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More Gourmet Recipes  

Dining Late, or the Grateful Dead (November 6, 2013)

Mason-Dixon Curried Chicken Salad
Chile-Glazed Sweet Potatoes with Cinnamon and Orange
What a Fried Chicken
Picante Pulled Pork Tamales
Aunt Hebe's Coconut Cake

It's not that I'm afraid to die,
I just don't want to be there when it happens.
—Woody Allen

Well, Woody, everyone else will be, and they'll love the grand sendoff!

These celebrations of life bring family and friends together, and is each slightly different depending on location and cultural differences. They're a time to remember the deceased and later, over food and drink share stories and fond memories. We had a good friend in New York who left a generous amount to his favourite watering hole so that friends could toast his final departure one more time...and the one-off event was so popular it's been going on for years!

A few years ago we were given of a copy of Being Dead Is No Excuse: The Official Southern Lady's Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral. It's an absolutely priceless little book describing different funeral foods in the Mississippi delta region; even if you're lacking Southern American DNA, you'll find this one of the most delicious books you've read in years, and as a bonus the recipes are terrific!

Gayden Metcalf, author of Being Dead Is No Excuse, says, "No one eats better than a bereaved Southerner. When there's a death, it's time to open a can of Campbell's cream of mushroom soup and get busy." It was "through our experiences and the experiences of our mothers and our friends this book was crafted," she said. "I am a cradle Mississippi Deltan. I've spent my entire life eating, drinking and writing thank-you notes. This book grew from that lifestyle."

Experience like this qualifies Metcalf to share a few rules of bereavement not to be broken at a Southern funeral. Among them: If ever there was a time to put out your finest tableware, this is it. "The first thing a Southern lady does when someone in the family dies?" Metcalf asked. "She polishes the silver. It's the Southern lady's version of grief therapy."

Metcalf said the book has been embraced in other parts of the country beyond the South. "Everyone dies differently in different parts of the country, but no one dies better than someone behind the magnolia curtain," Metcalf said. To which we can add Mark Twain's quote, "I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it." He would have approved of this book and the food!

Dia de los Muertos
Further south, in Mexico the first two days in November are All Saints Day followed by All Souls Day. Dia de los Muertos combines these days to celebrate the dearly departed and enjoy their memories. Don't let the name scare you; these days are hardly spooky or sombre. The spirits of the deceased are thought to pay a visit to their families during this period; to welcome them back, flower-bedecked altars are erected in homes to hold ofrendas (offerings), which usually consist of a wash bowl, basin, razors, soap and other items the traveling spirit can use to clean up after the journey. Pictures of the deceased, as well as personal belongings for each person plus perhaps a pack of cigarettes or a bottle of tequila, might be nestled among the lilies. Candles are used to help light the way, as well as papel picado (tissue paper cut-outs) wreaths, crosses and flowers. Certain Dia de los Muertos recipes are prepared and placed on the altar to help feed and nourish the traveling souls. It's a joyous time to be in Mexico.

At home, who better to turn to for authentic Mexican recipes than Rick Bayless. Truly a household name in good kitchens, Bayless was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, into a family of restaurateurs and grocers; at University studying Spanish and Latin American culture, he broadened his interests to include regional Mexican cooking. Living in Mexico with his wife, Deann, he wrote his first book, Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico, described by Craig Claiborne as "the greatest contribution to the Mexican table imaginable." The unstoppable Chef Bayless continues to host Mexico: One Plate at a Time on PBS. Along with Deann, he owns and operates the Frontera Grill and Topolobampo in Chicago and the successful Frontera Foods line of prepared food products. His bestselling cookbooks, written with his wife Deann Groen Bayless, include Frontera: Margaritas, Guacamoles and Snacks; Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico; and more. Check them out!

Now for something a bit different...
If you are one of the millions of fans of HBO's True Blood, the series detailing the life of vampires and humans who co-exist in Bon Temps, a fictional, small town in northwestern Louisiana, then you simply must own True Blood: Eats, Drinks and Bites from Bon Temps. Talk about drama – the not-dead and the un-dead alike are fighting over whose mama's grits and fried okra are the best, while love, lust, comedy, tragedy, death and redemption unfold over drinks at the kitchen table! Why sugar, it just wears one out thinking about it!

For those of you on another planet, Wikipedia tells us that the series revolves around Sookie Stackhouse, a telepathic Human-Fairy hybrid known as a Halfling, who is a waitress at Merlotte's alongside Lafayette Reynolds, a short-order cook, drug dealer, road crew member and medium. The restaurant is owned by Sam Merlotte who is a shapeshifter, though this secret is kept hidden from most of the town. Other characters include a handsome 173-year-old vampire who has returned to Bon Temps to take up residence in his former home following the death of his last remaining relative, Sookie's tough-talking but insecure best friend and Sookie's womanizing brother Jason. Wait, there's more... the cast continues with a thousand-year-old vampire who also happens to be the local Sheriff!

True Blood covers serious contemporary issues, such as the struggle for equal rights, discrimination and violence against minorities and homosexuals, the problems of drug addiction, the power of faith and religion, the control/influence of the media, the quest for identity, and the importance of family.

Listen, even if the show isn't quite your cuppa, the recipes in True Blood: Eats, Drinks and Bites from Bon Temps will be. And tune in to the show…you just may be bitten by it!

On today's menu:

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Mason-Dixon Curried Chicken Salad

Mason-Dixon Curried Chicken Salad

The perfect chicken salad is a classy staple in the Deep South; Gayden Metcalf, author of Being Dead Is No Excuse says this recipe is simply the best! Do keep it refrigerated, and not on the sideboard...

  • 4–5 pounds chicken breasts (never, ever use dark meat!)
  • some butter
  • 2½ cups homemade mayonnaise*
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1½ to 3 Tbsp curry powder
  • 1 (10-ounce) package slivered almonds
  • 2 cups sliced celery
  • 1 (5-ounce) cans sliced water chestnuts, drained and rinsed
  • White seedless grapes, optional

*Hellmann's is almost as good.

Preheat oven to 350°. Wipe chicken with butter; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Wrap tightly in foil; place in shallow pan. Bake about 1 hour. Cool. Cube the chicken. Mix mayonnaise, soy sauce, juice of lemon, salt, pepper. Add curry powder to taste. On a baking sheet, spread almonds in single layer. Coat with butter. Toast until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Add mayonnaise mixture, water chestnuts, sliced grapes and almonds to cubed chicken. Chill well. Serves 10.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Alsace Gewurztraminer, off-dry Riesling or California Viognier



Chile-Glazed Sweet Potatoes with Cinnamon and Orange

Chile-Glazed Sweet Potatoes with Cinnamon and Orange

"Al diablo la muerte, mientras la vida nos dure." (To hell with death, we're still alive!) And, we add, we want to eat.

A favourite Dia de los Muertos dish is calabaza en tacha – candied pumpkin. Yams or sweet potatoes are a good substitute for the pumpkins, and this recipe from Rick Bayless's Frontera Restaurant will have the spirits at your table asking for seconds!

Serves 6 to 8 as an accompaniment

  • 3 pounds (about 5 small) sweet potatoes, peeled
  • 2 cups Frontera Guajillo Salsa (recipe follows)
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped orange zest (orange rind only), plus some thinly-slivered zest for garnish
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground cinnamon, preferably Mexican (Ceylon) cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • A few tablespoons chopped cilantro, for garnish
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons crème fraîche or sour cream thinned with a little milk, for garnish

Heat oven to 350°. Slice each of the sweet potatoes into 4 lengthwise wedges. Lightly butter or oil a 13×9-inch baking dish, and lay in the sweet potatoes in a single layer. Combine the sauce with the orange zest, orange juice, cinnamon and honey. Taste and season with salt (it should taste salty, since this is the seasoning for the potatoes). Spoon evenly over the sweet potatoes.

Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake until the potatoes are almost fork-tender, about 45 minutes.

Raise the oven temperature to 425°, uncover the potatoes, baste with the juices and bake until the potatoes are nicely glazed and the sauce reduced to a medium thickness, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with slivers of orange zest, chopped cilantro and a drizzle of cream if you wish, and it's ready to serve.

Frontera Guajillo Salsa

This recipe is so tasty you'll want to double the amount and keep stored in the fridge in a tightly sealed jar... ¡ole!

  • 6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 16 medium dried guajillo chilies (about 4 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, fresh ground
  • 1/8 teaspoon cumin, fresh ground
  • 3 2/3 cups meat broth (beef, poultry or fish depending the use of the sauce)
  • 1½ tablespoons vegetable oil or 1½ tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt, approximately, depending on how salty the broth
  • 1½ teaspoons sugar, approximately


  1. Set a heavy ungreased skillet or griddle over medium heat, lay the unpeeled garlic on the hot surface and let it roast to a sweet mellowness, turning occasionally until soft when pressed, a few small spots will blacken, about 15 minutes. Cool, slip off skins and roughly chop.
  2. While the garlic is roasting, break the stems off chilies, tear chilies open and remove seeds; for the mildest sauce, remove all stringy light-colored veins. Finish and remove garlic if you haven't done so. Toast the chilies a few at a time on your medium-hot skillet. Open them flat, lay them on the hot surface skin side up and press flat with a metal spatula (if the temperature is right you will hear a faint crackle), then flip them and do the same (if you press them just long enough they will have changed to a mottled tan underneath – a wisp of smoke is OK but any more than that and they're burnt). Transfer chilies to a bowl and cover with hot water and let rehydrate for 30 minutes; pour off all water and discard.
  3. In a food processor or blender, add chilies, garlic, oregano, pepper and cumin, add 2/3 cup of the broth and process to a smooth puree, scraping and stirring every few seconds (in a blender you may need to add a little more broth until everything is moving). With a rubber spatula, work the puree through a medium mesh strainer into a bowl; discard skins and seeds left in the strainer.
  4. Heat oil in a medium-sized pot (4 quart) over medium heat. When hot enough to make a drop of the puree sizzle sharply, add the puree all at once. Cook, stirring constantly, as the puree sears, reduces and darkens to an attractive earthy brick-red paste, usually about 7 minutes. Taste it: you'll know it is done when it has lost that harsh raw-chili edge.
  5. Stir in remaining 3 cups of broth, partially cover and simmer, stirring occasionally for about 30 minutes. If the sauce has thickened past the consistency of a light cream soup, add more broth. Taste and season with salt and sugar – salt to brighten and focus the flavors, sugar to smooth any rough or bitter chili edges.
  6. Covered and refrigerated the sauce will last about a week. If you freeze it you will need to re-boil it to bring back the lovely texture.
  7. Other chilies you can use: An equal amount of New Mexico chillies can replace the guajillo; the sauce will not be as full flavored; a chipotle or two adds complexity.

Tony's wine recommendation:
dry Muscat, California Symphony, Prosecco



What a Fried Chicken

What a Fried Chicken

If you love Bon Temps, you'll love Sookie Stackhouse's recipe for fried chicken! (Don't know Sookie? Never mind, it's a great recipe!) She's angry at Jason because "he stole my favourite fried chicken, right off my plate in from of Gran, makin' her think it was the cutest thing in the world... I suppose when you look like God's gift to women you can get away with anything." That's true...

Makes 8 servings

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Lard or vegetable oil for deep frying
  • 2 3-to-3½-pound broiler-fryer chickens, cut into serving pieces

Combine the flour, salt, paprika, black pepper and cayenne in a large plastic or paper bag. Shake to mix.

Heat about 2 inches of lard until it registers 360°F on a deep-fry thermometer in a large, heavy pot. Put four chicken pieces in the bag and shake well. Add the chicken to the hot fat and deep-fry until golden brown and cooked through, 12 to 16 minutes. Drain the chicken on paper towels. Repeat the process with the remaining chicken. Serve hot or warm.

Tony's wine recommendation:
off-dry Riesling, Vouvray



Picante Pulled Pork Tamales

Picante Pulled Pork Tamales

Tamales are a Day of the Dead specialty and every-other-day favourite, and no wonder. This version, from our colleagues in the Campbell's Kitchens, combines an unusual mix of ingredients, like chipotle, lime, raisins and peanuts, to make an absolutely mouthwatering dish. Allow 2¾ hours from start to finish for this easy recipe, and you'll have a real crowd pleaser! For more information and terrific recipes, go to

  • Makes 12 tamales
  • 3 boneless pork chops (about 4 ounces each)
  • 1¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 jars (16 ounces each) store-bought picante sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle chile pepper
  • 3 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 cup whole kernel corn
  • 6 large pimiento-stuffed olives, cut up
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 3 tablespoon chopped peanut
  • 1 1/3 cup masa harina
  • 1 cup pre-cooked extra-fine cornmeal
  • 5 tablespoon shortening
  • 1 cup boiling water


Season the pork chops with the cumin. Cook the chops in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until they're well browned on both sides. Stir 1 cup picante sauce and ground chipotle in the skillet and heat to a boil. Reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 45 minutes or until the chops are cooked through. Cool slightly. Shred the pork, using two forks.

Stir the lime juice, corn, olives, raisins, peanuts and 1 cup picante sauce into the shredded pork.

Beat the masa harina and shortening in a medium bowl with an electric mixer. Slowly beat in the water and 1/2 cup picante sauce. Divide the mixture into 12 portions. Spread or press each portion in a 4-inch square on a 12-inch square sheet of aluminum foil. Top each with 1/4 cup pork mixture and fold in sides of masa harina mixture to enclose the filling. Roll up in foil, twisting the ends.

Place the tamales in a steamer over boiling water. Steam for 1 hour. Serve with additional picante sauce.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Zinfandel, Amarone



Aunt Hebe's Coconut Cake

Aunt Hebe's Coconut Cake

Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first.
—Ernestine Ulmer

Too true, and we guarantee that this cake will not sit on the sideboard for long. Rich, sinful and moist with a long finish, this gorgeous cake is from Being Dead is no Excuse, by Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays.

Serves 12

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • 2 2/3 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup fresh coconut milk (if you don't have time for real coconut milk, use 1 cup whole milk instead of 1/2 cup of each)
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Before you start mixing, preheat the oven to 350°.

Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time, incorporating well. Add the vanilla. Resift the cake flour with the baking powder and add the sifted ingredients to the butter mixture.

Blend together 1/3 of the milk mixture and 1/3 of the butter mixture. Repeat until the mixtures are well incorporated. Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold them gently, by hand, into the batter.

You should have three 9-inch greased and floured pans. Divide the batter evenly among the pans and bake in a 350 degree oven for 25–30 minutes, or until the cakes are golden brown and they have pulled away from the edges of the pan. Cool for 5 minutes and then turn out.

When the cakes are completely cooled, you can ice them.

Real Icing

  • 2½ cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2½ tablespoons clear Karo syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2 egg whites
  • pinch of salt
  • 2½ teaspoons vanilla
  • freshly grated coconut

Combine the sugar, water, and Karo and boil for about 5 minutes. Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until stiff. Pour the hot syrup into the beaten egg whites, slowly and beating all the time. Continue to beat this mixture until the icing is stiff and glossy. Add a pinch of salt and the vanilla. Spread a little icing between each layer. Then ice the sides and top, and garnish the whole cake with freshly grated coconut. You can use an electric hand mixer to beat this icing.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Icewine, Asti Spumante



We wish to thank the following for permission to use material and photographs:

Chronicle Books, San Francisco for True Blood, Eats, Drinks and Bites from Bon Temps, by Marcelle Bienvenu. Photographs by Alex Farnum. © 2012 Home Box Office, Inc. Food photography © 2012 Alex Farnum. for Being Dead Is No Excuse: Gayden Metcalfe shares recipes from her book.

Campbell Soup Company (

Rick Bayless (

Coconut Cake photograph:



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Happily enjoyed by Helen Hatton and Ron Morris.

Helen Hatton and Ron Morris at Le Caveau des Gourmets in Gigondas




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