Carolina Blue

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Carolina Blue glimmered this week —

On the sultry shores of the south —

On the week of the 4th the sea was murky, dismal, and gray —

Ocean Isle 2016 4th of July

I suppose the lack of storms accompanied with the intense heat

soothed the tumultuous seas.IMG_0016

Thank You, God, both the occasion —Blessed was I  to be there to see.

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Amazing how things change in a matter of weeks — or, sometimes  minutes it seems — Shrimp Tales and Tides

Ebbs Flow, Swells Swing, the Sun, Moon, and Stars sing  ever-changing songs of God’s Mood Ring —Beneath the Toiling Sea—Oceans of Emotion— and some of its own — but mostly revealed on the surface… Reflections of you and me.

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“Grits And Greens”

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Maybe you’ve decided you want some comfort food tonight. If you’ve never tried cooking “Soul-Foodor, Southern-Food, one thing to remember first off, is that like all regions, and cuisines, recipes differ from area to area, as everyone has their personal way of doing things.

Cooking styles across the southern U.S. can be as diverse as any other part of the country. In fact, in many cases, what may be revered as a “Southern Staple Dish” on some Michelin-3- star rated menu-anywhere USA, many southern expert-seasoned-grandmother-chefs ( like mine for instance) quite possibly never heard of.

This probably isn’t news to some of you, but for everyone else, when you consider the different cooking styles in northern Italy, to those in the southern parts of Italy — You get my point.

I said all that to give you a heads up on the fact that, though my southern roots, and innate cooking styles began in the kitchen, and at the table of my mother, and or grandmother many of the dishes I love to cook today, I’ve developed by combining classic French cooking styles with those down home favorites Mama, and Granny used to cook. ( And Mama Still Does!)

Like my Mother, and Granny, however, much of what goes into my dishes comes from instinct, as far as what will, and will not work together.

I’m sure the same can be said for most of you who do a lot of cooking. In other words, mama and granny never followed any “Classic Cuisine” guidelines, or began their delicious sauces, or gravies, from one of the 5 mother sauces used in classic circles of cuisine—they just cooked instinctively, and deliciously.

On the other hand, being one of my personal life long interest, and having worked under a few respected Chefs, in some pretty darn good restaurants, I do occasionally use some of the classic sauces, and dishes to combine with my inherent cooking skills, and dishes.

collardgreensingarden[1]To cook greens for “Grits and Greens” as an example, I begin with what I remember being done every Sunday, or Holiday, in Mama, or Grannies, kitchen. We use collards, or, at least— I do for “Grits and Greens.”

First we wash the collards. These are from the first batch picked from my farmer neighbor’s winter crop, and what they lacked in the looks department, they greatly made up for in taste…  you’ll just have to take my word for it.

I don’t usually add sugar to my collards, as many southern cooks do, and in this case… I was glad I didn’t as these have a wonderfully mild natural sweetness of their own.

I’ll give a general recipe break-down of ingredients I used, although…it’s all up to your personal taste. I didn’t use exact measurements, as I rarely do-and don’t have many people to cook for these days, so the quantity is much less than one might need for their own family meal.

So, for serving  10 to 12 people, or 6 with left-overs… the volumes would be as follows for the Collard Greens, which you will need to cook first:

(This is totally less involved and time-consuming than it looks)

8-12 hickory smoked bacon slices. (or as few as desired)

1- large Onion, chopped as you prefer

2- bone in ham-hocks, or, 1/4 pound country ham diced.

4-cloves garlic finely chopped (optional)

32- ounces water, or, chicken broth.

3 pounds collard greens, washed and trimmed –                                                     – Cut or Strip largest stems from center of leaves.

1/3 cup red-wine vinegar.(optional)

1- tablespoon Red Pepper Flakes (optional)

1-teaspoon sugar (optional)

1-teaspoon salt-(to taste)

3/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Cook bacon over medium heat in a 10 quart stock-pot for 10 minutes, or until nearly crisp. (seer ham-hocks, if using- in bacon grease before adding other ingredients) Add onions- sauté  5 minutes more-add  chopped ham-     garlic- and cook 1 more minute. (Do not burn Garlic)

Add liquid-bring to a boil-( if using ham-hocks cover and simmer 30 minutes) place collards on top of liquid-(Much of it will be over the top of the pot-which is fine-as the steam will wilt the greens into the pot)-carefully toss, and flip till all greens are saturated-turn stove top to medium low… cook covered for 30 minutes up to 2 hours-depending on desired tenderness. Sappier ( darker ) greens will take longer to cook than lighter colored greens.

And be sure to save the “Pot-Liquor” left-over broth in the pot after draining, or removing collards to use in other dishes at a later time. It’s great to pull from the freezer to use as a stock for soups, or other recipes. Not to mention that half of the nutrients from the greens are in the stock.

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You can start the grits at anytime after this, as they take less time to cook. But, the slower, and longer, they are simmered the better. I cook grits at different levels of thickness, or consistencies, depending on the dish, and these are smothered in a Mornay sauce, so they’ll need to be thicker than the norm. You will be adding Milk a little-at-a-time… as the thicker the better.

Here again-personal taste is the deciding factor in choosing the liquid to cook grits in. I begin with water only, and slowly add milk as I go along. Some cooks, especially when preparing grits to use in “dinner” dishes, prefer to use chicken broth. Some concoct 1-part-half and half, to 1-part-heavy cream mixtures. If you prefer using heavy cream, I recommend adding only a little toward the end of the finished product cooking time for smoothness and taste, as heavy cream has less liquid for the grits to absorb. Liquid absorption improves starch extraction, and therefore increases flavor melding.

There again, as with all dishes, ones personal taste is what is important. If one likes a meal enough to cook it more than once—and I’m certain this is one of those— you will experiment, and develop your personal taste, and recipe over time.

The type of grits one chooses can make a lot of difference also. There are yellow grits, white grits, corn grits, and hominy grits.

Not to worry though, as most grocery stores only carry a few brands, and types. Quaker brand, white hominy grits are a good choice-although, if you have access to local grist-mills, or specialty shops that sell fresh ground grits, they are —delectable — even though they take longer to cook. I used Quaker white hominy grits for this recipe as follows:

2 -1/2 cups water-

1- cup milk

1-1/4 cup Quick Grits/Not Instant

1/2- teaspoon salt

1/4 -cup butter

1/4- teaspoon cracked black pepper

Salt water in a small pot, and bring to a boil-

Slowly whisk in grits-and bring to another boil-

Turn burner down, while constantly stirring, or

whisking. ( Whisking is always better with grits)

Cover and let cook 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally

start adding milk a little at a time, while whisking  5 more

minutes-Stir in butter, and or, heavy cream if desired.

As earlier stated, we are topping these particular

grits with a Mornay sauce… so, we want them thick.

If they turn out a little runny, just cook uncovered

a while longer.

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Now it’s time for the real star of the show… the Mornay sauce.

To compliment the “Maize” or, hominy flavor of the grits, I add a small amount of corn to the Mornay in this recipe.

Classic Mornay

3-Tablespoons butter

3- Tablespoons APF

2-cups warm milk

1/4-teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon white pepper-or, black pepper

1-pinch nutmeg-(optional)

2-ounces white cheese of choice, or-

1- ounce Gruyere-

1-ounce Parmesan-

One ear fresh cooked corn cut from the cob -or, 1- half of a  6 ounce can of green giant nibblets.

First we make a blonde roux, which is simply equal parts all purpose flour, and oil/fat—I used butter for the fat here and sautéd in the corn  —whisked together over medium heat until it is pale yellowish, or blond-ish in color.  – (About a minute-Do not brown!)

Slowly add milk, while whisking till sauce thickens, and comes to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer for 2 minutes while stirring in nutmeg, salt, and pepper-    ( This is now a  “Bechamel” one of the French classic mother sauces.)

Stir in cheese-and Voilà — Mornay-Sauce

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Plate dish by putting a serving of grits into a medium Remington, or a small plate—

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Now ladle a small amount of Mornay – or, a sonsothunder size serving over grits—

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Next place greens on top… and serve with candied yams, and corn bread- or,  just have at it…

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Collard- Plant -Image by TylaMac visit her work on photobucket here:

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sweetest Sour I Know

I remember my granny getting all giddy one day some twenty years before she rose to that great bread basket in the sky. In retrospect, I’m pretty sure that sourdough was not a new concept to her culinary forte, but to a lady who had never driven a car, or even traveled more than 100 miles from the back-wood coastal plain Carolina farm she grew up on,  it was more likely something she’d only heard of and hopelessly dreamed of one day kneading together into a ball of love, and spreading throughout the countryside to everyone she knew or may just happen to meet.

Few things in this world having to do with growing, cooking, canning, or sharing for friends and family ever escaped my grandmothers hard earned cognizance. From sunup until sundown she never sat down. Unless it was to shell peas or shuck corn she’d grown or clean fish she’d caught on the end of a hook. Those along with attending church on Sunday were the few occasions she allowed herself away from the garden or cookstove.

Once in a while, we could get her to join us at the bountiful blessing she’d labored to bestow before us on what seemed to the boy I was then, a table that had no end, nor any space on it to place another dish of culinary gold.

Most of the time, however, she would just drift along from person to person filling their tall floral designed glass with sweet iced tea.

I still remember her picking up a bowl of butter beans, or fried okra that had already made its way to the other end of the table from you in response to a ” please pass the biscuits” ritual, and bringing it back offering you more of something already filling a sizable spot on your plate she herself had filled on her last trip by.

They just don’t seem to make them like her anymore. Oh, how wonderful it would be if like the sourdough starter that she was so elated to have finally come to possess — Grandmothers could go on living with us forever.

Still, nothing takes me back to almost being there, though there are many aromatic triggers and residual fruit jar reminiscents. Like the sweet mental rendering smell of  love and sourdough bread that my granny cultivated, nurtured, and shared, twenty years ago.

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Though sourdough dates back to ancient Egypt, circa 1500 B.C. a date that parenthetically fits the mold and time of the Israelite Exodus according to many historians, many bread lovers of today think of San Fransisco, California, when this sweet manna comes to mind.

There is, in fact, an abundant resource of gold remaining still today in the hills of San Francisco.

It isn’t the same gold that many young men sought and fought for in wild west Victorian America upon hearing the faithful words; “Go West Young Man,” however, but, is in fact, the same surrogate Mother that nourished many of those who lived and sought for gold in 1849.

The Boudin Bakery, founded by Isidore Boudin, a Burgundy, France Master Baker’s immigrates son, bakes some of the finest sourdough bread known to the world still today. And all the while boasting that each one of the golden bulging babies that pop hot from their ovens originated from the same yeast starter that the first loaf baked in 1849 came from.. the “Mother Dough”

I don’t claim to be an expert on chemistry, or bacterial things, whether good or bad by any means. But if there is one thing I love more than eating wonderfully, sweet tasting,  fresh-baked sourdough bread — it’s baking it.

Yes, that for me is the sweetest hour. Or the sweetest sour, as it were. Nonetheless, for one to be able to do just that, they must first have a good starter. And since I was too busy eating granny’s lovely finished product to ever think of inquiring of how I might one day give birth to my own, like Isidore Boudin, I set out on a quest in search of my “Mother Dough”.

I thought I would break bread and share what I found for those of you who may also like to pick a slice from the “Mother Loaf.”

And here it is — “The Popping Fresh, Unadulterated, Unleavened Staff and Start of the Sourdough Yeast Starters Life”

You don’t have to buy the store brands though they are convenient and usable.

Experts say the best culture to start bread with comes from the indigenous area of the finished product. Though the microorganisms needed to start your own yeast starter can come from the air in your back yard, bad organisms can infiltrate your starter if not harvested correctly.

The way to assure a great original tasting bread starter exclusive to your area is to start your own starters starter — from an indigenous fruit, such as grapes.

Fruits attract local cultures from the air so you can use locally grown organic grapes or those bought at the supermarket to grow your starter as follows.

Begin with two cups of washed, slightly crushed Grapes, in a large bowl.

Then add two cups of bread flour, and two cups of warm water. Stir till mushy and smooth. Cover the bowl and sit somewhere warm for a few days—Sit the bowl I mean not yourself—unless, of course, you are tired.

— Once the starter has begun to ferment or bubble —

(May take up to 5 days depending on the environment ) — strain the grapes out and don’t forget to feed the starter. Now you are ready to bake bread.

Just google how to bake sourdough, as I’m not sure if you will be using a bread machine or a traditional oven.

Once you are ready to bake be sure to pour some starter food back into the bowl, or jar you plan to store it in the refrigerator in.  Cover Top Loosely With Saran Wrap or a Cloth, NEVER TIGHTLY SEAL IT WITH A LID.

You can experiment with different sweeteners to use as food for the starter now and then, and also change the type of flour to make different types of bread, like Rye, or Pizza Dough even. It doesn’t matter what flour you feed the starter to keep it alive either, just be sure and feed it with a little flour and water every other day or so.

Some recipes telling how much starter to use.

After use, be sure to feed the amount back to the starter bowl. Equal parts water to flour, and even a little sugar now and then if you like… never forget that your yeast starter is a living, food producing friend. You may even want to call it by its first name — I call mine “Bubbly Child”        Bon Appetite !!!