This has been an unusual summer. We all know that. But this didn’t stop us from a couple of staycations. Our times together on the Independence Day and Labor Day weekends were especially good. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights.
For the beef-lovers among us, we did rather well. A beef tenderloin filet was an excellent candidate. We had one that was seared on a cast iron pan and topped with garlic butter. Served with rosemary potatoes as a side made for a delicious meal.
Then there was a porterhouse steak done on our new grill. Reverse searing was the perfect method for this thick cut. First it was dry brined and then cooked on the grill. It was sliced for service and sauced with its own juices. A sautéed mix of broccoli rabe and grape tomatoes worked really well.
When it came time for pork, we were ready. The folks at Wright’s Market did a great job for us - beautiful 12-ounce rib chops. After a wet brine, ours were sautéed, finished with rosemary and served with grilled peaches.
Our new grill gave us a chance to prepare a cut from the pork shoulder – a Boston butt. Cooking at a low temp for several hours produced a tasty and tender result. All it took was a dressing of Dijon vinaigrette to season it perfectly. Labor Day delight.
Chicken was no exception. Thighs are often our choice. This is such a meaty and flavorful cut. A flavorful version came from marinating them with tandoori spices before grilling over high heat did it right. The bright-red exterior and lemony heat were a joy.
A marinade using Caribbean mojo citrus spices did the job another time. A few hours spent was all it took. Twenty minutes over a high-heat grill finished the job.
Duck did not get missed. We got one from D’Artagnan referred to as Rohan. This new breed is a touch larger and richer than the type found in our stores. It was very flavorful roasted on a spit. We made cuts in the skin to let the fat drain. Served with a peach glaze made for a memorable July 4.
Sometimes, food we take for granted is better than we think. In this case, I'm talking about catfish. We took the time to do it right, and they turned out to be fried perfection. Never had any better. Fresh tartar sauce was all we needed.
Special sides can make a plate. We had several really nice ones. Taters cooked in bacon drippings. Ratatouille. Slow-cooked yellow squash – deep and rich like Claire made them. Yum.
Sandwiches have a place in our house. Holidays are no exception. A BLT is always welcome. We had more than one. But the BLT using Benton's bacon and made on a bagel was a winner. There were a couple of sandwiches made with deli meats like salami and prosciutto. Combine that with olives, cheese, Dijon and good bread plus a few Zapp’s chips and pickles on the plate and a meal pops up.
Waygu patties from The Depot Market made for an outstanding burger experience.
All sorts of excellent fresh fruits were available. Peaches, blueberries and watermelon plus lots of just-right tomatoes. The taste of a peach and tomato salad still lingers.
Pasta always has a place for us. Fresh tomato sauce is so good. So was a special one made with just-picked Chanterelles.
Now that I look back, those special celebrations were exactly what we had. Special. No matter the time of the year, you can make meals and memories for a lifetime.
Jim Sikes is an Opelika resident; a food, wine and restaurant consultant; and a columnist for the Opelika-Auburn News. Contact him on Facebook at In the Kitchen with Chef Jim.
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