Thursday, April 28, 2011

Deviled Eggs

I honestly remember the first time I made deviled eggs.  It was with my grandmother after a dear friend of ours had lost her husband.  As is customary in the South, food was immediately prepared for the loved ones left behind, which usually consisted of either something that can feed an army or can be frozen and pulled out at a later date.  In this case Gramma said we were making deviled eggs which seemed an odd choice but she explained to me that they were Becky's favorites and in times of grief, comfort food is an absolute essential.

We began the process and I watched in silence as I realized that it isn't always the food that makes the difference, but the love that was put into its preparation that comforts those in sorrow.  My grandmother has taught me so many incredible lessons in life, but none more prevalent or sustaining than the true power of honest, unconditional love.

The Allen Family's Deviled Eggs
1 dozen eggs
1 tablespoon mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
2 -3 tablespoons Hellman's mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste

One trick I have learned over the years is that if you add a little vinegar to the boiling water before adding in the eggs it will make peeling the hard boiled eggs so much easier!!!

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  
Add a few tablespoons of vinegar to the boiling water along with a pinch of salt.  
Add the eggs gently to the boiling water.  Boil for 20 minutes. Once the eggs are finished cooking and have cooled off, peel each eggs and dry off with a paper towel.
Cut each egg in half then remove the yolk from each egg.
Combine the egg yolks with the mayo, mustard, relish, sugar, salt and pepper and mix well.
I have found the best way to get the yolk mixture into the egg whites is to put the yolk mixture in a large plastic ziplock bag and clip the bottom corner of the bag, then squeeze the yolk mixture into each egg white.
Sprinkle with paprika or garnish with parsley and serve.  
They can be refrigerated for a few hours, but no more than 24 hours.
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Breakfast Casserole

Sometimes there is just nothing better than breakfast food!  My aunt, Marguerite, made this a few years ago and it was one of the first dishes that I learned to cook.  It is simple, easy and delicious!  One thing you MUST remember is that it is critical and non-negotiable to refrigerate it overnight....don't even try to tell me that three hours in the fridge is ample amount of will turn out runny and, to use a technical term, yukky!

Marguerite’s Breakfast Casserole

2 pounds hot Jimmy Dean Sausage
4 slices white bread, diced
2 cups extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 dozen eggs, beaten
3-5 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons dry mustard
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
4 drops Tabasco
Minced green onions for garnish

Brown and drain the sausage. Slice the bread.  Beat eggs with the milk, salt, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco.  In a large Pyrex dish layer the sausage, then the bread, then the cheese, then pour the egg mixture over top everything!   Refrigerate overnight.   
Remove from refrigerator one hour before cooking.  Preheat the oven to 350°.  Bake uncovered for 50 to 60 minutes or until set.  Sprinkle the onions on top before serving.  
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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Tomato Grits

This is officially my new favorite dish!!!  My aunt Jean sent me this recipe and I knew immediately it was going to quickly become a new family favorite.  I decided to try it for Easter brunch and it was a HIT!!!  I would serve this with any breakfast, lunch or was truly that good!

Tomato Grits

2 cups milk
1 ¼ cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup quick cooking grits
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup chopped green onions
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1 (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chiles (Ro-Tel)
Grated cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a saucepan, bring the milk and water to a boil.  
Add the salt and slowly add the grits and return to a boil, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Add the green onions.  Reduce the heat, cover, and cook for 3 minutes.  While stirring the grits add the butter and stir until it is melted.  Cover and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the grits are thick and creamy.  Remove from heat.  Add the cheese and stir until it is melted.  
Add the tomatoes and mix well.
Pour the grits in a greased  8x11x2 inch casserole and bake for 30 minutes.  
Sprinkle with cheddar cheese the last 5 minutes of cooking.Jean Patterson
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Marinated Jalapeno Shrimp Appetizer

A friend of mine at work, Lisa Harrison, made this for our holiday lunch and I absolutely loved it!!!  It is a great twist on a seafood dish and a wonderful change of pace for an appetizer. 

Marinated Jalapeno Shrimp Appetizer

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds uncooked, shelled shrimp (20-25 per pound)
½ cup cilantro, chopped
1 large onion, sliced
3 tablespoons jar jalapenos, cut in strips
Juice of one lime

Mix together all ingredients except lime.  Bake in 9 x 13 casserole dish at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.  Squeeze fresh lime juice over.  Serve warm with tortilla chips. 

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Surf and Turf

After much debate about what we would have for Sunday Dinner, Dad and I finally decided we would have a little bit of everything!  I have been wanting to try this blackened salmon dish that my Aunt Jean made the last time I went out to visit her and suggested we add a small steak to the meal and have a nice surf and that is what we did!

Jean Allen Patterson's Blackened Salmon
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 (4-oz) salmon steaks
1 ½ teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon brown sugar
½ teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon salt
Coat grill rack with nonstick cooking spray. Preheat grill to
medium heat. Drizzle oil over salmon. 

Stir together chili powder,
brown sugar, cumin, and salt: rub into salmon.
Place fish on grill rack; grill 7 to 10 minutes on each side or
until fish flakes with a fork.

NOTE: Since I do not grill, I prepare this in oven at 400 for about
12-15 minutes. I do not turn it, but put on a grill pan.

For the steaks, we decided to grill them and Mom was going to make a red wine reduction mushroom sauce. 

Once the steaks were ready it was time to start working on the sauce...There really is no recipe here but here is the play-by-play...
Make sure to wipe off the mushrooms with a damp paper towel instead of putting them under running water.  Mushrooms are basically sponges that will absorb all of that extra moisture only to make your sauce too thin in the end.
Chop the mushrooms into slices or quarters, whichever you prefer.
Melt a couple tablespoons of butter in a skillet.
Add diced onions and garlic and cook until the onions are transparent.
To our sauce, Mom added
 Cavender's Greek Seasoning, oregano, Lea & Perrins, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper.

Once all of the spices have been added and well combined with the butter/onion mixture, it is time to add the mushrooms.  Stir the mushrooms enough to coat them.

Once they are coated add the wine, between 1/2 and 1 cup of wine depending on how many mushrooms you are cooking.

Let this mixture reduce for about 15 minutes, stirring regularly.  If you want the sauce to be a little thicker so that it will stay on the steaks, simply combine a teaspoon of cornstarch with warm water, mixing well and stir into the mushrooms sauce.  Make sure to let it cook for several minutes before adding any more cornstarch as it takes just a minute to thicken.

With our surf and turf Dad had made a wedge salad with his homemade Gorgonzola dressing and Mom made Gramma's scalloped potatoes.  It was across the board a fantastic Sunday Dinner success!

On top of all of that we got to celebrate with Mom as she was named the Executive Director and CEO of CABLE!!!  Emory was so proud of his Granmama as we all are!!  Love you Mom!

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Steamed Clams

A few years ago, Anne Clayton came to St. Simon's Island with my family for vacation.  It was this trip that I literally spent watching Anne in the kitchen.  I was so enamored with her graceful and carefree style of cooking that I would  follow her from the grocery store to the kitchen, trying to absorb every bit of her endless culinary knowledge that I possibly could.  She has an innate ability to see what is fresh at the store and turn it into a truly gourmet meal at home.  One afternoon, while we shopped at the local seafood market, she noticed that they had a fresh batch of clams.  Without even a thought as to what else she would need, the clams were purchased and her culinary wheels began turning.  That night she introduced me to steamed clams and they have forever since been my all time favorite seafood treat!  

Steamed Clams
1 bag fresh clams
1 bunch fresh parsley
1 bottle clam juice
1/2 bottle white wine
1 stick butter
1 onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped

Rinse clams off in cold water to remove any sandy or dirty particles attached to the shells.  Throw away any clams that are already open.  Melt butter in large, heavy bottom pot.  Add onions and garlic and cook for about a minute.  Add clam juice, wine and parsley.  Bring to a boil then add the clams.  Cover the pot and cook until the clams have opened (this usually takes 5 to 7 minutes on a rolling boil).  Pour broth and clams into a large bowl removing any clams that did not open.  Serve with French bread for dipping!  
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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Seabass with Olive Tapenade

Nicoll introduced me to this recipe several years ago and it remains my favorite way to cook fish on the grill, though I have made a few changes to the ingredients based on my personal preferences (as you may do as well).  This is mainly because I am terribly intimidated to grill fish any other way!  I am one of those people who loves fish, but has never really known the best way to cook it to bring out the best flavors.  This is a great way to get your feet wet when it comes to cooking pun intended!  The original recipe calls for sliced black olives, garlic, capers, parsley, and garlic powder, but since I had so much of the olive tapenade left over from Sunday night, I decided to use that instead as most of the flavors were already there!

Grilled Seabass with Olive Tapenade

1 (6-8 oz.) filet of seabass
olive tapenade
grape tomatoes, sliced in half
green onions
olive oil
salt and pepper

Take a piece of aluminum foil large enough to roll into a packet and place on the counter.  Fold up each side so there there are four walls that will catch anything trying to escape!  Drizzle the foil with about a tablespoon of olive oil.  Place three slices of the lemon on the foil topped with the green onions creating a bed for the fish.   Place the seabass on top of the lemons and onions.  Drizzle the fish with olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.  Spoon the olive tapenade on to the fish.  Tighten up the walls of your foil packet.  Slice the tomatoes in half and chop the remaining green onions.  Put the tomatoes and the onions on top of the tapenade.  Squeeze the remaining lemon on top of everything.  Salt and pepper to taste.  
Wrap the packet up tight (sometimes I even wrap another piece of foil around that just so none of the juices get out.  Turn the grill on high and let it preheat for about 20 minutes.  
When you are ready to put  the fish on the grill turn the heat down to medium, place the fish in the middle of the grill, close the grill cover and let grill for 17 minutes.  Remove from the grill and test the fish with a fork to make sure it is done.  
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Monday, April 11, 2011


This will come as no shock to those who know me, but getting me outside of my "bubble" can be a daunting task.  It isn't that I don't want to try new restaurants, I actually thoroughly enjoy trying new places, it is just the whole process of finding my way through the new neighborhoods such as the Gulch and East Nashville, that I don't frequent, figuring out where to park and letting myself relax enough to enjoy my meal...all of which I constantly use as my excuses for staying inside the -05 and -15 zip codes.  

In all honesty it doesn't take much to talk me into leaving my comfort zone as long as three key factors exist...good company, an enticing menu and, of course, a fully-functioning bar!  On Friday night I was enticed by all three when Allen, Maggie and I went to Virago in the Gulch for dinner.  We started out with drinks upstairs on the balcony with drinks of all kinds ranging from whiskey to champagne to a Bellini.  

This picture is a little blurry as I am still trying to figure out how to take night pictures and still get the amazing view, but you get the point....the view of Union Station is spectacular!

Then it was on to dinner!  Allen and Maggie opted for some sushi which was fresh and delicious while I decided to once again try the dish which includes several of the chefs picks.  All were amazing!

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Smoke Salmon Dip

For the longest time I thought that I wasn't a fan of smoked salmon...too fishy, too raw tasting, too smoky.  I quickly changed my tune the first time Dad made his smoked salmon dip.  I now find myself craving this and making it often as a snack to keep in the refrigerator.  

Dad's Smoked Salmon Dip
1 package smoked salmon
1/4 cup diced red onion
1 heaping tablespoon sour cream
1 tablespoon capers, drained
Shred the salmon with forks then add the sour cream, capers and onions.   
Let stand in the refrigerator for several hours before serving.  
I like them served best with pita chips, but any type of cracker will do!  Enjoy this wonderful blend of salty and tart flavors that are a great appetizer to any meal!
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Squash Casserole

As summer is quickly approaching, it was time to start finding ways to use the copious amounts of squash that will soon be coming from the gardens!  For Sunday Dinner, Maggie thought it would be fun to try the beer-butt chicken again, but do it on the grill as the weather did not permit that the last time we tried.  Alas, there was no gas in the propane tank so the chickens went back in the oven.  What we soon realized was that her idea of grilling the squash and zucchini to see if that would be another good way to consume all of our home grown vegetables would also not be possible.  As she so gracefully does, Maggie adjusted and decided we would try her mother's squash casserole.  I am sure that the grilled squash would have also been wonderful, I am thrilled to have another recipe for squash that comes from the oven!!

Julie's Squash Casserole

3 cups cooked squash, drained and mashed
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup chopped onion
3/4 stick butter, melted
2 eggs slightly beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk, whole or evaporated
1 cup grated cheese
1 to 1 1/2 cups herb stuffing

Cook the squash and grate the cheese.  

Mix all ingredients.  


Pour into a greased baking dish.  
Sprinkle top with additional 1/2 cups herb stuffing.  Bake for 40 minutes at 375 degrees.  Serves 10.
Clearly my hands were full holding the sleeping baby so I simply watched as Maggie put dinner together!

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