Herb-Roasted Rutabagas

This simple recipe is a wonderful alternative to the usual mashed swedes with enough butter to gag Paula you’ll find on a lot of cool-weather tables.

One large rutabaga, peeled and cubed into more or less bite-sized pieces, will serve four people easily. Coat the pieces in oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper and granulated garlic, and bake them at 350 in a well-oiled pan, tossing or turning occasionally to brown evenly.

When they’re just tende, dust with dried herbs—sage, rosemary, marjoram, basil, rosemary, or a combination—and continue tossing and turning on heat until done through.

These are even more delicious the day after.

Orange Spice Cake

Cream 2 cups sugar with 2 sticks softened butter until light and fluffy. Beating well, add 5 eggs one at a time. Sift 3 cups plain flour with a teaspoon each of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground cloves. Add to butter with a cup of milk, a half cup of orange juice concentrate, and a teaspoon of vanilla extract . Mix thoroughly, pour into an oiled and papered  9″ loaf pan, and bake at medium high (375) until toothpick dry. Slice, toast, and drizzle with honey.

Warehouse Buttermilk Spread

At the Warehouse in Oxford, we had this prep guy who was from the outlaw boonies way out toward Tula; total stoner with a hot car and a girlfriend with a great rack and a space between her teeth. He used to sell homegrown in the parking lot.

He mopped the floor, proofed the bread, switched out the soda canisters, and made a whipped spread with buttermilk and margarine. I loved watching him do it. He’d crank up our big-ass Hobart with a perforated blade the size of a hubcap and start throwing one-pound blocks of margarine straight out of the cooler into the barrel-size bowl. The chunks made a whomp-bump racket until they began to soften. Then he’d start pouring in buttermilk, and the noise became a sliding hiss as the margarine and milk began to meld. The final product was a creamy, fluffy, flavorful spread the waiters served with warm loaves of bread on cute little wooden paddles.

We used margarine and low fat buttermilk for economy, but butter and whole milk buttermilk are worth the expense. Set your mixer on low speed; use the whip attachment. Begin adding softened butter one stick at a time. After the second stick is creamy, slowly begin adding buttermilk in a dribble. You should be able to incorporate about a little over a half cup of buttermilk to a pound of butter. As the mixture begins to meld, put your mixer on high and toss in about a teaspoon of salt.  Whip until nice and fluffy. Refrigerate immediately.

It Just Stuck

The Atkinson Candy Company was founded in the east Texas town of Lufkin by B.E. Atkinson, Sr., and his wife, Mabel in the desperate days of 1932, when it was getting hard for anybody to make a living.

The company currently operates out of a 100,000 square feet facility and is led by siblings Eric and Amy Atkinson, grandchildren of the founders. The company specializes in peanut butter and peppermint-flavored candies; the current product line includes Coconut Long Boys, Gemstone Candies, Black Cow, Slo Poke, and Chick-O-Stick.

Chick-O-Stick is a round bar dusted with ground coconut, the interior honeycombed with peanut butter and the orange hardened syrup/sugar mixture that also forms the shell. When eaten fresh, the candy is dry and brittle, but it has a tendency to draw moisture and become hard and chewy on the shelf. Chick-O-Stick is available in 0.36-ounce (10 g), 0.70-ounce (20 g), 1.0-ounce (28 g), and 2.0-ounce (57 g) sizes, as well as bags of individually wrapped bite-sized pieces.

The original wrapper featured a stylized cartoon of a chicken wearing a cowboy hat and a badge in the shape of the Atkinson logo. The chicken is absent from the more recent wrapper, since it understandably created some confusion over whether Chick-O-Stick was candy or a chicken-flavored cracker.

One of their sales guys just “came up with the name one day, and well, it just stuck.”

Linda’s Potato Soup

Here’s a recipe from Linda Bolton who for many years ran the Good Food Store when it was on Jackson Avenue in Oxford.

Back when I was writing a food column for The Oxford Times, I published a really basic potato soup recipe, and at happy hour the next day as I was headed for the Rose,  Linda stuck her head out of the store and yelled across the street at me: “Come here and let me tell you what all you left out of your `tater soup recipe, Yancy!” So I damn sure did, and here’s the modified recipe:

For each serving (@ a cup and a half), take a large starchy potato, wash, peel and dice, making sure to take out all discolorations. Boil in enough water to cover, adding a vegetable bouillon cube. When almost tender through, reduce heat, sauté for each of two servings one small white onion and two cloves of garlic, both finely minced, in about two tablespoons sweet butter.

To this, add liquid from the potatoes and low boil until onions have broken down. Pour this mixture back on the potatoes, simmer and stir until the soup has a creamy, chunky consistency. Season with crushed dill seed, just a little bit of dried rosemary, and black pepper before salting to taste.

You can add a little heavy cream and another tablespoon of butter to make a more substantial soup, in which case you might also want to add a little grated hard cheese. Good hot or cold.

Odom’s Redfish on the Half Shell

It’s hard to imagine the redfish that currently swim in bountiful numbers among our coastal waters going the way of the dodo and the mastodon, but it almost did, and it wasn’t seafaring Neanderthals with primitive Shimanos that nearly caused their extinction.

It was Paul Prudhomme.

Prudhomme created a recipe that was so obnoxious and novel with over-the-top flavors and clouds of noxious smoke that it had to be cooked outside. But for all that, blackened redfish became so popular that redfish was actually threatened with extinction, and the federal government was forced to step in and invoke catch limits before we could make a salad to accompany the very last of its kind.

But be at ease. This prized game fish is back and has been back. In fact, the local anglers in Destin, Florida call the huge “bull reds” a nuisance fish. I myself saw tens of thousands of them attacking bait fish in one football field-sized school near Ship Island, off the coast of Mississippi .

Folks who don’t saltwater fish only assume that an angler like me would surely target a redfish to throw on ice, but to their dismay I tell them I don’t fish them intentionally for the table. There are a couple good reasons for this: when you clean a redfish, the filet yield seems oddly low for such a large fish to be culled, and secondly it’s about as easy to clean a redfish as it is to filet an armadillo.

But as all starving anglers do we develop a plan: Instead of filleting the meat clean off the fish why don’t we just cut off one side of the red’s body, lay it scales down over a charcoal grill, drench the meat side with garlic butter and slam the lid till it’s done?

This technique accomplishes a couple of things and one by default. First, it ensures all the fresh fish meat is fully eaten. Secondly, you don’t wind up in the ER getting stitches fooling around trying to fillet an armadillo and by default this recipe is far more delicious than blackened redfish simply because it’s about the fresh fish and not spices.

The dicta of “Gulf to ice to knife to fire to plate” for this recipe in particular has anxious dinner guests staring in amazement at the cooking process. Redfish on the half shell, as this technique is called, is  the best way in my opinion to pay homage to this beautiful bronze resident in our coastal waters. Next time you have a chance to eat fresh redfish, try this particular preparation.

Heat your gas grill or charcoal grill to a medium high heat. In a saucepan heat a stick of butter, juice of a lemon, minced garlic and Tony Chachere’s to taste for a drenching baste.

Grease the grill a bit; lay on the redfish halves scales down and apply your drench liberally. Close the lid, but reapply the drench a couple of times in the cooking process. Remove when the meat is firm to the touch, add more fresh lemon and serve immediately.

David and Kim Odom are anglers par excellance along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Tía Jesé’s Chicken Enchiladas

Poach boneless breasts of chicken in lightly salted water until tender. Shred, mince, and add to each pound of meat a four-oz. can chopped chilies (with liquid), juice of one lime, and enough sour cream to bind. You can add grated jack cheese if you like. Season with equal parts cumin, chili powder, and granulated garlic. Salt to taste. Roll in warm tortillas brushed with corn oil. Top with a rich queso.

From Frontier Capital to Modern City: A History of Jackson, Mississippi 1865-1950

“When were Jackson’s historic neighborhoods developed?” “How did the city grow during different historic periods?” “What did Jackson look like as it evolved from the nineteenth to the twentieth century?”

The answers to these and thousands of other questions are found here, in From Frontier Capital to Modern City: A History of Jackson, Mississippi’s 1 Built Environment, 1865-1950. While the document is not dated, it was likely published sometime in 2000.

This project must have taken several years, drawing upon the resources of the Mississippi State Archives, Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH); the Records Management Division of the City of Jackson; and private collections of photographs from local citizens.

A key player in this effort was Helene Ascher Rotwein—whose job in Jackson’s Department of Planning and Development was no doubt instrumental—and other members of the LeFleur’s Bluff Historic Foundation.

Though there is no index, the table of contents is incredibly detailed, as are the references cited, and the voluminous footnotes are incredibly precise. Click on the map below to access the work.

Pickled Mushrooms

This recipe is recipe from an old friend of mine who ran a catering business in Oxford. He looked like a red-headed Rick Astley; only person I ever knew who used a cigarette holder, and of course he smoked Salem 100s menthol.

Sauté in olive oil 1 pound of mushrooms, sliced or cut in quarters, with 1 large red pepper, cut into strips, one a large red onion, sliced, and 3 cloves garlic, minced. Cool, add balsamic vinegar, thyme, and fresh ground pepper. Salt to taste. Refrigerate before serving.

Chocolate Gravy

Mamaw Onsby lived in a small two-room house set back from ours under a huge white oak with thick knotted roots that gripped the earth like the toes of Antaeus. She had come to live there after her husband of sixty-odd years had died, and she was perfectly content, rarely coming to our house to visit, usually sitting at home listening to the radio and reading her Bible. Daddy tried to put an air conditioner in her window, but she wouldn’t have it.

She was a tiny old woman, not much taller than I was at 11 when she died, and like many women of her generation who considered smoking unladylike, Mamaw dipped snuff (Garrett) and would make snuff out of cocoa and sugar for us to dip with twigs from the big black gum tree that grew near the road.

Her home was an early destination for me and her other great-grandchildren because she would make biscuits every morning, big, fat cat-head biscuits that she baked in an antediluvian skillet. Mamaw usually made sawmill gravy to go with the biscuits, but my brother Tom always asked her to make chocolate gravy. She’d look at him and say, “Oh, this thickenin’ gravy ain’t good enough for you, is it?”

My brotherTom, little devil he was, would say “NO!” as loud as he could, and Mamaw, with a mumble about him being “just like a damned Onsby” would make chocolate gravy. The rest of us to be polite always had a biscuit with regular gravy, but she made us have another with chocolate “so it won’t be wasted”. It never was.

Heat two cups whole milk with a pat of butter; mix very well three tablespoons cocoa, two tablespoons plain flour, three quarters of a cup of sugar, add to warm milk with a whisk, stirring vigorously to prevent lumping. Heat until gravy thickens. Some people add vanilla to this, but for the life of me, I don’t know why.