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Southern Fare For The Holiday

Chef Tory McPhail, of New Orleans? Commander's Palace, a restaurant legendary for it's Southern food with French accents, kicks off the American holiday with a menu for six.

His Saturday Early Show Chef on a Shoestring challenge? Doing it all with a $60 budget.

The following is his menu; just click on the red links to get the recipes:
Watermelon Salad
Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Rice and Beans
Peaches and Cream Shortcakes

For the appetizer, Chef McPhail uses the brining technique to essentially "pickle" watermelon rind for the salad. Brining is used often with meats to help season, impart flavor, and to keep the meat juicy while cooking.

For the main course, he uses chicory coffee in the dry rub for the pork. Though this hardy perennial has a variety of uses, it's best known for its association with coffee, especially in New Orleans. Another perk about chicory is that it's more soluble in water than coffee, which means you use a lot less of it when brewing - very economical for someone on a tight budget.

You can find chicory coffee at gourmet coffee shops. If you can't find chicory coffee, you may use regular ground coffee for the dry rub.

And his dessert calls for a splash of Southern Comfort, a traditional American liqueur made from bourbon and peaches.

The following are Chef McPhail's recipes:

Summer Watermelon Salad With Pickled Watermelon Rind and Mint Julep Vinaigrette

Ingredients:
1 3 lb. ripe watermelon with skin on

Pickling Brine:
1/2 cup vinegar*
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup water

*Chef McPhail notes, "We use sugar cane vinegar but champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar is fine, but do not use ordinary distilled white vinegar. It won't have enough flavor."

Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup mint leaves (pick out 6 sprigs of mint for garnish)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup bourbon
1/8 cup white wine vinegar
1/8 cup vegetable oil (You may substitute grape seed or another mild oil)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Method:
For the watermelon: With a sharp kitchen knife, cut the pink part of the watermelon into triangles and arrange on a serving platter. Remove the green skin of the watermelon and discard, saving the white portion of the rind. Dice the rind into 1/4" cubes. Bring the vinegar, sugar and water to a rapid boil. Add the rind, return to a boil then remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature and then refrigerate over night, in the brine. When ready to use, drain and set aside.

For the vinaigrette: Chop the mint leaves, making sure you save 6 nice sprigs for garnish. Once the mint is chopped, combine with the sugar in the bottom of a mixing bowl and using the round side of a spoon, press or "muttle" until the sugar has started to dissolve. Add the vinegar and the bourbon and whisk together. Slowly incorporate the oil as you continue to whisk.

To finish the salad: In a bowl, combine your watermelon and watermelon rind. Dress with vinaigrette. Toss well. Divide the watermelon salad evenly among six salad plates. Add a mint sprig on each dish as garnish.

Chicory Coffee Crusted Pork Tenderloin
New Orleans Red Bean and Rice "salad" with Glaze

Ingredients:
3 pieces pork tenderloin (about 2 3/4 - 3 pounds total), cleaned of silver skin and fat
1/3 cup vegetable oil

Chicory Crust:
1/4 cup chicory coffee grounds (or regular ground coffee)
3 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons black pepper, freshly ground
1 pinch Cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons brown sugar

Red Beans:
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 small yellow onion, diced fine
1/4 cup garlic, chopped
1 link hot smoked sausage, diced fine (andouille is preferred)
1 bay leaf
1 cup dried red beans
3 1/2 cups cold water
Salt and pepper, to taste

Rice:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small yellow onion, diced fine
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons salt
2 cups white rice
4 cups water

Seasoning for the Salad:
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 tablespoons hot sauce such as Tabasco
3 tablespoons cane vinegar (champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar works well also)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Glaze:
1 bottle Brooklyn lager*
1 cup sugar cane syrup (or molasses)
1 tablespoon black pepper

*Chef's Note: Chef McPhail says "You want to use a beer with flavor...some oomph. Do not use a light beer."

Method:
Combine all dry ingredients together in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Using your hands, rub the pork on all sides with oil and dredge liberally in the rub. Let stand at room temperature while you make the salad.

For the red beans: Place the dried red beans in 3 cups of cold water. Soak the beans overnight. Drain and set aside.

Place a heavy gauge pot on the stove over high heat. Add the vegetable oil, and continue to heat until the oil starts to smoke, then add the onions, garlic, smoked sausage and bay leaf all at once and mix well. Continue to cook for 4 more minutes until the onions start to turn transparent. Add the hydrated beans, add the water and continue to cook over high heat until the beans come to a simmer.

Reduce the heat and cook the beans for an hour (gently stirring pot every 5 minutes) until the beans are tender but not falling apart. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. When done, drain the beans through a china cap or colander. Discard the bay leaf. Set aside.

*Chef's Note: "We season our beans after they're cooked so the skins don't become tough."

To cook the rice: Before cooking the rice, rinse the rice under cool running water until the water runs clear. This rinses away any extra starch that will cause the rice to be very sticky and clumpy.

Place a medium, heavy gauge pot on the stove over high heat. Add the oil and continue to heat until the oil starts to slightly smoke. Add the onions, salt and pepper all at once and stir vigorously for 30 seconds. Add the rice and continue to stir constantly for another 30 seconds. Add the bay leaf and water.

Stir one last time, cover the pot, then bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook until the rice is done. This will take about 15 to 20 minutes. Turn out the cooked rice on a baking pan. Spread the rice out evenly on the baking pan. This will help cool the rice as well as evaporate extra moisture. Discard the bay leaf. Set aside.

To finish the salad: Combine beans and rice together in a mixing bowl, add oil, hot sauce, and cane vinegar then mix thoroughly. Finish with salt and pepper to taste.

For the glaze: Place a small saucepan over medium high heat. Pour in the beer, bring to a simmer and reduce the volume of the liquid by a little less than half. Add the black pepper and cane syrup. Stir well and keep warm on the stove.

To cook the pork: Preheat a grill to medium high heat. Place the pork tenderloin on the grill and cook for 7-10 minutes making sure to turn the meat frequently on all sides to avoid burning. When cooked, let the loins rest at room temperature for 4 minutes before slicing.

To finish the dish: Place the rice salad in the center of a large serving tray or platter. Slice the pork loins into several pieces. Arrange on the tray, then drizzle with the sauce. Serve immediately.

Peach and Southern Comfort Shortcake
With double cream and fresh mint

Ingredients:
5 very ripe peaches
1/4 cup sugar
4 teaspoons Southern Comfort

Double Cream:
3/4 cup chilled heavy cream
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons Southern Comfort

Biscuits:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1 stick cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
3/4 cup to 1 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Special Equipment:
3" wide biscuit cutter
9" pie tin

Method:
For the biscuits:
Preheat oven to 400?. Sift the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar into a large bowl. Gently work the butter into the mixture, being careful to keep the butter pieces about the size of peas. Form a well in the center of the mixture and add 3/4 cup of buttermilk and the baking soda. Using a rubber spatula, lightly fold the mixture so that it's just sticky and the dry ingredients are just moistened. Add more buttermilk if needed for the proper feel. The idea is to create layers so the butter will steam and will serve as a leavening agent to help the biscuits rise. The less the dough is handled, the flakier the biscuits will be.

On a counter, lightly dusted with flour, flatten the dough to about 1 1/2 inch thickness. Using a flour-dusted biscuit cutter 3" in diameter, cut the dough into 6 biscuit shapes. Arrange them in a 9" pie tin so that the biscuits are touching; this helps them stay moist while baking. Bake the biscuits for 20 minutes, but do not over bake. Remember: The last 10 percent of the cooking will occur after they're removed from the oven.

For the peaches: Rinse the peaches under cool running water. Slice the peach in half and remove the pit, then slice each peach into 10 pieces. Place sliced peaches in a medium mixing bowl. Add sugar and Southern Comfort and gently fold together to "macerate". This will tenderize the peaches and add extra flavor and juice. Then set aside at room temperature while you whisk the cream.

Place the cream, sugar and the Southern Comfort in the mixing bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on low speed until the cream doubles in volume, but not come to stiff peaks.

To serve: Open up biscuits horizontally. Place a spoon full of marinated peaches on the bottom half. Add a dollop of whipped cream to the top then place the other 1/2 of the biscuit on top of the whipped cream - a little off center so you can see all the ingredients. Garnish with mint sprig and powdered sugar if you like.

This dessert is at its best when the biscuits are still a little warm and the peaches are at room temperature.

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