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They had me at the title with this one! I fell deeply in love with O’Connor’s work in a course back in college, and went on to read the whole collection. A Good Meal is Hard to Find: Storied Recipes from the Deep South is rich and storied, too. If you love the tales behind dishes, you’re going to love it. The illustrations are charming! And that’s just the frosting. The dishes are amazing!
I’ll tell you all about the dishes we tried in a minute, but first I wanted to share with you the recipe for THE SUZY B’S SPINACH AND MUSHROOM FRITO PIE. We love Frito Pie and had never heard of a vegetarian version before. It is absolutely amazing. To my shock, I strongly prefer it to the original one. It’s like a cheesy mushroom and spinach dip had a baby with frito pie. Yeah. Go make it now. I hope you love it, too!
We’ve been reading like crazy over quarantine! After the review of this book, I’ll tell you about our book-club for two. Let me know what great reads you’ve found!
Reprinted from A Good Meal is Hard to Find by Amy C. Evans & Martha Hall Foose with permission by Chronicle Books, 2020
THE SUZY B’S SPINACH AND MUSHROOM FRITO PIE
FRANNY ALWAYS GREETED HER GUESTS WITH AN ENTHUSIASTIC “HOW YA DURIN’?” On this night, everyone was celebrating the launch of the Ward family’s latest addition to their shrimping fl eet, The Suzy B. Glasses over- fl owed with Champagne, and Franny was committed to serving her favorite food. After the party, Mrs. Coleman sent her a hefty dry-cleaning bill, and Franny refused to give her another reason to complain.
Makes six servings
1 2/3 cups half-and-half, divided
2 1/2 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp finely ground white pepper
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 tsp ancho chile powder
Dash of cayenne pepper
Dash of grated nutmeg
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 cup roughly chopped white onion
8 oz white button mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 large jalapeño, seeded and diced
Two 10 oz packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 cups (8 oz) grated pepper Jack cheese, divided
One 9.5 oz bag or six individual 1 oz bags corn chips
Chopped fresh cilantro
IN A LITTLE BOWL, mix 2 Tbsp of the half-and-half with the cornstarch and set it aside. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the remaining half-and-half, the white pepper, salt, chile powder, cayenne, and nutmeg to a simmer. Give the cornstarch mixture a stir and add it to the saucepan, stirring continuously. Bring to a full boil and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and set aside.
HEAT a large deep skillet with a lid over medium-high heat and melt the butter. Add the garlic, onion, mushrooms, and jalapeño. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Add the spinach. Stir in 1 cup of your cheese and the half-and-half mixture.
WHEN YOU ARE READY TO MAKE YOUR FRITO PIES, line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and arrange six servings of corn chips in fl attened mounds on the foil. Position an oven rack in the upper middle position of your oven and heat your broiler.
SPOON about 1/2 cup of the spinach mixture over each mound of chips and top with the remaining 1 cup cheese. Broil for 6 to 8 minutes, until all bubbly and warmed through. Move each mound to a plate for serving. Garnish with cilantro.
Notions & Notes
IF SO INCLINED, serve each guest’s pie in a Frito bag. Do this by transferring each portion into a snack bag that has been split down the center.
Back to that book!
Ethel’s Overnight Breakfast in Bed is a custardy, jammy doughnutty, oaty, almondy, French toast bake with orange and vanilla fragrancing the kitchen. Oh, I super love this one. Easy peasy, make ahead, yummy, and a looker. Perfect.
Loretta’s Café con Mitad Y Mitad is a delicious dark coffee flavored with dark cocoa powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a little sugar and half and half. So good.
Lenore Anne’s Delta Hot Tamale Balls are so clever. They are such an easy shortcut to the tamale. The flavor is really close to a traditional Delta Tamale, except this doesn’t include lard. Pork sausage is half the meat used, though, so some of the pork fat taste is there. So easy, yummy, and a little healthier. Nice.
The Suzy B’s Spinach and Mushroom Frito Pie took me by surprise. We love Frito Pie and had never heard of a vegetarian version before. It is absolutely amazing. To my shock, I strongly prefer it to the original one. It’s like a cheesy, mushroom and spinach dip had a baby with frito pie. Yeah. Go make it now.
Pearl’s Wish is a rummy, creamsicle-style cocktail. It’s super refreshing and rich. Nice.
Vi’s Sherry Pot Pie is comfort food perfection. She used cooked chicken (the other half of that rotisserie), frozen veggies, and boxed biscuit mix. It’s in the oven and ready for dinner with no effort.
Gayle Lucky Chicken Posole is really flavorful and easy. It calls for cooked chicken, so I used half of a rotisserie chicken. The dried ancho chile really makes it.
Clementine’s Crawfish Puppies Dipped in H-Town Queso are fabulous. The crawfish tails add great flavor and cheerful pops of color to the hushpuppies interior. The queso is inspired by the queso from Felix restaurant in Houston. She makes reference to Lisa Fain’s Queso book, and her version of queso, which is fabulous, too.
Ouida’s Buttered Pimiento Souffle is a cheesy, bready, eggy puff with a lovely cheese and pimiento crown. It smells terrific!
Edna’s Slow-Cooked Apricot Pork is perfect for a busy day. I seasoned it last night, and popped it in the crockpot this morning. The apricot jam and bbq sauce play so nicely with the spice rub. I served it with garlic green beans and pineapple, but it would play really well as a pulled pork sandwich with cole slaw and pickles piled on top.
Delores’s Vibrancy Water will have you happily hitting all your hydration goals. Lightly sweetened cucumber, mango, and lime water with a hint of heat.
Pauline’s Lucky Pickle Relish Dogs are fabulous. The relish is much less sweet and more pickle-y than the usual bright green stuff.
Ivy’s Sweet Sausage Balls are a mixture of Italian sausage, baking mix, sweet potatoes, and Monterey jack. The kids loved them! They’d be cute on a brunch table with eggs and a little fresh fruit.
The Guerrero book-club for two….
My husband and I have been having a book club for two all throughout quarantine. First was Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution. Excellent read and the narrator really added to the piece in the most artful manner with a snark highlighting quality. So good! Then we read The Three-Body Project. It was a fun and engaging science fiction read, but neither of us loved it. We just finished 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created. It was fabulous. His story telling style reminds me of Bill Bryson, with one historical vignette seamlessly pouring into another. Bonus – if you’re a history loving foodie, you’ll find it particularly exciting! It’s my turn to pick, so I grabbed A Good Man is Hard to Find on Audible to go with this. I have a hardcopy of The Complete Tales, but there’s nothing better at the end of the day than a lovely glass of wine and hearing “This is Audible” as the audiobook starts. Did you know that you can ask Alexa to read your book and she’ll grab whatever you have open on Audible? Way better than listening to it on your phone! Let me know what great books you’ve been devouring!
*I received a copy to explore and share my thoughts.
Need that pie dish? I’m an Amazon affiliate. Every time you use one of my links to get over to Amazon to make a purchase, Amazon gives me a tiny percentage. I put it back into next year’s blog fees. Thank you!