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.

Pin It Now!

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.

Pin It Now!

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.

Pin It Now!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Breaking Out the Slow Cooker

 NOTE: Updated post with recipe photos from The Southern Slow Cooker cookbook!
Slow cooker navy beans and turkey from The Southern Slow Cooker.
 And, so it begins.... I've got the slow cookers a cookin', all three of them, and I've officially upgraded from the archaic (vintage?) Rival I bought at an estate sale several years ago. Don't get me wrong, I totally dig my Rival, and let's face it, those cookers just won't die. Just when you think you've cooked your last pot 'o beans, that SOB rises from the ashes all Phoenix-like to take one more chuck roast. Fact: take care of your slow cooker and it'll probably outlive you.
Slow cooker pork loin with vanilla fig jam from the book.
I decided to get more than one slow cooker for recipe testing for The Southern Slow Cooker so I could experience various brands (both pricey and budget) as well as different sizes and shapes, since one of the challenges in writing a slow cooker cookbook for the general public is that my readers will own different types of slow cookers, and not only does size matter, but so does shape (think round pots versus oval). Also, many newer slow cookers will run hotter than the retro-fabulous, old school ones our mothers have and that can greatly affect overall cooking time as well as cause incidental burning issues.
Country ham breakfast bread pudding. Yup, from the book
and you can make this in your crockpot and have it ready by brunch!
So, the three cookers I have going so far are as follows:

1. Hamilton Beach Stay or Go 5-Quart Slow Cooker: I dig this little number, not only because it's portable (and apparently spill-proof once you lock it in) but because it has a nice price point at under $40. It's also super easy to use with a simple manual high, low and warm setting and it's a basic oval. I'm figuring lots of folks will have slow cookers like this one with these functions.

2. KitchenAid 6-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker with Easy Serve Lid: KitchenAid seems to only make two slow cookers and both are 6-quart programmables. What struck me about this one, in addition to the side by side pop-up lid (so when you gotta stir you can retain at least half of that valuable heat), is that it has a warm, low, hot and a medium setting. I've never seen a slow cooker with a medium setting, and to be honest, I'm not entirely sure how I will use it yet, but it does open the opportunity for more experimentation. Just digging into this one, so I shall report more later.

3. All-Clad 6.5-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker: So, this one is my fancy pants slow cooker. All-Clad only makes two slow cookers-- the 6.5 quart and a 7 quart, and they are both gorgeous and expensive. These cookers are the Rolls Royce's of slow cooking, and I figure while many regular folks may not invest in such high dollar machinery, there are home cooks out there who will (or will at least put it on their bridal registry). Plus, let's face it, I really wanted one of these because I freaking love All-Clad anything. This slow cooker will serve as my large order one for roasts, entertaining recipes, and the like. Heck, it's so pretty I just might put it over the fireplace on display.

P.S. My vintage round Rival slow cooker will be making appearances in the kitchen as well many people still cook with older models.

Have a favorite tried and true slow cooker? Please share. I would love learn more about the features, sizes and shapes you prefer to cook with at home.

Thanks, and there's more to come!
Crockpot pasta sauce with meatballs, sausages and cubed steak. You guessed it, from The Southern Slow Cooker cookbook!

Pin It Now!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

I Just Signed a Cookbook Deal

I'm super excited to announce that I have just signed on to pen a cookbook with Ten Speed Press/Crown Publishing Group. The Southern Slow Cooker: Big-Flavor, Low-Fuss Recipes for Comfort Food Classics is set to come out next summer 2013.

I could not be more pleased to be working with Ten Speed again, and I am so proud to be in the company of such amazing authors whose cookbooks I've dog-eared and dirtied up time and time again: Martha Foose, Virginia Willis, Andrea Nguyen, Mollie Cox Bryan and David McMillan to name a very few.

It's going to be a very busy, hot-in-the-kitchen summer for me as I slug through lots and lots of recipe testing (think soups, stews and other steamy foods), but I couldn't be happier. Stay tuned here for updates along with a glimpse of what goes into the making of a cookbook. It's going to be fun ride!

Pin It Now!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Remembering Granny and the Church Potluck

True art.

Per my last post, and also this amazing tribute by LA Times food writer extraordinaire, Jen Garbee, many of you are now aware of the passing of our family's matriarch, my dear Granny Boohler. For the past week I've been with my family back in Bluefield, West Virginia, where we gathered to share stories of her long and very fulfilled life along with remembrances of a lady (and dedicated nurse) who did so much for the people of Mercer County, West Virginia.
With the East River Mountain as our backdrop, we celebrated her with plenty of laughs, lots of tears, and in her honor, a whole mess of tasty Southern cooking. My granny was an amazing cook. In fact, she was so popular with the locals, even a certain Senator who was also raised in the hills of West Virginia, visited her tiny residence more than once just to get a spoonful or two of her brown beans and cornbread.
Granny would have wanted nothing less than for all of us to stuff ourselves silly on her behalf, because as she used to declare in abundance, "You still gotta eat!"

So, here's a couple of snapshots of some of the wonderful food we shared in Granny's honor, most of which was provided by the lovely ladies from her church in Green Valley, WV. It's often this kind of cooking, unadulterated yet prepared with love and honor for a lost soul, that is arguably the best in the world.
There's got to be fried chicken.
Macaroni salad (heavy on the mayo) and two kinds of potato salad.
Nanner Pudding.
Pea salad, strawberry salad, orange salad & those famous deviled eggs.
Had to get a West Virginia pepperoni roll for the road.
This what we did to that pepperoni roll...added Oliverio Peppers and cheese.
The view about a mile from where Granny is buried.

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

Pin It Now!

Monday, July 9, 2012

A Tribute to My Grandmother: Beulah Ann Bailey 1911-2012

It is with great sadness that I write this post. Yesterday, I lost one of the most important and influential women in my life, my grandmother, Beulah Ann Bailey, who passed away a single day shy of her 100th birthday. While many people in her home state of West Virginia knew my grandmother for her tireless work within the medical field as both a public health nurse and advocate for better healthcare (specifically women and children's healthcare for the farthest reaches of Appalachia), to me she was just "Granny Boohler", a witty, often hilarious (prankster), loving, God-fearing Southern lady who always had an extra place setting at her dinner table for anyone looking for a slice of applesauce cake and some casual conversation.
And, she could cook. I've written about Granny's culinary prowess in the kitchen before (actually, both of my granny's are gifted cooks), and I count my blessings often that I was allowed to watch over her shoulder as she stirred, sliced and added a pinch of this or that. Granny whipped up multi-course meals featuring real-deal Appalachian-style Southern cooking well into her 90's, with many of her recipes being passed on to us kids as oral renditions that often contained the phrase, "just eyeball it". Granny wasn't big on measuring, and only on rare occasion did I ever see her crack open a cookbook, but several years ago she did pass on to me a big box of scribbled recipe postcards and torn pages from her personal collection. I've been slowly working through transcribing each one (some are in my first cookbook) in an effort to preserve them in their original form as true family heirloom recipes dating back hundreds of years. Angel biscuits, white gravy, fried apple pies, cider slaw, chow chow, peach ice cream, even my grandfather's canned sausage recipe is in that box, and their words and phrases still speak to me. In jotted notes and asides, I can hear echoes of my grandmother's voice, "one more tablespoon of sugar here" with an arrow pointed to a baked apple recipe, and next to her recipe for lime congealed salad, "Brought this to Mercer County ladies luncheon. Big hit. Serve with crackers."
Granny, Grandpa Woodrow and Aunt Barbara eating salted watermelon at the old house Princeton, WV
In true grandmotherly form, Granny loved the act of feeding people, so much in fact that she rarely ate anything herself. In the above photo, you are witnessing one of the rare occasions where she is actually sitting down at the table. We used to have to coerce her into taking an open seat with a declaration of, "no getting up until you've eaten at least half of this". She'd finally agree, sit down, take a single bite, and before you knew it (just when your back was turned), she'd be back in front of the oven stirring a big pot of pole beans or opening the oven to check on the potato rolls. Nothing brought her more joy than giving to others. It was something she felt compelled to do in all areas of her life.

When it came to work, in addition to her endless commitment to providing affordable healthcare (i.e. oftentimes free) to the many low income families throughout Appalachia (she immunized over 10,000 local children, helped found the Mercer County Health Department, and worked as a nurse for over 50 years helping to eradicate diseases such as diphtheria, polio, and small pox), she also spent many years counseling people suffering from substance abuse and mental illness, which is sadly still a very real problem in the Appalachian mountains.
Granny grew up right along the western North Carolina/Virginia border in Elk Creek (she is on the far right in the above photo). After graduating high school, she went to nursing school and eventually graduated from Vanderbilt's Peabody College of Medicine. It wasn't long before she married my grandfather and eventually had two sons: my father, Kent Bailey, and my uncle, Roger Bailey (the youngest of the two in the below photo).
While perusing some old photos last week, I came across this one, and for the life of me, could not figure out who the man was to her right...
...until my mom informed me that this young gentleman is Senator Jay Rockefeller, who like Granny, has also worked tirelessly for healthcare reform throughout West Virginia. Another photo, shows her and my grandfather standing next to Senator Robert Byrd, (pictured below) who was not only her personal friend (he used to come over to her tiny rancher just to get a bowl of her famous pinto beans and cornbread), but also a staunch advocate for equal healthcare for all West Virginians.
As young people, we tend to see our grandparents simply, as those sweet, doting elderly folk who send you birthday cards with five dollar bills inside and who are quick to offer you a big bear hug. It's often later in life that we are given the gift of insight, the ability to see our family members in a totally different way-- as children who once played by a fast running mountain creek in N.C., as wives who met, fell in love, suffered the pain of childbirth and raised two boys who, like their mother, also went on to change lives by devoting themselves to the mental healthcare field. There's a keen sense of enlightenment that comes from realizing your Granny, the same one who could cook a ten course meal in a 60 square foot kitchen, not only served her family, her church, and her community, but perhaps helped to change the course of existence for so many needy families.
Wife. Mother. Nurse. Advocate. Life Changer. This is what Beulah Ann Bailey was to many, but to me, she will always simply be my Granny Boohler.

Happy Birthday Granny
Love, Kendra
Pin It Now!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...