India, part 3. Dhal and Khima (pigeon peas, pink lentils, meatballs with dried apricot


HAVING A BALL MY DHALING?

In the most beautiful of times, Autumn, we crave hearty and easy to heat or reheat foods. In Southern tradition the tailgate, campfire, back porch and by the fire foods have to be able to rest easy to eat, keep warm and/or fit inside a bun. Wanting to keep the focus on Indian cuisines for America the options were very easy to choose from for this colorful, cool season.

Meatballs and beans comes to mind. Pigeon peas (tur dhal) with diced pumpkin and fried pink lentils (masoor dhal); and ground beef, garam masala, and dried apricot khima. Our exploration of making the unfamiliar familiar and raising the familiar to the new or unfamiliar is a perfect project for kofta or khima in Mombai Parsi cuisine (keftedes, polpette, boulette de viands, meatballs) and dhal/dal (pulses is the culinary family name for legumes, peanuts, beans) which refers to vegetarian cuisine of the South or Dakshin, in this case of the Andrah region. As with all comfort foods the dishes may vary from region to region, home to home, mother to mother. The words may seem strange but the delicious is not.

Here we are in part three of a set of foods native to Indian cuisines that are items we regularly use in the Western Hemisphere. The more I learn the more these once mysterious ingredients and dishes arrive in my rotation of meals. This is as much fun as I have had in a very long time in discovering new ingredients and new ways of cooking. The dishes I have chosen are ones that friends have prepared in the past or that became alluring to me the more I learned of them. Please forgive if these are not completely of their home, the attempt is to familiarize for the ease of the American kitchen. Every time you shake a bottle of Worcestershire, use a chutney or cook split peas you are giving a nod to the vast continent of 33 distinct cuisines, India. Not only in dedication to Suyauta Winefield, Mariam & Wes Qureshi, Dot Whitelaw (Mother), Melanie P., Jordan T., Don Chambers, Jarad Blanton, Cindy and JP of Southern Distinction, Tom and Mel of Atlanta Food & Beer, but dedicated to the vast world of inspiration that is our world of food, inclusive and loving, from the ground to the plate in kitchens unhindered. I do this all for the pleasure of the plate without remuneration, simply so that all may enjoy the fruits of life.

 

Pigeon peas (tur dhal) with diced pumpkin and fried pink lentils (masoor dhal). Indian cuisines use only pink, green and yellow lentils. The pink cooks quickly and binds well for reforming to fry. You can use brown/green lentils with longer cook time. The brownish lentils we are familiar with are unhulled, which can be slightly bitter if not soaked and repeatedly rinsed in cold water. If you cannot find pigeon peas (in Athens area they are at Publix, Taj Mahal or at any Indian and Middle Eastern grocers) then use garbanzo, black beans (the closest in flavor) or kidney beans. Pigeon peas are used in Latin, Caribbean, Indian and most equatorial cuisines. The garbanzo is native to countries west of India, most notably Afghanistan, Turkey, Israel/Palestine and Lebanon. They are the primary pea used for humus, Latin dishes and Middle East recipes in America. Remember fresh cheese, paneer, from last month? Make it again or buy queso fresco as this dish is best garnished with crumbly paneer.

We are most familiar with pulses (traditional French cuisine term) or dhal as split peas, lentils, pigeon peas, black beans, peanuts, black eyed peas and various mung beans. Think of pulses/dhal as being the edible seed inside of a pod. When you see a recipe for various dhal dishes you are already familiar with some of the ingredients, the name dhal simply refers to it’s being an Indian dish.

The khima/meatball will be ground beef, garam masala, chilies and dried apricot. Middle eastern and Kerala (Southern India Christian and Muslim) cuisine uses lamb for the meat. The price and availability of ground lamb can be high here so I am using beef. Hunting season has begun so you can certainly substitute ground venison. The only ingredient change from traditional is the use of beef. Dried fruits are common across Asia to the Middle East, apricot is one of the most versatile stone fruits, welcoming in recipes from jams to hams.

Who doesn’t have some kind of meatball dish in their cuisine? Rhetorical question there. Meatballs are good anywhere from side dish to kebabs and pastas, sandwiches and on top of potatoes. You can use any meat, fowl, seafood or textured soy protein (tofu). The technique is the same from land to land. Grind, mix and gently roll into shape. They can be pan sautéed, grilled as kebab, roasted dry or in sauce. Who doesn’t like meat/food on a stick, so if kabobs are your thing then put them on skewers and cook over a grill or fire. If the meat is very lean you will need to add some kind of fat or oil to help it bind together. And now, time to cook!

PUMPKIN PIGEON PEAS WITH FRIED PINK LENTILS

You will need an inexpensive coffee grinder used only for spice grinding, a cutting board, sauce pot or slow cooker, and an iron skillet. The finished pigeon peas will be moist and soft, just a small amount of liquid. The pink lentils will be crisp and used as a garnish on the peas. Recipes are for four as a side dish so adjust as necessary for more people. Arrange ingredients for these recipes before you start prepping.

Asafoetida is derived from a kind of fennel, somewhat pungent, tastes of shallot, is used to help digestion, maintain color in the peas, and as a slight baking soda action that elevates the flavor. It is dark brown and hard. You will need to use a microplane grater. If you do not want to buy any then use 1/3 teaspoon baking soda and 10 crushed fennel seeds. If you have curry leaves use 4 in this dish.

PIGEON PEAS

1 cup dry pigeon peas (small, round and off white color)

2 ½ cups water, soak peas for 6+ hours

1/3 teaspoon cumin, powder

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon ginger, minced

½ teaspoon turmeric

2 teaspoons asafoetida

1 teaspoon red chili powder

2 teaspoons salt

.25 ounce cilantro, leaves and stems chopped

10 ounces pumpkin, peeled, fine dice

4 ounces white onion, chopped

6 ounces tomato, chopped, use juice and seeds

1 tablespoon lemon juice

6 ounces coconut milk

Pour peas and water into pot. In a mortar and pestle crush cumin, turmeric, garlic, ginger, cilantro, asafoetida, chili and salt into a paste. It will be a paste. Put everything into a crock pot. High for 90 minutes and low for 90 minutes. You can add sliced okra, green beans or any other gourd.

PINK LENTILS

If you have black mustard seeds then use them. When you crush the seeds do so between sheets of plastic wrap so that they do not fly all over the kitchen.

 

½ cup pink lentils (turns tan when cooked)

2 cups water, soak for one hour

½ teaspoon salt

1/3 teaspoon coriander, ground

¼ teaspoon black cardamom, ground, use a zester on whole pod

1 serrano pepper, minced

1 garlic clove, smashed and pressed into paste

¼ teaspoon mustard seeds, crushed

During last 3 minutes add:

3 tablespoons yellow fine corn flour, (Mills Farm Red Mule)

For pan frying:

3 tablespoons corn oil

1 tablespoon butter

 

Pour lentils and water into pan, add rest of ingredients except oils, corn meal. Boil and then turn down to low, cover and cook 45 minutes. Remove cover, turn up to medium, add cornmeal, stir. Dust a plate with corn flour and transfer lentil paste. If it is too loose add more corn meal.

Shape into 12 quarter sized discs, not very thick. Dust again with corn flour. Refrigerate for minimum one hour.

Heat butter and oil to 350 degrees. It will sputter. Add discs one by one to the oil. Cook on medium high until they are crispy and light brown color. Place 3 with each serving of pigeon peas. This is a very filling dish. Garnish with fresh cheese, cilantro leaves, crushed peppers and lime wedges.

 

MEATBALLS/KHIMA

The combination may sound extreme but the results are in the rich and complex flavor. Perfect to match up to any bean dish. Good as sandwich, pasta, rice or our pigeon pea recipe.

Makes 16.

1 pound sirloin, ground

1 1/2 teaspoon garam masala (re, August Southern Distinction)

1 teaspoon curry powder

¼ teaspoon cloves, ground

½ teaspoon red chili powder

1 tablespoon jalapeno, minced

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3 1/2 ounces apricot, dried, chopped

1 ½ ounces almonds, ground

3 ounces onion, minced

2/3rd cup fine bread crumbs

SAUTE:

3 tablespoons corn oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Mix all ingredients together in bowl. Do not over mix, just enough to combine. Roll into 16, 1 1/2 ounce balls. If they are not holding form add more bread crumbs.

Heat large cast iron skillet with 3 tablespoons corn oil and 1 tablespoon butter on high. When it is 350~ add the meatballs one by one. Let cook a minute all around so that it browns. Heat oven to 350~ and transfer skillet and meatballs to oven. Turn after 10 minutes. Cook 1o more minutes. Remove, set meatballs on paper towels to drain any oils.

Serve with our pigeon peas and fried lentils with paneer (queso fresca). Serve with naan for your bread. You can find this bouncy, soft, perfect flat bread in most grocery stores.

Khima can served in any number of ways such as sandwich with spicy tomato sauce, on buttery rice noodles and vegetables, brown basmati rice and roasted red bell pepper puree, roasted with chopped sweet potatoes

I know there are a few ingredients new to home cooks. Once you purchase in the smallest amount, use them a few times and your senses will tell you why these are such magnificent additions to the pantry. I can’t even cook black eyed peas without asafoetida! Comfort foods arrive when we least expect it, really. Take your time familiarizing yourself with the recipes, if you rush it then you open yourself up for mistakes.

With all hope for a beautiful season that you may eat well, freely converse and spread the love.

 

Picking Up The Scent Of Near October

Closer in from the treetop shouts

Of blaze and color against bluest sky,

The roses and tomatoes, fueled by rains

And August mulch bloom their strongest,

Brightest, longest on into November.

Friendships seem more conversational,

Politics more interesting and intriguing,

Weekend afternoons vibrant with the rush

Of collegiate football and home barbecue.

Staking out a crossroads in the woods

For the perfect tree, the perfect deer.

The smell of rows of rolled hay

On a backdrop of barbwire fences,

A herd of Herefords cattle gaze and laze.

And the stones in my pathway

Fall to the side beneath Octobers warmth,

Where for one last long gasp the season

Holds us before the first frost,

Carving pumpkins, telling ghostly lies,

Playing out the role of a Southern

Joy where one smile can change a life

And all loves have first and last names.

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India part 2, Paneer


BELOVED, THE WHEYS OF MILK AND ROSES

Homemade cheese or paneer is daunting for a novice. We will take it a step further into making our own cheese curd. Dairy is very prominent in Indian cuisines. Making the curd evolved from the very simple technique of stirring lemon juice into boiling milk. India, Bengal/Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, South Asian, Latin, Germanic and Mediterranean all make cheese curd. We are most familiar with fresh mozzarella, dry feta and Mexican queso fresco, i.e. fresh cheese. So, paneer in rose/orange blossom water for sweet or as savory cheese with salt and herbs, either way it is a pleasure.

I always bought the curd for buffalo mozzarella (moist, soft) and burrata, a mozzarella with cream center then folded in wheat grass, lotus leaf or banana leaf. For mozzarella cook the curd in 180 degree salted water and then quickly fold it into SOFT not chewy balls or logs and then cool. This method of making fresh mozzarella is a process taught in the early years of a true apprenticeship to become a Chef. Being a Chef is a lifestyle and profession. What one learns in the Classic style of apprenticeship requires 6 to 10 years of full time devotion to learning at least five cuisines and mastering one.. Speaking the language of the kitchen and knowing recipes is just the tip of the spoon. Learning, absorbing and applying is what separates dogma from beautiful actuality. Here, we seek the perfection of homemade. Not all learn how to make their own curd.

I dedicate today to my life long inspiration, friend and beloved, Melanie Paulk. She frequently travels to India, is a yoga instructor and has a yoga studio retreat in Utah. Our march into the world of spices, pulses, breads and heat is a search as ancient as the Silk Road and near as the travels of Columbus. As example, Pulse is a word in Escoffier’s La Culinaire as well as post-British occupied India. It refers to dried beans or legumes including fava, mung beans, chick peas, pigeon peas, split peas, black eyed peas, lima beans, crowder peas, cranberry beans, navy beans, red beans, etc. Learn the language of the Indian kitchen, then learn the dishes. In research and travel we find there are things quite similar between culinary cultures. Then there are those things that seem like they are from another world, which in some cases is close to social fact.

 

The only time I have seen fresh cheese curd made in TV-land (a place where few beyond Alton Brown and Mario Batali tell the truth.) was on Japanese Iron Chef. The Chef  was the inimitable Chen Kenichi of Sichuan fame. He separated the curds and whey, drained, wrapped in four folded cheese cloth and worked it into a viable soft crumble cheese. I was intrigued.

Making paneer required several readings in 7 different books. Days in the kitchen. Preparing “instant” (hah!) from the package, dining out, eating ready made styles and going it alone prepared me to stand as a chef of ancient kitchens. Yogurt cheese, dehin, is made by combining Greek yogurt with sea salt, wrapping in cheesecloth, draining for an hour and sealing in an airtight container overnight in the refrigerator. These are on a level with Neufchatel and cream cheese.

In Athens we have Taj Mahal and Fooks, both on Baxter Street, offering everything and more of Indian and Asian ingredients. Buying Asian, Indian and Latin ingredients is very easy today. Purchase what you need in small quantities for exactly what you need in any individual dish. Karen at Fooks will answer all questions, plus she carries my cookbook (A Romance With Food: Ginger, Lily & Sweet Fire).

Things like asafoetida, mango powder, pomegranate seeds and black cardamom pods for the next column sound like they are impossible, but on the contrary they were only 15 minutes away. As example, asafoetida made me shut a cookbook once and walk away. It is made by powdering the gum of a plant also known as giant fennel and has the slight flavor of leeks. When combined with gum Arabic (A powder made from a scrub brush grown in desert regions, is also used in Altoids.) is used in baking and making savory fresh cheese. It is also good for digestion and is prominent in Hindustan foods. Do not be afraid of what is new to you. Worcestershire is made from Asian fruit tree pod, tamarind. “New” is just a word away from the familiar. It is easier to say “you are what you eat” than it is to understand that “you are what you eat, eats” and their origins. I am sure the hunter gatherers made fun of the first farmers (An age old conflict).

Madhur Jaffery’s books are excellent introductions to Indian cuisines. “The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking” by Yamuna Devi is indispensible, and is perhaps the most definitive of vegetarian cooking. “Cooking At Home With Pedathia” on Andhra style South Indian cooking is a graceful look into home cooking. “Bengali Cooking” by Chitrita Banerji opened gates to the river kingdom. One of the books on Punjab cooking that was easy for me was “Menus and Memories From Punjab” by Veronica Rani Sidhu. She married a Punjab doctor that she met while in college in Michigan. He thought that the Hungarian meal of cucumber in sour cream and chicken paprikosh that her Mother made was a Punjab style meal to impress him! She never told him otherwise.  The world of love and cuisine uniting cultures is not just anecdotal , it is a reality.

 

PANEER

Time to make the cheese! Prep time is in two 15 minute sections, setting time is 3 hours and resting time is 8 hours. You will need a deep, stainless steel 6 to 8 quart pot, cheesecloth (a must for any kitchen) or damp handkerchief, yarn, slotted spoon, broad kitchen spoon, colander or strainer, milk and lemon juice. Seriously, the first stage is that minimalist. Follow directions exactly, the research is done so now for the easy part. Use the curd for the cheese, the whey is the liquid part of the dairy. You can keep reusing the whey each time you make cheese by adding the reserved whey to each preparation.  Fresh cheese is very easy, BUT you must be completely sanitary and precise. It may seem detailed but in reality it is simply a set of precise motions that become second nature, like making Southern biscuits, yeast rolls and cinnamon buns. 32 ounces milk ($2)makes 8 ounces fresh cheese ($12 in store). Use ONLY whole milk, skim and low fat will not make proper curd.

 MAKING THE CHEESE CURD

8 cups whole milk, anything less will not work

1 1/2 tablespoons each lemon juice, lime juice

In deep, heavy bottomed pot heat milk on medium to scald temperature or of 180 degrees. Slowly move the large spoon back and forth in the pot. As milk begins to foam add the juice one tablespoon at a time (10 minutes). Immediately remove from the heat and continue to move the spoon. You will see the curds and whey separate. The whey is watery and greenish yellow. Cover and let cool for 10 minutes.

The separation will be noticeable. Fold the cheesecloth into four layers and set it inside of the colander. Leave enough room to tie the cloth around the curd. Use a flat spider spoon or slotted spoon and lift the curd out of the pan. Place curd in cheesecloth. Save the whey for next time to use as the active acid solution.

Hold the curd bundle under warm water for 10 seconds to rinse off any whey. Gently squeeze the cloth around the curd to release any remaining liquid/moisture.

Drain for ten minutes. Place curd bundle on cutting board and roll it around to shape into a block or cylinder shape. Roll into shape in cloth. Drain for 3 hours.

After 3 hours unwrap the cheese and set on cutting board. Line plastic wrap with paper towels and roll the cheese into a cylinder shape. Refrigerate overnight.

SAVORY

Combine cheese curd with ½ teaspoon salt and 8th teaspoon rice vinegar. Press cheese over and over until it is soft and smooth. Shape into small discs.

SAUTE

1 tablespoon clarified butter or ghee

Heat on very low for 30 seconds each side. Remove and drain. Use for bruschetta, tomato sandwiches, for spicy bean dishes, light snack.

SWEET

1 tablespoon orange blossom water

3 tablespoons jaggery, date palm sugar, turbinado or light bright sugar

8 ounces water

If you want to color the cheese mix food color in bowl and hand press dye and cheese until soft and consistent. Shape cheese into small balls. Poach temperature is 150 degrees. Remove, drain and arrange on plates or serving trays. Sprinkle powdered sugar, cinnamon, allspice or cardamom for extra flavor.

Fresh cheese can also be used for dip, sandwiches, bruschetta and for adding to cooked pulses/beans/dhal. Eat with assorted breads, fruits, cured meats, olive oil and fruit vinegars. That was fun, wasn’t it? Please give fresh cheese making a go of it, you will be amazed and surprised at how much you can do with either paneer or dehin. Fresh cheese is for all cultures. Be warm, kind and loving.

Waking up from late summer hibernation,

Smile, she moves a little closer,

Seems the leaves have all dried up

And the yard is covered in sweet gum grenades,

Too hot to barbecue, fish or garden.

Song choices on the stereo are Blues fixed

And full of Southern hollers, songs of

No work dustbowl days in the 1930s.

Doc Boggs: “used to be a rambler,

Courting Pretty Polly, her beauty

Never been found…there she stands,

So come take a walk with me.”

And I feel the same way, we have our own

Burning long dog days, looking for my

Pretty Polly and sweet cornbread, ha!

A plate to fill and a life to sing,

Looking for a way to make the nights cooler,

To fill them all with food, art

And this world that I call love.

Curious, food, change, a moment contained


Curious, food, change, a moment contained
by H Lamar Thomas on Thursday, July 28, 2011 at 10:15pm

Repetition of the same, culture to food, the fun is creating trends, bad part is breaking them, worst part about trends is that by the time they are a presence the bland repetition has taken hold and what was bold is plasticized and reduced to imitation. Constant influx of change & progression, like soul to fire, keeps this regeneration going so that it is electric and evolving. Sameness, imitation, becomes a reduced thing rather than evolving. Boring. You get a smile and a slice of what has become lifeless and exists on the palate as cardboard to a tree. It ends up in chains, nationalized and Applebied/Chilied/ where the publicity is greater than the product. The schools pump out body after body unable to produce in a pressurized environment but fully capable of using the catch words of a kitchen or other workplace. Having an attitude does not necessarily express having skills and creativity. There is an alarming sense of “reductio” occurring that takes for granted the palate and expertise of a dining public. I see chain restaurants as the enemy. In a world of creation and destruction I think they do more harm than good. We do not have to like something because we are told we have to like it. We explored the world, built civilizations, brought together foods and ingredients unheard of before exploration and chance was taken, melded languages and people, traveled the face of the moon and of the genome out of adventure, science and curiosity. There is a safety in sameness, it is what makes for iconic cuisines and dishes, but it takes creativity and the daring to break free of the mold in order to design hits and misses, icons and phantoms.

You eat something and don’t like it, then are told that something must be wrong with your palate, that perhaps your tastes are not educated. I have seen some people even become angry when one does not like a dish or cuisine. We are supposed to have “tastes”. The stagnation is what makes this mummification of food movements happen. People become too secure in what was once a dynamic. Nothing wrong with steak and potatoes, but there is if it is not prepared in a delicious and journeyman way. We all get hung up on a few things and that is what gives us comfort food. Comfort food comforts because it gives a sense of warmth and familiarity. But if it is poorly prepared or doused with preservatives then it becomes the antithesis of comfort. A perfect biscuit is a thing of everlasting delicious beauty. The wheel has been invented, we just need to keep spinning it, pushing it beyond safe corners and back out into the open. No need to have the same aggressive ingredient(s) throughout a menu, but there does need to be a balanced way of using the ingredients at hand so that the diner does not become bored or jaded by sub par experiences. Want to know a culture? Study its breads and doughs.

Food reflects a society. As the Great Recession continues to throttle our economies the world of cuisine is held in check. When times are good great cuisines flourish, when the times decline our cuisines do so as well. Great food does not have to be expensive. It’s OK that there is a breathing time, but if it goes on too long then we strangle the greatness out of a dish or cuisine.

I am thinking on the page here. Since I am a Chef and a writer, and that I am driven by an insatiable curiosity and desire for great dishes I am concerned. It keeps me wondering about the state of food in these unstable times. If we are to pinpoint something that expresses the zeitgeist of our times by way of food, then what would that thing be? The first for me is that we fully and dynamically utilize local farming, ranching and support sustainable seafood harvesting. Second, that the food is prepared well and it defines the restaurant, that it is the concept not the mirror of the concept. Sincerely. Look at it without irony or prearranged jaded-ness. As an example, we have an almost Platonic ideal of what a hamburger is, so how is that essence best represented? (I started thinking about this after an episode of Parks And Recreation actually! and there was a theme about the best burger)

India, part one, The Brave Hearted Will Take The Bride, Then We Spoke of Andhra, Punjab and Bengal Cuisines


THE BRAVE HEARTED WILL TAKE THE BRIDE,

THEN WE SPOKE OF ANDHRA, PUNJAB AND BENGAL CUISINES

Food is one of the many things where if you cannot go to the birthplace you can at least find it in books, restaurants and friends. When I told a friend of mine that I was exploring the cuisines of the India by studying several cookbooks (seven so far) and dining out she suggested that I go to India. I do not have the money. “You can go there on the cheap.” I was hungry to learn now, so to the books I traveled and found the world of Indian Cuisines. It would be great to travel the world in an endless feast of cuisines, sights and love of the people.

Cookbooks, poetry and history open doors that would otherwise remain closed. India is an open book of secrets, sometimes easy and sometimes daunting. How fun is that? Lots, lots of fun. So if you lived or traveled there feel free to judge or take pleasure in this presentation. My Mother lived in and traveled a good bit throughout India. She tells great stories . I love retelling them. Her impressions and those of my friends led to this fascination.

After my Mother, I happily dedicate this to a romantic and idealized couple, Richard  and Sujauta Winfield, Professor of Philosophy and Attorney. Here is a couple who met, fell in love and married in spite of the protests from her family about marrying an American intellectual. He is brave and philosophical to her beauty and brilliance, and that equals Romantic! They are as in love today as when they first met. They are an inspiration. Hers was the first home style Hindustan Andhra vegetarian appetizers I had experienced. Over the years I have eaten in many Indian style restaurants but hers remains the memory. Whenever I have served them I present a treat at the start of the meal as a way to show my continued love and admiration. Usually it is mango in some form or another. A king of fruits, the mango adapts to all cuisines and preparations. I’ve made mango BBQ sauces, salads, grilled with fresh cheese, ceviche and pickles. Always remember that fruit and cheese reach across thousands of years of world cuisines. There is never anything odd about the pairing of a fruit (from melon, tomato, grapes to mango) with cheese. Mango with a bit of fresh cheese is amazing. So, Mother, Richard and Sujauta, this is for you. I hope that here and in future explorations I represent y’all well.

 

The first challenge was one of choosing regions. India is Asian and that there are things that carry across cultures from the sub continent to Korea. The cuisines of India includes: Pakistan, India, Kashmir, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and western Myanmar. Hindu India has a history of Muslim and British influence and occupation so the foods reflect this part of their history. We seek at all times to make the unfamiliar familiar. The foods of the South are spicy hot so that you perspire or cool off and the foods of the North so that the heat is warming, the same as for our Hemisphere. There are 33 regional Indian Cuisines. Yes, 33.

The following are distinct cuisines: Gujarat, Punjab (includes western Pakistan and is called “Land of Five Rivers. Mostly vegetarian but it is where tandoori cooking originated so some meats), Bengal (rice and fish), Kerala (Syrian Christian & Muslim immigrants includes meats), Parsis (Zoroastrian immigrants includes meats, small population in Mumbai), Andhra and Dakshin both Hindu of  southern India, Assam (Northeast includes fish and fowl), Goa (below Mumbai and is influenced by Arabian sea, Portuguese and Hindu), most of the distinctions between cuisines are religion based as in Hindu: Vegetarian and Muslim to Christian: non vegetarian and vegetarian. The lack of refrigeration means that fresh and local are not marketing terms, they are the way of existence. Practically every herb is a culinary herb so explore the options. It is with great pleasure that we all read, cook and admire cuisines for what they are and what they represent.

Bengal, Andhra and a touch of Punjab styles today. This is the first of a set of columns on Indian cuisines adapted to Georgia and Carolina kitchens. It is a venture of intellect, body and passion. Worcestershire, chutney, samosas (stuffed and fried breads), Basmati rice, rice pudding, curry and cinnamon are all from India.

Condiments are part of every meal, this includes pickles, chutneys, nuts, oils and clarified butter (ghee), breads and basmati rice or sweet potatoes. The parantha bread is in the family of pliable flat breads found in China, Ethiopia and Mediterranean Turkey, Lebanon and Israel; chapati is similar to puffy, toasted tortillas. The meals are generally not in stages, they are presented on trays at once with all of the necessary condiments. Chutney is not exactly always the Major Greys jam–like preparation. I was happy to find that they do relate in ways to pesto and spreads as well as chopped fruit style.

Legumes (pulses and grams) such as lentils, chick peas, pigeon peas, soy beans, mung beans and yellow lentils comprise a large part of the diet. Basmati rice is long and light starch. A lot of flour is made with these legumes and rice instead of the wheat flour style of our culture. We will be using brown rice and soy flour.

Eggplant with yogurt; basmati rice; cilantro chutney; mango pickles, red salt and cucumber shrimp cakes; pistachios in pepper oil; rose water lassi is our meal today. It is much easier than it seems. Organization is the key, the rest falls into place. All but two things can be made ahead of time. These recipes serve four.

MUSTARD OIL

This is a general purpose cooking and seasoning oil.

6 ounces Corn oil

15 black peppercorns

½ teaspoon mustard seeds

1 bay leaf

5 Sichuan peppercorns (optional)

Heat but do not cook over 150 degrees for ten minutes. Strain through cheesecloth and set aside. After it cools, cover and keep in refrigerator till use.

PISTACHIO

Shell 12 pistachios per person. Toast in one ounce mustard oil until the color of the nuts begins to tan. Strain. Reserve oil to use as condiment.

 

GARAM MASALA

‘Garam masala’ means hot spice blend. Like curry, there are many combinations of ingredients. The ingredients, along with ground red pepper make up the common spice wheel used in many regions. They are stored in small round metal containers in a round serving tray. No pantry storage, just the wheel and when they are emptied it is time to replenish. I make my own garam masala this way, but it can be purchased. In addition to the following spices I will sometimes add a bit of fenugreek and turmeric to give it a more curry style flavor. Combine and lightly toast.

1/3rd teaspoon Coriander

½ teaspoon Ginger

1/3rd teaspoon Black pepper

1/4th  teaspoon each: Cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves

GHEE

1 pound unsalted butter

Cut butter in 4 ounce pieces. Melt on medium heat in high sided pan. Once it has melted take off of the heat and let cool. Refrigerate in plastic container. After it has hardened lift solid out of container and pour off the water. Scrape off the top milky layer and discard. The yellow solid is the clarified butter or ghee. It can be heated completely on the stove top until the water evaporates. Do not use this method unless you are with someone who has clarified butter before.

BASMATI RICE

Basmati has a scent of roasting almonds. Great cooked in any style from pilaf to boiled. Cook rice in the water only. After it has cooked mix the butter and spice together and serve in small bowls at each plate for the diner to add as they wish.

½ cup basmati rice

1 cup cold water

½ teaspoon garam masala

1 ounce ghee (clarified butter, can substitute corn oil or olive oil)

CHUTNEY

Chutneys of Hindustan are different from what we use in the West. It was a treat to find their similarity to western pesto.

Make the cilantro chutney in a mortar and pestle in order to keep the integrity of the cilantro intact and to release just the right amount of oils from the crema without it separating. Mexican crema, a kind of crème fraiche, instead of making fresh cheese.

½ cup cilantro

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon roasted red chili peppers in corn oil

1 tablespoon +1 teaspoon Mexican crema

¼ teaspoon fine red sea salt

½ teaspoon lime juice

Combine and press together in a mortar and pestle until it is not quite smooth. Serve in small bowl or large spoon next to fish cakes.

EGGPLANT

Either the Japanese long style or ball shaped Indian eggplant is perfect for this dish. Peel the eggplant.

16 slices eggplant, thin slices

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

½ teaspoon ground coriander

½ teaspoon paprika

½ teaspoon pink sea salt

2 tablespoons soy flour

1 ounce corn oil

4 thick slices tomato

Combine spices and sprinkle both sides of eggplant. After you sprinkle the seasoning on it let the slices sit for 15 minutes, then gently press with paper towel. Flour and sauté. Serve on top of tomato.

SHRIMP CAKES

This is our Bengal representative. The Bangladesh/Bengal and Coastal areas use shrimp quite a bit so I am using shrimp for this recipe. Whenever possible use Georgia Coastal shrimp.

16 ounces shrimp, chopped

2 ounces brown rice flour or mung bean flour

½ teaspoon granulated red sea salt

½ teaspoon serrano pepper, finely chopped

1 teaspoon ginger, peeled and minced

1 tablespoon lemon, juice

2 ounces cucumber, chopped

2 ounces corn oil or ghee

1 ounce brown rice flour, for dusting

Combine ingredients and pat into 8 small cakes. Dust with rice flour. Sauté on medium heat, turn four times until almost crisp. Internal Temperature will be 160 degrees. Serve on top of crisp lettuce leaves.

MANGO PICKLES

16 slices mango, peeled, thick sliced

2 ounces sweet pickle juice from the jar

2 ounces Shaoxing Chinese cooking wine

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon mustard seeds

1 bay leaf, crushed

Combine and store in jar in refrigerator overnight.

LASSI

2 cups greek yogurt

2 cups almond milk

1 tablespoon rose or orange blossom water

2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

10 ice cubes

Puree smooth. Serve immediately in cold glasses.

ROASTED PEPPERS

Make your own or buy a jar of roasted red peppers to serve as a condiment. If making your own combine, red bell pepper and banana chili pepper with 1 ounce corn oil and 1 ounce ghee. Wrap in aluminum foil and roast 400 degrees for 30 minutes.

Set up your serving trays for each person. Keep items separate. Serve flat bread of your choice.  Talk and eat. Share the love.

Sitting on the front porch,

Holding hands watching the sun set,

Over our herb and flower garden:

The scent of roses, tomatoes,

rosemary and geraniums,

Alone and together they rise,

The smell of the South in August.

Sort of like washing up

On a steamy beach and finding

New worlds waiting,

New worlds free of greed and prejudice,

No slander, war and lies,

This banquet of life,

This humanity,

This place we call our own,

All things can be fresh, pure,

Beauty is always around us,

Beauty is always near.

I am glad you here,

Here in our own perfumed garden.

Country Ribs, Catfish and Smoking Big Green Egg


CATFISH, RIBS AND A SMOKING GRILL
Ever think about how funny it feels to crank up the grill when the temperature of the sun is the same as the thermostat? To stand by the grill is a position of honor, and yet it can be the sweatiest place in the land. But that’s the way it is when the werewolf days (formerly dog days) come rolling in on hot rocks and humid soil. We just burn, take note though that we do not burn pork or beef ribs, catfish and Nathan’s Franks. For all the right reasons we love living in the heart of the South. Keeping cool after a full day of imitating race horses and farm mules is not easy.
The grill calls like a beloved, you want to sit in front of the AC vents, the grill just sits and waits, a still life with wonder, a callous pioneer of ceramic and steel. So we answer the siren of the back yard and promise all a smoke blessed dinner of Georgia and North Carolina, two of my three favorite states, the other being Northern California, a state into itself. Menu is: pork ribs and catfish, figs and peaches, tomatoes and Vidalia onions, jalapeno and poblano peppers.
If you do not have catfish from your family fisherman you can find Vietnamese swai or basa and Southern farmed catfish in the grocery stores now. Swai and basa are farmed Asian river catfish. Swai has been served by many restaurants of questionable nature as grouper for grouper sandwiches or as steamed grouper. When you see a value meal or low priced grouper sandwich the bet is on that it is not grouper and is in fact swai. Grouper is not inexpensive anymore and has not been for a few years.
This deceit of breed is a favorite find for investigative reports on TV and in food journals. Kind of like restaurants that sell farmed perch (tilapia) from China instead of Central American or Texas farmed. The difference is significant. Perch/tilapia is a delicious fish. Izumi dai tilapia raised in near cesspool conditions with questionable feed just does not taste very good. Not all tilapia is alike and not all catfish is alike. Buyer be aware of what you are doing. Tilapia is a herbivore so it is not fatty and really does have a slight green vegetable flavor, as with catfish a buttermilk marinade will smooth out the flavors. Both are sustainable and that is ALWAYS a good thing. Seafood Choices Alliance lists American farmed catfish as a best choice and swai as a good alternative.
Our other star of the sunset grill are country pork ribs. The big rich meaty and fatty jewels of the rib family. Ribs love a marinade and a hot smoke even more. We will be using coconut and tamarind juices in our marinade for the ribs. Stop it, don’t even complain that you can’t find these ingredients. They are right there in Fooks, Asian grocery, any Super Mercado or in the Latin/Asian section of most grocery stores.
You can make your own coconut milk with shredded coconut and water. That is how canned coconut milk is made, from by pressing and squeezing the water and coconut together through a cheese cloth. Tamarind water and paste is made by running warm water over tamarind and separating the seed from the flesh. Throw away the seed and mix the tamarind and water together into a paste. It is that easy. It is also easy to buy a can of coconut milk and a can of tamarind juice. Worcestershire sauce is made with tamarind. So it is not unfamiliar to you, just by name, by name and a few spices. In Thai grocery stores you will see tamarind labeled as candy. It is used for making soft drinks, candy, British condiments, sauces and marinades. The flavor is in the neighborhood of lemons and limes. Young coconut juice and tamarind juice are healthy and refreshing as a summer drink should be.
MASTER GUIDE FOR ALL GRILL/SMOKING OR KETTLE GRILLING:
Prepare your grill with 10 to 12 pieces chunk hickory and apple, or pecan and cherry wood and charcoal chunks. You will also need two cups of fruit wood chips soaked over night in water and then loosely wrapped in aluminum foil. Cook the charcoals to gray. Place the aluminum foil wrapped chips on top of the coals. Grill screen 12 to 18 inches from heat source. When the wood chips start to smoke then begin grilling.
Be careful not to let the pork burn so regulate how much air enters the base of the grill to a minimum, and frequently turn the meat. Total grill time is about an hour for fast and 8 hours for slow smoke. During the last five minutes of grilling brush the marinade on the meat. I have smoked ribs and briskets for up to 12 hours. Pork ham took 20 hours for my best friends’ wedding and it was the best I ever cooked. Avoid the little no match charcoal briquettes, use real wood charcoal and wood. The best smoke flavor comes from the best ingredients. Treated coals will ruin a ceramic smoker like Big Green Egg, Komodo and Primo.
The smoke matters so choose wood to compliment what you are cooking.
PORK RIBS, PEACHES, FIGS AND POBLANO PEPPERS
Recipes are for 4 people . Cut the rib meat in three slices keeping it on the bone. This allows smoke and marinade for short cook time and flavor. Grill temperature will be 250 degrees. Cook ribs to 165 degree internal temperature.
5 pounds pork short ribs/country ribs
2 ounces corn oil
6 ounces soy sauce
6 ounces tamarind juice
6 ounces young coconut juice
4 ounces apple cider vinegar
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 ounces ginger, sliced long ways
1 onion, chopped
4 ounces honey
2 ounces maple syrup
Combine, add ribs and marinade overnight in sealed plastic container.
Reserve one cup marinade for the sauce. Mix the reserved with 5 ounces ketchup. Heat 20 minutes medium low heat and brush on ribs during last 15 minutes smoking.
4 peaches, cut in half and remove the stone
12 figs, whole (pig with fig!)
1 poblano pepper cut in 8 squares
1 Vidalia onion, peeled, cut in four pieces
Remove pork from marinade and grill for 30 minutes per side turning them four times. Keep the lid closed on the smoker grill between turns.
Grill onion and peppers for 20 minutes, grill fruits for ten minutes.
Serve with favorite slaw, grilled corn on the cob and grilled potatoes.
BUTTERMILK CATFISH, JALAPENO AND TOMATOES
The buttermilk marinade removes the pond flavor and fills it with the medium fatty and smooth taste we look for in fresh water fish. Catfish loves to be fried but properly treated it is a great grill fish as well.
24 ounces catfish (or swai), cut into 8 small steaks
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
Combine and marinade 4 hours to overnight (12 hours). Remove and shake off the marinade. Discard marinade. Set catfish on paper towels. Sprinkle again with Bay Seafood seasoning.
Grill temperature to 400 degrees. Grill 5 minutes per side turning four times.
Serve with onion hush puppies, tartar sauce, sliced tomatoes and jalapenos.
Thanks, keep cool and truly love the ones you’re with.

Everywhere around wild fruits
are racing with tomatoes
to see who ripens first,
leaves reach star-ward,
roots dig further and further
deeper down,
and we watch:
Hoping
the water and light
are just enough
just enough for the perfect
black Cherokee tomato,
just enough for long beans
and roses, Anaheim peppers,
basil, rosemary, garlic,
you name it,
Just enough for you and I
to bet on which will ripen first,
which green tomato is fried
and which lives another day.
This is the life, summer love
and patient love swinging
on the porch together at dusk.

Watermelon Tuna, Scallop Ceviche and Fried Chicken Thighs


LOOK HOMEWARD, CHEF

What does it mean to approach food from a perspective? When we eat new foods and spices do we feel a rush of excitement? Is the unknown enticing? We start out with the basic set of senses for taste and texture. Sense of taste changes every decade or less. What was repulsive at 12 is a culinary siren at 30 and beyond. If all a person eats is canned or frozen then fresh is going to taste odd. If all we eat is fresh and clean, then it follows that  foods heavily processed (preservatives, color agents, chemical or radiation treated) are practically indigestible.  Part of the work of a chef is to bring the diner around into overcoming prejudice, the rest is to provide delicious.

We will be preparing tuna with melon, pecans, horseradish, sushi ginger and rice vinegar; bay scallop gazpacho; fried chili chicken with sweet gherkin pickles, orange zest and pickled peppers. Each dish symbolizes how we look homeward and outward at the same time without losing our identity or our culinary heritage. All recipes are for 2 people.

Once prejudice is removed then all it takes is a set of well prepared and presented ingredients to open the great gates of world cuisine. For me, I come from the perspective of a traveling Georgian, a deep South Southerner who has lived on both Coasts as well as Mackinac Island, MI with an all too brief time with Chefs in Shanghai. The good part is that I was raised in a home free of prejudice, both in life and in food. I began my apprenticeship when my sense of the world was still forming. These experiences infuse my food. Use your life as a part of your food.

Shop local, love the farms in your surrounding counties, buy clean meats and sustainable seafood. Northern California was almost all local as far back as the late 1970s. Georgia is making great progress and the Athens Locally Grown group is the prime example of how Georgia can make it work. If not local such as black peppercorns or salt, oranges or vinegar, then buy in quantities you will soon use in a relatively short amount of time. Dried herbs and spices do lose flavor with age. Use your own experiences to understand what quantities you will need. It is not the fault of the innocent spice if it is not used. Support the restaurants and grocers who are truthful and who care, the food will reveal this attention to ingredients.

Examples of fried chicken around the world: Nouvelle fried in walnut oil with orange zest in the breading, Sichuan with prickly ash and wild mushrooms, Korean with panko and sweet persimmon vinegar  and back again to slow fried in peanut oil or lard the way my Grandmother did from the Great Depression on into the modern age. As a note, oven fried is very good, use mayonnaise or brown mustard after dusting with flour to coat the chicken, roll in bread crumbs and then bake “oven fry”.

Combinations of ingredients can move a dish from Georgia to the Caucasus’ to the  Indian Ocean with the ease of one or two spice changes. Once one understands that wasabi, horseradish and mustards are all members of the cabbage family then it becomes obvious that this ingredient can be switched around with relative ease in such a way that we can have potatoes (Original Home: PERU), tomatoes, seafood or beef given a lift with a small shaving of any of the popular cabbages (the World), be it wasabi or horseradish. An open mind does change our perceptions and opens life in ways far beyond the culinary.

Hence the adventure begins. ALL food is fusion, is world cuisine, is rooted in a geographical place and is extended to new lands as human migration takes place historically and today. Think about the Southern debt to Africa, France, Latin American and the British Isles in the creation of Southern Cuisine. It took about 225 years but it did take and is still evolving.

GAZPACHO

We all have a favorite gazpacho. Some people just do not like cold soup. Convince them it is just a cold appetizer for a hot day. This recipe has bay scallops because they are sweet, delicious and easy to prepare. They are also easy to ruin so follow cook times exactly. Overcooked they taste like erasers. Remember high school, chewing on the end of your #2 pencil during the SAT? That kind of taste, yeah.

If very fresh they can be added raw to the soup when you put it in the refrigerator. The acids from the ingredients will cook it in the same way that ceviche is cooked. This process is called denaturing.  If you do feel comfortable with this then poach the scallops, shrimp or seafood you are using.

Do not use any kind of food processor or blender for the vegetables, no matter how much you want to just drop it all in and hit “start”, don’t do it. Mince by had. Keep the integrity of the ingredients intact. Respect the integrity of your foods. Processed they become irregular and lose their juices. The liquid for your gazpacho is from the tomato juice and ice cubes not from processed vegetables.

INGREDIENTS

4 ounces red bell peppers, seeded, no pith, minced

2 ounces red onions, minced

6 ounces tomatoes, seeded, no pith, minced

3 ounces cucumber, peeled, seeded, minced

1 ounce pomegranate vinegar

¼ teaspoon garlic, fresh, very thinly shaved with a microplane

1 tablespoon parsley, chopped

1/4th  teaspoon black pepper, coarse

1/3rd teaspoon coarse sea salt

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 cup tomato juice

4 ice cubes

2 ounces bay scallops, poached ONE minute, temperature is 160 degrees

3 ounces water

3 ounces apple juice

Poach and chill.

AT SERVICE ADD:

8 garlic croutons

2 leaves cilantro

¼ teaspoon Cholula or Srirracha

Your choice: ½ ounce per bowl tequila (optional)

Prepare cold ingredients.

Chill for 4 hours and no longer than 3 days before eating. As it rests the flavors will finish combining, this is cold cooking. The seafood cooks the whole time it is in the soup. If you will not eat the soup the day you make it then add the scallops a couple of hours before dining. The raw flavors are what makes gazpacho so perfect for summer. Healthy and refreshing.

PECAN AND MELON TUNA

Buy what is called “saku block” tuna. It is frozen as all tuna is because of regulations regarding histamines in tuna. Law is that it is frozen 72 hours at Zero degrees Fahrenheit. This can be purchased at Asian grocers. The combinations in this dish give an charming sense of cool ocean sides and backyard under the elms and magnolia. Tuna and watermelon are a match made for the modern palate, perfectly combing salt, sour, wood and sweet with the added attraction of umami (delicious, fifth flavor) by way of green tea.

INGREDIENTS

4 ounces Yellowfin tuna, slice paper thin while partially frozen

1 tablespoon Sushi ginger, chopped

1 tablespoon Sweet rice vinegar

8 Pecans halves, toasted

2 ounces Watermelon, thinly sliced, cut in thin strips

3 leaves Basil

1/8th teaspoon Green tea leaves

1/4th teaspoon Lime juice

¼ teaspoon Wasabi paste

1/8 teaspoon Sea salt

Shave the tuna as thin as possible. Doing this while it is partially frozen makes the task very easy. Except for the pecans everything in this dish is sliced thin. Make all preparations and chill.

When it is time to serve rub an 1/8th of a teaspoon of wasabi paste on each plate. Place watermelon tuna in a small mound in center of plate. Garnish with pecans. Sprinkle sea salt over the watermelon tuna. If you want to make it more of a salad use spinach or mizuna greens as a base under the watermelon tuna.

WATERMELON TUNA BITES

This is my absolute favorite amusee or sashimi presentation. Again, it meets all criteria for the five flavors of hot, sour, salty, sweet and umami (delicious/mouth watering).  Buy the sushi ginger, tobiko (seasoned flying fish roe) and nori (dried seaweed) at any Asian grocer or Earthfare. The purpose of the flavors is to present the sense of standing on the beach, this is by way of the combination of ingredients. Eat one, close your eyes and breath.

The tuna, watermelon and nori must be cut in equal sized quarter inch squares.

2 ounces tuna, cut in 6 squares

2 ounces watermelon, cut in 6 squares

1 sheet nori, cut 6 small squares

1 tablespoon tobiko

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

6 sushi ginger, thin slices

1 teaspoon soy sauce

Pour the rice vinegar into a small bowl. Dip your fingertips into the vinegar while making this bite. Pour soy sauce into small bowl. Touch your fingertip into the soy and then on the top of the watermelon; this really is all the soy you need for this dish. Stack:  bottom is tuna, then nori, watermelon, ginger then tobiko in that order with tobiko on top. Set on cold plate. Serve immediately.

FRIED CHICKEN THIGHS

2 Chicken thighs, boneless, skinless

1 cup Buttermilk

1/4th cup Plain Flour

1/5th cup Cold Water

1/3rd cup Avery Fried Chicken seasoned flour (Sometimes you just have to give in to a favorite.)

4 Sweet gherkin pickles, cut in half longways

2 cups Peanut oil, heated to 350 degrees before adding meat

1 tablespoon Sliced Pickled peppers

2 teaspoons Orange zest

3 tablespoons Sweet Chili Sauce

6 dashes Cholula

1 ounce Rice vinegar

1/3rd teaspoon kosher salt

Combine in bowl.

Put chicken in 1 cup buttermilk, cover and refrigerate overnight. Remove chicken from buttermilk and drain off excess liquid. Dust with flour and let stand five minutes. Sprinkle thighs with cold water. In a paper or plastic bag shake the chicken with the seasoned flour.

Dust pickles with flour, the water, then in bag with seasoned flour.

Fry chicken for 11 minutes, turn every 2 minutes. Keep oil temperature at 325 degrees. Remove and test temperature for 165 degrees inside the chicken.

Add pickles to oil and fry for two minutes at 350 degrees. Remove and drain.

Put chicken in bowl with peppers, orange and sauces, move it around to make sure that the thighs are covered.

Place one thigh on each plate, then the pickles, pour ingredients from the bowl over the thigh. Serve with your choice of breads.

And there we have a light three course meal for these hot summer days and nights of our beautiful, green and humid Georgia. Thoughts of the great Southern writer, Thomas Wolfe stayed with me for this column. No matter how far I travel my home is the South, culinary, spiritually and family. Peace.

Still life moves.

The way the world changes

Is too much sometimes,

And then it slows down

To perfect measures.

A face,

A smile,

An open hand.

Turning everything over,

Revealing lives together

By a grove of purple plums,

We move into the shade

Of giant tulip maple trees

And cool by the road,

Like this

For more than awhile.

And so we are.

Yeah,

A life

A grace

An open love.

SAYING WELCOME Y’ALL IT’S TIME TO EAT WITH RIB EYES, BEAN TAMALES AND HONEY BISCUITS


SAYING WELCOME Y’ALL IT’S TIME TO EAT

WITH RIB EYES, BEAN TAMALES AND HONEY BISCUITS

 

Spring is running head on into Summer where we have temperatures in the high 80s and midnight thunder storms. Even before we finish emptying that last bag of Rebel rye and fescue grass the trucker tan hits and we all have funny half red arms. This is the time for attacking mosquito breeding waters and carpenter bees in the rafters. Time to fertilize the tomato and pepper plants. Singing Sound Of Music “getting to know you” to the cashiers at Cofers and Home Depot. This is the time to clean out the grills and back yard smokers like Weber Kettle, Brinkman Capsules and best of all, the Big Green Egg.

Marinade the rib eye steaks, make a steak sauce, soak the corn husks, simmer the corn meal and chicken for tamales, and lastly, make the best biscuits in all of World Cuisine. Today we stand here in our South and say hello to the borders on all sides, reach out an open hand say “yes, share my peace, enjoy the day.”

We will prepare inside and finish the meal outside. Any grill will do but

only two will bring out the best of your hickory, apple or cherry wood. Like the dirt our produce is grown in, the wood smoke matters for that perfect taste of our terra terroir. If not for the wild soil then where would our Vidalia onions be?

Georgia dirt has flavor. The smoke we use to cook has flavor. The grass our cows eat add flavor. The soil is central to how flavor evolves in a dish. And the Sun, that beautiful burning star, it is everything to our farms and ranches whether full on in the Dog Days or hidden behind the welcome rains, it is everything to our harvest.

Keep in mind that food goes beyond ‘you are what you eat’ in that it becomes ‘you are what you eat eats.’ Prejudice is the greatest enemy to the evolution of cuisine. Cooks enhance and build, manipulate heat and cold, structure salt and oil so that we taste what is best about a protein and what is best about that day. Eating a melon, tomato or jalapeno raw right beside the plant is about as good as it gets. After that it is up the cook in the kitchen to find what is best and bring it forth.

Practice this mantra when friends ask how you are doing: “How’s it going?” “Great, except I don’t have a Big Green Egg.” “You cooking out tonight?” “Yeah, I guess so. It would better if I had a Weber Kettle or a Big Green Egg.” I am not paid to name names, not paid at all actually, but I sure love pointing out products and places that are sure things and have good people. Recently I was out on my back deck at 1 a.m. finishing up a hickory-apple wood smoked hen and flax seed enhanced biscuits. My neighbor, Randy, came home from his job as Sous Chef at the University Center for Continuing Education. They do a lot for our NE Georgia farms there with an all sustainable Friday every week. We talked deck to deck over the honeysuckle fence. Dogs barking across back yards like dominoes falling, kinda funny as the barks change from hound to beagle to distant Labrador to silence and then they start all over again. We shared hellos and how fun it is to stay up late when the food is so perfect, so delicious. Just relaxation, the stars and unhurried preparation.

I move the tamales to center heat, adjust the bread stone to bring the biscuits home. Close it and open the baffles to increase the heat to 500~. 10 minute biscuits. A little bit more to cook the tamales through and through. The steaks are on the shy side of 5 minutes in this heat. Then the apple wood smoke curls and waves bye-bye as I lift the steaks off the grill. That’s all it takes, just a few minutes. But what a wonderful few minutes. Prepare in the kitchen during the dusk hours, set it all aside and wait for night to grow a bit cooler. Light the wood and wait for the smoke. That’s all it takes. Just a grill and your love.

APPLE WOOD RIB EYE WITH DR PEPPER STEAK SAUCE

Check the butcher section of your favorite market. Ask the guys behind the counter which rib eyes they recommend for grilling. Grass fed gives a leaner, omega 3 rich and hormone clean steak, which I have grown to prefer. Corn fed will be more marbled and juicier. It all depends on what you are in the mood for in your beef. We build up the flavor with the smoke and sauce. You can always melt a slice of Irish or Plugra butter to bring that delicious fat flavor up in the grass fed. Our New Classic American is the Black Angus whereas Hereford are generally the ones for grass fed. There are some amazing farms promoting true all natural Black Angus grass fed and hormone free that is from right here in Georgia off of the Will Harris Ranch. Grass fed has higher Omega 3 than wild salmon. How about that for good tasting and good for you? This is the South, Georgia style.

Soak two pounds of apple wood chunks in water overnight. Use hickory as the base wood for your grill and the apple wood for the extra heat and flavor. The tamales will take the longest to cook at 30 minutes with the temperature no more than 200 degrees. After 30 minutes adjust so that the temperature goes up to 500 degrees. When it is time to cook the steaks and biscuits the biscuits go on first. Remove the biscuits and the bread stone and brush the grill with corn or peanut oil. Add the steaks and close the lid. Two minutes. Turn the steaks and baste with the sauce. Close the lid. Two minutes later check for temperature and let it go to your desired doneness. For me a good grass fed steak is done at 115 degrees or rare. Well done will be at 150 degrees.

DALE-BERRY MARINADE

2, 12 ounce                                    rib eye steaks, look for good fat content in the tail

Set aside.

4 ounces                                    cranberry-pomegranate juice

3 ounces                                    Dale’s steak marinade

1 two inch stalk                        rosemary, pull leaves off the stem, put all in marinade

2 cloves                                    garlic, crushed and chopped

1 tablespoon                                    black pepper, crushed

1 ounce                                    extra virgin olive oil

Whisk together and pour into glass or plastic container. Submerge the steaks and cover with plastic wrap pressed down on the liquid. Wrap top of container again in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for only two hours.

 

DR PEPPER STEAK SAUCE

4 ounce                                    Dr. Pepper

1.5  ounce                                    Worcestershire

1 ounce                                    Soy sauce

3 ounce                                    Apple juice

1 ounce                                    Balsamic vinegar

1 ounce                                    Raisins

3 ounces                                    Peaches, fresh, peeled (2 oz if dried)

Soak raisins and peaches overnight in Balsamic. Don’t worry when the fruits will soak up the vinegar.

1 teaspoon                                    Heinz Ketchup, HFCS free

1 clove                                                Garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon                                    Onion, powder

1 teaspoon                                    Chipotle in adobe sauce

1 teaspoon                                    Brown mustard

1 ounce                                    Light brown sugar

2 ounce                                    Honey

1 ounce                                    Molasses

 

Combine and heat on medium. Frequently stir. Cook for 15 minutes. Turn down to low. Stir and cook for 5 more minutes. Transfer to blender and blend on “puree” setting until smooth. Transfer to deep container and let cool uncovered in an ice bath. When it is 40 degrees put it in your refrigerator, uncovered. When it reaches 38 degrees you can cover it. This prevents any kind of bacteria from forming. The home cook must be as careful as the professional when it comes to sauces and dairy products.

When it is time to cook you will glaze the rib eyes after you turn them over. For rare steak on a very hot grill you only need to cook it for two minutes per side. Glaze on the last turn. The smoke will penetrate the meat fairly well when you close the lid.

OAXACA CHICKEN ‘N’ BEAN TAMALES

Moving further along on our world loving supper we will prepare chicken and bean tamales reflecting tastes of the Oaxaca region of South Western Mexico.

Using corn husks and banana leaves for this fine dish. If you don’t have the leaves just use aluminum foil, and if you don’t have husks then wait until another day.

Oaxaca is famous for their variations on mole, an amazing sauce, way of cooking that involves chili peppers and pure chocolate. The region has stayed close to it’s own history. There are many hills and valleys that keep it secluded and somewhat isolated from outside influences. The Oaxacan tamale is characterized by the banana leaf and black beans. Sometimes they will use avocado leaves as a wrap for their tamales.

4                                    corn husks, washed and shaken dry

Set aside.

1 tablespoon                                    butter

3 ounces                                    onion, diced

2 cloves                                    garlic, chopped

3 ounces                                    chicken, thigh, chopped

3 ounces                                    black beans, cooked

2 ounces                                    chicken stock

.5 ounce                                    cilantro, stem and leaves, chopped

.5 ounce                                    guajilla pepper, soaked in warm water and chopped

Sauté the onions and garlic for one minute on high heat, add the chicken and stir. Cook for two minutes. Add the cooked black beans, cilantro and pepper and cook for five minutes on medium low heat. Stir a lot. Add the chicken broth and cook for five more minutes, frequently stir to keep the flavors mixing together and to prevent burning to the pan. Mash the beans and chicken together so that when you have finished it will be a paste. Remove from heat and let stand for a few minutes.

Portion the chicken and bean paste between the four corn husks. Roll into cigar shapes. Wrap again with banana leaf, aluminum foil or avocado leaves, whichever you have available.

Refrigerate until time to grill.

HONEY BISCUITS

You will need granulated honey for these biscuits. You can find it in Korean and Pacific Asian markets, or in gourmet sections of the grocery store. The granulated honey is essential to these biscuits. If you do not have granulated honey you can use fine light brown sugar or grind turbinado sugar in a coffee mill so that it is finely granulated. The honey is the thing though since it cooks into the flour so well.

I have made these with buttermilk and week out of date sweet milk. Sour milk has been used for biscuits since the beginning of biscuit making. I remember mistakenly pouring a glass of milk at my Uncle Joe’s house when I was still a kid and being shocked at the awful sensation! My Aunt Phyllis came running into the kitchen to tell me that was her milk for biscuits. And so my love of sour milk biscuits began….I also use half butter and half Crisco non-transfat vegetable shortening for these perfect fluffs of flour.

If you have never made a biscuit or you were dropped on your head as a child then please pay attention to the directions and do not add baking soda or mush the butter up too much in the dough.

Heat your oven or smoker/grill to 500 degrees. While the oven is heating you can make the biscuit batter.

2 cups            +1 tablespoon            White Lily Self Rising Flour (only White Lily)

.75 cup                                    buttermilk

1 tablespoon                                    granulated honey

2 ounces                                    cold butter cut into pieces the size of oatmeal

2 ounces                                    Crisco cut into small pieces

 

After you cut the butter and Crisco put it back into the refrigerator so that it remains cold. Combine the White Lily self rising flour and honey granules in a medium sized metal mixing bowl. Chop the butter/Crisco into the flour with a knife or pastry whip so that it is barely mixed. There will be little flat pieces of flour. This is how it is supposed to look. Do not mix it in fine or smooth. This is a biscuit not a pastry.

Move the dough into a circle with a well in the middle. Pour the cold buttermilk into the well. Mix the buttermilk and batter together with your hands. Fold it as you go. If it sticks too much to your fingers then add more flour a teaspoon at a time until the flour pulls away from your hands.

Dust a cutting board with a teaspoon of flour and roll the dough out into a quarter inch thick slab. Fold it over twice and then roll again, but not too hard. At this point you want it to be a half inch thick. Using a pastry circle or metal measuring cup push down on the batter to cut biscuits. Do not twist. Push. Making drop or cathead biscuits is perfectly fine if that is what you like, but you will change the cook time by one minute more. Then place the biscuits on the ceramic bread stone or on a pastry pan and cook for 12 minutes. During the last two minutes brush the top of the biscuits with melted butter. They will be light tan, steamy and slightly sweet with crispy (not burnt) bottoms.

And there you have a hot spring supper of tamales, rib eye and honeyed biscuits. Best served with fresh jalapenos, cold sweet tea and slices of honeydew. Doubt you’ll need dessert after this one, just pour a little maple or cane syrup on the biscuits and live it up.

 

 

 

 

Tired of being isolated,

Set aside to season in darkness.

Inside, the house is empty,

Just Doc Boggs on the stereo

Singing to his Pretty Polly,

To sweet cornbread and peach whiskey,

And I join in the play of song and food,

Make Krispy Cream bread pudding

With Fruit Loop Almond Milk,

Top it off with Cheerwine sweet sauce

And steaming hot chicory coffee.

Like magic on cue or a promise met,

She walks in the door

As I pull the foil off of the bread pudding.

And she walks in the door right

As I am singing “I love you yeah yeah yeah”.

She smiles and tastes this days

Expression of past and present,

She smiles and tastes this evolution of now,

Yeah, for her this is glory, dreams realized,

For me it is pure, pure love alive,

Happy we found it in sugary donuts,

These silky charms of our childhood,

Happy I found her in my days of becoming,

Glad that this is not trapped in time…

Beautiful moment: you touch forever.

 

 

 

 

Learning the Charm Of Crock Pots From Kitchen Sink To Cassoulet


LEARNING THE CHARM OF CROCK POTS
FROM KITCHEN SINK TO CASSOULET
Happy New Year and Hello 2011! The black eyed peas and collards have all been eaten and it is time to keep the crock pot out for more great food. We owe a lot to the crock pot or slow cooker. Slow cooker dishes are made for families of one to full sized classic family of five. One pot is good for a week or a big Sunday. They cook smoothly, evenly and by keeping the top on they recycle the liquids. Since no stock is lost to the room it all stays in with the vegetables and meat. By simmering for 6 to 10 hours the meats become very tender and full flavored. Crock pots are excellent for short ribs. There are people who live by the crock pot, and this is dedicated to all of you who love or will love the beauty of a long simmered pot of navy beans/black beans/pinto/, okra, chicken and pork, and the elegantly peasant staple of cassoulet.
When I was getting ready for this I called my friends Don Chambers, Jarad Blanton and then Bryan Redding. I asked what they thought of crock pots. Immediately each said they used them all the time and love ‘em; and of course added that it is in high favor by all Mothers. Enough said. I had to do it. But the problem was how do I make it unique? I do not. The recipes here are classic French cuisine with the cassoulet and classic Southern as in gumbo variations. While shopping I saw that crock pots are now being sold in dual units. Side by side in the same console for optimized slow cooking! This is the way to save money and labor while putting together either a big family meal or a weeks worth of base for one or two people.
Purists put your heavy hand aside as this cassoulet recipe has smoked duck instead of duck confit in the recipe, nor are there copious amounts of thick cut pork belly or fatback, just hickory bacon and olive oil. I have adjusted for a slow cooker style. The rest of the dish is fairly standard in relation to the history of the dish. It is family food, farm food, a celebration of harvest. For us here in the South, crock dishes and cassoulet are festive enough by the very nature of the happy unity of flavors that takes place in the cooker. Winter demands we have big pots of something cooking from venison chili to cassoulet.
STANDARD PANTRY CROCK POT
Here we have the standard “there’s nothing to eat” emptying of the pantry and refrigerator. I know this because I have done this, and what fun it is to find jewels where we thought there were none. Not enough praise can be lain upon a cooking tool like a crock pot. I use a Cuisinart one that is all ceramic. The dual ones that I saw in the store were stainless-aluminum alloy in a polycarbonate cabinet. Pretty impressive stuff and well worth owning if your family needs require that much on going cooking.
The ingredients are not unusual. Everything is seasonally appropriate and if not fresh then dried is always there on the grocers shelves. I use guajilla pepper because the hot background to the fruity aroma adds a good even spicy heat to the dish. The peanuts and dried cranberries came as an after thought. On my second helping I thought that something was missing. This thing is crunch and the citrus sweet of peanuts and cranberries. Call this a gumbo if you want to, add fried crawfish tails to garnish and there you have a salty, crackly, smooth and earthy plate of goodness.
Cook pearled barley ahead of time and add to pot with other ingredients. Cook time for this recipe is 1 hour on high to bring it to a stable 300 degrees, then turn to low, 140 degrees, and cook for 7 hours. Cook a total of 8 hours. You can cook it for up to 10 hours if you want to really intensify the flavors. There are recipes requiring 16 hours time in the slow cooker. Keep covered except when adding ingredients. When using ground meats like our sausage then brown it first, pour off the grease and then add to the crock pot. Thick cut vegetables go into the bottom of the pot. Add fresh herbs and seafood add during last 60-45 minutes. Vinegar based seasonings like Tabasco and Cholula will get bitter so stick to the dried and fresh peppers. Do not uncover, between seasoning, just let the crock pot do the job it was made to do.
There is no “reducing” of liquids in a crock pot because the liquid recycles back down into the pot. Do not fill more than two inches from the top. Every time you lift the cover add an additional 20 minutes to your cook time. Do not stir after it starts cooking. Slow cooking is that sensitive! It is not merely mix and walk away, there really are techniques. Do not think of the crock pot as a place to empty straight from freezer to pot. Do not do it. Adding frozen foods to an already cooking crock pot is one of the things that causes intestinal discomfort, i.e. food poisoning. Best solution is to use fresh vegetables only and if you are using frozen meats then thaw thoroughly and sauté before adding to the cauldron of deliciousness.
A CHICKEN AND A HOG WALK INTO A BAR
Ingredients are listed in the order you should put them into the slow cooker.

1 1/2 quarts Chicken stock
1 1/3 cups White corn kernels
10 ounces Chicken, skinless, thigh and breast, thick dice
4 ounces Bacon, chopped, cook with sausage
6 ounces Ground sage pork sausage, browned and degreased
1 cup Pearled barley, cooked
2 cups Okra, sliced
1 cup Chayote squash, thick dice
1/2 pound Red potatoes, thick dice
½ pound Butternut squash, peeled, seeded, thick dice
6 stalks Green onion, sliced
4 cloves Garlic, crushed
Add during last hour of cooking
1/3 cup Cilantro, fresh, stems and leaves, chopped
15 fronds Rosemary, crushed
3 Bay leaves
1 tablespoon Guajilla pepper, dried, seeded and sliced
1 tablespoon Coarse black pepper
1 ½ tablespoons Coarse salt
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
12 ounces Dark Beer
At Service
2 tablespoons Peanuts per plate
1 tablespoon Dried cranberries per plate
4 ounces cooked basmati rice per plate

Garnish with whole cilantro leaves.

Serve over a plate of basmati rice with basil and olive oil. Cornbread is required.

A HUNGRY SOUTHERNER WALKS INTO A SUPERBOWL PARTY
This is a five ingredient slow cooker dish but the beef and potatoes do not count. Perfect for a base for chili.
1 pound Beef sirloin, cut in thick cubes
1 ½ pounds Russet potatoes, cut in thick dice
2 cups Cooked red beans
1 teaspoon Tony Chacheres Original Creole Seasoning
1 tablespoon Coarse Black Pepper
12 ounces Beef stock
12 ounces Good pilsner like a Terrapin brew
Combine and cook for 10 hours. Garnish with chutney or chow chow. Think chili. Serve over thick pasta like fettuccine.

SONOMA TO CLARKE COUNTY, CASSOULET IS HERE TO STAY
My best day with cassoulet was at St. Jean Winery in the early 1980s. We sat outside at a long wooden table under a huge magnolia in front of the main house. They treated the staff of St. Orres where I was working to a day at the farm. It was magnificent. The owner and his wife, Jean, were regulars at St. Orres and loved our food. What is not to love about any foods all fresh from Mendocino and Sonoma Counties? I sat next to the wine master. I did not know it at first and as I raved about the cassoulet, rye bread and Chardonnay he began to laugh and introduced himself. I felt honored and humble. The Coast and the Valley was vibrant with the rush of New American Cuisine back then, when Chefs worked together and Alice Waters was discussed at every meal, when farm to table first began in 1979 and still today seems like something new. Farm to table should never be a memory, it should always be now.
The smoker here is the Big Green Egg, Weber, Lil Indian, Brinkman or whatever brand you have for smoking the turkey and duck. I smoked a whole duck seasoned with rum, sweet soy, sambal and ginger for 6 hours with hickory wood. I seasoned the turkey with a traditional thyme, sea salt, black pepper, oregano, rosemary, sage and white wine rub. Let it stand overnight and then smoked with cherry wood for 12 hours. Crispy skin and smoky smooth meat. Cassoulet is a farm, home, peasant dish that originally used duck confit (duck cooked and chilled in duck fat) and haricot beans as the base. If you do not want to cook outside then roast the duck and turkey in the oven. You can cut the turkey in half and thus reduce the cook time. Internal temperature for duck should be 150 degrees while the turkey should reach 180.
The basic definition is “mixed bean and meat stew” so a lot is left to the particular bias of the chef preparing the dish. As I learned cassoulet from German and French Chefs it was duck, lamb, turkey, pork fatback, cranberry beans, white beans, white wine, tomatoes, wild rice and chicken stock.
As time goes by our tastes change a bit and the weather demands a nice day in and out by the smoker. Cold weather is perfect for grilling out in the South. Our cold weather is thankfully mild. If you have a Big Green Egg or other kind of ceramic smoker/grill and it is still hot from smoking the turkey you can make the cassoulet inside of it. Use an iron pot with lid, put the ingredients in and use hickory wood and apple wood for the smoke. Set it so that the temperature is at 200 degrees and leave it inside to cook for seven hours.
When using a standard slow cooker/crock pot you will cook the cassoulet for 10 hours, 1 hour on high and 9 hours on low. Add the duck during the last two hours of cooking. Start with all the other ingredients. When using dried herbs use flake, not powder.
10 ounces Duck, boneless, skinless
2 Turkey wings, skinless, cut in fourths
10 ounces Turkey breast meat, thick chopped
10 ounces Summer sausage, cut in thick cubes
4 strips Hickory bacon, dice, sauté, add all to pot
2 cups Navy beans, cooked
1 pound Red potatoes, large dice
1 cup Carrots, peeled, large dice
1 cup Turnips, peeled, medium diced
1 cup Onions, diced
1 Green bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 tablespoons Tomato paste
1 cup Tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 ½ quarts Chicken Stock
1 pint White Cooking wine
1 teaspoon Thyme
1 teaspoon Rubbed Sage
½ teaspoon Oregano
1/3 cup Parsley, chopped
2 tablespoon Sea Salt
1 tablespoon Coarse Black Pepper
Garnish:
2 cups Spinach leaves, chiffonade cut (thin strips)

While it is cooking you can make a favorite rice or even mashed potato dish to use as service for the cassoulet. I have even had it in hollowed out bread bowls. Just take a thick crust round bread and heat it to very warm, cut out the top and remove the bread leaving a half inch to the crust so that it does not leak. Then spoon the cassoulet inside of the bread. Place a duck leg and turkey wing section on top of each serving. Garnish with thin sliced spinach over the whole serving. This is a rich dish that is good for any cold weather afternoon or evening.
If you don’t want to use the slow cooker for this dish you can cook the beans on the stove and roast the meats, then combine the ingredients in a roasting pan and cook again so that the ingredients are more distinct. After you remove the ingredients from the roasting pan pour the juices into a sauce pan. Add a cup of chicken stock and cook on high heat, stirring infrequently, until it has all reduced to one cup. Arrange each portion on a plate and pour the sauce over the cassoulet. Decorate with the chiffonade spinach. To really take this to the next stage you can then place a grilled lamb chop or pork chop next to the duck leg and turkey wing on the plate. This is as hearty and hardy as food can be.
This marks a great time for me. My book is finally in print and available in bookstores, Amazon, the publisher (Lummox Press) and from me at book events. This has been a labor of love for so many reasons and most of all it is a love letter to World Cuisine. The world is such a beautiful banquet of hundreds of cuisines and each as important as the next. Southern Distinction is where these recipes are first expressed beyond home or restaurant, and I am thankful to Bryan for his photography and inspiration, to Cindy and Keith for publishing such a great magazine and most of all to the cooks and readers here. It is all for you:
“Ginger, Lily & Sweet Fire: A Romance With Food”
At The Gates
Reading the Song of Songs
The way I have for years and years,
This little book,
The greatest love poem,
It goes beyond one man one woman,
It goes into the scope of life,
Of how to love
To hunt to harvest and enjoy,
To live upon this earth,
To simplify the seasons
Into the grace
Of doves and deer,
The sweetness here
Of almonds and figs,
The kiss of the Sing-Shulamite,
Of all things beloved,
We learn what is a grace
When we awake to being loved.

Bison, Boar And Georgia Deer With Dumpling Squash And Sweet Root Beer


BISON, BOAR AND GEORGIA DEER

WITH DUMPLING SQUASH AND SWEET ROOT BEER

There are so many beautiful things here in Georgia that it is hard to pin down a few and say “that’s what it is” that makes life here so fine. I have to say that in late Fall (some call it Winter) it is the pines, the rhododendrons, pecans, fresh venison, thick skinned squashes, sweet potatoes, morning fog, and…oh well, I guess it is all those things and more that defines what is Georgia in December. This column is for those of you with a hunter in the family. If there is not one then you can find these meats online or in specialty grocery stores. The venison, boar and bison that you can buy commercial are all of course raised on ranches. We can only sell meats that have been inspected. The only non-inspected hunted species that we can sell in restaurants and grocery stores is fish and shell fish.

Venison, boar and bison that you buy are semi-wild. We call them game meats because that is what hunting on large estates (pre 20th century) was once considered, game. Gaminess, or more pronounced flavors were desired back then which was acquired both by the age of the animal and by how long it was hung to cure. Hunting is now sport. What will it be 25 years from now?

Today our tastes have become more attuned to less pronounced flavors than what was once desired. The diet for hogs and sows that are left to go wild on the ranch is regulated the same way that it is for red deer and American Buffalo or bison. This hold true as well for our beef and lamb. Corn feed has a lot to do with flavors for beef. Beef cattle that are allowed to eat hay and grass and are not fed corn and weight gaining feeds in the stockyards have a flavor that is perceived as slightly wild. After 30 years of corn fed beef I became bored with the one flavor germane to American bred cattle. If I want it to taste like butter or corn then I will add butter or corn, and then of course vary the types of meat. Near wild game meats and fowl have flavor. The food you eat tastes like what it eats. It continues to be true that you are what you eat eats. Fattier meats are more tender by the very fact that fat/oils do tenderize the muscle. The more we learn about our foods the more we learn how to cook them so that the flavors and textures compliment one another.

The Fall to Winter fruits that we have available match up to our inherent sense of taste of what goes together. Fuyu persimmons, dried cranberries, oranges, kumquats, pomegranates, apples, blackberries, aged cheeses, rice, pecans, hazelnuts, almonds and winter squashes are all perfect with our game meats. I like Georgia venison so much because of their diet this time of year, pecans. The famous Blackfoot (Serrano/Iberian) pig of Spain is famously delicious for the same reason except that they eat acorns. Virginia ham was once prized because of their diet of peanuts. Variety is good. Yes it is the spice of life and spice is good as well, so spice up and roll out the cutting boards we are doing what is natural in this time of year: eating. The more we buy the good foods the more they will produce to meet demand, and in the long run equals lower price.

From the edge of extinction to holding on enough to be raised on ranches the American Bison is one incredible animal. The flavor is what beef should taste like, full, robust and lean. For some reason most of what can be found in stores is always ground or sirloin (if you are lucky). I would like to buy bison ribs or bison T-Bone one day, now that would be a grocery store treat. The interesting meats should be made more available in butcher shops in areas that show support for near wild game meats. Restaurants can offer just about anything, but sometimes it is nice to cook the cool stuff at home. You can substitute any of our recipe meats with lamb, ostrich, Berkshire pork and ground hormone free grass fed beef.

BISON BURGERS

Our burgers will be mixed with gorgonzola cheese, cranberries. An easy root beer ketchup on whole wheat toast with hickory bacon and a small wild greens salad. Ground bison and sirloin are the only forms I have found it in grocery stores. Great, and I mean GREAT things about bison: Sustainable, low cholesterol, high in iron and protein, lean, grass fed, NO growth hormones, slightly sweeter than current corn fed beef and still has rich flavor. There are still people that think sustainable and grass fed are bad words but let me tell you, they are the only words we should be using today in terms of our red and white meat production. It is expensive. You can always mix with grass fed beef to balance the costs if you are on a budget.

Grilled or cooked in an iron skillet will work for this burger.

ROOT BEER KETCHUP (you can substitute Malta, Coca Cola or Dr. Pepper)

4 ounces root beer or ginger beer

6 ounces Heinz Ketchup

1 teaspoon Chipotle Mustard

Combine and simmer in sauce pan on low until it again thickens. Frequently stir as it cooks so that it does not burn and most of all so that the ingredients combine. When it is the texture again of ketchup remove from heat and set aside. This will keep in refrigerator for months.

BACON

8 slices maple bacon, thick cut

Cook crisp. Drain and keep warm while burger cooks.

BURGERS

1 pound ground bison

1/3 teaspoon ground sea salt

1 clove garlic, crushed

¼ cup white onion, minced

2 ounces gorgonzola, crumbles

Gently combine and pat into four 4 ounce square patties. Grill to desired temperature.

While they cook you can set up the plates:

4 teaspoons Root beer ketchup, one teaspoon per burger

8 slices whole wheat toast

8 slices grape tomato

4 leaves romaine

SALAD

2 ounces wild greens

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

½ teaspoon peach bitters

1/3 teaspoon soy sauce

4 figs, quartered

Mix in bowl when you are ready to eat. Divide between four plates.

Arrange all of the parts and leave the sandwich open faced.

This is the kind of burger that calls out for russet potato french fries or even sweet potato fries, yucca chips, boniato chips and even Southern Dukes Mayonnaise potato salad. Beer. Have a beer or high quality root beer with this sandwich.

BOAR SAUSAGE

Roasted dumpling squash stuffed with ground sage boar sausage and brown rice, blackberries and almonds. What can be said about Berkshire pork that does not get the ring in the nose and is allowed to roam the ranch and go semi wild? Sow or boar, both are delicious. Meaty, fatty, slight smoky taste and enough grain to have firm texture. I like boar chops. Boar sausage is what most of us have if you hunt them in the wild. If you have them in restaurants or specialty butcher shops you can get the loin, chops or hams as well as in sausage form.

Our recipe here puts to use the best of the season. Dumpling squash are fantastic receptacles for roasting. Nutty and sweet, firm, yellow meat and beautiful green and cream striped skin. Don’t try to eat the skins of winter squashes, they are all too thick and are perfect as they are for leaving on and roasting. You can also remove the skin and make french fries out of winter squashes like pumpkins, butternut, acorn, turban and dumpling. We will make garlic mashed potatoes out of butternut squash in the recipe for venison.

Follow all sanitation when working with boar. Wear latex gloves and always add this last to your mixtures.

Cook the brown rice early and let it cool.

2 dumpling squash cut in half and seeded

4 tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon in each squash

Set aside in roasting pan.

STUFFING

1 cup brown rice, cooked with chicken stock

10 ounces boar, ground

5 ounces Jimmy Dean sage whole hog sausage

1/3 cup almonds, chopped

½ cup white onion, diced

1 ounce pickled peppers, diced

½ cup apple, diced

½ teaspoon oregano, fresh, chopped

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup Italian style bread crumbs

1 pint blackberries, fresh

Combine all ingredients except the blackberries and meat. Put the ground sausage and boar into a mixing bowl and gently mix. Let it rest a minute, then add the blackberries taking care not to crush them.

Divide between the four halves of squash. Add just enough water to the roasting pan to cover the bottom half of the squash. Roast 30 minutes at 350 degrees. The internal temperature of the stuffing will be 165 degrees.

If you want to add anything to this comforting harvest dish it would be a poached egg on the top of each stuffed squash. And again, this is a dish that calls for a beer or ale, full red table wine, sour mash, hot tea, hot Dr. Pepper with lemon or as simple as a glass of sparkling water with cranberry juice.

VENISON

Venison shoulder chops marinated in pomegranate juice and Dale’s sauce, with pomegranate seeds, fuyu persimmons, and whipped red potatoes and butternut squash. Again, this is for the home with a hunter or buy through upscale butcher.

Shoulder chops can be tough but they are flavorful which is why this is our cut of choice for this dish. Ask them to cut it into primal cuts for you if it is wild venison. It is just a waste to grind it all into sausage. You can also use Maggi Seasoning Sauce if you do not have Dale’s on hand. If you are gluten intolerant then use wheat free tamari.

Pomegranates are easy to seed. Lightly hit the bottom end on the counter and then cut it open over a glass bowl. Push your fingers into the back of the skin towards the seeds so that they gently pop out. Then separate the seeds from the thick pulp and skin. You cannot eat the pulp and skin. Only the seeds, eat only the seeds. Remember the story of Persephone in Greek mythology? She was kidnapped by Hades and she was bound to return to hell for six months every year because she mistakenly ate pomegranate seeds. The fruit also represents fertility and hope. Hope because even after the coldest of seasons Spring is near.

Fertility because of the abundance of seeds. Pomegranates are high in antioxidants as well.

The Fuyu persimmon is native to Japan and Korea. It is similar to our native persimmons of the South except that they do hold longer and are easier to commercially farm. The taste is close to that of Anjou pears and limes, the meat is soft not hard.

Try to find a ricer to use for making your garlic butternut and red potatoes. There are hand held ones that are perfect for smooth and well mixed mashed potatoes. If not then use a slotted spoon or electric mixer. The flavor is everything that triggers food memories of childhood Christmas. Why? Because of the allspice and maple syrup in the mix.

MARINADE AND GRILL

4, 5 ounce venison chops

1 cup almond milk

1 tablespoon Dale’s or Maggi

4 ounces pomegranate juice

1 tablespoon coarse salt

1 teaspoon coarse black pepper

Combine the marinade ingredients so that it is smooth. It may look a bit coddled but that is OK. Add the chops and cover. Let marinade at least 2 hours.

Do not marinade over 6 hours as the meat will start “cooking” after that because of the acidity in the marinade.

Grill or broil until cooked to desired temperature.

4 teaspoons pomegranate seeds

2 persimmons cut into 8 slices

Divide seeds and fruit over the four chops.

MASHED

1 pound red potatoes cut in half

1 pound butternut squash pulp, no seeds or skin

3 quarts water

1 tablespoon salt

1 clove garlic, minced

Combine in large pot and boil for 20 minutes until firm but soft enough to mash. Strain. Press the squash and potato through the ricer into a metal bowl.

Add:

1 teaspoon allspice, ground

3 tablespoons maple syrup

3 ounces unsalted butter

Whip together until well incorporated and smooth. Keep warm while the venison is cooking.

Spoon the mashed onto each plate next to the chop. Garnish with baby lettuce greens.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all, be good to each other, to family and friends, and even better to those who are not.

Sometimes a smile equals

All the people

We can and cannot count

In these long winter hours.

To hold a hope

And set free a dream,

Watching ice melt

Watching fires around the lake,

Something really is always

Glistening here,

Blue shadows,

Silver clouds,

Bells ring in dreams

And a cynic tries to steal

With dollars

What their heart

Cannot create,

To this reach we pull away,

Try again with a hymn

Of redemption and peace,

Sit down to the table

With love, with bread,

Push away the fear,

Listen again for prayers to peace,

This is the day

We were living for,

Today is the day

All hearts embrace.



DIFFERENT HENS IN FAMILIAR PLACES


DIFFERENT HENS IN FAMILIAR PLACES

Chilly weather and the beautiful change of colors of North Georgia in November, the Georgia-Georgia Tech game, and of course, Thanksgiving. Just thinking about the season makes me hungry. It is a favorite for us all, and normally we gather with our extended families around the traditional 15-pound turkey and a dozen side dishes. But what if there is just the two of you, or a turkey isn’t what you want this time around, and you want to save the big bird for Christmas. Well, you have a few choices for your poultry needs and they are poulet rouge (from Plow Point Farms), duck, goose, chicken, turkey, pigeoneaux, dove, quail, pheasant, and Rock Cornish game hens. We will be preparing the game hen. The recipe will work just as well with any of the other birds, but there is something of a guilty pleasure in having a whole bird of your own on the plate. Choose your sides from whatever is looking the best in the produce section.
(If your mood is towards one whole bird to split for two then use a poulet rouge hen from Plow Point Farms in Oconee County. The BEST chickens I have ever eaten. )

Tyson Farms created the Rock Cornish game hens we normally see in the grocery store in the middle 1960’s. The original Cornish game hen is from the land of King Lear, Cornwall, England. They are quite affordable and just the thing if you want treat yourself to something special for dinner without the high cost, hours of basting, or endless leftovers hanging out in your refrigerator.
Poulet rouge, aka red hen of the piedmont and in our case, of Oconee county, Georgia. This breed of chicken is longer, meatier without being fatty but remaining juicy at any stage, be it fresh and roasted to 165 degrees internal temperature on the thigh bone, or as leftovers. The flavor is very smooth, texture is meaty yet juicy. I am amazed by this perfect chicken in any preparation. I have mostly approached it with the cuisine of my past, Haute Cuisine, French Continental and whether stuffed under the skin with herb butter or chevre and roasted; boned and folded around shiitake mushrooms, garlic and feta cheese; buttermilk marinade and Southern fried; cut into six pieces and roasted with a light golden stock; Thanksgiving style roasted whole with carrots, turnips, small onions, garlic and red potatoes, it does not matter because any way it is prepared it is the best chicken you will ever eat. Cornish game hens and poulet rouge are definitely my two go-to birds when I have a need for chicken…and that’s a lot!
You will find adobo seasoning in the Mexican section at your grocery store. Cardamom is usually used in sweet pastries, but in this case it is a great compliment in bringing together the spice of the adobo and the deep flavors of black strap molasses. If you can find it, black cardamom adds a very unique Indian flavor to your dish. What you end up with is a combination of bright and deep flavors, with each taste complimenting the other.
(Please try out all of the choices that we have for sweet flavors, from granulated white sugar to the different honeys, molasses, palm sugar, turbinado, maple syrups, and grades of sugar, including slices of raw sugar cane. Although most sugars are not considered healthy, black strap molasses is truly good for you as it is converted into energy and is not stored as fat in your body. Take a cup of wild flower honey and add orange, lemon and lime skins (no white), 1 stick of cinnamon and one piece star anise. Mix and cover. Store in cabinet for three days. Honey syrup to live for!)

ADOBO AND PLUM GAME HENS
2 1 1/4 pound each, Cornish game hens
Thaw them out in your refrigerator. This will take a day or two, but don’t rush it. Remove neck and giblets from cavity. Rinse in cold water. Pat dry with paper towel.
COMBINE
2 tablespoons Adobo seasoning
1 tablespoon ground cardamom
1/3 cup Molasses
1/4 cup Light soy sauce
Rub the season mix half of it over the skin and inside the cavity of the hens. Refrigerate overnight. Save the rest of the seasoning for when you cook them.
STUFFING
2 stalks celery, diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
8 purple plums, peel and remove the stones
2 teabags Darjeeling tea, remove tea from bags
1/3 cup dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup warm water to bind the stuffing
(If you cannot find fresh plums, don’t be ashamed to use canned or dried. It’s ok to substitute with nectarines, apricots, lychee, rambutan, jackfruit, peaches or even apples and pears.)

Mix the stuffing in a small bowl. Now fill the cavity of each hen with the stuffing mix. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Rub the rest of the seasoning on the hens. Roast in small roasting pan for one hour.
There are two ways to check for doneness. The first is with your trusty thermometer, which will register 180 degrees, the second is to insert the tip of a boning knife into the section between the thigh and breast, the juices of the bird will run clear. If the liquid is cloudy then it is not done. Do both and you will see how it works. The skin is going to be dark, so don’t think that you have burned your dinner, remember, we seasoned with molasses and soy. Let the birds rest for 10 minutes after you take them out of the oven before you have your dinner. This allows the juices to settle and the meat to tighten back up after the cooking. They will slice easier, and will taste better if you allow this resting time.
CORNISH HEN MOLE (pronounced MO-Lay)
A mole is a very popular central Mexico and Central American dish and style of cooking. It involves a clay pot. That’s easy. Then it uses chocolate, chilies, aromatic spices, tomato, herbs, nuts, garlic and dried apricots or other dried fruits to balance the heat. Mole is one of the more complicated sauces/dishes to prepare and requires a bold hand with the seasonings and a gentle method of cooking. Think of it in terms of Thai curries, Vietnamese soups, French cassoulet, or Spanish paella and you’ll get an idea of how serious this dish is to the Oaxacan cooks of central Mexican. As you may have noticed, chocolate is not just a dessert or drink; chocolate can be used throughout a meal as a garnish and central ingredient to every course. Chocolate is bitter, sweet, dry, moist, bittersweet and even hot, but never white, as white chocolate has no chocolate and is made with coconut and palm sugars.
We are using Cornish hen because it is small, tasty, and tender, doesn’t take forever to cook, will fill up with the mole flavors and not fill you up. And because I think that Cornish game hens taste great and are an easy small entrée for two to share in a meal of several courses.
Toast the nuts/seeds with the spices before adding to the mix. Do this in a pan in a 475~ oven for ten minutes. Do not be afraid of the list of ingredients. You can use garam masala as your base and go from there if you like, or buy a premade mole as your base and season from that as a starting point.
MOLE
¼ cup duck fat or olive oil
1-tablespoon chipotle, chopped
2 tablespoons poblano, diced
2 tablespoons onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup tomato, chopped, seeded
1/3 cup dried cherries, chopped
1/3-cup mixed peanuts and cashews, toasted
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
½ teaspoon cloves, toasted
½ teaspoon cinnamon, toasted
½ teaspoon ginger, toasted
1-teaspoon allspice, toasted
2 tablespoons dried Oregano
1/3 cup fresh Cilantro, chopped
¼ cup fresh Parsley, chopped
1 cup unsweetened Chocolate
½ cup chicken stock
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon sea salt

The mole takes one hour of cooking on the stove for the sauce to reach the correct flavor and consistency.
I prefer a large iron skillet to cook this part of the dish. If you do not have one then use a stainless steel thick, large high sided pan, not a soup pot. Use a large wooden spoon for the stirring. Heat the duck fat, lard or oil on medium high heat in the pan, and add the peppers and onions. Cook until they are soft. Add the garlic and tomato and cook on medium low heat for fifteen minutes. Add the toasted nuts and herbs and stir. Add the fresh herbs, stir. Cook for fifteen minutes. Add the chocolate and stir, turn up the heat to medium and keep stirring for five minutes. Add chicken stock and Worcestershire, stir and turn heat to low. Let simmer uncovered on low for about fifteen more minutes. You will need to stir it from time to time to keep it from splattering or sticking to the pan. It will be thick but still liquid. If it is too thick then add more chicken stock.
Remove from heat and let cool. Overnight is fine or you can mix it with the hen and immediately cook in the oven.
HENS
The mole is enough for two hens. Thoroughly wash the hens in cold water and pat dry with paper towel. Did you remove the giblet bag from inside the cavity? Cut the bird into six pieces.
Put the pieces into a large bowl and mix with the mole. Put in heavy duty roasting pan or clay pot. Preheat oven to 375~ and cook for one hour.
You can also add the cut up hens to the mole sauce as it cooks and simmer it this way for thirty minutes right in the sauce and it will be very tender and spicy. It’s just that the way in the pan requires constant attention and in the oven you can just let the oven do the work while you enjoy the other courses of your fine Valentine’s dinner.
Divide between two plates. Squeeze a half lime over the dishes to add an extra lift to the flavors. A good side would be quinoa or wild rice. Divide an apple, Asian pear or a bunch of grapes to share with this as well. Fruit and Chocolate
POULET ROUGE TRADITIONAL
If you are feeling more traditionally inclined and want to make your hens taste like the bird of the last 25 years then but better:
SPICE RUB
2 ounces butter
½ teaspoon dried thyme
4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon poultry seasoning (ground sage and bay leaves)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Crush ingredients in your spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle. Rub under the skin.

STUFFING
1 stalk celery, fine dice
½ medium white onion, fine dice
2 cups coarse Italian bread crumbs
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
1//4 cup dried cranberries
1 teaspoon coarse salt
½ teaspoon coarse black pepper
2 egg yolks
Combine and divide, stuff into the cavity of the bird.
ROASTING
6 small red potatoes
1 large turnip, rough chopped
2 cups acorn squash, peeled, seeded and rough chopped
1 leek, washed and diced up to the light green stalk
4 cippolinni onions, peeled and stems removed
2 stalks celery, diced
1 cup very rich chicken stock

Roast 45 minutes at 425 degrees. Baste every 15 minutes. Turn the oven to 350 degrees and cook for 30 minutes. It really is that easy.
Collards and field peas go great with this way of cooking the poulet rouge.

THANKSGIVING
Early evening opening into a November sky

Of fog brightened stars and shadowed trees,

Wicker chairs creaking as we lean back and yawn,

Sharing sweet warm tea and Anjou pears.

Coltrane’s Meditation on the stereo,

It flows and rises.

Dark eyes, brown and gold, sea deep,

Mahogany-black hair, thin strands

Moving along with the autumn song

Of the wind and the birds in our garden.

It’s so peaceful here, after dinner,

Relaxed and easy, where this is the wish:

The working world slips away and it’s just us,

Here on the back porch, feeling the night,

Feeling it all wrap around us

So vibrant and crisp,

Alive with thanksgiving,

With each other.