Tom Thumb and Tradition…for you Mom

IMG_1627Happy New Year to all.. Personally, I am pleased 2014 has come to an end. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all bad, it just wasn’t all good either. So, to begin this new year of 2015, I have decided to take no chances! Paul and I plunged into the great Atlantic Ocean this afternoon with several hundred others at the great Penguin Plunge in Atlantic Beach. As I have learned being a Martha’s Vineyard Polar Bear, the cold water is quite restorative. So, we cleansed off the old and are ready for the new.

That accomplished, I returned home to prepare a traditional Southern New Year’s fare. However, this year, I am truly returning to my eastern North Carolina roots. Growing up, my Mom always cooked a Tom Thumb on New Years Day.  I decided to gift her with that this year. I can’t recall my friends ever eating Tom Thumb. If they did, they weren’t fessing up…just look at the beast! It proudly ladened our table every year.

Tom Thumb, for those of you not knowledgeable on  eastern NC food, is ground pork, laced with several spices and stuffed into the pig’s large intestine. It is wrapped with twine and hung to smoke or air dry. In southern Virginia ( I didn’t know this delicacy crossed state lines) it is called Dan Doodle. I’m assuming these funny names are a result of enticing folks to eat this monstrosity of a sausage.

In keeping with tradition, we are also enjoying sweet potatoes, collards and,of course, black eye peas. I did a new twist on the potatoes and black eye peas this year just to kick it up a notch. The finishing touch is fried corn bread. I am pleased to say everything on our table is produced on farms in eastern NC.

I know you are waiting with baited breath for the Tom Thumb recipe.  Here it is…boil it!  Yep, that’s it, just place it in a pot and boil till done.  I confess, after it’s boiled, I do slice it and pan fry it just like you would any sausage. I dare you to try it. You may start your own New Year tradition.IMG_1630

Here is a recipe I procured while visiting my hometown, Kinston, NC.  There was a cooking demonstration at the local farmers market and this was a recipe that was shared. I love the lemon and sherry flavor that permeates this dish. (for traditionalists, you may use Bourbon)

Lemony Mashed Sweet Potatoes

3 pounds medium sweet potatoes
2 Tbl. firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup peach preserves
3 Tbl. dry sherry
1/2 stick butter, melted
finely grated zest  and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pierce the potatoes in several places and arrange them on the oven rack in a single layer. Place a sheet of foil on the rack below to catch the drippings. Roast until tender, about 40 minutes.

Peel the potatoes and mash until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients. Scrape the potato mixture into a prepared dish and bake until heated through, about 20 minutes. Serve warm.   8 servings

You can make this dish up to one day ahead. Cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat them in the oven, covered, but increase the time to about 30 minutes.

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Pass Along Recipes

In reflecting back over some of my favorite recipes, I realized many of them came from good friends that had shared food with my family and me when one of us happened to be under the weather.  There is nothing better than a prepared dish delivered to my home when I am in need.  The taste always seems better, probably because it is made with love and caring.  I am a great believer that our emotions infuse our food as we stir those pots or chop those ingredients.  Did you see the film “Like Water for Chocolate”? It takes this same idea and and weaves it into the storyline.  ( I am in the early stages of my blog, and I have already recommended two films…..hmmm…..guess what my other passion happens to be!).

Don’t you find cooking to be therapeutic?  When I am cooking and preparing food for others or even for myself, it removes my self absorption, replacing it with a selflessness, the concentration being on the recipe and its outcome, and the comfort it may bring to those enjoying the food.

So, this is a pass along recipe my friend Melodie shared after she brought this delicious dish to my home, “looking after” me.  I’m sure this won’t be the last recipe from Melodie.  I always enjoy an invitation to her table to share in All of This! and her incredible culinary skills.chicken pasta

Chicken and Pasta

Mise en place
1. About 2 large chicken breasts, cut into ½ inch slices
Salt and pepper the chicken. Sprinkle some oregano over them, too.
Dredge in about 1/3- ½ cup flour.

2. Cook ½ to 1 lb. linguine in salted water under al dente.  Drain, reserving about 1/3 cup pasta water.

Cut 2 ¼ inch thick lemon slices.
Chop ½ cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, draining the tomatoes.
Peel and mince 4 garlic cloves.
½ tsp. capers
Pinch crushed red pepper
1 cup dry white wine
about 1 cup heavy cream
1 package fresh spinach

Preparation

Heat a 12-inch skilled over high heat until very hot.  Add 2 Tbls. olive oil. When oil begins to smoke, add the chicken pieces.  Cook until pieces are seared on both sides, about 2 minutes per side.  Remove chicken to a plate and keep warm, leaving oil in the pan.
Add the lemon slices to the pan and cook until caramelized, about 1 minute per side.  Add the sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, capers, and red pepper flakes, and sauté for about 1 minute.
Add the white wine and cook until reduced to a glaze.  Return the chicken to the pan with the cream, and sauté for about 2 minutes.  Add the spinach in bunches until the spinach wilts.  Add the linguine.  Cook, tossing to combine linguine and sauce, just until spinach is wilted.

Side Note #1…When I prepare this recipe, I remove the lemon slices from the pan after they are caramelized. I also choose not to flour the chicken, but use the s&p and oregano liberally then continue with the recipe.  It’s all to your taste!

Side Note #2:  This can easily be a vegetarian dish by omitting the chicken and adding tofu.  Prepare in the same method as the chicken.

Eggs with a Twist Part 2. Or…… Time to Harvest your Basil!

I have discovered yet another twist to a tried and true recipe, actually, make that two, when they are combined.  Deviled eggs and pesto….yes, you read that correctly.  These two marry to create a delightful new taste to a couple of old favorites.  Besides, it really is time to harvest your basil, and pesto is the perfect way to freeze that fresh taste of summer.  Also, it’s tailgating time, and deviled eggs are an integral part of the pre-game feast. Use your favorite deviled egg recipe and substitute your pickled relish with pesto and, presto!, you have an appetizer or side dish that will command raves.  I use a roasted red pepper pesto because I’m not sure how to make a Carolina Blue pesto.  It’s your choice or your team’s colors.

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Pesto Deviled Eggs

Ingredients

6 hard boiled eggs
3 Tablespoons Mayonnaise
1 to 2 teaspoons pesto

Preparation

Scoop out the hard boiled yolk from the eggs.  Using the tines of a fork, mash the yolk and add remaining ingredients.  Using a small spoon, dollop the ingredients back into the egg white halves.  Garnish with toasted pine nuts, petite basil leaves or paprika.

Roasted Red Pepper Pesto

Ingredients
• 2 red peppers, halved and roasted
• 1 garlic clove
• ½ cup of basil
• ¼ cup shredded Parmesan
• ⅓ cup of pecans, toasted
• 2-3 Tablespoons of olive oil
• salt & pepper

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 350º.
2. Halve and seed the red peppers. Roast in oven for 15 minutes with the inside side down. Flip them over after 15 minutes and roast for another 15 minutes on the other side.
3. Remove from oven and place in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 10 minutes. {this will keep the heat in the bowl and make it easier to remove the skin}.
4. After peppers are finished resting, remove the skins and set aside.
5. Put pecans in a saute pan and toast until just fragrant. {about 7-10 minutes}
6. In a processor put, roasted red peppers, garlic clove, toasted pecans, shredded Parmesan cheese, basil, salt and pepper. Blend together.
7. Slowly start to add olive oil {depending on how you like your consistency} to the pesto mixture.

 This freezes well.  It is delicious tossed with pasta.

The Getty Girls

IMG_1436-0We are fortunate to have our own chickens here on Misty Morning Farm. Farmer Paul, aka husband, calls them the Getty Girls. Did you ever see the animated film Chicken Run?  It’s delightful and mindless entertainment for a rainy Sunday afternoon.  Chicken house antics.  When Farmer Paul talks about his Getty Girls, thanks to that film, I envision our southern hens, pecking and scratching, all the while accessorizing their beautiful coats of feathers with strands of pearls around their necks. Can’t you see it? Our girls are refined hens, producing the most beautiful colorful eggs that can easily rival those imaginary strands of pearls that grace their feathery necks.

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If you have access to farm fresh eggs, make the effort to find and purchase them.  It’s worth it. The yolks are a rich deep golden color, and the taste is so much better. They require no refrigeration, and my recipes are much more flavorful when fresh eggs are used.

I have included a tried and true recipe with a new twist. I love breakfast for breakfast, brunch or supper, and Eggs Benedict top my preferred list. Use your favorite recipe or mine below, but replace the Canadian bacon or ham with avocado and tomato. It is so rich and creamy! I think you’ll like the change.

Avocado Eggs Benedict

 Ingredients

2 English muffins split in half and toasted
4 eggs
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 avocado sliced
1 large or 2 medium tomatoes sliced
4 slices white American cheese
Easy Hollandaise Sauce
paprika and parsley for garnish

Preparation

Make Easy Hollandaise Sauce. To poach eggs, fill a large saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add the white vinegar and reduce heat to a simmer. Crack and gently drop in the eggs. Simmer for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove when the whites are firm and the yolks are done to your taste. Arrange in layers on each of the toasted muffins, the cheese, sliced tomatoes and sliced avocados. Top with the poached eggs and Hollandaise and garnish with paprika and parsley.

P.S. If you’re in a hurry Knorr makes a pretty good sauce mix…but, as always, fresh is best.

Easy Hollandaise Sauce

Ingredients

2 egg yolks
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 stick butter melted
1 to 2 drops Tabasco sauce
dash of cayenne pepper and salt

Preparation

Combine egg yolks and lemon juice in a food processor. Turn it on and slowly add the melted butter. The sauce will emulsify. Add the seasonings. Do not reheat or sauce will separate.

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