Cooks Exchange

Do you remember the Velvet Touch sandwich on the Coast?

The basics of perfect pie crust

The New York Times' Melissa Clark demonstrates how easy it can be to make a very light and flaky pie crust.
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The New York Times' Melissa Clark demonstrates how easy it can be to make a very light and flaky pie crust.

Readers often wish they still had lost family recipes and long-gone restaurant recipes.

Last week, I was at a meeting, and a reader named Rita told me that she and a friend were talking about the great lunch foods at the old Velvet Touch bar in Biloxi.

“They made the best sandwich,” she said. “It was made with ground meat, carrots, onions and had a really good sauce on it. Co-workers would send me to pick up lunches from the Velvet Touch.

“Do you think you can find this recipe or one similar?” said Rita.

A well-known Coastian Bob Moody also remembers the Velvet Touch sandwich.

“They were famous for the Touch sandwich,” he said. “All I can remember is that it was delicious. Andy Martin owned the bar and played organ there.”

“Bob is 100 percent right,” said businessman George Birdrow. “The Velvet Touch was on the south side of Highway 90, about where Shaggy’s is now.”

Businesswoman Nancy Fobes also remembers the Velvet Touch. “I loved it,” she said.

If anyone has the sandwich recipe or even more ingredients, please e-mail me, contact me on Facebook or drop me a note. Let’s see if we can recreate this famous sandwich.

Another reader is searching for a potato salad recipe like her mother made.

Kim Bradberry’s mom made her potato salad with mashed potatoes.

“She would cook a roux. I remember flour, maybe butter and vinegar, not sure of anything else,” said Bradberry, who saw an e-mail about me helping others find lost recipes. “She would add it to the potatoes, diced onion, diced boiled eggs. I think that is pretty much it.

“It was a little tart. I loved it warm, but we also ate it chilled. There is no mayo in it. She has passed on and I miss having it,” Bradberry said.

Don’t most of us wish we had documented favorite recipes of the past?

My grandmother rarely wrote down a recipe. She had them in her head. When I was first married, I remember calling her wanting her gumbo recipe. She rattled it off over the phone. No amounts, but all the ingredients. I had to figure out the amounts by tasting.

Again, readers, do you have this type of potato salad recipe? If so, send it to me. I know Bradberry will appreciate it and so will others who give it a try.

Once more I ask if anyone knows the recipe or ingredients of the “Rita sauce” served at the old Toucan’s restaurant off U.S. 49 in Gulfport. A reader named Susan wants the recipe.

Here is one more call for the bacon-wrapped grilled chicken breasts served at the old French Connection restaurant in Biloxi. I remember the chicken breasts being thin and wrapped like a log in bacon strips. These were cooked over an open fire, I believe, with mesquite.

A reader wants that recipe, too.

Comfort cooking

With two sick folks at my house last week, I tried to make soothing meals that were easy to eat yet tasted good. About halfway into the week, neither one wanted the same thing, and I was cooking two to three meals. I wasn’t eating their choices, so I had to rework dishes to fit my tastes.

By midweek, I was tired and decided to prepare a one-dish meal that ranks near the top of my comfort list. Skillet shepherd’s pie is a quick fix and is warm, creamy and comforting.

To my daughter and granddaughter, this dish has strikes against it from the start. There are peas in it, and foods are mixed together or touching. Can you see why I was a bit stressed?

Onward. I knew I had to take the peas out of their shepherd’s pie. I decided to outsmart them as use thinly grated carrots instead of the peas.

Like I said, I have been making two or three dinners nightly. Once the skillet meal was made, I had to separate meat and potato topping for my granddaughter. Daughter would at least eat those together if she had to.

This recipe has wonderful flavor and is done in less than 30 minutes. I found this in a cookbook “Desperation Dinners,” published in 1997 by two food writers at the Miami Herald, Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross. This is my go-to cookbook when time is short, and I need inspiration.

I hope you enjoy this dish and don’t have to separate any of its goodness.

SKILLET SHEPHERD’S PIE

1 pound extra lean ground beef, fresh or frozen

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

1 large onion (for 1 cup chopped)

2 tablespoons ketchup

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic

1 cup frozen green peas or finely grated carrots

1 beef bouillon cube

1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 package (20 ounces) refrigerated mashed potatoes, such as Simply Potatoes brand

1 tablespoon butter or margarine

1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream

3/4 cup already-shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

Turn on broiler.

If the beef is frozen, run hot water over it so you can remove any packaging. Place the beef in a microwave-safe plate and microwave 3 minutes, uncovered, on high to begin defrosting.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a 12-inch cast-iron or other heatproof skillet over medium heat. Peel and coarsely chop the onion, add it to the skillet as you chop.

Add the beef (fresh or partially defrosted) to the skillet and raise the heat to high. Cook, turning and breaking up the meat until it is crumbled and browned, and the onion is tender about 5 minutes. While the meat is browning, stir in the ketchup, Worcestershire and garlic.

When the meat is browned, stir in the peas. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer.

Meanwhile, combine the bouillon cube and water in a 1-cup glass measure. Microwave 1 minute, uncovered, on high, to dissolve the cube. Stir in the cornstarch into the bouillon until well blended. Pour the cornstarch mixture into the skillet and stir well. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, microwave the potatoes according to package directions, adding the butter. While the potatoes warm, stir the sour cream into the thickened beef mixture. Spoon the potatoes over the beef mixture, spread them to within 1 inch of the skillet sides. Sprinkle the cheese over the potatoes and broil until the cheese is melted and bubbly, about 2 minutes. Serve at once.

Note: If you don’t have a skillet that can withstand broiling, transfer the meat to a 9-inch square casserole dish before broiling.

— From “Desperation Dinners”

Andrea Yeager can be reached at ayeager51@cableone.net and Cooks Exchange, 205 DeBuys Road, Gulfport, MS 39507.
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