Food for thought

It’s Sunday afternoon, and the rain has been rolling off the roof all day. More than a drizzle, less than a downpour.

rain gauge-800We knew it was coming, so we got all of our outside chores knocked out before the front moved in. I cut up and split all the green wood my shoulders could handle before dark on Friday. Jenn had volunteered to help our farmer friends plant the overwinter crops for two days straight, and she was in even worse shape than I.

We pulled off the appearance, I think, of a regular couple when we went to an annual steeplechase horse race in the Appalachian foothills at Callaway Gardens. We were guests of some very thoughtful friends, who said nothing even as I felt as though my back were curling into alphabet shapes and Jenn was moving very, very slowly up and down from her chair, only when required and asking under her breath, “Why is the chair so far down?” Of course, it’s possible our friends were just too polite to say anything.

Between Steeplechase and the rainy Sunday, I decided to catch up on a relaxing pastime that I haven’t seemed to have much time to do of late: cooking.

I’ve been itching to try a few new dishes. And here’s how the weekend went down.


For the race, I wanted to cook up an interesting spin on fra diavolo sauce that I caught on “America’s Test Kitchen” — one where they pan-fried the vacated shrimp shells for a few minutes to turbocharge the seafood flavors of the spicy sauce. Jenn had it in her mind to try concocting a sweet potato hummus after we’d tried some at our favorite local place, 11th & Bay. But I had second thoughts on the pasta dish when I envisioned trying to transport it and keep it warm over the course of some 6 hours. I looked, instead, for some sort of a shrimp biscuit I could make with the seafood I had thawing.

A little Googling led me to about 16 versions of a jalapeno shrimp biscuit that actually used sweet potatoes in the batter. The biscuits are apparently a paleo-diet staple, if that matters to anyone. To me, it didn’t. The recipe was just a delicious way to kill two birds with one stone. I chose the one at, mostly because I loved the URL. The biscuits came out almost like high-dollar crabcakes, but with much healthier ingredients, and they were baked and not fried. The only mod I made to the recipe was to use straight up whole-wheat flour over coconut flour. (Since I nabbed Jenn’s sweet potatoes, she moved on and made a batch of the beet crack that we’ve written about before.)

That night, we were home, exhausted, but we also grew hungry. We had some beef broth in the pantry, and a quick survey of the kitchen proved we had enough stuff to concoct some French onion soup. (Tyler Florence’s recipe is loosely what I made.) The dish was quite a study in contrasts, as I poured of box of organic stock over my carefully caramelized onions, then later broiled fine montasio mezzano atop hot dog buns to dunk on top. Say what you will, it was delicious. And caramelizing the onions until they’re extremely dark made for a killer roux before adding the stock.


So Jenn has practically perfected her own method for making Southern-style biscuits using a large portion of wheat flour instead of processed white flour. And it’s not that she wouldn’t teach me if I asked. But while I was Googling for those shrimp biscuits, I found Emeril Lagasse’s recipe for traditional Southern biscuits which looked so simple I wanted to give it a try. I followed it to the letter, with two exceptions:

  • I used 50/50 whole wheat flour and White Lily.
  • I used lard that we rendered instead of vegetable shortening.

Southern biscuit recipeThe recipe’s phenomenal. The biscuits go into the oven in a little pool of butter, but when you pull them out the butter is gone. And you can guess where, can’t you, smart person? They broke open right down the middle by hand, and we topped them with some roselle-ginger spread. So. Good.

Chile rellenos with poblano peppersOn to lunch. I’d been staring at six small poblano peppers in the fridge for two weeks, and a few days ago I picked up some Cotija cheese at a Mexican market not far from the house. Why? Well, to make these chile rellenos, of course.

A couple of notes on the recipe, which I followed pretty closely. The author gives no indication of the size of his peppers. I had six instead of his four apparently huge ones. I needed only half as much flour as he calls for and one egg would’ve been enough for the final bath before pan frying.

That said, they were another win for Team Dew.


I’d call it a successful weekend: Two outright new recipes, two great twists on traditional ones. And there’s one meal still to go. Jenn wants to take a turn now, so we’ll see what magic she concocts. Meanwhile a couch and the second half of a good book are calling me.

Think I’ll heed that call, at least until it’s time to build a fire.


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