A cooking class on Fat Tuesday — the traditional day when the Mardi Gras season ends and Lent begins — is the perfect place to share a lesson about celebrating both cooking and eating.
It is a lesson Terry Morris, director of the Payson Public Library and host of the quarterly classes, makes an effort to teach with all the recipes she introduces to her students.
It is hands-on for the students: chopping, lots of chopping, stirring and socializing in the kitchen and over the meal.
Our class was small, but everyone there had made an extra effort to open up their busy schedules to attend. More than once I heard someone say the class was their chance to do something just for themselves.
The menu for the Feb. 16 class included sweet iced tea, a muffaletta sandwich, jambalaya, dirty rice and hush puppies.
My family isn’t from the south (per se), we’re from Oklahoma, which is somewhat on the geographic fence — but we have always had sweet iced tea.
It is pretty simple to make, boil a couple cups of water, put four to six teabags in a pitcher, add the boiling water (or put the tea bags in the water) and let it steep for about five minutes, add 3/4 cup of sugar, stir to dissolve and then fill the pitcher with cold water and serve over ice.
However, there are apparently “formal” recipes for it. Morris had three in the packet she gave each of us in her class.
Southern Sweet Iced Tea
Serves 4 to 6
2 quarts water
2 family-sized tea bags, cold brew is best
1 cup sugar
Pinch of baking soda
Fill a 2-quart pitcher about halfway up with the ice.
Hang tea bags inside pitcher (drape over edge and attach with clothespin)
Add sugar and baking soda
Fill with water
Set aside to steep for about an hour and then stir to fully dissolve sugar and serve.
According to one of the recipes Morris shared, the baking soda takes away the bitterness of the tea and helps it darken.
As sweet as the tea is, the baking soda could be optional — there is very little bitterness in two quarts of liquid with a cup of sugar in it. And tea being tea, the water darkens anyway.
A muffaletta sandwich is not one of your slap together jobs, it involves making an olive salad for the “dressing” and piling on meat and cheese, and then wrapping it all together tightly in plastic wrap and letting all the flavors marry.
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup chopped green olives with pimento
1 cup pitted and chopped black olives
1/2 cup roasted red sweet pepper, chopped
1 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/3 pound Genoa salami
1/3 pound prosciutto
1/3 pound mortadella
1/2 pound provolone cheese
1/2 pound mozzarella or Muenster cheese
1 loaf good French bread
It’s the last ingredient, but the first you deal with.
Cut the loaf of bread in half length-wise and hollow out the center.
Combine the olives, sweet peppers, oil and vinegar and fill each cavity in the bread.
On top of the olive salad in one cavity (the “bottom” of the sandwich) start layering the meat and cheese.
Cover with other part of bread, being careful not to spill the salad (if you do, just stuff it back in around the edges).
Wrap the sandwich tightly and set aside until time to serve (about an hour).
As we prepared to make jambalaya and dirty rice, Morris asked who knew what the trinity in cooking was — it’s onions, garlic and sweet peppers.
Serves 6 to 8
1 pound kielbasa or andouille sausage, sliced in 1/2-inch size “coins”
1 pound raw chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 pound shrimp or crawfish, cleaned
1 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced green pepper (or 1/4 cup green pepper, 1/4 cup red sweet pepper)
1/2 cup celery, diced
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
2 cups long grain rice (not instant)
4 cups beef broth
2 cups water
1, 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, including juice
4 green onions sliced
2-1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
(package Cajun or Creole seasonings may also be used)
In an 8-quart stockpot, heat oil and add onion, peppers, celery and garlic; saute for 3 to 4 minutes until vegetables begin to soften.
Add sausage and cook until it begins to brown; add chicken and cook 7 to 10 minutes or until chicken loses its pink color.
Add beef broth, 1 cup of water, rice and seasonings. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover. Let simmer for 25 to 30 minutes until rice is tender, add additional water if needed.
This dish should be loose with a good amount of sauce. Stir in seafood, cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until seafood is pink and cooked through.
Serves 8 (1/2 cup servings)
1 bunch green onion, sliced
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1/2 to 1 tablespoons butter
2 pounds mild sausage
1 pound hot sausage
2, 10-3/4-ounce cans chicken broth
2 cups water
2 cups uncooked, long grain white rice
Saute onion, celery and green pepper in butter until tender.
In separate pan, brown sausages and drain.
Combine meat and vegetables with broth, water and rice.
Simmer 30 to 40 minutes until rice is done.
1 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup flour
3/4 cup milk
1 dash liquid red pepper
1 tablespoon grated onion
Stir dry ingredients in bowl until well blended.
In separate bowl, beat egg and milk together.
Combine dry and wet ingredients.
Stir in remaining ingredients.
Drop by spoonfuls into hot fat in deep fryer, 375 degrees, and fry until golden brown.