Mardi Gras is a fun season for food. Not only can you draw from the great canon of Louisiana cooking, you can play with the bright signature colors of purple, green and gold and be a little silly. This slaw is simple but the multi-colored vegetables and the tangy dressing make it a special dish. It is beautiful served beside or on top of a po’ boy, but is also a great starter or side with other favorites like Shrimp Creole or Red Beans and Rice or Grillades and Grits. But this slaw is also beautiful at a summer barbecue or picnic, long after Mardi Gras season has passed.
Mardi Gras Slaw
For the dressing:
1/3 cup creole mustard (I use Zatarain’s)
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
a couple of dashes of hot sauce
For the slaw:
½ head purple cabbage
½ head green cabbage
2 yellow bell peppers
For the dressing:
Blend all the ingredients together in a blender or in a small bowl with a whisk until the sugar is dissolved and the dressing is creamy.
For the Slaw:
Cut out the core of each cabbage half. Slice the cabbage with the slicing blade of a food processor. You’ll need to do this in batches. Transfer the sliced cabbage to a very big bowl. Remove the ribs and seeds from the peppers and finely dice. Add to the cabbage in the bowl. Use you clean hands to toss everything around until evenly distributed. Discard any large cabbage pieces or remnants of hard core.
Give the dressing a last whisk to make sure it is creamy and pour it over the slaw. Stir and toss to coat everything well. I like to do this with clean hands as well. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours to allow the flavors to blend. This is best served soon after it is made, but will keep for up to a day.
Serve 10 – 12
I first remember having grillades and grits at brunch at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans. It was family trip, maybe an early vacation or taking my brother to look at college. My parents made us dress up – would have checked to see that we packed something appropriate, and it would have been our fancy meal of the trip. And Commander’s was fancy, particularly to a young teen with little experience. There were white-coated waiters with trolleys doing all sorts of amazing things like flaming bananas foster and café brulot. What made me order something with the unfamiliar name grillades, I can’t imagine, but I do love veal and those grillades were made with veal.
In truth, grillades and grits are a rustic dish. Slow simmered meat and vegetables served over simple grits, so it seems funny that they pair with one of my earliest fancy meal memories. And the Commander’s Palace I see in my minds eye is nothing like the Commander’s of reality that I know to day. Like how everything at your high school seems smaller and less significant when you return as an alumnae. So grillades and grits sat in my mind as a vaunted, scared New Orleans restaurant dish (I had it a various places over the years), something only served by waiters. But I finally decided to see if it was something I could conquer, and lo and behold, it is a pretty simple dish to prepare. And when you do it yourself, you end up with the dish that evokes the perfect memories and flavors. Tender veal, the trinity of creole vegetables, piquant sauce and creamy grits. Now I want to celebrate my early experiences in New Orleans with this dish of memories any time. Particularly during Mardi Gras season.
Grillades and Grits
1 ½ pounds veal scallopine (about 6 cutlets)
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons Creole seasoning
¼ cup bacon grease (plus more if needed)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 cups low-sodium beef broth
For the Grits:
6 cups chicken broth (plus more if needed)
1 ½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 ½ cups stone-ground grits
6 ounces cream cheese, cubed
6 Tablespoons butter
For the Grillades:
Cut the veal pieces in half or thirds, to yield 4-inch squares. Place the flour and creole seasoning in a large ziptop bag. Add the veal pieces and shake well to coat.
Heat the bacon grease in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Shake any excess flour off the veal pieces and add to the pan. Brown lightly, just a few minutes on each side, then remove to a plate. Do not crowd the pans, do this in batches. Add the chopped onion to the hot grease and cook until golden brown, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan as you go. Add a touch more bacon grease if the pan starts to dry out. When the onions are soft and brown. Add the bell pepper and celery and cook, stirring frequently, until very soft. Add the garlic and cook a few minutes more. Sprinkle 1 Tablespoon of the seasoned flour from coating the veal over the vegetables and stir until no flour is visible. Add the tomatoes and their juice and the beef broth. Stir, scraping the browned bits up from the bottom of the pan. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat to low.
Nestle the veal pieces into the sauce, cover the pan, and cook, stirring occasionally for 1 hour. If you would like a slightly thicker sauce, uncover the pan, raise the heat and bubble for a few minutes, stirring frequently, until the sauce has thickened.
For the Grits:
Season the chicken stock with salt and pepper and bring to a boil in a deep pan with high sides. Pour the grits into the water and stir thoroughly. Cook, stirring frequently to keep the grits from sticking, until most of the liquid is absorbed and the grits are tender, but with a little bite. Be careful while you are stirring, grits spit, so stand back aways. Stir in the cubes of cream cheese until smooth and melted. Stir in the butter until melted.
The grits can be kept covered for an hour or so, then slowly reheated over low, stirring in a little broth if needed.
Serve the grillades spooned over a mound of grits.
I adhere very solidly to tradition of eating black eyed peas and greens on New Year’s day for luck and prosperity. I have a wonderful New Year’s Eve tradition, so on New Year’s Day, I usually sleep in, then curl up on the couch with a book while a pot of peas and some collards stew away on the stove – minimal prep and minimal work. But this cast-iron skillet, bacon-fried version of collards is a quicker method, if you don’t get around to cooking until its almost time for dinner. If you really sleep in after a night out. Or they make an excellent accompaniment to a bowl of slow-cooked peas.
I think these are collards for people who don’t like collards. The bacon of courses helps, as does the fact that these are thin strands of greens, rather than a big leaf. And the sugar slightly caramelizes the greens and the bacon, adding an interesting touch of sweet. A big bunch of collards wilts down to a small amount – this makes about 2 cups of cooked greens, so its just enough for a small side. These are really interesting used as a garnish on a big bowl of black eyed peas or hopping john, just place a tangle of the collards on top. They could even add an extra dimension to soft, slow cooked collards. You can certainly double the recipe or make multiple batches.
Cast Iron Collards
1 large bunch collard greens
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
6 strips bacon
1 garlic clove
a pinch of red pepper flakes
1 Tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
Cut the leaves of the collards away from the hard center stems. Stack the leaves up in bunches of about 6, then roll each bunch into a cigar. Cut the collards into thin ribbons. Place the collard ribbons in a colander, shuffling them around to make sure they are well separated. Rinse the collards thoroughly and shake as much water of as possible. Lay the collard ribbons out on a tea towel, then roll them up in the towel to blot off as much water as you can. A little damp is fine, soaking wet will be a problem when you add them to the bacon grease.
Put the vegetable oil and bacon strips into a large, deep cast iron skillet and cook over medium heat until the bacon is very crispy and the fat has rendered out. Do not be tempted to raise the heat or the grease will get too hot and scorch the greens. When the bacon is crispy, remove it to paper towels to drain. Drop the garlic clove and the red pepper flakes into the pan and cook for just until the garlic starts to brown and is fragrant, about 20 seconds. Remove the garlic clove.
Carefully add the collards to the pan, standing back because the moisture on the greens will spit. Stir the collards to coat in the bacon fat and cook, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes until the greens are wilted. Add the sugar, baking soda and salt and stir well. Chop the bacon into rough pieces, add them to the greens and stir. Lower the heat, cover the pan and cook the greens for about 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until they are tender. Watch carefully so they do not burn. The greens will be dark and soft, with a few crispy edges here and there.
Serve immediately, sprinkled with a little pepper vinegar if you’d like.
Serves 4 as an accompaniment
Boiled custard is one of my great childhood Christmas memories. We spent a lot of Christmases at my grandparents house in Columbia, Tennessee and my grandmother always served boiled custard in Santa Claus mugs and caramel cake for dessert at Christmas lunch. Boiled Custard was something you bought. I never really thought of it as something people make. I assumed it was some mystery product that only the professional dairies could ever produce. Over time, our Christmas traditions changed and some of our gathering don’t have that nostalgic love of boiled custard, but my mom always buys a little carton, even if only a few of us drink it. But I have over the years gotten more and more interested in making things from scratch, and low and behold, I discovered that lots of Southern cookbooks have recipes for boiled custard. I am now pretty sure there are some people who think bought boiled custard is an absolute sacrilege. So, feeling nostalgic, I set out to create a fresh family recipe for an old-time favorite. And it is delicious.
After my Grandmother died, my cousin claimed the old Santa mugs. They were so chipped and cracked no one thought they could possibly be useful and every offer to buy her a new set was refused. I totally understand that. Those mugs filled with boiled custard are a part of Christmas. But I bought my own Santa mug, similar to the old ones, just for me, just for boiled custard.
Southern Boiled Custard
This is a rich drink so small servings will do. If you want to make more, I recommend making it in several batches. It is very difficult to create a larger double boiler and more liquid takes longer to cook and is likely to produce lumps.
1 quart whole milk
½ of a vanilla bean
1 cup sugar
½ cup heavy cream (If needed)
Set up a double boiler and bring the water in the bottom pot just to a low boil. If you do not have a double boiler, place a metal or glass bowl over a saucepan. The bowl should not touch the bottom of the pan or the water in it and must fit securely so steam does not escape.
Pour the milk into the top of the double boiler, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add to the milk. Heat the milk until it is hot to the touch and just bubbling. Do not boil.
Meanwhile, beat the eggs in a large bowl with an electric mixer until thoroughly combined. Add the sugar and beat until light and the sugar has dissolved. Slowly add ½ cup of the hot milk into the eggs and beat thoroughly. Repeat with another ½ cup milk. Pour the egg mixture into the milk in the pan and whisk to combine. Continue whisking as the milk cooks. Cook until the custard lightly coats the back of a metal spoon, and when you run your finger through the custard on the spoon it leaves a gap.
While the custard is cooking, wash and dry the bowl and place a wire mesh sieve over it. When the custard is ready, pour it immediately through the sieve. Leave it to cool for a few minutes, then place a piece of plastic wrap directly over the surface of the custard. This will present a skin from forming. Refrigerate the custard until cold, then pour into a pitcher. If the custard is too thick, whisk in about ½ cup heavy cream.
Serves 6 small glasses
Christmas is the perfect time for red velvet. It’s the festive color of the season, and it is just so fun. I’ve made Red Velvet Polka Dot Cookies and Red Velvet Surprise Cupcakes, and experiment with even more ideas. But this may be the most practical. Pound Cake is such a holiday staple – it’s easy to make, keeps well and freezes beautifully. Serve hefty slices with whipped cream or ice cream and some festive sprinkles for a dessert, or smaller slices on a buffet. Wrap a loaf in plastic wrap with pretty ribbon and it makes a beautifully fun, festive gift. I haven’t tried it yet, but I think it would be lovely baked in those little decorated paper mini loaf pans as a gift.
I’ve added a simple glaze (skip it for freezing or wrapping) because it adds a lovely snowy top, but the cake is rich and lovely without it. I’ve even sprinkled the glaze with sparkling sanding sugar to give it a real winter wonderland effect.
Red Velvet Pound Cake
½ cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ Tablespoons red food coloring
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup cocoa powder
a pinch of salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons cider vinegar
½ cup buttermilk
For the Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon buttermilk
Preheat oven to 325°. Lightly grease and flour a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan or use baking spray like Bakers’ Joy.
Cream the butter and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and food coloring on slow speed.
Sift the flour, salt and cocoa together in a bowl. Dissolve the baking soda in the vinegar and add to the buttermilk in the measuring jug. Beat the dry ingredients into the butter and egg alternately with the buttermilk in three additions, mixing well after each and scraping down the sides of the bowl frequently.
Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth the top. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to release air bubbles. Bake for about 50 minutes or until cake is done and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool in pan about 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan to a wire rack to cool completely.
For the Glaze:
Whisk together the powdered sugar and buttermilk until you have a runny galze (use a bit more buttermilk if needed. Pour the galze evenly over the cake, allowing it to drip down the sides.
In the kitchen, surrounded by a surfeit of holiday baking supplies, I had a sudden craving for Hello Dolly Bars. I love Hello Dollies (or Seven Layer Bars or Magic Bars, whatever you call them), but they are not something I generally make, because I have lots of friends for whom it’s their standard recipe for to parties and weekends away. So I generally rely on others for my dolly fix. But standing there, with that craving, I suddenly thought I could get a little creative. I simply substituted warm, spicy speculoos cookies in the crust and added cinnamon chips to the butterscotch. I left out the coconut, because I don’t love it, but also because I think it takes away from the unique spicy note of this version of the classic.
Spiced Dolly Bars
2 (8.8 ounce) packages Biscoff cookies (about 60 cookies)
½ (1 stick) cup butter, melted and cooled
1 (14 – ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (11-ounce) package butterscotch chips
1 (10-ounce) package cinnamon baking chips
1 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350°. Line a 13 by 9 inch baking pan with foil, with the edges overhanging. Use non-stick foil if you can, spray it well with cooking spray if you can’t.
Break the cookies into the bowl of a food processor and girnd to crumbs. Add the melted butter an process until themixture comes together. Press the crumbs in a layer on the bottom of the prepared pan, making sure there are no holes. Pour the condensed milk over the crust, spreading it out evenly. Sprinkle the butterscotch and cinnamon chops over evenly over the crust, then the walnuts. Gently press the chips and nuts into the condensed milk.
Bake the bars for 25 minutes, until everything is bubbly. It will look a little liquid, but will firm up as it cools. Cool the bars completely, then lift the whole thing out of the pan using the overhanging foil.
Makes 16 bars
My mother used to make a dish she called Hot Browns on cold nights when we were kids. I loved hot brown nights. I didn’t know that Hot Browns were a real dish, something with a history and many fanatical supporters and traditionalists, I just thought it was something yummy my mom invented, specific to our house. I have to admit that my mom’s version was not traditional. It involved sliced turkey, ham and cheddar cheese soup from a can. My mom always made them in these white porcelain dishes that I think of today as Hot Brown dishes.
As an adult, who cooks the vast majority of the Thanksgiving meal, I have asked my mom to make Hot Browns with the leftover turkey. So it occurred to me some years ago that I should develop a recipe for this favorite treat. In researching the idea, I discovered how serious the discussion of the Kentucky Hot Brown is, with fervent camps for versions with sliced tomatoes, and those without. I even had a Hot Brown in Kentucky that had potato chips piled on top. But I didn’t necessarily want to share the classic recipe, but to re-create the memory from my childhood. So I call these Tennessee Hot Browns to stay out of the battle. I like lots of cheddar cheese, and no tomatoes, but crispy bacon is always a good thing. The sandwiches are hot and cheesy and comforting and perfect for a long weekend.
Tennessee Hot Browns
½ cup butter
½ cup all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
6 Tablespoons grated cheddar cheese (plus a little for sprinkling)
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
8 slices white bread
About 2 pounds sliced roasted turkey
8 strips bacon, cooked until crispy
Melt the butter in a small saucepan, then whisk in the flour until smooth and pale in color. Whisk in the milk, cooking until the sauce is thick. Whisk in the cheese and nutmeg and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Preheat the broiler of your oven. Lay a slice of bread in the bottom of each of four oven proof dishes. If you don’t have individual dishes, lay the bread in a 13 by 9 inch dish. Layer the turkey on top of the bread, then pour the sauce over the top. Sprinkle some grated cheese over the top of each sandwich. Broil the hot browns until the tops are speckled brown and bubbling, about 5 minutes – but watch carefully. Lay the bacon slices on top of the hot browns and serve immediately.
Makes 4 sandwiches
In case you haven’t noticed, I love cooking with buttermilk. It tenderizes, flavorizes, tangifies and creamifies anything it works with. I go out of my way to seek out good, thick country buttermilk. It is the most important ingredient in fried chicken, biscuits and cornbread. I use it in dressings, gravies, marinades, cookies cakes and pies. It is always on my refrigerator.
And one of the best resources I’ve found for buttermilk recipes is Southern Cooking by Mrs. S.R. Dull, first published in 1928. Tucked into the tightly packed pages are more recipes that use buttermilk than I could count, and I have a little post-it flag on almost all of them. I marked “Molasses Custard” on one page and recently returned to it. I hadn’t at first marking realized it was a pie filling, but figured that was even better. These old-fashioned recipes are short and not particularly detailed, and the pie crust part is just a short line at the end. But I couldn’t resist. I switched out the molasses for sorghum, because I love the earthy, Southern sweetness of the syrup.
Sorghum Buttermilk Pie
Pastry for one 9-inch pie
1 cup sorghum
½ cup buttermilk
1 cup granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
Preheat the oven to 300°. Fit the pastry into a pie plate and set aside.
Stir the sorghum, buttermilk, sugar flour and soda together in a large, high sided saucepan. Crack the eggs into the measuring jug you used for the sorghum and milk and beat together. Pour into the pan and stir to thoroughly combine all the ingredients. You might want to use a whisk to break up any flour lumps, but use a heatproof spatula while cooking.
Place the pan over medium high heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil. Scrape the bottom and sides of the pan frequently to prevent scorching. The filling will bubble up so needs to be stirred and watched carefully. When it reaches a boil, remove from the heat and stir it down for a few minutes until some of the foaming subsides. Carefully pour it into the prepared crust. Fill it right to the top, if you have more in the pan than will fit in the crust, let it settle a few minutes, then gently stir the remaining filling into the crust.
Bake the pie for 40 – 45 minutes, until it is firm with just a little wobble to it. I’ve never had the filling spill over, but just to be safe I like to put a foil lined baking sheet on the rack below to catch any potential drips.
Place the pie plate on a rack to cool completely, then chill until firm.
I have been making a version of caramelized onion dip for ages. I take it to parties, lake weekends, family gatherings and football watching events. I get requests for it, and it is always absolutely vacuumed up.
But when you are an avid cook, you want to constantly challenge yourself. So after years of making this dish, I set out to rev it up a bit, change things. And now that I’ve hit on this recipe, I’m not sure why I didn’t think of it ages ago. It combines some of my favorite flavors – sweet caramelized onions, smoky bacon and bourbon with amazing results. This dip is decadent; it is unquestionably rich. But It will blow those you serve it to away. The bourbon adds this little zip and edge of sweetness. It is delicious hot and bubbly, but also pretty darn good cold (that’s how I serve my regular onion dip). Its great spread on crackers or served with big corn chips.
Bourbon-Spiked Caramelized Onion and Bacon Dip
8 strips of bacon
2 medium-sized yellow onions, finely diced (about 4 cups)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup plus 1 Tablespoon bourbon
1 Tablespoon light brown sugar
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup mayonnaise
1 (8-ounce) container sour cream
generous grinds of black pepper
Cook the bacon strips in a large skillet until crispy. Remove to paper-towel lined plate with a slotted spoon. Leave the bacon grease to cool, then pour it into a bowl or jar. Wipe out the skillet to remove any browned or burned bits.
Pour 2 Tablespoons of bacon grease back in the skillet and return it to medium heat. Add the onions and salt and stir well to coat. Cook until the onions are soft and glassy, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Keep the heat at medium to prevent the onions from scorching. When the onions begin to turn a slightly toffee color, add the bourbon and brown sugar, stir well and cover the pan. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the onions are amber brown, the color of a good bourbon. If at any point the onions start to catch on the bottom of the pan, add a splash of water and stir well. Leave the caramelized onions to cool.
When the onions are cool, beat the cream cheese, mayonnaise and sour cream in the bowl of a mixer until smooth. Add the onions and bourbon and mix until combined. Chop the bacon into small pieces and add to the dip, stirring to combine. Season well with plenty of black pepper.
Spoon the dip into a 2 quart baking dish, cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight to allow the flavors to blend.
When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 350°. Bake the dip for 20 minutes until it is warmed through and bubbling.
Shrimp and corn pie recipes appear in a number of Southern community cookbooks, and I’ve tried a few. But I have always thought they lacked a little oomph. But the delicious combination of shrimp and corn deserves attention, so I put my mind to it and decided on a tangy filling and an old-fashioned biscuit top to make perfect transitional comfort food. When summer has wound up, but it is not quite cool enough for heavy winter stews.
The clean, bright taste of white wine and lemon complement sweet corn and juicy shrimp without overwhelming either. I forego a lot of extra add-ins to highlight that simple pairing. Tender biscuits soak up the light and creamy sauce with an extra hit of lemon and thyme. This dish is simple enough for a family dinner, but sophisticated for a gathering of friends.
Shrimp and Corn Cobbler
For the Filling:
3 Tablespoons butter
2 bunches green onions (about 12)
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 Tablespoons flour
1 cup white wine
2 cups whole milk
zest of one lemon
1 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
1 (12-ounce) package frozen corn, thawed and drained
1 pound frozen Gulf shrimp, thawed and drained
For the topping:
1 cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup yellow cornmeal
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
zest of one lemon
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 cup buttermilk
3 Tablespoons butter, melted
For the Filling:
Melt the butter in a large saucepan (I use a 1 ½ quart oven safe pan). Finely chop the green onions and add to the butter. Sauté until soft and translucent. Put the garlic clove through a press of finely mince it and add to the pan with the thyme leaves. Cook for a bout a minute, just until the garlic is fragrant. Sprinkle over the flour and stir until you have a smooth, pale mixture. Add the white wine and stir until the sauce begins to thicken. Slowly add the milk, stirring the whole time, and cook over medium-high heat until the sauce has thickened, about 10 minutes. Stir in the lemon zest, juice and salt and pepper to taste. Add the corn and stir until combined. Take the pot of the heat and add the shrimp, stirring to combine completely. The shrimp will begin to gently poach, but do not need to be fully cooked as the dish is going in the oven. At this point, you can cool, cover and refrigerate the filling for several hours. (If you are not using an oven-safe saucepan, scrape the filling into a baking dish).
For the topping:
Preheat the oven to 350°.
Mix the flour, cornmeal, lemon zest, thyme, baking powder, salt and pepper together with a fork in a large bowl. Mix the buttermilk, egg and butter together in a small bowl. Add the liquids to the dry ingredients and mix well until you have a biscuit dough.
Scoop ¼ cup mounds of the topping over the top of the filling to cover. Bake for30 – 35 minutes until the biscuits are firm and golden and the filling is hot through and bubbling.