Tastiest Toddy in Town

Childhood friends Charlie McNichol and Cortlandt Inge, along with several of their favorite friends and fellow foodies, recently cooked up a clever contest for determining the best Bloody Marys in Mobile. The criteria for the contest was simple – bring along two unmarked gallons of your best bloodies for tasting and tippling.

Those who didn’t tote along their version of the legendary libation arrived with other party staples. “People are so generous. They brought flowers, wine, food, ” says Cortlandt’s wife, Amy Inge. “Everyone who walked in the gate had something to share.” The side yard of the Inges’ abode in the Oakleigh Garden District served as the alfresco setting. Guests strolled about the sundry stations spanning the garden sampling and, in time, casting their votes for either one or two of their preferred picks.

Homemade condiments and a variety of garnishes were on hand to allow party-goers to craft up their own unique drinks. Following announcement of the top three winners, everyone adjourned to tables under the oaks and palms to enjoy some of Cortlandt’s popular grits and grillades. The fête was a rousing success. Amy says, “We had Bloody Marys, champagne and beer flowing from 11 in the morning until 8 that evening.” McNichol says the friends plan to make the party an annual event.

1st Place

Shannon’s Glorious Gazpacho Bloodies

Shannon Walker, whose husband Jim owns the Dauphin Street Taqueria, crafted this delectably different contest-winning recipe.

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1/2 a liter of Absolut Citron Vodka
1 (33-ounce) bottle Bloody Mary base mix
2 cups pureed cucumbers
juice of 3 lemons, freshly squeezed
juice of 5 limes, freshly squeezed
juice of 1/2 grapefruit, freshly squeezed
5 pineapple spears, plus juice
6 cups escabeche juice*
2 cups olive juice
1 cup pickle juice
3 tablespoons celery salt
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 cup fresh lime juice
4 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 quarts of water
slices of lemons, limes and cucumbers
whole green olives 

1. Mix ingredients together and chill.
2. Garnish with slices of lemon, limes and cucumbers, along with green olives. Makes 2 gallons.

* To make their zesty escabeche, Dauphin Street Taqueria marinates jicama, jalapeños and carrots in vinegar. Find a similar recipe on mobilebaymag.com or use juice from pickled jalapeños and carrots in escabeche found in the Mexican foods aisle.

2nd Place

Charlie’s Sassy Overnight Bloody Marys

Charlie McNichol won second place for his version. He says that chilling the mixture overnight is the secret to the recipe’s success.

2 1/2 cups Smirnoff Vodka
1 (32-ounce) bottle Zing Zang Bloody Mary Mix
3/4 cup Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons celery salt
1 teaspoon salt
juice of 3 lemons, freshly squeezed
juice of 2 limes, freshly squeezed

1. Mix all ingredients together and chill overnight in the refrigerator. Makes 1 gallon.

3rd Place

Bloody Mark

Stacy Wellborn’s twist on the classic cocktail is made with bourbon. Her best friend, a native Kentuckian, inspired the idea. “With its slight sweetness, Maker’s Mark balances the spiciness of the Tabasco, cayenne and horseradish, ” Wellborn says.

1 (64-ounce) bottle of Zing Zang Bloody Mary Mix
3 teaspoons of horseradish
2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
5 dashes of Tabasco
5 dashes of cayenne pepper
5 dashes of salt and black pepper
1 cup of Maker’s Mark bourbon

1. Pour mix into pitcher. Add next five ingredients. Adjust to taste. (Stacy prefers it spicy, but will temper the Tabasco for a tamer version.)
2. Top with Maker’s Mark bourbon. Mix well. Chill for at least 6 hours and serve. Makes approximately 1/2 gallon.

Billy’s Pickled Green Tomatoes

Billy Thompson’s pickled green tomatoes make a snappy addition to a Bloody Mary. Thompson has served as chef in several of Shannon and Jim Walker’s restaurants. He currently heads up the helm at Union.

1 large green tomato, sliced 1/4-inch thick, then halved
white balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons red chili flakes
8 sprigs fresh thyme
2 teaspoons kosher salt

1. Place tomato slices in glass or non-reactive container.
2. Pour enough white balsamic vinegar over the slices to cover.
3. Combine the rest of the ingredients and pour over tomatoes.
4. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Serves 6 – 8.

Drick’s Spicy Pickled Green Beans

Drick Perry, a fabulous foodie and neighbor, lives at the end of the Inges’ block in Oakleigh. He brought a couple of jars of his splendid pickled green beans as a gift to garnish the Bloody Marys. He graciously shared the following, adapted from his grandmother’s original recipe.

2/3 cup water (for water bath)
4 pounds trimmed fresh green beans, rinsed and cut into 4-inch lengths (or to fit into jars)
1 large bay leaf or 2 small bay leaves, per pint jar
3 or 4 strips of red bell pepper, per pint jar
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (or 1 small red chili pepper, halved), per pint jar
1/2 teaspoon mustard seed, per pint jar
1/2 teaspoon dill seed, per pint jar
1/2 teaspoon coriander seed, per pint jar
5 cups white vinegar, 5 percent acidity
5 cups distilled water
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup canning salt
2 garlic cloves, per pint jar

1. Sterilize jars, lids and seals for canning, and prepare a bath of water in your canner.
2. Pack 10 (1-pint) jars with the green beans, leaving 1/2 inch of room for the garlic.
3. Add the bay leaf and red bell pepper to the side of each jar. Pack tightly with more beans.
4. Add crushed red pepper (or chili), mustard, dill and coriander to each jar.
5. In a medium saucepan, bring the vinegar and  distilled water to a boil.
6. Add the sugar and salt. Stir until completely dissolved.
7. Pour the hot mixture into each of the jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Attach lids and rims. Processing time in water bath is 5 minutes. Makes 10 pints. Note: Drick says you can make 1 – 2 pints at a time without doing the water bath. He says simply place in the refrigerator after cooling and allow to mellow for at least a week.

Cortlandt’s Grillades & Cheese Grits

Cortlandt Inge has owned and worked in a number of Mobile restaurants throughout his cooking career. He is currently practicing his craft at Union in downtown Mobile. This is his popular recipe for the brunch dish.

olive oil
6 large sweet yellow onions,  sliced thinly, then halved
1 tablespoon sugar
4 cups beef stock
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup dry or cream sherry
1 cup white wine
1 cup red wine
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
2 heaping tablespoons chopped fresh garlic (Do not use pre-chopped garlic from a jar.)
1 large bunch of celery,  cleaned and chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
8 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 medium-size bunch fresh thyme, chopped
6 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed of fat and silver skin, thinly sliced
Cheese Grits (See recipe below)

1. Pour just enough olive oil into pan to coat. Add onions, sprinkle with sugar and sauté over medium-high heat until very translucent and very brown. Set aside.
2. In a large pot, combine beef stock, chicken stock, sherry, white wine, red wine and tomato paste.
3. Bring to a boil and continue boiling until the mixture is reduced by half.
4. Meanwhile, add just enough olive oil to coat a large sauté pan, then sauté garlic over medium heat until light brown.
5. Add celery and carrots. Continue cooking, stirring frequently until vegetables are tender. Stir in tomatoes and thyme.
6. Add vegetable mixture to stock pot along with sautéed onions. Boil gently for about 45 minutes.
7. Add the pork slices to the boiling mixture one tenderloin at a time. Cover and let pork and stock simmer until the pork starts to fall apart. Serve with cheese grits. Serves 10 – 12.

Cheese Grits

3 cups quick grits
chicken stock
12 eggs, lightly beaten
3 pounds good-quality cheddar cheese, shredded
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Prepare grits according to package directions, substituting the water with chicken stock and omitting the salt.
3. Remove from heat. Stir in eggs and cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Mix well.
4. Pour mixture into 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Bake for about 25 minutes.

Suzanne’s Lemon Squares

Suzanne Cleveland is a longtime Oakleigh Garden District neighbor who lives a couple doors down from the Inges. Her award-winning lemon squares are a much-loved local staple.

2 sticks butter, softened
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 cups flour, sifted
4 eggs, slightly beaten
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
grated lemon rind (optional)
confectioners’ sugar, for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine butter, 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar and 2 cups of flour. Press into the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.
3. Bake for 20 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, mix together eggs, 4 tablespoons of flour, sugar, lemon and lemon rind (if using).
5. Pour lemon mixture over hot crust and return to oven. Continue baking for 20 minutes more.
6. Let cool slightly. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar to liking. Cut into squares. Makes 12 or more, depending on the size of squares.

text by Sallye Irvine • photos by Ashley Rowe

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