Posts filed under ‘Recipes’

Valentine’s Day Wisdom and Chocolate Treats

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My Southern Chocolate Pound Cake with Chocolate Pecan Icing, beautifully made and handsomely photographed by my friend, Linda Rogers Weiss, author of “Seasoned in the Kitchen”. Recipe below.

Flowers, candy, cards, candlelit dinners, chocolate: That’s my word-association when Valentine’s Day comes up. We tend to focus first on romance, special someone’s, expressing sweetheart-love. My friend Denise Vivaldo wrote the most wonderful, brief, brilliant commentary on this, and because I subscribe to her e-mail newsletter, it came right to my screen. (Always follow Denise, any time she invites you to do so. She is the hilarious, insightful, brilliant and talented best.) What Denise notes about Valentine’s Day is  short and sweet. You can read it in about 54 seconds and I promise you will be glad you did. Want to read it? Please click HERE. Denise ends with a little gift: Two recipes, one for adorable petit fours, and one for a pretty champagne cocktail involving raspberries.

IMG_3689Then there’s the wonderfulness of saluting and celebrating that romance, that love and affection, that finding someone special and signing on for the journey, and along came my friend Jamie Schler , who writes a wonderful blog called “Life’s A Feast”.  I always love her posts, but this latest one? It’s about love, romance, marriage, and French-style pudding au chocolat with salted caramel sauce. It, too, moved me, delighted me, and opened my eyes and heart. You can read it if you simply click HERE.

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Jamie includes the recipe for that chocolate confection, and gorgeous photographs of same. I made the little puddings, covered  and chilled them, and on the Big Snow Day (yesterday 2/13/14),  I made Jamie’s salted caramel sauce, and had it ready for my husband to enjoy for breakfast on the surprise snow day, instead of waiting for Valentine’s Day proper.

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Jamie’s Salted Caramel Sauce in progress, butter going in, soon to be followed by cream…

You want that caramel sauce recipe?Yes, you do. For that, just  click HERE. Jamie’s French Pudding au chocolat recipe is at the end of her post, HERE. 

It has actually been a rather chocolate-y week around here. I have been and remain very, very busy on a big project, and bless my heart, when I get really going and need relief, I tend to bake. Going out for a run, a game of racquetball? Were those my escapes, instead of baking, that wouldn’t have worked, given the big snow and all.

I know some people clean and organize their homes and offices. That is so nice, and I may change as I age, but so far, it’s baking. Flipping through my Miscellaneous Recipe folder (one of the 243+ MR folders around the house in various places around the house) I came across “15 Minute Chocolate Cake”.

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It had no notations at all as to where I had found it. Must have been a cut-and-paste, I thought. Can it really be a 15 minutes-into-the-oven chocolate cake, I wondered? I had everything. I went in the kitchen, started a timer, heated the oven to 350, set out the ingredients, and stirred it up. Oh NO!!! I forgot to do the pan first. Don’t like to do that so I put it off. Checked clock. Five minutes left!!! I got pan, greased it, lined it, and presto, into oven before the bell. The cake lifted up beautifully and came out just fine. Then I felt frustrated, because I couldn’t share it without credit and where in the world did I get it from? How would I ever find it?

unfrosted cakeBut why not at least just go Google 15 minute chocolate cake, so I did,  and voila, there it was, on my friend Andrea Nguyen‘s wonderful blog/website, Vietworld Kitchen. “Well, help my time!” is what my maternal grandmother used to say at such a time, which is Southern American NC English for “Who knew?” And so with full credit and delight, I present to you the recipe and story and pictures regarding the 15 Minute Chocolate Cake from Andrea on Vietworld Kitchen. All you do is click HERE.

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15 Minute Chocolate Cake from Andrea Nguyen’s “Vietworld Kitchen”, covered with ganach from MarthaStewart.com.

“That went well!” I said to myself. Then I thought about icing/frosting, and knew I needed the fastest simplest icing as I was WAY off the topic of the Big Project, and I thought not of a certain cake book we keep lying around here with lots of smudges and scribbles and crumbs on its pages. I thought of ganache! Chocolate and cream, right? How hard could that be? Not hard at all, as it turned out. I chose this recipe from google-ville, from Martha Stewart’s website, and it worked just fine. For that recipe, click HERE.

I had pecans handy, and a wholesale bakery where I once worked briefly used to put ground almonds on the sides of their Vienna fudge cake, so I did that too, but with pecans. They stuck a candied violet in the middle. One ingredient of which I happened to be out. Kidding — I never have candied violets. (I did buy some once, back in another era of my cooking life, and almost broke a tooth on one. I think those were more decorative, not for actual eating, though they were edible.)

This cake is chocolate-y and we loved it, but I think it does need whipped cream or ice cream, as a companion and foil.  By the way, in addition to chocolate cake, Andrea Nguyen has SO much to share on food, cooking, Vietnamese and Asian food, and life, so visit her site often, right HERE. I have all three of her books, and can’t wait for her next one:

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This book will be out in July, but you can go to your favorite bookseller and order a copy in advance. Then you will not have to wait when it comes out, and the publisher can decide to print even more than they’d planned because of the mammoth buzz. But back to chocolate and Valentine’s Day and baking and treats.

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My chocolate pound cake. What a good friend Linda Rogers Weiss is, to cook from my books, and take gorgeous photos, and send them to me, and let me share them. I love her book, “Seasoned in the Kitchen”, which you can order if you click HERE.

ChocPndCakeThis is my very favorite chocolate cake, and while it is too wonderful to save for Valentine’s Day only, it makes for an especially good choice if you want to bake something to share with lots of people on Valentine’s Day Weekend. Pound cake works equally well for  “It Snowed!” Or “You did it!” Or, “Thank you for being so _______!” and “I appreciate how you ________!” We don’t need to wait till next February 14th to express love, appreciation, gratitude, or kindness, do we, now?

On this love-centered day and moving forward, let’s broadcast love. Let’s plant it and cultivate it. Let’s share cake or candy, cards or notes, hearts or flowers, smiles or jokes, simple kind greetings, looks and words.  My friend Denise Vivaldo said it well in her Valentine’s post linked above:

“…I think what we are supposed to celebrate is love and the JOY it brings us.Maybe you celebrate with a spouse, or a lover, or your best friend. Maybe the true romance of Valentine’s Day is the kindness we can show another.”

Nancie’s Chocolate Pound Cake with Chocolate Pecan Icing

This handsome cake has a deep, rich, chocolate flavor with just the right touch of sweetness. You can bake it in a tube pan, a bundt cake pan, or two loaf pans, and make lots of people happy with one baking session.Chocolate Pound Cake

3 cups sifted flour

1/2 cup cocoa

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups evaporated milk

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

1/2 cup shortening

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups light or dark brown sugar

5 eggs

To make the cake, heat the oven to 325 F. Generously grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan or two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans.

Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt over a medium bowl. Stir the vanilla into the evaporated milk.

In a large bowl, combine the butter and the shortening and beat well with a mixer until they form a smooth, fluffy mixture. Add the sugars gradually, beating well to achieve a creamy, smooth consistency.

Add the eggs one by one, beating well each time. Add about one third of the flour mixture, and then half the milk, beating each time at low speed only until the flour or milk disappears into the batter. Mix in another third of the flour, the rest of the milk, and then the last of the flour in the same way.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake at 325 for about 1 hour and 30 minutes, or 55 to 60 minutes for loaf pans, until the top of the cake is firm and dry, the sides are pulling away from the pan, and a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack or a folded kitchen towel for 15 minutes. Loosen the cake from the pan with a table knife, and turn it out onto a wire rack or a plate to cool completely, topside up.

Makes 1 large cake or 2 loaves

Nancie’s Chocolate-Pecan Frosting

This makes enough to glaze a pound cake or bundt cake. To frost a two layer cake or lots of cupcakes, simply double or triple the recipe.

1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)

One 1-ounce square unsweetened chocolate, or 3 tablespoons cocoa

1 1 /4 cups confectionersí sugar

3 tablespoons milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups chopped pecans

To make the frosting, in a small saucepan, combine the butter and the chocolate or cocoa. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat, add the confectionersí sugar, milk, and vanilla, and stir well until the glaze is smooth.

Spread the glaze over the cake while it is still warm, or cool to room temperature and use it to ice the top of the cake. Quickly sprinkle the chopped pecans over the frosting on the top of the cake.

 This recipes comes from Southern Cakes: Sweet and Irresistible Recipes for Everyday Celebrations, by Nancie McDermott. Chronicle Books: Copyright 2007: All rights reserved

February 14, 2014 at 3:21 am 6 comments

Lunar New Year Farewell: Mom’s Special Dish and Good-Luck Lettuce

Meet my friend Shirley Lin. She lives in San Francisco and just like me, she adores food, cooking, culture, and travel. With these common interests, I could have met her anywhere in the world, but the place I was lucky enough to meet her was Beijing.  I traveled there last fall with my husband, who had a scientific conference to attend in November. This landed us in a big, handsome convention center hotel located next to the Olympic Village.

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An elaborate and multifaceted buffet breakfast was part of the room rate, and we didn’t miss a one. The restaurant served up an enormous array of Foods of the World, from yogurt shakes, fruit, and omelets to order, to sushi, miso soup, bacon and eggs, and toast.  Tourists like me lined up with convention-goers and business-people like my husband at the coffee maker and toast bar, everybody  fueling up for a day of sightseeing, networking, dealmaking, or shopping. My husband piled his plate with ham, sausage, omelet and hash browns, while I headed for the Chinese section to check out the local fare.

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I met Shirley because I was holding up the line in the porridge section, taken by the variety of grain soups in the traditional Chinese food section of the vast buffet. First came rice porridge, also known as congee, jook and moi. Beloved throughout Asia, it’s a warm, satisfying bowl of thick rice soup. Though it’s sometimes cooked with meat or preserved egg, unseasoned is most common. Diners add condiments, from sesame oil, peanuts and and cilantro to salty egg, crisp-fried bread, and shredded ginger. Throughout Asia, rice porridge bookends the day, equally popular as a filling breakfast food and as a late night snack.

2porridges on buffetI didn’t recognize two other saucepans next to the jook, filled with other types of porridge, yellow in color and equally plain. Noticing my curiosity, Shirley offered to explain the menu, introducing me to millet porridge and corn porridge, as well as puffed bean curd and various add-ons, many of them chili-fueled. I thanked her for being a resource on a busy morning, made notes, and continued exploring.

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Around the corner on the far end, this chef was refreshing the steamed-items section. I expected to see buns and little filled dumplings, but not the array of yams, taro, beets, and other root vegetables.

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While the nearby bacon-and-egg staionshad plenty of takers, so did this steamer station. Five minutes after set-up, here’s the steamer-scene. The purple ones held the beets.

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Curious about Beijing cooking and Northern Chinese food, I looked for Shirley’s table and interrupted her breakfast with more culinary questions. She kindly invited me to sit down right then and there, and enlightened me more while her food cooled. She agreed to meet with me that afternoon and continued my culinary education, complete with photos from meals she had been enjoying in Beijing.

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That afternoon learned that Shirley was not merely “in town for a conference”; she was leading one, a big one: the Mobile Entertainment Games Summit. Turns out my new friend-in-food is a genius programmer, entrepreneur, and founder/director of 800 Birds, She is also a foodie extraordinaire. I cannot believe she took so much time with me, a complete stranger, to share her knowledge of and love for food, culture and stories. I cannot wait to cook with her one of these days, because we are clearly on the same path in regard to eating, cooking, travel, and food.

I asked Shirley if she would write something for me, a memory of Chinese New Year, centered on food. Again, she said yes, and here is what she wrote:

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“My mom left a legacy among people around her as the best home cooking woman in her time.  Our Chinese New Year Eve dinner was always a feast and a tribute to the grandparents we had never seen.  Besides homemade sausages, Chinese bacon, etc. one of her most difficult dish is the 10-Delicacy Vegetarian Delight.  It’s a New Year special. It would take her a day to buy the ingredients, another day to wash/clean/prepare and cook and season each one separately, then combine them together to its perfection.  It consists of: shitake mushrooms, pickled mustard green, dried tofu squares, yellow soy bean sprouts, carrots, Chinese celery, thin rice vermicelli, wood-ear (a kind of wood fungus plant that is used a lot in spicy sour soup), dried Day Lilly, fresh bamboo shoot.  I miss her dearly with the vivid scenes how I was around her to work thru each step of the process.”

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Shirley’s story moves me, even though I have never attended such a Chinese New Year Eve dinner, nor have I ever eaten 10-Delicacy Vegetarian Delight. This elaborate dish requires unusual ingredients and special skill and knowledge to prepare. To me, the most precious ingredient in this story is the love and dedication of Shirley’s mother. She provided her family with such a gift: Memories of preparing and sharing these celebration meals. She set an example of showing love through her cooking, bringing the family to the holiday table, and keeping traditions. Past, present, and future, invited back to the table, year after year.

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The Lunar New Year festival came to an end last night, the 15th day of the first month of the new lunar year. The new moon on New Year Eve grew into the full moon we welcomed last night. All over Asia and wherever Asian people live in the world,  New Year celebrations wound up with the Lantern Festival, with lots of small and large lanterns backing up the full moon in shining brightly, amid a farewell round of parades, lion dances, and firecrackers to close things out with a bang. Valentine’s Day happened to be on the same day this year, which meant abundance of pretty red decorations and maybe an increase in the number of reasons to celebrate and smile.

In honor of Shirley Lin’s mother’s vegetarian celebration dish, I wanted to close with a recipe for something both vegetarian and loaded with good luck. As always,  Grace Young had the answer to my Chinese cooking questions:

Grace Young’s Stir-Fried Iceberg Lettuce

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Grace notes that stir-fried lettuce is a cherished New Year dish, because of wordplay: The word for lettuce in Cantonese, saang choy, sounds like “growing fortune”. Buying it, bringing it home, cooking it up, and eating it? This sequence of events is a recipe for luck, prosperity, all good things. This dish is simple to prepare and a wonderful companion to a hearty meal, especially one centered on rice; All you need are grocery store ingredients and a wok or a big skillet for a speedy stir-fry.

For the recipe, click HERE . For a recent conversation noted food writer Irene Sax had with with Grace about Lunar New Year traditions, just click right HERE.

Stir fry lettuce prep 1Here are iceberg lettuce, green onions, oil, garlic, and the seasonings: Asian sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar and chilies.

green onions 2Toss the green onions and garlic in hot oil; add the ice berg lettuce.

lettuce in wok3Here it is before being tossed in the hot oil. Below is the finished dish, with abundance of thin but flavorful sauce for spooning over rice. Remember: the lucky vibe is yours all year round, not just during Lunar New Year. This is lovely (and still lucky) with romaine lettuce.

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For more on this dish, and abundant tales of Chinese New Year celebrations, foods, and traditions, get yourself a copy of Grace Young’s fine book, “The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen”. Check out Grace’s website and blog by clicking HERE, for her wisdom on Chinese cooking, culture, and traditions. You’ll find Grace’s cool short videos on Chinese New Year ways and recipes, by clicking HERE.

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February 11, 2014 at 6:59 pm Leave a comment

Banana Cream Pie from Beth M. Howard’s “Making Piece” on Leite’s Culinaria

Banana Cream Pie on the windowsill

Banana Cream Pie on the windowsill

Last week we went to heaven — not the one-way ticket concept, or the Rewards for Good Behavior concept, but the Heaven on Earth concept, and it was lovely all around. My friends Dean and Joe have a beautiful farm up past Scranton, Pennsylvania, with all the transcendant beauty of an old-school dairy farm and none of the work. We sleep late, sit and visit, read a lot, take turns in the big ol’ swing and the enormous hammock under the most magnificent ancient shade tree, and spend a little time cooking good things.

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Avoiding a trip to the grocery store (not quite ten miles and a lovely drive at that) has high priority, and when the Dessert Bug bit, we all turned to stare at the basket, where once and recently had waited ripe peaches and blueberries, but at that point was home to naught but onions, shallots, chilies, and a big freckly bunch of bananas.

“Banana Cream Pie?” whispered Dean. How hard could that be, we all murmured? “Not very!” came the answer, since the magic of wireless took us to Leite’s Culinaria where excellent recipes await (including, full disclosure, a few of my very own…). Not only did we find a most worthy recipe with encouraging inspiring commentary from cooks, but it came with a sweet, tender, moving essay by Beth M. Howard, from whose book, Making Piece: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Pie, the recipe came.

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I liked it not only for its intrinsic qualities,  but because it called for meringue, rather than whipped cream. I love me some whipped cream, to the point of not getting in to that other Heaven Concept if the gluttony and worship of unholy things part is on the money, but since we did not have any, that was a mark against it (See “…trip to the store…” above). This called for egg yolks in the custard and egg whites into the meringue and we had every single other thing required. In a very short time, custard was made and pie shell was baked to a golden turn. We lined it with ‘naners, filled it with custard, added the remaining ‘naners to the top even though that was not mentioned (we like walking to the edge sometimes), and buzzed up the meringue with sugar and cream of tartar and a bit of salt, using Dean’s electric hand mixer. Do you love his green mixing bowl, which came from his mama’s kitchen? I know, right? If I were not worried about that other Heaven thing I might covet it or worse, but deep breath, I stayed on the good road, with the reward of pie in my near future. IMG_0868

It was so pretty with all that meringue, from five, count ‘em folks, FIVE egg whites —- what a pleasure to transform the little clear golden-tinged egg whites to bubbly foam and then thick cream and finally magical mighty whorls of glorious sweetness. Dean did that, I just watched and cheered. While the oven heated up, we put it in the window, because when one encounters an actual old-school window sill in a kitchen on a day when one can do so, one ought to put a pie right there and take its picture.

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Here’s Dean placing the handsomely perfectly browned pie back on the window sill to cool down. We all stayed far away from it because you could just not hardly avoid cutting an early piece if you got too close. It sat there for a good while, till cooled off nicely, and then went in the fridge until after dinner. It was so wonderful. Can’t believe it but there was enough left after the first pass by four people that we had some for breakfast the next morning, before hitting the road to drive back home. It was sweet, every bit of it, so very sweet. We are very lucky.

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Want the recipe for this delightful summertime pleasure of a pie, from Leite’s Culinaria?

Click right HERE!

Want to read the essay from Making Piece: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Pie, which was even more wonderful than the actual pie and that is saying very very wonderful moving and good?

Click HERE!

Want to know more about the book from whence cometh the pie, and the author of that book?

Click right HERE! and right HERE!

Want to buy the book from an Indie Bookshop, near or far?

Click right HERE! or HERE!

Want to see that pie on the windowsill one more time? I know I do. To time with friends, vintage and new, family too, in the kitchen, on the porch or in the car, and especially at the table. Happy summer, folks!

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August 9, 2013 at 7:49 pm 1 comment

Jill O’Connor’s Amazing, Stupendously Fine “Hunka Chunka Chocolate Chip Cookies”

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My friend Jill O’Connor knows a thing or two or three about baking, desserts and sweet treats. As a pastry chef, she knows the why and how, and she brings her professional expertise into the home kitchen. She’s also a mom, a newspaper food columnist and a cookbook author, all of which add generous dollops of down-to-earth perspective to the recipes and food stories she creates for her readers, family, and friends.

This past weekend I visited Jill at her beautiful home in San Diego, where she welcomed me with guacamole, chipotle shrimp, tiny spicy beef tacos with pickled onions, and much more. Everything dazzled me and I ate and ate, as though I had walked all the way from North Carolina, which is to say, with vigor and delight. Then came dessert.Image

I had heard of Jill’s famous chocolate chip cookies, but had never actually partaken of their essence in real life. Now I have. They were spectacular. They were magnificent. They were luscious, charming, and irresistible. Generous and amazing, just like Jill O’Connor herself. To my credit, I brought home two cookies each to my husband and daughter, and did not consume them en route, mostly because I had Jill help me triple wrap them and bury them deep in my excessively large and uber-full suitcase. They were very pleased. If you make them, I predict that you, too, will be very pleased.

These cookies come from one of Jill’s many cookbooks, Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey Treats for KidsIt is inexplicably and unfortunately out of print, but you may be lucky enough to find a copy in the Used Books marketplace, such as HERE. You can also purchase this treasure as an e-book, right HERE for Kindle, or HERE for Nook, or HERE for KOBO. Then you can enjoy its wonders on your tablet device, e-reader, or on your laptop or desktop computer.

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Jill O’Connor’s Hunka Chunka Chocolate Chip Cookies

Starting the batter with melted butter makes these cookies chewy and dense. Refrigerating the dough overnight improves the texture and highlights the butterscotch flavor in these chocolate chip cookies. Use a 2-ounce self-releasing ice cream scoop, if you have one, to portion out the dough.

Makes 18 to 22 cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted

1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

3 cups semisweet chocolate chips

In a large bowl, stir together the melted butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar. Add the eggs and egg yolk, vanilla and salt. Stir to combine. Sift the flour and baking soda into the batter and stir just until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours. (Alternately portion out the cookie dough by level ¼ cups onto a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet. Cover tightly in a double layer of plastic wrap before refrigerating.)

Remove cookie dough from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature before baking. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and preheat oven to 350 degrees. If you haven’t done so already, use a 2-ounce self-releasing ice cream scoop or ¼-cup measuring cup to portion out the cookie dough.

Arrange the cookies at least 2 inches apart to allow for spreading. Bake on the center rack of the oven until the cookies are crisp and golden brown around the edges yet slightly soft in the center, 15 to 17 minutes. Allow cookies to cool slightly on the pan before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Flavor variations: Instead of semisweet chocolate chips alone, try:

•1 cup chopped walnuts plus 1 cup dried sour cherries and 11/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

•2 cups milk chocolate chips plus 11/2 cups chopped pecans

•1 1/2 cups chopped dried apricot plus 11/2 cups coarsely chopped raw almonds

If you love sweets, treats, and baking, you will adore Jill’s bestselling book, Sticky Chewy Messy Gooey: Desserts for the Serious Sweet Tooth, which is in very much in print and selling like incredibly delicious chocolate chip cookies, all across the country and around the world.

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Check you local independent bookstore, which will either have it on hand or be able to get it for you speedy quick. Or check with IndieBound HERE, or also HERE and HERE.

And for the last word on cookies from Jill, check out her cookie-centric feature story from her monthly column in the San Diego Union-Tribune Newspaper, U-T San Diego, in which she shares this recipe and others and gives the complete and clear #411 on making super wonderful drop cookies in your home kitchen. For that, click this link:

“Delightful Dollops: There’s an Art to Perfecting the Ultimate Drop Cookie”

May 28, 2013 at 9:33 pm 8 comments

Dinner with “The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen”

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Ted Lee, Executive Chef Colin Bedford of Fearrington House, me, and Matt Lee, after the marvelous dinner Chef Bedford and his team prepared on March 14th, featuring Matt and Ted’s recipes from “The Lee Bros Charleston Kitchen”.

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.”

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Heading in to the Lee Brothers’ Charleston dinner at Fearrington.

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.

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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.

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First Course: She-Crab Soup. Divine.

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A fabulous little treat: Rice and Ham Croquettes with Tomato Sauce

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Spectacular centerpiece of a most memorable meal: Smothered Pork Chops and Brussels Sprouts with Benne and Bacon

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Sweet Potatoes with Sorghum Marshmallows, passed at each table, family style. So good.

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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.

colinChef Colin Bedford came out to talk about the menu he had chosen and the particulars of preparing each dish, after which all three took questions.

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sign my book

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.

huge tort baking

huge tort home

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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.

cheese pecan coins

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.

American Shad, from US Fish and Wildlife Service

American Shad, from US Fish and Wildlife Service

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:

“A Charleston Loquat Grows in Raleigh” by Jill Warren Lucas on “Eating My Words”

(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.)

“The Lee Brothers at Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen: Celebrating the Cookbook They Intended to Write in the First Place”  by Chef Jay Pierce of Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen on “Farm to Fork” 

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.

Tour Schedule 2013 for

The Lee Bros Charleston Kitchen

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April 4, 2013 at 6:21 pm Leave a comment

Shad Roe Southern-Style for Springtime #LetsLunch

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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.shad at whole foods

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

American Shad, from US Fish and Wildlife Service

American Shad (Illustration from collection of the US Fish and Wildlife Service)

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.

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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.IMG_6677Cooking 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….

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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.

IMG_6686Here’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.

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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

Ice water

(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.

Serves 4

book

#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. 

March 16, 2013 at 12:38 am 12 comments

Stir-Fried Chili Scallops with Baby Bok Choy for #WokWednesdays

best final

This tasty explosion of color and flavor made me regret all the Wok Wednesdays I’ve been missing in the hurly-burly of the last few months. As always, focusing in on one recipe from Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge by the amazing and brilliant Grace Young gave me knowledge, pleasure, and a superb dinner for my family and me. It was a busy weeknight, but since this dazzling dish reels in protein and vegetables and was served with plenty of rice, it was an all-in-one which fit in just fine on a busy Tuesday in winter-deciding-whether-to-surrender-to-spring NC evening.

Here in the very-well-supplied region known as The Triangle (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and environs), I could have obtained every ingredient except for the chili bean paste at my nearest supermarket or at the not-too-distant Whole Foods here in town. But since I decided to head for Li Ming Asian Market in order to purchase this key ingredient, I decided to look for the baby bok choy there as well. I found not only baby, but also itty-bitty-baby bok-choy, and that is what I got. Beautiful, delicious, delightful to handle and see and taste.

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For the bean sauce issue, I found the one pictured in @Grace Young’s marvellous book, our text, but decided to go with the blue can, because it’s a brand I used back when I first started cooking Asian food, and because I love the logo and old-school style of the packaging. Both seemed quite similar in ingredients listed, and both are products of Taiwan. I will transfer the remaining sauce to a glass jar and keep it in the fridge, I think. Hmmm—need to ask Grace! Preserved salted soybean products like this were created to be kept at room temperature for long periods of time, so actually, it may be fine to keep out on the counter. I prefer that when it’s safe to do so, because the further away something is, the less likely I am to think of it and use it.

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Prep for this dish was a bit different, as I have never stir-fried scallops before; in fact I have very seldom cooked them in any form at all. I love them, but don’t tend to order them or buy them due to both expense and lack of knowledge as to how best to prepare them. Glad to be nudged into Scallop World here. For this recipe, they were rinsed, patted dry, and then halved crosswise. This made them ‘go further’, giving an abundant looking dish. They cooked quite evenly and quickly as well.

scallops

Next step for me was preparing the garlic and the fresh ginger (mmmmmm, so aromatic, so beautiful, so tasty — I got a big supply this time, which will live out on the counter in the basket with its friends, garlic, shallots, limes and lemons, onions and fresh hot chilies).

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I stirred together the seasonings in a small bowl: chili bean sauce, chicken broth, soy sauce and cornstarch, and measured out all the other ingredients so I was ready for action.

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My scallops released a good bit of liquid—I may not have patted them dry enough, or I may have had heat wrong. This caused them to stew more than to develop a bit of a browned crusty texture which I had imagined they would do. But looking at the photograph, I realized that is not the deal with this preparation, and in fact, the finished dish was both gorgeous in colors, texture, and aroma, but completely delicious and satisfying as well. I would move a bit faster next time — the more times I cook a given stir-fry, the better it gets, because the better I get at my timing of that dish’s particular deal. I think this would be excellent with bay scallops as well, which would eliminate the halving of the scallops, and also bring down the cost. This was a glorious splurge, which I could see making with shrimp or chicken or tofu and mushrooms, adjusting the timing to the particular ingredient.final 3 242

Look for the recipe on page 154 – 155 of Grace’s must-have book, Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge: The Ultimate Guide to Mastery, with Authentic Recipes and Stories.61JGuy0rznL

Join us in cooking from this book on WokWednesdays. Visit the blog, and check out the Facebook page as well. Happy cooking, happy eating!

March 6, 2013 at 9:13 pm 8 comments

New Beginnings: DIY Lemongrass for #LetsLunch

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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.

A good bunch of fresh lemongrass from Whole Foods in Chapel Hill, NC

A good bunch of fresh lemongrass from Whole Foods in Chapel Hill, NC

#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.

Lemongrass stalks I've been rooting for several weeks.

Lemongrass stalks I’ve been rooting for several weeks.

Abundant roots, almost ready for planting in dirt

Abundant roots, almost ready for planting in dirt

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.

Usually I trim stalks shorter than these, but for this batch, I left them long.

Usually I trim stalks shorter than these, but for this batch, I left them long.
Lemongrass I purchased today, ready for trimming. The butter knife gives you an idea how big the stalks are.

Lemongrass I purchased today, ready for trimming. The butter knife gives you an idea how big the stalks are.

I've trimmed the bases, and then cut each stalk down to about the length of the knife handle. I pulled away and discarded several layers of dry, flavorless outer leaves.

I’ve trimmed the bases, and then cut each stalk down to about the length of the knife handle. I pulled away and discarded several layers of dry, flavorless outer leaves.

Here are trimmed stalks in water, ready for rooting. I'll change the water every few days, to keep it clear and fresh. New leaves will poke out of the cut edges as the roots begin to grow.

Here are trimmed stalks in water, ready for rooting. I’ll change the water every few days, to keep it clear and fresh. New leaves will poke out of the cut edges as the roots begin to grow.

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.

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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:

The Asian Grandmother’s Cookbook

@ediblewords

Pat Tanumijardja

Vietnamese Fresh Spring Rolls

 ***

A Cook and Her Books 

@acookandherbook

Lucy Mercer

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies

*** 

Eating My Words  

@jwlucasnc

Jill Warren Lucas

Heavenly Angel Food Cake

 ***

Food Nutzz…By Nature and Nurture

@foodnutzz

Sonja Bernyk

Fetta Varenyky

***

A Glass of Fancy

@Annabelle_GOF

Annabelle

Brown Butter Creamed Chard and Spinach

***

Hapa Mama 

@HapaMamaGrace

Grace Hwang Lynch

Homemade Matcha Green Tea Yogurt

***

Hot Curries and Cold Beer

@spicebites

Rashda Khan

Making Parathas with Mom

***

Monday Morning Cooking Club

@MMCCchickie

Lisa Goldberg

Da Bombe Alaska

***

Spice Box Travels

@spiceboxtravels

Linda Shiue

Caribbean Style Black-Eyed Peas

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RECIPE TIME!

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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.

Note:

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.

January 11, 2013 at 3:54 am 19 comments

Hurry! It’s Long-Distance! Thai-Inspired Roast Chicken with Sweet Potatoes for FoodBlogSouth 2013

Dinner's ready! Roast chicken with Thai flavors, served with pan-roasted sweet potatoes, sweet hot garlic sauce and jasmine rice.

Dinner’s ready! Roast chicken with Thai flavors, served with pan-roasted sweet potatoes, sweet hot garlic sauce and jasmine rice.

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:

Components of the Thai-inspired seasoning paste for my whole roast chicken: Garlic, cilantro stems, fish sauce, soy sauce, vegetable oil, and salt

Components of the Thai-inspired seasoning paste for my whole roast chicken: Garlic, cilantro stems, fish sauce, soy sauce, vegetable oil, and salt. Freshly ground peppercorns add heat and depth, but since I forgot about them until I was ready to start grinding all this to an aromatic puree, you don’t see them. They’re in the recipe below, never fear. Just not in this picture!

Generously coated with the cilantro-garlic seasoning paste, the chicken gets a nest of chunky sweet potatoes to keep it company in the oven.

Generously coated with the cilantro-garlic seasoning paste, the chicken gets a nest of chunky sweet potatoes to keep it company in the oven.

This simple-to-prepare dipping sauce accompanies crispy spring rolls, fish or shrimp fritters, and other rich, robust and hearty dishes in Thai cuisine.

This simple-to-prepare dipping sauce accompanies crispy spring rolls, fish or shrimp fritters, and other rich, robust and hearty dishes in Thai cuisine. Stir together all but the chili sauce and let it simmer into delicious tangy goodness while the chicken roasts away in the oven. Then add chili sauce, let cool, and enjoy with roasted, grilled or fried dishes.

Handsomely browned, crisp-skinned, and aromatic with garlicky goodness, this chicken bestowed marvelous flavor to the sweet potatoes in the process of cooking.

Handsomely browned, crisp-skinned, and aromatic with garlicky goodness, this chicken bestowed marvelous flavor to the sweet potatoes in the process of cooking

Dinner's ready! Roast chicken with Thai flavors, served with pan-roasted sweet potatoes, sweet hot garlic sauce and jasmine rice.

Dinner’s ready! Roast chicken with Thai flavors, served with pan-roasted sweet potatoes, sweet hot garlic sauce and jasmine rice.

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.

December 14, 2012 at 1:05 am 8 comments

Rebecca Lang: Around the Southern Table, and Sweet Potato Casserole, Mini-Marshmallows and All

Rebecca Lang’s “All Things Sweet Potato Casserole” will be on my own Southern Thanksgiving table this year. Like me, she knows this classic could run right over and fit in among the desserts. Like me, she considers that a compliment, and not in any way a flaw…

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.

November 21, 2012 at 4:26 pm Leave a comment

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