Alabama Gazette - The people's voice of reason

Southern Cuisine for September

 

September 1, 2019 | View PDF

I was looking through past issues of the Alabama Gazette to check on topics that I wrote about in past Septembers. It seems that I complained about the hot weather. The topic never changes. It is late summer, I live in central Alabama, and so what else is the topic of conversations? You do not have to mow your lawn in the heat, because the grass is dead. You do not have to work in the garden, because it is also dead. My garden looks like I stuck Charlie Brown’s leafless Christmas trees in a row of pots. The tomato plants look like tumble weeds.

I have a soaker hose in a small flower garden that I am required to keep watered. I was checking it to make sure it was keeping the flowers nourished and heard a buzzing sound. My hose was covered with my bees. I watched them go for the water and then take off and fly straight to the hive. Even the bees are thirsty.

You know the adage,”If you want it to rain, wash your car!” I just started a new adage. If you write an article and complain about it being hot and dry, it will rain. Guess what just happened as I was writing? So my complaint now; “it is hot and humid.” Welcome to Alabama! At least, I did not wash my car. I am now confined to doing indoor chores. My indoor chores are rearranging the items in the pantry, and the spice and condiment cabinet and checking the expiration dates. Then make a grocery list. I do this for the refrigerator and freezer also. I get inspirations to try new recipes knowing what I have on hand. I can rearrange food but not dishes or pots and pans. My wife knows where her dishes are and what we have so she does not like me to mess it up. So, I make the meal and she suggests the serving dishes.

I recently received a present from White Lily for mentioning their product in one of my articles. How can you write about Southern Cuisine and not mention White Lily flour? It could of not come at a more appropriate time. September is National Biscuit Month! The first week is National Waffle Week, the second week is Biscuit and Gravy Week and September 26 is Pancake Lovers Day. What better reason to use White Lily flour?

My first biscuit recipe was inspired by a cookie that my wife brought back from Dallas. The cookie had apricot pieces in it and cayenne pepper. After rearranging my pantry, I discovered we had several pouches of dried apricots. I did not want to spice up my biscuits I just wanted, as a famous chef would say, “Take them up a notch.” So I added bacon. Everything is better with bacon and apricots go with bacon. And to make it easier, I decided to make them a drop biscuits. I have self-rising flour and the recipe I want to start with calls for all-purpose flour. So for every cup of all-purpose flour in the recipe I reduce the baking powder by 1 ½ teaspoons and reduce the salt by ¼ teaspoon. So for this recipe I do not use any baking powder or additional salt.

Apricot & Bacon Drop Biscuits

Yield: 10 to 12 biscuits

INGREDIENTS

2 cups White Lily Self-rising Flour

¼ cup (half stick) cold butter

½ cup cooked chopped bacon

½ cup finely chopped dried

apricots

¾ cup milk or heavy cream

melted butter needed to brush on hot biscuits.

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Heat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Lightly grease a baking sheet and set aside.

3. In a bowl, add flour and cut in the cold butter with a pastry blender until the pieces of butter are pea sized. Don't dilly-dally and let the

butter get warm.

4. Add cream or milk and blend with a fork. Add bacon and apricot and gently blend.

5. You want a soft dough. Add more liquid if needed.

6. Using a tablespoon, drop dough on sheet pan about 2 inches apart.

7. Maybe two scoops with the spoon.

8. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Brush warm biscuits with melted butter.

Serve with lots of butter and even apricot jam.

Going with a brunch theme, I am including an item that was very popular in the past but I do not hear about it much now a days. It can be used in different ethnic menus. It is crepes. If you were out on the town and it was late at night, a stop at IHOP for some cheese blintzes was the ticket. So much sugar, so much fat and so good. But now you can have your crepes and use them for a number of different things. The difference with these is the addition of cornmeal to the crepe. You can use them for enchiladas or for a fruit and nut filled brunch item. They can replace the corn tortilla that can be a bit heavy, dry and tasteless. I want a brunch not a dinner so here it is.

Cornmeal Crepes with Figs & Walnuts

Yield: 4 servings

INGREDIENTS

1 ½ cups milk

½ cup cornmeal

½ cup flour

3 eggs

3/4 tablespoon sugar

pinch of salt

¼ cup melted butter

Powdered sugar, heavy whipped cream for topping

Fig preserves (use chopped figs from my trees that is bagged with sugar and placed in the freezer. If not available a good quality fig jam will do.)

Walnut pieces

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Puree all of the ingredients except the butter in a blender until combined then add the melted butter until batter is smooth.

2. Place in icebox to cool for about 10 to 15 minutes.

3. Heat a non-stick pan that has a flat bottom about 6-8 inches across.

4. Lightly coat with butter.

5. Pour ¼ cup of batter in center of pan, tilting and swirling the pan until the batter evenly coats the bottom.

6. Cook until center of crepe is still slightly wet but the edges are

beginning to lift from pan. Using a rubber spatula lift the crepe up and flip it over in the pan.

7. Cook another 30 seconds and then transfer crepe to a plate. Continue to use all of the batter.

To serve: Warm the figs and walnuts in a small pan and spread about ¼ cup in the middle of a crepe. Roll crepe like a taco, fold over the ends and place two on a plate. Top with whipped cream or powdered sugar.

When I find a recipe that I think has potential to become a keeper and I can use numerous times for a family meal or a dinner party, I look at the comments that were left by people who prepared it and usually changed it in some fashion. This way I can eliminate having to prepare the recipe and change it several times until it is worth keeping. My favorite comment listing for a recipe was back in 2015 for a Betty Crocker recipe for Pineapple Upside Down cake. I took screen shots of the comments! They were commenting if the cake would get soggy if they made today and served it tomorrow. They were discussing using peaches instead of pineapple. One person commented that they used a 20 ounce can of pineapple drained and the cake tasted better than with a 14 ounce can undrained. Reading through the comments, I noticed that these people were still on that topic after 98 days! Finally I got to the part of the comment page I was looking for. Someone posted the entire recipe with the changes discussed in the comments. I knew what the problems were with the cake and I knew the right pan to cook it in and the right dish to serve it in. All the work had been done for me! It was a new recipe that had been tested for over three months.

White Lily contacted me and wanted to send me a Biscuit Essentials package, for mentioning their product in my article. I never turn down anything that has to do with biscuits. Beside the fact that they sent me a five pound bag of flour, I use White Lily because it is a very good product and I try to do my part to introduce people to things that make the South a unique and wonderful place to live. White Lily and Duke's are two of my favorite brands not just because they are located in the South but because their history is the history of the South. Besides, what better way to enjoy life and the South than to snack on a Moon Pie, with some Blue Bell ice cream, and sip the “Nectar of the South” Cheerwine under a magnolia tree along the bank of the Alabama River?

Definition of a recipe: A series of step-by-step instructions for preparing ingredients you forgot to buy, in utensils you do not own, to fix a dish the dog would not eat.

 

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