Posts filed under ‘Ingredients’
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.
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!
Charissa‘s Curried Roasted Cheddar Cheese Cauliflower Soup, Gluten-Free at Zest Bakery
Juliana‘s View from Les Halles Farmers Market at Chicken Scrawlings
Linda‘s Farmers’ Market Fruit Galette at Spicebox Travels
Linda‘s Zucchini or Cucumber Quick Pickles at Free Range Cookies
Lisa‘s Eveleigh Farmers’ Market (in Australia!) Winter Salad at Monday Morning Cooking Club
A tall cool Thai iced coffee, brought to my table at a small, delightful Bangkok cafe, one which became instant headquarters for many of the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers gathered at the Royal River Hotel during July for Peace Corps Thailand 50th Anniversary celebrations. Check my blogpost HERE about my first meal there, a fantastic lunch made even more delightful by the company with whom I shared it: Ellie and Paul, two PCV’s I met during my Peace Corps Thailand time.
CLICK HERE for the video tour of the restaurant, featuring other wonderful Peace Corps folks and a beauty shot of ‘kai jiow‘, Thai omelet with the original Sri Rachaa Sauce on the side. Other PCV friends include Linda, Carolyn, and Pat. More names coming. And I will find out the name of the restaurant. I took it for granted, because there it was, coming and going many times a day. If you’re coming in toward the hotel, it’s on the right, about halfway up and just before the small canal. Here’s the Royal River Hotel website, with which to find the lane, Soi Charansanitwong, off Rajwithii Road at Krung Thon Bridge, west bank of the Chao Praya River, Thonburi Side.
CLICK HERE for the blogpost with photos of our meal.
Thai iced coffee delivers a particular pleasure, as it’s seasoned with roasted spices and made superstrong, generously sweetened and enriched with my favorite, evaporated milk. This was one of many food-moments in which I found things I remembered from my long-ago Thailand days unchanged, unspoiled, still fantastic and still right there, woven into everyday Thai life. Look for Thai coffee powder in plump cellophane bags in Asian markets, if you’re hankering to try it at home. Iced and with milk, it’s ‘cah-fey yen‘. Iced without milk, it’s ‘o-liang‘.
My first day back in Thailand (overview post HERE), my friends Ellie and Paul and I took a short walk out the door of the Royal River Hotel and down the lane to a small cafe recommended by Friends of Thailand leader and dear pal Carolyn Nickels-Cox. It’s an open-air place with six or eight tables, turquoise-blue walls, and a beverage-making set-up with the fixings for fruit smoothies, sodas, lemonade, and an espresso machine. We ordered three dishes with rice, and each of them was fantastic. Except for the espresso machine and a few electronic devices, we could have been Peace Corps volunteers taking a lunch break back in 1977. Recipes will follow down the road, but for today, just feast your eyes.
I love tom yum, one of Thailand’s simple, brilliant soups. I must have enjoyed it a dozen times during my short journey, and I could never get tired of it. Lemongrass and galanga, wild lime leaves, fresh chilies, roasted chili paste (nahm prik pao), fish sauce, and a squeeze of lime juice — a line up of sharp, bright flavors, essentially Thai. This tom yum featured shrimp, fresh straw mushrooms, green onions and cilantro leaves. Here it’s often served as a Western-style first course, sans rice, but in Thailand it comes to the table as one of the ‘with-rice’ dishes: Perfection.
I had been longing for this dish, moo paht bai graprao, pork stir-fried with holy basil. In the West it’s very seldom made with ‘bai graprao’, or holy basil, as that herb is delicate and not widely available. Asian basil (bai horapah) is usually substituted and while it’s delicious, nothing tastes as marvelous as holy basil. Upcountry it’s usually made with hand-chopped meat, but even with sliced pork, it was so very good.
Nobody has to be persuaded to “Eat Your Vegetables!” when the vegetables come to the table from a Thai kitchen. This is pahk boong fai daeng, water spinach stir-fried with garlic. This hollow-stemmed vegetable is beloved throughout Asia. The Taiwanese name is kong shing tsai, which can be translated as ‘empty heart’, referring to the hollow stems of each delicate stalk.
These three dishes with lots of rice made us all so happy and satisfied. Some things in Thailand have changed, and many have remained the same. I took this photo of my personal serving of tom yum in order to show you the fresh straw mushrooms, cut in half and imbued with the tart fiery deliciousness of this soup. Just an ordinary little lunch, with good friends, at the local joint around the corner, back in Thailand. So delicious.
This gilded red doorway loomed majestically before me when I stepped from a long, meandering jetway into the G Concourse of Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport just before midnight on July 10th, 2012. What a glorious sight, soaring up twice as tall as me, placed to greet arriving passengers first thing. I felt perfectly, handsomely welcomed back to Thailand, where I had spent three years as a Peace Corps volunteer, 1975 to 1978. I had returned once, for a 3 month visit in 1989, to research my first cookbook. That first return-visit to Thailand thrilled and delighted me, and I vowed to return soon and often. Instead, 23 more years rolled on by.
Thanks to Friends of Thailand, an organization of returned Peace Corps volunteers and others who love Thailand, I finally returned this month, July of 2012, for celebrations and reunions. The occasion: Peace Corps Thailand’s 50th anniversary, celebrated beautifully through a memorable series of events in Bangkok, July 11 - 18, 2012. So many extraordinary experiences, grand times, amazing sights, precious people, glorious feasts, everyday snacks, insights, memories, and inspirations keep my mind whirring, some ten days since my return home. I’ll be taking it all in and sharing things here for a good while, in small portions. For now, here is an outline of my journey.
A water-taxi pulling away from the dock near The Royal River Hotel on the Chao Phraya River, Thonburi side. This was headquarters for the Friends of Thailand 50th Anniversary Celebrations. In the background is the Krung Thon Bridge, also known as Sapahn Sang Hi.
Kickoff event Wednesday, July 11th, a delightful dinner hosted by Friends of Thailand and Peace Corps Thailand at the Royal River Hotel. Photo collages share images of some of the 5000 Peace Corps volunteers who have served in Thailand over the 50 years since Group #1 arrived in 1962.
A Thai food buffet fueled reunions with old friends and colleagues and meet-ups with new ones, as well as with Peace Corps staff, past and present.
Highlight of a marvellous evening was my joyful reunion with Khun Alisaa, who had just begun working at Peace Corps Thailand when my group, Thai #51, arrived in the spring of 1975. She remains beautiful, delightful, and kind, and she actually remembered nervous me, age 23, from my newbie days, 37 years ago.
Thursday night, July 13, currently-serving Peace Corps volunteers joined us old-timers, Peace Corps staff, and many others for a fantastic reception at the beautiful and inviting United States Embassy Residence, hosted by US Ambassador to Thailand Kristie A. Kenney.
On Friday morning, we were welcomed at the Ministry of Interior of the Kingdom of Thailand, for a magnificent event celebrating the fifty years Thailand has welcomed the US Peace Corps and Peace Corps volunteers. The highlight of this auspicious and memorable gathering was the presence of Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.
In this photograph from the Ministry of the Interior’s website HERE, Her Royal Highness enjoys visiting the exhibits chronicling Peace Corps’s presence in Thailand, 1962-2012 during this memorable celebratory event.
I loved every minute of this beautiful morning, especially the chance to meet these two wonderful young people, current Peace Corps volunteers, Jeffrey Jackson and Christine Duffy, who are currently serving in Surin province, where I spent my two years, 1975-1978. They are two of the 112 PCV’s currently serving in 47 provinces throughout the Thai kingdom.
We finished this marvellous day with an unforgettable celebration at the lovely headquarters of Peace Corps Thailand, a grand vintage Thai house transformed into a handsome office and home base for all the activities and good work of Peace Corps Thailand. Walking along one of Bangkok’s ultra-busy major thoroughfares,with traffic sounds and bustling daily life, I did not imagine how magically we would be transported from 21st Century Bangkok hustle-bustle to a sweet, welcoming, lovely paradise created by Khun Salinee and the Peace Corps Staff. I’ll never forget coming through the the doors and gateways behind the high thick walls of the compound, to be greeted by Thai music, flowers, smiles, sweets, gifts, and greetings which went on for hours in the dearest way.
Here some members of Peace Corps Thailand staff are posing for a photograph on the flower-lined steps leading up to the house.
The most wonderful and precious part of my Thailand adventures began on Saturday morning, July 14, when I traveled back to my Peace Corps site in Thatum, Surin, to see my students. Much to share on this, over time. My heart is still too full, and the number of people and events too big, for me to do anything more right this minute than to broach the subject, with this photograph. Here I am with some of the many, many students who came to greet me during my short visit — four days in all. These wonderful people were between 11 and 14 years old when I taught them English in 1975. We all remember each other very very well. What a blessing to be able to go back and to find so many of these dear people there, and ready to come greet me and spend time together. (This isn’t even everyone; just the first gathering on the first morning of my visit. Many more pictures and stories to come.) What a blessing; what a gift.
Here, my former student, Ajarn Riat Prombut, who is now an outstanding English teacher in Burirum Province, teaches a short lesson to the students in an elementary school English class led by my new friend, Christine Duffy, currently serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Surin province. Tuesday morning, July 17th, 2012.
Here, my former student, Miss Nattayabhorn, poses with me by a portrait of His Royal Highness King Rama IX, in the main hall of Hulaumpong Train Station in Bangkok. I had just arrived on an overnight train from Surin, and she and her lovely daughter came to meet me and see me back to my hotel. It was 5:55 a.m. on Wednesday, July 18th, 2012. That day included an amazing and special tour of the Grand Palace, graciously hosted by RPCV Geoffrey Longfellow; and then a spirited and memorable farewell dinner back at the Royal River Hotel, where many of us RPCV’s who had gathered for the week’s events enjoyed one more feast. A powerful and moving evening of reflections on our time in Thailand, past and present.
On my last day, Thursday, July 19, Miss Nattayabhorn picked me up from my hotel, wrestled my massive suitcase into her car, and drove me up to Ayutthaya Province, north of Bangkok, to visit another former student. While she drove (Don’t worry: The driver is on the righthandside in Thailand; this is my leftside view from the passenger seat, na kha?), I looked up fun things on her i-pad, including a Thai country song I adore, “Clai Bahn”, as classroom favorites “Fly Me To The Moon”, “Muhammad Ali”, and “500 Miles”.
When I looked up from researching songs and such, I realized we were travelling on one of the most beautiful and dazzling bridges in the whole wide world. Okay, I might be wrong; I haven’t actually been on that many bridges, but I can’t imagine this wouldn’t be in the running for most magnificent, with multiple golden spires like this one.
Here I am at my student Ganyaa’s school in Ayutthaya Province, with a charming and dear gathering of students who have just finished playing Thai classical music for our listening pleasure. (Video to come.) Some students are wearing their Girl Guides and Boy Scouts uniforms. To my left is Principal Ganyaa, and to my right is the charming and delightful teacher, Ajarn Preeda. So sorry I do not have a photograph of Ajarn Khwunta, who was visiting the school that day, and kindly took these photographs for me.
Here I am in front of one of the welcoming signs in my honor, with Principal Ganyaa, my former student, and Ajarn Sawang, who teaches Thai classical music to the students each week.
So many moments, both majorly dramatic and everyday ones. How lovely to be riding along the highway, looking out at rice fields and schools and towns and snack stands and daily life. Every moment felt precious and deep and rich and sweet.
An early morning stroll in my town, Thatum, passing a banana tree flanked by two major patches of lemongrass.
It wasn’t a research trip, but culinary treasures found me constantly, including this delightful noodle vendor whose “kwaytiow reua”, boat noodles, were fantastic, even at 3 pm on a steamy-hot afternoon. I wish I had me a bowl right now. Just one of the small reasons to get back over there, not that I don’t have a gracious plenty of irresistible reasons, (dear and beloved people) without even going to the category of Thai food.
My last night, I was welcomed by Ajarn Ruchirek and Ajarn Pallop, friends of Miss Nattayabhorn, who hosted me in their lovely home for a wonderful (and most delicious) farewell dinner and a good night’s rest before my long plane journey. Here are Miss Nattayabhorn and Principal Ganyaa to my left, and Ajarn Ruchirek and Ajarn Pallop to my right.
Back at the airport, on the morning of July 20th, 2012. It’s about 3 a.m. Thai time. People were sleeping; but not Miss Nattyabhorn and her husband, who got up super-early to drive me there and see me off on my journey home.
So many amazing, powerful, hilarious, sweet, rich and indelible memories from a relatively short journey: All of twelve days. So many people, so much generosity and kindness. Details will flow here, over time. For now, I must say that without this good and dear person, Ajarn Riat Prombut, (with his lovely wife Ajarn Ampai), who was my student back in Thatum Surin in the mid 1970′s, this journey would not have happened. Dedicated, energetic, generous, and so very patient (!) and creative in getting me where I wanted to go. Even on the last day, when I wanted to visit PCV Christine Duffy, but forgot to get the address, much less any directions, Ajarn Riat made it happen. Before and during my trip, he planted the seeds, made the connections, arranged and adapted, and created a glorious sweet visit I will never forget.
My plane took off at 5:45 a.m., and my last glimpse of Thailand left me hungry for more. (Delta Airlines Bangkok/Tokyo/Atlanta/RDU). It’s not a matter of whether to go back; it’s only a matter of when. I am working on it. Meantime, so much to remember, contemplate and enjoy, and share here, over time.
Leaving Thailand was difficult and sad. It felt like I had just gotten started on a new chapter, while in the process of revisiting an old chapter; remembering and reflecting while feasting on Thai food and enjoying reunions with so many dear and wonderful people. But how good it felt to come on back home. I missed my family so much. Next time they must come along with me! On my first afternoon back home, the hot (HOT!) summer sky cracked wide open with a thunder and lightning storm of Biblical proportions, the way that North Carolina thunderstorms can do. As the storm was moving out, I ventured out into the front yard and found this double rainbow. It felt personal. Auspicious, appropriate, comforting, sweet. It was and is good to be home, and it’s good to be thinking about my next Thai adventure.