Sunday, August 22, 2010

Let's begin with breakfast, New Orleans style

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Dear friends and avid cooks,

With the latter part of summer and the advent of fall, the fields yield their harvest and the fat fruits of the farmer's labor are brought en masse to local farmer's markets. This means the opening of canning season. It seems to be the beneficent hand of Providence that organized the timeliness of canning season with the cooling of the weather, and so the boiling water baths are brought out and the propane stoves are torched to life, and once again the bustle of peeling and mashing and stuffing and lidding begins.

With any event involving hard work, I think all my dear readers will agree that it is beyond important to provide good food for the laborers thereof. I recently enlisted the help of numerous family and friends to help with the washing, snapping, pressure canning, and pickling of some 160 lbs of plump green Fandango snap beans. For this event, it was necessary to have a good breakfast early in the morning to start the crew off on the right fork... err, foot. But breakfast on canning days must meet a few stringent requirements in my household: it must be hearty and tasty as a matter of course; it must require very little work because most of one's time is consumed with setting up stations and getting ready to leave for market; and it must make little or no mess and require only the dishes needed for consumption, to keep the sink and counters empty and clear.

Here is the breakfast which miraculously met every requirement, and went A and B the C of D for breakfast. It hearkens from a cookbook my mom and sisters brought back from New Orleans for me, called "Waking Up Down South: Southern Breakfast Traditions" by Patricia B. Mitchell. The only thing I changed was the bacon: the recipe called for cutting it into halves, but it is far easier to serve and eat if it is cut into bite size pieces. Feel free to serve as is, or with maple or fruit syrup.

Martha Asworth's Egg Casserole
Martha Ashworth is one of our town's best cooks. This sort of casserole seems to be a 20th century idea, and is ultra-popular in Dixieland.

7 slices white bread, preferably homemade, with crusts trimmed off (cutting the crust off is optional)
8 oz shredded Cheddar cheese
6 eggs
3 c. milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1tsp dry mustard
6 strips bacon, cut into bite-size pieces

Break bread into bite-size pieces and spread in a greased 9x13" baking dish. Top with cheese. Beat together eggs, milk and seasoning, and pour over bread and cheese. Lay the bacon strips on top. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Then bake uncovered at 350F for 50 - 55 minutes Serves 6 - 8.

Note: If you wake up in the morning and decide this sounds good, it doesn't HAVE to be refrigerated overnight.  I've done it both ways and it's always delicious!

Yesterday, I made the following breakfast before canning peaches. This recipe also comes from the same book. The original recipe does not call for milk, but I included it. I've also included weights and bake times for two different sizes of balls.

Cindy's Sausage Balls
These savory morsels, introduced to us by local friend Cindy Motley, make fine apptizes or party food, perfect also on a brunch buffet table.

1 lb uncooked bulk pork sausage (I used spicy)
2 c biscuit mix
1 c Cheddar cheese, shredded
Milk as needed

Mix the ingredients with your hands, adding milk if or as needed to create a moist ball. Roll into little balls.  I refrigerated these overnight and baked them the next morning.
If the balls are approx. 20g ea: bake on a greased sheet at 350 for 15 minutes. Yield: about 50.
If the balls are approx. 40 g ea: bake on a greased sheet at 350 for 30 minutes. Yield; about 25.
Check for doneness before serving, with either size.  I used a roasting pan/drip pan to cut down on grease.

Serving suggestion: I served these with a pot of Scottish Oatmeal (Bob's Red Mill), which perfectly offset the greasiness and spiciness of the sausage.

Bon appetit - enjoy your breakfast in style!

with affection and good taste,

Mrs H
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