Thursday, December 20, 2012

Twice-Fried Plantains with Gingered Tuna Tartar and Guacamole Recipe

A great entertaining recipe featuring Virginia grown ginger.

I'm excited to share with everyone this easy and fun cocktail nibble recipe and video featuring Virginia grown ginger. It's a recipe for Twice-Fried Plantains with Gingered Tuna Tartar and Guacamole, and it's my latest for The Virginia Farm Bureau's "Heart of the Home" cooking segment, which I am happy to report has now doubled in production, which means more recipes and more shows featuring Virginia everything.

You can catch these shows in their entirety here as well as here on various statewide cable and satellite stations. However, for a play by play on how to make this creative nibble that's best described as being a little Cuban and a little Asian all wrapped into one tasty bite, check out the above video. Savory plantains are double fried until they're super crispy and then topped with a fresh tuna tartar blended with sesame oil, green onions, and of course, a healthy dose of freshly grated Virginia ginger before receiving a dollop of creamy guacamole. You'll have to trust me on this one, it is an amazingly addictive combination.


Twice-Fried Plantains topped with Gingered Tuna Tartar and Guacamole

Serves approximately 20 as a cocktail nibble
For the Tartar:

1 pound sushi-grade tuna, cut into ¼-inch cubes
3 tablespoons soy sauce or Japanese shoyu sauce
3 tablespoons green onions, minced
3 tablespoons sweet onion, diced
1 1/2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
Dash of garlic chili sauce or Sriracha sauce, optional
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds (either white or black)

Mix all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours.

For the Guacamole:

2 ripe avocados, pitted and peeled
Juice of ½ a small lime
1 teaspoon garlic, finely minced or grated
1/2 teaspoon jalapeno, finely minced (or to taste)
1 tablespoon cilantro, minced, plus extra for garnish
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a medium-sized bowl , mash your avocados coarsely (leaving a few chunks here and there). Add the rest of your ingredients and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with additional fresh lime juice and cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

For the Plantains:

3 to 4 large unripe (green) or barely ripe (slightly yellow) plantains
2 cups (approximately) peanut or canola oil, for frying

With a sharp, small knife, cut the ends from each plantain and cut a lengthwise slit through the skin. Peel away the skin and discard. Cut plantains crosswise into 1 ½-inch thick pieces.

In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat a ½ inch of oil over moderate heat. It should be just hot enough to sizzle when a plantain piece is added. Fry plantains in batches, without crowding, until tender and just golden, about 2 to 3 minutes on each side. With tongs, transfer plantains to paper towels to drain. Repeat until you've cooked all of the plantains.

Remove skillet from heat and reserve the oil. With the bottom of a heavy saucepan or a wide solid metal spatula, flatten plantains to ¼ inch thick and about 3 inches in diameter. Heat the reserved oil over moderate heat until hot, but not smoking. Fry the flattened plantains again in batches, without crowding, until golden, about 2-3 minutes. With tongs, transfer plantains onto paper towels to drain. Season lightly with salt, if desired.  Keep plantains warm in the oven until ready to top with the tuna and guacamole.

To serve: Top each plantain with a spoonful of the tuna tartar and then a dollop of guacamole. Repeat until you’ve used up all of your ingredients. Serve immediately on a platter garnished with cilantro and lime slices.

©2012 Fatback and Foie Gras. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.
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Friday, December 14, 2012

A Little Preview of Rappahannock Restaurant

Cured Scottish Salmon Trout with beets, soft boiled quail egg, creme fraiche and Grinnel caviar
So last night was the grand opening of Rappahannock Restaurant, the brand spanking new joint by those crafty Croxton cousins of Merroir, Rappahannock River Oysters and Rappahannock River Oyster Co. in DC. After finally nailing down that ever-elusive Richmond ABC license (just in time) and hoisting signage from artist Ed Trask, the Croxton's officially opened Rappahannock to a full and happily busy house.

As admitted Merroir junkies, where we often take our pup Hankdog along and sit riverfront to nosh oysters, crab cakes and clams, we weren't going to miss this one. With Prosecco on tap (yes, you heard that correctly), a stellar chef, Dylan Fultineer (of Hungry Cat and Hollister Brewing Co. in Santa Barbara) and Mixologist Katie Nelson (of The Columbia Room and Passenger in D.C.), we set out to stuff ourselves silly and that we did.

Rappahannock's menu boasts a solid raw bar with RR Oysters' signature bivalves as well as various caviars and cured seafood. The "From the Kitchen" section of the menu has an array of small and larger plates (good for sharing) and there are a few desserts along with a Virginia cheese plate for snacking. To drink, there's a solid draft beer list, plenty of tasty cocktails from Ms. Nelson and a wine list (priced by the glass as well as the bottle) that's built for seafood.

So, here's a taste of what you're in for if you plan to hit up Rappahannock and I highly suggest you do.
Rockfish and Barcat oyster Bourride with garlic, fennel, potatoes topped with grilled bread and a poached egg
Oysters and Pearls: 6 Rappahannock oysters topped with nori granita and trout caviar
Appalachian Heritage Farm's grilled pork belly with braised shell beans, apples and salsa verde
Grilled Virginia sea scallops over braised oxtail with roasted curried cauliflower
Northern Lights caviar with creme fraich egg salad and house-made cracker....
...which we shared with a certain Modern Gentleman and his beautiful fam to celebrate his birthday.

The open-air kitchen with chefs at work and a cameo (bottom left) of Merroir's Chef Peter!

©2012 Fatback and Foie Gras. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission,
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Monday, December 10, 2012

Judging a Book by Its Cover: The Southern Slow Cooker Cookbook

Due out August 2013. Hang tight kids!
UPDATE: I just found out that The Southern Slow Cooker is officially available for pre-order as of today!  So excited! Pre-order on Amazon.

They say never to judge a book by its cover, but the fact is we all do. Just walk into any Barnes and Noble (or hit and visit the cookbook section and you'll see all those books with smiling celebrity faces and food porny photos with grab-you-by-the-shirt catchy titles and subtitles which, more often than not, bear words like "simple", "fresh" and "foolproof". This is the nature of our highly competitive game, to rope you in with luscious photos, peppy titles and sleek artwork that gets you to click, pick-up, open and flip pages, or simply remember come Christmas gift time.

Only a few days ago, we (me and the folks at Ten Speed Press) decided on the cover (shot by Erin Kunkel) for "The Southern Slow Cooker" cookbook and it wasn't easy. We narrowed the choices down to three based on recipes in the book-- a lovely shot of black-eyed peas and stewed tomatoes, a soul satisfying photo of a bowl of beef stew and the picture above featuring a bowl of Chesapeake Bay crab and corn chowder topped with fresh corn relish. All three of these recipes are built for slow cooking, so theoretically any of them could grace the book's cover. However, we wanted this cover to truly stand out, not only from the hundreds of other cookbooks out there, but also from other slow cooker cookbooks (which tend to feature lots and lots of stew, chili and the like), so crab chowder it is. It's Southern, fresh and flavorful, perfect for the slow cooker and a little different from the rest.

And I'm going to come right out and say, I like it. A lot. Naturally, I hope you do, too, so much so that you'll just have to get a copy when the times comes (behold the shameless plug). In the meantime, I am down to the final copy edits and crazy as it sounds, the book will soon be available for pre-order. How the heck did that happen so fast?

Stay tuned here, here and here for updates, sample recipes and all other kinds of slow cooking goodness, and I'd love to hear what you think of the cover so feel free to chime on in!

Best to everyone this holiday season....
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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Around the Southern Table: Peppered Pork Roast with Blue Cheese Grits Recipe

Photo credit: Jennifer Davick
I got into the business of writing cookbooks because I truly love them. As a young girl, I would sit for hours flipping through and dog earring my mother's collection of Southern spiral bound church and community cookbooks. I would literally read them word for word, starting with the table of contents all the way through to the index, stopping every now and then to oogle at some overly staged, styled photo of a lime congealed salad or a coconut cream pie with whipped meringue that seemed to touch the top of the page. While most pre-pubescent girls were curled up in bed with Judy Blume, I was trying (unsuccessfully, I might add) to work my way through Larousse Gastronomique.

I was a weird kid, yet one thing has remained a constant all of these years (in addition to still being a bit on the strange side) and that's the childlike giddiness I feel when I crack open a brand spanking new cookbook, one that truly excites me. Enter author, food writer and resident Georgia gal Rebecca Lang's new book, "Southern Living Around the Southern Table: Coming home to comforting meals and treasured memories" (Oxmoor House, 2012).
Photo credit: Jennifer Davick
It goes without saying that the recipes in this book are of your swoonworthy Southern variety-- think Cat-Head Biscuits with Tomato Gravy, All Things Sweet Potato Casserole (made with gingersnap cookies), Country Ham and Cheese Biscuit Bread, Pecan Bourbon and Cane Syrup Ham (yup) and a Chocolate-Bourbon Pecan Pie that Lang describes as consisting of, "pecans suspended in a fudgy, bourbon-kissed filling". Um, yes please!

Yet, this is not your average recipes-only cookbook. There's a lot more going on here than simply tasty food since, as any good Southern cook knows, great recipes are meant to be shared with others. Herein is where the book offers so much more. In addition to first person tributes on Southern cooking and entertaining along with the joys of family and fellowship from a few of Lang's friends and fellow Southerners including model and actress Ali Landry, HGTV's Vern Yip, Olympic gymnast and Oklahoman Shannon Miller, and a lovely forward by Southern cookbook author and respected culinary expert, Nathalie Dupree, the book is also chock full of precious entertaining tidbits.

From a short lesson on the giving side of Southern hospitality and "how we do" where Lang shares, "It's not just about the food; it's in all we do. It's writing a sweet thank-you note on real paper to taking supper to a neighbor in need" to the right of passage of handing down table linens, china and glassware that so many of us display with pride (I have grandmother's collection that I treasure to this day), this is a cookbook that will ring true with you whether you're a Southerner by birth or simply one at heart.

Moreover, now that home cooks have officially entered the holiday party phase of the year, I can think of no better reference for recipes designed for entertaining the Southern way than Lang's Roasted Cornish Hens with Lemons and Creamy Grits, Peach-Glazed Duck Breasts or perhaps a Coffee-Crusted Standing Rib Roast. Maybe some Hummingbird Cake? Lang was generous enough to share her Peppered Pork Roast with Blue Cheese Grits recipe with me, which simply screams cool weather and would make an excellent addition to an elegant Christmas Eve dinner. Bone-in, center-cut pork gets a punch from a good amount of garlic, herbs and mustard before hitting the oven and meeting up with creamy, blue-cheesy stone-ground grits. What's not to like about this combo?

In the meantime, bust out those underused linens, polish the silver, grab yourself a big, fat glass of sweet tea and crack open Lang's cookbook for inspiration since there's plenty of Southern goodness to be found within its pages especially for us cookbook collectors who can't get enough of the good stuff.

Peppered Pork Roast with Blue Cheese Grits

From Southern Living "Around the Southern Table" by Rebecca Lang (Oxmoor House, 2012).

When it’s not cut into chops, the center-cut pork loin makes a mighty bone-in
roast and serves a crowd. Make it for company and save some for sandwiches
the next day.

5 large garlic cloves
1 (4.5-lb.) bone-in, center-cut pork loin roast, trimmed
1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. whole grain mustard
1 Tbsp. dried parsley flakes
11⁄2 tsp. coarsely ground pepper
3⁄4 tsp. dried thyme
1⁄2 tsp. salt
Blue Cheese Grits
Garnish: arugula

1. Preheat oven to 325°. Cut garlic into slivers. Cut 1⁄2-inch-deep slits in pork using a paring knife; insert garlic into slits. Place roast, fat side up, on a lightly greased rack in a roasting pan. Pat dry. Sprinkle top of roast with flour; pat lightly to adhere. Spread mustard over roast.

2. Combine parsley and next 3 ingredients. Generously coat roast with parsley mixture, patting to adhere.

3. Bake, uncovered, at 325° for 2 hours and 10 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion registers 145°. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes before slicing. Serve with Blue Cheese Grits. Garnish, if desired.

Makes: 10 to 12 servings Hands-on Time: 15 min.
Total Time: 3 hr., 20 min., including grits

Blue Cheese Grits

8 cups chicken broth
1 tsp. salt
2 cups uncooked stone-ground grits
5 oz. soft-ripened blue cheese, rind removed (such as Saga Classic
Soft-Ripened Blue-Veined Cheese)
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1. Bring broth and salt to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Stir in grits. Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring very often, 45 minutes or until smooth and creamy.

2. Reserve about one-fifth of the cheese. Slice the rest, and add, with butter, to the grits. Stir until both are melted. Just before serving, garnish with crumbles of the reserved cheese.

Makes: 12 servings Hands-on Time: 50 min. Total Time: 50 min.
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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Upside Down Turkey Recipe

Photo courtesy of The Food Network. Digging this Alton Brown photo cuz it's real mad scientist.
Several years ago, I did an article for the Richmond Times Dispatch featuring an old family recipe for Thanksgiving turkey with sausage dressing (sorry, I am unable to link to the article since they are currently revamping the site), but this was no average Thanksgiving recipe. Sure, it was a regular old bird stuffed with regular old sausage dressing, but what was unique about it was that the turkey was roasted upside down towards the end of the cooking time. It's a brilliant trick that my granny perfect years ago to offset a fully cooked turkey with dry breast meat. Instead of just cooking the bird upright until it's done, during those last 45 minutes or so she gave it a flip to reveal an upside down turkey. From there, she continued roasting the bird until it was fully cooked which allowed all of those precious dark meat, fatty goodness juices to infiltrate the breast meat making it moist it flavorful.

I've pasted this turkey recipe below along with a recipe for cornbread sausage dressing, which while not reinventing the wheel, is certainly a crowd-pleaser. You should note that granny never stuffed her bird with "stuffing" (hence, why we call it dressing), but rather baked the dressing separately so it would get that addictive crispy, crunchy texture. Sometimes she would bake the dressing in individual muffin tins (stuffin' muffins I suppose?) which was always my favorite as a kid since it not only resembled a cupcake, but it was crispity crunchity all the way around with a dense, soft, bready center. Douse that sucker in some white turkey gravy or sausage gravy (we never did brown turkey gravy, always milk-based) and prepare to swoon.

So, here are two Thanksgiving recipes to consider if you're stuck on what to do with that bird, and don't be afraid to try your turkey upside down-style. Just be sure to get an extra hand or two to help you flip it!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Upside Down Turkey and Sausage Dressing

Feeds 20-22 people

An unstuffed 20 pound bird will take around 5 hours. For a smaller 10 -12 pound unstuffed bird, simply cut this recipe in half and alter your overall cooking time from 5 total hours to about 2 1/2 hours. Internal temperatures should read: 175 F at the thickest portion of the leg; 165 F in the breast; 160 F in the center of the stuffing.

18-20 pound turkey, either frozen or fresh
3/4 stick butter, softened and cut into small pieces
2 onions, quartered, (optional)
4 sticks celery, cut into fourths, (optional)
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Special tools: roasting pan, baster, tin foil

After your turkey has fully defrosted, if frozen, remove the giblet bag and save for gravy or discard. Pat turkey dry and season well with salt and pepper. Rub turkey with butter and push pieces of butter up under the skin. Fill turkey cavity with the dressing with you like (see recipe below) or quartered onions and celery if cooking dressing separately.

Place turkey on a rack in a roasting pan, breast side up and roast at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Lower heat to 325 degrees. Pour chicken broth in bottom of roasting pan and place a piece of aluminum foil loosely around your turkey in a “tent” fashion to keep wings from burning.

Baste your turkey every hour during the cooking process. During the last 45 minutes of cooking, remove the foil tent and flip your turkey upside down. For a twenty pound turkey, you should plan on roasting it for about 5 hours total (including the first 30 minutes as well as the 45 minutes upside down) or until a thermometer inserted into the thigh away from the bone reads 165 degrees in the breast portion (175 degrees in the leg) and the juices of your bird run clear.When your turkey is done, flip it back to breast side up and let rest for at least 30 minutes before carving. Save pan juices for gravy.

Granny’s Cornbread and Sausage Dressing

Serves 10

If you're making a 20 pound turkey, I recommend doubling this recipe because you can never have enough dressing!

1 tablespoon shortening
1 pound spicy sausage (or mild sage sausage)
1 1/2 cups celery, chopped
1 1/2 cups onion, chopped
3 (15 ounce) low sodium chicken broth, plus more if needed for consistency
1 stick butter
1 (1 pound) bag cornbread stuffing mix
1 (1 pound bag) cubed herb stuffing mix
1 cup chopped walnuts, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt shortening in a large sauté pan. Add sausage and break into pieces, frying well on medium-high until nice and crisp. Remove sausage to a bowl, setting aside two tablespoons of the leftover sausage grease.

Wipe out your pan and preheat to medium-high. Add reserved sausage grease and sauté celery and onion until translucent. Add chicken broth and butter and simmer for 3 minutes on medium-low.

In a large bowl, combine sausage with stuffing mixes and nuts. Add chicken broth to stuffing mixture a cup at a time, and mix lightly with a fork until dressing holds together.  Your dressing should be moist, but not wet, so use less chicken broth if necessary to achieve this consistency.

Pour dressing into a lightly greased 9 x 12 casserole dish and bake for 25 minutes or until lightly browned and crusty on the outside. Note: If cooking your dressing in muffin tins, reduce cooking time by about 8 minutes.

©2012 Fatback and Foie Gras. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.
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Friday, November 9, 2012

Slow Cooker Ginger Ale Baked Apples Recipe

 Check out the whole post next door at The Southern Slow Cooker blog.
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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tomato Soup and Ritz Crackers

Some days are meant for the simple stuff. No obscure rare ingredients, no 14 step recipes, no foreign spices with names you can't pronounce and rest of the world could never begin to find. Some days are meant for the foods that remind you of an easier time, perhaps a time when your mom, grandma, dad or grandpa made you sit at the table and eat your entire lunch before you were allowed to hop back on your bike or go outside and roll around in a big pile of leaves.

As soon as there's a nip of chill in the air, it's soup time in my book, and when I was little, my mom used to make the best tasting tomato soup. I'm not talking homemade tomato soup from freshly picked summer tomatoes, but rather the real dirty kidlet stuff, as in a can of Campbell's condensed tomato soup cooked on the stovetop with another can milk added to make it nice and creamy. Yeah, it's full of sugar and sodium, but holy heck, it sure tastes good, especially with salty, crunchy Ritz crackers crumbled on top for texture.

Canned tomato soup and Ritz crackers. This is still my go-to meal even though I'm now all growns up. In fact, I am eating a big bowl as I write this post. What's your go-to kiddie meal? Better yet, how do you like to eat your tomato soup? Crackers, grilled cheese or Goldfish?

©2012 Fatback and Foie Gras. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Chow Chow Relish Recipe

So, I did this whole post featuring a story about one of my "grannies" Maw Maw Tiller, (it really does take a village to raise a kid) along with some rambly musings regarding the gift of Southern cooking and its innate ability to help us preserve traditions, recipes, and most importantly, our recollections.

What I failed to include is a recipe, one that captures why the preservation of heirloom recipes and the "oldways" is more important than ever. We can't lose this, and I think canning a mess of chow chow relish succeeds in encompassing this sentiment. Chow chow is pure Appalachia. Canning and preservation in general lies in the hearts of so many country cooks, but it's chow chow (a.k.a. chow-chow, chowchow or piccalilli) that truly speaks to me.

My mom taught me to make this piquant and sweet relish, which is one that contains cabbage (some recipes don't), and one of my fondest memories is that glorious Sunday afternoon we spent canning jars upon jars of it. While chow chow is delightful enough to eat with a spoon (or on top of a hot dog, yum), it's really made to grace a big bowl of slow cooked brown beans cooked in fatback. 

Chow Chow Relish

Makes about 8 pints

2 cups chopped sweet red peppers
2 cups chopped green peppers
4 cups chopped cabbage
2 cups chopped sweet onions
2 hot peppers, chopped (such as jalapenos)
5 cucumbers, chopped
4 cups chopped, cored green tomatoes
3 tablespoons pickling salt
4 tablespoons mustard seed
2 tablespoons celery seed
1 cup sugar
2 cups vinegar

Chop up vegetables into a medium dice. Sprinkle with pickling salt; cover and refrigerate overnight. Lightly rinse veggies and drain well.

Put the remaining ingredients in a large pot, and bring to a boil. Add the vegetable mixture and cook for about 10 minutes. Pack into sterilized canning jars, leaving about 1/2-inch headspace. Remove any air bubbles. Wipe jar rims and seal at once according to canning manufacturer's directions. If you don't have any canning materials handy, you can store relish in an airtight glass container in the refrigerator for up to a month.

©2012 Fatback and Foie Gras. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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Friday, September 14, 2012

Southern Food and the Gift of Recollection

I'm down to the last two weeks before filing The Southern Slow Cooker. Over the summer, I've been pouring through buckets of our family's hand scribbled recipes, old church cookbooks, community cookbooks and recipes from memory (both mine and my mother's) in an effort to successfully adapt them for slow cooking, and I'll say 90 percent of the time, we've had success.

Oddly enough, all of this immersion hasn't had me thinking recipes, cookbooks or slow cookers at the end of the day, but rather family, our oldways by way of the mountains of West Virginia, and the gift of Southern cooking, that for me, is simple, satisfying, and easy in all sense of the word, especially on the soul-- a steaming pot of brown beans waiting to be topped with a dollop of vinegary chow chow, the sensuousness of my mom's creamed new potatoes, the certainty that once again my Granny Boohler would burn her beef roast and white gravy in that old cast iron pan (but it was still so good).

I remember the days when my Granny Belcher cooked in a wood stove and how her cinnamon rolls filled the entire house with the aroma of burnt sugar, spices and yeast. Heavenly, especially for a ten year old little girl. That house is gone now. In its place is a carpet store, which was oddly built off the back of the living room, that in a ghost town sort of way, still stands completely intact. I miss those days. I miss that food, even with its so-called imperfections, which ironically is what made it so perfect. Most importantly, I miss the people I've lost, especially this year.

Perhaps this is one of the many defining elements that makes Southern food and cooking what it is, the gift of recollection or the idea that these things shall not be forgotten.

I found a story, a recollection that I wrote nearly ten years ago, that continues to guide me as I navigate this wild journey as cook, writer, wife, and Southerner by way of Appalachia. It keeps me in the present. Perhaps it will renew a lost memory or two for you as well.

Comforting Comforts-- Ball Jars and Funeral Cake

By Kendra Bailey Morris

As a child, I was lucky enough to have three grandmothers. My father’s mother, Granny Boohler, my mother’s mother, Granny Belcher, and my Granny and Grandpa Boohler’s longtime neighbor and friend, Maw Maw.

Maw Maw lived in a small, brick, two-bedroom home, painstakingly built by her husband (known appropriately as Paw Paw). The home was about 100 feet from my grandparents’ home (which Paw Paw had also built back in the fifties) and boasted a mini carport, a paved drive, and a big picture window fronted by expertly clipped rhododendrons (the West Virginia state flower). The property was neat as a pin—immaculately mowed and edged by Paw Paw, who took great pride in caring for his small plot of land.

Maw Maw and Paw Paw lived in Mercer County, West Virginia, where small towns such as Princeton and Bluefield still flourish along with nondescript in-between places bearing names like Possum Hollow, Greasy Ridge, and Punkin Center. Nearby was Junior’s used car dealership along with the Air Strip Motel, owned by Maw Maw and Paw Paw’s son, which, ironically, was nowhere near an actual airport. Up the street, you could get the best foot-long chili dog in town at the local Tasty Dawg. It was that kind of place.

Down the road a bit rested the old, beat-up yellow school bus that the Clemons family made into their home. Much in the same way a hermit crab makes his home out of an empty conch shell, the Clemons’s made their home out of an abandoned school bus. Over the years, this diligent family of four built onto that yellow and black bus emblazoned on each side with “Mercer County Schools.” First, a bathroom was added on, then a living addition, and eventually a small kitchen was built off the back as well as a deck and a makeshift front porch. Over time, much of the bus began to disappear—the flattened tires, the driver’s seat with steering wheel, the fold-out entrance doors—until one day the family was left with an actual home that wasn’t sitting up on blocks anymore.

About a block away, Maw Maw and Paw Paw’s home seemed like the Ritz Carlton. With a full-sized kitchen and a semi-finished basement, they did pretty well for retired coal miners who lived a good part of their married years in a tent colony on coal company property. A certain amount of this good living came from Paw Paw getting the black lung from years of working in the mines. In the late sixties, Congress established a black lung benefits program to which Paw Paw promptly applied and promptly received a hefty six-figure lump payout. And typical of solid country people who came from nothin’, both Maw Maw and Paw Paw went to their graves without spending so much as a dime on themselves.

But Maw Maw and Paw Paw still kept enough food around to feed the entire congregation of Greenview Methodist Church, and stashed it (just like their lump-sum payout) all over the house. With a basement filled wall to wall with home-canned vegetables and meats, few trips were ever made to the local grocery store. They were completely self-sufficient, with nearly all of the canned goodies coming from Paw Paw’s vegetable garden. His garden was an impressive sight to behold. The neighbors marveled at this local wonder. As the garden was built on a 70-degree ridge, it was hard believe he could get anything to grow there with the constant mountain flooding from summer rains, but somehow that green thumb of his made it work. There it was—rows of green beans, heirloom tomatoes, sweet corn, mounds of crispy cabbages, and crunchy red radishes. It was a vegetarian’s delight, less all the fatback it was cooked in.

When we’d visit in the summer, oftentimes I’d get to “sleep over” in Maw Maw’s basement on the old rickety twin bed with its half-painted iron frame and “hot dog” mattress (you know, the kind of mattress that folds you up like a hot dog if you lie in the middle). But somehow, that bed was still comfortable—probably because Maw Maw always made it up with her handmade quilt and crisp, fresh sheets just before I came over.

No one had air-conditioning back then (and it could get quite warm in the summer), so a drafty basement with a cement floor was a welcome relief. Next door, at my Granny Boohler’s house, every bed, couch, and available floor space was packed with aunts, uncles, and cousins from bottom to top, and even at the ripe old age of eleven, I think I needed some peace.

After dinner, Maw Maw would saunter down the creaky wood stairs and tuck me in, dressed in her characteristic oversized brown print smock, and softly uttering the same apologetic phrases, “Well honey, I knows you want to stay on up, but me and Paw Paw’s tarred tonite—he’s been pullin’ weeds out der all day. Dontchu whirry. You can c’mon back tamara and slep ovah.” I would hold onto those words like a fistful of diamonds just waiting for night to pass so I could start the process over again the next day. I just loved being there.

On some nights, when I couldn’t sleep, Maw Maw would lie next to me in the adjoining twin bed and wait for me to fall asleep, which I rarely did. Instead, she would fall asleep on her back with legs gently crossed, her hands resting on her chest peacefully, and emitting just enough of a snore that I knew not to try and start up any conversation. She seemed old to me then, with her tightly wound silvery brown curls, deeply embedded facial lines, and skin heavily pigmented from too many long days in the sun.

In the middle of the night, when I’d wake up, Maw Maw would be gone. Feeling a little scared (being down there by myself now), for entertainment I’d count the Ball jars lined along with wall. They were always properly organized by their contents—eleven jars pickled wax beans, eight jars sweet corn, six jars pickled beets, ten jars apple butter, seven jars bread-and-butter pickles, four cans homemade sausage. I remember how the moonlight would creep in and bounce off the golden colors of the corn and the freshly packed cucumbers still glistening in their vinegar.

Immediately, I’d feel better as it reminded me of Maw Maw’s cooking—the quintessential vegetable plate with fresh, sliced tomatoes, collard greens cooked in fatback, apple cider–laced cole slaw, and mushy butter beans. And sweets! Her sweet potato pie was pure heaven. Simply garnished with a dollop of fresh cream and a sprinkle of nutmeg, it was the perfect ending to the perfect meal.

Maw Maw passed away a few years ago, tipping the age scales at 103 years. After her funeral, friends and family gathered at the house, doing what we all do in the country when someone beloved passes on—bearing sweets. Although in Maw Maw’s case, it may have seemed more appropriate to bring a couple of jars of homemade apple butter or canned cream corn, the people who loved her most brought gooey brownies, homemade cinnamon rolls, and apple date pies. There was, of course, a West Virginia Funeral Cake—a chocolate-cinnamon–infused cake with chocolate icing, which originated out of the coalfields. Made from ingredients on hand in every country cook’s kitchen (flour, sugar, eggs, and chocolate) it is designed to be made at the last minute and leave a lasting impression. The West Virginia Funeral Cake’s sole purpose is to brighten up even the saddest of days, and it truly does.

Every cookie, cake, and pie savored that day was made in Maw Maw’s honor because in many ways, that’s why we all cook—to give back to the people we love. The meals that Maw Maw cooked for me were fashioned out of love, and sharing her food made me proud to be part of everything Mercer County, where a school bus can be a home or a particularly fruitful garden a symbol of community stature; where Ball jars and fresh vegetables are enough to live on, and six-figure lump payouts don’t mean nothing next to the Bible.

Originally published in "White Trash Gatherings: From-Scratch Cooking for Down-Home Entertaining" (Ten Speed Press, 2006).

©2012 Fatback and Foie Gras. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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Sunday, September 2, 2012

Top 5 Things That Happen To You When You Write a Cookbook

Recipe failure is loads of fun.
So, I'm down to the last 30 days before I send this baby off to my editors, and I'm alternating between a huge sigh of relief and unadulterated panic. Will I ever make this deadline? God, I hope so. Will I die trying? Probably not, but it sure as heck feels like I might.

Anyhow, in an effort to procrastinate all of the writing I should be doing this Labor Day weekend as the rest of the world sips icy cold ones on the beach (and do know that I hate you for this), I decided to offer a round-up of all the fun stuff that happens to a person when they try to crank out 150 pages and 60+ recipes (tested multiple times) in less than three months.

1. Personal grooming be damned.

You know that feeling when you're walking out the door of the hair salon and you just know you're looking good with your sassy new coiffed hairdo, freshly painted toes and plumpy pink lip gloss? I don't know that feeling anymore, but what I do know are black roots, hairy legs and vampire-length toenails. It's not pretty. I'm not pretty. Heck, if I can sneak in a shower sometime before it gets dark, it's been a good day.

2. You get fat.

Next time I'm writing a book with a healthy eating slant, be it paleo, clean eating, vegan, low fat, low carb, juicing, I don't care. All I know is that eating nothing but smoked sausages, pork BBQ, ham, bread pudding, short ribs, chili, and various things cooked in fatback and bacon grease for three months has made me a fatty. I got stuff growing around my midriff that I've never seen before. As a result, I have now become a sweat pants, drawstring shorts, mom jeans kinda girl who also looks a hot mess from the waist up (see number 1). As if this wasn't bad enough, I'm usually donning a t-shirt stained with food particles and I smell like Subway.

3. You get angry (A LOT). 

My poor husband. He thought that PMS was bad, but that ain't nothing compared to 3+ months with not a single day off, recipe failures that end up with me in tears face down on the bed, unprovoked social media outbursts, the occasional middle of the night panic attack, and a general maladjusted sense of well being that never seems goes away. The worst part is that there is (sadly) no happy pill that I can take since I play with knives all day, which is a whole 'nother paradox my poor husband has got to deal with.

4. You never get to eat what you want.

This is perhaps the biggest irony when you set out to create a book full of recipes that folks will in turn make for family dinners, gatherings and Sunday meals. By the time I've written the recipe, gone to the grocery store for the umpteenth time, prepped the recipe, cooked the food, tasted the food, and cleaned up the kitchen, I'm over the damn thing, and more often than not it's now 11 o'clock at night and I'm hungry and cranky (see number 3). This is when I usually end up eating something leftover from a previous days testing (see number 2) or bust out a Stouffer's French bread pizza because I can't bear to have to clean the kitchen again. When this is over, I'm going out for sushi and getting the love boat.

5. People hate you.

Birthday party invite? Gotta work. Dinner at our house? Nope. Afternoon invite to join friends in Virginia wine country? A mere pipe dream. When you write a cookbook on short deadline, it becomes your life. Thankfully, the process is often brief, lasting only a few months, but in those months, you get to do one thing, and that's write, which means everything in your life (and I mean everything) is pushed aside until you turn that sucker in. While you as author may understand this to be a necessary evil, friends and family may not, and no matter how many explanations or apologies you give, you're still a selfish jerk. I'm lucky, I have a wonderful family, great friends, and a husband I frankly don't deserve, but it still pains me to have to say "no" like a broken record. All I can say is that soon enough I again shall be free, and I'm taking everyone out for for frozen daiquiris at Applebee's.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Homemade Big Mac Recipe

This shot is so sucky, I even tried to Instagram it to no avail.
Got a hankering for a burger? Try this one on for size. It's everything that makes the Big Mac so tasty, but it's 100% homemade.

Since I am in that phase of the cookbook writing process where I just had to have something that did not come from a slow cooker, I whipped up this little burger and was happy again. It's a recipe that I posted a couple of years ago, so it might look familiar, but it's still a winner, so if you feel like firing up the grill, I hope you'll give this one a try.
You could always just make a regular burger, too.
Just remember, no frozen patties here (yuck). Only ground beef pressed by hand (that's at least 15 percent fat since that has the most flavor). Also, I love to make burgers with ground chuck, a personal preference. And, for the sauce? That's homemade, too (meaning, no cheating with Thousand Island dressing, although there is a wee bit in the recipe as you'll note).

Finally, when you grill or fry your burgers, resist the urge to press down on the meat with a spatula. I see people doing this all the time and it makes me bonkers because it's the fastest way to lose all those precious meat juices.

So, grill up. Have fun, and if you make this recipe, I'd love to hear what you thought about it.

In the meantime, I'll be back to slow cooking.

Homemade Big Mac Recipe

Very Special Burger Sauce

¼ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Thousand Island dressing
1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
1 tablespoon minced onion
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Mix all together and refrigerate until ready to use.

To Assemble Very Special Burgers
Makes one burger

2 thin hamburger patties
Salt and pepper
½ tablespoon vegetable oil
2 large sesame seed buns
One slice American cheese
2 tablespoon finely minced onion
½ cup finely shredded lettuce
3 slices dill pickles

Heat a grill pan or griddle to medium high.

Lightly salt and pepper hamburger patties. Add vegetable oil to pan and cook each burger until the juices run clean (you can also grill them). Remove burgers and set aside.

Take one of the buns, open it, and place each bun face down on the griddle or grill. Take the other bun and remove the heel (bottom part of the bun) and place it face down on the grill (save top part of bun for another burger).  Toast each bun well, letting them soak up a little of the leftover burger grease.

To assemble, spread one tablespoon of the Very Special Burger Sauce on the bottom bun and top with one tablespoon minced onions and some shredded lettuce. Top with the slice of cheese and then one of the burger patties.  Next add the remaining bottom bun.  Spread it with more dressing, minced onion, shredded lettuce, pickle slices and then add the second burger. Top with the remaining top bun.

©2012 Fatback and Foie Gras. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.
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Friday, August 17, 2012

Cloth Bologna: What the Heck is It?

My dear husband, who often works long hours on the road in rural parts of Virginia (he is in sales) snapped this gem of a photo while touring the back roads of Grottoes, Virginia, which is not far from Weyers Cave (pronounced Weeerz not Wirez FYI), and is home to the fabulous Grand Caverns a.k.a. "America's Oldest Show Cave" (who knew?) and I just had to share it. You see...this sign spoke to me, and not just because it has a whole mess of hammy goodness drawn all over it (and cabbage for .44 cents a pound), but because they sell cloth bologna.
Image credit: Northern VA Daily
So, what the heck is cloth bologna? Basically, cloth bologna it bologna (a.k.a. various pieces parts, and let me emphasis the word "parts" here) all smushed up together and stored in a cloth bag instead of a more traditional casing (as in the red plastic stuff) with the argument being that the cloth bag lets in more air so all the pieces parts can "breathe" (this, and the fact that cloth bologna is homemade all the way).

Personally, I never grew up eating the stuff, mainly because it wasn't readily available where I lived, but I am seeing it offered more and more at produce stands throughout Virginia, so it has piqued my interest. I dig nothing more than a bologna sandwich on soft white bread (with just a squeeze of yellow mustard) and I figure a slice of the homemade stuff will make the perfect addition. Total, awesome kid food.

With a little assistance from the interwebs, I did find this article from Northern Virginia Daily featuring Crabill's Meats out of Toms Brook, Virginia, who apparently make a pretty fine version of cloth bologna that they boast isn't "junk bologna" (slaughter room floor goodies). Instead, they've "upped the quality" by using the same meats they use for making homemade sausages. I'm curious to check this place out, and the next time my husband passes through Grottoes, I'm gonna send him with a $20 bill to pick me up some of the good stuff

Have you tried cloth bologna? I'd love to know what you think and where you found it.

©2012 Fatback and Foie Gras. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Fresh Figs with Feta and Black Pepper Honey Recipe

The figs have arrived! The figs have arrived! This is my sentiment when our little tree that we planted a mere 3 years ago actually produced and the tree rats didn't get to them first. Can you tell I am just a wee bit excited?
A few days ago, I climbed up under our baby fig tree and harvested these buggers with abandon, glancing behind me from time to time to make sure the squirrels weren't stalking me (and I know they were, because I could feel their furry, flea-bitten presence) and I picked my little figgies in a state of pure bliss. It was a beautiful thing, and a true first around here because we get nothing, I tell you-- no plums from the 50 year old plum tree, nary a strawberry from the garden, and this year, yard critters ate off all of our zucchini flowers and all of our Meyer lemon tree flowers, so zilcho is coming from either of those. I'm getting a BB gun and a wrist rocket, I tell you, and I'm going to park my butt on the roof and start firing away at will. Heck, even this guy can't help me, and knocking off squirrels is ingrained into his genetic code.
Hankdog gets dirty, a lot.
Much of our fig explosion I can thank our neighbors for, since they have the biggest, most immense fig tree I have ever seen. It literally towers over their house, and there's no question it was planted when the house was built over 50 years ago, and this thing is LOADED with huge, gorgeous figs that said neighbors never touch. We would ask them if we could harvest a handful or two, but they're not really around too often and, while they seem like nice people, we don't really have much interaction other than the distant neighbor wave (ya'll know what I'm talking about). Ravaging their tree late night was a consideration until they adopted a very yard protective pit bull, and while I love me some figs, I don't need to lose a leg over a tarte tatin.
Fresh figs over vanilla yogurt. Simple. Perfection.
So there the neighbor's fig tree sits filled with birds, squirrels and crows who spend a full month enjoying a high fiber snack party of epic proportions while we helplessly watch in horror and disbelief. Yet, how does this benefit me, you ask? It goes like this: when the squirrels and birds have 10,000 bigger, juicier, seemingly unending figs to eat, they leave our tree alone. Survival of the fittest in its purest form, at least for those of us who actually like to eat figs. Their tree gets uselessly pilfered while our tree rises to its fruity purpose by being turned into sugary desserts, honey-laden little bites, and savory entrees, and somewhere amidst this summery goodness Darwin is smiling and probably getting hungry.
Slow cooker pork roast with figs, balsamic, vanilla, rosemary jam and onions.
Heck, I even developed a pork recipe for The Southern Slow Cooker cookbook that I'm in the process of writing for publication next summer (behold the shameless plug). In addition, I whipped up a super easy appetizer modeled after this cool recipe I found from Bon Appetit. Since I didn't have goat cheese on hand, only feta, I subbed that and it was killer.

Fresh Figs with Feta and Black Pepper Honey

*Barely adapted from Bon Appetit* Remember food bloggers, changing one ingredient does NOT make your recipe original. Always link to the original and offer full credit or get written permission if that's the site's policy. Recipe thieves make me mad.

12-14 fresh figs (I used brown turkey figs) cut into quarters, but not through the bottom (see above photo)
1/4 cup wildflower honey (tastes best)
Lots and lots of freshly ground pepper
Nice chunk of good Greek or Bulgarian feta, drained well

Place split-open figs on a serving plate. In a small saucepan add the honey and a good amount of black pepper, to taste. Bring up to medium-low and let simmer for a couple of minutes. Stuff each fig with a chunk of feta and drizzle the honey over the figs and onto the plate (it's pretty!).

Serve with a dry rosé like Barboursville Vintage Rosé which was the perfect pairing for the slightly salty cheese, sweet figs and spicy pepper.

©2012 Fatback and Foie Gras. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.
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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Beans and Cornbread Recipe


©2012 Fatback and Foie Gras. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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Monday, August 6, 2012

3 Things You Should Never Do on Television

So, I just finished shooting my 9th episode of "The Heart of the Home" for the Virginia Farm Bureau's award-winning monthly television show "Real Virginia". Seriously, I cannot believe we already bagged nine episodes this year. It's been tough but rewarding work, and it's definitely been a learning curve for this novice cooking show host, so I thought in good fun I would share a little advice for any of you hoping to break into the wild, wonderful world of televised cooking. Here are 3 things you should never do when making food on TV:

1. Do not touch your face, especially your nose. Ok, I got allergies, so it's not my fault, but sometimes I get a hankering to wipe my nose. Who doesn't? Theoretically, dotting your nose with a handkerchief or a tissue is a normal occurrence UNTIL YOU DO IT ON CAMERA WHEN MAKING FOOD. Then, it's just plain gross, and in addition to advertising to the world that you've got a deviated septum, you've now contaminated everything on the table. Take a Claritin.

2. Do not leave your mike on when using the ladies room. You don't want to drop this pricey item in the toilet, so it should not be on your body to begin with, but if you do happen to leave it on when hitting the loo (not that I did this or anything) make sure it is turned off, because you definitely don't want your visit recorded.

3. Do not drink 2 double espressos just before shooting. Initially, I thought shooting back to two giant espressos before my first shoot was a good idea. Coffee is good for the brain, makes one sharper and even increases memory. What better way to ensure my pithy snippets (as I deftly chop up an onion) are both hilarious and entertaining? Plus, overly-ebullient enthusiasm apparently gets you multiple Food Network shows as evidenced here:
From Food Network Humor
Sadly, after that first coffee-infused shoot, I can say with certainty that the Food Network ain't gonna be a callin' since, instead of engaging my viewers with a bounty culinary wit and wisdom, my performance ended up more like this:

I guess it's best to keep those cups of coffee (or in the case with this kiddo those buckets of pixie sticks) to a minimum.

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Monday, July 30, 2012

Kitchen Sink Tomato Sandwich Recipe

Virginia grown tomatoes are finally in, and even with the threat of a nation-wide drought that is sadly affecting crop production for many farmers across the country, Virginia tomatoes have managed to survive, and man, are they good this year. My father-in-law who lives in Nelson County, Virginia stopped by yesterday with a big bag of tomatoes and corn. Oh happy day! These local vegetables came from Stuart's Draft, Virginia and were grown by Dave and Miriam Miller, proprietors of a true gem of a spot, Miller's Bake Shoppe, a Mennonite Bakery located about two hours from Richmond that's totally worth the drive. For starters, you haven't lived until you've eaten this carrot cake....
But wait, there's more, like old fashioned molasses crinkle cookies, fresh blackberry pie, mincemeat pie, Hummingbird cake, homemade soft pretzels, whoopie pies, even salt rising bread. The list literally goes on and on, and everything this family run business creates is made from scratch with all natural ingredients (no preservatives) and is out of this world good.
This morning we dove into the cinnamon buns. Drizzly decadence indeed, and totally worth the extra love handle.

But, back to those tomatoes. I can think of no better way to eat these sweet, drippy Virginia gems than to sprinkle thick, juicy slices with a little sea salt and some coarsely ground black pepper (that is, unless you add in a couple of slices of soft white bread and a generous slathering of mayonnaise).
Behold the Kitchen Sink Tomato Sandwich (as originally penned by Ernie Mickler in his cookbook, "White Trash Cooking" I'm on board with all parts of this recipe, minus the Miracle Whip (too tangy for me) and my mayonnaise has got to be Duke's.

Kitchen Sink Tomato Sandwich 
From "White Trash Cooking" by Ernest Matthew Mickler (Ten Speed Press, 1986).

2 very large fresh picked vine ripened tomatoes
2 slices of bread
Salt and pepper, to taste
Mayonnaise or Miracle Whip

In the peak of the tomato season, chill 1 very large or 2 medium tomatoes that have been vine-ripened and have a good acidity taste.

Take 2 slices of bread. Coat them with 1/4 inch of good mayonnaise. On one piece of bread, slice the tomato 1/4 inch thick. Salt and pepper that layer.

Add another layer of sliced tomato, and again salt and pepper. Place the other piece of bread on top of this.

Roll up your sleeves, and commence to eat over the kitchen sink while the juice runs down your elbows.

So, how do you like to enjoy your summer tomatoes?

©2012 Fatback and Foie Gras. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What You Don't Know About Writing a Cookbook

Life as a recipe writer/tester is good when things work out.
So I'm officially in the thick of it, brainstorming, writing, shopping for ingredients, testing, tasting, re-writing, shopping for ingredients, re-testing, tasting, cleaning, bleaching and cleaning some more.

Such is the glamorous life of writing a cookbook. Don't get me wrong, I am utterly thrilled to death to have this opportunity, and every day I've got my eyes on the prize for when that first box of copies arrives on my doorstep, but the fact is, the means to the end involves some seriously hard work.

For starters, I haven't had a day off in at least 3 weeks (maybe more, but who is counting), and it looks like there ain't one coming anytime soon. I've got a fast deadline looming that often gives me panic attacks, most of the time at the oh-so convenient hour of 3am, which in turn, makes me a ball of fun when I have to get up at 7am. to start food prep.

Since I'm writing a slow cooker cookbook (emphasis on sloooowwww), the majority of the recipes I'm testing require 8+ hours of cooking time with some recipes topping out at 10-12 hours, which means there are some days where my work day starts at 8am and finishes at 11pm+. In effect, I've become a slave to my hot-ass kitchen, I've one nasty case of cabin fever, and I'm starting to get really cranky.

Now that I've aired that laundry list of whiny complaints, let me give you something practical to chew on, a little window into the financial world of what it's like to write a cookbook.

Recipe testing is an arduous and often expensive process: While some cookbook authors have an army of recipe writers, testers, kitchen assistants, personal shoppers, even ghostwriters to pen their books, the rest of us are left with a cutting board, a knife, pens and paper, and a long day ahead, and I personally wouldn't have it any other way. I'm far to anal to put my work in the hands of someone else, and frankly, sometimes it's easier to fly solo. While I do have several fine volunteer recipe testers lined up to help me (mostly friends and family), this will only happen after I have tested them at least twice and butchered them all to hell (please reference the above photo). This process not only includes conceptualizing, writing, testing, and re-testing, but sometimes even total failure with a complete do-over.
It also involves assembling grocery lists, shopping, shopping some more, and then shopping some more. I know my grocery store produce guys, my butchers and my check-out gals, and I figure they're wondering why I'm there all the time.

What many people may not realize is that all of these trips to the grocery store I pay for myself and they can get seriously expensive after weekly visits for months on end. But you got a big advance, so what's the problem, you ask? I did get an advance, but it wasn't "big" or anywhere on par with a Rachael Ray six-plus figure deal. It was average, and on par with what other cookbook authors who aren't celebs tend to make, and while I am thankful for the cushion, I will also need every penny of it. 

For starters, I paid a literary lawyer to help me negotiate the contract (I don't have an agent which can be another 15% deducted out of both your advance and your royalties). I am also paying for the book's photography (a biggie, but worth it because I know it will be stellar). I'm even paying for the indexing of the recipes (which takes a professional's eye so that was a necessity).

None of these extra costs are news to seasoned cookbook authors. This is how it's done now, and when one signs on to write a book, it's expected, but throw in food costs for testing some hundreds of recipes, paying the I.R.S., kitchen equipment costs, even basic necessities that get used up on a regular basis like trash bags, kitchen cleaning materials, kitchen tools etc...when the smoke clears, often an author ain't left with much. Toss in the fact that when she is on a super tight deadline, she won't have any time to take on any other jobs, so this cashola up front has got to last. To get a good idea of what I'm talking about, check out this article by veteran cookbook author David Lebovitz (specifically reference section 6 to see what I mean).

At the same time, writing a cookbook can be a beautiful thing. I've got dinners in the freezer to last the rest of the year, and my husband, parents and neighbors eat like kings. They get overly caloric, bacon-laden goodies like this on a regular basis:

They even get leftovers that can be made into yummy sandwiches.
So all is certainly not lost, not even close. I am loving every second of sweating in the kitchen and plopping my butt in front of the computer to conceive something new and exciting. In fact, I haven't felt this happy in a long time, and in the end that's what it's all about. I'm doing what I love, living the dream. I won't be getting rich and I'm okay with that. This is not why I'm here, and I figure thousands of hard working chefs, food writers, bloggers and various creatives know exactly what I'm talking about.

In the meantime, I shall keep on keeping on and you should too. If you dream of writing a cookbook one day, don't let this information discourage you, but do know it's not all hearts and flowers. If you're okay with that and still want in, write a book proposal, get an agent, or self-publish your own book. Whatever you do, just do it. Your personal satisfaction will be priceless.

©2012 Fatback and Foie Gras. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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Friday, July 20, 2012

Video and Recipe: Grilled Steaks with Chimichurri Sauce

So, here's my latest "Heart of the Home" video segment for the Virginia Farm Bureau's "Real Virginia" featuring a super-easy, perfect-for-summer grilling recipe. Check it out here:

Grilled New York Strips with Spicy Argentinian Chimichurri Sauce
Serves 4
For the sauce:

1 cup packed fresh parsley leaves
½ cup packed fresh cilantro leaves
½ cup packed fresh oregano leaves
3 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 small shallot, chopped
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped (use more peppers if you crave the heat)
¼ cup red wine vinegar
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

4 boneless New York strip steaks, cut at least 1¼" thick
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Coarse sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

In a food processor, add all the sauce ingredients except the olive oil, and pulse well until blended. While the processor is still running, add the olive oil in a stream. Remove sauce to a bowl, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. You can make this a day or two ahead.

Preheat a grill to medium-high.

Rub olive oil generously over the steaks, and season well on both sides with salt and pepper. Grill steaks to desired doneness (medium-rare to rare recommended). Serve steaks with sauce spooned on top.

©2012 Fatback and Foie Gras. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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