Sunday, June 21, 2009

Dave's Sausage Balls - a weekend recipe

My wife Anne, like myself, was a boxing fan. When she was alive, we often hosted fight parties for many championship-boxing events. There was always lots of beer. Our friend Ray immortalized in my story Chicken Fries would always bring brownies.

Dave, my friend who sold me my first motorcycle would bring his famous sausage balls. Later, when times were tight, just Anne, Dave and I would get together for a fight. One fighter we never missed was Mike Tyson.

Tyson, at the time, was still young and going through opponents like an Oklahoma tornado. When scheduled to fight a no-name boxer, Buster Douglas, no one wanted to watch the likely one-round event except the three of us.

I do not remember much about the evening, or the fight, except that Buster Douglas connected with Tyson’s jaw and knocked him clean out. I also remember Dave’s sausage balls. This week, Dave was kind enough to send me his sausage ball recipe. Here it is and I hope that you enjoy them as much as I did.

Basic Version

3 cups biscuit mix (Bisquick or similar type mix)

1 lb. bulk sausage

½ lb. grated Cheddar cheese

Combine the sausage and cheese first, then add the Bisquick mix until the mixture will hold together, mix thoroughly with hands (or spoon, easier with hands), mixing is easier if the sausage is warmed slightly in a microwave first. The amount of Bisquick mix used to hold the whole thing together will change as you change the type of sausage used. Now, form mixture into balls (about a ping-pong ball size), a perfect ball shape is not important, in fact it is better if formed into odd shaped imperfect balls. You can freeze you balls for baking later or bake now. I like to bake now and freeze for heating later in microwave.

Place balls on non-greased bake/cookie sheet and bake in over at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, but check after 12 minutes.

That is the basic recipe, now for the Cajun version:

Cajun Version

3 cups biscuit mix (Bisquick or similar type mix)

1 lb. bulk sausage (sausage can be any type you like, as long as it can be broken up and mixed with the other ingredients, I sometimes use hot sausage)

½ lb. grated Cheddar cheese (extra sharp cheddar cheese is the best to use)

From now on, you are on your own to add what ever floats your boat, some of my favorites are:

1 nice sized onion - chopped

Several cloves of garlic - chopped

I sometimes put several drops of Tabasco sauce on each ball before cooking. It leaves a very nice red color on each ball and adds a good kick. Note: If while mixing, you are having drinks, or whatever, the Tabasco sauce goes on the Sausage Balls. Enough said?

Then mix, bake as above and enjoy.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Nutrias, Yashicas and Warm Pots of Gumbo

I visited New Orleans for the first time when I was eleven. My Aunt Carmol was an elementary school teacher, and she made sure my brother and I saw every historical site, museum and park in the City. Having grown up in rural northwest Louisiana, New Orleans was the first cosmopolitan area I ever visited. It was not the last, but it remains in my mind as the most unique city in the United States and perhaps the world.

My first visit was not my last. As a college freshman, I marched in the Venus parade during Mardi Gras, experiencing Bourbon Street and the French Quarter for the first time as an adult - or at least close. Most of that particular visit was spent in a drunken haze, much in the manner of college students today visiting the City and savoring Mardi Gras for the first time.

I worked in the City once during summer break from college. My job title was assistant micro-photographic technician seismologist. From my salary of two dollars per hour, you can tell the description was just a bit overblown, but it did look good on my resume. I bought my first camera that year - a 35 mm Yashica range finder, and New Orleans provided a plethora of scenic opportunities.

Shortly after that sweltering summer I married a girl from Chalmette, a city separated from New Orleans only by name. My marriage to Gail did not last but during our seven years together, I learned to love her French Acadian parents, Lily and Harvey, and her entire family. It is a shame sometimes that you cannot divorce a wife and keep her family.

Gail had two brothers, six sisters and many aunts, uncles and cousins. Most were wonderful cooks but none better than Gail’s mother Lily was. No two pots of gumbo are ever exactly alike. I know because I have consumed my fair share. Taste, as I guess just about everything else, is subjective. That said, Lily’s gumbo was the best I ever tasted and, in my opinion, the best in the world.

Harvey, Gail’s father, was a cattleman and fur buyer. During trapping season, raw fur filled the shed behind Harvey’s house. He gave me a lesson once on how to grade a nutria pelt. Like calculus and religion, the lesson did not stick. One short story - Harvey and Lily once found six-hundred dollars in cash in their deep freeze. They did not have a safe and trappers do not take Visa or MasterCard.

Eric's Web

Monday, June 08, 2009

Dr. M's Louisiana Cattle Ranch

Harvey, my former father-in-law raised cattle and had a small pasture behind his house in Chalmette where he ran a few head. Harvey had an old friend, a doctor that had a large cattle ranch in the eastern Louisiana town of Vidalia. Dr. M became very wealthy when a company found oil and lots of it on his ranch.

Shortly after the discovery of oil, Dr. M retired from medicine and spent his days trading stock and traveling. A devout Catholic, the Pope granted him and his family a private meeting during a visit to the Vatican. Dr. M was also a member of the Krewe of Rex and had once paid a million dollars for the privilege of being King of that Krewe during one Mardi Gras season.

Wanting to experiment with different breeds of cattle, Dr. M hired his old friend Harvey to oversee the operation. Relishing the challenge, Harvey and wife Lily began splitting their time between Vidalia and Chalmette. On a trip to Chalmette, Gail and I stopped along the way for a visit to the ranch.

Dr. M and his family rarely visited the ranch any more so Lily and Harvey had the main house all to themselves. The living room, I remember, had a large mirror on one wall made of one-way glass. Dr. M was apparently a voyeur and liked watching his guests through the one-way glass from an adjacent room that most knew nothing about.

The ranch was two full sections of land and abutted the levee on the west side of the Mississippi River. Harvey and Dr. M were trying to establish a new breed of cattle for the area - Black Angus. The weather turned out too hot and humid for this breed and the experiment ultimately ended in failure.

The ranch had a bunkhouse large enough to accommodate a dozen hired hands, if needed. During our visit there was no seasonal help and Gail and I had the bunkhouse to ourselves. We spent the day touring the ranch, examining the barns, stalls and cutting pens. Lily seemed unhappy when we left the following morning and I am sure she missed her large family in Chalmette.

Perhaps Harvey was also missing Chalmette and his own cows because shortly after our visit, he quit his job as foreman and he and Lily moved back to their own home. Gail and I were glad to see Lily happy again, but I am also glad that we had the chance to see Dr. M's large working cattle ranch before Harvey finally quit.

Eric's Web