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Recipes and Stories

16 July 2013: Pasta with Chicken Livers and Mushrooms

Pasta with Sautéed Chicken Livers, Mushrooms, and Scallions
Two of my favorite luxury indulgences in cooler weather are chicken livers and mushrooms sautéed in copious quantities of butter. And when the two things are brought together in the same pan, why, it’s downright magical.

Unhappily, I’m the only person in my household who thinks of livers and mushrooms as a luxury—much less an indulgence— Read More 
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6 July 2013 French Potato Salad

Classic French Potato Salad
The perfect accompaniment for any grilled meat, poultry, or fish, an indispensable component of classic Salade Niçoise, and almost as simple to make as a tossed salad with oil and vinegar dressing, this French version of potato salad is one of the great dishes of French home cooking. It’s also one of the greatest of all summer salads. Read More 
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1 July 2013: Shrimp and Rice

Shrimp Pilau with Tomatoes is a Lowcountry summer classic. Photography by John Carrington
One of the great defining rice dishes of Carolina and Georgia Lowcountry cookery is the pilau, (pronounced PIH-low—or, at times, PER-low, PER-loo, or per-LOO). Descended from the rice-based cuisines of West Africa, from whence the Lowcountry’s rice culture and most of its rice-growing slaves had come, a pilau is less a recipe than a technique. Read More 
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2 May 2013: Asparagus Season

Newly gathered asparagus, kept fresh for the table in a vase of water.

A glance through cookbooks of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries might give the casual reader the impression that our ancestors played a one note theme when it came to asparagus. Read More 

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10 April 2013 Strawberries and Bourbon

Spring in a bowl: strawberries macerated in bourbon and lemon

It’s usually a mistake to assume that someone who looks back to history is somehow bound and gagged by the past. Yet, the prejudice is commonplace, and seems to be especially prominent in the culinary community, where so-called “cutting edge” trends whiz past at light speed, seemingly leaving us dusty old historians behind to stew in our own marmite. Read More 

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16 March 2013: Scallops Diane

Scallops with Mushrooms and Scallions, or "Scallops Diane"

If you follow this essay series at all, you will have noticed that I rarely venture into the justly famous cookery of Creole and Cajun Louisiana. That’s mainly because, first of all, these cuisines are not directly a part of my own heritage, and secondly, they have more than enough champions on their own, both true Louisianans and posturing Creole/Cajun wannabes, to need any help from the likes of this old Cracker. Read More 

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1 March 2013: Scallops and Capellini

Jumbo sea scallops, pan-seared in clarified butter and nestled up to capellini simply sauced with butter, lemon juice, and scallions

Everyone should have such a dilemma: there was a large cache of lovely jumbo dry-packed sea scallops leftover from a class and no one else could use them. It was up to us to use them, and we were going to be out until late. I was not, however, about to let a luxury go to waste.

Besides, the lovely thing about scallops like that is that they take no time at all to cook. I walked into the kitchen at 7:45 and a sumptuous yet simple supper was ready by 8:30. Read More 

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23 February 2013: Comfort me with Country Style Steak

Country Style Steak, served in the Lowcountry way on a fluffy bed of rice

When the weather turns cold and damp, as it has this week, or simply when we just need comforting, nothing answers in my household like this simple but deeply satisfying dish of tenderized round steak slow-simmered in an aromatic gravy. Originally called beef “collops” (the old English word for sliced meat), this dish goes back at least to the mid-eighteenth century, and as its contemporary name suggests, has long been a staple of farm kitchens all across the South. Read More 

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4 February 2013: Ilda’s Ham and Potato Gratin

Ilda's casseruola al forno, or ham and potato gratin: comfort food in any language.

It was my first night in Italy. Our class had spent the day sketching in the picturesque port towns of Portofino and San Frutuoso. Soaked with Riviera sunshine and salty Ligurian air, we came back to the school, a villa that commanded its own picturesque view of the Bay of Genoa over the red-tiled rooftops of the old city. We were exhilarated, exhausted, and very hungry, as only active young people can be. Read More 

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30 January 2013: Celebrating Simplicity—Thin Spaghetti with Butter and Scallions

Thin Spaghetti simply sauced with Butter, Cheese, and Scallions

Sometimes the very best cooking is barely cooking at all. That’s partly because the most important skill in any cook’s repertory is that of knowing when to stop.

For example, one of the best of all possible ways to sauce pasta, whether it is fresh egg noodles made at home or dried factory pasta, involves no cooking at all: it is simply tossed with just butter and freshly grated Parmigiano.  Read More 

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25 January 2013: The Elements of Style and Change

A little change can sometimes make a big difference: our "new" breakfast room coffee station

I don’t need a physicist to prove to me the law that objects at rest tend to remain at rest. All I have to do is look around my own house.

We really are creatures of habit, and once something comes to rest in a spot, that’s where we tend to leave it. That may not be a particularly Southern trait, but anyone who visits the South could certainly build a strong argument in its favor. We Southerners are masters at design by default,  Read More 

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23 January 2013: A Trilogy of White Bean Soups

White Bean Soup II, with Garlic and Rosemary. If you're feeling the need for pig, ramp it up with pancetta or bacon

A welcome nip in the air has conspired with a touch of homesickness to bring on a craving for hearty, old-fashioned bean soup. There are so many good ones—from my father’s simple mélange of copper-brown pintos with ham and onion (eaten with hot cornbread crumbled into the bowl) to the suave, sophisticated puree of black beans that once graced so many Savannah dinner tables. I love them all, but my favorite is a simple, hearty white bean soup.  Read More 

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4 January 2013: Black-eyed Peas Beyond New Year’s Day

Black-eyed peas, seasoned with ham, onion, garlic, herbs, and hot peppers, are too satisfying and delicious to limit them to one day at the beginning of the year
Though black-eyed peas have become to New Year’s Day what turkey is to Thanksgiving, the uniquely marked field pea with one of the most evocative names in the vegetable kingdom is a year round staple for Southerners. And while they’re commonly associated with humble tables (the superstition associated with having them at new year is that beginning the year with such “humble” fare will bring prosperity), they really know no social, ethnic, or economic boundaries. Read More 
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3 January 2013: Winter Greens

Collard greens, judiciously seasoned with lightly caramelized onion, garlic, and ham should not be limited solely to one day of the year.

One of the most satisfying, calming rituals of the new year in a Southern kitchen is the cleaning, prepping, and cooking of that obligatory mess of collard greens. For me, this ritual is almost as satisfying as eating them.  Read More 

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21 December 2012: Christmas Cheese Straws

An old-fashioned Christmas treat: classic cheese straws with a cup of tea

Of all the Christmas goodies that hosts and hostesses have traditionally laid by for drop-in guests during the holidays, cheese straws speak closest to my heart. Called cheese “biscuits” in nineteenth century manuscripts and community cookbooks, they’re not to be confused with the cheese-flecked baking powder bread popular today: back then “biscuit” was still being used (as it still is in Britain) in its older form to designate a crisp cookie. Read More 

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12 December 2012: Eggnog

Real eggnog, served up with its crown of froth and nutmeg in a festive holiday Tom-and-Jerry Cup, is something to celebrate all by itself.

One of the most enduring symbols of the American holiday table is eggnog, that lusciously creamy, frothy, deeply intoxicating concoction of eggs, milk, and some kind of alcoholic beverage. Like fruitcake, the season’s other great culinary symbol, this heady beverage is reviled almost as much as it is revered.

There may be something in the old saying about familiarity breeding contempt;  Read More 

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28 November 2012: Creamed Turkey on Toasted Dressing

Thanksgiving Dinner's Last Hurrah: Creamed Turkey over Toasted Dressing

This is how we polished off the last of the turkey and dressing in my house. Although it’s now too late for your Thanksgiving leftovers, it’s worth keeping on file, especially if you have turkey and dressing at Christmas. And if you should not have any leftover dressing, try it on waffles, biscuits, or just buttered toast. Read More 

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21 November 2012: Thanksgiving Lagniappe—Purefoy Cranberry Relish

Purefoy Cranberry Relish

If you’re getting down to the wire with Thanksgiving and don’t have time to make cranberry sauce, but still don’t want to open a can, here’s a quick and simple classic that requires no cooking. If you have a food processor handy, it comes together in five minutes flat—and will keep until Christmas if you keep it well-covered and refrigerated, and use only a clean silver or stainless steel spoon to dip into it. Read More 

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21 November 2012: Mastering Thanksgiving VIII—Damon Lee Talks Turkey (and Dressing)

Roasting a Turkey perfectly is no harder than roasting a chicken--it just takes longer

It’s now time to talk about the Thanksgiving cook’s central job: the turkey and dressing. If you haven’t tried to roast a turkey in a year (or have never done it) the first thing to do is 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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20 November 2012: Mastering Thanksgiving VII—The Pastry Cook

The elements of pastry are very simple: low-gluten pastry flour (a good all-purpose will do), a bit of salt, cold butter, an ounce of chilled lard (for tenderness), and ice water to bind it

You’ll notice that up till now there’s been no mention of pastry-making (which I’d normally be doing either today or tomorrow). Happily, thanks to the gentle art of delegation (also known as sweet-talking), someone else is making the pies and dinner rolls.

If, on the outside chance the pie-making still falls in your lap, today is not too soon to make the pastry,  Read More 

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19 November 2012: Mastering Thanksgiving VI—Tradition and Oysters

Lucy-Mama's Oysters

This morning my own stock pot came off the pantry shelf and I set to work cleaning and slicing carrots, celery, onions and gingerroot. Deciding to give the broth a little extra color and depth of flavor, I tossed my hoard of turkey wings and necks into a large roasting pan, lightly coated them with oil, and set them to roast in a hot oven (425° F. for about 45 minutes).

While that was going on,  Read More 

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18 November 2012: Mastering Thanksgiving Dinner V—The Perfect Mash

Perfect Mashed Potatoes, courtesy of the potato ricer

For some reason, Thanksgiving dinner tends to be a feast of starches: there’s that quintessential dressing/stuffing, yeast rolls, sweet potatoes, flour-thickened gravy, pastry, and often even cake. My own family also had baked macaroni and cheese. And just in case that’s not starch enough, many families throw in mashed potatoes. And what could be better? Fluffy, cloud-like, and meltingly tender, they’re the ultimate comfort on a fork. Read More 

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17 November 2012: Mastering Thankgiving Dinner IV--Cornbread and Dressing

Cornbread the way God Meant it to be: made with no sugar and baked in a cast iron skillet.

Today’s post is late because it’s my birthday, and is about dressing and cornbread because—it’s my birthday, and for this one day I can be personal and frank.

Whoever figured out how to recycle stale bread by seasoning it with herbs and spices, moistening it with broth, and then shoving it into a roasting fowl so that it slowly baked, basting itself in the juices from the bird while it rotated on the spit, is one of those thousands of unsung culinary giants that has been lost to history. But that the idea survives to this day is a testament to its sheer genius, and it’s a shame that they never got due credit. Read More 

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16 November 2012: Mastering Thanksgiving Dinner III

It doesn't look like much, but the contents of this pot make all the difference between a good Thanksgiving dinner and a great one.

Today, let’s talk about the foundation on which the entire Thanksgiving dinner will rest: broth.

The most neglected pot in far too many American kitchens is the stockpot. At Kitchenware Outfitters, the kitchenware store where I work and teach, we sell a respectable number of these pots, but inevitably the words “cooking pasta” or “spaghetti sauce” or “chili” or “stew” come up, accompanied by a lot of questions about other possible uses for this tall, relatively narrow pot. Read More 

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15 November 2012: Mastering Thanksgiving Dinner II

Cranberry Orange Conserve with Bourbon

Thanksgiving is just a week away. If you haven’t already started to plan, you need to know that time, as they say, is wasting. You aren’t in trouble yet, but you will be if you wait until next week to start planning and shopping.

Your three greatest weapons are good organization, the practical art of the make-ahead dish, and the fine art of delegation (also known as sweet talking someone into doing something for you). Read More 

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14 November 2012: Mastering Thanksgiving Dinner I

The Perfect Roasted Turkey is not hard to accomplish. Stay with me and learn! Photography by John Carrington

For the first time in more than a decade of writing for the Savannah Morning News, my November columns will have nothing to do with Thanksgiving. My friend Teri Bell (brave woman) has decided to take on the subject in her Miss Sophie feature.

You’d think I’d be happy:  Read More 

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4 November 2012: Trout with Rosemary, Ginger, and White Wine

To Boyle a Trout, or Poached Trout Steaks with Rosemary, Ginger, and White Wine. Photo by John Carrington, from Classical Southern Cooking
One of the amusing things about the today’s culinary community is its assumption (or should I say presumption?) that we, being smart, inventive, and modern, have made great strides over the cookery of our past, which was naïve, crude, and, well, just plain archaic and weird.

Someone is naïve, all right, but it’s not the cooks of the past.  Read More 
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30 October 2012: Autumn Apple Tart

A Simple Apple Tart

Now that we’re finally getting a little bit of a nip in the air, here’s another simple apple tart that is just the thing to warm and soothe.

The most important part of a good pie or tart is good pastry, which is fortunately a snap to make, especially if you own a food processor. Read More 

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22 October 2012: Roast Chicken

A simple roasted chicken is the very essence of autumn's kitchen
For the last two centuries, fried chicken has taken all the attention as the ultimate symbol of Southern cooking. Nothing else, except possibly barbecue, has hogged the limelight nearly so completely—and not without reason. When properly done, it’s one of the loveliest things in any cuisine’s repertory.

But fried chicken is—or, rather, should be—special occasion fare. For me, the simplest, and most satisfying, way of cooking a chicken is roasting, especially at this time of year: the aroma is the very essence of autumn’s kitchen. Read More 
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18 October 2012: Apple Pie Season

Gingered Apple Tart with Shortbread Crust, photographed by Timothy Hall
Surely one of the best fragrances of autumn is the heady aroma of the season’s first juicy, ripe apples baking in a pie. For many Americans, it’s the quintessential aroma of the season—the subtle smell of falling leaves and of toasting pecans, roasting turkey, and mulled cider all rolled into one. Read More 
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