Escape to the Big City: 36 hours in Asheville

Escape to the Big City: 36 hours in Asheville

I should escape to Asheville more often.  It is about 5 times as large (population of around 87,000 compared to 18,000) and feels like a big city compared to Boone. But mostly it feels bigger to me because it has lots more great restaurants!  While there are a handful of restaurants in this area that consistently make good on the promise of wonderful food, there were as many within walking distance of my hotel in Asheville.

As the conference at which I was presenting a paper was at the Renaissance Asheville, I stayed there and was very pleased with the location.  I hadn’t had time for the kind of dining research I enjoy doing before traveling so I did a quick Yelp search on the first evening to see what might be within easy walking distance.  To my delight, I discovered that Cúrate, a tapas bar at which I’d shared several good meals, was only a few blocks away so I strolled on over.  At 7ish on a Thursday evening, a couple would likely need a reservation but my hope that a lone diner could find a seat at the bar without a wait was realized.  In the past, I’d dined at a table and ordered Sangria or a beer.  Sitting at the bar though, it was clear that a cocktail was the way to go.  I’m crushing on bourbon drinks these days — Cúrate’s Old Fashioned did not disappoint.  I befriended the traveling salesman sitting next to me, a self-proclaimed foodie who, it turned out, had grown up in Biloxi, the next town over from my hometown Pascagoula on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  His father had run Austin’s Style Center in Pascagoula in the seventies.  I think my mom’s purple hot pants suit came from there.  We’d each eaten a Cúrate a few times so shared our thoughts on what we’d enjoyed in the past and picked out some new items on the menu.  My ongoing obsession with charcuterie meant that I had no choice but to start with the tabla de jamón, a lovely selection of Spanish cured meats including jamón serrano fermín, jamón ibérico fermín and jamón ibérico de bellota. Delicioso. My dining companion then convinced me to try the pulpo a la gallega, a warm octopus dish served with yukon gold potato purée.  I finished with an old favorite, berenjenas la taberna —  wild mountain honey drizzled fried eggplant.  Better than dessert.  Great meal, fine company, with a lovely glass or two Prino Finca  Villacreces — what more could a solo diner want?

French Broad Chocolate

French Broad Chocolates

On Friday, I had plans to go with my lovely friend Brenda to hear some music at the Altamont later in the evening. With time to kill after the conference and despite the storm clouds brewing overhead, I went wandering around the area, making stops at French Broad Chocolates and the Asheville Wine Market.  Boone and Blowing Rock both have nice little wine stores, but nothing with the selection, including some great deals, of this place. Then the bottom fell out of those storm clouds. I slogged through the rain with my bags of wine and chocolates, ducking into every available doorway, and made my way back down the street to Rhubarb.  My friend Elizabeth at my1stwordwaschocolate had recommended Rhubarb and Yelp concurred.  Again, a reservation would likely be need for a party of two or more but the Chef’s bar was an excellent option for an early dinner for one.

Enjoying an Old Fashioned at Rhubarb's Chef's Bar

Enjoying an Old Fashioned at Rhubarb’s Chef’s Bar

Indulging my two preoccupations, I immediately ordered an Old Fashioned and Rhubarb’s chacuterie plate, the House Cure, along with their Preserved Plate of pickled vegetables.  Pickles, pig and whiskey — a divine combination.

Charcuterie at Rhubarb

Charcuterie at Rhubarb

The bar was quiet so I entertained myself idly chatting up the kitchen staff and watching them prep for the dinner rush while I dried out from the drenching.

I was intrigued by the name of this dish — LG Pack Square Cheese — so had to order it. It turns out that LG is  short for Looking Glass Creamery and Pack Square is their creamy brie style cheese.  I thought that it would somehow resemble a fancy grilled cheese sandwich.

LG Pack Square Cheese

LG Pack Square Cheese

The warm cheese, served with apples, pickled kumquats and a sweet vinaigrette, was a dainty little treat which in no way resembled a grilled cheese.  I finished my glass of wine — a Monticello Vineyards Cab — and savored a small piece from my chocolate stash.  It was a pretty close to perfect rainy Spring evening.

My final meal of the trip was Saturday morning brunch at Limones, a low-key restaurant with jazzed up traditional Mexican food, recommended by my friend Rebecca. Everyone else in the restaurant was enjoying a cocktail so I ordered up a Blood Orange Margarita made with Herradura Silver Tequila and Grand Marnier.  It was, ummm, very refreshing. Limones Huevos Rancheros April 2015

After my series of small plates over the last couple of days, I decided to dive in and order a big plate of Huevos Rancheros. I loved that my perfectly fried sunny side up eggs were served with all kinds of goodies on the side — guacamole and sour cream, salsa, a little slaw, some black beans, and fried potatoes.  I did not have a hangover, but if I had, this would have been the cure.

I’m up for another trip sometime soon.

Lunch at Phoenicia Gourmet

A couple of weeks ago while on the Gulf coast, I had a lovely lunch with a friend at  Phoenicia Gourmet, a Mediterranean restaurant in downtown Ocean Springs, Mississippi which my sister had suggested.  Had I known how good it was going to be I would have taken pictures, made note of our charming waiter’s name, and brought along a bottle of wine to share as the restaurant does not serve alcohol.

Ours was a late lunch and the restaurant was empty save for a few lingering diners. The dining room was sunny and bright with a classic look –white table cloths, mirrors, a black and white tile floor and cobalt blue accents.  My friend Jan and I both ordered salads — Greek for her and fattouch for me.   I also ordered the falafel — a wise decision.  It was some of the best falafel I’ve ever eaten!  Nicely seasoned and fried with a good crust, it was perfect with my salad.  The meal also included pita bread and baba ghanuj.  Sometimes ordering a salad for lunch can be a bit dispiriting to me. This was not one of those times.

I will absolutely go back.  The prices are reasonable.  The corkage fee is $5.  Go and enjoy!

See this review on Urbanspoon.

 
Phoenicia Gourmet Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Dinner

I could have written this post on Motherlode about family dinner.  I especially like this:

But still, there we will be, with children too small to yet hunt, forage and gather for themselves, perpetually wanting to eat, particularly around dinner time, day after day after day.

Although mine are not.

At first I could not remember what I cooked for dinner last week, except for a pot roast which reappeared in various forms.  Slowly it came back to me.  It was a very beefy week.  Sunday was the pot roast with potatoes, onions, carrots and butternut squash.  Monday was avgolemono soup with pita bread.  There was supposed to have been a Greek salad that didn’t happen.  Tuesday was a last minute switch to blueberry pancakes, bacon and bananas after I waited too late to get started.  Wednesday was smothered cube steak with mushrooms, mashed potatoes and roasted broccoli.  Thursday was roast beef po’boys with an avocado salad.  Friday was leftovers.  Not too shabby, especially considering that I have a ton of freelance work, a paper almost ready to submit, and managed to exercise five out of those six days.

This week we should eat less beef, but I making a big pot of chili today (the first of the season!) and planning to serve it over cheese enchiladas later in the week.  I haven’t tried any new recipes in a while —  this Thai Butternut Squash Soup sounds really good.  I’ll likely  pick up some chicken sate from the Thai restaurant by my office to go with it.  I’ve been craving Indian food and we could use some fish in our diet.  I just order a pricey bottle of Bengali Five Spice (times like this I love Amazon Prime) which should arrive on Wednesday so I can make this Bengali-style Fish Stew.  I would dearly love to know how to pronounce its real name —  Maacher Jhol.  I am guessing that at some point in the week, there will be a clamor for “American food” and I’ll be feeling lazy so we can have sliders, beans and slaw (so much for eating less beef).  The child who complains most loudly gets to cook this one.

What are you feeding your kids this week?

Zucchini Squash Fritters

zucchini sqaush fritters 1

Zucchini Squash Fritters

Its transition time at Farmer’s Market and roadside stands.  Mine still has an abundance of beautiful heirloom tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini and a colorful variety of peppers.  But the apples, sweet potatoes, pumpkins and butternut squash are quickly muscling them out of the way.  I’ve been wanting to make these savory zucchini fritters all summer long — it’s time to do it before the only zuch I can find is the rubbery supermarket variety!

Zucchini Squash Fritters

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds zucchini squash
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/3 cup minced shallot
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoon minced fresh herbs (parsley, thyme, chives)
  • 3/4 cups Panko
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil for frying

Directions:

  1. Preheat an oven to 200 degrees.
  2. Coarsely grate the zucchini. You should have about 4 cups.
  3. Toss the zucchini with 1/4 teaspoon salt in a colander and let drain for 20-30 minutes. Then, use a clean kitchen towel to squeeze out all the excess moisture
  4. Dump the zucchini into a large bowl, then add the eggs, shallot, garlic, herbs, parmesan cheese, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and the pepper. Mix well.
  5. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat and swirl in about 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil.
  6. Cook the fritters in batches. Take small handfuls of the zucchini mixture and form them into patties about 2 inches in diameter. Drop them gently into the oil. Cook for 4-5 minutes per side, turning once, until golden brown.
  7. Remove to an oven-proof plate and place in the oven to keep warm while the other batches cook.
  8. Add more oil to the pan and wait for it to heat before adding the next batch to the pan.
  9. Repeat steps 7 and 8 until all the squash patties are cooked.
squash

Me with enormous butternut squash, captured taking over my favorite roadside stand

Yield: 6-8 side servings

Prep time: 40 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

I served this as a side dish with pork chops, black-eyed peas, and sliced tomatoes.  It was a perfect end of season dinner.   The fritters would make a lovely first course as well.  I know I’d be happy just eating a pile of these and skipping dinner!

Back to school and meal planning

The kids and I have been back to school for about a week now.  I had this vision that all in life would immediately settle into a new routine as the over-business of my summer magically turned to mist and evaporated.  Sadly, that is not how it is going.  Take Two.

I made a meal plan last week and shopped without considering our schedule — XC practice every night with one weeknight night meet and an overnight on the weekend, a late afternoon department meeting, and plans to check out the new brewpub with a friend midweek.  Both kids had heavy first week homework loads to boot.  Much pizza and subs were consumed while my beautiful end of summer produce rotted in the fridge.

This week looks just as full — more XC practice for Travis, Jack in driver’s training until 7:30 tonight and tomorrow night, Open House at the high school as well as a work commitment tomorrow night as well.  My goal is simple meals (for me anyway) with an abundance of late summer fruits and vegetables to make up last week’s lack.

Monday – mojo grilled chicken wraps with avocado/ lettuce/ tomato, black beans

Tuesday – french dip roast beef sandwiches, tomato salad

Wednesday – salmon with roasted cherry tomatoes, couscous, zuchinni gratin

Thursday – chicken souvlaki with zucchini, tzaziki, pita, greek salad

Friday –  burgers with avocado/ lettuce/ tomato, corn on the cob, baked beans

Here’s to a great week of healthier meals!

Lynn

Pan-grilled Salmon with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Parmesan Grits

grilled salmon with roasted cherry tomatoes and parmesan grits

This time of the year, I make a lot of what I call “One-Pot Wonders”.  This is not one of those recipes.  My recipe for Pan-grilled Salmon with Roasted Chery Tomatoes and Parmesan Grits messes up some pans, but comes together pretty easily with a company-worthy presentation.  It is a lovely meal to serve when Spring is still a longs ways off, but you want to pretend.  It is also a lovely meal when Spring actually arrives and it is warm enough to grill outside.

Grilled Salmon with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Parmesan Grits

Ingredients:

For the Parmesan Grits:

  • 2 cups chicken broth (see note in directions about grits to liquid ratio)
  • 2 cups milk (I use 2%)
  • 1 cup  white stone ground grits
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon Cholula hot sauce
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

For the Roasted Cherry Tomatoes:

  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

For the Pan-grilled Salmon:

  • 4 6-ounce salmon filets, preferably with skin on
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 8 small sprig of fresh thyme

Directions:

For the Parmesan Grits:

  1. Bring the chicken broth and milk to a boil. Note: follow the grits to liquids ratio on your brand and use half milk and half chicken broth.
  2. Whisk in the grits, turn down the heat and cook the grits for the time indicated on your brand’s packaging, stirring occasionally. Cooking times can vary between 5 for quick grits and 45 minutes for stone ground grits.
  3. Stir in the butter, Parmesan cheese, Cholula, salt and pepper. Keep the grits on low heat, stirring occasionally, until you are ready to serve. Add a little chicken broth to the grits if they become to thick.
  4. Taste the grits and add salt and pepper if needed.

For the Roasted Cherry Tomatoes:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Toss the cherry tomatoes with the olive oil, thyme, garlic salt and pepper.
  3. Spread the tomatoes in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet.
  4. Roast the tomatoes for 15-20 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally. The tomatoes should be soft and beginning to caramelize.
  5. Turn the heat down to 200 degrees to keep the tomatoes warm until you are ready to serve.

For the Pan-grilled Salmon:

  1. Rub both sides of the salmon filets with the olive oil. Sprinkle the side without skin with the salt, pepper, and thyme.
  2. Heat a heavy, preferably cast-iron grill pan over medium-high heat.  Spray with olive oil cooking spray.
  3. Place the salmon, skin side down, on the grate.
  4. Cook the salmon for 5 to 7 minutes. As the salmon cooks it will turn from opaque pink.
  5. Turn the salmon over and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.  Do not overcook!

To plate:

  1. Spoon about 2/3s cup of grits into the center of each plate.
  2. Top each with a salmon filet and 1/4 of the tomatoes. Garnish each plate with two small thyme sprigs and serve.

Yield: 4 servings                                               Total time: 60 minutes

A word about the grits — if you can find stone ground grits, by all means use them.  If not, quick grits are an acceptable substitute.  Instant grits are not!  I usually use Charleston’s Favorite White Stone Ground Grits which are available online at various sites at outrageously inflated prices.

Bon Appétit!  Lynn

Kick-Booty Pork Chili

KICK-BOOTY PORK CHILI

The Super Bowl is tomorrow and lots of my friends are getting all geared and up and cooking up a storm.  We’re not much into football around here so if we venture out to a party it will only be for the food.  I mentioned to a friend at my Celebration of Chinese New Year Dim Sum Brunch today that I had a kick-butt chili recipe.  This is for you Adam.

I make a lot of different kinds of chili in the winter, but this pork chili will always be my favorite.  My recipe evolved from one I found in Bon Appetit magazine many years ago — it now  bears little resemblance to the original.  The pork cooks to tender perfection, the gravy is just the right consistency, and the  toppings of cheese, red onion, cilantro and avocado add textural contrast that is divine.

Kick Booty Pork Chili

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large onions, 1/4 inch dice
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 pounds boneless country-style spareribs, cut into 1-inch cubes and excess fat discarded
  • 1/3 cup masa harina
  • 1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, chopped, liquid reserved
  • 1/4 cup good quality chili powder
  • 2 large jalapeño chilies, minced
  • 3 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
  • 1 tablespoon Cholula hot sauce
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 2 16-ounce cans chili beans with sauce
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine

Accompaniments:

  • Grated Colby-jack cheese
  • Chopped fresh cilantro
  • Chopped red onions
  • Sliced avocado

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the onions and garlic, and sauté until tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, using a slotted spoon.
  3. Add the pork to the Dutch oven in batches, being careful not to overcrowd. Cook over medium-high heat until no longer pink, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes per batch.
  4. Add all the pork and accumulated juices back to the pot.  Sprinkle with the masa harina, stir to combine and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Return the onion mixture to the Dutch oven. Add the tomatoes with liquid, chili powder, jalapeños, cumin, coriander, oregano, Cholula and beef broth. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Cover Dutch oven and simmer until pork is almost tender, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour.
  7. Add the chili beans with sauce and red wine to the chili.
  8. Simmer uncovered until the pork is tender and the chili thickens, about 45 minutes.
  9. Adjust seasoning. Ladle into bowls and top with cheese, cilantro, red onions and avocado.

Prep time:  30 minutes
Cook time: 2 1/2 – 3 hours

The spiciness of the chili depends on the heat in your chili powder and jalapeños. The Cholula adds flavor without adding a lot of heat.Whatever kind of chili powder (and cumin) you use, make sure it is fresh. Good quality spices can make a huge difference in flavor but standard grocery store buys are fine as long as they’ve been recently opened.

Often the jalapeños I buy at the grocery during the winter are not very hot so I use the whole  jalapeño– seeds and all.  Other options for bumping up the heat a bit are adding a small amount of chipotle in adobo or chipotle chili powder. Not too much! I like my chili hot and spicy but chipotle is fiery stuff.  Add a little, taste, then add more if you still want more heat.

Bon Appétit!  Lynn

Beef, Root Vegatable & Barley Soup

beef root vegetable and barley soup

Rare snow has fallen in various places around the South today.  My Facebook feed has been full of pictures of empty grocery store shelves in Columbia, South Carolina, Rhonda Faye’s weather updates from Raceland, Louisiana, and stories of friends making the best of it by scraping together enough snow for a snowball fight and sliding dowcarraway's sandmann hills on plastic garbage can lids. A less fortunate one tells of sliding down icy stairs and losing his glasses.  Two of my favorite posts have been about “light sneaux” in south Louisiana and no snow in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina according to a friend who posted this adorable pic of his sandman. Mostly my friends are writing about being toasty and cozy at home with mugs of coffee and hot chocolate.  I hope they all embrace my snow day tradition of getting out the dutch oven and filling it with something warm, delicious and comforting.

This Beef, Root Vegetable & Barley Soup is perfect for cold winter nights. I made a big pot last week when my friend Jan drove down from Philly to visit for a few days. Given her penchant for beef pot pies, I knew she’d love it. The broth has an incredibly deep, soul-soothing flavor that will warm you up and fill you with contentment. Magic stuff!

Beef, Root Vegetable & Barley Soup

Ingredients:

  • 4 1/2 pounds beef stew meat
  • 8-10 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 8-10 cups beef stock
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled, halved and cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 3 medium parsnips, peeled, halved and cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 3 ribs celery, halved and cut into 1/4 slices
  • 2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
  • 8 ounces Crimini mushrooms, sliced into 1/3 inch slices
  • 1 large baking potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 3/4 cup pearl barley

Directions:

  1. Pat the meat dry with paper towels.
  2. Pour enough oil into a large heavy-bottom dutch oven to coat the bottom. Heat the oil until it is hot, but not smoking.
  3. Add a single layer of meat to the pot and brown over medium heat, turning often, for 4-5 minutes. Do not add too much meat at one time or it will stew rather than brown.
  4. Use a slotted spoon to remove the browned meat from the oil and transfer to paper towels to drain. Repeat until all the meat is browned.
  5. When the last batch is browned, add the meat back to the pot and stir in the garlic. Sauté for a few minutes until the garlic is golden.
  6. Add 8 cups of beef stock, Worcestershire, soy sauce, pepper and thyme sprigs. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, and then reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours.
  7. While the meat is cooking, heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the carrots, parsnips, celery and onion.  Sauté until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Remove from the skillet and set aside.
  8. Add another tablespoon of oil to the skillet, turn the heat up to high and add the mushrooms. Sauté the mushrooms 4-5 minutes until lightly browned. Set aside, separately from the other vegetables.
  9. After the meat has cooked for 1 1/2 hours, add the sautéed onion, carrot, parsnips and celery along with the potato and barley. Add more beef stock if needed.
  10. Bring to a simmer and cook until the barley and meat are tender, about 45-60 minutes. Add the sautéed mushrooms to the soup and simmer for about 5 minutes more.
  11. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Yield: 8-10 servings
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 3 hours

Fast and Easy Sausage Pinwheels

Fast and Easy Sausage Pinwheels

fast and easy sausage pinwheels 2As the holidays are coming to a close, I’m not looking forward to the early morning hassle of  getting my kids out of bed on chilly winter mornings and ready for school.   They are 15 and 17 now, but they might as well be 5 and 7 as far as our morning routine goes. We pray nightly for the 6 o’clock AM phone call announcing a 2-hour delay.

I’m not exactly a morning person and my kids seem to have inherited that gene.  It is painful for me to get up before seven (yes, I am really a wimp).  I have to remind myself that it only hurts for a minute. They do not buy this philosophy however and inevitably drag out putting their feet on the floor for a good five to twenty-five minutes.  Then they can’t find their clothes because are still on the bathroom floor, having failed to magically levitate down to the laundry and wash, dry and fold themselves.  Don’t get me started on the socks.

All of these shenanigans do not leave a lot of time for breakfast.  And yes, I know that they are making their problem my problem.  I generally have much better boundaries, but when it comes to a filling school morning breakfast with sufficient protein, I just can’t let it go.  I need something that needs little tending, is tempting hot or at room temp, and can be eaten in the car if needed.

I grew up eating these sausage pinwheels and still love them.  Fortunately, my boys do as well.   They are  super easy — make ahead, freeze and throw  in the oven to bake as needed.  Warren Buffet is now in charge of making them after repeatedly depleting the supply in our freezer.

Fast and Easy Sausage Pinwheels

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Dust a pastry or large cutting board with the flour.
  2. Unroll the Crescent sheet, gently give it a few turns of a rolling pin, then use your fingers to square it up.
  3. Break the raw sausage up and sprinkle it over the pastry sheet.
  4. Use your hands to press the sausage into a thin layer that almost completely covers the pastry sheet.  Leave only a half-inch on the edge closest to you uncovered.  The sausage should be spread all the way to the other three edges.
  5. Roll it up length-wise starting with the edge closest to you.  Roll it as tightly as possible so there will not be gaps between the sausage and dough.
  6. Put the log on a cookie sheet and freeze for approximately 30-45 minutes until it is hard enough to cut through without the log losing its shape. Check it at 30 minutes, then every 5-10 minutes. Do not freeze it solid or you will have to wait for it to thaw out a bit.
  7. Using a serrated knife, cut the log into 1/3 inch slices. One log should make about 35 slices.
  8. Place the slices back onto the cookie sheet and freeze solid.
  9. Store the frozen slices in a freezer bag until ready to serve.
  10. To serve, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Put the frozen slices on a lightly greased cookie sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes until the sausage is cooked and the pastry is golden brown.

Yield: Approximately 3 dozen
Prep time: 30 minutes + 30-45 minutes in the freezer
Cook time: 15-20 minutes

These tasty pastries also make a perfect knosh to go with your Bloody Marys at brunch or  a quick appetizer to serve with cocktails.  It is not too late to make a batch for New Year’s Day!

Sweet and Spicy Steen’s BBQ Sauce

New Orleans and the South Louisiana region are home to a number of “specialty items” that aren’t widely available so are on my at-least-semi-annual visits — Camellia red beans for red beans and rice, olive salad for muffalettas,  Savoie’s Roux in a jar for making gumbo in a hurry, Cafe Du Monde Beignet Mix for my children who insist there is only one beignet, various perishables  and one of my favorite”secret ingredients”, Steen’s Pure Cane Syrup.
The Steen Syrup Mill has been producing cane syrup in south Louisiana for over 100 years.   They harvest the ripe cane at its sweetest, grind it down to extract the juice, then cook it in open kettles until it is thick and dark.  In addition to sauces, I like to use it in cures and on pancakes.
Local food historian Poppy Tooker speaking a couple of years ago at the  International Food Blogger Conference in New Orleans on sustainability,  promoted the idea that the way to save the region’s “endangered local foods” like Steen’s cane syrup (as well as Creole cream cheese and rice calas) is “Eat it to Save it”.  This is my contribution.
Sweet and Spicy Steen’s Barbecue Sauce
Ingredients:
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
  • 5 cups roughly chopped red onion
  • 1/3 cup minced garlic
  • 5 cups ketchup
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup Steen’s syrup
  • 1/4 Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons liquid smoke
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Directions:
  1. Melt the butter in a dutch oven over medium heat.
  2. Add the onions to the dutch oven and saute for 10 minutes or until the onions wilt and begin to turn translucent. Add the garlic and continue to saute for about 5 minutes, until the excess liquid has cooked off.
  3. Stir in the ketchup, apple cider vinegar, Steen’s, Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke and red pepper flakes. Add the salt and pepper. Simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  4. Use an immersion blender to puree the sauce, or cool the sauce before transferring it in batches to a conventional blender. After pureeing, simmer the sauce for 3-5 minutes. Taste to correct seasonings and remove from the heat.
Yield: 6 cups
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
I made this batch of sauce to serve with pulled pork sandwiches topped with Creamy Cole Slaw (a serving will be about two tablespoons per sandwich).  Since I planned to store and serve the sauce in plastic squirt bottles, it needed to be completely pureed and very liquid.  The longer the sauce cooks, the thicker it becomes.  If needed, the sauce can be thinned with a combination of water or chicken broth and vinegar.  I also use a thinned down version of the sauce to baste ribs or chicken while barbecuing and a cooked down version to sauce the meats just before I take them off the grill.
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