Memorial Day is coming and marks the official start of summer party season. Millions of people will be firing up the grill for the long weekend and beyond, and here in the South, they’ll be making endless pitchers and jugs of ice cold sweet tea to keep things cool. So I decided to combine the two for the perfect summer meal.
I’ve always found that brining is a great tool when cooking pork on the grill. It keeps a meat that can quickly dry out juicy and tender. I have seen many recipes for brining various meats in tea, and they’ve made me curious. But I wanted to take that sweet tea flavor one step further, giving the pig the full Southern treatment. There’s a subtle flavor infused through the meat, but it is the sweet and tangy glaze that takes it up that extra notch.
So fire up the grill and brew up a pitcher (or maybe some bourbon-laced Sweet Tea Juleps) and celebrate summer Southern style.
Grilled Sweet Tea Glazed Pork Chops
For the Chops:
4 cups water
½ cup sugar
½ cup kosher salt
4 black tea bags
4 sprigs fresh mint
4 boneless center cut pork chops
For the Glaze:
1 ½ cups water
3 garlic cloves
2 black tea bags
4 – sprigs fresh mint
¾ cup light brown sugar
2 Tablespoons cider vinegar
Stir 2 cups of water, the sugar and salt together in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt. Remove from the heat and add the tea bags and mint. Leave to cool, then remove the tea and mint and stir in the remaining 3 cups of water. Place the pork chops in a flat container or a ziptop bag placed on plate. Pour the cooled brine over the chops and refrigerate for 8 hours, but up to 12 is fine.
For the glaze:
Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan with a lid. Peel the garlic cloves and crush with the flat side of a knife. Remove the pan from the heat and add the tea bags, garlic cloves and mint. Cover the pan and leave to steep for 30 minutes.
Fish out the tea bags, garlic and mint, then add the brown sugar and vinegar and return to medium high heat. Cook the glaze, stirring frequently, until reduced by a little more than half and thick and syrupy, about 20 minutes. Keep the glaze warm over low heat.
Heat the grill to high heat, then place the pork chops on the grates. Cook for about 5 minutes on one side, then flip to the other side. Don’t flip the chops until they easily lift off the grates. Lower the heat, over the grill and finish cooking the chops until cooked through, about 10 minutes, to an internal temperature of 145°. In the last few minutes of cooking, brush on a thick coat of glaze, then finish cooking. When the chops are done, brush with another coat of glaze, then remove to a platter. Tent with foil and let rest for 5 minutes.
Serve the chops immediately, with more glaze spooned over the top.
To cook in the oven, heat a grill pan or cast iron skillet to high and sear the chops on each side, brush with a little glaze, then transfer to a preheated 400° oven. Cook until 145° internal temperature. Remove from the oven, and brush with a little more glaze. Tent with foil and let rest for 5 minutes.
Leaf through the pages of any old Southern community cookbook, and you are likely to come across a version of this cake. And it might not draw your eye, being so plain and simple. I am sure I flipped past many times before I actually stopped to read one. But once I get intrigued, I search these recipes out and combine, refine and test them until I have an updated version with more accurate instructions. And I am glad I didn’t let this one languish, because it is now a go to summer cake. It is immensely simple to make – no heavy equipment needed. And its simplicity makes it the perfect vehicle for all manner of summer toppings. Any sliced fresh fruit or berry, maybe sugared to produce a little syrup. Add a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream and you’ve got a fresh, homemade beauty of a dessert.
I planned this post to highlight the cake, and how useful it is. But I wanted to try something a little more interesting than just fruit so I stumbled around in the kitchen until I came up with the sauce. I know it is tooting my own horn, but it is a stunner. Rich, sticky caramel sauce with this amazing background note of strawberry and the added bonus of chunks of fresh berries. It is magnificent with the cake, but try it over ice cream, or, as I admit to doing, simply with a spoon.
Hot Milk Cake and Strawberry Caramel Sauce
I use a plain tube pan, often called a coffee cake pan, but a fluted or fancy one works just fine. You could also make it in a 9 by 13 inch pan.
Hot Milk Cake
1 cup whole milk
½ cup (1 stick) butter
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a 10-cup tube pan thoroughly.
Combine the milk and butter in a medium saucepan and heat over medium just until the butter is melted and the milk is hot. While the milk is heating, beat the eggs and sugar together in a large bowl, then stir in the remaining ingredients. Pour in the hot milk and stir until completely combined.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until golden and firm and tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 – 25 minutes. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack to cool completely. The cake will keep, well wrapped, for several days.
Strawberry Caramel Sauce
1 cup of diced strawberries
1 ½ cups granulated sugar, plus 2 Tablespoons
¾ cup heavy cream
Place the diced strawberries in a bowl and toss with 2 Tablespoons sugar. Leave to sit for several hours until the strawberries have released quite a bit of juice.
Pour the juice off the berries into a measuring jug and add enough water to make 1/3 cup of liquid. Stir the liquid and 1 ½ cups sugar together in a medium sized saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved. Up the heat to high and boil the mixture until it turns a lovely caramel brown, the color of sweet tea, about 5 – 7 minutes, stirring frequently. Watch it like a hawk because it goes from caramel to burnt quickly at the end. Stand back a bit and pour in the cream. It will roil and bubble furiously and seize up a little. Just stir it until it all smooths out and combines, then turn the burner off and stir until it settles down. Let it cool for about 3 minutes, then stir in the diced strawberries. Cool to room temperature.
The sauce will keep covered in the fridge for up to three days. Delicious warm or cold.
Makes about 1 ½ cups
Country Captain is an old Low Country dish that dates from the days when Charleston and Savannah were important stops on the spice route, and the British influence of trade with India held sway. Early dishes from the Southern repertoire include lots of interesting spices, and the older the recipe, the more exotic it may seem. Recipes for Country Captain appear in all sorts of Southern community cook books, the same concept with slight variations from cook to cook. It is served at fine restaurants and fine homes, was a favorite of FDR and General Patton and because of that, made its way into the Army’s meals-ready-to-eat program. It has the best qualities of a Southern recipe: ancient tradition, a storied history, the special touches of generations of cooks – all with a contemporary feel in any decade.
Almost every recipe for Country Captain I have read or eaten uses bone-in, skin on chicken pieces, or just a quartered chicken. But I find that awkward to eat, and you really don’t get enough of the deep, spiced sauce for my liking. So I altered my recipe to be more like a chicken stew, with hearty chunks of boneless thighs and breast. I’ve upped the spice factor too and added a little sweet sophistication with a dash of Madeira (a very popular tipple at the time this dish was born). Country Captain is generally served with rice, once a staple grown in the Low Country, but I say why go plain when you can boost the flavor with some coconut.
Country Captain with Coconut Rice
For the Country Captain:
1 Tablespoon curry powder
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
½ Tablespoon garam masala
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
6 strips of bacon
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
3 stalks celery, finely diced
1 green bell pepper finely diced
2 galric cloves, minced
¼ cup Madeira
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth
½ cup golden raisins
3 stalks thyme
½ cup slivered almonds
For the Coconut Rice:
1 ½ cups long grain white rice
1 (13 – 14- ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk
2 cups water
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Mix the curry powder, salt, garam masala, ginger and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Trim the chicken of extra fat and cut into chunks, about 2 inches. Place the chicken on a plate and sprinkle ½ the spice mixture over the top. Leave to sit for about 15 – 30 minutes, while you get on chopping the other ingredients.
Cut the bacon into small pieces and cook over medium heat in a large Dutch oven until just crispy. Remove to paper towels to drain using a slotted spoon. Carefully pour the bacon grease into a heat proof bowl of measuring jug. Return 2 Tablespoons of fat to the pan, then add the chicken pieces in one layer. You’ll need to do this in batches, don’t crowd the pot. Cook the chicken pieces until lightly brown and sealed, flip over and do the same to the other side. Remove to a plate and finish all the chicken. If you need to, add a bit more bacon grease as you go. When all the chicken is seared, add 2 more Tablespoons grease to the pot. If you run out of grease, use vegetable oil. Stir in the onion, celery and green pepper and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook a further minute, then sprinkle over the remaining spice blend, stir and cook until you get a beautiful waft of fragrance from the pot. Pour in the Madeira and stir, scraping up the lovely brown bits from the bottom of the pot, until the liquid is evaporated.
Pour in the tomatoes and chicken broth and bring to a nice bubble. Add the raisins, half of the cook bacon and the thyme stalks. Return the chicken to the sauce, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 1 hour, until the chicken is cooked through. Give it a stir occasionally to make sure nothing on the bottom burns. Remove the lid and cook for another 30 minutes until the sauce thickens a little, stirring frequently.
The Country Captain can be made up to a day ahead at this point, cooled, covered and refrigerated. Reheat gently, adding a bit more chicken broth if needed.
Remove the thyme stems from the stew and serve in a big bowl over coconut rice. Sprinkle with the remaining bacon pieces and the slivered almonds.
For the Rice:
Stir the rice, coconut milk, water sugar and salt together in a medium saucepan with a tightfitting lid. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally until the liquid is almost evaporated and little steam vents form on the surface of the rice. Remove the pan from the heat, cover it with a tea towel then the pot lid. Leave for about 15 minutes, then fluff with a fork and serve.
I don’t know who makes these decisions, but there is an endless list of “National Days” celebrating foods, dishes and ingredients. I recently saw that it was National Pecan Month, so I thought I better pull out a preparation for the iconic Southern nut. These are a salty, crunchy snack for the bar, or on top of a salad, and once again prove that everything is better with bacon.
Bacon Fried Pecans
Let the bacon grease cool, then reheat it for frying. The nuts burn quickly and reheating allows more control over the temperature.
1 pound bacon
8 ounces pecan halves
Cook the bacon in a skillet until crispy. Drain the bacon on paper towels, then transfer the bacon grease to a medium sized skillet and let cool.
Use a sturdy knife to chop 6 strips of bacon. Save the rest of the bacon for another use.
Have a plate lined with paper towels ready by the stove. Reheat the bacon grease over medium heat until a drop of water sizzles, but do not let it smoke. Drop a handful of pecans into the hot fat and stir around. Remove with a slotted spoon to the prepared plate after about 15 seconds. Just let the pecans turn a shade darker, watch carefully and do not let them burn. Immediately sprinkle the hot pecans with salt. Continue with the remaining pecans. If the fat starts to smoke, remove from the heat for a few seconds to cool down.
When the pecans are cool, toss them with the chopped bacon and serve in a big bowl.
Makes 8 ounces
My love for biscuits is well documented (13 recipes on the site at last count), and my love of country ham equally evident when you peruse my recipes. I have always enjoyed a warm, buttery biscuit with a slice of salty country ham tucked inside, so the next logical step seemed to be incorporating the ham directly into the biscuit. And these are heavenly morsels of Southern flavor.
Cut into small biscuits, these little rounds make a wonderful brunch bite or party snack with their cheesy filling. But they are just good biscuits, so use them how you will. Cut them large and serve with butter or gravy for breakfast, or spread a little mustard instead of butter before you melt the cheese.
I buy already ground country ham, sometimes online and sometimes I find it at local markets. If you can’t find it, grind some country ham slices in a food processor until you have a crumbly mixture, but not a paste. To add the delicious, melty center, I use thick cut sandwich slices of sharp cheddar cheese for ease, but feel free to cut slices from a block.
Country Ham Biscuit Bites with Cheese
2 ½ cups soft wheat flour (such as White Lily)
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ cup (1 stick) cold butter, cut into small cubes
4 ounces ground country ham
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 cup buttermilk
14 thick slices cheddar cheese
softened butter for spreading
Preheat the oven to 400°. Spray 2 9-inch cake pans with cooking spray.
Mix the flour, baking powder and salt together in the bowl of a stand mixer. Shuffle the butter cubes into the flour, then crumble in the country ham. Beat on low speed until the butter and ham and mixed in and the mixture looks damp and crumbly. Add the mustard, and with the beater moving, slowly pour in the buttermilk. Beat just until the dough comes together. Knead the dough a few times in the bowl to get all the flour worked in. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to a round ½-inch thick. Press a 2-inch biscuit cutter into the dough and lift out. Do not twist or the biscuits won’t be as tall. Place the biscuits tightly together in the prepared pans.
Bake the biscuits for 10 – 12 minutes or just until firm to the touch. Remove to a wire rack until they are cool enough to handle. Lower the oven temperature to 325°. When the baking pans have cooled, spray them with cooking spray again.
Use the biscuit cutter to cut rounds of cheese the same size as you biscuits. When the biscuits are cool enough to handle, carefully slice them open and spread both sides with a little soft butter. Place a piece of cheese in the center, close the biscuit up and tuck back into the baking pans. Spread a little butter on the top of the biscuits. Cover the pans tightly with foil and place back in the oven for about 5 – 8 minutes, just until the cheese is melted.
Makes about 2 dozen 2- inch biscuits
To make these biscuits ahead, here are a couple of options. Freeze the dough rounds on a waxed paper lined baking sheet until hard, then transfer to ziptop bags. Bake from frozen, increasing the cooking time slightly. You can also bake the biscuits, add the butter and cheese, cover and refrigerate for several hours before the final baking, again increasing the cooking time slightly.
Canning is my summer time obsession. From the first strawberries of spring to the last pears of fall, I spend my weekends putting up my famers market bounty. Then the market closes for the season, I put the canner back in the pantry and shelf the jars for the next year. But at some point, in the dark days of winter, I get the slight canning bug. I don’t particularly see the point of making jams or pickles from grocery-store produce flown in from foreign parts. Then this idea struck me like a thunderbolt, I just had to try it out. I can still find beautiful fragrant mint in winter, and anything with the summery flavor of a cold glass of iced tea is bound to appeal to this Southern girl.
I’ll be honest, I don’t do jelly much, in the summer my canning kitchen is practically a factory, preparing and cooking bushels and pecks of fresh fruits and vegetables, so I tend to go with quicker jams and butters. But when I need a little winter canning fix I don’t mind the extra time of leaving the apples to release their juices overnight.
Sweet Tea Jelly is great on toast or biscuits, and amazing in the center of a thumbprint sugar cookie. But for a little something different, use it as a glaze for chicken wings or a pork roast.
Sweet Tea Jelly
4 tea bags (for iced tea, like orange pekoe)
Big handful of mint leaves
6 cups water
2 ½ lbs golden delicious apples
2 lemons, juiced
4 cups sugar, more or less
½ cup mint leaves, finely chopped
Place the tea bags in a large measuring jug and add a handful of mint leaves. Pour over 4 cups boiling water and leave to brew until dark amber, about 4 minutes. Remove the tea bags and leave to cool.
Cut the apple, peel, core, seeds and everything, into small chunks and place in a large heavy Dutch oven. Pour over the brewed tea with the mint and the remaining 2 cups water. Bring the mixture to a boil, lower the heat to medium and simmer for 30 minutes, until the apples have broken down and are soft and mushy. Use a wooden spoon or a potato masher to crush the fruit.
While the apples are cooking, line a sieve with cheesecloth, muslin or a clean 100 % cotton handkerchief and place it over a large bowl. When the apples have cooked and you’ve mashed the fruit, carefully pour everything into the sieve. Leave the pulp to drip juice overnight. Cover the sieve and bowl with a tea towel, but do not press down on the pulp, or you’ll end up with cloudy jelly.
Place a small plate in the freezer to do a set test when the jelly is done.
The next day, discard the pulp and measure the juice produced. You’ll have anywhere from 4 – 6 cups. Pour the juice into a heavy, large Dutch oven and bring to a boil. Stir in the lemon juice and ¾ cup of sugar for every one cup of juice. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the chopped mint leaves. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring frequently, about 10 – 15 minutes, until the jelly is thick and streams in a sheet from a spoon lifted out of it.
When the jelly has cooked down and is thickened, pull that little plate out of the freezer and spoon a little jelly onto it. Leave to set for a minute, then tilt the plate. If the jelly stays put, or only runs a little bit, it’s ready to go. Also, run a finger through the jelly on the plate if the two sides stay separate and don’t run back together, you’re good to go.
While your jelly is cooking, get a boiling water canner or big stockpot of water going. Here are step-by step instructions for processing jam in a canner. When the jelly is almost ready, pour some boiling water over the lids to your jars to soften the seals and set aside.
When the jelly has met the set test, fill the jars. I like to ladle the jelly into a large measuring jug for easy pouring. Fill each of your warm, cleaned jars with the jelly, leaving a ½ inch head space. Dry the lids with a clean paper towel and place on the jars. Screw on the bands, then process the jars for 5 minutes in a boiling water bath. If you have a bit of extra jelly, scoop it into a refrigerator container and keep in the fridge for up to a week.
When the jars are processed, leave to cool on a towel on the counter.
The processed jars will keep for a year in a cool, dark place. Don’t forget to label your jars!
Makes 3 half-pints, or 5 4-ounce jars
It’s Mardi Gras time, and so it’s time for crawfish. Crawfish Cornbread is a recipe I have seen in many Louisiana community cookbooks over the years, and I’ve whipped up a batch or two in my time. I have no idea if this is a traditional Cajun recipe, or started it’s life on the back of corn bread mix box, but that doesn’t matter to me, because it is a sound idea that results in a delicious dish.
I’ve altered my version so it is packed with crawfish and has a nice level of spice. I use frozen crawfish tail meat, which is easy to find around here, but if you happen to have some fresh daddies around and want to pull out all that juicy flesh, please do so. This cornbread is lovely beside a bowl of Red Beans and Rice, but cut into small squares it makes a nice nibble. It is even hearty enough to serve with a nice green salad for a meal.
2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon Creole seasoning
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 yellow onion, finely diced
8 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
1 (12-ounce) bag frozen corn, thawed
2 pounds crawfish tail meat, finely chopped
1 (4-ounce) can diced jalapenos
Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a 9 by 13 inch baking dish.
Stir the cornmeal, baking powder, salt and creole seasoning together in a very large bowl. Stir in the eggs and oil and mix thoroughly. Add the onion, cheese, corn, crawfish and jalapenos and stir until everything is completely mixed together and evenly distributed.
Spread the cornbread into the prepared pan, smoothing out the surface. Bake for 45 – 50 minutes until golden and firm and a tester comes out clean. Let rest for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving warm.
Serves 8 – 10
Red Beans and Rice are a classic of the Louisiana cooking canon. And I assume every Louisiana cook has there own version that they would assert constitutes the only way to properly make the dish. And I’ll tell you, the same can be said of me. No, I am not from Louisiana and I don’t have roots there, but I love the food and I cook my own version of red beans and rice – the way I like. So I’ve been reluctant to share the recipe, because I may be brought to task for not cooking them in the traditional way. But as I see it, that’s kind of the point of a country, homey comforting dish. You do what you like, with out the constraints of technique or the weight of history. But with Mardi Gras on the doorstep, I thought I’d better share the dish I make most often from my Louisiana repertoire.
My red beans are full of flavor, and full of delicious pork. I cook the beans with lots of flavorful additions, then use that cooking liquid in rich sauce. I like a little creaminess in my red beans, the rice just soaks it up so well. And underlying everything is the beautiful trinity of Louisiana cooking, celery, onion and green pepper. This makes a big ol’ pot, and I like more red beans than rice, so cook a little extra rice if you are so inclined. Make a batch of King Cake Bars and you’ve got a Mardi Gras party!
Tasso is a spiced, smoked Cajun style pork. If you can’t find tasso at a specialty market, use a piece of smoked ham or a ham hock and some creole seasoning. If you can’t find Andouille, use any smoked sausage like kielbasa.
Red Beans and Rice My Way
1 pound red beans or kidney beans
3 stalks celery
1 large yellow onion
2 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
6 ounces tasso or smoked ham or ham hock plus 2 teaspoons creole seasoning
1 green bell pepper
14 ounces Andouille sausage
4 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon Creole seasoning
salt to taste
1 ½ cups long grain white rice
3 ½ cups water
hot sauce for serving
For the Red Beans:
Sort through the beans, picking out any debris or broken beans. Rinse well then place in a bowl and cover with water by about 3 inches. Soak overnight.
Drain and rinse the soaked beans and place in a large pot. Add the carrot, broken in two, one celery stick, also broken and half of the onion. Cut through the circumference of the onion and put the root end in the pot, it will hold together better. Add the garlic, bay leaves and tasso. Cover with 10 cups of cold water, bring to a boil, skim off any scum that rises, reduce the heat and cover the pot. Cook until the beans are tender, about 1 – 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally.
While the beans are cooking, finely dice the remaining onion half, 2 stalks of celery and the green pepper. Cut the Andouille into bite-sized pieces.
When the beans are tender, place a colander over a large bowl and drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid. Discard the onion, carrot, celery, bay leaves and garlic and set the tasso aside. Wipe out the cooking pot and return it to the heat. Melt the butter over low heat, then add the onion, celery and bell pepper. Cook until the vegetables begin to soften, cover the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are completely soft. Sprinkle over the flour and stir until it is absorbed into the vegetables. Stir in the Creole seasoning. Pour in 3 cups of reserved cooking liquid from the beans. Stir until the sauce has thickened, about 4 minutes, then add the andouille and stir to coat. Return the beans to the sauce and stir gently to coat. Dice the tasso into small pieces and add to the pot, stirring gently again. Simmer over low heat until everything is warmed through, making sure the sausage is cooked through.
For the Rice:
When ready to serve, cook the rice. Stir the rice into the water in a large saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Bring to a boil and boil until almost all the water is absorbed and little air bubbles form in the rice, about 10 – 12 minutes, stirring a few times to prevent sticking. Remove from the heat and tightly cover the pan. Set aside for 15 minutes, then fluff with a fork before serving.
Spoon the rice into nice, big bowls and scoop the red beans over. Serve with some hot sauce on the table.
Serves 6 – 8
No self-respecting Southerner, I boldly say, would let New Year’s Day pass without at least one bite of black- eyed peas. They bring luck and good fortune for the New Year, and everyone can use a little bit of that. Hoppin’ John is traditional in many quarters, but peas slowly cooked with a piece of pork are the norm for many. I like to vary my black-eyed pea intake, from my classic recipe to a big bowl of Good Luck Gumbo. But no matter how you eat them, cornbread is the traditional accompaniment to black-eyes. So here’s a recipe that kills two birds with one stone, and is tasty to boot.
This recipe is very simple, though it has a couple of steps. It’s easily done while watching the football game, which I understand is a popular New Year’s Day activity, or while resting on the sofa after some late-night revelry. Season this to your own tastes, lots of spicy Creole seasoning or just a touch, tomatoes with green chile or without. I find country ham “biscuit slices” readily at most markets in vacuum packages, but whole slices are just fine. Chopped “seasoning pieces” are great for seasoning, but don’t make great eating, so avoid them. For some prosperity to go with your New Year luck, serve these with greens, like Foldin’ Money Cabbage.
Black-eyed Pea and Cornbread Skillet
For the Black-eyed Peas
4 ounces center cut country ham biscuit slices
Half of a small yellow onion
2 garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon Creole seasoning (I like Tony Chachere’s)
12 ounces frozen black-eyed peas
3 green onions, white and light green part only, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon flour
1 (14.5-ounce can) diced tomatoes with green chile (or plain diced tomatoes), drained
Salt to taste
For the Cornbread:
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
2 Tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
For the Black-eyed Peas:
Cut the country ham into small cubes and put it in a saucepan with the halved onion, garlic and bay leaves. Pour over 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil, skim off any scum that rises, lower the heat to medium low and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Add the black-eyed peas and ½ teaspoon of the creole seasoning. Simmer for 1 hour, or until the peas are tender.
Drain the peas, reserving the cooking liquid. Discard the onion, garlic and bay leaves. Rinse out the bean pot and return it to the heat. Melt the butter in the pot, then add the chopped green onions and cook until soft and translucent, but do not brown. Sprinkle in the flour and stir until smooth and pale. Stir in 1 cup of the cooking liquid and cook until the sauce is thickened and reduced slightly, about 8 minutes. Season with the remaining ½ teaspoon Creole seasoning (or to taste). When the sauce has thickened, add the peas and ham and stir to coat. Stir in the drained tomatoes and cook until the sauce has reduced a bit more and just coats the peas, about 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed.
Brush a 10-inch cast iron skillet with oil. Scrape the cooked peas into the skillet and smooth the top. Set aside while you make the cornbread.
For the Cornbread:
Preheat the oven to 350°.
Stir the cornmeal, baking soda and salt together in a bowl using a fork. In a large measuring jug, measure the buttermilk, then add the egg andmelted butter and beat until combined. Pour the buttermilk into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Spread the cornbread batter over the top of the peas in the skillet. Carefully transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until the cornbread is puffed, golden and set.
I don’t know that I have ever attended a holiday party where there wasn’t a pretty little bowl full of seasoned nuts. Sometimes a silver or cut crystal bowl, sometimes shaped like Santa or a Christmas tree, usually on the bar or an end table. And there are always people hovering around, picking up one or two nuts, but eyeing the bowl like they want to plunge their hand in and scoop up every last one.
A lovely bag of flavored nuts makes a wonderful gift, and they are handy to have around during the busy holidays. And this little nibble combines the best of the South, abundant pecans and our favorite refreshment. Sweet, with a hint of salty finish, these nuts are a unique rendition of the classic treat. Make multiple batches to have around during the busy season – they will last in an airtight container for a week or freeze beautifully.
Sweet Tea Pecans
1 cup sugar
2 cups water
3 black tea bags
12 ounces pecan halves
Stir the sugar and water together in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce the temperature to medium and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat, drop in the teabags and leave to steep for 10 minutes. Remove the teabags and stir in the pecans. Leave to soak for 45 minutes, stirring several times.
Heat the oven to 400°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with non-stick foil or parchment paper. Drain the pecans through a strainer, then spread in a single layer on the baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Bake the pecans for 13 – 15 minutes, until golden brown. Watch carefully, nuts burn easily.
Cool the nuts on the baking sheet.
The nuts will keep in an airtight container for a week, or can be frozen.
Makes 12 ounces