October is one of Mother Nature's finest moments, in theory. Cool, maybe even crisp. Occasionally, some rain. But we best remember the bright, sunny days, and the pleasant evenings, when we can enjoy both the great outdoors and the snug indoors.
Indeed, October's a great month to plan an entertainment that's easy and casual, before the more formal and traditional gatherings of the holidays. There's still plenty of local produce around. And since the 10th month is also National Seafood Month, it's simple to choose something to star at your get together. Actually, our menu du jour provides a trio of goodies to inspire. We combine seafood with Oktoberfest, only we take a Southern approach.
Here's what we mean: Begin with the appetizer every Southern belle has in her culinary repertoire: pimiento cheese. Only we serve it baked, as rouladen (very Oktoberfest-y). A spicy Gewürztraminer or other personable white wine and, naturally, some designer beers we'll serve throughout this meal. Assuming the weather cooperates, we can serve this appetizer outdoors near the grill, because …
Our main course combines seafood with wursts, all done up by the family grill meister while the rest of us "supervise." To go with the dual elements in this main dish, we provide seafood sauce (with horseradish) and/or tartar sauce, plus some imported mustards for the wursts. If you feel you must, also offer some toasted buns for the sausages.
To go with?, we fix some spicy corn bread and some creamy coleslaw.
And for dessert, warm, comforting (and seasonal) apple cobblers.
Easy to do and fun to eat — and you don't even have to buy crackers. You may want to accompany the rouladen with crudités and a balsamic vinaigrette for dipping.
3 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 (4-ounce) jars chopped pimentos, drained slightly, divided
2 tablespoons finely chopped Vidalia onion
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
16 slices white bread, crusts trimmed
1 tablespoon chopped, fresh cilantro
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine cheese, mayonnaise, about 3/4 of the chopped pimentos, onion and ground pepper. Using 3/4 of the cheese mixture, spread it on the bread slices. Roll the slices, jelly-roll style and place in a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Spread remaining cheese mixture atop the bread rolls. Sprinkle with remaining pimentos and the cilantro. Bake about 30 minutes until melted and browned. Cool slightly, then cut into 2-inch slices and arrange on a serving platter.
You can prepare these ahead, then reheat at 350 for a few minutes before serving.
Oysters and sausage roast
A charcoal grill is the preferred method, but the gas grill is virtually as good; although, you'll need a large one. You'll also need some burlap to wrap the bi-valves to keep them moist while cooking.
The clams are optional and cooked indoors.
1 pound fresh bratwurst sausages
1 pound smoked/cured kielbasa
1 pound fresh chorizo (spicy Mexican-style sausages)
6 to 8 dozen oysters, well scrubbed
8 dozen small littleneck clams, well scrubbed
1 medium onion, sliced
1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1 (12-ounce) bottle of beer (not dark)
Prepare the grill for cooking using about 7 pounds briquettes. You'll need about 15 pounds.
Use a fork to prick sausages in several places. Grill covered, on rack, turning occasionally until browned and cooked through: about 12 minutes. Remove to an oven-proof baking dish, cover with foil and place in a 300-degree oven to keep warm.
Add some more briquettes to the grill (about 12 of them). Replace rack. Fold some burlap into a triple layer a bit smaller than grill surface. Soak completely with water. Place 2 to 3 dozen oysters directly on rack, then cover with wet burlap; this helps oysters get a nice grilled flavor but remain moist and tender inside. Roast/grill oysters without grill cover until shells are open about 1/8 of an inch. Remove to heavy-duty foil roasting pans, cover loosely with foil and let stand while you repeat the process with remaining oysters. With each addition of more oysters, add more charcoal and make sure burlap is still quite wet.
For a gas grill, follow the method for the charcoal grill, only without the briquettes.
For the clams, indoors, in a large pot, place onion, red pepper flakes and beer. Add a steaming rack to pot. Bring beer to a boil. Add clams to rack, cover and steam until clams are quite open, about 15 minutes. Discard any clams that aren't open after this time. Remove clams to a large bowl. Pour steaming liquid into individual cups for dunking clams. If desired, serve some drawn/clarified butter with the clams as well.
To serve, set out the sausages, the steamed clams and all the oysters. Or start the eating after the first batch of oysters is done.
Confetti corn bread
This corn bread is delicious, but it has quite a few ingredients. If you're disinclined to make it, just get a mix from the market or buy it already made. It is awfully good, though, perfect for eating out of hand and/or sopping up any juices that remain on your plate.
2 cups stone-ground yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon (fresh) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (fresh) baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coarse black pepper
1 cup canned cream-style corn
2/3 cup frozen (thawed) corn kernels, patted dry
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup whole milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 teaspoons (packed) light brown sugar
1 fresh jalapeno pepper, seeds and pith removed, minced
1 tablespoon minced red bell pepper
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 9-inch square baking dish. In a large bowl, combine well the dry ingredients. In another bowl, combine creamed corn, corn kernels and all remaining ingredients. Add half the "wet" ingredients to dry ingredients, stirring until blended. Add remaining wet ingredients and stir again. Pour into prepared baking dish.
Bake until top is golden and a knife inserted in center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Let stand on a wire rack until cool. Cut into 8 portions.
Purchase coleslaw mix at the supermarket for this slaw, then add your own inimitable touches.
7 cups cabbage/carrot mix
1/2 cup each, orange and yellow bell pepper, in very small strips
3/4 cup (3/4-inch) scallion slices
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon sugar
Scant 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons country-style Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon coarse black pepper
In a large bowl, combine cabbage mix, bell peppers and scallions. In a bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients. Taste dressing for seasonings. Add some salt, if you wish. Pour some dressing over slaw and mix well. Add more dressing, if desired. Serve chilled.
What a magnificent use for Granny Smiths. Happily, you can prepare the cobblers ahead and chill overnight, if you wish. To reheat, place in an unheated oven, turn it on to 375 and reheat, uncovered, until apples are bubbly, about 25 minutes.
Gild these lilies with warm caramel syrup and/or sweetened whipped cream.
3/4 stick unsalted butter
6 pounds combination Granny Smith and gala apples, peeled, cored and each cut into 8 wedges
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
1/3 cup apricot preserves
1/3 cup brandy
3 1/4 cups self-rising flour
6 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 3/4 cups, plus 2 tablespoons chilled heavy (whipping) cream
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons heavy cream, at room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
For the filling, use two large pots. Divide the butter between pots over medium heat. Cook just until foam subsides. Add half the apples, sugar and zest to each pot. Sauté, stirring, until apples are slightly softened, about 6 minutes.
Butter 2 (3-quart) baking dishes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer apples to dishes, dividing evenly.
Transfer apple juices (in pots) to 1 pot. Stir in preserves and brandy, and bring to a boil, stirring. Pour mixture over apples in baking dishes.
For the biscuits, heat oven to 375 degrees. In a food processor, pulse flour, sugar and salt just to mix. Add butter and pulse just until mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer to a large bowl. Add chilled cream, and use a spatula to stir gently to form a (sticky) dough. Don't over-mix, as it will make the biscuits tough. Remove dough to a lightly floured surface and knead lightly about 6 times. Roll out dough 3/4 to 1 inch thick. Use a 3-inch biscuit cutter to cut out 8 to 12 rounds, re-rolling scraps if necessary. Arrange rounds on top of apple filling in the 2 baking dishes
Stir together egg yolk and (unchilled) heavy cream. Brush onto biscuits. Sprinkle with granulated sugar.
Bake cobblers in middle of oven until biscuits are cooked through and filling is tender, 35 to 45 minutes. Serve warm.