Escape the Summer Heat
I just returned from one of my "Escape the Summer Heat Tours." This time the escape was to Iowa. Even though it is further north than Alabama, they can have hot and humid summers but at least this time of year you don't have to worry that a blizzard will keep you from getting there or keep you trapped there. This trip was warmer than expected, highs in the low 80's, but low humidity and usually a good breeze. So coming from central Alabama it was cool and comfortable.
Nothing compares to boating on the Alabama River, eating fried chicken and snacks and relaxing. But I also like sitting on the deck of a restaurant on the bank of the Mississippi watching the pleasure crafts and barges go by. And at a restaurant I get to do "research of the culinary arts", (eating).
My "research" started with a hamburger named The Bucket List Burger.
Claim was that this burger should be on everyone's bucket list. If you ate too many of these burgers you would not finish your list. It helps you kick the bucket.
Well I couldn't pass it up. And as usual I had to enhance the burger a wee bit. It came with a half pound patty, Swiss and cheddar cheese, bacon and peanut butter and strawberry preserves. I almost changed it into a kitchen sink burger, you know everything but the! I added jalapenos, pepper jack cheese and a chipotle mayo that I saw offered on another burger. That and a margarita was the highlight of the day. That was lunch and I wasn't hungry until lunch the next day.
Another place where I did research, was at the Celtic Festival and Highland Games of the Quad Cities. A two day festival celebrating the "sports, music,dance,heritage, and culture of the people of Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Cornwall and Brittany." Bag pipes, dancing, caber toss, hammer throw, weight throw, the sheaf toss, a sheep herding exhibit, and a tug of war competition were some of the events. There was more music and dancing than the previous festival I attended and more food. .So I was able to do more research.
There was Scotch eggs, pork pie, fish and chips, bangers and mash, Cornish pasties and what gathering of Scots would be complete without Haggis.
I had to have my yearly sampling of haggis. They served haggis and chips. Remember that chips in the United Kingdom is what we call french fries. But you do not eat the chips with ketchup. A healthy splash of malt vinegar does wonders to fries. If you are inclined to make haggis at home, Alton Brown of the Food Network has a good recipe. I'm not sure how hard it is to find sheep liver, sheep hearts, sheep tongue and a sheep stomach in this area. There is a theory that all of Scottish Cuisine is based on a dare.
But a perfect snack on the Alabama river would be Scotch eggs. What doesn't sound good if the snack consists of a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat, rolled in bread crumbs and fried. Tastes good cold and goes with a mustard sauce.
2 quarts oil for deep frying
12 ounces pork sausage (see note)
1 tablespoon dried parsley, crushed
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
salt and pepper to taste
1 egg, beaten
4 ounces dry bread crumbs
1. Cover 6 whole eggs with water in a 3 quart saucepan. Bring to a boil. After the water has come to a full boil, turn off heat and leave pot covered on stove for 11 minutes. Remove eggs from water, cool under running water and peel. Put in container and place in refrigerator until needed.
2. Heat oil in deep fryer to 375 degrees.
3. Combine sausage, parsley, nutmeg, zest, and marjoram. Add salt and pepper if desired.
4. Wet your hands and work 2 ounces of sausage mix into a ball. Then work your thumbs into the ball like you are going to make a little bowl. Place egg in middle of bowl and keep forming the sausage until it is big enough to cover the egg. Check of sausage so that it completely wraps the egg with no cracks.
5. Roll each wrapped egg in egg wash and then in bread crumbs.
6. Don't crowd the eggs but fry them for 4 to 5 minutes until golden brown, turning the eggs to brown the entire egg. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
Notes: I have made these with different style of sausage; Italian seasoned, breakfast Jimmie Dean style, and chorizo spiced plain ground pork. Type of sausage will determine if you want to use the seasonings listed in this recipe.
Also seasoning of the bread crumbs will change the taste, Italian seasoned bread crumbs and Italian sausage will be like eating a meatball with an egg in the middle.
Find a simple mustard sauce recipe or a store bought sauce, if you like.
My sister does needlework and goes to sewing sessions around her area in Iowa. I visited her during a week where she went to a session at a home of a very good stitcher. Since these women knew I was coming and knew I was a chef, there were snacks and dishes that they wanted to try. I liked the pickled ham. It tasted like a bread and butter pickle and I think it would be good in a cold salad. We talked about food while they were doing their projects.
I was amazed on the quality of some of the needlework. The lady of the home we went to was into art deco and art neuvo. And I will admit the pieces she did were like pieces of art.
One lady had a collection of hand written recipe cards that she was given and wanted to share them with me. A stack of twenty-one cards that looked like they had been used many times for many years. They were mostly desserts and baked items, and I found a card that I would like to share. It is a cookie recipe with eighteen items and very specific and also somewhat vague directions. The additions to the pecans, oats and coconut are mine. And it will make enough cookies to feed a small army of hungry children.
Every state in the Union has a number of favorite foods, and Iowa is no different. They put ranch dressing on everything, even their pizza, and they claim the breakfast pizza and the taco pizza started in Iowa. They like their Blue Bunny ice cream, but I'll stick to my Blue Bell. With the Dutch influence in Iowa, there are delicious sausages, smoked meats and cheeses. Ham balls are a common treat and a solitary tree bearing the world famous Red Delicious Apple was first discovered in Iowa in 1872.
Is there much difference between Southern Cuisine and Northern Cuisine?
Biggest differences are due to the length of the growing season, harshness of winter, first settlers in area,and even religious groups.
But as time goes by the differences become blurred, with availability of products from all over the country and the mobility of the populace. At Thanksgiving, Ham was more popular in the South but now turkey is widely eaten. I don't know anyone in my family that would dare eat rhubarb, but it's popular up north.
JUST DELICIOUS COOKIES
1 cup of sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup soft margarine
1 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon black walnut extract
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
1/2 teaspoon butter extract
1 teaspoon burnt sugar extract
3 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup rice crispy cereal
1 cup pecans ( I would use chopped)
1 cup oats (use 5 minute not instant)
1 cup coconut( Angel flaked sweetened)
1. Mix ingredients in order given. Shape into balls and place on a cookie sheet. Dip drinking glass bottom in sugar and use to flatten each cookie. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Makes 100 cookies.
Yams and collards are not widely accepted up north. The Puritans allowed no cooking on Sunday, so traditional foods had to be cooked on Saturday night before sundown and held through dinner on Sunday. And the winters are harsh so soups, stews and baked beans are hardy dishes to keep you warm.
SOUTHERN; adj.-state of mind. More than where you were born. See also fried chicken, sweet tea, football, bourbon, acoustic guitars, hospitable, being devoted to front porches, magnolias, the GOOD LORD and each other.
When life hands you lemons, put a slice in your sweet tea.