Friday, February 5, 2016

What to drink before the parade: Le Roi Cafe`

I LOVE Mardi Gras. I just love it. It turns out that I went a bit overboard this Mardi Gras season...buying King Cake Flavored vodka, and King Cake Flavored coffee... I drew the line at King Cake Flavored soda, but it's a pretty thin line. But then I realized that most of the drinks people are making with King Cake vodka are just plain terrible and honestly I'm not sure that anyone but 21 year old tourists in New Orleans for the first time ever would drink them. King Cake coffee is pretty delicious, but maybe just a bit too much for everyday consumption.

So what do I do? I make a pre-parade slash post dinner party coffee cocktail (AND a virgin version for festive non-drinkers.) As a nod to KING Cake, I named it Le Roi Cafe.` You've had Irish Coffee, right? Well, this just might be better.

What you need for the Cocktail:
TAAKA King Cake Flavored vodka (it's southern-born and southern bred, plus New Orleans tasters said it was the best. AND it's CHEAP... like $7.50)
a Pot of STRONG, STRONG coffee OR if making the virgin version, Community Coffee King Cake Coffee
Green, purple, and gold sugar
Homemade whipped cream

For the sugars:
Red, blue, yellow food coloring
3 small plastic bags
1 cup sugar, divided into 3rds

For the Whipped Cream:
1 1/2 Cups heavy whipping cream
2 1/2 Tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin (Can be left out if not making the cream ahead of time.)

What to do:
I make my whipped cream in advance so I can keep in the fridge for a day or so beforehand (hence the gelatin).Otherwise, you end up with a sloppy, wilted mess instead of lovely, fluffy whipped cream.

Here's what you do:
First, take 1/4 cup of cold water in a small saucepan and sprinkle in your gelatin. Let it soak up water for about a minute, and THEN turn on low heat and stir it until it dissolves (it looks like a simple syrup at this point).

Take it off the heat, and mix your 2 Tablespoons of powdered sugar with your cold heavy whipping cream until you have stiffish peaks. (I use my trusty handheld emulsion blender here...did you get one, yet?) Mix in the gelatin/water mixture and blend again until you get softer peaks. You can store this for a couple of days in an air-tight container, which is AWESOME for when you're having company AND when you just want a spoonful of the most heavenly stuff ever on a Tuesday afternoon. ;)

Brew your coffee. I went with like 3 tablespoons of coffee/cup of water, which is WAY stronger than I usually make it. Also, for the hard version of this drink I used Community Dark Roast coffee (we ALWAYS buy community coffee down here... #drinklocal) for a super robust flavor.  If you're making the virgin version, I'd go easy on the King Cake flavored coffee (1 tablespoon of coffee/cup of water) as it has a VERY strong vanilla flavor. I also mixed it with some dark roast to cut the sweetness).
While your coffee is brewing, make your colorful sugars, (or you can be smart and do this in advance, also). In each plastic zippered bag, put 1/3 cup sugar. In one bag, put in yellow food coloring, in another, mix in green, or if you don't have green, make it with about 2 drops of Blue + 2 or 3 drops of yellow.
In the third bag, make purple sugar using 2 or 3 drops of red and 2 or 3 drops of blue.

Mix the colors and the sugar together by smushing the bag with your fingers and moving the sugars and dye together. SO EASY! Now, if you find the sugar colors are too dark, or "too red" or "too blue" You can add in more sugar (to lighten it) or more of the opposite color. Put these aside or store until you're ready to use them.

You can decorate your drink in one of two ways... 1) you can sprinkle a touch of each color sugar on the top of the whipped cream. Either way is great and both turned out pretty in my book, but I think I'm a "sprinkle on top kind of girl." Just FYI, In these photos, the sprinkled mugs are the alcoholic drink, and the rimmed glasses are just coffee and whipped cream.

OR 2) You can rim your glass in sugar (which crystallizes really well when the hot coffee hits the glass mug!) rim your glasses with a touch of milk and sprinkle the sugar on a piece of wax or parchment paper. press the wet rim into the sugars and voila!

Measure 1/2 ounce King Cake Vodka  (if making the alcoholic version) and pour it into your mug.
 Then, pour the hot, strong coffee into the mug until it reaches the top.If making the non-alcoholic version, just pour the King-cake flavored coffee right into the glass.  

Top with 2 heaping Tablespoons of whipped cream, sprinkle with sugar (if the glasses aren't rimmed) and serve immediately. OR, I guess you COULD dump it all into a thermos and carry it with you to the parade...
I promise, The Le Roi Cafe` will keep you warm, it will make you happy, and even if you aren't going to a parade, it'll make you want to holler "Laissez bon temps rouler!!" to all passers-by. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Buttermilk Dutch Baby with Orange Marmalade

My mama has a foolproof dutch baby recipe from an old friend of's probably 30 years old and is in her recipe folder titled "Marmalade Pancake." I've made it several times and it just works like a charm if you want a lovely, puffy, golden brown dutch baby on a Sunday morning (or a Tuesday morning...the morning just doesn't matter one bit.) I'd recently watched this fun little Southern Foodways Alliance short documentary about a buttermilk maker in Eastern Tennessee, which got me thinking... could I make a dutch baby with it? I worried a bit that the buttermilk would be too thick and would weigh the batter down, although it's known for reacting beautifully with baking soda in biscuits to create fluffy masterpieces. I decided to give it a go for our weekend family brunch, but added a taste of water to thin the batter out just slightly, PLUS I blended all the ingredients using an emulsion blender, which I think helped ensure things turned out just right. I was so excited that the thing puffed up that I forgot to dust it with powdered sugar.... the pictures may have suffered, but the taste didn't. I'm not sure that I'll go back to regular old milk in my baked goods ever again.

Buttermilk Dutch Baby
Serves 4

What you need:
2 eggs
1/2 Cup all purpose flour
1/2 Cup buttermilk
Just under 1 Tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 stick unsalted butter
6 Tablespoons Marmalade (can be omitted and subbed with syrup)
2 Tablespoons powdered sugar 

What you do:
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and melt your butter in a skillet. (If you choose to double the recipe to serve more people, you can melt the butter and pour it into a sheet cake pan or a cookie sheet with a high lip.)
 In a medium mixing bowl, combine the eggs, flour, vanilla, buttermilk, and water, and blend well using an emulsion blender (If you don't have one yet, use your regular old blender, but SERIOUSLY, why don't you have one yet?)

 Pour the light batter into the skillet with the butter. Some butter will cover the edges of the batter, and that's ok as it's what makes the dutch baby brown and gorgeous.

 Put in the oven for 15 minutes (mine is always perfect at EXACTLY 15 minutes flat) and serve IMMEDIATELY. In fact, because this is like a popover or a kind of pancake souffle, it will start deflating the moment you take it out of the oven. For the maximum "WOW" factor, make sure everyone is sitting at the table waiting on you so you can carry it right over and set it underneath their noses while their mouths drool. Slice into wedges and serve sprinkled with powdered sugar and with a spoonful of marmalade . (It's also GORGEOUS with berries and syrup.)
 Happy brunching!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Comeback Sauce and Pan Seared Snapper

My wonderful in-laws came down to the Gulf Coast of Alabama from the North Carolina mountains a couple of weeks ago to get away from the snow and invited us to pop down for a visit. They grew up in the midwest and now live pretty far inland, so fresh seafood isn't something they eat very often (though they DO like it a lot). We went on a little adventure to Pensacola, Florida to go to the amazing Joe Patti's  Seafood Market, and picked up two meals worth of my favorite fish, Red Snapper. The fish is so light, lovely, and flakey that you really don't have a do a ton to it to make it delicious... just a little salt, pepper, garlic powder, and a sear in a skillet. Although we didn't NEED it, I'd had a hankering for Mississippi's most famous condiment, Comeback Sauce for a couple of weeks, so I made a batch to drizzle on top, too. The spicier cousin of remoulade and thousand island dressing, Comeback Sauce was created by Greek immigrants in Jackson, Mississippi and is still served at the Mayflower Cafe today. What resulted was something just right... fresh, fresh, gorgeous fish with a spicy, light dressing. It was divine.

Whether you have access to fresh gulf snapper or not, it's DEFINITELY worth whipping up a batch of Comeback Sauce for ANYTHING you're cooking next.... french fries, steamed artichokes, burgers, potato chips, shrimp, iceburg salads, turkey sandwiches... it basically goes on everything. Let me know if you make it and what you put it on!

Pan Seared Red Snapper with Mississippi Comeback Sauce
Serves 4 (plus LOTS of extra sauce)

What you need:
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 squeezes of ketchup
2/3 cup Hellman's mayonnaise
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
1/4 Cup chili sauce (like Sriracha)
3-4 cloves garlic finely minced
1/4 Cup white or yellow onion, grated using a box grater
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon of salt
What to do For the Comeback Sauce:
Blend it all together in a blender. You'll have a thick (but pourable) orange sauce. At the beach we had a sub-par blender that came COMPLETELY apart while making this the first time... que sera, sera. ;) Bottle the sauce (or even better, put it in a mason jar) and keep it for up to one week. Serve it with burgers, fried shrimp, hushpuppies, fish, french fries, fried okra.... oh gosh, just about everything.

What to do for the fish:
Slice the fish into smaller filets (as 1/2 of a whole filet will usually serve one person). Season the fish with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

Cook the fish SKIN SIDE DOWN first. You'll know it's getting there because the flesh will become less translucent and will become an opaque white color. Flip the fish at this point and cook for about 2 more minutes. This whole process usually takes about 5-8 minutes. Honestly, the worst thing you can do to a beautiful piece of fish is overcook it, so watch it carefully. We always put our fish in the oven after searing it on about 200 degrees for 1 or 2 minutes. That keeps it warm, and evenly cooks the inside.

Serve however you want, but I reccomend it on a piece of french bread or a bed of field greens with a slather of comeback sauce and homemade roasted potato chips.

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Kentucky Sidecar

It's Friday, folks. As Mr. Gross, my former Madison Shannon Palmer High School Colleague used to say, it's FRI-day, so it's MY-day. ;) Do yourself a favor and have this delicious cocktail after work. The Kentucky Sidecar is a riff on the classic sidecar but made with Bourbon (sigh..) instead of brandy. Y'all, it's a no brainer. This is one of those cocktails that you could drink and drink and drink and drink and drink. It's smooth, and not super sweet, and light and also, because it's bourbon and citrus, kind of perfect for warm OR cool weather.

You're welcome. ;)

Regardless of whether you have this drink or one of my other concoctions or a beer, or a glass of wine, or just some icy cold tea, Happy weekend!

The Kentucky Sidecar
Makes 1

What you need:
1 1/2 Oz Bourbon (I had some Maker's Mark so I went with that)
1/2 Oz Gran Marnier or Cointreau (Casically an orange liqour is what you need.. and I like gran Marnier best and always have it on hand for cooking)
1/2 oz Lemon juice (which pans out to be the juice of just under 1/2 a lemon) 
1/4 oz tangerine juice
12 teaspoon of agave syrup
Lemon or tangerine Twist for garnish
Cocktail Shaker
Martini glass
What you do:
Mix all of the spirits and the citrus juices and the agave into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until frosty and pour into a martini glass. You can rim this with sugar if you like, but I just decorated it with a pretty little lemon twist. Sip it!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Mississippi Banh Mi

For our anniversary, Boone and I took a jaunt to New Orleans in May for a two night get-away. My parents' next-door neighbor and long-time friend has an apartment RIGHT IN the French Quarter, so we had a pretty lovely spot to drink, eat, and wander. This is, of course, exactly what we did. Our first stop was Dong Phuong Bakery, a place my dad had heard about from friends. This tiny spot had a sit-down noodle shop on one side, and a pick-up bakery and banh mi shop on the other. Oh, y'all. I'd never had a Banh mi sandwich before, so we ordered THREE different ones (before you judge, you take look at the menu and see how you'd choose just one.) There's nothing nothing nothing good to say about colonialism. However, I guess Banh mi is one example of a food fusion that was created in French-controlled Vietnam, AND is also an example of a sandwich that was basically MADE for life in New Orleans, home of one of the strongest (if not the strongest) Franco-fusion culture in our country. It turns out that there's a pretty large Vietnamese-American community in south Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, and they are shaping and molding local flavors to their own tastes, and in return, influencing the local cuisine to reflect their presence (SO AWESOME). I fell in love with the sandwich, but unfortunately, my sweet little town doesn't have our own Vietnamese Bakery. (Here's hoping.) In the meantime, I started trying to figure out how to make my own at home. 

But with WHAT? I had some vension from last deer season that REALLY needed to be cooked, so I started thinking about how to combine the two and Bingo! the Mississippi Banh Mi was born. 
Y'all. This is is pretty darn delicious (and it's even better when you just happen to have a pound of ground vension on hand and are wondering what to do with it). Read on to see how YOU can make a Mississippi Banh Mi at home.

Mississippi Banh Mi
Serves 4

What you need:

For the Vension & Marinade:
1 lb of ground venison (plain or mixed with pork/bacon)
4-5 Large garlic cloves, minced
1/4 small yellow onion, minced
1 Tablespoon pepper
1 Teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 Tablespoon Brown sugar
1 Tablespoon Hoisin sauce
1 Tablespoon Vietnamese Beef Sauce (for Noodle soups)
1 teaspoon of Sesame Oil
1 Tablespoon of Dry Sherry or Rice vinegar

For the pickled carrot/radish slaw: 
2-3 large carrot (or 10 or so baby carrots) Julienned
5 radishes, julienned 
1/2 Cup white vinegar + 2 Tablespoons Dry Sherry OR Rice Vinegar
1/4 Cup sugar 
1 teaspoon course salt

For the Sandwich:
2 jalapenos, sliced
1/2 cucumber, julienned or (see below) spiralized
4 or 5 stalks of cilantro
2 large, light, french baguettes (I bought mine at Walmart, can you imagine? and they were GOOD.)
Hellman's Light Mayonnaise
Hot Sauce of your choice 
Pickled Mustard Greens (see recipe here)

What you do:
First, you'll want to make your Venison marinade by mixing all the ingredients together and letting it sit in the refrigerator for at least 1.5 hours, if not 2. Not everyone is accustomed to the strong taste of venision, so the marinade gives the meat a sweeter flavor (like pork, sweet is a flavor profile that goes VERY well with venison).
 While the meat is marinading, chop your vegetables and get your carrot/radish slaw ready. To make the slaw, whisk the sugar and salt into the vinegar, and then add in your carrots and radishes. Cover and let sit, refrigerated for at least 30 minutes to an hour.
 Use a skillet with just one spray of pam or cooking oil to cook the meat once it's finished marinading, then assemble your sandwiches. I started with a tiny slather of hellman's light mayonnaise, then added a thin layer of my pickled mustard greens. Add the meat on top of that (DO NOT be stingy here. Load your baguette up!) then pile on the slaw and other vegetables. Finish with a couple of shakes of Louisiana hot sauce, or Sriracha or Tabasco, (whichever is your favorite) and devour it.The vinegary-brightness of the slaw combines with the picked mustard greens really is delicious with the sweet venison. AND to top it all off, imagine sweetness, tangi-ness, PLUS the crunchy vegetables with the spicy jalepenos and hot sauce. This is a good sammich, y'all.

Friday, January 22, 2016

A Toast to Laurel, MS with Mock Champagne!

What are the odds that the year you move back to the town where you grew up that at nearly the SAME TIME an HGTV show pilot is filmed there based around the concept of returning to your hometown? 
I know, right? Nope, we're not on the show in any way, shapem or form, but the show's host, Erin has designed my gorgeous wedding invitations AND Wagner's baby announcement (the two pieces of paper I treasure the most in the world), so I do know her a teeny tiny little bit.

Sunday, January 24th at 11am (THIS WEEKEND!) is the air date for Ben and Erin Napier's HGTV show pilot, Hometown, and is also Laurel, Mississippi's BIG DEBUT onto the national stage (Followed not long after by Jones County's big deut with The Free State of Jones movie). The whole town is so excited about this, that there's a city-wide chili lunch right after the airing at our lovely little train depot. My whole family came back from the beach completely down for the count with some awful flu-ish type virus right now, so it's not looking like we'll be able to go, BUT we're going to drink ALL the orange juice in town between now and then to try to get ourselves well again. 

IN THE MEANTIME I'm making sure I don't miss a chance to celebrate such a big event, so we're going to be raising a very chaste, very Sunday-morning-Appropriate toast to Laurel, to the Napiers, and to coming home with my Grandmother's Mock Champagne/Wedding Punch that comes from the classic Laurel Entertains YWCO cookbook (I know. is it Coincidence or fate? Plus my mama did all the gorgeous house illustrations in the book. Whhhaatt?)

I hope hope hope you'll join me in watching Hometown on Sunday to see a little bit of where I grew up, and if you don't make this mocktail while you watch, consider making it complete with a gorgeous lemon and herb ice ring (how-to coming soon!) for your next baby shower or another time you want to have something festive for your non-drinking buds.

Grandmother's Mock Champagne
What you need:
1 Quart white grape juice
3 quarts ginger ale
Ice Ring
Punch Bowl

What you do:
Combine the two drinks in a punch bowl and serve with the ice ring. Yep. That's it. ;)

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Sweet Potato, Sausage, & Kale Stew

Ok, it's freezing all over America, right? Like everywhere? Except here. Our former town is probably covered in frost and ice (Can someone in Leland, MS confirm, please?) but here in Laurel, it's just overcast and muggy. Although there's SO MUCH to love about the deepest and farthest south, the winter weather isn't one of them if you happen to like cold. However, I'm not going to let our mosquito-ridden warm front stop me from making the most delicious, easy, healthy soup on the planet, snuggling up with a bowl of it, cup of hot coffee, and pretend it's a glorious 21 degrees. I HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend you do this, also, even if you aren't pretending.

Hearty Sweet Potato, Kale, and Sausage Soup
What you need:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 small to medium sweet potatoes, cubed
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
About 1lb of Italian sausage. (Italian sausage is CRITICAL here. Also, I like HOT, but mild is fine if you aren't into spicy)
1 cup fusilli pasta
salt and pepper to taste
4-6 cups Kale, roughly chopped (2 smaller bunches or one bag)
5-6 cups chicken stock OR the same amount of water +3 tablespoons of chicken bullion.
What you do:
Sautee' your onions and garlic in the oil until transluscent and season with salt and pepper, then cook your sausage in a pot (if you have links, you can boil them then sautee' them and cut them into rounds, OR you can just cut them open to cook the sausage without casings.)
Add in the sweet potatoes and stir a bit until the BRIGHT orange color pops, then pour in your chicken stock.  Bring it to a boil, and let it cook for 5 minutes or so on high, then add in your cup of pasta. Salt and pepper to taste. Let this do a medium simmer for about 20 minutes and then throw in your kale at the last minute.  You'll just want it to turn bright green and wilt a bit. You can let it simmer for a bit longer, then serve with cornbread or french bread or, you know, a giant glass of Pinot Noir.
I can't tell you how many compliments I get when I serve this soup to people... and it's SO easy. Did you notice that basically ALL the flavor comes from the sausage and the vegtables? I've learned that if I don't think my sausage has enough fennel in it, I can just throw some extra seeds in at the beginning for good measure. :) Happy snowstorm, winter, or in south Mississippi's case, belated September everybody!