Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Gone But Hopefully Not Forgotten

Just wanted to post quick update that I have not completely dropped off the face of the earth.  Just taking a breather to regroup after some extensive travel which now requires me to crank out beaucoup stories all at the same time.  Toss in the holidays and an upcoming trip to Rome and Positano for New Years, and the 'ole blog has been placed on the back burner temporarily.

I promise to return very soon with some fun updates from Barbardos, more NYC food goodness, and some great winter recipes to boot, including chocolate Whoopie pies and homemade granola.  In the meantime, please enjoy this lovely photo featuring the beach at Pinks Sands Resort, a place I wish I were at this very moment considering it's 20 degrees outside and our heat pump is totally conking out.  Actually, you can buy a little slice of Pink Sand's paradise if you've got the cashola.  Lots start at $700,000 and go up to $2.5 million, and yes you heard that correctly: LOTS.

In the meantime, happy holidays and I promise to return soon! Pin It Now!

Monday, November 15, 2010

So, What IS a Foodie?

Barney's very "foodie" storefront in NYC
So, I was recently asked by a local website in Richmond to offer my take on what and/or who constitutes a "foodie"?  Needless to say, the answer wasn't an easy one for me, especially considering I'm not exactly too fond of the term in general.  Like many phrases and/or concepts that have been overused to the point of oblivion, it seems that the many incarnations of the word "foodie" now assume a plethora of meanings, which tend to vary considerably depending on who's doing the talking.

Everything's better with buttah?

There are foodies who wouldn't dream of letting the sloppy, drippy mystery meat that is otherwise known as a McRib touch their delicate lips and instead of opt for only "localicious" foods accented with the likes of truffle sea salt from Normandy or beets that have plucked from the dirt merely hours before.  For them, it's only artisan bread, wildly flavored cupcakes and hand-churned ricotta.  These foodies often swap words like pepitas for plain, old pumpkin seeds. 

Then, there are the foodies who relish the off-the-beaten-track, sort of low-brow type of eating.  These particular foodies are usually the ones who are quick to offer up the best and often most difficult to find roadside joints for shredded pit BBQ, real deal Chinese dumplings or creamy, chili-laden slaw dogs.  Their existence, while offering an alternate take to fine or exclusive dining, often still reeks of foodieness (which in many ways make this particular foodie a sort of walking oxymoron to the term itself).

Dim sum Chinatown NYC
I suppose the bottom line is here, is that no matter which foodie camp you feel you subscribe to (and for many, it's a little bit of both) one fact remains true, foodies are slowly taking over the world, and their doing it one careful bite at a time.  According to the Wall Street Journal, the new foodie marriage is between the fashion world and the food world with icons like Gwyneth Paltrow hobnobbing around Spain with Mario Batali and perfumes now advertising "Christmas cookies" as a signature scent.  Let's face it, chefs are now rockstars and food is most definitely "in", especially when you're getting the fashionista set involved.

Some further argue that the newfound celebrity foodies share inadvertently predestines them for the proverbial backlash that will eventually come with it.  Hence, this recent NY Times piece on the "culinary one-upmanship" that often dictates a standard foodie gathering, where anything but "standard" is acceptable.  When a regular roast chicken isn't enough yet foams, puffs and airs are, as one savvy reader commented, we are all headed towards an impending "foodie-cide".

So, no matter where you fall on the foodie totem pole, be it in your own mind or worse, in the perception of other foodies, which is most certainly with you holding up the base of said totem pole, one thing still remains....this is all very tasty food for thought.

So, are you a foodie?  If so, what makes you one or not?

©2010 Fatback and Foie Gras. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission Pin It Now!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Welcome to Cajun Country: the deliciousness that is Lake Charles, Louisiana

Fresh boudin sausage from Cajun Cowboy's Restaurant Vinton, LA
So, I just spent the past week eating my weight in boudin sausage (and lots of other local goodies) while visiting the Cajun culinary mecca of Lake Charles, Louisiana.  Lake Charles lies in the Southwestern part of the state, not too far from the Texas border, yet still deep south enough to be less than an hour and a half from the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico.

Lake Charles is a charming place, where deep Southern accents prevail and just about everyone you meet is quick to offer a handshake, or when you're lucky, a big 'ole Cajun-style bear hug.  It's the kind of town where folks spend the afternoon crowding around unadulterated diner tables sipping coffee and sharing tall fishing and hunting tales.  The vibe here is pure Cajun pride, and locals are quick to share with visitors their favorite haunts to get real deal crawfish etouffee, shrimp gumbo, fried catfish or homemade deer sausage.

Yet, it's the Cajun boudin sausage that triumphs with pride throughout the area.  Hearkening back to the area's French culinary roots (by way of a mass Acadian exile from Nova Scotia in the 1700's), Southwest Louisiana's boudin sausage is akin to North Carolina barbecue, with numerous variations (and consequent debates as to whose is best) ranging from spicy smoked boudin to fresh boudin rouge spiked with pig's blood.  However, while each sausage tastes just a tad different, several constants remain in all forms of boudin. First, there's got to be plenty of cooked Louisiana long-grain rice mixed in with the roasted pork.  Second, there are spices galore, many of which are top secret, never to be revealed.  There's always a generous helping of fresh green onions, and finally, all this Cajun goodness is packed into fresh hog's intestines.

People are happy here, with an innate pride and joy that is most evidenced in the foods they create, especially their particular brand of boudin.  It's all about Cajun cooking.  From pork cracklin's to crawfish pistolettes, every bite that hits your palate simply bursts with spice, texture and the flavor of the deep south.  If you're serious about good eating, the many off-the-beaten-track pit stops that circumvent the town of Lake Charles are must-stops for any lover of real home-cooked food.  From diner dives to gas station gems, Lake Charles is one place where you can eat like a king on a peasant's salary.

Here's a little slide show primer of some of the best of the best that this unique area of Cajun country has to offer.

Boudin expert, Glenn Earl of Cajun Cowboys
Shrimp Po'Boy, fried catfish & collards from Hollier's Cajun Kitchen
Pork cracklin's and smoked sausage from The Sausage Link

Green onions, hog's intestines (used for natural boudin casings)and homemade hog's head cheese (bites).  The Sausage Link.

Fried crabs, frog legs, crab claws and crawfish pies from The Seafood Palace

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sweet As Sugar and Ugly As a Toad

Fried Sugar Toads from Arnest Seafood
Sugar toads.  They're not what you think, so put those images of deep fried frog outta your head.  Sugar toads are what we coastal Virginia folk call the Northern Puffer fish, which is a seasonal bottom-dwelling fish unique to the Chesapeake Bay.  Sugar toads primarily feed on shellfish, and have earned their nickname due their less than Vogue-worthy appearance.  For many years, puffers were considered as nothing more than an annoyance that needed to be thrown back until several well-known (and high-end) restaurants began serving this sweet, flaky fish with the unusual name to rave reviews.

Sugar toads, like all puffer fish, have ability to fill their stomachs with water as a defense and puff up, making them a not-so-easy to digest prey.  From a culinary standpoint, it must also be noted that Chesapeake Bay puffers are completely non-poisonous, and unlike their Fugu brethren, pose no threat to those who eat them.  As a result, if you can get your hands on a platter of these fried delicacies, it's a prized meal indeed.

So, last weekend when the hubby and I took a jaunt to one of our favorite seafood dives, we were thrilled when the special of the day was fried sugar toads.  Sugar toads, when lightly battered and deep-fried maintain just a hint of crunch to offset the soft, sweet meat inside.  Most often, they are deep-fried whole (sans head and skin).  Also, because the spine of the puffer is still intact once prepared, they're an excellent eat-with-your-hands kinda snack, much like a fried chicken leg.  Give your toad a little spritz of fresh lemon juice while dipping it into a plastic tub of homemade tartar and you won't care that you're dining alfresco with a view of a strip mall parking lot.

Arnest is about as no-frills as you can get.  Not only is it in a half-vacant strip mall right smack in the middle of nowhere (a.k.a. Manquin, Virginia, about halfway to Tappahannock out Route 360) but it sits right next to a hunting and fishing shop complete with a giant outdoor statue of a galloping seven-point buck for your viewing pleasure.  Part seafood store (you can get anything to go) and part dine-in, Arnest is the kinda place you visit to get a taste of the Bay without the waterfront price.
A specialty of the house are their steamed local blue crabs, and Arnest sells nothing but number one males, otherwise known as "jimmies", for a mere $24 a dozen.  Jimmies are well-known to be the largest and meatiest of blue crabs and can command upwards of $65 a dozen at a tourist-ridden waterfront seafood establishment.  When I asked about females, which some folks prefer due the substantial price difference, our server replied, "Here, it's males only."  My kinda place.

As the saying goes, when the work is hard, the rewards taste that much sweeter.  Such is the case for picking crabs, so plan on staying a while.  We picked for two hours and still had four large crabs leftover for dinner the next night.  

All of your accouterments, including melted butter, Tabasco, Old Bay and, my personal fave, cider vinegar for dipping that precious jumbo lump, come out with your crabs which are gloriously presented on a plastic tray.  Crab picking is messy business, and while there are plenty of paper towels, I recommend bringing your own bib.  Either that, or I dare you to wear white.

If crabs, or heaven forbid, fried sugar toads just ain't your thing, no worries.  You can get most any seafood goody, either fried or steamed at Arnest.  For the fried seafood junkie, Arnest offers up a selection of "Straight-Up" platters, where diners can get a plastic basket full of fried oysters, scallops, jumbo shrimp, fish of the day or frog legs, sold by the pound, and ranging in price from $9.99 .lb (frog legs) to $18.99 .lb (shrimp).  
Steamed options include Rappahannock oysters (also on the half shell), local clams and shrimp. When it comes to fried dinners with sides, crab cakes, scallop cakes, fish of the day, soft shells and various combinations thereof are served with two sides and homemade hush puppies without a single platter costing over $19.00.
Standout sides included Arnest's vinegar braised collard greens, housemade flash-fried crab chips dusted in Old Bay and creamy deviled eggs. If you're looking for fine wine, you're in the wrong place, and same goes for cocktails, since Arnest sells neither, but you can get an ice cold Corona or Budweiser, which to me, suits fried seafood and crab picking just fine.
Who: Arnest Seafood Where: 109 Commerce Park, Manquin, Virginia (804) 769-3315 When: Wed., Thurs. and Sunday 11:30-9pm and Fri. and Sat. 11:30-10pm

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Monday, October 4, 2010

Crab Cakes: Chesapeake Bay Style from The Tides Inn

Chef Flynn's pan-fried crab cakes over buttery succotash w/ shrimp

So, let me start off by asking, who doesn't like a good crab cake?  Other than those poor souls bearing shellfish allergies, most folks turn into the human version of Pavlov's dog at the mere mention of the words: "crab" and  "cake". 
And let's face it.  Crab cakes are frightfully good.  From sandwiching one in-between two butter-brushed buns with crisp lettuce and homemade tartar to nesting a couple of fresh-fried cakes in pool of chive infused buerre blanc, the ubiquitous crab cake has stood the test of time to become one the most popular menu items featured in restaurants from coast to coast.
This past weekend, I was rewarded with a crab (and oyster, lamb, and local wine) adventure of epic proportions while visiting The Tides Inn  in historic Irvington, Virginia.  The Tides is a magical place located along the Chesapeake Bay with gorgeous water frontage right on Carter's Creek.
It's an Inn that boasts an incredible history.  From its opening day in 1947, where the first dining room menu proudly offered its guests, "Native Soft Shell Crabs Saute in Almond Butter" and "Baked Filet of Rappahannock Trout in Lemon Butter" to today, where Executive Chef T.V. Flynn surprises with "Cedar Roasted Lamb Porterhouses topped with Garden Fresh Mint Pesto" and "Virginia Coast Diver Scallops with Oven-Roasted Cauliflower and Farmer's Market Butternut Squash Puree", The Tides Inn has consistently remained a culinary retreat offering some of the best of what the Chesapeake region of Virginia has to offer.

Many of the ingredients served at the Inn's restaurant are culled locally, either from the local Irvington Farmer's Market or from General Manager, Gordon Slatford's extensive personal gardens, where he grows everything from tomatoes and peppers to his own luffa sponges.  Naturally, seafood follows suit with local delicacies such as oysters, clams and rockfish (a true Virginia specialty) being drawn from the waters right outside the Inn's back door.

On the evening of our final night at the Inn, it was all about the crab cake.  All lump with very little filler, we scarfed these guys down in two quick bites and fought for more.  Chef Flynn served his crab-laden creation atop a buttery succotash accented with fresh, local butter beans and a lone sweet shrimp.  And, as if these small plate goodies weren't enough on their own, the Chef then grilled up a couple dozen local Rappahannock oysters just as the sun was beginning to set over the creek.
The oysters, after being drizzled in a little butter were beautifully accented by the Chef's homemade pickled watermelon rind, making these one-slurp wonders an immaculate combination of zing and brininess.  Once paired with a glass of Virginia's own Ingleside Pinot Grigio, it became clear that the food gods were shining down on Carter's Creek that final evening. What a send-off it was....

My first inclination is to suggest, that in order to properly relive this seafood extravaganza, you must book a weekend at The Tides ASAP.  Yet, for some folks, especially those on temporary vacation hold, this may not be immediately possible. For you, the Chef has agreed to generously share his virtually-no-filler recipe for crab cakes, Chesapeake Bay style, so you too, can experience a little taste of The Tides Inn when making these fried gems within the comfort of your own home.
But first, a couple of pointers on creating swoon-worthy crab cakes that every home cook should know.
It goes without saying that jumbo lump is where it's at, so it's worth every penny to invest in the good stuff, and that means, no cheating with backfin.  Also, we lover's of the Chesapeake Bay must recommend our own blue crab as the almighty best.  
When it comes to picking the shell bits out of your crab meat, which are almost always there, be gentle.  While you might be in a hurry, it's important not to crush the crab meat, especially the lumps.  You want those in there.  Hence, the words "jumbo lump".

When it comes to seasoning, less is most definitely more.  Go easy on the mayo, breadcrumbs etc....  If you find you're having trouble with your cakes falling apart when frying due to minimal binder, after shaping them, pop them in the fridge for about 30 minutes so they'll set up a bit.  And, speaking of frying, it's always best to fry in small batches.  Avoid crowding your cakes or they'll steam and not develop that crispy outer coating we all know and love.

When it comes to oil and pans, I'm a cast-iron and peanut oil gal myself.   However, you can just as easily fry in nonstick with vegetable oil or a combination of butter and oil if you're feeling decadent.  To serve, all you may need is a dollop of tartar, but if you want to emulate the Chef's dish, you can serve your crab cakes atop a pile of succotash or my recipe for sauteed butter beans with bacon.

Chesapeake Bay Crab Cakes  

Courtesy of  Executive Chef T.V. Flynn of The Tides Inn

2 pounds jumbo lump crabmeat
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
½ teaspoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
½ cup cracker crumbs
2 eggs
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Worcestershire
½ teaspoon Tabasco
Salt and Pepper
Cooking oil, for shallow frying (about a 1/4 cup)
Pick through the crabmeat to check for shell pieces, being careful not to break up the lumps.
Place crabmeat in a large bowl and add the Old Bay, dry mustard, parsley and cracker crumbs.  Gently mix.
In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco. Whisk to mix and pour over the crabmeat mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Mix lightly and portion in cakes. 

Preheat a cast iron pan or skillet to medium-high and add the oil. When it's shimmering, fry your crab cakes in batches.  Drain well and serve hot.

Serves 8-10

Note: This recipe is easy to halve.

©2010 Fatback and Foie Gras. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission Pin It Now!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Port and Cider Vinegar-Braised Short Ribs

Tastes better in a well-worn Le Creuset
Last night it got down to 65 degrees, and outside, it was pure heaven. This rare evening chill was simply begging for something hot and bubbling on the stove, and I suddenly realized that it's been many months since I broke out my prized Le Creuset dutch oven, so with a topped off glass of wine in hand, I set out to simmer the night away.

I've always been a braiser. I simply love having something, anything, going on the stove for a long period of time. It gives me that granny-in-the-kitchen feel, like the way I remember spending many Sunday's after church. Whether it was a big pot of my mom's porcupine meatballs in tomato sauce or a cast-iron oven filled with dad's homemade beef stew or just a steaming skillet of country-fried beef steak 'n brown gravy, I spent many an afternoon impatiently peeking into a pot of something so deliciously braised, it just had to surrender its toughness and give in to falling off the bone.

By definition, braising is the process by which meat or vegetables are browned in fat and then finished in a liquid for a long period time until the meat/veggies become nice and tender with their fibers nicely broken down. I've braised oxtails, lamb shanks, venison, pork butts, ribs, you-name-it, and I've found this method of cooking to be one of the more foolproof ways to create a satisfying, comfort-laden meal that actually improves over time.

In fact, I often do my braising the day before and then reheat the contents of my dish on the stove just before serving. Something magical seems to happen to slow-cooked meat as it rests peacefully in the fridge overnight. The following day, an inherent herbaceousness is revealed that becomes just a little more pronounced with the marriage of wine, stock and mirepoix. Add on another day or two of fridge time and that pot of braised meat morphs into a shredded filler for a sliced-open baguette along with a sprinkling of blue cheese and a pile of sauteed onions.

When it comes to braising liquids for your meat, just about anything simmered in a combination of wine, herbs and stock tends to work, yet there are beaucoup recipes out there incorporating everything from coconut milk and star anise to coffee and orange zest. I admit, I am a bit of a purest when it comes to the meat braising process, since that classic combination of heavily reduced wine, lightly salted stock and fresh, hearty herbs lights my fire every, single time.

So, when I set out to create a slight variation on this holy trinity of braising liquid, I decided to go the savory/sweet route and incorporate ruby red port and honey alongside a splash of cider vinegar. To be honest, I wasn't sure how the cider vinegar would ultimately play out in the dish, especially simmering in tandem with three cups of wine, but to my dining pleasure and that of my husband's, the dish was nothing short of spectacular, and as expected by day three, was perfectly swoon-worthy smashed in between two pieces of crusty bread.

Port and Cider Vinegar-Braised Short Ribs

Nothing says Fall has arrived like a bubbling pot of beef ribs accented with ruby port, wine and zesty cider vinegar. Make this one pot wonder a day ahead and reheat it in order to maximize the dish's unique combination of flavors.

Serves 4-6

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 1/2 pound beef short ribs, cut into large chunks
1 cup carrots, diced
1 cup onion, diced
1 cup celery, diced
6 large cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup dry red wine
1 cup port
1/8 cup honey
4 cups low-sodium beef broth (or homemade beef stock)
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
1 tablespoon fresh sage, minced
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, minced

Season short ribs with salt and freshly ground pepper. Preheat a large cast-iron pot to medium-high, and add butter and olive oil.  In batches, brown the ribs pieces well on all sides and then remove. Add carrots, onion and celery and saute until translucent. Add garlic and saute for another two minutes.  Return ribs to the pot.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Add cider vinegar, red and white wine, port and honey. Bring all up to a boil and cook a couple of minutes, taking time to scrape the bits and pieces off the bottom of the pan. Next, add the beef broth, rosemary, sage and thyme and boil uncovered for another 5 minutes. Reduce heat, cover your pan and place it in the oven. Cook ribs for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until they are tender and fall off the bone.

Remove ribs to a large sheet pan and return pot to the stove top. Boil the remaining liquid uncovered for roughly ten minutes until it begins to thicken a bit. Return ribs to the pot and skim off any fat.

Serve ribs and sauce alongside a classic risotto Milanese, polenta or roasted garlic mashed potatoes.

©2010 Fatback and Foie Gras. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission Pin It Now!

Monday, September 20, 2010


Photo Tim Morris
...because for some sick twisted reason, I am obsessed with products like this. Perhaps it's the fact that, not only does this diminutive plastic package contain bits and pieces of deep-fried fatback, but it boasts the coup de grace of convenience store munchies, "with skin attached", as if plain, fried fat just isn't enough.

Roadside pit stops get even better when one can dive into this bag of coronary heart disease for only .99 cents. So, if you ever find yourself high-tailing it up Interstate 95 through the Roanoke Rapids area of North Carolina (where this fine photo was snapped by my dear husband) be sure to stop in the local BP station and grab a bag of Carolina Country Snacks, whose tagline proudly reads, "Old Time Fatback, like Mama used to pan fry!" and get cracklin'.

Oh yeah, don't forget to wash down your rinds with an icy bottle of Cheerwine, which in IMHO, is the single best sugar-laden soda South of the Mason-Dixon line. For those of you who have yet to try this Carolina staple, the best way to describe it is as the bastard love child that resulted from a drunken one-nighter between a can of Cherry Coke and a Dr. Pepper.

Hungry yet? Or better yet, mortified? Pin It Now!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Carolina-Style Steamed Shrimp with Spicy Cocktail Sauce

Perfect with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc overlooking the Pamlico Sound.
Sorry, but Summer ain't over yet, at least not in my book. While I am happy to be done with "most" of the searing hot temps in our part of the woods, I'm not giving up on dining al fresco, not until the first frost. At our house, having dinner on the back deck is where it's at. Whether we're grilling NY Strips with blue cheese wedge salads, slow-cooking barbecued ribs or searing veggie kabobs, you can bet that most of the time, some seriously good culinary action is happening right in our backyard.  

Sometimes we'll do it up steamed crabby style alongside plenty of cheap beer and drawn butter, while other times dinner is simply one, big sausage fest.
Yeah, I got crabs

Boerewors sausage from Grayhaven Winery's South African Food Fest
The important part is that we're outside, savoring the last of what summer has to offer, and what better way to give this season a big, fat send-off than the make a classic Carolina-Style Steamed Shrimp. If you've ever had the chance to visit the North Carolina coast, and if you're even luckier to have tasted your way down 95 South, you may already know that when it comes to steamed Carolina Shrimp, everyone's version is the best, and they're often surprisingly varied.

For example, on the coastal island of Hatteras, most locals prefer their steamed shrimp rather unadulterated, sauteing them shell-on in a dry pan without any seasoning whatsoever. Only after the cooking process do additions such as Old Bay, hot sauce or butter enter the mix. After sampling my fare share of this local delicacy, I can attest to the fact, that when it comes to these uniquely sweet crustaceans, less is most definitely more.

However, if you keep driving south and head to the Wrightsville Beach area of North Carolina, you may find yourself staring into a gargantuan, steamy pot of shell-on shrimp, Kielbasa sausage, potatoes and corn simmering elegantly in a broth accented with lemon, onion, garlic, Old Bay, cayenne pepper and Tabasco with the whole shebang eventually being dumped onto a table spread with newspapers. Life gets even better if the chef happens to throw in a steamed crab or two.

Your shrimp method and/or madness is totally up to you, but what's important, other than working with the freshest crustaceans you can find, is that you enjoy all this deliciousness outdoors in all it's ten napkin glory. 

Below is my take on a classic Carolina-style steamed shrimp in a basic beer and cider vinegar broth (we Southerners love our cider vinegar) but feel free to tweak this one out with a couple of sausages, corn and/or quartered potatoes (just be sure to add the shrimp last, after your taters are tender, so as not to overcook them). In order to prevent overcooking your shrimp in general, take the pot off the heat just as your shrimp begin to curl, and if you're working with a large amount, be sure to give the pot a good stir every now and then, so the shrimp on the bottom eventually make their way off the direct heat.

Finally, don't forget the cocktail sauce (as you can see, I like that spiced up, too) along with plenty of drawn butter and extra lemon wedges. Now, go get your last taste of Summer.

Photo Kendra Bailey Morris

Carolina-Style Peel and Eat Shrimp with Spicy Cocktail Sauce

Capture the last of summer with this easy, made-to-enjoy-outdoors steamed shrimp recipe. Serve your shrimp with grilled corn and a crisp-n-light beer such as Blue Mountain Brewery's Blue Mountain Lager.

Serves 4

1 cup water
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 cup beer (not dark beer)
4 tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning, divided (2 tablespoons reserved)
2 bay leaves
1 small onion, quartered
2 celery rib, cut into 2 inch pieces
1 1emon, sliced in half
2 pounds large shrimp, shell-on

Bring all of your ingredients except shrimp to a boil in a shallow saucepan.  Cook for 8-10 minutes.  Next, add your shrimp, cover and cook until your shrimp are just pink (be careful not to overcook them). Remove shrimp to a bowl with a slotted spoon and toss with the reserved 2 tablespoons of Old Bay. Serve shrimp with lemon wedges, hot sauce, spicy cocktail sauce, additional Old Bay Seasoning and plenty of napkins.

Spicy Cocktail Sauce
Makes 1 cup

1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup chili sauce
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
1 teaspoon hot sauce, optional
Salt and pepper, to taste

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and chill.

©2010 Fatback and Foie Gras. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission Pin It Now!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Fresh Butter Beans Sauteed in Butter and Bacon

Fresh butter beans somehow taste better when sauteed in a cast iron skillet
Every summer, I scour the farmer's markets in an effort to hunt down these rare little gems. Whether you shuck your own or buy them bagged and ready, the sweet, starchy flavor of fresh butter beans can't be beat. I consider butter beans a sort of ode to the end of the growing season since they seem to magically appear and disappear in a matter of months. Grab them up while you can because when they're gone, they're gone. 

For the complete story, check out my article in the Richmond Times Dispatch featuring the basics on how to identify and maximize the flavor of these small but mighty beans.

Fresh Butter Beans Sauteed in Butter and Bacon

If you can manage to score end-of-summer fresh butter beans, this decadent recipe makes an excellent accompaniment to grilled pork loin with sauteed apples, a couple of jumbo lump crab cakes or a pile of fresh-fried chicken and mashed potatoes.

Kendra Bailey Morris

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 slices bacon, chopped
2 cups fresh butter beans, shelled and rinsed
½ cup low-sodium chicken stock
Fresh herbs of choice, minced to taste (such as chives, oregano or basil)
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a cast-iron skillet, sauté the bacon and butter until crispy. Pour off half the bacon grease and discard. Add butter beans and stock and bring up to a gentle boil. Then cover and cook about 10 to 12 minutes or until the beans are tender. Season with fresh herbs and salt and pepper. Then uncover and cook a couple more minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated. Pin It Now!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Steakhouse Style Bacon and Blue Cheese Wedge Salad

Photo Kendra Bailey Morris
One of my most memorable wedge salad moments was when the hubby and I were dining at one of our favorite steak joints Flemings Steakhouse. While sampling a bottle of Hall Cab (which is utterly outstanding with big, meaty NY Strip, by the way) we dove into crisp, cold chunks of iceberg lettuce, smoky bacon bits smothered in gobs of creamy blue cheese dressing. Perhaps it was the environment (or that second glass of wine) but for a moment, I felt my eyes glaze over as I muttered something along the lines of, "Dear god, that is good."

Naturally, as happens with many of us home cooks, I had to take a stab at recreating this salad at home, beginning with the dressing. Blue cheese dressing is one of those salad accents that can be out of this world (homemade with chunks of quality blue cheese) or fundamentally dull (commercial made with little to no blue cheese and nearly devoid of flavor altogether). I figured if I stuck to my guns and used only the highest quality ingredients I could find, how could I go wrong?

One of the aspects of blue cheese dressing, I love so much is just that hint of garlic, not too much to overwhelm, but just enough to lend a piquant savoriness. I also discovered that a dash or two of Worcestershire sauce really elevates the flavor of the dressing to something truly swoon-worthy. Maybe it's the fact that Worcestershire lends just a bit of fermentation or incites memories of flaming grilled meat. I honestly have no idea, but what I do know, is that it's an essential addition to any homemade blue cheese dressing.

Then, there's the blue cheese, the star of this show, with its naturally salty, cow's milk goodness. Here, quality should not be overlooked. Avoid the pre-crumbled (tasteless) stuff and get yourself a nice wedge of Maytag, Amish Blue, Danish Blue or Roaring Forties and crumble it by hand.

When it comes to your salad, select only the freshest iceberg (check the base of the lettuce, where it has been picked, for signs of browning when looking for the freshest ones). Good quality, thick-cut bacon is a must, as is plenty of freshly ground pepper over your finished product. In true steakhouse fashion, serve your salad as a first course to your meat-laden dinner with a nice big pour of Cabernet, Merlot or even a spicy Zinfandel to play off the freshly ground pepper. For an excellent steak recipe, check out Giuliano and Lael Hazan's uber-tasty Italian-style grilled rib-eye recipe.

Photos Kendra Bailey Morris

Bacon and Blue Cheese Wedge Salad
Serves 4

One head of iceberg lettuce
Blue cheese dressing (see recipe below)One medium-sized tomato, seeded and diced
4 slices bacon, fried and crumbled
1/2 cup blue cheese, for garnish
Freshly ground black pepper
One tablespoon minced chives, optional.

Cut lettuce in 8 wedges and plate two wedges on each plate.  Drizzle each wedge with blue cheese. Then sprinkle with tomato, bacon bits and blue cheese.  Season generously with black pepper and garnish with fresh chives.  Serve any additional dressing on the side.

Buttermilk Blue Cheese Dressing
Makes about 4-6 servings

½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup buttermilk*
One heaping tablespoon sour cream
1 cup crumbled blue cheese
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, or to taste
1 small clove garlic, minced
Coarse black pepper, to taste

In a medium-sized bowl, mix together mayo, buttermilk and sour cream. Add rest of ingredients and mix well, incorporating the blue cheese, but leaving a few chunks as well. Season generously with black pepper, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.  Note: this dressing is excellent served with Buffalo wings and celery.

*If dressing is too thick, simply add a little buttermilk until you achieve your desired consistency. Add less buttermilk if you want a chunkier-type dip.
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Monday, August 30, 2010

Fish Bites, Remoulade and Roadhouse Dives: this is Hatteras

Grouper Bites with Spicy Remoulade Hatteras Island, N.C.
Hatteras Island, North Carolina is its own kinda vacation spot. If you've got a big-ass truck, are addicted to saltwater fishing, divey food joints, spectacular sunsets, and prefer to spend the majority of your time sans shoes, shirt or make-up, you need to come here. If you're looking for crowded beaches with lots of nightlife, frozen seafood buffets, dolphin watch tours, water parks and high rise hotels, this ain't your place.

To give this proper perspective, nightlife in Hatteras pretty much consists of the moon-- staring at the moon, commenting on the tides, and watching out for shooting stars, all while imbibing whatever adult beverages you've got stashed in the fridge. While there are a few spots for late-night evening activities, there's not a single high-rise hotel on the entire island, and you can dolphin-watch for free from any nearby beach, which also doubles as its own natural water park, where fishing, kayaking or sleeping the day away is a must. It's quiet here, blissfully so, and it's the kind of place where the sounds of lapping waves, calling gulls and crickets lull you off to sleep instead of honking horns, drunken street brawls or worse, some teenagers' radio blasting The Jonas Brothers off in the distance.

All of this Hatteras magic takes place, of course, after you've spent the last hour or two staring at one of these:
Evening sunset on Canadian Hole, Hatteras Island
When it comes to eats, stash your shoes, slip on your flip flops and head to the nearest hole-in-the-wall such as Pop's Raw Bar & Restaurant in Buxton, where vacationers and locals happily mix. Pop's is a no-frills kinda joint where locally caught seafood is served up unadulterated on paper plates alongside plenty of ice cold beer. The bar is nearly always full here and is the perfect spot to share a tall fish tale or a bit of local gossip.
While the fact that Pop's defines what is so appealing about Hatteras Island (i.e. the kick off your shoes and stay a while roadhouse vibe) this joint also offers up some seriously good food. Since Pop's is a haven for the hardcore angler, you can bet they serve only the freshest catch. During the summer months, you're looking at steamed, spiced shrimp with drawn butter (the best we had on the island), grouper bites with an array of dipping sauces (from homemade tartar to cocktail) fried clam, oyster and crab cake sandwiches, all served with a big pile of freshly grated slaw, French fries and oniony hush puppies. Oh yeah, and really, really cold beer.

If you're not catching anything yourself and are craving a mess of fresh seafood, grab some to go and head back at your rental. For super-fresh local-caught fish, shrimp, clams etc...I must recommend Risky Business Seafood at Oden's Dock in Hatteras where you can get your shrimp steamed and spiced to order, a couple of their hand pressed crab cakes, or if you come after 4pm, perhaps some tuna, Wahoo, Red Drum or Mahi straight off the boats.
Guys cleaning Mahi
When it comes to enjoying a little taste of Hatteras at home, try your hand at making a batch of fish bites with tartar or spicy remoulade. Feel free to use my recipe for cornmeal dusted flounder and instead of frying up your fish as a large filet cut it into smaller bite-size chunks and shallow fry those. Add a homemade tartar or remoulade dipping sauce (see recipe below) along with a couple squeezes if lemon and you are good to go. Finally, grab a cold one, kick back and share your latest tall fish tale while starting at the moon, the stars or if you're lucky enough, a peaceful orange sunset.

Kickin’ Remoulade Dipping Sauce
Serve this sassy dipping sauce with a big pile of fish bites. While most any chunky, flaky white fish will do, I recommend using either Rockfish, Mahi, Grouper or Flounder.

3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon stone ground mustard
3 tablespoons minced sweet pickle
1 tablespoon minced parsley, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons minced red onion 
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 minced green onion, both white and green parts
1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
Salt and Pepper
Cayenne pepper, to taste
Old Bay, to taste
Tabasco sauce, to taste

Mix all of your ingredients together in a medium sized bowl. Top with additional minced parsley.  Best made a day ahead. Serve with fish bites or any fried seafood.

Makes approximately 1 cup of dipping sauce.

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