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Land Trust parties with Carolina-focused food

By Deirdre Parker Smith


It was a hot and steamy night as supporters of Three Rivers Land Trust gathered at F&M’s Trolley Barn for their annual Riverdance fundraiser.

Tables had nature-themed centerpieces, ranging from topiary to candles floating in water to a large cardinal in a tree.

Beer and Cheerwine were served from the bucket of a small tractor filled with ice. Cabarrus Brewery had created a Three Rivers blonde ale for the event. Wines were from North Carolina, too, from Raffaldini, Jolo, Carolina Heritage and Raylen, to name a few.

Ceiling fans were on full blast as guests mingled and tried to find a cooler spot to greet friends. In the center of the room were tables laden with desserts for the dessert dash, ranging from moon pies to caramel cake, with a little of everything in between.

To compliment the theme of land preservation and conservation, the menu for the buffet was all food from the Carolinas.

Chef Jason Nain of Morgan Ridge Vineyards and Brewhouse catered the event.

“It wasn’t hard to find products I could use,” he said. He picked up some of Frank Corriher’s livermush. He made ample use of everyone’s favorite hometown soft drink, Cheerwine, and his produce was local, too.

Nain wanted to keep the meal casual, like the event, and not too heavy for a hot summer night.

He had cheeseburger sliders, and two kinds of biscuits, the livermush with an apricot jalapeno mustard, and country ham with the same mustard. The chicken drumsticks with Carolina Treet barbecue sauce were a big hit.

The pickles were popular, too. When someone asked Nain for the recipe, he held up the bucket of Mt. Olive pickles, another Carolina product.

For dessert, Nain figured he couldn’t go wrong with Krispy Kreme bread pudding, a soft and sweet ending to a filling meal.

It was a big crowd, and the food was served for more than two hours as donations poured in and silent auction items were awarded to bidders.

The chef agreed to share some of his recipes, scaled down for the home cook.

For the ribs, he starts with a dry rub, then bakes the ribs for three hours before applying the glaze.

Cheerwine Glazed Ribs

3-4 racks of baby back ribs

Dry rub:

1 Tbsp. salt

1 Tbsp. pepper

2 Tbsp. chili powder

1 Tbsp. smoked paprika

1 Tbsp. dry ranch dressing dressing mix

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 Tbsp. decaf coffee, very finely ground

2 Tbsp. cocoa powder

For the glaze:

1 tsp. black pepper

1 tsp. kosher salt

1 pound pitted cherries or 1 small jar cherry preserves

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

1/4 tsp. ginger

2 Tbsp. brown sugar

1/8 tsp. ground clove

Half liter of Cheerwine

Put all ingredients in a saucepan and reduce over medium heat by about three-quarters. Put in a blender and hold the top with a folded kitchen towel to prevent spills. Start low and gradually increase speed to get a smooth  consistency.

Using a disposable aluminum pan, add 1 cup of water, then the ribs; cover tightly with foil and cook at 350 degrees for about three hours.

Check for doneness by trying to move the bone in the meat. If it does not move, cook 30 minutes more and check again to see of the bone is loose. If necessary, cook 30 minutes more.

Discard the liquid in the bottom of the pan and refrigerate ribs until cool or cold, 30 minutes-1 hour.

Meanwhile, heat up a grill, or turn the oven back on. Remove ribs from refrigerator, cover with glaze, which will stick better to cold ribs, and cook until caramelized. Serve.

Paw Paw’s Macaroni Salad

1 pound small shells, cooked

1 cup celery, diced

1/2 cup onion, diced

1 whole English cucumber, peeled and diced

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup sour cream

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. pepper

1 tsp. ranch dressing mix

1/4 cup water

3 boiled eggs, diced

Using a large bowl, add shells, celery, onion, cucumber and boiled eggs. In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, sour cream, salt, pepper, ranch dressing mix and water and mix well. Add to the large bowl and toss all ingredients together.

Sweet Potato and Pickled Okra Salad

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

6 medium red potatoes, cut in quarters

1/2 cup diced onion

1/2 cup diced celery

1 jar pickled okra, sliced 1/4-inch thick

1 cup mayonnaise

2 Tbsp. molasses

1 Tbsp. maple syrup

1 Tbsp. salt

1 tsp. pepper

1 tsp. granulated onion

1 tsp. granulated garlic

1 tsp. Worcester-shire sauce

1 tsp. Frank’s Red Hot

Using a 3-5 quart pot, fill with cold water and add potatoes. Bring to a boil and cook until fork tender. Drain and let cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.

Add remaining ingredients to a large mixing bowl. The easiest way to mix it is by hand. Use a pair of latex or other food-safe gloves and sort of squish some of the potatoes through your fingers. Leave plenty of chunks. Once mixed, refrigerate for two hours before serving.

Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding

1 dozen day old Krispy Kreme doughnuts, cut into pieces

4 slices white bread, torn into pieces

2 cups heavy cream

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup milk

5 eggs

1/2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to  350 degrees. Spray a 9-by-9 baking dish with cooking spray and place bread and doughnut pieces on the bottom. In a separate bowl, mix remaining ingredients, then pour over the bread and doughnuts. Bake for 40-50 minutes until custard is set.

Chef suggests sprinkling a little sugar over the top before baking to give a crispy crust.

Serve with whiskey sauce, if desired.

Whiskey Sauce

1 cup cream

1/4 cup sugar

Half a vanilla bean or 1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 Tbsp. cornstarch

1/2 cup water

3 Tbsp. whiskey (Southern Grace Conviction) or do your own damage  (chef joke)

Heat the cream, sugar and vanilla bean to a simmer. Dissolve the cornstarch in cold water and add to the warm mixture, stirring until thickened. Add whiskey to taste and cook until sauce coats the back of a spoon.

Spoon over servings of bread pudding or put in the bottom of the plate and serve pudding on top.



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