You know you still want ‘em…

Wings. They’re the only things people are talking about more than Cam Newton’s pants. (Hey, he’s not the first football fashion plate. Anyone remember Broadway Joe?)

There are as many ways to make wings as there are feathers on a Rhode Island Red. Previously, I offered y’all a flavorful but not hot recipe for the Super Bowl spread. Today, it’s one of my favorites for medium heat. These wings have a rub, which means you don’t have to marinate them for hours. The Mexican-inspired flavors are definitely something different. This recipe is from my book “Wings: More Than 50 High-Flying Recipes for America’s Favorite Snack.”

Mole Ole

1/2 cup chili powder

2 teaspoons cocoa

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

12 wings, cut in half at joints, wing tips removed and discarded

1/4 cup olive oil

In a small bowl, combine the chili powder, cocoa, salt, cinnamon, cayenne, black pepper, cumin and garlic powder. Place the wings in a resealable plastic bag. Pour in the olive oil and shake to coat the wings. Pour in the rub mixture and shake again to coat the wings. Let sit for 15 to 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray foil with nonstick cooking spray. Place the wings on the baking sheet and cook for 20 to 25 minutes or until done, turning the wings about halfway through the cooking time.

Makes 24 wing pieces

From “Wings: More Than 50 High-Flying Recipes for America’s Favorite Snack” by Debbie Moose

Answer the growl

teriyaki tip-off wings from 'fan fare'The Panthers in the Super Bowl has meant a noticeable increase in interest in the game in these parts. But even without that happening, we all know that most people are only at Super Bowl parties for the food. A recent poll in Bon Appetit even confirms it – only 30 percent of the respondents say they would actually be paying attention to the action on the field, not the state of the salsa-and-chip bowl.

Because sports are all about statistics, here’s another: Super Bowl Sunday is the single biggest time for sales of wings. Supply and demand says that prices go up, too. But it’s easy to spend a little time and save a little money by cutting them up yourself. Don’t buy the precut pieces, which can cost as much as $1 a pound more than whole wings. It’s easy. Here’s what you do:

A wing has three joints. With a sharp knife or a good pair of kitchen shears, slice through each joint. Bending the joints and loosening them will help. You’ll end up with three pieces: the drumette, which looks like a miniature chicken leg; the flat, which has two small bones; and the flapper, the small pointy end. Collect the flappers in a reclosable plastic bag and freeze them to make chicken stock with later on. The remaining two pieces you may now prepare at will for eating.

I like my wings fiery, but I accept that others are more tender of tongue. This recipe from my cookbook “Fan Fare: A Playbook of Great Recipes for Tailgating or Watching the Game at Home” has plenty of flavor even without the heat. You can easily double it to feed a larger crowd.

Teriyaki Tip-Off Wings

Serves 4-6

8 whole chicken wings, split at joints and wing tips discarded or saved for later use (16 pieces)

3/4 cup unsweetened pomegranate juice

1/4 cup orange juice

1/2 cup soy sauce, preferably reduced sodium

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

2 cloves garlic, crushed or grated

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Place the wings in a recloseable plastic bag. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the juices, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, sugar and oil. Stir well to dissolve the sugar. Pour the mixture over the wings in the bag. Seal and refrigerate for 8 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil for easier cleanup and spray it with cooking spray. Remove the wings from the marinade and place on the sheet. Discard the marinade. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until they test done.

The Magic Kingdom of deviled eggs

IMG_0454I had heard of this spot for years; read articles and seen TV segments about it, and emailed with its creator. As a deviled eggs master, it was my destiny to make a pilgrimage, and I finally did.

Marie Lawrence invited me into the deviled egg room – it’s floor to ceiling full of the servers. The latest count is 915. Marie is going for 1,000 and maybe a Guinness record. Like snowflakes, no two in her collection are exactly alike; she keeps a record book with descriptions, dates she acquired them and other information to make sure.

After 15 years of collecting, her cooperative husband Donald’s handmade shelves are stuffed so full that the plates have begun to spill over into glass cases in the living room of their Morehead City home. They want to do something about that, maybe add on. The center of the display

the newest plate in the collection

the newest plate in the collection

room has barely enough open space for a chicken to make a nest. But it’s enough room for Marie to start the day with a smile, surrounded by color, enjoying her efforts.

“When I first got started, I used to have a rocking chair in here and I would just sit and enjoy them,” she says. “Now, I stand here in the morning with a cup of coffee.”

All those plates have to make you smile, with their hues, shapes, bunny faces and dancing chicks.  A yellow one that a friend bought for Marie on a Disney cruise ship is shaped like Mickey’s face and ears. How appropriate, because this little place is like a Magic Kingdom.

The first plate she got, that started it all, is unusual. It’s bowl-shaped, with a goose head at

more from the 915 plates

more from the 915 plates

the left side and spots for just six eggs on the right. She thinks it was meant to also serve potato salad or egg salad with the deviled eggs. The newest in the collection, which a friend found at a Salvation Army thrift shop a couple of weeks ago, resembles a basket of tulips with 12 oval pink, purple and yellow sections for the eggs.

Naturally, Easter, bunnies and chickens are predominant themes. There are a lot of Christmas ones, too, but even some with Thanksgiving and Irish looks. One of the largest is an Italian plate with spaces for deviled eggs and antipasto that could double as a centerpiece. The smallest looks like a covered ceramic bowl small enough to fit in your palm. Remove the lid, and there are spaces for two eggs – sort of like tea for two.

There’s a plate shaped like an oak leaf with acorn salt-and-pepper shakers. One of my favorites is made up of bright orange carrots pointing in all directions. On the few occasions that Marie has exhibited the collection to the public, she says people have been attracted to one that looks like a violet-printed cloth draped in a basket.

There are ceramic, pottery, glass and pewter plates. One with a wooden handle is shaped like a frying pan. I noticed that there were N.C. State and UNC plates, but no Duke one. Surely Blue Devils eat deviled eggs. “I haven’t seen any Duke plates,” Marie says.

Naturally, she can make a mean deviled egg, too. Marie and Donald used to have a catering

Marie's deviled eggs

Marie’s deviled eggs

business. She was kind enough to have some for me to taste using mayonnaise (Hellmann’s not Duke’s; she prefers the flavor and texture), mustard, a dash of Texas Pete hot sauce and paprika or dill on top.

I assumed that the super-creamy filling was made in a food processor, but Marie said she makes the filling using a collard chopper, which has a circle of razor-sharp teeth for prepping piles of greens.

She does make an addition to her filling that I’m going to try. If she’s making two dozen deviled eggs, she cooks two more eggs and chops them all – whites and yolks – into the filling. It does make a substantial filling.

Deviled egg plates…deviled egg cookbook….seems like there’s something we could come up with together. Stay tuned.

Marie Lawrence and me

Marie Lawrence and me

 

 

Inspiration and memory

A smart editor once told me: “If you’re going to steal, steal from the best.” That’s what I’m going to do today, from one of the best, Charlotte Observer food editor Kathleen Purvis. After reading her column today – which, as a food writer, I can say is absolutely true about the never-ending search for the new – I thought about how I recharge and what I would relive. Here are a few, with thanks to Kathi.

– The first time I ate a soft-shell crab, which was the beginning of a lifelong affair. It looked like the inspiration for a ’50s drive-in movie, “Invasion of the Giant Crunchy Spiders.” I had to be persuaded that ALL of the crustacean was edible in this state. Oh, the little legs, how crispy; the center, how moist…. It was truly a new thing.

– Driving around Normandy with The Hub. We armed ourselves with an extremely poor map, minimal French, a Swiss Army knife and a baguette from the corner baker, and set out from Bayeux for two things: cheese and Calvados, an apple brandy. We stopped at a roadside stand for the most sensually fragrant melon I’d ever experienced, then roamed, mostly lost, through the rolling hills that reminded me of Piedmont North Carolina, where I grew up. We found cheese and ate it with the knife while sitting on the trunk of the rental car, with the baguette and lovely melon.  We ended the day tasting Calvados and its aperitif sister, Pommeau.

– Walking through the backyard vegetable garden with my father when I was knee high, watching him pull two green onions from the red clay, brush them off on his pants leg, cut off the roots with a super-sharp pocket knife, and hand me one. We ate them on the spot, in the sun. Truly fresh vegetables don’t need a lot of messing with.

What’s your list?

Three flavors for spring

The fun and popular Savor the South series by the University of North Carolina Press usually brings out two books in the spring, but this year, there’s a threefer: “Gumbo” by Dale Curry, “Shrimp” by Jay Pierce and “Catfish” by Paul and Angela Knipple.

GUMBO Cover imageIf anyone knows gumbo, it’s Dale Curry, who was food editor for the New Orleans Times-Picayune for 20 years and lives in New Orleans. (Full disclosure: I have known Dale for years through the Association of Food Journalists, and I’m the author of two Savor the South cookbooks.)

I have made gumbo as best as a non-Louisianan can, but the book offers regional takes that I never imagined. Catfish Gumbo or Quail Gumbo, anyone? There is a roux-less gumbo for those who find making roux challenging, as I once did. Curry’s directions for making roux, an essential part of traditional gumbo, are simple but useful. To tell the truth, it’s one of those things that you just have to do a few times and you eventually get it, like riding a bicycle or following knitting directions. But believe Curry when she says do not use a burned roux.

The book includes recipes for some of gumbo’s relations, such as jambalaya – including a recipe for a slow-cooker jambalaya that I’m looking forward to trying out. This is a book of classics from another area of the South that is a good addition to the series.

SHRIMP Cover ImagePierce, author of “Shrimp,” recently became chef at ROCKSALT in Charlotte after years with Lucky 32 in Greensboro and Cary. (More full disclosure: I have met Pierce and welcomed him to the Savor the South sisterhood’s men’s auxiliary; he and Paul Knipple are the first men to enter the fold.) Whenever I encounter a chef-written cookbook, I get concerned that it will have miles-long directions involving hours of prep for those of us without a kitchen full of hired help. Not here. The recipes are creative and accessible, and the stories Pierce tells along with them make you feel like you’ve popped a beer and sat down next to a shrimp-loving buddy.

How to select quality shrimp and freeze it offers great information, as well as reassurance that frozen shrimp is OK, depending on where it’s from. He also clearly explains why buying American-caught shrimp is so important.

Soups, noodle dishes, pick-up goodies like Fire-Roasted Shrimp Tacos, rice dishes like Shrimp Risotto – there’s a lot of variety here. This is a great book to carry to the beach, or make you feel like you’re there.

CATFISH Cover ImageCatfish is a staple in the Deep South, but I wondered how the Knipples, experienced food writers who live in Memphis, would handle an entire book on the ingredient.

On the surface, catfish seems limited to crispy fried plates at fish camps. But they show that catfish can play a role in unexpected places, including Vietnamese and Thai dishes. Coriander Catfish Rolls bring the ingredient to Asian spring rolls. It’s paired with Indian spices in Dodson Lake Samosas. And Delta Paella brings catfish to the Mediterranean classic. Catfish, I barely knew ye before now.

Of course, the book includes precise directions for producing perfect deep- fried catfish, and some traditional sides to go with it such as hushpuppies and slaw.

Salt in the blood

“Fishing has built courthouses, schools, homes, communities. That’s what meant by having salt in the blood,” said Karen Willis Amspacher as she clearly and bluntly laid out the significance of North Carolina’s coastal fishing business in a voice still touched by the vanishing Ocracoke accent.

She spoke on the first day of State of the Plate, an excellent two days of exploring food issues in the state and the larger world. It was organized by Marcie Cohen Ferris, of the Department of American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and presented by the university’s Center for Global Initiatives, Center for the Study of the American South, Department of American Studies and Global Research Institute.

As a seafood lover, the articulate and forceful Amspacher – she’s involved in virtually everything about helping her home of Harkers Island, fishing communities and fishermen, including being on the board of NC Catch – and her fellow panelist fisherman Morty Gaskill of Ocracoke, spoke to me. One disturbing statistic: 90 percent of the seafood sold in the U.S. is imported. And only a fraction of that amount undergoes any safety inspection.  Add to that issue the recent Associated Press article revealing that some imported seafood was caught by slaves.

When I moved to Raleigh and began writing about food around 25 years ago, I was shocked that it was next to impossible to find seafood from North Carolina in this area. Fortunately, that has changed, as the “eat local” movement has begun to branch out from farms, but more needs to be done.

“‘Know your fisherman’ should be as important as ‘know your farmer’,” Amspacher said. “We are part of the local food movement. You must demand local seafood.”

Gaskill and Amspacher are part of a coastal success story: saving Ocracoke’s fish processing house for local fishermen and making it part of a cooperative. Fish houses have been disappearing, forcing fishermen to either travel farther and spend more to have their catch made ready for sale, or give up fishing altogether.

When the Ocracoke house closed, “there was nowhere on the island to sell. We had to go on the ferry to Hatteras or over to Cedar Island, taking up time that could be spent preparing our boats or doing more fishing,” Gaskill said.

Now the Ocracoke fish house operates as a 501 (c) (3), and they hope to reproduce its success elsewhere.

What can you do to help North Carolina fishermen and their communities? Insist on local seafood.

And, guess what? It tastes better, too.

Bye, bye brunch

OK now, ACC. I have tried my best to accept that you have added teams who can’t see the Atlantic Coast from their houses. And that the tournament will now last  longer than a midseason replacement series.

But this is too much. What in the world am I supposed to serve for a Saturday night final?

All of my ACC Tournament recipes are for brunch. For years, I had a civilized gathering of like-minded sports fans, a time to sip of morning nectars and enjoy quiche and seven-layer salad before the battle began. Something that a dowager countess might not be embarrassed to attend, provided she was wearing the correct shade of light blue.

Now what? I can’t possibly serve bloody marys after 5 p.m.

Blazing chicken wings, tubs of salsa, cold beers, these are the foods of nighttime game viewing. Less elegant, but welcome to the new ACC.

However, I refuse to give up without a fight. This recipe from my cookbook “Fan Fare: A Playbook of Great Recipes for Tailgating or Watching the Game at Home” published by Harvard Common Press, will bring a touch of a Southern brunch to a munchie-central experience.

Marylynn’s Okra Roll-Ups

1 (16-ounce) jar pickled okra, well drained

10 ounces thinly sliced deli ham

1 (9-ounce) tub soft spreadable cream cheese

Pat the okra pods dry. Trim the stems and tips from the pods.

On a cutting board, spread 1 ham slice flat without tearing it. Gently spread a thin layer of cream cheese on the ham. Place 1 trimmed okra pod at one end of the slice and roll the ham up around it, pressing gently to make a tight roll. Trim any overhanging ham to fit the pod, the slice the roll into approximately 1/2-inch slices. Repeat with remaining okra pods. Keep chilled until ready to serve.

Note: These can be made the night before and refrigerated. Store in airtight containers in a single layer or in multiple layers separated by waxed paper to prevent sticking.

A tome from Tomatoman

IMG_0369If you truly love tomatoes, good tomatoes, you eventually have to grow tomatoes. Because no matter how good one you buy might be, it won’t be as good as one you pick from your backyard minutes before eating it, when its skin is warm from the sun and its flesh so juicy that it covers you in red when you bite in.

Luckily for tomato lovers, “Tomatoman” Craig LeHouillier of Raleigh has finally produced his long-awaited book, “Epic Tomatoes: How To Select and Grow the Best Varieties of All Time” (Storey Publishing, $19.95).

When I met Craig years ago, he couldn’t park his car in his garage or driveway because both will filled with plants and seeds. Although at that time he was a chemist at Glaxo, his true passion was heirloom tomatoes. Heirlooms – those tomatoes that taste like Daddy’s did, with names and stories worthy of a novel – were dying out in some cases, hard to find in others. Craig decided to save them and popularize them. And he is credited with bringing back the Cherokee Purple, a tomato many connoisseurs consider the Perfect Tomato. He also fed the hunger of area tomato lovers for several years by organizing Tomatopalooza, a free-for-all tasting extravaganza.

A few years ago, Craig went full-time into tomatoes, focusing on a project to create dwarf versions of the often tall and unwieldy heirlooms, allowing container gardeners to enjoy their flavor and variety. He hosts tomato dinners are area restaurants during the summer; find out more by following him at @nctomatoman.

At a signing for the book recently at Quail Ridge Books, the co-founder of Seed Savers Exchange called Craig “a national treasure.” It’s not an exaggeration.

“Epic Tomatoes” is one of those books that gardeners love to get in February when a high of 29 is predicted. It has gorgeous photos and clear instructions that should help those who have never tried growing tomatoes from seed through the process. There are even a few recipes, including a roasted tomato sauce that I’d like to try….but not until July.

 

It’s all about the food, of course

Some teams from somewhere are playing football someplace this Sunday. It doesn’t matter who or where – or how inflated their balls are – because Sunday actually is the Super Bowl of food.

A rainbow of chips and dips festoons supermarket aisles in a glowing display unseen since Christmas. The price of wings usually spikes like gas on Memorial Day weekend, and for the same reason: supply and demand.

If you do care about the game, you are aware that the quality of the food affects the outcome, right? In the course of writing my cookbook “Fan Fare: A Playbook of Great Recipes for Tailgating or Watching the Game at Home” (Harvard Common Press), I developed a couple of approaches to planning for the Super Bowl feed.

First of all, prepare for a marathon, not a sprint. Fans will be there for many hours (I think the pregame hoopla started this morning).

One approach is what I call Continuous Grazing. Think of your guests as ravenous animals prowling the African savannah. For this, put out a variety of finger foods and snacks. Chips and dips are OK, but you also need more hearty offerings. During the lengthy halftime, bring out some wings, baby quiches or roast beef sliders.

Another way to organize the food is Big Bowls. Chili is always a hit, especially since it’s usually cold in early February and spicy chili offers that obligatory macho component to the day. Set up a slow-cooker or two with chili or soup, and let fans help themselves. Provide crackers or cornbread on the side; a salad if you feel vegetables are really necessary.

Yes, you could resort to the prepared food cases at your megamart. But would your team take the easy way out? Do you want to take the risk that your inadequate party spread could doom your squad? Just asking….

This recipe from “Fan Fare” makes wings with lots of flavor but no fiery heat. I picked the name because I also serve them during basketball season.

Teriyaki Tip-Off Wings

8 whole chicken wings, split at joints and wing tips discarded

3/4 cup unsweetened pomegranate juice

1/4 cup orange juice

1/2 cup reduced sodium soy sauce

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Place the wings in a large zipper-top plastic bag. In a medium-size bowl, combine the pomegranate juice, orange juice, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, sugar and vegetable oil. Stir well to dissolve the sugar. Pour the marinade into the bag. Seal and shake gently to coat. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil or spray it with nonstick cooking spray. Drain the wings well (discard the marinade) and place them on the baking sheet. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until done. Serve warm.

Makes 16 pieces

Note: These wings could also be grilled, but watch them carefully to avoid burning.

From “Fan Fare: A Playbook of Great Recipes for Tailgating or Watching the Game at Home” by Debbie Moose, published by Harvard Common Press.

The great rosemary heist

Night had fallen, and I was trying to get the last few goodies together for holiday gifts. I always wait until the last thing to prepare my famous pecans roasted with rosemary and garlic, so they’ll be fresh, and it was time to roll.

pecans...but no rosemary

pecans…but no rosemary

Then I remembered: Last year’s tundra-like winter had killed my giant rosemary bush. Its replacement was still the size of Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree, and would yield barely a little spoonful of rosemary.

I knew that my next-door neighbor’s bush had died, too. I called the Queen of Pie down the street; no rosemary in her yard. I mentally raced through others who might have a plant, then remembered that I pass on walks a nearby yard that has several rosemary bushes planted conveniently near the street.

I didn’t know the people who lived there. But, remember, it was dark. I seized my kitchen shears and phone, in case of arrest, and crept down the street. No one was walking dogs. The bushes weren’t quite under the street light, giving me cover. I snipped three long stems and speed-walked back to my house, holding the stems in front of me to prevent detection.

I turned on the oven, rinsed the plants and started chopping. Oddly, I didn’t get that rush of aroma that I usually do when chopping rosemary. I bent to the cutting board and sniffed. The stuff smelled more like a pine tree. I tasted a bit and it was like eating floor cleaner. Those plants looked like rosemary, but they sure weren’t.

After washing out the taste with about a gallon of water and rummaging through my spice collection, I came up with an alternative that wouldn’t poison my friends.

I also changed my cooking method for the pecans after consulting my friend Kathleen Purvis’ book “Pecans: A Savor the South Cookbook.” I had always roasted them in the oven, but Purvis writes that pan-roasting on top of the stove can make it easier to control the heat so the nuts don’t burn.

Not-Rosemary Cajun Pecans

2-3 cups pecan halves

2 tablespoons unsalted butter (you can try olive oil for a variation)

2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning, or more if you like (I make my own salt-free Cajun seasoning. The recipe is in my book “Fan Fare: A Playbook of Great Recipes for Tailgating or Watching the Game at Home.”)

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

Salt to taste (Commercial Cajun seasoning blends usually contain salt, often a lot of it, so you may not need more)

Place the pecans in one layer in a large skillet and put over medium heat. Cook, for about 8 minutes, stirring frequently and watching for scorching. When the pecans are fragrant, remove them from the heat. Don’t let them burn. Pour the still-hot pecans into a bowl, add the butter and stir to coat, then stir in the Cajun seasoning, smoked paprika and salt, if needed. Let cool before storing in airtight containers.