It’s so cold in much of the country. This winter has been astonishing! It’s snowed twice in Atlanta, Georgia and we were shut down for a week. Last week I was in Birmingham, Alabama for Food Blog South and it was freezing! Even though it was cold, I had a great time listening and learning from so many great speakers and attendees including Alison Lewis, Kim Severson, Jennifer Davick, and
Christy Jordan of Southern Plate.

Since I was speaking I couldn’t get in the kitchen with you so thanks so much for all of you that sent me photos and notes from last weeks’s Southern Saturdays with Virginia! WOW!! Very cool. Isn’t it awesome we can connect all over the world in the kitchen?

Let me share this note – it made me, leakey around the eyeballs…

I must say, that I made these for the first time 2 years ago when I saw them in my new recipe book, Bon Appetit Y’all, and now we can’t have a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner without them. Even before my husband or kids ask what the menu is, they always want to confirm that we are having Meme’s rolls. We love the lightly sweet taste and they are so fluffy. It’s truly a party in your mouth. Lately when I made a batch, it was a Saturday, and I left out enough for dinner that night, but froze the rest in packages of 6. They made great buns for our pulled pork and sloppy joes. You have our two thumbs up for this wonderful recipe. I just wonder if in the years to come, my kids’ kids, which aren’t born yet, will wonder who Meme is?

Gulp.

And, check out this beautiful photo of the rising dough from The Karmic Kitchen

And, finally, a photo of Lynnette’s grandson Buddy making rolls and biscuits with her, just like I did with Meme many years ago.

See….

We’re gearing up for the second photo shoot for my next cookbook, Basic to Brilliant, Y’all: 150 Refined Southern Recipes and Ways to Dress Them up for Company with Helen Dujardin in Charleston, SC. Many thanks to the folks at Whole Foods Market in Charleston for all their help. I am looking forward to seeing my dear friend Nathalie Dupree, again. She made fried chicken THE DAY I LEFT! Hmmpf.

Well, there’s lots of other good eating there, too.

We ate at Sean Brock’s new restaurant Husk. Yum. Let’s just say this, not a lack of pork fat. But, it’s more than just pork fat. We enjoyed some locally caught amberjack that was incredible. It’s all about friends, farmers, and fishermen. (Click here to check out Sean on twitter. I’m also looking forward to eating at O-Ku and The Glass Onion.

I just found out this morning you can actually order Bon Appetit, Ya’ll on Kindle! And, the great folks at IdeaLand have made a YouTube channel for me. I’m working on some fun things and about to “flip out” amongst other things, so subscribe to stay tuned. Lastly, please check out the events page on my website, www.virginiawillis.com for updates on where I will be teaching around the country and abroad! I’m teaching in both Paris and Mexico at Rancho la Puerta this spring.

So, if you missed the inaugural post of Southern Saturdays with Virginia, click here to see Meme’s Yeast Rolls.

And, if you want to sign on for week two, give Mama’s Seafood Gumbo a try!

Bon Appétit, Y’all!
VA

Mama’s Seafood Gumbo
Serves 6 to 8

To quote the regional cookbook Louisiana Entertains, “Good gumbos are like good sunsets: no two are exactly alike, and their delight lies in their variety.” All gumbos use a roux. However, in addition to a roux, some gumbos flavor and thicken with okra and others call for filé powder. Integral to Creole and Cajun cooking, filé powder is made from the dried leaves of the sassafras tree. It is used not only to thicken gumbo but also to impart its mild, lemon flavor. Filé powder should be stirred into gumbo toward the end of cooking or it will become tough and stringy.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 onion, preferably Vidalia, chopped
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
4 cups water or shrimp stock (see below)
2 (6-ounce) cans tomato paste
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds large shrimp (21/25 count), peeled and deveined
1 pound jumbo lump or lump crabmeat, picked over for cartilage
Hot sauce, for seasoning
1/4 teaspoon filé powder (optional)
Cooked Rice, for accompaniment

In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour, stirring slowly and constantly, and cook to a medium-brown roux, about 30 minutes.

Add the onion and bell pepper and stir to combine. Cook until the vegetables have wilted and are lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Add the water and tomato paste and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to low and cover. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until flavorful and thickened, 11/2 to 2 hours.

Add the shrimp and crabmeat and stir to combine. Continue cooking over very low heat until the shrimp are cooked through, an additional 10 minutes. Season with hot sauce and stir in the filé powder, if using. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve with rice pilaf.

Shrimp Stock and Fish Stock
Seafood soup, stew, and gumbo all taste better when prepared with homemade stock as opposed to bottled clam juice, the favorite stand-in to freshly made stock. When you peel the shrimp, save the shells (heads also, if you are fortunate enough to have them), and rinse with cold running water. Place the shells in a pot and add enough water to cover. Add a few fresh bay leaves, sprigs of parsley and thyme, a quartered onion, chopped carrot, and chopped celery, and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to low and simmer until fragrant and flavorful, about 30 minutes. Strain the stock in a strainer layered with cheesecloth, discarding the solids. If I don’t need to make shrimp stock every time I peel shrimp, I save the shells for later in a sealable plastic bag in the freezer. For fish stock, it’s the same principle, but use bones instead of shells. Do not use oily or heavy fish such as mackerel, skate, mullet, or salmon; their flavor is too strong and heavy. Use approximately 4 pounds of fish bones to 10 cups of water to make 8 cups of stock.

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, virginiawillis.com. Thanks so much.

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