ABOVE Entertaining guests on the wharf, the porch or even just in the backyard is such an adventure in autumn. Take advantage of cooler temps and changing scenery this season.
Dinner and drinks on the wharf and entertaining are synonymous with summertime. Despite the heat and humidity, these gatherings remain a much-beloved, longtime local ritual. However, many believe that the Bay is at its most enchanting in autumn, when balmy breezes get an invigorating crisp, cool edge, and South Alabama is in its full splendor.
Luminous pastel clouds at twilight offer a romantic mood to the early evening. Hunting season is underway, and fishing is still promising. It’s that time of year when Mobile Bay and the surrounding waterways, forests and fields provide a lavish array of fare for the feasting, not to mention the perfect panoramic view for the occasion. It gives a terrific twist to the concept of fresh and local, extending far beyond produce to fish, fowl and game — all of which make for splendid supping at an autumn alfresco affair.
Jezebel sauce is sweet, spicy and hot all at the same time, hence the name. Foodies argue about the origins of this popular condiment that is reputed to have roots in Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida and Kansas, but all agree that it is delectable served alongside sausage, game dishes, ham and also spooned over a block of cream cheese for a quick, simple starter.
1/4 cup jarred horseradish
2 – 3 tablespoons dry mustard, or to taste
1 (16-ounce) jar pineapple preserves
1 (16-ounce) jar apple jelly
1 – 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, if desired
1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir together all ingredients until smooth and well blended.
2. Remove from heat. Store in airtight jars in the refrigerator until ready to use. Makes approximately 4 cups.
Dove season starts in September, so on many autumn evenings, we like to start supper with these divine dove bites. It’s become a tradition and tried-and-true crowd pleaser. And no matter how many we make, there are never leftovers.
12 slices bacon
12 – 16 doves, breasted and deboned (2 – 3 per person)
6 – 8 whole pickled jalapeños, stemmed, seeded and sliced into strips of desired width
1. Cut bacon slices in half. Place each half on a work surface and top with a dove breast and jalapeño strip.
2. Wrap each breast and jalapeño strip with bacon, and secure with a toothpick or two.
3. Cook on the grill for approximately 15 – 20 minutes, turning constantly with tongs until done. Serves 6 – 8.
Autumn Spinach Salad with Curry-chutney Dressing
An unusual and utterly addictive salad that features a riot of flavors and textures. It is perfect for fall festivities.
8 cups fresh spinach
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 – 1 cup peanuts or other nuts
2 tablespoons sliced green onions
1 1/2 cups chopped, peeled apples
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons chutney (I prefer Major Grey’s.)
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1. Combine spinach, raisins, nuts, green onions and apples in a large salad bowl.
2. Whisk together remaining ingredients and pour over salad. Toss to coat. Serves 8 – 10.
Butternut Squash Risotto
This golden-hued risotto makes a rich, lush side dish for any autumn supper. It is my variation of a classic risotto recipe.
2 tablespoons butter
4 cups butternut squash peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
salt and ground pepper, to taste
3 cups Arborio rice
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
32 ounces reduced sodium chicken broth (may substitute vegetable broth.)
1 cup warm water
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (plus more, to taste, for garnishing)
1. In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add squash and season with salt and pepper.
2. Cook, stirring often, until the edges soften, about 8 minutes.
3. Add Arborio rice and stir to coat. Add wine and cook until almost all the liquid has evaporated, about 2 – 3 minutes.
4. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add 1/2 cup of the broth at a time, stirring until liquid is absorbed, approximately 30 – 40 minutes.
5. Stir in warm water 1/2 cup at a time, stirring until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender (may add a little more if necessary).
6. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
7. Serve immediately, garnished with more freshly grated Parmesan cheese, if desired. Serves 8 – 10.
Trout Point Clear
Trout Amandine and Meunière are the usual preparations for speckled trout — and honestly, they are hard to beat. However, with several fisherfolk in the family and often an abundance of fresh fish, it is lovely to have some variation. This is a tasty, lighter recipe.
8 trout fillets (about 1/3 pound per person)
milk to cover
1 teaspoon salt
hot sauce, to taste (I prefer Crystal.)
2/3 cup flour
1 stick butter, divided
1/2 cup finely chopped green onions
1/2 cup finely chopped bell pepper (I prefer red, but green is delicious as well.)
2/3 cup white wine
salt and pepper, to taste
1. Soak trout fillets in a Pyrex dish in milk that has been flavored with the teaspoon of salt and several drops of hot sauce, turning once or twice.
2. Dry fish well and salt generously on both sides. Dredge in flour and shake off excess.
3. Put 1/2 stick of butter and a dash of hot sauce in baking dish large enough to hold fish without crowding. Place pan on middle shelf in broiler and let butter start to bubble.
4. Remove from oven and add green onions and chopped bell pepper to butter, placing the fish on top. Dot fish with remaining 1/2 stick of butter. Return to the broiler and cook for 15 – 20 minutes, basting once or twice.
5. When fish are done, remove them to a heated platter and keep warm. Add wine to pan and place over burners over medium heat. Let bubble rapidly for about 3 – 4 minutes.
6. Spoon sauce over fish and serve. Serves 8.
Caramel Apple Phyllo Tart
Apples are a classic autumn favorite – and caramel apples are even better! This easy, showy recipe combines the winning flavors in a rave-worthy finale. Try it a la mode.
1 – 2 tablespoons butter
6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and each cut into 16 slices
1/2 – 3/4 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
cooking spray (preferably butter flavored)
10 sheets frozen phyllo pastry, thawed
1 – 2 teaspoons powdered sugar
12 small soft caramels
1/4 cup milk
ice cream, if desired
1. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté apple slices and raisins in the butter (stirring frequently and carefully to avoid breaking the slices) until apples are tender but not mushy, about 10 minutes.
2. Reduce heat to low and sprinkle all with brown sugar and cinnamon, stirring to coat and heat through, about 3 – 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Preheat oven to 374 degrees.
3. Coat an 11-inch tart pan with cooking spray. Gently press a sheet of phyllo into tart pan, allowing ends to extend over the edges; spritz lightly with cooking spray. Place another sheet of phyllo pastry across the first sheet in crisscross fashion. Spritz lightly and repeat with the remaining four sheets. Fold and tuck the edges of the pastry into the pan to form a rim.
4. Bake the pastry for about 15 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.
5. Sprinkle the inside of the shell with powdered sugar. In a small saucepan, combine caramels and milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the caramels melt and become sauce-like in consistency. Remove from heat.
6. Spoon apple-raisin mixture into phyllo shell; drizzle with caramel sauce. 7. Serve with ice cream, if desired. Serves 8.
text and styling by Sallye Irvine • photos by Elizabeth Gelineau