Category Archives: Alabama

Fried pickles y’all!

The word “y’all”, Sweet Tea, a Southern drawl, biscuits with gravy, Southern hospitality and fried pickles with ranch sauce. I love all these things. I mean, what’s not to love?

I find the word “y’all” to be inviting, welcoming and gives you that instant feeling of comfort. Sweet tea is just that, it’s sweet, refreshing and perfect for an afternoon of sitting and contemplating life. I find a Southern drawl quite charming, especially if it belongs to a lovely Belle of the South. Fluffy biscuits with white sausage gravy, it clogs my heart thinking about it, but it doesn’t stop me from enjoying it. Southern hospitality is unlike anything you’ve felt before, the drawl, the warmth and smiles along with that comfort food makes you feel a part of the family. And fried pickles with ranch sauce…let’s run with that one for a bit.

When I was in Tuscaloosa, Alabama recently, I was at a restaurant with about ten other people at the table. I was brimming with excitement when I heard deep-fried pickles had been ordered as an appetizer. They were passed around the table and in an attempt to be polite, I took one (1) off the platter and figured they’d come back around to me at some point. Sadly, they never did and I was left with the memory of one absolutely incredible bite, but as I said, it was only one. I left the restaurant that day with a vow to myself that I would once again eat fried pickles!

Imagine everything good about a pickle. For some, it’s that initial crunch and pickle juice squirting halfway across the table and for others it’s that cold, refreshing taste of dill as you crunch down on it. Now, let’s take everything good about deep-frying and combine the two! When the pickle gets deep-fried in a beer batter, you give it a second texture which consists of a hot crispy crunch that precedes the pickle crunch and it’s honestly like nothing you’ve tasted before. Think onion ring (which I also love), but better because who wouldn’t want to bite into a pickle rather than an onion! And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, it gets dipped into a Spicy Buttermilk Ranch Dipping Sauce.

Now, just a quick note on the types of pickles used. In the Southern Living cooking, they state that they’ve used a Wickles pickle which is produced in Alabama. It’s a sweet-hot pickle sliced lengthwise which they found was best for frying. So to stay true to the recipe, I also bought sweet-hot pickles sliced lengthwise AND some traditional bread and butter sweet pickles sliced into “circles” (for the proper term escapes me right now).

My preference was the sweet-hot lengthwise pickle. I definitely preferred the taste of it compared to the bread and butter pickle. It was considerably thinner having been cut lengthwise than the bread and butter pickle which I think allowed for the batter to get more crispy. I’m thinking it may have had less water content than the thicker, more round pickle and so the batter could be more effective. The beer batter made for a very light and crispy coating and I’ll definitely use the batter again to make onion rings or deep fry a burger or grilled cheese!

Beer-Batter Fried Pickles (Recipe from Southern Living – 1,001 Ways to Cook Southern)

Ingredients

  • 2 (16-oz.) jars dill pickle sandwich slices, drained
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 (12-oz.) can beer
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. seasoned salt
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • Vegetable oil

Directions

  1. Pat pickles dry with paper towels
  2. Whisk together egg and next 3 ingredients in a large bowl; add 1 1/2 cups flour, and whisk until smooth.
  3. Pour oil to a depth of 1 1/2 inches into a large heavy skillet or Dutch oven; heat over medium-high heat to 375 F. (I used a small portable deep-fryer with a lid which prevented oil from splattering everywhere. My suggestion for the skillet or Dutch oven route would be to invest in a splatter screen.)
  4. Dip pickle slices into batter, allowing excess batter to drip off. Fry pickles, in batches, 3 to 4 minutes or until golden. Drain and pat dry on paper towels; serve immediately with Spicy Ranch Dipping Sauce.

Spicy Ranch Dipping Sauce

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp. minced green onions
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp. hot sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. seasoned salt
  • Garnish: seasoned salt (optional)

Directions

  1. Whisk together all ingredients. Garnish, if desired. Store in an airtight container in a refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
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Filed under Alabama, Beer-Batter fried pickles, Deep-fried pickles, Pickles, Southern, Tuscaloosa, Wickles

Pecan Pie Squares

I was so impressed by my recent visit to Alabama that I went online to Amazon as soon as I got home and ordered 1001 Ways To Cook Southern by Southern Living.

There was a bunch of selections to choose from, but I was taken with this book because it was more than just recipes. It also promised stories which are always important, but are an especially unique element of Southern cuisine with so many recipes handed down from generation to generation. I wasn’t sure what to start with until I found a recipe for pecan pie squares. When I saw I could re-create a staple of Southern cuisine like pecan pie in a potentially less guilty square form, well, that’s all I needed to see.

Maybe because I don’t own a ton of cookbooks, but I felt a fun sort of excitement using this cookbook for the first time. It was like the giddiness of opening up a present, but the excitement was multiplied because I knew there were tons of more presents waiting in the book!

Unfortunately, my pastry blender is in a box somewhere, so I had to make do with a fork, but other than that, this was a very simple recipe that turned out really nicely. The pecan topping is sweet, but not outrageously sugary like I’ve had in other pecan pies. Don’t get me wrong, I do like crazy, über sweet, but this one was good in that it didn’t make it feel like you were one more bite away from a cavity! The crunch of the pecan is definitely there and it’s a perfect compliment to the soft and buttery crust that by the way I am totally impressed with myself for making!

Pecan Pie Squares – Makes approximately 30 squares

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 3 Tbsp. whipping cream
  • 3 1/2 cups coarsely chopped pecans

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Sift together flour and powdered sugar. Cut in 3/4 cup softened butter using a pastry blender or fork until mixture resembles coarse meal. Pat mixture on bottom and 1 1/2 inches up sides of a lightly greased 13×9 inch baking dish.
  2. Bake at 350F for 20 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool. Bring brown sugar, honey, 2/3 cup butter and whipping cream to a boil in a saucepan over medium-hight heat. Stir in pecans and pour hot filling into prepared crust.
  3. Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes or until golden and bubbly. Cool in pan on a wire rack before cutting into 2-inch squares.

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Filed under Alabama, Pecan Pie Squares

Roll Tide in Tuscaloosa!

The state of Alabama may not have the heat of Florida, but it certainly provides warmth to the soul. I was in Tuscaloosa to watch the Alabama Crimson Tide dismantle the Georgia State Panthers. But along the way, I had the opportunity to enjoy some of that down-home southern hospitality you only get to read about.

First stop, food at a wonderful place called the Cypress Inn. Needless to say, I was ready to experience southern cooking in the next 72 hours. Unfortunately, the apps were gone so quickly, pictures weren’t possible, so what you don’t see are an incredible array of award-winning fried catfish (great seasoning, light batter and moist), fried green tomatoes (amazing), fried crab claws (with a little seafood sauce, just perfect), huge jumbo shrimp (the oxymoron at its finest) and get ready for this…fried pickles, so good! By the way, do you see a pattern here?

I ordered shrimp and grits with a side of mustard greens and hoppin’ jons (black-eyes peas and rice).  I’m just going to say it was great and let you have a look for yourself. (Who else is reminded of My Cousin Vinny when they hear of grits?)

Ok, so get this. After this enormous lunch, we were off to do some tailgating before the football game. Tailgating, as in more food! I decided to take a walk to work off some of my lunch, what do I find? Yep, it’s a deep-fried Twinkie. I had to try one, right? Well, it was heavenly, the batter was light and crispy and the inside was still warm. If you’re curious what I thought about it, I finished it off in three bites.


In Tuscaloosa, the game in town is college football. Need proof? Well, the population of Bryant-Denny Stadium is 101,821, yet the population of Tuscaloosa is roughly 93,000 and yet that stadium is constantly packed!

Alabama maimed the poor team from Georgia State 63-7. I’ll take a lopsided win rather than a loss anytime, Roll Tide!

The customary “Where’s Waldo?” picture.

More walking was needed the next day if I was to continue eating all this incredible fried food. So a visit to the Bryant Museum was in order. Coach “Bear” Bryant is legendary across Alabama and college football. If you need further proof, he has a stadium, museum and street named after him in Tuscaloosa. He coached the Alabama football team for 25 years and needless to say left quite an imprint with his black and white Houndstooth fedora, 300+ victories and committment to excellence that still exists today.

Before lunch (yes, more eating), a little walk around campus was in order. The students living here had a good time last night if the cans are any indication.

It was a beautiful day in Tuscaloosa, so we hit up a place called Wintzell’s Oyster House in the neighboring town of Northport. If you’re known for oysters, than, I’m having oysters, but not before some fried green tomatoes and gator tail (yep, it’s fried!) So, what does gator taste like? I hate to say it, but it sort of tastes like chicken, but a little chewier. It doesn’t have much of a taste on its own, but the Cajun seasoning was perfect with it.

As for the oysters, so good. Here we go, from left to right. Grilled oysters, butter, parmesan and romano cheese. They shrink considerably from the heat and turn into little nuggets of flavour. Next, can never go wrong with the famous oysters Rockefeller with spinach and a sprinkling of cheese. Next was my favorite, the Oysters Bienville which consisted of shrimp, crabmeat and parmesan sauce. It was over-the-top decadent with an oyster hiding underneath. Last were Oysters Monterey with jalapeno, bacon and cheddar cheese. Enough said!

After lunch, we did a little walking around Northport. It’s a charming little town, where else do you find a spot to take fun pics like an old barn and a nickel & dime store?

And before we had to leave Tuscaloosa, we HAD to eat again. Unfortunately, the picture didn’t come out well but it was so good, I had to share it. We had dinner at Chuck’s Fish and I had to order what got me the most things on my plate which was the seafood platter. Jumbo lump crab cake, stuffed shrimp wrapped with bacon, blackened Mahi and a cheese grit cake that is Iron Chef worthy.

That is my Tuscaloosa, Alabama experience in a whirlwind 72 hours. Certain places are what they are because of the people and from what I experienced, the people of  Tuscaloosa make the town what it is. As soon as I stepped off the plane, I was treated like a member of the family and for that I have only one thing to say “Thanks y’all & Roll Tide!”

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Filed under Alabama, Fried foods, Tuscaloosa