Alabama Gazette - The people's voice of reason

Southern Cuisine

 

February 1, 2017 | View PDF



I was doing my usual “surfing the net”, thumbing through old recipes, thinking of a restaurant I want visit, and watching cooking shows, trying to think of a topic for this month’s article. It came to me when one of our granddaughters opened the refrigerator, and commented about the amount of butter, cream cheese, and eggs on the shelves. She wondered why we had 2 pounds of butter, four packages of cream cheese, and two dozen eggs. Moreover, she wondered why we had six mason jars of soup. Good thing she did not look in the cupboard to find eight cans of SPAM. That is a different story.

My wife and I looked at the same shelves and thought we needed to go to the store. We usually stock about eight or nine pounds of butter, twelve packages of cream cheese, and four cartons of eggs, and four to five pounds of assorted cheeses. When you make as many pound cakes as my wife does, the butter, cream cheese and eggs do not stay on the shelves very long. The mason jars are our favorite method to store vegetables, soups or leftovers that we want to freeze. Therefore, my topics for this article came from our icebox and the comments of an 11 year old.

In 1992, the USDA introduced their first version of the Food Pyramid. The top of the pyramid was the smallest section and signified the foods that you were to eat the least; fats and sugars. The next level down was the cheese, eggs, milk section, the section we keep the most of in our refrigerator. My favorite food in that food group is cheese. If the weather ever acts normal for a winter, I will make cheese soup to eat on a cold winter’s day. I was not going to wait for the cold but I knew it would come so I decided to make the soup anyway.

I found an old recipe from my mother for Cheese Soup that makes 3 quarts. The ingredient list was hand written on a 5x6-recipe card but the instructions was a cutout from a newspaper. This made me think that my mother changed the ingredients for the soup. The name Cheese soup is pushing the definition of the meaning of cheese. The recipe has its high moments and its low. Sautéed carrots, onion, celery, and making a roux for thickening are high notes; using CHEESE WHIZ does make the recipe easier and makes for a smooth sauce, gives it the color and cheese taste, and helps the soup from separating. Even with all the cheese I had in the refrigerator, I still had to make a trip to the store to buy CHEESE WHIZ!

As with any cream soup recipe, first you make the roux. I have watched chefs make a roux with the vegetables already in the fat, sautéing, and then they add the flour. I like to make the roux first because you can cook it at a higher temperature to cook out the flour taste. This will keep from overcooking the vegetables while you are making the roux. Sautee the vegetables separately and then add to the roux.

CHEESE SOUP

From the kitchen of Oma Ruth Spooner

INGREDIENTS

1 small carrot, ½ medium onion, 4 stalks celery, 1 ½ sticks butter, 1 cup flour, 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, ¾ teaspoon garlic salt, scant ½ teaspoon white pepper, scant ½ teaspoon dry mustard, 2 tablespoons dry chicken base, 1 quart hot water, 1 cup milk, 4 cups CHEESE WHIZ

METHOD

1. Clean and dice vegetables into small pieces. Sauté in butter over medium heat for about 15 minutes.

2. Add flour and mix thoroughly to make a roux.

3. In a separate container, add seasonings and chicken base to hot water. Add water to the roux, slowly, while stirring until mixture thickens.

4. Cook 10 minutes, and keep stirring. When thick add milk, slowly while stirring. Add CHESSE WHIZ and stir until dissolved.

5. Remove from heat.

Makes 3 quarts.

NOTES: Do not use high heat and never let mixture come to a boil. If you need to thicken soup, add more butter and flour roux.

My ‘go to’ restaurant when I am out shopping and want to sit down at a table and have someone serve me is a Mexican restaurant. My first request is for queso. I do not want just any queso, but white queso and if available with chorizo. Usually I add some Pico de Gallo to it to spice it up a bit. To make a similar queso at home, melt some white Velveeta and add some salsa from a jar. On the other hand, if you want a yellow cheese dip, do as my mother and open a jar of CHEESE WHIZ. As I always say, the less processed the ingredients the better for you. Therefore, you should have a stand by recipe for queso that is quick, simple and does not contain processed cheese. This recipe takes about 25 minutes and is a good base for whatever level of spiciness you want. It is best to melt cheese in a double boiler if you have one. Milk and cheese can scorch easily and ruin the whole batch. A slow cooker will work but take longer to melt the cheeses.

SPICY WHITE QUESO

INGREDIENTS

8 ounces Mexican style chorizo, cooked, crumbled and drained well, 2 pounds grated pepper jack cheese, with habaneros if you can find it, for a little more heat , 16 ounces cream cheese, cut into chunks and room temperature, 1-cup sour cream, Two 10 ounce cans Rotel tomatoes, original or hotter versions if you like, drained, Whole milk, up to 2 cups as needed

METHOD

1. Cook chorizo until crispy, drain and set aside.

2. Whatever method you are using to heat queso, combine the cheese, sour cream, cream cheese, and Rotel

3. Heat and stir often, adding milk as needed to keep mixture creamy.

4. Serve in a slow cooker at Low setting.

Makes six cups

NOTES: Other spices such as powdered garlic, onion, cayenne, cumin can be added at a ½ teaspoon at a time to taste.

Now that we have eaten most of the cheese in the refrigerator, let’s go for the eggs. Instructions on how to buy, store and basic techniques for cooking eggs takes up chapters in some cookbooks. Eggs have been around since the Chinese and Egyptians kept domesticated fowl. The Ancient Greeks and Romans noted the consumption of eggs. The Victorians introduced the idea of eating eggs for breakfast. I have seen this recipe on several cooking shows and it is a good last minute dinner dish. If you have ever eaten leftover pizza for breakfast, then you will not think that eating spaghetti in the morning is out of the ordinary. This recipe has veggies, bacon, dairy, and eggs. Top the final dish with a fried egg and it becomes a filling and satisfying breakfast.

There are many different variations to this recipe. The main difference is the use of cream and making a sauce. The traditional Spaghetti alla Carbonara has no cream and requires more skill to keep the eggs from curdling when added to the spaghetti.

SPAGHETTI with eggs and bacon

INGREDIENTS

2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 small onion, finely chopped, 1 garlic clove, crushed, ½ pound bacon, cooked and crumbled, 10 ounces dried spaghetti, Four large eggs , ¾ cup half-and-half cream (or crème fraiche or sour cream), ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, extra for garnish. Optional: A fried egg for the topping of the final dish.

METHOD

1. Heat oil in large saucepan add onion and garlic and fry gently until soft. About 5 minutes.

2. Add cooked bacon and stir until heated.

3. Meanwhile, cook spaghetti in a large saucepan of salted boiling water according to the box instructions.

4. In a small saucepan whisk eggs and cream until blended, and cook over low heat until temperature reaches 160 degrees, do not let simmer. Remove from heat add cheese. The result should be a thick creamy that will stick to the spaghetti.

5. Drain cooked pasta, leave in pan and add onion, garlic, bacon mixture, stir until mixed. Heat pasta and bacon mixture until warm, turn off heat and then add egg mixture and stir well until pasta is coated. The goal is to keep everything as warm as possible. Serve in warmed bowls and top with fried egg if desired and with grated parmesan and grated pepper and salt. Serve immediately.

Serves four.

It was not too long ago that Mason jars were only for canning. Now there are more uses for the jars than John Landis Mason ever envisioned.

PINTEREST on one board has pins for over a thousand different uses for a Mason jar. At our house, canning fruits and vegetables tops our list. Second would be freezing leftovers and soups. Usually its freezing soup made from leftovers. Whatever soup we make goes in a jar, cooled, lid put on and into the freezer. When we want some soup, remove the metal lid, cover with a napkin (stops splattering) and microwave until hot and ready to eat. The half-pint jars make for a perfect serving and easy to heat in the microwave.

Any recipe for soup will work, except a cheese or dairy based soup, because the soup will have a tendency to separate or curdle when defrosting. Since I am highlighting cheese and eggs, I searched for an egg and cheese recipe written for preparation in a Mason jar. Moreover, it is for my favorite meal of the day, breakfast.

MASON JAR FRITTATA

INGREDIENTS

8 ounces Mexican style chorizo, cooked, crumbled and drained well, 2 pounds grated pepper jack cheese, with habaneros if you can find it, for a little more heat , 16 ounces cream cheese, cut into chunks and room temperature, 1-cup sour cream, Two 10 ounce cans Rotel tomatoes, original or hotter versions if you like, drained, Whole milk, up to 2 cups as needed

METHOD

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees

2. In a large skillet, brown the sausage and break it into crumbles.

3. Toss in potatoes and cook until well coated with oil.

4. Stir in kale and cook until wilted.

5. Season with salt and pepper and remove from stove.

6. In a medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs, and whisk in the milk and cheese.

7. Set aside.

8. Spray six half-pint Mason jars with cooking spray.

9. Divide the sausage mixture evenly between the jars.

10. Top each jar with egg-cheese mixture, leaving one inch of headspace at the top of jar.

11. Place jars on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper, the eggs may bubble over.

12. Bake at 375 for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the eggs are set and the top is golden brown.

13. Let jars rest for five minutes before serving. Serve warm or room temperature.

Serves six

NOTES: If not serving immediately put lid on jars and refrigerate. To serve, remove lid and ring and warm in microwave or in a hot water bath.

Recipe adapted from Cooking.com.

Some people are still under the impression that eating eggs are bad for your health, due to their high cholesterol content. An article from healthycornermag.com, says food high in saturated fats and Trans fats can raise your cholesterol levels…but eggs are not in the same group-they are an excellent source of protein. The article also claims, eggs can resolve iron deficiencies, promote brain health, prevent cataract and protect your eye health, are the best source of protein, protect your bones, and improve the quality of your hair and nails, and the article recommends eating three eggs a day!

The same magazine recommends a morning routine of drinking a glass of water, with a teaspoon of baking soda and a half of a lemon squeezed and dropped in the glass.

There are as many or more tips for better health on the internet than uses for Mason jars. I would trust my doctor with my health and search the internet for uses of Mason jars.

 

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