AROUND THE TABLE

Tomato & Bacon Sandwich with Chipotle Mayonnaise | for the love of the south

Tracing the lines down the slats of my kitchen table, sketching over the saw marks with my fingertips. This table gives life in a way, serving as a place to feed family, friends and myself; it’s a safe haven. It’s where we are restored and fortified, empowering us to face the world again.

I’m not a professional chef, but I am a professional eater, a home cook. The story of a home cook is rooted in where we come from, the lives we’ve lived, and the mouths we feed. My favorite cookbooks are written by home cooks. They are the ones that weave stories together; stories strung along about the lives of recipes, succession of meals, characters revealed around the table. My book is a story of the culture I hold dear, but more importantly, it’s a collection of what I eat every day.

Around the Table | for the love of the south

If you’ve had a marvelous tomato sandwich, then you will understand why I’m sharing this recipe from my book. Honestly, a tomato sandwich done right can be one of the most wonderful things in life. It’s simple yet deeply satisfying. Also, this is one of the handful of recipes that helped sustain me while spending countless hours writing and editing my cookbook. It never failed me, and no matter how busy I was, I knew in my kitchen I had the basics; bread, mayonnaise, Tabasco, bacon in my freezer and tomatoes on my countertop. There is such security in knowing I have everything I need to make a juicy and crispy tomato bacon sandwich.

I spent the first two years in my new house without a kitchen table. I couldn’t quite find the right one until I spotted this beautiful reclaimed wood table from Arhaus. It is elegant, sturdy, and full of character. I love how it had a life before it graced our dining room. The kitchen table is something precious to me. It’s one of those things like my skillets, silver, pearls and china I will pass on. This table will see many years of candlelit dinners ending in nights of empty bourbon glasses and caramel wrappers, brunches with antique vases spread about the table filled with blushing blooms, vanilla scented doughnuts, blackberries, chicory café au lait, and late lunches spent over bowls of chicken and sausage gumbo and spicy skillet fried okra. All the while, I’ll be engraving my own stories around the table, the heart of my home.

Tomato Bacon Sandwich from Cookbook | for the love of the south

Tomato & Bacon Sandwich with Chipotle Mayonnaise

Serves 1

This recipe is a grown-up version of my childhood go-to sandwich. If done correctly, a tomato sandwich can be one of the greatest pleasures in life. Since this recipe is simple and requires few ingredients, quality is key, so try to buy the best bread, tomatoes, and bacon that you can.

2 slices thick-cut bacon

2 slices of your favorite bread (I love sourdough or a crusty baguette.)

Chipotle Mayonnaise (recipe follows)

2 slices tomato (1/2 to 3⁄4 inch thick)

In a medium skillet, fry the bacon over medium-low heat until crispy. Drain the bacon on a plate lined with a paper towel. Place the skillet back on the heat and toast up both sides of the bread in the bacon renderings until golden brown.

Spread a layer of the chipotle mayonnaise over one side of each piece of toast. Lay the slices of bacon on top of the mayonnaise. Lightly press down on the bacon, helping it adhere to the mayonnaise. Lay the tomato slices on top of the bacon. Crown the sandwich with the remaining piece of mayonnaise-slathered toast. Press down on the sandwich and cut on the diagonal. This sandwich is best enjoyed standing over the kitchen sink.

CHIPOTLE MAYONNAISE

Makes 1⁄4 cup

1⁄4 cup mayonnaise

Several dashes of Tabasco chipotle pepper sauce

In a measuring cup, combine the mayonnaise and chipotle pepper sauce. Any leftover mayonnaise can be stored in the refrigerator for another use.

 

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VERONA, THE MARBLE CITY: PART II

Verona, The Marble City | for the love of the south

When we got back to the hotel late that afternoon, we bundled up for one final stroll around the marble streets of Verona. We walked under the Porta Borsari, which is at the end of the elegant Corso Porta Borsari. The ancient Roman gate to the city is constructed of local white limestone. It has two arches framed by pillars with Corinthian capitals. We made our way to the Basilica di Sant’Anastasia, which drips with Gothic influence. The colors of red, black and white echo from the floor to its crossed vaulted ceiling. Reverently, we walked around the church, attempting to take in all its beauty. Finally, we made it to the Piazza Bra, which is the largest square in Verona.

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We walked over the liston, which refers to the long marble slabs used for paving the west side of the piazza. We passed café after café filled with tourists and locals enjoying the brisk evening air and the bustle of the holiday festivities. The last stop was the Arena di Verona, the amphitheater located in the heart of the Piazza Bra. I imagined all the gladiator fights, jousts and tournaments that took place just on the other side of these stone walls. We walked all the way around the pink and white stone amphitheater. By this point, Michael and I felt quite confident we knew our way back to the hotel without directions, and we were about to be served a very large slice of humble pie.

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We were supposed to turn left at the arena. We thought we turned left. At first, it was romantic strolling arm in arm under the icicle lights strung along piazza after piazza. After ten minutes or so, we both realized we were absolutely lost. Shockingly neither of our phones were working so looking up directions to our hotel was out of the question. After about an hour or so (or for what felt like an hour), we dove deeper and deeper into the city. In which direction, I couldn’t tell you.  Miraculously, of course, we made our way back to the hotel. In a matter of moments all was well with the world, but we will never forget about our time getting lost head over heels in the Marble City of Verona.

Arrabbiata | for the love of the south

Arrabbiata

Generously Serves 2

Note: We traveled to Verona to visit with Giovanni Rana, which is a family owned pasta company in Verona. Having their pastas stocked in my refrigerator is a lovely way to remember the trip! I use fresh Giovanni Rana Tagliatelle for this recipe, but you can use any pasta shape you love!

 Arrabbiata literally means “angry” in Italian. The dishes namesake refers to the spiciness of this pasta dish. If you are sensitive to spice, reduce the amount of red pepper flakes to 1/4-1/2 teaspoon. I love using whole, green Castelvetrano olives for this recipe. To easily pit the olive, crush with the blade of a knife like you would smash a clove of garlic and fish out the pit. But, of course, you can use pitted olives if you like!

¾ teaspoon red pepper flakes

¼ teaspoon dried oregano

1 garlic clove

1 small shallot

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 slice bacon, chopped

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes, hand crushed

1 tablespoon tomato paste

6 ounces Giovanni Rana Tagliatelle

10 green olives, pitted, roughly chopped

Small handful basil leaves, hand torn

Kosher salt

Extra-virgin olive oil, for finishing

 

Finely chop red pepper flakes, oregano, garlic and shallot together. Set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat, add oil and bacon. Once the bacon is crisp and lovely and golden in color, toss in the red pepper flakes, oregano, garlic, shallot, and black pepper.

Once the shallots and garlic begin to color around the edges, about a minute. Slowly add the tomatoes and tomato paste to the skillet. Season with salt, and allow the tomatoes to gently come to a bubble. Lower the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the sauce has thickened, about 10 minutes. Adjust seasoning if needed.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente. Reserve about ¼ cup of the starchy pasta water and drain the pasta in a colander.

Toss the olives and basil leaves into the sauce at the last minute. Add a little reserved pasta water and pasta to the sauce and toss. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and serve.

Arrabbiata | for the love of the south

This post was sponsored by Giovanni Rana, but all the experiences and opinions are my own!

VERONA, THE MARBLE CITY: PART I

Verona, The Marble City | for the love of the south

I fell in love with Verona the moment my right foot graced its pink marble streets. We began walking down the Ponte della Vittoria where we were greeted by a pair of equestrian statues on both sides of the bridge, welcoming us into the city. The deep blue Adige River sweetly swept under us as we walked across the bridge. Staring at the blushing marble paths and amber buildings with their ancient balconies, I understood why this city was the setting for one of the greatest love stories of all time.

After checking into our room at the Palazzo Victoria, Michael and I quickly dropped off our bags and walked hand in hand through the streets of Verona to the House of Capulet. We walked through the long entryway to the courtyard. The lengthy entrance opens to an ivy-covered brick façade decorated with elegant gothic windows on either side of the legendary balcony. All the way at the end of the courtyard is a lovely bronze statue of Juliet Capulet. I sat there for a moment and listened to the words penned by Shakespeare almost haunting the walls as they echoed around me. We made our way past the crowd and back through the long archway, which is covered in graffiti were couples have written their names on the wall, believing that doing so means their love will be eternal. On the way back to the hotel, we just had to pass by Romeo’s medieval house. We almost missed the building until we spotted this inscription on the exterior wall, “Oh Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?”

Verona, The Marble City | for the love of the south

Our room was on the top floor of the hotel. Floor to ceiling windows faced the center of a honey-colored courtyard below. Despite freezing temperatures, I opened the windows and played Noël Coward’s “A Room with a View” while looking out onto the courtyard in my pajamas with an espresso in hand.

Verona, The Marble City | for the love of the south

On the second day, we traveled east to the small hamlet of Soave. We pulled up to the city’s ancient walls to Borgo Rocca Sveva, which is home to the most beautiful wines in the region. We toured the winery and completely fell in love with both the silky, ruby red Amarone della Valpolicella and with the floral and fruity Soave Classico. After our wine tasting, Michael and I decided to venture inside the walls of Soave. Perched at the top of the hill, the majestic Castello di Soave overlooks the town. The sky was overcast, and it left a golden glow over the city. It was as if I was looking through a glass filled with white wine from the region or perhaps we drank too much at our tasting. Either way whether it was the weather or the wine, it was a lovely trip indeed.

Verona, The Marble City | for the love of the south

Grilled Radicchio & Balsamic Pasta | for the love of the south

Grilled Radicchio & Balsamic Pasta

Serves 2

Note: We traveled to Verona to visit with Giovanni Rana, which is a family owned pasta company in Verona. This dish is inspired by the lovely radicchio I found in the markets in Italy. I love the way the bitter radicchio is slicked by the smoky bacon and the whole dish is lifted by beautiful balsamic vinegar. I am using Giovanni Rana Fettucine for this dish, which is great for a quick weeknight meal. 

 

6 ounces Giovanni Rana Fettuccine (or any other long, thin shaped pasta)

½ small head radicchio, core removed, leaves separated

1 slice bacon, roughly chopped

1 teaspoon rosemary leaves, roughly chopped

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

Pinch red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Shaved Parmesan, for serving

Extra virgin olive oil, for serving

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente. Reserve about ½ cup of the starchy pasta water and drain the pasta in a colander.

In a large skillet over medium heat, grill the radicchio leaves for a few seconds until charred in a few spots. Remove the radicchio from the skillet and set aside. Toss the bacon into the skillet. Once the bacon is lovely and crispy, take the skillet off the heat and add the grilled radicchio, tearing the leaves into long strips as you add them to the skillet. Toss in the rosemary, garlic, red pepper flakes, balsamic vinegar, butter and reserved pasta water. Place the pan back on the heat and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

Add the fettuccine and toss, toss, toss. Divide between two bowls and shower with shaved Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Radicchio | for the love of the south

This post was sponsored by Giovanni Rana, but all the experiences and opinions are my own!

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A VENETIAN WONDERLAND

A Venetian Wonderland | for the love of the south

We stepped off the platform at the Venice train station and strolled through the sliding glass doors. As the doors slid open, it was as if we were transported through the looking glass and into a wonderland teeming with life and infinite color. Venice greeted us with the San Simeone Piccolo with its pale green dome and white columns, cinnamon rose-hued palazzi, and jade-colored canals.

A Venetian Wonderland | for the love of the south

As Michael and I strolled deeper into the heart of the city, I was shocked by the narrowness of the alleyways. Walking through the confined passageways, it was almost haunting how the city walls towered above me. All I could hear were the echoes of the voices beyond the walls and the sound of my luggage wheels skimming across the icy streets. Colorful Murano glass and carnival masks gleam like jewels against the dark facades in the alley.

A Venetian Wonderland | for the love of the south

Spicy Salami Pan Pizza | for the love of the south

As soon as we made it to our hotel, we quickly dropped off our bags. First things first, I needed to eat, and I was desperately craving pizza. We spotted a small bakery/pizza shop a few steps away from our hotel. Strings of pizza and focaccia were displayed on pale wooden cutting boards. The dough was cloudlike and fluffy. My eyes fixed on the spicy salami pizza. I ordered a few slices along with a piece of tomato focaccia. Lastly, I ordered an Aperol spritz, which was jewel-toned, slightly bitter and simply adorned with an orange slice. The pizza was soft in the center yet crisp at the edges; each slice elegantly dressed with mozzarella, fresh tomato sauce, and spicy salami. We were in heaven.

With our stomachs full and pizza cravings slaked, we were able to focus on discovering the city. We followed arrows directing us to the Piazza San Marco. We rode the elevator to the top of the Campanile di San Marco for the best view of the city. We strolled past rows of deep blue gondolas bobbing side to side in the water and statues with such detail they looked as if they were about to come to life. As we made our way to the Basilica San Marco, snow began to fall. At that moment, I felt like we were in a kind of snow globe as we stood in the center of the piazza.

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A Venetian Wonderland | for the love of the south

Perched in a stone building along a canal just off the Piazza San Marco is Harry’s Bar. As I opened the heavy, wooden door, I was immediately greeted by a kind waiter in a crisp white jacket. He pointed to the corner table and asked what we’d like to drink. Without skipping a beat, I said, “Bellini, please.” It was only natural as Harry’s is the birthplace of one of my favorite cocktails.

A Venetian Wonderland | for the love of the south

In 1948, the bartender, Giuseppe Cipriani, created a cocktail by combining thick, white peach puree with prosecco. He named the drink after the 15th century Venetian painter, Giovanni Bellini. As the summer sun set on his favorite Bellini painting, the colors reminded Cipriani of his beloved peach cocktail. My drink appeared seconds after we sat down at the lacquered wooden table. The Bellini was served in a small glass tumbler along with a little glass bowl filled with green, Ligurian olives. Specks of peach skin floated in the frothy, pale golden pink cocktail. Needless to say, this was the best peach Bellini I’ve ever had. It was a much needed little glass of summertime on a cold winter’s day.

A Venetian Wonderland | for the love of the south

Early the next morning, we walked from our hotel to the Rialto Bridge vaporetto. It was still dark, and a wintery mix of ice and rain drizzled in the air. We boarded the water ferry and said silent goodbyes to the city of Venice. I exhaled deeply as if waking up from the most wonderful dream as we walked through the sliding doors of the train station to the other side of the looking glass and back to reality.

Spicy Salami Pan Pizza | for the love of the south

Spicy Salami Pan Pizza

Makes 2, 13 x 9” pizzas

Note: The dough is inspired by Roberta’s fabulous pizza dough recipe. Of course, you can mix this dough by hand if you don’t have a stand mixer. Because this recipe calls for instant dry yeast, it does not need time to proof. If you are using regular dry yeast, allow it time to bloom in warm water for 5-10 minutes. The assembly portion of this recipe is for one pizza intentionally. Since the dough is split between two separate baking sheets, you can bake one off and save the other dough for the next day, or you can get creative with your own toppings for the second pizza. It’s a blank slate!

 

For the Pizza Dough:

612g (4 cups) all-purpose unbleached flour

16g (5 teaspoons) sea salt

2 cups warm water

4g (2 teaspoons) dry instant yeast

8g (2 teaspoons) olive oil

 

In a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment, mix flour and salt together for a few seconds.

In a measuring cup, stir together water, yeast and oil. Pour the liquid in the center of the flour and salt. Mix on a medium low speed for 3 minutes, or until the dough wraps around the hook and the sides of the bowl are clean.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a tea towel and allow to rest for 25 minutes.

Cut the dough in half and form 2 equal balls. Place each ball of dough on a 13×9″ rimmed baking sheet fitted with lightly floured parchment paper. Top the dough with a little more flour. Tightly wrap with plastic wrap and stash away in the fridge for 8 hours or up to 48 hours. (If you don’t have space in your fridge for 2, 13×9″ baking sheets, place each ball of dough on a parchment-lined dinner plate instead. I always proof the dough on the baking sheet I will use to bake the pizza in so I am one step ahead of myself the next day, and I am saving myself from cleaning extra dishes. Win-win!)

 

For the Tomato Sauce:

2 cups whole peeled canned tomatoes

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

Small handful basil leaves, hand torn

Sea salt

Toss all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl and hand crush the tomatoes in with the oil, basil and garlic. Adjust the salt to your taste. (If you like a thinner sauce, you can purée the sauce or push it through a sieve, discarding the solids.) Set aside. If you want to make this sauce ahead of time, just stash it away in the fridge up to a week.

 

Assembly for 1, 13 x 9” Pizza:

1 portion of Pizza Dough, recipe above

Scant 2 tablespoons olive oil

6 tablespoons Tomato Sauce, recipe above

4 ounces fresh mozzarella, torn into 1″ pieces

5 slices spicy salami, cut in half

Pinch of red pepper flakes

Parmesan cheese, freshly grated, for serving

 

Preheat the oven to 550oF.

Take the dough out of the fridge and lift the parchment with the dough still on top and place on the countertop. Rub the rimmed baking sheet with the olive oil, making sure to cover the bottom and sides of the pan with oil.

On a lightly floured surface, press and stretch the dough so it’s roughly the size of your sheet pan. Place the dough back in the oiled pan, loosely cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise next to the preheating oven for 30 minutes. (If you notice the dough is not completely covering the corners of the pan, take this time to gently lift the dough up, stretch the dough and firmly press into the corners of the pan. Any exposed space on the bottom of the baking sheet is a potential burn zone/oil-spattering station!)

Remove the plastic wrap and spoon the tomato sauce onto the dough, spreading the sauce close to the edges. Evenly scatter the mozzarella, salami and red pepper flakes over the sauce. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown, cheese has beautifully melted and salami is crisp. Shower with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and serve! (After I grate the Parmesan cheese over the pizza, I slide the whole pizza onto a large cutting board, slice it up and slide it back on the hot baking sheet to serve!)

Spicy Salami Pan Pizza | for the love of the south

 

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I’VE HAD MY DAY

Sauce Piquant | for the love of the south

“Our fear of death is like our fear that summer will be short. But when we have had our swing of pleasure, our fill of fruit, and our swelter of heat, we say we have had our day.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Summer is like a dear familiar friend. She spends hours upon hours at my kitchen table, taking pride in the blushing peaches and grassy scent of freshly picked okra. Her knowing gaze falls on the ripe ruby tomatoes, deeply black blackberries and emerald cucumbers. She delights in the pleasures that have come out of my kitchen: a plethora of peach pies, ice-cold strawberry lemonade, and mint-flecked vanilla ice cream. But now, she stands at the back door, sunhat in hand, hugging me goodbye. I watch her leave with no regrets. I can proudly say I have eaten a bushel and a peck of ripe tomatoes, gorged myself on sweet tea, and have consumed more corn and watermelon than I would like to admit. Now, I’m ready for a new season. I’m anxiously waiting Autumn with her amber hues, enchanting leaves, and the scent of cinnamon, which always seems to follow her.

This recipe sweetly embraces the last of these summer days. Fond memories of summer rush through my head as I peel back the thin skin of tomatoes, as I slice through pods of pale jade okra, and plough through a mountain of assorted chilies. The combination of sweet, fiery and fruity chilies make this dish wonderfully refreshing. All of the ingredients mingle and meld together, making this a pot full of the essence of summer. We dig in, relishing the end of the season one last time.

Summer in the South seems endless. I’ve yet to hear anyone complain of a Southern summer being short. But I can say I’ve had my fair share of heat and have been full of summer’s offerings. I’ve had my day.

Summer Produce | for the love of the south

Sauce Piquant:

Serves 6, plus leftovers

Note: This is a comforting dish that warms you up on a chilly autumn night, so make as many batches of this recipe as you can at the end of the summer, label, stash in freezer bags and store in the freezer. Thaw and serve with perfectly steamed rice. It’s a lovely way to hold onto the season just a little while longer!

¾ cup canola oil

4 bone-in, skinless chicken thighs

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 cups assorted sweet and spicy finely chopped peppers, deseeded (I use a combination of Serrano peppers, red bell pepper, banana pepper, whole cayenne peppers, and habanero peppers.)

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon chili powder

½ teaspoon sweet, smoked paprika

4 cups peeled, roughly chopped tomatoes

Handful of okra, cut into ¼-inch rounds

1 teaspoon dried oregano

5 cups chicken broth (or recently boiled water)

4 teaspoons pepper sauce or Tabasco, plus more for serving

Salt and pepper, to taste

Steamed rice, for serving

In a large heavy bottomed pot over medium heat, add oil. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add the chicken, seasoning with salt and pepper on each side. Panfry until golden on both sides. Transfer the chicken to a plate.

Add the flour to the oil and cook, stirring constantly for 5 minutes until medium brown in color. (It should resemble the color of peanut butter.) Add onion, garlic, peppers, cayenne pepper, chili powder and paprika. Cook for 2 minutes.

Add tomatoes, okra, dried oregano, and broth (or water). Add the chicken back to the pot along with the pepper sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer with the lid cockeyed for 45 minutes. Scrape the bottom of the pot occasionally. Remove the chicken thighs from the pot, debone and shred the chicken with two forks. Add the chicken back to the pot. Serve with rice.

Sauce Piquant | for the love of the south

 

 

 

 

 

 

A BUGGY WITH A VIEW + A LODGE CAST IRON GIVEAWAY

Roasted Nashville Hot Chicken | for the love of the south

Whenever I was a little girl, many afternoons were spent gathering ingredients for our family dinners with my mom at our local grocery store in Lake Charles, Louisiana. The old, shuddering sliding glass doors warmly welcomed us. We made our way across the scuffed black and white checkered floor; my mom grabbed a shopping cart, also referred to as a buggy in the South. The buggies at our grocery store were unique; the area for groceries was shallow instead of deep like baskets nowadays. The end of the cart had a latch, so whenever you went to checkout, the checkout girl simply unlatched the end of the basket, like a truck bed and unloaded the groceries straight from the cart. But the most important thing to know about these buggies is that the distance between the bottom of the basket and the rack just above the wheels of the cart was an ideal space for a child to retreat to.

As soon as I nestled underneath the buggy, my mom made her routine stop to the deli counter to buy a pickle. She covertly handed it to me, going along with the charade that I was invisible to everyone else in the store except her. Now that I think about it, everyone probably thought I was a little odd as I had one leg propped up and the other leisurely dangling in midair as if I were floating on a pirogue in the bayou while slowly munching away on a pickle.

Louisiana Maque Choux | for the love of the south

I enjoyed watching the cart fill up with ingredients for our supper. Emerald striped watermelons the size of a toddlers, dusty, earthy cantaloupes, bags and bags of long-grain rice, Mason jars of roux, pint-sized containers of cayenne pepper and ruby red homegrown tomatoes rolled around in the basket. I daydreamed about what we were having for dinner and quietly observed the other shoppers in the store, imagining what they were making for dinner as well. Sometimes I dreamt of what it would be like if everyone put all their groceries together on one endlessly long picnic table and had a great feast every night. I decided that would certainly establish world peace.

Things weren’t always seen for what they were, but what I imagined they could be. As a child, I was oblivious to the fact that not everyone saw the world the same as I did. And as I grew up, I realized I tasted the world around me differently as well.

Nashville Hot Chicken:

One of my favorite Southern dishes is fried chicken, so whenever I moved to Nashville, immediately I was introduced to Nashville’s cayenne crusted hot chicken, which has been known to make grown men weep. Traditionally, hot chicken is fried in a cast-iron skillet and crusted with a reddish cayenne paste, and is served with pickles and white bread, which gets soaked through with shockingly spicy orange hot chicken drippings. I love serving my spicy Roasted Nashville Hot Chicken with sweet Louisiana Maque Choux because it ties together two homes. My past and my present. Here’s to the hot summer days ahead.

{Because I love y’all, I am giving away a 15” Seasoned Steel Pan from Lodge Cast Iron. To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below letting me know your favorite dish to prepare in your cast-iron between now and midnight June 4th. The winner will be chosen randomly and will be contacted via email on June 5th. Limit 1 comment per person, pretty please! PS For US residents only… Good luck, y’all!} Congrats to Sandy for being the winner of the giveaway!

Roasted Nashville Hot Chicken

Serves 4

Note: Traditionally, Nashville Hot Chicken is fried then tossed in a hot chicken paste. I prefer the method of pan-frying then finishing the thighs off in the oven. The result is crispy skin and juicy dark meat, and while the chicken finishes off in the oven, I have time to clean up the kitchen and get ready for company!

8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

2 tablespoons of olive oil

6 tablespoons of clarified butter, melted (or you can use olive oil if you prefer)

5 tablespoons cayenne pepper

2 teaspoons of dark brown sugar

2 teaspoons of kosher salt

2 teaspoons of sweet, smoked paprika

Salt and pepper, to season

Preheat oven to 425oF

Taking a paper towel, gently blot the chicken thighs, making sure to remove any moisture from the surface of the chicken. This will ensure you get a nice crisp golden skin. Season both sides with salt and pepper.

In a large pan over medium high heat, preferably cast-iron or seasoned steel, heat the oil until it shimmers. Gently place the chicken thighs in the pan skin side down and fry until the skin is lightly golden brown. Flip the thighs over and immediately place the pan in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until the thighs are completely cooked through and deeply golden brown.

Combine clarified butter (or oil, if using), cayenne pepper, dark brown sugar, 2 teaspoons of kosher salt, and paprika in a medium-sized mixing bowl. This creates the Hot Chicken Paste. While the chicken is still piping hot, gently coat the chicken in the Hot Chicken Paste. Serve with pickles and white bread for an authentic Nashville Hot Chicken experience or serve with Maque Choux!

 

Maque Choux

Serves 4

2 rashers of bacon

1 small onion, minced

1 Serrano pepper, deseeded and deveined, minced

1½ teaspoon of kosher salt

½ teaspoon of black pepper

½ teaspoon of sweet, smoked paprika

Pinch of red pepper flakes

2 medium-sized tomatoes, diced

3 garlic cloves, minced

1½ cups of water

6 ears of corn, kernels cut off the cob

Small handful of basil leaves

In a cast-iron skillet over medium high heat, cook bacon until crispy and golden brown. Remove the bacon from the skillet, drain on a paper towel and crumble. Add onion, Serrano pepper, salt, black pepper, paprika and red pepper flakes to the bacon drippings. Sauté for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, garlic and water. Reduce heat to simmer for 10 minutes. Add corn and simmer for another 10-15 minutes until the corn is cooked through. Take off the heat. Stir in the basil leaves and crumbled bacon. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Roasted Hot Chicken + Maque Choux | for the love of the south

FIRST SIGN of SPRING

Spring Onions + Buttercups | for the love of the south

A few weeks ago, I woke to a wintery Southern fairytale. I leaned my head back, gazed out the window above our bed and saw an icicle the length of a dagger slowly melting away. Drip, drip, drip. My heart skipped a beat. Something magical happened overnight. For those who grew up in the North, I apologize if you can’t relate to my delight of winter weather. Growing up in Louisiana, the closest I got to snow was devouring a jade spearmint snoball on the streets of New Orleans in the dead of summer.

Sautéed Spring Onions | for the love of the south

Immediately, I threw on my charcoal wool coat, slung my fur stole around my neck, and slipped into my black rubber boots. Michael and I followed our feet to one of our favorite spots in Franklin, the Carnton Plantation. It seems like this is the place we visit whenever the seasons are in their fullest glory, whether the buttercups are blooming, muscadines are ripe for the picking or the leaves are at their autumnal peak.

Spring Onion + Bacon Quiche Prep | for the love of the south

Tiny emerald green buttercup leaves popping through the perfectly blanketed snow caught my eye. Buttercups are one of the first signs of spring around here. It’s our first sign of hope. Immediately, I began dreaming of a budding quiche, sunny and yellow from fresh farm eggs and speckled green with lovely spring onions.

We continued walking the grounds of the old plantation. Its large porch flanked with rocking chairs and white columns welcomed us. As I walked across the wooden porch, there was a small groan, like a whisper underfoot. If these floorboards could speak, they would tell a story of war, loss and bloodshed. The Carnton Plantation has a rough past, much like the South itself, but with time the seasons pass, the snow melts and spring appears. Wintertime is necessary for survival, so when spring comes we are prepared; we are ready for new growth. The South has its fair share of tales, but in the end, no one can deny its present beauty, no matter the season.

Spring Onion + Bacon Quiche | for the love of the south

Recipe: Sautéed Spring Onion + Bacon Quiche

Serves 4-6

1 ¼ cup of all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon of kosher salt

½ cup of lard or unsalted butter, cubed, chilled

½ cup of ice water

1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar

4 large eggs

1 cup of heavy whipping cream

4 rashers of bacon

½ bunch of spring onions, white and pale green parts only, cut in half lengthwise

Salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350oF. Place a baking sheet in the oven fitted with aluminum foil.

Combine flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Create a well in the center and add the lard/butter. Mix on a medium speed until the mixture looks like coarse sand.

In a small bowl, add the vinegar to the ice water. Tablespoon by tablespoon, add the ice water mixture to the flour and butter mixture, mixing in between additions. Add the water until the dough forms a ball. The dough should not be sticky or crumbly. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and keep in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough until 9 or so inches in diameter. Gently place the dough into an 8” pie plate. Crimp the edges. Without breaking the yolk of the eggs for the filling, use a pastry brush and gently brush a thin layer of the egg white onto the dough. This will create a barrier between the filling and the piecrust as it bakes. Prick the bottom of the pastry with a fork. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes. Meanwhile prepare the filling.

Whisk eggs, cream, salt (Keeping in mind that the bacon is already salty!) and freshly cracked black pepper until well combined and fluffy. Set aside.

In a medium cast-iron skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until brown and crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan and add the spring onions. Sauté until the onions start to color and soften, about 2-3 minutes. Drain remaining bacon fat from the pan. Scatter sautéed onions and crisp bacon to the bottom of the pie plate. Add the egg and cream mixture over the onions and bacon.

Place in the preheated oven for 40 minutes or until the top is slightly golden, edges are lightly browned and the filling is set in the center. Serve in slices with a salad for a lovely lunch! If you have any leftovers, wrap the dish with cling film and stash in the fridge for a few days. Reheat in a low oven until completely warmed through. Enjoy!

Spring Onion + Bacon Quiche | for the love of the south

BLACK-EYED PEAS + COLLARD GREENS

Black-Eyed Pea Cassoulet | for the love of the south

New Year’s is a time for reflection, celebration, and, if you were raised in the South, black-eyed peas, collards and cornbread. Waking up on New Year’s Day, the glitter of the evening still evident in my hair while little strands of popped confetti littered the floor. Resolutions have been resolved. Paper crowns and empty Mason jars are scattered about the living room as I make my way past the gold and silver foiled-lined doorway and into the kitchen to my beloved, saving grace: the coffee pot. Within moments, the aroma of chicory coffee filled the air. The scent of ham hocks and collards babbled away on the stove along with black-eyed peas and pork sausage crooning away in a cast-iron skillet, and golden, crackling studded cornbread sizzles in the oven. This is the aromatic symphony of New Year’s Day.

Black-Eyed Pea Cassoulet | for the love of the south

Each ingredient has meaning and purpose. Black-eyed peas represent coins, collard greens represent dollar bills and cornbread represents gold. Eating each Southern staple on New Year’s Day is supposed to guarantee a prosperous year, ensuring wealth and luck. While, I do not believe in luck, I do believe in the power of tradition.

Black-Eyed Pea Cassoulet | for the love of the south

This New Year’s custom dates back to the Civil War, when union troops pillaged the Southern landscape, leaving behind black-eyed peas and greens as food for animals. These nutrient rich, humble ingredients became cherished as they saved many families from starvation during hard times, and the tradition of the celebration of these ingredients was born. The story may differ from table to table across the region, but the common bond of the unity of family and friends brought together by thankful hearts and renewed hope for the New Year remains the spirit and soul behind the tradition.

So, here is to the New Year, may it be greater than anything we could ever ask or imagine. May it be filled with boundless courage, laughter, and…black-eyed peas and collard greens! Cheers, y’all!

Recipe: Black-Eyed Pea Cassoulet

Serves 4

Note: This dish has all of the components of a Southern New Year’s Day traditional meal, but it is also a lovely, comforting dish perfect on any winter’s day.

1 ½ tablespoons of olive oil, plus more for drizzling

¼ pound of smoky bacon, cut into thin strips

1 yellow onion, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped

1 sprig of rosemary, leaves only, chopped

Pinch of red pepper flakes

½ pound of dried black-eyed peas, soaked overnight

1 cup of collards, rinsed and torn into small pieces

½ cup of cornbread crumbs

Salt and pepper, to taste

Hot Pepper Sauce, Sea Salt, Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, for serving

Preheat broiler

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large cast-iron skillet. Add bacon and cook until golden and crispy. Toss in onion, garlic, tomato, carrot, rosemary leaves and red pepper flakes. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Cook until the vegetables softened, about 10 minutes.

Drain black-eyed peas and add to the pan. Cover with water, season again lightly with salt, bring to boil and lower the heat to simmer for 45 minutes, until the beans are tender and most of the water has evaporated. Toss in collards and cook just until the greens are bright green, about 2 minutes. Take off heat, adjust seasoning, and cover with cornbread crumbs. Drizzle with a little bit of olive oil and place under the broiler until the crumbs are golden and browned. Serve with hot pepper sauce, flaky sea salt and a drizzle of olive oil. Enjoy!

Black-Eyed Pea Cassoulet Ingredients | for the love of the south

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I DID IT MY WAY

Rustic Turkey Potpie | for the love of the south

The Thanksgiving feast you painstakingly prepared for is now over. Personalized calligraphy name cards adorned with tiny gold pinecones and sprigs of rosemary have been littered across the table, a once piping hot perfect turkey has only half a bronzed thigh to glow about, and your flawlessly weaved lattice-topped apple pie resembles something closer to a mass of cockeyed Band-Aids after the kids table was finished with it.  Everyone’s bellies are filled to the tippy top, naps have commenced thanks to our turkey-induced comas and piles of dishes laden with leftover dressing are waiting for us at the kitchen sink. Just as quick as it began, dinner is now over, and the only evidence of your Thanksgiving meal is an inordinate amount of leftovers in your fridge.

Plastic containers filled to the brim with green bean casserole, Tupperware tubs jam-packed with macaroni and cheese, and gallon-sized Ziploc bags stuffed with leftover turkey meat take up prime real estate in your refrigerator. By now, you are looking for creative ways to use up the rest of the leftovers. Behold: Rustic Turkey Potpie. This dish not only allows you to transform your beloved brined, buttered and baked turkey but also uses up any leftover vegetables that are on the brink of being tossed. After making this dish, you will have a happy, full family and a clean fridge. That’s something truly to be thankful for.

Pot Pie Gravy | for the love of the south

Recipe: Rustic Turkey Potpie

Serves 4

Note: Potpie is a Southern classic, but, honestly, hasn’t been a favorite of mine. Doughy, cloying and heavy would describe most of my potpie experiences. This one is packed with tender meat, vibrant vegetables, and, of course, a little white cheddar and thyme leaves peaking through the golden puff pastry. Lovely! 

You could use roasted chicken for this recipe if you don’t have leftover Thanksgiving turkey. Also, this potpie isn’t bogged down by liquid and is served with gravy, so people can have as much moisture in their potpie as they like!

4 slices of bacon

4 tablespoons butter

1 medium sized Yukon Gold potato, peeled and diced

3 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves only, plus more for adding to pastry

1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes

2 medium sized carrots, chopped

1 medium sized onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

½ cup peas, fresh or frozen

3-3 ½ cups leftover turkey meat (white or dark), hand torn into bite-sized pieces

1 heaping tablespoon of all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

2 cups of low sodium chicken stock

¼ cup sour cream

½ package of puff pastry, thawed

¼ cup shredded white cheddar cheese

1 egg, slightly beaten

 

Preheat oven to 400o F

In a large skillet over medium heat, crisp the bacon until golden brown. Set the crispy bacon to the side. Add butter to the pan with the bacon drippings. Toss in the diced potato, fresh thyme and red pepper flakes, making sure to scrape up any bits left over from the bacon. Allow the potato to cook for a few minutes, and then toss in the carrots. After the potatoes and carrots have cooked a few more minutes, toss in the onions and garlic. Season vegetables with salt and pepper. Allow the vegetables to cook for another 10 minutes, about 20-25 minutes total, or until all of the vegetables still have a bite yet slightly tender (the vegetables will continue to cook in the oven later.) Toss in the peas with the rest of the tender vegetables.

Add the turkey and the flour to the vegetables. Mix to combine. Add the chicken stock and bring the mixture to a boil, the mixture will thicken slightly. Take the skillet off the heat and add the sour cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Strain in a large sieve with a bowl underneath to catch all the lovely gravy while preparing the puff pastry.

Lightly dust your work surface with flour. Roll out thawed puff pastry into a rectangle. Scatter cheese and remaining thyme leaves over half the pastry and fold remaining pastry over the cheese and thyme filling. Continue rolling out the pastry until it is large enough to cover a 10” skillet.

Place the strained filling into a 10” skillet. Scatter the remaining crispy bacon on top of the filling. Place rolled pastry on top of the filling. Crimp the edges slightly, but don’t worry too much about the aesthetics of the pastry too much! This is a rustic potpie.

Create a slit on the top of the pastry for the steam to escape and brush with the slightly beaten egg. Bake in a 400o F oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden and puffy. Serve with the reserved gravy.

ROASTED CHICKEN LEGS

Roasted Chicken Legs | for the love of the south

If you know me well, you know I love chicken legs. If you ever see me eating fried chicken, it will be a leg. I’m not sure why the leg. Maybe I fell in love with dark meat at an early age while most of my friends gorged themselves on chicken tenders. But knowing me, it’s  because I love street food, or food I can eat without a fork. Chicken legs required no muss, no fuss and best of all, no fork!

In fact, my love of the leg is so well known that my grandmother hides a turkey leg in the back of the fridge for me at Thanksgiving. Since most of my family loves white meat, they don’t notice the one-legged turkey. It’s a little secret between Grandma and me. She still giggles while watching me, now full-grown, chow down on a whole turkey leg. There aren’t many times in life when I act so carnivorous as when eating poultry leggies.

Here is a recipe for oven-roasted legs that is superb hot, cold or room temperature. May they make their way to your next picnic or your dinner table. I just have one request, hide a leg in the fridge for you for later. It will be our little secret.

Recipe: Serves 4

Note: If you would like more color on the chicken legs, you can place them under the broiler for a few minutes. Just keep an eye on them so they don’t burn!

1 stick of butter, melted and warm

1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes

1 garlic clove, minced

2 tablespoons of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

Juice of half a lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

6 chicken legs, rinsed and patted dry

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Combine melted butter, red pepper flakes, garlic, parsley, and lemon juice in a medium sized bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Toss chicken legs in the melted butter mixture, and place the legs on a roasting pan fitted with a wire rack. Roast chicken legs for 45 minutes or until the juices from the center of the chicken leg run clear. Let the chicken sit for 10 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute into the meat. Serve with lemon wedges and fresh parsley.