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Recipes and Stories

11 April 2017: Parsley

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. Read More 

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20 March 2017: The Key Ingredient

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. Read More 

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6 March 2017: Of Leftovers and Creamed Tuna

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.  Read More 

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27 February 2017: Fancy Food and Chicken à la King

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.  Read More 

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

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. Read More 

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26 March 2016: Mastering the Make-Ahead Easter Dinner IV—Butterflied Leg of Lamb

Roast Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Herbs, Garlic, and White Wine

If you’re doing a ham for Easter, you’re pretty much home free from here, but if you like to have lamb for the feast, as I do, you can’t cook it ahead unless you just want to have it cold on purpose.

Fortunately, a boned and butterflied leg cooks quickly with a minimum of last minute fuss.  Read More 

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15 February 2016: Sunny-Side-Up

Perfect Sunny-Side-Up Eggs are, like all simple cooking, a matter of finesse

Yesterday, a regular reader asked me to devote one of my newspaper columns to the proper way of cooking a sunny-side-up egg. My first reaction was that it’s a very simple process that even a big mouth like me could not stretch out into an entire newspaper story.

My second reaction was to recall that, like all simple things, a properly fried egg does take a little finesse—and finesse is a virtue that is far too often overlooked in the kitchen, especially when the process is a simple one.

Sunny-side up is actually just another name for the classic American-style fried egg. And the real secret to success with it lies in understanding that “fried,” in this instance, is a misleading moniker.  Read More 

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22 January 2016: Cleaning Day Beef Vegetable Stew

Cleaning Day Beef Stew: the Le Creuset enameled iron pot was the perfect thing for a slow, mostly unattended simmer

Cleaning out the cooking school kitchen at Kitchenware Outfitters, emptying the pantry of “what is THAT doing in here,” outdated samples, and small, unusable portions of condiments, pasta, curry paste, and so forth, dusting and reorganizing drawers, dish cupboards, and pot cabinets, is never my idea of a good time, but it has to be done periodically and the downtime before classes begin is the sensible time to do it.

And, truth to tell, there’s something cathartic about it that is really satisfying. Read More 

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19 March 2015: Strawberry Soup

Chilled Strawberry Soup with Orange and just a touch of whipped cream for garnish

Now that strawberries are in season again, we’re constantly making use of them in the dessert bowl at the end the meal. But while they turn up all through the season in our cereal, salad, and snack bowls, we don’t often think of beginning the meal with them.

And yet, a cool, refreshing strawberry soup is a lovely and novel way to tease palates at the beginning of dinner, luncheon, or even brunch.  Read More 

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26 November 2014 Mastering Thanksgiving XI—Turkey and Dressing

The cornbread, biscuits, and seasonings all tossed toghether for the dressing, awaiting its moistening dose of rich broth

If all has gone well and you’ve done enough basic prep by tomorrow, your only really big job will be the turkey and dressing. If you haven’t tried to roast a turkey in a year (or have never done it), relax: a turkey roasts just like a chicken – it just takes longer. Allow plenty of time and remember that it doesn’t have to look like those magazine covers. Read More 

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24 November 2014: Mastering Thanksgiving VI—Traditional Pumpkin Pie

All American Pumpkin Custard Pie

Now that we’ve established that I take an ecumenical approach to the traditional sweet potato and pumpkin custard pies on Thanksgiving’s dessert board, and have shared my grandmother’s recipe for the former, here’s how she made the latter.

It’s just a standard pumpkin custard without frills or “reinvention,” varying from most other American recipes only in detail.  Read More 

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23 November 2014 Mastering Thanksgiving IV—The Pastry Cook

More than half the battle in perfecting the Thanksgiving pies, whether they are sweet potato (shown here), pumpkin or pecan, is a flaky, made-from-scratch pastry

Never mind the arguments over whether the pie should be pumpkin, sweet potato, pecan or not pie at all, but cheesecake: the easiest way to deal with whatever you’ve planned for the grand finale is to sweet talk someone else into doing it. However, if you’ve not done that (or you’re the person who got sweet-talked), and are contemplating a ready-made pastry, know that the difference between a memorable pie and a merely good one is the crust. Read More 

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22 November 2014: Mastering Thanksgiving Dinner III—The Cranberries

A truly American berry for an all-American holiday, cranberries have been paired with turkey for at least four centuries.

On Thanksgiving day, practically every table across the country on which the centerpiece is our quintessentially American bird, one can almost take for granted that the turkey will be mated with another quintessentially American thing: cranberries.

And despite the hundreds, if not thousands of cranberry sauce, compote, chutney, and relish recipes that are presently cluttering the internet, most of those berries will be served straight out of a can, which is odd. Read More 

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13 October 2014: American Chili, Southern Style

My Southern-style chili, gussied up just a little with sliced chilies, sour cream, and grated cheddar. Photography by the incomparable John Carrington

Last week Savannah had its first real taste of autumn weather with about three days of cool temperatures, low humidity, and clear skies. It was finally, magically, chili weather, an opportunity not to be missed: my first batch of the season was soon simmering away in my well-used Le Creuset enameled iron round oven. Read More 

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30 August 2014: Seafood Cocktails

A Timeless summer classic: Tybee Shrimp and Crab Cocktail

Labor Day weekend is traditionally summer’s last hurrah for most Americans, even though the season won’t officially end until the autumnal equinox later in September, and, in the Deep South, won’t be effectively over until well into October. But never mind about the calendar and heat index: Summer’s waning, whether actual or merely symbolic, is as good an excuse as any for one more outdoor party. Read More 

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