27 January 2014

Cookbook Boot Camp

Last week I was in Charleston at The Lee Bros. Cookbook Boot Camp. Read about it at Lucindaville.


17 January 2014

Great Balls of Cheese

Ah yes, the bland old cheese ball. You love to dig into one with some nice crackers, but you don't want to admit that you actually ever made one. You never show up at a pot luck with a cheese ball. You never take a cheese ball to a wine and cheese.

Well, Michelle Buffardi is going to change all that. Crack open Great Balls of Cheese and you will find and illustrious collection of hand crafted cheese balls. Yes, there are some fine recipes, but the truly wonderful aspect of the book is the cheese ball design. Seeing is believing. There is the owl on the cover.

The is a lovely kitty cat, and many more uber-creative balls. There is even a requisite football. Since the Super Bowl is upon us, make this game day extravaganza.

The Pigskin

1 1⁄2 pounds sliced bacon
1 medium jalapeño, cored, seeded, and finely chopped (if you want extra heat in your cheese ball, retain some of the seeds)
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup shredded sharp white cheddar cheese, plus 1 tablespoon, for decorating
1 tablespoon chopped scallions
Crackers, for serving

Cook the bacon: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lay the bacon slices in a single layer on 2 baking sheets.Bake until crispy, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain the bacon on paper towels and let cool. Reserve 2 tablespoonsof the bacon grease from the pans, and discard the rest. Once the bacon has cooled, coarsely chop andset aside.

Cook the jalapeño in the reserved bacon grease in a small skillet over medium heat until soft, about 5minutes. Using a stand mixer or a bowl and a spatula, mix together 1 cup of the chopped bacon, thesautéed jalapeño, cream cheese, 1 cup of the cheddar, and the scallions until combined. Form themixture into a ball and cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Before serving, form the ball into an oblong football shape and roll in the remaining chopped bacon tocoat. Decorate the top of the football cheese ball with the remaining 1 tablespoon cheddar to resemblelaces.

Serve with crackers.

So,the next time you need to take something to that boring old pot luck, whip up a zippy cheese ball. You will be the belle of the ball.


13 January 2014

Southern Living Little Jars, Big Flavors

This weekend I got an e-mail from a friend who was in a proper hardware store.  She said she found 1/2 gallon Ball jars and commented that she hadn't seen jars that size in a long time.

Indeed, if there is a canning "trend" out there in the air it is for small jar canning.  Rarely these days does anyone can much more than a pint?  I recently bought some jars that were 9 ounces and when I got them, I thought they were too big for most things.  If you grew up in the South, you are probably familiar with long shelves of canned good that your grandma "put up."   Today smaller is better.  Grandma still has long shelves of jams and pickles; they are just smaller and easier for you to take home!

After all these years of chronicling Southern living, Southern Living has published its first book of preserves.  Southern Living Little Jars, Big Flavors enlisted non other than Virginia Willis to write for this book.   Now as often happens with this blog, we were sure, SURE we had written about Virginia Willis' book, Bon Appétit, Y’all.  Well, evidently, we were remiss.   How did we not write about a Southern, French book?  We sincerely apologize for this and will make amends soon.

We do, indeed, love our canning books. There have been tons of them published recently, from the very basic to the overly complicated.  Like many Southern Living cookbooks, this one is grounded in the basics.  If you want summer's berries in a jam next spring, this book will show you how.   But what if you just want to make some jam for a Valentine's breakfast?  This book will also give you a range of refrigerator recipes, that a quick and require a minimum of equipment.

In Alabama, we always had jars of pickled vegetables in the refrigerator.  I never thought much about how they got there, nor about how easy they must have been to produce, since I never remember any grand process for making them.  When I saw Virginia Willis' recipe for Confetti Pickles, I remembered how wonderful those crisp, tangy vegetables were as a compliment to dinner, and how simple they were to make.   They are the essence of little jars with big flavors.

Quick Confetti Pickles

1 English cucumber
1 medium-size yellow squash
4 Tbsp. canning-and-pickling salt, divided
1 long, slender medium carrot
2 pink, purple, or red icicle radishes or 10 standard-size radishes
4 dill sprigs
1 cup cider vinegar (5% acidity)
¼ cup sugar
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. dill seeds

1. Wash vegetables. Score cucumber and squash lengthwise with a fork, leaving furrows in the peel on all sides. (This makes scalloped edges when vegetables are sliced.) Trim stem and blossom ends of cucumber and squash; cut into 1⁄8-inch slices. Place in a colander in sink; sprinkle with 2 Tbsp. salt, and toss gently. Let drain 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, peel carrot, and cut carrot and radishes into 1⁄8-inch-thick slices. Toss together with drained cucumber and squash.

3. Place 2 dill sprigs in each of 2 clean (1-pt.) jars or nonreactive containers with lids. Pack vegetables in jars, leaving ½-inch headspace.

4. Bring vinegar, next 3 ingredients, remaining 2 Tbsp. salt, and 2 cups water to a boil in a 1½-qt. stainless steel saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar and salt dissolve. Pour hot vinegar mixture over vegetables to cover. Apply lids. Chill 24 hours before serving. Store in refrigerator up to 3 weeks.

Don't delay!  Make up a jar or two of theses this week.  

Virginia Willis has a cool site here.  Her new feature on the FoodNetwork.com is called Down Home Comfort

09 January 2014

Shakespeare's Kitchen

We believe that a cookbook is not just a bunch of recipes, but a cultural document. American popular culture is ripe with references to the work of Shakespeare, in fact, about every 20 years, there is some sort of remake of Romeo and Juliet with the era's leading heartthrob.
As much as we know of Shakespeare and his work, the references to food and drink in his work are often lost as many of the recipes of the Elizabethan era are lost to most readers. Francine Segan's Shakespeare 's Kitchen gives the reader of Shakespeare and cookbooks a chance to delve into the foods that would have been common to the Elizabethan audience. Now they are common to today's viewer.
Segan draws upon texts from the late 1500's and 1600's, wading through the creative spellings and unusual customs to present recipes that transcend history. This recipe is a favorite of King James, famous for his Bible. The original recipe comes from Mistress Sarah Longe. Longe collected her recipes into a personal collection around 1610. The book now resides in the Folger Shakespeare Library.
King James Biscuits

7 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons rose water
1 cup sugar
5 cups pastry flour
4 large egg whites
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon aniseeds
1. Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the egg yolks, rose water,and sugar for 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of flour and mix for 2 minutes. Add another cup of flour and mix for 1 minute. Reduce the mixer speed to low, add another cup of flour, and mix for 2 minutes. In a seep rate bowl, whip the egg Whitestone soft peaks. Add another cup of flour, the caraway, aniseed, and the egg whites to the batter and mix for 2 minutes. Add the remaining cup of flour and mix till smooth and elastic. (If the dough is too thick for your mixer, knead in the last addition of flour.)
2. Preheat the oven th 350. Drop the dough, 2 tablespoons at a time, onto greased cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes, or until light golden brown

Of course, the "electric" mixer of Shakespeare's day was some kitchen help with a big wooden spoon!

Along with recipes, there are other Shakespearean tidbits. From The Merry Wives of Windsor:

Go fetch me a quart of sacke,
Put a toast in 't.
To soften the blow of bitter drinks, a piece of toast was added to mellow the flavor. This is the origin of the tradition of making a toast. So here is a toast to Shakespeare's Kitchen.



06 January 2014

Callie's Biscuits and Southern Traditions

I am heading off to Charleston in a few weeks, so I have been pawing through a few Charleston cookbooks. In the last few years, Callie's Biscuits have become a Charleston staple, and can now be found winging their way from coast to coast. Biscuit founder, Carrie Morey, put together biscuits and many other Southern recipes into Callie's Biscuits and Southern Traditions.
Carrie is Callie's daughter. Both are "Caroline" in a line of family Carolines. Being the seventh "Lucinda" I can relate. I can also relate to those people who don't want to make biscuits, but love having a tasty biscuit tucked into the freezer for future snacks. But if you want to make Callie's, you can give them a try.
This cookbook is filled with family and tradition. Flip through the pages and not only will you find Callie's biscuits, you will find Alex's Chocolate Chess Pie, John's Puffy Pancakes, Ms. Em's Bread, and recipes from Mama, Grandmama, and Mom and Dad. There is a section on entertaining to get your party organized. The book is familiar and you do feel like you are family.
Several months ago, I was thinking about how my mother often made ham salad. I hadn't thought of it in years, but I immediately wanted some. Here is Callie's.

Ham Salad

1 pound ham (left over or purchase thick slab), trimmed and diced

1/2 cup chopped onion3 stalks celery, chopped

2 dill "sandwich-sliced" pickles, chopped

2/3 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1tablespoon light brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons pickle juice

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Put the ham, onion, and celery in a food processor. Pulse 20 to 25 times to mince. remove to a bowl and mix in the remaining ingredients. chill. taste and adjust the salt and pepper before serving.

2. Serve on sandwiches, crackers, or cheese biscuits or mix into the yolk mixture of deviled eggs.

This year may be the year of ham salad! Enjoy it. Enjoy this cookbook. Check your grocery freezer, you may find a bag of Callie's Biscuits to tuck in the freezer.


03 January 2014

River Cottage Handbook #11 Chicken & Egg

Every year my friend, Ann, calls in October and says mark you wish list for Christmas. So I do. This year, Ann said, "I improvised." What did she mean? She meant she bought books on her own, with no supervision.
You can imagine how skeptical I must have been. There are three pages of books on my wish list. There is not a lot of room for error. So I must say, I opoened presents with a bit of trepidation. There was the River Cottage Handbook # 11 -- Chicken & Egg. Well you know I love me some chicken and egg books. I was a bit suprised to find that the River Cottage franchise had gotten up to 11 guides. (Actually, there are now even more.)
This is the best of both worlds: A book about chickens AND a cookbook! A lovely twofer!
Truth be told, the handbook is a bit heavy on the "raising" side of the chicken divide. But there are some truely wonderful recipes. Now I generally am opposed to nuts in my food, but sauced, they seem to be OK.

Chicken with Walnut Sauce

1 chicken, about 1.6kg, jointed into 8 pieces25g butter5 tbsp olive oil2 onions, peeled and finely sliced300ml dry white wine400ml chicken stock2 tsp sugar2 bay leaves3cm cinnamon stick (or 1 tsp ground)Freshly grated nutmeg3 large eggs120g walnut pieces8 garlic cloves, peeled and choppedA pinch of saffron strandsJuice of 2 limesA handful of parsley (or a third mint, two-thirds parsley), finely choppedSea salt and freshly groundBlack pepper

Have the chicken joints ready to cook. Heat the butter and three tablespoons of olive oil in a flameproof casserole or large frying pan (large enough to later hold the chicken pieces in a single layer). Brown the chicken in batches on both sides, seasoning with salt and pepper as you go. Don’t crowd the pan, fry the chicken in small batches, removing the pieces to kitchen paper as they are done.

Add another 1 tbsp. of oil to the pan and cook the onions over a medium heat, stirring frequently, until softened but not brown. Return the chicken pieces to the pan, in a single layer. Add the wine, stock, sugar, bay leaves, cinnamon and a generous grating of nutmeg. Bring to a simmer, cover and simmer gently for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, boil the eggs for 10 minutes. Drain, cool under cold running water, then peel. Cut around the centre of the egg and separate the yolks from the whites.

Lightly toast the walnuts in a dry frying pan over a medium-high heat, shaking the pan. Add the remaining olive oil, then the garlic, and cook for a minute. Put the walnuts and garlic, egg yolks, and a few spoonfuls of the cooking liquid into a food processor and whiz to a smoothish paste. Stir this into the pan with the saffron and lime juice. Cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes or so, until the sauce has thickened. Check the chicken is cooked by piercing the thickest part with a knife to see if the juices run clear. If not, cook for another 5 minutes and check again. Finely chop the egg whites and sprinkle them with the herbs over the chicken.

A different spin on your usual baked chicken!

Thanks, Ann, for asking that eternal question: Which came first? The chicken or the egg cookbook.


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