Alabama Gazette - The people's voice of reason

Southern Cuisine - April

 

There is a glimmer of hope on the horizon. With improved numbers pertaining to the pandemic, people are now feeling safer and are tired of the restrictions that were placed on restaurants and even family gatherings. There is hope that the restaurants we missed for the past months will start back. Even new restaurants should open with fare that the chefs have been developing, waiting for their turn to shine. Families are getting tired being cooped up in their homes and will visit missed neighbors. They can invite them to their homes and serve new dishes to show off their kitchen skills they have honed for the past months. It is SPRING! Time to enjoy life!

For our part in getting back to a normal routine, we invited two couples to dinner. This group had been meeting and enjoying each others company and meals for months until it was ended for safety reasons. We had scheduled a dinner party many times, but it just never seemed to be the right time. Until now. A sign of the times in which we live came out during our dinner. Even as much we hated the restrictions placed on us, we were conscious of the fact that since we only had six people for dinner, the 11-foot long table seemed adequate for social distancing. But as usual custom at a dinner, the three men were in the living room and the three women were in the kitchen before the meal. Plenty of room there.

Our first meal together since Covid-19 was an easy meal to prepare once you got through the prep. The vegetable dish had the longest prep time. But was a dish along with the protein that can be prepped ahead of time so you did not have to spend all your time in the kitchen and less time entertaining your guests.

The vegetable dish was a melody of potatoes, green beans, an onion and mushrooms. I am not giving you the precise measurements for the ingredients, but you need one or two small potatoes per person, sliced but not too thin and skin-on. A package of steam-in-the-bag fine (skinny looking) green beans.

For six people I used two bags and it was too much, unless you are planning for leftovers for lunch the next day. Two large containers of whole mushrooms or one prep-sliced. They cook down a lot. Chop a half of an onion and saute in butter and oil. When onions are soft add mushrooms and cook until tender and most of the moisture is cooked off. Remove from pan and keep warm. Add more oil and butter if needed and add potatoes and cook on medium heat until tender and partially browned but not falling apart. While potatoes are cooking put steam-in-the-bag fine green beans in the microwave and cook as per package instructions. When potatoes are done, gently toss in onions and mushrooms and then the green beans. Salt and pepper to taste and serve either in a large bowl or on a platter.

Spicy Pecan Crusted Chicken Thighs

Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

Nonstick cooking spray, for the wire rack

1 cup pecans

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons hot sauce

3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons melted butter

METHOD:

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place a wire cooling rack on top, then spray with nonstick cooking spray.

3. Chop the pecans so they have a consistency of coarse breadcrumbs, then set aside.

4. Sprinkle the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper.

5. Add the flour to a shallow dish, then whisk the eggs, hot sauce and 2 tablespoons Dijon in a second shallow dish.

6. Mix the pecans, salt and pepper in a third shallow dish.

7. Dip the chicken in the flour, shaking off the excess, then in the egg mixture, then in the pecans.

8. Place on the wire rack. You can stop here and refrigerate the chicken until you are close to dinner time and then bake until cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes.

9. Mix remaining tablespoon of Dijon and melted butter and drizzles over warm chicken.

You have two of the courses for a "gathering again" dinner. That is half of the courses that are normally served for a dinner. The missing two is the salad and the dessert. I served a Caesar Salad. But it was anything but authentic.

The story how the Caesar Salad came about starts, according to Michael “Falcon” McCutcheon a graduate Johnson & Wales University and former chef at the Culinary Institute of America, on a Fourth of July weekend in 1924 in Tijuana, the (Cardini) restaurant experienced such a rush that most of Cardini’s ingredients were 86’d. (If you don't know the term 86'd, it means that the restaurant is out of something or it was old and thrown out) Instead of throwing in the towel and closing up shop, Cardini decided to do what most good chefs and restaurateurs would do, he utilized the ingredients he had available: Dijon mustard, romaine lettuce, Parmesan cheese, lemons, Worcestershire sauce, garlic oil, salt, pepper, eggs, and one-day-old bread. With these 10 ingredients, Caesar Cardini whipped up a beautiful salad and served it table-side, and the Caesar salad was born in Mexico. In a traditional Caesar, raw egg is one of the most important ingredients because it gives the dressing a creamy texture.

To experience a authentic Caesar Salad you need to go to a white table cloth restaurant that prepares and serves the salad table-side.

My salad might not have been authentic but my dessert is an authentic one developed by my grand-daughter, Morgan Anne.

While most of the recipes I search for trifles used either store bought angle food, short bread or sponge cake, I did not find one that used a tried and tested homemade pound cake. This recipe for pound cake is somewhat denser than cakes used in other trifle recipes. And when used in this trifle recipe, it will produce a sweeter and a heavier bodied trifle. This is my wife's pound cake recipe with the extra add-on to make a lime pound cake.

Anne's Pound Cake

INGREDIENTS:

3 sticks butter – room temp.

1 cream cheese – room temp.

3 cups sugar

6 eggs (I use jumbo or extra large) – room temp.

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

Vanilla

METHOD:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Cream butter and cream cheese until fluffy.

3. Add sugar, mix until fluffy.

4. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after egg.

5. Add baking powder to the flour and stir in a little.

6. Slowly add flour and baking powder to the mix.

7. Add the vanilla and you can't add too much!

8. Mix until everything is just blended together.

9. Pour into greased and floured bundt pan.

(For Lime Pound Cake, see below)

10. Bake 285 for 1 hour and 20 to 40 minutes depending on your oven. Start checking it after 1 hour and 10 minutes. Stick toothpick in to check if it is done. Let sit in pan for 8-10 minutes then invert on to your serving dish. Let cool completely.

For Lime Pound Cake, after adding flour, add:

2-3 Tablespoons lime zest

1/2 cup fresh squeezed lime juice

For Lime Glaze: 

Once cake has cooled, mix the following and drizzle over cake:

1 cup confectioners sugar

Juice from a lime (I had to use 2 limes – might need more to get the consistency for a glaze...just depends on the limes!)

 

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