Monday, December 15, 2008

Drunk Squirrel and Other Delights

Rocky says: "Eat More Chicken!"

My favorite books have always been cookbooks. For as long as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed exploring them cover-to-cover, turning the pages one after the other and reading each recipe like a passage in a novel. Much different from a purpose-driven search for the perfect recipe, this approach is more immersion than instruction. It's not about the destination; I’m just enjoying the ride.

With this in mind, some of my favorite cookbooks to explore are those spiral-bound, community compilation volumes, usually sold to raise money for a chapter of the Junior League or the local Methodist Church. I always find myself seeking them out in tiny bookstores when I’m on vacation, or behind the counter at diners and bakeries when I’m on the road. They’re all different, yet somehow comfortingly the same. I love their simple, yet often unusual, categories (Appetizers? Check. Salads? Check. Congealed Salads? Really? They get their own chapter?), and the fact that they will almost always offer at least two versions of Broccoli Rice Casserole and 7-Layer Dip.

Many of these community cookbooks also showcase the cultural heritage of a region. Such is the case with many spiral-bounds from Central Texas, chock-full of traditional German recipes that have largely been forgotten in the commericalized world of the big box bookstore cooking department. Still others feature heirloom recipes of a different sort – can combo concoctions from the 40’s and 50’s that never fail to put a smile on my face (though they seldom tempt my tastebuds).

Over Thanksgiving this year, my parents went to visit my brother and his family in Savannah, Georgia, and while I missed them terribly, I was delighted to be presented with a little souvenir upon their return: The Apalachicola Bay Cookbook by The PHILACO Woman’s Club of Apalachicola (Celebrating 110 Years of Community Service). What a treasure! This one is a real gem, and I just couldn’t resist sharing a few of its more interesting entries here on the blog. I’m sure there are more than a couple of you out there who share my little obsession, so this post’s for you – I’d also love to hear about your favorite community cookbook recipes!

Selections from The Apalachicola Bay Cookbook
by the PHILACO Woman’s Club of Apalachicola, Eastpoint, Florida

Drunk Squirrel

I really have nothing to say about this. Except that I did know a sweet guy from Louisiana who used to keep squirrel in his freezer. He said his mom made gumbo out of it sometimes…perhaps this recipe would be up her alley.

3 squirrels, cleaned and dressed
salt and pepper to taste
sprinkle of cumin

Clean and dress 3 squirrels. Cut into pieces as for frying chicken. Salt and pepper to taste, dredge in flour. Heat deep fat in fryer and drop in squirrel; cook until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Place in casserole, cover with beer and sprinkle with cumin. Bake covered at 300 degrees for at least 2 hours until tender. Serves 4.

Five-Can Casserole

This recipe is in the “Hurricane and Emergency” section of the cookbook. In Florida, hurricanes are a fact of life, and this book offers tips and recipes for those times when stocking up and hunkering down for a few days is necessary due to severe weather.  While I can't say I'm itchin' to whip this one up, I have to give them props for not resorting to SPAM.

1 small can boned chicken
1 small can evaporated milk
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 5-oz. can chow mein noodles

Stir all ingredients together in a lightly greased saucepan. Cover. Cook on low heat for 15-20 minutes.

Baked Shrimp Scampi

This one looks like a keeper - simple and flavorful.  It would figure that Floridians know their way around a shrimp!

½ lb. butter
2 Tbsp. Grey Poupon mustard
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp. parsley, chopped
2 lbs. raw shrimp (medium sized), peeled, with tails on

Combine all ingredients except shrimp in a small saucepan and cook over low heat for about 10 minutes. Arrange shrimp in a shallow baking dish. Pour butter mixture over shrimp. Bake at 450 degrees for 12-15 minutes, or until the shrimp lose their translucent look. Garnish with additional parsley and lemon wedges.


Eddie G said...

This isn't so much a community cookbook as it is a comedy cookbook, but I am in love Amy Sedaris's I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence. I'm dying to veganize versions of several of her cleverly (and often disgustingly) named recipes like Captain's Mouthwatering Bite-Size Blue Ball Cheese Balls, The Gypsy (Bandit Style, on the Rocks), Chicken Snatchatore, and Bloody Clammy Mary! The book is hysterical and just the way that only a Sedaris can pull off!

Classy&Sassy said...

OMG - I *adore* that book, Eddie! It's front and center on my cookbook shelf. If you ever make the blue balls, you have to let me know. Likewise, if I ever get around to making any of her pantyhose crafts, I'll call you over to help :)

HeatherBakes said...

Oh my goodness, I'm loving the Drunk Squirrel... although do they also give directions on how exactly to "clean and dress" the squirrel??

I'm with you guys on the Amy Sedaris book- especially the portion about entertaining the elderly. Hilarious.

Anonymous said...

I think I'd actually eat that shrimp. Sounds pretty good.

So, weird that you guys brought up the Sedaris book. I almost bought that yesterday.

FoodiePrincess said...

Oh, how I love the Sedaris family. Amy's book is a riot!

Anonymous said...

If you are fans of these talented siblings, Contemporary Theater of Dallas is doing David Sedaris' 'The Santaland Diaries' as a late-night show through December 28.