Shrimp and Grits with Bacon

Shrimp and Grits with BaconThe Low Down
I can be obsessive when I find things I like. It can’t be just a close copy. I’ve got to have the real thing. This is especially true when it comes to cooking.

Anytime I find a new recipe I love that comes from a region or cuisine that I am not familiar with, I can go off the deep end a bit. For example, when I, first discovered Moroccan food, I was obsessed with finding the correct ingredients. Not just ingredients that would work but the most authentic ingredients. The ingredients they use. Same goes with the cookware. If I am going to make a paella or a French cassoulet, you better believe I am going to have the correct pan or clay pot.

It’s the same with cookbooks. I may start my adventure into something new with one cookbook but eventually, I will end up finding the most authentic resource for whatever that cuisine may be. (Think Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking or Paula Wolfert’s Mediterranean cookbooks.) What I enjoy the most about finding that “reference” cookbook is that you not only get the most authentic version of whatever dish you are cooking but you also get the history of the food, the people and the region it comes from. That’s when the day dreaming stars. I picture myself in the markets of Marrakesh or biking through Provence with the day’s groceries in my basket. I am a culinary romantic.

One of my favorite cookbooks for day dreaming is a book by John Martin Taylor called Hoppin’ John’s Low Country Cooking. If you have ever been interested in the regional cooking of the US, this would be my pick as the best reference for Lowcountry cooking.

For those who don’t know, the Lowcountry refers to the coastal plain region of South Carolina from Cat Island down to the Georgia border. Full disclosure, I have never lived there nor have I had the chance to visit. But I do love to read. And after reading books by Pat Conroy and John Berendt, I was hooked by romantic visions of crab and shrimp boils on the beach with and entertaining cast of characters.

Lowcountry cooking is the source for She Crab soup as well as Frogmore Stew and Hoppin’ John. There is so much to the cooking of the region that it is hard to pick just one recipe to love. If pressed though I would have to pick the Shrimp and Grits with Bacon. It’s one of my favorite comfort foods.

If you find yourself in need of an escape from the day-to-day and with no time or money to actually go somewhere, take a chance and pick up this (or any other cookbook) and step outside your world for a bit.

Shrimp and Grits with Bacon
Adapted from Hoppin’ John’s Low Country Cooking

These typical shrimp and grits are served for breakfast, but they are good any time of day. We love the addition of bacon! Read more…

Gam’s Sunday Dinner Spoonbread

Gam's Sunday Dinner SpoonbreadThe Kitchen Table
Years ago when we remodeled our house, I remember having conversations with the architect about features in my kitchen that I wanted to have a certain way. And, I remember him saying things like If you do that your kids will always leave their backpacks there. or You need to make sure there is space here because this is where everyone will be hanging out.

He was right of course. Everyone is always in the kitchen. Whether it is Thursday night or we’re having a dinner party—everyone always ends up in the kitchen.

It makes sense really. Many of the important events (and even the not so important things) that have happened in my life have happened or have been discussed while we were seated, usually but not always, having a meal around the kitchen table.

Growing up, we had dinner together every night around the kitchen table. We would talk about what happened during our day. If we were exceptionally lucky and the conversation was lively, some of us were covertly able to slip the dog whatever offensive veggie happened to be on the plate that night. No matter what, the kitchen table was where we met after a day of going our separate ways.

Later in life, it was where engagements and babies were announced or lost lives were celebrated. But, always the kitchen table was where we came together.

It’s no different in my home. We eat together at the table in the kitchen every night (that we don’t have a sporting event). My kitchen table is where our friends come to hang out and eat and play the occasional NSFW card game. It is where the homework gets done and the epic Monopoly beat-downs occur.

Without out a doubt, it is the center of our home.

When we decided to change the name of our weekly recipe blog, The Kitchen Table was pretty much the first idea to pop into my head. And nothing else we came up with seemed to make as much sense. For the most part, I try to make this blog not just about a bunch of recipes and food, but also about good stories and interesting experiences. I would love to think that most people can relate to them, or at the very least be entertained. (I do have my quirks…)

So, without further ado, I am happy to announce that going forward What’s For Dinner Wednesday shall now be known as The Kitchen Table. And, I hope that you get as much enjoyment and food for the soul out of this Kitchen Table as I have had from mine.

When thinking about family gatherings around the table my tastes gravitate towards the comforts of Southern style cooking. So, with that in mind, Gam’s Sunday Dinner Spoonbread is a favorite southern-inspired family recipe that has been enjoyed many times around our kitchen table.

Gam’s Sunday Dinner Spoonbread
This is one of those down-home recipes that always reminds me of our dinners at my grandmother’s house. So good served warm with melted butter, and a perfect accompaniment to any BBQ.
Yields 6 servings
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Roast Lamb Shoulder with Date Couscous

Roast Lamb Shoulder with Date CouscousOn The Lamb
Growing up, we always had lamb for Easter. There may have been the occasional ham but I always associate lamb (and my grandmother’s purple water goblets) with Easter.

I have a very clear picture in my mind of my grandmother carving the leg of lamb with an electric knife (!) and with each slice she may or may not have encountered a whole garlic clove that she had stuffed into the meat. I also remember the tiny metal containers for the mint jelly. The leg of lamb was always tasty, the mint jelly not so much. Back then, traditional roasted leg of lamb or the occasional broiled lamb chop with rosemary was pretty much the limit of my exposure to lamb. Nowadays though, when I think of eating or cooking lamb my tastes run to the Middle East.

No matter the occasion, if I am cooking with lamb chances are the flavors are going to be North African or Middle Eastern in nature. Easter dinner is no different. Harissa has thankfully replaced the mint jelly on the table and potatoes have made way for the couscous. So, depending on how formal we want to be, dinner can be lamb kebabs with pita and hummus or a roast shoulder with couscous and date stuffing. And there is always this family favorite, Moroccan Lamb Tangine.

I think this year because I feel the need to make an effort, I’m doing the Roast Lamb Shoulder with Date Couscous. It’s been a while since I have made Moroccan food and this is the perfect time to dust off a favorite recipe!

Roast Lamb Shoulder with Date Couscous
Adapted from Arabesque by Claudia Roden
Serves 4 to 5

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Bundt Pan Rotisserie Chicken

Bundt Pan Rotisserie ChickenTechnological Wonders
I had a plan to talk about Irish food this week—for obvious reasons—everyone is Irish this Friday.

That plan was blown out of the water by one of those ubiquitous cooking videos that pop up daily on my Facebook feed (sometimes hourly). Most of the time I kinda just glance at the video and move on to other things. Every so often, though, I spot that one video, and I drop everything to watch it. Because my mind is blown. (Or there is a lot of chocolate.) Today was one of those days. Total lightbulb moment…I’m still recovering.

If you’ve ever heard of Beer Can Chicken you will get why I was compelled to watch the video, and then immediately make the recipe. I mean it’s genius. Of course, this would be great, it’s Rotisserie Chicken in your home oven. Brilliant! And it looks weird which is always an excellent reason to make anything—if only to keep people guessing about your mad scientist cooking skills…

Adding this recipe to my weekly rotation was easy since we have roast chicken at least once a week. My only complaint is that you can only make one chicken at a time (unless you have two bundt pans). I like to use the second chicken as the base for some other meal later in the week. I know, first world problems!

Feel free to get wacky with the ingredients and the rub for the chicken. I left the carrots and onion out and went with all potatoes and then mixed a spicy dry rub with the olive oil and rubbed all over the chicken. That made for some tasty taters…

Have fun with this one!

Bundt Pan Rotisserie Chicken
Adapted from Delish

Ingredients
3 cloves garlic
2 carrots, chopped
1 onion, quartered
1/2 lb. Yukon gold potatoes, quartered
2 large bunches of fresh herbs such as thyme and rosemary
Extra virgin olive oil
1 3/4 lb chicken (gizzards removed)
1 lemon, sliced
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper Read more…

Smoked Duck and Andouille Gumbo for Mardi Gras

Smoked Duck and Andouille GumboFat Tuesday
I got a call from my sister over the weekend to see if I had her cookbook. I did, in fact, have it. I have been holding it for ransom for quite some time.

It is not surprising that she would be looking for this particular cookbook this time of year, because next Tuesday happens to be Mardi Gras. And this cookbook, in my opinion, happens to be one of the best New Orleans cookbooks available. Susan Spicer’s Crescent City Cooking is filled with wonderful things.

New Orleans is one of those bucket list places for me. I have never been, and I have absolutely no desire to visit during Mardi Gras or the heat of the Summer. But I do have a desire to go and eat my way through the city. There is just so much history, not only in the streets but in the music and food. It makes my mouth water to think about it. Just not sure when I am going to get there…

In the meantime, cookbooks like this one give us a taste of the city, and whet our appetites for more. I have written about recipes from Spicer’s book, and I now bring them to your attention in advance of Mardi Gras. Her Autumn Salad with Apples, Comté, and Hazelnuts and Cornmeal-Crusted Crayfish Pies are good, But without question, the best of the best is the Smoked Duck and Andouille Gumbo.

And for something a little sweet to go with your Mardi Gras feast, there’s Bananas Foster Bread Pudding with Vanilla Ice Cream and Caramel Sauce from Emeril Lagasse.

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Smoked Duck and Andouille Gumbo
Adapted from Crescent City Cooking by Susan Spicer
Yields 8 Servings
You can substitute an equal amount of roasted chicken for the duck. But if you get a chance to use duck, give it a try. It’s delicious!

Read more…