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Saturday, May 9, 2015

Charleston Insider: A Taste of the "New South" (Locavore, Of Course)


From the warm welcome of the wrap-around porches and hospitality at Husk, a “new Southern” locavore restaurant in a beautiful 19th century building, and melt-in-your-mouth Southern fried chicken skins, on our first night in Charleston to the last bite of shrimp, sausage and grits at Magnolia Restaurant before catching a flight back home on Sunday, my husband and I had a extraordinary long-weekend in this charming and historic city that, like many American cities, has undergone a renaissance. 

We’ve wanted to visit Charleston for a long while – it’s one of the many locations we are “shopping” as we consider where we want to live during our retirement years (some time in the 2020s).  On a freezing cold night in February, when I was reading the latest copy of Food & Wine magazine, I saw an advertisement for Charleston Insiders' Weekend, a three-day series of food and cultural tours and events (including a golf outing on a world-class course) organized by several of Time Inc.'s lifestyle magazines --- I jumped on reservations immediately. 


Despite the high standards of this New York City native and my New Orleanian husband, Charleston and the surrounding area did not disappoint. Neither did the Lowcountry food or Southern hospitality. It felt like “home”. 

Thursday, April 30th Dinner: 
Husk Restaurant, 76 Queen Street
The chalkboard in the lobby that lists 40 or so ingredients and the name of each purveyor tells only part of the story.  The other is the out-of-the-box creativity in preparing meals and do-it-yourself ingredients that burst with flavor and are visually delightful.  All the beef, pork, chicken, game, and seafood are from South Carolina and Georgia, so are the fruits and vegetables, eggs and dairy, and grains and flours. Peanut desserts, locally sourced "benne cakes" (made from a heritage seed from Africa used in South Carolina cooking for centuries), country hams and pickled foods and beverages -- including some delicious cocktail "shrub" recipes from times past -- are made in-house. We had strawberry soup, fried chicken skins, pork marinated in cider for dinner, and a delicious peanut butter pie with chocolate sauce for dessert. 

Sean Brock, IACP and James Beard Award Winner,  and Husk Restaurant Are Leading the Food Renaissance in Charleston's Downtown with Its Locally-Sourced and House-Made Ingredients and Creative Cuisine

Husk's "Southern Fried Chicken Skins with Honey and Hot Sauce" -- Addicting and Uniquely "New Southern" 

Strawberry Soup with House-Pickled South Carolina Shrimp is Visually Exciting and 100% Local
Husk's Daily Special: Heritage Pork Loin and Its Belly, Raised in South Carolina, With In-Season Grilled Asparagus, Snow Peas, Tomatoes and Ramps
Husk's Pickling Closet Just Outside the Ladies' and Mens' Rooms on the 2nd Floor

Friday May 1st Morning Coffee: 
Gaulart & Mallet Fast and French, 98 Broad Street

We discovered this adorable and old-fashioned counter-only restaurant from a "best coffee in Charleston" listing online. Indeed, I had the best house roasted coffee of my life -- it was made in a French Press.  After breakfast, we strolled through cobble stone streets, past tourists on horse and carriage rides, and visited the City Market rich with arts and crafts, handmade grass baskets, food and cookbooks, paintings and photographs. 

Lunch on Friday: 
167 Raw, 289 E Bay Street, Charleston

Seafood tacos, po' boys, salmon burgers, and catch of the day ceviche. We got there at 11:50 in the morning -- by noon there was a line.  There are just 12 bar stools in this casual downtown jewel box seafood joint that hails from New England (the first 167 Raw is in Nantucket). The fried sea scallop po' boy with a spicy sauce on a fresh roll that was lightly buttered and then grilled knocked the shoes and socks off of my New Orleanian "po' boy and bread snob" husband. Crispy oyster and shrimp tacos were equally delicious - also with a spicy tingle on the tongue. Don't miss the fresh guacamole served with homemade, direct from the fryer corn chips, and friendly New England/Boston service. 

Fresh, fun, fast, friendly and delicious seafood at really good prices. Restaurant and fish market. 


Friday Dinner Was The Official Start of Insider Weekend: 
Charleston Grill, 224 King Street (one of five restaurants in town hosting "Insiders")

Charleston Grill is an upscale, elegant dining experience. The restaurant is beautiful with wood paneling and white table linens and top notch cuisine and service. The food is fresh, delicate and flavorful -- the menu has dishes that are a contemporary spin on old world Southern as well as Continental favorites. We had a four-course meal co-hosted by Coastal Living magazine editors Tracey Minkin (Travel) and Ellen McGauley (Home): Octopus salad with tomatoes and petit mache, a very crabby grilled crab cake with lime, and prime beef tenderloin with baked potatoes, truffle butter, bourguignon sauce and horseradish. Dessert was a lemony cake topped with tart lemon curd and strawberries. 
Charleston Grill's Chef Michelle Weaver's Octopus Salad Tossed with Heirloom Tomatoes

Saturday, May 2nd Breakfast: 
Callie's Hot Little Biscuit, 476 King Street
Buttermilk biscuits and jam and a cup of hot coffee -- a perfect way to get myself going "in 'da South". Callie's is around the corner from the Charleston Visitor Center where I met up with fellow Insiders and picked up the Gullah Tours van for a cultural tour. My husband spent the day at the golf course on Kiawah Island with some of the marketing team from Departures and Travel & Leisure magazines and only got to hear about these awesome biscuits. 

Callie's Biscuits Are Legendary: Sharp Chedder, Cream Cheese, Pimento are just some of the many flavors. Served at this tiny take-out restaurant with four counter seats and local parties. A large assortment of products are available via mail order at their website www.calliesbiscuits.com
Tender, buttery, flakey -- handmade, hot out of the oven and served with blackberry jam on a fine china.

Saturday, May 2nd, Lunch: 
After a humorous (and scholarly) drive around Charleston with Alphonso Brown, owner of the Gullah Tours Company,  who shared the cultural history of century's old South Carolina's African-American Gullah culture -- language, beliefs, and foods -- and showed us beautiful wrought iron gates and a blacksmith shop,  I rushed off to join a Pop-Up Lunch of Gullah Cuisine and Butcher & Bee Menu Items Hosted by Dana Cowin, Food & Wine Editor-in-Chief at Le Creuset's Test Kitchen. We ate a six-course meal consisting of small plates - the menu is below -- at this "South Takes On The World" lunch.   
Chef BJ Dennis is recreating "Gullah" Cuisine, the traditional foods of African settlers in South Carolina's  Lowcountry. Somewhat reminiscent of Creole and Cajun Louisiana foods found at Jazzfest in New Orleans this time of year, the Sweet Potato Pone that Chef Dennis made - a quick bread, casserole-type dish made with grated sweet potatoes lots of butter and seasoned with cinnamon and sugar -- is a vintage Lowcountry Gullah recipe that soothes the soul. 
Mediterranean Butter Beans Salad and a Soft Boiled Egg created by Butcher and Bee, one of Charleston's Hottest Sandwich Joints Known For Helping Elevate Charleston's Food Scene in the National Rankings
Local artisans maintain the traditions of "poet ironworker" and "national treasure" Philip Simmons who created some of Charleston's most beautiful and iconic wrought iron gates, and balconies. 

Swirly curly elegant shapes define the work of Philip Simmons' iron work. We saw dozens of examples like this one on the Gullah Tour with Mr. Brown. The piece in this photo is a work in progress at the Philip Simmons Foundation and Workshop. 

Saturday, May 2nd, Dinner
We attended the "Biscuits and Jam" outdoor pig roast and seafood boil with live folk music -- Canary in the Coalmine and Houndmouth -- hosted by Southern Living magazine in Mt. Pleasant, just over the uber-modern looking bridge on the waterfront. It was fun to run into "old friends" and meet some new ones at "the Jam". 

Sunday, May 3rd, Brunch
Magnolia Restaurant, 185 East Bay Street
Considered one of the original creative restaurants serving "new Southern" cuisine, Magnolia is 25 years old this year. Great vibe and awesome meal. We had the shrimp and grits and a cuban pulled pork omelet topped with a beautiful salad and hot peppers for our last meal in Charleston. 
Quintessential Louisianan Spicy Shrimp, Sausage and Tasso Gravy Over Corn Grits at Magnolia Restaurant
Interior of Magnolia Restaurant 
We'll be back (soon, I hope). Until next time, y'all. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Oven-Roasted Pork Shoulder with Chipotle Dry Rub (Inspired by I LIKE PIG e-Cookbook)

Sunday night is the 37th annual International Association of Culinary Professionals Cookbook awards — in honor of my friend Jimmy Carbone’s e-book, I LIKE PIG: Recipes and Inspiration from New York City’s Pig Island, a well-deserved finalist, I pulled up my Kindle copy for some ideas on technique and created this Oven-Roasted Pork Shoulder with Chipotle and Spices Dry Rub Recipe. 
Pork Shoulder with Chipotle and Spices Dry Rub (Photo: Alexa Van de Walle)
Much like the pork shoulder recipe in the digital e-cookbook (and Julia Child’s high/low heat method for roasting a perfect crispy chicken), I used ingredients in my pantry as inspiration for the rub, browned the shoulder on high heat in a cast iron pan on top of the stove, cooked the roast in the oven on high heat for 30 minutes then lowered the temperature for a low and slow roast. I had a 6-pound shoulder — from stove to table it took 5 1/2 hours. 

Oven-Roasted Pork Shoulder with a Chipotle Dry Rub Recipe

Ingredients: 
Pork Shoulder, 4-7 pounds
8 T of chipotle pepper and spice dry rub (see below) 

Directions:
Remove the pork shoulder out of the refrigerator one hour ahead to bring the roast to room temperature (allow at least a day for a frozen shoulder to thaw). Prepare the dry rub. Preheat oven to 425 degrees (F). Using paper towels, dry the pork shoulder of any excess liquid.  

Heat a stove top grill pan or cast iron pan over high heat for five minutes. When hot, caramelize the fat of the pork shoulder and brown the outside turning regularly to sear all sides (about 3-4 minutes per six sides). 

Once browned, carefully transfer the pork shoulder — it’s quite heavy — to a V-shaped roasting rack or other non-stick rack placed inside a large roasting pan. Allow the pork shoulder to cool a few minutes, then rub all of the 8 tablespoons of spice mix into the fat and the meat before placing the roasting pan in the oven.  

A Cast Iron Stove Top Grill Pan Creates Grill Marks on the Pork Shoulder (Photo: Alexa Van de Walle)
Cook at 425 degrees for 30 minutes then lower the heat to 300 degrees and cook for an additional 3 hours or until pork has an internal temperature of 180 degrees. 

After about 2 hours, check the roast at least every hour as cooking times vary greatly. When the dry rub has begun to create a crust, cover the pork loosely with several sheets of aluminum foil. Rely on your instant read meat thermometer to guide you on the cooking time -- smaller roasts may take less than 3 hours at 300 degrees and larger roasts more than 3 hours.  

When the roast reaches 180-190 degrees (F) internal temperature it is ready. Transfer the cooked pork to a cutting board, and using the aluminum foil to create a tent over the roast.  Let rest for 25-30 minutes before slicing. Serves a crowd. 

Recipe for the chipotle pepper and spice dry rub 
I used a coffee grinder dedicated to grinding spices to powder the brown sugar and chipotle peppers and remove the lumps and bumps from the other spices. Grind each spice one at a time and blend at the end, as each spice will need a different amount of time to become a powdery consistency. 
Clockwise: Salt, Paprika, Chipotle Pepper, Brown Sugar, Yellow Mustard. Center: Cumin (Photo: Alexa Van de Walle)
Blend together: 

2T each of: 
Brown sugar
Powdered chipotle peppers

1T each of:
Ground Cumin
Paprika
Salt
Yellow mustard powder

About Jimmy Carbone’s I LIKE PIG
Jimmy is one of the most outgoing, energetic and generous people I know — he owns Jimmy’s No. 43 Craft Beer and Kitchen in the East Village and produces homespun food events, pop-up dinners, tastings and more in NYC. He’s a great storyteller too! At $1.99 for a download of this mini-cookbook, you can’t go wrong — the recipes are unique and approachable and the photo essays tell the fabulous story of Jimmy’s relationships with local area farmers, pig butchery and grand dame of all pig roasts — Pig Island — that he’s hosted for the past four years in New York City and will host again in September 2015. Rachel Wharton, the editor of I LIKE PIG, and author of EDIBLE BROOKLYN, does a fine job ensuring that Jimmy’s larger-than-life personality shines through. 


And, get your early bird and VIP tickets now: 

 

I am rooting for several of my friends and colleagues to win an IACP award, Jimmy included: 




For a complete list of this year’s IACP Cookbook Award finalists, click here . Announcement of winners on Sunday, March 29th. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Risotto with Mushrooms and Butternut Squash Two Ways Topped with Pancetta

Inspired by a vegan version at Candle Cafe on the Upper West Side, this autumnal Butternut Squash and Mushroom Risotto Recipe is made with cubes of butternut squash, sliced mushrooms and onions and is served on top of a butternut squash puree. Homemade turkey, duck and chicken stock and crispy, salt-cured Pancetta bacon provide additional layers of flavor.   

Butternut Squash and Mushroom Risotto Served Over Puree of Butternut Squash and Topped with Pancetta
I had a homemade stock leftover from the holidays stored in the freezer though any good quality chicken broth will work. Superfine Italian Arborio (risotto) rice and generous amounts of aged Parmegiano-Reggiano make for a creamy risotto — perfect for this cold and snowy weather. 
Ingredients Prep


Stir Constantly Slowly Adding Liquid Makes for a Creamy Risotto


Puree of Butternut Squash Awaiting a Generous Heap of Cooked Risotto


Crispy Pancetta Adds Salt and Crunch

RECIPE
Risotto with Mushrooms and Butternut Squash Two Ways Topped with Pancetta  
(2-3 entree servings or 4 appetizer portions)

3 1/2 cups of chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2” cubes (divided evenly - half for the puree and half for the rice)
8 ounces of Pancetta bacon, sliced thin 
1 onion, diced
1 pound of mushrooms, sliced thinly
1 cup of superfine Arborio (risotto) rice
1 cup of dry white wine
1/3 cup of Parmegiano-Reggiano Cheese 

Butternut Squash Puree and Braised Butternut Squash Cubes
Bring 3 1/2 cups of chicken broth to a simmer. Add one half of the butternut squash cubes and braise until tender in the stock, about 5 minutes. Remove the cooked squash with a small sieve and set aside in a bowl for the puree. Add the other half of the cubes to the hot broth and when they are cooked through set aside to add to the risotto below. To make the puree: add one half of the cooked butternut squash cubes and several tablespoons of stock to a food process and process until slightly thicker than soup but thinner than a traditional vegetable puree — add stock as needed. Set aside then reheat when the risotto is done. The puree is the base of the dish and provides a creamy sauce to mix in with the rice.  Save the hot chicken broth which has been infused with butternut squash to make the risotto. 

Risotto: 
In a large sauce pan,  cook Pancetta slices over medium heat turning regularly to cook evenly.  Set aside cooked pieces on paper towels to remove grease. Reserve the bacon fat and use to cook onions over medium-low heat until translucent. Add mushrooms and cook through, stirring frequently. Add the rice to the pan and toast, stir constantly, about 2 minutes. Add the white wine and stir the rice until the wine is fully absorbed, 2 minutes. One cup at a time add chicken stock that was used to braise the butternut squash, return to simmer. Stir constantly until the stock is absorbed, then add another cup of stock until fully absorbed, 15-20 minutes. Add the braised cubes of butternut squash right before adding the third and final cup of stock and stirring constantly cooking until the rice is al dente. Stir in the grated cheese right when the rice is done. 

To Plate; 

Reheat the puree in the microwave and ladle 3/4 of a cup into a soup bowl. Serve the risotto on top of the puree and top with Pancetta. 



Butternut Squash and Mushroom Risotto Served Over Puree of Butternut Squash and Topped with Pancetta

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Seared Scallops with Orange-Saffron Cream Sauce with Spaghetti Recipe

Scallop season is in full swing — this Seared Scallops with Orange Saffron Cream Sauce with Spaghetti Recipe takes advance of the fresh ingredients of winter. 




An easy-to-make sauce that I make fairly often will impress your family and your guests. It can be served with seared fish and shellfish over rice, pasta or a bed of spinach.  My favorite type of seafood for this sauce is local bay scallops from Long Island's Peconic Bay.

RECIPE
Seared Scallops with Orange Saffron Cream Sauce with Spaghetti 

Sweet and local Peconic Bay scallops. Citrusy, fresh squeezed orange juice.  Smooth and velvety heavy cream. A hint of butter and slightly bitter saffron.
Serves Four

Spaghetti
Boil a large pot of water and follow the directions on the package. Cook the pasta at the last minute after the sauce is done and the scallops have been added to the skillet. 




Orange-Saffron Cream Sauce (Photo: Lexi Van de Walle)


Sauce
2T olive oil
4T diced shallots
1/2 C of fresh squeezed orange juice and pulp
Generous pinch of saffron (20-30 long strands)
6T heavy cream

Heat olive oil in a small one quart pot over medium low flame and saute shallots until translucent being careful not to brown or carmelize. Add orange juice and saffron and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in heavy cream and simmer for 2 more minutes. Add salt to taste. Reheat on a low flame 3 minutes before serving. 




Carmelized Peconic Bay Scallops (Photo: Lexi Van de Walle)
Seared Scallops:
2 T butter
1 1/2 pounds of bay scallop

In a large skillet, heat butter over a medium heat. Add scallops and sauté until just cooked through and scallops begin to caramelize and brown — about 5 minutes. Turn the scallops over and cook for another minute.

Combine the cooked spaghetti,  seared scallops and warm sauce in a large bowl or use the pasta pot, toss and serve in individual pasta bowls. Garnish with orange zest and parsley, if desired.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Cold Beet Borscht Soup

With beets abundant this time of year and the weather still warm, I love to make my favorite Cold Borscht  Soup Recipe. Low calorie, easy to prepare and simply delicious. 

Roasted Beets are Peeled and Chopped (Lexi Van de Walle)


 A Dollop of Greek Yogurt (Lexi Van de Walle)
So simple, my version of Joan Nathan's recipe from Foods of Israel Today contains just a few ingredients -- roasted beets, onion, fat-free Greek yogurt, honey (I prefer to substitute local honey for the sugar in Nathan's recipe), dill and chives, water, and lemon.

Four large beets are cooked soft, peeled, chopped and pureed in the food processor with one small chopped onion, 1 1/2 T of sugar, 2 C of cold water, and the juice of half a lemon (for the "sour"). Stir 1 C of plain yogurt (or sour cream) into the blended soup and add a tablespoon of fresh dill and chives. Garnish with a dollop of yogurt.

RECIPE
Cold Beet Borscht with Dill and Chives
can be found in the article by Joan Nathan "Borscht: Hot and Cold and Red All Over"