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Recipes and Food

Some Excellent Rye Whiskey–From The Backwoods of Florida’s Adventure Coast?

by on Dec.13, 2015, under Hernando and Pasco Gulf Coast, Recipes and Food

Wild Buck Whiskey is all about Natalie and Kevin Goff's pride in their products!

Wild Buck Whiskey is all about Natalie and Kevin Goff’s excellence in small-batch whiskey making!

The backwoods between Weeki Wachee and Chassahowitzka are mostly known by folks visiting the 31,000 acre National Wildlife Preserve in hopes of spotting a Whooping Crane or a manatee.  This Preserve is huge, and the general impression, at least to passers-by, is that there’s no “civilization” west of US19.  That’s not the case, especially in terms of whiskey-making!

Historically, I suspect that lots of whiskey was made in these woods.  Of course, it wasn’t done so legally.  However, Kevin and Natalie Goff, owners of Wild Buck Whiskey, are operating their “still”, adhering to all the rules set forth by local, state and federal authorities.

The hand-hammered copper still at Wild Buck is where the small batches of whiskey is distilled.

The hand-hammered copper still at Wild Buck is where the small batches of whiskey are distilled.

Rye whiskey must be aged in new oak barrels

Rye whiskey must be aged in new oak barrels

wildbuck-3

It takes lots of love and diligence to make good whiskey, and Kevin and Natalie are dedicated to creating a quality product, in small batches.  This is a whiskey made for sipping and just a splash of spring water or an ice cube will bring it to life in your glass.  Made from natural ingredients and pure Florida water, their rye whiskey can be found at finer restaurants, bars and liquor stores.  But don’t expect to find a case or more than a few bottles at your local retailer as the rye whiskey has been in high demand since winning several awards.

And stand by….Wild Buck’s Rum will be available in early 2016.  It’s made for sipping, too. So don’t even think Cuba Libre!

Natalie and Kevin Goff, escapees from busier parts of Florida, are extremely proud of their products.

Natalie and Kevin Goff, escapees from busier parts of Florida, are extremely proud of their products.

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Don’t Miss A Meal at BeckyJack’s Food Shack in Weeki Wachee, FL!

by on Sep.17, 2015, under Hernando and Pasco Gulf Coast, Recipes and Food

BeckyJack's Food Shack 8070 Cortez Blvd. Weeki Wachee, FL

BeckyJack’s Food Shack
8070 Cortez Blvd.
Weeki Wachee, FL

Whether you’re coming back from fishing at Bayport or Hernando Beach, watching the Mermaid Show at Weeki Wachee Spring State Park, or just driving down US19 in Hernando County, a stop at BeckyJack’s Food Shack is a “must”.  Yes, the joint is truly a shack, and it’s only open Wednesday thru Sunday (Noon ’til 8PM), but you can expect some excellent food there.  The house specialty is the “crunchy fish”, coated in corn flakes and almonds and fried to a golden, crispy finish.  If you’re “sorta hungry”, order the sandwich, but if you’re a big eater, try the crunchy fish platter with a side of their famous bean salad.

There's a good chance you'll have a short wait for a table at Beckyjack's

There’s a good chance you’ll have a short wait for a table at Beckyjack’s

The Crunchy Fish platter is worth the wait--and it's a bargain at only $9

The Crunchy Fish platter is worth the wait–and it’s a bargain at only $9.  They’re also famous for their hamburgers and Reubens.

The interior at BeckyJack's is eclectic, fun...and even a bit over the top!

The interior at BeckyJack’s is eclectic, fun…and even a bit over the top!

 

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Scallops “In The Raw”….Try Ceviche This Season!

by on Jun.27, 2014, under Chassahowitzka and Homosassa, Ozello to Crystal River, Port St. Joe, Mexico Beach and St. Joseph Bay, Recipes and Food, St. Marks, Aucilla and Econfina, Steinhatchee

Scallop Ceviche is easy to make--and very tasty!Scallop Ceviche* is easy to make–and very tasty!

A sophisticated approach to eating freshly shucked scallops is to ‘cook’ them in a marinade and serve them as a salad.  Scallops prepared as a ceviche have been pickled, in a sense, and are delicious.

Scallop Ceviche

2 individual limits of shucked scallops (about 2 pounds or 2 pints), drained

For the marinade:

1-1/2 cup fresh lime juice

1 cup fresh lemon juice

1 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

4 small Serrano peppers, seeded and very finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 small red onion, coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon sea salt

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

fresh cilantro leaves,  for garnish

Mix all the ingredients for the marinade in a zipper-style bag.  You can refrigerate this marinade for a day of so, if necessary.  Two hours before serving, add the scallops and mix.  Drain away the excess juices and assemble the ceviche over salad greens or an avocado half.  Touch everything off with a garnish with cilantro leaves.  Dinner is served.

A meal of fresh bay scallops, no matter how they’re prepared, is perfect way to end the perfect day on the water with the family.

*Eating uncooked seafood has its risks.  Always consult a medical professional regarding your personal situation before eating uncooked seafood.

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Looking For A Simply Devilish Summer Dinner?–Try Scallops Fra Diavolo

by on Jun.24, 2014, under Recipes and Food

Summer means one thing on Florida’s Big Bend—recreational scallop season.  The general madness that comes with crowded marinas, boat ramps and waterways from Bayport to St. Marks bothers lots of folks, but I’ve learned to take all of that in stride and to focus on the dinner table.

Snorkeling for scallops is lots of fun, but coming home tired and waterlogged never puts me in the mood to cook.  Luckily, shucked scallops fare well in the freezer for a few weeks, so tucking a few limits away isn’t a bad idea.  Bite for tender bite, there’s no product of the Gulf tastier than a freshly shucked sea scallop.  And while the adductor muscles are great raw, right out of the shell, most folks would rather have them cooked.

My traditional “down home” method of scallop preparation involves a light dusting of flour and frying in butter.  But here’s a simple upscale recipe for scallops in a spicy tomato sauce with pasta that’s more fit for a hot date than a hot night at the fish camp.

Scallops Fra Diavolo

4 tbs. olive oil

6 cloves fresh garlic, crushed

1 28-ounce can crushed San Marzano tomatoes

1 tsp. sea salt

1 tsp. sugar

Crushed red pepper flakes, the “devil’s touch”

1-pound (product of a 2-gallon personal limit) scallops, shucked and patted dry with

paper towels

1-pound linguine or fettuccine pasta

Chopped Italian parsley or basil (as garnish)

In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and add the garlic.  When the garlic begins to sizzle, add the tomatoes.  Add the salt and sugar and bring to a boil.  Finally, add the crushed red pepper.  Start with a teaspoon, but depending on your tolerance for heat, more may be required.  Then simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While the sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and then cook the pasta for 8 to 10-minutes.  Don’t overcook the pasta, draining it to a colander when it’s still slightly chewy, or al dente.

When you add the pasta to the water, heat the remaining oil over high heat in a skillet and sear the scallops, taking care not to overcook them (into the consistency of rubber pencil erasers).  One or twominutes should do the trick.  Add the scallops to the sauce and simmer another minute or two.

Spoon the sauce over the pasta and garnish with parsley or basil.  Serve with a chunk of crusty bread and a nice white wine.  (Serves 4)

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Smoked Fish and Helen’s Famous Smoked Mullet Dip

by on May.25, 2014, under Recipes and Food

Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em


I suspect the first smoked fish appeared in the diets of early Floridians as the result of a hot cooking fire gone cold.   Likely, a late afternoon thunderstorm interrupted a Calusa chef’s attempt at roasting some mullet and the buttonwood-fueled fire was covered with an umbrella of palmetto fronds.  That effort at keeping the fire alive did just that, but starved it of oxygen and created billows of smoke instead of heat.  As fish flesh isn’t that dense, just the duration of a short squall provided enough time to create a new menu item, one that’s maintained its popularity until this day–smoked fish.

Many species of Florida fish lend themselves to smoking.  While dried fish (cod, in particular) are popular in many cultures, there’s a distinct difference between dried and smoked fish.  Oily fish seem to smoke best as the oil keeps the meat from drying out during the process.   With the exception of southeast Florida, mullet are probably the state’s most popular smoked fish, followed by members of the mackerel family.  Other choices include swordfish, wahoo and cobia.   Smoked fish should be moist and most important, still taste like fish.

There are a multitude of fish-smoking devices available.   The trick to successful fish smoking is to keep the smoker smoking and to keep the fish away from the heat.  I was once advised to “keep the smoker just hot enough to keep the flies off the meat”.  If you want to grill or roast your fish, put it over the fire, otherwise use indirect heat to create smoke.  I suspect there are hundreds of smoking devices on the market and sometimes the simple ones are the best.  A kettle-style cooker works fine, as does a custom built dual-axle smoker wagon.  I’ve used everything from plywood crates to abandoned refrigerators to smoke some pretty good fish.

The bottom line for smoking is simplicity, but there are a few basic “rules” that you might consider.  One, choose your wood carefully.  Dense, hard buttonwood, a mangrove-look-alike, was once popular for smoking wood, but it’s scarce and I discourage using it.  In fact, many local ordinances forbid harvesting it.  Hickory can be used, but I prefer mesquite.  Both are readily available as chunks, and an overnight soak in a bucket of water is all you need to keep them from not     flaming up.  No matter your choice, start some charcoal briquettes away from your smoker and add them just a few at a time to keep the wood smoking.  Second, don’t over-do the seasonings.  I like my smoked fish to taste like fish, not like “Junior-Bob’s Smokehouse Seasoning”.  A light coat of vegetable oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper will do.  Let the smoke do the rest.  And finally, don’t over-cook your fish.  You don’t want it rare, but you do want it moist, and there’s no rule that says you can’t peel a piece off a fillet for a taste test!

Why smoke your own fish?  I smoke mine because I want it fresh, and there’s nothing better than fish that’s  “hot off the smoker”.  I don’t want it cold or warmed-up, and in many cases my smoked fish never gets too far from the smoker before it’s quickly consumed by eager diners.

Consider holding your next summertime party around the finale of a fish-smoking session, serving Helen’s Famous Smoked Fish Dip as an appetizer and a couple of fillets of smoked fish as the main course.    Just add Key Lime Pie and some cold beverages for rave reviews!

Helen’s Famous Smoked Fish Dip


2 cups smoked fish meat

½ cup mayonnaise

¼ cup chopped scallions

¼ cup chopped celery

¼ cup chopped Gherkin pickles or pickle relish

1 tbs Tabasco Sauce

Juice of a lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

Mix the ingredients with a fork, taking care not to create a paste.  Chunky is good.  And Helen (my Mom) always insisted that her smoked fish dip only be served with genuine Wheat Thin crackers.

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Lionfish–Just Kill ‘Em & Cook ‘Em

by on May.25, 2014, under Recipes and Food

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m all for catch-and-release or for just keeping enough fish for dinner.   But then there are lionfish, Pterois volitans, an invasive species threatening to eat juvenile reef fish and take over much of Florida’s offshore waters.

Previously found only in aquariums, these spectacular fish have in recent years invaded Florida’s reefs, raising concerns of scientists and anglers alike.  Armed with highly venomous spines, these fish have few predators with the exception of spear-fishermen.  In fact, the FWC now allows divers to harvest any number of lionfish without a recreational fishing license so long as they are doing so with pole spears, Hawaiian slings, or dip nets.  Lionfish season is open, and lionfish are an excellent choice for dinner.

You’ll have to catch your own lionfish or beg them from a friend.  My friends at Gainesville’s Northwest Seafood found me a few as by-catch from a deep-water grouper trip and gave me a lesson in cleaning them.  I recommend getting some heavy gloves, sharpening your favorite knife, and being extra-careful to not get stuck by one of the fish’s venomous spines.    Also, unless you know the origin of the fish you’re preparing, question your source regarding whether or not it came from a tropical or sub-tropical reef that’s known to hold fish with the ciguatera toxin.  Ciguatera isn’t fun and is certainly something to avoid.  If you’re not sure about the origin of your filets, consider using any other firm white fish for this recipe.

Chef Michael’s Lionfish Ambassador

Michael Ledwith, of Chef Michael’s Restaurant in Islamorada, claims lionfish taste much like hogfish, and that’s why you’ll sometimes find them on his menu.  His “Lionfish Ambassador” recipe makes those small tasty lionfish filets fit for any table.

4 to 6 fresh lionfish filets

1 tbs. butter

1 tbs. canola oil

1 tbs. chopped shallot

1 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms

2 tbs. capers

I tbs. key lime juice

1 cup good Chardonnay wine

¼ cup heavy cream

1 tbs. chopped flat leaf (Italian) parsley

½ cup fresh crab meat

In a large non-stick skillet, bring butter and oil to medium-high heat.  Season lionfish filets with salt and freshly ground pepper, then add to oil, cooking for about 3 minutes.  Remove fish from skillet and reserve on a plate.  Add shallots to hot skillet; cook for about one minute.  Add mushrooms and capers; cook about 2 minutes.  Add the wine and lime juice and simmer on medium heat for about 4 minutes.  Finally, add the cream, crab meat, parsley and the fish filets and simmer until the fish is fork-tender.

This recipe serves 4 and is best accompanied by grilled vegetables and a glass of whatever Chardonnay is left over from the recipe.

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Stuff Your Peppers With Tasty Jambalaya

by on May.25, 2014, under Recipes and Food

Until I tried this seafood recipe, I considered bell peppers merely a dressy vehicle for serving “Hamburger Helper” to a crowd of hungry kids.  But when stuffed with a shrimp and sausage version of Creole jambalaya, this simple dish reaches new heights and is worthy of a place at even the most upscale dinner table.

While jambalaya’s heritage is Caribbean, it can now be found throughout the American south, often varying in style and taste from one small town to the next.   Some versions are veggie-heavy and tomato-red; others look less vivid—but all are centered about the key ingredients of long-grain rice and sausage.  In my version, onion, garlic, celery and tomatoes set the stage for the sausage and shrimp, but unlike some recipes I’ve seen, I don’t use bell peppers as part of the jambalaya mix.  I prefer to sweeten each spicy bite with a chunk of the “pepper package” as I proceed in clearing my plate.

Basing a meal with rice–or pasta–has always been a convenient way to stretch a little bit of meat or seafood a long way.  However, my recipe relies on plenty of sausage and shrimp.  Use only the freshest shrimp you can find and pick a sausage that suits your palate.  Andouille can be hot and spicy and if your family or guests have less-than-cast iron stomachs, consider using something less fiery.   Specialty sausages made with chicken or turkey also work well, as do chunks of Florida lobster or bay scallops.   But in any case, expect kudos for this filling and tasty entrée.

Shrimp and Sausage Jambalaya Stuffed Peppers

3 tbs. olive oil

1 jalapeno pepper

1 small yellow onion

3 garlic cloves

2 stalks celery

3 tsp. Creole seasoning (Tony Chachere’s is the best.)

2 springs fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

2 tbs. tomato paste

1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes

4 cups chicken stock

1 pound spicy Andouille sausage, thinly-sliced (I buy Savoie’s at Publix.)

2-1/2 cups long-grain rice

1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

6 large red bell peppers, tops cut off, seeds and ribs removed

Tabasco sauce

Heat olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat, Then sauté finely chopped (in a food processor or by hand) jalapeno pepper, onion, garlic and celery until transparent.  Add Creole seasoning, thyme, bay leaves, tomato paste, tomatoes, chicken stock and sausage and bring to a boil.  Add rice, stir, cover pot and reduce heat to simmer for about 15-minutes.  Add shrimp to the mix and cook about 5 minutes, or until the rice has absorbed all the liquid and the shrimp are no longer translucent.

While the rice mix is cooking, pre-heat oven to 350-degrees.

Discard bay leaves and thyme stalks.  Stuff bell peppers with jambalaya mixture and apply a splash of Tabasco.  Place in oven, on middle rack, and bake about 30-minutes or until peppers are fork-tender.  At the table, add a sprinkle of Creole seasoning and let everyone dig in!

Serves 6

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Shrimp and Avocado Salad

by on May.25, 2014, under Recipes and Food

Fine dining doesn’t necessarily involve rocket science.  Some recipes have more to do with quality ingredients than fancy techniques, and this cool, refreshing shrimp and avocado salad is a perfect example.  All you really need to be able to do is boil shrimp and perform some basic cutting and stirring.

I’m often surprised by the number of questions I receive regarding problems with boiled foods like rice, grits, pasta, and shrimp.  Rice and grits involve the proper ratio of water to grain. And pasta involves the time-tested technique of pulling a strand from the boiling water and tossing it onto the fridge door to see if it sticks.   Shrimp can be trickier, but my method seems to work well, especially if the shrimp are medium in size.  First, bring a BIG pot of water to a boil.  Don’t add salt and only add some Old Bay seasoning if you’re doing a peel-and-eat affair—not for this recipe.  Add your cold shrimp, and then let the water come back to a boil.  Drain the shrimp into a colander or strainer and immediately cover with ice to chill.  That’s it.  They’re done and ready to eat.

In recent years avocados have become easier to find throughout the year.  Of course, in cooler months there’s no short supply of those bright green and tasty “alligator pears” from the southern part of our state.  The rest of the year the smaller, dark-skinned Haas avocados from California or Mexico will just have to do.  The Haas variety is usually just as flavorful, but often requires ripening in a paper bag (along with a banana, if you’ve got one) for a day or so after purchase at your local supermarket.  Look for the Florida “pears” at roadside stands, where they’re more likely to be ripe, ready to eat, and the product of a local producer’s back yard.

There’s a fairly long list of ingredients for this recipe, but don’t be dismayed.  You don’t need much more than a whisk to pull this one off, and the individual flavors of mustard, chili sauce, garlic and Tabasco all stand out with each bite, not overwhelming the avocado chunks and the shrimp themselves.  And it’s the shrimp that make the dish the highlight of many a summer lunch or dinner.  But what about using Florida lobster?  I’ve got lobster rolls on my mind!

Shrimp & Avocado Salad

6 tbs. olive oil

4 tbs. white wine vinegar

2 tsp. Dijon mustard

2 lbs. medium shrimp (peeled, deveined and boiled)

1 cup mayonnaise

4 tbs. chili sauce

2 large garlic cloves, crushed

1 tsp. Tabasco sauce

2 large Florida avocados (or 5 or 6 Haas avocados)

4 tbs. fresh dill, minced

4 tbs. chives, minced

salt and freshly-ground pepper, to taste

Lemon juice

Whisk the oil, vinegar and mustard.  Add mix to shrimp, toss thoroughly and allow to marinate in refrigerator for 2 hours.  Meanwhile, whisk mayonnaise, chili sauce, garlic, Tabasco, dill, chives, salt and pepper until smooth.  Set aside.  Peel, seed and cube the avocados and sprinkle with lemon juice to prevent discoloration.  When shrimp has marinated, drain, gently fold in avocado cubes and the mayonnaise mixture.  Garnish with dill sprigs and lemon wedges; serve with a dry white wine and crusty bread.  (Feeds 8 at a debutante ball or 4 hungry fishermen)

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Try Trout Piccata–The Lighter Side of Fried Fish

by on May.25, 2014, under Recipes and Food

By the time April rolls around, I’m ready to quit eating heavy cool-weather seafood like fried fish, shrimp and oysters and am interested in lighter fare.  And what better way to impress your family and friends is there than the simple Italian-American dish, fish “Piccata”?  Traditionally, this dish is made with thinly sliced and pounded-flat veal, but any delicate fish like seatrout, flounder or sheepshead are perfect choices in your Sportsman’s Kitchen.

Yes, the fish in this recipe is “fried”, but I prefer using the word “sautéed” to clarify that it’s not battered and boiled in oil, but lightly crisped in just a small amount of butter and olive oil, using only a very light dusting of flour.   Then, it’s served with a pan sauce of lemon juice, dry white wine and capers.  If you’ve not yet tasted capers, this is the perfect recipe to learn about these small pickled berries from the Capparis spinosa bush native to rugged Mediterranean countries.  They’re spicy and tangy, but not so much as to cover up the flavor of the fish.

Keep your meal on the light side with a side of crispy homemade potato chips and some light white or blush wine, remembering that springtime is the time to “lighten up”!

Piscine Piccata

  • 2 fish fillets
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • Flour as needed for dusting
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • Chopped parsley for garnish

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter. Season the fillets with salt and pepper and dust lightly with the flour. Once the butter foams and begins to brown, add the fish fillets, turn the heat to high, and brown well, turning once, 4 to 5 minutes total.

Remove the fillets to a warm resting place, and add the wine to the pan. Scrape up the browned bits and add the lemon juice along with the capers. Reduce for half a minute, then add the last tablespoon of butter. Check for seasoning and acidity, then return the fillets to the sauce to warm. Sprinkle with parsley and serve. (Serves 2)

Homemade Potato Chips

There are a couple of tricks regarding the successful preparation of homemade potato chips.  First, use a mandolin slicer or very sharp fillet knife to make very thin, even slices.  Second, dry the chips thoroughly before frying in hot, 375-degree, canola or peanut oil.  And finally, don’t overcrowd the pan—cook just a few slices at a time, drain them on paper towels, and season with sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper.

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Redfish On The Half Shell–A Hunk ‘o Burnin’ Love

by on May.25, 2014, under Recipes and Food

When it comes to grilling redfish fillets with their skin and scales intact, known as “Redfish on the Half Shell”, there’s no better recipe than the one given me by my fishing buddy and Cajun chef, Joey Landreneau.  The tough hide of skin and scales ensures a barrier from the high heat necessary to quickly cook the fish while keeping the meat tender, yet firm.

It’s important to not over-spice redfish.  For me, blackening this fish with a heavy coat of spice does nothing more than cover up its nutty flavor.  Save your blackening spices and technique for species that don’t have much flavor, like tilapia, and use Joey’s simple one-hour marinade. Use a half-cup of olive oil, 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, and the juice of a lemon for two upper-slot redfish fillets.  You can add a light sprinkling of Cajun spice at the grill if you like the flavors it imparts.  Just don’t overdo it.

Luckily, redfish freeze fairly well if vacuum-bagged with a Zip-Vac, or similar device.  I don’t recommend months of freezing, but keeping one or two from a few weekly fishing trips will soon get you enough to feed a family or small dinner party.  Allow one fillet per person.  To prepare, put the fillets in a shallow baking dish and pour in the whisked-together marinade.  An hour in advance of dinner is ample, but be sure to turn the fillets every 15 minutes or so.  At grilling time, place the fillets skin-side-down and cook uncovered until the top surface of the fish turns white, meaning it’s almost cooked.  Then, finish the cooking by carefully flipping the fillet to the “meat side” for just a few minutes.  Most of the actual cooking takes place with the skin side down and this final touch is mostly to impart color and grill marks.  Total grilling time depends on your particular cooking gear and the thickness of the fillets, but you’ll soon learn to judge doneness by pressing a fillet with your finger.  Too soft means not cooked enough; too hard means overcooked—grilling tricks you’ll learn with experience.

A spicy side dish does go well with this entrée, and there’s nothing more popular at our house than my wife’s red beans, served over rice.  Preparing the beans is at the opposite end of the spectrum of “quick and simple” from the redfish, but I think you’ll soon find it a staple as a seafood side dish—or as a full meal if you manage to freeze some leftovers.

Mary’s Red Beans

2-pounds dried light red kidney beans

1-pound bacon, cut into small pieces

2 large onions, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

1-cup celery, chopped

6 garlic cloves, chopped

1-tbs ground cayenne pepper

1-tbs ground black pepper

1-tbs dry thyme

2 bay leaves

1- large ham bone (Try your local HoneyBaked Ham store, where they’re $7.99–and meaty.)

1-pound Andouille sausage (Savoie’s is excellent, and available at many Publix Supermarkets)

Tabasco sauce, to taste

Salt, to taste

In a large pot, cover beans with water and soak overnight.  Barely covering the beans with water is sufficient.

The next day, fry the bacon in a larger pot, then add the onion, pepper, celery and garlic.  Cook over medium-high heat until the vegetables are transparent, then add the beans with the water in which they soaked.  Add the spices, ham bone, sausage and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and cook, uncovered, for at least 3 hours, until the “gravy” thickens.  Be careful to not add too much extra water as the beans cook and hold off on the salt until the end.  The saltiness of the ham may be just enough to suit your taste.  You can add Tabasco at the stove, or at the table.

Serve over white rice either as a side or main dish.

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