Thursday, May 31, 2012

An Authentic Cajun Crawfish Boil at the Lake

For Memorial Day we attended the 3rd annual east Tennessee/North Carolina blogger get-together at Almost Heaven South’s dock on Tellico Lake. Each year this get-together is hosted by Larry of Big Dude’s Eclectic Ramblings on his dock at his house at Almost Heaven South, Chris of Nibble Me This, and Katherine of Smoky Mountain Café.

This is probably the longest post I've ever done, so grab your hats and buckle your seat belts. But don't worry, it's mostly pictures and it's not nearly as long as it seems - you'll see.

The theme this year was an authentic Cajun seafood boil and the chefs were A. J. & Katherine of Smoky Mountain Café.

A. J. & Katherine are the real thing – New Orleans natives, and who better to introduce the group to an authentic Cajun Louisiana crawfish & Gulf of Mexico shrimp boil than these New Orleans natives. Please click over to Katherine's blog to see steps 1 and steps 2 on how to do an authentic crawfish boil including great step by step pictures.

Here’s a close-up of a live Louisiana crawfish. I think we’ll call him "Mud Bug Billy" Boudreaux. After he got cooked in the spicy crawfish boil, he was a tasty fellow, but getting the meat out of him takes a bit of skill.

A. J. with a tray piled high with boiled Gulf of Mexico shrimp to be added to the cooked crawfish already spread out on the tables.

Our host Larry of Big Dude’s Eclectic Ramblings and his lovely wife Beverly enjoying a morsel of crawfish.

Chris, another host and author of Nibble Me This, grabbing a shot of the seafood boil, and his wife Alexis and me chatting before the festivities.

Penny of Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen visiting with Larry of Big Dude’s Eclectic Ramblings. We were thrilled Penny & her husband David could join us this year.

Dave of My Year on the Grill & E-Recipe Cards, his wife Jackie, who traveled all the way from Kansas (a very long way), & in the blue shirt Dave of Big Daddy Dave and his wife Laurie, who live nearby on the lake, and Meakin, my lovely photographer, in the background with is camera around his neck.

Courtesy of Penny of Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen
Penny’s husband David and my brother-in-law Stuart & his wife Sandy.

Group shot of a table of guests picking crawfish and peeling shrimp Louisiana style. Tables were covered with butcher paper to make life easier.

We were not able to get a shot of all of the pictures of the food people brought, but here are a couple of samples. Penny's delicious and refreshing dessert of watermelon & pineapple cream cheese stuffed celery.

I made a Bahamian pigeon pea and rice salad. It's cool flavors were a perfect foil for the spicy seafood boil.

Photo courtesy of Penny of Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen
Larry makes the best margaritas on the planet and did a demonstration on how to make them including the secret ingredients. Penny got great pictures of the entire thing and check out Katherine's step by step "how to" make Larry's famous margaritas. My photographer was out on a boat ride with Jim, who offered a ride around the lake in his boat after the seafood boil and some of the younger guests water-skied.

As you can tell by the photos, everyone had a fabulous time. Thank you Larry, Chris, and Katherine for hosting this fabulous get-together. Larry & Bev's Almost Heaven South once again lived up to its reputation. Dock parties don’t get any better than this.

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This post will be linked to Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farms, Foodie Friday at Not Your Ordinary Recipes, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, and Stone Gable’s On the Menu Monday.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Homemade Ketchup

I’ve always been intrigued with the idea of making my ketchup, but up until now, I’ve never seen a recipe. Step in Martha Stewart, who as always knows everything there is to know about everything, including our beloved staple of the burger and fries world - ketchup.

Contrary to what you might have thought, Martha says the red tomato sauce we know as ketchup today has come a long way from its beginning as fermented fish sauce. British traders brought back Asian condiments with them when they returned to Europe where they inspired hosts of various ketchups flavored with anchovies, mushrooms, and even walnuts. Our colonial ancestors in America experimented with beans and apples that they found on our shores. In the nineteenth century the tomato version that we know today took hold and the rest, as they say, is history.

Martha’s version of homemade ketchup bursts with chili and citrus flavors and the kick comes from a very spicy habanera pepper.  We’ve served Martha’s homemade ketchup with boiled shrimp and tested it with onion rights and fries. While we were crazy about the flavor, the consistency was different from commercial ketchup. We recommend straining it well every time you serve it. Otherwise, it tends to be on the watery side. The other thing I will mention is that the homemade version is more “saucy” and therefore doesn’t cling to the food when you dip it in as its bottled cousin does. But it also doesn’t stick to your fingers either.

Martha’s Homemade Ketchup
Martha Stewart Living Magazine – yield 2 ½ cups

1 - 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 medium yellow onion, quartered
3 garlic cloves, crushed with the flat side of a large knife
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
¼ cup cider vinegar
2 teaspoons dry mustard
Pinch of ground nutmeg (freshly grated if possible)
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
Pinch of chili powder
½ teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (about 2 oranges total)
2 tablespoons brewed espresso coffee
1 bay leaf
1 fresh habanera chili
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Puree the diced tomatoes and juice, onion, garlic, and sugar in a food processor. Transfer the tomato mixture to a large heavy-bottomed stockpot. Add vinegar, 1 cup of water, the dry mustard, nutmeg, allspice, chili powder, orange zest, orange juice, espresso, bay leaf, and habanera chili.

Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat; simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 50 minutes.

Remove the habanera chili and puree half or the whole chili (depending on how much heat you like) with 1 cup ketchup in the food processor. Return pureed ketchup to the pot; stir until well blended. Season with salt and pepper, then let cool completely. Ketchup can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 2 weeks. Serve with a side of coarse salt if desired.

For thicker ketchup, strain well and discard the liquid before serving.

This recipe will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farms, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, Foodie Friday at Not Your Ordinary Recipes, and On the Menu Monday at Stone Gable. I am very pleased to learn that this recipe was chosen to be one of the featured recipes on Food Fetish Friday at Javelin Warrior's Cookin w/ Luv. Javelin shares his food finds in a series called Food Fetish Friday that I know you'll enjoy as much as I did. Thanks Javelin!

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The winner of the give-away of the delightful book Paris was Ours by Penelope Rowlands is Claudia of Journey of an Italian Cook - Finding the Mediterranean in Minnesota. Congratulations Claudia. Please get in touch with me with your address and I’ll get it off to you right away.

A special thanks to each of you that took the time to leave a comment and participate in the give-away. I really enjoyed reading why you would love to visit or live in Paris. I also thank you from the bottom of my heart for supporting me and following or subscribing to My Carolina Kitchen. You are the best!

This is also Memorial Day weekend. I want to take the time to say a big thank you to the families who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. We should all remember that freedom is not free. God Bless America and all of those who have or who are currently serving their country. My father was a WWII veteran and Meakin served during Vietnam.

I hope you and your family have a safe and wonderful Memorial Day. And slather some of Martha's homemade ketchup on your burgers or hot dogs. Enjoy your weekend everyone!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Mediterranean Tuna Salad and a Give-away

This Mediterranean tuna salad is a super easy to put together as a small plate meal or a filling appetizer. Made mostly from ingredients that you already have on your shelf, all you need to complete the recipe is a handful of fresh parsley, a juicy lemon, and a box of crispy crackers. It doesn’t get any easier than that.

Instead of using the predictable celery and mayonnaise, this version of tuna salad is mixed with fresh herbs, roasted red peppers, and white beans. You might say it’s a sophisticated tuna salad tossed with flavors from the Mediterranean.

Mediterranean Tuna Salad 
You Can Trust a Skinny Cook by Allison Fishman – serves 4

1- 15 ½ ounce can small white beans, rinsed and drained well
2- 5 oz cans Italian tuna in oil, drained (or any good tuna)
1 cup roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 cup roasted red peppers, rinsed, drained, and sliced
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of ½ lemon
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 crisp hearty crackers or slices of a French baguette

In a medium bowl, combine the white beans, tuna, parsley, red peppers, and capers and toss well to combine. Drizzle with the olive oil and lemon juice, toss gently, and season to taste with the salt and pepper. Serve with crisp hearty crackers or crisp bread.

In celebration of my 500th follower, I thought a petite give-away was in order.  Since I know many of you enjoy reading about France as much as I do, the perfect book to show my appreciation of your reading my blog had to be a copy of the delightful book Paris was Ours by Penelope Rowlands. The book is an accumulation of thirty-two diverse writer’s stories about how they were outsiders who became insiders in the City of Light. They share their observations and revelations about the world’s most seductive city.

From Patricia Well’s husband Walter, “Much of the early immigrant experience was often entertaining, but it was also hard. We both cried the first night I came home from the Tribune and found Patricia already in tears. I realized how lonely she was and remember saying to her, “This is the worst mistake I have ever made and it’s the worst time of my life.” 

From David Lebowitz, “I know for sure I’ve made it here when I buy outfits specifically for taking out the garbage.” 

From Veronique Vienne, “Parisians approach parting with money as they do foreplay: with plenty of time to spare.”

The give-away is my way of saying thanks for following and supporting My Carolina Kitchen. The give-away is reserved for followers only and it also includes those who follow by email. If a reader outside the US wins, I will gladly ship it to you wherever you are. If you leave an Anonymous comment, please leave a way I can get in touch with you should you win. Their will be only one winner and the name will be announced this same time next week.

So the give-away is simple – if you are a follower, leave a comment saying so and also tell me if you would love to live in Paris and why.

This recipe is being shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen’s Full Plate Thursday, Foodie Friday at Not Your Ordinary Recipes, and On the Menu Monday at Stone Gable.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Skillet Blackberry Jam in Honor of my Mother for Mother’s Day

Blackberry jam was my mother’s favorite flavor of jam and every summer when the local blackberries were ripe, she canned lots of jars of blackberry jam. As I recall, every wooden spoon in her kitchen was stained dark blue. I am not a canner and have no desire to be, but when I came across this recipe for skillet jam, I knew I had to give it a try. Mom, I hope you are smiling down from heaven and know that I’m thinking of you today.

Skillet Blackberry Jam
Gourmet Comfort – makes about 1 ½ cups

1 lb fresh or frozen and thawed blackberries (4 cups)
¾ cup sugar
2 tablespoons powdered fruit pectin. I used Sure Jell. (Do not substitute liquid or low-sugar pectin.)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Mash blackberries with a potato masher or a fork in a large bowl. Stir together the berries, sugar, pectin, and lemon juice in a 12-inch nonstick skillet, then boil, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 7 minutes. Transfer jam to a large shallow bowl, cover jam surface with wax paper, and chill until softly set, at least 30 minutes. Jam will set further if chilled longer. Jam keeps, chilled in an airtight container, for 2 weeks.

Dress the jam up a little and it makes a nice gift for a special lady in your life for Mother’s Day.

In honor of Mother’s Day, I would like to share with you these words from The Help. I’m sure most, if not all of you, have either read the book or seen the movie. They are words to live by and something every child should be taught.

I grew up in the Deep South region of the US and my family had help. Rhoda was what you might call my “other mother.” My father was stationed in the South Pacific during WWII and when I was born, my mother and I lived with his parents.  While my mother taught school during the day, Rhoda babysat me, fed me, bathed me, changed my diapers, held me when I cried, and did whatever was necessary. When my grandmother walked up the block to her canasta game, it was Rhoda who pushed my stroller while one of my father’s bird dogs followed behind. Everyone in town knew where my grandmother was by where my empty baby stroller was, parked outside one of her friends’ home with the bird dog guarding it. I loved Rhoda with the same deep love and affection I gave to my mother and my grandparents, and later when my father returned home, to him as well.

Contrary to what the movie depicted about the South, not everyone that had help in households barred them from the bathroom or accused of stealing the family silver. In our home Rhoda was family. My mother taught her how to make blackberry jam I’m sure.

During that time pediatricians believed that babies should be fed on a schedule and if they cried, just let them, so that’s exactly what my mother did. And cry I did. While my mother was teaching, it was Rhoda that held me when I got cranky and comforted me when I was hungry. What’s funny now is that to this very day, when I get hungry and can't eat right away, I still get cranky. Very cranky, just ask my husband Meakin.

I haven’t heard from Rhoda since my parents died almost 28 years ago. But this I can tell you. She instilled in me those wonderful words from The Help and I am a much better person for it today.

I was very blessed to have two wonderful mothers. Happy Mother’s Day everyone.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Let French Lamb Stew with Figs and Olives Magically Transport You to Provence for the Evening

Once again last week I was dreaming about France (when am I not?). I had heard that it was rainy and quite chilly in France and my mind drifted to dining on a dinner of spring lamb in one of the charming little French bistros along the boulevard somewhere in the south of France.

As it often happens with dreams, at the same time our weather in south Florida turned cool, which was a bit unusual for this time of the year. According to my friend Vicki Lane of Vicki Lane Mysteries, who has a farm high in the mountains of the western Carolinas, cool weather late in the season is called Blackberry Winter. “This sort of late cold snap happens often enough that there’s a name for it – Blackberry Winter. Kind of like Indian Summer, but in reverse.” 

So the chill in our air must have been a Blackberry Winter “Florida Style,” not my dreams of France. Oh well, it’s not the first time my dreams have been interrupted. But I wasn’t going to let that stop me from eating lamb or thinking of Provence.

Enter French lamb stew. Inspired by flavors from the south of France - figs, green olives, and herbs de Provence - this earthy stew is perfect for an evening with a bit of chill in the air. To achieve a French bistro mood, play a little Charles Aznavour or Edith Piaf music quietly in the background, light a few candles, and pour a nice Côtes du Rhône wine. Serve with a crusty French baguette to soak up the rich juices from the stew, and voila, you are magically whisked to Provence for the evening. Well, at least in your dreams.

Lamb, Fig & Olive Stew
From Eating Well – serves 4 – about 1 ½ cups each

1 pound lean ground lamb
2 teaspoons olive oil
4 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons herbs de Provence
½ cup dry red wine
28 ounces reduced-sodium beef broth
4 teaspoons corn starch
4 plum tomatoes, diced
½ cup chopped dried figs, stems discarded
4 tablespoons finely chopped pitted green olives (use Picholine olives, the crisp un-cracked green ones from Provence if you can find them)
Freshly ground black pepper
Sea salt or kosher salt

4 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add lamb and cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon, until browned, 4 to 6 minutes. You don’t crowd the lamb in the skillet, or it will steam instead of browning. Cook in batches if necessary. Transfer the lamb to a sieve set over a bowl to drain and discard the fat. If you have cooked it in batches, carefully wipe out the skillet before browning the next batch.

Wipe out the pan, add the oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and herbs de Provence and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Take care not to burn the garlic. Add the wine and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until slightly reduced, about 1 minute.

Stir together the broth and cornstarch in a small bowl. Add to the pan, increase the heat to high, and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. Add tomatoes, figs, olives and pepper, and return to a simmer, stirring often. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have broken down, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add the reserved lamb and cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 3 minutes. Check for seasonings and add salt if needed. Serve right away garnished with the fresh parsley and lemon zest.

Cook’s notes: To make your own herbs de Provence, combine equal proportions dried thyme, rosemary, oregano, marjoram and savory in a small jar. If desired, add a pinch of dried lavender and crushed aniseed.

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This recipe will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen’s Full Plate Thursday, Foodie Friday at Not Your Ordinary Recipes, and On the Menu Monday at Stone Gable.