Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Neillio's Mid-East Southern Corn Pudding!

Growing up in the south consists of certain culinary givens.  Homemade breads, potato salad, macaroni salad, chicken and dumplings, fried and baked chicken, country hams, to name a few.  Corn in any fashion is also a mainstay partly because of it's abundance and ability to take on so many forms.  Corn is prevalent in our culture and is one of the key reasons the early settlers didn't starve to death.  For that, we can thank the Native Americans, who introduced and taught our ancestors from Europe how to plant, grow and prepare corn in a myriad of ways to be consumed.  We can thank the Europeans for bringing us the milk, eggs, cream and leavening agents, which bring me to the recipe at hand. Corn pudding has always been a menu item in our family, especially around special meals and holiday times since I could remember.   For my family, corn pudding was an affordable dish that could be prepared and be considered a dessert item.  My mother would also prepare chocolate and vanilla rice puddings.  These items could be made with items on hand and still remain within the family's food budget, considering how many of us there were to feed. Corn pudding is prepared as a savory side in many regions including directly above, below and beside Virginia. Virginia is relatively where the "south" begins as compared to the upper states, but not so much that we have the same cultural foods fan fare!  Virginia has corn, peanuts and country ham as three  solid components and exports.  I like to call where we live "Middle Eastern Southern" because we share culinary interests and ingredients with both the north and south respectively.
 My sister Gayle recalls when she was a young girl, sitting vigilantly at the table whilst mom made corn pudding and the aromas of vanilla, cinnamon and comforting oven heat permeated the air and filled her mind and soul with those pleasant, loving yet nostalgic smells.  I have long since taken over the reigns as the sister that prepares the recipes that mom used to cook for our family.  She trusts my recipes and judgement, and enjoys being able to just sit back and still have things in a manner that's consistent with the way she herself would have done them.  I really enjoy preparing this recipe and my nephews especially love my corn pudding and they're in their early to mid twenties, so it can definitely be considered a recipe of interest for the masses, young and old.
Ole' Fashioned Corn Pudding 
6 c. whole kernel corn
4 c. creamed corn
1/4 c. flour
1/2 stick butter
1 can evaporated milk
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
fresh nutmeg
olive oil for drizzling
Preheat oven to 375*F
Melt butter in medium saucepot over mediun high heat,  cook flour for about minute.  Remove from heat.
Add milk, sugar and creamed corn, place back over heat, and stir until thickened, about 3 minutes.
Remove from heat and add whole corn, vanilla, and freshly grated nutmeg, about 1 tsp.
Temper in eggs.  SPST
Place in suitable sized baking dish greased with drizzled olive oil.  Cover tightly with foil and bake until set, about 45 minutes.  Remove foil and continue to bake until slightly golden, about 15 minutes.  Let rest slightly before serving.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Spicy Chicken Sausage Tart-lets w/ Quick Blueberry Compote

I took blueberries to the wild side yesterday, by combining them with non typical ingredients to create an extraordinary appetizer for entertaining.  I know you're probably thinking  "Blueberries and Chicken Sausage, Ewww!", but surprisingly enough, the ingredients complement each other's flavor profiles rather well.  The main ingredient is a gourmet and organic chicken sausage by Aidell's, that I happened across in the supermarket.  They were quite expensive at $6 for 12 oz., so I wanted to make the most of the protein, and prepare it in a manner which many can enjoy the small amount.  The sausage is flecked with mango, jalapeno and cilantro, so I wanted to match the sweet/spicy interior with a sauce or glaze-like element to bring out components without being sickly sweet to unappetizing.  Wild Blueberries are not really sweet Per Se, so I could manipulate them with a few ingredients to give them directional purpose, that is complementing the mango in the sausage and creating the idea of a blueberry filling that would be consistent with a savory tart, even though it would appear to be a sweet one. I actually added Agave nectar to impart a subtle sweetness and to offset the spicy aspect of the jalapeno, making it kid-friendly.  I received positive reviews even from my 4 year old, and the adults enjoyed the outcome a well.  This recipe was fun to prepare and is a great way to get the conversation going at your next get together!
1 roll out pie crust
9 oz. Aidell's organic chicken sausage w/mango, jalapeno and cilantro, cut into 24 pieces
1/3 c. wild blueberries, if frozen, thawed
2 tsp. Agave nectar
1 tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. seasoned rice vinegar
olive oil for drizzling
Preheat oven to 400* F.
Unroll pie crust and using a cutout the same size as the diameter of a shot glass, make 24 circles to press into an ungreased mini muffin pan.
Bake until golden, about 4 minutes, remove from pan to cool.
Meanwhile, in a small saute or non stick pan over medium high heat,
drizzle pan with olive oil and add sausage pieces.  Brown on both sides, until golden, about 3 minutes. SPST.
While sausage is browning combine blueberries with remaining ingredients in a small bowl and stir to combine.
Pour over sausages once browned and bring to boil, tossing to coat.  Once sauce has thickened, remove from heat., about 15 seconds.
Assembly:  Nestle a sausage bite into each tart-let shell and distribute the blueberry compote equally among portions. Garnish with parsley or cilantro.
Makes 24.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Panza de Res y Chile Ajo!

Sunday was a 'lab' day for  me as I like to call them.  Lab consists of going into the kitchen to try creating something out of my comfort zone and expanding my horizons and knowledge of the cuisine of different cultures.  Sunday was exploring more traditional Mexican cuisine outside of the 'cookie cutout' of simply  tacos and guacamole.  I had never made a mole or any of the labor intensive and complex sauces, so I had an adventure in preparing a traditional Red Chile and Garlic sauce, normally seen smothering  enchiladas and topped with Cotija and sliced onion.  I adapted the recipe from Saveur issue #149, graciously shared by a chef at El Naranjo in Austin Texas .  Instead of using Serrano chiles,  I used Thai chilies for a deep heat flavor profile, and instead of  plum tomatoes, Roma.  The sauce took  about 2 hours to make, but when I finished, I could smell and taste it's signature smoky complexity, which I'd experienced in dishes from Mexican restaurants in the past.  The aromas and the gorgeous color was satisfaction enough!  I paired my sauce with Panza de Res or Scalded Beef Tripe.  I boiled the tripe in a seasoned broth for about 2 1/2 hours to tenderize and create depth in the flavor.  I then cut the tripe into large strips, and in turn , smaller strips, until they were uniform and about 2 inches long and 1/2 inch across.  I breaded and deep fried the strips and served them with the Chile Ajo and lemon wedges for an appetizer presentation, then with seasoned Jasmine Rice as a main course.  Both dishes were Crazy Delicious!!  Don't be afraid to step outside the taco shell 'box' and go for the hearty, soul stirring heart of more diverse dishes that truly reflect the essence  of Mexican Cuisine!!

Blue Plate Special, Meatloaf!

This recipe  exhibits  the versatility of the meatloaf. There are a plethora of ways which they may be prepared with unlimited ingredient choices. I like this version which includes good quality ground beef and pork, and pepperoni crisped in the microwave to resemble bacon crumbles. Additionally, I really load this one up with fresh veggies, herbs, and fresh bread crumbs that lend to the confetti moniker. My daughter Genesis really loves it too. That was my inspiration for writing this recipe to share with others. This meatloaf makes for great sandwiches later hot or cold and reheats very well covered with paper towels in the microwave.

  • 1.5 lb. good quality ground beef
  • 1 lb. fresh ground pork
  • 3 oz. deli style pepperoni, diced, rendered til crisp in microwave, drained on paper towels
  • carrots, grated
  • 1 large stalk celery, diced
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 each red bell and green bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 1/2 c. fresh bread crumbs, about 5 slices
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • 1/2 c. fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 c. roasted garlic spaghetti sauce
  • 2 soft bouillon cubes, one beef, one chicken
  • 1 tsp. sriracha chili sauce
  • For glaze:
  • 1/3 c. good quality ketchup
  • 2 tbsp. less sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar
  • 1/2. tsp sriracha chili sauce
  • Olive oil for drizzling
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste


  1. In a microwave safe bowl, combine carrots, celery, onion, garlic and peppers. Drizzle with olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper to taste. Microwave uncovered on high for 4 minutes. Set aside to cool and preheat oven to 375* F.
  2. Place bread torn into pieces together with parsley, thyme and crumbled bouillon cubes into food processor and pulse until mixed evenly as possible and are of a fine consistency about 2 minutes.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine beef, pork, pepperoni, cooled vegetables with liquid, bread crumbs, spaghetti sauce and sriracha and with a large fork, fold and stir until well combined about 4 minutes.
  4. In a roasting pan, shape meatloaf into oblong fashion to fit pan. If desired, make a small crease down the center of meatloaf to help funnel oil off top and into pan.
  5. Bake for about 40-45 minutes or until internal temperature reads 165*F.
  6. During the last 10 minutes of cooking, baste with glaze every few minutes until none remains.
  7. Remove from oven and allow to rest for at least 30 minutes before serving.
  8. This recipe was originally posted in my on line cookbook at cookeatshare.com.  I wanted to share it here for those who cannot access that site and because of the wonderful complement I received from a member in the U.K.

  9. This recipe is shown here with slow simmered peas and corn with country ham bits and homemade baked macaroni and cheese.  Blue Plate Special indeed!!!

Let the Church Say RAMEN!!

Today's blog is yet another installment of the Dormitory Gourmet featuring quite a find at the Dollar Tree. Within the frosted glass cases that are the frozen foods section, I found some fresh frozen Pollock in 4oz. portions for only a dollar!!  I thought it would be nifty to pair these somehow another inexpensive item that can also be obtained  from the same location and turn them into something wonderful.  All in all, the recipe costs under 2 dollars to create and the taste is deliciously well balanced and helps to load up on heart healthy omega 3's.  The package includes 2 -2 oz. portions of the firm white fish, wild caught and flash frozen to retain it's nutrients.  I pan seared these fillets in a drizzle of olive oil and Plugra, a European style butter, but feel free to use regular salted or unsalted butter, the choice is yours.  They may also be broiled for several minutes to trim the excess fat if desired.  The seared fillets are then placed atop a crispy and amazingly yummy fried Ramen pancake, riddled with thinly sliced red and orange mini-peppers for a splash of vibrant color and Vitamin C, plus a spectacular dose of B vitamins!  The finishing touch is a simple onion and garlic spaghetti sauce to round out the flavors and add more depth.  With a sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese, this dish is fit for a knife along side the fork.!!!
Pan Seared Pollock w/ Confetti Ramen Pancake
1 pkg. ramen noodles
1 tsp. butter
1 4 oz. portion wild caught Pollock or other firm white fish
2 mini peppers, red, orange or yellow
2 oz. onion and garlic spaghetti sauce
olive oil for drizzling
Prepare the Ramen using half the amount of water and half of the seasoning packet.  Add the sliced peppers and  cover to steam through.
Once all ramen are softened, drain in strainer and set aside.
In a small saute or nonstick pan, bring up to medium high heat.
Pat noodles dry and drizzle pan with olive oil.
Place sauce in microwave for 2 minutes.
Place noodles in pan and press down with a weight or another small cast iron pan.  Cook until golden then flip and repeat, about 4 1/2 minutes.  Drain on paper towels.
Meanwhile, bring another small pan up to medium high heat and add butter and a drizzle of olive oil Pat dry and lightly SPST fish on both sides.
Place in pan and sear  about, flipping once until lightly golden,  about 1 1/2 minutes on each side.
Drain on paper towels.
Place noodle cake in center of plate and arrange fillets atop.  Serve sauce on or alongside dish.
Garnish with fresh herbs and Parmesan cheese if desired.
Serves 1 or makes 2 light meals. (just halve the ramen to make two pancakes)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Warm and Cozy Foods on Dreary Days!

Overcast and sunless days remind me of being cozied up at home in my Snuggie , Yes Snuggie!, noshing on something extra delicious and slow cooked.  Riding shotgun with some Dean Koontz or Patterson, as long as the author presents characters causing some sort of havoc, supernatural or otherwise, with the T.V. remote loyally by my side,  I hunker down and prepare to veg out.  The soft pitter-patter of rain plays hop scotch across the roof and shutters, then plays tag down the houseside and windows in a synchronized pattern, like following it's predecessor's chemical trails.     The winds wisp the rain and drizzle against the house as if conducting  a tiny ant marching band, consisting of millions of tiny horns and drums, bells and woodwinds, tranquility.  Those sounds resonate like the beating and reverberating, the ebb and flow of the once warm womb, that if you are reading this, once was your home too.  The sky is pregnant with the promise of more rain, and the ominous clouds along the distant horizon send warning "Wait, there's more!"  The silken slumber invoked is a welcome respite from the busy week, now a memory, even though the next week, Lord's Will, will be very much the same just with different dates and clothing.  Alas I digress, the children have been awake for hours with no rest stop in sight, happy and  enveloped in merriment, relishing in this first day of no school in five days, running amok.  Transformers blasts in the Den, Qubo in the bedroom, Sponge Bob in the kitchen, chaos.  Satisfaction is far and in between, because one child has lost a little white stuffed lamb, another a die-cast car, the remaining child is hiding with my digital camera taking pictures of Neco, our cat.  Oh I almost forgot, the same child that is seeking the lamb is also laying on my arm making it difficult to type, reminding me vigilantly, that she didn't mean to call me a "bad word".  I missed that memo and encourage her to just let it go....
 I prepared some Deep Southern Comfort Food today, Slow Braised Pigs' Tails with carrots, celery and onion.   The wonderful smell of the mirepoix has settled since I started cooking them around 8 am.  My emacculate  blue Le Creuset French oven pumps amazing aromas throughout our home like a culinary choo-choo train and beckons to the senses, as a bee is beckoned to, by the nectar of  dew kissed flowers.  This I must admit will not be an exciting meal to some, and by no means should be eaten regularly, but these puppies are hard to find and well worth the wait.  The flavorful unctuous broth is super with bread, today it's paired with another recipe of mine Big Ole  Southern Biscuits with Flax Seeds.  DELISH!  There is comfort in slow cooking foods, there is comfort in knowing you have prepared a recipe so many times, you can do it virtually blind-folded, and there is comfort in knowing that even though you may not get to take a nap for several more years,  when you sit down to dine on whatever your warming, cozy meal is, your mind state will be altered, and just for a little while, nothing can rain on your parade!!! Summertime's Rainy Days are like Winter's Snow filled  Days!

My Sister Calls it Frog Bread!!

Mushrooms are popular around the world and a must have in any serious cook's kitchen.  There are around 20 cultivated mushrooms sold commercially .  From the coveted truffle, to the sacred Matsutake, beloved by the Japanese, to the household familiar button mushrooms,  we have made these fungi a part of our lives.  Whether it's for nutritional, medicinal or for ritualistic purposes, mushrooms are a universal commodity that have origins dating back 13,000 years ago in Chile, and have affiliations in China as far  back as several hundred years B.C.
 Not only rich in B vitamins, namely niacin and riboflavin, mushrooms are also at the top of  the list of foods providing uber amounts of protein, even more so when dried!  Today's recipe,  features Baby Bella's, which are the younger and smaller version of the the beautiful Portobello mushroom, which is respected highly among the vegetarian community for it's 'meaty' texture and protein.   My sister Brenda is not a fan of mushrooms in any form, especially if she can see it.  She comically refers it as "Frog Bread", because it reminds her of lily pads or other things which frogs perch on and hide under!LOL  Brenda is so funny!!
This recipe uses lots of fresh ingredients and wonderful flavors that complement this mushroom well like mini peppers, onion, spinach, Pecorino Romano, and spicy sausage.  They are fabulous for entertaining, even for a small and humble affair like a weeknight dinner.  They are easy to prepare with major flavor reward.  I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as my family (excluding Brenda :) did!
Super Stuffed Baby Bella's
1lb. Baby Bella mushrooms, cleaned with dry cloth, stems removed
2 mini peppers, red and orange
2 tbsp. onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, pressed or finely minced
1/4 c. cooked hot and spicy sausage crumbles, (optional)
2 slices bread, torn into very tiny pieces
1/3 c. chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry of excess water
1 tsp. Cambozolo cheese, optional
3 tbsp. Pecorino Romano, grated, reserving 1 tbsp. for garnish
olive oil for drizzling
Preheat oven to 400*F.
Place peppers, onions and sausage in small bowl and drizzle with a scant amount of olive oil and SPST lightly.  Microwave on high, uncovered for 2 minutes.  Set Aside.
Meanwhile, combine spinach, cheeses, and bread pieces in a medium bowl.  Drizzle with olive oil and SPST.  Add pepper mixture and stir until combined.  Stuff mushrooms with filling and arrange on baking sheet.
The sizes will vary so stuff according to individual size ratio.  Divide remaining cheese atop filling.
Place in oven and cook until cheese is golden, about 8 minutes.
SPST and garnish with a little olive oil.
Makes about 12 mushrooms or 4 appetizer servings.