Friday, October 13, 2017

Seafood Gumbo


I jumped back into blogging last Monday night when I shared the tablesetting for Jewell's 15th birthday dinner. Then things got busy again! It's late Friday afternoon, and I'm sitting on the deck at the lake. It's been a beautiful day, and I've relaxed a little. We're having a cheer sleepover at the lake tonight since our game is so close (Lyman Ward Military Academy). Before I get ready to head out and cheer on the Knights, I thought I'd share my recipe for the mouthwatering gumbo you see above!


I'm not a huge fan of raw celery, and neither is my family. But it is integral flavoring for many foods, so I try to include it without advertising it to the kids. I have found that if I cut a stalk into three long pieces...  


and then cut it thinly on the bias...


not only is it prettier, it softens better and has a milder flavor. No one even notices it!


Excuse the up-side-down pic. I'm using my new HP Stream, and I'm not quite used to how to do everything yet. Point is - be sure and do all your prep work ahead of time. Here are my veggies - two stalks of celery, one red bell pepper, one large onion and about four cloves of minced garlic.


I love Conecuh brand sausage. We lived in Evergreen when I was little, and that's where it is made. I keep this in the freezer all the time. It is so easy to throw on the grill or brown in the oven or skillet. Such an easy pairing for toast and eggs. I used one pound of the original flavor of sausage. I cut it lengthwise and then into 1/4" half moons. Set aside.  


I thawed six chicken tenderloins ahead of time, then seasoned them with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder.


Add 1/4 cup of canola oil to a heavy bottomed Dutch oven. When it is hot, add chicken and brown on both sides. Remove chicken leaving oil.


See that pretty brown fond in the bottom? It's not burned. That's what makes it all taste so good!


Add the sausage to the oil and brown over medium heat. Remove sausage and keep oil.


Add half a cup of all purpose flour and two tablespoons of butter. Melt over medium heat, stirring constantly.


A whisk does a great job here.


Cook over medium heat STIRRING CONSTANTLY until it is a deep brown. Do not walk away. It will turn on you in an instant. Remove from heat and allow to cool. 

Some people literally spend all day cooking a roux. Ain't nobody got time for that! Tend this carefully for 8-10 minutes, and it will be fine. Your family will never know the difference. 


Once the roux is cooled, return to medium heat and melt three tablespoons of butter. Continue to stir so it doesn't burn.


Add celery, onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Saute on medium low for about 10 minutes.


Add 1/4 cup of chopped fresh parsley and five beef bouillon cubes.


Add four cups of water and mix well. A whisk would be good to use here, too, to break up lumps.


Once the liquid is thoroughly mixed, add back the sausage and chicken. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook, covered, for 30 minutes.


Add a 14 ounce can of stewed tomatoes and a bag of frozen chopped okra. Return to boil, reduce to simmer and cook, covered, for 45 minutes. The last 15 minutes, I crack the cover so the gumbo can reduce a little and thicken up. You may need to use a couple of forks to shred the chicken, but it falls apart pretty easily.

During the last 30 minutes of cooking, I make my rice.

Five minutes before serving, add one pound of small peeled shrimp. Stir in well to mix. Cover and allow to cook on low for five minutes until shrimp are pink. Do not overcook.


Ladle into your favorite soup crock and serve!


We had green beans, roasted tomatoes, and cheddar and green onions corn muffins.


This was truly a taste of New Orleans! Jewell added a little (OK, a lot!) of hot sauce to hers, but that's just the way she rolls. I think it has tons of flavor without having to add heat. But have it your way...just make sure you have it soon!

I'm so glad you stopped by my neck of the woods!

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Monday, October 9, 2017

Jewell's 15th Birthday Dinner...A Rustic Fall Tablesetting


It's been nearly two months since my last post. We've been swamped. How about you?! Tonight we had Jewell's 15th birthday dinner, so I figured it was as good a time as any to jump back in to blogging. So buckle up...here we go!

Jewell's birthday was last Monday. She has dance on Monday, cheer practice on Tuesday, church on Wednesday, you get the idea. So when her dance class was cancelled tonight due to the holiday, I took advantage of our night home and made her birthday dinner!

Per our custom, the birthday boy or girl gets to choose their meal. She chose seafood gumbo. I decided to combine her favorite things - Fall and seafood - for her special celebration dinner tonight.


I'd been making plans for a few weeks. Once Jewell told me her menu choices, I started a mental inventory of what to use. 

I knew I would use my brown soup crocks. They're the perfect size, and they keep everything piping hot!

I found the blue dinner plates with brown edges at Dollar Tree back during the Spring. They still have them. The brown edge picks up the brown in the crock. 

Finally, I layered a salad plate between the crock and plate. These were a Saturday morning yardsale find from back during the summer. I don't usually do yardsales, but as I drove by, I could see a stack of dishes. Of course I stopped! 

These are called "Brown Drip" and were made by Hull Pottery around 1950. I've always wanted some and was tickled to find them in Notasulga of all places! I actually only got three. One is a really a cereal bowl. If you look closely in the full picture at the top, you might be able to pick it out. I hope I can add to these one day. I was also able to get a vegetable bowl and a small oval platter that day. I guess those six pieces are all that made it over the last 60 years!


The flatware is also new to me. I found it this past summer at my favorite thrift store. They were .25 cents a piece, and they had four complete place settings...just enough for us! They are mid-century, and I believe made by Echo. They are wood handled. They are in great condition, but to ensure they stay that way, I'll be hand-washing them.


I pulled out my brown vintage Fostoria stems. The pattern is called "Woodland". My aunt, Dale, gave me these as a wedding gift, and I always say that these were what started my obsession with vintage stemware!

The coffee cups belonged to my daddy's mother. I thought the brown pottery top and interior tied them in nicely, plus each cup has a different colored flower which played nicely with my pumpkins. The maker is Bilton in England.


I scattered a collection of ceramic and wooden pumpkins down the middle of the table.


I added four white votives in clear cups. I love that some of the pumpkins have copper leaves which tie in with the colors in some of the other pumpkins.


Some were just mottled, but they all co-ordinated. I found these mid-summer at Dollar Tree. I got one of each style (a total of eight), and eventually went back to get more, but they were all sold out. 


The gold chargers pick up the copper and other metallics in the pumpkins. Everything is sitting on a tablecloth that is really a muslin painter's dropcloth, with my burlap runner down the middle.


When Jewell walked in and saw the tablesetting, she quickly exclaimed, "All my favorite things! Gumbo, Fall, and blue!" I had forgotten that she loves the color turquoise blue! I was just thinking the blue added a little color to all the naturals. Anyway, it was a success!


Check back later this week, as I share the recipes! Above is a little preview...

I'm so glad you stopped by my neck of the woods!

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Friday, August 11, 2017

Crawfish Cornbread


Man, I can't remember the last time I posted! Do you? I'm pretty sure I gave you the recipe for my creamy shrimp and grits that I made a while back for "date night in" with my husband. Well, here's the crawfish cornbread I made with it.

When we were in New Orleans back in January, I picked up a Cajun cookbook for beginners. OK, who am I kidding? I picked up several! But this one had a recipe for Cajun cornbread and it seemed just the thing to go with our shrimp and grits.


I had Gerald stop at the fish market on the way home for shrimp, and I told him to pick up a pound of fresh crawfish. Usually they have them, but this time, he got this. Hummmm. Product of Egypt. Southern, yes, but not our kind of South! Well, I decided to give it a try. Not fresh, but not bad. And I had already prepped my ingredients, so I rolled with it.  


I began by finely dicing half an onion, half a red bell pepper and a stalk of celery. I sauteed this in a tablespoon of EVOO until soft, but no color.


Next I added a half pound of the crawfish meat that I had roughly chopped. Saute until warmed through. Set aside and allow to cool.


I measured out one cup of cornmeal (I use the yellow self rising), one teaspoon of salt and one teaspoon of baking powder, and placed them in a large bowl. I also threw in a heaping teaspoon of the Magic Shrimp seasoning I used in the main dish.


I mixed in an egg and half a stick of melted butter. Then stir in a cup of shredded cheddar cheese.


Finally, mix in cooled veggies/crawfish mixture and stir well.


Pour into a greased and heated skillet and top with more grated cheddar. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 40-45 minutes or until golden brown.


Allow to sit for about 5 minutes before cutting.


This tasty cornbread played nicely with the rich and creamy shrimp and grits!


I'm sure it would have been better with fresh and local crawfish, but this wasn't bad!

I'm so glad you stopped by my neck of the woods!

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Monday, July 24, 2017

Creamy Shrimp and Grits


Gerald and I had a delicious dinner date - at home! - the other night. The kids were gone somewhere, and he asked me out to dinner! Instead, I had him pick up some nice shrimp at the fish market on his way home. I took time to set the table, and in the end, it was way better (and way cheaper!) than going out.

I've been making shrimp and grits a long time, and I have several ways to do it. But I had a couple of new things I wanted to try.


First, this is a smoked gouda cheese that I found at the deli section in Walmart. It is delicious! It's melts like butter and has a subtle smoky flavor that is divine. I use it on grilled cheese sometimes. Yumm. I'll tell you about the other new thing in a minute...


I grated a cup of this cheese on my fine grater. Be sure and grate the rind into it. This isn't like a red waxy cheddar rind, but more of a smoke ring from the curing of the cheese. It adds so much flavor.


I use Jim Dandy quick grits. NOTE - a true Southerner would NEVER use instant grits. And since Mama has always used Jim Dandy, I know I must be right! I cooked them with milk, not water, to add a little more richness. Be sure to add more salt than called for at the beginning. I usually double what the instructions call for. You can't ever add enough salt to cooked grits. Do it right the first time!


I stirred in the cheese until it was melted. I cooked my grits as I prepped my veggies for the shrimp. I covered them, and it was fine. If they thicken a little too much, add a little warm water and whisk over low heat.


This is a new ingredient I got while we were in New Orleans a few months ago. 


We tried all kinds of new places while we were there, but our favorite (we ate there twice) was The Creole House, next to our hotel. The manager was so friendly and actually brought us several things to just try! She and I swapped some recipes, and she's the one who told me about the Magic Shrimp Seasoning. I picked some up at Central Grocery while I was there.


I began by prepping my veggies. I chopped one stalk of celery, cut up a red bell pepper into strips, cut a small onion into strips (cut it pole to pole) and chopped a lot of garlic. Probably about three or four large cloves. All this needs to be done ahead of time.


Next, I peeled my shrimp and patted them dry. Then I liberally seasoned it on both sides with the shrimp seasoning. Set aside.


I chopped two slices of bacon and sauteed it in a large non-stick pan.


Break it up as it cooks.


When the fat is rendered and it is beginning to get crispy...


add your veggies and shrimp.
Saute for about four minutes or until crisp tender.


Add 1/4 cup of flour...


and stir until coated.


Add two cups of half and half and mix well.


Stir continuously over medium high heat until it thickens.


Plate and serve immediately.


This is a little different from the brown gravy recipe for shrimp and grits. It's very rich and oh, so creamy! It was delicious. Next time, I will add even more of the shrimp seasoning. It's not hot at all. Just flavorful. But the sauce was so rich, it sucked it all up. It can definitely handle more!

Later this week, I'll finish up with the recipe for the crawfish cornbread we had with this meal. You can see it on the side a couple of picture up.

I'm so glad you stopped by my neck of the woods!

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