So, what does the Elkmont area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Malaysian jungle have in common? Synchronous fireflies, that’s what! Currently there are 2000+ species of fireflies in the world, and I am fortunate enough to live in one of two areas of the world that have these phenomena once a year in early June. Depending on winter weather, it can be from mid May to mid June, so check before making lodging reservations. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park will list the dates at this link. Synchronous fireflies, also known as lightning bugs, blink in unison or in waves. You’re sitting there in complete darkness and they all blink on and off at the same time. At times it is like a wave of light moving across a clearing. This is called phase synchronization or spontaneous order. I know I’d like to glow and have a little spontaneous order in my office, but I’m afraid I just don’t have the right genes along with the other 1998+ species.
Much varies between these firefly beetles. Some blink, some don’t. Some fly, some don’t. The color of their bioluminescence ranges from yellow to orange to red to green. Usually it is the male blinking to attract females during mating season, but then you have those femme fatales that blink the pattern of another species to attract unsuspecting males for the ultimate act of cannibalism. This link at wikipedia has a great article on them and much has been written locally, particularly from The Daily Times. Their last article was Sunday, May 26, 2013.
So, how do you see them? In years past, you just drove your car up to the Elkmont Campground area and hiked back on some old weed covered gravel roads. That’s what my mom and I did. However it became so popular that you now have to catch a shuttle from the Sugarlands Visitor Center outside of Gatlinburg. Wait time and lines got long enough that the National Park now allows shuttles from the Townsend area too, and you buy your ticket ahead of time.
Don Alexander at the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center (865-448-8838) says, sales open up May 1st each year at 10AM and tickets are a $1.00. This year they sold out in 45 minutes. It’s not often you can experience something magical for a buck. The ultimate cheap date, and you get to sit on a blanket in the dark! They run two shuttles a night from Townsend that hold 18 passengers each for a week to ten days. If you don’t use your $1.00 ticket, which really is a placeholder, your credit card is charged $10.00 for each unused ticket.
These shuttle buses from the Cades Cove Heritage Tours cost a lot more than $18.00 a night to run and this year they were underwritten by, who else, Townsend’s Firefly Café and the Blount Partnership! You catch the bus at their restaurant location, 7967 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway, Townsend, TN 37882, (865-738-3507) between 6:30PM and 7:00PM. The buses return to the same location around 11:30PM each night. Have dinner at the Firefly before you catch the shuttle.
Deborah Lee, owner of the Firefly Café, has been a restaurant owner in Townsend for years. Her new location, now in its second year, gets an A+ for décor, service and food. My favorite is the Elkmont Burger, and they have the best French fries in town. Deborah says, “I called it the Firefly Café because I absolutely love the synchronous fireflies of the Smokies, and that they generate their light from within.” I’m off to create a little spontaneous order. Not! mizkathleen@ Gracehill Bed and Breakfast
The above will make about 9 popovers in a “regular” size popover pan, or 12 in a “small” popover pan. You can see the difference in the pans on the below. You can easily double this recipe. The first few times I made popovers they turned out fine. THEN, the next several times they were crummy (dense little pitiful things) so I stopped trying. A friend, who was fortunate enough to have them when they were good, was coming to visit and really, really wanted popovers, so I practiced on him the whole time he was here. I also did a fair amount of reading from different cookbooks and online. The funny thing is, the above recipe didn’t change, but how you made them did.
Ideally, let your eggs come to room temperature by sitting out overnight or for several hours. Your milk should be about room temp also. If you don’t have time to let your milk come to room temp, put the 1 cup of milk in the microwave for about a minute, or less, and test with a thermometer to get it around 70 degrees or slightly warm when you stick your finger in it. Beat your eggs together and then add the milk and beat just until mixed.
Melt the butter. Add about 1-½ tablespoons of the unsalted butter in the batter along with ½ teaspoon of salt, and sift in 1 cup of all-purpose flour. Beat with beaters then let set out on the counter for at least 30 minutes or up until 3 hours!
Put your empty popover pan in the oven and preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Take the pan out of the oven fast and shut the oven door. Spray 9 cups of a 12-cup popover pan with nonstick cooking spray and measure ½ tsp of the reserved melted butter into each cup. It should sizzle on the bottom. (Any left over butter, dump in the batter and mix it in.) Divide batter between 9 cups and bake for 15 minute. Reduce heat to 325 degrees and bake for 7 more minutes. Under no circumstances open the oven door while they are baking. When the timer goes off remove them from the oven and immediately poke with a sharp knife to allow the steam to come out and then invert to a wire rack. Serve immediately with butter, jam, apple, pumpkin or honey butter etc.
When poking them with the knife, to release the steam, you are keeping them from collapsing in on them selves. Some people at that point would put them back into the oven for a couple of minutes, I don’t.
I’ve made them both with eggs sitting out for several hours, and not, and usually by putting them in the warm butter and milk and letting the batter set out for a while they’ll get to the temp you want. One book really got into discussing different types of flour and I made two batches once, one with better-for-bread flour and one with all-purpose flour. Everything was exactly the same. Filled six cups with all-purpose flour batter and six with better-for-bread flour batter and I could not tell the difference, so I wouldn’t bother buying the special flour unless you already have it on hand, and if so feel free to use it. You are letting the batter set to stretch the gluten. Many books say don’t over beat the batter, use a whisk and stop just when combined. Again, one book talked about stretching the gluten and made a good argument for mixing up that batter well. I use electric beaters and mix until it is well mixed and don’t worry about over beating.
One morning I decided to use my convention oven and set it to 425 degrees. When I put the melted butter in the cup before the batter it didn’t sizzle. They took forever to rise, but the last 10 minutes they did what they were supposed to do. So in a pinch I’d use the convention oven again, but if you don’t have to, save yourself the agony of watching them and just use the regular oven.
So what do I think is key? Having the milk and maybe eggs at room temp and then letting the batter sit for a while. It is also important to have your pan very hot before pouring the batter in, and don’t open the oven door while baking or you will let all the steam out and that is what pops them up. I like honey butter the best. Mix a half a stick of soft butter and a half a cup of honey together. Mmmm.
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18 Large Eggs
1/4 C plus 1 Tbsp of Mayo
1/4 C plus 1Tbsp of Sour Cream
1 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
1/2 to 1 tsp Lemon Pepper
Garnish with black olives, or green olives and a little sprinkle of paprika.
The amount of ingredients above is not etched in stone. Once you cut the egg in half and plop the cooked yolks into a food processor, add a 1/4 cup of the mayo and sour cream. Add a little less than a tablespoon of the mustard and start off with a 1/2 a teaspoon of lemon pepper. Pulse the mixer until smooth then taste the mixture. Keep adding a little more of the above ingredients until it tastes the way you want. There is salt in the lemon pepper so add any extra salt very sparingly. You are looking for a texture that is neither too soft or too firm to pipe out of a pastry bag for the effect you have above.
TIP: The trick to deviled eggs is how you hard boil the eggs to begin with and I think I have tried just about any tip anyone has ever suggested.
One of my favorite chefs says to place eggs in a sauce pan and cover with cold water to at least a 1/2″ over the tops of all the eggs. Bring to boil, then place the lid on and boil for 5 minutes. Then remove from heat and let sit 15 minutes and then place in cold water and let come to room temp before peeling. I imagine she says to cover after it comes to a boil, so you are paying attention and will start timing it after the boiling starts. Another trained chef from our B&B association says to place them in cold salt water, cover, bring to a boil, turn off heat, and let sit for 15 minutes before placing in cold water.
Here is my version. Place eggs in cold water with at least a 1/2″ of water over the top. I could tell little difference if I used salt in the water or not, if you do, use about a teaspoon or less. What is important is the age of the eggs. Most of you use store bought eggs, and this should work particularly if you have the eggs for a week or two. I use eggs from my very favorite egg lady, Dawn and her son Jake. This method even worked with very fresh eggs as long at they were at least a week old. Those that were 36 hours old, would not peel regardless of which method or combination of methods I tried.
Whether you cover the pan or not, bring to a boil, then turn off heat, COVER the pan and let sit 15 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to pick them out of the hot water after 15 minutes, and place them in a bowl that has cold tap water in it with SEVERAL HANDFULS OF ICE. After about 15 minutes they are ready to peel. The ice water makes them shrink away from the shell a little bit. Tap the fat end of the egg to crack first. There is usually an air bubble at that end. You can always put a strainer in the sink and peel them under running water with the shells dropping into the strainer instead of down your drain if you need a little help. Cooking them this length of time has always cooked them, but not so long that the yolks start turning green. Good luck!
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Preheat oven to 400°.
4- 8.5 oz Boxes of Jiffy Mix
4 Large Eggs
1 C ½ & ½ or Buttermilk
1- 10 oz Can Rotel (original or mild) Diced Tomatoes &
Green Chilies Well Drained
1- 8.5 oz Can Creamed Corn
16 oz Cottage Cheese
My friends at Sweet Berries Bed and Breakfast in Maryville, TN came to a pot luck once with the best corn bread I had ever tasted, and this is the recipe. I was never much of a fan of corn bread till I tasted this. It usually goes in a sprayed 9X13 pan, however you can put the batter in sprayed muffin tins and they will just plop out without having to use muffin papers.
Break the eggs in a large bowl. Add the buttermilk or ½ & ½ and beat with an electric mixer for about 5 seconds. Add the Rotel tomatoes, creamed corn and cottage cheese. Beat briefly for 5 seconds. Add the 4 boxes of cornbread mix. Either mix in by hand, or less than 10 seconds with the electric mixer. You don’t want to over beat and the batter will be lumpy. Pour into a well greased 9X13 pan, or if using muffin tins, pour even with the top of the tin. Bake for about 45 minutes in a 400° oven. Check after 35 minutes with a toothpick, particularly the muffins. Don’t over bake. It is okay if the toothpick has a few crumbs on it. The cornbread is very moist and freezes well.
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