Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Spicy Smoked Corn Casserole

Oh, the excitement of a new smoker! Since our beloved stack type charcoal smoker bit the dust (ash?), I've had my eye on a Masterbuilt chest-type electric smoker. Amazon put the one I've lusted after on BIG sale (one day only) the Saturday before Father's Day...coincidence? I think not. 

Before I could give it a test run, Michigan beckoned. As I pulled out of the driveway, I glanced longingly behind at my yet-to-be-named smoky cutie and ahead at the prospect of time with those I love in Lansing. And hit the gas.

Not being the only family member with a yen for good BBQ, we all went to a favorite Q spot of Matt's called Meat Southern BBQ & Carnivore Cuisine. What a find! We started with Pickle Fries that are long shoestrings of dill pickles, breaded and fried and served with a side of homemade remoulade for dipping. Not content with just ONE appetizer from Meat's oh-so-tempting menu, we shared a basket of nachos mounded high with pulled pork, house-smoked bacon and chopped brisket, then topped with cheese, one of their own BBQ sauces, sour cream, onions, tomatoes, jalapenos and avocado. Transcendent. The nachos alone could have been a satisfying dinner and we only had a half order! 

Thank goodness we didn't stop with appetizers. The Meat platters came laden with perfectly moist, smoky brisket...sliced for me, chopped for Matt and Matthew's choice was the sweet n' smoky pulled pork. Mieke went with her favorite chopped brisket sandwich. Meat platters came with cornbread and 2 sides. And THAT is where I swooned. 

Nothing fancy at Meat Southern BBQ & Carnivore Cuisine...that's a GOOD thing!           BBQ beans on the left, succulent brisket and Spicy Cream Corn on the top. 

Now, it's been a while since I've recreated a dish I was particularly taken with, but the Spicy Cream Corn left me wanting MORE! Note that it's not called "creamed" corn. No, it bears no resemblance whatsoever to the loose, pale yellow, lumpy stuff from a can. This was CREAM corn. It had substance. It had heat. It. Was. Remarkable. So I came up with my very own version as soon as I got home.

What would go best with my version of Spicy Cream Corn? BBQ, of course. I loaded up the brand spanking new smoker with chicken...specifically 8 thighs, 3 breasts, 6 whole wings, 4 eggs (recommended by a BBQ'ing friend from Georgia - I'll be making deviled eggs with those!), and 5 ears of corn in the husk. Wouldn't smoked corn make the cream corn even better? It did!

Starting with smoky corn really made a difference in the finished dish. I decided to make the dish into a casserole (small individual cast iron skillets would make a wonderful presentation). For the heat (and creaminess) I used jalapeno cream cheese and a bit of chipotle powder; for color and flavor, sliced green onion and roasted red pepper; and for more smokiness, a "healthy" sprinkle of bacon crumbles across the surface. Nothing like reinforcing the smoke, right? 

Here you go...the recipe!

Spicy Smoked Corn Casserole

  • 4 ears smoked corn, approx 2 C of kernels (you don't have to use smoked can use fresh, frozen or canned corn if you wish!)
  • 4 oz. jalapeno cream cheese (1/2 of a tub) - if you want less heat, just use 2 oz. jalapeno and 2 oz. plain cream cheese. Don't want heat at all? Use all plain cream cheese.
  • 2 T milk
  • 1 green onion, sliced well into the green for color
  • 1/4 C roasted red pepper, diced
  • 1/2 t salt
  • a hefty grinding of black pepper
  • 1/4 t chipotle powder (this makes it smokier and hotter - use less if you don't like HEAT, more if you like the heat sweats)
  • 2-3 T crisp, crumbled bacon
  • softened butter - enough to grease the inside of your casserole dish
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Butter a 1 quart casserole dish (I used a cast iron oval casserole).

In a medium saucepan, add the cream cheese(s) and milk. Stir over low heat until smooth. Add the corn, green onions and red peppers, stir well. Add salt and pepper, chipotle powder and stir well again. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish, top with bacon crumbles and bake for approximately 25 minutes or until bubbling. Serve with damned good BBQ!

NOTE: Next time I'm smoking some jalapenos to go into the mix!

One last thing....

Well, it wasn't actually "last." A Meat Bloody Mary WITH BBQ sauce is what I started with!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Crowd Pleasing Caponata

It's Thursday. Appropriately, today's post and recipe is a throwback. It brings back memories of our years in Maryland and to time spent catering art show openings at a little art gallery in the Federal Hill area of Baltimore. In those days, my Caponata was a favorite of exhibiting artists and gallery gawkers alike. These days, it's still a favorite of friends and family.

This eggplant, onion, olive appetizer is rich and velvety with a little celery crunch to offset the smoothness and it packs a little pizzazz via a hint of red pepper flake heat...and then there's this zippy sweet/sour vibe going on, too. Caponata is a hearty dish that somehow satisfies vegetarians and meat eaters alike which means it's a great recipe to have in your arsenal.

A traditional Italian appetizer, Caponata is nicely versatile, too. I like to serve it on toasted baguette slices or in lettuce cups, but it also makes the transition to dinner as a lovely topping for plain grilled chicken or even on a New Orleans-style muffaletta. My guess is that it works on a muffaletta because my version is more olive-y than the traditional ones...almost a cross between a tapenade and caponata. I use a lot less olive oil than the usual, too. Not that less olive oil makes my Caponata a diet dish, but all those veggies are good for you!

Give this delightful little dish a spin the next time you entertain. You might just find Caponata becomes a crowd pleaser in your recipe repertoire...and eventually earns a spot on your very own throwback list of favorite recipes.   


  • 1/3 C olive oil
  • 2 large eggplants, caps and bottoms cut off, half of the peel cut off (half left on for the beautiful color) and cut into 1/4" dice
  • 1 large sweet onion, peeled and cut into small dice
  • 1/2 C petite diced canned tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 C pimiento stuffed green olives, diced
  • 1/2 C pitted kalamata olives, diced
  • 1/4 C red wine vinegar
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1 t kosher salt
  • Lots of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 t dried hot pepper flakes
  • (optional) a jar of marinated artichokes, drained and diced

I use a large electric skillet.

Heat the oil in the skillet and cook eggplant until soft, but not browned. Remove the eggplant and set aside.

Add onions and celery and cook until the onions are soft, but the celery still has crunch.

Add tomatoes, olives and the eggplant; combine well. Add vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. If you're using marinated artichokes, add them in here.

Simmer for 15 minutes or so until nicely melded. Let the mixture come to room temperature before serving.

Serve in a bowl and let your guests top toasted baguette slices or Romaine lettuce leaves. It's really good just as a salad or even as a topping for grilled chicken or on a (not so) traditional New Orleans-style Muffaletta. 

Caponata diced sort of uniformly and simmering in the skillet.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Brunch-Time Bacon Lettuce Tomato Potato..The BBLTP

Here's a super simple take on a lunch classic transformed into a brunch treat....a BBLTP....brunch-time bacon lettuce tomato potato. So simple, it's almost a Quickie. Truthfully, if you have a baked potato on hand, it IS a quickie because it's a simple dish that's quick and easy to make.

Besides mimicking the flavors of my favorite in-season-tomato summertime treat, this hearty breakfast is a real stick-to-your-ribs meal. 

Take a baked Russet potato, scoop out enough flesh to hold one or two eggs (depending on the size of the potato and the size of your appetite), break an egg (or two) into the hole and bake until set. Sprinkle with pre-cooked crumbled bacon (store bought to keep with the easy theme here), a little chopped tomato, shredded lettuce and (not shown in the pic) a side of a little mayo blended with a smidge of lemon juice. What's a BLT or BBLTP without mayo?!

The perfect accompaniment? Well, a Bloody Mary, of course. Isn't that the answer to any brunch question?

(Brunch-Time Bacon Lettuce Tomato Potato)

  • 1 baked potato, cooled - take a thin slice off the top and discard (or butter and eat...bonus for the cook!), scoop out enough flesh to hold 1 or 2 eggs - Make these the night before to this step and brunch will come together in no time
  • 1 or 2 eggs per potato, depending on the size of the potato AND your appetite
  • a handful of pre-cooked and crumbled bacon, warmed in the microwave - I get mine at Costco
  • shredded Romaine lettuce
  • finely diced fresh tomato
  • freshly ground black pepper 
  • kosher salt
  • butter
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 

First season the inside of the potato well with fresh ground black pepper, a little kosher salt, a pat of butter and a sprinkle of crumbled bacon. 

Break the egg(s) into the hollow of the potato and bake until the eggs are set. I like mine runny - makes a nice extra bit of sauce - but, if you like yours hard, go ahead, it's YOUR breakfast! Usually takes my oven about 30 minutes, yours may take more or less time. Remember, it's how YOU like it.

Remove from the oven, plate and garnish with bacon, tomato and lettuce.

And don't forget the mayo!