CITRUS BONDS

Satsumas | for the love of the south

Lacy railings adorn balconies as we stroll along Royal St. The combination of the faint scent of decay and the citrus growing in ancient pots into the center of courtyards spills out into the French Quarter. Jazz echoes through Pirate Alley as we pass St. Louis Cathedral.

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Naturally, we dined like kings in New Orleans. The po’boys from Parkway on Hagan Ave. are served on the softest French bread and then slathered with a thin layer of mayonnaise, thinly sliced tomatoes, cold shredded lettuce and are generously piled with the crispiest oysters you’ve ever had. All you need is a bottle of hot sauce and a pile of napkins as thick as a dictionary, and you are all set. In the heart of the French Quarter, we sat under the green and white awning at Café du Monde with a plate of beignets piled with a mountain of powdered sugar and washed them down with café au laits and hot chocolates. In the Caribbean Room at the historic Pontchartrain Hotel in the Garden District, we split the Mile High Pie, which is a wedge of ice cream pie with layers of chocolate, vanilla and pink-tinted mint ice cream, crowned with toasted marshmallow and drizzled with melted chocolate. Impossibly crusty bread, decadent turtle soup drizzled tableside with sherry and dark, rich seafood gumbos littered our table at Commander’s Palace.

Satsuma Peels & Coffee | for the love of the south

But all the while, I had a secret. Safely stashed away in a clear cellophane wrapped bag nestled in my purse were sweet and sour satsuma candied peels. I found these to be the perfect travel companions. Anytime I needed a hiatus from heavy dishes, I popped one of these sunny beauties in my mouth and instantly my palate was refreshed. We piled into the car and drove three and a half hours west to Lake Charles. The fresh citrus peeling reminded me of nibbling on a few contraband kumquats in the center of one of the courtyards in the French Quarter.

Satsuma Tree | for the love of the south

I woke up in my grandparent’s house the next morning. Immediately, I made a steaming cup of café au lait and walked all the way to the left of the yard to the great satsuma tree, which gave off the scent of sweet honeysuckles after an afternoon rain. I gently twisted the fruit off the tree and peeled back the thin, supple peeling. The cold juice from the swollen segments dribbled down my chin. I quietly sipped on my coffee and finished off half a dozen of freshly picked satsumas on an old ladder next to the tree.

On our way back to Nashville, we made our way past sugarcane fields being cleared, and I couldn’t resist reaching into my bag and pulling out one of these satsuma peels. During this time of year, I have a deep connection with these little fruits. They remind me of home, and that’s a very strong bond indeed.

Sweet & Sour Satsuma Candied Peels | for the love of the south

Sweet & Sour Satsuma Candied Peels

Makes about 2 cups

Adapted from Rebekah Turshen of City House in Nashville, TN

Note: Satsumas are my favorite citrus to use since the skin is thin and peels away with ease, leaving the rest of the fruit intact. This makes for a perfect snack for later!

P.S. You can find citric acid at spice shops or online!

 

6 medium organic Satsumas

2½ cups granulated sugar, divided

1 tablespoon citric acid

½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped out

 

Scrub the satsumas, and carefully peel the satsuma in one long piece if you can, trying not to break the peel so you can easily cut the peeling in long, thin strips. Cut in ¼-inch thick strips. You should end up with about 2 cups of sliced peelings. (Save the segments for snacking!)

Bring peels and 4 cups water in a small saucepan to boil for 5 minutes.

Drain and repeat process twice, using fresh water each time.

Return peels to pan and add 2 cups granulated sugar and 2 cups water. Bring to a soft boil and cook until peels are soft and translucent, about 30 minutes.

Drain and transfer peels in a single layer onto a rimmed baking sheet fitted with a wire rack. Chill for 20 minutes.

Mix citric acid, remaining ½ cup sugar and vanilla seeds in a medium bowl with your fingertips. Toss the chilled peelings to coat. Return to rack and let sit at room temperature for 4-12 hours. You want the peels to be completely dry before storing in an airtight container.

Stays good for 1 month!

 

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

CONSIDER the PEARL

Pearls + Oysters | for the love of the south

My fingers slowly etched the black velvet lining of my grandmother’s jewelry box. Getting dressed for the day was more of an event rather than a duty for my grandmother; every strand of hair flawlessly sprayed into place, lips perfectly tinted like the color of an azalea petal, and the air was filled with a cloud of Estée Lauder perfume. She was not ready until she graced her jewelry box and pulled out a strand of pearls. Each pearl perfectly round, milky, and luminous. I watched as she clasped the two gold ends together with ease and gracefully placed her fingers on the pearls as she looked at herself in the mirror, knowing she was now prepared for whatever the day held. As a young girl (to be honest, quite the tomboy at that age with grass-stained denim shorts and skinned knees), I dreamt of the day I would wear my own strand of pearls.

As I grew up, I realized pearls are a lovely depiction of the South. A pearl begins its life with an irritation, a piece of grit that has made its way inside the oyster. Over the course of many years, that irritation transforms into a seamless, radiant pearl. Imperfect oyster shells are the ideal environment for pearls to form, and without pain or frustration, pearls would not exist. And those who are searching for pearls are the only ones who find them.

Pearls + Oysters | for the love of the south

Just as devoted Catholic women outline rosary beads with religious reverence, we can trace every surface of every pearl on a strand, each one symbolizing an event, something we have overcome. Instead of seeing our pain as something to hide, the years of healing have gently worn down and polished the rough edges of our past, and we wear them around our neck as an encouragement of strength.

Now, I have a strand of my own as I treasure and carry on the tradition, the reminder that our everyday irritations can one day turn into something more beautiful than we could ever image. They retell of the great women who stood before us, striving for goals that they may or may not have met, but one thing I am sure of, they donned their pearls no matter the cost, no matter the prize. They are a symbol of the South, something we earn with time and proudly wear. Many people see them as old-fashioned, but I see them as timeless, as timeless as the women who wear them. As we daily clasp our strands around our necks and close to our hearts, it’s a daily ritual, a promise that we are treasures among the shores. Valued and adored.

Pearls + Oysters | for the love of the south

 

SATSUMA KISSES + HOLIDAY SECRETS

Satsuma Madeleines | for the love of the south

During the holidays, my grandparent’s backyard in Louisiana was home to one of my favorite treats: satsumas. Driving down the winding, gravel driveway, the smoky scent of barbecue welcomed us. Grandma waved to us from the pit with long barbecue tongs. Grandpa welcomed us with holiday cheer and glasses of sweet tea, and I made my rounds and gathered with the rest of my cousins at the shed where our beloved scooter resided.

We Louisianans are resourceful. My grandpa repaired a broken-down, abandoned three-wheeled scooter from the chemical plant he worked at, painted it fire engine red, and magically transformed it into a carriage that could hold 8 grandchildren at a time, 12 if we distributed our weight properly. It kept us occupied all day long, or at least until we ran out of gas. We peeled across the backyard, into the wooded trails, and past the fig trees. And every time we rounded the satsuma trees, we leaned to one side, stretched out our arms, and with the scooter puttering at full speed, we attempted to grab a piece of fruit. The prize for this dangerous game? Satsumas, of course!

I remember taking my rewards to my favorite place in the yard: an old, white wooden swing my grandfather built. I sat there with a pile of satsumas, admiring them as if they were spoils from a treasure trove. Rusty chains slightly creaked as I swayed back and forth, peeling my stash of jewels.

Satsumas | for the love of the south

The thin, spongy orange skin easily gave way to my tiny fingers. Citrus scented oil filled the air as I gently peeled the speckled skin away from the flesh of the satsuma. Hidden underneath was a perfectly segmented citrus fruit. Each segment stripped away effortlessly and burst with sweet juices as I bit into them. There is something special about satsumas. Shhh…it’s a secret. Hidden inside a satsuma is a tiny segment, wedged in between two larger ones; it’s called the kiss. The tradition is you share the “kiss” with someone you love. As I finished the mound of satsumas, I saved all the “kisses” in one hand, jumped off the swing and distributed the clandestine segments to members of my family. I loved watching their eyes light up with delight in the sweet, silent secret of the satsuma “kiss.”

Seasons change. The scooter, like my grandpa, has long been retired. The swing is beyond weathered and worn. Now, I live miles away, but I can’t help but think of my warm, green Christmases spent in Louisiana. As I stand close to my oven, waiting for these satsuma madeleines to bake, the citrus scent immediately transports me back to Louisiana, savoring the sweet kiss of home from the coziness of my Tennessee kitchen.

Satsuma Madeleines | for the love of the south

Recipe: Satsuma Madeleines

Makes 26 Madeleines

Note: You can substitute satsuma zest for grapefruit, orange, lemon or lime zest. If you substitute the satsuma juice for lime or lemon, decrease the amount of juice by half.

8 tablespoons (1 stick) of unsalted butter, plus more for brushing

2 tablespoons of local honey

130g granulated sugar

Zest of 1 satsuma

3 large eggs, room temperature

Pinch of kosher salt

150g of all-purpose flour, sifted

1 teaspoon of baking powder

2 tablespoons of satsuma juice

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Powdered sugar, for dusting

In a small skillet over medium heat, cook butter until browned. Take off heat and stir in honey. Set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, combine sugar and satsuma zest. Rub the zest into the sugar with your fingertips. Add eggs and whisk on a high speed until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together salt, flour and baking powder in a small bowl.

Whisk the flour mixture into the egg mixture until combined. Add browned butter, satsuma juice and vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and whisk for another minute. Transfer the batter to a large plastic bag. Chill for 2 hours or up to 2 days.

Preheat oven to 375o

Brush a madeleine pan with melted butter. Cut a hole at the end of the plastic bag and pipe the batter into the molds, filling the molds ¾ of the way. Gently tap the pan onto the counter, releasing any air pockets and bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden around the edges. Arrange on a plate and dust with powdered sugar. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE BEST BROCCOLI SALAD OF MY LIFE

Broccoli Salad

In planning my wedding reception, I discovered a wonderfully enchanting venue called Limestone Bay Trading Co. in the historic Mooresville, Alabama. Tucked away in a quiet spot off of the highway, sat the tiny, unforgotten old trading company, chockfull of vintage charm. Shelves full of old-fashioned kitchen tools don the walls, classic cameras hang right above a stained-glass window, and homemade jams and jellies stand at attention behind a vintage register. As charming as the venue might be, there is one priority for the reception dinner. The food must be wonderful.

So, the owner, Dee, brought out a few sides for us to pick at while hashing out the details of the event: flowers, vases, and menu items… that’s about the time my fork dove into the broccoli salad. The broccoli salad. In mere moments, I became completely distracted from the most important day of my life and began dissecting what was in this simple and elegant salad. Sweet, crunchy, creamy… Dee, while excusing herself to get a cup of coffee, asked if anyone needed anything. I looked at her with the most pathetic eyes and stared at my empty dish. “I’ll get you some more broccoli salad,” she said. Life instantly got better.

The big day went off without a hitch. When sitting down at the wedding reception dinner, Dee offered to make my plate, and within moments, a whole plate filled with red wine infused beef brisket, dreamy creamed corn and crispy cornbread arrived in front of my beaming face, along with an entire plate full of my beloved broccoli salad. Thanks, Dee.

Broccoli Salad

Recipe: Inspired by The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Makes 4 cups

Deb Perelman highlights a sensational broccoli salad in her new book The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. In the original recipe, Deb uses raw onions, but I substituted the onions for shallots (I’m not a huge fan of eating raw onion.) Also, running the chopped shallots under cold water for a few seconds mellows out the oniony bite even more.

1/4 cup of buttermilk

1/4 cup of good mayonnaise

1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar or cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon of sugar

1/4 teaspoon of salt

1/2 shallot, finely chopped

1 head of broccoli

1/4 cup of toasted sliced almonds

1/8 cup of dried cranberries, coarsely chopped

Freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, whisk the buttermilk, mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar and salt until smooth. Stir in the shallot. Allow the shallot to mellow out in the dressing for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, trim the broccoli, and chop it into large chunks. Then cut chunks into thin slices (you could do the slicing with a mandoline, just watch your fingers!) Toss the broccoli with almonds and cranberries.

Pour the dressing over the broccoli mixture, and add a generous amount of freshly cracked black pepper. Stir the salad until all of the components have been evenly coated. This salad can be served immediately or lasts 3 days in the fridge.

 

THE MELTING POT

Butter Beans

The best treat after playing outside all day was a pot full of slow cooking melt-in-your-mouth butter beans. I knew exactly which pot they were hiding in. My mom only cooked butter beans in the small, shiny silver pot that glimmered on our very “loved” stove.  The petite, unpretentious pot came from my great-grandmother. Mother adored butter beans so much as a child that the vessel was unquestionably bestowed upon her. The taste of the velvety beans against salty ham was a perfect combination that made even the worst mosquito bites magically stop hurting. They are just that powerful.

Recipe: Inspired by Frank Stitt’s Southern Table

Serves 4 as a side

Note: If you don’t have bacon, or want to make this dish completely vegetarian, use herbs such as thyme, oregano or sage to the cooking liquid and drizzle in 2 tablespoons of fruity olive oil at the end instead of using bacon fat.

3 strips of bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces

3 cups of water

½ onion, quartered

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

¼ teaspoon of red pepper flakes

½ pound of baby butter beans, fresh or frozen

Salt and black pepper

In a skillet on medium-high heat, render the fat and brown the bacon. Make sure the renderings measure 2 tablespoons of bacon fat. Set the crisped bacon aside as a garnish.

Combine water, onion, garlic, red pepper flakes and salt together in a saucepan. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer for 15 minutes. Add the butter beans and continue simmering the beans for 15-20 minutes, or until tender.

Remove the pot from the heat and allow the beans to soak in its liquid for 10 minutes. Drain the beans from the cooking liquid, drizzle rendered bacon fat with the beans, season with cracked black pepper and garnish with reserved crispy bacon pieces.