TUPELO – Some people like to use convenience foods or take shortcuts in the kitchen.

Not Lora Claire Dickerson.

“I like to make everything totally from scratch – that’s fun to me,” said Dickerson, a speech/language pathologist at Cedars Health Center in Tupelo. “It’s entertaining for me to see how it all works.”

The 29-year-old developed a love for cooking after she finished graduate school and didn’t have a job.

“For three months, I watched the Food Network every day,” she said. “That’s where I learned techniques, like how to make a roux and how to sauté.”

When Dickerson and her husband, Bill, married six years ago, she could cook only a handful of dishes.

“But I knew I liked to read recipes and Pinterest was really popular then,” said Dickerson, who has one child, William, who will be 2 in November. “My husband really likes salmon croquettes so I learned to make that, and he loves chicken and dumplings, so I learned to make that. That was during grad school when we didn’t have a lot of money so I was basically teaching myself.”

Dickerson said both her mother and grandmother were really good cooks, but she didn’t learn much from them.

“Both of them were control freaks in the kitchen,” she said. “We could watch, but we couldn’t help. Mom was actually more lenient than my grandmother. Now, I’m the one who’s kind of a control freak about my food. I don’t want anyone in there stirring my food or adding what they think it needs.”

Her mother and grandmother were also big into entertaining and having people in their homes and Dickerson inherited that trait.

“My best time to cook is when I host something, like an Easter luncheon or supper club,” she said. “During the week, I try to cook healthy meals. But I’m a big believer in bringing out the big guns for holidays or when I’m having people over. That’s when I’m going to make beef tenderloin, or Gouda mac and cheese, or bacon-smothered green beans.”

During the week, she might make flank steak with chimichurri sauce and roasted vegetables or roasted salmon with Brussels sprouts and mashed potatoes.

“I cook two to three nights a week and I try new recipes two to three times a week, so just about everything I make is new,” she said. “My cooking is just a little bit more intense than what other people make. People say they like to make spaghetti because it’s so easy, and I’m thinking, ‘Well, it’s not if you crush your own tomatoes and ... well, I just enjoy making it more complicated.”

FLANK STEAK WITH CHIMICHURRI SAUCE

MEAT MARINADE

1/4 cup oil

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon salt

Juice of 1 lime

1 1/2 pounds flank steak

CHIMICHURRI SAUCE

1/2 cup cilantro

1/2 cup parsley

1/2 onion, diced

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/4 teaspoon pepper, or to taste

1 tablespoon garlic

1/2 teaspoon Italian blend seasoning

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/3 cup oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar

Whisk together marinade ingredients. Combine marinade and steak in a large ziptop bag. Seal and chill for 30 minutes, or overnight.

Combine chimichurri ingredients in a blender or food processor, and pulse until smooth.

Heat an oiled skillet or grill to medium-high heat. Sear steak for 6 to 8 minutes on each side until heavily browned on the outside and slightly pink in the middle. Thinly slice steak across the grain and serve with chimichurri sauce on top. Serves 4.

PARMESAN-CRUSTED CHICKEN IN BASIL CREAM SAUCE

1 cup milk

1 cup Italian bread crumbs

4 chicken breasts, halved horizontally to make 8 thin cutlets

1/2 stick butter

1 cup chicken broth

2 cups whipping cream

1 teaspoon dried basil

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Place milk and bread crumbs in separate shallow bowls. Dip chicken in milk, then coat with crumbs.

In a skillet over medium heat, cook chicken in butter until done and browned on both sides. Remove chicken from skillet, place it in a 9x13-inch pan and place the pan in a warm oven.

Add broth to skillet and stir to loosen up browned bits from pan. Stir in cream, basil, and pepper and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and whisk in cheese.

Pour sauce over the chicken and serve. Serves 8.

SAUSAGE BALLS

1 pound hot or mild sausage

1 (8-ounce) block cream cheese, softened

8 ounces extra sharp Cheddar cheese, grated by hand

2 1/2 cups Bisquick

Combine sausage, cream cheese and cheese together with a mixer. Slowly add Bisquick. Form into golfball-sized balls and place on a lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes and serve warm or at room temperature.

SMOKED GOUDA MAC AND CHEESE

1 pound pasta, any kind

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 cups milk

3 eggs, beaten

20 ounces grated smoked Gouda

1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

1/2 teaspoon ground mustard

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

Fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water until it is al dente, according to package instructions. Drain and rinse under cold water until it is completely cooled. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Whisk in the milk, eggs, cheese, salt, ground mustard, paprika and black pepper. Continue to stir until the cheese is completely melted, and then cook for another 2 to 3 minutes until the sauce thickens slightly.

Add the pasta to the cheese sauce and cook for another minute or until the pasta is heated through. Serve warm.

PEPPERCORN ROASTED BEEF TENDERLOIN

1 whole beef tenderloin, trimmed of all visible fat

Kosher salt

2 teaspoons sugar

1/2 cup tri-color peppercorns, crushed with a rolling pin

1 stick butter

2 cloves garlic, crushed

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees.

Place the tenderloin on a roasting rack. Sprinkle generously with kosher salt and sugar. Press the crushed peppercorns all over the surface of the meat. Insert a meat thermometer and place in the oven until the beef registers 120 to 125 degrees for medium-rare/rare. Beef will probably cook in 20 to 25 minutes depending on its temperature before it goes in the oven.

While the meat is roasting, melt the butter with the garlic in a small skillet, and allow the butter to slightly brown. Remove the garlic and discard.

Remove the meat when it’s done and pour the garlic butter over gently (it should sizzle when it hits the meat). Cover the meat loosely with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

SMOTHERED BACON GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE

4 cans green beans, drained

10 slices of bacon

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1/3 cup light brown sugar

1/2 stick butter, melted

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Place drained green beans in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

Cut bacon in 1/2-inch pieces and cook until almost done. Set aside.

Combine the soy sauce, brown sugar, melted butter, garlic powder, salt and pepper into a small bowl. Stir until well combined. Pour mixture over green beans. Add bacon and gently stir, until beans are evenly coated.

Pour mixture into a greased 9×13-inch casserole and bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

MANGO CHUTNEY CHEESEBALL

1 pound sharp Cheddar cheese, grated

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 bunch green onions, white and green parts, chopped

1 cup sliced almonds

1 jar Major Grey Mango Chutney

1 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled, or 2 jars Hormel real bacon

Combine cheese, mayonnaise, onions and almonds and form into a log. Chill. When ready to serve, spread chutney over the top and let it drip down the sides. Cover with bacon.

DO YOU KNOW A GOOD COOK? Send your nominations to Ginna Parsons, Cook of the Week, P.O. Box 909, Tupelo, MS 38802. Or you can call Ginna at (662) 678-1581 or email them to ginna.parsons@journalinc.com.

ginna.parsons@journalinc.com

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