Chinese Boiled Peanuts- The Gateway to Becoming a True Southener

I was born just outside of Philadelphia, in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. I spent a wonderful 12 years playing in the creek in the backyard, going to the pool every summer day and growing into a young girl fond of the King of Prussia Mall before moving south to Virginia Beach. More fun filled years followed in the southern beach town thru high school before I moved and got swept away and truly “southernized” by the charm of Charleston, South Carolina. I fell in love with the South, the tradition and grace, from the willowing giant oaks filled with Spanish moss to the hospitality of strangers on the uneven cobblestone streets. There were only a few southern ways that I could not adapt- one being those giant mushy goober peas, a southern delicacy – Boiled Peanuts.

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I just could not get passed the soft, gross texture, or that a perfectly good peanut was wasted- how can you possibly beat the innate peanut flavor? However, my husband, who came from even deeper south, Fairhope, Alabama, loves the little boogers and convinced me to make some. I bought a one pound bag and made two different flavors- Cajun and Chinese. The raw green peanuts are harvested late summer but you can still get raw dried peanuts thru the year in most groceries. I immediately had a change of heart when I tasted one of the Chinese boiled boogers.

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Ingredients
1/2 pound raw unshelled peanuts
1/4 cup dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 stick cinnamon, about 3 inches in length
1 star anise
1 clove
1 dried chili, optional

Directions
Place the peanuts into a large pot and fill with water, stirring to remove the excess dirt. Drain into a colander, rinse and repeat 3 times. In a heavy bottom pot add the peanuts and pour just enough water to cover. Stir in the soy sauce, sugar, salt, cinnamon, star anise, clove, and dried chili.

Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat and then lower temperature to a slow moving boil. Cook for 4-5 hours, checking occasionally that liquid is still covering the peanuts. Add water as needed and cook until desired tenderness. Another method is to use a slow cooker on low for 12 hours.

Serve the peanuts warm; reserving the liquid to store the peanuts in, if you have any leftover. Reheat on a stove with the braising liquid to serve later.

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Like any good southerner, I can accept fault with grace- I was wrong about the celebrated boiled peanut. I fell in love with these suckers. The Chinese flavor profile enhanced the traditional peanut flavor that I could not part with, absolutely addictive.

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With a pile in front of us, Sir Wes and I did not stop eating them until they were gone; barely even a face wipe or a sip of beer. I knew at this point of indulgence that although I have a birth certificate from Pennsylvania, I was truly a Southern girl.

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Butternut Squash, Chicken and Sausage Cassoulet

I am drawn to all the squashes being stocked at the groceries and markets. They are not only tasty, but pretty as well. There are tons of creative ways to incorporate them into your holiday décor. I am definitely partial to food that I can decorate with!

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I love that they are play the role of both vegetable and starch. It’s sneaky, they go both ways. In fact they double their character by being used in both savory and sweet sides of the kitchen.  This week though I stuck with the savory side, a cassoulet type soup/stew.  Rich and hearty and packed with fall flavors.

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1 pound raw chicken breast, diced into 3/4 inch cubes
1 tablespoon Herb de Provence
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 red pepper, roasted, seeded, skin removed and diced
1 green pepper, roasted, seeded, skin removed and diced
12 ounce sausage crumbles, turkey or pork
2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and diced in to 3/4 inch cubes
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced celery
1 teaspoon chopped sage
3 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup sliced green onions

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Start by marinating the chicken with the Herb de Provence, salt and pepper. Allow the chicken to marinate at least 1 hour. Roast your peppers in high temp oven or over a grill and remove seeds and skin, then dice and reserve.

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Place a heavy bottom stock pot over medium high heat and add sausage crumbles. While stirring sausage add in the chicken, squash, onions, celery and sage. You may need to add a touch of oil depending on how much fat leeches out of the sausage. When onions are translucent and there is a bit of color on the squash and chicken pour in the chicken stock.

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Turn the heat to medium and allow to simmer for another 20 minutes. Add in the roasted, diced peppers and adjust with salt and pepper to your taste. Before serving add the green onions.

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Serves 4-6 guests

This is a quick and easy fall dinner, one that gets better with age, so it’s a perfect do ahead meal for your busy weeks coming up! Just have to sacrifice one of your display squashes!

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Warm wishes and happy Thanksgiving!!

The Art of the Pizza Roll, Tailgate Chefs- Game On!

Game Day, Game Day, Game Day!!  College Football is Kicking Off!!  I believe in the Football/Tailgate Cuisine Movement, support it 100%!  I love the playfulness of the food, the comradery it inspires between guys and their grills, the artisanal care that nonchefs are putting towards the pop up tailgate table.  The craft direction is strong within this mouthwatering cuisine.  It is downright hard to find someone that does not have fond memories of tailgate food.

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Thank you Emily for the deliciousness, for the loving tenderness you put towards this football food recipe.

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Perfect Pizza Crust (if you’re in a jam, buy the premade dough in your grocery store)

  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. instant yeast
  • 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup hot tap water

In a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment place the flour, yeast, and salt. Quickly mix together the dry ingredients.  Pour in the oil and hot tap water and stir for about 10 seconds. The dough should be wet enough to leave a little residue on the side of the bowl at this point but not so wet that it’s gooey. Adjust if needed with a little flour or tiny bit warm water. Knead for about 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Dough should be tacky to the touch. Do not add any flour or water after the dough is done mixing.

In a deep oiled mixing bowl, place the dough ball and place plastic wrap or damp towel directly over the dough.  Allow to rise until doubled in size, I set mine outside in the warm air, but near a window, or even a warm oven will do. Once risen, punch dough to deflate it.

  • 1 cup Pizza Sauce
  • 1 ½ cup mozzarella cheese
  • 4 Tbsp. melted butter
  • 3/4 Tbsp. garlic bread seasoning

Make pizza crust according to directions and let raise once. After it has risen, turn it onto a counter sprayed with cooking spray and roll it out thin, in the shape of a rectangle. Spread sauce; you may only need 1/2-3/4 cup but you can use the rest for dipping after the rolls are cooked. Add cheese and start rolling the dough tightly in a neat line. When there’s about an inch of dough left, stop rolling and pull the edge up and over, pinching it closed.

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With a serrated knife, gently slice about 1-inch thick. Lay the rolls in a 13×9-inch baking pan, sprayed with cooking spray. You should get about 12 rolls out of the dough. Cover lightly and let the dough rise again until about doubled.

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Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine melted butter and garlic bread seasoning and brush over the tops of the rolls. Bake for about 17-20 minutes.

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Serve warm either plain or with extra pizza sauce for dipping.  Reheat any leftovers in the same fashion you would with leftover pizzas. Or if you are taking to the tailgate party, wrap them in a sheet of foil and warm them on a low heat grill.

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We are heading out to the Alabama and Virginia Tech game today and can’t wait to see what we find at the lot full of tailgate parties!! Roll Tide!

Breakfast Stuffed Biscuits- Alabama Biscuit King Copycat

Travel for our family often encompasses eating explorations, sure, history and local culture top the list too, but all of us can usually agree on getting to the locals only must eat store (eat-store, aka restaurant, coined by my nephew Sir Sully).  We recently dined our way thru a vacation in Lower Alabama.

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Gi-Normous, ugly and heavenly filled mouthwatering, belly aching irresistible biscuits are not to be missed on your next trip to LA (lower Alabama).  And they are born and raised all within view of the curious diners.  We visited the home of these ugly treasures, called Biscuit King Cafe in Fairhope, Alabama felt like we stroke gold, and as mentioned above, a small belly ache from over indulgence.   This small family business has something going for sure.

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After taking the first few bites the rest of meal was spent ogling what was going on in the kitchen.  When sheet pans went in the oven, how long until they came out.  What did the fillings look like, how did they stuff them.  We asked the ladies cooking a few questions, some of them laughing at us, in particular when we asked if any of the fillings were raw… “you caaan’t  put raw  food in a biscuit, thaaat’s just craaazy”.  Deep South stuffed biscuit etiquette explained…

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Happily we took enough away that I was able to recreate a similar recipe- Surely the Biscuit King reigns supreme, but until theirs and mine go head to head, I will stand by these are just as good!

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Ingredients Biscuit Filling

  • 6 ounces slice turkey or ham, julienned into strips
  • 6 eggs
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 4 ounces shredded cheddar

Biscuit Dough

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
  • 1 3/4 cups buttermilk, plus more for brushing

Biscuit Topping

  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • Sea salt

Directions

In a frying pan, over medium heat with a small amount of oil, sauté the meat until caramelized with golden color.  Remove the turkey from the pan and take the pan off the heat.  Whisk together the eggs and milk until frothy, and return the pan to the stove.  Over medium heat add the eggs to the sauté pan and cook until softly scrambled before removing from the heat.  Make sure not to overcook as there will be carry over cooking and reheat in the oven.  Add the tablespoon of butter to the eggs and mix until melted and incorporated.  Refrigerate until ready to assemble the biscuits.  Keep the eggs and the meat separate.  Be sure they are both cool before assembling as it will eliminate chance of overcooking the eggs.

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To make the biscuit dough:

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar together. Using a pastry blender or your hands, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs with a few large clumps remaining.   The butter should be cold, and will leave some lumps.  If you prefer to use your hands be quick and make sure the butter is very cold so it doesn’t melt.  I like to use my hands so I can get the flour/butter mixture to crumb faster.

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Pour in the buttermilk and fold the flour until the liquid is incorporated.  The dough will stick together in a ball and be slightly tacky.  Do not overmix as this is when biscuits become rocks.  Allow the dough to sit for a few minutes before assembling the biscuits.

On a lightly floured surface, scoop out a half cup measure of dough and with floured fingers, gently pat the dough into a 6 inch circle.  The thickness should be about ¼ inch.  Repeat with another half cup portion of dough.

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To assemble and bake:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Spread a ½ cup of the chilled scrambled eggs over the surface of one biscuit disc.  Sprinkle a ¼ of the turkey/ham over the eggs and then follow with an ounce of shredded cheese.

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Gently lift the remaining disc and place on top of the egg and cheese filling.  Press the edges together and tuck the seam under the bottom of the disc.  Transfer the stuffed biscuit to a parchment lined baking sheet and brush with butter, followed with a sprinkle of sea salt.

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Repeat process three more times for a total of four stuffed biscuits.  Place each two inches apart, which may require using two baking sheets.  Bake at 375 for 40 minutes, rotating baking sheets half way.  The temperature of the center should reach 160 degrees.

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These can be held in a warming oven for about 30 minutes.  We had one leftover that we reheated in the microwave the following day which turned out was still pretty good.  Certainly best fresh from the oven, but I won’t be throwing out the one that doesn’t get eaten.

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It is a state that does many things right – Perfect color of Crimson, rows of pecan fields, perfectly drawn hounds tooth, National Championships, Silver Queen Corn, gardenia scented streets, and now… Stuffed biscuits.

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Roll tide, Roll Biscuits!

Farm Berry Southern Cobbler- #AlabamaBakingProblems

We took a trip last week to Alabama to visit Sir Wes’s family.  Very often when one goes home to the place they grew up, to a mom that cooked every Sunday thru Saturday for them thru their childhood, one would expect to get some of that home cooking.  In fact, we did get a belly full of a southern mother prepared feast, but did miss one key, controversial dessert- The Farm Berry Southern Cobbler.

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Thru our years of marriage, Sir Wes has talked and talked about the cobblers that were made every weekend by his Mom or one of her 4 sisters.  He stated,  “there is not a better dessert then the Farm Berry Southern Cobbler that my Mom and my Aunts made”.   And after these years of marriage, on our many trips to his mother’s home, I would have hoped to try it.  Turns out, it isn’t that simple.

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We go to the his Aunt Alice’s, the family farm as I call it, and pick the blueberries from the trees.  I am always sure to pick enough to bring back to Florida with us to put in the freezer.   Then either his mom or Sir Wes would get to making this family heirloom recipe.  And then we would sit and wonder what went wrong.  I think they are cursed.

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This last visit, I sat his mom down and asked her to tell me the recipe; she even consulted with her sister to double check.   I knew that Wes’s failure could be attributed to the fact that he ignores directions and amounts when following recipes and does what he wants, but his mom is such a fabulous cook so I wasn’t sure where her mishaps came from.

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Here are my notes:

Ingredients

  • ½ cup or 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup self-rising flour, make sure to use self rising- this might have been where Wes went wrong
  • 1 cup sugar, add a little more if you’re not going to serve any whip or ice cream with it.  Maybe a ¼ cup.
  • 1 cup milk, you can use any type, of course whole milk will taste the best with the higher fat content, but skim will work too.
  • 3 cups berries, preferably from Aunt Alice’s Farm

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350.  Melt the stick of butter in the baking dish over the stove, I used about a 10”cast iron skillet as any proper southerner would.  While the butter melts combine the flour, sugar and milk in a mixing bowl and whip until smooth.  Once the butter is melted pour the batter into the baking dish and gently whisk until the butter is mixed to the batter.  Spread the berries into the dish, over the batter.   Bake for 35-45 minutes, until the top is golden brown.

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Serves 8-10 friends.  Add a scoop of whip cream or vanilla ice cream, (Blue Bell of course is the best choice) to top it off.  You can substitute your favorite fruit, or whatever is in season also- peaches, pears, apples.

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As it turns out cobbler is controversial thru America, not just in Sir Wes’s family.  It’s one of those desserts that is so forgiving (minus our previously stated cobbler debacles), there came to be a ton of recipes and versions all with different names.

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The Huffington Post published an article last year that cleared it all up for us- they wrote, “There seems to be some confusion over our baked goods, everyone. Tell the truth: if we asked you to tell us the difference between a crumble, cobbler, crisp, grunt, slump, buckle or brown Betty (without Googling it), could you tell us? Until we started working on this article, we definitely wouldn’t have been able to swing it.”

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Honestly, I have never heard of a “grunt” or a “slump” before reading this.  And I feel like they missed the kind that I see the most- a batter based cobbler.

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After trying the recipe I jotted down from his mom, I still am left wondering what went wrong.  The recipe was perfectly told, easy to follow and simple to make.    However, I am happy to say in true southern form, that Farm Berry Cobbler was blessedly dee-licous!