Southern Cookin’, Celebration & Sun

Our extended family has gotten around to celebrating many holidays a day ahead of time.  It’s great because we can enjoy everyone, and then decide whether we want to have our own as well.  Saturday, we celebrated my husband’s wonderful father, and Sunday we celebrated my husband who decided he wanted to drive a bit up the coast to enjoy the gorgeous weather.
All in all, we survived another weekend food extravaganza thanks to The New Q, quite the improvement on the Great Black Grease Beast now sitting in our garage while we figure out what to do with it.  Knowing us, it won’t happen over night, unless the green men sneak in after dark to steal it, or I take myself up on my dare…You can read all about the whole BBQ saga if you read the dare.

Anyway, the May 2007 issue of Cooking Light Magazine, of all things, inspired me to make a Kentucky style spread to celebrate my father-in-law, who is a Kentucky native.  Their beautiful article, "My Old Kentucky Home" by Bob Edwards with recipes by Kathleen Kanen and Becky Luigart-Stayner was an entertaining and worthwhile read focused on what the locals do to celebrate "Derby Day." 

Although I was tempted to make all the selections, in the interest of sanity, I cut back.  It did give my husband the opportunity to give his Father’s Day present a good work out, however.  The menu seemed so perfect I actually forgot that the magazine was all about health and well-being — read lo-cal or more healthy food substitutions — but generally good from my past experience in trying out the recipes.  I don’t subscribe to the magazine because I’m trying to get over my magazine addiction, but do sneak it into my grocery basket when I can’t pass by that cover recipe.

We enjoyed "Classic Mint Juleps," "Asparagus-Apple Salad with Blue Cheese Vinaigrette," "Hickory Grilled Beef (and Pork Tenderloin) with Henry Bain Sauce," "Crunchy Chow-Chow," Grilled Corn on the Cob, and "Apple Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream topped with Bourbon Caramel Sauce."  Well, I’m not sure if "enjoyed" is the right word for the Juleps as far as my husband and I are concerned, because they’re very strong.  Very.  Margaritas and Mojitos I can handle, but bourbon?  Sheesh!  My toes are still curled from the experience! My parents-in-law did say after a few adjustments (adding more of the mint sugar to the drink) that, yes, they were the real thing!

I looked at a variety of Mint Julep recipes beginning with the one featured in Cooking Light Magazine.   Most are identical with a tweak here and a tweak there, but I ended up using this one, making it official.  I figured it would be a pleasant trip down memory lane for my parents-in-law of their trip last year to The Kentucky Derby.  My father-in-law likes Maker’s Mark Kentucky Bourbon, so I substituted that.  I also let the ice melt in mine for about a half hour just so I could drink it.

The "Asparagus-Apple Salad with Blue Cheese Vinaigrette" was very good.  I chose to grill the asparagus and add some sauteed bacon to the mix just in case the meat being grilled wasn’t enough protein and fat for all concerned.  The vinaigrette is light, and the small amount of sugar added in the recipe along with the Dijon went nicely with the sweetness of the Braeburn apples I used.  The recipe can be found here.Img_2129

The "Henry Bain Sauce" was quite pungent and very tasty.  It has a barbeque sauce type flavor that was the perfect accompaniment to the grilled meat.  You can find the recipe here.  I was a bit surprised at the cost of a bottle of A1 Steak Sauce, one of the ingredients.  We aren’t a steak sauce family, and I’ve never purchased a bottle.  Who knew?  When I saw both Worchestershire sauce and steak sauce called for in the same recipe I did a bit of research to find out a bit about steak sauce in general.  I always have Worchestershire sauce in the cupboard, and when making this kind of a sauce, usually add it to a ketchup base.  But the A1 was new.  Although I now know more about all that, and have tried Henry Bain Sauce, I’m confident that making a basic barbeque sauce would be just fine — as long as it’s not too sweet.

The Chow-Chow was an interesting creation.  I figured out pretty quickly that it’s a relish just from looking at the ingredients found in the recipe here.  What intrigued me is that it cooks almost not at all — 5 minutes.  After asking my mother-in-law about whether they had tried chow-chow before, she told me she had a jar of it at home and that the relish had a type of "cooked down cabbage" consistency to it. Not something that would go over big in our house.  When I cook cabbage, it’s usually a bit crunchy here and there.  Mushy veggies are not something to look forward to — unless it’s spinach.   And after doing a bit of research on it, I did find that some Chow-Chow recipes include cabbage.  Could they be like Kim-Chee?  The recipe from Cooking Light did not include cabbage, but it did include quite a bit of tumeric, also interesting.  I could understand how something like Chow-Chow might be made a variety of ways, but also knew that with a contemporary recipe, the vegetables would most likely be crisp.  I neglected to begin chopping veggies until a few hours before we ate, so couldn’t let them sit the 8 hours called for in the recipe.  I honestly couldn’t see how that would make a huge difference, as there were no seasonings added to the vegetables before the sitting time began. I extended the cooking time to 10 minutes, and then drained it and let it cool to room temperature before serving.  Quite a colorful relish that wakes up one’s taste buds:  sweet, sour, spicy, crisp, and crunchy!

Barbequeing a roast is a relatively new experience for us.  I believe last year was our first attempt, and so far we’ve been lucky.  My parents-in-law had gifted us with one of those remote meat thermometers that has a voice.  Funny, huh?  But it works really well considering our patio door is around the corner from the barbeque and it has saved a bit of running back and forth when other things are being worked on in the kitchen, or when a game was on that my husband didn’t want to miss parts of.  Anyway, we’ve had no dried up clods of meat in our learning about BBQ roasting, but lots of reading to understand things like where the pan of water goes and how hot the burners should be, and what type of internal temperatures depending on the cut of meat we’re using.  The decision to roast something for Father’s Day sent me into a rereading frenzy.  I had a top sirloin roast — about 3.5 lbs. in the freezer, purchased a couple of weeks ago when it was on sale.  The recipe in Cooking Light called for a beef tenderloin, so clearly we were going to have to make some adjustments in a few places — like cooking time. 

After rubbing salt and cracked pepper over all surfaces of the top sirloin and fitting the spit through the center of it, we filled a small compartment with dry hickory chips — only a bit of a problem when you consider the size of the drawer versus the chips, and the fact that we don’t own a tool to cut them down to size. (I know, but whot-evah!)  Img_2155
This is a new feature for us since the Black Grease Beast didn’t have a smoker drawer.  We’re used to putting a metal pan of them, soaked in water, on the opposite side of the grill where the meat is situated.  That’s another new thing:  we haven’t grilled with a rotisserie — well outside.  We do have one of those indoor thingys that we rarely use.  So we were looking at about a 1- hour and 45 minute cooking time or an internal temperature of 150 degrees, rising to 155 or 160 after resting for 15 minutes — and trying to keep the barbeque heat at about 400 degrees — challenging when things like corn, and beans, and bread are being roasted.  Results?  It took 15 minutes less time to cook, and ended up having a sort of smoky appearance on the outside with the ends more done than the center.  After letting it sit under foil for about 20 minutes,  we put it back on the grill to get some nice marks on the outside.  You have to remember that we’re just messing around here.  But I was also concerned about it being too rare with several people in the house who preferred not to have their meal mooing at them while they were eating!Img_2120

Mmmm…roast beast!

The pork tenderloins were also salted and peppered, but cooked right on the grill for about 20 minutes (the amount of time the beef was resting).  Both the beef and the pork were sliced and served on the same platter just waiting for the Henry Bain Sauce and the Chow-Chow. (The  tomato-looking  mixture is  bruschetta topping from the appetizers just in case  people don’t want to try the Chow-Chow.)  Img_2135



The Bourbon Caramel Sauce wasn’t accompanied in the recipe by anything to serve it on, (which didn’t matter to me because I could probably just eat it out of the bowl by itself with a big spoon!), so I looked around for something other than plain ice cream, or bread pudding, to serve it on.  Apple crisp has been an old family favorite that my brother learned how to make when he was a kid out of the old Betty Crocker cookbook.  The recipe I used was very similar.  I chose it because it seemed to go will with the rest of the menu.  The original source can be found here.

Apple Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream and Bourbon Caramel Sauce Img_2140


4 lg. Granny Smith apples
2 T. lemon juice, fresh squeezed
1/2 c. dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/3 c. all purpose flour
1/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. rolled oats
4 T cold butter
1/2 c. chopped pecans


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

  1. Core and chop apples, and toss in a bowl with lemon juice. (We like the peels left on.)
  2. In separate bowl, combine brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg; stir into apples.
  3. In another bowl, combine flour, sugar and oats.  Cut butter into 8 small pieces, and "cut" with a pastry cutter or your fingers into the flour mixture until it resembles crumbs.  Stir in the nuts.
  4. Spray a 10×10 baking dish with vegetable spray and spread apples in the bottom of the dish.
  5. Sprinkle flour mixture on top.
  6. Bake for 30-45 minutes until apples are tender and topping light brown.
  7. Serve warm or at room temperature with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and Bourbon Caramel Sauce.

I hope your weekend was as filling as ours — Filled with family, sun, and experiments with new food!