Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Barbecue in the 'Boro

I recently came across an article which ranked each state in the country according to how much the citizens of the states love barbecue. Estately, a national real estate search site, ranked the states by looking at five different sets of criteria: 1) Barbecue restaurants per capita, 2) Facebook interest in barbecue, 3) Percentage of restaurants that are barbecue, 4) Google searches for barbecue, and 5) Barbecue accessory stores and charcoal producers. After compiling all the data, the states were ranked from Barbecue Hell, those states where barbecue is a rarity, to Barbecue Heaven, where barbecue is treated with reverence. And that stairway to barbecue heaven? Well it leads right up to the state that reveres barbecue more than any other. Yep! Alabama is right at the top of the stairway, number one in barbecue enthusiasts.

 When Relay Rides, a peer to peer car sharing company that seeks to connect those who need transportation with those who have vehicles they are willing to rent, contacted me again to write a second post about another local hidden gem, I knew exactly what I wanted to focus on. If Alabama is the king of barbecue, Scottsboro is the diamond in the king's crown. In our small town, we have no fewer than six barbecue joints. Here they are!

1. Tate's Barbecue
This little shack, and it really is a shack, serves up some tasty, smoky pulled pork. There is no indoor seating at Tate's. You walk up to a window, place your order and either take your food with you or sit at one of the two picnic tables in front of the tiny building. I suggest you try Tate's pulled pork sandwich or get a family pack to take home.

Rob Carlile smokes his wonderful chicken on Friday nights.
Carlile's offers a Sunday buffet.
Carlile's salad bar has lots of tasty options and wonderful homemade sauces.
The grilled and fried shrimp at Carlile's are fresh and wonderful.
Cobblers are always on the buffet at Carlile's.

2. Carlile's
Carlile's is way more than a barbecue joint, but smoked meats are an important part of their menu. They have an extensive salad bar and Sunday buffet. One of the things I especially love about Carlile's is all of their homemade sauces and dressings. Their tartar sauce, blue cheese and thousand island dressings are delicious. If you visit Carlile's on Friday night, you can order Rob Carlile's
delicious smoked chicken with white sauce. Yum!

3. Triple R Barbecue
Triple R is in a large building cobbled together from the logs of some old cabins from around Scottsboro, so it has lots of down home ambience. The menu features all sorts of grilled and smoked items, including all the sides. In addition to all the smoked choices, try the fried catfish with hushpuppies and mustard slaw. Delish!

4. 50 Taters
If you happen to be cruising through Scottsboro from Wednesday through Sunday, stop by 50 Taters. It is conveniently located near Walmart, so you know it is easy to find. As the name implies, potatoes feature prominently on the menu. The pork barbecue stuffed potato is fully loaded and gigantic!

The ribs from Holy Smokes are tender and delicious.

5. Holy Smokes
The newest barbecue joint in Scottsboro is Holy Smokes. This little upstart began life in a trailer and recently moved to a renovated building just across the railroad tracks. The owner has taken a run down shack and created a darling restaurant. The pork ribs at Holy Smokes are fall apart tender, too.

Here is the view from the restaurant overlooking Mud Creek.
Mud Creek pulled pork
Grilled tilapia with Greek seasoning.
Smoked chicken with mustard slaw, fries and baked beans

6. Mud Creek Barbecue
Ok, technically Mud Creek is not in Scottsboro. It is down the road a bit in nearby Hollywood, but it is such an institution for Scottsboro locals,  it has to be included on any list of local barbecue joints. Mud Creek sits right on the banks of Mud Creek, hence the name. Like the other restaurants on this list, there are all the usual barbecue suspects from pulled pork to chicken to ribs. Additionally, I happen to like the grilled tilapia with greek seasoning. The hush puppies are a favorite, too.

So, if you want good barbecue, come to Alabama where barbecue is truly appreciated. And if you want great barbecue, follow the pig tracks to tiny Scottsboro in the northeast corner of barbecue heaven. Try one or take the Scottsboro barbecue tour and try them all. In Scottsboro, we're smokin'!

(By the way, do not go to Connecticut looking for barbecue. Connecticut came in 51st place in Estately's ranking. Maybe we should send barbecue care packages to our Connecticut friends, bless their hearts!)

Carlile's Restaurant on Urbanspoon 50 Taters on Urbanspoon Mud Creek Fishing Camp Restaurant on Urbanspoon Tate's Bar-B-Que on Urbanspoon Triple R BBQ on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 3, 2014

Time for Turnip Greens!

When that first little nip of fall is in the air, I start thinking about warm, hearty, comfort food. I especially love dishes that can be thrown in the slow cooker. What can be better than coming home on a chilly night to savory aromas from the slow cooker?

This week, when temperatures dipped for the first time of the season into the 40's, I decided to pull out the slow cooker and start a pot of turnip green soup. My grandmother always said the turnip greens were sweeter after the first frost, so technically I was a bit early, but since I was not using fresh turnip greens I ignored this bit of grandmotherly advice.

Throw in a couple of hot peppers at the beginning of cooking for extra spiciness!

This recipe is so simple! With just 6 ingredients, you can have dinner started in no time. Here's what you need:

First, 1  (16 oz.) pkg. frozen turnip greens. I have made this with a large (27 oz.) can of turnip greens, but unless you can find salt-free turnip greens in a can, I think it is better to use the frozen ones. This soup has plenty of salt from ham, sausage, and soup mix, so it really doesn't need any more.

Next, a bone in ham hock or a ham steak. If you can't find a piece of ham with a bone, don't worry. The bone just adds a little more flavor, but this soup is plenty flavorful without it, so don't fret if you end up with boneless piece of ham. Do not use country ham. It is way too salty. And do not, for the love of everything southern, use canned ham! I cannot even bear to think about that! At the end of cooking, take your spoon and break the ham up. It will be easy to do after it has cooked for several hours.

The third ingredient is a one pound pkg. of Conecuh sausage, sliced. I used the original smoked sausage, but I feel sure the hickory smoked or hot and spicy would work well, too. Conecuh is a true Alabama brand of sausage and while it is easy to find in any store in the south, I realize folks in other parts of the country might have a hard time finding that brand. If you can't find Conecuh where you live, substitute any good brand of smoked sausage. Or go online and order some from Conecuh Sausage.

Great Northern Beans are the next essential ingredient in this recipe. I vary between 2 and 4 (16 oz.) cans. Usually I start with two cans. Sometimes those two cans will cook to bits in the slow cooker and I will add another can or two shortly before serving. I also vary this depending on the people for whom I am cooking. My husband and I like more beans, my boys like fewer.

The last two ingredients are one pack of Knorr Vegetable Soup Mix and one (32 oz.) box of sodium-free chicken stock. You can use homemade chicken stock as long as it doesn't have too much salt.

That's it! Dump everything in the slow cooker and turn it on low for 6-8 hours depending on your slow cooker. If you like things spicier, you can toss a couple of hot peppers into the pot with the other ingredients. I like to serve my turnip green soup with corn bread sticks and sweet tea. It is so good! Try it and let me know if you agree! If you have Our Table, the Reynolds' Family Cookbook, this recipe can be found on page 24.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Bruschetta Photo Shoot by Melanie Watson Photography

When the incredibly talented Atlanta photographer, Melanie Watson, sent a message last night that she was using our cookbook and had prepared the recipe for bruschetta, we were pretty happy! But when she sent  these beautiful pictures of her preparation of the recipe, well, let's just say we were Pharrell Happy! And now we can share them with you! Just look at Melanie's creations and enjoy the amazing photos!

 Melanie gathered her fresh ingredients. Aren't these photos of her vibrant tomatoes and basil gorgeous!

Then she worked on her balsamic reduction. Look how you can see the grains of sugar in her photograph! And don't you just love how resourceful she is to let her pot double as a spoon rest?

She drizzled her baguette slices with olive oil before toasting,

topped the toasted bread with the tomato basil mixture,

and topped it all off with the balsamic reduction.

Melanie also used the balsamic reduction to sprinkle over a creation of her own! She made a beautiful caprese salad with leftover tomatoes and basil and some fresh mozzarella cheese.

We think Melanie's caprese salad looks fabulous!

And it must have been!

Thank you, Melanie, for sharing your beautiful photos with us. You made us very happy!

If you would like to see more amazing Melanie Watson photography, click here or go like her Facebook page here or follow her on Twitter here

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Down on the....Sandwich Farm?

Recently on a Costco run to Huntsville, my friend, Hope, and I stopped for lunch at clever little establishment on Cleveland Avenue called Sandwich Farm. I've told you about Luanne's food quirks, namely her "no condiment" rule. Well, Luanne is Andrew Zimmerman compared to Hope! Hope's food groups are chocolate, sugar, cookies and, did I mention, chocolate? So you see, choosing a place to eat with Hope in tow can be a bit challenging.

I talked Hope into Sandwich Farm for a couple of reasons. First, my friend, Dawn, keeps sending me pictures of Sandwich Farm and her food from Sandwich Farm, but she has yet to ask me to go to Sandwich Farm with her! And, secondly, it looked like the kind of place picky Hope could pick and choose and leave off ingredients that offend her. 

Located in an old lumberyard, Sandwich Farm is pretty unassuming and even finding it is a bit of a trick. Right where Cleveland Avenue crosses over the railroad tracks, there is a large gravel parking lot for the patrons of Sandwich Farm and other businesses located in Park Place Plaza, kind of a fancy name for an old lumberyard.  Sandwich Farm is sandwiched between two other businesses, The Lone Goose Saloon and The Soundcell Recording Studios. I absolutely love the way Huntsville is bringing new life to old buildings. Lately, it seems that every old cotton mill, factory or warehouse in town is being converted to house a new restaurant, entertainment venue or arts district. I find that very exciting and such a great way to incorporate history and commerce. 

Hope and I peeled into the gravel parking lot, made our way across the street and dove right into the Sandwich Farm. The first thing we noticed was a huge chalkboard with illustrated menu choices. The creative illustrations are very helpful to folks like me who are visual diners. I like to see what I am ordering.  We were right at the height of the lunch rush and had to wait a bit, so we had time to study the chalkboard menu. The sandwiches were broken down by protein, so there was bacon, smoked turkey, hamburger, smoked fish and pot roast. There were also some vegetarian options, falafel, avocado, and veggie.  

As soon as we were seated, we were given menus and our drink orders were taken. Our drinks were served in blue mason jars and the tea was really good and freshly brewed. We checked out the menus and also had time to look around the room. There were more sandwich art boards posted near the ceiling. These boards had different sandwich combinations, such as duck comfit, lamb, ham, apple, mushroom, barbecue and crab cake. We were a bit confused because the sandwiches on the signs above the windows were not on the menu, so we asked our server. She explained the signs were sandwiches that had been on the menu at one time or another, but were not currently on the menu. We then noticed that some of the same type of signs were on the chalkboard, so we assumed those signs get rotated depending on what fresh produce and meats are available. Since the philosophy of Sandwich Farm is one of using farm to table ingredients and local whenever possible, this made sense. One other thing we noticed, Sandwich Farm not only serves lunch, breakfast items were on the menu. That made me look up the hours of operation. Sandwich Farm is open from 8:00-3:00 Tuesday-Friday, Saturday 8:00-8:00, Sunday 8:00-3:00 and Monday 7:00-3:00. With breakfast items like pancakes, Eggs Benedict and biscuits on the menu, Sunday brunch might warrant another visit to Sandwich Farm very soon.

Anyway, I digress! Back to the problem at hand, making our lunch choices. You might think it would be easier for me to choose because I am a more adventurous eater, but you would be wrong. Everything sounded good to me! Hope sort of narrowed her options down to either the hamburger or turkey sandwich. She settled on the turkey, but made sure all weird ingredients, like avocado or sprouts, were left off her sandwich. Bravely, she did not eliminate the garlicky mayo, but she still worried about whether she should have omitted it. For a side, she chose pasta salad after confirming that it didn't contain anything objectionable. Dear heavens!

I wavered between the smoked fish, the peach bbq chicken or the falafel. The smoked fish with red pepper cream cheese, avocado and tomato sounded wonderful, as did the  peach bbq chicken served on a brioche bun with onion straws, pickled jalapenos, and potato salad. I love brioche, so this was tough, but I finally decided on the falafel with feta, tomatoes, red onions and tzatziki sauce. Falafels are one of my favorite things, especially when homemade tzatziki sauce is involved and falafels are hard to come by around here, so that helped seal the deal. I chose potato salad as my side and it was very good, more vinegary than mayonnaisy. I noticed another diner with the sweet potato fries and decided next time I would get those. They looked so good.

So, what was our verdict? We both loved our sandwiches. Hope really liked the garlicky mayo (thank goodness!) and she said the turkey was delicious. She wasn't as wild about the pasta salad because she was used to a creamier pasta salad and Sandwich Farm's pasta salad is thicker and cheesier. I tasted it and thought it was very good. 

My falafel was so fresh and so tasty. The falafels themselves were chunky with lots of texture, not smooth and pureed like some I have had. You could see all the fresh ingredients. Also, the tzatziki sauce was flavorful and cool. Falafel success! We will be back!

If Sandwich Farm can please a picky eater like Hope, it definitely deserves
3 Yums UP!

Sandwich Farm on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Fall for Apple Pie

I love the fall of the year! I love the cooler weather, the crispness in the air and the spicy smells of autumn. One of my favorite things to bake during the fall is apple pie. The warm aroma of apples, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice wafting from my kitchen is heavenly. Today was not only the first day of fall, it was fallish...crisp and cool.  I found myself with a basket of delicious Jazz apples, so what else could I do but welcome fall with a sweet apple pie.

Normally, I use Granny Smith apples in my apple pie, but I decided to give the Jazz apples a try. I thought they would work well because they are crunchy and effervescent. Jazz apples are the result of a cross between Royal Gala and Braeburn apples and originated in New Zealand. Though they are sweeter than Granny Smith apples, I thought they had enough tanginess and crispness to hold up in the baking process, so I got to peeling!

Then I cored and sliced the apples and put them in a large pot with 1 stick of butter, 1/2 c. brown sugar, 1/2 c. white sugar, 3 T. all purpose flour, 1 and 1/2 t. apple pie spice, and 1/4 c. water. I cooked the whole mixture over medium heat until the butter melted and the apples were slightly cooked, still holding their shape, but beginning to change color.  

I then poured the apples into a chilled pie crust and added a top crust. I make my own crust, but you can use the store bought kind that you roll out, if you like. At this point you should cut vents into your top crust after placing it on the pie. I am telling you this because I forgot that step! The hot liquid will find a way out as the steam builds up inside, so you want to prevent this by cutting some small vents in the top crust.  I added a little pastry decoration, brushed the top crust with some milk and sprinkled some sugar over the top. The pie went into a preheated 425 degree oven for 15 minutes. Then, I cut the temperature down to 350 degrees and continued cooking for 30 minutes.

The Jazz apples were perfect! I knew I had a hit when my husband said, "What kind of apples did you use? They are really good!" They held their shape and still had a bit of toothiness to them, but were still completely cooked. They were sweet, but with enough tang to keep the sweetness from being overpowering. So good, so jazzy! Here is the finished pie. I wish you could smell the sweet, spicy aroma coming from my kitchen! It smells like fall, y'all!

We couldn't resist adding a little ice cream!

Here's the recipe:

Jazzy Apple Pie 

8 Jazz apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 pie crust recipe for top and bottom crust
1 stick of butter
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. white sugar
1 and 1/2 t. apple pie spice
3 T. all purpose flour
1/4 c. water

Place apples, sugars, butter, flour, apple pie spice and water into a large pot and cook over medium heat until butter melts and apples begin to change color. Pour mixture into chilled pie shell and add top crust. Cut vents in top crust and brush with the top crust with milk. Sprinkle sugar lightly over the top of the pie. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and bake pie for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue cooking for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool slightly before cutting.