A Timeless Kentucky Winter Meal:
Sorghum Seven Ways
Prepared for the Mercer County Arts Council
February 17, 2014
Cocktail: “The Sorghum Colonel”
Winter Roast Vegetable Salad
Sorghum Bourbon Vinaigrette
Slow-Braised Mercer County Lamb Shoulder
Sweet Potato Garnish
Kentucky Pan Sauce
Kentucky Rich and Spicy Cornbread
Fresh Ginger Gingerbread
Sorghum BourbonWhipped Half Sour Cream
Chocolate Ginger Bark
Barr Farms Sorghum, Meade County
Country Rock Sorghum, Woodford County
Elmwood Stock Farm, Scott County
First Fresh Olive Oil, Mason County
Four Hills Farm, Mercer County
Heavenly Homestead, Russell County
JD Country Milk, Logan County
Steve Kay’s Campsie Garlic and Thyme, Fayette County
Oberholtzer Sorghum, Casey County
Paige Prewitt’s Garden Jalapeños, Fayette County
Ruth Hunt Candy, Montgomery County
Jonathan Roberts’s Kubocha Squash, Wayne County
Sav's Piment, Fayette County
Tallgrass Farm, Mercer County
Townsend Mill Sorghum, Montgomery County
Weisenberger Mill, Woodford County
Woodford Reserve, Woodford County
Kentucky Cookbooks Used In the Meal:
The Kentucky Fresh Cookbook, by Maggie Green
Kentucky Sweets: Bourbon Balls, Spoonbread & Mile High Pie, by Sarah C. Baird
Smoke and Pickles: Recipes and Stories from a New Southern Kitchen, by Chef Edward Lee
Sweet, Sweet Sorghum: Kentucky’s Golden Wonder, by Rona Roberts
Rona cooked this meal for a fundraising event for the Mercer County Arts Council in Harrodsburg, Kentucky. Three recipes from the meal are not included here because they are proprietary. Sources for those three recipes appear at the end of this page. The other recipes follow. Enjoy!
A Timeless Kentucky Meal: Sorghum Seven Ways—The Recipes!
Prepared for The Mercer County Arts Council
February 17, 2014
Braised Lamb Shoulder, Significantly Adapted from Julia Reed’s But Mama Always Put Vodka in Her Sangria
yield: about 8 servings
One 4-5 pound lamb shoulder roast, bone-in [we used Katahdin lamb from Four Hills Farm, Mercer County]
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 ribs celery, roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
25 garlic cloves, crushed with flat of a knife [Homegrown in Steve Kay’s Campsie garden]
4 leafy sprigs thyme [Campsie garden]
2 bay leaves [local from a Bluegrass Herb Society friend]
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
2 cups whole peeled tomatoes, roughly chopped [Elmwood Stock Farm, frozen 2013 crop]
1 cup red wine [dry Kentucky]
1 ½ to 2 quarts chicken stock [homemade from Elmwood Stock Farm’s pastured organic chickens]
2 teaspoons Kentucky sorghum [Townsend Mill]
2 dashes Scrappy’s bitters: one aromatic, one orange
Chopped parsley, mint, and Tallgrass Farm baby garlic
Note: You will bake this lamb for a long time at 300°. At a slightly later point, you will turn the oven on to preheat.
- While your lamb shoulder is still well wrapped, use it to guide your pot selection. Ideally your pot will both brown the lamb on top of the stove, and hold it, plus quite a few vegetables, for long, covered braising in a slow oven. So locate a pot big enough for your lamb shoulder and veggies, with a nicely fitting lid.
- Generously season lamb all over with finely ground sea or kosher salt and fresh black pepper. You can do this a day ahead and return the lamb, fully protected, to the refrigerator, if you wish.
- In your chosen pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the lamb and brown well on all sides. Use turkey lifters, if you have them, for the turning. Remove the lamb from the pan onto a large platter or baking sheet and let it rest.
- Now add the next seven ingredients—carrots, celery, onion, garlic, thyme, bay leaves, and whole peppercorns—and stir. A lot. You may want to lower the heat a bit. Stir often. It takes several minutes, but eventually, the vegetables begin to brown.
- Right about now, turn your oven on to 300 degrees.
- To the sizzling ingredients in the big pot, add tomatoes, sorghum, and bitters. Season with salt and pepper. Cook and stir for about five minutes. Add the wine. Bring the mixture back to a boil, and cook for about eight minutes, to evaporate some of the wine.
- Return the lamb and accumulated juices to the pan. Add enough stock to come about a third of the way up the meat. Carefully bring the liquids in the pot back to a boil, cover snugly, and place the pot in the oven. After about 15 minutes check to make sure liquid is barely simmering. Braise for about 4 ½ - 5 hours, spooning sauce over the meat occasionally.
- Remove the lamb from the pan and transfer to a cutting board or platter. Cover with foil to keep warm.
- Strain the braising liquid through a mesh strainer into a saucepan, pressing hard with a wooden spoon to push solids through. Discard remaining solids. Let the sauce settle for a few minutes; use a fat separator to remove most fat from the sauce liquids. Return the non-fatty juices to the saucepan. Bring the juices to a boil, then lower the heat and let them simmer about 10 to 15 minutes, or until the sauce is reduced and slightly thickened. You should have about 2 cups. Taste for salt and pepper. Slice the lamb into thick slices (they will be almost falling apart), arrange on a serving platter, and spoon sauce over the slices. Alternatively, you can arrange the lamb in a baking dish, cover and refrigerate. Half an hour before serving time, reheat the covered dish gradually, for about 30 minutes, in a 325 degree oven. Remove from oven, uncover, and, if you wish, move lamb to a platter. Garnish the platter with chopped parsley and mint (and other tender, fresh herb you may have).
Winter Roast Vegetable Salad for a Crowd (Serves 12 generously)
5-6 cups winter vegetables: Use any selection of winter vegetables you have available: sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, winter squashes, winter radishes, turnips, parsnips, carrots
2 Tablespoons good olive oil, clarified butter, or mild bacon grease
1 Tablespoon sorghum
Fresh leafy salad greens: 12 cups or more
Ouita Michel’s Sorghum Bourbon Vinaigrette
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees (or you can make it hotter, or use a slower oven if cooking other foods.)
- Clean vegetables thoroughly. Peel if you like.
- Cut into spears or wedges.
- Place parchment paper or foil on your two heaviest baking sheets.
- Put half the cleaned, cut vegetables on each sheet.
- Add 1 tablespoon oil or fat, and half a tablespoon sorghum, to each baking sheet. Mix well with your hands and spread the vegetables as flat as you can get them.
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Bake, uncovered, until tender. Depending on your mix of veggies, this may take 45 - 60 minutes. Remove garlic early if it starts to brown. Allow other vegetables to brown around the edges. If you need to hurry the veggies, cover the baking sheets tightly with foil for at least 20 minutes. Then uncover for 10 minutes or so to get a bit of caramelization.
- Your choice: let vegetables cool on sheets, or use when warm to top salad greens.
- Make individual salads by placing clean, dry salad greens on salad plates, and then topping with a generous serving of roast vegetables.
- Drizzle all with Ouita Michel’s Sorghum Bourbon Vinaigrette.
Chef Ouita Michel’s Sorghum Bourbon Vinaigrette
Published in Sweet, Sweet Sorghum: Kentucky’s Golden Wonder, by Rona Roberts
½ cup pure sorghum
3 Tablespoons Woodford Reserve Bourbon
½ cup malt or cider vinegar
A few shakes of Tabasco sauce
2 teaspoons grated onion
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup olive oil
1. Combine the vinegar, bourbon and sorghum together and stir or shake until dissolved.
2. Add the onion, Tabasco, salt and pepper.
3. Whisk in the oil.
This recipe makes about 2 ½ cups dressing.
Chef Ouita: Woodford Distillery salad made of Bibb lettuce, oranges, red onion and toasted pecans.
- Two-color cabbage slaw, plus carrot, small amount or alium, sunflower seeds or peanuts, fresh herb mix.
- Finely slivered fresh black kale, roast diced sweet potatoes, fresh diced tart apples, bacon.
- Spring salads of Black Seeded Simpson and young onions
Kentucky Rich and Spicy Cornbread
Cornbread is simple. This cornbread is...arduous. It just is. Yet, like all cornbreads worth their bacon fat, this one can be changed, modified, added and subtracted until it wouldn’t recognize its own face in a shiny mirror. What follows is a good starting point. Feel free to change to suit you. This particular starting point is vegetarian and gluten free.
For one 9-inch cast iron skillet, which serves 6 - 12, depending on so many factors.
- 2 ½ cups unbolted white cornmeal
- Coarsely ground black pepper, up to 1 Tablespoon, according to taste
- 1 Tablespoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon soda
- 1 ½ teaspoons table salt or finely ground salt; 2 ½ teaspoons kosher or coarse sea salt
- 1 ½ cups buttermilk
- ½ cup butter, melted in skillet; browned butter is especially tasty
- ½ cup cottage cheese - as tart and as close to dry curd as possible
- ½ cup sour cream
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon sorghum (completely optional - it’s my good luck charm, and an “encourager” for the naturally sweet tastes in the savory batter)
- 1 medium yellow or extra-sweet onion
- ⅓ — ½ cup chopped hot red (or green, or orange) peppers [substitute sweet peppers or leave peppers out completely if you wish]
- 1 cup (or more) fresh or frozen corn kernels (if frozen, you can add them to the skillet after the onions are finished, to help with warming)
- 1 cup grated or cubed sharp cheddar, Asiago or Gruyere
- ½ cup grated Parmesan (save a couple of Tablespoons for sprinkling on top)
You can use all the vegetables without sautéeing. But it you want a bit more sweetness, chop and sauté the onions in a couple of tablespoons of butter or olive oil; add hot peppers near the end. After these vegetables are cooked and the heat is turned off, add the corn kernels to warm them.
Cube or grate the cheeses.
Once you’re ready to start making your batter, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Put the skillet in the oven during preheating. Put the butter in the skillet so it can melt; allow it to brown if you are a confident cook and like that nutty delicious browned butter flavor. Try not to let it burn—though I have used some fairly black butter, and it still makes good cornbread.
Note: in a hurry, you can bake this cornbread at 400, but it can get fairly brown on the outside while remaining a bit more moist than you’d like inside.
Now things start hopping!
- in a very large bowl, put these ingredients: cornmeal, baking powder, soda, salt, black pepper. Whisk together briefly.
- Add buttermilk, cottage cheese, sour cream, eggs, cheeses (except for 2 tablespoons, to be used for topping), sautéed onions, peppers, corn kernels, and sorghum.
- Carefully remove the hot skillet from the oven and pour all but about 1 Tablespoon of the melted butter onto your batter (sizzle!). Set your skillet in a safe place, or return it to the oven.
- Stir thoroughly. The batter will be very thick.
- Carefully pour the batter into the skillet. (Sizzle!)
- Sprinkle with the reserved grated Parmesan.
- Bake for about 40 minutes, until thoroughly, deeply golden brown. Better to err on the side of over-done than under-done in this case, as more cooking likely adds more crunch, and probably helps keep the very center from being unpleasantly goopy.
- Remove the skillet from the oven, and run a knife around the outside of the cornbread. If you can tell that the cornbread will slip out of the skillet, you can either use a slender spatula to help guide it face-up onto a platter, or you can (extremely carefully!) put a rack or platter over the cornbread and flip it upside down, OR you can simply serve it from the skillet.
- If you have leftovers, they keep in the refrigerator for a week, or in the freezer for six months. Leftover pieces of this cornbread become memorable when you slice them open and slowly (and spottily) brown them (for still more crust) in a hot toaster oven or regular oven.
Lois Mateus’s Fresh Ginger Gingerbread
3 X 1-inch piece of fresh ginger
⅔ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon salt
⅓ cup sorghum
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and still warm
1 large egg
½ cup hot water
1 ⅔ cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the sides and line the bottom of an eight inch baking pan with parchment paper. Peel the ginger with a vegetable peeler and cut crosswise into ¼ inch pieces. Pulse in processor for 10 seconds until finely minced. If using mixer, finely mince the ginger pieces with a sharp knife. Add all ingredients and mix thoroughly.
Bake for 25-30 minutes until surface springs back when you press it lightly with your finger and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes.
Slide a knife around edges to detach from pan. Invert onto platter and remove parchment paper. Serve warm or cold with a dusting of powdered sugar, and a dollop of whipped cream or mascarpone.
Sorghum Bourbon Whipped Half Sour Cream
2 cups heavy cream [I use JD County Milk]
2 cups sour cream [I use Kalona Super Natural Organic or Organic Valley]
⅓ cup sorghum [I use Oberholtzer]
2 Tablespoons sugar or 3 Tablespoons confectioners sugar
2 Tablespoons bourbon [I use Woodford Reserve Double Oaked]
2 teaspoons good vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon finely ground salt
Beat creams together in a stand mixer until softly mounded. Turn mixer to the lowest speed. Gradually add sorghum, then sugar, bourbon, vanilla, and salt. Taste and correct seasonings.
Find the three proprietary recipes:
- The Sorghum Colonel cocktail is on page 178 of Kentucky Sweets: Bourbon Balls, Spoonbread & Mile High Pie, by Sarah C. Baird, The History Press, 2014.
- Sorghum-Lime Drizzle is on page 209 of Smoke and Pickles: Recipes and Stories from a New Southern Kitchen, by Chef Edward Lee, Artisan Press, 2013. Also printed, with permission, in Classic Kentucky Meals, p. 40.
- Oven-Baked Sweet Potato Fries are on page 249 of The Kentucky Fresh Cookbook, by Maggie Green, University Press of Kentucky, 2011.
OTHER RECIPES from other occasions:
Rona shared a key recipe from Sweet, Sweet Sorghum on the Incredible Food Show's website: Heeeeeer's Sorghum Crinkles!
We'll share readers' suggestions and our own finds. Here's the first:
Gingerbread Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Icing from the Louisville blog Urban Sacred Garden