Recipes and Stories

19 December 2016: Simple Holiday Entertaining

December 20, 2016

Tags: Christmas Entertaining, Eggs, Holiday Cooking, Soft-scrambled Eggs, Classic French Cooking

Soft-Scrambled Eggs, or to put a French spin on it, Oeufs Brouillés aux Fine Herbes, are a perfect dish for intimate, impromptu entertaining.
Big Christmas parties can be a lot of fun, with their crowds of folks filled with holiday cheer (never mind that it came from a bottle), festive decorations, and endless arrays of rich, fancy party food.

But they do require a certain amount of planning and work. And as we come into the last stretch before Christmas, if you’ve not already planned one, it’s a little late to start now. That does not, however, mean that it’s too late to do anything at all.

There’s no perfect-host rule mandating that the only way to entertain your friends at the holidays is in herds. (more…)

14 December 2016: Mince Pies

December 14, 2016

Tags: Mincemeat, Mince-Pies, Christmas Cookery, Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, Classic English Cookery, Eliza Acton

Individual Mince-pies, here cooked with a puff pastry topper instead of the usual full top crust.
A while back I was asked to—or perhaps more accurately, was cajoled into—planning and cooking a supper for a Dickensian Christmas ball earlier this month. The menu was to be drawn from Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol, published in 1843. As we started to plan, the first heady morsel from the text to tease our imaginations, and the first name to pass our lips was “mince-pies.” Mentioned at least twice, these pastries were, back then, the very essence of Christmas and to this day remain an iconic symbol of holiday feasting.

There would, therefore, be mince-pies on the dessert board. (more…)

5 November 2016: Pasta with Short Ribs

November 5, 2016

Tags: Beef Short Ribs, Short Rib Ragù, Braising, Classic Southern Cooking, Classic Italian Cooking, Pasta

Pasta with Short Rib Ragù
This morning, after days of midday temperatures that felt more June than November, Savannah finally awoke to clear, crisp air that had an actual a nip in it. Okay, it wasn’t exactly frosty, but it was cool enough to finally feel as if it was really fall—and to make the idea of cooking hearty things like pot roasts, thick stews, chili, and short ribs a welcome thing. (more…)

1 November 2016: Broiled Oysters

November 1, 2016

Tags: Oysters, Classic Southern Cooking, Classic Savannah Cooking

Broiled Oysters, Savannah Style, with Bacon and Green Onions
You’d not think so if you were in Savannah today, where temperatures climbed into the eighties, but we’re now into the traditional oyster season, the “cold weather” months (or, around here, just the months with an R in them).

That season’s not as strenuously observed these days, since refrigeration has made it possible to safely harvest, store, and ship oysters in warmer weather. But Savannahians tend to wait for it anyway, since oysters (especially our local cluster variety) tend to be flabby and murky-tasting while spawning, which happens mostly during the summer months, when the waters in which they live are warm. (more…)

14 October 2016: Baked Ham Steak with Pineapple and Sweet Potatoes

October 14, 2016

Tags: Classic Southern Cooking, Ham, Sweet Potatoes, Pineapple

Baked Ham Steak with Pineapple and Sweet Potatoes
When canned pineapple was first introduced more than a century ago, cooks in places where the fruit had always been an imported and therefore rare and expensive luxury probably went a bit overboard with it. Not only had it suddenly become affordable, it was trimmed of its spike-leaved top knot, its prickly skin and tough core were removed, and it had been neatly cut into conveniently attractive rings.

Not surprisingly, during the early part of the twentieth century, those canned pineapple rings began turning up in all kinds of “fancy” dishes (more…)

6 October 2016: Fall Omelet

October 6, 2016

Tags: Omelet, Classic French Cooking, Mushrooms, Sauteed Mushrooms

A classic French-style omelet with mushrooms
In all of cooking, the one thing that never ceases to fascinate, amaze, and comfort me is the little bit of culinary alchemy that makes an omelet. Using a hot, well-seasoned pan and a very simple technique that even a child can master, anyone with any coordination at all can turn a couple of eggs, a lump of butter, and a little salt and pepper into pure gold. (more…)

5 September 2016 Wasting Not and Staying Balanced

September 5, 2016

Tags: Pasta with Sausage and Tomatoes, Classic Italian Cooking, Amatrice, Norcia, Lazio, Marche, Umbria

Fusilli (also called Rotini) with Sausage and Tomatoes
Recipe testing and food styling for my books and newspaper stories almost always leave some interesting leftovers and scraps behind. After finishing a story featuring some of the celebrated pasta dishes from earthquake-devastated Lazio, Marche, and Umbria, there was half a pound of mild Italian sausage, about one-and-a-half cups of tomato puree from a large can of tomatoes, and barely 2 ounces of pecorino romano cheese in the refrigerator. (more…)

27 August 2016: For Love and Amatrice

August 27, 2016

Tags: Bucatini all'Amatriciana, Bucatini pasta, Amatrice, Classic Italian Cooking, Marcella Hazan

Bucatini all'Amatriciana, hollow spaghetti with spicy tomato sauce in the style of Amatrice
If you’ve been following my recipes and stories page or my author’s page on Facebook for any time at all, you know that Italy, its people, and its many lovely cuisines have as large a chunk of my heart as my native South, fellow Southerners, and our many lovely cuisines. And this week, that part of my heart has been aching.

By now, most everyone has heard that in the early hours of Wednesday, August 24, central Italy was hit by a major earthquake of 6.2 magnitude, followed by a series of aftershocks that were still rattling the region as late as Friday. (more…)

11 July 2016: Butterbeans and Okra

July 11, 2016

Tags: Classic Southern Cooking, Butterbeans, Okra, Butterbeans and Okra

Butterbeans and Okra
One of the loveliest concepts in all of the South’s summer cooking is the practice of spreading small, baby vegetables on top of a pot of slow-cooked pole beans so that they steam during the last few minutes that the beans are cooking. Most of us have had tiny little new potatoes cooked in this way without knowing that the concept has never been limited to that one thing. (more…)

8 July 2016: Old-Fashioned Hambone Soup

July 8, 2016

Tags: Classic Southern Cooking, Hambone Soup, Southern Vegetable Soup

Old-Fashioned Hambone Soup
We just never know where a simple pot of soup might take us—or when it will suddenly bring us back.

It’s a funny thing about our tastes (and by that, I don’t mean our perceptions of flavor but our preferences for it): they’re an odd mix of innate likes and dislikes and cultural conditioning. (more…)