Thursday, March 28, 2013

Preview of The Southern Slow Cooker Cookbook

I'm very excited to announce that as of yesterday, "The Southern Slow Cooker" has officially gone to print! It's been one heck of a whirlwind ride this past year, and pretty amazing to think that it was right around this time last year that I was feverishly penning a book proposal for Ten Speed Press with the hopes that it would be me they wanted to write this book. Then it was contracts, negotiations, recipe development, writing, research, recipe testing, testing and more testing, no sleep, and a whole lot of leftover food to contend with along with a couple of extra pounds free of charge for the whole family. And here we are...all finished. Holy time warp. From here on, it's all anticipation until that August release date!

I'm so pleased with how everything turned out. Photographer Erin Kunkel took some lovely photos, and as you can see from the little preview of the full front and back cover, Ten Speed Press has one stellar design and editing team. I'd also like to give a special thanks to two amazing ladies who were kind of enough to pen a few glowing words after taking the time to read through the galley copies; Southern cookbook authors, food experts, and all around cool ladies Virginia Willis and Martha Foose. Thank you both so very much.

So, here it is. If you're a slow cooker/crockpot cooking lover already, I hope you'll pre-order a copy. If you're not yet a fan of slow cooker cooking, I hope this book might just change your mind :)

My best to everyone, and sorry for the tiny print!


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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Southern Strawberry Jell-O Salad Recipe

Jell-O salads taste best at church potlucks for some reason.
I grew up on Jell-O salads (a.k.a "gelatin salads", "molded salads" or just plain "salads"). Whatever you choose to call them, Jell-O salads made with some kind of flavored gelatin, canned fruit, whipping cream and often cream cheese and/or Dream Whip whipped topping are a Southern food staple found on many holiday dinner tables, church potluck spreads, covered dish gatherings, and frequently appear at traditional dinner on the grounds.
Jell-O salads are funny things. While not technically a salad per se (as in the healthy green stuff) or even really a first course, Jell-O salads are more often than not lumped into the salad chapter of old church and community cookbooks. This is probably because we Southerner's honestly view Jell-O salads as simply some kind of salad that counts as a vegetable.

Those of you (all three of you, that is) who follow my blog know by now that I have a bit of an addiction to collecting vintage cookbooks. In addition to the stacks that have been passed down to me by my granny's, my mom and family friends, I've also collected quite a few books from yard sales, consignment stores and estate sales. One of my favorite cookbook's is "Green Springs Country Cooking" (1975), a "treasury of old family recipes contributed by friends and members of Historic Green Springs", which is a historic landmark located in Louisa County, Virginia.
In this lovely book, which is a community cookbook in its purest form with recipes proudly donated by members of Green Springs National Landmark, is a wonderful collection of Southern recipes by way of central Virginia. From classics like Hot Virginia Dip, old fashioned Virginia batter bread and Country Captain to squirrel stew, Depression cake (a type of spice cake), and "Virginia-style" tomato aspic, this cookbook is a wealth of classic, old-school, home-spun Southern cooking. There's even recipes for homemade soap, how to roast a whole hog, make your own parsnip wine as well as whipping up your own moonshine with the disclaimer, "Check with your local sheriff before setting up a still." Sage advice. But the very best part of this cookbook in my opinion is that all of the recipes are in the original handwriting of their creators.
In a food world where shiny, food-porny photos must dominate nearly every page of any cookbook hoping to sell its weight in recipe gold, I find books like Green Springs Country Cooking, which harken back to what really matters when it comes to preserving and sharing recipes as well as honoring our Southern oldways through both oral and written tradition immensely refreshing. This book has nary a single photo in it yet it's my go-to when I cook at home. As I sift through more and more community and church cookbooks like Green Springs, I'm discovering that those slick, fancy pants cookbooks made up mostly of photos are exactly that. I much prefer books filled with recipes, tried and true ones created with pride, and ones that I'll actually make on a regular basis.
Speaking of recipes, here's one for a classic strawberry Jell-O salad recipe as it appears in the Green Springs book and this one was contributed by Mrs. Lelia D. Bickers of Standardsville, Virginia. I'm thinking this recipe would be a great addition to any Easter dinner table, and just think how proud you'd be making Mrs. Bickers by serving it.

Strawberry Jell-O Salad Recipe
From "Green Springs Country Cooking" (1975)

Note: I am reprinting the recipe exactly as appears in the cookbook. Home cooks should note that in true Southern cooking form, there is a bit of ambiguity here when it comes to sizes and amounts :)

2 boxes strawberry Jell-O
2 cups hot water
1 large package of frozen or fresh strawberries
1 large can crushed pineapple (with juice)
1/2 pound miniature marshmallows
1/2 pint whipping cream or 1 package Dream Whip
1 large package cream cheese, softened (I am assuming this is 8 ounces)
Chopped walnuts

Dissolve Jell-O in hot water, add strawberries, pineapple and marshmallows. Mix and chill until set. Beat cream or Dream Whip until stiff; add softened cream cheese. Mix until smooth and spread over the Jell-O mixture. Sprinkle top with nuts.

Recipe by Mrs. Lelia D. Bickers

All photos and text ©2013 Fatback and Foie Gras. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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Monday, March 18, 2013

Winter Spiced Cherry Sangria Recipe

Sangria gets spiced up with star anise and vanilla bean.
Sangria in winter? It's crazy, I know, and clearly I am ready for spring and summer to arrive, but this is not your average concoction of wine, booze and macerated fruit. This Tempranillo-enhanced sangria gets fully winterized with fresh, tart pure cherry juice, licorice-flavored star anise and split vanilla beans. What you get is a soul warming cup of boozy goodness that equally satisfies when it’s either served warm in a big mug or chilled over ice with a splash of soda water.

Heavily spiced foods are a natural choice for this sangria recipe, so try pairing it with a platter of Tacos Al Pastor, Spanish-style sauteed garlic shrimp, or eggs scrambled with fresh chorizo.

Winter Spiced Cherry Sangria

Serves 4

1 cup Tempranillo or other full-bodied red wine
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup brandy
1/4 cup triple sec
1/4 cup peach schnapps
3/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup pure cherry juice (no sugar added)
3 pieces whole star anise
1 vanilla bean, split in half
Optional fresh fruit garnishes: sliced apples, oranges, red grapes or fresh cherries
Soda water, optional

Pour the red wine into a large pitcher. Add sugar and stir to dissolve well. Add brandy, triple sec, schnapps, orange juice and cherry juice. Stir well. Add the star anise and vanilla bean. Add fruit of your choice.

Cover pitcher with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

Remove the star anise and the vanilla bean and serve sangria over ice topped with a splash of soda water or gently heat sangria in a pot and serve in a mug granished with a cinnamon stick. Pin It Now!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Chicken Fat Pie Crust Recipe

In honor of National Pi Day, which celebrates that elusive mathematical constant, I thought I'd take a moment to share one of our family's tried and true "pie" crust recipes made with chicken fat and shortening. While butter, Crisco and lard are all delightful options when making homemade pie, I have to go with chicken fat on this one, especially if you're making apple pie or mincemeat pie. There's just something about that salty, savory, sweet combo that can't be beat.

This is a very old recipe that was passed onto me by my granny Boohler (a.k.a. Beulah Bailey) back in Princeton, West Virginia, and as you'll see, it's characteristically vague (in a Southern passed down oral recipe kinda way) beginning with, "Next time you kill a chicken...."
My granny and grandpa in WV. I spy some pies on that table.
Back in the 1940's in Ceres Hollow, WV, my dad, uncle, grandpa, and my granny Boohler raised chickens on a small plot of land that skirted Woodlawn Memorial Park, a cemetery that my great-grandfather helped to build and where much of the Bailey clan rests today. Their two acre "farm" had a milking cow, a hog, a few hens and several chickens as well as an ornery rooster, which was known to hide inside the outhouse toilet where it succeeded in scaring the you-know-what out of my dad when he had to use it in the middle of the night.
It was here that my grandpa took care of all the chicken killing, and he did it the old school way by wringing the chicken's neck, before cutting off its head and gutting it after which it would be scalded, plucked and singed over a fire to remove any stubborn pin feathers. There's an old story that my granny used to love to share at the dinner table, which involved my grandpa unsuccessfully wringing a chicken's neck and then chopping off its head only to watch it take off down the road spurting a trail of blood (seems that sometimes the nerves don't always match up with the brain as with the phrase "chicken with its head cut off"). It was stories like these that made for excellent meal fodder as you can imagine along with plenty of nervous laughter, especially when you're staring at a big plate of granny's fried chicken and white gravy.
Whether you're slaughtering your own chickens or purchasing them at your local market, be sure to save the fat after you stew one or make chicken stock since this is best way to salvage all the good stuff. A super easy way to make chicken stock is to do it in the slow cooker (same goes for stewing a whole chicken). I got quite adept at this cooking method while testing recipes for The Southern Slow Cooker where I have both a slow cooker chicken stock recipe and a recipe for slow cooker chicken with cornmeal dumplings. Once you've made your stock or stew, simply chill the broth and scrape all the fat off the top for making pie crusts.

Chicken Fat Pie Crust Recipe

As told to me by my granny....

"Next time you kill and stew a chicken, save the fat drippings by chilling the whole mess. Just spoon off the fat that has congealed on top. Then substitute the fat in your basic pie crust recipe. Substitute the chicken fat for half of your shortening."

Basic Pie Crust Recipe

Pie crusts tend to be flakier when you don't overwork them and use as little flour as possible, so when flouring your board or your rolling pin go easy on the flour.

Makes two 9-inch pie crusts

2 cups flour, sifted
1/2 teaspon salt
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon shortening (use half chicken fat here if you like)
3 to 4 tablespoons ice water, plus more as needed

Mix the flour, salt and shortening with a fork until it's well blended together. Add the water and mix until a ball forms. To roll out, lightly flour your counter top and rolling pin. Roll out pastry crusts to fit two 9-inch pie plates.

All photos and text ©2013 Fatback and Foie Gras. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.
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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Edamame Burgers with Feta and Tzatziki Sauce Recipe

I'm a huge fan of edamame, and many of you may not realize it, but Virginia grows a good amount of these tasty beans. In fact, Epic Gardens in Richmond, who recently started growing organic edamame, is having a tough time keeping up with the demand. Many people like myself are drawn to edamame as a food source because it's incredibly versatile when it comes to cooking (think: edamame salad, hummus, stews, stir-frys and sautes). Edamame is also super healthy (it's packed with fiber and protein and is low in fat and calories), but best of all, edamame tastes great. I can plow through a bowl of steamed edamame pods sprinkled with sea salt. Pure heaven!

When The Virginia Farm Bureau asked me to come up with a recipe involving edamame for their bi-monthly television show, "Real Virginia", I was all over it, but I wanted to try something a bit different when it comes to cooking this magical bean, one that didn't involve a salad or a spread since there are plenty of recipes like this already available. So, I got to thinking bean burgers. Edamame is a bean, bean burgers are tasty and healthy, so why wouldn't this work?

Since edamame benefits from a good dose of flavor, I also thought, why not give this recipe a Greek burger spin and top it with some salty feta and a dollop of homemade tzatziki sauce? After a few experimental recipe tries, I finally had the recipe down, and even this resident meat eating junkie was pleased with the results (just take a peek around this blog and you'll see how much I revere pork products). In fact, I didn't miss the meat at all in this flavor-jammed burger. Gah! Did I just say that?

To watch me make edamame burgers on the show "Real Virginia", check out this video. For the full recipe, just scroll on down. Enjoy!

Greek-Style Edamame Burgers with Feta and Tzatziki Sauce

Makes 4 large or 6 medium-sized burgers

1 cup frozen, shelled edamame beans
1 15.5-ounce can cannellini beans, drained, thoroughly rinsed and dried
¼ cup onion, minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
3/4 cup steel-cut quick cooking oats or regular oats
1/2 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
2 egg whites
1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, for pan frying
For serving: Whole grain hamburger buns, sliced tomatoes, red onion, feta cheese, and tzatziki sauce (see recipe below).

Cook the edamame in boiling water for 1 minute. Then drain well and set aside. In a food processor, add edamame along with the rest of the ingredients through to oregano and pulse until blended but not pureed, stopping periodically to scrape down the sides. Then add in the egg whites and continue pulsing until well blended.

Wet your hands with water and form the mixture into individual patties and place them on a sheet pan. Cover the sheet pan with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Then, heat the olive oil in a skillet to medium-high. Cook the burgers in the skillet until they are well-browned on each side and cooked through, about 4-5 minutes per side.

Drain burgers on paper towels and sprinkle with additional salt, if desired.

To serve: Lightly grill or toast the hamburger buns. Then, layer in order: sliced red onions, burger, a slice of feta cheese, a dollop of tzatziki sauce and a sliced tomato.

For the Tzatziki:

Cook’s Note: Double this recipe and serve as a dip or as an accompaniment to pita slices.

Makes 1 cup

½ of a medium-sized cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely minced (about a ½ cup)
1 cup whole milk Greek yogurt
¼ teaspoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh mint, minced
1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon cumin
½ tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Grate the cucumber and drain well, pressing out as much liquid as you can. Then, mix it well with the rest of the ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Cover and chill until ready to serve. 

All photos and text ©2013 Fatback and Foie Gras. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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Friday, March 1, 2013

Love by the Glass: March is Virginia Wine and Dine Month

It's that time of the year again-- March Virginia Wine and Dine Month, where nearly 300 restaurants throughout the state highlight Virginia wine with some of their own latest and greatest culinary creations. Even Virginia food and wine travel packages are on tap this year with local hotels, resorts and inns creating special wine-focused travel packages. It may come as a surprise to some, but Virginia was recently ranked a Top 10 Wine Destination for 2012 by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. How cool is that? You've got some of the best vino right here in your backyard people, so I suggest getting out there and drinking it. We now have over 230 wineries and counting in Virginia (currently ranking us 5th in the nation), so I can promise you, there is no shortage of tasty juice.
Speaking of delightful libations, Barboursville Vineyards took home this year's Virginia Wineries Association Governor's Cup for its 2009 Octagon 12th Edition, which seals the winery's very well-deserved fourth Governor's Cup win. Not only was the competition stiff this year (and it was definitely the year of the Bordeaux-style grape blends), but the judging was stringent with judges participating in over two weeks of tastings. Sounds like a pretty good gig to me.
Jason Tesauro of Barboursville Vineyards basks in Octagon glow.
Meanwhile, a few of us journalists and Virginia wine lovers were lucky to get a mini-sampling of what folks are in for with March Virginia Wine and Dine Month with a luncheon tour of several of Richmond's finest participating dining destinations. And it went a little like this:
Bar cameo: Roosevelt owner and all around cool chica Kendra Murden.
We started with a visit to The Roosevelt, where chef Lee Gregory whipped up a divine braised Virginia lamb over gnocchi with salsify paired with one of Virginia's very few Pinot Noir's, a 2011 Pinot from Ankida Ridge Vineyards. For those of you who don't know, the Pinot Noir grape is arguably one of the hardest grapes to grow anywhere, much less in Virginia where local weather can be a full-on crap shoot, but this wine is truly stellar. I recently became a convert to the joys of the delicate, berry-laden Pinot Noir after hitting a bunch of wineries in Monterey, California, and I have to say, Ankida Ridge's version was on point.
Did you know chef Lee Gregory is up for a James Beard Award? Huzzah!
Next, we hit up Rappahannock Restaurant, where chef Dylan Fultineer showcased what owners Travis and Ryan Croxton do best, which is anything involving a Virginia-raised oyster. Fultineer topped a Rappahannock and an Olde Salt oyster with minced apples, red onion, thyme and a touch of vinegar, creating a sort of mignonette that paired beautifully with our next wine of the day, Chatham Vineyards steel fermented 2011 Chardonnay. This wine screams, "bring on summer, so I can sit outside and sip this stuff all afternoon", and it's a great wine to whet your taste for a French-style Burgundy-- minerality, light acidity and slightly melon ball-y, this is the perfect seafood wine.
Behold the brine:
Our last stop of the day was to Lemaire, where along with some local meats and cheeses, we chatted with Virginia winemaker, Michael Shaps of Virginia Wineworks while imbibing his 2009 Viognier (which I personally just loved, loved, loved) and his 2008 Cabernet Franc, one of Shaps' several old world-style wines made in very small lots. This is a Cab Franc that's slightly tannic with all of those fruit-laden spicy notes you want from an aged version of this grape. It's clear that Mr. Shaps knows his stuff when it comes to this style of winemaking as evidenced by his own Governor's Cup win back in 2004.
Our day culminated with a special appearance by First Lady Maureen McDonnell, who has done so much to promote all things Virginia, but most specifically Virginia wines through her FLITE program (First Lady's Initiative Team Effort), and with the international recognition Virginia wines are finally receiving, I'd say her program has been a success.
Virginia's First Lady offers a Champagne toast.
Virginia Wine and Dine Month kicks off today and runs through the entire month of March. With so many amazing restaurants, wine shops, hotels, resorts and inns participating, you should have no trouble finding something new to enjoy, so how about giving Virginia wine a try?

For more information on Virginia wine and Wine and Dine month, check out

©2013 Fatback and Foie Gras. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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