Mississippi Style Potato Logs

One of the best things about getting off the highway is finding great food on the road less travelled. In fact, some of the tastiest boudin, barbecued brisket and fried chicken I’ve eaten has come from gas stations across the South.

One of things I’ve found in Mississippi gas stations (and some local fairs like the Okatoma Festival), are potato logs. These are large wedges of baked potato, dredged in seasoned flour and deep fried. You basically get the creamy interior of a baked potato plus the crunchy skin and coating of the best French fry. All in all, they make a really awesome appetizer or side dish.

I tried several versions at home and found I like best Creole Seasoning in the flour (1 teaspoon seasoning per 1/4 cup flour – each large potato cut into 5 wedges used about 1/2 cup flour). I also found that you only need a double dip of flour (toss in flour, dredge in an egg beaten with some oil, and then dredge through the flour again). I found using breadcrumbs was unnecessary and actually a little heavy.

I used peanut oil as that is my go-to deep fry oil but you can use your choice. I fried them after I brought the oil to 325 degrees F in a cast iron skillet. Fry for about 3 minutes per side or until the crust is golden brown. After removal from the heat, drain on a brown paper bag. Salt generously.

These are delicious as they are but, if you like them with a dipping sauce, I enjoyed them with ranch dressing with a little sriracha mixed in. They had a lovely kick.

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Corn and Black Bean Salad

Michelle has some frozen corn in the freezer that we wanted to use up before this year’s crop is harvested. We made up a huge batch of Cuban Style Black Beans and used three cups of the beans and a half a bell pepper along with the corn for this light and healthy summery salad.

If you have fresh cilantro, add a tablespoon of chopped leaves to the corn and beans and omit the dried.

Corn and Black Bean Salad

juice of 1 lime, about 1/4 cup
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dried cilantro leaves
2 cups corn cut off the cob (1 10 ounce package frozen corn kernels)
3 cups black beans (2 15 ounce cans)
1 bell pepper, diced

optional, 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced

Whisk together the lime juice, oil, sugar, salt, pepper and cilantro in a large bowl. Add in the corn, black beans and bell pepper. Gently stir together to mix. Add the jalapeño pepper, if using. Taste for seasonings and then refrigerate for at least one hour for the flavors to come together.

 

Cuban Style Black Beans in the Slow Cooker

Michelle and I have several meals over the next couple of days for which we need black beans. We decided to go ahead and make a big pot of frijoles negros using two pounds of dry beans. Recipe plans include corn and black bean salad one night and to be refried with our shrimp fajitas and breakfast burritos plus enough should be leftover will go with our soup dreams.

If your beans are old, it may take longer for them to cook. After 6 hours in the slow cooker, if your beans are still rocks, consider putting the still tough beans in a One Pot or pressure cooker for 15 minutes.

Cuban Style Black Beans in the Slow Cooker

2 lbs dried black beans
2 medium onions, quartered
5-6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 bell pepper, quartered
3 bay leaves
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar

Soak beans overnight in a bowl with enough warm water to cover the beans plus 2 inches.

Drain and rinse the beans. Place them in the slow cooker with the quartered onion, bell pepper, garlic cloves, bay leaves, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper. Pour in 8 cups water and stir gently to mix.

Turn the slow cooker on high. Check to make sure water level stays above the top of the beans. Warm water before adding any into the slow cooker. Skim off any foam during the cook. Beans are done when tender but not mushy and that can take from 4-6 hours, depending on your slow cooker.

Discard the bay leaves. Strain out the vegetables and place them in a food mill or food processor with 1-2 cups of beans and about a cup of the bean liquid. Process to liquify then add back into the beans and stir to combine. Add in the vinegar and sugar and continue to simmer for 15 minutes to thirty minutes. Taste for seasoning.

Serve with rice or use as a base for soup or in a corn and black salad (recipe here).

Creole Tomato and Basil Bruschetta Topping

I went to the Crescent City Farmers Market on Saturday and found some beautiful Creole tomatoes. These tomatoes have a wonderful taste because they are grown only in the River Parishes of Louisiana, so they don’t have to travel far from the field to reach my plate.

I used the new-to-me bread machine from Michelle’s mom to make the dough for some French bread. I relied on the recipe from the Fleischmann’s Bread World website. It wasn’t the prettiest loaf of bread I’ve ever made, so no pictures of it.

While the dough was rising, it was time to toss together diced tomatoes with some basil, olive oil and salt. For about two large tomatoes, you’ll need about a 1/4 cup of high quality olive oil, about 1/4 cup of fresh basil, cut in a chiffonade (stack the leaves, roll them like a cigar and slice thinly). Add in a few generous pinches of coarse sea salt like Fleur de Sel and a couple of grinds of black pepper. Stir and let sit for the flavors to come together.

I took the bread from the oven and, once it had cooled, I cut it into rounds. Those, I lightly brushed with olive oil and then toasted them on a grill pan (to make pretty grill marks). While still warm, I rubbed them with a raw clove of garlic. Then, I mounded on the tomato and basil mix and ate until I was fit to burst.

Oh, the taste of summer!

Corn Chowder

It has been quite chilly these past few days, so I decided to make some soup. In my freezer, I had some corn taken off the cobs grown in Michelle’s grandfather’s field. James Earl Clark passed on last summer and his kindness and generosity is greatly missed.

You can make this vegan by eliminating the bacon, using oil instead of the butter and using a vegetable stock. Better yet, consider boiling the corn cobs after you’ve removed the kernels in a large pot to make a corn stock instead. Replace the cow’s milk with soy milk.

For extra rich soup, replace the milk with heavy cream. The soup will need more stirring during the final cook to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom.

Corn Chowder

3 slices bacon, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 large potato, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 cups sweet corn (fresh or frozen)
4 cups chicken broth (for vegetarians, use corn stock)
1 ½ cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper.
3 tablespoons yellow corn meal
¼ cup water

Add bacon pieces to a large dutch oven and cook for 5 minutes over medium heat. They should have rendered their fat but not be crispy. Place in the diced onion and potato and stir well. Cook for about 10 minutes, until onion is translucent and potato has softened. Add butter and corn. Stir and cook until butter melts. Pour in chicken broth and milk and stir to combine. Add salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, stirring regularly. Reduce heat to low. In a a small mixing bowl, combine cornmeal and water. Pour into the chowder. Cook uncovered for 15 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally.

Ladle 3 cups of the soup (being sure to get lots of the onion, corn and potato) into a blender and puree. Return to soup and stir to combine. Taste for seasonings.

Serve with sourdough bread or another hearty, crusty bread.

Lemon Garlic Roasted Broccoli

I know, I know, another post on vegetables. You think I had turned 50 years old and finally realized I needed to eat (a little) better.

I don’t know about you but I grew up eating limp and soggy boiled broccoli, tossed with butter mask the funky flavor. I graduated to steaming it but would still sometimes overcook it to a sulfuric tasting mess if I got distracted putting the rest of the meal together.

These days, I’ve found that roasting in the oven gives me more leeway before overcooking as it browns before overcooking, so your nose knows. Additionally, the roasting gives it a sweeter, almost nutty flavor.

Tossed with a little garlic and lemon and you have a very tasty side dish!

Lemon Garlic Roasted Broccoli

2 medium heads of broccoli
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Zest of half a lemon
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Cut broccoli into florets and pile onto a rimmed baking sheet.

Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic, salt and pepper. Use your fingers to toss, then spread out over tray in a single layer.

Bake for about 20 minutes until the tips of the florets are slightly browned. The broccoli should be tender crisp and cooked through.

Remove from the oven and immediately drizzle over the lemon juice and butter. Toss to combine. Scatter lemon zest over and serve.

Grilled Shrimp on Mashed Sweet Potatoes

It was a bit cold last night, so rethought going outdoors to cook dinner. Instead, I cooked the shrimp on the grill pan on the stove top. The timing is the same.

I used my go to cheat – a bottle of Cajun Power Garlic Sauce on the shrimp. This isn’t a hot sauce but so well seasoned that it goes well with chicken, pork, seafood and even vegetables.

It was good to have friends over to enjoy the meal. Jess, Julie and Nancy helped warm up the house with laughter and good conversation. And, thanks again to Kenny for leaving the gallon jug of margarita’s – they were a hit!

Grilled Shrimp

1.5 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup Cajun Power Garlic Sauce

If using wood skewers, soak them in water for at least 30 minutes before grilling.

In a bowl, mix the shrimp with the Cajun Power Garlic Sauce. Toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate until ready to grill, up to 2 hours.

Skewer shrimp and place on a medium hot grill or a preheated grill pan. Grill about 3 minutes per side or until they are opaque throughout.

I placed the shrimp on a bed of mashed sweet potatoes – quite a tasty accompaniment and a switch from the pasta I would have usually served with them.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

2 lb. sweet potatoes (roasted and peeled), warm
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
Pinch salt

Roast sweet potatoes in a 350 degree F oven for 45 minutes or until done. Scoop out interiors and place in a bowl.

Mash together sweet potatoes, butter, milk, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Taste and add more brown sugar, cinnamon or salt, if needed. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Place warm sweet potato mixture on plates. Arrange shrimp on top.