Wednesday, January 20, 2010



Lake Mattamuskeet - egret, to inform you, can lead to good eating. . .

TUNDRA SWANS come in for their evening meal, and so do we, nearby, for the very best oysters - from not this lake water - but from the Pamlico Sound just a few miles away as the crow, or swans, fly . . .
The US Park Ranger directed us to MARTELLE'S FEED HOUSE ( Engelhard, just a few more miles east on HWY 264. Martelle's only serves local oysters and local shrimp, as well as chicken, steaks, etc.
Local means Rose Bay, Stumpy Point, Swan Quarter - bays along the northern edge of the Pamlico Sound.
This year NC's oysters are among the best remembered in a long time. They're plump and juicy, numerous, salty - tasting of the water from which they're plucked.
Sitting at the Oyster Bar at Martelle's, we kept tabs on the oysters being shucked for us, and enjoyed them dipped in butter and a spicy cocktail sauce with an ice cold beer.
What a perfect way to end our day trip down to see the winter birds that flock to Lake Mattamuskeet. We watched the movements of swans, egrets, herons, various ducks, and bald eagles, while listening in on their continuous conversations.
We had something to "crow" about, too, that evening, as we sat and slurped our oysters.

RECIPE . . . . .. . . .for OYSTER FRITTERS
Oyster or Clam Fritters
Ivadean Priest was such a talker, and a good cook. She lived her entire life in Manteo, and unfortunately died last year. One of her favorite things to make was Oyster Fritters. Clams may also be used.
Ivadean taught me this secret: Mix up the batter and pour spoonfuls into the hot oil in a cast iron skillet. They'll look like silver-dollar pancakes. Then, quickly drop an oyster or two onto the fritter. That way the oysters will be more evenly distributed. That's the way I also do Blueberries when I'm making pancakes.
Traditionally, on the Outer Banks, fritters are served with applesauce. I'd suggest creme fraiche, or, I love a dollop of softened goat cheese, or chevre, esp on clam fritters.

2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 cup self-rising flour
1/2 cup oyster or clam juice, water, and/or milk
vegetable oil for frying
1 pint oysters (or clams)
topping of your choice (creme fraiche or sour cream, chevre,
ketchup or cocktail sauce)
1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Line a baking sheet with paper towels (to keep cooked fritters warm)
2. In a mixing bowl, mix eggs and flour together for a thick paste. Add as much of the liquid as is required to make a thin batter that is thick enough to hold together when put into the hot fat.
3. Pour enough vegetable oil into frying pan to reach a depth of 1/2 to 1 inch. Heat over medium-high heat.
4. When oil is hot, hold the bowl over the pan, and dip oysters into batter individually, then drop 2 to 3 oyster together in a cluster to make one fritter. Or, pour a spoonful of batter into the il, then quickly add a couple of oysters. If you are doing clam fritters, spoon a dollop of batter into the oil, then quickly add a spoonful of drained clams to the batter. Do not crowd the pan.
5. Cook each fritter until golden, then flip and cook the other side. Remove and drain on paper towels, on the baking sheet kept in the warm oven.
6. Serve stacks of the fritters on a serving platter, along with the topping.
YIELD: 1 dozen or more fritters, 4 to 6 appetizers, or 2 to 3 entrees.

from THE OUTER BANKS COOKBOOK: Recipes & Traditions from NC's Barrier Islands, by Elizabeth Wiegand, 2008, Globe Pequot Press.

Monday, January 4, 2010


"That's our old scrambled egg bowl!" exclaimed my sister as she wandered into my kitchen.
I cringed. I had brought the bowl home when my mother pulled everything out of her kitchen cabinets when doing a remodel last year. Take it, she had said, I've got new ones. The other two bowls were long broken.
Obviously, both my sister and I were more sentimental than our mom. In that bowl, we mixed up eggs we had just gathered just about every single morning, at least during the summer. At one time, Dad had 5,000 chickens in what today would be oh-so-politically-incorrect-above ground cages. We kids "got up eggs" twice a day during the summer. Each chicken laid an egg just about every day. Believe me, that's a lot of eggs to mess with. Once, both my sister and brother were fighting and turned the egg cart over, destroying 50 dozens. They had to pay Dad back, forfeiting their 50 cent per week allowance for almost a year. It's a wonder we ever ate any eggs, but we did, every day.
Fresh and local? You bet. Maybe not as "green" as today, but still some were warm, their yolks golden and perky.
So scrambling eggs means something to us. The second time that Amy picked up that bowl in my kitchen and starting remembering eggs and mornings, I guiltily told her to take it home.
This Christmas, she drew my name. And she went to eBay and bid on a set just like ours from Hall China with blue glaze on the bowls' outside, with a delicate rose pattern inside, just like the ones Mom received as a wedding present in 1950.
Wasn't that the sweetest, most sentimental Christmas present? I loved it.

So here's a recipe that can be mixed up in that sentimental bowl. Ubiquitous in the South, this recipe is the pound of butter, pound of lard, pound of sugar, pound of flour, pound of eggs . . . that our grandmother made. Our grandfather would come into the kitchen and jump up and down in front of the oven to make the cake "fall" for that sweet, dense streak of love in the middle of the cooked cake.
Pound cake is great by itself, with berries and cream, or soaked with apple brandy.

3 cups flour, sifted
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups sugar
1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, softened
1/2 cup Crisco or vegetable shortening, softened
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 small (6-ounce) can evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon flavoring

1. Grease and flour a round tube baking pan.
2. Sift flour, salt, and baking powder together and set aside.
3. In a large bowl, cream sugar, butter, and Crisco together. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Pour evaporated milk into a 1-cup measuring cup; fill empty milk can with water, swirl to rinse sides, and add that to measuring cup until you have a total of 1 cup liquid.
4. Alternately add flour mixture and milk and water, and when blended add vanilla and lemon flavoring. Pour into prepared tube pan.
5. Place in a cold oven, set oven temperature at 300 degrees, and bake for 1 1/2 hours. Do not open the oven door until that time; then check to see if cake is pulling away from sides of pan, which means the cake is done. If not, allow to bake longer.
6. Cool on wire rack for 30 minutes.