Recipes and Stories

11 April 2017: Parsley

April 11, 2017

Tags: Parsley, Potato Salad, Classic Southern Cooking, Classic American Cooking, Beans Greens & Sweet Georgia Peaches

My culinary security blanket: a bouquet of fresh flat-leaved Italian parsley
Now, here’s a curious thing that I can’t explain. For reasons that are a complete mystery to me, having a bouquet of fresh parsley in my kitchen is a kind of culinary security blanket. It reassures and comforts me, even when I end up using very little of it in the pots.

Unfortunately, that’s more often the case than not. Despite the truth in the old Italian proverb “essere come il prezzemolo” (literally “to be like parsley,” that is, everywhere), I can rarely use it all up before it starts to fade. (more…)

20 March 2017: The Key Ingredient

March 20, 2017

Tags: Spring Cleaning, Love in the Kitchen, Tuna Noodle Casserole, Classic American Cooking

A little bit of love and a lot of cleaning and organizing have made my small, dark kitchen seem new and comfortable.
For nine years, I have hated my kitchen.

People are always surprised to hear it: Somehow, there’s a prevailing notion that all food writers are possessed of dream kitchens—spacious, light, airy, equipped with state-of-the-art appliances and gleaming copper cookware.

And wouldn’t that be nice?

I am blessed to have nice equipment (including gleaming copper), but the kitchen it occupies is rented and not the stuff that my (or anyone else’s) dreams are made of. (more…)

6 March 2017: Of Leftovers and Creamed Tuna

March 6, 2017

Tags: Creamed Tuna, Classic American Cooking, American Cooking, Canned Tuna, Leftovers

Old-Fashioned Creamed Tuna with Noodles
So much contemporary food writing, my own included, focuses on the importance of freshness: Using the best ingredients that our budgets will allow; taking the time and care to select the freshest, choicest things that we can find; using care in the way we store and use them. It would be nice if our cooking could always be like that. But more often than not, our day-to-day cooking is (or should be) more about not wasting what we’ve already got on hand.

Far too many people on this planet—no further away than our own neighborhoods—are hungry. No, using up that food instead of throwing it out isn’t helping those hungry people. But to squander still edible food just because it’s not at its absolute peak is self-indulgent and irresponsible. (more…)

27 February 2017: Fancy Food and Chicken à la King

February 27, 2017

Tags: Classic American Cooking, Chicken à la King, Chicken

Classic Chicken à la King served over buttered toast
During the post-war 1940s, ‘50s, and early ‘60s, when homemaking was still the most common profession for women, a popular form of entertainment was the ladies’ luncheon, either as an end in itself or as a part of a bridge party, garden club, or church circle meeting. The food for these occasions was dainty and fancy: tomato aspic, consommé, creamed chicken and seafood, casseroles, chicken, ham, and fish salads, and congealed and composed salads. How it looked was probably more important than how it tasted, but flavor was still not to be taken for granted.

The king, if you’ll pardon the expression, of all this dainty fare was Chicken à la King. Basically creamed chicken with an attitude, it dates back, as so many things of its kind do, to the late nineteenth or early twentieth century, with at least four claims on the credit for its creation. (more…)

9 February 2017: The Art of Broth and the Comforts of Chicken Soup

February 9, 2017

Tags: Chicken Soup, Classic Southern Cooking, Classic American Cooking, Jewish Penicillin

My Chicken Noodle Soup
The deep belief in the healing power of chicken soup may well be one of the most universal concepts in the world’s cuisines.
No matter where on this globe one happens to be, if there are chickens in the barnyard and sick people in the house, there will be chicken soup in the pot. The details and flavorings that go into that pot will vary, depending on the culture and the cook, as will the age and size of the bird. It’s often called “Jewish Penicillin” in our country, but the faith in it as a curative really has no territorial or cultural boundaries. (more…)

28 January 2017: A Lowcountry Winter Stew

January 28, 2017

Tags: Lowcountry Cooking, Classic Southern Cooking, Veal, Pork, Veal Stew, Pork Stew, Ragout, Sarah Rutledge

A Lowcountry Ragout, inspired by Sarah Rutledge's timeless classic, The Carolina Housewife, published in 1847
Winter in the Carolina and Georgia lowcountry is rarely what one could call harsh, but the last week or so has been unusually mild even for us—more like late spring than the dead heart of winter. But we know that those balmy whispers of spring are fleeting and can never be trusted. And, sure enough, this weekend the temperatures have once again dropped.

It’s still not what a New Englander would call cold, but it’s blustery enough to make us crave heartier fare, something that will not only warm us in the moment, but stick with us for a long time. And when that kind of craving comes calling, nothing answers it better than a good stew. (more…)

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…)