Thursday, December 31, 2009

A New Years Food Tradition

Well, my mom always wanted me to eat black-eyed peas for New Years, but I wasn't crazy about the taste or the texture. I thought about making "Hoppin' John", which is a spicy rice and black-eyed pea dish. Here is my recipe, I sometimes like to add some andouille to this, about a half pound. BTW this is a Low Country dish from the South Carolina/Georgia coastal region, and is eaten traditionally on New Years Day for good luck. Enjoy this recipe and have a Happy New Year.

Low Country Hoppin' John

1 lb dried black-eyed peas (soaked in water overnight)
1 smoked ham hock
1 15 oz. can Rotel® Tomatoes
2 cups uncooked rice
2 medium onions
1/2 cup green bell pepper (diced)
1 cup celery (sliced)
3 large cloves garlic (halved)
1 jalapeno pepper (minced)
2 tbs worcestershire
1/2 tsp thyme
1 tsp each kosher salt & black pepper
2 tsp Creole Spice Mix
1 bay leaf
4 green onions (sliced)
8 cups distilled water
4 cups chicken stock
3 tbs butter

In a large Dutch oven or kettle, combine the drained black-eyed peas, ham bone or ham hock, and the 8 cups of distilled water. Cut one of the onions in half and add it to the pot along with the garlic and bay leaf.

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to MED/LOW, and simmer gently until the peas are tender but not mushy, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Remove the ham bone or hocks, cut off the meat; dice and set aside. Drain the peas and set aside. Remove and discard the bay leaf, onion, and garlic.

Melt butter in your dutch oven, saute remaining diced onions, bell pepper, and celery, letting the onion until it is brown around the edges, (to help brown the butter) now add the diced jalapeño pepper. Add the smoked pork meat, spices, herbs, worcestershire, black-eyed peas, and the 4 cups of chicken stock. Cook for about 15 mins.

Add the rice and stir it in well, turn the heat up and bring to a boil for about 5 mins. Bring the heat down to MED and allow rice to cook. Stir occasionally and when rice is nearly cooked, (about 20 mins.) give it a stir, add the green onion, place the lid back on, and place in a 300º oven for about 20-25 mins. or until the rice is tender.

Happy New Year!


Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Very Gumbo Christmas

One of my great friends and fellow magicians Jon Gilliam, who has an incredible hypnosis show in Gatlinburg, seems to love Cajun food, and is a frequent visitor to this blog. I really appreciate Jon's support of my blog and his willingness to try my recipes. Last year he made my Shrimp Etouffé with great reults. Recently on Christmas he took my Christmas Eve Seafood Gumbo post to heart. He went out and bought all the ingredients and sent me a picture of them all beautifully displayed. Now, I'm not sure if Jon or his lovely wife Adriane does the cooking, but there's got to be something good coming.

Here is his message he left me. "Christmas seafood gumbo HERE WE COME! Thanks to my good friend, entertainment mentor and top notch Cajun chef Tim Harkleroad." Now, y'all know I'm not a chef, but you do know I love to cook. Anywhooo, Jon was home with his beautiful little family for Christmas and he sent me a picture of his gumbo after it was made.

Along with the picture you see here, he wrote, "Here is my finished product. Not as dark as I think it should have been but I did not have cast iron so maybe that was why. It was good but not even close to the fried oysters and tarter sauce we made from your recipe. They were the BEST we have ever had by a landslide!" Well, to start with their gumbo looks GREAT to me, on top of that they also loved my oyster recipe. I'm batting a thousand.

Writing this blog is sort of like cooking for people, you want them to try it and give feedback. You also hope, down deep, it is the best they have ever eaten. Thank you Jon and Adriane for your friendship and your support, I am so honored. BBTW go see Jon Dee's Hypnotized Comedy Show when you're in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas Friends

It's the most wonderful time of the year. I hope all my followers and friends out there have a wonderful holiday season. I enjoy this blog as a way to communicate to my friends and others that share my passions. I am home with my family, but I know that not all can be with their loved ones. I send out a prayer of thanks and blessings to those away from home. Be it working, distance, monetary, or in the brave service of our country. God Bless us Everyone, and have a Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Eve Seafood Gumbo

Not having grown up in Cajun country, I never knew that seafood gumbo was a tradition in some homes on Christmas Eve. I had been reading how many grew up having this tradition and I thought it would be nice to try it on the family. So, last year I made it and everyone seemed to enjoy it, some a little too much, but that's another story. I thought I would include my seafood gumbo recipe in a post for the Christmas season. Make this as a soup course if you have a big planned Christmas dinner.

It might sound a little labor intensive, but once you get everything together and ready to go, it isn't really. The only thing is that you can't just dump it all in a pot to start with, and let it go. There is an order to the steps, but again it isn't difficult. OK, I "Photoshopped" the sprig of holly onto the bowl of gumbo in the pic. I do hope you'll give this recipe a shot.

Christmas Gumbo

1 cup oil (plus ¼ cup oil for okra)
1½ cup flour
3 cups onion (diced)
2 cups celery (diced)
1 cup green bell pepper (diced)
1 tbs garlic (minced)
4 tbs worcestershire sauce
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs thyme (or ½ tsp dried)
½ tbs kosher salt
½ tbs black pepper
½ tsp cayenne pepper
1 lbs package frozen, sliced okra (you can use fresh)
½ cup green onions (sliced thin)
¼ cup chopped parsley
2 lbs MED shrimp (shelled and de-veined, reserve the shells)
1 lbs crabmeat (use less expensive claw meat)
1 pint small oysters
1 gallon water (for stock)

Place the shrimp shells & heads, bay leaves, sprigs of thyme, along with any onion, garlic, or celery scraps, into a stockpot with the water, bring it to a boil, and then down to a simmer for 30 minutes, reducing it by a fourth. Skim and strain out the shells and scraps and set aside to keep warm. In another skillet, heat ¼ cup of oil and sauté okra until it is no longer sticky, about 20 minutes on MED. You can do this while simmering your stock.

In a MED/HI cast iron Dutch Oven, make a dark brown roux by combining the oil and flour, stirring constantly until is becomes the color of milk chocolate. When roux is done, add the onions and cook for 10 minutes. Then add the celery, green pepper, garlic, ½ of the green onions, and cook for 10 more minutes. Add all spices and worcestershire sauce. Add 2 cups of the warm shrimp stock, gradually combining it into the roux, add cooked okra, crabmeat, and remaining stock. Check your seasonings, and if OK, bring the heat up to a boil for 5 minutes, and then turn down to MED/LO and cook for 1 hour.

Add your shrimp, oysters, (with their liquid, or liquor) parsley, remaining green onions, and cook for another 15 minutes, check the seasonings, and serve with rice. You can offer hot sauce and filé powder at the table.

I like to add 1 lb sliced andouille, or smoked sausage, after the vegetables. Technically, most cajuns won't add meat to a seafood gumbo, although many tell me they do secretly. I also like to add a few gumbo crabs, broken up in there, when I add my stock. Lastly, I do like a cup or two of crushed tomatoes in MY gumbo, but I didn't want to start a fight.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Mama's Date and Nut Cake

Well, my last post featured my favorite Christmas recipe of my Father, Dub Harkleroad. My Mother, Madeline always made a wonderful Date and Nut cake, which I didn't realize how good it was until I was an adult. Now I can't wait until she makes it at Christmas. Several years ago she fell and broke her arm right before Christmas so I had to make the cake, under her watchful eye. I hope you'll try it and enjoy it.

1 lb shelled English walnuts - whole or halves if possible
1 lb dates - pitted
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
4 eggs - separated
1⁄2 tsp baking powder
1 pkg figs (optional)
1⁄4 lb butter or margarine - melted

Combine and sift dry ingredients over fruit and nuts and mix well by hand. Add melted butter, or margarine, and stir well. Combine the four egg yolks with vanilla and pour over the other ingredients. Beat the egg whites stiff and fold into the rest of the mixture.

Line a loaf pan with wax paper and spoon in the batter. Bake in an oven at 300º for 1 - 1 1⁄2 hours. Let cool for 20 mins and turn over onto a serving plate. It is best to leave the dates whole and the nuts in large pieces as possible. You'll notice the beauty of this cake is there is only enough cake to hold the dates and nuts together.

Enjoy this wonderful cake this Christmas


Friday, December 4, 2009

Daddy's Peanut Butter Candy

Well, Christmas is quickly approaching and I wanted to pass along my favorite Christmas candy. This is my father's (W.J."Dub" Harkleroad Jr) peanut butter candy recipe. It is similar to a fudge in consistency. My dad created this when he was a teenager. I have included a picture of him around that age. He's gone now, and the responsibility of making it falls to me. I sure miss him, but this always brings a smile while I make it, thinking of him. I hope you make it and enjoy it.

Dub's Peanut Butter Candy

2 lbs light brown sugar
1 can evaporated milk (small 5 oz. can)
¼ cup milk
½ cup Karo syrup (medium green label)
1 stick butter
1 jar peanut butter (10 oz. jar)

Combine sugar, milk, evaporated milk, and Karo syrup in a large pot. Cook over MED until a thick caramel forms. Try to stir very little as it can make it grainy. When the mixture makes a solid, but soft, ball in cool water, (345º with a candy thermometer) it is ready. When the mixture is at the right stage, add ¾ of the stick of butter and remove from the heat. Stir in peanut butter until well blended and it starts to stiffen slightly. Pour into a pan or dish that has been coated by the ¼ of the butter left over. Allow to cool and set up.