Former Southern Living travel editor Morgan Murphy, author of the original “Southern Living Off the Eaten Path,” is on the road again. This time he’s offering his favorite dishes from some of the South’s small, unusual and hidden eateries known mostly by locals.
He researched his subject by finding restaurants, hamburger stands, barbecue shacks, diners and watering holes based on word-of-mouth recommendations. “I’ve eaten everything in this book at least once, and these are my very favorites. Yep, a lot of it is fried, covered in butter, dripping with some kind of delicious sauce. This isn’t a diet book.”
Murphy isn’t kidding about that. Most of the book’s 150 recipes fall in the not-so-healthful category, but they are cherished favorites of the eateries’ customers. Most also are being shared for the first time.
The book — part travelogue, part cookbook — is written in Murphy’s humorous, easy-going style and is illustrated with lots of full-color photographs. The recipes, all tested by Southern Living to make sure home cooks can re-create them, are divided into five sections from Texas to Maryland: the West, across the South’s middle, to the Gulf, Around the Bend and Up the Coast. He also includes a section on “the best, most hospitable and quirkiest places to stay in each state.” His choice for Louisiana? The Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans.
Murphy also provides information on each eatery and even suggests song picks for each destination to put you in the right spirit for the locale.
Among the recipes are chocolate cream pie from the Coffee Shop Cafe in McGregor, Texas; mac and cheese from The Family Wash, which serves pub food and hosts local bands in a former Nashville, Tenn., laundry; and the quirky Boll Weevil Jambalaya, which is made with a chicken-andouille sausage-vegetable mixture the Boll Weevil Cafe and Sweetery, of Augusta, Ga., calls the “jambalaya.” That mixture plus cooked shrimp are served on top of instead of combined with rice. There’s also Miss Hudson’s Banana Pudding from Niki’s West in Birmingham, Ala., and Dat-O’s, giant, fresh Oreolike cookies made by Bayou Bakery Coffee Bar & Eatery in Arlington, Va.
The Louisiana eateries highlighted are Kartchner’s Grocery and Specialty Meats, of Krotz Springs; Lasyone’s, Natchitoches; Mandina’s Restaurant, New Orleans; and Rocky & Carlo’s Restaurant & Bar, Chalmette.
This is a fun book. If you don’t want to cook, hop in the car and head to Murphy’s picks for a taste of the South’s back-road restaurants, diners and oyster shacks.
The 10th annual Great American Seafood Cook-off will take place Saturday at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans. Keep your fingers crossed for Louisiana’s representative, chef/owner Cody Carroll, of Hot Tails restaurant in New Roads who won the King of Louisiana Seafood title in May.
If you’re in downtown Baton Rouge at noon Wednesday, drop by the River Center Branch Library, 120 St. Louis St. I’ll be discussing what’s hot in food and fresh ideas for the fall season. I’ll also show new cookbooks that celebrate fall entertaining and have recipes for salads, drinks and yummy treats.
Nic’s Western Omelet
Serves 1 to 2. Recipe by Nic’s Grill, Oklahoma City, Okla., is from “Southern Living Off the Eaten Path: Second Helplings” by Morgan Murphy, who writes, “At the restaurant, this ginormous omelet is one serving, but really makes enough to feed two. It’s less about the egg than about the big chunks of tasty ingredients inside.”
1/2 cup sliced portobello mushrooms
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and sliced
Pinch of salt
1 tbl. vegetable oil
1 tbl. butter
1 cup coarsely chopped ham
1/2 cup coarsely chopped tomato
1/2 cup vertically sliced white onion
1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
3 large eggs
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
1 cup (4 ozs.) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1. Sauté mushrooms, jalapeño pepper and pinch of salt in hot oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat 5 minutes or until mushrooms release their juices and brown. Transfer mixture to a bowl. Wipe skillet clean with paper towels.
2. Melt butter in skillet over medium heat. Add ham, tomato, onion and bell pepper; cook 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add ham mixture to mushroom mixture in bowl. Wipe skillet clean with paper towels.
3. Place skillet over medium-high heat. Whisk together eggs, pinch of salt and pinch of pepper in a medium bowl. Pour eggs into skillet. As egg mixture starts to cook, gently lift edges of omelet with a spatula and tilt pan so uncooked portion flows underneath. Cook 1 to 2 minutes or until almost set. Sprinkle cheese and ham mixture over omelet. Fold sides of omelet over filling with a spatula and turn out, seam side down, onto a plate.