Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

Hot Sauce – Cayenne barbeque sauce

October 30, 2011

This sauce is one of my more successful attempts.  It is thick enough to brush onto anything you’re cooking, and thin enough to bottle easily.  It is hot enough for your average person, but has as much flavor as heat.  It is easy to make, easy to reproduce consistently, and works as a condiment as well as a basting sauce.  It isn’t as thick as ketchup but is thicker than tabasco sauce and it sticks easily to whatever you put it on.  I’m sure this technique will work for hotter chilis as well, but this is something that most people can enjoy.

Cayenne BBQ Sauce - Partially full bottle after shaking

We grow our own peppers.  If you don’t do that, either buy fresh cayenne peppers or buy recently dried ones.  As a last resort you can buy cayenne powder in bulk.  If you do, try to ensure that it is fresh enough — older spices tend to lose both heat and flavor.

Step 1:  Dry the cayenne peppers. Destem them.  I dry mine in a 175 degree oven on a cookie sheet.  The first day I let it run from 6-10 hours.  Then I turn the oven off and leave them until the next day.  The second day I run them about 4 hours, or until it is clear that they are dried out.

Step 2: Put the peppers in a spice grinder and turn them into powder.

Note:  If you started with fresh peppers, start with step 1.  If you started with dried peppers (destem them first), start with step 2.

Step 3: Pour your dried, ground pepper powder into a non-reactive heavy pot (like stainless steel).  Per 1 cup of powder, add:  1 tablespoon kosher salt (just don’t use iodized salt) and 1 tablespoon sweet (not smoked or hot) paprika and 1 tablespoon cane sugar.  To the dry mixture in the pot, add just enough clear distilled vinegar to make a slurry.  Stir thoroughly, and turn the heat on to high.  When it begins to bubble, turn the heat all the way down to the lowest simmer level, stirring constantly.  After 1 minute, cover with a lid.  Check it every 15 minutes to make sure it has enough liquid, but try to let it simmer for an hour.  Remove from heat and let cool.  Check the thickness of it.  If you like it, bottle it.  You don’t have to process it further in any way.  The attached picture is a balsamic vinegar jar I reused since it had a nice cork.  I put enough up for storage that I put some in ball canning jars and ran it long enough in the canner to seal the lids, but that is not necessary.

So far I’ve used it for wing sauce, bbq chicken sauce, flavoring for braised greens, asian dishes, indian dishes, and on cornbread and pork as a condiment.


Aunt Anna’s Baked Macaroni & Cheese

March 28, 2011

I had a great-aunt who made amazing macaroni and cheese.  Well, honestly, everything she made was amazing.  This recipe is based on a discussion I had with her when I was about 12 years old, and I’ve included aspects of that discussion every time I’ve made macaroni and cheese since.

Prepped for the Oven


24-32 oz elbow macaroni

16 tbls butter (2 sticks)

16 tbls flour, all purpose

6 cups hot milk

6 tablespoons sweet paprika (not hot, not smoked)

6 tablespoons Black pepper,

salt to taste

4 tablespoons dry mustard

8 ounces sharp aged cheddar

8 ounces gruyere cheese

4 ounces shredded romano cheese

2 15 ounce containers of ricotta cheese

2 eggs


2 Dishes full


Cook macaroni in salted boiling water for 8 minutes, or until al dente.  You want it slightly undercooked.  Drain and set aside.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan, and whisk in the flour to make a roué.  Heat the milk in the microwave.  Stir in the hot milk and whisk constantly until thick, seasoning with pepper and salt.

Grate the cheese and add 3/4s of the cheddar and romano to the sauce, stirring slowly over low heat until absorbed by the sauce.  Remove from heat.

Combine the ricotta, the eggs, the dry mustard, and the paprika.

Add the macaroni to a large mixing bowl.  Stir in the cheese sauce.  Add the ricotta mixture and combine thoroughly.  Spoon all this into a large casserole dish; cover with breadcrumbs; and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

Ready to Serve

This recipe filled 2 9’x13’ casserole dishes, as you can see.

Chili, Vegetarian: Variant One

March 20, 2011

Vegetarian Chili – Variant One

Unlike my chili red (real chili), this vegetarian chili has both beans and tomatoes.  It is a healthy and tasty vegetarian option, and pretty easy to throw together in the morning and eat in the evening.


½ Cup Dried Black Beans

½ Cup Dried Red Beans

½ Cup Dried Navy Beans

(Note:  You can vary the type and quantity of beans you use to the extent of your imagination.  Use the ones you like the most.  I like these because they’re red, white, and black and pretty in the bowl – also they’re all smaller beans, which I like.)

Dried chilis: 6 anchos, 2 pasilla, 4 guajillos, 4 chiles de arbol.  More variety makes better chili, but you can use whatever is available locally, and feel free to use additional chiles, including hotter ones.  None of the chiles here are remotely close to being as hot as a scotch bonnet or habanero.

1 large onion, chopped coarsely

3 cloves of garlic, sliced thin

Freshly chopped cilantro (separate leaves and stems)

1 large red sweet bell pepper

1-3 other fresh peppers, like Anaheim, Poblano, Bell, Cherry bomb, etc.

24-38 ounces of crushed tomatoes

1 cup of strong coffee

½  bottle of dark ale, beer, etc.  (I prefer dark, like Dixie Voodoo Blackened Lager, or Dos Equis)

2-4 cups of vegetable broth

Olive oil or butter

1 tbl hot paprika

2 tbl sweet paprika

1 tbl cayenne

2 tbls cumin

4 tlbs Black pepper

Salt to taste



Soak the dried beans from 2-10 hours.  If you soak them overnight, skip the next step.  If you only soak them for 2 hours or so, then add the washed soaked beans and the vegetable broth to the crock pot and cook on high for 2 hours.  Then continue.

Roast the dried chiles (anchos, pasillas, guajillos and chiles de arbol) in a dry skillet on medium for 3-4 minutes on each side.  Remove from heat and then add them to a bowl of boiling water:  let rest 30 minutes.

Saute onions, garlic, and cilantro stems in olive oil or butter until translucent and caramelizing, still in the skillet.  Deglaze with the beer and the coffee.

Pour the water off the chiles and save it.  I tend to add this in place of water when the chili needs more moisture.  This is controversial.  The best middling recommendation I’ve seen on this says to taste the chile water and if it isn’t too bitter for you, use it as a substitution in stuff you are cooking.  I do the same thing in my adobo sauce.

Add the drained chiles to the blender, and then add broth until it purees nice and smooth.  Add to pot, stir.  Add the freshly chopped peppers, the sautéed onions, garlic, and beer/coffee broth.  Add the crushed tomatoes.  Add the dry spices.  Stir until combined.   Cook in the crockpot on low for 6-8 hours.

Serve with a garnish of the fresh chopped cilantro leaves.

Ruby Myrick’s Low Country Quail Stew

March 13, 2011

“Stew” is a relative term.  In this case, it refers back to the Southern Coastal Oyster stew.  In fact, if you substitute oysters for the quail, you pretty much have the same dish.  This is not a thick stew, it is a light, rich soup with minimal ingredients.

Quail Stew

I got this recipe two weeks ago when we went quail hunting at Pine Lake Plantation in Carthage, NC.  The hunt was a present from my father, and we had a great time in addition to getting a lot of quail.  In fact, we’re going again soon.  The Myricks are great folks, and Mrs. Ruby Myrick graciously told me her recipe:

Serves 2.


4 quail

1 quart water, plus

salt & pepper


fresh parsley

3 tbls butter

2 cups half and half, or cream

2 tablespoons manzanilla sherry (optional)

1 small to medium potato, in 1/4 in. chunks (I added this)


Add the four quail to a large non-reactive pot with 2 tablespoons of butter.  Sear.  Remove the quail, and add 1 quart of water.  Scrape the fond off the bottom into the water.  Put the quail back in, and bring to a boil.  Turn down to a simmer for 10-15 minutes, just until the quail are cooked.  Remove the quail from the liquid and set aside.

Quail on a plate

To the pot of liquid, add 1/4 cup of fresh celery, or celery leaves, or 2 teaspoons dried celery or celery seed.  Add salt & pepper to taste.  Add up to 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley.  Chop a small potato into 1/4″ cubes, and add to the liquid (optional).

Simmer for 45 minutes.  In the meantime, remove the quail meat from the bones and chop it into even pieces.

30 minutes before you want to serve dinner, add the quail meat and the half & half.  Bring the heat up, but Do Not boil the broth & milk mixture.  You want it steaming, but not boiling, and you may have to nurse it, stirring constantly but gently.  With 10 minutes left, add the sherry, stirring gently.

Put 1/2 tablespoon of butter into the bottom of each serving bowl, and serve the quail stew over it.  I recommend crackers, croutons, or garlic bread.

It was delicious.

Valentine’s Day, post-action report

February 27, 2011

For Valentine’s Day I made dinner for the two of us.  The menu was as follows:


Grongnet Champagne, Blanc de Blancs, NV

1st Plate

Shrimp Cocktail

Main Plate

Chicken Cordon Bleu

(with Gruyere and Country Ham)

Asparagus with Béarnaise Sauce

Cheese Soufflé


Chocolate Cake

Lemon Mist Cake


The desserts came from our local (but famous) store, A Southern Season.  The champagne I learned about from my best local wine folks, currently at 3Cups.  The shrimp were caught off the coast of NC and/or southern VA.  The chicken is from a local farm, just up the road.  The country ham is from A.B. Vannoy Hams, right here in NC and some of the best country ham you can get in this day and age.

The cheese soufflé is something I’ve been making for 30 years and I’ve always followed Julia Child’s recipe.  Ditto the béarnaise sauce.


Bearnaise sauce

I learned how to make my version of chicken cordon bleu from a chef in a Baltimore Maryland establishment in the 1980s.  The major things to note are:


1)      After pounding out the chicken breast, soak it in buttermilk for a bit, then dip both sides in the flour / breadcrumbs / cornmeal seasoning.  I use black pepper, salt, and lots of sweet paprika in the seasoning.


Prepped chicken

2)      Then layer on the thinly sliced gruyere cheese (go ahead and get a good cave-aged one, you’re not going to use a lot of it anyway), then the razor-thin country ham.  Roll it up and pin with toothpicks.


3)      Bake (yes, bake) in the oven on a bed of the rest of the seasoning mix and a little oil.

We had a grand old time for dinner, and just wanted to share our fun menu with you.  A few of the cooking process pictures I shot didn’t come out, and we plain just forgot when I pulled the souffle out of the oven and we immediately sat down to eat.

Braised Venison Steaks

February 6, 2011

Braised Venison Steaks


Venison steaks (2)

1/2 onion, sliced and sweated in butter

Braising sauce:

2 tbl tomato paste

¼ cup Fig balsamic vinegar

¼ cup Red wine vinegar

¼ cup unrefined peanut oil

¼ cup melted butter

Sweet paprika, salt, black pepper

Stir and mix the sauce ingredients together.  Sear the venison steaks on 1 side in the same pan where you sweated the onion.  Add the steaks and the onion to the crock pot.  Pour the braising sauce over this, and turn the crockpot on low for 8-10 hours.

Remove the steaks, scrape out the onions.  You can use the remaining liquid in the pan as au jus or make a gravy from it.

The oil & butter are added to the sauce because venison is such a lean meat.  I sweat the onion in a covered skillet in butter at low heat for 12-15 minutes.  I use the tomato paste in a tube because it’s easy to keep and use whenever you like it.  Other oils and vinegars can be substituted for a different approach, but the fig provides a nice fruit accent that goes well with venison.  Other fruit flavors that are good with venison are apple or currant or raisin.

I did this recipe once with a sliced apple, some good grassy Italian olive oil, and white wine vinegar and it came out great.

These are fork tender and the flavor of the venison comes through without dominating.  We served them with our own cream peas, braised kale, and green beans:

Venison & Veggies

Southern Fried Duck Breasts

January 30, 2011

These are pan fried duck breasts with a mushroom tarragon cream sauce.



4 duck breasts


Peanut oil

Olive oil

Red wine vinegar

White wine

Garlic, crushed


Salt, pepper, paprika, tarragon

All purpose Flour



½ Large Onion, sweet


Garlic, sliced


White wine vinegar

White wine

Sherry, dry

½-1 cup cream



Marinate the duck breasts for 4-8 hours ahead of time in olive oil, peanut oil, red wine vinegar, white wine, and crushed garlic.

Combine a dredging mix of flour, salt, pepper, paprika (sweet), and tarragon.  Be liberal with the herbs and spices.

Finely chop the onion, then sweat the onion, 3-5 sliced garlic cloves, and the mushrooms at low heat in a covered skillet for 10-12 minutes, with 2 tablespoons of butter.  Add salt, pepper, and lots of tarragon.  Turn the heat up at the end of this period, and caramelize the onions.  Scrap this mixture from the pan and set aside, but don’t clean the pan.

Add peanut oil (I used refined and a few dashes of unrefined) to the skillet and turn on medium high heat.  The oil should come up to about 1/3rd, but less than ½ the height of the duck breasts.

Dredge the duck breasts through the flour mix, coating them thoroughly, and lay into the hot oil.  Brown 6-8 minutes on each side, then remove from the oil and place into an oven pan in a 350 degree oven while you finish the rest.

Pour out all but about 2 tablespoons of oil, scraping out any large amounts of flour coating that remain.  Deglaze the pan with white wine and a little white wine vinegar, add a couple tablespoons of butter, and add the onion/mushroom/garlic mixture back in.  Pour in the cream and the sherry; bring to a boil, and then turn down to a simmer.  Taste and season, adding more herbs or spices as desired.  Reduce to desired thickness.

I plated the duck breasts, slicing off a few thin slices to lay by the rest.  We had mashed potatoes and baby butter beans.  I ladled the mushroom tarragon cream sauce over the duck breast (ok, AND the mashed potatoes).


Venison Roast

December 21, 2010

A lot of people I know only really eat the loin of the deer as a “piece of meat”.  The rest is either discarded or made into sausage, jerky, or dog food.  But there are ways to cook this lean red meat that lend themselves to the more modern American palette.

Over Thanksgiving my Uncle gave me a whole deer haunch, which we promptly transferred to our freezer.  And yesterday I cooked it, and was rewarded with murmurs of pleasure from my spouse and my son.

So here is a my crock pot venison roast recipe (technically what I was given was a ham I guess, but this should work for any roast of venison).


Brine the venison overnight, adding a cup of salt per two gallons of water.  Rinse with water afterward.

Trim the meat.  You really must remove any traces of blue-white membrance.  Large pieces of venison likely have the membrane running down through the meat in a couple of places as well as being on the outside.  Don’t hesitate to cut the meat into large chunks in order to get at it.  Basically I trimmed away anything that wasn’t hard white fat, and I didn’t worry about trimming away some meat while I got everything.

I ended up with 8-12 chunks of meat roughly the size of my fist, and tossed them into the crock pot.

To this I added:

1/2 bottle of hard cider (I used Scrumpy’s)

3-6 tablespoons black pepper

1/4 cup of red wine

1 cup of chicken broth/stock

1 coarsely sliced onion

2 tsps dried thyme

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons worchester sauce

The level of the liquid was almost, but not quite enough to immerse the meat.

Turn the crockpot on low and walk away for 9-10 hours


The result was flavorful, clearly venison, fork-tender, and yummy.  I roasted some potatoes, carrots, and butternut squash and heated up some of our home-canned green beans, and dinner was served.

Chicken Divan

December 5, 2010

Chicken Divan a la Gus and Julia:

If you look at a google list of chicken divan recipes on the internet, you get some sad and silly results.  Some of the top recipes posted by “famous” chefs use canned soups and other processed ingredients.  When it is so easy to make from scratch, why would TV chefs use such things in a “recipe”.  Campbells posted their recipe before them and it is gonna be just as good, so why bother?

On the other hand, if you want a good from scratch chicken divan recipe made in consultation with a) one of my favorite southern cooks (my aunt), and b) Julia Child, you’ve come to the right place.


2 whole chicken breasts

2 heads of broccoli

12-16 oz spaghetti

8 oz gruyere cheese

8 oz medium cheddar (or mild hoop cheese)

1 stick unsalted butter

4 cups whole milk


Salt, Pepper, Cayenne pepper

Breadcrumbs or crumbled corn flakes

Pimento strips

Chicken. Cut 2 whole chicken breasts into long narrow strips and brown in the pan with 1 tbls butter.  Remove from heat.

Broccoli.  Blanch 1-2 heads of broccoli for 2-3 minutes.  Remove from heat and rinse in cold water.

Spaghetti. Boil 12 oz of spaghetti.  Remove from heat, rinse in cold water and drain.

The Sauce.

4 tbs butter, 6 tbs flour.

Grate the cheese and set to one side.

Heat 4 cups of whole milk and 1/2 tsp salt to a boil (you can microwave this).

In a saucepan, melt the butter over low heat.  Blend in the flour and cook slowly, stirring, until the butter and flour froth for 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and add the hot milk all at once.  Beat hard with a whisk and blend until fine.

Set over medium high heat and stir until it comes back to a boil, boil for 1 minute.

Beat in ¼ to ½ cup of cheese:  half medium cheddar and half gruyere, grated.  Beat until melted and blended.

Remove from heat, add 1 tbls pepper, 1/2 tsp salt, 2 tsp cayenne.  Taste and adjust.

Casserole. In a casserole dish, spread the broccoli spears, spaghetti, and chicken in layers (in that order).  Cover with remaining cheese.  Pour the cheese sauce.  Top with a thin layer of the breadcrumbs and the pimento strips.  Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown and melted (everything is already cooked).

Sage Dressing (Stuffing)

November 28, 2010

Stuffing, Not Stuffing

We call this “dressing” because we never actually stuff the bird with anything but a half an onion, fresh herbs, and maybe a lemon.  It’s baked separately, and you don’t have issues with “is it cooked?” or having to dig it out of the bird carcass.



1 Cup finely grown white cornmeal

Boiling Water

About 1/2 pound of dried stale mixed bread remnants from a variety of different breads (mostly dried crusts)

1/4 pound unsalted butter

1-2 cups chopped celery

1-2 cups chopped onions

3 cups chicken stock, turkey stock, or vegetable broth

1 tablespoon of dried thyme

Fresh sage leaves, chopped, about 1 cup

Fresh parsley, chopped, about 1/2 cup

2 tablespoons salt

4 tablespoons black pepper

2 tablespoons sweet paprika


This time I was able to pick up a bag of mixed bread crusts and bits from the local bakery.  These had already been dried and were the approximate texture of croutons – you can just leave bread out overnight after being sliced, and then roughly chop it up if you can’t buy it like this.  This bag was wonderful, it had rye, pumpernickel, whole grains, rustic, etc.

All my life I’ve made “cornbread dressing” wherein I cooked the cornbread first and let it cool.  Last year, I cut out the extra milk and eggs from the dressing recipe, and this year I decided to refine that even further.  The earlier cornbread recipe I knew was to mix cornmeal and boiling water until it was a thick batter (not quite pourable) and then fry that in a pan with oil.  So I added boiling water to a cup of cornmeal and kept stirring, adding a bit more water until it was the consistency of thick grits.  This was added to the mixture made below.

Sweat the onions and the celery in the butter at low heat, covered, for 15 minutes.  Add the stock, the thyme, the fresh sage, parsley, and the spices.  Pour all of this over the bread/cornbread in a large mixing bowl and stir.  Let sit for at least 30 minutes to soak up the liquid, then spoon into a flat casserole dish, cover, and refrigerate until ready to cook.

Bake at 350 degrees in the oven for 30-45 minutes.

Note:  This recipe used to be all cornbread, and had eggs in it.  This current version appears to last longer as leftovers, and has a great texture, and if you really need it to be a bit wetter, just add gravy when you eat it (yum).  As of the 2011 edit of this recipe, the texture remained moist and flavorful for days.