Cooking Classes


Deep Fried Turkey

I have always heard about deep fried turkey but never had the experience.  Well, I was invited for dinner at the pastor and his wife's home last night and that was on the menu.  It was also their first time to do this.  And, yes, that is rain.  Pouring rain!  I don't know why we were out.  There was flash flooding all over eastern Tennessee.  They have had 46 inches of rain this year, but that is only 9" more than the average.  3" in 24 hours.

They used a pot, like a lobster pot.  Filled it with 4 gallons of canola oil.  Heated it to 325F.  A rod was skewered through the 15 lb. turkey and it was lowered into the oil with another heavy metal hook that looked like a coat hanger.  It bubbled away for 50 minutes at 300-325F,  then we pulled it out.

It was a little overdone but still very juicy, tender and lovely crisp skin.  I think 40 minutes would have been better.  But truly, I think this is a fail safe recipe.  I would also look into brining the turkey before deep frying.  It was worth the effort and a nice alternative to a BBQ.


Rainy Day Saturday

Rain, rain, rain, thunder and lightning.  When will it stop?  It is desperate in some parts of Georgia and Tennessee with the once in a hundred year rain.

Tonight I am going to a dinner party.  The hostess is making a whole deep fried turkey!  Hopefully this rain has not changed the plans because I have never had fried turkey.  I hope that big pot o' grease is outside!

So here I am making oatmeal cookies for the youth group on Wednesday.  I bought some sugar.  I don't ever recall seeing 'pure cane sugar' in the stores at home.  It was markedly more expensive than 'sugar'.  I asked another woman who was selecting 'cane sugar' what the difference was.  She was thinking with her taste buds and said, "mmm...I think it is sweeter".  So I bought pure cane sugar.  I don't think I'll notice the difference in making only oatmeal cookies.  It is a recipe I have never tried before, from Joy (my only cookbook).

Baking oatmeal cookies and watching Law and Order on a dull, rainy Saturday is my idea of cozy.


I Ate Wonder Bread today...

I don't think that is how it is spelled.  I think it's Wonderbread.  Or is it Wunderbread?  Whatever, OMG, I have not ever eaten anything remotely close to this stuff.  At first blush, the sandwich was tasty.  But as I lingered over my wonderful grilled chicken, I could taste sugar and....salt.  Once I recognized these flavours they became even more pronounced.  It was actually gaggingly awful.

How could I forget to take pictures?!?

I was making sandwiches for the YU at church.  I was told to buy the cheap bread.  These kids actually like it!  The bigger travesty is that they are stuffed with my wonderful baked ham and grilled chicken.  I have sliced garden tomatoes, marinated cucumbers and crisped lettuce.

Next week I am thinking of making potato skins.  I think I'll buy that shredded bag of cheeses.....yum!


Nothing exciting today...

I grilled a chicken on the BBQ.  I was able to find natural charcoal briquettes, which I prefer.  I bought the fryer at Food City for $.78/lb.  It was $3.75.  But a fattier chicken I have never seen.  The flavour was different, also.  Perhaps it is the way they feed them.  Maybe they like them fat.  Everything else is fatty down here, so wouldn't surprise me.  Season with salt, pepper and paprika.  Grill.

Here are pics of my latest art projects - 


Butter in a hot climate

Remember my earlier comments about shopping in Knoxville.  I bought a Le Creuset butter bell.  My conundrum was keeping butter ready for use.  It is so warm and humid that I was not comfortable leaving it in the cupboard, which is what I do at home.  If I leave it in the refrigerator, it is always too hard.

I love my butter bell.  If you can see the little black marking at the bottom of the bottom part, that is how much water you add.  Then the 'bell' is placed so the water excludes all air from the butter.

It has been working very well.  I think I am a convert and will be using this even after returning to the 'north'.

Storytelling Capital of the WORLD!

Leave it to the Americans to make such a claim. But I think this time they might be right. Storytelling seems to be a pastime in the Smoky and Appalachian (short 'a' not long 'a') Mountains of the south.

I spent the weekend and had a wonderful time in Jonesborough - the oldest town in TN and storytelling capital. It isn't that old actually.  It is only late 1700's which is 100 years after Quebec City.  Their life in this town revolves around storytelling.  I attended a performance by Sheila Kay Adams.  She is a petite woman with long graying hair, 50 something from Sodom, NC (hmmm....) She made no bones about her hillbilly upbringing and intent on not letting the stories fall from our collective awareness.  I had no idea that the stories didn't have to be true! I was so gullible!

So, I must make this somewhat food related. I stayed at the Blair-Moore B & B. Mimi is a Cordon Bleu trained chef and has been cooking since she was able to walk. In fact, she ran to the kitchen to bring out proof of how long she had been cooking. We were expecting to see certificates and diplomas.   No, she brought us out her first apron. It was adorable in soft red cotton with a little edging of 'girls' stitched by her grandmother.  It was so 50's. She has been cooking for 49 years.

Breakfast was presented with lots of wonderful strong coffee, a fruit plate with blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, mangoes, pineapple, half a peach drizzled with honey from France and kiwi with strawberry yogurt.  Then we had a French toast made with Portuguese sweet bread stuffed with mascarpone and served with maple syrup and blackberry syrup. Substance was provided with crisp bacon, sausage patties and a potato and smoked provolone frittata. Oh yes, and coconut muffins. They actually looked like cupcakes to me. These were left on the table so we could indulge anytime during the day. Good idea!

I didn't take pics of my breakfast or B&B for some reason but have pics of the village. This is true Davey Crockett country.

After leaving my storytelling presentation last night I caught the final song from the Music on the Square with a local Appalachian orchestra.  The music was fantastic and people freely got up and kicked up their heels with a bit of clogging.  How more local could you get!


Isn't Gardening Amazing!

I have been a city dweller far too long.  This tiny little garden never fails to amaze me.  It is a rainy day and during the last lull in the downpour, I checked the garden for more ripe chilies to pick.  There were only 3 but I found this large green pepper.  I don’t know how I missed it.  The plant is laden with about 8 baby peppers and then there was this big one.
I thought it would make a nice stuffed pepper for supper tonight.  Add a little fresh oregano and thyme, hot chili with wild rice and long grain white rice and some of the wonderful baked ham chopped.  Voilà.


Whole Hog...

Pork has always been a good buy even in high times but I have never seen the choices like I see here, in Tennessee.  Today I bought bacon.  Simple enough, I would think.  But I could hardly make a choice.  Hickory smoked, applewood smoked, hardwoods smoked, thick cut, extra extra thick cut, uncut.  And it was all fresh, not frozen.  And it was all beautifully lean, if that is not an oxymoron.  This is what I finally chose – hickory smoked and lean at $4.58 a pound.
In addition, there is a similar selection in hams.  They really know how to do hams down here.  They are so amazingly flavourful.
I finally saw spiral cut ham.  Perhaps they sell them in Canada, but I have never found them.  Pork butt is an amazing bargain.  It is also called pork shoulder. It is great for pulled pork sandwiches and carnitas.  Tenderloins, ribs, chops.  They are all amazing.
They don’t have quite this selection when it comes to beef or lamb unfortunately.  But, when in Rome…….


Basil Pesto from the Garden

Today was the day to deal with all that wonderful basil in the garden. I can’t bear to let it go to waste. I had almonds but no pinenuts in the pantry so that is what I decided to use. It was wonderful. I forgot to toast the chopped almonds. I think that would have made a difference.

2 cups lightly packed, fresh basil leaves
¼ cup chopped almonds, toasted
½ cup nice olive oil
2 cloves garlic
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
salt optional

Chop the almonds in the food processor and dry toast in a stovetop pan. Chop basil & garlic with olive oil in food processor until finely minced. Combine toasted chopped almonds, finely chopped basil & garlic, parmesan cheese and more olive oil if necessary. Pack into a jar and float a little olive oil on top to help preserve the mixture. Or, freeze the pesto in an ice cube tray and store the ice cubes in freezer bags for later use.

Unfortunately there is little chance of snapping a nice pic of pesto.  It turns from the beautiful bright green to drab in seconds.

I tossed cooked penne with pesto and cooked chicken. Topped with more parmesan cheese and served. Yum.


Fort Loudon 18th C Trade Faire

Today was the annual olde faire at historic Fort Loudon. and the Great Island Sequoyah (Cherokee) Festival.  It is a total re-enactment of 18th century life at the English fort.  They have about 200 volunteers who dress in the period clothes and live in tents and the log barracks for the 2 day festival.  They live completely without modern conveniences.  Meals are cooked over fires, children and babies are included and there are a number of craftspeople with tent shoppes.  You can buy fabrics by the yard, straw sun hats, tools and utensils, and listen to period music.  This all takes place in the reconstructed fort on a peninsula into Lake Loudon.  It was a very enjoyable day.


Kid in a Cooking Shop

I had another day of shopping in Knoxville. I was only going into town to buy a new battery for my cell phone. Yeah, yeah, you know the rest of the story! I had to check out a natural foods store in Turkey Creek. Turkey Creek is an upscale neighbourhood with a large shopping mall that has some lovely stores.

Well, the lovely store I found was The Cook’s Corner. It was very innocuous from the curb but upon opening the door I knew I was going to be awhile.

I found so many wonderful things but I have to remember that my car is already maxed out when I pack up. So I held back. But I needed rolling pin covers. I don’t even have a rolling pin right now. I should have been checking them out first.

Then I saw the Le Creuset butter crock. I have been looking at them but never felt I really needed one. In this hot and humid climate, I don’t like leaving my butter in the cupboard and it is always too hard when left in the refrigerator. Perhaps this would be the answer.

So I added it to the shopping cart. Then they had those cute little gauze wraps for lemon halves and wedges. Kaching. Then I found a nice, simple black apron. I wanted one to take to my cooking class in Orlando. Kaching, kaching.

But the pièce de résistance was the Sauce Master Food Strainer by Northpro. I have been looking for this for years! I can’t believe I found it! Without any preparation I can peel and seed tomatoes in a flash with this piece of equipment. It is like a food mill but it separates the pulp from the skin and seeds. I bought two additional screens, one with a larger sieve size and one that is smaller. I thought it was a bargain at $66.95. The additional sieves were $17.95 each. Tomato sauce will be a breeze! I can hardly wait to try it.


Volunteering at the Church

With so much time on my hands I volunteered to make the Wednesday evening meal for a youth group at the church.  I am attending a United Methodist Church in the country near my house.  It is exactly like the United Church in Canada, as far as I have seen, so it works for me.
 I had no idea when I volunteered that I would make any shortfall if we didn’t have enough money to pay for the meal!  Oh well!  I’ll just take it out of my Sunday offering.
 My task this week is to make sandwiches for 40 people.  The woman told me just to get some ham and cheese.  “And don’t bother getting that healthy bread.”  Real easy.  No problemo.
 I checked out the sandwich ham at the Food Lion and it was pathetic to say the least.  But, they did have smoked hams on sale.  For $13 I bought this ham and after baking at 335F for 2 hours and basting with a glaze of honey grainy mustard, orange juice and more honey, it was very tasty.  I don’ think I could do better price-wise if I had bought that awful packaged ham.


Labour Day Weekend Tomato Sauce

I had a couple of pounds of ripened garden tomatoes in the refrigerator.  I had sweet and hot peppers, basil, oregano and green onions in the garden, too.  I wouldn’t normally use green onions in a tomato sauce but since I wasn’t fixin’ to drive into town, I used them.
The result was a nice red sauce that I can use with pasta, pizza or seafood. 

For several years the September long weekend has meant the making of litres and litres of roasted tomato sauce. 
Kris and I have been making the tomato sauce for years, say, about 10 years. We buy cases of romas from the farmer’s market.  Claire and Peter dropped in one year and we sent them to pick up another case of tomatoes so they could join us.  We grill them on the gas barbecue, drop them into cold water and slip off the skins.  Then we simmer them with herbs, peppers, onions and garlic for an hour.  We process them in jars in a hot water bath.
This has been another year of upholding a fond tradition.


Muscadine Jelly

Muscadines are a type of grape that grow wild in southeastern USA. The climate is ideal in this part of the country. I found the fruit to be very tart, the skin tough and a lot of seeds. In short, it was too much effort. I would rather eat other grapes.

I bought them at the farmer’s market. To avoid letting them rot in the fridge until I threw them out, I thought perhaps they would make a nice jelly.

Grapes naturally have enough pectin to allow the juice to gel when boiled with sugar. I found a simple recipe online that consisted simply of juice and sugar - 3 parts juice to 2 parts sugar. Boil until you reach the gel stage.
It worked very well. I boiled the muscadines in water to cover. When they were soft and split open, I mashed them and boiled until very soft. I strained the pulp through coffee filters. Then I boiled the syrup with sugar, skimming off scum as it formed. When the syrup came off a spoon in two drops rather than one thin stream, it was ready.

The result was a perfectly clear and robust jelly.
It is very important to allow the juice to drain from the pulp without squeezing. Otherwise a cloudy jelly will be produced. If it is clouded with pulp, then it should not be labeled jelly.

A Day in Tennessee

I have heard from at least 3 people who said they tried to post to my blog but it wouldn't work.  I checked my settings again, and I have no idea why it isn't working.  Perhaps you have to register?  But 5 people were able to post.  Please try again!

Meanwhile some pics

Rainy day at my house

Tobacco harvest

Guess who!


Fried Green Tomatoes

I had to.  I could not be in Tennessee and not try cooking fried green tomatoes.  I have tomatoes fresh from the garden ripening on my windowsill.  How much easier could it be?

I checked and The Joy of Cooking.  One uses milk and the other beaten egg for dipping the tomato slices before dusting with cornmeal.  I decided that I like the sound of beaten egg better.  It would be more viscous and allow more cornmeal to adhere.
 This will be my simple dinner this evening.  I have some nice bacon and farm eggs. Sounds like a dinner made in breakfast heaven.  I also have some pineapple tomato salsa.  Perfetto!

I found an interesting bottle of Bock beer in the pantry.  The label says 'smooth with chocolate and coffee undertones'. Sounds perfect.
Well, it was.  I sprinkled kosher salt and pepper on thickly sliced green tomatoes.  Let them sit.  Dipped them in beaten egg and then coated them in cornmeal with smoked hot paprika added.  Fried them in bacon grease.  Yum!  I poached the egg, so I can be forgiven.


Peach Pie

Now say that with a southern accent.  Nuthin' lak peach paa.

South Carolina peaches are at the end of their season and I bought a small basket.  They are the largest peaches I have ever seen.  They are also nice and firm.

This is the Peach Custard Pie recipe from the Joy of Cooking.  I have never thought of custard without milk.  But I guess there is a lot of juice in the peaches.  The recipe was basically egg, sugar, vanilla, butter and flour.  I crushed one cardamom pod and popped the seeds into the mixture.

It was lovely, as you can see.

Everyone's a Critic - Full Service BBQ

I learned about another great little Maryville (pronounced Maravahl) dining treasure on Chowhound today.  It is a former gas station converted to a barbecue eatery.

I snapped a few pics and thought I would come back another day but after a short drive around the block, I decided to try it today.  As I was taking another picture of the meal, the owner asked me if I was a food critic. Eww, that sounds so harsh.  But if I am eating, taking pictures and blogging about it, well, then I guess I am visiting as a food critic.  He ran back to his computer, checked Chowhound and ran back asking if I was Sarah Galvin.

Well, it was worth the visit.  Pulled pork, pulled chicken and ribs, all smoked on-site in huge smokers, were the specialties.  Sides included southern slaw, green beans, baked beans, potato salad and mac ‘n cheese.

It was such a treat to find quick food that was not all greasy.  The ribs come ‘dry’ or ‘wet’.  I ordered ‘dry’ and it came with a little tub of barbecue sauce, bread & butter chips (Southern for pickles), and a dinner roll.  I had the southern slaw and green bean sides.

The half rack of ribs was way more food than I could eat.  It was delicious.  The ribs were tender, blackened but not charred, and with a hint of heat.  The green beans were simply boiled and felt healthy.  The slaw was just like our Canadian slaw but not as juicy.

But the best part was the ambiance.  It is on the site of a former gas station,
hence the name “Full Service” .  The only thing missing were the pumps.  Orders were taken and filled in the little pay booth.  Picnic tables were set up in front under the canopy and you can watch the rush hour traffic go by and stop in.
I will definitely be back for the pulled pork.  I can’t leave the south without trying proper pulled pork.


Late Summer Squash Soup

2 cups pureed baked squash
1 cup carmelized sweet onions
3 cloves roasted garlic
2 hot chilis, seeds removed
1 pimento pepper, seeds removed
½ cup diced pancetta
½ t hot paprika
¼ t dried thyme or 2 t chopped fresh thyme
1 T maple syrup
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil
milk or chicken broth

Bake the squash by cutting in half and removing seeds.  Brush lightly with olive oil and place cut side down in baking dish.  Roast garlic in tin foil with a little olive oil.  Slice onions thinly and sauté in a pan with a tablespoon or two of olive oil.  Sweat the onions until the sugars have nicely carmelized and the onions are a brown colour, about 20 minutes.  Be careful not to sear the onions, just slowly sauté until they are soft and the sugars have browned.

Put the baked squash, carmelized onions and roasted garlic in a food processor and puree until smooth.

In a pan finely dice the hot chilis, pimentos and pancetta.  Saute until the pancetta is crispy.  Add seasonings.

Add puree.  Thin with milk or chicken broth until it is the consistency you like.  Serve hot.  Garnish with chopped pimento, thyme or crème fraiche.  Serves 4-6. 

Maryville's Farmer's Market

I finally made it to the Maryville Farmer’s Market last Saturday.  It was very easy to find right on West Broadway in the historic part of town.  It was small but very interesting.

The first booth had 12, count them, 12 varieties of tomatoes.  Names I have never heard of and didn’t write down.  The only familiar name was Heirloom. They were beautiful and beautifully displayed in baskets.

In fact, everything at the market was nicely displayed.  Most vendors had appropriate baskets for their goods.

I finally found some wonderful multi-grain bread.  $4/ loaf.  There was beautiful clear honey with honeycomb in the jar.  I bought muscadines.  They appear to be grapes.  There were white and red ones and very round and firm, sweet with a tart skin.  Blueberries were still in season so I bought a quart for $4.

Locust Grove Farm was there with their local cheeses.  I bought the six month aged manchego and it is lovely.  $10.43 for .535 lb.  They also had a new manchego, cheddar and edam.

There were also lots of beautiful potatos, some herbs, a little bit of salad greens and that was it.

Because I have a garden with squash, green peppers, hot chilis, tomatoes, cucumber, canteloupe and herbs, there is very little I need from the market.