kitchen catch-all

eating in

  • Clafouti. It sounds like an instrument you’d play in a band that also features a flugelhorn. It turns out, however, that a clafouti is a tasty dessert, one that Julia Child had a recipe for (Bon Appetit!), which I found, by way of Honest Fare (you can go there and read for yourself what Gabi’s husband thought clafouti sounds like, and also snag the recipe).  When I read that it was like a cross between a custard, a cake, and a pancake, I knew I had to try it.  I love custard AND cake.  I made mine with fresh raspberries and blackberries and some frozen cherries.  After we finished eating our first slices, Jon said, “I like clafouti.” Me too, man, me too.  To paraphrase Schlotzsky’s Deli: funny name, seriously tasty dessert.   You should try making one– way easy, way good.  Tip: to make the homemade whipped cream extra yummy, add a little vanilla to it.

    my beautiful clafouti (yeah. it sounds funny.)
  • But don't you want to try it, funny name and all?
  • Image via Real Simple.

    We’re still trying to eat all the food I froze during the last CSA season, so I didn’t do a whole lot of cooking this week.  One recipe I did try was a hit, though.  It was Real Simple’s roast salmon and peppers with caper vinaigrette.  We really liked this, and I pretty much followed the recipe– the only change I made was adding some lemon juice to the vinaigrette, because I thought it needed a little bite of citrus.  I’ll definitely be adding this recipe to my binder full of keepers.

eating (or should I say drinking?) out

McCrady’s is probably the most talked about restaurant in this town full of excellent restaurants.  The chef, Sean Brock, was nominated for a James Beard Best Chef Southeast Award this year, and in a recent Oxford American Food Poll, many of the chefs and food writers surveyed listed Brock as a favorite and an inspiration.  McCrady’s is also rather expensive– we ate dinner there because of one of my husband’s work events, but would otherwise only go there for a special occasion.  But the expense of the dinners isn’t a reason to miss out on the McCrady’s experience– just head to the bar!

McCrady’s is known for its pre-Prohibition Era cocktails, which are priced reasonably, on par with most other cocktails in town.  And to add even further incentives to check out their spirited offerings, they’ve been running a Prohibition style promotion on Facebook and Twitter, releasing a password to their followers and fans each week that will get them a pre-Prohibition Era cocktail for just 25-cents!  Friday night, a friend and I settled ourselves at the bar, and whispered “Burma” to Ben the bartender.  He smiled and whipped us up two Pegu Cocktails, a combination of Gordon’s London Dry Gin, Cointreau, Stirring’s Orange Bitters, and lime.  They were delicious, and I’m not usually a gin drinker!  We also checked out the menu of bar snacks.  I ordered the Crispy Pork Rillettes with Cranberry Ketchup, and my friend chose Fried Green Tomatoes with Green Goddess Dressing.  We loved both!

Since our first cocktails were only 25 cents, we had plenty of money left over to try another of the cocktails.  My friend, who had studied abroad in England, went for a classic Pimm’s cup, and I, being a whiskey fan and a sucker for a cool name, went for one called the Blood and Sand.  I mean, doesn’t that drink just sound badass??  It featured Dewar’s Scotch Whisky, Sweet Vermouth, Brandied Cherry Juice, and Blood Orange, and I enjoyed it very much.  While McCrady’s might be out of my price range for regular dinner dining, the cocktails and bar snacks are very much my speed and friendly to my budget.  I’ll have to take Jon back to try other things very soon!

food for thought

kitchen catch-all

eating in

  • For St. Patrick’s Day, I made Tartelette’s Chocolate Whiskey Pots de Creme.  Tartelette is also a Charleston resident, and her site is full of gorgeous photography and delicious baked goods, and definitely worth checking out.  She features a lot of gluten free recipes, so especially check her out if you’re looking for gluten free food.  This Pots de Creme recipe combines a couple of my favorite things: whiskey and chocolate.  The recipe is really similar to the Hominy Grill Chocolate Pudding recipe I’ve written about previously, except this recipe is sweetened with honey instead of sugar and obviously, involves whiskey.  Despite the whole baking-in-a-waterbath thing, the recipe is pretty quick to put together, and the result is DELICIOUS.  Thick, richly chocolatey, not sickeningly sweet, with a warm hint of whiskey. If you, like me, are a big chocolate pudding fan and/or big whiskey fan, check this recipe out.
  • Saturday morning I decided to be fancy and make the Sticky Lemon Rolls that had caught my eye on The Kitchn this week.  First and foremost, let me say this: if you want to have these rolls on a Saturday morning, start them on Friday night. They need two separate one-hour rises, plus 30 minutes of bake-time, so the time to start them is not 9 am on Saturday if you want to have them for breakfast. Despite the long prep time, these rolls are DELICIOUS.  I didn’t have the called-for cream cheese to make the cream cheese frosting, so I made a simple glaze with powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest.  They weren’t as sweet or pretty as they would have been with the cream cheese frosting, but they were still a unique and tasty treat.  I even took some pictures for y’all:
  • I’m not too proud to admit that I make an occasional Rachael Ray recipe. I cooked a lot of her recipes when I was first starting out as a cook, and many of them remain favorites.  On rainy Sunday evening, I made her Sweet Onion Mac and Cheese, which is basically an extra cheesy French onion soup meets pasta. It was delicious.

eating out

  • Wednesday we went out to celebrate a friend’s birthday with dinner at Wild Olive, an Italian restaurant on John’s Island.  Wild Olive is a newer venture from the people who brought us the Fat Hen, a French restaurant very similar to downtown’s Rue de Jean, another favorite, where the owner of Fat Hen and Wild Olive was once a chef.  One of my favorite things about Wild Olive is the $25 carafes of house wine.  I also love that, much like Rue and Fat Hen, they have a delicious mussels appetizer– Wednesday I tried the white wine, fennel, and sundried tomato variety, and, as expected, they were delicious, with a yummy, buttery sauce that we ate up by soaking bread with it.  The beef carpaccio was also quite good.  For an entree, I decided to try something new and went with ricotta gnocchi with wild boar ragu.  It was delicious!  Any readers who visit Charleston would do well to remember that all the good restaurants aren’t just down town, and both Wild Olive and Fat Hen are worth checking out.
  • Saturday we checked out a place in Mount Pleasant called Crave Kitchen and Cocktails that I had never heard of until friends asked if we wanted to go.  While I’m not sure it ranks in my top 10 or even 20 Charleston restaurants, and it had a fairly generic atmosphere, Crave’s food was prepared well and presented beautifully.  I’m a huge fan of mussels, and we tried both varieties of the mussel appetizer, one in a coconut red curry broth similar to one I’ve had at Atlanticville, the other a more traditional white wine broth like I’ve had at Rue de Jean and the Fat Hen.  Both were large portions that would be a bargain at the regular price of $10, even more amazing at a half-price special they were running.  I had a cedar-planked salmon entree which was served ON the plank with a Greek spinach salad featuring artichokes and olives and feta.  It was pretty good, though the fish was a little dry and could perhaps have used a marinade or sauce of some sort. Jon had a burger, which he said was very good, and our dining companions had sea bass, which was very impressively plated, and butter-poached seafood, which featured some really tasty lobster claws.  Just goes to show that even a Charleston restaurant that fails to blow me away still provides a darn good dining experience. I’ve yet to have a bad meal in this town.

food for thought

  • I started a new tab up top, Charleston Eats, to track all the places I’ve tried and have yet to try in this town.  It’s full of links and mini-reviews, so if you haven’t already, check it out.
  • I’m not much of a vodka drinker, and I confess I’ve never had limoncello.  Having read the Manhattan Food Project’s post about making homemade grapefruit limoncello, though, I might have to remedy this.  Anyone else ever made their own limoncello?
  • Apartment Therapy featured a peek inside the Maker’s Mark distillery kitchen.  It’s 1950’s retro, it’s full of my favorite color, red, and I LOVE it!  I already have a kitchen full of red, featuring a black and white checkered floor, so maybe now I’ll be inspired to try some robin’s egg blue accents.
  • New York’s schools are having a battle over bake sales.  If you ask me, officials are looking in the wrong direction if their concern is childhood obesity.  An occasional baked-good is essential to a healthy life, I personally believe.  Not to mention, most homemade items contain real ingredients instead of corn syrup and preservatives, and beat out most processed foods.  If we are really concerned about what kids are eating, we need to focus on reforming the school lunch program.  Right now, students are fed sub-par food and a minimal amount of fruits and vegetables. Most of their food is pre-packaged and re-heated, not fresh.  Getting fresh produce into schools and getting processed foods and vending machines out would go a long way toward making our students healthier.  So would ensuring that they have an hour of physical activity per day.

save slow food for retirement?

I’ve blogged a LOT about my forays into the slow food movement.  From giving up most of the meat I had been eating to  joining a CSA and all the adventures that entailed to starting to bake my own bread, the way I eat has changed a lot in the past year.  Apparently, according to a DoubleX writer, I’ve been wasting my time.  Margaret Wheeler Johnson writes, responding to the New York Times’ recent followups to their hugely successful No Knead Bread recipe:

The truth is that unless you are a chef by profession or truly love cooking, spending a minimum of seven hours a week in the kitchen—and that’s just making dinner—is not the best use of an ambitious youngish person’s time. Wouldn’t the energy we expend making the meatloaf our mothers never did, or feeling guilty that we don’t, be better spent connecting with peers, putting in extra hours at work, or pursuing personal projects? If you want an Amy’s loaf, get it from Amy’s. Otherwise buy a sleeve of Nature’s Own, and leave the no-need bread for retirement.

Continue reading “save slow food for retirement?”

puddin’ head

Image via Flickr user Navin75 under a Creative Commons license.

The last time my mother was in town, we took her to The Hominy Grill, one of our favorite Charleston restaurants, and a media favorite too– I know Anthony Bourdain and Alton Brown are big fans.  We told her she absolutely had to try the chocolate pudding, as it was the best we’d ever had.  So thick it’s practically ganache, so rich it’s practically deadly, and so dark it bears almost no relation to the milk chocolate pudding cups most of us carried in our school lunchboxes, it’s one of the best desserts I’ve ever had.  It’s also one of Alton Brown’s picks for “Best Thing I Ever Ate,” as our waitress told us when we were there with my mother.  Alton knows his stuff.  This is pudding so good, Jon got a little embarrassing mmmmm-ing and ahhhh-ing in what was basically a chocolate pudding-gasm at the table, right there with my mother in the middle of the most polite city in America.

Today, I got a hankerin’ for some Hominy Grill chocolate pudding and thought I’d use Google to find something similar.  But it turns out it’s not a closely guarded secret, and I found a .pdf of the Hominy Grill chocolate pudding recipe from local food writer Holly Herrick (I just got her Charleston Chef’s Table cookbook and her Southern Farmers Market Cookbook, so check those out!).  It came out absolutely delicious, and a chocolate pudding-gasm definitely ensued.  Because I couldn’t find the recipe in easily linkable form, I thought I’d reproduce it here.  It seems to have been originally published Jan. 5, 2008 in the Charleston Post and Courier.

Hominy Grill Chocolate Pudding
chef Robert Stehling

  • 8 ounces dark, Belgian bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 4 cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Reserve chocolate in a large bowl.  Separately, whisk 1/4 cup sugar into egg yolks.  Mix remaining sugar with cream and vanilla in medium saucepan and bring to a boil.  Pour a little hot cream into the bowl with the egg yolks and whisk, then pour the remainder of the cream over the chopped chocolate, stirring with a spatula until smooth.  Add the egg yolk mixture and salt, and then strain into a pitcher.  Refrigerate to cool.

Pour into 2/3 cup ramekins (I have no idea how much my ramekins hold, but it ended up being 8 ramekins full), place ramekins in a shallow pan half filled with water (water bath) and cook at 300 degrees for about an hour.  Chill for at least 3 hours before serving (we ate ours after only an hour and it was still delicious), and serve with a fat dollop of fresh whipped cream.

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