Thursday, August 19, 2010

My Love Affair with Pork Sausage

As crazy as this sounds to my own ears, there was a time in my life when I was not aware of the existence of pork sausage. My father had a corporate career that moved us all over the country, starting in California, and eventually landing us in Rhode Island where my brother Derek and I grew up. We had wonderful food there, but little did I know that I had yet to meet one of my favorite food groups - pork sausage!

It wasn't until we moved to Oklahoma in 1986 that I made the aquaintance of my new friend. Derek and I went out for breakfast one morning and biscuits & gravy were on the menu. Hmmm....that sounded interesting. I did know what cream gravy was, and I knew I liked that! Well, a love affair was born that morning and I've never looked back. I find a way to slip that luscious meat into just about any type of dish; cheese dip, hashbrown casserole, chili, enchiladas, muffins, spaghetti sauce, stuffed mushrooms, squash casserole...I could go on & on!

I have also introduced many friends to my favorite food vice. My best friend in Elementary school, Marisa, had recently moved down to the South from Rhode Island. Needless to say I was ecstatic! I had Marisa, her husband Tom and their kids over for dinner and served stuffed mushrooms with pork sausage as an appetizer. Well of course they were hooked! The funny part was trying to explain to Marisa what the package of sausage looked like. I kept telling her it looked like a round tube - I think it took a couple of trips to the store for her to finally find it! Little did she know that all she had to do was ask any person in that grocery store and they would have taken her right to it. This is the South after all!

The following recipe is one of my absolute favorites. After you serve this, just stop for a moment and listen to everyone at the table. I promise, there will be lots of mmmms. By the way, Marisa likes this one too!

Biscuits & Gravy

3/4 lb. ground pork sausage
1/4 Cup butter
1/3 Cup all-purpose flour
1 3/4 Cup half & half
1 1/2 Cup milk (I use skim, but any kind works)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp Italian Seasoning

Biscuits (no reason to make these from scratch. Buy Pillsbury frozen biscuits; buttermilk is my favorite)
  • Bake the biscuits while you're making the gravy
  • Brown the sausage, reserving 1 tablespoon of drippings in the pan. Drain sausage on paper towels & set aside.
  • Add butter to drippings & melt on low
  • Add flour & whisk until smooth. Cook 1 minute
  • Gradually add half & half and milk
  • Stir constantly until thick & bubbly
  • Stir in sausage & spices
  • Split biscuits open & pour gravy over the top

I hope you love it!!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Request Granted...

I've had a request for one of my favorite summer appetizer recipes, Avocado Salsa. It's simple, easy & delicious! Actually, you can make it any time of the year.....just substitute quartered grape tomatoes for the 1 large fresh tomato. I'm also adding a second appetizer recipe this week that is wonderful when you have a large crowd. Enjoy!

Avocado Salsa

2 avocadoes, diced
1 large tomato, peeled & diced
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T chopped fresh cilantro
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt

Gently toss all ingredients together in bowl (you want it chunky). Serve with tortilla chips.

Seven Layer Southwestern Dip
(the amounts in this recipe do not have to be exact - just have fun with it!)

1 small can refried beans
3 cups shredded lettuce
1 (15oz.) can black beans, rinsed & drained
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper (any color - I prefer red)
1/4 cup sliced green onion
8 oz. sour cream
2 fresh jalapenos, sliced (you can use less, or omit if desired)
1 tsp. shredded lime peel
1 cup (8 oz. jar) chunky salsa, drained
1/2 avocado, diced
2/3 cup shredded cheese (cheddar, monterey jack, or muenster work well)
1/3 cup sliced ripe olives
  • Line 12" platter with beans, then cover with lettuce.
  • Stir together black beans (that have been rinsed & drained), bell pepper & green onion. Spoon on top of lettuce, leaving a slight border of lettuce.
  • Dollop sour cream on top & spread, leaving border.
  • Sprinkle with jalapenos & lime peel.
  • Stir together drained salsa & avocado. Spoon over sour cream layer, leaving border.
  • Sprinkle cheese on top, again leaving border & top with olives.

It's fun to brown some Chorizo sausage & mix it in with the beans before spreading them on the platter!

Serve immediately or cover & chill up to 8 hours. I like this best with Fritos Scoops, but any tortilla chip works!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

It's Tomato Season!

Fresh tomatoes are one of my favorite treats of summer. There's nothing like going to the farm stand and getting a brown paper bag filled with just-picked, perfectly ripe tomatoes! Can't you just hear the crinkling of the bag? Whether it will be a cheesy tomato pie layered with Vidalia onions & fresh basil, or a simple tomato sandwich on Wonder bread with nothing but Hellman's mayonnaise & salt; I rarely know for sure what I'm going to make with those luscious orbs in that brown bag, but I always know it will be delicious!

The recipe I will share this week is a Thai dish that can be spicy or not; you control the heat with the amount of red pepper flakes added. Whenever I think of this dish, I think "fresh!". Filled with fresh tomatoes, summer vegetables & lean pork, it's a healthy meal your whole family will enjoy!

Sweet & Sour Pork, Thai-style

(serves 4)
12oz. lean pork (pork tenderloin works well)
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
4 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 small red onion, sliced
2 Tablespoons fish sauce or oyster sauce (found next to the soy sauce in grocery store)
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1 red bell pepper, seeded & sliced into chunks
1/2 cucumber, seeded and sliced into chunks
2 fresh tomatoes, cut into wedges
4 oz. pineapple, cut into small chunks (canned pineapple works very well)
freshly ground black pepper
2 green onions, cut into short lengths
red pepper flakes, to taste (can be omitted)
coriander leaves (cilantro) & shredded green onions for garnish

Slice the pork into thin strips. Heat oil in a wok or large frying pan.

Add the garlic & fry until golden, then add the pork and stir-fry for about 4-5 minutes. Add the red onion.

Season with fish sauce (or oyster sauce), sugar and freshly ground black pepper. Add red pepper flakes, if desired. Stir & cook for 3-4 minutes, or until the pork is cooked.

Add the rest of the vegetables, the pineapple and green onions. You may need to add a few tablespoons of water. continue to stir-fry for another 3-4 minutes. Serve hot garnished with coriander leaves (cilantro) and shredded green onions.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

My Inaugural Post!

Well, this is my very first post on my very first blog, Cooking in North Georgia! I am starting this blog because I want to share my love of food and cooking with others! I cook big meals for my family on the weekends and usually two or three times during the week. Cooking for friends is also high on the priority list! I will be sharing all sorts of recipes with you. Those that I have been making "forever" as well as new ones that I try & fall in love with! Fear not, only the ones that were a big hit will be passed on. I would also love to hear about your favorite recipes!

I have loved Julia Child since I was about 5 years old; I used to tell my mother that I wanted to be Julia when I grew up! I am also inspired by Ina Garten and her philosophy of using the best, freshest ingredients that you can find. Julia believed in that too! I love all types of cooking and my recipes will range from healty to splurge (think butter, cheese, heavy cream!!). My favorite food in the world is Maine Lobster, steamed or boiled, with nothing but drawn butter. To die for! I also love Southern Fried Chicken, but who doesn't?!?!

The inaugural recipe is one that is a family favorite. Never, to my knowledge, has this recipe been prepared and not loved by all who tried it! This came from my grandmother, Nanny, and it has been in our family for over 40 years. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!!!

Finger Lickin' Chicken Wings
(We call them "Sticky Wings")

5 lbs. chicken wings

1 Cup brown sugar

3/4 Cup dry sherry

1/2 tsp. dry mustard

1 Cup soy sauce

2 cloves garlic, crushed

Cut off & discard tips of wings. Cut remaining wings at joint. Place wing pieces on a shallow baking sheet in a single layer. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine brown sugar, sherry, dry mustard, soy sauce & garlic in sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat & cook at a low simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

Remove wings from oven & pour off pan drippings. Pour sauce over wings & continue baking one hour longer. Turn wings every 20 minutes. Cook until sauce has been absorbed & wings are deeply glazed.

These sticky wings will cause your paper napkin to stick to your fingers - which evokes great laughter from the children. For those of you who do not enjoy eating paper, you can wet cloth napkins with warm water & give one to each person on a small plate. Or, as the name implies, just lick your fingers - often!