The people's voice of reason

Southern Cuisine for February

If you are a visual learner and would like to watch some of the best shows on the television for learning or to fine hone cooking skills, I found shows that fit the bill. America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country are both very good shows. They both have their own magazines, cookbooks, and streaming services. They both can get expensive the more you get involved with the programs. Good Eats with Alton Brown has been a long running show even to the point that Alton has updated his early shows with a new series. Alton uses cinematographic techniques to the hilt in his explanations on how and why food taste and cook certain ways. I have three of his cookbooks and his apron.

A chef that has been on TV for a while is Jamie Oliver. His new show is Jamie’s 15-minute meals. I have watched many of his earlier shows and liked them. As of the time I am writing this article, I have not seen this show.

A chef friend of mine has seen it and tried soon of the meals and is amazed how well they taste and that you can prepare them in close to 15 minutes. Tom Kerridge’s Proper Pub Food is also one of my favorite shows. Tom and his pub have the distinction of being the first pub to earn a Michelin Star and a year later being the first pub to earn a second star. His show is just that, Proper Pub food. His recipes are not complicated but some of the ingredients will be a challenge to find. The last show on the list is any show that has Jacques Papin in it. He has appeared with Julia Child on TV and in joint cookbooks, has had his own shows, and has written many books. One of his books, La Technique, An Illustrated Guide to the Fundamental Techniques of Cooking was one of the books I used as I was training to be a chef.

These are some of the more conventional shows on TV. For some unconventional shows that are entertaining and somewhat instructional, try YouTube. I have not dwelled into all of the videos available, there are too many, and many are not worth your time. A few people have large followings and are noteworthy. One chef is Donal Skehan. He has 773,000 subscribers and 436 videos. One of his most watched videos is “How to make a basic tomato sauce”. It has had 986,935 views. The video is only three minutes long and you can make the sauce in 10 to 15 minutes.

There seems to be a trend with some of the new TV shows and the YouTube videos and even watching a commercial while watching a cooking show, and that is speed. Rachael Ray comes to my mind when one takes about how fast you can cook a meal. Many home cooks tried to prepare her meals in thirty minutes and many failed. There is another chef on TV, that has an “energetic persona and expert culinary skills”, Spencer Watts. His show “Spencer’s 30” has a new twist. He prepares a meal in thirty minutes for four people for thirty dollars.

My concern with these shows and there quick fixes, is that, as with Spencer, the chefs that can produce a quick meal are seasoned chefs. Excuse the pun. They have the skills and knowledge to bring together the subtle tastes and smells and flavors from the food being prepared and can do it quickly. Most have worked in restaurants and trained under a well-known chef. Moreover, if you look further into the meals and the recipes, you will find that there is only one item that is cooked. The rest are fresh ingredients that are tossed together and a quick three-ingredient dressing is mixed in.

I did not work in a restaurant. I was a banquet chef that prepared large amounts of food for a party two to three days out, and some of the items were brined or marinated for at least 12 hours and the sauces were made from stocks and demi-glace that were cooking for days. The demi-glace alone took 80 pounds of veal shanks and took three days to produce maybe 10 pounds of a dark rich smooth product. I am not saying that coating a piece of fish with mayonnaise, crushed potato chips, melted butter, dill, and parsley and baking it for twelve minutes doesn't produce a tasty and quick meal. However, there is more to preparing a meal for your family and friends than seeing how fast you can fix it. Remember this come Valentine’s Day while you are preparing a meal to impress your significant other.

Besides a source of entertainment, YouTube does have some excellent teaching videos. The last two videos I watched were how to replace the circuit board of a dishwasher and replace the clutch assembly on a washing machine. Not very exciting, but both appliances now work.

A friend of mine, David, sent me a link to a YouTube video called “What's Eating Dan?”

The video is about mushrooms and how we are cooking them the wrong way. A few tips from the piece is that you can wash mushrooms to clean them if the gills of the mushrooms are closed and should cook them in water first before adding oil. You will understand after watching the video.

Since we are on the topic of mushrooms, I decided to try several recipes with mushrooms. This is your chance to try different mushrooms and different cooking methods. When buying mushrooms check for freshness, no bruises or black spots and a popular method to store for about three days, place in a paper bag in the refrigerator. The cooking methods are similar to the video about mushrooms I mentioned earlier. The first recipe follows the guidelines from the video for cooking mushrooms. This recipe and the next are good for sides in meals with roasts or steaks. The third recipe is a complete meal.



One ½ tablespoons olive oil

1 pound mushrooms, older samples with slightly opened and

darkened gills.

3 ounces peeled and thinly sliced shallots

One tablespoon unsalted butter

1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley

½-teaspoon salt

½-teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


1. Heat oil in a skillet with a lid. When it is hot, add the mushrooms, and cook them covered over medium heat for twenty to twenty-five minutes, until all of the liquid that emerges from them has evaporated and the mushrooms are nicely browned.

2. Add the shallots to the skillet and sauté them uncovered for two to three minutes until they are soft and brown.

3. Add the butter, parsley, salt, and pepper and sauté for 10 seconds longer and serve immediately.

The next recipe will take some time to prepare due to the recipe calling for older and larger mushrooms with slightly opened gills. There will be a good deal of moisture to evaporate before the mushroom will brown from cooking.

This recipe is also good to use in omelets or a topping for hamburgers. The last recipe is for a complete meal.



1 ½ pounds of wild mushrooms, your choice, be adventurous and try

something other than white button, such as shiitake, oyster, morels, and

Portobello, ends trimmed and cleaned

One medium onion, finely chopped.

Two garlic cloves smashed.

Two juniper berries, crushed and can be found in the spice section of

most grocery stores.

¼ teaspoon dried thyme

Two tablespoons dry white wine

1-tablespoon olive oil

1-teaspoon cognac

½-teaspoon kosher salt and freshly ground pepper


1. Pre-heat oven to 375*

2. Cut the mushrooms lengthwise and into smaller pieces that still resemble the original shape.

3. Combine the mushrooms, onion, garlic, juniper berries, and thyme in an ovenproof casserole dish. Mix the wine, cognac, and oil in a dish, pour over the mushrooms, and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Cover the casserole dish with foil and roast for 35 to 40 minutes until the mushrooms are tender and there is no more liquid in the dish. If needed uncover to evaporate the rest of the liquid.

5. Continue to roast until slightly browned and toss with remaining oil.

Use in a recipe that calls for roasted mushrooms such as a roast or steaks.

Serves four.

When I first saw this recipe, all I could think of was shrimp and grits. However, it sounds more refined if called polenta instead of grits. Nevertheless, there is a difference between polenta and grits. I will let you Google it. In addition, this recipe can be served as a meatless main course.

A ragout is a thick stew of vegetables and/or meats.




2 cups water

½ cup yellow cornmeal

¼-teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper (for polenta and for grits I prefer

ground white pepper. It does not look like you have some unknown species in your food)

Mushroom Ragout

One tablespoon unsalted butter

1-tablespoon peanut oil

1 small onion peeled and chopped (about ½ cup)

5 ounces of mushroom (your choice) cut into ½-inch pieces (2 cups)

3 cloves garlic finely chopped and crushed

One ¼ cups plum tomatoes, seeded cut into ½ inch pieces

1-cup sweet corn (fresh, canned, or frozen)

½ cup chicken stock (lower salt is better)

¼-teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives


Polenta: Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan. While whisking sprinkle the cornmeal in. Add salt and pepper. Bring mixture to a boil,

reduce to low, and cover to prevent splattering. Cook gently for 6 to 8

minutes, stirring occasionally, until polenta is the consistency of a creamy puree. Set aside covered.

Mushroom ragout:

Heat the butter and oil in a large saucepan. When hot add onion and sauté for 30 seconds. Add mushrooms and sauté over high heat for about two minutes, until the liquid emerges and evaporates. Add the garlic, tomatoes, corn, stock, salt, and pepper, bring to a strong boil, and then reduce heat to medium and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.

To serve, ladle the polenta into the center of shallow soup bowls, and pour the ragout on top, dividing it among the bowls. Sprinkle with the chives and serve.

Serves four

I realized why all of a sudden, mushrooms were on my mind. With all the rain we have had, my yard looks like fairy playground. Mushrooms of all different sizes and type are sprouting up everywhere. The real problem is I dare not eat any of them. Remember all mushrooms are edible but some only once in a lifetime.

Falling in love is like eating mushrooms, you never know if it is the real thing until it is too late.


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