Monday, July 20, 2009

My Mama's Tomato Gravy...

Many of the great tastes of the south are the ones we grew up on. I am from the southern part of Mississippi with family members still throughout Ole Miss and Louisiana. Money was tight and food mostly came from the land or the sea. One of my Mom's and Grandmother's favorite ways of stretching a meal was to stir up some grits or biscuits and make gravy to top it with. If you had a bit of beef or pork sausage you would brown it up, make a white roux, add some milk and country gravy was ready to top anything. One of Mom's favorites and mine, still today, is Mama's Tomato Gravy. With tomatoes plentiful year round, fresh in the summer and canned in the winter, it is easy to throw together something delicious to feed your belly and your soul.

My favorite way to make it is to start with frying bacon and using the drippings, but if bacon is not available sausage with drippings are just fine. For those of you who would like to leave out the meat and drippings, just skip that part and use your favorite butter or margarine. A vegetable oil can be used but you miss a bit of the flavor. I normally start with frying up 6 or 8 slices of bacon crispy. Remove the bacon and leave about 1/4 cup of bacon drippings in the frying pan. Stir constantly in 3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour until the roux is lightly browned. You can use either chopped, bite sized, fresh tomatoes with its own juices, or canned chopped tomatoes in juice. With a total of at least 2 1/2 cups, stir into the roux the tomatoes, with liquid, until the mixture begins to thicken. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until thick, about 5 minutes. If you find it a little too thick for your liking stir in a little water or even milk for a thinner consistency. Season it with salt and, at our stove lots of, pepper. Serve it hot over buttered grits or buttermilk biscuits. Crumble the crispy bacon on top and settle in for the yummy memories.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Flavors of Summer...

Summertime offers up such yummy colors in food, flowers, clothing and jewelry. We can't wait to dig out the summer wear and favorite recipes because of the fun, relaxed times we relate to colors. The blues of the ocean and the white sand brought out fun, colored, bathing suits. White pants and brightly colored tees bring out the thoughts of the wonderful flowers and vegetables in our gardens and the yummy cool treats that go with the weather. When I was young we couldn't wait to get those white sandals out that had been placed in the back of the closet on Labor Day. I never could figure the reasoning behind the no white shoes between Labor Day and Memorial Day. We would pull out the sandals and shorts and head outside till sundown. Picnics and beautiful pink, yummy, watermelon ruled the days and on Sunday evenings Dad would pile all into the car and drive us to the edge of town where the Ice Cream Shop stood waiting. Children from all around would be jumping out of cars and standing in long lines for tall cones of sweet, pastel, fruit flavored ice creams and sherbets. What wonderful memories we all chat about now when we hang out at a summer family get together. It is no wonder that our best summer memories are tied to colors and flavors.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Low Country Boil...

My family can't have a group gathering on holidays, birthdays or vacations without throwing together a Low Country Boil. It always serves a lot of people and it has something for everyone. We all love it and I've been known to down size it so that it will serve just two or three on a weeknight.

What is known as the lowcountry region stretches from the coastal plains of the Carolinas to the Georgia border. Being a location heavy of seafood, produce, grits and rice the people were, and still are, known for their combinations of local shrimp, crabs, oysters and fish cooked together with what is plentiful at the time.

This low country boil is a combination of shrimp, smoked sausage, corn, potatoes, onions and if available crabs. Great to take to the beach and really easy to create for a crowd. Lowcountry boil can be served on newspaper for easy clean up. The only rule of thumb here is the bigger the crowd, the bigger the pot. It doesn't have a exact measurement of anything since it is based on whatever you have or want so this is as close to what my family throws together and it is a solid hit everytime.

Our Lowcountry Boil

Note: Items are layered in pot and not stirred throughout. Put lid on pot as the steam rising from the bottom of pot is steaming all the flavors together and cooking them as the are added.
4 pounds small red potatoes washed but left whole
6 or 8 whole medium Vidalia or Sweet onions peeled but left whole
6 quarts water
1 small bag of crab boil seasoning optional but better with it.
4 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning (double if no crab boil)
3 pounds kielbasa or smoked link sausage, cut into 6 inch pieces
6 ears of corn, halved
5 pounds large fresh shrimp, (peeled and deveined optional)we cook ours with the peel on for added flavor.
Melted Butter and Cocktail sauce on the side.

Add potatoes and onions to large tall pot, then add 6 quarts water and seasonings. Cover pot and heat to a rolling boil; cook 5 minutes. Add sausage and corn on top of the potatos and onions, and return to a boil. Cook 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Add shrimp to stockpot; If adding crabs add now for 10 minutes then add the shrimp and cook 3 to 4 minutes or until shrimp turn pink. Drain and dump the pot out onto the middle of a paper covered table or into a few large bowls and serve with bowls of cocktail sauce an bowls of melted butter.

Open a cold beer or pour a glass of sweet tea and dig into the pile. You eat it all with your hands and laugh and enjoy!