Fried Grits Cakes Skillet Cornbread Rosemary Au Gratin Potatoes Howdy, Howdy, Howdy! Hot dog! Spring is just around the corner! Even though this has been a pretty mild winter here in the mountains, I'm definitely ready for some warm, spring weather. Also, on the 21st of this month I'll be 65 years young! That's also the first day of spring, but I sure don't feel like no spring chicken anymore. (I feel more like an old Rooster.) Back on December 28th, I had a reminder that I'm not 25 any more, or even 45 for that matter! Around 10:30 pm or so, it was snowing pitchforks here on the mountain. The snow covered my satellite TV dish, so I went out to look at it. Dumb idea! I slipped and fell and tore the rotator cuff in my right shoulder completely in two. So by time you read this, I hope to be recovering from successful surgery on my right wing. I never realized how much of a two-handed job it is just to shave, until this happened. My pardner Pat Russell calls me "Lefty" now. But, what the heck, it's a long way from my heart, and if this is the worst thing that happens to me for the rest of my life, I've got it made! However, I did throw away the slick-soled boots I had on that night and bought a pair with lugs on 'em that look like they came off a four wheel drive truck! It doesn't cost me anything to sweep mud out, but this operation is gonna cost dad a mule! Well, I've got a good fire going in the stove here this evening, so come on in where its warm. Pour yourself a big cup of real "Cowboy Coffee", pull a chair up by the stove and we'll palaver over some vittle fixin's. When I was a little bitty redneck back in Arkansas, one of my favorite things to have for breakfast was grits. Mama used to boil up a big pot full, fill a bowl for me, and then mix in some honey and cream. Wow! This, along with a couple of hot buttered biscuits really hits the spot on a cold winter morning! I remember that sometimes after a good breakfast like this I'd grab a blanket and curl up next to the old wood burning cook stove and go back to sleep for an hour or so. Sometimes I'd use my little dog "Sandy" for a pillow. Mama would take the leftover grits and pack them in a greased bread pan, let them chill over night, and then slice 'em and fry 'em with eggs and ham or bacon for breakfast. I can still smell breakfast cooking on that old wood fired stove. That's a wonderful aroma - faint wood smoke mixed with the aroma of bacon frying and biscuits baking. I guess you could call it "Hillbilly Aroma Therapy!" I know it sure makes me happy when I think about it. What got me thinking about all of this was an article in the Stockton Record newspaper last week, extolling the virtues of grits! They had a fancy Grits and Greens SoufflĂ© with Ham and Shrimp recipe, but it was longer than a witch's dream, so I passed on that one. Then they had your basic creamy style, boiled grits recipe, which I cook up pretty regularly, but the one that caught my eye was the one for "Fried Grits Cakes." Needless to say, I boiled up a big pot of grits, packed 'em in a greased bread pan and lit into 'em the next morning for breakfast. The recipe came out real good, so I'd like to share it here with you folks this month. Fried Grits Cakes 1 1/2 cups water Kosher salt to taste 1/2 cup Stone-ground, quick cooking grits Hot pepper sauce to taste 1/4 cup Sharp Cheddar Cheese, grated 1 TBSP butter 2 TBSP vegetable oil Use a heavy, thick-bottomed saucepan. Boil the water, add salt, stir in the grits and return to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to a low simmer for 20 minutes. Stir two or three times. Grits should be thick and soft. Stir in pepper sauce, butter and cheese until they melt. Grease a bread pan or 8" square pan with vegetable oil. Spread grits into it evenly, cool, then refrigerate over night. Cut into slices 3/4" thick. Dredge in flour to coat and fry in hot oil until brown and crisp. Serve with butter and maple syrup or with eggs and ham or bacon. There, folks, is a true Southern treat! A big plate full of this for breakfast will really jump-start your day. A word of caution though -- once you fix this dish you'll be hooked on it for life. John Murphy is living proof of that fact. He'll be the first to tell you that fried grits for breakfast is "where it's at!" If its grits, John will eat 'em, no matter how they're fixed! Biscuits, just dripping with melted butter go good with grits for breakfast. Especially if they've been loaded up with some honey or sorghum 'lasses! But good, hot cornbread tastes just as good too! I can remember my dad asking my mom every once in a while, "Mother, how about some of your skillet cornbread for breakfast this morning?" Usually mama would bake her cornbread, but she had a quick recipe for it that she called her "Skillet Cornbread," that she cooked on top of the stove. She could whip up a skillet full in hardly no time at all and I could make it disappear in less time than that! I've pared this recipe down, so that it will make enough for two. Skillet Cornbread 1/4-cup flour 1/4-cup corn meal 1/2 tsp baking powder 1/4 tsp salt 1 egg 1/4-cup milk 4 tsp vegetable oil, divided Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. In a separate bowl, beat egg, add milk, beat; add 3 teaspoons vegetable oil and beat well. Mix in the dry ingredients. Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in an 8" skillet over low heat. Pour in the batter; cover and cook 4-5 minutes. Turn and cook until golden brown (approximately 4-5 minutes). Cut into wedges and serve hot. Ozark Mountain cornbread folks! My mama said her mother taught her how to fix this when she was eight or nine years old, so this recipe goes back well before the turn of the century. Mom learned it in 1920. She taught it to me around 1950 or '51, and I'm teaching it to my grand-daughter, who just turned 13. The circle of mountain knowledge continues, even in the computer age. One of the many things I look forward to each winter is the wealth of new calendars that are available everywhere you look, and they're all free! Hardware stores, banks, lumberyards, auto supply houses, and drugstores -- you name it, and usually around November or December, they all have a calendar for you to tote home! My favorites are the ones that have recipes on 'em. They're usually the result of 4-H groups or church fundraisers, etc. I usually get three or four good recipes out of a half dozen calendars because they tend to be redundant in their content. However, once in a while I'll come across one that is unique, easy to fix and turns out a superb dish. This next recipe is one of my "Calendar Recipes" that I've had for a while. I just love au gratin potatoes, and this recipe makes some of the best you'll ever wrap a lip around! Rosemary Au Gratin Potatoes 1/4 cup butter 1/4 cup flour 2 cups half & half cream 1 TBSP fresh Rosemary, minced 1 clove Garlic, minced 1 tsp salt 1/4 tsp pepper 3 pounds Potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8" thick 2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese Take a large saucepan and melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour until smooth. Gradually add the cream, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil, cook and stir for two minutes or until thickened. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the Rosemary, garlic, salt, pepper and potatoes. Transfer to a greased 9" X 13" X 2" deep baking dish. Sprinkle with the cheese, cover, and bake at 350Âș for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake 10-15 minutes longer or until potatoes are tender. Makes 8-10 servings with normal folks, or a food fight for two banjo pickers! This sure makes some good eatin! I've got a case of the slobbers just writing about it. This dish is especially yummy if you use new red potatoes in it. Every time I read or fix a potato recipe it reminds me of what my ol' picking pardner Ray Park would say just about every time we'd talk, either in person or on the phone. He'd always close by s

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