If you told any of my friends from Elizabeth City that I’m a pretty good cook, and even have food columns in not one, not two, but three newspapers, they’d laugh themselves right into the …
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If you told any of my friends from Elizabeth City that I’m a pretty good cook, and even have food columns in not one, not two, but three newspapers, they’d laugh themselves right into the Pasquotank River.
I’ve always liked the idea of cooking. I took cooking classes when I was a Brownie (surprisingly, we never actually made brownies) and summer school cooking classes.
But they were actually recipe classes. Each class taught us how to make a specific dish. But there was no “why” in the lessons.
To really learn to cook, you need fundamentals.
It’s akin to writing a novel without knowing any grammar or proclaiming yourself a ballerina because you once went to the ballet.
So, always ask why. Why do I have to cut the vegetables the same size? Why do we cream the butter and sugar? Why do I have to heat the oil before putting the food in?
Being an old married woman of 19, I decided I was grown. And grown people, especially terribly sophisticated ones like me, had sparkling, cultured dinner parties.
My debut soiree I made a seafood casserole with fresh crabmeat. Unfortunately, no one had ever told me that one had to go through the crab and check for shell.
I earned myself a new nickname, a riff on famously horrible cook Ellie Mae Clampett, from “The Beverly Hillbillies” TV show.
Until the day I moved away, I was known among a certain set in Elizabeth City as “Shellie Mae.”
I still play around in the kitchen and invent new dishes. But now I’ve developed my palate, and have strong fundamentals.
Last week I created a really tasty Tex-Mex casserole. If you don’t have access to a Trader Joe’s, cook a couple of slices of bacon until super crispy, remove from pan and add a can of Rotelle’s and a bag of frozen shoepeg corn and sautee until the sauce has tightened up and there’s a little color on the corn. You can either top the finished dish with crumbled bacon, or eat it all when nobody’s looking (anytime you eat stuff in secret, the calories are automatically cut in half).
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Elote Fideo and Tomato Corn Relish
1-7 oz. bag Modena Fideo pasta, cooked for 7 minutes and drained
1 bag Trader Joe’s Mexican Style Roasted Corn
3 cups chopped rotisserie chicken, white and dark
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
Hot sauce (optional)
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar or pepper jack cheese
Preheat oven to 350°.
Into the just cooked, still hot fideo, mix corn and cotija cheese inside bag, chicken, sour cream, mayo, and hot sauce.
Pour into casserole dish which has been sprayed with cooking spray.
Smooth top and cover with parchment paper then foil. Bake 40 minutes.
Remove from oven, remove foil and parchment. Spread cheese over the top and cook on middle rack under low broiler for 25 minutes.
Remove from oven and let sit 5-10 minutes before cutting and serving.
Garnish with sour cream, chopped avocado tossed with lemon or lime juice, and tomato corn relish.
Tomato Corn Relish
Also very good as raw sauce (salsa cruda) on pasta.
1 cup Cherub grape tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 cup frozen shoepeg or fresh blanched or roasted silver queen corn
1 tablespoon finely diced red onion
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Big pinch black pepper
A couple of big shakes of chili/lime seasoning
1-2 tablespoons chopped cilantro (optional)
1-2 teaspoon malt or red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
Toss all ingredients together and check for seasoning. Cover and let sit unrefrigerated for at least an hour before service.