Thursday, November 14, 2013


                 BAMA’S FOOTBALL FEAST

By Doc Lawrence

“I never planned in my imagination, a situation so heavenly
A fairy land that no one else could enter
And in the center, just you and me, dear
My heart beat like a hammer, my arms wound around you tight
Ah, stars fell on Alabama last night.”

                      STARS FELL ON ALABAMA, performed by Jimmy Buffett

TUSCALOOSA, AL. The Black Warrior River runs near this fabled college town where everything seems to be connected with football. Just a few miles away in Bessemer is The Bright Star, one of the South’s most revered family-owned restaurants where the Greek-American cooking traditions of the Koikus family have for over a century kept the dinner plates full for hungry guests including University of Alabama coaching legends Bear Bryant and Nick Saban.

In football and tailgating, ‘Bama, as the team and its sports culture is popularly known, backs down to no one. A visit here is includes an opportunity to enjoy new food and drink expressions. Alabama was the birthplace of Hank Williams, Helen Keller and Nat King Cole. The university has a long list of distinguished alumni that includes Harper Lee who penned the classic “To Kill A Mockingbird,” Winston Groom whose “Forrest Gump,” delighted millions and Kathryn Stockett, author of the best-selling book, “The Help.”.

Just outside town is the village of Northport where Kentuck, the Alabama arts festival has been held every October for over four decades. Walking these grounds on game day, you can feel the spirit of the great visionary artist Reverend Howard Finster, the clever whimsical paintings on found wood from outsider artist Jimmy Lee Sudduth and the painted Biblical interpretations by the deeply spiritual Myrtice West.

In addition to football, this day is all about Southern food, wonderful cocktails and wines from popular brands to not so common bottles. Sangria still remains in season and many of the recipes are family traditions.

A Tennessee couple, Don and Sybil Chandler, both ‘Bama fans, served a platter of divine homemade biscuits with thin sliced DeRamus country ham in the middle, topped with a wonderful craft mustard. The wines: so much to choose from; so little time. I had a glass of Riesling and another glass of Chambourcin. .

The tailgaters honored the cooking and entertaining traditions of Alabama with a cornucopia of grilled meats, smoked fowl and game. Few things taste better than venison chili or smoked wild duck. Wine pairings with such variety are nearly endless. Thankfully, there were ample bottles of organic Bonterra at hand.

Michter’s American Whiskey just appeared on retail shelves. The Kentucky Bourbon distiller has produced a delightful spirit that is a perfect finish for tailgaters lucky enough to enjoy Chef Lara Lyn’s  original recipe created for this auspicious occasion


                            Chef Lara Lyn Carter

Serves 6
For the Grits
1 cup stone ground grit (NOT INSTANT)
4 cups chicken broth
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. butter
4 oz. pepper jack cheese
1 cup flour
2 cups canola oil for frying
Bring the broth, salt, and butter to a boil. Stir in the grits and whisk while boiling for one minute. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and allow grits to cook for one hour. Stir grits occasionally and add water if needed to keep the grits from scorching. Add 4 ounces of pepper jack cheese and stir until cheese is melted into the grits. Pour grits into a 9x13 pan that has been lined with parchment paper and place in the refrigerator for 3 hours to chill until they are firm. Before frying, cut grits into 12 small cakes with a biscuit cutter or knife. Lightly flour the cake and fry for 3-4 minute per side until golden brown.
For the Gravy
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 small sweet onion diced
1 clove garlic
28 oz. can of plum tomatoes
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried parsley
1 tbsp. sugar
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1/3 cup dry red wine(Ponchartrain Cynthiana keeps everything Southern.)
½ cup heavy cream
In a skillet heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onion and cook 5 minutes until tender. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Add the tomatoes, salt, basil, oregano, parsley, sugar, red pepper, and wine. Mash the tomatoes with a fork to break them apart. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add the cream and simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes.
For the Steak
1 ½ cups milk
2 eggs
1 ½ tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp. pepper
1 ½ cup all purpose flour
2 lbs. cubed steak
2 cups canola oil for frying
Season the steaks with salt and pepper. Whisk milk and egg together in a bowl. Place flour in a separate bowl. Dip the steaks in wet mixture and then into flour. Shake off any excess flour and fry over medium high heat for 3 minutes per side.
To Serve
Place 2 grits cakes and a piece of steak on a plate, spoon gravy over the top

Pairing a wine with this amazing dish is fun. For those who yearn for new taste adventures, try Ponchartrain Vineyard’s Cynthiana. It’s made in Louisiana with one of the South’s great grapes and compares with a high-end Syrah from France.

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