Meme Brewer is most content when she is in the kitchen cooking. Her husband, Chris, is happiest when he is in the woods hunting. Together their preferred passions produce many fabulous feasts for family and friends. “Chris hunts almost every weekend during deer season – when it doesn’t interfere with Alabama football, ” Meme says. (Both Meme and Chris went to the University of Alabama.) He also heads out several weekends during dove and turkey seasons, often with a bit of other bird hunting thrown in for good measure. The end result, like so many other households across the South, is a freezer filled with game galore. Then, at least for the Brewers, it’s clearly time for a party.
“We entertain a lot, ” says Meme, a freelance interior designer who engages in an ample amount of hunting herself, for just the right antique, accent or embellishment. She brings that same energy and innovative flair to the table. When not scouting for decor, she is often scouring cookbooks and planning menus and meals. “Mostly our entertaining style is very casual, ” she says. For this particular party, Meme used her panache and culinary creativity to compose an elegant bash for her favorite huntsman, her high-school sweetheart turned spouse of 20 years, on his birthday.
Grilled Quail and Pomegranate Salad
This is a showy and substantial salad that may be served as a sizable starter for 6 or a light main dish salad for 4.
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon garlic powder
salt and pepper, to taste
6 frozen quail, thawed and split in half
2 bags mixed greens
seeds and juice of 1/2 pomegranate
1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1. In a bowl, whisk together balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Add the quail halves and toss.
2. Marinate at room temperature for 15 – 20 minutes, then drain.
3. Grill, skin-side down for 5 minutes, turn and grill for 5 more minutes. Remove to platter.
4. Toss greens, pomegranate seeds and juice, pumpkin seeds and cheese in a salad bowl. Drizzle with lime juice and 1/4 cup of the olive oil; toss to coat.
5. Divide greens among plates and top with two quail halves. Drizzle with additional olive oil, if desired. Serves 4 – 6.
Apple-Ginger Whiskey Sours
This fall libation, above, is lovely served fireside.
4 cups apple cider
1 1/3 cups packed light brown sugar
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
(May substitute 3/4 teaspoon dry ground ginger. If used, do not strain.)
1 cup whiskey or brandy
fresh orange rind or lemon rind, for garnish
1. In a medium pan, combine cider, brown sugar, lemon juice and ginger.
2. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat and cook, stirring until sugar dissolves, for about 10 minutes.
3. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into an airtight container; discard solids. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.
4. Stir in whiskey and divide among ice-filled glasses. Garnish with strips of orange or lemon rind.
Serves 6 – 8.
Duck Breast and Apple Stacks with Blueberry Chutney
2 cooked duck breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
2- 3 Granny Smith apples, unpeeled, cut into bite-sized pieces and seeds removed
Blueberry Chutney (See below.)
1. Place a piece of duck breast between two similar sized pieces of apple. Secure with a toothpick. Place on a platter and drizzle each “stack” with Blueberry Chutney. Serves 6 – 8.
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 orange (including rind), cut into thin strips, seeds removed
4 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves or 1 teaspoon dried tarragon
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon salt
1. In a large nonstick saucepan over high heat, cook shallots and garlic for 1 minute. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.
2. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally until thickened, about 50 minutes. Pour chutney into a pint jar. Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to a month. Makes about 2 cups.
ABOVE LEFT Meme Brewer, right, and her sister Susy Manders, left, enjoy a beverage at the party for Meme's husband, Chris.
Make meatballs larger for spaghetti or smaller for a savory appetizer to serve with Meme’s Sassy Sauce. The hostess uses half ground bacon venison and half venison sausage in her take on the recipe.
2 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup whole wheat panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup minced onions
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 pound ground venison
1 tablespoon olive oil
Meme’s Sassy Sauce (See below.)
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs and milk.
2. Add bread crumbs, cheese, parsley, onions, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly.
3. Add venison and knead with hands until well blended. Form into meatballs of desired size.
4. In a large skillet with a tightly fitting lid, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add meatballs and brown on all sides, about 8 minutes.
5. Add 1/2 cup Meme’s Sassy Sauce, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for approximately 15 – 20 minutes. Serve with more sauce on the side. Garnish with chopped parsley. Serves 6 – 8.
Meme’s Sassy Sauce
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup barbecue sauce (Meme’s favorite is local Rob Berglin’s Shube sauce.)
1 tablespoon minced jalapeño peppers
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Creole mustard
dash of Worcestershire sauce
salt, to taste
hot sauce, to taste (Meme uses Original Louisiana Hot Sauce.)
1. Whisk together melted butter, ketchup, barbecue sauce, jalapeños, brown sugar, corn syrup and red wine vinegar in a large sauté pan.
2. Add mustard, Worcestershire, salt and hot sauce. Whisk until it begins to simmer.
Helen’s Doves and Dumplings
Meme credits her stepmother, Helen Childers, with this delectable dove dish.Meme’s dad, Harry Childers, is also an avid outdoorsman.
8 cups chicken broth
5 stalks celery, chopped with leaves
3 small onions, chopped
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
1 cup mushrooms, sliced, optional
salt and pepper, to taste
25 doves, cleaned
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting work surface
3/4 cup water
chopped parsley, optional for garnish
1. Boil chicken broth with celery, onions, garlic, mushrooms, salt and pepper.
2. Add doves and simmer until tender, about 20 – 30 minutes. Remove doves to cool. Return broth to a boil.
3. Meanwhile, lightly flour a work surface. Mix flour with water to form a ball of dough, not too sticky.
4. Roll dough into a very thin rectangle. Cut into strips. (A pizza cutter works well.) Pull each strip up from surface, stretching slightly to make even thinner.
5. Drop strips into the boiling broth one at a time. Cook for approximately 20 minutes.
6. Shred dove meat. When dumplings are cooked, add shredded dove meat to broth and adjust seasonings. Serve garnished with parsley. Serves 8.
Pumpkin Crème Brûlée
This dessert, spiced with pumpkin and pepitas, showcases the flavors of autumn.
3 cups half-and-half
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
6 egg yolks
1 cup sugar, divided
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
Ginger Pumpkin Seed Brittle, for garnish (See below.)
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place 6 (8-ounce) ramekins in a large baking dish. Fill the baking dish with 1/2 inch of hot water.
2. In a large saucepan, combine half-and-half, pumpkin pie spice and ginger. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until mixture comes to a low simmer. Remove from heat.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks and 3/4 cup of sugar. Using a ladle, slowly pour 1 cup of the hot half-and-half mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Repeat with a second cup.
4. Then, whisk the egg mixture into the remaining half-and-half mixture. Add the pumpkin, whisking constantly until smooth.
5. Pour into ramekins and bake for 45 minutes to an hour or until set and firm.
6. Let stand for 30 minutes or until cool enough to handle; then remove ramekins from water bath. Cover and chill for at least 8 hours.
7. When ready to serve, preheat broiler. Sprinkle custards with remaining sugar. (Use more if desired.)
8. Place custards 5 1/2 inches away from the heat source. Broil for 3 – 5 minutes or until the sugar melts and browns.
9. Chill 15 – 30 minutes or longer before serving. Serve garnished with shards of Ginger Pumpkin Seed Brittle. Serves 6.
Ginger Pumpkin Seed Brittle
2 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons baking soda
1. Spray a large, rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.
2. In a large saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup and water. Cook over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add salt, stirring to combine.
3. Cook until a candy thermometer registers 250 degrees (firm ball stage). Then, add pepitas and ginger.
4. Continue cooking until thermometer reads 290 degrees (soft crack stage). Remove pan from heat.
5. Stir in the butter and baking soda. Beat until frothy.
6. Pour into prepared pan. Allow to cool at room temperature for 1 – 2 hours, or until hardened. Break into pieces. Store in an airtight container. Makes 10 – 12 servings.
Baked Fruit Dressing
This is a glorious accompaniment to any wild game or fall fare. It also easily doubles as a delightful breakfast or brunch dish for house parties or holidays.
1 (15-ounce) can sliced peaches, undrained
1 (16-ounce) can sliced pears, undrained
1 (15-1/2-ounce) can pineapple chunks, drained
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 slices white bread, toasted and cut or torn into 1/2-inch chunks
1 (15-ounce) can apricot halves, drained
3/4 cup melted butter
maraschino cherries, for garnish
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, add peaches, pears, pineapple, raisins, walnuts, 1/2 cup of the brown sugar and vanilla. Stir gently to combine.
3. Spoon into a lightly greased 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle fruit with bread cubes. Arrange apricot halves on top.
4. Combine butter and remaining brown sugar and pour over the top. Add a cherry to each apricot half. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes. Serve warm. Serves 8 – 10.
text and styling by sallye irvine • photos by Todd Douglas