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Slow Cooker Sausage & Potato Soup

Two weeks ago we moved into our new house. Ten days before that we closed, and the night before that we realized that 99% of the downstairs was not just painted bold colors, but painted bold colors on top of wallpaper. So the past three weeks have been a whirlwind of stripping wallpaper, scrubbing walls, priming (and priming and priming) and then painting like mad. We still have a few rooms to go and we still have a horrifying number of boxes to unpack, but I’m happy to say the house is starting to feel like our home.

 

 

As you might expect, the kitchen was high priority. When we bought the house the walls were painted highlighter yellow on top of floral wallpaper and the cabinets were a medium wood tone. This didn’t work at all (in my opinion) with the black and white checkerboard floors, the dark gray (with flecks of red and some shimmer) counters, and the black appliances. After much pinteresting with the center of my design being the floors, I settled on blue lower cabinets, light gray upper cabinets, and white walls. The adjoining room will be my studio, so we chose a darker blue/slate color that complimented but didn’t match the cabinets. It all came together with a lot of elbow grease and even though we know we have at least a few big projects ahead of us in here (backsplash?) we’ve started adding some details that make it feel like home.

 

 

The first dinner we made in this house was a crock pot soup, appropriate for both the cold snap and the fact that when we moved in our oven didn’t have any racks and our stovetop was covered in painting supplies. I had an abundance of red potatoes leftover from our camping trip to the mountains (which became a “camping” trip because of the hurricane forecast), so I made a simple potato, sausage, and mushroom soup that I topped with wilted arugula. Nothing fancy, but very good.

 

 

 

I know that over the years we’ll make countless meals in this kitchen, every day dinners and feasts and everything in between. I hope that this kitchen will be the center of our home, and that this house will be our home for decades to come. It feels really wonderful to be investing in something that could be ours for the long term, and it’s so much fun to dream up the possibilities.

 

 

Slow Cooker Sausage & Potato Soup

 

12 medium sized red potatoes

1 yellow onion

4 cloves garlic

6 cups vegetable or chicken stock

3 hot Italian sausages

2 cups cremini mushrooms

2 tsps salt

1 tsp red pepper flakes

2 cups heavy cream

Juice of 1 lemon

Handful fresh arugula

1 tbsp olive oil

 

 

Quarter potatoes and combine in crock pot with stock. Chop onion and mince garlic and add to the pot, along with salt and red pepper flakes. Turn the crock pot on low (6 hours) or high (4 hours) with the lid on. Stir occasionally.

 

About an hour before you’re ready to serve the soup cook cook the sausage in a skillet until done, then slice and add to the crock pot. Slice the mushrooms and cook them in the drippings from the sausage until they are tender, 2-3 minutes. Add them to the crock pot along with the cream and lemon juice. Taste and adjust salt as needed.

 

Allow to cook for another 30-45 minutes on high. Wilt arugula in a skillet with a drizzle of olive oil and plate each serving with arugula on top.

 

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Muscadine Tartlets

I’ll admit that I am not a particular fan of wine made from muscadines (or, for that matter, scuppernongs). But just because I prefer a dry wine doesn’t mean the beauty of the muscadine, a grape with a long history in North Carolina, is lost on me. As it turns out, making sweet wine is just one of the many things a muscadine can do.

 

 

First off, muscadines are lovely on their own, though you have to eat them in comfortable company because they require a fair amount of spitting- the seeds and the skin are not palatable raw. They also make the most wonderful jam. And simple syrup, perfect for cocktails. But above all else my favorite application of the muscadine is the hull pie. Seeded and simmered to soft perfection, a hull pie allows the tart and unique flavor of the grape to shine.

 

 

I’m currently in the midst of packing my house (so that we can move approximately .5 miles away) which means my pie plates are somewhere in a box deep in my dining room. Easily accessible were my mini tart pans, which made a handful of the sweetest little muscadine tarts I’ve ever seen, perfect for topping with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and eating as I stared at a pile of empty boxes, waiting for me to get my second wind.

 

 

Muscadine Tartlets 
makes 8 tartlets or one pie

 

dough:

 

2 cups flour

1 stick butter

1 tbsp brown sugar

Pinch of salt

1/4c cold water

 

filling:

 

2 pints muscadines, seeded

Juice of 2 lemons

1/4 cup brown sugar

Pinch of salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp cornstarch

1 egg

 

In a saucepan combine grapes, lemon juice, sugar, salt, and vanilla. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 45 minutes, stirring frequently.

 

While your muscadines simmer combine flour, butter, salt, and sugar in a food processor. Pulse until the dough resembles cornmeal. Slowly add water, pulsing until a dough ball forms. Chill.

 

Once your grapes have cooked down preheat your oven to 350F. Roll your dough out on a floured surface and press into greased tart pans (or pie dish). Fill each tart with filling. Roll out remaining dough and either cut strips for a lattice or cut shapes to decorate the top. Whisk egg and brush crust of each tart.

 

Bake for 45 minutes or until browned and bubbling.

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Low Country Boil

Last week we had the pleasure of spending time at our family house in Morehead City with my some of my immediate family. This was our first family vacation with two toddlers, and the week was the most wonderful combination of big adventures, like day spent taking the boat up to Cape Lookout, and quiet family moments, like letting the kids splash in a baby pool on the back porch.

 

 

The house was built in the 1950’s by the Hillsborough Volunteer Fire Department as a seaside retreat, one that was quickly co-opted by wives and children so it became less poker lodge and more family getaway. My great uncle and great grandfather were two of the firemen, and the house remains shared by their decedents. These days my parents live just across the marsh from the house, which means that we are able to spend a good amount of time on Calico Creek, something that is undoubtably good for my soul.

 

 

We mostly cooked at home this week, grilling steaks, frying grouper bites, making pesto pasta with the basil and garlic from my brother’s garden. We kept it simple, enjoying good meals around the big table that has been the platform of generations of family dinners. One evening after a day spent on Shackleford Banks we pulled all the chairs on to the front porch and feasted on a seafood boil. With the marsh lapping the side of the house at high tide we ate corn, sausage, shrimp, clams, Brussels sprouts, onions, garlic, potatoes, and mushrooms all cooked together with hot pepper.

 

 

A seafood boil, also known as Frogmore Stew, a low country boil, or just a boil, can consist of whatever you have on hand. Corn, potatoes, shrimp, and sausage are staples, but the addition of everything from broccoli to crab can make for a delicious boil. The real trick is lining the table with newspaper, pouring out the boil in the middle and sitting together as you pick through the food. That’s the real fun of it.

 

 

Seafood Boil

 

5lbs head-on shrimp

2 dozen clams

2 lbs andouille sausage, cooked

3lbs small red potatoes

3 large yellow onions

2 heads of garlic

10 ears of corn

1 lb Brussels sprouts

2 dozen white button mushrooms

2 lemons

1/4 cup Old Bay seasoning

1/2 cup sea salt

Bottle of Texas Pete

 

Fill a very large pot (with strainer basket if you have one) halfway with water and bring to a rolling boil. Quarter the onions and add to the pot, along with peeled garlic cloves and whole potatoes. Add sea salt, Old Bay, and Texas Pete. Halve the lemons and add to the pot. Cook for 10 minutes.

 

Cut your sausage into 3” pieces and add to the pot. Break corn in half and add to the pot after the sausage has simmered for 10 minutes. At the same time add Brussels sprouts.

 

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