Shrimp & Grits with Garlicky Roasted Poblano-Jalapeño Sauce

Annually, we treat ourselves to Southern shrimp and grits over Easter weekend. This year, I served the special dish using purple “unicorn” grits from Millers All Day in Charleston, South Carolina. Festive!

This version was topped with a spicy and garlicky roasted poblano-jalapeño sauce which had a terrific balance with the rich, cheesy grits. The shrimp was also cooked in garlic oil. It was a great variation to try for the garlic and sauce lovers in my house. 🙂 The recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Marc Meyer. I modified the method and proportions.

Yield: Serves 4

  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 cup whole milk 
  • coarse salt 
  • 1 cup stone-ground white grits (I used stone-ground unicorn grits)
  • 2 ounces extra-sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded (1/2 cup) 
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter 
  • 1 jalapeño chile 
  • 1 poblano chile
  • 5 large garlic cloves, thickly sliced 
  • 5 T extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 2 T freshly squeezed orange juice (from 1/2 an orange)
  • freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1 pound shelled and deveined large shrimp, patted dry (I used 21-25 count per pound)
  1. Place oven rack in the highest position and set to broil. Place the jalapeño and poblano chiles on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Broil until blackened all over, about 3 minutes per side.
  2. Remove from the oven and wrap in the foil. Allow to steam and cool for 10 minutes, then rub off the skins. Stem and seed the chiles.
  3. In a large saucepan, bring the water to a boil with a pinch of salt. (I used an enameled cast iron pot.)
  4. Whisk in the grits and cook over moderate heat, stirring often, until the grits are tender and very thick, about 15 minutes.
  5. Stir in the milk, cheese, and butter. Season with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. (I used about 1/2 tsp salt.) Cook for an additional 5 minutes, then keep warm.
  6. In a small skillet, cook the garlic in the olive oil over moderate heat, stirring, until the garlic is softened and very lightly browned, about 3 to 5 minutes.
  7. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the garlic to a blender. Add the chiles and the orange juice and puree until smooth. Add all but 2 tablespoons of the garlic oil and puree until creamy. Season the sauce with salt and pepper. (I used a Vitamix.)
  8. Pat the shrimp dry and toss with the remaining 2 tablespoons of garlic oil. Season with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  9. Heat a very large skillet until very hot, about 2 minutes.
  10. Add the shrimp in a single layer and cook until browned and just cooked through, about 45 seconds to 1 minute per side.
  11. To serve, spoon the grits into bowls and top with sauce and shrimp. Serve additional sauce at the table.

Oven-Baked Barbecue Chicken

The week of President Biden’s Inauguration, our local newspaper published recipes to celebrate our nation. The article included recipes for the Navy Bean Soup that is served in one of the Senate restaurants and White House Chef (1966-1987) Henry Haller’s Cooked Vegetable Salad. The third recipe was late Representative John Lewis’ recipe for Barbecued Chicken.

This oven-baked barbecued chicken was published in the Atlanta Journal Constitution as Representative John Lewis’ “other legacy.” It was originally published in the AJC in 1995 and was re-published after his death. He started making this dish in 1968, serving it to guests with potato salad, with rice and string beans, or with sweet potatoes and green salad.

I adapted the recipe to used boneless, skinless chicken thighs, modified the proportions and method, and included garlic in the sauce. We ate it with crispy oven fries and green salad. It was a crowd-pleaser in my house too.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard (I used Dijon)
  • 1 tablespoon Tabasco or other hot sauce (I used chipotle Cholula)
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced, optional
  • 10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs OR 1 whole frying chicken, cut up, or equivalent chicken pieces
  • fresh herbs, for garnish, optional
  1. Preheat oven to 350, preferably on convection roast. Coat a rimmed baking sheet or 9×13-inch baking pan with cooking oil spray.
  2. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine ketchup with mustard, hot sauce, cayenne pepper, pinch of black pepper, onion, and garlic, if using. Blend well.
  4. Put chicken parts into the prepared pan. Spread half of the sauce evenly over chicken if using boneless, skinless chicken or all of the sauce if using bone-in chicken parts.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes for boneless, skinless thighs or for 30 minutes for bone-in skin on chicken parts.
  6. Remove pan from the oven and flip the chicken pieces over if using boneless, skinless chicken; coat with the rest of the sauce. If using bone-in skin-on chicken, basting the chicken with pan juices at this point.
  7. Return the pan to the oven and continue to bake for an additional 15 minutes for boneless, skinless chicken or 30 minutes for bone-in, skin-on chicken parts.
  8. Remove pan from the oven as set to broil. Broil the chicken, watching carefully, for 1 to 3 minutes, or until browned in spots.
  9. Garnish with fresh herbs, if desired. Serve warm.

Lee Brothers’ Pimento Cheese

My friend served delicious pimento cheese sandwiches recently- reminding me how much I enjoy them. 🙂 Eating them also reminded me that I wanted to try this version from Charleston, South Carolina.

The recipe is from The New York Times, contributed by the Lee Brothers. I used Cabot 3-year sharp cheddar cheese. I served it on the Fourth of July as a dip with crackers and pita chips. Alternatively, it could be used to fill about 4 sandwiches. Easy and fabulous.

Yield: about 1 1/2 cups

  • 8 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated with a food processor or hand grater (not pre-grated)
  • 1/4 cup softened cream cheese (2 ounces), pulled into several pieces
  • scant 1/2 cup jarred pimento or other roasted red peppers (from a 7-ounce jar), finely diced
  • 3 tablespoons Duke’s, Hellmann’s or other high-quality store-bought mayonnaise (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried red chile flakes
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. In a large mixing bowl, place the cheddar cheese in an even layer.
  2. Scatter the cream cheese, pimentos, mayonnaise and chile flakes over the cheddar cheese.
  3. Using a spatula, mix the pimento cheese until it is smooth and spreadable, about 1 1/2 minutes.
  4. Transfer the pimento cheese to a plastic container or bowl, cover tightly, and store in the refrigerator.
  5. Serve as a sandwich spread or as a dip.

Note: Pimento cheese keeps in the refrigerator for 1 week.

Classic Bread Pudding

My husband requested bread pudding for his celebratory Father’s Day dessert this year. This classic dessert is second only to cheesecake in his heart. ❤

This isn’t technically another strawberry dessert… but the fresh strawberry topping definitely brought this fabulously creamy bread pudding to the next level.

The recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart.com. I omitted the raisins, modified the presentation, and added the fresh strawberry garnish. Delicious.

Yield: Serves 8 to 10

  • 2 T unsalted butter, softened, for baking dish
  • 12 ounces brioche or challah, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 4 large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 T pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup raisins, optional (I omitted them)
  • 1 cup boiling water, optional (if using raisins), plus more for pan
  • fresh strawberry slices, for garnish, optional

Fried Chicken with Biscuits & Tomato Gravy

Like my last post, this special and indulgent feast was also included in Food and Wine Magazine’s “40 Best-Ever Recipes” issue celebrating the 40th anniversary of their publication. I made it for the second year in a row to celebrate my husband’s birthday! 🙂

The recipes were adapted from The Gift of Southern Cooking by Scott Peacock, the then chef at Watershed in Decatur, Georgia, and co-author Edna Lewis, the legendary Southern cook, his mentor and close friend. I modified the cooking techniques and substituted sunflower oil for lard. Last year, I made Lewis’ wonderful biscuits from this full menu, but, this year I served the chicken and gravy with sourdough biscuits.

The chicken is double-brined, first in salt water and then in buttermilk, and then fried in a cast iron skillet filled with oil (or lard), butter, and bacon fat. It was very tender and juicy. The creamy and rich gravy is reminiscent of Italian vodka sauce. Pretty delicious. 😉

We ate the chicken, gravy, and biscuits with macaroni and cheese (my favorite version), and iceberg wedge salad on the side. My husband’s birthday meal is not complete without his favorite Vanilla Bean Birthday Cheesecake for dessert. ❤

For the Fried Chicken & Tomato Gravy:

  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 2 quarts cold water
  • One 3 1/2 to 5 pound chicken, cut into 8 to 10 pieces (I cut each chicken breast in half)
  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 cups (6 3/8 oz, 180.7g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons potato starch (optional) (I included it)
  • fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound lard or solid vegetable shortening, for frying (I substituted 2 cups of sunflower oil)
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 pound sliced bacon (I used 4 thick slices)
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups drained canned diced tomatoes (from three 14-ounce cans)
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (I used whole milk)

To Make the Fried Chicken:

  1. In a large bowl, dissolve the kosher salt in the cold water. Add the chicken pieces; cover and refrigerate for 4 hours. Drain.
  2. Put the chicken in a large bowl, add the buttermilk and turn the pieces to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours. (The chicken can be refrigerated overnight at this point, if desired.)
  3. In a gallon-size zip-lock bag, combine the flour, cornstarch, potato starch, 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and shake.
  4. Set aside 1/2 cup of the flour mixture for the gravy.
  5. Lift the chicken out of the buttermilk, wipe off any excess and set the pieces on a wire rack; let dry for 5 minutes.
  6. Add the chicken, a few pieces at a time, to the flour mixture in the bag; shake to coat.
  7. Dry the rack. Shake off any excess flour and return the chicken to the rack.
  8. Meanwhile, in a large cast-iron skillet, melt the lard (I used sunflower oil) and butter over medium heat. (I used a 12-inch cast iron skillet.)
  9. Add the bacon and cook over moderate heat until crisp, about 5 minutes; reserve the bacon for another use. (I crumbled the bacon over our wedge salads.)
  10. Add the chicken, in batches, and cook over moderate heat, basting and turning, until golden, crisp and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Lower the heat if necessary. (I kept the cooking oil temperature between 300 and 340 degrees. I also completed cooking the larger pieces (especially the breast pieces) in the oven at 300 degrees, until they reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees.)
  11. Set the chicken on a clean wire rack to drain.

To Make the Gravy:

  1. Transfer 1/4 cup of the chicken cooking fat to a large saucepan.
  2. Add the onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is golden, about 5 minutes. (I chopped the onion and garlic in a food processor.)
  3. Add the reserved 1/2 cup of seasoned flour and cook, whisking, for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the drained tomatoes and thyme and stir constantly until blended.
  5. Whisk in the cream and milk until the sauce is smooth.
  6. Season with salt and pepper and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened and no floury taste remains, about 10 minutes.
To Serve:
  1. Transfer the fried chicken to a platter.
  2. Pour the tomato gravy into a gravy boat and serve with the chicken.

For the Biscuits:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons single-acting baking powder or double-acting baking powder (see Note)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup cold lard or vegetable shortening, cut into pieces (I used bacon fat)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

To Make the Biscuits:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°.
  2. In a bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  3. Using your fingers or a pastry blender, work in the lard just until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
  4. Stir in the buttermilk just until moistened.
  5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead 2 or 3 times.
  6. Roll out or pat the dough 1/2 inch thick.
  7. Using a 2-inch round cutter, stamp out biscuits as close together as possible. Transfer the biscuits to a baking sheet.
  8. Pat the dough scraps together, reroll and cut out the remaining biscuits; do not overwork the dough.
  9. Pierce the top of each biscuit 3 times with a fork and brush with the butter.
  10. Bake the biscuits for 12 to 14 minutes, or until risen and golden. Serve at once.

Note: The unbaked biscuits can be frozen in a single layer, then kept frozen in an airtight container for up to 1 month. Thaw before baking.

Pork Chops with Lemon-Caper Sauce

After reading the printed version, I received multiple emails from The New York Times about this dish. Sam Sifton was over the moon about this recipe and the book, Toni Tipton-Martin’s Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African-American Cooking. He described the book as “excellent and invaluable” and noted that this was his favorite recipe in it. I had to try it.

I agreed with Sam Sifton. 🙂 Lemon-caper sauce is incredible! This wonderful dish was prepared very quickly and was packed with flavor. Tipton-Martin learned the sauce technique that elevates these smothered pork chops from restaurateur B. Smith.

I added additional flour to the sauce to make it more of a gravy. We used fresh bread to mop up all of the remaining sauce on our plates. I served the pork chops with sautéed spinach and roasted red and sweet potatoes on the side.

This recipe was adapted from Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African-American Cooking, via The New York Times, contributed by Sam Sifton. I slightly modified the proportions.

Yield: Serves 4 to 5

  • 4 bone-in pork chops (about 8 ounces each) (I used 5 boneless pork chops)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 4 T unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 very small shallot, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
  • 2 T all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 T drained capers
  • 2 T minced fresh parsley, plus more for garnish
  • 1 tsp freshly grated lemon zest, plus 2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • hot sauce, optional
  1. Dry the chops with paper towels, and season aggressively with salt, pepper and the thyme.
  2. Swirl the olive oil into a large skillet, and heat over medium until the oil begins to shimmer.
  3. Add chops, and cook until well browned on each side and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer chops to a plate, and cover to keep warm.
  4. Drain most of the fat from the skillet, then melt 2 tablespoons of butter in it over medium heat until sizzling.
  5. Add the shallot and garlic, and sauté until the aromatics soften, reducing the heat if necessary, about 1 minute.
  6. Sprinkle in the flour, and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.
  7. Whisk in the wine and chicken stock, raise heat to high and bring the liquid to a boil, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Reduce heat to medium-high and cook, uncovered, until the liquid is reduced by half, 7 to 10 minutes.
  8. Stir in the capers, parsley, lemon zest and juice and hot sauce to taste (if you’re using it)(I omitted it), and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes.
  9. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter until it’s melted and the sauce looks smooth.
  10. Nestle the pork chops into the sauce, and allow them to warm up for a couple of minutes, then serve, pouring sauce over each pork chop to taste.
  11. Garnish with more fresh parsley.

Cornbread Dressing with Bacon & Sage

I am not usually the biggest fan of Thanksgiving stuffing but I was in love with this version. This classic Southern stuffing had wonderful flavor and a perfect balance of crunchy and custardy texture. Perfect. It will definitely be part of my Thanksgiving menu next year.

This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Josh Miller. The skillet cornbread is baked in a piping hot cast iron skillet sprinkled with salt- resulting in a fabulously crispy crust. This cornbread would be delicious on its own as well. I made the cornbread a day in advance. The stuffing can be completely assembled one day before serving and baking.

Yield: Serves 8 to 10

For the Dressing:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F, preferably on convection.
  2. Toss together 5 cups cornbread cubes, torn white bread, 1/2 cup melted butter, and sage in a large bowl.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high. In 2 batches, add cornbread mixture to skillet; cook, stirring, until bread is toasted, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer corn-bread mixture to a large bowl, and set aside. Wipe skillet clean.
  4. Add bacon to skillet; cook over medium, stirring often, until crisp, about 12 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon; add to cornbread mixture.
  5. Reserve 2 tablespoons bacon drippings in skillet; discard remaining drippings or reserve for another use.
  6. Add onion, apple, celery, parsley, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add onion mixture to cornbread mixture.
  7. Crumble remaining 5 cups cubed cornbread into cornbread mixture.
  8. Whisk together 3 cups broth, eggs, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl until blended. Fold into cornbread mixture.
  9. Spoon mixture into a 13- x 9-inch baking dish.
  10. Drizzle with remaining 1/2 cup broth and remaining 1/4 cup melted butter. Bake in preheated oven until lightly toasted, about 35 minutes.
Note: Dressing may be assembled up to 1 day ahead; cover and chill until ready to bake.

For the Buttermilk Skillet Cornbread:

  1. Add oil to a 10-inch cast-iron skillet; place skillet in oven, and preheat to 450°F, preferably on convection. (Do not remove skillet while oven preheats.)
  2. While oven preheats, whisk together cornmeal, flour, sugar, 2 1/2 teaspoons salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a medium bowl.
  3. Stir in buttermilk until smooth; stir in eggs, then stir in butter.
  4. Carefully remove skillet from oven; pour hot oil from skillet into cornbread batter, stirring until blended.
  5. Working quickly, sprinkle remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in bottom of skillet, then immediately pour batter into hot skillet (do not stir), and return to oven.
  6. Bake at 450°F until top is golden brown, about 22 minutes.
  7. Immediately invert cornbread onto a wire rack (to retain the crispy crust); let cool completely before using, about 1 hour and 30 minutes.

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