Tag Archives: cooking

133. Cornbread Dressing, Because Stuffing is for the Birds

26 Nov

One of Southern Living's "83 Spectacular Thanksgiving Sides" Click for recipes.

One of Southern Living’s “83 Spectacular Thanksgiving Sides” Click for recipes.

First off, I must clarify that we’re not talking about stuffing. Most Southerners can’t be bothered to actually stuff a turkey; we’re far too busy stuffing ourselves. Besides which, everybody knows the turkey cannot possibly hold enough stuffing to go around. Unless said turkey were roughly the size of one of those balloons at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. And then it wouldn’t fit in the oven.

The major difference between dressing and stuffing is the main ingredient. One features crumbled cornbread, the other cubed white bread. Also, dressing tends to be moist and delicious, whereas stuffing is less so. Plus, stuffing has been known to contain all manner of non-essential add ins: Dried fruit, fresh fruit, nuts, mushrooms, root vegetables, and even kale.

The list of ingredients for cornbread dressing is blessedly short: cornbread, eggs, stock, onions (and maybe celery), and salt and pepper. Some folks add in sage, but my mom hated it nearly as much as All Things Tacky, so our dressing was always sans sage.

Southerners along the Gulf Coast often add oysters in the mix. I’m not sure how my Delta-raised mother latched on to this tradition, but for years she made half and half oyster and regular. Which would have been fine if half the family liked oyster dressing. Alas, only two out of eight or so did.

gobble gobble napkinsBut then Hallelujah! My sister-in-law Kay took over the dressing one year and introduced us to duck, which upped the deliciousness factor by roughly 1000%. Nary an oyster ever darkened our dressing again.

I should warn y’all that dealing with duck can be a pain in the ass, not to mention the fingers (from trying to pull hot duck off the bone due to a failure to plan ahead). The depth of flavor and level of moistness the bird adds is worth the extra effort. Especially if you’re not actually participating in the preparation.

Since I spend most Thanksgivings in Seattle, I have resigned myself to eating stuffing. Folks here don’t understand the true nature of cornbread. If they attempted to make dressing with sugary Yankee pone, they’d end up with dessert. Which, now that I think about it, might not be such a terrible idea. Especially if they threw in the fruit and nuts.

Several years ago, I rejoiced upon learning that an expat Southern couple would be providing the dressing for a Thanksgiving gathering. Between the creamy mashed potatoes and the authentic cornbread dressing, Chad and Leah made me think for just a moment that I was home for the holidays. Alas, they’ve moved to Asheville, and I’ve been stuck with stuffing ever since.

give thanksIn case you are wondering why I don’t volunteer to bring the dressing, it’s because I made the mistake of introducing Seattle folks to green bean bundles. Now they’ve become my price of admission to all Thanksgiving gatherings. These fussy sweet and savory bundles are only slightly less challenging than dealing with duck. If I tried to make both dishes, I’d never have the energy for shopping on Black Friday.

As the holiday approaches, I’m thankful to be part of a family whose love eclipses distance and time zones, and for my “family” here who make Seattle home.

Also, I’m thankful to Kay Holloway for sharing her recipe so I can pass it along to y’all.

Kay’s Duckalicious Cornbread Dressing

Not to be confused with cornbread mix.

Not to be confused with cornbread mix.

For the cornbread:
1 1/2 cups cornmeal mix
1/2 cup flour self rising
2 eggs well beaten
Enough buttermilk to pour it in the skillet
Pinch of salt
Tablespoon of sugar
Finely choped onions (don’t tell Jenna)
Finely chopped celery

Add some butter to a baking dish and preheat in a 400-degree oven. Mix all of the above ingredients, pour into heated pan and bake till golden brown (25 minutes?).

For the dressing:
One duck, thawed
A few boiled eggs, chopped
Lots of butter
Seasonings to taste

Boil Duck, debone, and save broth. When cornbread is cool, add duck meat, chopped boiled eggs, pinch of sage, and salt and pepper to taste. Crumble well with hands, add duck broth and stir until well mixed. Put pats of butter at intervals and bake @ 350 till browned. Add duck broth if it gets too dry and stir. (Lots of real butter and greasy duck broth.) My note: If you’re making a pre-smoked Butterball as I am wont to do, cook the bird on top of the dressing, so the juices seep into it. Also, I had no idea Kay added a pinch of sage to the dressing. Thankfully, Mom never noticed.

Kay says: I usually make 2 or 3 containers of the cornbread to have plenty for the dressing. Never had too much, of course Mike and the kids would pass through the kitchen and nibble on it. It’s actually good with the tiny celery and onions in it! Comfort food tastes way better when someone you care about “fixes” it!

What’s your favorite holiday comfort food? And what do you like in your dressing? Please do tell.

Photo Credits: Cornbread dressing and 82 other recipes from Southern Living; Gobble Gobble Napkins available from WhiteTulipEmbroidery at Etsy; and Give Thanks Pumpkins from SkyeArt at Etsy.

132. Sweet Potato Casserole: Dessert in Disguise

21 Nov

sweet potato casseroleSome Southerners are partial to the pie, but I prefer my sweet potatoes in a casserole. Mainly because it allows me to fool myself into thinking that what I’m eating is a vegetable, not dessert.

I’m not sure how I got elected for the job, but I’m the official Holloway sweet potato casserole queen. (Not to be confused with an actual Sweet Potato Queen.) Every Christmas, I whip up a big dish of the delectable stuff, but not before arguing with my sister about how much to make. She pushes me to triple the recipe, but I stand firm at double, seeing as we always end up with way too many leftovers. Even a die-hard sweet potato fan gets a little queasy at the thought of eating reheated casserole more than three days in a row.

Back in the days before we switched from canned to fresh sweet potatoes, I had a whole other argument with my Mom each year. She tried to convince me that I should include the liquid from the can, when clearly draining is the only way to go. Unless you want sweet potato soup. Which I don’t.

For Southerners, sweet potato casseroles fall into two distinct camps: marshmallow topping or pecan/brown sugar crumble. The Holloways are nut people. That’s not to say I’d abstain from eating the marshmallow variety. Quite the contrary. I run across sweet potato casserole about as frequently as Baptists enter dance halls by the front door so I take what I can get. But given my druthers, I’ll opt for pecans.

BC sweet potato casseroleA while back I was browsing Grocery Outlet, where one can find an array of interesting products not seen in major chains. I’m talking Kellogg’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Corn Pops, Lil’ Joey Pancake Pockets, and Spam Singles. Imagine my shock and horror when I happened upon Betty Crocker’s Sweet Potato Casserole mix. Why, Betty? Why?

Sweet potato casserole isn’t hard to make. Especially when one is left alone in the kitchen. Sure, it always takes about twice as long as I think it will. And peeling sweet potatoes is a pain in the ass. But I’d never resort to serving “casserole” made with a blend of reconstituted sweet and russet (WTF?) potatoes. Prior to the zombie apocalypse, anyway.

Some of my family’s best loved dishes are related to us by marriage. I’m sure we’d have adored my sister-in-law Karen even if she’d come with an empty recipe box. Thankfully, we’ll never have to find out.

Karen Holloway’s Sweet Potato Casserole
3 cups sweet potatoes (drained)
1/2 cup butter (melted)
1 t vanilla
1 cup sugar
2 eggs beaten
1/3 cup milk

Boil sweet potatoes over medium high heat till tender. Drain and mash. In a large bowl, mix potatoes with all other ingredients and pour into a buttered baking dish.

Top with the following mixture:
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup butter (melted)
1 cup chopped pecans

Bake at 350 for 15 to 20 minutes or until top is browned

Notes: I’m not sure how many sweet potatoes equal three cups. I usually peel and cut up a few and add them to a 4-cup measuring cup. I fill the cup to the top to compensate for the gaps around the pieces. I tend to err on the side of too much potato. If anybody has a better way of guestimating three cups of potatoes, please enlighten me.

When doubling the recipe, I usually just use one and a half times the topping. When tripling the recipe…oh right, I don’t.

The size of baking dish wasn’t specified. Similar recipes call for 1 1/2 to 2 qt. casserole dishes. I usually opt for a 9 X 13 dish, unless I’m doubling in which case I use the biggest dish I can find.

The recipe calls for 20 minutes bake time, but I’d allow at least 40. You want the top to be good and crunchy.

What’s your pleasure: Nuts or marshmallows? Have you ever done both?

Photo credit: Sweet potato casserole by bengarland, Flickr Creative Commons.

130. Dixie-Style Party Food: Dip it Good!

15 Nov

Spinach artichoke dip–click for recipe.

Spinach artichoke dip–click for recipe.

As I plunged yet another tortilla chip into a cheesy dip embellished with bits of delectable shrimpiness, I said, “I wish we had an O’Charley’s in Seattle.”

Upon second thought (and perhaps taking a moment to swallow) I added, “But there’s really nothing here Geoff would eat.”

Mom said, “What about this?”

“The dip? It has shrimp in it.”

“They won’t let him eat SHRIMP?” Mom said, horrified.

“Who? The vegetarian police?”

“Well, I think he ought to be able to eat shrimp. It’s just a little bit of meat. And it’s so good.”

Like many folks here in the Pacific Northwest, Geoff doesn’t really understand the concept of dip. Sure, he’ll spread a little hummus on flatbread or add an olive tapenade to toast, but that’s about it. Unless you count chutney, which I don’t.

I, on the other hand, come from a long line of folks who’ve perfected the art of dunking carbs into fat.

The last gathering I attended in Mississippi featured no less than three dips and a variety of dip-delivery vehicles. In order of my personal preference, we had: 1. Rotel embellished with sausage and cream cheese with Fritos Scoops for dipping 2. Creamy spinach dip with Hawaiian bread (vegetable = “healthy”) and 3. A garlic and onion dip made with a spice pack my sister bought at the fair. I believe the last one was served with Chicken in a Biskit crackers to compensate for the meat-less dip.

Dip mix booth at the MS state fair.

Dip mix booth at the MS state fair.

Perhaps I should also mention the strawberry cheesecake dip mix Jenna brought along in case the huge strawberry cake and tub of ice cream failed to deliver sufficient sweetness. Thankfully, the emergency rations weren’t necessary.

Dips are the ultimate communal Southern food. Even more comforting than casseroles. Why? Because you almost always eat them while standing around chatting with folks. Whether you’re attending a party or a wake, the camaraderie that develops around a dip bowl is palpable. Until some asshole double dips. But then the rest of the group has a new topic of gossip–with a shelf-life of YEARS. Decades, even.

Communal dipping allows some mighty powerful self delusion, such as:
• Calories don’t count when you eat standing up.
• Each dipped chip is just a small bite. It’s not like you’re eating a whole entire PLATE of nachos.
• You deserve something yummy after eating all those vegetables (doused in Ranch dressing).
• Since there’s no food on your plate, folks will assume you’re still keeping track of those Weight Watcher points.
• You may never encounter such a wealth of dips again–better stock up!

There is some truth to that last one. One never really knows where the next dip is coming from. Oh, sure, you could whip up a batch of Rotel and eat it at home in front of the TV, but this completely eliminates the self-delusion factor. With every dunk of the chip, you’re just waiting for the Biggest Loser folks to sneak in and film you. Or maybe I’m the only one with this particular fear…

Now that we’ve discussed the hows and whys of dipping, let’s talk about the whats.

Like most Southern snacks, dips fall into two distinct categories: Sweet and Savory.

On the savory spectrum, you’ll find two separate but equally tasty groups (although occasionally cross-pollination occurs). Let’s call them cheesy and creamy.

Click for recipe

Click for recipe

Cheesy dips include, but are not limited to: Rotel (with or without meat), artichoke, broccoli, shrimp, crab, Buffalo chicken, Jalapeño popper, Vidalia onion, bacon and cheddar, and pimiento cheese. One might even toss bleu cheese dressing into this category. Preferably as an accompaniment to wings, not crudités.

Creamy dips tend to be a bit mayonnaise-y in nature, but can also feature sour cream as the main ingredient, seeing as some folks harbor mild to severe aversions to oil and egg emulsions. These include everything from your basic, store bought French onion dip to homemade comeback sauce. You’ll also find cheese-less versions of shrimp or bacon dip, but they are probably not as good. In fact, when I started writing this paragraph, I thought there would be a long list of creamy dips, but I’m kinda drawing a blank. Even after spending far too much time poking around on Pinterest. So let’s move on…

Click for recipe

Click for recipe

Sweet dips. I honestly don’t have much experience in this category either, seeing as I prefer my sweets to be baked up in the oven. But I’ll give y’all the recipe for my all-time favorite sweet dip, courtesy of my sister-in-law Karen.

Got a pen? Well, you don’t even need one; it’s that easy.

Mix 8-oz of softened cream cheese with one jar of marshmallow fluff. Serve with any fruit you like. It would probably be awesome on cookies, if you don’t even want to bother pretending to be healthy.

You’ll find copious recipes for sweet dips on the Internets featuring everything from chocolate chips and cream cheese to peanut butter and bananas. Salted caramel, cake batter, cookie dough, Oreos, s’mores…endless variations of stuff to plunge Nilla Wafers or Graham crackers into. Or pretzels for the sweet & salty lovers among us.

I’ve put together a handy reference on Pinterest for y’all. You’ll find links to all manner of yummy-looking dips. I have not personally made any of them (yet), but I did make sure they all link to actual recipes. Proceed with cautious optimism.

What’s your all-time favorite party dip? And do you consider solo dipping a taboo?

Photo Credits: Spinach Artichoke and Monster Cookie Dip from The Girl Who Ate Everything; Hail Mary Dip from ‘liciousfood; Dip Stand Pic courtesy of Jenna.

Rerun 68: Funeral Food–Love in a Casserole Dish

10 Jul

mikeWhen I packed up my car and moved away from the South nearly 20 years ago, my brother said “Don’t forget your raisings!” And thanks in part to his constant reminders, I haven’t. A month ago today, Mike Holloway passed away in his sleep. I’m sharing this post in honor of him.

Most Southern ladies of a certain age keep at least one casserole in the deep freeze at all times. You never know when somebody will up and die, so it’s best to be prepared. However, if you’re momentarily casserole-less, not to worry: grieving Southerners always welcome fried chicken, even if it’s store-bought. I’d like to put in a plug for one (or more) of those chicken nugget platters from Chick-fil-A (unless somebody dies on Sunday, when all the Chick-fil-As are closed). I’m still grateful to the kind soul who delivered one of those when my mom died.

Photo by softestthing
Flickr Creative Commons

I should mention that funeral food isn’t actually served at the funeral. You bring it to the home of the deceased so the grieving family members and the people who drop by to pay their respects have something to eat. When Southerners lose a loved one, they rarely lose their appetite, but almost always lose the desire to cook.

Of course, you needn’t only bring savory sustenance. Sweets are an essential part of a Southern mourner’s diet. And for the love of all that’s holy, do not make funeral sweets with Splenda, people! Grief and dieting go together like…like…ok, they just don’t go together AT ALL.

Photo by Chris and Jenni
Flickr Creative Commons

If you want to bring over some meat-flavored vegetables, that’s great. But a salad probably isn’t your best bet. No, not even a congealed “salad.” Especially if the recently departed had been hospitalized for any length of time before their departure. Nobody wants to be reminded of institutional gelatin, even in the best of times.

In case you’re in a quandary about what to bring, consult this handy guide:

Banana pudding: YES!
Photo by Jason Meredith
Flickr Creative Commons

Great Southern Funeral Food:
Casseroles (anything made with cream of something soup is most welcome)
Deep fried anything
Chicken ‘n dumplings
BBQ
Lasagna
Potatoes (preferably mashed or au gratin)
Homemade mac ‘n cheese
Bread
Ham (spiral sliced preferred, but not required)
Chili or hearty soup (Not chicken noodle; no one’s getting better anytime soon…)
Deviled eggs
Homemade sweets of any kind (remember, no Splenda!)

Suitable Southern Funeral Food
Cold cuts and sandwich fixings
Egg/potato/chicken/pasta salad
Store-bought sweets (think Sara Lee, not Little Debbie)
Ice cream

Crudité: NO! P.S. Where's the dip??
Photo by Robyn Lee
Flickr Creative Commons

Ill-advised Southern Funeral Food
Green salad
Crudité platter
Fruit basket
Low-cal frozen entreés
Tofu of any variety
Chewing gum

If you can’t get over to the home of the deceased right away, don’t despair. In fact, I’d recommend avoiding the rush and swinging by with snacks a few days later. Trust me, the bereaved will appreciate a fresh supply of comfort food.

When my mom died, I can’t remember eating much else but cold fried chicken and some kind of cake (caramel, maybe?). But I do remember my relief at not having to think about fixing something to eat. While food isn’t a panacea for grief, it does serve as a small island of pleasure in an ocean of pain.

What’s your all-time favorite funeral food? And do you have a casserole in your freezer right now?

Rerun–66. (Not to be confused with 666): Deviled Eggs

29 Mar

Photo by Debbie R
Flickr Creative Commons

One day when my sister and I were in an antique store, she picked up a deviled egg plate and said, “Since I’m Southern, I probably should have one of these.” Alas, neither of us purchased one. Fast forward 20 years: I spot a nice glass deviled egg plate at Goodwill for $5. But did I buy it? Oh, no, I did not. Then a couple of weeks later I run across that SAME glass deviled egg plate at an antique store and they wanted $50 for it.

Right now you are probably thinking that I spend far too much time rooting through people’s old stuff. And I haven’t even mentioned my new estate sale obsession…But I digress…

I never actually tried a deviled egg until I was well into my thirties. I grew up Southern Baptist, for whom eating Satanic snack food is a sin almost on par with dancing. Ok, I made that up. Baptists eat heaps of deviled eggs (especially around Easter). But the sinful dancing part is true, in case y’all missed “Footloose.”

Why are these eggs brown around the edges? Because they're actually cookies! Photo by distopiandreamgirl
Flickr Creative Commons

I’ve kind of always had an aversion to yolks, and the only way I would eat eggs was scrambled until… My fellow Southern expats, Chad (Tennessee) and Leah (Georgia) had a brunch one Easter and there was (of course) a tray of deviled eggs. People seemed to be enjoying them immensely, and I started to feel left out – actually, the “left out” feeling began when the conversation turned to triathlons. Anyhow, I tried one. And another. And another. “Deviled eggs!” I thought. “Where have you been all my life?” Deviled eggs: “Duh! Only every gathering you’ve ever been to in the South.”

I was an immediate convert, an evangelist even. I probably went through a whole carton of deviled eggs before the novelty wore off or the cholesterol shot up. These days, I don’t make them at home much, but am always delighted to happen upon them out in the wild.

So far, I haven’t found any that tasted as heavenly as Leah’s. But I’ve used Paula Deen’s recipe, which is a pretty good approximation.

Now if only I could find a suitable deviled egg plate on which to serve them…

Paula Deen’s Traditional Southern Deviled Eggs

Ingredients
7 large eggs, hard boiled and peeled
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 ½ TBSP pickle relish (Paula specifies sweet; I prefer dill.)
1 tsp yellow mustard (French’s style, not fancy pants Gray Poupon)
Salt and pepper to taste
Paprika, sweet gherkin, or pimentos for garnishing (optional)

Directions
Halve 7 eggs lengthwise. Remove yolks and place in a small bowl.
Mash yolks with a fork and stir in mayonnaise, pickle relish, and mustard. Add salt and pepper, to taste.
Fill egg whites evenly with yolk mixture. Garnish with paprika, pickles and pimentos. Store covered in refrigerator.

Do you have a favorite deviled egg recipe? Please share!

Update: Last time I was in MS, I snagged my mom’s deviled egg plate. I’ll use it for the first time this Sunday at my friend Linda’s Easter brunch. Yay. This time around, though, I’m skipping the relish and adding bacon.

126. Balls–Because Who Wants a Square Meal?

26 Mar

Oreo balls--Not necessarily round.

Oreo balls–Not necessarily round.

In other parts of the globe, these delicacies might be called hors d’oeuvres, bon bons, truffles, and the like. In the South, we call ‘em like we see ‘em: Balls.

The selection of stuff Southerners will roll up into a ball and pass around to friends and relations grows larger by the day. Ten years ago, I’d never imagined one could transform broccoli into a edible sphere that would become a potluck staple. What’s next, kale?

Love at first sausage ball.

Love at first sausage ball.

Much like Southern salads, balls come in two separate, yet equally delicious, groups: sweet and savory. A few of the treats refuse to take sides, so I’ll henceforth refer to them as “swavory.”

Seeing as I like to save the best for last, we’ll start with savory. In this group you’ll find meatballs, sausage balls (yes, sausage is a meat, but these are two entirely different animals, so to speak), spinach balls, crab balls, ham balls (not to be confused with ham rolls), fried macaroni and cheese balls, and the dreaded cafeteria staple, cod balls. I found a recipe in the Bells Best III cookbook for Curried Chicken Balls, which includes mayonnaise, cream cheese, chutney, and flaked coconut. I’m guessing the next time that particular contributor offered to bring a dish to a party, she was told, “We could really use some ice. And maybe a couple of 2 liters.”

3168885199_b4cf60e58f_mI haven’t yet mentioned cheese balls because they represent a whole subcategory of savory. These usually feature cream cheese as the main ingredient–sometimes balanced out with shredded cheddar–embellished with one or more of the following add ins: worcestershire sauce, steak sauce, Tabasco sauce, Lipton onion soup mix, Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix, minced onions, diced peppers, cayenne, and paprika. Once the desired ingredients are mixed together and shaped into a ball, the whole thing is covered in one of two things: chopped pecans or thin-sliced corned/dried beef.

I’ve run across a few cheese ball recipes that feature pineapple, which fit in the swavory category along with such creations as: popcorn balls, and…well, nothing else comes to mind at the moment. Can anybody help me out here?

Goodness gracious, great balls of coconut!

Goodness gracious, great balls of coconut!

The sweet ball category breaks into two subsections: chocolate covered and not. Amongst the former you’ll find: peanut butter balls, coconut balls, Oreo cookie balls, cake balls, and regular old chocolate balls. The latter group includes: rum balls, bourbon balls, amaretto balls, teetotaller balls for Baptists (just kidding!), pecan balls, date balls, and peanut butter balls (sans chocolate, but why?). Any or all of these can be rolled in coconut, though some probably take to powdered sugar better. Speaking of which, one could make the argument that given their shape donut holes ought to be referred to as balls. I, myself, am not planning to start a petition, but if there’s one floating around, I’ll sign it. Just don’t ask me for a contribution.

Why are Southerners so smitten with balls? I couldn’t tell you. Maybe the bite-size portion makes them easier to eat. However, I’ve yet to run across a Southerner who finds eating to be complicated in any way whatsoever. Ok, perhaps what to, but certainly not how to.

Translation: You're not worth the trouble.

Translation: You’re not worth the trouble.

One thing’s for sure: making stuff into balls doesn’t simplify the operation. Quite the contrary. How much easier would it be to toss some pre-cubed cheese on a plate and call it a day? Or to frost a couple of layers of cake as opposed to dipping a couple dozen in temperamental chocolate? Scientific answer: A lot!

I can think of only two reasons why Southerners go to the trouble: 1. Balls are cute, making for a more-attractive dessert table and 2. We love you. We really love you.

Growing up, one of the highlights of Christmas for me was enjoying the bountiful harvest of my mom’s annual candy crop. English toffee, pecan pralines, white fudge with candied fruit, haystacks, and my sister’s favorite, coconut balls. Once Mom got to where she couldn’t make the candy anymore, well, she didn’t stop, but she pared down the list considerably. Coconut balls were the first to get their walking papers.

One down, 870 to go!

One down, 870 to go!

After a few ball-free years, I decided to valiantly pick up the baton and produce some coconut balls. My reasoning was: A. I love my sister and B. how hard could they be? Seventeen hours into the process (give or take), my mindset had shifted to A. not that much and B. aaaaacccckkkk! That was my first and last attempt to visit that particular torture chamber. However, if you are more patient than I, you’ll find them worth the trouble. After all, in the words of the Steve Miller band: “you got to go through Hell before you get to Heaven.”

What are some of your favorite balls? Please do tell!

Coconut Balls
2 lbs. Confectioner’s sugar
1 can coconut (16 oz.)
1 stick paraffin
1 large pkg. Chocolate chips
3 sticks butter
1 can Eagle brand
2 1/2 cups chopped pecans

Combine sweetened condensed milk, sugar, and coconut in large bowl. Melt butter and pour over mixture and mix. Add pecans. Chill for at least 3 to 4 hours. Melt paraffin in double boiler and add chocolate chips. Stir until all are dissolved. Roll candy into balls. Dip into chocolate and place on waxed paper.

Note: As usual, the ingredients and directions are a little vague. Use your best judgement. Seeing as folks don’t enjoy the delightful flavor of paraffin as much as they used to, I’d recommend locating some high-quality chocolate melts. In a pinch, you can add about a tablespoon of shortening or vegetable oil per package of chocolate chips to thin the chocolate for easier dipping.

Oh, and one trick my sister and I learned this year: Don’t waste money on one of those fancy chocolate dipping utensils. Just break off the middle two tines of a plastic fork, and you’re good to go!

Photo Credits: Oreo balls by This Year’s Love, Flickr Creative Commons; Sausage Balls by Ezra Pound Cake; cheese ball with crackers by Adrianne Lacy, Flickr Creative Commons; coconut date balls by Christaface, Flickr Creative Commons;

120. Cream Corn, Not Just for Folks Lacking Teeth

30 Jan

5950519991_9ae46e4c4e_mOf all the ways there are to enjoy corn–on the cob, popped, niblets, batter for frying or even sweetener for Cokes (any flavor)–I think the most under-appreciated outside the South would have to be cream corn.

Makes sense, seeing as it looks like something one would expect to find in a hospital cafeteria or airplane sick bag. I’ll be the first to admit that cream corn isn’t about to win any food porn pageant. It’s sort of what I pictured when those Little Rascals kids whined about the “mush” they had to eat. It is, after all, mushed up corn.

Knew how to make some mean mush...

Knew how to make some mean mush…

mush recipe

Imagine my surprise when I bought a book from 1903, which included recipes for mush that didn’t look half bad. This confirmed my suspicion that Spanky, Darla and the gang were a bunch of drama queens.

Now where were we? Oh, yes, cream corn.

Up until just a few years ago, I gave cream corn a wide berth. It’s not something I’d have deliberately chosen to consume and if a blob of it accidentally landed on my plate, I’d try to discretely eat around it. I can’t recall exactly when my opinion changed, but it must have been a holiday meal with my family wherein nobody went to the trouble to make my sister-in-law Karen’s amazing corn casserole. Instead, there was cream corn. Reluctantly, I sampled a bite. Then promptly went back for a second helping.

Since when was cream corn not only edible, but–dare I say–tasty?

As it turned out, this particular cream corn had never seen the inside of a tin can. Instead, it came from the freezer section in a tube reminiscent of the sort used for Pillsbury heat-up cookies. (Not the official name, but y’all know what I’m talking about.)

After returning to Seattle, I sought to recreate that creamy, corny goodness. Alas, the only frozen corn was on the cob, niblets, or popsicles (high-fructose corn syrup strikes again). One time, I got desperate and bought a can of the stuff. I cannot NOT recommend this tactic highly enough. Just say no, folks.

No, thank you...

No, thank you…

Then lo and behold, cream corn made an appearance on the menu of 5 Spot. Having been burned by Seattle’s interpretation of Southern food on seventeen too many occasions, I was dubious (but also, as I mentioned, desperate). So I ordered it. And y’all, it was awesome. Yes, I’m still talking about cream corn.

Another time I got it as a side at a BBQ joint I frequent, and it was even better. Hooray! Maybe Seattle chefs were finally beginning to embrace some classic Southern preparations without tossing in random extras like mushrooms, peppers, or kale.

Except.

The regional menu at 5 Spot changes every quarter and when I went back to the BBQ place some months later, I was informed that cream corn is seasonal. Really? Well, yes, I realize that corn is seasonal. But also, really? I mean, tomatoes are seasonal, but that doesn’t prevent Italian restaurants or pizza places from being open year-round.

Just add butter!!

Just add butter!!

When I was home for Christmas in 2011, I saw my sister making cream corn and discovered that the frozen stuff isn’t the holy grail after all. What makes it good is the stick of butter she melted into it. Oh. My. I guess I should have figured out that cream corn contains, well, cream. But who knew?

Armed with this ammo, I set out to make myself some cream corn from scratch last year. By “scratch” I mean frozen niblets since the corn season in Seattle lasts about five minutes. In a word, yum! I used this recipe as a guideline, but tinkered with the ingredients to taste, so your results may vary.

Last September in MS, I made a version of the recipe using fresh corn with the help of my 8-year-old nephew, Jackson, and he liked it so much that he saved it to eat last at dinner. (High praise amongst our clan!)

Just in case I don’t write about corn again anytime soon, I have to share my favorite corn-related anecdote:

My dad hates corn. Always has. He will not eat the stuff, even if it’s disguised as a “casserole” loaded up with cheese and saffron rice. (Although he loves corn bread, so go figure.) If I recall correctly, his rationale is that corn is what one feeds to pigs, and he can’t stomach the idea of eating pig food. He will, however, happily eat actual pigs.

One day, he was eating my sister’s homemade soup and said, “I sure do like these crunchy water chestnuts.”

Jenna said, “Uh, Dad, that’s corn.”

Delusion–the ultimate flavor enhancer.

Do you like creamed corn? What’s your favorite recipe?

Photo credits: Cream corn by Shutterbean, Flickr Creative Commons; “The Perfect Woman” book cover and oatmeal mush recipe snapped by yours truly.