KITCHEN CONFIDANTE + A GIVEAWAY

Chicory Coffee Meringues | for the love of the south

There is something special about the art of preparation. Normally, the focus is on the final dish that graces our table, not the silent characters that assist us in preparing the meal. Without them, we would be forever lost in the kitchen. There is the story of the courageous and dependable wooden spoon, facing the depths of our scalding soups and countless gumbos. Irregular mason jars with their faded sky blue and suspended bubble façade, which are used in preserving the seasons. Cast-iron skillets, slicked and smooth from daily use of frying chicken, stewing okra and baking biscuits. These utensils don’t often make it to the table, but they are there for us, day after day, allowing us to taste from their crooks while gently holding their scorched handles, blades of our favorite knives seemingly becoming an extension of our bodies as we slice through seasonal produce without a care in the world, and the cast-iron we break our backs carrying, knowing no other pot will do the job. These are the unsung, unseen heroes of the kitchen.

Just as seasoned skillets and scarred spoons tell stories, I have found we communicate more freely in the kitchen than anywhere else. Perhaps it’s because the kitchen is the hearth in the home. It’s a place where people can open up while the cook can keep a sense of busyness, without making the person feel as if you are glaring into the depths of their soul in complete silence and stillness.

Chicory Coffee Meringues | for the love of the south

Whisking wintery egg whites and roughly chopping plump vanilla bean pods are tasks that are comforting yet don’t require much thought. Slowly stirring sugar and egg whites together while smoky, chicory coffee fills the kitchen, creates a sense of safety while we visit. These actions are second nature to a home cook.

I do my best listening while in the kitchen. It’s a place where those who need to get something off their chest can while slowly pecking away at a piece of pie. I’ve heard some whoppers while frying bacon and stories that made me tear up while stirring roux. I’ve celebrated in the kitchen, enjoyed life at my table with the ones I love, and, honestly dear friends, that includes every single one of you.

Chicory Coffee Meringues | for the love of the south

{As a “Thank You,” I am giving away 4, 12oz. bags of my favorite Premium Community Coffee Whole Bean Coffee. To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below letting me know your favorite kitchen moment/favorite kitchen tool between now and midnight March 8th. The winner will be chosen randomly and will be contacted via email on March 9th. Limit 1 comment per person, pretty please! Good luck, y’all!} Congrats to Kelly who is the winner of the giveaway! 

Recipe: Chicory Coffee Meringues

Makes 6 Large or 12 Small Meringues

Note: I love using finely ground Community Coffee Whole Bean Coffee for this recipe. Chicory coffee gives the meringue a slightly smoky layer, which pairs beautifully with the sweetness of the meringue and the rich flavor of the vanilla bean. If you can’t find chicory, finely grind whole beans until the beans resemble a fine powder. And if you don’t own a coffee grinder, just use espresso powder!

In case you were wondering, the vinegar acts as a stabilizing agent for the egg whites. Whenever I’m making meringues in the South, there always seems to be some percentage of humidity in the air, which can really wreak havoc on meringues since they absorb moisture. So, I find adding the vinegar (which you will not taste in the meringue) acts as a little “meringue insurance”.

165g of granulated sugar

1 vanilla pod, coarsely chopped

3 egg whites, room temperature

Pinch of sea salt

1 ½ teaspoon of cornstarch

½ teaspoon of white vinegar

1 teaspoon of finely ground chicory coffee

 

Preheat oven to 200oF

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

Fill a medium sized saucepan halfway with water. Place over medium-low heat to simmer.

Add the sugar and vanilla pod to a food processor, pulse until the vanilla pod is fully incorporated into the sugar and there are no large pieces of vanilla. This may take a few minutes, so be patient and don’t rush it! You are actually creating superfine vanilla sugar in this step, which will blend quickly and evenly into the meringue mixture.

In the base of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, add the vanilla sugar, egg whites, sea salt, cornstarch and white vinegar. Whisk just until combined.

Place the mixing bowl over the simmering water and slowly stir with a rubber spatula for a few minutes. Once the mixture feels completely smooth between your fingertips, continue whisking until the mixture forms stiff peaks.

Spoon into 6 medium mounds (or 12 small mounds) onto your parchment covered baking sheet. Sprinkle each mound with chicory coffee powder. With a teaspoon, shape the meringues, starting from the base and sweeping around and up to the top, creating a small peak.

Place the meringues in the oven for 2 hours. Turn off the oven and allow the meringues to dry in the oven overnight.

Store in an airtight container for 1 week, but really, you can eat them all for breakfast in the morning. I won’t tell anyone!

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

BEIGNETS, I LOVE Y’ALL

Marvelous Grapefruit Beignets | for the love of the south

There is a bridge stretching over Lake Pontchartrain, a very long bridge, which connects Mandeville to Metairie, Louisiana, just outside of New Orleans. We made our way past the gilded Superdome, onto Poydras to Decatur St. The scent of boiled crawfish, brewed Abita beer and fried beignets pierced the air. There is a tangible excitement in the streets, an energy as the city marches to the beat of its own drum, king cakes baking, jazz pouring out of every nook and cranny, rod iron rails decorated with colorful beads. It’s Carnival Time! The occasion calls for a visit to one of my favorite spots in New Orleans, Café du Monde.

The emerald green and white striped awning greeted us, welcoming us to our home away from home with open arms … and café au lait and beignets! We found a spot at one of the speckled, sugar dusted circular tables. Visitors from all over the world came to celebrate the season. Piles of camera bags, men in less than flattering shorts, gluttonous pigeons and hot beignets covered in mounds of powdered sugar filled the open-air café.

Marvelous Grapefruit Beignets | for the love of the south

Immediately, I became captivated by my surroundings and began watching a businessman, most likely a local, talking on his cell phone in the middle of the café.“How in the world is he carrying on a conversation with all of this celebrating going on?” It was in that moment when I heard him say, “Hold on, a pigeon is about to fly on top of this girls head!” Before I could turn around to get my eyes on the ill-fated girl, I felt something brush the top of my head as I bit into my beignet. Exhaling out of pure shock (and unfortunately covering everyone around me in a cloud of powered sugar), the lively café came to a screeching halt as I began waving frantically, attempting to get the pigeon away from me. My effort completely failed as one of its tiny feet got caught in my ponytail. That’s when the real floorshow began. A flurry of feathers, blonde hair, skinny arms and sugar began to brawl right smack dab in the middle of Café du Monde. An uproarious laughter filled the café, the bird finally got its footing and made a quick escape to the rafters. Everyone cheered, plates full of beignets slapped the tables, coffee cups clanked together and everything went back to its harmoniously brassy New Orleans self.

Our waitress placed another plate of hot beignets in front of me with a smirk. I knew she had seen the spectacle, and I also noticed she gave us twice as many beignets as we originally ordered. I think she felt bad for me. I didn’t mind. An extra order of hot beignets at Café du Monde was worth the trauma and disheveled hairdo. I cautiously devoured my glorious “pity” beignets as I kept one eye on the hot fried dough and one on the greedy pigeons above me.

Across the way in Jackson Square, someone began playing “When the Saints Go Marching In” for the tourists. No matter how many times I hear this song being played on the streets of New Orleans, I’m always surprised how it bewitches me. I’ll always have the spirit of Mardi Gras in my pocket, carrying it with me wherever I go and maybe a beignet or two! Laissez les bon temps roulez!

Marvelous Grapefruit Beignets | for the love of the south

Recipe: Marvelous Grapefruit Beignets

Serves 6

Note: These buttery, sugar-covered beignets, are traditionally eaten on Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, during Carnival season right before the season of Lent. But honestly, I love to serve them year round to keep the spirit of Mardi Gras alive!

If you don’t have superfine sugar, don’t worry. Just whiz up some granulated sugar in a food processor until superfine! Also, you can also substitute the grapefruit zest for lemon, lime or orange zest.

½ cup (100g) of granulated sugar

Zest of 1 grapefruit

2 cups (240g) all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon of kosher salt

½ teaspoon of baking powder

6 tablespoons of unsalted butter, cut into cubes, room temperature

3 eggs, room temperature

2 tablespoons of vanilla extract

Vegetable oil, for frying

Superfine sugar, for dusting

In a small bowl, combine sugar and zest. Rub the zest into the sugar with your fingertips. Set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with a batter attachment, combine flour, salt and baking powder with a fork. Create a well in the center and add the rest of the ingredients, including the zest-infused sugar. Mix until the ingredients are combined and begin to form soft dough. Shape the dough into a ball, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.

On a generously floured surface, roll the dough out until ¼-inch thick. Cut into 16×2-inch strips. Cut again on a diagonal, creating diamond shaped pieces. The dough is very delicate, so be as gentle as possible!

Over medium heat, pour 2-inches of oil in a large cast-iron skillet. Once the oil reaches 325oF, gently place the diamond-shaped pieces of dough into the oil, allowing them to get beautifully golden on both sides. Drain on paper towels or paper bags and toss in superfine sugar. Devour immediately! If by some miracle there are any leftover, just seal them up in a plastic bag, stash them on the counter, et voilà! Breakfast is served!

 

 

 

 

THE GROVE

Southern Nougat | for the love of the south

As we drove down the long, dusty road, I noticed a few fields of Alabama cotton that had yet to be cleared. Autumn was evident in the harvested crops, the cool, crisp air, and the golden and amber hued leaves that tumbled and weaved across our path like children playing without a care in the world. We slowly crept to a halt as we got to the end of the road and inched over a set of railroad tracks. As we passed over the tracks, it was as if we went back in time. A time when Southern traditions were worn like a strand of cherished pearls: donned daily around the neck and treasured close to the heart.

Mighty magnolias and precious pecan trees covered the grounds of the family estate. Branches bowed as if they were graciously welcoming our arrival. Pecan trees were freckled with bright green jackets, which harbored tiger-striped pecans, just waiting to drop to the ground. I gathered as many pecans that had already fallen before the squirrels could get their greedy paws on these scrumptious Southern treats.

Southern Nougat | for the love of the south

As I gathered pecans, I heard a loud yelp in the distance. “What was that?” My question was countered with laughter. “Oh, that’s just Jerry Lee Lewis. He loves to sing!” I looked around the corner and saw two larger than large German Shepherds. Recalling Jerry Lee Lewis’s nickname was “The Killer”, I retreated back to my basket, gathered my spoils and graciously allowed the dogs to feast on the remaining pickings.

With my basket filled to the brim with pecans, I made my way into the inviting, old house. The worn, wooden floors whispered and creaked as if they could tell tales of the children that grew up in these corridors. Those children have grown and now have their own children scurrying about the house, writing new chapters into the history and halls of the estate.

Pecan Picking | for the love of the south

As I walked into the main parlor, I noticed framed newspaper clippings along with black and white photos of beautiful hunting dogs. The owner of the house pointed to one photo in particular and said, “He is the one that started it all.” According to the legend, this was the first of many show dogs that raised enough money to pay for the estate. (It is also referred to as the house the dogs built!) I made my way through the French doors and down the hallway, and into the main living room where I found my favorite spot in the house.

In front of an enormous fireplace stood two matching chairs angled toward each other with a tall, circular table nestled in between. On top of the wooden table rested a crystal bottle filled with blushing brandy and two digestif glasses carefully placed in front. That one sitting area told an unspoken story of two people taking time at the end of the evening, relaxing in front of the crackling fire, enjoying something to drink that warmed their bodies and their spirits. This simple setting taught me something about the past. The past does not have to only live in photos on the wall or in worn floorboards, but it can also be kept alive in small, tangible details daily.

I watched the magnolias fade into the distance as we passed over the tracks once again. I sat there with my basket filled with pecans and thought about traditions and the means to restore and cherish them in our everyday lives. Here is to restoring old traditions and creating new ones that will live on in our spirits and homes for generations and generations to come.

Pecan Picking | for the love of the south

Recipe: Pecan + Fig Southern Nougat

Note: This classic European dessert is traditionally made with pistachios or almonds, but I combined local Tennessee honey, Alabama pecans and Louisiana figs for a lovely Southern twist!

90g of Sourwood Honey (or any other local honey)

90g of light corn syrup

300g of granulated sugar

2 tablespoons of water

2 egg whites, room temperature

Pinch of kosher salt

2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

100g of toasted pecan halves, roughly chopped

100g of dried figs, quartered

Cornstarch and powdered sugar, for dusting

 

Line an 8 ½ x 4 ½” pan with greased parchment paper.

 

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine honey, corn syrup, sugar and water until the mixture reaches 284oF (140oC), soft crack stage.

 

Meanwhile, whisk egg whites and salt in a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment until soft peaks form.

 

Add the golden syrup to the egg white while slowly whisking. Increase the speed and whisk for 6-8 minutes. Whisk in the vanilla extract for 30 seconds. Fold in pecans and figs.

 

Quickly pour the nougat into the prepared pan and spread evenly with a wet offset spatula until smooth. Allow the nougat to sit for 4-6 hours.

 

Dust a cutting board with equal amounts of cornstarch and powdered sugar. Turn the nougat onto the cutting board. Remove the parchment and dust with more cornstarch and powdered sugar. Cut into desired pieces and tightly wrap in wax paper for up to 2 weeks. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

SEASON of CHANGE

Bacon Latticed Apple Pie | for the love of the south

In this capricious world, I look forward to the promise of the change in seasons. No matter how unbearable summer is, the heat eventually subsides, the trees sigh in relief and leaves begin to transform before our very eyes. In a realm resistant to change, nature inevitably begins to beam one last time before winter.

In life, we don’t possess the ability to control, but we do have the power to embrace. There is security in knowing the blistering days are behind us, and we can hold fast to a brand new season.

Bacon Latticed Apple Pie Prep | for the love of the south Summer has been lovely. I’ve had my fair share of ruby red tomatoes, emerald okra, summer ice creams and fruity lemonades. Now, it’s time for smoky, roasted meats, speckled apples, crisp, honey-scented pears, fragrant cinnamon and warm cider. There is comfort in their seasonality and predictability. Their customary arrival is welcome in my home and celebrated at my table.

{In celebration of the arrival of the new season, I am giving away a copy of Southern Living Bourbon & Bacon: The Ultimate Guide to the South’s Favorite Foods. To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below letting me know your favorite fall recipe between now and midnight, September 29th. The winner will be chosen randomly and will be contacted via email on September 30th! Limit 1 comment per person, pretty please! Good luck, y’all!} Congrats to Caitlin who is the winner of the giveaway! 

Bacon Latticed Apple Pie | for the love of the south

Recipe: Bacon Latticed Apple Pie

Inspired by The Loveless Cafe + Southern Living Bourbon & Bacon: The Ultimate Guide to the South’s Favorite Foods

Serves 12

Note: This pie is both sweet and savory, which is my favorite combination for dessert. As the fat renders from the bacon, it actually begins permeating the crust of the pie with its smoky drippings. It’s lovely! If you prefer, you can buy a center cut bacon for this dessert. Center cut slices have more meat and less fat than other bacon slices.

Pie Dough:

1 ¼ cups of all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon of kosher salt

1 ½ tablespoons of granulated sugar

1 stick (1/2 cup) of unsalted butter, cold, cut into small cubes

1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar

1 cup of ice water

1 egg

Combine flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Create a well in the center and add the 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 dough until 9 or so inches in diameter. Gently place the dough into an 8” pie plate. Crack the egg in a small bowl. Without breaking the yolk, use a pastry brush and gently brush a thin layer of the egg white onto the bottom of the dough. This will create a barrier between the filling and the piecrust as it bakes. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes. Meanwhile prepare the filling.

Filling:

5 medium-sized apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

Juice of ½ a lemon

¾ cup of brown sugar

¼ cup of granulated sugar

2 tablespoons of cornstarch

1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon of ground nutmeg

Combine all of the ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Toss with your fingertips until the apple slices are coated evenly with the juice, sugars, cornstarch and spices.

To Assemble:

8 strips of smoked bacon

Preheat oven to 425oF

After the pie crust has chilled for 30 minutes, place the filling into the prepared pie plate. Place bacon strips horizontally onto the pie. Start placing bacon strips one-by-one vertically, lifting every other strip to create a lattice pattern. Crimp the edges of the pie, tucking in the ends of the bacon slices as you crimp the edges. Slightly beat the remaining egg and brush gently onto exposed edges of the piecrust. Place the pie in the fridge for 20 minutes to allow the pastry to set.

Place the pie on a baking sheet and place in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Rotate, lower the oven temperature to 375oF for another 30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Cover the edges with foil if they get too brown. Let cool for 1-2 hours.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE PRODIGIOUS GRAPEFRUIT

Grapefruit + Raw Cane Sugar + Olive Oil Pound Cake | for the love of the south

While driving down the long, dusty road to Lacassine, Louisiana, cleared sugarcane fields revealed new life from the rich soil and a mellow, sweet fragrance filled the warm air. I imagined the empty field later in the year, taking over the landscape with its towering pampas-like foliage. As I became entranced by the pale jade landscape, we crept closer and closer to my great grandma’s house.

I tiptoed across the tiny, white shells in my great grandmother’s driveway and peaked around the corner of her small, whitewashed house and stepped into the garden. To me, this was an enchanted backyard, filled with life from one end of the tiny lot to the other. Strategically placed rows of perfectly ripe tomatoes and fingerlike okra pods smelled of sweet grass as I walked by. Tiny yet vibrant red and green peppers pirouetted in the breeze, reminding me of flickering Christmas lights. A protective fig tree magically became the perfect umbrella to take refuge under in the midst of afternoon showers, and near the back of the property, there was a gaggle of disgruntled chickens that became ruffled around the feathers if you got too close to their coop.

Grapefruit + Raw Cane Sugar + Olive Oil  Pound Cake | for the love of the south

On this particular trip, I decided to keep my distance from the foul fowls and kept to the side of the house, close to my grandmother. She was reaching over her head, picking what looked like spotted yellow basketballs. Quietly and curiously, I filled as many plastic shopping bags with the enormous unidentified fruit as I could and piled into the backseat of the car. I remember how the combination of the saccharine air from the sugarcane fields and the fresh scent of the mysterious citrus resting on my lap made my mouth water.

Immediately when we got back to the house, my grandma grabbed a large carving knife and split the colossal clandestine citrus in half, revealing blushing pink flesh. My grandma smiled proudly and said in her sweet Cajun accent, “Dat’s a biiggg grapefruit!” My mouth dropped in sheer disbelief, and we both started laughing and began ripping into the slightly sweet and tart flesh.

Grapefruit + Raw Cane Sugar + Olive Oil Pound Cake | for the love of the south

With a mouthful of ruby grapefruit and pink juice dribbling down my chin, I wondered what the secret was to the gigantic, sugary grapefruits that grew in my great grandmother’s backyard. Suddenly, I recalled the soft, spring breeze coming from the sugarcane field across the way and became sweetly satisfied in solving the mystery of the prodigious grapefruits.

Grapefruit + Raw Cane Sugar + Olive Oil  Pound Cake | for the love of the south

Recipe: Grapefruit + Raw Cane Sugar + Olive Oil Pound Cake

Slightly Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes 1 Loaf Cake

Note: If you don’t have plain yogurt or buttermilk in the fridge, have no fear. Just add 2 tablespoons of grapefruit juice to 1/3 cup of milk and let it sit on the counter for 5 minutes to get nice and funky! It works perfectly in a pinch! 

Using the zest and juice from 2 medium-sized grapefruits for this recipe usually makes enough leftover juice for a simple glaze. Just whisk ½ cup of powdered sugar while slowly adding the leftover grapefruit juice until you have a smooth, thick glaze. Pour the glaze over the cooled cake and serve!

1 ½ cups (190g) of all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon of baking powder

¼ teaspoon of baking soda

1 teaspoon of kosher salt

2 tablespoons (30ml) of grapefruit juice, plus 1/3 cup (80ml) for syrup

1/3 cup (80ml) of buttermilk or plain yogurt

2 tablespoons of freshly grated grapefruit zest (from 2 medium-sized grapefruits)

½ cup (100g) of granulated sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for syrup

½ cup (95g) of raw cane sugar

½ cup (120ml) of olive oil (choose a mild olive oil, not extra virgin)

2 eggs, at room temperature

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9×5” loaf pan.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a glass-measuring cup, combine 2 tablespoons of grapefruit juice and buttermilk (or yogurt).

In a large mixing bowl, add grapefruit zest, ½ cup of granulated sugar, and raw cane sugar. Rub the zest and sugars together with your fingertips. Whisk in the oil until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, and whisk until combined. Scrape down the bowl.

Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures to the cake batter, beginning and ending with the flour.

Spread the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top and tap the pan on the counter a few times, releasing any bubbles in the batter. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Meanwhile, combine remaining 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar with 1/3 cup of grapefruit juice in a small saucepan, and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Set aside.

When the cake has finished baking, let it cool for 10 minutes and invert onto a cooling rack with a tray underneath. Poke holes in the cake with a skewer or toothpick and brush the grapefruit syrup over the cake. Allow the cake to cool completely while absorbs the syrup. Serve the cake all by itself or create simple glaze to pour over the top  (see note). Enjoy!