Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Judy's Kitchen is having a giveaway.  Just click on the link at the beginning of this post, or on the right under New Bern Links to check it out.  Winner will have choice of one of two prizes, each valued around $40.  Entering is easy.  Just leave any comment before March 31, the contest deadline.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Yes, I was asked to be a judge for the "Culinary Combat" this year.  The Neuse Riverkeeper Foundation's 7th Annual Taste of Coastal Carolina was a blast.  And I got to play with food again.

Andy Hopper, Chef of Chefs 105 Restaurant in Morehead City, won the Culinary Combat with his 3-course breakfast. The mystery ingredients were ground pork, mushrooms, white hominy, and jicama. All 6 chefs had to incorporate these ingredients into a dish.  Chef Hopper presented us with a delicious citrus-strawberry-jicama salad, followed by a perfectly cooked egg topped with perfectly seasoned sausage on a hominy biscuit accompanied by delectable creamed mushrooms. All 3 courses were on one plate, and the servings were small; but we were all wishing for more of this breakfast.  All the chefs did a wonderful job, and I came away pleasantly filled.

Restaurant of the Year Award went to The Chelsea Restaurant. Their barbecued shrimp and grits had everyone coming back for more, and they proudly took the 2010 trophy home. Almost 30 restaurants donated food for this event, and then ticketholders voted for their favorites.

All proceeds were used to help fund the Neuse Riverkeeper Foundation, a nonprofit organization.  This was a fun time for everyone, good advertising for the restaurants involved, and a help to a local nonprofit.  Win-win-win. 

Sunday, March 7, 2010


A Southern gal, originally from Virginia, who has lived in New Bern for the past 20 years, told me she made some wonderful bean soup.  Miss Edna, who is 83 years young, said it was the best bean soup she ever ate, and that the recipe is on the back of the bean soup bag.  I searched the grocery store until I found Hurst's Ham Beens Brand "15 Bean Soup."  Sure enough, the recipe is on the back of the bag. 

Beans, rice, collards, ham hocks and cornbread have been mainstays of Southern families for generations.  These humble ingredients can fill up an empty stomach in a most delicious and comforting way and have kept many from starving when they couldn't afford more expensive cuts of meat.  I couldn't wait to try this recipe, since Miss Edna so enthusiastically endorsed it. 

The recipe calls for 1 lb. of ham, ham hocks or smoked sausage.  I first rendered some salt pork (about 3 oz., or slightly less than half of an 8 oz. package) and cooked that with the beans.  During the last half hour, I added about 5 oz. of sliced, freshly made smoked Andouille sausage.  Guy took one bite of the sausage and spit it out, proclaiming that there was no fennel in it.  Me, I'm not a smoked sausage person any way.  I put the Andouille in for him -- go figure.  The soup is spicy, so if you are averse to heat, cut the chili powder to 1/2 teaspoon.  We ate it with some cornbread wedges that I plucked from the freezer, wrapped in foil and baked at 400F for about 1/2 hour.  The cornbread tasted as good as when it was first made -- super moist with a wonderful cast-iron-skillet crust.  And our tummies were filled and satisfied until breakfast the next morning.

You'll be loaded with soup if you make this recipe.  I froze two containers for us for future meals, gave a quart size container to our Pamlico County friends who are life-long locals, and have enough left in the fridge for two lunches.  All together, you should get 14-16 servings.  How's that for economical?  And the soup is super-easy (no pun intended) to make. 

Now I want to experiment with beans.  Lucky me (and you) -- the Hurst Company has a website loaded with recipes -- good ones -- and a list of their products.  But one thing is for sure:  there won't be any Andouille sausage in any of my new batches of beans. 

15-Bean Soup
Source:  N. K. Hurst Co. (
Rating:  9 out of 10

INGREDIENTS:  1 lb. of ham, ham hocks, or smoked sausage
1 cup chopped onion
1 (15 oz.) can stewed or diced tomatoes (I used diced)
1 tsp. chili powder (or less if you are spice adverse)
juice of 1 lemon
1-2 cloves garlic, minced

Rinse and pick over beans, discarding any that are bad.  Place beans in a large pot; cover with 2 quarts of cold water.  Allow beans to soak overnight, or at least 8 hours.  After soaking, drain water; add 2 quarts of fresh, cold water along with meat.  (If using salt pork, render it in a Dutch oven or large pot for at least 15 minutes before adding beans and water.)  Bring beans to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 2-1/2 hours.  (2 hours was sufficient for me, as the largest beans were soft by then.) 

Add onion, tomatoes, chili powder, lemon and garlic.  (If adding smoked sausage or chopped ham, this is when I would add it.)  Simmer for another 30 minutes.  Add contents of ham packet 1-2 minutes before cooking is completed.  Salt and pepper to taste.  (I only used about 1/3 of ham packet and no salt/pepper was needed, as the meat added plenty of flavor.)  Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro, if desired.

Perfect accompaniment:  Cornbread or corn muffins.  Consider adding some chopped collards or other greens to the soup during the last half hour.  Yield:  14-16 servings