Thanksgiving 2013 – Old-Fashioned Southern Green Beans

It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without Southern green beans. This is the real thing, and they’re even better the next day!

Yield:  12 servings

Ingredients:

2-3 lbs. fresh green beans

5 cups water

4-5 oz. smoked hog jowl

1 teaspoon salt (more or less, depending on saltiness of the seasoning meat)

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon (or more) honey

A red-pepper pod or red-pepper flakes

1 onion, quartered

Directions:

Put the water, smoked hog jowl, honey, onion, red pepper, salt, and pepper in a 5-quart Dutch oven and bring to a boil on high heat. Place the lid on the pot, turn the heat down to low, and simmer for 30 minutes or more.

While the hog jowl is simmering, you’ll have time to prepare the green beans. Remove the ends and strings, and snap into pieces of desired length, discarding any beans that are blemished or wilted. Wash the beans in cold water and drain.

When the hog jowl has simmered for at least 30 minutes, remove any scum from the surface of the water. Add the green beans to the pot, turn up the heat, and bring back to a boil.

Once the water has reached a good boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer the beans — partially covered — for 3 full hours. It’s important to simmer the beans with the pot only partially covered. Between the pot and the edge of the lid, leave an opening of at least a quarter of an inch on one side, so that the steam can easily escape.

Once an hour or so, gently turn the beans so that those on the bottom are brought to the top and vice versa. The reason: the beans on the top will not be in contact with the water, and it’s important that all the beans in the pot get some time on top, out of the water.

In determining the heat setting on which to simmer the beans, the goal is to simmer them for 3 hours such that the water and the 3 hours run out at pretty much the same time. If you’ve simmered the beans for 3 hours and there is still water in the pot, just turn up the heat a tad and keep simmering until the water is gone. Of course, if you’ve used too much heat, you may have to add a little water before the end to keep the pot from boiling dry — just don’t cook the beans any less than 3 hours. You’ll probably find, however, that in a 5-quart Dutch oven 5 cups of water will just about be gone if you’ve simmered on low heat, with the lid 1/4 inch open, for 3 hours.

When done, the beans will be a good bit darker green than before being cooked. Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. Remove the beans from the pot and put them in a serving bowl.

Thanksgiving 2013 – Ultimate Macaroni And Cheese

I’ve always assumed that serving macaroni and cheese for Thanksgiving was purely a Southern thing.  Always tasty, mac and cheese is also a thoughtful dish to include for your vegetarian-inclined guests.

It turns out that our Victorian forebears were the originators of this custom, although you might be surprised at what they considered to be the Ultimate Macaroni and Cheese.

Thanksgiving postcard circa 1900 showing turkey and football player. (Image courtesy of Wikipedia)

In 1883, macaroni was said to be an acquired taste, and was still unfamiliar to many. To make macaroni and cheese, housekeepers were advised to boil the macaroni, then mix in a tablespoon of canned tomatoes, and then add a layer of freshly grated cheese.  On top of this, successive layers of boiled macaroni, canned tomatoes, and grated cheese, were added until the serving dish was filled.  When the resulting meal was delivered to the Thanksgiving table, it might be more familiar to us as a sort of lasagna instead of the macaroni and cheese we know.

Most of us today prefer the cheesy variety on our Thanksgiving table. This recipe is rich and delicious, to be served only a few times a year. That’s the real secret of Southern cooking!!

golden-macaroni-cheese-l

Yield:  12 servings

Ingredients:

1 pound elbow macaroni

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 pound sharp Cheddar cheese

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cups milk

2 cups heavy cream

1 tablespoon honey

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt and macaroni and cook for 4 to 5 minutes (until the macaroni is half cooked).

Butter a 3-quart baking dish, add 1/3 of the cooked macaroni and then layer with cheese, salt, and pepper; repeat this until the elbows have all transferred. Pour the milk and heavy cream over the macaroni. Drizzle with honey.

Cover the macaroni and cheese with tinfoil and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until the macaroni is brown and bubbling on top.

Easter Dinner – Garlic Cheese Grits And Spinach Souffle

cheese grits and spinach

I was raised on cheese grits casserole.  While I love the original, I also love this updated version.

Honey is a natural flavor enhancer. While there is only one tablespoon in this recipe, the honey makes the souffle tastier without making it sweet.

Ingredients:

1½ teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

½ cup finely grated Parmesan

3 2/3 cups milk (not skim)

1 cup stone-ground or old-fashioned grits

Salt and black pepper

1½ cups grated sharp cheddar

1 tablespoon honey

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

4 large eggs, separated, at room temperature

6 ounces baby spinach leaves (7½ cups loosely packed)

6 scallions thinly sliced (2/3 cup), 1 tablespoon reserved

Directions:  Grease a 2-quart souffle dish with 1½ teaspoons butter, dust with 3 tablespoons of the Parmesan, and set aside.

In a medium non-stick saucepan bring the milk and the 2 tablespoons of butter to a simmer over medium heat. Add the grits in a slow, steady stream, stirring constantly. Add 1 teaspoon salt, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring, until grits are thick and begin to pull away from the sides of the pan when you stir, 7 to 10 minutes.

Remove pan from heat and stir in 1¼ cups of the cheddar, the remaining Parmesan, honey, garlic, hot pepper sauce, and black pepper to taste. Set aside to cool slightly, about 15 minutes. Taste the grits and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Add the egg yolks one at a time, stirring vigorously to incorporate each before adding the next. Stir in the spinach by handfuls.

With an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until they are thick and glossy and hold stiff peaks. Add a quarter of the whites to the grits mixture and, using a spatula, stir until just combined. Add remaining whites and rapidly but gently fold them in along with the scallions.

Spoon the batter into the prepared dish, smooth, sprinkle with the remaining cheddar, and bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375 degrees and continue baking until the souffle is puffed, golden brown, and barely jiggles when you shake the pan, 35 to 40 minutes longer. Sprinkle with reserved scallions and serve at once.

Honey Coca Cola Cake

coca cola cake

Coke is one of my guilty pleasures.  Kicking the “Real Coke” habit is one of my greatest victories.

I’m now a Coke Zero fiend, thanks to my skinny, yoga-toned daughter Molly. Thank you, Dear!!

But this cake is a different story. It was introduced to me by my beloved mother L.J.  My Oldest Friend Mary Ann and I actually laughed when she told us about it. That was until we tasted it….

It’s one of the best we’ve ever tasted.  And even better with honey…

Ingredients

1 cup Coca-Cola

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup honey

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup cocoa

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows

Coca-Cola Frosting (recipe follows)

Garnish: 3/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Directions

Combine Coca-Cola and buttermilk; set aside.

Beat butter at low speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar and honey; beat until blended. Add egg and vanilla; beat at low speed until blended.

Combine flour, cocoa, and soda. Add to butter mixture alternately with cola mixture; begin and end with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended.

Stir in marshmallows. Pour batter into a greased and floured 13- x 9-inch pan. Bake at 350° for 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from oven; cool 10 minutes. Spread Coca-Cola Frosting over warm cake; garnish, if desired.

Coca Cola Frosting

Ingredients

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1/3 cup Coca-Cola

3 tablespoons cocoa

1 (16-ounce) package powdered sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Directions

Bring first 3 ingredients to a boil in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring until butter melts. Remove from heat; Beat in sugar and vanilla until consistency of firm frosting.

Best Thanksgiving Leftovers – Brunswick Stew

Southerners love to debate the origins of Brunswick stew. Virginia,Georgia and North Carolina all claim to be its birthplace, but the truth most likely is that it originated with Native Americans. The first stews of early America contained all sorts of wild game, and folk history recounts that Brunswick stew was originally made with squirrel meat. The modern version is usually made with chicken, but leftover turkey is an ideal substitute.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

4 cups leftover turkey, diced

6 cups chicken or turkey stock

1 (16-ounce) can of tomatoes, drained, seeded, and chopped

2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels

2 medium all-purpose potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice

1 large onion, thinly sliced

1 cup fresh or frozen lima beans

1 cup fresh or frozen sliced okra

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

1 teaspoon honey, or to taste

Directions:

Add the tomatoes, corn, potatoes, onions, lima beans, and okra to the stock. Season with the salt, pepper, and honey. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook, stirring often, until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

Add the turkey to the vegetables and taste the stew for seasoning. Add more salt, pepper, or honey as desired. Cook an additional 15 to 20 minutes.  Serve hot in warm bowls.

The flavor of this stew is even better the next day!

Perfect Turkey Gravy

Homage á Julia…

  • 1 quart turkey broth or canned chicken broth
  • 1 roasted turkey pan, complete with drippings
  • 1/2 cup Wondra Flour
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 cup cream
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

While your roasted turkey is resting, place the turkey pan over medium-high heat. The skin, fat, and juices should be a beautiful dark bronze, not black.

Remove all but 1/2 cup of the fat. Keep as much of the juice as possible.

Whisk the flour into the fat and cook, stirring, until the flour turns light brown. Whisk in the rest of the broth, and boil until thick and flavorful, stirring occasionally.

Add the honey. Strain if lumpy or any part is burned. Add water or canned broth or stock if a thinner gravy is desired. Add as much cream as desired. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

It Wouldn’t Be Thanksgiving Without Southern Green Beans

This is the real thing!

2-3 lbs. fresh green beans

5 cups water

4-5 oz. smoked hog jowl

1 teaspoon salt (more or less, depending on saltiness of the seasoning meat)

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon (or more) honey

A red-pepper pod or red-pepper flakes

1 onion, quartered

Directions:

Put the water, smoked hog jowl, honey, onion, red pepper, salt, and pepper in a 5-quart Dutch oven and bring to a boil on high heat. Place the lid on the pot, turn the heat down to low, and simmer for 30 minutes or more.

While the hog jowl is simmering, you’ll have time to prepare the green beans. Remove the ends and strings, and snap into pieces of desired length, discarding any beans that are blemished or wilted. Wash the beans in cold water and drain.

When the hog jowl has simmered for at least 30 minutes, remove any scum from the surface of the water. Add the green beans to the pot, turn up the heat, and bring back to a boil.

Once the water has reached a good boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer the beans — partially covered — for 3 full hours. It’s important to simmer the beans with the pot only partially covered. Between the pot and the edge of the lid, leave an opening of at least a quarter of an inch on one side, so that the steam can easily escape.

Once an hour or so, gently turn the beans so that those on the bottom are brought to the top and vice versa. The reason: the beans on the top will not be in contact with the water, and it’s important that all the beans in the pot get some time on top, out of the water.

In determining the heat setting on which to simmer the beans, the goal is to simmer them for 3 hours such that the water and the 3 hours run out at pretty much the same time. If you’ve simmered the beans for 3 hours and there is still water in the pot, just turn up the heat a tad and keep simmering until the water is gone. Of course, if you’ve used too much heat, you may have to add a little water before the end to keep the pot from boiling dry — just don’t cook the beans any less than 3 hours. You’ll probably find, however, that in a 5-quart Dutch oven 5 cups of water will just about be gone if you’ve simmered on low heat, with the lid 1/4 inch open, for 3 hours.

When done, the beans will be a good bit darker green than before being cooked. Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. Remove the beans from the pot and put them in a serving bowl.