RECIPE: TRADITIONAL MILK PUNCH

In certain areas of the South, you’ll most certainly find  Milk Punch on the menu for brunch, especially during the Christmas and Mardi Gras seasons. I always make them for Christmas morning and I cannot wait to have Milk Punch when I travel to New Orleans; it is one of my travel traditions. Favorites are from Commander’s Palace and Arnaud’s. The one pictured is from Tableau; so good, I had two.

This recipe can easily be doubled or multiplied for a crowd. For a big batch, pour the ingredients into a gallon container with a lid and shake well. Pour into a chilled silver or glass punch bowl and serve over crushed ice.

Traditional New Orleans Milk Punch Recipe

TRADITIONAL NEW ORLEANS STYLE MILK PUNCH

INGREDIENTS

Makes 1

1 ½ ounces brandy (brandy is traditional but you may use bourbon if you prefer)

½ ounce dark rum (optional)

2 ounces whole milk

¼ cup heavy cream (omit for a lighter drink)

½ ounce simple syrup* (substitute 1 tablespoon powdered sugar if you don’t have or want to make simple syrup for 1 drink)

1/4  teaspoon vanilla extract

Freshly grated nutmeg

Crushed ice

DIRECTIONS:

Put the brandy, rum, milk, cream, simple syrup, and vanilla into a cocktail shaker filled ½ full with ice. Shake until sugar is completely dissolved.

Strain into glasses of crushed ice. Grate nutmeg over the top and serve.

*To make simple syrup: Add equal parts granulated sugar and water to a pot, bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Once it comes to a boil, immediately remove it from the heat and allow it to cool before using. Store up to 2 weeks in the fridge.

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RECIPE: FRIED OKRA

You know those "you might be a redneck" jokes by Jeff Foxworthy? Well, I am sure there is one about growing and eating okra. Yes. I grow okra. And yes. I cannot wait to fry up the first batch each summer. Right now, I've got more okra than I can give away, in fact. Okra is a lot like zucchini. At first, you think it isn't going to grow and then you have so many, you cannot eat it all or give it away. People actually run when they see you coming with a basket full of zucchini or okra because they probably have more than they can eat at their house, too.

You really have to watch the okra in the garden. It can quickly get away from you if you are not careful and go from perfect to tough in a day. Whether picking it yourself or shopping for it at the store or farmer's market, you want the tender, young okra. Bigger is not better. The larger okra pods have tough husks and are too chewy.

Growing up, fried okra was always a real treat. To me, a freshly picked homegrown tomato, a pile of fried okra and a deviled egg or two on my plate is all I need to make a perfect summer supper. Growing up, my mom would put a bowl of fried okra on the table and we'd fight over it like candy. There was never enough.

Most folks use buttermilk for frying okra but since I don't always have buttermilk and always have heavy cream in the fridge, I use heavy cream. I also think it sticks to the okra better.

WHIPPING CREAM FRIED OKRA

INGREDIENTS

4 cups fresh okra, sliced into 1/2" pieces (this is probably about a pound of okra)

1 1/2 cups heavy cream or whipping cream (you can use buttermilk)

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup self-rising cornmeal

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

scant pinch, cayenne pepper

Vegetable oil for frying

DIRECTIONS

Cut the tips and stem end off each okra pod and slice into 1/2" pieces.

Put the heavy cream into a bowl. Add the sliced okra. Let it soak for 15-20 minutes.

Make the dredge in a large bowl or zip top bag by combining the flour, cornmeal, salt, pepper, and cayenne.

Working in small batches, use a slotted spoon or a strainer to remove the okra from the whipping cream. Add the drained okra to the dredge mixture. Toss well to coat evenly. Remove from the dredge using a slotted spatula or a slotted spoon and shake it a bit to allow the excess flour to fall off. (otherwise this excess will fall into the oil and burn as you are frying the okra) You want a light coating on the okra, not a heavy, solid breading like you often see with fried okra at restaurants. You want to be able to see the okra.

NOTE: I have frozen the okra at this point by spreading it out in a single layer on a sheet pan. Once frozen, I put it into single serving zip top bags and it is ready to fry when I need it. I doesn't keep well for a long period of time- use it within a month or so.

To fry: Add vegetable oil to 2" deep on your frying pan, cast iron skillet, or Dutch oven. I like canola oil. My mom used Crisco vegetable oil. Heat the oil to 360 degrees or test it by dropping a piece of okra in the hot oil. You want the okra to sizzle when you drop it into the oil but not too hot that it burns up before the okra is cooked fully.

Again, working in small batches, add a single layer of okra to the hot oil in the pan. Fry until golden brown and drain on paper towels. Repeat.

Check the seasoning- sometimes I will add a sprinkle of salt when the okra comes out of the hot oil.

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SUMMER'S BEST RECIPES: FRESH PEACH PIE

Let's just call this one summer. To me, nothing says summer like fresh peaches and blueberries. Probably because we grow our own blueberries and the world's very best, juiciest, sweetest, and most delicious peaches come from Chilton County, Alabama, just minutes away. Growing up, peaches were a huge part of summer because I'd help my mom pick, peel, and slice tons of peaches to put up. I can remember picking them from the tree in the backyard; they would be warm from the sun and the fuzz would make your skin itch... so I'd wash them under the freezing cold water from the hosepipe (Alabama-speak for water hose) before we ate them.

Here's a super fast recipe for pie crust you can use for a single or double crust pie. I just prefer the rustic simplicity of this method to using a pie pan. You can whatever fruit you like but this time of year, I'm making peach. Add fresh blackberries or blueberries to this if you like; just toss them in with the peaches or sprinkle some on top if they are really ripe and sweet.

RUSTIC PEACH PIE

Prep Time: 20 minutes plus 1 hour chill time for the dough

Cook Time: 20-25 minutes

INGREDIENTS

Pastry

1 cup all-purpose flour, plus 2 tablespoons to roll out the dough

2 tablespoons granulated or superfine sugar plus ½ tablespoon to sprinkle on crust

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 pound (1 stick) very cold unsalted butter, diced

3-4 tablespoons ice water, maybe a slight bit more depending on how dough comes together

Filling

11/2 pounds fresh peaches (6 large peaches; not too ripe work best)

1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 ½ teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup flour

2-3 tablespoons granulated sugar (I like mine less sweet; add more if you like or need to based on how sweet your fruit is)

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced into small pieces

Egg Wash (optional)

1 egg, beaten

1 tablespoon cold water

Glaze (optional)

½ cup Orange Marmalade, Apricot Preserves, or Apple Jelly

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Stretch a 12 x 12 piece of plastic wrap out on the counter and dust with a little of the flour, about 1 tablespoon.

For the pastry, place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse a few times to combine the dry ingredients. Add the butter, a little at a time, pulsing between additions until the butter is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the ice water all at once through the feed tube-stop the machine just before the dough becomes a solid mass. Turn the dough onto the well-floured plastic wrap. Handle as little as possible. Fold over the plastic and form into a round. Don’t over handle or over mix because your dough will be tough. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. When you are ready to make the pie, flour a rolling pin and put a little flour around the plastic and on both sides of the dough; roll the pastry into an 11-inch circle on the plastic wrap. Wrap it over the rolling pin and transfer it to a baking sheet. Remove the plastic wrap.

For the filling, peel, and slice the peaches, working around the pit. I will sometimes drop the peaches in boiling water for 10 seconds and then simply use a paper towel to drain and then slide the skin off the peach. You can use an ice bath if you want to stop the cooking process but since I'm going to cook them anyway, I don't bother.

I like the look of slices- I usually slice a medium peach into 10 slices. Put the peach slices into a bowl and toss with the lemon juice and the lemon zest. Next, add the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. Add the cold butter. Mix all of the ingredients together until the peaches are well coated. Turn the peaches out onto the crust, leaving a 2-inch border all the way around.  Gently fold the border over the peaches to enclose the dough, pleating it to make a circle. Finish with the egg wash and sprinkle with granulated sugar before baking.

Bake the pie for 20-22 minutes, until the crust is browned and the peaches are tender. (Note: If you are not using the glaze, bake for another 4-5 minutes or until golden brown)

For the glaze: Microwave the preserves in a heatproof container for 10 seconds. Remove the pie from the oven. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the crust and the filling with the melted preserves. Return to the oven for 4-5 minutes or until the pie is golden brown.

Allow to cool slightly before cutting.

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