Monday, June 1, 2015

Your New Summer Staple: Bourbon-Peach Ice Cream

There's one thing every good southerner knows... know matter how you take your bourbon, it's going to be so good.

Some people like it in a pecan pie, others on the rocks... my friend Shelton introduced me to a Bourbon and Ginger cocktail a few years ago and something about that combination is dynamite. In fact, it's my winter go-to cocktail. But then, there's this other summertime combination that really knocks my socks off... bourbon and peaches. The sweet juiciness of the peaches is just complimented so beautifully by smooth, warm bourbon and this is definitely true when they come together in a silky, simple custard-based ice cream.

Every May I break out my ice cream maker and try a couple of new recipes... this year I tried double chocolate chocolate (Boone's new favorite), sweet corn (recipe to follow soon!), and today's gem... bourbon-peach. A couple of years ago I tried a bourbon peach popsicle... it was good (and healthy), but in my opinion the bourbon flavor was just a little too strong and kind of overpowered everything else and burned your throat a little bit. I learned my lesson and dialed this down a bit so it's there, but only really in service of the sweet, ripe, fresh peach flavor.

Just FYI...When I made some for my mama and aunt they sat with the entire tub and nearly ate it all in one sitting. It's that good. Don't make this if you're watching your weight, or hoping to have some leftover for guests, or any other reason you might have for not wanting to eat ALL OF IT at once. ;)

Also, PLAN AHEAD. The peaches need to steep in the bourbon for at the VERY least an hour and then the custard takes awhile to cool... so don't go thinking you can whip this up right before your guest arrive. You need to give yourself (at the very least 2.5-3 hours) and really, to play it safe I start the night before.

Bourbon-Peach Ice Cream
Makes probably one to two quarts (I eat it too quickly to really know)

What You Need:
4 ripe large-ish peaches, chopped
2 cups heavy cream
2 cup white sugar (divided)
2 cups whole milk
1 tsp vanilla
6 egg yolks
1/4 cup bourbon (I personally prefer buillet)

What To Do:

As I said above, you've got to start steeping your chopped peaches in the bourbon and 1 of the cups of sugar. I kept mine in the fridge overnight the first time (but only because I realized that I'd stupidly forgotten to freeze the ice cream maker bowl. stupid, stupid, stupid.) Although it was an accident, the peaches' sweetness really turned out great and the juice created by the sugar, peaches, and whiskey probably benefited from the extra time... so I did this again the second time I made it. and the third time I think I waited maybe 3 hours? Once you feel like it's steeped to your liking, strain the peach/bourbon juice into another container and keep it.

Once your peaches are ready to go, you can start with your pretty classic vanilla ice cream custard. Truly, this is the key to the richness of the ice cream.
People do this all kinds of different ways, but I found this way to work the best for me...

I start by separating my eggs into a small to medium bowl and mixing in the sugar to the yolks. Then I warm the milk and cream in a saucepan until it steams but IS NOT boiling, stirring it pretty regularly.

Then, I take a few quarter cups of the steaming milk and pour it slowly into the bowl with the sugar and eggs. This warms the egg yolks up slowly so they don't scramble (gross). I probably stir in at least 1 cup of milk/cream into the sugar/yolk mixture and then pour the sugar/yolk mixture back into the saucepan. Some people use cheesecloth or some other way to strain any egg that might have cooked in this process, but I've found if you go slowly enough,  you don't really run into this problem, so I leave out that step. But, just in case, you can use a fine strainer or cheesecloth if you're worried about cooked egg in your ice cream.
Once you've combined the egg, sugar, cream, and milk, add in the vanilla and then return the saucepan to the heat. You'll want to bring the temperature back up to almost boiling here (you don't want to curdle the milk but you DO want to cook the egg) stirring the whole time until it has thickened enough so it will coat the back of a spoon. At this point, pour in your bourbon/peach juice that you reserved after straining it. (it'll be hard, but try not to drink it beforehand)

Now  you've got a gorgeous warm peach-flavored custard. Your job now is to cool it so that it doesn't unfreeze your ice cream maker bowl (which would be a mess). I've found that the method from Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream cookbook works pretty well. To do it, I take a bowl and put a gallon sized plastic bag into it and then pour the custard into the bag, seal it, and lay it in an ice bath for 30 mins to an hour. (I use a roasting pan and LOTS of ice water as my ice bath.)

Once the custard has cooled down and feels about the same temp as the ice bath, you can go ahead and pour it into your ice cream maker and follow whatever directors you've got for that. At the very end.... right before the ice cream gets firm, I pour in the chopped peaches and let that mix in. Let freeze a little longer until firm, and then serve.
Y'all, it's so, so good. I know the custard is a little involved and sometimes it's all you can do to wait overnight to make a delicious ice cream that you want to EAT RIGHT NOW, but really, once you try it you'll understand. truly. bourbon and peaches... a combination for the ages.

What's your favorite way to have your bourbon?

Peaches, Berries, Mint: Summer in a Bowl

Aside from homegrown tomatoes, fresh corn,  and swimming pools, I think homemade ice cream is the best part of summer, hands-down. Which is why I'm sharing 3 ice cream recipes this week... get churning!

I was taking dinner to a friend with a new baby, and figured that dessert was the best part of any meal. I had a ton of peaches and Louisiana strawberries, and had a huge mint patch in the backyard, so i figured I'd see what happened if I made a mint-fruit combo. I didn't want to risk making it too wild and crazy since it was for someone else, so I made a mint base, then made two separate combinations... and it was one-thousand percent worth it. Something about the mint ice-cream base brings out the summery-ness and freshness in the fruit. After tasting this, I'm not sure that I'll ever make strawberry ice cream again without it. Or peach.

What You Need:
1 Cup of packed fresh mint leaves (Some people get super serious about this... the "kinds of mint" discussion, but let's be    real, I used whatever mint has taken over and grows in my backyard. and it was delicious.)
5 small ripe peaches OR 3 cups hulled strawberries
2 cups sugar, (divided) and 2 T sugar (for strawberries)
3 cups half and half
3 cups heavy cream
6 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 Tablespoon butter (for peaches)
Sprinkle of kosher salt (for peaches)

What to do:
First, you've got to either roast your peaches (roasting brings out the water which makes the peaches smooth and creamy) or macerate your strawberries (to release the juices).

For the Peaches:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Halve the peaches, rub them with butter and sprinkle them with salt. Heat them in a heat-proof skillet or pan until bubbly, then roast them for 10-15 minutes on 350 degrees.

Peel the peaches and puree' them with a food processor or hand blender, then push them through a fine meshed sieve to make sure you have a smooth, juicy puree'.

For the Strawberries: 
Hull your strawberries, cut them into fourths and sprinkle them with 2 or so tablespoons of sugar. Cover them and let them sit for at least an hour (although mine sat overnight and had a TON of delicious juice). Once they're good and macerated, puree' the strawberries and then strain the juice into another bowl.

Make the mint ice cream base:
This is similar to the base I made for the peach-bourbon ice cream, in that it starts as a vanilla custard. This time, though, I went with a SERIOUSLY creamy mixture of 3 cups half and half and 3 cups heavy cream (I know! But it was for a new mom! She's earned it!)

Heat the half&half, 1 cup sugar, and vanilla in a saucepan just until it steams (not boiled! don't curdle it!) While it's heating, whisk 1 cup sugar and the egg yolks until the yolks lighten a little bit.

Once the half & half has steamed, pour two cups slowly into the egg yolks and whisk. This heats up the eggs slowly, so they can be poured into the half and half without scrambling them (this. is. key.) Stir in the heavy cream into the egg mixture and heat it again until it's steaming again. At this point, turn off the heat and put the cup of mint into the mixture to steep while it cools. You could use an ice bath (see here) but this time, I poured mine into a gallon plastic bag and left it in the freezer for an hour so it would cool.

Once the base has cooled, strain the mint and pour the liquid into your ice cream maker. Add in whichever fruit juice you made, and then add in a couple of spoonfuls of the puree' for good measure and a little texture. Freeze it according to the directions of your ice cream maker, and get ready for something delicious. 

You can see that I ate both the peach & the strawberry in the same bowl... I HIGHLY, STRONGLY, SUPER-DUPER recommend this.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Mess of Greens Soup

 So, here you have it... literally a recipe for a "mess of greens." It's about time, right? 
You may have tried some of my other New Year's Day recipes (see pickled peas, black eyed pea hummus or lucky soup) but unlike all of those recipes that focus on black eyed peas, greens play a starring role in this year's dish to bring us all luck and money in 2015. I was lucky enough to have a friend bring me a gallon bag of mustard and turnip greens from her winter garden yesterday, PLUS a gallon bag of shelled pecans (y'all. aren't I so lucky?!?) and I'd had some pretty delish turnip green soup at Turnrow books a couple of weeks back, so it seemed like a no-brainer. My dish is pretty standard compared to the other ones you find on the interweb, except I gave my broth a spicy kick with some red pepper flakes, and use bacon AND ham (why choose just one?). Hope you enjoy!

What you Need:
One can of black eyed peas
2 quarts of turnip greens (around 4 bunches or probably one or 1.5 bags of prewashed)
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
4 strips of bacon
1 package ham pieces or 1 ham bone
4 cups chicken stock
2-4 cups water
salt, pepper, red pepper flakes to taste
What you do:
Let's face it, every good southern vegetable recipe starts with bacon. This one's no different. You brown the bacon and the ham pieces, then use the grease to sautee' the onions and garlic until transluscent.

Once the onions and garlic are cooked, you add in the chicken stock and the red pepper flakes. (I bet I gave this about 8 good solid shakes)

Once that's at a good rolling boil, you can toss in your greens. Make sure you wash your greens super well to rid them ofgrit (My friend brought a mix of mustard and turnip greens, because that's what came out of her garden (can you stand it? FRESH greens right out of a winter garden!) so there was basically NO grit on these babies. but supermarket greens, or even freshgreens when the weather hasn't been rainy can get pretty gritty). Also, make sure to take out all the little veins and stems and tear the leaves up into 1cm x 1cm pieces.
Once those have been stirred around a bit, add in the ham and bacon (that you've chopped up) and the water. You want it all to simmer together for a good hour to an hour and a half at least.
Once the greens are beautifully wilted and the flavors have melded a bit, stir in the black eyed peas. The peas here really aren't a integral part of this recipe like they've been in my previous New Year's fare. This year I decided to let the greens take center stage and let the peas just add a little texture.

I let the soup simmer for another hour on low at this point and added in a bit more water because it was getting too thick. Eyeball it and if you think it needs more broth, a little more water can't hurt. Watch out if you decide to add more chicken broth, though. It's likely that the bacon and ham will have a gracious plenty of salt already, and you want to be able to wear your rings the next day. ;)
You can either serve it immediately, or freeze it and serve it at your leisure. (but whatever you do, serve it with cornbread. For the love of God, don't forget the cornbread! Greens & cornbread are like peas & carrots, Peanut butter & jelly, Santa & Reindeer. If you make this soup, you must, absolutely, one-thousand percent also serve cornbread.
I'm saving the rest of mine for my New Year's day get-together.... I love to share a little luck on the first day of each year with a few friends and neighbors. Here's wishing you holiday cheer and luck and money in 2015!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Tradition to Adopt: Stewed Okra and Tomatoes as a Thanksgiving side

Stewed Okra and Tomatoes (serves 4 as main, 8 as side)
Its about time for me to share this recipe... although I made it back in early September with a HUGE sack of Okra a friend brought to us and the last of our garden's tomatoes, it really would be a DELICIOUS Thanksgiving side dish. Also, most recipes I found call for frozen okra and canned tomatoes, so you really can make this year-round.

I've always thought of Thanksgiving as an important holiday for Americans to celebrate our "meltingpot" cultural heritage, and okra is an amazing food that does just that. Originating in modern-day Ethiopia, okra was most likely brought to our country by enslaved Africans (like most delicious southern food). It's also called "gumbo" although it's more likely that you've heard this word in context of soups thickened with okra rather than references to the vegetable itself. Aggie Horticulture writes of the name, "Both of these names are of African origin. 'Gumbo' is believed to be a corruption of a Portuguese corruption, quingombo, of the word quillobo, native name for the plant in the Congo and Angola area of Africa." This dish definitely has its roots in the Cajun and Creole traditions of the south... plus, a version of stewed okra and tomatoes recipe found in Indian cuisine as well. What's more meltingpot than a vegetable and recipe that immigrated to the US from multiple parts of the world? Definitely a contender for a new Thanksgiving side dish tradition.
Confession: Okra's hairy-sliminess isn't always palatable to me... but this recipe breaks down the okra and makes it a smooth texture, plus the flavor of it and the tomatoes comes out beautifully. My grandmother used to make this and for a long time it was the ONLY way I'd eat this vegetable.

What You Need:
2 cups of quartered/cored fresh tomatoes (2 cans of whole tomatoes will do..if you use canned, the Neely's, who I LOVE, of Food Network say to add in the tomato juice from the can, too)
2 cups of sliced okra (I had fresh but a bag of frozen works, too)
1 diced yellow onion
4 slices of bacon + the bacon grease
salt and pepper to taste
if you're feeling frisky... a tsp of red pepper flakes

What To Do:
Start by frying your bacon in your heavy bottomed dutch oven or cast iron pot. While it's cooking,  chop the onion, okra, and tomatoes.

Remove the bacon, and sautee' the onion in the bacon grease until it's transluscent. Add in the okra and sautee for about 2 minutes, adding in the tomato and sauteeing for 2 more minutes. Chop the bacon into small pieces to be added back into the dish.
Pour in the chicken stock or water, add in the bacon, and let simmer for 1-2 hours until the flavors have combined adn the vegetables have broken down considerably. It will be thick and smooth in texture, with some okra pieces still in tact. Salt and pepper to taste here, and add in the red pepper flakes if you're going spicy.
Serve over rice and eat up! What's a traditional dish on your family's Thanksgiving table you think other people should adopt?

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Welcome Wagner to the World!

There's been radio-silence from Mess of Greens, but I promise it's for a great reason... I've been enjoying motherhood every day since February 25th.

I've got several great recipes and photos to share, but just haven't had time to tell you about it all since when I'm not at work these days, I've got this little guy in my arms. Isn't he dreamy?

Coming soon... a Bourbon Peach Ice Cream that's my new favorite, and an attempt to use summer's bounty in a new way by trying my hand at Sweet Corn Ice Cream. Refreshing? Yes.
Tasty? Definitely.
Innovative. For sure.
My favorite ice cream flavor ever? Maybe not.

To quote my favorite radio personality, Ira Glass... Stay with us.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Perfect Biscuit Search #2... Bon Appetit

 I'm not gonna lie, these biscuits turned out pretty well. Flaky, buttery, thick enough to serve with a slab of canadian bacon or egg.... Bon Appetit's Pies and Thighs biscuits didn't disappoint me as I continued the search for the world's perfect biscuit. (Ok, obviously this is NOT an objective category, but I have a flavor/texture/look combination that I'm going for here, and I won't stop until I find it.See other attempts with Flying Biscuits here and Sister Shubert ones here.) The people in my family aren't really buttermilk biscuit people, but it's definitely a southern food group all on it's own, PLUS the photo in BA just looked SO GOOD and pretty close to my vision of perfection so I needed to try it.

What I learned: In terms of what I'm personally shooting for, these biscuits were a little too buttery, but the texture was divine. When I try this recipe again, I could probably use shortening and solve the buttery issue pretty quickly... FYI, Bon Appetit DID NOT LIE when they said they'd found the secret to tender, fluffy biscuits... and the secret is this: don't over-mix. Want more that just a secret? Keep reading.

Bon Appetit Pies-N-Thighs Biscuits
Makes 8-10 2 1/2" Biscuits ( I made a 1/2 recipe from what BA suggests and made them smaller in diameter)

What you Need:
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt 
1/2 teaspoon sugar ( I used truvia because of the whole gestational diabetes thing and sacrificed NOTHING)
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more to keep it from sticking as you roll/press the dough out 
3/4 cups (1.5 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces 
3/4 cups chilled buttermilk
 1 egg, beaten (for the top of the biscuits)

What to Do:
Obviously, as in nearly all baking, preheat your oven to start with to 375. Then, of course, start with your dry ingredients.BA says to put them all into a food processor and blend them, but of course I had some trouble with my food processor as I was trying to make it all happen (Ok, it was user error.... I may have forgotten to put the blade in. sheesh.) so I almost used the sifter, but either way, you want to get all your dry ingredients mixed thoroughly together.

If you haven't already cut up the butter... then do that, obvi. In your food processor (or you COULD do it the old fashioned way...with your hands) add in the butter and pulse it lightly (or smush) until you've got some lumpy, pea-sized pieces of butter and flour all mixed together. Don't over do it or you'll end up with too warm butter, says BA. Put the mixture into a bowl and slowly add in the buttermilk, mixing it in with a fork.
Like this. See, the dough will get just wet enough without being TOO wet. BA says that the dough should look "shaggy"... I guess I see it. ;)
From there, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and press it into a ball with your hands lightly until it's all together. (Don't do this too much..the more you mess with dough, the tougher it gets) Then, press it out onto the surface (or use a rolling pin. whatevs) until it's about 1 1/4" thick or maybe even a little thicker.  Use your biscuit cutter... one that's about 2"-2 1/2" (I FINALLY have my grandmother's biscuit cutters! It made me think of her just to look down and see them in my hands!) and cut out your biscuits. It's ok if you have to reshape and press out the dough a few times until it's all used up (again, just don't overdo the kneading and pressing)

 once you've greased your baking sheet, put the biscuits on it and then slather them with a little bit of the beaten egg. This really isn't a necessary step, but man, it makes them look so purty when they brown on top. ;)
 SEE? Let them cook for 30ish minutes, and voila'! You'll have a pretty excellent version of a buttermilk biscuit to serve with just about anything. We went with canadian bacon and eggs, and then had one more to grow on with homemade plum jelly. it was a great start to a Saturday.

EASY jalepeno poppers.

Tonight's the SuperBowl, and even though I don't give two hoots about NFL football, AND I ended up with food posioning, I'm not eating anything tonight, but last week we had a fun party and made these poppers. Perfect for the Super Bowl or really anytime you need an easy, delicious, (did I mention easy?) appetizer! You only need a few ingredients a little prep time and you can make it happen!
Easy Jalepeno Poppers
Serves 6-8

What you need:
8 strips of bacon
1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
16 Fresh whole jalenpenos (or frozen ones that have been thawed)
2/3rds Block of Cream cheese (preferably NOT light cream cheese.. I'm pretty sure it's too melty)
1 bunch of diced green onions 

What to Do:
Start by mixing the cheddar cheese, green onions, and cream cheese together and set it aside.

Cut the jalenpenos in half and de-seed them to get rid of most of the hotter than hades spiciness. If you have smaller peppers, you'll also want to cut your bacon in half so that you don't have the peppers double or triple rolled.

Fill the jalenpenos with the cheese mixture and then wrap with the raw bacon. Hold them together with solid wooden toothpicks (the kind with plastic tips won't do because they may melt) it turns out that we forgot toothpicks (pretty essential to this recipe) so we used skewers. It worked fine, but toothpicks are probably better!

 Put them on a cookie sheet and bake at 375 for 25 or so minutes. Or until the bacon is cooked through but tender.
I promise... They. Are. So. Good.
Some bites may make your mouth fiery (so fiery you'll wish you had a glass of milk) but truly, so, so, delicious!
I forgot to take a photo of the plated, pulled apart poppers... but i promise, even though this doesn't look like much, it was SO delicious. (also, avoid over-filling the jalepenos with the cheese mixture... Or maybe avoid using fat free cream cheese...