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Deep Fried Black-Eyed Peas

01 Sep

Deep Fried Black-Eyed Peas

M: Where have these been all my life? Only in the South, home of all things fried, would it occur to someone to deep fry black-eyed peas. The results are spectacular. Crispy, textured, and spiced with seafood seasoning and salt, they are eaten as one might snack on popcorn – by the handful and with difficulty stopping.

If this salty snack has a history of consequence in southern cuisine, I can’t find it. I first found the deep fried delicacy in a restaurant called Relish here in Raleigh. I was immediately hooked. Imagine my delight when, just a few weeks later, I stumbled upon them again, this time in what has become one of my favorite restaurants here in the Triangle, Beasley’s Chicken and Honey. Served in mason jars, they make one heck of a bar snack and pair perfectly with an cold beer (lucky thing they had plenty of that too).

This recipe isn’t exactly what I had at either restaurant, but it’s in the ball park. The hardest part is waiting a day for the peas to soak, so no one is going to blame you if you start with frozen instead of dried (just thaw them and pick things up at step 2). Err to the side of frying longer to make sure you get the light and crispy texture that makes these so darn good.

Recipe: Deep Fried Black-Eyed Peas

Summary: Deep fried and tossed in seafood seasoning, black-eyed peas are transformed into a distinctly southern bar snack.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups dried black eyed peas
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1 jalapeño, sliced lengthwise and seeded
  • Canola oil for frying
  • 3 teaspoons seafood seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Soak beans overnight, then drain and rinse.
  2. Simmer beans, onion and jalapeño in a covered pot of water 35-45 minutes until tender.
  3. Drain beans, remove onion and jalapeño and let beans rest to dry or pat dry with paper towels.
  4. Heat oil in a pot to 375 degrees.
  5. Gently pour beans into oil and deep fry for 7-8 minutes, until crisp.
  6. Toss with seafood seasoning and salt.

 

 
1 Comment

Posted in Appetizers

 

Pork Roast (a.k.a. Liquid Pork)

15 Mar
Pork Roast
“No man should be allowed to be President who does not understand hogs.”
- Harry S. Truman

 

M:  I’m a pork man. I mean, I love a good cut of beef and you can’t really go wrong with chicken, but there’s just something about pork. Maybe it’s because North Carolina is the second largest pork-producing state. Maybe it’s because the nation’s largest retail pork producer, Nahunta Pork Center, is not far from here and they have an outlet store attached to my farmer’s market. Or maybe it’s because moving South exposed me to the joys of barbeque and pig pickin’s and the all-but-ubiquitous pulled pork. Whatever the reason, pork is my “go to” meat these days and if you’ve got a recipe I haven’t tried, count me in.

This recipe, with its bold “a.k.a. Liquid Pork”, brought high expectations from a guy who stops at every single church, social club, or neighborhood pig pickin’ he sees.

How was it? Not to shabby, I must say, but it left me conflicted. What separates this roast from one that might be destined for a good ol’ NC pulled pork sandwich is the addition of a fairly traditional gravy. The submitter says that he prefers to pull this roast instead of slicing, but his extended family prefers it be sliced. To the slicer, I say good luck.

That is not a criticism.

This is one tender hunk of meat. Cooking it in that gravy made this roast so moist and succulent that “Liquid Pork” is pert near literal. In fact, when I lifted the roast from the pot so I could show you how nicely it had cooked, the bone slipped out cleanly through the bottom without provocation. I suspect the only reason it didn’t fall to pieces immediately was because I hadn’t stripped the skin off yet. That makes for some good pulled pork.

And the gravy? It was fine. Good even. If this were sliced, this gravy would have been just the thing. But once the roast became pulled pork, willingly or not, I kind of wished I had a little Eastern Carolina barbeque sauce instead. This is not the recipe’s fault. Call it regional conditioning.

Recipe: Pork Roast (a.k.a. Liquid Pork)

Summary: A pork roast so moist and tender it can’t help but be pulled. From The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook

Ingredients

  • 1 (7 lb) Pork shoulder, bone-in
  • 1 Head garlic, cloves peeled and quartered
  • 1 T salt
  • 2 tsp Black pepper
  • 1 tsp Ground cayenne pepper
  • 6 Medium onions, chopped
  • 2 Bell peppers, cored and chopped
  • 2 Stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 Carrots, chopped
  • 3/4 c Peanut or vegetable oil
  • 1 c Flour

Instructions

  1. Cut narrow, 1 inch deep slits all over pork shoulder and stuff slits with garlic.
  2. Season outside of shoulder with salt, pepper, and cayenne.
  3. Brown meat in a dutch oven over high heat, adding a little oil, if necessary to prevent sticking.
  4. Transfer pork to a plate or large bowl.
  5. Add onions, peppers, celery, and carrots to dutch oven and stir to coat.
  6. Return pork to dutch oven and set aside.
  7. Heat oil in a heavy skillet for 2 minutes, then sprinkle in flour.
  8. Stir flour constantly until smooth until roux forms and darkens to the color of peanut butter (10-12 minutes).
  9. Pour roux over pork and vegetables.
  10. Cover dutch oven and place in oven at 350 degrees to roast 2 1/2 hours.
  11. Add 1/2 cup of water and continue to roast uncovered another 3 1/2 – 4 hours, checking every 30 minutes and adding water, if necessary to keep moist.
  12. When skin is brown and meat begins to fall apart, remove from oven and let stand 30 minutes.
  13. Lift skin from roast (if skin is not crispy, place on a baking sheet and place in oven at 475 degrees for 10 minutes).
  14. Pull meat from bone and serve with gravy and pork skin.

 

 
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Posted in Pork

 

Miracle Drop Biscuits

04 Mar

Miracle Drop Biscuits

M: There is an art to making biscuits. Cold butter. A narrow window of consistency in which to mix wet and dry ingredients, all pressed and folded oh so carefully. Some are born with it and scratch their heads when neophytes repeatedly miss the mark. Others develop the skill with a whole lot of practice, willing to eat their way through many a sub-par biscuit until getting it just right. For those don’t fall into either of those categories, there is the drop biscuit.

No careful folding involved and that window of consistency opens pretty wide. Mix the dough, scoops globs onto a baking sheet and toss it in the oven. It ain’t always pretty, but the results are generally more delicious than the effort should allow and if I’m in a hurry or just can’t be arsed to make a proper biscuit, my sloth is rewarded with an effortless gravy sopper. It’s funny just how often that happens.

So what’s the miracle here? Look at that list of ingredients. I don’t know about your drop biscuits, but mine generally have at least half a dozen ingredients. Flour, buttermilk, butter, salt, baking powder and baking soda. I didn’t think you could get much simpler than that, but I stand corrected. For those who cannot be arsed to make a drop biscuit, I give you the Miracle Drop Biscuit.

Two ingredients. Two.

It certainly isn’t beautiful and it’s far from the best drop biscuit I’ve ever had. You know what though? It’s not bad. Pretty good, in fact. Did I mention it only has two ingredients? I wasn’t even sure it would hold together.

This is not the biscuit I’ll be making when company comes to call. If I’m scrambling to put dinner together on a busy day, though? You betcha.

I don’t know if this biscuit quite qualifies as a miracle, though. We’ll see what the new pope has to say.

Still. Amazing.

Recipe: Miracle Drop Biscuits

Summary: Two ingredients. Biscuits. From The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook

Ingredients

  • 2 c Southern Soft Wheat Self-Rising Flour
  • 1 1/4 c Chilled Heavy Cream

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees.
  2. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Place flour in a medium bowl and form a well in the center.
  4. Pour cream into well and stir to form a soft, wet dough.
  5. Bring dough together with a spatula (handling as little as possible) and drop into six equal lumps on baking sheet.
  6. Bake until golden brown (about 12 minutes).
 
2 Comments

Posted in Bread

 

Peanut Brittle

04 Feb

Peanut Brittle

M: Paul Bunyan may get most of the giant lumberjack press in the Northwest, but in the South, similar giant lumberjack Tony Beaver had his own thing going on. He may not have had a blue ox or dragged his axe on the ground to form the Grand Canyon, but he did pretty well by 19th century candy lovers.

It seems the townsfolk were in terrible peril. Flood waters were rapidly rising, sure to destroy the town and drown its residents. Thank goodness for Tony.  Using the town’s fortunate surplus of molasses and peanuts, Tony was able to dam the river. The heroic act of this legendary figure I’d never heard of before today not only saved the townsfolk, but also resulted in the creation of a treat beloved from that day forth. Dam that’s good peanut brittle!

This recipe produces exactly what I look for in a good peanut brittle. It is certainly sweet, but the peanuts still manage to remain part of the profile. Not all brittle recipes call for baking soda, but I haven’t met one yet that didn’t benefit from its presence. You’ll immediately notice some of its impact when stirring it in the at hard-crack stage as the candy become opaque and foamy. Not only does it look lovely, the brittle will become airier, meaning it will break, but not shatter as you sink your teeth into it. I vote yes.

This recipe yields about 5 pounds of candy. I like this stuff as much as the next guy, but that’s a lot of brittle.  Next time around I may consider a half batch. What am I, Tony Beaver?

Recipe: Peanut Brittle

Summary: This classic American confection hasn’t changed much since it first made the scene in the late 1800s. Thank goodness!  From The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook.

Ingredients

  • 5 c sugar
  • 2 ½ c light corn syrup
  • 2 ½ c water
  • 1½ lbs raw shelled Spanish peanuts
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking soda

Instructions

  1. Combine sugar, corn syrup and water in a large pot and cook at medium-high, stirring until sugar dissolves completely.
  2. Increase heat to high and continue to cook without stirring until soft-ball stage is reached (235-240 degrees).
  3. Stir in peanuts and continue to cook until hard-crack stage is reached (300-310 degrees).
  4. Remove from heat and stir in butter, salt and baking soda (candy will become opaque and foamy).
  5. Quickly spread candy evenly onto 2 greased baking sheets.
  6. Allow to cool completely, then break into pieces.
  7. Store in an airtight container.

 

 
1 Comment

Posted in Desserts

 

Benedictine

07 Oct

Benedictine

M: Not the liqueur, but rather the cucumber and cream cheese blend served as a dip or filling for finger sandwiches.  Ever hear of it?  I hadn’t, but the submitter of this recipe declares it to be to Louisville, KY what “pâté is to Paris or baked beans are to Boston.”  Given the many recipes found online and its long history, there may be some truth in that.  When I asked around about this one, several people started by telling me that it’s green.  This one is not, but it turns out green food coloring is a commonly used ingredient.  Since I have no history with this spread, I didn’t miss it one bit.

This is just a lovely thing.  Cucumber, cream cheese and a bit of onion whipped together.   It’s light, flavorful and spreads well.  Do, however, believe this recipe when it says to let the cucumber drain for a couple of hours.  It is amazing just how much water is in a cucumber and we just won’t abide by a soggy finger sandwich, now will we?  I served mine on slices of Sunbeam bread, made pretty by the use of a scalloped biscuit cutter.  Benedictine my new go to when prepping for a garden party.  Yeah, I’ve never actually thrown a garden party.  But if I do, I’m all set.

A word about recipes and measurement.  Unless I’m cooking (or especially baking) something that requires very specific amounts to be successful, I’m content with a recipe that says, for example, “one medium onion” instead of 1/2 c.  I never have half cups of onion sitting around, but the medium onions in my pantry are plentiful.  And yet, when I’m unhappy with the results, I’m quick to blame an imprecise recipe.   What can I say?  I’m complex.

In the case of this recipe, it may surprise you to hear I took pause for a moment at “1 Large Cucumber”.   I used to think I knew what a large cucumber was. In the Midwest, that’s, what, twelve inches maybe?   Down here, home gardeners keep telling me once you get up over six or eight inches, that’s not good eating anymore.  It’s chicken food.  I dismissed the first guy who told me that, but I have heard it enough times now that I wonder if Southern (or at least NC) cukes meet a different measure.  The cucumber I used for this one was of Yankee length and the results were more than satisfactory.

Recipe: Benedictine

Summary: This simple and refreshing Derby day classic can be used as a dip or, better still, as a filling for finger sandwiches. From The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook.

Ingredients

  • 1 Large Cucumber, peeled, seeded and grated
  • 10 oz Cream Cheese, room temperature
  • 2 T Onion, grated
  • Coarse Sea Salt
  • Ground Black Pepper

Instructions

  1. Place cucumber in a fine sieve over a bowl and put in refrigerator to drain for 2 hours.
  2. Discard liquid and combine cucumber, cream cheese and onion in a food processor.
  3. Pulse to combine
  4. Season with salt and pepper and refrigerate until serving.