Bourbon Sweet Potato Casserole

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3–4 pounds sweet potatoes
6 tablespoons butter, divided
2 tablespoons heavy cream
4 tablespoons bourbon
1¼ cups packed light brown sugar, divided
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
⅓ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped pecans (Optional, but please use)

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Scrub the sweet potatoes well. Place on a baking sheet and bake for about 1 hour, until very soft when you press the skins. Remove from the oven and let stand until cool enough to handle. Slice in half and scoop the flesh into a large mixing bowl, discarding the skins.

Beat the sweet potatoes with a wooden spoon to mash them well. Stir in 2 tablespoons butter, the cream, the bourbon, and ¼ cup brown sugar. Beat in the cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, and allspice. Spread in a 1½-quart baking dish.

In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1 cup brown sugar and flour. Cut in the remaining 4 tablespoons butter, using a fork to blend well. Stir in the chopped pecans, if using and you should. Sprinkle the topping over the sweet potatoes.

Bake for 30 minutes, until the topping is light brown and a little crisp and the casserole is bubbly.

 

 

Easy Sweet Potato Fries

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2 pounds orange-fleshed sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons canola oil or olive oil
1½ teaspoons kosher or fine sea salt *

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Peel the sweet potatoes, if desired, and cut them into slabs, batons, wedges, coins, half-moons, whatever your heart desires. They can be any size, really, as long as they are not less than ¼ inch and not more than 1 inch thick.

Place them in a large bowl and drizzle with the oil. Season with salt and your choice of spices *, if using, and toss to coat. (Use about 1½ teaspoons salt if you’re not using additional seasoning; adjust salt content depending on your preferred spice mix.)

Add the sweet potatoes onto the baking sheet, scraping out any seasoning or fat clinging to the bowl, and arrange them in a single layer.

Roast, turning once if their bottoms darken quickly, until tender and browned, 15 to 25 minutes, depending on size.

* Try adding a teaspoon or two of any of your favorite seasonings. Got some herbes de Provence? Toss it in there. Spanish paprika? Definitely. Za’atar, curry powder Cajun seasonings, Old Bay?  Why not.

 

Sorghum Glazed Baby Carrots

1 cup hard apple cider
½ cup sorghum
Juice of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 orange
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 bunches baby carrots (about 1 pound)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Combine the cider, sorghum, lemon juice, orange juice, and butter in a skillet. Bring to a simmer, then add the carrots in a single layer. You may need to cook them in batches, depending on the size of your pan.

Lightly season the carrots with salt and pepper and cook until tender, approximately 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and continue to simmer the sauce until it is reduced to a thin glaze.

Before serving, put the carrots back in the pan and reheat them in the glaze.

 

Kombu No Tsukudani (昆布の昆布)

1 big piece rehydrated kombu (from making Vegetarian Dashi)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon mirin
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1⅔ cups water
1 teaspoon sesame seeds

Cut the kombu into strips about 1½ inches wide, then julienne them. Add to a saucepan with the soy sauce, sugar, mirin, vinegar and water, and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to medium—it should be between a simmer and a boil, and cook until the liquid reduces to a thick, sticky glaze.

Taste the kombu; it should be quite soft but not mushy. If it needs more cooking, add a little water.  There should be no liquid left; it should be a glaze as opposed to a sauce. When the kombu is ready, stir in the sesame seeds. Leave to cool before using as a filling for onigiri, a topping for rice or on its own.

 

Hanarenkon (Flower-Shaped Lotus Root)

  • 3¼ ounces lotus root
  • 2 tablespoons  rice vinegar

Vinegar Mixture

  • 4 tablespoons  rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons  water
  • 2 tablespoons  raw sugar
  • 2 tablespoons  lemon juice
  • Sea salt, to taste

Combine all ingredients for the vinegar mixture, except
lemon juice, in a saucepan. Place it over low heat to
dissolve all the sugar and salt. Allow to cool.

Peel and slice lotus root into 1/4 inch thick rings. Soak
immediately in water and 1 tablespoon of vinegar to prevent
discolouration. Make flower cuts and drain before using.

Boil a pot of water and add the other tablespoon of vinegar.
Add sliced lotus root flowers and boil for 5 minutes.
Remove lotus root and allow to cool.

Add lotus root slices to vinegar mixture and lemon juice in
a resealable bag. Remove any air from the bag, seal and
refrigerate for a minimum of 2–3 hours.

They are better on day two after the sweetness and contrasting sourness become more prominent.

Fancy Crab Hush Puppies

3 cups White Lily buttermilk cornmeal mix
1 cup White Lily self-rising flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chopped scallions
2½ cups buttermilk
1 pound lump crab-meat
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Tartar sauce for dipping

Fill a deep-sided cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven with 1 inch of oil. Place over medium-high heat, and bring the oil to 375 degrees. Monitor and keep the temperature between 350 and 375 degrees while you are frying.

In a large bowl, whisk all the ingredients together. Working in batches, drop a tablespoons into the oil and fry until golden and crisp, usually 3 to 4 minutes, turning occasionally.  Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

Serve with a bowl of tartar sauce for dipping

Okra in Ginger Broth

  • 61/3 ounces small okra *
  • 1/3 ounce grated ginger
  • 8 fluid ounces Shiitake Mushroom Dashi
  • 2 Tablespoons  Japanese soy sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon  sake
  • 1 Tablespoon  mirin
  • 1 teaspoon  sesame oil
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt

Wash and trim stem ends of okra.

Add Shiitake Mushroom Dashi, soy sauce, sake, mirin, sesame
oil and sea salt in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Lower
heat and add okra and grated ginger. Simmer for
about 10 minutes.

Remove and arrange on 4 individual serving plates.
Serve with some broth spooned over.

* Cut into halves if you are using okra of longer lengths.

 

 

Yosedofu (Easy Japanese Soft Tofu)

2 teaspoons liquid nigari *
3 cups Tezukuri Tonyu (Homemade Soy Milk)

Thin the nigari with 1 teaspoon water. Heat the soy milk in a double boiler over high heat until the soy milk reaches 167 degrees. Remove the pot holding the soy milk, insert a flat wooden spoon in the milk, and immediately pour the nigari against the spoon. Slowly stir the soy milk, making 3 wide revolutions and only 3 revolutions, and pull the wooden spoon straight up out of the coagulating soy milk. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 10 minutes.

Scoop the tofu into small bowls and serve drizzled with a little soy sauce or sprinkled with sea salt. If you are looking for a bit more enhanced flavor and presentation, garnish soy sauce–flavored tofu with finely chopped chives and a dab of grated ginger or salt-flavored with a smidge of freshly grated wasabi.

* Nigari —> Concentrated solution of salts (esp. magnesium chloride) left over after the crystallization of seawater or brine.  Can be bought at any Asian Grocer or online,

Quick Miso Collard Greens

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This is a combination of two of my very favorite ingredients. I love Collard greens and a good quality miso is something to be treasured.  For some reason America doesn’t seem to have mastered Miso, so if you can get your hands on true Japanese Miso at not too much of a cost by all means do so.

These are very different from the slow cooked collars with a smoked seasoning meat you might be used to.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large bunches (8 to 10 ounces each) collards, stemmed and roughly chopped.  Save the stems for pickled collard stems.
½ cup water
3 tablespoons red miso paste
1 garlic clove, pressed or finely minced

Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Melt the butter in the skillet and continue to heat it until it foams up and then clears again, a couple of minutes. Add the greens and water, and increase the heat to medium-high. Cover the pan and let cook, stirring once or twice, until the greens begin to wilt, 3 to 4 minutes. Take the pan off the heat.

Hold back the greens, pour most of the pan liquid into a small bowl. Measure the miso into a separate bowl and add a splash of the greens’ cooking liquid. Stir and repeat until you have a thin paste. Add the miso mixture back to the pan, along with the garlic. Put the pan back over medium-low heat and cook, stirring frequently, until the miso mixture coats the greens, another 2 to 3 minutes.

Serve with some hot sauce if desired.

Stone Ground Grits: The Real Thing

  • 4 cups spring or filtered water
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup coarse stone-ground white grits, not instant or quick
  • 1 cup whole milk 
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

In a 4-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the water, 1 tablespoon of butter, and the salt to a boil. Add the grits gradually, stirring constantly. Cover and reduce the heat to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until the water is absorbed and the grits are thickened, about 15 minutes.

Add 1/2 cup of the milk and continue to simmer for 10 minutes, partially covered, stirring occasionally to prevent the grits from sticking. Stir in the remaining 1/2 cup milk and continue to simmer until all the liquid is absorbed and the grits are tender and thick, about 40 minutes. Stir in the pepper and the remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Adjust the seasonings as desired.

Note: The better the quality of grits the better the finished dish.  Here is a time an heirloom product would be the right choice such as Anson Mills grits.