This is my favorite time of year ... football season. And if you can't be at the game, there's no better way to spend it than with friends in your home, where you'll find blessings followed by cursing and tears chased by cheers. And, of course, the spread includes more than points. It's the food spread at halftime that really counts.
I don't entertain nearly as much as I did in the past but still enjoy having folks over for a game or two, giving me a chance to try out new recipes.
Not too long ago, I had lunch with my friend Robin Derryberry, who told me that she'd been to New Orleans and eaten at Dickie Brennen's Steakhouse, where she experienced her first taste of portabella mushroom fries. She said they were some of the best appetizers she's ever had and asked if I could find a good recipe, so the search began.
This one, from the Neelys, stars on the Food Network, was the best, in my opinion. And after making it, I realized what great football fare it would be. So now it's on my game-day menu. The mushrooms can be breaded a little ahead of time, then fried right before serving. I used baby portabellas rather than the full-grown version. When sliced, they came to a more manageable size.
And rather than making the standard mustard dipping sauce, I served them with white sauce, the kind that you get at Japanese restaurants. It's simple and good with anything, particularly these fries.
Portabella Mushroom Fries
5 portabella mushrooms
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups panko
1/4 cup parmesan cheese (finely grated)
2 tablespoons parsley (finely chopped)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
kosher salt and pepper
3 eggs (lightly beaten)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
1 tablespoon chives (finely chopped)
Heat oil in a deep-fryer to 350 degrees (may be done in a heavy skillet).
Remove the gills and stems from the underside of the mushrooms and trim the edges off. Slice into 1/4-inch strips. Measure flour into a pie plate. In another pie plate or bowl, combine panko, Parmigiano, parsley, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.
Dredge the mushrooms in flour, followed by the egg wash and finally in the panko. Working in batches, place the breaded mushroom slices in the hot oil and fry for 3 to 4 minutes, until golden brown. Drain on a paper towel lined sheet tray. Serve with mustard sauce.
To make the white sauce, combine sour cream, mayonnaise, Dijon and whole-grain mustards and chives. Mix all ingredients and chill.
New on the market
It's not too often that I hear about Chattanooga as a test market for food and drink, but the makers of Papa's Pilar rum have introduced it to only two cities in Tennessee: Chattanooga and Nashville. The new rum brings rums from the Caribbean and Central America to the U.S., where they are aged and blended into both blonde (light) and dark rums.
Papa's Pilar was developed in conjunction with Ernest Hemingway's estate and, for each bottle sold, the Hemingway family will donate 100 percent of their royalty profits to organizations that embody the adventure, literacy and conservation causes dear to Hemingway and his heirs, according to a news release. Earlier this year, the family made a $30,000 donation to the International Game Fish Association, an organization that mirrors Hemingway's passions for angling.
Pride and Joy
Don't forget to get your tickets for the Southern Foodways Alliance showing of its movie "Pride and Joy" at Tupelo Honey Cafe at Warehouse Row Friday evening. The ticket price of $50 per person or $75 per couple and includes dinner, drinks and the movie, which chronicles the lives of Southern farmer and cooks. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m. For tickets and more information, log onto southernfoodways.org.
Contact Anne Braly at firstname.lastname@example.org.