Recipes from 'Frank Stitt's Southern Table':
Miss Verba's Pimiento Cheese
(Makes about 2 cups.)
Whenever Verba has the urge, she will make a huge bowl of the best pimiento cheese you have ever tasted. Little drugstore lunch counters throughout the South inevitably include pimiento cheese sandwiches on their menus as an economical option. But the cheese is usually the commercially prepared variety, of indifferent quality. Making your own, as Verba does, with lots of charred roasted peppers, gives the spread a whole new life. It is perfect for a light sandwich or as a down-home dip for crudités and crackers.
· 1 pound sharp yellow cheddar
· 1⁄4 pound cream cheese, softened
· 1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
· 3 large red bell peppers, roasted (see page 345), peeled, seeded, and chopped
· 1⁄2 cup Homemade Mayonnaise (page 336) or best-quality commercial mayonnaise
· 1 teaspoon sugar
· Splash of hot sauce, such as Tabasco or Cholula
· 1⁄8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
Grind the cheddar in a food processor fitted with the grating disk, or grate it on the small-holed side of a hand grater. Transfer the grated cheese to a bowl, add the cream cheese, white pepper, bell peppers, mayonnaise, sugar, hot sauce, and cayenne, if using, and blend all together thoroughly. Refrigerate and serve chilled. (The spread will keep for several days in the refrigerator, but it usually disappears long before that.)
Asparagus with Crawfish Meunière
(serves 4 as an appetizer)
This is one of those dishes that is so simple, yet so stunningly good. Make sure that all of your ingredients are perfectly fresh, and of the highest possible quality. The crawfish tails are already thoroughly cooked, so be careful to just heat them through to retain their tender plumpness—extended cooking will make them tough. In addition to the shrimp and crab mentioned as alternatives below, you could also substitute steamed mussels or clams for the crawfish.
· Kosher salt
· 16 jumbo asparagus spears, rough ends cut away and bottom half peeled
· 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
· 2 to 3 spring onions or 2 small sweet white onions, such as Vidalia, finely chopped
· 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
· 1⁄2 pound crawfish tailmeat (or substitute chopped boiled shrimp or crabmeat),
· 3 tablespoons white wine
· Juice of 1⁄2 lemon
· Freshly ground black pepper
· Dash of hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco or Cholula
· 2 tablespoons chopped chives, flat-leaf parsley, or mint for garnish
Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt and the asparagus and cook until tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain and pat dry.
Meanwhile, melt a scant tablespoon of the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the spring onions and cook until just tender, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the crawfish and white wine and simmer until the wine has reduced by half. Add the lemon juice, then whisk in the remaining butter bit by bit. Season with salt, pepper, and hot sauce.
Arrange the asparagus on plates and spoon the crawfish meunière over the top. Garnish with the fresh herbs.
To drink: Pouilly-Fuissé, Domaine Denogent, Pinot Gris, Pierre Sparr