Thursday, September 30, 2010

Alabama Scramble And Stuffed Chops

The season is at an end for okra and green tomatoes and Bev wanted to have our friend, Kathy, over for one more batch. While Kathy is primarily an okra fan, we decided to make the Alabama scramble of potatoes, onion, okra, and tomatoes and let others eat around parts they may not like – that turned out to be no problem. I had some thick cut pork chops in the freezer from our last purchase of a whole boneless pork loin and wanted to stuff and grill them - but they were the side dish to the scramble.

The first step, after thawing, for the chops was about 7 hours in buttermilk brine from At Graces Table – the recipe below is one and a half times the posted recipe, which was for four chops.

3 cups buttermilk
3 Tbsp kosher salt
3 Tbsp sugar
1 ½ Tbsp lemon rind
1 ½ Tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 ½ Tsp chopped fresh sage
3 Tsp fresh ground black pepper
6 Pork chops

I had all of the ingredients but only one cup of buttermilk and I also had no milk, so I turned two cups of half and half into buttermilk by adding 2 tbsp of white vinegar – it actually tasted like buttermilk. With only an hour of marinadtng time left, it occurred to me to cut the stuffing pocket into them so the marinade could get inside - next time I'll cut the pocket from the get go.

I wanted to stuff them, but not put a lot of work into it, so I just used Stovetop Stuffing (which we had on hand) made per package directions and with the addition of a handful of Craisins. I cut a big pocket into the chops and used the entire box for the six of them.

I cooked them on the charcoal grill over direct heat to get a nice crust, then over indirect until a probe thermometer in the stuffing read 142*. While they were cooking, I basted them with the marinade, making sure it got well cooked. They were very good and got excellent reviews from the eaters – we all liked the marinade flavor - but Bev would have liked it a little stronger. Here’s the finished product.

Bev used the discada to cook the scramble and had a little trouble with heat management – I think the burner tube may have a spider or something in it messing up the air flow. But even though some of it was well caramelized, it was delicious. Here’s a shot of  my plate, which also included some fresh green beans and cucumber salad.  I was the only one to finish the chop so the 5 women (somebodies got to do it) each got a doogie bag.

We topped it off with brownies and ice cream for a delicious meal.

And what about the leftover Alabama Scramble - glad you ask - breakfast.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Our Last Day In West Virginia

As Bev requested, after our 10 hour drive the previous day, we spent another day at my aunts camp and, after our morning walk, spent most of the day sitting on the porch and watching the leaves float down the river - and of course visiting a little. Aunt Barb insisted on making me breakfast and I’m sure glad I agreed. The maple sugar link sausages were delicious.

We did make a little trip to the neighborhood I grew up in for some of Colasessanos famous pepperoni buns to bring home with us frozen. Then I drove by the house I grew up in.

Back then, it had ugly tan, asphalt shingles and the front porch was all wood with a wood banister. The roof to the left is the garage apartment on the same lot where my grandparents lived - one of the best things in my life was growing up next door to Grandma.

Then I drove by my first school, grades 1 thru 9 – we didn’t have kindergarten or pre-school as it was Mom’s job to provide training until 1st grade. The school is still in service and the grade school (red building grades 1-6) was really old when I started there 59 years ago, and it had a school bell that actully rang and could be heard thoughout the community - my walk to school was about 2 blocks. The light building was the much newer junior high (grades 7-9) - it's set up differently now.

After our short trip and more sitting on the porch and visiting, Barb cooked a supper of turkey and dumplings from a surprise she had in the freezer. The dumplings were Bisquik, but the broth had been made from a wild turkey carcass containing lots of meat. I’d never eaten wild turkey and it was delicious – sorry no pics.

And for our final WV meal, we met the cousins for breakfast at a diner by the interstate about a mile from my aunt’s camp. It’s called DJ’s 50’s and 60’s Diner and it is very much in the period inside and out. This is the outside.

This is half of the inside with the other end having a counter and stools facing the kitchen. It has lot’s of Elvis memorabilia and food names.

My breakfast was called All Shook Up and contained home fries, sausage pattys, cheese and eggs. It was delicious and definitely my kind of breakfast - looks alot like what I cook at home doesn't it?

After breakfast and an enjoyable six day visit to "West Virginia - Almost Heaven", it was a nice, uneventful, 7 ½ hour, drive back home to Almost Heaven South. Hope you enjoyed my trip and thanks for stopping by.

Fall (my favorite season) has finally arrived with the next 5 days being sunny and temps of 70's daytime and 50's nighttime (40's this weekend) - it's about time to wrap up the garden, plant a few shrubs, and get everything ready for winter.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Gator Po' Boys

Wow, what great weather - after a very hot dry summer, it's been cool with intermittent light rain the last few days - we needed it.

As you may recall, we brought several things from our trip to New Orleans last month and one of them was Alligator filets.

I actually brought them back to make alligator bites from a recipe I've saved, but since I have two packages, we decided to go with po' boys for the first package.  Bev wants to try a change in our eating pattern by switching our normal lunch and supper meals - thereby eating lighter of an evening.  We found this to be pretty common in much of Europe during our visits.  So this was our early afternoon dinner meal.

I had planned to use our beer batter then Panko for breading, but ended up going with a rice flour -  buttermilk seasoned with Slap Yo Mama - Panko breading and deep frying at 365 (which got them a little dark).  Here they are before any action - I'd never caught, killed, skinned, and butchered a gator (LOL), so I had no ideal what I would get, but I didn't expect so many little pieces.

Bev decided to forgo the bread and had hers on a salad - she loves meat on salad.


For my po' boy, I used part of a French baguette, topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, and mayo.

The sandwich was very good and although it's reported to taste like chicken, Bev and I both thought the alligator didn't have a lot of flavor (but it was closer to chicken than anything thing else) and we certainly wouldn't pay a premium to get it - or go to the swamp to harvest one :-).

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Monday, September 27, 2010

A Side Trip To The West Virginia Mountains

When I was a kid, my parents often talked about going to Morefield and Petersburg to go fishing and my cousin has often mentioned the camp he had in the area – they went there several times a year for many years. Since I couldn’t remember ever going there, during our recent visit to WV, we decided on a day trip to the area to give us something to do - the area is in the smaller mountains just East of Allegheny Front.  The primary fishing streams are the North Fork (of the south branch) and South Branch of the Potomic River (the one that flows past Washington, DC) and other tourist spots include Smoke Hole Caverns, Seneca Rocks, Seneca Caverns, and Dolly Sods, which is actually along the crest of Allegheny Front. Allegheny front is the tallest ridge of the mountains running through the eastern side of the state – they are called the Cumberland Mountains when they run through Tennessee.

After leaving my aunt’s camp on the river, the first point of interest was the covered bridge in Phillippi, WV, which is still in service and we crossed.

Next was an accidentally discovered train yard in Bellington, which I’ll include with a separate later post about trains.

From there, we headed east through Elkins, worked our way through the mountains, and ended up at Seneca Rocks, which lies along the North Fork. Here's some shots of the trees beginning to turn.

And this a Seneca Rocks which rise about 900' above the stream and are popular with rock climbers.

Since it was lunch time, we stopped at the local tourist place called Yokums and enjoyed talking with the 90 year old, still very active owner – like many folks that age, she told us a lot of her life’s story. While in a little decline, I’d say the place has provided a very good living for them over the years, providing a little bit of everything for the tourists.

We headed down river to the place the cousins had kept their camper (a modified school bus) and all were amazed by the low water level - but it's still beautiful country.

Along with several others, they had rented a small spot of ground along the river from a local farmer and made the 2 ½ hour journey every weekend they could – unfortunately a major flood washed it (along with lots of other things, including homes) away a few months after they had sold it. From there we headed cross-mountain toward the South Branch and stumbled upon this very nice lodge with about 6 equally nice individual cabins. Since it was in the middle of nowhere, we couldn’t figure why it was there.

We then arrived in the Smokehole area.

and toured along the South Branch, which is equally low.

and finally came to the full South Branch of the Potomic near Petersburg WV.  The North Branch comes in from Maryland and they meet up about 10 miles south east of Cumberland, Md

It’s hard to believe this is the same river that’s in DC – of course there are some other streams that run into it prior to getting there and I believe it's tidewater at the point it gets really wide.  I just saw some shots on another forum of Great Falls National Park, just notheast of DC and the river is very low there as well.

From there it was up on Dolly Sods which is a very unique place and worth the quick read by clicking on the link. It’s a boggy area right on top the mountain and the wind is so strong and persistent, the pine tree branches grow much longer on the downwind side. I’d been hunting in the area about 40 years ago and, in places, it has grown up tremendously since then. The first two shots are out toward Maryland.

A typical boggy area right on top of the mountain.

And the trees with the long branches pointing East away from the ever present wind.

We then went past a wind farm along a ridge catching that same wind near Thomas, WV. The first shot is from Dolly Sods and the second is up close along route US-219.

We then headed back to the camp for a total trip of 10 hours - my cousin and I loved it, but we had some whinny women by the time we got home. I suggested we leave for home the next day, but Bev said that after all of that riding, she wanted to spend a day sitting on the camp porch, watching the river go by, and getting ready for the ride home - the flexibility of retirement sure is nice.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Tomato Clafoutis – Sorta

After spending the previous day driving back from northern West Virginia, doing vacation eating for a week, and spending the day catching up around Almost Heaven South, we decided something easy and not too awfully heavy would be in order. It just so happened that one of the first posts I read that morning was from Mary over at One Perfect Bite. She posted a recipe for tomato clafoutis and it fit right in with some things we had on hand. We had some Mornay sauce left from recent Kentucky hot browns, which seemed close enough to the recipe’s cream and parmesan requirement and we had a lot of ripe paste tomatoes. Mary commented that her maters could have looked better, but ours were even worse. By the time I cut out the bad places and seeded them, they barely resembled tomatoes, so I decided to just give them a rough chop and mix with the egg mixture prior to adding to the dish. So I guess we ended up with a frittata rather than a clafoutis.

It fit the bill perfectly, providing a light and tasty meal – we ate the whole thing.  I think this works well for any meal of the day.

Thanks Mary for the inspiration.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Last Weekend Of Summer On The River

This is the third day at my aunt's camp on the Tygart Valley River near Fairmont, WV.  While we saw just a few boats out on Saturday, the last Sunday of summer brought out several as folks wanted to get in what could be the last warm, pretty-day, ride before taking their boats out for the winter.  Here's a sampling.

 A Mastercraft, built just up Tellico Lake from us at their factory in Vonore, Tn.

This guy was moving too fast to get a clear shot - note the clear dock across the river. That's a highly polished, all chrome top on his big, noisy, V-8 engine sticking up behind him.

These folks motored up past the camp and were fishing as they floated back past a little later.

It doesn't get more peaceful than this evening ride.  Other than quick 90* turns, this is a great water skiing river as the banks quickly remove the boat wakes and you can ski on very smooth water most of the time - unlike our lake at home, which becomes ocean like at times.

 Fall is obviously here as a few trees are starting to turn, the white oaks are dropping what seems like tons of acorns and docks are disappearing from the river. Even though there is a flood-control dam up river in Grafton, it’s common for the water to rise 6-8 feet (and sometimes several more) during the winter and spring and become somewhat of a debris-filled torrent. As a result any over-wintering docks in the water are subject to damage or being washed away - the folks beside us took theirs out on Sunday and this guy is towing his somewhere to take out.

For us, it was a lazy day of sitting on the porch, watching the happenings, and visiting until late afternoon, when cousins and friends showed up for dinner. We had smoked a turkey breast during the last BBQ day for the primary reason of bringing it to WV and making Kentucky Hot Browns for them. I used the recipe from Louisville’s Brown Hotel (inventor of the dish), which I’d used before and can be found HERE. We didn’t have oven proof plates, so we topped the toast with the re-heated turkey and a slice of beefsteak tomato that covered the entire sandwich then stuck it under the broiler until the tomato was warmed. We then added the mornay sauce, bacon, and parsley. The classic sandwich uses two slices of bacon in an X, but I find it easier to eat if it's crumbled - since Bev wanted to used sliced, I compromised and used one sliced and one crumbled.  Not a great shot, but you get the idea.

They turned out to be delicious and everyone seemed to enjoy them, but someone made the suggestion and we all agreed that some form of onion would punch them up. So next time, I’ll make one with a little sliced or diced onion on the tomato and another with some chopped green onion on top and see what we think.

The guests all brought a dessert or two and after a little digesting time, I just couldn’t pass up cake and ice cream. As long as I can remember, when having chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream, I would let the ice cream get soft then mix it up with the cake. I thought I was the only one who did this, but come to find out, my cousin does the same – he added some fresh strawberries to his bowl for this one. Here’s a shot of his and while Beverly says it looks like garbage, Dairy Queen thinks it looks like a Blizzard – we were just ahead of the time.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Friday, September 24, 2010

WV Trip Continues

WVU won over Maryland, but Tennessee lost to Florida, although the Vols played better than the week before – new coach, new system so we shouldn’t expect a great season.

As you know from previous posts, I’m growing a few of my own mushrooms, but the night before we left on the trip, I was out wandering around and found this feller growing in the landscaping. I don’t know why there, unless it was growing on a root from a tree that was cut down a few years ago – size 12 sandal beside it.

My cousin does a little mushroom hunting so I took it with me in hopes he might recognize it and declare it edible. Unfortunately he didn’t know what it was, so into the woods it went – I just hope I didn’t toss a big sample of one of the worlds rarest and best tasting mushrooms. I’ll do some research when I get back and see if I can figure it out – I need to befriend a mushroom hunting expert to take me out into the woods and teach me.

When we arrived, mid afternoon, at my cousin’s home (Dick & Ruth), Ruth was baking some stuffed peppers for football watching snacks. She used their Hungarian wax peppers, prepared per the recipe below - they were delicious, with just the right amount of heat, which can be varied by type and preparation of peppers.

Hot Baked Peppers, Ruth Hawkins, 2010
8-10 small hot peppers
8 oz cream cheese
¾ lb hot Italian sausage, browned and drained of fat
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
½ -1 cup shredded jack and colby or mozzarella cheese for topping

Preheat oven to 400*
Remove top from peppers, slit one side and remove seeds
Mix cream cheese, sausage, and parmesan and stuff into peppers
Bake covered for 30 minutes
Remove, sprinkle with topping cheese and bake covered for 5-10 more minutes or until cheese melts.

Then for supper, it was cabbage rolls made with their homegrown and very sweet cabbage – something she does different is cook them with kraut along with tomatoes. She sided them with salad and mashed potatoes to put the pot juices on, which I added to mine after taking the photo.

They reheated very well for breakfast the next morning and again for lunch. Ruth is a great cook and eating her meals is always one of the highlights of the trip.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.