Cheddar’s Casual Cafe

I was up in Hattiesburg for dinner with Michelle’s family and we all went out to Cheddar’s Casual Cafe. It is a chain version of a neighborhood restaurant and the food was good and filling and the prices quite reasonable.

We started with the Honey Butter Croissants. These ought to come with a warning about addiction – sweet, flaky, buttery.

honey butter croisants

Michelle had the Sweet Heat Chicken and Shrimp. The sweet chili sauce was quite good.

shrimp and chicken

I had the ribeye with loaded potato and brocolli cheese casserole. Meat was cooked a nice medium rare with a nice sear on the outside. The casserole was a little congealed but the flavor was good and the potato was quite satisfying.

steak broccoli and potato

We ended with the Hot Fudge Sundae Cake – big enough to serve four with two scoops of icecream and both hot fudge and caramel sauce drizzled over the top.

chocolate cake

As you can see by the remains of the plate, we liked it. We really, really liked it.

the remains of the cake

The service was a bit rushed but it was a Saturday during holiday season so I’m cutting her a lot of slack – that and she was dealing with a table of 11 that included two kids under 6. We all had a good meal and conversation and didn’t feel rushed or pressured.

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Cockle Warming, Southern Style

This is weird weather here in New Orleans – our daily low temperatures in November typically range from 49°F to 57°F.  Yesterday, it almost reached 80 degrees F; tonight it is down to 40 degrees.

After walking the dog tonight, I decided to make myself a hot toddy to warm up from the inside out. There are just so many choices – hot buttered rum, honey lemon bourbon, apple brandy, etc, etc. Standing in my kitchen and staring at the many boxes of tea, I decided to do a tea based toddy. I’m also Southern so it needed bourbon and, when I think bourbon I also think about mint juleps. Perfect!

mint toddy

Winter Julep

1 tablespoon (packed) brown sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 mint tea bag (I use Plantation mint)
1 oz. bourbon

Make a brown sugar syrup by combining brown sugar and water and bringing to a boil. Pour into a mug to warm the glass up.

Infuse mint tea in a cup of boiling water for about 4 minutes.

Pour bourbon into mug with brown sugar syrup, stir to combine. Fill up mug with mint tea. Garnish with mint leaves, if you have them.

Recipe based on one from Lara Creasy – Winter Julep

Crock Pot Chocolate Nut Candy

I’m super craving chocolate today and the Peppermint Bark Ghirardelli Squares a friend brought from the factory outlet in Oakland just aren’t cutting it. I decided to pour the last of the container of roasted peanuts plus some cashews I had in the freezer into my crock pot with a whole lotta chocolate poured the top. It’ll take 3 hours but I won’t have to stir and mess with it while the New Orleans Saints are playing today. This is a slightly altered version of Trisha Yearwood’s Slow Cooker Candy recipe because more chocolate makes it more better!

finished2 pounds salted nuts (in my case a pound each of dry roasted peanuts and cashews)
4 ounces German’s sweet chocolate
2 12-ounce packages semisweet chocolate chips
24 ounces white chocolate chips

Put the nuts in the bottom of a slow cooker. Layer the chocolate over them, beginning with the sweet chocolate, followed by the chocolate chips and then the white chocolate. Set the temperature on low and cook for 3 hours. Just walk away – do not stir!

chocolate mixAfter 3 hours, stir the mixture with a wooden spoon until smooth. It may be easiest to transfer the whole mess to a large mixing bowl. Drop the candy into cupcakeliners or spoon mixture into tablespoon sized dollops on to wax paper. Allow to harden for at least 1 hour or speed up the process by putting them in the fridge.

almost done

I divide the dollops into zip top bags and stick half the candy into the freezer for next month’s craving.

Bourbon Peach BBQ Pork Picnic

I usually go for a Boston butt when I’m looking to make BBQ but I got such a great deal on a 8 pound picnic that I couldn’t resist. In case you didn’t know, the pig’s upper front leg is divided into two parts. The butt comes from higher on the hog and is typically rectangular vs the lower portion or picnic which is shaped more like a triangle. The picnic ham has lots of connective tissue that makes it great for BBQing – you have to cook it low and slow but the end result is worth it.

I started this one by brining the shoulder, as I wanted the peach flavor to go all the way to the bone.

1 cup kosher salt
1 bottle (33.8 fl oz) peach nectar

Stir well and place the meat into the liquid. If necessary add a cup or two of water to make sure it is covered with liquid. Place in the refrigerator for 12 hours or overnight.

Bring meat out of brine and discard liquid. Rinse off the picnic and pat dry. Peel back the rind, you may need a knife to ease it up and back. Coat the entire piece with dry rub – I use Emeril’s Rustic Rub. Pull the rind back in place and score it about a half inch apart. Leave the meat on the counter while you prepare the grill.

I BBQ using a Weber Kettle grill. I put about 20 briquets in a half circle on one side of the grill and fill a chimney starter with charcoal. Once the briquets are white hot, I pour them over the banked coals. The bottom vent is usually opened wide and the top about half. While the grill is getting ready, I soaked a couple of hunks of hickory wood in water. They get placed on top the coals and a drip pan is put down in the empty space on the bottom grate. Put the top grate into place and you’re ready to grill.

I get the meat and put it skin side up over the drip pan. I then close the lid and walk away for an hour. After an hour, I rotate the meat, stir the coals and add about 8 briquets and walk away for another hour. I continue the process for most of the day.

For pulled pork, you want the internal temperature to be 190 to 200 degrees F. It takes about an hour a pound, sometimes an hour and half per pound. With my 9 pound picnic, that’s a minimum of nine hours. Because the Saints were playing the 49ers today, I cheated and after three hours on the grill (and after it was good and smokey), I brought it into the house and cooked it in the oven at 275 degrees for the remaining 6 hours.

meat and peaches

After the second hour on the grill, I put on the peaches in order to make the sauce. I used a portion of the sauce to baste once the pork was in the oven. It took a little over 9 hours total cook time. Let the meat rest for about 30 minutes and then pull apart with your fingers or a couple of forks. Add some sauce and serve.

Bourbon Peach BBQ Sauce

2 large peaches (about 1 lb.), peeled and cut into quarters
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 1/2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup peach preserves or jam
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup bourbon

Toss peaches with the brown sugar and place into a fire safe pan. Place on the grill until the peaches are warmed through and slightly smokey. Give them a whirl in a blender to chop them roughly.

Sauté onion in about a tablespoon of hot olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat about 2 minutes or until tender. Add garlic and ginger; cook, stirring constantly, 45 to 60 seconds or until fragrant. Add ketchup, peach preserves, and grilled peaches. Reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes or until sauce thickens. Add vinegar and bourbon, being careful not to set fire to the kitchen. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Remove from heat.

finished meat and bbq sauce

Usually, I let people put their own sauce on but this sweet and tangy sauce is worth mixing up ahead of time and serving as a big bowl of wet pulled pork to your friends.