southern

Thanksgiving Series: The Best Squash Casserole

squash casserole

 

This recipe is loosely based off of a dish from Tracy’s cafe in Mountain Brook, Alabama. I absolutely adore this recipe because it has lots of cheese and good variations in texture. However, I did add a few green ingredients to spruce it up, because without them it is very yellow.

squash casserole

 

It is a very simple dish, but it makes a ton of food! I cut the original in half and it still made probably 6 or 7 servings! (Okay, maybe I added in more cheese than it calls for…)

Before we get started just a quick note about the consistency of the filling: it will seem very very liquidy and thin, but I promise you that much of this bakes out. If you make the filling too thick to start with, the casserole will end up dry!

 

Squash Casserole

makes about 6 servings

Ingredients

4 medium, yellow squash
3/4 cup (about 1 medium) yellow onion
5 leaves fresh sage
2 tablespoons chives
1 clove garlic
4 tablespoons salted butter
2 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon almond milk
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons kosher salt
plain bread crumbs and parmesan cheese to top

squash casserole

 

First, wash and de-stem the squash. Slice them into thin (1/4 inch) rounds.

squash casserole

 

 

Prepare a pot of salted water to boil the squash. While you are waiting for the water to boil, dice the onion, make sure there are no large pieces.

squash casserole

 

Chop the chives along with the sage. Mince the garlic.

squash casserolesquash casserole

 

 

 

 

 

 

squash casserole

 

Once the water is boiling, cook the squash until they are very tender. This usually takes about 6-8 minutes. A fork should slide through even the thickest pieces very easily.

squash casserole

 

While the squash is cooking, combine the onions, sage, chives, and garlic in a large bowl. Add in the butter and cheese.

squash casserole

 

After they are tender, drain the squash thoroughly and add them to the bowl. Mix everything together until the butter has been completely melted by the squash.

squash casserole

 

Add in the milk and eggs, being careful to continually stir so as not to overcook the eggs. It is fine if they cook just a bit, but they still need to act as a binder for the casserole filling.

squash casserole

 

Add in the salt and pepper.

squash casserole

 

Pour the filling into your pans and sprinkle the tops with bread crumbs, then parmesan cheese.

squash casserole

 

Cook in a 350°F oven for 45 minutes or until the cheese is browned and the filling is bubbling up.

squash casserole

 

Enjoy!

squash casserole

 

 

Advertisements

Bahamian Johnny Cake

Johnny Cake

As a child, I spent most Spring Breaks and sometimes even part of my Summer vacation in the Bahamas with my family. We have been to many places in the Bahamas, but one of our favorites is Hope Town. This small village is on Elbow Cay, which forms the northern tip of the Abaco island chain. This area is in the north of the Bahamas, so it’s actually very close to Florida!

 

Johnny Cake

In Hope Town, the locals are very welcoming and in this very tiny community there is a cute church, a school, a museum, and a beautiful lighthouse.  There are also several groceries on the island that serve up great Bahamian classics! As a child, I remember waking up early in the morning and driving down to these stores. We would pick up some delicious homemade bread for lunches on the boat, plenty of Kaliks, and johnny cake. Kalik, one of the local beers,  is always popular, and now that the entire family is “of age” according to Bahamian law, we can go through entire cases each time we visit!

 

Johnny Cake

 

While most of our time is spent boating around from island to island, we also love finding little beaches to sit and relax. Every time we visit there is something new and interesting to do or see!

 

Johnny Cake

I decided to post the recipe for johnny cake in particular because it is reminiscent of a Southern specialty: corn bread! I am not a big fan of corn bread because it is usually too dry and often has a slight buttermilk flavor. However, johnny cake does not include buttermilk and for some reason it is always so deliciously moist! Johnny cake batter can be poured onto a griddle and cooked like a pancake, but in the Bahamas it often takes the form of a loaf and thus resembles corn bread.

This recipe is incredibly easy! Really, even beginner cooks can do this! It doesn’t make a mess and it doesn’t take too much time. If you want to add a southwestern twist, you can chop up some jalapeño and throw that in the batter!

 

Bahamian Johnny Cake

Ingredients
1 cup AP flour
1/4 cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup corn meal
1 egg
1 cup + 1 tablespoon milk
1/4 cup butter

 

Johnny Cake

 

First, sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together into a large bowl.

Johnny Cake

 

Add in the corn meal.

Johnny Cake

 

Mix all of the dry ingredients together using a rubber spatula.

Johnny Cake

 

In a small container, beat the egg. In a large, microwave-safe measuring glass, melt the butter. While the butter is melting, measure out the milk. Next, pour the milk into the butter and stir everything together. This will help cool the butter down so that none of your egg gets cooked! Add in the beaten egg, and stir well.

Johnny Cake

 

Make a well in your dry ingredients, and pour the butter mixture into the well.

Johnny Cake

 

Using the rubber spatula, fold the batter in on itself until everything is fully mixed.

Johnny Cake

The batter will be pretty thick and grainy from the corn meal, but this is okay! This is a hearty, cheap bread that has long been a staple for Native Americans across the East Coast, so it should be thick!

Preheat the oven to 375° F. Butter or grease an 8×8 baking pan, and spread the batter evenly into the pan.

Johnny Cake

 

Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes, or until the cake is cooked through and lightly browned on the edges.

Johnny Cake

 

This type of johnny cake can be cut into little slices like corn bread and served with just about any topping you can think of! We really like to enjoy them with butter, preserves, cinnamon sugar, or Alabama white sauce!

Johnny CakeWith butter

Johnny CakeWith Alabama muscadine preserves

Johnny CakeWith melted butter, cinnamon, and sugar

Johnny CakeWith Alabama white sauce

They will keep for just a few days and they reheat very nicely on a griddle with butter!

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Dill Pickle Chips and Alabama White Sauce

 

picklesFried pickles are one of my favorite fried foods, and I love fried things, so that’s sayin’ something! These pickles are Cajun seasoned (though not very spicy) and coated in a very basic buttermilk-flour batter. In my opinion, the dill pickle is the only type of pickle that should be fried. The saltiness of the pickle is an absolutely perfect compliment for the crunch of the batter.

As far as I’m concerned, deep frying things in a home kitchen is quite possibly the grossest and most appalling cooking activity. Normally, I would recommend avoiding it at all costs. So, I am challenging anyone who would like to try this recipe in a skillet with just an inch or two of oil to do so because I would love to hear the results!! I am desperate to find a way of doing this that does not involve deep frying.

As of now, this recipe does involve deep frying, but despite the oiliness and excess of oil that results, I would definitely encourage everyone to try it because these dill pickle chips are ahhhmazing!

White sauce, or as we call it in northern Alabama “whyyyte sauce”, is a very particular kind of BBQ sauce. In northern Alabama, if you order barbecue, the natural way of serving it is with this mayonnaise-vinegar sauce that was developed by Bob Gibson in 1925. (You can find out more about the regionality of BBQ sauces in Garden & Gun’s The Southerner’s Handbook.) White sauce has an extremely limited geographical reach and just so happens to be very different from its tomato-based counterparts, but it is somewhat similar to a Carolinian pepper-vinegar sauce. This white sauce recipe is courtesy of my dad, who was born and raised in Decatur, AL, the home of Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ!

For the mayo in white sauce I will always and forever recommend Duke’s. I actually get my Duke’s mayo shipped to me via amazon, because I cannot buy it in California and I am NOT kidding it is just that good. (Feel free to read more about the magic of Duke’s here.)

picklesFinally, I know that the last step about baking them after frying them may seem really superfluous, but it will give them the crunch that makes them so very satisfying to eat!

Dill Pickle Chips with Alabama White Sauce

Ingredients

for the Pickles
32 ounces sliced, dill pickles
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
2 cups AP flour
1 quart vegetable oil for frying

for the White Sauce
1/2 cup mayonnaise
5-6 tablespoons white vinegar
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 teaspoon Lawry’s seasoned salt
4-5 drops Worcestershire sauce

picklesFirst, to make the pickle chips: Make sure you drain the pickles and pat them dry a bit.

picklesWhisk together the egg, buttermilk, 1 tbs flour, and Worcestershire sauce together in a small bowl.

picklesIn a larger bowl, mix together the salt, pepper, cayenne, oregano, and the rest of the flour.

picklesBe sure to bread all of the pickles before frying, they cook very quickly and you really don’t want to be stuck trying to do everything at once with boiling oil in the kitchen! To bread them, first, dip the pickles (one by one) in the buttermilk mixture.

picklesThen, coat them generously in the flour mixture. You can lay them all out on a plate or large platter, they shouldn’t be too sticky.

In a large pot, over medium heat, get the vegetable oil up to 350°F. (Throw a bit of batter in there to test it, if it starts spitting and bubbling, you’re ready to go!) Cooking the pickles 6-10 at a time, let them crisp to a golden brown and then gently lift them out of the oil and onto a draining plate.

picklesWhen you are done frying the pickles, preheat the oven to 450°F. Arrange them on a baking sheet and bake them for about 5 minutes.

picklesThey are ready to come out after they have browned a bit and gotten very very crispy.

picklesThen, make the white sauce:

Whisk the mayonnaise, vinegar, pepper, Lawry’s, and Worcestershire sauce together until it foams. You are welcome to make this sauce as thin or thick as you like (by adjusting the vinegar). I love very thin white sauce, and usually add a larger amount of vinegar.

picklesServe up your pickles and white sauce!

picklesEnjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

Tomato Pie

tomato pie

Tomato pie, or tomato tart, can be served as an entrée or as an appetizer. This is a great recipe that has Southern, Italian, and French influences. The concept of tomato pie is a favorite in the Deep South, but it’s main flavors (basil and garlic) are traditional Italian combinations. This particular recipe also uses a very basic, homemade French pastry dough for the crust, pâte brisée.

tomato pie

This is a great summer dish, it is fairly light and fresh tasting but the dough and cheese helps to make it more filling if you want it to be a full meal. We grow our own basil, and it helps to make the dish much cheaper, but even with the cost of purchasing basil it is surprisingly inexpensive for the amount of good food you’re getting out of it, and you will use a ton of the basil so there won’t be much left over from those giant packages they make you buy at the store (which always ends up going to waste just sitting in the refrigerator)!

tomato pie

If you don’t want to put in the extra effort, you can also use a frozen dough. (I like Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Shells, and they work so so well for little individually portioned appetizers!)* If you’re make the appetizers version, cut the filling ingredients of this recipe in half, and you’ll be good to go!

This dish doesn’t freeze very well, but it can stay refrigerated for about a week and if you’re doling out entrée portions, it will feed about 6 people.

*Note: If you would like to make individual, appetizer portions or if you simply aren’t interested in making your own dough, I suggest using Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Shells. See the bottom of this post for details and pictures!

Tomato Pie

For the pâte brisée:
12 tbs salted butter
2 tbs olive oil
6 tbs water
2 tbs sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 slightly rounded cups of flour

tomato pie

For the filling:
2lbs grape tomatoes
3 heaping tbs chopped, fresh basil
4 small cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups of mozzarella or other Italian cheese mix
splash of olive oil
kosher salt and pepper to taste

tomato pie

Preheat the oven to 405°F (yes, 405°, I know that sounds weirdly specific but it will cook the dough perfectly so that it doesn’t brown too much but still gets that melt-in-your-mouth quality).  In a 9×13 cake pan place the butter (chopped by the tbs), olive oil, water, sugar, and salt. After the oven has preheated, place the pan on a middle rack and cook for about 15 minutes (until the butter is totally melted and a little brown on the edges).

tomato pie

While the butter is melting in the oven, chop the tomatoes and the basil and mix them up in a large bowl. Mince the garlic and mix that in as well. Make sure that you keep watch over the butter in the oven, because it takes people all different kinds of time to chop things and you don’t want to brown the butter too much!

tomato pie

 

Carefully remove the butter from the oven and add in the two cups of flour. The butter will be very hot and sputter a bit, so be careful not to burn yourself! Using a spoon or rubber spatula, fold in the flour with the butter mixture. It might take some time for the flour to soak in the butter, but be patient with it!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

With your hands, flatten out the dough into the pan. I know it doesn’t look like enough to cover this pan, but it spreads really well! Use the pads of your fingers to press the dough into the side. You want the pan to be covered completely, and on the bottom it should be fairly thin, but not so thin that you can see through to the dark pan. Then, take a fork and prick through the crust to allow it to vent while cooking.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Place the pan in the oven, with no filling for ten minutes. While it is cooking, add the cheese and olive oil in with the tomato mixture. Add kosher salt and pepper to taste. Tomatoes are so delicious with salt, so don’t be too afraid to add tons of salt (you are making six servings of pie). Here, the ratio of the ingredients is really up to you. Test taste it along the way to make sure it has the balance of flavors that you like! The important thing is that, once you’re done, it has a fairly thick consistency. You don’t want anything too soupy or even too liquidy because the dough will get very soggy and won’t hold up when you try to serve it.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After the first ten minutes of cooking the shell are up, take it out of the oven and spread the filling into it.

tomato pie

tomato pie

 

Then, cook for another 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the filling completely warmed. We like to serve huge portions of this because people end up eating way more than they expect, and it’s delicious with milk!

tomato pie

Enjoy!

 

tomato pie

 

P.S. If you want to make neat individual portions, us this dough as a starter.

Tomato Pie

This makes six portions, and only requires about  1/4 of the filling that the previous recipe calls for. Simply preheat the oven all the way to 425°F and place the pastry shells face up on a baking sheet.

Tomato Pie

Next, bake them for 15-18 minutes.

Tomato Pie

Using a knife, delicately cut out the tops and fill the shells with your tomato filling!

Tomato Pie

Place the tops back on, and put them in the oven for another minute or two or until the cheese seems melted.

Tomato Pie

Dinner guests love this kind of stuff and it is so so easy!

Tomato Pie

Tomato Pie

Tomato Pie