Way on back in 1970, when certain people were in the process of graduating from high school (High Point Central High School: Go, Bison!) the national organization of the YWCA took a look at where we are as a nation and a culture, and chose to put the elimination of racism at the top of its purpose in the world. This means they took the bold, unpopular and challenging step of acknowledging that racism exists, thrives, and flows through our national identity and actions every day.
They were right: Racism existed, thrived and flowed along back then, just as it still does today. I do not like that fact. It makes me anything but happy and proud. I do not want that fact to be a fact; I do not want it to be true. But just like the balance in my bank account and the presence or absence of disease in my body, it is a reality, a fact, an issue that affects my world, whether I want it to or not. I can ignore it; I can deny its existence; I can speak disdainfully about those who see it and say its name. What I cannot do is make it go away simply because I dislike it and wish it were not real.
Click this link to find a STAND AGAINST RACISM event near you, nationwide!
Facing racism and looking it in the eye isn’t easy. Racism provides power and benefits to many people and organizations. It is a weapon with multiple parts and functions. Those who use it and value it do not want to give that up. Racism is a big bully, and big bullies seldom rush to quit their bullying ways. What we can do is change our behavior in response to bullies. There are way more of us than there are of them, but until we open our eyes and see who they are, who we are, and how we have been stuck, we remain on their team.
Stand Against Racism is a day to say “No!” to injustice, and to unplug the power cord of hateful, blaming, disrespectful double standards that privilege some of us and dump on the rest of us. There is a great big “US!” out there, but not a visible one, not an “US!” based on color, ethnicity, religion, ability, gender, sexual orientation, size, concepts of beauty, or anything we can see or name or blame. We’ve been taught to identify on phony grounds, clinging to the visible and buying a storyline about groups, about who matters and who’s to blame. It’s basic Bully stuff, and it works as long as we let it.
The YWCA gets it, and they are giving us the opportunity to start where we are, use what we have, and do what we can, to undermine, dig up, weed out, reboot, and cook up a recipe for the dish we want to be eating; to plant seeds for the garden we want to be tending and using for food. We can stop going along, accepting, ignoring, and allowing the bullies to rule and win.
Silence means consent, folks, and with racism and all forms of injustice and oppression, there is no neutral ground, no third location. We have been comfortable with Going Along, Allowing, Ignoring. All we have to do is get comfortable with the truth; get good at speaking up a little and acting as if there is enough for everyone and as if the Golden Rule were the way to sort all this mess out. Because it is.
Part of the power of racism lies in its Giant Invisibility Cloak (yes, I am a Harry Potter Fan). Those who benefit from it and work to perpetuate it operate best in silence and behind the scenes. Talking about it and calling it out starts out feeling hard, difficult, nasty, sad, painful, negative, and hopeless. When someone speak its name, bring it up, act as if it existed, we’ve been carefully taught to react as though this very action, this simple act of Facing it and Naming it IS racism. We’ve been schooled for 300+ years at every level to ignore and deny racism, so it’s easy to stay stuck in the comfortable (though only for some of us) place of No Such Thing. And that right there is why we’re still stuck, and where we can step onto the Good Road of seeing it, saying it, and stopping it.
We can do this, and the amazing encouraging beautiful secret is that it is easy. It is simple. It is worth a bump or two or three of discomfort as we find our way and learn the dance steps. Everyone will not like it. Everyone will not say, Yay! Hooray! You are right! But as you look at the people you are joining, you will be glad to find yourself in such good company. And as you look at the people who are not happy with you, those who insist that Racism either never existed; did but doesn’t exist now; exists somewhere else but this thing right here that SEEMS a tiny bit racist is actually a ‘joke’, ‘prank’, or ‘misunderstanding’; exists but is actually the fault of the people who are naming it and calling for change; etc. , as you look at those people, you may say to yourself, “Yikes! These are not my people! I want out of this club pronto!”
Who are your people? People like these folks in groups all around the USA who joined Stand Against Racism events last year, starting on the last Friday in April, thanks to the National YWCA. These are just a handful of them; people all around the country jumped in and made their own plan to take a Stand. Aren’t they beautiful? Can you imagine how much good has come from each and every action, group, decision made in private thanks to this Day? It’s on again today, and you can check here for an event in your area; or just check the Stand Against Racism website and Facebook Pages and #StandAgainstRacism on Twitter to see who’s doing what where when and how.
I would LOVE to see anything or hear about anything that you do today or find today or all weekend, there are activities ongoing with today as the launching pad. Leave me a comment here on this post. Or send me a picture or a note care of nancie AT nanciemcdermot DOT com . I will share it here and on Facebook with your permission; or keep it to myself if that is better. Your call. Thank you for reading this, on a beautiful spring day.
Click this link for the YWCA’s Stand Against Racism web page, which has all the scoop,
including more photos like these I shared here; a video; and locations for 2013 SAR events:
Click this link for the FACEBOOK Page for Stand Against Racism to see what’s cooking all around the country today and through the weekend, at more than 3000 sites and locations. Post your own pix and commentary — these are your people and my people!
Ever since I first heard about the Lee Bros. Boiled Peanuts Catalogue in which Matt and Ted Lee offer an abundance of Southern ingredients and foods both by mail order and online, I have been a big fan of Matt and Ted Lee. (About that catalog: It’s simply wonderful. I adore it even though I live right here in the South. They actually welcome your phone call to talk about your order, and they’ve been shipping APO for 15 years, so if you have dear service members with a hankering for Southern delights, here’s a fine option.) But I digress. Next thing I knew they were hosting a food-centric radio program, writing for magazines, and working on their first book. The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook , published in 2006, brought Southern food and cooking out onto the national stage in new ways. Southern food hasnever gone backstage since, because it’s just that interesting and just that good.
Their second book, The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern: Knockout Dishes with Downhome Flavor, came out in 2009, to wide acclaim, and I’ve enjoyed reading their words and recipes in publications including Bon Appetit, Fine Cooking, Food & Wine, the New York Times, and Travel + Leisure. They have been working on this latest book ever since, exploring and celebrating the food, cooking, people and traditions of Charleston. You could say that they have in fact been working on this one for decades, given that it shares their personal story of food, people, and life in Charleston, South Carolina. The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen opens the screen door and invites us all into their kitchen to explore, appreciate, and understand a little bit about the city they know deeply, love completely and proudly call home.
I like the way Matt and Ted Lee introduce their third book on their website HERE: ”The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen is our most personal book yet. With these stories and recipes, we show you what it was like to grow up here and how the food life of Charleston helped make us the cookbook authors we are today. We introduce you to our friends who make living in the Lowcountry so delicious, as well as important figures from the city’s culinary past, who inspire us to have fun in the kitchen.”
Matt and Ted Lee launched their book tour in Charleston, of course, but one of their very first stops was here in the Triangle, the portion of Piedmont North Carolina including Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Cary, Pittsboro, Hillsborough and everything in between. They did book-signings at some of our local indie bookstores (Quail Ridge/Raleigh and the Regulator/Durham, and a sold-out cooking class at Southern Season in Chapel Hill. I signed up for their Charleston dinner at Fearrington House, located south of Chapel Hill, about halfway to the town of Pittsboro, NC. Though it’s a mere eight miles from my home in Chapel Hill and the UNC campus, the big silo and grazing cows around what was originally a dairy farm convey a pleasing sense of leaving my everyday suburban life behind. Home to Fearrington House Restaurant and Inn, along with two other restaurants, it also includes McIntyre’s Books
Since last fall, Fearrington and McIntyre’s have been hosting Books & Cooks, a series of culinary events centered on a guest author who shares stories and signs books, while Chef Bedford cooks up a meal from the featured book. I’ve enjoyed Books & Cooks events with Jean Anderson, Nathalie Dupree, Rebecca Lang, and Frances Mayes. For April, the Cooks & Books guest author is me, celebrating my first book Real Thai: The Best of Thailand’s Regional Cooking.
The Lee Brothers’ Charleston Dinner on March 14th began with a lovely introduction of Matt and Ted Lee by my friend Marcie Cohen Ferris, assistant professor of American Studies at UNC Chapel Hill and the author of Matzoh Ball Gumbo: Culinary Tales of the Jewish South. Fine wine pairings by Fearrington’s Wine Director Max Kast added great pleasure to the meal.
First Course: She-Crab Soup. Divine.
A fabulous little treat: Rice and Ham Croquettes with Tomato Sauce
Spectacular centerpiece of a most memorable meal: Smothered Pork Chops and Brussels Sprouts with Benne and Bacon
Sweet Potatoes with Sorghum Marshmallows, passed at each table, family style. So good.
Pineapple Cornbread Pudding with Vanilla Ice Cream. Lovely finish to our Charleston feast. What? Oh, the Take Home listed on the menu above? The Homemade Benne Wafers, packaged and ready to transport share with family? Well, let’s just say that I hope my family is not reading this post because no such delightful, crisp and elegant treat crossed our doorstep that evening.
Home with my signed copy, I started reading the very next day. The first thing I cooked was one of the desserts: Hugenot Torte. The recipe called for a 2 quart baking dish. Not having same, I went with a nine-inch square pan, causing my dessert to have more surface area and less depth. My family adored it, as did I. Ice cream was not required, but it did extend the delectable pleasures of this apple-pecan dessert.
The March meeting of CHOP NC (Culinary Historians of Piedmont North Carolina) a few days later gave me reason to return to the book for snacks. I made Hugenot Torte again, because it is so simple to cook and rewarding to share. People just love it, including me. This time I went for a whipped cream accompaniment — again, unnecessary, but ice cream would have melted and I wanted CHOP NC folks to have as much razzle-dazzle as possible.
The Lee Brothers’ Hugenot Torte, a Charleston classic dessert, batches one (oven and with ice cream) and two (with whipped cream and the feet of a CHOP NC member awaiting the opening of the CHOP NC Snacks Table on March 20, 2013). I took home an empty, shiny-scraped clean pan, and a lot of whipped cream. Nobody cared about it — they just wanted to eat Hugenot Torte, plain and simple and good.
I also took a platter of these fantastically good Pecan Cheese Wafers from Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen. These deliver the goodness of traditional Southern cheese straws. They are streamlined to be made up in food processor and then rolled out and cut like sugar cookies rather than the extruded from a…an extruder? A cookie press, which creates classic cheese straws’ beautifully detailed corrugated tile form. These were incredibly good and popular. These Cheese Pecan Wafers and a plate of deviled eggs? Perfect Portable Party Food, especially if you, like me, prefer not to bring anything back home.
I also took great interest in Matt and Ted’s extensive coverage of shad, a Southern springtime culinary pleasure. These beautiful fish are anadromous, which I had to look up and learn that this means they move away and come back. Born in fresh water upstream from the Atlantic Ocean, they swim down to the ocean for a salt-water fish’s lifetime, and then swim back up to their homeplace for spawning, in springtime. This is when shad and shad roe are caught and savored for a few weeks, as in right now. I posted about shad roe last month, which you can see right HERE. After reading the Lee brothers’ handsomely illustrated section on shad and on salt-baking whole fish, I went back to Whole Foods where I had found the lovely roe, and there were beautiful whole shad, with roe inside. That post is coming soon. (It was some work and worth it and really good.)
On my list for future cooking after a good, leisurely perusal of the recipes in this excellent book: Frogmore Stew. Country Captain. Smoked Egg Salad on Toast (I think I can smoke things in my wok. My friend Grace Young, Poet Laureate of the Wok, will know about that…). Conch Fritters. Fish in Parchment, Edna Lewis’s way. From Fearrington’s Chef Colin Bedford’ Charleston menu, Smothered Pork Chops with Brussels Sprouts Bacon and Benne, and She Crab Soup. Forgot Shrimp Butter. There’s more, but this is a good start, I do believe.
While things are simmering and baking, I will keep reading about the people and history of Charleston, from the authors of a classic Charleston women’s club cookbook, a shad-master, and the queen of shrimp boats, to a legendary Italian composer, a waterman dedicated to sustainably harvesting stone crab, and the trio of longtime employees who have bought a beloved French cafe from its fixing-to-retire owners in 2010 and have kept it cooking everyday lunches. Then there are loquats, jerusalem artichokes, guinea squash and the guinea fowl of Lamboll Street, the latter a lively flock of guinea vagabonds who can be observed in a very cool short video right HERE. You might want to treat yourself to another short video, the trailer for this book, which is, again, three minutes plus of wonderfulness and an introduction to what the fuss is all about. That’s right HERE.
If you’d like to cook up a few Lee Brothers’ recipes from their first two books, check out the three on their website, which didn’t come together but would certainly go together, to make a wonderfully indulgent and memorable meal: Frogmore Stew (no frogs are ever harmed in the making of Frogmore Stew); A New Ambrosia, and Red Velvet Cake. Those three recipes are right HERE.
Two of my friends have written about Matt and Ted Lee on their excellent blogs, which I delight in following. Here are their posts:
(This next post refers to Jay’s sold-out Lee Brothers dinner at Lucky 32 on March 28th; you can’t actually sign up cause it’s history.)
For the remainder of the spring and into the summer, Matt and Ted Lee will be rolling along the highways and byways sharing this heartfelt book on tour. To see where they’re headed, check their website for the latest details.
What I was looking for was rhubarb, that rusty-red oddball harbinger of spring here in North Carolina. Planted in big patches out by the pathway to the summertime garden, rhubarb stalks poke up early and beckon cooks to make pies as a farewell to winter and “y’all come on in!” to the blossoming sunshine season sometime between mid-March and mid-April. Not this early, however, not even at my local Whole Foods where fresh rhubarb shows up around this time of year.
Meandering past the fish and seafood counter at my local Whole Foods, I spied a Southern springtime specialty which had not even crossed my mind: shad roe. The biggest member of the herring family, shad (Alosa sapidissima) are anadromus, like salmon, sturgeon, smelt, and striped bass: born in fresh water, they swim downriver to live in the ocean until time to spawn. Then they migrate back upriver during their spawning season, which in the case of American shad, is spring. Treasured by native Americans, shad has been valued both as a tasty (albeit very bony) fish and as the source of shad roe, which are pan sauteed, simmered in cream, and scrambled with eggs among other preparations. They grow to about 2 pounds/24 inches, and live for about 5 years in the wild.
Though I’m a North Carolinian born and raised, and though my fascination with and affection for traditional old-time foods in general and Southern heirlooms in particular, I neither knew about nor tasted shad roe until last year at Crook’s Corner, where my friend Bill Smith puts it on his menu each spring
But there it was, carefully arranged on ice in a row of flame-red glistening lobes, beautifully accented with slices of lime. The nice young man who helped me recommended pan frying it with bacon and serving it with grits. The words ‘bacon’ and ‘grits’ gave me the green light to make the leap from sweet to savory, from rhubarb to shad. Heading to my Southern food bookshelves, I found abundant information on shad, from John Martin Taylor (Hoppin’ John’s Lowcountry Cooking); John Egerton (Southern Food); Jean Anderson (A Love Affair with Southern Cooking); Damon Lee Fowler (Classical Southern Cooking); and Eugene Walter (Time-Life Foods of the World: The American South). My friend Bill Smith’s book “Seasoned In the South” contained a recipe as well. I’m sure there’s more, but by that time I was ripe and ready to get this beautiful and beloved food to the stove and the table.
It was a matter of frying up some bacon (or side meat or pancetta) and keeping the grease hot grease for cooking onions and the shad roe in the rich salty gifts left in the skillet.Cooking a pot of grits, which takes about 30 to 35 minutes — good to start the grits and let them simmer and soften up while you cook the bacon, onions and shad. These lovely grits were on the shelf in the same grocery store, in a charming cloth sack with recipes on the back….Note the big nubby texture and colorful nature of good old time grits. Such a pleasure to cook and to eat. I plan to try the shrimp and grits recipe right on the bag….
While the grits were cooking, I fried the bacon and then the sliced purple onion in the same grease. Once the grits were done, I covered them and set them on the back burner while I finished up the shad roe.
Here’s my one ‘set’ of shad roe, a pair, which I gently separated just before cooking, and dredged lightly in flour. The flour was absorbed by the time I got them into the pan. They need gentle handling, but not too a wildly fussy degree. I let them get nice and brown before turning, as you want to minimize turns. Here below is my finished dish. Very hearty and very satisfying. All the recipes I saw recommended big portions for each person — to me, this is more of a go-with, Asian style. Half a set with lots of grits onion and bacon was plenty for me. I wouldn’t mind some scrambled eggs on the side, matter of fact.
Bill Smith’s Shad Roe with Red Onion, Bacon, and Grits
I’ve adapted Bill’s recipe, from Seasoned in the South, here, using bacon instead of side meat or pancetta, and trading in the lovely wilted salad he includes in his recipe for good ol’ grits, which I had on hand and longed to sample in the classic (fried fish or seafood + grits) combination. I loved it — rustic, homey, a little bit wild. If you love liver pudding/liver mush, ultra aromatic and blue-veined cheeses, and durian, as I do, you are a good candidate for shad roe fan-dom. Shad roe shares the texture of grits, making the pairing especially pleasing. While this Southern treasure shows up in spring, it seems to me a rustic, hearty, basso bye-bye from wintertime, unlike asparagus, rhubarb, lamb and other standard primavera pleasures. I had only one pair/set of shad roe, so the portion above has a more modest serving of grits and onions than this recipe.
4 pairs (or sets) of shad roe
(Cooked grits, to serve 4 people, hot and ready to serve)
1/2 pound side meat, pancetta or bacon
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 medium-sized red onion, peeled and cut into strips. (about 2 cups)
1/3 cup chopped Italian parsley
4 tablespoons lemon juice, plus chunks of lemon for garnish and extra seasoning
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Rinse the pairs, also known as ‘sets’, of shad roe gently. Place them in ice water to firm them up. (They are encased in a membrane that you want to leave intact, but sometimes there are extraneous veins and connective tissue that you should try to carefully remove. In a large skillet, cook the bacon, or dice and render the side meat. Remove the cooked bacon or side meat to a plate. Make sure the grease is still nice and hot, and add the thinly sliced purple onion. Cook, turning and tossing often, until the onions are softened, shiny, and fragrant. Add the parsley and toss well. Transfer onions to the plate alongside the bacon, and set aside.
To cook the shad roe: Heat the bacon grease in the same skillet over medium-high heat. (If using side meat and it seems a little skimpy, you may augment it with butter or oil. Mix together the flour and salt. Prick the shad roe a few times on both side with a straight pin. (I Nancie did not do this. No pin handy, plus I plumb forgot. No problem ensued.) Dredge the shad roe sets in the flour and shake off the excess. Fry in the grease, turning once, carefully, about 3 to 4 minutes on the first side and 2 or 3 minutes on the second side. They will brown a little. Be careful because sometimes they will pop, especially toward the end of cooking. When they are hot through, remove from heat.
Pour a generous portion of the grits onto a serving platter, or into a large serving bowl. Place the shad roe on the grits. Break or crumble the bacon into nice chunky pieces. Arrange the crumbled bacon and the purple onions alongside the shad roe on the grits. Squeeze lemon juice over the shad roe, and garnish with additional lemon chunks if you have them. Serve hot.
#Let’s Lunch is a worldwide-web-based circle of food writers who blog about a theme each month. This month the theme is Daffodils and other (edible) signs of spring. Grab a plate and go see what my friends in the #LetsLunch circle have served up on their various blogs for your reading/cooking/eating/dreaming pleasure:
Don’t forget to check out other Let’s Lunchers’ daffodil/spring/life dishes below! And if you’d like to join Let’s Lunch, go to Twitter and post a message with the hashtag #Letslunch — or, post a comment below.
Annabelle‘s Red Pepper and Eggplant Confit at Glass of Fancy
Anne Marie‘s Zihuatanejo (Or Veal Shank Redemption Sammy) at Sandwich Surprise
Cheryl’s Singaporean Barley Water at A Tiger In the Kitchen
Grace‘s Meyer Lemon and Mandarin Citrus Bundt Cake at HapaMama
Karen‘s Wasabi Tuna Steak at GeoFooding
Linda‘s Brassica Fried Rice at Spicebox Travels
Lisa‘s Salad of Chargrilled Sourdough, Tomato and Haloumi Cheese at Monday Morning Cooking Club
Lucy‘s Carrot Souffle at A Cook and Her Books
Monica‘s Roses and Eggplant at A Life of Spice
Rebecca‘s Goat Cheese Panna Cotta with Mango Foam at Grongar Blog
And leave me a comment on what spring means for you in the kitchen and at the table. If spring gives you ideas and inspirations for food and cooking, leave me a note about that in the comments.
Vietnamese-style chicken with lemongrass (Recipe below)
I fell in love with lemongrass early on, during my three years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand. These elegant, slender and sturdy stalks of a tropical grass provide a distinctive and delicate flavor to Southeast Asian soups, stews, curries, and other dishes, in kitchens from Indonesia to Thailand and from Vietnam to Burma. My introduction to this fragrant and delicately citrus-y herb was a Thai classic: Shrimp and Lemongrass Soup. This dish gives the subtle herb a place of honor amongst the fire of chilies and the bright tang of wild lime leaves and lime juice.
Thailand, lemongrass tends to be a homegrown herb, though it is also available in most any market. While it’s much easier to find here in the USA nowadays than it was in the 1980′s, when I came home hungry for Thai food and eager to cook it, I still love growing it each year. The plant has deep beauty, and an even more powerful flavor when homegrown.
#LetsLunch, a community of food bloggers who post on a chosen theme each month, picked “New Beginnings” as our January theme. I struggled to think of a subject, since I have been on this planet and cooking for a very long time, and I couldn’t think of a New Dish nor a New Cuisine that made sense. While gazing at the Christmas tree across the family room from my sink where I was doing dishes, I suddenly noticed my jar of lemongrass stalks, rooting away for my summertime cooking pleasure. A new beginning! In fact the climate here is mild enough that my lemongrass patch and pots could conceivably winter over; but I take pleasure in starting a whole new batch each year. The results are lovely and fresh, and I cherish the magic of creating an entirely new patch of this ethereal and lovely herb from ‘mother’ stalks I buy in the dead of winter.
Starting with trimmed stalks in a jar of water on your kitchen counter, you should have roots within a few weeks. By the time you are ready to consider setting it outside without concern over frost, your rooting stalks should be ready to plant in dirt. Here’s a look at a small batch of lemongrass stalks which I trimmed and put into water for rooting early in December.
Those rooted stalks, removed from their jar of water to give you a closer look. Their color changes from dull green or yellow, to bright vibrant green, as they begin to put out roots. Your homegrown lemongrass will be deeper in color and flavor, and less woody in texture, than what we can find in the store. Still tough and fibrous—-lemongrass is never tender and pleasing to eat directly, unless it is sliced paperthin. But the level of flavor will increase tremendously, compared to what we can buy from mainstream sources.
That’s how to get your lemongrass garden, patch, or pot started. I’ll post again in a few weeks, when my new batch is ready for planting.
Inspiration here, for you lemongrass fans who wonder what the real thing looks like. Taken in Thailand in my town, Thatoom, this past summer, when I went out for an early morning stroll. Keep in mind: what you grow here will not match this glorious aabundance. Mine doesn’t get this wonderful — Lemongrass is happier in Thailand’s tropical paradise than it is here in North Carolina. But this patch serves a community of cooks and I easily grow more than I need each year. Lemongrass is happy here and does well, and I think you will love both growing it, and cooking with, later on in 2013.
Here’s my main lemongrass pot from 2012. I started with rooted stalks in the spring, March or April, and had plenty to cook with summer and fall. I left it outside as cold weather came on, and let it turn to dry, wintry straw. I will pull out and compost the dry stalky remains before beginning my 2013 pot outdoors, come spring.
My friends around the world have been posting #LetsLunch on our January theme: New Beginnings. Here are links to a lovely and inspiring array of recipes and commentary on our New Year theme. Thankful for our brilliant and generous #LetsLunch member, Pat Tanumijardja of The Asian Grandmother’s Cookbook, for orchestrating this month’s Lunch!
Enjoy this buffet of tasty _#LetsLunch Blogposts from my friends:
Vietnamese Fresh Spring Rolls
Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies
Jill Warren Lucas
Heavenly Angel Food Cake
Brown Butter Creamed Chard and Spinach
Grace Hwang Lynch
Homemade Matcha Green Tea Yogurt
Making Parathas with Mom
Da Bombe Alaska
Caribbean Style Black-Eyed Peas
Lemongrass Chicken, Vietnamese-Style
Here’s my recipe for lemongrass chicken. It’s a simple, Vietnamese-inspired stir-fry to enjoy with rice or noodles as part of an Asian style meal, or with grits, couscous, tortillas or biscuits. Make it with 2 or 3 spoonsful of crushed chilies if you love the edible heat. While the New Beginning theme for this post inspired me to present my newly-begun lemongrass and how to grow your own batch, that doesn’t mean that you need to wait for your lemongrass to root, thrive, and be harvest-ready to make this dish. It’s wonderful with storebought lemongrass, which I buy and use often. Happy cooking!
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, or chicken breast
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 chopped fresh lemongrass (about 3 stalks, see Note)
1/4 cup chopped shallots or onion
1/3 cup chicken broth or water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon crushed dried red chili flakes
3 tablespoons chopped green onions
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
In a medium bowl, combine the chicken, soy sauce, and garlic, and stir to mix everything well. Set aside for 20 to 30 minutes (or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day).In a small bowl, combine the Asian fish sauce, sugar, and salt, and stir well. In a blender or a small food processor, combine the lemongrass, shallots, and chicken broth or water. Blend to a fairly smooth puree, stopping to scrape down the sides and grind up any signifgant chunks of lemongrass.
Heat a large, deep skillet or a wok over high heat until very hot. Add oil and swirl to coat the pan. When a bit of green onion sizzles at once, scatter in the chicken and spread it out into a single layer. Let it cook for about 1 minute, until browned on one side and fragrant. Toss well and let cook until browned, about 1 minute more.
Add the lemongrass puree and toss well. Add the fish sauce mixture, toss well, and then cook, tossing occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through. Add the chili flakes and the green onions and toss well. Transfer to a serving plate, sprinkle with cilantro, and serve hot or warm. Serves 4 with rice and another vegetable dish or salad.
To prepare lemongrass, trim away the woody bottom end of 3 lemongrass stalks, to make a smooth base just under the bulge of the bulb. Cut away the grassy top portion, leaving a base about three inches long. Halve each stalk lengthwise, and then cut them very thinly crosswise into tiny pieces. Tumble the bits together, and then remove and discard any pieces which don’t have a purple tinge. (Purple color = flavor and aroma in lemongrass). You’ll need about 1/4 cup.
This recipe comes from Quick and Easy Vietnamese: 70 Everyday Recipes, by Nancie McDermott (Chronicle Books, 2006). Copyright @Nancie McDermott. All rights reserved.
So the question immediately arises: “Why are these called ‘White Mice’?” The immediate bit of knowledge is that no mice were ever harmed or even present in the making of these cookies. That name was on them when I copied down the recipe from ….somewhere…. in pencil, on a piece of typing paper from Daddy’s IBM Selectric which he kept at home for preparing his Sunday School lessons and working on work from work. Credit? Well, no, I did not note the source. Just wanted to make them. And I still do.
Once grown I realized they are a lot like what are called “Mexican Wedding Cookies”,which I adore as well. The idea of making them red and green instead of white as in White Mice probably came from me, but again, lost in the sands and winds of time. These are extremely easy to make, and delightful to eat. Not extra sweet, just sweet enough, and a sandy texture. I usually use pecans because, well, I’m from around here, but walnuts are wonderful too. This morning I used walnuts cause that’s what I had.
You can use a hand mixer. You can use a big stand mixer. You can also mix them up using a big spoon. Kid helpers are a huge plus with these. I have done it both ways, and I always remember why this is my very favorite Go-To Cookie to go to for cookie-pleasures. Here’s what to do:
White Mice Cookies
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts
1 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Do this before you bake the cookies. It can be before you make the dough, or after you make the dough; that doesn’t matter. The dough can wait in the fridge for a day or two. Dough gets rolled into cookie balls, and these rolled in sugar, whether plain granulated, or colorful granulated sugar, right before baking each batch.)
About 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
Red food coloring
Green food coloring
Divide the sugar between two jars with lids. Add about 5 drops of red coloring to one, and green coloring to the other. Shake very well until the sugar is evenly colored. Transfer to a shallow bowl or pie plate and use to coat the cookies. Or use white granulated sugar.
Lightly grease one or two large cookie sheets and set aside. Heat the oven to 300 degrees F. In a medium bowl, combine flour and nuts and toss to mix well.
In a large bowl, combine butter and sugar. Using a mixer, beat at medium-high speed until they are evenly combined and well mixed. Add the milk and vanilla and beat them in well. Add the flour and nuts, and beat at low speed to combine everything evenly and well into a very firm dough. (You can use a big spoon, fork, and/or your hands to make this dough. Lots of jobs for helpers of any age).
Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Place sugar (either plain granulated sugar, or red and green colored sugar, see directions) in a pie pan or wide, shallow bowl, and roll to coat each one evenly and well with the sugar. Place 1 inch apart on cookie sheets. Bake at 300 degrees for 20 minutes. Carefully transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.
Makes 36 cookies (3 dozen)
Copyright Nancie McDermott 2012. All rights reserved.
When I read about the FoodBlogSouth2013 Telephone Game, I raised my hand as fast as I could. Who wouldn’t want to cook along with a slew of like-minded, blogging, experimenting fellow food writers, connect to FoodBlogSouth, and learn from the Grand Dame, Fairy Godmother, and Resident Generous Genius of Southern Cuisine, Nathalie Dupree? “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking” by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Stevens Grabart had just published to great acclaim and I had gotten my copy and had Nathalie sign it just days before this opportunity arose.
But when I got down to brass tacks, as my mother used to say without explaining what that meant or what other kinds of tacks she was using before she got down to them, I had a moment. A moment of fear and doubt. Roasting? Roasting a whole entire chicken? In the oven? I have been cooking for well over 40 years (yes, I started young), and am at home with mortar and pestle, wok, cleaver, dough scraper, and cast iron skillet. I’m all over baking and the oven is my friend. But what I know how to do with meat is cut it down to size. Whole chicken? I can turn that thang into breasts, legs, thighs, back, and wings in a New York minute, ready for frying in my castir iron skillet. I know from pork butt and country-style ribs: how to chop it up and then rapid-fire grind it with my cleaver into hand-crafted ground pork popping with flavor, or thinly sliced or primly-chunked pieces, ideal for stir-fry or curry. Rib-eye, tri-tip, flank steak — it’s all a cakewalk when I’m cooking Asian dishes, or Southern-fried ones, or stewing an old hen into chicken and dumplings, or wings into party-perfect finger food. But a whole roasted anything? Give me strength!
So I took a deep breath and reached across the oceans, using my imaginary telephone. As we Baby Boomers used to do back in the day of telephones tethered to walls and costly surcharges based on who was calling from where, I called “long distance”. I ‘telephoned’ my Asian culinary knowledge base, for an idea of how to handle a big hunk of meat in that big hot oven-box. I got an answer pretty quick; it was lively and the connection was crackling-clear.
“Gai yahng! Gai yahng!” I could hear the Thai grilled chicken vendors calling up to passengers through the open windows of an upcountry bus or train. Grilled Thai garlic chicken, splayed out on to bamboo slats and grilled over coals, served with sticky rice, green papaya salad chili spiked and cool-hot; and chili-garlic sauce, the sweet and tangy syrup/sauce that pairs perfectly with gai yahng. The marinade for grilled chicken ought to work on a whole roast chicken, I answered myself, “since I’ve got guidelines on translating to roasting from my predecessor, “Life In Recipes”.
I hung up the imaginary helper-phone, on my toll-free long-distance call, ready to cook. Life in Recipes had cooked brussels sprouts with ginger and green onions in the cast iron skillet along with her gloriously pictured bird. I opted for sweet potatoes, because they are found in Thailand, they cook up like the kabocha pumpkins and other hard squashes and root vegetables Thai people love, I adore them, and I had some on hand. I cooked the dipping sauce while the bird was roasting, and planned on lovely simple jasmine rice to serve along with everything, since sticky rice is another story for another day. Here’s how it went:
My Telephone Game was a ‘win’ all around. I roasted a most tasty chicken, taking things in a Thai/Asian direction that worked handsomely and deliciously. I found “Life In Recipes” and a whole slew of other bloggers to follow, including my dear friend Sheri Castle who started the Telephone Game for us and for FoodBlogSouth 2013 way back in November. My family got a spectacular weeknight dinner that was so simple, and unintimidating, that they will be enjoying it in regular rotation from now on. It was a feast and I’m glad to be on this party line. (Young bloggers, ask your parents/grandparents about that one — it may be too low-tech and antique for Google).
Below you’ll find my two recipes, for the chicken and the fabulous sauce — good on almost anything, I would have to say. To see where I’m coming from, you can trace our calls! We started this FoodBlogSouth 2013 Telephone Game with my friend Sheri Castle here at Sheri Castle. Then came Anne-Marie Nichols at thismamacooks.com, and Niki at lifeinrecipes.com. Now me, here at nanciemcdermott.wordpress.com. And next week, December 19th: Michal Thornton at thehumidity.blogspot.com. We’ll keep on going, so check Michal Thornton for the next number to call. We’re cooking here on the FoodBlogSouth 2013 party line, with our recipe-driven Telephone Game.
Nancie’s Thai-Style Roast Chicken
In Thailand, spry, slender chickens are seasoned with cilantro root, garlic, peppercorns, soy sauce and fish sauce and grilled over charcoal to be enjoyed with sticky rice, green papaya salad, and a sweet-and-spicy dipping sauce. Flattened out and held steady with baboo, Thai grilled chicken is known as gai yahng and is eaten as finger food. This same marinade works wonderfully on a whole chicken, roasted in the oven with ease and served with a luscious side of sweet potatoes roasted alongside the bird.
1/4 cup chopped garlic
1/4 cup chopped cilantro stems
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 whole chicken (a small one; about 3 1/2 pounds)
About 3 cups peeled sweet potatoes, cut into big bite-sized chunks
In a blender or a small food-processor, combine the garlic, cilantro stems, vegetable oil, soy sauce, fish sauce, pepper, salt, and water. Grind to a well-combined, fairly smooth paste, pulsing on and off and scraping down the sides between grinding spells to get everything to the same stage. (You could also mince the garlic and cilantro stems very finely using your knife, and then mashin the salt and pepper with the back of a fork to incorporate it. Scrape this into a bowl, add the fish sauce and oil, stir well, and continue.)
Transfer the paste to a large bowl. Add the chicken and turn it all around, rubbing with the paste to season the chicken completely and as evenly as possible. Cover and set aside for 1 hour or up to 1 day.
To roast the chicken: Heat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place it breast side up in a roasting pan large enough to contain the bird. Place the sweet potatoes all around the chicken. Place the chicken in the oven and reduce the heat to 425 degrees. Let the chicken roast for about 45 minutes, until the skin is golden and crisp, and the meat is done to 165 degrees measured at the thigh where the heat is thick.
Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and let it stand for 10 to 15 minutes. Leave the sweet potatoes in the roasting pan, covered, on the back of the stove to stay warm. To serve, transfer the sweet potatoes to the serving platter and distribute them around the chicken, scraping any liquid onto the platter to flavor the chicken and the sweet potatoes. Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves. Serve with Sweet Hot Garlic Sauce (recipe follows) and jasmine rice, or couscous, pasta, or bread.
Serves 3 to 4 people
I’ve adapted this recipe from my book: Quick and Easy Thai: 70 Everyday Recipes by Nancie McDermott. Copyright 2004. All rights reserved.
Sweet-Hot Garlic Sauce
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup vinegar (white vinegar or apple cider vinegar)
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoons chili-garlic sauce (sambal oelek), or Sri Rachaa Sauce, or 2 teaspoons dried red chili flakes
In a medium saucepan, bring the sugar, vinegar, water, garlic and salt to a lively boil over medium heat, stirring often to dissolve the sugar. Adjust heat to maintain an active simmer and cook, stirring now and then, for 9 to 12 minutes, until you have a thin, smooth syrup, about the texture of maple syrup. (This is tricky — it needs to be definitely thickened but not as thick as honey or pancake syrup. If you’re not sure, crank it up a little and go another five minutes with lots of bubbling. It will thicken on standing; but it does need to be thickened up to thin but specific syrup before you stop. ) Remove from heat, stir in the chili sauce, and set aside to cool. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve at room temperature with grilled, roasted, or fried foods. Cover and refrigerate for 3 to 4 days.
This recipe comes from Quick and Easy Thai: 70 Everyday Recipes by Nancie McDermott. Copyright 2004. All rights reserved.
My wonderful young cousin Erika Sue got in touch late last week, asking if I might have a recipe for making an apple pie. Matter of fact, I did, and I decided to make one and take pictures, so that I could pass along the closest thing to going over and sharing the pleasures of making an apple pie with her in her kitchen. (Only distance and time kept me from doing that right now, and I hope to be cooking with her and all my dear cousins out in beautiful Oregon some time in 2013.) Here’s what I did in words, and in pictures after the words are done.
Please note that the pie crusts, the sheets of pastry I’m using here, came not from my hands but from the grocery store refrigerator case. I know how to make piecrust, and I can make them using butter, shortening, lard, canola oil, or combinations of these. I learned how to do so over many repetitions, and I agree with people who say it is easy and that anyone can do it. I also agree with people who say that it is difficult, challenging, frustrating, and impossible. To me, both those statements are true. I love making piecrust from scratch, and I love setting out a prepared crust and jumping right in with the part that matters most to me: what goes inside and makes a pie a pie.
The question to ask is: What is your goal? If you want to learn how to make piecrust, here are three excellent places to learn how, the third one being a gluten-free piecrust.
If your goal is to make a wonderful pie, and making piecrust seems difficult, scary, or time consuming in terms of this particular pie-making endeavor, you have my blessing to go get ahold of some piecrust from the grocery store fridge or freezer, or your pastry-making friend or relative, and then get started on making a wonderful pie.
This post is about making a wonderful, homemade, you-can-do-this apple pie. If you would like to do a most satisfying and rewarding baking project with young helpers, apple pie making is one of the very best. I love making apple pies, alone and with helpers, skilled and unskilled, my age, younger and older. I love eating them, and I hope you will, too. Here we go!
Nancie’s Old-School Everyday Apple Pie
I started out with 6 – 8 tart apples, which around here are usually granny smiths. I peeled them, and set out the ingredients and tools I needed in addition to apples and piecrust. Sugar, cinnamon, flour, salt, measuring spoons, and knives. About pie pans: They’re all good. If you have the option to be choosy: Ovenproof glass pie pans, are my favorite, since you can see whether the crust is browned and done on the bottom, and because they cook evenly. But any regular pie pan/pie plate will work fine.) Here’s the recipe in words. Photos follow in order. Happy baking, and let me know how your pie comes out!
2 sheets of pie crust, homemade or storebought
6 to 8 apples (green ones such as Granny smith), about 3 pounds, yielding 6 cups peeled, cored and sliced apples)
¾ cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons cold butter (plus more butter to rub on the crust after baking)
Heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Drape the bottom piecrust sheet into a pie plate and fit it evenly, so that the top edge is even and there are no air bubbles. Lift and position it – try not to stretch it to fit.
Peel the apples. Cut out the cores and slice them medium-to-thinly. Measure out a generous 6 cups of apples. Place them in a large mixing bowl.
In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Stir with a fork to mix everything together evenly and well. Cut the cold butter into small bits.
Pour the sugar mixture over the apples, and use your hands or two big spoons to toss them and coat them evenly with the spiced sugar mixture. Scoop the apples into the piecrust. Place the bits of butter all over the apples. Mound the apples up high in the center and low on the sides, so that the crust is exposed on the sides.
Gently place the top crust over the apples and arrange it evenly. Tuck it in and press the two crust layers together well. Trim the edges so that the edges are fairly even all the way around. Tuck the crust under and press to seal it well. Use a fork or your fingers to press and pinch together the edges of the pie crust so that it is sealed.
Using a sharp knife, cut steam vents evenly around the top crust. Place the pie in the 425 degree oven for 20 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and continue baking for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the crust is evenly browned on top, browned on the bottom (try to check but don’t burn yourself doing this; carefully!), fragrant, and bubbling with syrup through the vents on top.
Remove gently rub cold butter over the top crust to enrich it a bit. Then let the pie cool a little. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature. Makes one pie.
The crust tends to brown quickly around the edges. I make a collar out of foil. Make 4 strips of foil, about 3 inches wide. Fold them together, end to end, to make one very long strip. Before baking, Fit this strip around the edges of the pie, curving and pressing so that it covers or tents the crust all around the edges, but leaves the top center exposed. Pinch to fit, loosely. Then set aside.
When you lower the temperature to 350, remove the pie and place it on the stove. Very carefully, with a potholder or dry kitchen towel handy, place it around the top edges of the pie and press the loose edges together. Return the pie with its loose foil collar to the oven and continue baking until done.
Apple Pie, fragrant and delicious, made from apples, sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, butter, and two sheets of piecrust. Ice cream and or whipped cream are never required, but only add to the pleasures, should you be so inclined. I am so glad that my wonderful cousin Erika Sue asked me this question this particular week. I loved making this pie, and I will love it even more if you end up making one, too!
Holiday season is in full swing in my world, and while the food and cooking are not the only focus, they have always brought me great joy. For me, getting in the kitchen to cook and serve big holiday meals has always been a pleasure and a worthwhile gratifying form of work. Not everybody feels this way, and thank heavens for that! Those of us who love the food and cooking part need people, lots of people, to come over and sit down and eat what we’ve cooked up. My friend Rebecca Lang ‘s beautiful, practical and delightful new cookbook, Around the Southern Table: Coming Home to Comforting Meals and Treasured Memories centers us on a powerful, moving truth: sitting down to eat at the table with people we care about matters. While the book positively glows with gorgeous images of irresistible food, I love her invitation to notice the gift of sitting down to eat, of having food to cook and people to share it. She writes movingly from the heart about the tables in her own life, and all that has happened around those tables. Read her essay HERE:
After being a fan of Rebecca’s, I loved meeting her at the BB&T Charleston Wine + Food Festival in 2011. I count on her book Quick Fox Southern: Homemade Hospitality in 30 Minutes or Less for busy weeknights and sudden covered-dish supper inspirations. I love her attitude toward food and cooking in general and Southern food in particular. She seems to love what her grandmother did without putting old-time kitchen ways into a museum or a temple. She cherishes her beloved maternal grandmother’s antique oak table with abundant leaves for extending it, but it’s the people and the moments that matter. Reading her words reminded me of precious tables in my life: the formica-covered kitchen tables in my grandparents home, the card tables where the kids were seated during the big dinners of my childhood, woven mats spread out on the kitchen floor in Thailand, even the t.v. trays in the den with the plaid sofa and the wood paneling. Spectacular meals, modest ones, hilarious ones — Decades, many decades down the road of my life,I still remember meals and people and occasions clearly, long after menu details have faded away.
This fall Rebecca came to town on her book tour for Around the Southern Table. In addition to teaching cooking classes and television appearances, she was Guest Author at a Cooks and Books event at The Granary in Fearrington Village. Co-hosted by Fearrington House Restaurant and McIntyre’s Books, the events include lunch, a signed book, and the opportunity to listen and visit with the author over a meal. Fearrington’s award winning Executive Chef Colin Bedford and his team served up a memorable luncheon from the pages of Rebecca’s book.
Forgetting my plans to write about the feast, I dove right into my Marinated Asparagus and Pecan Salad, eating it all it up without taking a photo for you to enjoy here. Thinking fast, I maneuvered my copy of the book, open to the photograph of that very salad alad as featured in the book. Bonus! You can pretend you too got to enjoy Rebecca Lang talking about the book as we sat right there at the table with her, enjoying her recipes.
The Main course? Got it. From then on, I was focused. Atlantic Shrimp on Yellow Grits. Magnificent, as tasty as it was lovely on the plate.
Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie made for a marvelous finish to an exquisite meal. Rebecca’s company and conversation made it even more satisfying.
My favorite aspect of sharing this meal with Rebecca was hearing details and stories about how she got started in her work in the world of food. This involves my hero and friend Nathalie Dupree, whose new book you will be hearing about here soon. Read the introduction to Around the Southern Table, written by Nathalie, to learn the the story. Read this, too, for more on that story, from Rebecca’s wonderful, excellent-recipe-filled blog.
I’m writing this post with Thanksgiving on the near horizon, and for me, sweet potatoes have been crucial beloved items on the Thanksgiving table, all my life. Each year I read numerous disdainful references to sweet potato casseroles with mini marshmallows on top. I silently pretend that I too, am shocked, SHOCKED! at the persistent affection for this dish around the land. But there it is, in Rebecca Lang’s lovely, elegant book, photographed handsomely and spoken of with pride! Yes! Me, too! I made her recipe, and mine is not as pretty but it is mighty tasty. I think stirring in or sprinkling on chopped pecans and raisins would be a good thing to do, and I might at a tad bit more sugar myself. So glad I have this book for this week, for all the rest of this year, and for the new year(s) to come. Here’s to good times at your table1
Rebecca Lang’s All Things Sweet Potato Casserole
4 1/2 cups mashed baked sweet potatoes (about 4 pounds whole)
2 large eggs
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and divided
1 1/2 cups crushed gingersnaps (30 cookies)
3 cups miniature marshmallows
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine potatoes, eggs, next 5 ingredients, and 1/2 cup of the melted butter in a large bowl. Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Spoon into a lightly greased 13 x 9-inch baking pan.
2) Stir remaining 1/4 cup melted butter into crushed gingersnaps. Top potato mixture with marshmallows and the gingersnap mixture in alternating crosswise rows.
3) Bake at 350 degrees F for 28 minutes or until marshmallows are lightly browned.
Note: To bake sweet potatoes, place on a baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees F until tender, about 45 minutes for small potatoes, 1 hour for medium potatoes, and 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour and 25 minutes for larger potatoes.
From “Around the Southern Table: Coming Home to Comforting Meals and Treasured Memories” by Rebecca Lang. Oxmoor House 2012. All rights reserved.