Nutcracker Sweet

Baking and cooking from scratch forces you to slow down.  To put out a successful product, you need to take a breath, be in the moment, and pay attention.  

I know I bang it like a drum every single year, but during the holidays we do need to step back, slow down, regain our composure, and be deliberate in our actions and interactions.

Maybe me, more than any of you, Gentle Reader.

This week, I had a plan.  This would be the week that I shared the annual Christmas cookie recipe.  I was on top of my business.  I was a holiday role model.

Eagle-eyed readers, or indeed anyone with a memory just a tad longer than a hummingbird may have noticed a little flaw in my big plan.

Because, my cookie column ran a few weeks ago.  A.FEW.WEEKS.AGO.

So, this week I offer a totally scratch made pie.  With four components that aren’t dificult, but to be successful, you must be present in your own mind and kitchen.

As for me?

I’ll be busy checking to make sure I paid the light and cable bills.

Thanks for your time, and have the happiest of holidays.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.

Pecan Caramel Apple Tart

Crust

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup plus ½ of 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

¾ cup roasted pecans

¾ cup (1 & ½ sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425°.

Mix flour, sugar, and pecans  in food processor until pecans are finely ground. Add butter. Cut in with short pulses until mixture forms clumps.

Prepare 9-inch tart pan by lightly spraying with cooking oil spray. Press dough onto bottom and up sides of pan. Pierce crust all over with fork. Freeze 15 minutes.

Bake crust at 425°(400° if using dark colored or non-stick pan) until golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Transfer crust (leave in tin) to rack and let cool. When crust has cooled, fill.

Apple Filling

¾ cup gran. sugar

¾ tsp. ground cinnamon

12 gratings of nutmeg

½ tsp. salt

4 pounds apples, cored, peeled and sliced

4 Tbs. butter

2 Tbs. cornstarch

2 Tbs. brandy

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup water

Mix sugar, cinnamon, and salt, and nutmeg.  Toss with apples. 

Heat butter in skillet until browned. Add apples, cover and cook until apples soften and release juices.  Uncover and continue to cook until pan is almost dry and fruit’s browned around the edges. 

Meanwhile, whisk liquids and cornstarch together and stir into apple mixture and bring to boil. Remove from heat.  When completely cool, pour into crust.

Caramel Topping

¼ cup milk

12 Kraft caramels

¼ cup chopped toasted pecans

1 teaspoon flaky salt

Combine milk and caramels and heat in microwave until caramels melt, then let cool.  Drizzle cooled caramel mixture over apple filling and top with toasted pecans.  Sprinkle top with sea salt

Cream topping

8 ounces cream cheese , room temperature 

½ cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract  

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt  

2 cups heavy cream  

WHIPPED CREAM: Place cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Whisk at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula as needed. Reduce speed to low and add heavy cream in slow, steady stream; when almost fully combined, increase speed to medium-high and beat until mixture holds stiff peaks, 2 to 2 ½ minutes more, scraping bowl as needed (you should have about 4 ½ cups).

Pipe on top in decorative manner.  Refrigerate for 2 hours before service, and keep refrigerated.  Pop out of tin and place on cake plate for service.

Serves 8-10.

A Modest Proposal

Hi everyone,

I just this minute made a decision.

While the incomprehensible beliefs and opinions of the “Other Side” confuse, sadden, and infuriate me, for the next week, I’m going to be the girl from the snowman movie, and ‘Let It Go’–all of it.

I am forward-facing with love and patience. We are all much more alike than not alike, and that’s what I’m focusing on this week. Everybody loves someone and wants good things for the world.

Please let’s remember this, and just for the next week, let there be peace on earth, and let it begin; right here, right now, with me.

Let the children in the halls of government and the toddlers in media who make money from strife do their thing. But let us remember we all belong to the family of man, and please, let’s act like it.

Merry Christmas, Gentle Reader, and joy to the world!

Now, excuse me, I’ve got some baking to do!

And yes, I am in fact, wearing antlers for our 45th annual Cookie Day

From Brussels, With Love

There is a musical instrument called, literally, jingle bells.  It’s a short, thick wooden baton, upon which are fastened bells, each around the size of a kumquat.   This time of year, it’s one of the most overworked instruments.

The name though is kind of weird.  “Jingle” bells—bells jingle, that’s their sound.  That’s like having a toot horn, a pound drum, or a strum guitar.

But nobody asked me, so…

I bring up this onomatopoeia-nstrument, not because of the season, or even the music it makes, but its appearance. 

As you may have guessed from the title, this week’s food is Brussel’s sprouts.  Many people have only seen them as loose little cabbages in a bag or the produce bin.  But, they are sometimes sold on the stalk, which keeps them fresher longer.

On the stalk, Brussels sprouts look exactly like jingle bells, only Brussels sprout-colored.

I love them.  I love them so much, I still love them when they’re overcooked and “aromatic”.  The aroma, mushy texture, and extra bitterness that overcooking imparts is the main reason these poor, maligned veggies are so disliked by so many people.

If you’re not a fan, Gentle Reader, this week I’d like to give you a few reasons to try them one more time.

When you get them home from the store, that’s a good time to prep them.  Then when you want to cook them, almost all of your work is done. 

First, though, how does one pick out good sprouts?

Their color should range from sage green to white.  They should be tight, and neither wilted nor slimy.  The cut end should not have any dark dots.  The leaves should be tight, and they should feel solid in the hand.

So, run out to the store, and pick out a couple pounds of beautiful sprouts. 

Go ahead, I’ll wait…

Brussels Sprouts Prep Procedure

Start by rinsing off each sprout, then cutting off the bottom, and peeling any leaves that are no longer attached.  If you plan on cooking them whole, You’re ready.  But I always cut them in half vertically, so the cut side can get some nice browning.

Then get a very heavily salted pot of water on to boil.  Also, prepare a large bowl of salted ice water.  We’re going to blanch them (quickly boil) and shock (instantly stop the cooking, cool them, and set the color).

When the water boils, put in the sprouts and cook until the color brightens, and you can just start to smell a vegetal aroma (3-5 minutes).  Remove with a slotted spoon and place in ice water until they are cool through, then drain well.

Either go to the next step of cooking, or store in a zip-top bag in fridge for 3 days or freeze for a month. 

There is a third option; slice or shred the veg.  You can do this quickly and easily with the cutting disk on a food processor.  You can also use a mandolin or a very sharp knife.  You can then cook them without blanching and shocking.

Braised and Caramelized Brussel Sprouts

1 ½ pounds cleaned sprouts

1/3 cup white wine

1/3 cup water

4 tablespoons butter, divided

Salt & pepper

Place veg, wine, water, 3 tablespoons butter and a pinch each of salt and pepper into skillet.  Cover and cook on medium until sprouts are tender, but not mushy (6-8 minutes).

Uncover and cook until liquid’s cooked out and sprouts are starting to color.  Flip and let other side brown.

Stir in the other tablespoon of butter to pick up any browning on skillet and give Brussel Sprouts a nice, buttery gloss.  Check for seasoning.

Serves 6-ish.

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.

The Second Annual Indy Week Virtual Holiday Potluck

The Potluck is in this week’s Indy!

We’ve got most of last year’s participants and some new ones, including comic actress and arts and crafts goddess, Amy Sedaris. Each recipe shared is included, and Durham Distillery invented two cocktails for us, one is take on a martini using their Conniption Gin, and a sweet creamy punch using their chocolate and coffee Damn Fine Liqueurs.

This project was tons of fun, and I hope you enjoy the results. Plus the Indy called it “a Tradition”, so you know what that means…

Thanks for your time.

Never

“Never say never.”—incomplete sentence.

It should be, “Never say never say never.”

I know life is a funny thing and you don’t know what’s just around the next corner.  I’m the poster child for that statement.  I mean, look at me; last week I had a phone interview with a famous successful fashion designer and this week I’ll be speaking with a comic who’s had multiple TV series.  I am both massively grateful and completely thunderstruck over what my life has morphed into.

But.

But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t things that I am sure will never happen to me, by me, or with me.  Because, while my life astonishes me, I am not a stranger here.  I know that some things just ain’t gonna happen.

Never will I be the first person to walk on the moon.  It’s already been done, so unless I have some Doctor Who-level technology, nobody at NASA need worry about what size space diaper I take.

I will never circumnavigate the globe on foot and bike and rowboat.  I’m not a complete couch potato, I walk at least fifteen miles a week with my pooch.  But Nellie Bly-ing is way too sweaty and blistery for me.  Besides, I’m not sure there’s a clear path all the way ‘round where an American passport is accepted anymore…

On a smaller scale, I will never do a cartwheel.  I have been trying since I was eight years old.  If it hasn’t happened yet, I can say it will never happen.  I recently gave up trying, when the fear of breaking a hip and emergency room co-pays overcame my optimism and ambition.

I will never be able to reproduce either my mother’s macaroni and cheese, nor her Christmas cookies.  Her mac is perfect—neither too wet or too dry.  The cheddar to the Velveeta ratio is smooth yet just a little sharp.  It’s perfect for eating straight from the fridge in the middle of the night in your nightgown.

But I can’t.  Don’t know why; just can’t.

Her Christmas cookies; I’ve spoken about them before.  Other people can, that’s why I share the recipe every year, but I can’t.  The procedure is some weird biscuit type deal that I can’t figure out, and the secret ingredient is either crack or fairy dust, to which I don’t have access.  So, if she keeps baking them, I’ll keep frosting them, and when she looks away, eating them.

I will never compete on Dancing with the Stars.  First, the prospect of me being famous is slim verging on impossible.  Secondly, even with months of practice, a world-class partner/teacher, and a touch of CGI, I can’t dance.  My hips are less slinky and more erector set.  Honest, nobody wants to see that.

I will never buy a paradox-mobile.  The 2020 Cadilac Escalade Platinum costs $95,000.  That amount of cash would have purchased 190 of my first car, Lancelot.  Luxury SUV is the very definition of paradox.  Nope.  Also, humvees.  I’m running to Costco, not storming the beaches of Normandy.  Nobody needs a ginormous, gas-guzzling, troop transport vehicle.  When I see them on the road, they usually have only one very self-satisfied occupant.

I still have never owned a cell phone (And every day I’m hearing the “cell” part less.  To anybody under the age of 25, it is the phone.  They’ve never had any other kind).  But there will, I am sure, come a day when I will be forced, by the government/big tech global conspiracy to obtain one.

But if you ever see me take a selfie of myself, just bury me, ‘cause I’m already dead.

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.

To Be, Or Not To Be Sweet

My very good friend, and former boss, Bosco once asked me something hilarious.

“Debbie, do you say every thought that pops into your head?”

Oh, Bosco.  Oh, honey.

I only say about 20% of what’s in my melon.  If I said everything that occurred to me, a few things would happen.  I would never, and I mean never shut up.  I’d have no friends, and I’d be locked up—either padded cell, or gray bar hotel.

But most of the thoughts to which I give voice are of the positive persuasion.  I’ll tell the lady at the gas station I like her shoes, the kid bagging my groceries he has pretty eyes, and the little guy carrying a bag for his mom that he is a helpful, strong little man.

But for the most part, I’m much more reticent when it comes to the negative thoughts toward my fellow man. 

The self-censoring comes from my childhood. 

Although she’s gotten over it (Hoo boy, has she gotten over it), my mom was raised as a nice Catholic girl in the Ozzie and Harriet fifties.  Act like a lady was drilled into every girl child from birth.

Having a dad in the military was part of it.  It was impressed upon me every time I left the house I represented not only our family but the Coast Guard and the entire United States.  How we acted reflected on Uncle Sam, Smokey the Bear, the Partridge Family and Dick Tracy.

And being raised in the South has a lasting impact on a young woman.

Be sweet.

It’s an IV attached to every little girl, feeding a constant stream of expectations, prohibitions, and assumptions.  “Mind your manners.”  “Don’t be loud, or messy, or bossy, or rough.”  After a while, that kind of stuff becomes part of one’s very marrow.  Like it or not, admit it or not, most women live their lives with an internal hall monitor passing judgment on everything we say and do.

It’s why, when someone obviously doesn’t spare a thought for my feelings I’m stressing out to protect theirs.

But you know what?

I’m not looking for a job, a date, or the approval of others (the last one is the toughest for me). 

So, there are times when I don’t give a fig about being polite.  And I’m not gonna—not anymore.

When someone decides that because of their fellow human’s plumbing, or color, or accent, or who they love, or how they dress, or bank account, that that person is “other”, and less than.  As in less deserving of basic humanity, or kindness, or civil rights, or a voice, or even the right to want those things.

When someone decides that their story, or history, or feelings are paramount, and others need to get over themselves, grow up, and grow a sense of humor.

When someone decides that when others stand up for themselves it’s an attack on them, and emblematic of the war against them and all good decent people; that the very rights of others marginalize them and threaten everything they stand for.

If you steal my parking spot, or the last sample at Costco, or fail to thank me if I hold the door for you, I’ll probably give you a low key dirty look, but keep my thoughts to myself.    

But, from now on, when I see someone being cruel or hateful, or when someone is navigating their lives with a complete lack of compassion, and a proud absence of empathy, I will call it out. 

From this day forward, I refuse to ‘be sweet’. 

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom

Fair and Open Competition

So let me ask you, Gentle Reader, does a second helping count as seperate item?

‘Cause if it does, I blew it today.

I think people on other planets are aware that I love, love, love the State Fair.  In the middle of August when I am so over the summer I could swoon or go on a heat-induced rampage, the only thing that keeps me going is the thought that every day is one day closer to the State Fair.

Honestly, there are people walking around not dead because I didn’t want to be on a chain gang during the fair.

For a long time, there was one part of the fair that I couldn’t be a part of; the media preview luncheon.  I’d turn on the news a few days before the fair opened, and happy journalists would wax rhapsodic about all the crazy, wonderful fair food they’d sampled.

 It made me so jealous.  It felt like not only could I not sit at the cool kid’s table, I couldn’t even get into the cafeteria. 

Then I started writing about food and one day, I received an invitation to the lunch.  It was like the opposite of getting a draft notice.  I was over the moon. 

It was a ridiculous, gluttonous dream come true.

Today was the fair preview luncheon for the 2019 North Carolina State Fair—and we got to ride the new mountain-sized Sky Gazer Ferris wheel.

View from the Sky Gazer.
The fairground view from the Sky Gazer.

There were almost thirty new foods for sampling.  I wanted to try every single treat and report back, there was a lot of food.  So, I had at least a few bites of almost all of them, and for the first time, gave myself permission to finish my three favorites.  I’ll start my roundup with those.

The tray, from top left and going clock-wise: The JoCo HoHo from Fat Boys BBQ,
 La Farm’s house-made S’more, the fried Rum Runners from Gobblin’ Gourmet, La Farm’s Stuffed Cubano Baguette, the fried garlic cheese curds from The Cheese Curd Shack, 
The
F&W Concessions Reese’s Doughnut , Korean BBQ Pork Belly Egg roll from 
Woody’s Wing Wagon,
 then a fish sandwich, Party Under the Sea from Party in a Pita.  In the center is the Dole Whip from Tropical Delights.

The first item was a complete surprise; it was the fried Rum Runners from the Gobblin’ Gourmet.  It was like a boozy brown sugar pound cake had been made into cake balls, battered and fried.

I sat there and ate the entire thing.  It was delicious, different, and not as in-your-face-fried-fair-food as many of the others.  They’ll also be serving chicken corn fritters which I’m really eager to try.

The second item I polished off was La Farm’s scratch-made s’mores.  Every component is handcrafted by Chef Lionel and make me, somebody who is at best unenthusiastic about s’mores demolish one in three wolverine-like bites.  The man’s wizard and every year creates a delicious, buzzy treat.  His new offering this year is a Cuban sandwich baked into one of his classic baguettes.  Brilliant and crazy tasty.

The Cubano.

Number three is the one I had seconds on.  I’m not alone in my adoration, as today’s attendees named it best new fair food.  It was delicious resplendent, and probably the healthiest food you’ll find on the midway.  It’s a treat found in every Disney park,

It’s Dole Whip (From Tropical Delights).

Winners with Dole Whip, Tropical Delights.

For the uninitiated, it’s soft-serve pineapple sorbet, if pineapple sorbet was made by angels who love you.  I could eat a gallon of this stuff and look for more.  I cannot recommend it strongly enough. 

This win was the first-ever for a sweet treat.  But I was not even a little surprised it won, because as The Kid said, “It’s Dole Whip”.

Some of the other favorites were the jerk chicken rice bowl from Cool Runnings Jamaican, the deep-fried garlic cheese curds from the Cheese Curd Shack, and the Crack-n-Cheese® stuffed turkey leg from Hickory Tree BBQ.

Summer’s over, the fair’s in town, and there’s Dole Whip.  Really, what more could a girl ask?

I’ll see you at the fair.  WooHoo!

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.

Three Recipes Within the Visual

Last month I made a jar of root beer jelly.

Nobody but me’s ever going in the fridge to look for it.  And unless my pooch Crowley grows thumbs, nobody else in this family will ever open the jar to eat it (bless their taste-deficient hearts).  But after I poured it into a jar, I decided it needed a label.

I have this giant, black hole of a junk drawer that I toss stuff into.  I don’t think I’ve actually gone all the way through it, ever.  So, I went mining for labels.

And, I found them—at the bottom.  Along the way, I found at least a hundred photos from the mists of time.  And while looking through them, I found three very beloved recipes that I had made peace with never seeing again.

The first recipe is for the best apple fritters I’ve ever eaten.  I thought I had recreated the recipe, and even shared it in an earlier column.  But it wasn’t even close. 

Mrs. Oldham’s Apple Fritters

2 cups Bisquick

1 large egg

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ cup sugar

Approximately ½ cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon cinnamon

15 gratings of nutmeg

1 large peeled and chopped apple

Oil for frying

Glaze:

Whisk together 3 cups powdered sugar, 3-4 tablespoons milk, and a pinch of salt until smooth.

Stir together first nine ingredients, holding back some milk.  The dough should be the consistency of hush puppy dough.  Add more milk as needed, without overbeating.  Fold in apples. 

Let sit while you heat about 3 inches of vegetable oil in large heavy pot until it’s 350 degrees.  Using cookie scoop, drop generous tablespoons into heated oil (no more than six at a time), and cook for 2-3 minutes, turning occasionally until browned on all sides.

Remove with slotted spoon, and once it’s stopped sizzling, drizzle glaze over fritter.  Makes about 2 dozen.

The next recipe is for a crockpot tamale dip.  It’s from Loretta Jolly, via an Albemarle Hospital co-worker.  It’s a make-and-forget game-day superstar.

Chili Cheese Dip

1 pound Velveeta cheese

1-14 ounce can Armour Chili (no beans)

1-15 ounce can Hormel beef tamales

1 medium yellow onion, minced

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon hot sauce

Throw everything into a crockpot, turn it on and bring to slow simmer.  Serve in the crockpot set to low. For service, top with shredded cheese, cover and let melt on top.

The last recipe is from family friend, Mama Cat.  She received it from her friend and fellow Coast Guard wife, Pat Csintayn.

Seafood Casserole

1 lb crab meat

1 lb cooked shrimp

1 small can mushrooms, drained

½ small green pepper, minced

½ cup minced onion

1 cup minced celery

1-6 oz box Uncle Ben’s long grain and wild rice

1 cup mayonnaise

1 cup milk

½ teaspoon each, salt & pepper

Dash of Worcestershire sauce

Cook rice, add first seven ingredients.

In separate bowl, mix mayo, salt & pepper, milk, and Worcestershire.  Add to rice mixture.

Pour into buttered 2-quart casserole dish and sprinkle with bread crumbs.

Bake at 375 for 30 minutes.  Serves 6-8, depending on course and side dishes.

These recipes, along with some from my mom, made up the foundation of my first adulting cooking repertoire.  They’re simple and easy, but each makes an impact.

But, these dishes still hold up.  Add a fresh baguette and a simple salad, and this could be a kind of training-wheels dinner party.  Who doesn’t love a fresh apple fritter?

Or, singly, each could be a welcome respite from the familiar family food playbook.  Hunger may season all dishes, but surprise gets them to the table quicker. 

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.

Be That Rainbow, Y’all

Don’t tell my mother. 

She’d have apoplexy if she knew.  When I take my dog Crowley for a walk, we usually take a route which crosses a six-lane road.  On our morning walks, it’s quiet, with mainly UPS trucks (which for some reason Crowley loathes), service vehicles, and the odd personal car or truck.

But in the evening, it’s another story.  Car after truck after car, all filled with tired people who just want to be home and take off their shoes and/or bras.  The traffic is thick and fast.  Normally, we don’t even attempt it between 4 and 6:30.

The other day, we got to the crosswalk at around 7:00, which is normally pretty quiet.  But it was Friday night and it was really busy.  Crowley and I stood there for what seemed like hours; every time the traffic one direction cleared cars would appear from the other direction.

It was hot and I was just about to abandon the plan and go home when a car did something that in almost three years of our treks, has only happened three or four times—it stopped for us.  Not only did he stop for us; there were three cars behind him.  So, all those guys had to stop as well.

There were a couple of cars coming from the other direction, so I still had to wait to cross.  But that first guy held his ground and waited too. 

While we waited, I did the little “Thank you” pantomime dance with the nod, the wave, and the mouthing of the wildly exaggerated “TTHHAANNKKK YYYOOOUU”.  When we finally crossed, I waved and thanked again.

When he finally started forward, he yelled at me, “You’re welcome!  And I like your dog!”.

Then the rest of the cars drove past.  I was a little worried I might hear some rude language.   But each of them honked and waved, as I hyper-thanked them all in turn.

If you get to be my age, and there aren’t a few worries rattling around in your head like b-b’s in a Pringles can, then you aren’t paying attention. 

I worry about Petey and The Kid, about the health of my parents, about money and about politics.  I also wonder when the authorities will show up and tell me it’s all been a huge mistake, they’ve realized I’m a horrible writer, and under penalty of the law nobody will ever print another word I write.  And I’m not allowed to have a blog or even write a shopping list.

I took this photo in the woods behind my house.

Walking usually lightens my mood, but winter walking is better because it’s cool, and we walk in the woods.  Walking in five-thousand-degree heat isn’t quite as restorative.

But, it’s usually ok.

After I crossed the street, my mood was stratospheric.  For a split second, I wondered why I was practically euphoric.  Then I understood.

The crosswalk.

Five random strangers with unknown motivations and destinations, strangers whose faces nor cars I remember.  Strangers that I could pass on the street multiple times and never recognize.

The goofy dog in question.

We five strangers, and one goofy dog—we had a moment.  An authentic moment of the purest of goodwill.  We’d all put aside whatever aggravations and calamities we’d been carrying and with no conversation, mutually decided to experience this tiny episode with nothing but pleasure.

When I think about that moment, I feel a little nugget of happiness.  And I’d bet the first slice of my next birthday cake that our entire ephemeral brotherhood does as well.

Maya Angelou said, “Each one of us has the chance to be a rainbow in somebody’s cloud.”

And so, I strongly urge, and with the greatest of enthusiasm, be that rainbow, y’all.

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.

Flipping Out

This week is the second “Local Dish” recipe that I got to help prep and then watch its filming for airing on WRAL noon news. 

Each Friday afternoon, a segment highlighting North Carolina products in the creation of a dish hosted by Lisa Prince and Brian Shrader is shown.  I got to tag along as Lisa and her sister Michele shopped for ingredients at the Raleigh State farmers market, then assist in prepping the recipes.  On the third and final day I hung out while a station photog, Mark taped the duo cook the dishes.

This recipe, Roasted Tomato Upside Down Cornbread was a winner for the House Autry contest at last year’s NC State Fair.  The fair is held in October, and this timing gave Lisa Prince a bit of a curve ball as she was preparing the recipe for TV.

At the farmers market, we chose beautiful, ripe, and juicy summer heirloom tomatoes.  Unfortunately, when cooking, that juice was too juicy, and initially resulted in a wet finished product.

When the dish was invented, it was fall.  There’s a reason why folks don’t get worked up about autumn tomato sandwiches; they aren’t the same succulent gifts of the summer months.  So, the initial roasting dries and sweetens the fall tomatoes the perfect amount for the finished cornbread.

That doesn’t mean you can’t make it in the summer, you just have to take two tiny extra steps along the way.

Roasted Tomato Upside Down Cornbread

1 ½ Tbsp. olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. Italian seasoning

Salt & pepper

4 – 5 medium tomatoes, sliced 1/2 inch thick

2 eggs, beaten

¾ cup ricotta cheese

½ cup milk

1 box House-Autry Stone Ground Buttermilk Cornbread Baking Mix

1/3 cup grated Parmesan

1 tsp. dried oregano leaves

½ tsp. dried basil

1 Tbsp. fresh minced basil

Preheat the oven to 425.

In a small bowl, mix together olive oil, garlic, Italian seasoning, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Heat the olive oil mixture in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Arrange tomato slices in an overlapping circular pattern in skillet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the skillet in preheated oven for 25 minutes.

In the meantime, in a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, ricotta cheese, and milk, then stir in cornbread mix, Parmesan, dried oregano and dried basil until just combined.

Take the skillet out of the oven and spread the batter carefully over the tomatoes. Bake at 425° for 12 – 14 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Rest in pan for 5 minutes then invert onto a serving platter. Sprinkle fresh basil over the top and serve.

Lisa’s Notes: Julia Truelove took home first place with this award-winning cornbread at the 2018 NC State Fair. If using summer tomatoes that are juicy, be sure to remove as much juice as possible after roasting before adding the cornbread mixture.

Debbie’s extra notes: I would also salt the freshly sliced tomatoes and after letting them sit for 15-20 minutes, blot away the surface moisture with a paper towel before layering into the skillet.

 As pretty and delicious as the cornbread is, the recipe gives you one more gift.  The opportunity for a little excitement. 

It’s the flippening. 

The skillet is hot and heavy, and there’s always the possibility that the cornbread will stick, and not come out cleanly. 

But, be brave and soldier on, you can do this.  I have complete faith in you.  And imagine what a culinary hero you’ll look to you family and guests.  Go, you!

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.