Tuesday, September 27, 2011

If you give up New York, I'll give you Tennessee

And that's just we did, folks.  It's been a crazy, whirlwind summer (and here it is, almost October!).  After a summer spent in The South, we had a reality check.  And our reality was that while our wonderful Brooklyn neighborhood is like Sesame Street (really), it's cost of living is like, well, New York City.

Our stoop in Brooklyn.
The kiddo and his friend C.
The kiddo and his friend E.
So we decided to fly south for the year.
And so far our decision has been a good one:
We have a house!  With a YARD!
The kiddo goes to a great school!  And it's not $500,000 a year (hyperbole is my strength).
I have a great job, the hub has a great job.
Music City is treating us well.
There are pangs of regret, of uncertainty, of loss.
Especially when in meltdown mode the kiddo screams that he doesn't like Nashville and can we please go back to Brooklyn.
Oh, my heart.
The one good thing about Brooklyn, it's not going anywhere.  We can always visit.
Heck, we can always move back!
But, despite the heartache of missing Brooklyn, there is a peace we are finding here.
My husbands gentle southern lilt is revealing itself a little more everyday.
We are surrounded by a musicality that we had been missing for quite some time:  the cadence of soft vowels and consonants, birds chirping, breezes in the trees.
We are settling into a halcyon rhythm.
And our kitchen is a place of comfort as well.
Now that we are settling into our home, I am ready to fill the house with the warm Fall smells of baking bread and cakes, simmering stews and sauces, roasted vegetables and meats.
Stay tuned:
Sugar. Butter. Salt. is back!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mayo #1 aka Traditional Homemade Mayonnaise

I've never been a fan of mayo.  I always preferred mustard, or oil, or butter.  Mmmm, butter butter butter.  Mayo was always jiggly goo.  Squishing out of sandwiches, congealing in tubs at subway.  Not to mention my Dad slathering it on peanut butter sandwiches (no, really).
But mayonnaise is a popular condiment, especially down south.  Heck, you can't make a good tomato sandwich without it, and I do love a tomato.
Let me say, making mayo is perhaps the easiest thing I've made in a while.  The food processor really is a thing of wonder--grating cheese, making breadcrumbs--and now, mayonnaise.
AND, I actually got a request for mayo from a friend of mine from college (Hi Joe!).
So, Mayonnaise.  Ridiculously easy to make, like so easy I have to wonder why everyone doesn't just make it themselves. Okay, well there is that little thing where homemade mayo only lasts for about week, versus store bought which lasts about two months.
The great thing about mayo is how versatile it is--you can just make a classic plain version--or flavor it any way you like.  Really, add more lemon for a better zing, throw in some fresh herbs,  add some Dijon mustard, or stir in some horseradish or sriracha for a little kick.
Now, I used the food processor for this, but if you really want to get crafty (or you're not bunking at the in-laws and have access to all of their fancy kitchen tools) you can just use a whisk or blender.  If going the way of the whisk, you may need to wrangle a friend to help pour the oil while you whisk wildly.
One other note, mayo is made with eggs: raw eggs.  If you are a bit squeamish or just worried about salmonella you can use pasteurized eggs.
Homemade mayo is dreamy.  Creamy, light and fluffy.  It really was a thing of beauty.  Did I love it?  Mmmm, I think it needed a bit more cayenne (we were out of cayenne and so I substituted crushed red pepper) and probably more lemon.
Truth-be-told, I think I'm probably more of an aioli fan.  So for my next post, I'll be working on a Lemony Mayo recipe and then for Friday I'll make an aioli from John Besh.
For now, happy whisking!

Homemade Mayonnaise inspired by  Martha Hall Foose

1 large egg  (the eggs used should be at room temperature)
1 large egg yolk
juice from one lemon
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 iced tea spoon dry mustard
1 iced tea spoon salt
1 packet sugar
a couple shakes of crushed red pepper
2 cups vegetable oil

This will keep in the fridge for about a week, maybe two, in a airtight container.

In a food processor fitted with the metal blade attachment, combine the egg, egg yolk, lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, salt, sugar and red pepper.  Whir a few times to combine.
With the processor on high speed, slowly drizzle in the oil until completely combined and emulsified.
Slice up some tomatoes, break out the Sally Lunn Bread and slather on some mayo.

Friday, August 5, 2011

If I'm Lyin', I'm Cryin'

Yesterday was my son's third birthday.  I know it's totally hokey, but it's amazingly unbelievable how fast time flies.
I have a three year old.  And he is the cutest, smartest, coolest dude I know.
I'm not biased or anything.
The kiddo requested a Tow Mater cake.  And of course I obliged.
Now I had the loftiest of intentions.  Homemade pound cake recipe from Screen Doors and Sweet Tea was dogeared, as was a homemade chocolate frosting recipe.
I had planned on making it the night before, but the kid took a super late nap, which turn resulted in a late bedtime.  So after putting together the bike, decorating the living room and admiring our handiwork, it was time for bed.
The birthday dawned.  Presents opened.  Bike ridden.  Breakfast.  (Yes all before breakfast).  Trip to the toy store to pick out one more present.
Home.  Bike riding.  Zingo Playing.
As the day wore on however, it became apparent that I wasn't going to be making anything from scratch.  So I turned to Duncan Hines.
And it worked out great.
A Mater cake for my baby boy's third birthday!
How to make a kinda-homemade Mater Cake.

1 box chocolate cake mix
1 can chocolate frosting
1 tube white frosting
Chocolate bar
Pretzel Rods

Bake the cake according to the instructions on the box.  Make sure you bake it in a 13x9 pan.
Let cool.
Get out a large platter or cake plate.

After cooling, cut the cake just a little short of in half, width wise.  Turn out that half rounded-side down onto platter.
Put a dab of frosting where you want to position the cab portion of the truck.
Using the rest of the cake cut out a piece of cake to use as the cab.  Place it on the "bed" of the truck, using the frosting as a glue.

Using a serrated knife flatten out the top of the cab.
Use some extra cake pieces  to even out the front of the truck--since it's rounded-side down, to make it flat in the front.
Now, if you're smart (I wasn't), put the cake in the fridge to harden up for about an hour.  I didn't do this--was pressed for time, as we were distracting the kid by watching Tangled upstairs.  So as I frosted the cake it was a little crumby and soft.  In the end it turned out okay, but I'm trying to point you all in the right direction.
Frost the entire cake in the chocolate frosting.

Now using the white frosting draw on the buck teeth and his eyes.  A glass of warm water and a spoon can be used if you need to smooth out the eyes.
Make his wheels by putting the oreos where the wheels would be.
Grab two green M&M's  and dab a bit of chocolate frosting on for the pupils.
Place them on the eyes.
Grab two orange M&M's, glue them on top of each other with a dab of white frosting.  Place them on the top of the cab as his caution light.  Use two orange M&M's on either side of the caution light as the other lights.  I'm not that familiar with car-light terminology.  Sorry.
Now get a yellow M&M and place it on the front of the grille as the headlight.
Grab two squares of chocolate and place them as side-view mirrors.
Using some more extra cake, cut out a circle and place it on the hood as his motor.

Now grab two pretzel rods.  Break them both in half.  Take two and shove them down into the bed of the truck (like towing poles),  using the white frosting glue the other two pretzel rods onto the top of the "towing poles" and rest them on the bed of the truck in a "V" shape.
Remember that you forgot to get the stuff to make the tow hitch.  Hope the kid doesn't notice.
Of course he notices.
Happy Birthday!!!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Cheese Straws Vs. Cheese Wafers

There are some things that are quintessentially southern:
Sweet Tea
Fried Chicken
Country Ham
Pimento Cheese
Chicken Salad
Cheese Straws.  Or Wafers.
The debate rages on.
Cheese straws are one of those snacks you come to expect upon arrival below the Mason-Dixon line.  They are expected at cocktail parties and dinner parties.  At picnics  and black tie events.
Cheese straws are basically elevated cheese-its.
(I hope saying that didn't just put me on some foodie black-list.)
They are cheesy, crisp, should have a nice spicy bite, and usually leave you with a slight buttery sheen on your fingertips.
I love cheese.  Oooey gooey cheese, stinky cheese, cheese so sharp it makes your cheeks hurt.
And I do love cheese straws, be they in wafer form or not. In fact, I think I prefer them in wafer form.
(Foodie black list.)
I've been putting off making them for awhile, because literally, every southern cookbook has a recipe for them.  And they are all slightly different.  I was knee-deep in recipes.
Finally I just combined The Lee Bros.  and Miss Martha Hall Foose.  That is like some sort of southern super-hero.
I also discovered the joy of shredding cheese in the food processor. I may never go back to a cheese grater again.  Jake thought it was pretty cool too.
We rolled out the dough and used a pretty copper cookie cutter we found in the kitchen.  Made the perfect size wafer for me!
I added extra hot-sauce and red pepper, but they still weren't quite spicy enough for me.  Oh well, guess I'll have to make some more!  And they are super easy to make, so don't put it off!
I made 64 cheese wafers (and I still had some dough left over), which might sound excessive, but I ate about 10 straight out of the oven, and my husband had 7 when he got home, Jake ate about 4--so you can see how quickly these things disappear.
Get rolling!

Cheese Wafers (as inspired by Screen Doors and Sweet Tea)
Makes about 70

1 pound super sharp cheddar cheese shredded (The food processor is a big helper here)
2 sticks of butter softened and cut into pieces
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
2 or 3 dashes of hot pepper sauce
3 cups all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Line cookie sheets with parchment or foil.

Fit your food processor with the grater blade.  Cut the cheddar cheese into blocks that will fit into the food processor feeder tube.  Let the kiddo put his hand on yours while you feed the cheese through the grater.  Go ahead and marvel at how easy that was.

Change out the blade on the food processor to the metal blade.  Add the butter, salt, red pepper and hot sauce.  Pulse a few time to combine with the cheese.  Add the flour and pulse until a soft dough forms.  It'll gather itself into a ball.

Take the dough out of the processor and onto a lightly floured surface.  Roll out into a rectangle about 1/4 inch thick.  Cut out wafers with the cookie cutter.  Let the kid help.  Place wafers onto cookies sheets about 1/2 inch apart.

Bake in oven for about 10-15 minutes until lightly golden.  I kept checking them after 10 minutes.  I also like to check the bottoms to make sure they are not getting too brown.

Try to let them cool a bit before shoving into your mouth.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Sally Lunn Bread

Sally who?  It's a bread (as you might have gathered from the post title. duh.).  I've never made bread.  That seemed weird to me.  Why hadn't I ever made bread?  And who-the-who is Sally Lunn?
Lately whenever I run across a recipe that I've never- in-my-life heard of before, I'm pretty much guaranteed that if I holler over to my Mother-in-law, "Have you heard of ...?"  There's a pretty good chance that she has.
Sally Lunn is a classic southern bread that allegedly came from across the pond (ENGLAND).  There are a few different ideas about who (or what) Sally Lunn was.  Some stories say that Sally was the daughter of a pastry chef from Bath, England.  While yet other legends say it wasn't named after a person at all, rather it was a bastardization of a french phrase "soliel et lune" (sun and moon), which makes reference to the breads round shape.  Yet another myth says it springs from a type of brioche called "solilemme".  This is one of the greatest things about recipes to me--all the stories that go along with them and the history. Whenever I come across old cookbooks, I go a little ga-ga like some sort of epicurian nerd.  Ahem.
So you see the confusion. In any case, what we are talking about is a dense, yet light and slightly sweet yeasty bread.  Delicious.  Especially while piping hot schmeared with butter and strawberry preserves.  Which explains why I don't have any pretty fresh-out-of-the-oven pictures to share with you.  We descended upon it like vultures on fresh carrion.
I had three different Sally Lunn recipes staring at me, but I chose to go with The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook.  Why?  Because they are from Charleston, SC and I have been known to covet all things Charlestonian.
I also chose this recipe because the rising time was something like a total of 45 minutes.  Which seemed weird to me because all the other recipes were like 4 hours.  But hey.
Turns out the correct rising time probably is closer to somewhere in the 2 hour range. Of course my in-laws house is  freezing most of the time, and so after about 40 minutes of no-rise action, I got  smart and put the dough under the heat lamp on the stove.  Voila.  Magic rising dough.
And 35 minutes later amazingly beautiful bread.
Now go bake a loaf.

Sally Lunn Bread from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook

1 cup whole milk
1 package (1/4 ounce, or 2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast, at room temperature
8 tablespoons butter, softened
1/3 cup sorghum molasses, cane syrup, or honey  (I used sorghum molasses.)
3 large eggs at room temperature
4 cups sifted unbleached all purpose flour, at room temperature
1 teaspoon salt

In a small saucepan, heat the milk over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the temperature read 105 degrees on a candy thermometer.  Turn off the heat.  Pour the yeast into the milk, whisk gently with a fork to dissolve (some of the yeast may not dissolve immediately), and let stand until tiny bubbles form on the surface of the milk, 5 to 10 minutes.

With an electric mixer, cream 7 tablespoon butter with the molasses in a large bowl until smooth, glossy, and slightly fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add the eggs, 1 at a time and beat until cafe-au-lait in color (if you use honey, it will creamy light yellow).

In a medium bowl, sift the flour with the salt.  Add the flour mixture and the milk and yeast mixture to the egg mixture, about a 1/4 at a time, mixing well with wooden spoon after each addition, until all the flour is incorporated and the dough comes together.  Stir for a few minutes to ensure a smooth consistency.

Mark the level of the top of the dough on the outside of the bowl with a dab of butter or flour.  Cover the dough with a  clean dish towel and let it rest in a warm place.  When the dough has doubled in size, about 35 minutes (or in my case 1.5 hours), transfer it to a clean flat surface and punch it down.  Beat it with your fist 30 times.

Okay, my dough was super super super sticky.  Which I think was from the wonky time I had with it rising.

Butter an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pan with the remaining 1 tablespoon butter.  Transfer the dough to the loaf pan and pat it evenly into place.  Set in a warm place to rest.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  When the dough has doubled in size again (about 12 minutes--or in my case 30), bake on the middle rack for 35 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.  Cool the bread in the pan for 10 minutes.

Slice.  Butter.  Eat. Repeat.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Chicken Pot Pie

It's a humble thing, chicken pot pie.  As a kid, I immediately decided I didn't like it because of the way it looked.  It was one of those foods, like biscuits and gravy that my Dad always ordered (I mean, who doesn't like biscuits and gravy????? Of course I'm obsessed now.) that fell into the "ewwwww" category because of the unidentifiable chunks of meat suspended in a white gelatinous goo.  Somehow I was never afraid of caviar... maybe it was the copious amounts of creme fraiche I plopped onto blini.  Anyway.

I've since grown up (shhh, don't tell anyone), and my tastes have also grown up too.  But chicken pot pie was still never one of those food I loved.  Perhaps it was because I'd really only ever been acquainted with the Marie Callender version via the frozen food section of my grocery store.  And while yummy, I usually would just eat the crust and vegetables and pick around the chicken.  My husband, however, has always been a fan of chicken pot pie, and so I decided to make him a special treat.  I turned to Miss Martha, no not Stewart, the one of Screen Doors and Sweet Tea fame, because by now I trust her.  She knows what she's talking--and cooking--about.

I had a weird work schedule yesterday, I worked from 8-10 and then again from 3-8:30, so I thought I had plenty of time to put together the dish.  And I did, just by the skin of my teeth.  I had just enough time to pop it in the oven and head over to work.  The family got to taste it fresh out of the oven, and it got RAVE reviews.  When I got home that evening it was delicious cold out of the fridge.  The kid opted for buttered noodles...maybe I should offer him some caviar?

I went ahead and made the pie crust dough for this recipe (which turned out divine), but if you're pressed for time I don't see why you couldn't use pre-made dough.

This recipe is certainly a labor of love, especially if you make the pie dough, but it is well worth your time!

Chicken Pot Pie & Versatile Pie Crust Dough from Screen Doors and Sweet Tea by Martha Hall Foose
(only slightly adapted)

Make the Pie Crust Dough

2 cups all purpose flour  --  I used White Lily Flour, which I think is an entire blog post on it's own
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter chilled and cut into small pieces
1/4 vegetable shortening, chilled and pinched into small pieces
cup of ice water handy

In a large bowl combine the flour, salt and sugar.  Add the butter and shortening and toss to coat with flour.  Using your fingers, work the butter and shortening into the flour until it's combined and your butter and shortening is no bigger than the size of a pea.  Sprinkle about 1/4 cup of the ice water over the dough and mix with a fork to combine.  If its a little dry, keep sprinkling water with your fingers until it's a scraggy dough.

Form the dough into a ball.  Break off pieces of dough about the size of an egg and using the heel of your hand-- pushing away from you--schmear them onto your (clean) work surface.  When you've schmeared all the dough, gather it back together into a ball.  Put it between some saran wrap and pat it into a disk.  Place it into the fridge to chill while you put together the pot pie.

Chicken Pot Pie
(Adapted from Screen Doors and Sweet Tea)

2 cups chicken broth
2 celery stalked chopped
2 medium carrots chopped
3 small yukon gold potatoes, diced
Half a medium yellow onion diced
1 large bone-in chicken breast with ribs, skin removed (mine was about 16 oz)
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup fresh corn kernels (you could totally use frozen)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon poultry or all purpose seasoning
1/3 cup heavy cream, plus extra for brushing the crust

In a medium saucepan, bring the broth, celery, carrot, potato and onions to boil over medium heat.  Reduce heat to low and add the chicken.  Simmer for 20 minutes (just enough time to put the kid down for his nap), until the chicken is cooked through.

Remove the chicken to a dish to cool.  Strain the broth, reserving the vegetables.  Return the broth to heat and simmer over medium-high heat to reduce to 1 cup.  I was very excited, as I reduced it exactly 1 cup!

While the broth is reducing, separate the chicken from the bones, shredding into bite-sized pieces.  Combine the chicken, reserved vegetables, peas and corn.  Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Sprinkle in the flour and seasoning, and whisk to combine.  Keep whisking, whisking for about two minutes, until golden.  Add the reduced broth slowly.  Keep whisking!  Whisk in the cream.  Pause to try and take artistic shot.  Add the chicken and vegetables.  Stir to combine.  Set aside to cool.

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Take out the pie crust and roll out about 1/4 inch thick.  Now, the recipe calls for two 10-ounce oven proof dishes, but we only had one 7 1/2 x 9 inch pyrex dish, so that's what I used.  Okay, so roll out your dough so it's slightly larger than your baking dish.  I put my dish right on the dough, and then cut about an inch larger.  Press the dough into your baking dish, making sure it come up the sides, too.  Gather up the scraps and roll those out to form the top crust.

Spoon the filling into the dish.  Top with the other crust, and press the edges to seal.  Brush the top with a little cream.  Cut slits into top crust help steam escape.  Decorate tops with extra dough if you have any...perhaps your initial?

Place pot pie on baking sheet (just to catch any bubble-over), and slide into oven.  Zoom off to work.  Bake for 20-30 minutes until golden brown.  Get picture from hubby of amazing looking pot pie.

Try not to burn your mouth diving in!