beadie’s pecan pie

photo of a pecan pie in a blue staub pie pan

My mom was a pecan pie fiend. It was one of her favorite desserts ever, and she made it a point to perfect herself a pecan pie recipe. As it stands, I married someone whose love of pecan pie probably rivals my mother’s, so it was a good thing she’d passed this one along to me.

1 9″ pie crust (see memaw’s chocolate pie for the recipe, or use pre-made – we won’t judge)
1/2 cup melted butter
3 eggs
3/4 cup dark Karo syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup pecan halves (not chopped or pieces)

Preheat oven to 375.
Beat eggs and add sugar. Add the rest of the ingredients except pecans and stir very well. Then stir in pecans.
Pour mixture into prepared pie crust. DO NOT SPREAD – YOU WILL TEAR THE CRUST. They will even themselves out as pie cooks.
Bake on lower shelf of oven for 40-45 minutes. You may want to use a pie crust shield if the crust browns early on to prevent burning.

senate navy bean soup

a small black cauldron bowl full of navy bean soup

This is my mom’s riff on the famous navy bean soup served in the cafeteria of the U.S. Senate. While mom used ham in hers, I’ve replaced it with a ham hock with smashing success. You do you.

6 cups water
1 1/2 cups dried navy beans, rinsed and sorted
2/3 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup ham (leftover spiral, not country), diced (note: I replaced with one good sized ham hock)
1/2 cup celery, sliced
2 tbsp butter
2 cloves minced garlic
2 tbsp dried parsley
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp salt
1/4 poultry seasoning
1/4 cup evaporated milk

Cover beans with water, bring to a boil, then simmer over low heat. In a separate pan, saute onion, ham, garlic, and celery in butter. Combine and cook until beans are tender, about 2 hours.
Add evaporated milk and heat through.

baked potato soup

photo of a bowl of baked potato soup with scallions, cheese, bacon, and sour cream on top

There’s nothing fancy about this soup, and that’s part of why I love it. It’s great for cold nights when I don’t feel like doing a lot for dinner. I think that’s why my mom always made it for us too, to be honest.

6 medium potatoes (about 3 lbs russets/bakers), washed and diced with skin on
1/2 cup of butter, cut into cubes
8 oz container of sour cream (plus extra for garnish if you wish)
2 cups milk (whole preferred, 2% okay – not skim)
3 strips bacon, fried and chopped
1 tbsp chopped fresh chives
1 tbsp ground black pepper
1 tsp salt
Water (to fill a pot large enough to hold the potatoes)
Instant potato flakes (for thickening, as needed)
Grated cheddar cheese (as garnish)

Cover potatoes with water in large pot and bring to boil. Cook until tender. Drain off almost all water. Add butter, salt, and pepper. Stir to melt butter. Add milk. Bring to just under a boil and heat the mixture through. If too thin, add small amount of potato flakes to thicken.

Stir in sour cream, bacon (and drippings) and chives. Garnish with cheddar cheese, and extra sour cream and chives, if desired.

mike’s chili

photo of a bowl of chili

My dad was well-known among the local Boy Scout troops for his chili, and he won a number of cookoffs, even with what seems to be such a basic recipe. It’s easily adaptable – you can use ground turkey, or even cubed sirloin if you’re so inclined. This recipe includes my one change: I use black beans instead of the kidney beans I grew up eating, and I think it improved the chili to do so.

That’s the beauty of chili, though – you can pretty much do whatever you like with it.

2 1/2 lbs ground sirloin
2 cans black beans, rinsed
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 cup water
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
15 oz can petite diced tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tbsp ground cumin
3 tbsp chili powder (or more to taste)
1 tsp sweet paprika
3/4 tsp salt
grated cheddar cheese (as garnish)
sour cream (as garnish)

Brown meat and drain. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add tomatoes, water, and spices. Cook about 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Add beans and simmer for another 20 minutes.

buttermilk biscuits and sausage gravy

photo of biscuits with sausage gravy

It wasn’t until years into my marriage when we were visiting my parents back in the south that I made biscuits and gravy for my husband, and I’m pretty sure he felt like I’d been holding out on him all that time. I make them a little more frequently now. The biscuits are something I can give a recipe for, but the gravy… well, that’s something that’s done by feel with practice, so I can only provide guidance.

If you’re not used to making gravy and you make mistakes, it’s okay! Perfecting a cream gravy like this can take a lot of practice – I made some pretty questionable gravy when I was growing up and first learning, so don’t be hard on yourself.

If you want to do this in easy mode, use Wondra flour for the gravy. It’ll keep it from lumping.

buttermilk biscuits

1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), frozen
2 1/2 cups self-rising flour (I prefer White Lily, or King Arthur)
1 cup cold buttermilk
2 tbsp melted butter

Preheat oven to 475. Grate your frozen butter on a box grater using the largest holes. Toss the butter and flour together in a large bowl (USE YOUR CLEAN HANDS) and put in the freezer for 10 minutes.
After those 10 minutes, make a well in the center of the bowl and pour in your buttermilk. Stir it 15 times – it will be sticky.
Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface. I use a large cutting board so I don’t have to scrub my counters. Lightly sprinkle some flour on top of the dough. Using your hands, press the dough with your fingers into a rectangular shape about 3/4″ thick. Fold it in half, then repeat 4 more times.
Now press the dough out to around 1/2″ thick. Cut using a 2 1/2 inch biscuit cutter, reshaping the scraps to use as much as possible. If you don’t have a cutter, you can use a clean empty can or even a juice glass.
Place the dough rounds into a metal baking pan sprayed with non-stick cooking spray and ensure they are just barely touching each other. Use multiple pans if necessary. You can also use a cast iron skillet for this. Don’t use glass or ceramic – it won’t get the golden crunchy bottoms you want.
Bake at 475 degrees for 15 minutes or until golden brown. When you remove them, brush with the melted butter.

sausage gravy

If you want to attempt gravy, what you need is 1 lb of pork breakfast sausage. Do not use Whole Foods brands or anything that doesn’t generate plenty of grease in the pan. My favorite is Tennessee Pride when I can get it (that’s what I grew up with) or Jimmy Dean Sage. Pro tip: use a cast iron skillet for this if at all possible – 10″ or a #10 (which is like 11″) if you’re using an antique one.
Brown your sausage until it’s fully cooked and you have a decent amount of grease at the bottom. This is flavor – you want to use this. Remove your sausage to a paper towel-lined bowl. Add in enough canola oil that you have something like 1/4 to 1/3 cup in your skillet (depending on the amount of gravy you want to make. Get the new mixture nice and hot at a medium heat, then add flour until you get it to a consistency that is still fluid but not liquid – when you move your whisk through the pan, it’ll leave empty lines that slowly fill themselves back in. Let the flour brown a bit – you don’t want it white, but you don’t want it burnt, so the trick it to keep your whisk moving the whole time.
Once you get it to a medium beige sort of color, add in your seasonings: this is done to personal taste. I use a lot of sage (probably a good tbsp), a 1/2 tsp of salt, and some black pepper. Keep stirring, and it’ll get aromatic. Now, turn down the temp to low, but not simmering.
Now this is the tricky part: have a lot of milk on hand and start adding small amounts, whisking the whole time. It will keep thickening and cooking off, so you’ll be doing this a while. You want to get it to where it’s got some viscosity – not too thick, but also not too thin (no one likes a watery gravy). Once you get it there, add your sausage back and stir it once more.
You can add more milk after this is if your gravy is too thick for your liking, but I like it as pictured above.
Now serve it on the biscuits, halving the biscuits and spooning the gravy on top.

meat lasagna with bechamel

photo of meat lasagna with bechamel

Since my husband isn’t really a fan of ricotta cheese – it’s a texture thing – I’ve started making lasagna with bechamel instead and it’s been a hit in our house.

1 tbsp olive oil
2 to 2 1/2 lbs lean (92%) ground beef
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
29 oz canned whole peeled tomatoes (I use San Marzano)
1 tbsp beef stock concentrate
6 oz tomato paste
2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1 stick unsalted butter
3/4 cup flour
6 cups milk
1 box of oven-ready lasagna sheets (you can use the regular kind, just remember to boil them according to the directions first)
8 oz shredded mozarella

Instructions for Bolognese:
Heat a 5 qt pot over medium heat, drizzle olive oil. Add in the onion and garlic and sautee until translucent and fragrant. Add ground beef and brown. Once done, add in the tomatoes, beef stock concentrate, tomato paste, basil, and oregano. Using spoon, break up whole tomatoes. Salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then cover and lower to simmer. Let cook for about an hour, stirring occasionally and breaking up the clumps of ground beef.When done, remove from the heat and put aside until ready.

Instructions for Bechamel:
Place a saucepan over medium heat. Add butter and melt (do not let it turn brown). Add flour to pan in small amounts at a time, using a whisk to incorporate. It WILL get clumpy. Once all flour is added, add milk to pot slowly, whisking constantly. Bring temp of burner up to medium high heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Continue whisking until it thickens and all lumps are gone. Add salt and pepper to taste. (Note: I like to use white pepper in my bechamel because it looks prettier and has a slightly different taste, but if you don’t have it, black pepper is fine). Remove from heat and let it cool slightly.

Instructions for Lasagna:
Set your oven to 375. Spray a 9×13″ baking dish with non-stick spray (I prefer to use metal baking pans). Put a very thin layer of meat sauce on the bottom of the pan. Layer 2 of the lasagna sheets along the bottom. (If you’re using the oven ready, you’ll layer these perpendicular to the long side of the pan. If you used the boiling kind, you may have to lay them parallel, depending on the length of your pasta). On top of the lasagna sheets, add 1/3 of the bolognese, then 1/3 of the bechamel. Repeat 2 more times so you end up with 3 layers of lasagna, meat sauce, and bechamel – you should end with bechamel on top. Sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese.Place in middle of oven (note: you should probably have a cookie sheet on a rack below this in case it bubbles over – it’ll save you a burning mess) and bake for 45 minutes. Once done, set the broiler on high for 2 minutes to further brown the cheese.Remove it from the oven and let it cool for 20 minutes. Yes, I know it’s hard because it looks so good, but I promise you, it’ll be better if you’re patient since it allows everything to set up right.

memaw’s chocolate pie

Bake in moderate oven, 350, for 12-15 minutes or until browned. Too long cooking may cause weeping. Cool gradually away from drafts.

pie crust (single crust)

1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1/3 cup + 1 tbsp very cold shortening (if lard, 1/3 cup)
2 to 2 1/2 tbsp cold water

Combine all dry ingredients. Cut shortening into very small cubes and cut into the dry ingredients until the consistency of small peas or coarse cornmeal.
Add cold water 1 tbsp at a time, tossing mixture lightly and stirring with a fork until just moist enough to hold together when pressed with a fork. Dough should not be sticky.
Shape dough in a ball with hands and roll out. (If doubling for two crusts, divide in half and shape each half into a ball and roll).
If not using right away, refrigerate for 30 minutes or until ready to fill and bake.

chocolate filling

3/4 cup sugar
3 tbsp flour
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 1/2 cup milk
3 oz unsweetened chocolate (note: you can use bittersweet but cut your sugar in half)
3 egg yolks (reserve whites for meringue)
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla
Pinch of salt

Beat yolks slightly then set aside.
Melt chocolate in double bowler over over low heat so as not to scorch. Make sure well blended. (Note: you can do this in the microwave in 30 second bursts, stirring between).
Combine sugar, flour, cornstarch, and salt in top of a double boiler. Mix with wooden spoon. Blend milk and chocolate mixture on gradually, then add egg yolks. Place overly rapidly boiling water so pan is touching water. Cook until thick and smooth, about 7 minutes, stirring constantly. Scrape down sides occasionally.
Remove from heat. Add vanilla and butter. Stir until smooth and blended, scraping sides of pan well. Pour hot filling into pie shell. Top with meringue.

meringue (for 9″ pie)

3 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
6 tbsp sugar

Have whites at room temperature. Combine whites, cream of tartar, salt, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until entire mixture is frothy. Do not beat until eggs stiffen.
Add sugar s little at a time, beating well after each addition. Do not underbeat. Beat until sugar dissolves to help prevent beading. To test, rub some of the meringue between your fingers to see if it is grainy. Continue to beat until stuff, pointed peaks form when you lift beater slowly.
Place spoonfuls of meringue around edge of pie filling, spreading it so it touches inner edge of crust to seal all around. This prevents shrinkage. Pile remainder in center of pie and spread to meet meringue around edge. The the filling is not covered completely, the oven may cause it to weep.
Lift up meringue over pie in points with back of the spoon.
Bake in moderate oven, 350, for 12-15 minutes or until browned. Too long cooking may cause weeping. Cool gradually away from drafts.

pressure cooker beef stroganoff

photo of a bowl of beef stroganoff

1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb ribeye, cut into cubes
1 tsp Penzey’s Tsardust Memories seasoning
Salt, to taste
1 medium onion, chopped
8 oz sliced mushrooms (I used baby bellas)
1 cup beef broth
1 bay leaf
8 oz wide egg noodles
1/2 cup sour cream

Set Instant Pot on saute and add olive oil. Add the onion, ribey,e salt, and Tsardust Memories seasoning. Brown the meat and then add the mushrooms, beef broth, and bay leaf. Seal pot and cook on high for 10 minutes. Manually release pressure, then add the egg noodles. Seal and cook on high for 8 minutes (or until the noodles are soft). Then, add sour cream and mix well.

chicken and andouille gumbo

photo of a bowl of chicken and andouille gumbo

This is a recipe that I grew up eating. My mom had a boss who was Cajun, and after he retired, my parents would go visit him down on his property. He taught my dad how to cook a number of things including gumbo. My dad came up with his own recipe, and I’ve made a couple of tweaks of my own

1/2 pound andouille, diced
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
black pepper
cayenne pepper
8 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup canola oil
all purpose flour (I prefer White Lily for biscuits and roux)

Sautee chicken, andouille, onion, celery, and garlic in skillet (this is where I add some of my seasonings, but understanding I have to adjust later) then cover with 8 cups of broth.
In a separate cast iron skillet, make a roux using 1/3 cup canola oil and add flour until it reaches right color and consistency.
When roux is done, add to the pot.
Simmer until mixture thickens and season to taste.
Serve over cooked rice.

pressure cooker lamb stew

photo of a bowl of lamb stew with barley and potatoes

2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 lbs lamb stew meat
2 lbs yellow potatoes
1 sweet onion
5-6 cups of choice of stock (I like to use half chicken, half beef if I don’t have lamb stock – beef stock alone tends to overpower the lamb and chicken stock alone doesn’t have the depth)
2/3 pint of Guinness (warning: too much makes the stew bitter so yes there is such thing as too much of a good thing. I usually open a pint can, use 2/3 in the stew, then finish the rest)
3/4 cup barley (not quick or instant)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cracked rosemary
1/4 tsp thyme

Set Instant Pot to saute. While it’s heating up, season your meat with salt and pepper. Once the pot is at temperature, add lamb and brown. Add potatoes, onions, barley, stock, Guinness, garlic powder, rosemary, thyme, and more salt and pepper if desired. Stir well.Seal pot and pressure cook on high for 1 hour.Release pressure manually. Enjoy.