Category Archives: Gravy

Recipe for Ground Beef Meatloaf, individual servings

Easy as 1-2-3, This Flavorful Meatloaf is Hard to Beat.

Sometimes, whipping up a quick and easy meal isn’t all that quick, or easy. But when meatloaf goes to the table, not only is Momma happy, Daddy and the whole gang are waiting with fork in hand for the start of a memorial and satisfying meal. Nothing is quicker, nor tastier than a good ol’ homemade meatloaf. And when I say homemade,  I mean using good ingredients and delectable flavors that will make every bite outstanding.

Now the key to easy dinners is planning and keeping it simple. But that does not mean processed foods or out-of-the-box meals or sides. This meatloaf meal comes together with 3 recipes that together, makes for one outstanding, non-ordinary meatloaf. Plan your side dishes around the meatloaf, choose ones that will complement the flavor and be sure to maintain correct portions of the vegetables ( and the grains, fruit and dairy too) to the protein serving. Think steamed or quick pan sauteed, or even oven roasted vegetables.

We love meatloaf around our house. This is one way we enjoy making it, in individual servings and with a gravy made with good ingredients that really taste superb. The recipe uses basic ingredients for flavor but what we really love about this one is the added flavor and moistness the vegetables give to the texture and, with the addition of tomato paste as a binder, no egg is used. Enjoy!

Individual Meatloaves with Vegetable Gravy
Great for family dinners or company too – freeze unneeded loaves

makes 6 loaves

1) for the meatloaves:

2 1/2 to 3 pounds ground round beef (85/15)
1 tablespoon dehydrated minced onions
1 teaspoon dehydrated minced garlic
2 teaspoons of your favorite seasoning blend (you should know by know, mine is Badia Complete)
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon low sodium Worcestershire
1 teaspoon low sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1/2 cup finely chopped sweet onions
1/2 cup finely chopped mixed bell peppers
1 celery stalk, finely chopped

2) for the basting sop:

2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke

3) for the vegetable gravy:

1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup sliced onions
1/2 cup chopped mixed bell peppers
1 small carrot, diced
seasoning blend of choice
1/4 cup red wine
1/4 cup low sodium chicken or beef stock
1 teaspoon cornstarch

In an extra large bowl, blend the dried onion and garlic, seasoning blend, tomato paste, Worcestershire, soy sauce and liquid smoke together well. Mix in the chopped vegetables. Using a large metal or wooden spatula or mixing fork, cut in the ground beef adding about one-third of meat at a time. Mix to incorporate being careful not to compact the meat.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Using cold hands, form meat mixture into 6 balls and then each one into individual meatloaves. Place on a meat or wire rack and over a large shallow roasting pan.

Cook for about 30 minutes basting with the sop about 3 or 4 times during the cooking time. Remove when each is nicely brown and glazed.

While loaves are cooking, saute the mushrooms, onion, bell peppers and carrot with the olive oil until onion is soft. Add wine and chicken stock and allow to reduce about half in volume. Stir the cornstarch in a little stock or water and blend into the mixture to thicken. Simmer on low until gravy is desired consistency.

Place loaves in baking dish and spoon gravy on top. Return to oven if desired and allow gravy to simmer. Or, you can serve right away.

Notes: You could do away with much of the dried seasonings and use the standard onion soup mix I suppose, but then, it wouldn’t exactly be my recipe.
Next time I make these, I am gonna cook these on the grill, I can only imagine the added flavor especially using the basting sop.

Making Proper Gravy

How to Make Gravy Like Momma

Southern Kitchen Classics: Gravy Making

Many essential things come from the kitchens of our parents and grandparents. Many are of life’s lessons, a few about cooking and a few with recipes. This one is about cooking.

To our ancestors, making a sauce or gravy was not science but today, we know it is just that. Both sauce and gravy consists of thickening agents combined with a aqueous mixture to increase its viscosity without substantially modifying its other properties, such as taste. To do so properly provides body, increases stability, and improves suspension of added ingredients. Thickening agents include: polysaccharides (starches, vegetable gums, and pectin), proteins (eggs, collagen, gelatin, blood albumin) and fats (butter, oil and lards). All purpose flour is the most popular food thickener, followed by cornstarch, arrowroot, potato or tapioca. All of these thickeners are based on starch as the thickening agent. But unlike the last four agents, only all purpose flour is widely used in making gravy as the cornstarch (which is actually a flour too) and root crops yields clear, translucent gravies and will not brown as in making a roux. source

Now in the south and I mean deep south, the terms gravy and sauce are the same. In fact, sauce is rarely use in many parts and as I remember from my youth, ‘gravy is spooned from the pan and sauce is served at the table’. Here, I use gravy as a compatible word.

There are many ways to make gravy using flour. Three of the basics are:

  • using a slurry which is flour and cold liquid combined and whisked into a base liquid before raising the temperature needed to thicken the sauce. Using this method does allow you to skip the addition of fat.

  • by making a paste of flour and fat (Beurre Manié) and whisking it into a heated base liquid to thicken

  • and the best is by making a roux of flour and fat … period

By using the first two methods to make a gravy, the sauce will not maintain stability and both require a long time to cook out the raw flour taste. By starting with a roux, which is mostly equal part flour and a fat, you cook to break down the flour and rid that raw taste before adding the base liquid.

Now, the best pan to use for a gravy is of course a saucier, but a rounded bottom skillet will do nicely too. And, if you are making dark roux, you want to make sure your saucier, pot or skillet is a heavy, 3-ply or cast iron vessel. A good whisk with many tines along with a flat bottom spatula are the basic tools in making roux for gravy.

So what is the best ratio of ingredients: According to Alton Brown, 1 cup liquid with 1 ounce flour and 1 ounce fat by weight is the trick. source  So if you need 3 cups of gravy, increase all by 3. Momma did not weigh out her ingredients, nor do I. Like her, I do the tablespoon method and it goes like this: for every 1 cup of liquid, make a roux using 2 tablespoons of fat with 2 tablespoons of all purpose flour.

Now, let’s get to making gravy. Melt the fat (lard, oil or butter) over medium heat and when melted hot, whisk in the flour all at once. Whisk good for 2 minutes which the roux should start to thin out or spread a little on its own. At this point, turn down the heat to low and continue whisking. It is here where the level of thickening power is achieved and it is here where depending on how long you stir and cook it determines the color and flavor.

A rule for type of roux, thickening power and cooking time on low heat goes something like this:

White – 1 part roux – cooks about 5 minutes
Blond – 2 parts roux- about 20 minutes of stirring
Tan Chocolate – 3 parts roux – plan on up to a good hour
Dark Creole Brick Red – 4 parts roux – takes up to 2 hours

You see, the lighter the roux, the more thickening power it will have and likewise, the darker it is the less, meaning the more you will need to thicken the same amount of liquid.

I have always followed Momma’s way introducing the roux to the liquid base of both ingredients being hot or at least the liquid being on the warm side and the roux cooled down a bit by removing off-heat or caramelizing vegetables before the liquid’s melding. Chef Brown’s axiom is that the roux should be room temperature and the liquid base hot. I mention this only because I have much faith in Sir Alton. But momma’s way has never let me down. Either way, slowly whisk in about 1/3 of liquid into the roux over high heat forming a paste. This will ensure a smooth, binding gravy. When thickened, add another 1/3 of liquid and whisk until smooth. By using the roux method, the gravy will thicken quickly, at about 150 degrees F. or about the time you first start to see bubbling action breaking the surface. Add more liquid, tablespoons at a time until desired consistency. At this time, your gravy is ready.

Note that gravy made with a flour roux will also cool down quicker than say one made the Beurre manié method. Therefore, it is necessary to thin a roux base gravy down a tad more than you would think knowing it thickens as it cools especially if serving at the table.

As I mention in our family cookbook, Grits to Guacamole, Momma had a flair of making various sauces and would stand over the stove and then cunningly use that same labor intensive sauce over heated vegetables from the freezer. Some of her best sauces or gravies come from a roux base including these:

Béchamel / Creole Creamed Eggs

Béchamel – a white milk gravy made with all purpose flour and butter

Mornay – taking the white gravy and adding cayenne along with Gruyere and Parmesan

Alfredo / Creamy Chicken Alfredo

Alfredo – the white roux gravy adding garlic, Parmesan and a pinch of nutmeg

Soubise – classic Béchamel with the addition of shallots or onion

Velouté / Sweet Onion Apple Pear Gravy

Velouté – a meat flavored sauce using a butter and flour roux along with a base liquid of chicken, fish or veal stock

Paprika – a Velouté with the addition of onion, added butter, paprika and heavy cream

Cheese / Baked Macaroni and Pimento Cheese

Classic Cheese for Mac – the Béchamel blended with cheddar cheese is perfect for vegetables too

Saw Mill / Fried Chicken Fillets

Saw Mill Gravy – the white milk gravy heavily seasoned with black pepper, sometimes with bits of browned ground country sausage

Red Eye Gravy – flour roux with country ham drippings and coffee

Tomato Gravy / Creole Daube

Creole Tomato Gravy – a seasoned roux gravy with the addition of diced tomatoes

Brown Gravy / Momma’s Meatloaf

Brown Gravy – pan drippings from cooked meat stirred into a darkened flour based roux

Chorizo Smothered Pork Chops with Latin Rice

Thank goodness for flavor.

Turn ordinary pork chops into a Spanish style sensational dish bursting with flavor and serve it with a savory rice side dish; all completed in the same pan. But wait folks, there’s more. As if this flavor combination was not enough, I topped it off with a mouth-watering gravy of Chorizo mingling with grilled-like onions and peppers.

If you are like me, you might have a few peppers still hanging around in your garden. I supplemented what I had with these small sweet peppers from the grocer.

This is a fairly simple meal to make, I mean, it only takes a few steps of prep and a few moments at the stove before the chops and rice come simmering together. The making of the gravy takes just a few minutes and can be held on warm until time for plating. If you do, be sure to add a little water as it might get too thick.

I served this with a simple side of sauteed green beans with roasted red peppers. A good bowl of fresh salad greens would be great too.

Enjoy!

Chorizo Smothered Pork Chops with Latin Rice
add a little cumin and use smoked chili powder to bring out Mexican flavors
serves 6 to8

1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1 1/2 cups seeded and chopped asst mini sweet peppers (or red, yellow and orange bells)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup long grain rice
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 to 10 thin sliced boneless pork chops (from the loin)
Salt and pepper (or Badia Sazón Completa)
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
2 -16 oz stewed canned (or chopped fresh tomatoes with liquid to make 4 cups)

Chorizo Gravy
1 -10.5 oz condensed beef broth
2 chorizo links (about 3.75 oz), casings removed
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Combine in a medium bowl the green bell peppers, mini sweet peppers and onions. Set aside.

Lightly season the small boneless chops with salt and pepper or the seasoning blend. In a large skillet, heat over medium heat the oil and when hot saute on both sides  the meat until seared and lightly brown. Remove chops.

Add the rice heat for 3 to 5 minutes stirring often or until rice turns brown. Be carefull not to burn the fond on the bottom. Add half of the peppers and onion mixture to the skillet and saute until onions are wilted.

Stir in the chili powder. Add tomatoes and place pork chops over the rice. Bring to a simmer and reduce to lowest setting.

 Cover with lid and simmer for 1 hour.

For the gravy – In a medium saucepan or saute pan, add a little oil (about 1 teaspoon), the sausage and cook chopping the sausage with a spatula until the sausage browns. Remove the grease from the pan. I pull the sausage to one side and sop it up with a paper towel. Stir in the butter and when melted, add the remaining vegetables. Saute until the vegetables are brown around the edges; then stir in the flour. Cook about a minute. Add the beef broth and cook stirring until gravy thickens.

Serve the pork chops over the rice and top with the gravy. Yum-yum..

Brown Sugar Pork Roast with Sweet Potatoes and Onion Gravy

A recipe steeped in Southern tradition

There are a few folks, a handful, that know a thing or two of how pork entered into our native land. The folks I am referring to have in possession a first peek at my latest cookbook, an online digital copy featuring recipes of our Mobile area and of our area’s history, folklore, trivia and at times, plain ol’ storytelling. And, in this recipe ‘book’ contains the story of how pork as we know it, gained foothold on our land and in our Southern area, first brought to us by the Spaniards. If you remember, these folks were the winners of a contest last year and the cookbook was a prize to weekly winners.

There are so many elements in this recipe that is Southernese. The pork as mentioned is one and from the lower Southern state’s sugarcane fields comes brown sugar while from other states along the coast and upward to the Carolinas yields the crops of sweet potatoes. Don’t forget the sweet onions of Georgia, Louisiana and Texas; the corn distilled bourbon from just about every lower state and honey that comes from many backyards. Even a whole grain mustard, a Creole brand would be good in this recipe however I chose the French Dijon (which was brought in the early years to the states from France) that I purchased in NOLA.

I know I ramble sometimes ’bout nothing, but let me say this pork roast was remarkably tasty, ever-so-moist. Topped with the onion gravy with the sweet potatoes riding proudly by its side, the flavors of this dish made me want to ‘slap my mama’. And, that story is in the ‘book’ too, which by the way, should be ready for distribution shortly. In the meantime, pick up a nice pork roast and cook up a taste of Southern history.  Enjoy!

Brown Sugar Pork Roast
with Sweet Potatoes and Onion Gravy
8 to 10 servings

1 -7 to 9 pound Boston butt pork roast
1/3 cup whole grain Dijon mustard
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon oil
2 sweet onions, chopped
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon bourbon
1 -10.5 ounce condensed beef broth
2 or 3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch disks
1 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Since the pork roast is braised with a liquid, we do not need the fat layer on top of a Boston butt which normally keeps it from drying out. With a sharp fillet knife, remove as much of the fat as you can.

Brush the pork roast with the mustard coating all surfaces. Pat the brown sugar all over the roast and rub into the crevices of the roast, Heat the butter and oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat and lightly sear the roast on all sides. You are not browning here, just a sear. Do not burn the sugar. Remove roast to a plate, cover with foil and set aside.

Add the onions to the Dutch oven, turn up the heat and stir in the pepper, honey, cayenne, vinegar, bourbon and cook about 5 minutes. Add the roast back into the Dutch oven. Pour to the side of the roast the beef broth, cover and bring to a boil. Place in the oven and reduce heat to 325. Cook for 2 1/ hours (1 1/2 hours for a much smaller roast).

Remove from oven, turn roast over and place potatoes along the sides and on top of the roast. Cover and return to oven. Cook for 1 hour or until potatoes are tender.

Test pork roast with a meat thermometer. Remove from oven when the meat registers 170 degrees. Place roast and potatoes on a platter. Strain the pan drippings with onions discarding the grease. Add about 2 cups of the drippings back to the Dutch oven reserving the onions. Mix the cornstarch with the water and stir into the drippings. Heat over medium high heat to a boil and stir to thicken. Stir in the onions until heated thoroughly.

Slice the roast and serve with the gravy.

Brown Sugar Pork Roast with Sweet Potatoes and Onion Gravy

A recipe steeped in Southern tradition

There are a few folks, a handful, that know a thing or two of how pork entered into our native land. The folks I am referring to have in possession a first peek at my latest cookbook, an online digital copy featuring recipes of our Mobile area and of our area’s history, folklore, trivia and at times, plain ol’ storytelling. And, in this recipe ‘book’ contains the story of how pork as we know it, gained foothold on our land and in our Southern area, first brought to us by the Spaniards. If you remember, these folks were the winners of a contest last year and the cookbook was a prize to weekly winners.

There are so many elements in this recipe that is Southernese. The pork as mentioned is one and from the lower Southern state’s sugarcane fields comes brown sugar while from other states along the coast and upward to the Carolinas yields the crops of sweet potatoes. Don’t forget the sweet onions of Georgia, Louisiana and Texas; the corn distilled bourbon from just about every lower state and honey that comes from many backyards. Even a whole grain mustard, a Creole brand would be good in this recipe however I chose the French Dijon (which was brought in the early years to the states from France) that I purchased in NOLA.

I know I ramble sometimes ’bout nothing, but let me say this pork roast was remarkably tasty, ever-so-moist. Topped with the onion gravy with the sweet potatoes riding proudly by its side, the flavors of this dish made me want to ‘slap my mama’. And, that story is in the ‘book’ too, which by the way, should be ready for distribution shortly. In the meantime, pick up a nice pork roast and cook up a taste of Southern history.  Enjoy!

Brown Sugar Pork Roast
with Sweet Potatoes and Onion Gravy
8 to 10 servings

1 -7 to 9 pound Boston butt pork roast
1/3 cup whole grain Dijon mustard
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon oil
2 sweet onions, chopped
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon bourbon
1 -10.5 ounce condensed beef broth
2 or 3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch disks
1 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Since the pork roast is braised with a liquid, we do not need the fat layer on top of a Boston butt which normally keeps it from drying out. With a sharp fillet knife, remove as much of the fat as you can.

Brush the pork roast with the mustard coating all surfaces. Pat the brown sugar all over the roast and rub into the crevices of the roast, Heat the butter and oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat and lightly sear the roast on all sides. You are not browning here, just a sear. Do not burn the sugar. Remove roast to a plate, cover with foil and set aside.

Add the onions to the Dutch oven, turn up the heat and stir in the pepper, honey, cayenne, vinegar, bourbon and cook about 5 minutes. Add the roast back into the Dutch oven. Pour to the side of the roast the beef broth, cover and bring to a boil. Place in the oven and reduce heat to 325. Cook for 2 1/ hours (1 1/2 hours for a much smaller roast).

Remove from oven, turn roast over and place potatoes along the sides and on top of the roast. Cover and return to oven. Cook for 1 hour or until potatoes are tender.

Test pork roast with a meat thermometer. Remove from oven when the meat registers 170 degrees. Place roast and potatoes on a platter. Strain the pan drippings with onions discarding the grease. Add about 2 cups of the drippings back to the Dutch oven reserving the onions. Mix the cornstarch with the water and stir into the drippings. Heat over medium high heat to a boil and stir to thicken. Stir in the onions until heated thoroughly.

Slice the roast and serve with the gravy.

Big Mama’s Creole Meatballs in Red Gravy

Ida Claire, you still amaze us….

Every time I come across a recipe from our beloved Aunt Ida, I know it is a good one. She has yet to let us down, even though many folks have forgotten of her, bless her heart. So when I came across this recipe a while back found in Aunt Ida’s notes, I knew that if she loved it, we would adore it too.

Now unfortunately, I do not know anyone in our family referred to as Big Mama although there is something familiar about the name in association with my Grandmother Zeigler’s side of the family. As I recall, many times we passed a beautiful, white house out in the country on the way to Sherling’s Lake and it seems that was ‘Big Mama’s house’ or where it once stood, or something another. But Aunt Ida did not know my Grandmother and she was not from my hometown so I know this is not a recipe from rural Alabama and because of the Creole, Italian along with the Southern ingredients, it must be from the Gulf Coast area or from a port city in the south. That would make much more sense in knowing Big Mama was either family or a friend of Aunt Ida.

The recipe dapples far enough into Italian influences to be considered Italian but like so many of my favorite offerings, this recipe has just enough charm of Creole and southern flavorings to make it a classic standard in our house. In fact, this is one I am adopting and will repeat many times. Thank your Aunt Ida and Big Mama who ever you are.

Aunt Ida kept splendid notes and when it came to recipes, she many times offered suggestions as if it was a work in progress, comparing one technique with another in seeing which worked out the best. In the meatball recipe below, she mentions ‘while mixing the meats with the seasonings (and here I know she includes vegetables too) use a cold metal spoon, dipped in ice water and gently fold mixture together.’ She forgos of using her hands as the temperature and pressure will pack down the meat and will make it tough after cooking. Only at the very last of shaping does she roll the meatballs into orbs using her hands and then the hands ‘should be ice cold.’ She also mentions in making the sauce a variation for a brown Creole sauce using a dark roux.

I dunno about you, but I am glad I found this recipe. I appreciate Aunt Ida for doing most of the legwork in developing the original recipe from Big Mama, whomever family she reigned.

Enjoy!

Big Mama’s Creole Meatballs in Red Gravy

Creole Meatballs: 

1 medium piece day-old French bread (about a 3-inch slice)
1/3 cup sweet cream (half-and-half)
5 or 6 fresh pork hot sausage (like DiMaggio’s Spicy Cajun Sausage)
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed oregano
1/2 teaspoon crushed basil
1/2 teaspoon crushed thyme
3 toes of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 pound fresh ground beef hind-end roast (I used a 85/15 ratio ground round)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a small bowl, break the bread into small pieces and add the cream. Let set for an hour.

Remove casing from each of the sausage and cut each into half. Place sausage in the bottom of a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle the parsley, onion, bell pepper and seasonings over the sausage.

Break the ground beef and cover the vegetables. Take the bread, squeezing out just a little of the cream, and place evenly on top of the beef. Top with the Parmesan cheese.

With a heavy metal spoon, gently fold the layers together dipping the spoon from time to time in ice water in keeping the mixture cold. Do not pack mixture down or tighten it up, Aunt Ida states that ‘Big Mama’s balls are loose.’ When fully incorporated, dip your hands in the ice water, dry them off and place a large spoonful (about 1 1/2-inch diameter) in one palm. Tenderly roll into a ball and place on a baking sheet. Repeat keeping hands cold until finished.

Big Mama fried her meatballs, but I chose to bake mine in a preheated 400 degree F. oven for 10 minutes. Remove, and turn meatballs over. Bake another 10 to 15 minutes or until center is done. Remove to drain on paper lined plate.

Add meatballs to the sauce if desired before serving.

Creole Red Gravy:

2 tablespoons lard (Ida used vegetable oil but I use olive oil)
3 or 4 toes of garlic, sliced in half lengthwise
3 bay leaves, divided
1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped bell pepper
4 large Creole tomatoes, diced (or about 7 ripe Roma tomatoes diced or 1 -14.5 oz can petite diced)
2 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped 
Dark Roux or 1 -6 ounce can tomato paste
Hot pepper sauce to taste
1 to 2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic
3 springs spring onions, minced

Heat a stockpot or large oven over medium heat, add olive oil and when hot add the sliced garlic and 2 of the bay leaves. Cook until garlic in brown on both sides stirring all while. Remove garlic and bay leaves from the pot with a slotted spoon. Add the trinity (onion, celery, bell pepper) and sauté over medium-low heat until onion edges start to brown, about 6 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently to caramelize. Add the tomatoes cooking another 2 minutes.

Add the chicken stock or enough to cover tomato mixture by 1/2-inch. Add the remaining bay leaf and the seasonings stirring while bringing mixture to a low boil. Reduce heat to low simmer. Add a dark roux thickener for a brown Creole sauce or the tomato paste for the red sauce pictured here. Cook for about an hour stirring often. Adjust seasonings if needed and add the hot pepper sauce to taste. Bring sauce back to a low simmer. Remove bay leaf and stir in the fresh minced garlic and green onions right before serving.

Serve with pasta, rice and meat dishes.

Big Mama’s Creole Meatballs in Red Gravy

Ida Claire, you still amaze us….

Every time I come across a recipe from our beloved Aunt Ida, I know it is a good one. She has yet to let us down, even though many folks have forgotten of her, bless her heart. So when I came across this recipe a while back found in Aunt Ida’s notes, I knew that if she loved it, we would adore it too.

Now unfortunately, I do not know anyone in our family referred to as Big Mama although there is something familiar about the name in association with my Grandmother Zeigler’s side of the family. As I recall, many times we passed a beautiful, white house out in the country on the way to Sherling’s Lake and it seems that was ‘Big Mama’s house’ or where it once stood, or something another. But Aunt Ida did not know my Grandmother and she was not from my hometown so I know this is not a recipe from rural Alabama and because of the Creole, Italian along with the Southern ingredients, it must be from the Gulf Coast area or from a port city in the south. That would make much more sense in knowing Big Mama was either family or a friend of Aunt Ida.

The recipe dapples far enough into Italian influences to be considered Italian but like so many of my favorite offerings, this recipe has just enough charm of Creole and southern flavorings to make it a classic standard in our house. In fact, this is one I am adopting and will repeat many times. Thank your Aunt Ida and Big Mama who ever you are.

Aunt Ida kept splendid notes and when it came to recipes, she many times offered suggestions as if it was a work in progress, comparing one technique with another in seeing which worked out the best. In the meatball recipe below, she mentions ‘while mixing the meats with the seasonings (and here I know she includes vegetables too) use a cold metal spoon, dipped in ice water and gently fold mixture together.’ She forgos of using her hands as the temperature and pressure will pack down the meat and will make it tough after cooking. Only at the very last of shaping does she roll the meatballs into orbs using her hands and then the hands ‘should be ice cold.’ She also mentions in making the sauce a variation for a brown Creole sauce using a dark roux.

I dunno about you, but I am glad I found this recipe. I appreciate Aunt Ida for doing most of the legwork in developing the original recipe from Big Mama, whomever family she reigned.

Enjoy!

Big Mama’s Creole Meatballs in Red Gravy

Creole Meatballs: 

1 medium piece day-old French bread (about a 3-inch slice)
1/3 cup sweet cream (half-and-half)
5 or 6 fresh pork hot sausage (like DiMaggio’s Spicy Cajun Sausage)
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed oregano
1/2 teaspoon crushed basil
1/2 teaspoon crushed thyme
3 toes of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 pound fresh ground beef hind-end roast (I used a 85/15 ratio ground round)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a small bowl, break the bread into small pieces and add the cream. Let set for an hour.

Remove casing from each of the sausage and cut each into half. Place sausage in the bottom of a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle the parsley, onion, bell pepper and seasonings over the sausage.

Break the ground beef and cover the vegetables. Take the bread, squeezing out just a little of the cream, and place evenly on top of the beef. Top with the Parmesan cheese.

With a heavy metal spoon, gently fold the layers together dipping the spoon from time to time in ice water in keeping the mixture cold. Do not pack mixture down or tighten it up, Aunt Ida states that ‘Big Mama’s balls are loose.’ When fully incorporated, dip your hands in the ice water, dry them off and place a large spoonful (about 1 1/2-inch diameter) in one palm. Tenderly roll into a ball and place on a baking sheet. Repeat keeping hands cold until finished.

Big Mama fried her meatballs, but I chose to bake mine in a preheated 400 degree F. oven for 10 minutes. Remove, and turn meatballs over. Bake another 10 to 15 minutes or until center is done. Remove to drain on paper lined plate.

Add meatballs to the sauce if desired before serving.

Creole Red Gravy:

2 tablespoons lard (Ida used vegetable oil but I use olive oil)
3 or 4 toes of garlic, sliced in half lengthwise
3 bay leaves, divided
1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped bell pepper
4 large Creole tomatoes, diced (or about 7 ripe Roma tomatoes diced or 1 -14.5 oz can petite diced)
2 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped 
Dark Roux or 1 -6 ounce can tomato paste
Hot pepper sauce to taste
1 to 2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic
3 springs spring onions, minced

Heat a stockpot or large oven over medium heat, add olive oil and when hot add the sliced garlic and 2 of the bay leaves. Cook until garlic in brown on both sides stirring all while. Remove garlic and bay leaves from the pot with a slotted spoon. Add the trinity (onion, celery, bell pepper) and sauté over medium-low heat until onion edges start to brown, about 6 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently to caramelize. Add the tomatoes cooking another 2 minutes.

Add the chicken stock or enough to cover tomato mixture by 1/2-inch. Add the remaining bay leaf and the seasonings stirring while bringing mixture to a low boil. Reduce heat to low simmer. Add a dark roux thickener for a brown Creole sauce or the tomato paste for the red sauce pictured here. Cook for about an hour stirring often. Adjust seasonings if needed and add the hot pepper sauce to taste. Bring sauce back to a low simmer. Remove bay leaf and stir in the fresh minced garlic and green onions right before serving.

Serve with pasta, rice and meat dishes.

Toasted Cheese Grits Casserole

half of recipe
When a bowl just isn’t enough…

Sometimes a hearty bowl of grits, as in a simple pot of cooked buttered grits, will go the distance for most morning occasions. Sometimes a handful of cheese melding into the pot will do for many a fine brunch and luncheon events, it will even do just fine for dinner meals. Think shrimp or fish and grits, Creole egg casserole or grillades, all needing a nice creamy bed of cheese grits to rest its merits on. Then there are times when nothing will do but a good casserole of cheese grits, something a bit more heartier, substantial, something with a bit more weight to it.

There are many cheese casseroles featuring grits with all combinations of flavors. Now sometimes, I still want the simple essence of cheese and grits and the flavor of butter. And when I thought of the simplicity of that, I thought of how, many a’ time I have taken my buttered toast and mopped up grits on my plate. So it was only fitting that this recipe came about – think cheese grits on buttered toast. Enjoy!


Toasted Cheese Grits Casserole
about 9 servings

2 slices day-old bread, toasted and dry
4 1/2 cups water
1 cup grits (I prefer white stone ground)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded Jack (or another cheese)
2 garlic toes, minced
2 eggs
2/3 cup milk
1/8 teaspoon paprika
good dash of Tabasco or hot pepper sauce

Grate the dry bread for the crumbs (or use plain breadcrumbs or Panko, but I like the taste of white bread) and set aside.

Cook the grits by bringing the water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat and whisk in the grits and salt. Stir for 1 minute, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 15 to 20 minutes stirring every 5 or so minutes to prevent scorching. Remove from heat and stir in the 1/2 cup butter. Stir in the garlic and the cheese reserving about 2 tablespoons of cheddar for topping.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a small bowl, blend the eggs with the milk and whisk this into the grits. Add the paprika and hot sauce to taste.

Place grits mixture in a 3-quart shallow casserole dish (or in a baking dish not more than 1 1/2 inches in depth) and sprinkle remaining cheese on top.

Bake for 45 minutes.

Remove casserole from oven and cut remaining 2-tablespoons of butter into small cubes and place on top of the grits. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the casserole and return to the oven for another 15 minutes to brown the topping.

Allow casserole to cool about 10 minutes before cutting into squares or spooning onto plates.

Toasted Cheese Grits Casserole

half of recipe
When a bowl just isn’t enough…

Sometimes a hearty bowl of grits, as in a simple pot of cooked buttered grits, will go the distance for most morning occasions. Sometimes a handful of cheese melding into the pot will do for many a fine brunch and luncheon events, it will even do just fine for dinner meals. Think shrimp or fish and grits, Creole egg casserole or grillades, all needing a nice creamy bed of cheese grits to rest its merits on. Then there are times when nothing will do but a good casserole of cheese grits, something a bit more heartier, substantial, something with a bit more weight to it.

There are many cheese casseroles featuring grits with all combinations of flavors. Now sometimes, I still want the simple essence of cheese and grits and the flavor of butter. And when I thought of the simplicity of that, I thought of how, many a’ time I have taken my buttered toast and mopped up grits on my plate. So it was only fitting that this recipe came about – think cheese grits on buttered toast. Enjoy!


Toasted Cheese Grits Casserole
about 9 servings

2 slices day-old bread, toasted and dry
4 1/2 cups water
1 cup grits (I prefer white stone ground)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded Jack (or another cheese)
2 garlic toes, minced
2 eggs
2/3 cup milk
1/8 teaspoon paprika
good dash of Tabasco or hot pepper sauce

Grate the dry bread for the crumbs (or use plain breadcrumbs or Panko, but I like the taste of white bread) and set aside.

Cook the grits by bringing the water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat and whisk in the grits and salt. Stir for 1 minute, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 15 to 20 minutes stirring every 5 or so minutes to prevent scorching. Remove from heat and stir in the 1/2 cup butter. Stir in the garlic and the cheese reserving about 2 tablespoons of cheddar for topping.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a small bowl, blend the eggs with the milk and whisk this into the grits. Add the paprika and hot sauce to taste.

Place grits mixture in a 3-quart shallow casserole dish (or in a baking dish not more than 1 1/2 inches in depth) and sprinkle remaining cheese on top.

Bake for 45 minutes.

Remove casserole from oven and cut remaining 2-tablespoons of butter into small cubes and place on top of the grits. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the casserole and return to the oven for another 15 minutes to brown the topping.

Allow casserole to cool about 10 minutes before cutting into squares or spooning onto plates.

Blueberry Muffins with Crumble Topping

Blue is good

I can always tell when blueberries are peaking around the county, our good neighbor heads out early morn to go apickin'. Lucky for us, she always brings us back a nice batch from the patch.

Since my sister and bro-in-law are visiting, I whipped these up this morning to greet them with morning coffee. Hope you give them a try. Enjoy!

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