Southern Shindig for Dad’s 75th Birthday

Even if we had a big sorta surprise birthday party last Saturday, we still had another immediate family dinner the actual day of my dad’s 75th birthday. And for this party I decided to go with a Southern American theme influenced by my trip last summer in North Carolina. I had a list of Must Do recipes from back then I still not attacked…I did a bunch in one shot, most adapted. Enjoy the dinner.

Oh yes, 1 recipe is a Southern impostor, can you guess which one?

Menu

Cajun Lemonade
Zucchini Corn Fritters
Beer Cheese Soup
Evelyne’s Slow Cooker North Carolina Pulled Pork
Corn bread
Swiss Chard
Sweet potato pudding cake
Evelyne’s Homemade Ice tea

Cajun Lemonade

6 ounces rum or vodka
2 ounces limoncello
4 ounces fresh lemon juice
2 ounces Simple Syrup
1/4 tablespoon Tabasco
4 ounces chilled 7-Up

In a large container, combine all of the ingredients except 7-Up. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour. Poor into a shaker and shake in batches, then pour into an ice-filled pitcher. Strain into ice-filled rocks glasses, stir in the 7-Up.

Zucchini Corn Fritters (12 fritters)

1 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
fresh ground black pepper
1 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1/8 cup butter, melted
1 cups grated zucchini
3/4 cups fresh corn, kernels cut from cob
1/2 cup finely shredded Cheddar cheese
oil for frying

1. In a large bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, cumin, sugar, salt, and pepper.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and butter. Whisk wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Stir in zucchini, corn, and cheese; mix well.
3. Warm oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Drop batter by the tablespoonful into hot oil. Fry until crisp and brown, turning once with tongs. Remove to paper towels.

Beer Cheese Soup

½ white onion, diced
¼ cup butter
1 clove minced garlic
1 12 ounce bottle of beer
14 oz broth
1 can cream of celery
1 Cup half-and-half
2 cups of shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Salt and ground pepper, to taste

Saute the diced onions in butter, add the garlic, broth, cream, cream of celery and beer. Add cheddar cheese and stir until melted then add Worcestershire, salt and pepper.

 

Slow Cooker Carolina BBQ

3-4 pounds pork roast, Boston butt or pork shoulder
2 tsp black pepper, garlic salt, Paprika each
1 Medium Sweet Onion, Chopped
2 Teaspoon Liquid Smoke
2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup of barbecue sauce (homemade or store bought, I used Bone Suckin’ Sauce from NC)

1. Combine garlic salt, pepper and paprika, rub into the pork. Place pork in slow cooker and cover with vinegar, onion and liquid smoke. Cook for 8 to 10 hours under “low” slow cooker setting.
2. After meat is cooked, remove from slow cooker onto plate and break apart with fork. If meat has any bones, please discard at this time. Keep liquid
3. Put the pork in the slow cooker & add BBQ sauce and liquid to tastes. Keep warm. Serve on  plate or burger bun.

OK I am assuming responsibility for my outlandish following statement: this was the BEST pulled pork ever. I have had about 4 different ones in NC and about 3 in the last year in Montreal BBQ restaurants (which all sucked). Mine is the BEST. I am specifically sending out this challenge to Rich, my friend who hosted me while I was visiting him last summer. Rich, get your butt up here for a little holiday and I’ll make you my pull pork…the BEST, period!

 

Swiss Chard

1 bunch of Swiss chard
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp lemon juice
Sea salt and pepper

Trim the stems of the Swiss chard and chop into sections. Wash the leaves well, shake dry. Cook the stems in a large pot of simmering salted water for 5 minutes, then add the leaves and cook for a further 5 minutes, turning them occasionally as they wilt down, until soft.

Drain well in a colander, then toss with the butter, lemon juice , sea salt and pepper.

Cornbread

I used my Mama Dips Cornbread Mix that I bought when I was in North Carolina…but if you want to make you own…

1 c. self-rising cornmeal
½ c. self-rising flour
3-4 T. sugar
3 T. butter
1¼ c. buttermilk
2 eggs

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix cornmeal, flour, and sugar.
2. In separate bowl, lightly beat eggs. Add buttermilk and melted butter.
3. Add dry ingredients and mix well.
4. Pour into cornbread dish (or 8“x8” baking pan).
5. Bake for 25 minutes. Until golden brown

Sweet potato pudding cake

1 cup blueberries
2 tablespoons dark or light rum
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour (I used A”P” white flour)
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups mashed sweet potato (about 1 large)
3 large eggs
14oz coconut milk
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Topping

1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 tablespoon packed brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9-inch spring form pan with cooking spray.
2. To prepare cake: Toss raisins and rum in a small bowl and let stand. Whisk flour, nutmeg and salt in another bowl.
3. Boil sweet potato till tender, drain and mash in a large bowl. Add eggs; beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until combined. Add coconut milk, 1 cup brown sugar and butter; beat until combined. Stir in the dry ingredients until evenly moistened. Stir in the raisins and any remaining rum. Spread the batter in the prepared pan.
4. To prepare topping: Combine coconut, 1 tablespoons brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Sprinkle on top of the cake.
5. Bake the cake until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, 25-30 min. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and gently remove the side ring. Let cool at room temperature for 1 hour, then refrigerate until cold, about 3 hours.

Evelyne’s Homemade Ice tea

2 liters of water
3 tea bags (any kind)
fresh lemon juice, to taste
honey, to taste

Run your tap water hot and fill the pitcher with about 2 cups of water. Add the 1 tbsp of honey and lemon juice and stir. Add the teat bags and let sit 1 hour on the counter. Fill with 1.5 liters of water and put in the fridge for a few hours. Discard tea bags and adjust lemon and honey to taste.

Hush Puppies Sanitary Style

One more recipe down from my public self-made promise to cook certain foods I ate during my trip.

Hush Puppies was my pet project this time around. I never in my life ate these before this trip to the South. I had then 4 times and it turns out my favorite ones were from the seafood restaurant Sanitary…which happens to post the recipe of their website. These hush puppies are super easy and quick to make. There is no flour in this recipe so you don’t get a cake-like hush puppy. I “spiked” mine with dehydrated garlic and chili flakes. You could add any seasoning you like: curry, onions, saffron, fresh herbs, etc.

FAMOUS TAR HEEL HUSH PUPPIES

1 lb fine corn meal
1 egg
1 Teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoons Sugar
Pinch baking soda
1 cup buttermilk

Stir, adding water, to thick consistency.
Drop by the spoonful in deep fat  heated to 375 F degrees.
Deep fry until golden. Drain on a paper towel.

Recipe serves six (or 10 normal people)

Don’t have buttermilk? Substitute with 1 cup of milk and 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice.

Great so now you know how to make them…but where did the name come from?

Hushpuppies are a food with strong ties to the American South, although they are available in many areas of America on the menus of deep fried fish restaurants. The name “hushpuppies” is often attributed to hunters, fishermen or other cooks who would fry some basic cornmeal mixture and feed it to their dogs to “hush the puppies” during cook-outs or fish-frys. Also, runaway slaves would feed them to the guard dogs of their owners in order to “hush the puppies.”

Other hush puppy legends date to the Civil War. Southern soldiers would sit beside a campfire, preparing meals. When Union soldiers came near, they would toss some small pieces of fried cornbread to their barking dogs with the command “Hush, puppies”.

Bofinger Review

I have been putting of going to Bofinger for quite sometime. The first location is like 8 blocks away from me and I just did not go. At one point I was decided to go with the CEE dinner group but they do not take reservations. Why was I so hesitant to go?  Because the word of mouth reviews I got were mixed and mostly somewhat negative. Since they serve traditional US Southern food I figured if there ever was a time to try out Bofinger it was NOW, upon my return from the South.

Now what most people do not know is that one of the owners of Bofinger is also co-owner of La Louisiane, a Cajun bistro which I love. Again, the first location near me is 3 blocks away from La Louisiane. Since then 3 locations have opened up: downtown, West Island and the Plateau. The website says:...Our goal was to introduce authentic Southern Style BBQ to Canadians. At Bofinger, we prepare all our food with great care. Our famous NATURALLY Smoked Meats are prepared in a true fusion of Southern/Quebec style: Dry rubbed and smoked with maple wood for up to 24 hours.

The one I tried was the Plateau location on Parc Avenue. Not only was I finally going to try this place but it also turned into a ‘foodie blogger ‘blind date”. Through the Foodie Exchange I started chatting with another Montreal food blogger. I really like her blog and I was happy to see we were getting along by email. She suggested meeting and I brought up Bofinger. Now it was a bit odd planning a first date in a really non fancy place lol. But Vibi of La Casserole Carrée said she clearly understood what she was getting herself into. We had a really nice time chatting away for a couple of hours, actually 3 I think he he, and another diner will be planned once the craziness of summer subsides. Her blog is only in French but it is wonderful. Recipes can be translated easy enough.

So Bofinger is totally cafeteria style. You order what you want at the counter…your meat and the famous sides plus what ever else you want. You pay, they take down you name and you go sit and wait till you are called. I am not a big cafeteria style fan. But the girl who served us was nice enough. They have trios on the menu – your meat, 1 side dish and a drink.The menu is Southern BBQ in its various forms: ribs, chicken, pulled pork, wings. In North Carolina BBQ is pulled or chopped pork…period. My friend there said it quite well: ” for you BBQ is a verb, for me it is a noun”. Once you pick your meat you pick your sauce to go with it. Choices are Texas, South Carolina, Honey BBQ, Memphis, Alabama and Crazy Spicy. Sides dishes offered are mac and cheese, baked beans, salad, potato salad, coleslaw, bean salad, fries.

Vibi liked her ribs although they were a bit dry and not the best she has had. Her side dish of baked bean were a disappointment. they were your Canadian variety. Potato salad was good but nothing special. That is all I am going to say about her critic….can’t remember other details.

Now for my review – fresh of the plane from the South – please buckle your seat belt and make sure your trays are in an upright and locked position because it is going to be a bumpy ride. I had of course the pulled pork sandwich. Both ribs and pork had a very pronounced smoky taste to them, good but not what I was familiar with in the South. Besides that I found the pork itself a bit bland. As I said you choose your sauce, they did not put enough sauce on the pork and they should add the sauce in the kitchen in a bowl and mix it all up…..not just ladle it on the meat. Never in North Carolina did I have a piece of unseasoned meat sticking out. I got the South Carolin sauce and they got right: traditionally dijon mustard that makes it sour-sweet. With the sauce the pulled pork was good and did bring back vacation memories. If I were them I would not toast the bun….it was a bit burned and too big.

Next the sides. Really, no attempt to have an equivalent to greens? For shame. Actually the only side dishes that were truly reminiscent were coleslaw, fries and mac & cheese. Where were the mashed potatoes with gravy, the black eyed peas, string beans, corn. The mac & cheese was a DISGRACE! it’s by the box Kraft dinner with sprinkle shredded cheese on it. It SHOULD BE  by the box Kraft dinner with baked in cheese. Not a fancy dish but the backing with extra cheese is a huge upgrade to this crap. Baked beans were very Canadianized.

Things seriously missing from the menu if they want to call themselves a southern restaurant…biscuit, corn bread, hush puppies and ice tea..the real kind! you want to try some simple different BBQ food which a gourmet touch then Bofinger is for you. If you want to try reall Southern BBQ….travel!! It’s not so authentic.

All in all there is one lesson learned here: even if two foodies share a just OK meal it can still be a wonderful outing as what counts is the company rather then the food sometimes.

Bofinger
– 5667 Sherbrooke West, Montreal, QC
– 1250 University Street, Montreal, QC
– 25 Boul. Don Quichotte, Ile Perrot, QC
– 5145 Ave. Parc, Montreal, QC

Vacation Eatz:Raleigh Mama Dip’s, Ice Tea, Grits and Turkey Shoot

Welcome to the North Carolina portion of my trip. I visited a friend here for 6 days. If you live in the South of the US you will feel right at home for the next 3 posts. If you come from anywhere else in the world…hold on to your hats and add an extra hole in your belt.

Southern food is by no means a glamorous fare, even if it can be presented that way. We are talking here about good home country cooking. Unfortunately we no longer work in the fields to work off all those calories! Granted my host Rich may have gone the extra mile to really stuff me with Southern food to give the max exposure to it. I did overdose and started to develop a fear of fried foods. My body was screaming for real veggies! But it was a blast.

My no.1 priority was to go to Mama Dip’s which we did on day 1 I think. This restaurant is your best bet as to tasting the local food. And it has a great history. “Mama Dip’s first job was as a family cook in Chapel Hill. She then moved on to work at Carolina Coffee Shop, Kappa Sigma fraternity and St. Andrews Hall. In 1957 she worked with her mother-in-law in a tiny take-out restaurant where she began to hone her business skills. On a Sunday in November 1976 Mama Dip opened her own restaurant with $64, $40 dollars went toward food and $24 was used to make change. The morning’s take was used to fund the lunch meal and lunch to fund the dinner. At the end of the day Mama Dip took home $135, and the rest is history”.

I ordered Fried Green Tomatoes because, well, never had them and its a movie about female angst lol. They were bland. Rich got the smothered pork chops with greens and green beans, he was very happy with his selection. I got a combo plate of Chopped BBQ Pork and Fried chicken with the mashed potatoes and black eyed peas. Sides, pork was pretty good, butt he chicken ruled. The batter used is remarkably light and fluffy, I loved it. I got to say everything had a bit of a blandness to it but this was a bit of a theme in the whole 6 days. I am so used to cooking with lots of herbs and spices, they don’t apparently. For me it made a big difference. That said I loved Mama Dip’s even if I found it bland a bit. Great adorable place and the sweetest most attentive waiter. We ate outside on the wrap around porch which give to a relatively quiet and almost residential street. Fabulous! If you go to Raleigh RUN to Mama Dip’s.

Corn bread and biscuits galore everywhere. Love that! It seems that what I consider a vegetable list and what the South considers a vegetable list is 2 different worlds. This list below may not be the best example as it has the most actual veggie choice of all side dish list I saw. But sorry…beans, black eyed peas, potatoes, yams, macaroni, firs, rice are not vegetables body absorption wise! They all taste GREAT…but it ain’t veggies people! Greens, collar or otherwise, are not my top choice, but are a real vegetable. Sorry but this was my pet peeve with my host – the veggie thing.

And of course I got an ice tea. I have always been a fan of ice tea and the South serves ice tea everywhere. Thank god though you can get it unsweetened. Lord some places has so much sugar in it a diabetic would go into hyperglycemia shock in 2 seconds flat! I don’t put sugar in my coffee or tea. I make my ice tea normally with a dash of lemon juice and maybe 1tsp of sugar per glass. If you like sweet but not that sweet you can ask for half-half. Drank lots of ice tea with the heat.

Remember last week I promised you a story about that all natural syrup where Rich freaked out? Well i will tell you that story here. On this trip I only had grits once at a breakfast plate. I am very mystified by grits. Polenta I get, cream of wheat I get, grist I don’t. And I know I am not alone. That is why there will be an in depth study future post on grits. Anyways we are having breakfast and I got grits with it. It was 100% unseasoned and bleh. I added a bit of salt and that helped, but not much. I could not help feel how close to cream of wheat it was, something I used to eat for breakfast. And I always sweetened it a bit. So in my logic I took the bottle of syrup and added a bit to the grits. This is when friend literally FLIPPED OUT on me and looked around in shame to make sure no fellow Southerner should have witnessed my sacrilegious action! I was baffled but very amused by it though. He was so embarrassed to be seen with me for that moment l0l. I am assuming some of you reading are nodding in a agreement with him. But once the shock subsided (about 10 min) he reluctantly took a mini forkful of it saying he had to taste my abomination and in a very low voice filled with resentment said” its not bad but I will never admit it publicly” Pfft I say! It was awesome with syrup.

After lunch we went to A Southern Season. I had been there in January and adored this foodie heaven. Got myself a few things here like local cheddar cheese, salt water taffy, pecans, moonshine cordial chocolates. Also got stuff I regretted not buying the last time: a mango coconut sauce and banana ketchup. They are from Costa Rica! This place also has an awesome selection herbs and spices cheap, in cylinder plastic tubes. Got a mole rub and two other I was clueless too: Annato seeds and Epazote. I love getting unknown stuff and then researching it at home only.

Wow this is a huge post. OK finishing it off with a couple of pics from July 4th. This was museum day but we walked right by the State Capitol building where lots of celebration stuff was going on. That night we went to the State Fair Grounds to see the fire works. Wow there were a gazillion food vendors with enormous lines. All we got was a orange-aid. There was one thing that caught my eye: the Turkey Shoot. I am sure you are thinking the same question I did: do they shoot real turkeys? I asked my friend knowing how stupid it probably sounded out loud. Thing is he is excellent at keeping a straight face when responding so sometimes I never can quite tell if it is a joke or not..even if what he says makes no sense. It drives me NUTS  and he knows it and relishes those moments. GRRR!

So in the end no turkeys were being shot at…tree trunks were.  But I did my research! The term comes from the 1800s where REAL turkeys were tied down and shot at 25 to 15 yards away. If a bird was killed it WAS given to the shooter as a prize. years later an inanimate target was used and a frozen turkey was given to the best shooter. I am so quoting wiki on this one (inside joke): today, turkey shoots are still popular in rural America, where citizens are all likely to be familiar with shotguns. The prize was a T-shirt.

Just 2 more posts coming about my trip…then back to blog reality! Tune in:

Saturday…..Vacation Eatz: South Fast Food
Sunday…….Vacation Eatz: Sanitary Beach