Somehow, we earned the corn dog nickname. There are so many other things we creatively devious LSU fans could have been called, so many other foods we’re obsessed with and probably smell like…but corn dogs…hmm. Always been a head scratcher. Alrighty. Let’s just go with it. Here’s to embracing your trashy, Bama-hatin’, carnival lovin’ corn dog self this weekend over fine specimens made in the comfort of your own home. It is an away game, after all, robbing LSU fans of the opportunity to cook up elephant-themed delicacies outside Tiger Stadium, which have actually been known to stump aghast internet columnists.
The other day, my friend Anna-Karin Skillen and I were talking about chanterelles. They’re in season in her native Sweden right now, as well as in the U.S. on the northwest coast, in New England and other spots. I’ve been drooling lately watching a Facebook friend from Seattle document her family’s foraging trips, the kitchen table blanketed with fresh (and free!) chanterelles, soon be thrown in a scorching skillet or tossed in buttery pasta or noodle soup. Just this week, the Boston-based radio program, Here and Now, featured a segment on fall mushrooms, complete with easy recipes by resident chef Kathy Gunst, who had picked up several different wild mushroom varieties from Boston-area farmers markets.
For a fast hors d’oeuvre, nothing is tastier, easier or prettier than a cheese board assembled from a few great cheeses, some fresh bread and seasonal garnishes.
Recently, I wrote an article for 225 Magazine on “Goat Lady” Wanda Barras, the farmstead cheese maker from St. Martinville, Louisiana, who sells her award-winning Belle Ecorce goat’s milk cheeses at the Red Stick Farmers Market in Baton Rouge. Barras’ cheeses are officially “farmstead,” as opposed to “artisan,” because she uses milk from her resident herd of Nubian and La Mancha goats instead of milk purchased from an outside source. Her cheeses are absolutely delicious. I picked some up this past weekend after doing a cooking demo at the Saturday market.
Recently, Barras added a few Jersey cows to the mix, and now she’s also producing delicious aged cow’s milk cheeses. She has at least three regular varieties of bleu and the Camembert (pictured here), which is vibrant and punchy. Its flavor profile and texture is so much more complex than the garden variety Camemberts in the supermarket. I’ve also got a few of her flavored chevres here, including the cracked pepper and red pepper-topped Parisian. They’re creamy and sublime.
I like to serve cheese with toasted slices of a fresh whole grain baguette, and I love to throw in some quince paste (membrillo), which goes nicely with a salty cheese like Manchego, its traditional mate, or even good Parmesan.
Don’t sweat the food styling. Thankfully, expectations for arranging a cheese board have become increasingly relaxed. Over-the-top Martha Stewart is out. The more natural and loose the platter looks, the better.
Popcorn balls, at once gooey, sweet and crunchy, are a classic fall treat. They’re perfect Halloween party fare and they’re great for Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings, too. This version, developed by nutritionists at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center here in Baton Rouge, is also nice for after school snacking because it’s made with honey instead of the typical binder, corn syrup. You can really get creative with the trail mix additions, too.
Hush puppies are perfect little representations of the South. They’re comprised of meal from the region’s only truly indigenous grain — corn — and like other mild-tasting southern foods, their flavor is enhanced by a trip to the fryer. Tender, golden brown and crisp, nothing beats a hush puppy between bites of fresh seafood and crunchy coleslaw.
Hush puppies are standard issue in the coastal south, but are also commonplace throughout the rest of the region. For proof, I turn to no less than Season 5 of FX’s Justified, when hunky Kentucky Marshall Raylon Givens is asked if he’s ever heard of falafel.
“Never cared much for it,” says Givens. “I always found it kinda like a cut rate hush puppy.”
During halftime of last weekend’s delicious LSU-Auburn game (sorry, Auburn friends!), my friend Sara and I headed into the kitchen to work on appetizers while our combined six kids and two husbands headed outside. It was beastly hot, so much so that organizers a few miles away at Tiger Stadium had made special arrangements for extra water — and paramedics. Even here in the comfort of our air-conditioned house, something cool and refreshing was in order. We set out the ingredients to make Gulf shrimp spring rolls.