Archive for March, 2012

Gumbo z’Herbes

28 Mar

Gumbo z'Herbes

M: In an earlier post, we touched on the argument that “greens is greens”.  This dish, also called “Green Gumbo” does away with the concern of differentiating between greens by using as many different types as you can get your hands on.  It’s origins were as a meatless meal either served on Holy Thursday or prepared on Holy Thursday to be served on Good Friday, but at some point plenty of meat (and I mean plenty!)  began to appear in many versions.  I’m not sure how that fits into the Lenten schedule.  Some say nine different kinds of greens should be used, nine being a holy number.  Others offer that the more abundant the variety, the more friends will be made in the year ahead.  Whatever the particulars of your tradition, this once a year meal deserves to be part of it..  We made it a little early so you’d have time to shop for the numerous ingredients.

Pureeing those greens and stirring them into an increasingly murky pot, I was unsure about this one.  But as each meat was added and the spices began to merge, the gumbo came together into something outstanding.  Still murky, but so tasty.  I can’t help but wonder if those who were preparing it on Holy Thursday to serve on Good Friday switched over because no one could bear the wait, although the longer this one sat on the stove, the better it got.  A little time consuming to put this one together, but it does not disappoint.  That’s a lot of greens.

Rinsing Greens Cooking Greens Pureed Greens
Drumettes Meat and Greens Nearly Gumbo

Recipe: Gumbo z’Herbes

Summary: A Spring tradition rich with a variety of meats and more greens than you can shake a stick at. From The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook


  • 2 Ham Shanks
  • 1 Gal. Water
  • 6-8 Lb Various Greens (7 to 11 of the following: Collard Greens, Mustard Greens, Turnip Greens, Spinach, Cabbage, Carrot Tops, Beet Tops, Arugula, Parsley, Green Onions, Watercress, Romaine Lettuce, Curly Endive, Kale, Radish Tops, Pepper Grass)
  • 3 Yellow Onions, roughly chopped
  • 8 Garlic Gloves, peeled
  • 2 Lb Fresh Hot Sausage
  • 1 Lb Chicken Drumettes
  • 1 Lb Andouille Sausage, cut into 1/2″ slices
  • 1 Lb Stew Beef, cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 Lb Pork Sausage
  • 8 oz. Ham, cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 c AP Flour
  • Vegetable Oil
  • 3 tsp Dried Thyme
  • 2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 3 Bay Leaves
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp File Powder (if desired)
  • Cooked Rice, for serving


  1. Bring ham hocks to boil in water in a pot and reduce to simmer until needed.
  2. Thoroughly wash then drain greens.
  3. Bring greens, onions and garlic to boil in a very large pot and reduce to simmer until tender (about 45 minutes).
  4. Transfer greens to a bowl to cool, reserving water.
  5. Once greens have cooled, puree in small batches in food processor and set aside.
  6. Cook hot sausage in a skillet over medium heat until fat renders then remove from skillet and set aside in a bowl.
  7. Brown drumettes in skillet in rendered sausage fat until browned then transfer to bowl with sausage.
  8. Remove ham hocks from pot and pull meat from bones, chopping into bite sized pieces and add to bowl with sausage.
  9. Return pureed greens to large pot and add sausage, chicken, andouille, pork sausage, stew beef, ham shank and chopped ham.
  10. Cover with equal amounts of stock from ham shanks and reserved liquid from greens and bring to simmer over medium-high heat.
  11. To make roux, sprinkle flour into skillet containing hot sausage drippings over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Add vegetable oil as needed to create a thick paste.
  12. Drop roux in spoonfuls into gumbo, stirring well.
  13. Add thyme, cayenne, bay leaves and salt to gumbo and let simmer, stirring frequently, until meat is cooked through (about an hour).
  14. If desired, stir in file at end of cooking.
  15. Serve over rice.



Spicy Turnip Greens

19 Mar

Spicy Turnip Greens

M: Picking up produce at the farmers market this week, I was in search of the turnip greens featured here.  Collards, kale, chard I know by sight.  Beyond that,  I start looking for the handwritten sign tucked below the pile.  So when I spotted a healthy looking bunch without documentation, I asked the guy working the booth what kind of greens I was looking at.  He said collards.  When I disputed the identification, his ultimate response was was a shrug.  “Greens is greens”, he told me.  Looking around a bit more, I spotted a bin of turnips with the greens still attached.  They matched the bundle I had in my hand and I knew I was good to go.

Although not helpful to me in that instance, I do kind of relate to the “greens is greens” sentiment.  There are differences, I know.  Tough or tender.  Bitter or mild.  Stem management.  Now I love me some greens, I’m just not too picky about it.  Whatever is on hand will do just fine.  I feel like it’s what happens after they go in the pot really makes the difference. Maybe that’s just me.  Oh, and that guy at the market.  One of these days I’ll do some “side by sides” and see if I change my tune.

“Greens is greens” or not, this recipe for turnip greens delivers. Savory and silky, with heat that does not overwhelm.  Lots of butter doesn’t hurt either.  To prepare the greens, I removed the stems, chopped them up and boiled them with a piece of fatback for about half an hour.  The recipe as printed in the SFA cookbook called for half a cup of chopped garlic.  That sure sounds like an awful lot to me.  I chose to revise and used 2 tsp instead.  The results, served at my table as a side for a meatloaf dinner, were just the thing.

Recipe: Spicy Turnip Greens

Summary: A little heat, plenty of butter and a mess o greens. We’re in.  Adapted From The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook.


  • 3/4 Lb Butter
  • 1 Medium Onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp Garlic, chopped
  • 1 T Ground Chile de Arbol or Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 1/2 c Tomatoes, diced
  • 6 c Cooked Turnip Greens
  • 3 c Chicken Stock
  • 2 tsp Salt


  1. In a large, heavy pot, saute onion in butter until soft (about 8 minutes).
  2. Stir in garlic, and chile de arbol and cook 1 minute.
  3. Stir in tomatoes, greens and stock and bring to boil.
  4. Reduce heat, partially cover pot and simmer until flavors combine (about 15 minutes).
  5. Season with salt and serve hot.



Cheerwine Barbeque Chicken

15 Mar

Cheerwine Barbeque Chicken

M: “Legend born in the South, Raised in a Glass.”  What makes Cheerwine so distinctively Southern?  The short answer would be that since it first hit the market it has only been sold in Southern states, but there is something about this heavily carbonated, cherry flavored soft drink that just *feels” like the South.  Founded in Salisbury, NC in 1917 by L.D. Peeler, who bought the recipe for the Kentucky based “Mint  Cola” and renamed it for it’s effervescence and burgundy color.  It was an instant hit throughout North Carolina and eventually expanded its distribution into South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia and throughout the Southeast.    Last fall, the company announced plans to expand to National distribution by 2017, as this beloved Southern secret gains countrywide attention.  Can’t wait until 2017?  See how far you’ll have to drive here or just have it shipped.  Love those longnecks.

So how does it stand up in barbeque sauce?  Coca Cola has a well known history as a cooking ingredient in everything from cake to, well, barbeque sauce.  For my money, this recipe stands up with the best of them.  As a rule, I prefer to do things from scratch.  So when I see a recipe that uses packaged products as ingredients, I tend to shy away.  And this one uses not only cheerwine, but also A-1 steak sauce.  But you know, that’s my hang up and cooking Southern has forced me to play through that.  In for a penny.  It’s recipes like this one that makes me more than happy to get over myself.

I’ve made this both as an oven roast and cooked on the grill.  I prefer stepping outside and firing up the grill.  Especially when we’re seeing sunshine and 80 degree days in early March. It’s good to live in the South.

Cheerwine Barbeque Sauce Cheerwine Marinade Cheerwine on the Grill

Recipe: Cheerwine Barbeque Chicken

SummaryTangy sweet sauce with a hint of cherry made from the South’s best kept soda turns your roasted (or better still, grilled) chicken into something special. From The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook


  • 1 T Butter
  • 1 tsp Minced Garlic
  • 1 c Ketchup
  • 1 c Cheerwine
  • 3 T Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1/4 c A-1 Sauce
  • 1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Dry Mustard
  • 2 T White Vinegar
  • 7 Lb Chicken Thighs


  1. In a saucepan, saute garlic in butter for a minute or so.
  2. Whisk in ketchup, Cheerwine, Worcestershire sauce, A-1, cayenne pepper, black pepper, dry mustard and vinegar and bring to boil.
  3. Reduce to simmer 20 minutes (until sauce thickens).
  4. Let cool and refrigerate to chill.
  5. Combine sauce and chicken in a storage container, making sure chicken is completely coated.
  6. Refrigerate 4 hours to overnight.
  7. Cook in 350 degree oven until an internal temperature of 170 degrees is reached (about an hour) OR grill on charcoal or propane grill at medium heat 15-20 minutes (with either method, baste with remaining sauce halfway through) until hitting that internal temperature of 170 degrees.



Breakfast Shrimp Gravy

13 Mar

Shrimp Gravy over Grits

M: Shrimp and Grits is high on my list of dishes I think of as uniquely Southern.  My first exposure came from the recipe box of the late Bill Neal of Crook’s Corner restaurant, just up the way in Chapel Hill.  It immediately became one of my favorite meals.  Convenient in these parts, as it seems like every restaurant with even a glancing Southern theme has some version of it on the menu.  It has become shorthand for “this is a Southern establishment”, right up there with variations on pulled pork, fried green tomatoes or scratch-made biscuits on the table.   They all seem to have their own twist, some hitting the mark, some fancy to a fault.  I think I’ve enjoyed most of them to one degree or another, but some venture so far out you wonder about the common ancestry.  Shrimp and Grits is generally traced back to fishing communities in South Carolina (notably Charleston), where nearby grist mills churned out plenty of grits to accompany the day’s catch.  But how does a simple fisherman’s breakfast permeate the Southern restaurant scene?  Well, it turns out the best explanation I found comes from the Southern Foodways Alliance’s very own John T. Edge, co-editor of the SFA Community Cookbook, in this October, 2000 article.  He assigns the credit (or blame) of the rampant restaurant tinkering with not only shrimp and grits, but also to other traditional Southern foods, to a single event.  In 1985, an article from then food editor Craig Claiborne was published in the New York Times heaping high praise on… the shrimp and grits served by Bill Neal at Crook’s Corner Restaurant in Chapel Hill, NC (I did NOT see that coming).  Including mushrooms and spiced with nutmeg, the included recipe was a clear departure from the traditional . Mr. Edge suggests this article led to years of restaurant “one-upping” and a new found license to “innovate”.  You should really take a minute and go read that article.  While I agree wholeheartedly with what he has to say, I do think we’ve seen some return to tradition in many restaurants over the last few years.  I hope I’m right about that.  Just the same, Crook’s Corner’s shrimp and grits is killer.

What we have with this recipe, however, is a welcome return to the roots of  shrimp and grits.  This breakfast gravy is blissfully basic. Not much more than shrimp cooked in bacon, onions and stock.  ‘Nuff said.  While it is more than satisfying exactly as published, it is a blueprint.  The submitter rightly calls it a “return to the days when shrimp and grits was a fisherman’s dish” and encourages alteration based on whatever might be in the pantry that day.  I stuck to the recipe as written this time and, boy, was it good.  I’ll be making this again.  And you know, cautionary tales aside, I may innovate a little myself. Depending on what’s in the pantry.

Bacon and Onions Bacon, Onions, Green Onions
Add Flour Shrimp Gravy

Recipe: Breakfast Shrimp Gravy

Summary: A return to the days when grits were grits and shrimp were shrimp. Just the thing before a long day working the nets. From The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook


  • 1 1/2 Lb Small Shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • Juice of 1 Lemon
  • Hot Pepper Sauce
  • 6 Slices Bacon, roughly chopped
  • 2 T Onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 c Green onions, chopped (white and tender green parts)
  • 2 T Flour
  • 1 c Chicken or Shrimp Stock
  • 1/2 tsp Salt


  1. Toss shrimp with lemon juice and a few dashes of hot sauce and set aside.
  2. Fry bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until browned, but not crisp.
  3. Stir in onion and cook until soft (about 5 minutes).
  4. Stir in green onions.
  5. Sprinkle flour over mix and cook, stirring and scraping bottom of skillet, until flour browns (about 5 minutes).
  6. Add stock and salt and cook, continuing to stir, until gravy thickens (about 5 minutes).
  7. Stir in shrimp and accumulated liquid and cook until shrimp becomes opaque (3-5 minutes).
  8. Serve at once over hot, buttered grits.



Caramelized Onion Pudding

07 Mar

Caramelized Onion Pudding

M: The proof is in the pudding.  I mentioned to someone that I made this recipe, and when asked how it was I threw out this hackneyed response.  It got the shrug it deserved and I went on to talk about the merits of this superb cousin to one of my favorites, corn pudding.  More on that in a second.  As I considered the phrase later, I had to wonder what that even means.  It is understood as shorthand for judging something by the final result, but in itself it doesn’t really make a ton of sense.  As it turns out, the expression has been beaten around so thoroughly over time that it bears just a glancing resemblance to its origin.  It began as “The proof of the pudding is in the eating”.  But still.  Why pudding?

Pudding has referred to many things over the years, all more or less holding to the idea of a food reliant on binding agents.  And it goes back a good long time.  Today, the first thought when pudding is mentioned is something sweet and generally akin to custard.  Chocolate, banana, butterscotch, what have you.  But go back a few hundred years and you’re looking at a melange of meats, spices and filler, usually bound in a vessel of some sort before being boiled.  Think blood pudding or haggis.  Sometime in the 1700’s sponge puddings like Yorkshire pudding were in vogue.  Although sweet custard (that is, egg-based) puddings have been around since the Middle Ages, it wasn’t until the 1800’s when it regained popularity in England and spread to America, where it became what we most commonly think of as pudding today.

Now back to that proverb.  The proverb dates back to the 14th century and became used more commonly after the expression appeared in Don Quixote in 1605.  At that time, pudding was still most commonly thought of as that dubious blend of whatever meat was on hand, blood, fillers and plenty of spices that sometimes masked the smell of perhaps less than fresh ingredients.  A risky proposition.  Fit to eat?  The proof of the pudding is in the eating.  Yeah.  Yuck.

Now that I’ve managed to creep you out with tales of pudding (who’d have guessed), let me tell you how much I like this recipe for caramelized onion pudding.  So many recipes start with the onion.  It seems like every soup I come across starts with a little sautéed onion, but it doesn’t often get the privilege of such prominence as it sees here.  This works on any plate where one might usually see starchy sides like potatoes, stuffing or the aforementioned corn pudding.  Raw or slightly cooked onion can bring a welcome bite to many a recipe, but a long sauté breaks down those sugar molecules, transforming it into a sweet, mellow superstar.  Stir that into a simple soufflé and you get this light, spongy and sweet side that steps a little off the path of familiarity, but qualifies as comfort food without question.  Still not sure?  Give this one a try.   The proof is… well, you get the idea.

Onions Caramelized Onions
Stirring in Onions Caramelized Onion Pudding

Recipe: Caramelized Onion Pudding

Summary: Onions cooked to sweet perfection take center stage in this uncommon, but uncommonly good “comfort” side dish. From The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook.


  • 1/4 Lb (one stick) Butter
  • 6 c Yellow Onions (about 4 medium), halved and sliced thin
  • 6 Large Eggs
  • 4 T Sugar
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • 2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 3 T Flour
  • 2 c Heavy Cream


  1. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat and stir in onions, coating thoroughly.
  2. Cook onions, stirring frequently, until soft and the color of caramel (30-40 minutes).
  3. Whisk together eggs, sugar, salt, baking powder and flour.
  4. Slowly stir in heavy cream.
  5. Stir in onions.
  6. Bake in a buttered 9×13 baking dish at 350 degrees until pudding is set and top is golden brown (about 45 minutes).
  7. Serve hot.