer always, always is yes.  But I had a good time setting up the shoots.  I danced alone in the house with the dog and Earth, Wind and Fire.  Chaka Khan and Bobby Womack may have shown up.  I boogied to “Love Rollercoaster” and Shalamar’s “Make The Move”.  And when the shoots were over there’s a chance I indulged in a shrimp or two.  (Insert shameful face emoji.)  So I will share with you this recipe that, again, I have made four (4) times because my family and I kept eating all of it before I took pics.  It is heavenly!

Once you fry shrimp in cornmeal you will never batter up again.  It’s just a light dusting of cornmeal but its presence makes all the difference in the world.  I start with good size, large shrimp, shelled and deveined.  Sometimes with and sometimes without the tail, but always wild caught, never farmed.  Farmed shrimp has a muddy, dull, one-dimensional taste.  I’ll do without shrimp rather than eat farmed.  I prefer a medium ground, white cornmeal as I find a fine ground is too processed and without flavor.  If I’m ingesting these cornmeal calories, by God, I want to taste and enjoy them!  I keep Tony Chachere’s in my pantry as my all time favorite but Zatarain’s is probably just as good for an all-around Creole or Cajun spice blend.  I’ll admit the amount of cayenne is somewhat alarming for some readers but I find cooking  with hot spices seems to tame their heat greatly.  These shrimp are not as spicy as you think they’d be.  That said, if they’re not spicy enough for you, lightly dust each batch with a little cayenne pepper immediately  after taking them out of the hot oil and placing on some paper towels to drain.  And that’s all there is to it.  This shrimp recipe is perfection in a po’ boy…especially if you slip a couple of spicy pork rinds in the sammie for a little crunch.  On top of slow cooked grits, alongside corn bread or standing alone, these shrimp are a phenomenal flavor bomb.

Creole Cornmeal Fried Shrimp

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 2 cups medium ground white cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup paprika, NOT smoked
  • 2-3 tablespoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Creole seasoning, Tony Chachere’s or Zatarains are my favorites
  • 2 pounds shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1 egg white
  • canola oil to fry
  1.  Pour 3/4″ canola oil into a large skillet and heat to medium high.
  2. In a large bowl combine the cornmeal, paprika, cayenne pepper and Creole seasoning.  Mix well with a whisk or fork until all the ingredients are completely incorporated.  Set aside.
  3. In a separate small bowl combine shrimp and egg white.  Using your hands, toss the shrimp lightly until all the shrimp is coated with the egg white.
  4. Drop 1/3 of the shrimp into the cornmeal mix with your left hand.
  5. With your right hand lightly toss the shrimp so it is completely coated with the cornmeal mixture.
  6. Rinse your hands and gently drop each cornmeal coated shrimp into the hot oil.
  7. The shrimp will fry for 1 minute.  While the shrimp fries, mix the second 1/3 of the shrimp in the cornmeal mixture.  Set aside.
  8. Using tongs turn each shrimp over and fry for 1 minute.
  9. With a slotted spoon or spider, remove shrimp from frying pan and place on paper towels to drain.
  10. Place waiting shrimp in cornmeal in hot oil and fry for 1 minute.
  11. While shrimp is frying, coat the last third of shrimp in the cornmeal and set aside.
  12. Turn the shrimp in the pan over and fry for 1 minute.
  13. Remove from pan and move to paper towels to drain.
  14. Place last third of shrimp in hot oil and fry for 1 minute on each side, removing to drain on paper towels when done.
  15. Serve immediately.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com.

Jalapeno Skillet Cornbread Southern style

When I first tried giving James cornbread he was three years old and decidedly not a fan.  I included cheese in the recipe but he was not to be fooled.  All manner of changes were made to the recipe but to no avail.  Then one day I asked, “Jamesy, would you like some Johnny cake?”  Johnny cake is usually baked on a griddle, flat and thin.  I didn’t even have to do that.  I baked up the usual cornbread in my cast iron skillet and he scarfed it down.  He was sold.  My boy had heard the word “cake”.  That’s all it took.  Don’t you wish all eating problems could be solved so easily? James has since grown into a young man who is confident in the kitchen and more than happy to eat Mama’s spicier version of cornbread.  This recipe is roll-your-eyes delicious.  By baking it in a pre-heated iron skillet the bottom of the cornbread becomes crispy and the flavor of the cornmeal is heightened.  I’m fully aware the addition of sugar in cornbread is individual and also more common up North.  However, in the south it’s just not done by us old timers, at least not this one.  Corn is naturally sweet…there’s no need to add sugar.  But scallions and jalapenos are always welcome in cornbread.  It bakes up so beautifully and pairs well with so much.  Can’t have collards without cornbread.  Or chili.  Served with fish chowder or southern BBQ, cornbread is tradition .  Both black eyed peas and tortilla soup demand a healthy wedge.  Quite simply, there’s nothing like cornbread crumbled over a small bowl of cold buttermilk.  Now THAT’S southern!

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Simple, fast and cheap, this recipe will become a family favorite.  Although 1/2 cup of chopped jalapenos seems like a lot, the peppers lose quite a bit of their heat during the baking process.  However, feel free to cut back on them if you’re not crazy about heat or you’re feeding little ones.  If you don’t have a cast iron skillet I suggest you save this recipe until you do have one.  It just won’t crisp up and will be a huge disappointment.  Most importantly, don’t forget to be super careful about grasping the handle of the skillet while moving it in and out of the oven.  It’ll be screaming hot so make sure you have several dry kitchens towels available to make maneuvering easy.

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Jalapeno Skillet Cornbread Southern style

  • Servings: 10-12 wedges
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup jarred jalapeno slices, roughly chopped
  • 1 large bunch (approximately 7-8) scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups buttermilk, not reduced fat
  • 2 cups medium ground cornmeal, I like white best but that’s just me
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  1. Pre-heat oven to 425°.
  2. Place the oil in a 10″ cast iron skillet.  Spread the oil all over the pan so that it coats all of the bottom and up the sides.  You can use your fingers, a basting brush or simply swirl the oil all over.
  3. Immediately place the skillet in the pre-heating oven.
  4. In a small bowl combine the chopped jalapeno, scallions, egg and buttermilk.  Mix thoroughly.  Set aside.
  5. In a separate bowl whisk together the cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  6. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until combined.
  7. USING A HOT MITT OR DRY DISH TOWEL remove the hot skillet from the oven and pour the batter into it.
  8. CAREFULLY return the pan to the oven and bake for 30 minutes.
  9. Allow to cool on a rack for 15-20 minutes prior to  slicing.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

 

Southern Peanut Butter Cake Squares

Growing up here in Fort Lauderdale I was lucky enough to attend a grade school close to home, with all my friends from kindergarten, boasting a killer baking staff.  The East Side School cafeteria ladies didn’t open boxes when it came to cakes, pies and cookies for us kiddies.  No ma’am.  The predominantly black women who staffed the cafeteria were accomplished cooks and bakers who cranked out old school baked goods on a daily basis.  They were kind to all of us students and we in turn bowed down to them with reverence and respect because they were grown ups…you watch your p’s and q’s around grown ups.  These ladies were experts in the kitchen and coming from a home where Mama didn’t cook or bake I was highly appreciative and anticipated lunch every day knowing it would be far better than anything I would ever be served at home.  Do you recall the peanut butter cake you had in grade school?  The squares were heavy and thick in texture yet the cakes melted in your mouth leaving a certain salty sweet taste.  Oh, heaven.  Lately I’ve been craving that same salty sweet sensation and set about to have it.  I came up with this.  Alone in the house with two pans was virtual diet suicide.  I took four squares over to my friend Rob’s house.  He had fiddled with my father’s ancient bedside table lamp which wasn’t working.  At 94 years old Daddy really depends on that lamp for the inordinate amount of reading he does.  And after 5 minutes of fooling with it Rob had tightened it up, fine tuned the sockets and turned the on/off chains to a place where Dad could control the lamp with ease.  Make my Daddy happy, make me happy.  I made Rob take a bite of the cake and watched his reaction like a hawk.  His first words after clearing his palate of the dense stuff were, “I’m sorry Miz Whitcomb, but I don’t have my math homework cuz I didn’t do it!”  He was back in grade school and that’s what I wanted.  Old school peanut butter cake will take you back…and in a good way.

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This is a crazy simple cake recipe.  It’s best served with coffee or milk.  Iced water will do but coffee or milk are best.   When the cake smells done it probably is done.  I have light-colored baking sheets however if yours are dark keep an eye on them as they’ll bake your cake much faster.  It’s a thin cake, not big and puffy and you don’t want it to burn.  When preparing the icing you must stir continuously.  I can’t stress that enough.  Peanut butter scorches easily.   But if you use a whisk and keep stirring until smooth you will be rewarded with a trip back in time.  When you serve this to your children or grandchildren you can regale them with stories of how you had to walk 10 miles uphill BOTH WAYS to school.  Enjoy!

Southern Peanut Butter Squares

  • Servings: 24 squares
  • Difficulty: easy
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Cake:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups smooth peanut butter
  • 3/4 cup butter (12 tablespoons)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Icing:

  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 cups confectioners sugars
  1. Pre-heat oven to 400°.  Set aside a standard 12’X17″ light-colored baking sheet with a lip or 2 12″X9″ light colored baking sheets each with a lip.
  2. In a large bowl mix the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.
  3. In a medium saucepan combine peanut butter, butter, water and whisk over medium heat until completely combined.
  4. Remove from heat and whisk in milk, eggs and vanilla extract.
  5. Pour the peanut butter mixture over the flour mixture in the large bowl and stir until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed.
  6. Pour into baking sheet/ sheets and bake 18-20 minutes or until the sides of the cake pull away from the pan.  If using dark-colored baking sheets test for doneness at 15 minutes.
  7.   Remove cake from oven and cool on cooling rack, make the icing as the cake cools.

Icing:

  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat combine peanut butter, milk and butter and whisk until all ingredients have dissolved and are combined.
  2. Add confectioners sugar and continue whisking until completely smooth.
  3. Remove from heat and pour over cake.
  4. Allow icing to set, about 30 minutes.
  5. Cut into 3″X3″ squares and serve.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

Puerto Rican Chicken Stew or Pollo en Fricase

This is island comfort food.  Served with red beans and rice, Sweet sliced avocado and juicy rounds of tomato, this stew will feed crowds and satisfy all.  Pollo en fricase was served to my older sister and me at least once a week during summers spent in Puerto Rico.  We couldn’t get enough of it.  Having a mother who didn’t know how to cook and didn’t care to learn pretty much guaranteed bland at best, off-putting and unpalatable at worst, dinners at home in Fort Lauderdale.  For Cynthia and me, Puerto Rico was a richness of flavors, a panoply of scents rolling out of the kitchen of our grandparents’ home, heady and overwhelming in their mystery and perfume.  All sorts of rules were broken.  As little girls we were served strong Puerto Rican coffee with steamed milk sweetened with all the sugar a child could want every morning with breakfast.  I knew of no child in Fort Lauderdale given coffee with breakfast.  In Puerto Rico it was unheard of to have a sandwich for lunch, something almost expected at home.  Our midday meal was invariably the largest meal of the day with dinner being a much smaller serving of what had been prepared for lunch or we could choose to have soda crackers with butter and Quick, chocolate milk.  Chocolate milk for dinner?  Another rule broken.  At our home in Fort Lauderdale chocolate milk was not allowed…ever.  It was understood between my parents and Cynthia and me that our summer indulgences were allowed unrestricted.  We weren’t aware at the time but it turns out whatever happened in Puerto Rico stayed in Puerto Rico.  Buen provecho!

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This stew could be served alone it is that hearty.  With the addition of potatoes and/or pumpkin it is a complete meal.  Both white meat and dark meat work well in this dish, however, if white meat is used make certain the stew never heats up to more than a simmer.  A healthy, boiling pot will guarantee dry, tough meat.  I take the skin off of all the pieces of chicken because the skin becomes incredibly unappealing after having been simmered in the sauce.   I usually prepare boneless chicken as it can be difficult to maneuver around a slippery bone with a fork and knife.  The cup of sofrito called for in the recipe is necessary for a spectacular result so make sure you don’t leave it out.  It can be bought in the international section of your grocery store but better would be home-made.  That recipe can be found at http://wp.me/s264J2-sofrito and is easy as can be.  If your family isn’t wild about olives they may be left out.  I try to find green olives with the pits still in as I think they add more flavor to the recipe.  Please don’t feel you have to use your best bottle of wine, either.  Jimmy went out and $7.00 on a bottle of Pinot Grigio, it was perfect and didn’t break the bank.

 

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Puerto Rican Chicken Stew or Pollo en Fricase

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken (breasts and/or thighs) cut into serving size pieces
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons adobo seasoning or the seasoning blend of your choice.  Adobo is an all-purpose blend of salt, garlic powder, oregano, black pepper and turmeric.
  • 3 tablespoons achiote oil  (optional) This may also be found at the grocery store on the international aisle or on the blog at http://wp.me/p264J2-EB.
  • 1 cup of sofrito
  • 2 1/2 cups of onion, chopped
  • 2 large cubanelle peppers, cleaned of seeds and inner white ribbing, chopped
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, washed, dried and leaves chopped
  • 1 head garlic, minced
  • 1 heaping tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 standard 750-ml bottle inexpensive Pinot Grigio or dry white wine
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4″ rounds
  • 2 pounds calabasa or butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
  • 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 3/4 cup small green olives
  • 1/3 cup capers, rinsed and drained
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a large bowl combine the chicken, lime juice and adobo and mix well making certain all surfaces of the meat have been competely coated.  Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to marinate for an hour if you have the time.  An afternoon or overnight is ideal for the best flavor.
  2. In your largest saucepan heat the achiote oil over medium, add the chicken with the surface that would have had skin facing down, and brown for 5-6 minutes.
  3. Add the sofrito, onion, cubanelle pepper, garlic, oregano and cilantro and cook until softened stirring all the while.
  4. Raise the heat to medium high and pour into the pot the bottle of wine.  Continue to stir and scrape the cooked bits from the pan as the wine evaporates, 4-5 minutes.
  5. Add the carrots, pumpkin, if using potatoes add them now, tomato sauce, olives and capers.  Stir well to combine all the flavors.
  6. Taste for any needed salt and pepper and bring to a boil.
  7. As soon as the stew begins to boil, cover and drop the heat to simmer.  Cook for 1-1 1/2 hours or until chicken is tender to the fork.
  8. Serve hot.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Caribbean Chicken or Pollo en Fricassee

yield: serves 6 with rice