Every year, the nice folks at Saveur magazine do a gonzo issue called The Saveur 100, wherein they bring to you, gentle reader, items of deliciousness which you will want to buy, eat or generally get on a plane immediately to go see. This year's best bit of food travel porn is at No. 44, and it's the entire country of Norway. (Yes, it's ridiculous, but it's worth buying the print edition just for the photo edit on this spread alone.)
Flipping through, my jaw dropped when I got to No. 35 and found a pitch perfect description of the legendary Hap Townes restaurant. This entry focused on the stewed tomatoes and, incredibly, includes a recipe for them. The item was written by Jane and Michael Stern, better known as the folks behind a series of road food books and roadfood.com.
The recipe, which originally came from James Beverly "Little Hap" Townes' grandmother, is included in the back of the issue.
So this July, I gathered my supplies. Simply:
2.5 liters of vodka
2 growlers (any airtight container will do)
20 vanilla beans (bought here)
Approximate cost: $60.
(Tip: You can save money if you go ahead and buy more beans at once, instead of in multiple stages like I did.)
And here's what you do:
The recipes usually arrive as handwritten notes with lots of margin scribbles, or worse, as files from an early computer program called something like Menu Master. To turn them into a cookbook, the recipes are scaled way back (60 zucchini muffins, anyone?), then re-tested on home kitchen equipment. Even after that, there's a lot of educated guessing and querying. Does the chef mean cilantro when he says "sprinkle with coriander"? What size "mini muffin" cups? There's no tuna in the Tuna Coating recipe, nor is it used for tuna — what is a better name?
No two recipes are worded the same way, so a lot of the job involves coaxing all the bread, soup or salad recipes into a similar flow and format.
The current cookbook project (for a mid-Atlantic resort) includes lots of nut garnishes and toppings. Some recipes call for "roasting" the nuts and others call for "toasting" them. I'm spending a lot of mental energy fretting about the difference. Roasting is in the oven and toasting is on the stovetop, but beyond that, what's the difference, if there is any?
After the jump, the most intriguing recipe I edited all week. I haven't made it yet, but it's been tested, so jump right in. When you make it, will you roast or a toast the nuts?
Cornbread is the color of gold, and eating it supposedly attracts gold to the diner. Greens, whether collard, turnip or mustard, are supposed to represent green folding money. Black-eyed peas or field peas are symbolic of pennies or coins, and the fact that they swell when cooked represents your increasing bank account in 2012. It is also a tradition to leave a coin under the pot when cooking them or under each bowl as you serve them to reinforce the wish.
Other practices include the Spanish tradition of eating a grape at each peal of the bell at midnight on New Year's Eve. I tried this one last year, and I can tell you that it's a Kobayashi-like feat when you've already had a good meal and perhaps a few glasses of Champagne. But if it really does bring prosperity, it's worth forcing them down.
Other superstitions rate both foods to eat and ones to avoid. Pork is traditionally favored because pigs root forward. Conversely, avoid lobster (known to swim backwards) and chicken (known to scratch backwards). No word on delicious, delicious beef, which tends to just stand there and grow tastier.
Around these parts, black-eyed peas and greens dishes seem to be the most popular. Texas Caviar is a dip that seems to be a good way to get some luck into your black-eyed-pea-averse friends. More traditional is the Low Country classic dish called Hoppin' John. Although the origin of the name is still cloudy (some think it's a bastardized pronunciation of the Haitian Creole term for black-eyed peas "pois pigeons"), some variation of beans and rice are popular from Texas to Brazil. Even more full of fortune are those who can prove their frugality by extending their Hoppin' John beyond New Year's Day to make leftovers from them. These dishes are known as Skippin' Jenny. Go figure.
Since Hoppin' John is so close to traditional red beans and rice, I sought out a recipe to share with our Bites readers from a true son of the Big Easy, Chef David Guas of Bayou Bakery in Arlington, Va.. Guas grew up in New Orleans and spent his early culinary career learning his craft from chefs around the city. As an avid sportsman, it wasn't too difficult for Guas to trade the bayous of Louisiana for the marshes of the Chesapeake when he had the opportunity to move to the D.C. area in 1998. Since then, he has worked as a pastry chef in several kitchens until he opened his own Bayou Bakery in late 2010. He is a frequent guest on the Today show and has been featured in The Washington Post, The New York Times, Esquire, Oprah Magazine and Bon Appétit.
This recipe has the virtue of being very easy to assemble. It's light when so many holiday appetizers are heavy. It looks pretty and tastes even better. I adapted it from Fine Cooking, maybe. It goes together in about 20 minutes. Tastes just right with beer or wine. It doubles successfully, and the leftover vinaigrette keeps for a week or so.
Smoked Salmon in Endive Spears with Lemon Dill Vinaigrette
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
2 tablespoons minced red onion
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
1/4 lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
8 to 10 ounces smoked salmon, cut into 15 pieces
Leaves from 2 Belgian endive (about 15)
Combine the mustard, mayonnaise, onion, dill and lemon juice in a small bowl and mix well. Gradually whisk in the olive oil. Season with plenty of salt and pepper.
Arrange the salmon in the endive leaves. Arrange on a platter. (You can make the dish up to this point and refrigerate, covered, for 2 hours.) Drizzle a little of the lemon-dill mixture over the salmon. Makes 15 pieces, 5 to 6 appetizer servings.
(There will be a lot of viniagrette left — instant salad dressing!)
And on Facebook, Jules Lieb found me. Jules was a legendary Nashville restaurant figure going back to the 1980s. She worked at The Laughing Man, possibly Nashville's first vegetarian place, and later at Garden Allegro. Eventually she ran Jules, serving vegetarian cuisine and beyond, in Cummins Station.
Jules now lives in Boulder, Colo., and just opened Morning Glory Cafe. But the memory of the Carrot Cashew Dressing from that era remains. It was an unforgettably rich and satisfying dip, dressing or sauce for vegetables.
Even if you're not interested in the dressing, please keep the recipe, because one day a longtime Nashvillian will recall it fondly and get a far-away look in the eyes.
Carrot Cashew Dressing
This recipe makes more than a quart, so you may prefer making a half batch. Jules cautions, emphatically, not to substitute olive oil; it does not taste good in this preparation.
2 cups water
2 cups cashews
2 large carrots, cut into large dice
1 cup safflower or canola oil
1 cup nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon garlic granules,
Pinch of cayenne
1/4 cup tamari sauce
Pour the water over the cashews in the blender. Blend like crazy. Add the remaining ingredients. Blend like crazy. Makes a 5 to 6 cups.
This cookie is good. I’ve never had one like it anywhere else.
Ostensibly, the kitchen sink cookie is named after its long list of ingredients, including oats, coconut, dried cranberries, chocolate chips and pecans. I’m actually a purist with most desserts — I avoid nuts in ice cream, brownies and other cookies, for example — but this cookie is a different kind of beast. Crunchy, chewy, sweet, salty and chocolaty all describe it, yet every component is perfectly balanced.
It wasn’t until recently that I considered trying my hand at reproducing it at home. The cookies I made were really good, but they didn’t quite add up to the Fido version. I tried to adapt the “Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie” recipe from America’s Test Kitchen, which is based on the Nestlé Toll House recipe. From this I added the extra ingredients in proportions I could only guess. And before you say anything: Yes, this recipe has almost two sticks of butter in it. YOU GOT A PROBLEM WITH THAT?
I didn’t think so.
It's an a little astonishing that there are 100 recipes using at least 10 White Castle burgers. Even more noteworthy is that it's the company's third compilation of recipes, all culled from about 15 years of company recipe contests. Thousands and thousands of recipes for slider breakfast bakes, dips, casseroles and nachos.
These are but the spawn of the original White Castle recipe: White Castle Turkey Stuffing. Certainly you might stuff a turkey with Stovetop Stuffing, or oyster dressing, or sausage dressing. But in 10 years, they'll still be talking about the burger-stuffed turkey.
White Castle Turkey Stuffing
10 White Castle burgers, no pickles
1 1/2 cups minced celery
1 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons ground sage
3/4 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
1/4 cup chicken broth
Tear the burgers into large pieces and combine in a large bowl with the celery, thyme, sage and pepper; toss to combine. Add the chicken broth and toss again. Stuff the mixture into the turkey cavity just before roasting. Makes abut 9 cups, enough for a 10- to 12-pound turkey.
To make more stuffing, use 1 burger for each additional pound of turkey.
The snap of its fried exterior, the lashings of buttery, spicy sauce and bracing crunch of celery rattled around in my head for two months. The blue cheese tang, the get-your-attention heat contrasted with the cool, crisp celery topping.
These few extras change a hot dog from a working mom's y'all-nuke-yourself-dinner meal to a canvas for expressing your fondest culinary wishes.
Eventually these things drive me to the kitchen to experiment. With a nod to Dog of Nashville for inventing it, here's how it went down. Simple and memorable.
Check out my recipe/homage after the jump, and try it for yourself. The Dog of Nashville's at 2127 Belcourt Ave. in Hillsboro Village (292-2204).
I sat down one Sunday afternoon and read the whole damn thing, front to back. If there was anything gleaned from the gorgeous pages of the book, other than the generous amount of (what should probably be secret) recipes, it was that this ice cream isn’t typical for a lot of reasons.
For one thing, Jeni waxes poetically on the importance of local, sustainable ingredients (some of which she is now sourcing from Tennessee as well). But I was surprised at the obvious chemistry that was calculated in these recipes — which is similar to what I expect from a complicated baking recipe, as opposed to the many ice cream recipes I have made in the past.
The upside to the work of making any of her recipes — besides the payoff of delicious ice cream — is that you can save up to $10 a pint, as you are likely to already have a lot of these ingredients on hand. The only thing I had to buy for her famous Salty Caramel ice cream was whole milk and heavy cream. And while the process is pretty daunting — it took about 1 1/2 hours to make, including chilling time and ice cream maker time, plus four recommended hours of freezer time (and whether you can wait that long says more about your personality than I would like to admit) — the product is much closer to the original than I expected.
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