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Cook of the Week 2019

The Daily Journal was fortunate in 2019 to be able to feature so many good cooks from Northeast Mississippi each week in the Food section.

I often tell people that the Cook of the Week article is my favorite part of my job. I truly enjoy going into people’s homes (or sometimes their workplaces) and talking about food and getting recipes from them to share with readers.

I had no idea when I started writing this feature in February 2002 that I would still be writing it in January 2020. I’m thankful to everyone who has agreed to be featured these past 18 years and I look forward to writing about even more good cooks in the years to come.

Of course, I can’t write about folks if they say no when I call ... this is a gentle nudge to those who are nominated. If someone takes the time to write, call, fax or email me with your name, please say yes.

There was a time when I literally had 500 nominations in my files ... now I’m down to fewer than 100 and the majority of those are people I’ve already called who have said “call back another time.” That usually means “No.”

So if there’s someone you’ve been meaning to nominate or if you want to nominate yourself, please don’t hesitate to send me contact information. I’d love for the Cook of the Week to hang around another 18 years (OK, maybe not 18, but at least until they kick me out of here). I can’t do it without your help.

In the meantime, here are a handful of recipes from cooks in 2019 that are worth repeating.

COCONUT TOAST

1 cup flaked coconut

1 cup sugar

1 stick butter, melted

1 egg, beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla

11 to 12 slices white or sourdough bread

In a bowl, combine coconut, sugar, butter, egg and vanilla. Mix well and spread mixture over each slice of bread. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Cut in half and serve warm.

TWICE-BAKED POTATOES

4 large baking potatoes

1 stick butter, softened

1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

1 cup sour cream with chives

4 green onions, chopped

3 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

Salt and pepper

Paprika

Bake potatoes (do not wrap in foil) at 400 degrees for about 1 hour or until tender. When cool enough to handle, cut a slit across the top and scoop out the flesh into a bowl. Mix the flesh with softened butter, cheese, sour cream with chives, onions and bacon. Season with salt and pepper. Divide the mixture evenly among the 4 potato shells. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

EASY APPLE CHEESECAKE

2 (8-ounce) blocks cream cheese

3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

1/4 teaspoon vanilla flavoring

1 can apple pie filling, divided

1 graham cracker pie crust

1 jar caramel topping

Combine cream cheese and sugar until well blended; add eggs and vanilla. Place half of the apple pie filling in the bottom of the graham cracker crust. Top with cream cheese mixture and bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes or until center is set. When cool, top with remaining apple pie filling and drizzle with some of the caramel topping.

CRISPY ROASTED CHICKEN

1 (4- to 5-pound) whole chicken

Minced garlic

1 rosemary sprig

1 tablespoon sea salt

Pepper

1 handful of chopped rosemary

3 tablespoons melted butter

Pat chicken dry and rub garlic inside cavity of chicken. Place sprig of rosemary inside cavity. Sprinkle sea salt all over chicken and add pepper to taste. Place in large cast iron skillet and bake at 425 degrees for 1 1/2 hours. Do not baste while cooking (this keeps skin crisp). Remove from oven. Combine chopped rosemary and melted butter and baste. Let rest for 15 minutes, then carve and serve.

FETTUCCINI ALFREDO

12 ounces pasta, such as fettuccini, spaghetti, bucatini or angel hair

4 tablespoons salt

3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in pieces

Freshly ground black pepper

Boil pasta in salted water until done. Reserve 2 cups of pasta water.

While the pasta is still cooking, add 1 cup reserved pasta water to a skillet and bring it to a boil. Whisk butter into the water 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring until it is dissolved. Add the grated cheese a little at a time and whisk it in. When the pasta is cooked al dente, remove it from the pot with tongs and stir and toss it with the sauce until the pasta is coated and creamy. If the sauce is too tight, add some more pasta water to loosen it. Serve with additional cheese and freshly ground black pepper.

SWEET CHICKEN BACON WRAPS

1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless, chicken breasts

1 pound bacon

2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons chili powder

Cut chicken into 1-inch cubes. Cut each bacon slice into thirds. Wrap each chicken cube with bacon and secure with a wooden pick. Stir together brown sugar and chili powder. Dredge wrapped chicken in mixture. Coat a rack and broiler pan with nonstick cooking spray. Place chicken wrap on rack in broiler pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until bacon is crisp.

BEEF TENDERLOIN WITH COMPOUND BUTTER

2 tablespoons butter, softened

1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley

1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

1/2 teaspoon fresh minced garlic

1 (8-ounce) beef tenderloin fillet

Olive Oil

Fresh cracked black pepper

Kosher salt

Combine softened butter, parsley, thyme and garlic, then roll in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Rub olive oil on the beef and season liberally with salt and pepper. Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. When skillet is hot, add beef and sear both sides for 2 1/2 minutes. Transfer skillet with beef to a preheated 350-degree oven and let cook for 5 minutes.

Remove skillet from oven, place compound butter on top, return skillet to oven and cook beef for 2 more minutes. The butter will melt as the beef finishes cooking. The timing is for medium-rare beef. Use a meat thermometer if you want beef more rare or more done.

KALUA PORK

1 (6-pound) Boston butt pork roast

1 1/2 tablespoons pink Himalayan sea salt

1 tablespoon liquid smoke flavoring

Pierce pork all over with a carving fork. Rub salt, then liquid smoke over meat. Place roast in a slow cooker, cover, and cook on low for 16 to 20 hours, turning once during cooking time. Remove meat from slow cooker and shred, adding drippings as needed to moisten.

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.

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