Kitchen Queens Prepare Best Dishes for Fall Harvest Dinner

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The Kitchen Queens recently met for a Fall Harvest Dinner with everyone taking a favorite dish. Members pictured are, from left seated: Kay Yeager, Celeste Dorman, Mary Helen Martin, Julie Folmar, Carol Duncan and Macon Martin; standing from left: Dawn Patterson, Beth Ann Mitchell, Linda Letlow, Kathryn Blackburn, Jo Ellen James and Debbie Frojo. PHOTO BY ANN CIPPERLY

By ANN CIPPERLY

On a recent evening at sunset in White Oaks, members of the Kitchen Queens began arriving at the home of Kay Yeager for a Fall Harvest Dinner. Yeager provided two different flavored pork tenderloins for the menu, while members prepared their best fall dishes — from appetizers to desserts — with a special New Orleans beverage for the elegant dinner party.

A stunning autumn arrangement on the dining room table featured an urn overflowing with tiny pumpkins, sprays of cotton bolts, cattails and other fall foliage. Additional bolts of cotton, assorted pumpkins and Indian corn surround the base with tall, tapered candles flanking the centerpiece. Thanksgiving-inspired china and pumpkin-patterned napkins completed the festive look.

An overhead candlelight chandelier was festooned with grapevines, while a large, wrought iron candleholder in one corner displayed extra tall flickering candles.

As guests arrived, champagne corks popped in the butler’s pantry as chilled bottles of the bubbly beverage filled glasses to serve with a variety of appetizers. Members brought their favorite beverages, including wine and sparkling water.

Members of the Kitchen Queens are Linda Letlow, Carol Duncan, Julie Folmar, Kay Yeager, Macon Martin, Beth Ann Mitchell, Dawn Patterson, Celeste Dorman, Kathryn Blackburn, Mary Helen Martin, Jo Ellen James, Debbie Frojo, Nancy Patterson, Julie Echols, Margaret Whittelsey and Marty Heideman.

Folmar served Gougeres, a popular appetizer from the Burgundy region of France. Reggiano Parmesan, or half Parmesan and Gruyere, are added to the batter of the cheese puffs. Folmar’s were especially tasty, being embellished with cheese she brought back from France.

For her appetizer, Macon adapted a recipe for a collards dip called Alabama “Spinach” Dip from Dothan cookbook author and restaurant owner Kelsey Barnard Clark. She cooked the collards her way instead of following the recipe in “Southern Grit” but used the seasonings, cornmeal and breadcrumbs for the tasty spread.

Duncan took her popular Roasted Mushrooms Stuffed with Bacon, Feta and Cream Cheese. She makes the filling ahead and freezes it to save time. When ready to cook, she will thaw the filling, bake the mushrooms for about 20 minutes, then stuff them and finish baking until the cheese is melted.

An unusual appetizer was prepared with pumpkin and spices by Frojo. The South African dish was served with baguette slices.

As the appetizers were being savored, Yeager’s husband was at the grill finishing the pork tenderloins. Yeager served two choices — Orange Marmalade and Mustard Pork Tenderloin and Bourbon Glazed with Caribbean jerk seasonings.

An array of delectable sides included Blackburn’s creamy Corn Souffle, Mary Helen’s Artichoke Gratin laced with Marsala wine, Mitchell’s cheesy Squash Casserole and Dorman’s yummy Applesauce Sweet Potatoes. Each one was flavorsome and paired well with the succulent pork.

Desserts featured two scrumptious selections. Letlow served Applesauce Cake with Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting. The moist cake was enriched with pecans and golden raisins soaked in bourbon. Patterson prepared a luscious Lemon Chess Pie.

The evening ended with sips of New Orleans Milk Punch by James. Milk, bourbon, vanilla and vanilla ice cream were blended until smooth. James made it the day before to allow the flavors to develop.

Some previous themes for the dinners have been: Comfort Food, Cajun/Creole/Mardi Gras, Sailboat Cuisine (food that can be easily prepared on a sailboat), Mediterranean Cuisine, Christmas Cocktail Party with everyone bringing appetizers and Poinsettia cocktails, French Cuisine with a Kir Royal as a signature drink, Mexican Cuisine with Margaritas and Green Foods for springtime.

The Kitchen Queens began in February 2018 when Letlow saw a magazine article on a cookbook club about a group who each prepared a dish from the same cookbook. Letlow posted it on Duncan’s Facebook page, and several friends made a comment about it being a great idea. Then the group began to grow.

“I was invited to join right before COVID,” Yeager said. “When I left Birmingham, my friends worried about how I was going to like Auburn without Highlands Bar and Grill and Bottega. I have always been a foodie. Since I have been invited, I have been able to share my recipes and culinary adventures from here to Birmingham to Paris and Rome.”

At first, they followed the rules of the cookbook club by selecting a cookbook and everyone making a dish. They decided to meet every other month. Everyone had to purchase the cookbook or borrow one. After a while, they decided instead of cooking from a cookbook, they would pick a theme — cuisine or color — for their dinner.

The hostess selects the theme. The first themed dinner was French, and one month the theme was “green” for spring with all the food green in color. The theme can also be a holiday.

Letlow and Duncan decided from the beginning that they didn’t want the dinner to be a stuffy affair. If someone wanted to use paper plates and paper napkins, that would not be judged. They didn’t want people to feel like they had to put on a show to have everyone over.

If a member has a busy day and doesn’t have time to make their dish, they are encouraged to attend anyway.

“We had rather they attend than not,” Letlow said.

There is always a lot of food with many dishes. Even though there are 16 members, they don’t double recipes. They make a recipe with four to six servings, which is always plenty since it is a tasting of each one. Macon keeps a list of who is bringing what so they don’t have a repeat recipe. Sometimes people bring a special beverage.

Many members enjoy entertaining. While some say they don’t have enough space at their home for all the members, there is always someone happy to have it at their home.

“It is a fun, diverse group,” Letlow said. “It is not like a group of friends who do everything together, although some in the group get together.”

For those interested in starting a group like the Kitchen Queens, Duncan suggests having diverse members, not your best friends.

“As long as they have a passion for cooking,” she said, “everyone will bring something different to the table to make it interesting … We all share our love of food. But everyone comes from different experiences that makes it interesting to see who is going to bring what. We have different cultures and wish we had more of that.”

For a variety of wonderful fall recipes for treating your family and to save for Thanksgiving, look over the recipes in the menu.

FALL HARVEST

DINNER MENU

Gougeres

 Mushrooms Stuffed with Bacon, Feta and Cream Cheese

Collard Green Dip

Bourbon Glazed Pork Tenderloin

Orange Marmalade and Mustard Pork Tenderloin

Applesauce Sweet Potatoes

Corn Soufflé

Artichoke Gratin

Lorene’s Squash Casserole

Applesauce Cake /Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting

Lemon Chess Pie

New Orleans Milk Punch

Gougeres

Julie Folmar

Gougeres are simple cheese puffs that are popular in the Burgundy region of France. They are good served as an appetizer with wine.

1 cup milk

1 stick unsalted butter

1 tsp. salt

1 cup sifted unbleached, all-purpose flour

5 eggs, divided

1½ Reggiano Parmesan cheese (or half Parmesan and half Gruyere)

Preheat oven 375 degrees.

Combine milk, butter and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove pan from heat and add flour all at once. Whisk vigorously for a few moments. Then return pan to medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until batter has thickened and is pulling away from the sides and bottom of the pan for 5 minutes or less.

Remove pan from heat and stir in 4 eggs, one at a time, making certain the first egg is completely incorporated before adding the second. Then stir in the cheese or cheeses.

Lightly butter a baking sheet.

Drop batter by tablespoons onto baking sheet, spacing puffs at least 1 inch apart.

Beat remaining egg in a small bowl. Brush tops of puffs with beaten egg, and sprinkle with additional Parmesan, if using.

Set baking sheet on the center rack of oven. Reduce heat to 350 degrees, bake for 15 and 20 minutes, or until Gougeres are puffed and well browned.

Orange Marmalade and Mustard Pork Tenderloin Roast

Kay Yeager

1-3 lb. pork tenderloin

Moore’s or Dale’s Marinade

1 jar orange marmalade

6-8 oz. French’s yellow mustard

Marinate pork in Moore’s or Dale’s marinade 2-12 hours in a zip lock bag in refrigerator. Remove from marinade and pat dry; let roast stand for 30 minutes.

Preheat grill 350 degrees. Grill roast 25 minutes or until it reaches 145 degrees. Combine marmalade and mustard. Baste last 10 minutes with mustard marmalade mixture.

Bourbon Glazed Pork Tenderloin

Kay Yeager

½ cup lite soy sauce

1 Tbsp. Caribbean jerk seasoning

1-3 lb. pork tenderloin

¼ cup packed brown sugar

¼ cup bourbon

Stir together soy sauce and jerk seasoning. Place pork in a 2-gallon zip lock bag. Pour mixture over roast. Seal bag and chill 2-12 hours.

Preheat grill 350 degrees. Remove roast from marinade and pat dry. Let stand for 30 minutes.

Stir bourbon and brown sugar in a microwave safe container. Cook in microwave on high setting for 1 minute, stirring after 30 seconds.

Grill pork 25 minutes or until 145 degrees. Baste with bourbon mixture last 10 minutes.

Lorene’s Squash Casserole

Beth Ann Mitchell

This is an old recipe from Patti Crew’s mother. We did the best we could to write it down. It’s very simple, but my children and grandchildren love it, and it has become a family favorite.

14 to 15 small to medium sized yellow squash

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

Large “handful” of grated sharp cheddar cheese (mixture of white and yellow)

10-12 saltine crackers, crushed

1 stick butter

Crushed potato chips

Salt and pepper to taste

Thickly slice squash. Add chopped onion, salt and pepper in saucepan. Simmer covered in enough water to halfway cover squash. Simmer until squash is just tender. Drain well in colander.

Melt butter in pan. Add drained squash and onion mixture back to pan. Add crushed saltines. (Vary the number of crackers based on water to absorb). Stir in grated cheese. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Place in buttered casserole dish and top with crushed potato chips. Bake at 350 degrees until bubbly and edges start to brown approximately 30-40 minutes.

Roasted Mushrooms Stuffed with Bacon, Feta and Cream Cheese

Carol Duncan

8 oz. bacon

1 cup onion, small dice

10 oz. baby spinach, chopped

4 oz. feta cheese

4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature

1 tsp. red pepper flakes

2-3 lb. cremini mushrooms about 48, wiped with damp cloth

Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Parchment paper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cook bacon, drain and crumble.

Discard all but 1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons of bacon fat (add extra virgin olive oil to get this amount if needed).

Heat 2 tsp. fat in skillet; sauté onions until tender. Add spinach and sauté until wilted.

Mix onions, bacon, spinach, feta, cream cheese and red pepper; season with salt and pepper.

Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Toss mushrooms with 1/4 cup bacon fat (or olive oil); sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place mushrooms round side down on baking sheet in a singer layer. Bake until centers fill with liquid, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Spoon filling into mushrooms and bake 10 minutes or until filling is warm.

Note: The filling can be made ahead of time and refrigerated or frozen.

Corn Souffle

Kathryn Blackburn

3 eggs

3/8 cup (¼ cup plus 2 Tbsp.) sugar

½ cup all-purpose flour

1 ½ tsp. salt

1 ⅛ tsp. baking powder

3 cups heavy cream

2 cups fresh or frozen (thawed) yellow corn

1 Tbsp. melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 2-quart baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. In mixer bowl, beat eggs and sugar at medium speed for 3 minutes. Add flour salt and baking powder and beat an additional 3 minutes. Stir in cream. Add corn and melted butter; stir to combine.

Pour mixture into prepared dish. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until lightly browned and puffed on top and set in center. Cool on a wire rack for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

Applesauce Cake with Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting

Linda Letlow

¾ cup golden raisins

2 Tbsp. bourbon

10 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature, plus extra to grease pan

¼ cup granulated sugar

¾ light brown sugar, lightly packed

2 tsp. vanilla

2 large eggs, room temperature

1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for pan

1 ½ tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

¼ tsp. nutmeg

¼ tsp. ground cloves

1 tsp. kosher salt

1 ½ cups unsweetened applesauce

½ cup coarsely chopped pecans

Cream cheese frosting, recipe follows

Pecan halves for decorating

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9×2 round cake pan, line with parchment paper, then butter and flour pan.

Combine raisins and bourbon in a small bowl, cover, and microwave for 30 seconds. Set aside for 15 minutes.

Place butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. With mixer on medium, add vanilla and eggs, one at a time, and mix until smooth.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt. With mixer on low, slowly add flour mixture to batter, mixing until just combined. Stir in applesauce. Fold in raisins including liquid, and chopped pecans, and mix well. Pour into prepared pan and smooth the top.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until top springs back when lightly touched and a cake tester comes out clean. Cool for 30 minutes, turn out onto a cooling rack, and cool completely. Spread bourbon cream cheese frosting just on top of the cake (not the sides) and place pecan halves on top. Serve at room temperature. The cake may be baked up to 3 days ahead and wrapped well. Frost before serving.

Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting:

6 oz. cream cheese, room temperature

6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature

1 Tbsp. bourbon

½ tsp. vanilla

½ lb. (about 2 cups plus 2 Tbsp.) confectioner’s sugar, sifted

Place cream cheese, butter, bourbon and vanilla in a bowl and beat with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. With mixer on low, slowly add the sugar and mix well.

Artichoke Casserole

Mary Helen Martin

Recipe Courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis

3 Tbsp. olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

1 lb. frozen artichoke hearts, thawed

2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley leaves

¾ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes

½ cup chicken broth

¼ cup Marsala wine

2 Tbsp. butter

1/3 cup plain breadcrumbs

1/3 cup grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Warm olive oil in a heavy bottom skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add artichoke hearts, parsley, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes, and cook until artichoke hearts are starting to brown at edges, about 3 minutes. Add chicken broth and wine and simmer for 3 minutes. Transfer artichoke mixture to a 2-quart baking dish.

Melt butter in same skillet used to cook artichokes. In a small bowl mix melted butter with breadcrumbs. Stir in Parmesan and top artichokes with breadcrumbs. Bake until the top is golden, about 10 minutes.

Slow Cooker Applesauce Sweet Potatoes

Celeste Brassert Dorman

3 lbs. sweet potatoes (about 5 medium), peeled and sliced

1 ½ cups unsweetened applesauce

2/3 cup brown sugar

3 Tbsp. butter, melted

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

½ cup glazed pecans, chopped, optional

Place sweet potatoes in a 4-quart slow cooker. In a small bowl, mix applesauce, brown sugar, melted butter and cinnamon. Pour over potatoes.

Cook covered on low 4 to 5 hours or until potatoes are tender. If desired, sprinkle with pecans before serving or serve separately. Serve with a slotted spoon. Serves 8.

Lemon Chess Pie

Dawn Patterson

This is my mother-in-law’s recipe.

9 inch pie crust

Beat together 2 eggs and gradually add 1 cup granulated sugar.

Add juice of 1 lemon and grated rind.

Add 4 Tbsp. melted salted butter.

After mixing all ingredients above, pour into pie crust and bake in a preheated oven at 450 degrees for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees until crust is golden. Watch pie closely so not to burn.

New Orleans Milk Punch

Jo Ellen James

This can be served right away but is best made the day before to allow it to “marinate.”

3 ½ cups milk

1 cup bourbon

½ to 1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 cups Breyer’s vanilla ice cream

In a blender, blend together milk, bourbon, vanilla and ice cream until creamy. Pour into glass and garnish with a bit of freshly grated nutmeg and/or a stick of cinnamon.

Option: Can add a little spice by adding some cinnamon to your punch.

Collard Green Dip

Macon Martin

Recipe is adapted from Alabama “Spinach” Dip in Southern Grit by Dothan author and restaurant owner Kelsey Barnard Clark. Since my collard greens are pretty perfect, I decided to make the dip using my own collards preparation.

1 bunch of collards made day before (see my recipe below)

2 cups grated Parmesan cheese

½ cup mayonnaise

1 cup shredded Gouda cheese

1 cup panko breadcrumbs

2 Tbsp. butter, melted

¼ cup fine ground cornmeal

Pork skins or pita chips for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, place Parmesan, mayonnaise and drained collards. Mix well. If too dry, mix in a little potlikker from collard green preparation.

In a separate mixing bowl, place panko breadcrumbs, gouda and melted butter. Toss to combine.

Grease an 11×7 dish and dust with the cornmeal.

Pour the collard mixture in the prepared dish, then top with panko mixture. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling. Serve hot with pork skins or pita chips.

Macon’s Collard Greens:

1 bunch collard greens

2 boxes chicken broth

1 ham hock

2-3 strips bacon, diced

In a large pot, begin to brown bacon bits. After they have rendered, remove bacon bits and leave grease in pot.

Brown ham hock on all sides in bacon grease. Should be about 1 minute per side.

Turn heat down, add chicken broth until it covers ham hock. Raise heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour.

While stock is simmering, clean collards. Begin by filling a large bowl or your sink with cold water. Remove the stem from every collard leaf. Roll leaves up and chiffonade. **If you are making the dip, chop chiffonade rolls even more for easier eating.** Place in sink or bowl to rinse dirt off. Drain well.

After 1 hour, place collard greens in pot and simmer for at least 1 hour.

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