Mack's Corner

This Week

Walking with Cigars

I had just finished cooking for a rehearsal dinner and was standing around visiting when Patty Morris, a lifelong friend, came up and gave me a hug. My wife PK was there and we started talking about weddings and families and Patty said "You remember that time we walked around the block smoking cigars?" ……. When I was growing up Patty's husband Eli and I were best friends, we've known each other since we were 10, 53 years. We're still close, his office is 150 feet from mine…. His mom and dad were like second parents to me, I spent as many hours at his house as I did at mine, probably more if you don't count sleep. To me his mom was Modelle (mo - dell) and his dad was Eli Sr. … Later when the grandkids showed up their names got changed to NaNa & BooBoo … They were the sweetest people in the whole world. We did all kinds of stupid things, but never really got in trouble. It was always fun and comfortable to be in their house… Modelle always called me "darling" and gave me a big hug every time I walked in the house … In her younger years she was a Rockette at Radio City Music Hall in New York. Later she and her sister were a dance team that traveled around the country doing shows like Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. At one point they were the opening act at the Peabody Hotel here in Memphis where Eli Sr was a Bell Hop with the little round hat and uniform, just like in the movies .. They could tell stories for hours … Imagine your mom being a Rockette!!!   They got married, had kids and moved in down the street from us…. Modelle was 41 when young Eli was born, David came a few years later. She was 51 when they moved in to our neighborhood. They were Eli's parents but they seemed more like Grandparents. They had that Grandparent feel that all kids love. They did stuff that grandparents do. Modelle fed me every time I was there. Eli Sr. let us drive his car and didn't try to scare us with what would happen if we drove too fast. He put up a basketball goal that we played on almost every day. I ran through one of his windows playing ping pong one time, he just laughed and had it fixed… Several years ago Modelle died and then a few years after that Eli Sr. died. It was hard to lose them. It was like something magical had been taken away … After Eli Sr's funeral I was sitting in my office wondering if there was anything I could do. I knew they had more food than they could eat in a month and all the details were done. There wasn't really much left. Then I remembered what my dad always said about funerals and weddings: "90% is just showing up." So I thought the best thing I could do is just show up. I drove over to their house and just as I was pulling up Patty, Eli, Lindsay, Tommy, and Avery (the whole family) were walking out the front door. Eli said "want to go for a walk?" … "Sure" … "Want a Cigar?" … "Sure" … and he handed me one. We lit our cigars, all of us, and started walking. We walked through the night laughing and smoking and telling NaNa & BooBoo stories … it was one of the great moments of my life….

God's like that: Most of the time all you have to do is show up. He'll take it from there. Your whole life has been preparing you for that moment. Go and see what happens. Don't be afraid, just go …

Maybe I'll start taking cigars to funerals.


Cooking 220 - 2 pans, 2 burners, 20 minutes:

Cooking at Home Continued …

If you own a hundred cookbooks like I do, you need to get Frank Stitt's Southern Table (His restaurant is the Highlands Bar and Grill in Birmingham). It one of those world class cookbooks that has something great that you can make on every page… It's almost Dove and Quail season so I thought I would give you a good Dove/Quail recipe..

Frank Stitt's Quail Stuffed with corn bread and figs with molasses vinaigrette ..

You can also fake this one. If you don't have corn bread, use whatever bread you like. You can also add bacon to the stuffing..

For Stuffing:

1/2 cup chicken stock

6 large dried figs (Fresh Market, Whole Foods)

1 tbsp Butter

1 medium Carrot, peeled and diced
1 medium celery stalk diced

2 shallots diced

2 cups of crumbled corn bread (or other stiff bread)

2 tbsp Butter melted

2 tbsp ham or bacon diced

2 fresh thyme sprigs, leaves only

Salt & Pepper

For Quail:

8 Simi-Boneless quail, wing tips removed, rinsed and dried D'

Salt & Pepper

1 1/2 tsp olive oil

1 tbsp Butter

For Salad:

2 tbsp Red wine Vinegar

1 tbsp Molasses

Salt & Pepper

1/4 cup Olive oil

2 bunches of Watercress, trimmed, washed, dried (or any mixed greens)

1/4 cup pecans toasted (optional)

Pre-heat the oven to 450

For the Stuffing:

Bring the stock to a boil and add the figs. Remove from the heat, cover and set aside… In a skillet, melt 1 tbsp of butter and add the carrots, celery, shallots and cook for 10 minutes. In a large bowl combine the cornbread, melted butter, ham/bacon, Thyme, cooked vegetables (carrots, celery, shallots), figs & Stock, and some salt and pepper. Taste and re-season with salt and pepper …

For the quail:

Season all over, inside and out with salt and pepper. Fill the cavities with stuffing, packing loosely and tie the legs together with kitchen twine.

Heat a heavy pan. Add the oil and butter to the skillet. Get it hot .. add the Quail 4 at a time (Or however many will fit in the pan) and sear on all sides until golden brown on all sides.. 4 - 6 min.. Remove to a roasting pan. Then sear the last 4 quail and add them to the pan. Put the pan in the oven and roast for 6 - 8 min. The breast meat should still be a rosy color.

While the quail are cooking, in a small bowl whisk together the vinegar, molasses, and salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil, it will become thick. Put the greens/watercress in a large bowl. Add half the dressing and toss.

To Serve: Remove the string from the Quail and arrange on a plate. Serve the salad alongside, drizzling the quail with the remaining vinaigrette. Pecans for garnish ..

This is easy enough that you could make this at the camp site. Just use an iron skillet with an iron top for the oven …. Yummmmmmmm



Posted by Mack Oates at 11:51 AM