Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Southern Comfort Foods

Southerners love comfort food...wait what am I saying, we eat food for comfort! How do we define comfort food? For most of us, it's what we grew up eating. These are the dishes our Grandmothers & Mothers made everyday or maybe just on special occasions. Regardless of where you are from, you have your own definition of comfort foods.

Just saying "comfort foods" makes my mouth water for mashed potatoes & gravy, fresh green beans & new potatoes or chicken & dumplings. My Southern grandmothers were such great cooks, they put love into everything they cooked & that's the secret to comfort foods. 

Last week I found two new side dishes that have joined the ranks of our families comfort foods. I reviewed "If You Can't Stand The Heat" by Robert Medina several weeks ago. The BBQ Shrimp were beyond delicious! If you feel the need to salivate over a computer image, read my blog post about these little treasures.
Last week I tried Green Beans with Fried Sage & Cheese Grits from "If You Can't Stand The Heat".
The green beans are an easy recipe but they definetly need to be fresh if available. Green beans, bacon,butter, & more great ingredients make these delicious for sure! I had never fried fresh sage, so I may have gotten it a little overdone..notice I don't say I burned it! Regardless it was still good & had great sage taste. This recipe called for applewood bacon, this is a key ingredient. The bacon added so much flavor & the applewood was really great. Don't just use a plain bacon if you want to experience the beans at their best! It is defiantly a go to side dish for lots of meats. We had it with BBQ Chicken & Blue Cheese & Chive Smashers.
Blue Cheese & Chive Red Potato Smashers

Serves 4
Serving size : 1 cup
8-10 medium sized red skinned potatoes
4 oz. blue cheese, crumbled
2 tsp. dried chives or 2 T fresh chives, depending on what’s available
½ cup half & half
1 T butter
¼ tsp. salt (blue cheese is very salty, so taste & add more if needed)
½ tsp. fresh ground black pepper (can be omitted)

 Wash potatoes & place in a pot, I prefer the rustic look of leaving the skins on but you can peel if you want to.  Add cold water to cover the potatoes well, add the chives now to the water   Place pot on stove at high heat & bring to a boil. Boil until potatoes are fork tender, about 10-15 minutes.  Check often because all potatoes are different depending on type & freshness.
While potatoes are cooking, in a smaller saucepan mix together the half & half, butter, & salt. Bring to a medium heat, but do not boil. Add the blue cheese & stir well to blend. Add the cracked black pepper. Turn off heat...

When the potatoes are fork tender, drain them well in a colander. I always put the drained potatoes back into the pot I cooked them in, it’s still warm & that helps keep your potatoes warm until you are ready to serve.  Just be sure the pot has no water left in it, it needs to be dry, don’t wash it out though!  
Add the cheese & milk mixture to the hot potatoes. I prefer a hand masher for these, but an electric mixer would work okay, just don’t want to over mash or they become creamed potatoes. Mash until well mixed with the milk mixture. Taste & add salt & pepper to your taste. 
To serve you can sprinkle some fresh green onions & cracked black pepper on top!

I must admit only a few years ago I learned to eat grits. My mom never cooked grits because her mom didn't. My dad's mom did but they were simple grits that I will admit I never acquired a taste for. Granny always added blackstrap molasses & butter to grits. Blackstrap molasses is an acquired taste & not one that a child is happy to experience. If we complained of feeling sick because we didn't want to do something, she would reach for the blackstrap...we recovered very quickly from our ailments!

This may look like chocolate but it's bittersweet blackstrap molasses!

As an adult I love molasses, blackstrap is hard to find but I buy all they have when I do find it! Granny would be so proud to know I not only enjoy it ,but according to her I should be the healthiest person on the planet!

Robert Medina's Cheese Grits from "If You Can't Stand The Heat" are why Southerners love grits!
They are decadent, full of whipping cream, butter & cheese. I didn't have whipping cream on hand so I used fat-free half & half. I will say that if using the whipping cream makes it better then I couldn't stand it. The recipe calls for sharp white cheddar cheese, I used chipotle cheddar in my grits. They were delicious, creamy & full of spicy flavor. That's what Southern cooking is...making substitutes when you don't have something in the fridge or cabinet. I am now a grit lover thanks to Bob! Now when I have to go to the gym an extra day a week I will remember it's all worth it for the grits!

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