Monday, October 17, 2011

Glass Onion Classics is now AVAILABLE!

Many of you faithful supporters of the GO most likely already know that the cookbook finally arrived! I should have written long before now, but I wanted to wait until I could also announce the launch of our new website. Of course, we still have the same address -- www.ilovetheglasssonion.com -- but by the end of the week you will see its glorious makeover.

On the new website there will be an online store where the cookbook, t-shirts, gift cards, and our new line of sausage will be available for purchase. And you blog followers should automatically be switched over to following my new Wordpress blog, which will be part of the website rather than a separate entity.

I look forward to chatting with you there and telling you more about that delicious sausage -- Belle's Country Links -- YUM!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Still waiting on cookbook but Mmm...MEATLOAF!

Okay, okay, so some of you might also follow the Glass Onion on Facebook, and you might be a bit peeved with my premature announcement of our cookbook's arrival. What can I say? I jumped the gun; I simply willed Glass Onion Classics to be here sooner, but when you order 1000 copies it evidently takes a bit longer. That said -- she should be here by next week, but I will not guarantee any date (and especially not post it online) before I have her in my hands!

However, maybe I can assuage your disappointment by posting a recipe that I have not shared yet -- MEATLOAF! I am inspired to share this particular recipe for a couple of reasons -- namely, cooler weather and a cry of help from a friend who will go unnamed. This friend claims she cannot boil water but somehow became involved in a meatloaf cook off. She threatened to withdraw herself from said cook off, but I offered up our recipe so that she might show up her fellow Chicagoans!

So, as the days grow shorter, and our cravings lean towards heartier foods why not host your own meatloaf dinner with this sneak preview from Glass Onion Classics.

Stew's Meatloaf


At the GO, we often have meatloaf on the menu because my partner Chris (AKA "Stew") happens to make the best meatloaf around. We generally serve it as a po boy, but here we give you a very tasty tomato sauce so that you can serve it over mashed potatoes -- or for something different, try serving it over grits!

At first glance, this recipe might seem, a no-brainer, but there is finesse involved. The key is to not overwork the meatloaf mixture. At the restaurant, we accomplish this by putting everything -- meat, vegetables, spices, etc. -- through the meat grinder. If you happen to have a home grinder, feel free to use this method. Another alternative would be to ask your butcher to grind the beef and pork together, but you can always just use your hands. Simply remember: work together gently, using a folding rather than a kneading motion!

And just like our shrimp cakes, we call for bread crumbs -- meaning stale bread that has been processed in the blender until crumbs form. These are vastly superior to the store-bought variety!

1 cup chopped onion (about 1/2 medium onion)
1/3 cup chopped green bell pepper (about 1/2 medium bell pepper)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon fennel seed, toasted and finely chopped (or ground in a spice grinder)
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons minced garlic (about 2 medium garlic cloves)
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 large egg
2 cups bread crumbs
1 pound ground pork
1 pound ground beef

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine onion, bell pepper, salt, black pepper, oregano, fennel, thyme, rosemary, garlic, and red pepper flakes in a blender or food processor; puree. Add cream and egg; pulse to combine. Transfer mixture to a large bowl. Add bread crumbs; stir until well combined.

Combine ground pork and beef in a large bowl; work together with hands until just combined. Add pureed vegetable mixture; work together with hands until just combined (do not overwork!). Form into a loaf. Bake for 30 minutes at 400 degrees, until a nice crust forms. Lower oven to 325 degrees and cook for about 45 minutes longer, until an internal thermometer reads 160 degrees. Allow to rest for 5 minutes. Slice and serve over mashed potatoes or grits.

YIELD: About 6 servings

P.S. Leftovers make delicious sandwiches!

TOMATO SAUCE
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup chopped onion (about 1/2 medium onion)
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper (about 1/2 medium bell pepper)
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons minced garlic (about 2 medium garlic cloves)
1 12-ounce beer (of your choice!)
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon tomato paste

Heat oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper, sugar, salt, and black pepper. Saute until onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add beer; stir to combine, loosening any bits that have collected in bottom of pan. Add tomatoes, ketchup, Worcestershire, and tomato paste. Simmer, stirring occasionally. Cook until reduced by half and a nice thick sauce has formed, about 30 minutes.

YIELD: About 1 quart

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Return of Oysters and Countdown til Cookbook Release

If any food item has the power to bring me back from the blogging wastelands -- it would have to be the oyster. The return of cooler weather down South(and consequently cooler waters)always heralds the return of oyster for me. I enjoy every preparation -- on the half shell, fried in po boy, or poached in my father's oyster stew.

Devotees of the blog certainly know Papa's Oyster Stew as I always return to my ultimate comfort food. But for those of you newcomers I wanted to share the recipe one more time. We are currently featuring it at the Glass Onion, and it will be published in our cookbook a few weeks from now. Stay tuned to our website and social media pages for updates on the cookbook release party here at the restaurant.

Papa's Oyster Stew


Growing up, every holiday season my father and I would go buy a Christmas tree together, and then we would buy quarts of freshly shucked oysters to make his famous stew while trimming the tree. Freshly shucked oysters may seem a bit incongruous if you remember that my hometown is the extremely inland hamlet of Columbus, Georgia. But my father's good friends, the Lunsfords, owned Rose Hill Seafood, where they brought in oysters straight from Apalachicola, Florida. The flavor of those oysters, and especially this stew, is the flavor of my childhood.

1 quart shucked oysters and their liquor
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups chopped onion (about 1 medium onion)
1 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
3 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
Oyster crackers, for garnish

Place the oysters in a colander set over a bowl to drain off liquor. Reserve liquor and oysters.

Melt butter in a medium pot over medium heat. When foam subsides, add the onions, salt, and pepper. Cook until onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the reserved oyster liquor and cook until reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Add the milk and cream; bring to a simmer. Add the oysters; cook until their outer edges begin to curl, about 5 minutes. Serve hot with oyster crackers.

YIELD: About 4 entree servings

P.S. The stew might require more salt, depending on the salinity of the oysters, but it is best not to oversalt at the outset.

P.P.S. I love a lot of black pepper in creamy dishes like this stew, but feel free to use less than the recommended 2 teaspoons if your palate is sensitive to spice.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Cookbook Update and Eating Around Georgia!

First, my apologies on the length of time since my last post. However, I'm happy to report that my online absence can be at least partially blamed on the fact that the Glass Onion cookbook has entered the final stages of production. And trust me, no one could rival my excitement as I peruse the pages one last time. Just imagine all the stories and recipes you enjoy here on our blog in a perfectly bound book! That pleasure should be yours no later than mid-September; I'll keep you posted.

I do have to admit that in my absence I managed to squeeze in a weekend trip to Georgia (my home state) and enjoyed quite the eating adventure. The truly delicious local food movement appears alive and well in Athens and Atlanta, and I strongly encourage any of you in those environs to check out the following spots that I thoroughly enjoyed. I know that I only brushed the surface of the culinary offerings in both these cities and would love to hear about your favorite local food haunts here, there or anywhere!

Happy Local Eating!

All the food that I could fit into 48 hours:


In Athens, GA:
Five & Ten

www.fiveandten.com
Local Chantrelles with a Poached Farm Egg -- YUM!

In Atlanta:

Empire State South
www.empirestatesouth.com
Sweetbreads with Grilled Peaches -- Need I say more!

Miller Union

www.millerunion.com
Housemade S'Mores! ( I hated that I missed out on their ice cream sandwiches, which they only serve at lunch.)

Star Provisions

www.starprovisions.com
Pork Belly Ban Minh -- authentic take on this classic Vietnamese sandwich!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Celebrate the Fourth with Wild, American Shrimp!

I love the fourth of July! I say this even though I live at the beach where the crowds overwhelm our small island. I say this even though I own a restaurant and will be working on the fourth. I say this because it seems to be another occasion when Americans really celebrate with food. Granted it might lack the weeks of preparation that come with Thanksgiving, but still most folks seem determined to feast together on the fourth. And these feasts usually focus on what we consider decidedly "American" fare. Of course, that fare could vary drastically according to what region of the country you call home.

Here, in Charleston I think that a shrimp boil would be the perfect patriotic party fare. It just so happens that the shrimp season finally opened this week after much delay due to extremely cold water temperatures this past winter. And word around the docks is that it is going to be a pretty sad shrimp season even after giving the shrimp time to grow and spawn. Local shrimpers already make a meager living due largely to a national market flooded by farm raised shrimp from Asia. So, news of a bleak shrimp season in the Lowcountry hits especially hard.

And that's why I propose showing your patriotism this fourth by cooking up wild, American shrimp. Enjoy your time with friends and family gathered around some definite American fare!


Peel-n-Eat Boiled Shrimp


There is nothing easier or more tasty than fresh shrimp boiled with some seasonings, and we've figured out the perfect medley so that you can impress all your friends!

12 cups water
2/3 cup white wine
2/3 cup salt
2 tablespoons mustard seed
1 tablespoon cayenne
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
About 20 sprigs of fresh thyme
1/2 cup roughly chopped celery (about 1 1/2 medium stalks)
1 onion, quartered
1 lemon, crushed
4 garlic cloves, crushed
3 pounds shrimp, unpeeled

Combine all ingredients excluding shrimp in a large pot and bring to a boil. Add shrimp and cook until just finished, about 3 to 5 minutes. Shrimp should be pink and firm. Drain – do not rinse! Serve as “peel-n-eat” with our cocktail sauce or red remoulade (see recipes below).

YIELD: 8 appetizer portions

Cocktail Sauce


1 cup ketchup
1/3 cup prepared horseradish
1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon hot sauce

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl; whisk until incorporated.

YIELD: About 1 1/2 cups

Red Remoulade


1 cup mayonnaise
¼ cup ketchup
2 tablespoons Creole mustard, or other whole grain mustard
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
Splash of hot sauce

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl; whisk until well combined.

YIELD: About 1 1/2 cups (enough to dress 1 pound of peeled, boiled shrimp)

P.S. You can leave out the ketchup, making it "white remoulade" -- a similarly tasty sauce!


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Chilled Corn Soup for Summer Days

I am a southern girl down to core. As most of you know, I love pimento cheese, summertime tomatoes, and buttermilk fried chicken. And I admit that I even love the dog days of summer. Sure, I'll banter about the heat index of 115 with the best of them, but that should not be confused with complaining.

The reality is that just like those of you who endure harsh winters, we Southerners simply adjust. We drink a lot of iced tea (sweet, of course) and tone down our cooking a bit. I think days like today (when the mercury just keeps rising) present themselves as opportunities to step outside your culinary box and cook with refreshment in mind. The Glass Onion's Chilled Corn Soup would be such a pleasant dinner with a nice green salad on the side. And there will be plenty leftover to enjoy for lunch when it's just too hot to leave the office!

There is definitely some prep involved with this soup -- so give yourself an afternoon and remember to allow time for chilling the soup as well.

Chilled Corn Soup


We serve this soup at the height of summer, using beautiful white corn. The simple list of ingredients ensures that the essence of the corn shines through.

7 ears white corn
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups chopped onion (about 1 medium onion)
2 cups peeled and chopped russet potato (about 1 medium russet potato)
2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
Honey, to taste (optional)

Cut corn off the cob; set aside. In a large pot cover ears with water. Simmer for 1 hour. Remove from the heat and strain through a colander into a large bowl. (Should reduce to about 7 cups of "corn water.")

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions; cook until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add corn and corn water; bring to a boil. Add cream and potato; simmer until potato is tender, about 15 minutes. Allow to cool.

Working in batches, puree corn mixture in a blender. Have a chinois placed in a bowl nearby. Once the soup is pureed, ladle it from the blender into the chinois. Some will go through quite easily. For the rest, you will need to force it through using the ladle. Holding the chinois in one hand, over the bowl, and the ladle in the other, gently push through the mixture to the bottom of the chinois repeatedly. You will eventually be left with nothing but corn pulp, which you can discard. Repeat this process until you have pureed all of the corn mixture.

Season with salt, white pepper, and cayenne. If it is not the peak of corn season, you can add some honey to make up for the missing sweetness -- starting with 1 teaspoon, but up to 1 tablespoon should do the trick.

Cover and refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours.

YIELD: 8 to 10 servings; about 2 quarts

P.S. You can easily halve this recipe!

P.P.S. Don't let the term "chinois" scare you away from the recipe. This is simply a conical, fine-meshed strainer that should be available at your local cookware store or definitely online. It is not that expensive and is essential any time you are looking for a pristine, velvety texture, such as here with a pureed soup or for puddings. Other fine-meshed strainers can also work, but when dealing with larger quantities, the chinois is ideal.

Check out wikipedia's definition of a chinios

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Glass Onion Sides for Grilling Out

As the languid days of summer slip up on us, I like to imagine that everyone is spending their free time participating in classic summertime activities. I just love that Rockwellian image of families gathered around the grill or enjoying a picnic on the beach.

Now, I don't imagine fancy fare in my daydream (this is not a photo shoot for a glossy food magazine!) Rather, I see real folks enjoying real food. Maybe they are grilling burgers on their deck or unwrapping pre-made sandwiches on the boat...

My only stipulation would be some homemade sides to go along with that perfectly charred hot dog! And that's where I can help. At the Glass Onion we believe in a straightforward take on classic sides like potato salad and cole slaw. Consequently, you won't find yourself needing to run out for any esoteric ingredients -- making these perfect for that impromptu summertime gathering.




Potato Salad

Some might call us crazy, but we only make our potato salad when beautiful, local potatoes happen to be in season. Consequently, we don't gussy our recipe up too much. The deliciousness comes from the flavor of the potatoes.

1 quart diced red or white potatoes (not Russets) (about 16 small potatoes)
1 tablespoon plus ½ teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup mayonnaise
¼ cup chopped onion
¼ cup sweet pickle relish
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place potatoes in a large pot. Cover with water. Add 1 tablespoon of salt. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and allow to cool.

Combine with remaining ingredients in a large bowl; toss to combine. Season with remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cover and refrigerate.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings; about 1 quart

Cole Slaw


A Southern cookbook would not be complete without a recipe for cole slaw. It is a necessary accoutrement to so many good things -- fried catfish, fried chicken...

Our version is straightforward and meant to complement rather than compete with the centerpiece of your meal!

1 head of green cabbage
1 serving slaw sauce (see recipe below)
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped green onions
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Remove outer leaves from cabbage. Cut into quarters and cut out core. Cut each quarter in half crosswise and then thinly slice each of these chunks lengthwise.

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings; about 2 quarts

SLAW SAUCE
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon honey
½ teaspoon hot sauce

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl; whisk to combine.

P.S. The slicing directions might seem a bit complicated, but we are trying to ensure you end up with easy-to-eat pieces of cabbage. At the restaurant, we use an electric slicer, which makes things simpler! But this method should yield a relatively fine slaw.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Summertime = Key Lime Pie

As I head south for a couple of days to enjoy a bit of time on Florida's coast, I think it only appropriate that I repost the recipe for Ruth's Key Lime Pie along with Ruth's story. I can hardly wait to see her and her key lime pie!

Ruth Penn -- The Queen of Key Lime Pie

If one dessert defined my childhood, it was Ruth's Key Lime Pie. With a tangy, creamy center and billowing, ethereal meringue, it was quite simply heaven.

Every summer I awaited our family trips to Jacksonville, Florida with the anticipation most children reserve for Christmas. I craved the ocean and the sand, but mostly I yearned for Ruth. To me, she embodied every familial female figure. She would hug and commiserate and champion me throughout my life, and most of this happened inside the sturdy, old walls of our beach house kitchen.

Ruth Penn began cooking for my grandmother and her sister in the summer of 1973 (or thereabouts). During the rest of the year, she worked for the Duval County Public School System cooking in schools around the city.

"I loved it. It was my passion," she says. "Feeding other people; watching them eat."

At home, Ruth had her own nine children to feed, and really, that was her initial impetus for cooking. Ironically, as a child herself, growing up in Annapolis, Maryland, Ruth Lililan Johnson had little interest in the kitchen.

"I was an outside person," she says. "I liked to be gone!"

However, good cooking surrounded Ruth -- this she could not escape. Her father loved food and cooked everything from local vegetables to leg of lamb. And her grandmother ran a small baking business from her home kitchen. Ruth and her siblings spent a few days every week at her house -- watching and helping with pound cakes, cobblers, and her famous dinner rolls.

When Ruth married James Penn Jr. (known affectionately as "Penn"), she moved to a naval base in Portsmouth, Virginia. It was there that she remembers cooking her first big meal. Penn's family made the trip up from North Carolina, bringing a ham and such; but she had to prepare the greens, which she knew nothing about. Penn guided her through the cleaning of the greens, and then Ruth just threw them in a pot with water and a piece of meat. Ruth laughs now, remembering the family arriving to greens floating in a pot of water.

"Girl, you don't know how to cook greens!" they said. Then they took the greens out of the water and started over.

But over the years, Ruth taught herself the ways of the kitchen through trial and error -- cooking everything from spaghetti to fried chicken, and finally Key lime pie.

She remembers that in the early 80s my grandmother came to the beach after a trip to Key West raving about this pie. She even brought Ruth a postcard with the recipe on it. Ruth had never heard of it, but just followed the instructions on that card, and that's what she has been doing every summer since.

Ruth believes that the trick to the pie is in the meringue. "You have to make sure it's whipped to a certain level and browned to perfection," she says. And I agree.

But I also believe the true secret lies in Ruth and the love she imparts with every bite.





Ruth’s Key Lime Pie


Full credit for this pie goes to Ruth Penn of Jacksonville, Florida -- an amazing cook and friend. I changed only her meringue to a very stable version that I prefer in a restaurant setting. Otherwise, this is the same pie I have eaten every summer of my life, made exclusively by Ruth!

(The photo is of Ruth and her biggest fan -- myself! Circa 1980.)

1 unbaked frozen pie shell
6 cups uncooked rice or dried beans, for use as pie weights
4 large eggs
1 14-ounce can condensed milk
½ cup Joe and Nell’s Key lime juice (Ruth prefers this brand!)
Meringue (see recipe below)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line pie shell with a sheet of tinfoil. Spread rice or beans across the pie shell, mounding them up a bit on the sides and going more lightly in the center.

Place pie shell on baking sheet. Bake until edges are dark golden brown and center has just begun to golden. Check crust's progress at 30 minutes, but total baking time should be about 45 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to cool with tinfoil and weights still in place. Once cool, remove weights and reserve the weights for another day. Discard tinfoil. Reserve crust until filling and meringue are both made. The crust can be baked off one day in advance, wrapped, and held at room temperature.

To make filling, separate the eggs -- put yolks into a medium bowl, one white into a small bowl, and the remaining 3 whites into another small bowl to reserve for meringue (see recipe below). Add condensed milk and key lime juice to bowl of yolks; whisk to combine. Beat one egg white until frothy and fold into the bowl of yolks. Reserve filling until meringue is made (see recipe below).

Once meringue is made, pour filling into prebaked crust. Dollop the meringue on top of the filling using a rubber spatula, making sure meringue reaches edges of pie to form a seal; this will help with meringue's shrinkage during baking. Bake until the meringue turns golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Allow pie to cool to room temperature, then transfer to refrigerator for complete cooling, about 6 hours. Pie is best served the day it is made. It can be held overnight, but doing so will compromise the quality of the meringue.

To serve, dip a knife in hot water, wipe dry, and slice in half. Repeat process, then slice into quarters. Repeat process, then slice into eighths.

YIELD: 8 servings

P.S. The meringue will "weep" some during/after baking. This is due to moisture in the egg whites and really should not pose a problem nor be too excessive, thanks to this very stable meringue recipe.

MERINGUE
6 egg whites
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
¾ cup of sugar
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine egg whites in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until foamy. Add cream of tartar; beat until body begins to build. Gradually add sugar; beat until moderately stiff peaks form; reserve.

Combine water, cornstarch, vanilla, and salt in a small pot or skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until gel forms, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat.

Spoon cornstarch mixture into egg white mixture; beat to combine. At this point, your meringue should be stable and shiny.

YIIELD: Meringue for 1 pie (Double this recipe for a tart!)

P.S. Meringue can be a bear in a restaurant setting, as it does not want to hold up well. Here, the use of cornstarch creates a more stable meringue, a trick I learned from the wonderful cookbooks of Shirley Corriher.

P.P.S. Do not be surprised at the amount of meringue produced by this recipe; it is indeed substantial. But I find that folks who love meringue pies really want a little pie and a lot of meringue!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Pimento Cheese -- Simply Southern

For those of you outside the South, pimento cheese might be a foreign concept. I've heard tales of sightings above the Mason-Dixon Line, but I think these must be random at best. I believe only Southerners consider this mayonnaise-bound cheese and pepper spread to be a staple -- the type of thing you find everywhere from a remote gas station to a high brow wedding! Granted, it will be in a plastic tub at the gas station and closely resembling all of its neighboring processed foods. While in nuptial hors d'oeuvre form, it will most certainly be a delicate layer of a finger sandwich (which will be piled high on a silver tray!)

I love pimento cheese of all types. Growing up in Georgia, an impromptu dinner might consist of the gas station variety heartily spread on two pieces of that overly soft white bread. But I also remember the more refined, homemade versions that consisted of hand-grated, sharp cheddar mixed with mayonnaise, pimento peppers, and the cook's choice of seasonings.

Just as I felt compelled to come up with my own fried chicken recipe to complete my Southern cook's rite of passage, I also knew that I must have my take on pimento cheese. I began working on this long before the Glass Onion, and I don't think I quit tinkering until opening day when it became staple on our menu.




Sarah's Pimento Cheese


I am crazy about pimento cheese, and so I naturally put some heart into creating our version. Obviously, this is a simple treat, but sometimes simple is best. My only stipulation is that Duke's mayonnaise makes a delicious difference!

At the GO, we serve this on brioche from Normandy Farms Bakery as a grilled sandwich, and at brunch, as an omelette, but all you really need are some nice buttery crackers for a perfect snack.

2 cups grated sharp cheddar
½ cup canned or jarred pimento peppers, drained and chopped
¼ cup chopped green onions
½ cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne
Dash of hot sauce

Combine cheddar, pimentos, and green onions in a medium bowl; set aside. Combine mayonnaise, pepper, salt, cayenne, and hot sauce in a medium bowl; whisk together. Add mayonnaise to cheese mixture; gently stirring together using a rubber spatula until thoroughly combined. (The only real mistake you can make here is overworking the pimento cheese; hence, we suggest that you "gently stir.")

YIELD: Serves 4 to 6 as an appetizer; about 3 cups

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tis the season for a fish fry!

As I noted last week, the weather really does dictate so much about what you feel like cooking, and this week the rising temperatures down South make me realize that we best take advantage of this time when outside cooking can still be a pleasure rather than a sweaty chore! I admit that you folks who live further north have the advantage; many of y'all will probably grill out throughout the summer in near idyllic weather.

Well, here I have a proposition for something much more fun and exciting than a cookout...how about a fish fry? At the Glass Onion we are known for our fried catfish,and as someone who grew up eating a lot of fried catfish I feel that I can attest to its deliciousness! We are proud to serve the only all natural, farm raised catfish in the United States, which comes from Carolina Classics in North Carolina. Their farming practices yield an especially tasty fish, as does our recipe, which I share below.

In my mind, Memorial Day weekend would be the perfect time for a fish fry!




Fried Catfish

Let's be upfront -- frying seafood at home is just not that easy. This is why in our upcoming cookbook we have chosen to include a recipe, only for fried catfish, versus fried shrimp or oysters. The catfish is a little more forgiving, and it is truly unique because of our mustard marinade. Plus, there are few parties more fun than a fish fry. To turn this into a party, simply double the recipe, fire up your gas camp stove, and set up on your porch or deck. Line the table with old newspapers, and you are in business. The reality is that fried seafood is best straight out of the oil, and the party setting allows you to serve folks immediately. Just be sure to snag a couple of pieces for yourself and have an assistant handy with cold beverages!

2 pounds catfish filets, boneless
1 cup yellow mustard
1 cup Creole mustard, or other whole grain mustard
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 cups corn starch
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon freshly ground white pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne

Combine catfish, yellow mustard, and Creole mustard in a large bowl and toss with your hands until the catfish is thoroughly coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 and up to 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Heat 4 inches of oil to 375 degrees in a large pot. (A skillet can also be used, but the pot helps reduce splattering!)

Combine flour, cornmeal, corn starch, salt, black pepper, white pepper, and cayenne in a large bowl; whisk to combine. Dredge catfish through flour mixture and transfer to a wire rack set over a baking sheet.

Using tongs, carefully drop two filets at a time into oil and fry until breading is very crispy, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer filets to a paper-lined baking sheet, season with additional salt and pepper (to taste), and hold in the oven as you fry the remaining pieces of catfish.

Serve with cocktail, tartar, or remoulade sauce! I'll include our recipe for remoulade below as this classic French sauce (and staple in New Orleans cooking) might not be in your repertoire.

Red Remoulade

Remoulade is a classic French mayonnaise-based sauce. And like many French culinary traditions, it is a staple in the cuisine of south Louisiana. You might toss peeled, boiled shrimp in it for the famed shrimp remoulade salad found on many New Orleans menus. Or you might use it simply as a dipping sauce for our Fried Catfish.

1 cup mayonnaise
¼ cup ketchup
2 tablespoons Creole mustard, or other whole grain mustard
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
Splash of hot sauce

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl; whisk until well combined.

YIELD: About 1 1/2 cups (enough to dress 1 pound of peeled, boiled shrimp)

P.S. You can leave out the ketchup, making it "white remoulade" -- a similarly tasty sauce!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Italian Sausage Ragout...Warms the Soul!

My grandmother introduced me to a new/old expression yesterday that I adore -- "Blackberry Winter". This refers to the last bit of cold we might have down South in the springtime that happens to coincide with the first blackberries!

And in fact, we have been experiencing just such a cool snap here in South Carolina and where she lives in Georgia. It is really a time to be savored as any veteran Southerner knows that the sweltering days of summer will soon be upon us.

Of course, I associate any occasion with food, and consequently, I figured what better way to celebrate Blackberry Winter than with one last hearty dish. One of my favorite soul-warming meals that you can enjoy here at the Glass Onion is our pasta with Italian sausage ragout (aka Bolognese sauce.) Here is the recipe for you to try at home!

P.S. If you are wondering about the truth in the Blackberry Winter expression -- I have to admit that I have not seen any blackberries around Charleston yet, but my grandmother said a family friend just brought her a basketful!

Chuck's Italian Sausage Ragout


We call this an Italian Sausage Ragout, but really it's my partner's take on Bolognese, the classic northern Italian pasta sauce. Traditionally, it is tossed with fresh tagliatelle, but at the GO, we serve it with our housemade handkerchief pasta or locally made cavatelli. If you happen to enjoy making fresh pasta yourself, or can buy some, I would highly recommend taking that extra step, but even dried noodles produce an outstanding meal.

1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
1/2 cup finely chopped bacon (about 5 ounces or 4 to 5 standard grocery store slices)
1 pound ground pork butt
1 tablespoon toasted fennel seed, finely chopped or ground in spice grinder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup chopped onion (about 1/2 medium onion)
1/2 cup chopped carrot (about 1 medium carrot)
1/2 cup chopped celery (about 1 1/2 stalks)
2 teaspoons minced garlic (about 2 medium garlic cloves)
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup chicken livers, pureed in blender or food processor or finely chopped
1 pound cooked pasta (of your choice)
Parmesan cheese, for garnish

In a large bowl break apart tomatoes with your hands; set aside.

Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until browned, 5 to 10 minutes. Add ground pork, fennel, oregano, salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring constantly so that pork does not clump, for another 5 minutes. Add onions, carrot, and celery and cook until onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, another 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, cream, stock, and tomato paste; stir to combine.

Simmer until about 75 percent of liquid has cooked down, about 45 minutes.

Add livers and cook another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to rest for another 5 minutes before tossing with pasta. Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

YIELD: 6 to 8 servings

P.S. Don't be scared off by the chicken livers that finish this dish. They add a necessary richness, but most folks would never place the flavor. They can be your "secret" ingredient!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Fried Chicken -- Does Life Get Any Better?

Fried chicken has been on my mind of late. On a recent trip to New York City I experienced a midnight fried chicken dinner at Momofuku that I had to reserve a month in advance. A few days later at a Southern food summit hosted by Garden & Gun magazine right here in Charleston, the subject of fried chicken came up repeatedly as we discussed exactly what constitutes Southern food.

And our own fried chicken dinner on Tuesdays here at the GO grows in popularity each week. In fact, we plan to institute a Momofuku-esque policy...from now on we encourage guests to call and reserve their fried chicken in advance so that we can better meet and gauge the demand.

If you are ambitious enough to fry chicken at home -- I will share our secret recipe, but first I must share its evolution. Growing up in Georgia I loved home fried chicken but always had to be in the right place at the right time as there was definitely no one frying chicken at my house! (Luckily, a very special lady named Maudell could usually be talked into cooking up a batch when I spent the night with my good friend Leah.)

Once I began teaching myself to cook I tackled fried chicken almost immediately with the idea that I could then eat home fried chicken any time I pleased. However, once I realized the nuance required to yield perfectly fried chicken I wavered a bit.

Several years later while testing recipes for Emeril Lagasse I set out on my mission again and came up with my basic technique. Over the years I have tweaked the recipe this way and that, but I finally feel that I have my own fried chicken, and we serve the restaurant version of that at the Glass Onion. Call and reserve yours for tomorrow (843-225-1717)! Or see how the recipe works in your kitchen!

Buttermilk Fried Chicken


We believe that ours is extra special because we use all-natural chickens. These days it is not overly difficult or expensive to find such birds, and we swear you can taste the difference.

Vegetable oil for frying
1 buttermilk-brined chicken (see recipe below)
2 cups self-rising flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon freshly ground white pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne

Heat 4 inches of oil to 325 degrees in a large pot.

Combine self-rising flour, all-purpose flour, salt, black pepper, white pepper, and cayenne in a brown paper grocery bag. (Two bags -- one inside the other -- ensures no blowouts!)

Remove the chicken from the buttermilk and shake to remove excess. Add the chicken in batches to the flour mixture (in the bag) and shake to completely coat. Remove and shake over trash can to remove excess flour. (Alternatively, you could simply combine the flour/seasoning in a shallow baking dish and dredge the chicken pieces through it. However, the paper bag method thoroughly coats the chicken and, in my opinion, happens to be more fun!)

Place on a wire rack set over a baking sheet to rest until ready to fry, at least 30 minutes. (Allowing the chicken to rest after flouring ensures that the flour will better adhere to the chicken during the frying process.)

Fry the chicken in batches, skin-side down, until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Turn and fry until golden brown on the second side and cooked through, about 8 minutes longer. Remove and drain on paper towel-lined sheet pan.

An instant-read thermometer should read 165 degrees when chicken is probed. If your chicken happens to be slightly under, you can finish it in the oven at 350 degrees.

YIELD: 4 to 6 servings

P.S. Don’t be intimidated by this recipe -- just allow yourself time to brine and time to fry. The good thing about fried chicken is that it tastes really good at room temperature. So unlike fried seafood, you could do all the work in advance and sit down to enjoy the feast with your friends/family without forsaking flavor!

P.P.S. An even oil temperature is key to frying at home. A clip-on candy/fry thermometer should be kept in the pot at all times, and the temperature should register at least 300 degrees during the frying process.)

BUTTERMILK BRINED CHICKEN

1 quart buttermilk
1/4 cup hot sauce
1/4 cup kosher salt
2 teaspoons minced garlic (about 1 large garlic clove)
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 whole chicken (3 1/2 to 4-pounds) cut into 8 serving pieces

Combine buttermilk, hot sauce, salt, garlic, black pepper, and cayenne in a large bowl; stir to combine. Add chicken pieces and make sure all are submerged. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Strawberry Cobbler -- The Perfect Spring Dessert!

Over the past 3 years of making desserts at the Glass Onion, I have learned that folks love cobbler! I think it is just the ultimate homey, soul-satisfying sweet.

Recently, I have been making Strawberry Cobbler with gorgeous South Carolina berries, and it seems the perfect spring dessert topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

Why not make some this weekend? Or come enjoy some at the GO today -- it's on the menu! www.ilovetheglassonion.com/dailymenu

Seasonal Fruit Cobbler

Few desserts are as comforting as cobbler. You might as well be sitting at grandma's house wrapped up in a hand-knit afghan... Seriously, cobbler is that delicious and surprisingly easy to make. Use whatever fruit is in season, such as blackberries or blueberries in the summer, and apples in the fall. If you are using a fruit like apples or peaches, simply peel and slice them into manageable pieces. Serve this straight from the oven with vanilla ice cream, and you are sure to be everyone's best friend.

TOPPING:
1 1/4 cups self-rising flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, then softened
¾ cup buttermilk

Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and work into the dry ingredients, rubbing together with your hands, until the mixture resembles sand. Add buttermilk and stir to combine.

FILLING:
Softened butter, for pan
4 cups seasonal fruit, such as berries, apples, or peaches
¼ cup sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon corn starch
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Combine all of the filling ingredients in a large bowl; stir to combine. Transfer to baking dish. Top the fruit with large spoonfuls of the batter. (The batter does not need to cover the fruit entirely; it will expand during the baking process.) Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, until the top is golden brown and the dough has cooked through. If top becomes too brown and dough still needs to cook more, cover with foil. Serve with vanilla ice cream!

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Friday, April 15, 2011

Deviled Eggs -- Harbinger of Spring!

Deviled eggs are on my mind. Maybe it's due to our abundance of eggs now that spring has sprung. This ideal weather and relatively long days makes for happy chickens out at the local farms.

Of course, I could be daydreaming of deviled eggs because they will be featured on the cover of our cookbook, Glass Onion Classics. We just shot this last week with Charleston photographer John Smoak of Smoak Stack Studios, and now we are in the processing of choosing the most glamorous shot! The cookbook should be out in July and available at the restaurant and on our website -- www.ilovetheglassonion.com

Regardless, I propose embracing the deviled egg by making some yourself. Here's our version...

Jennie Ruth’s Deviled Eggs

These deviled eggs are a tribute to my partner Chris Stewart's grandmother, Jennie Ruth. She was an inspiration to his cooking with her classic Southern ways, and here you see that tradition shining through. We do add some GO flair to this recipe with Chris's Thunder Sauce (a sweet pepper relish), but plain old sweet pickle relish works just fine. In fact, that's what Jennie Ruth used! (If you live in the Charleston area we do sell our Thunder Sauce at the restaurant right next to the delicious farm eggs!)

Read Jennie Ruth's story in our earlier blogs.

6 large eggs
2 ½ tablespoons Thunder Sauce, or sweet pickle relish
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1 ½ teaspoons hot sauce

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add eggs; boil for 14 minutes. Have a bowl of ice water ready. Transfer eggs to this ice bath. Once cool, remove from water and peel. Slice eggs in half lengthwise and carefully remove the yolks. Add the yolks, Thunder Sauce (or pickle relish), mayonnaise, yellow mustard, and hot sauce to the bowl of a blender or food processor; run until smooth. Alternatively, combine these ingredients in a medium bowl and work together using a fork until relatively smooth. Spoon into the whites.

YIELD: 12 Deviled Eggs

P.S. You can make your own sweet pickle relish by pureeing some of our Housemade Pickles (see recipe below) in a blender or food processor.

Housemade Pickles

My partner Chris refers to these as "Holy Crap! Those Are Good Pickles." The pickles really are outstanding, and on top of that, they are super easy to make. You should make these all summer long when local cucumbers are dirt cheap and delicious. At the GO, we serve them as a side, and we also puree them for homemade pickle relish. They have just the perfect amount of sweetness to seduce the palate without overwhelming it.

5 medium cucumbers, peeled on 3 sides and sliced ¾-inch thick
½ medium sweet onion, thinly sliced
1/2 medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 small carrot, peeled and thinly sliced into rounds
½ cup kosher salt
4 cups cider vinegar
4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon mustard seed
½ teaspoon celery seed
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

Combine cucumbers, onion, pepper, carrot, and salt in a large bowl or storage container. Let sit for one hour. Rinse thoroughly with cold water. Return to a large bowl or storage container.

Combine remaining ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Pour liquid over vegetables, cover, and refrigerate. Refrigerate overnight before serving.

YIELD: About 2 quarts

P.P.S. We also believe our deviled eggs stand out because of the eggs themselves. They come from the happy hens of Celeste and George Albers. See their mobile chicken coop and the girls themselves!


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Keegan-Filion -- Whole Hog Farming

Seems like Mark and Annie Filion just could not escape farming. Mark's grandfather raised chickens in Rhode Island, and Annie's grandfather farmed the Walterboro, SC property that they now call Keegan-Filion Farm. On this land they raise free-range chickens and hogs -- both sought after by Charleston chefs.

But, of course, their story does not wrap up quite so neatly. Their current operation began in 2004; yet, Mark and Annie first tried their hand at farming in 1986, raising commercial hogs for Smithfield. As the demand for such "factory pork" grew, smaller farmers like the Filions became priced out of the game. In 1994 they sold their remaining hogs and began leasing the land to other local farmers. Mark focused his attention on his "day job" as a sales manager for a pipe valve company, and Annie became a purchasing agent at a Walterboro plant.

Ten years later, Annie found herself working 50 to 60 hours a week and not getting anywhere. She wanted to do work that would benefit the community; so, the Filions sat down and came up with a couple of options. They debated between creating a taxi service for the elderly or starting an organic market, and in 2004, they opened The Farm Store right outside their front door. There, they sold all-natural produce purchased from a large distribution company out of Florida. They had moderate success at the beginning, but soon larger grocery stores and even Walmart began carrying some organics, which obviously hurt the demand for their small operation.

Luckily, the Filions had a fallback plan, whether they realized it or not. Concurrently with opening the market, they had once again begun to work their land. Over the past decade they had watched tenants basically destroy the property with bad farming practices, and they knew they had a long road ahead of them. First, they bought laying hens. This seemed a manageable project and a good way to rehabilitate the soil. Next came broiler chickens and finally hogs at the request of several Charleston chefs. The Filions had their doubts about entering the hog business again, but they moved ahead, determined to do it differently this time. They enlisted their good friend Bubba Craven as a business partner and began breeding a heritage line known as Tamworth.

The Fillions sold their first hog to Chef Craig Diehl (of Cypress restaurant) in 2007, and they both delivered the finished product to him with a bit of anxiety, worried he might not like their pork. They stood by as Chef Diehl began cutting chops, and Mark remembers his murmuring, "Oh...oh....oh..." Then Chef Diehl turned to them and said, "This is fantastic!"

The marbling of the Filions' pork has since become near legendary, and they really cannot keep up with the demand for their hogs or chickens. While this might sound like unequivocal success, the Filions still struggle. Producing superior flavor takes time, and, of course, time means money.

So, Mark continues to work his "day job"; now he manages industrial sales for another corporate entity. Basically, he spends his weeks on the road and his weekends on the farm. Annie works the farm with the full-time help of Bubba and a few other part-time employees, delivering to Charleston restaurants once a week and visiting the processing facility in Kingstree once every two weeks. All of this adds up to countless hours of labor and very little time together, but the Filions still deem it worthwhile. Every Saturday evening they go to church and then have dinner with Mark's mother at the local Greek restaurant, and for now maybe that's enough.

Of course, one day, Mark hopes to farm full time and possibly bring their son Jessie into the family business. But all in all, he seems satisfied and surprisingly unstressed.

"What we do is not any different than anyone else, except we also have about 4,000 animals that depend on us," he says without a bit of irony.

***

At the GO, we feel especially proud when Annie delivers a whole hog. We use every bit -- making everything from breakfast sausage to pate out of this delectable pork.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Happy Mardi Gras!

Living in New Orleans during Mardi Gras gives you a true understanding of the certain magic that city possesses. For weeks leading up to the actual day, the tension builds one parade at a time. Folks prepare their costumes as painstakingly as a bride planning a wedding. And when the big day finally arrives the entire city seems to hum with excitement. Whether watching the big parades reach Canal Street or reveling in the chaos of the French Quarter, everyone focuses on the sheer fun of living. For most Americans it's just another Tuesday, but for New Orleanians it's time to shine.

In honor of Mardi Gras, I offer up our recipe for Crawfish Etouffee -- a treat any time of the year but especially during the festive season.

Crawfish Etouffee

Most would refer to this as a classic Cajun dish -- meaning that its roots lie in the countryside southwest of New Orleans. Etouffer means "to smother" in French, which seems like a good connotation for this light stew. We keep ours pretty traditional -- starting with a roux, going in with your trinity (onions, celery, bell pepper), and finishing with the crawfish. You wind up with a heartwarming meal in very little time.

5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped onion (about 1/2 medium onion)
1/2 cup chopped celery (about 1 1/2 medium stalks)
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper (about 1/2 large bell pepper)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
Pinch of cayenne
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 3 medium garlic cloves)
1 quart chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
About 20 sprigs of fresh thyme, tied together with kitchen twine
1 pound crawfish tails, cooked
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1 teaspoon hot sauce
Steamed white rice, for serving

Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add 4 tablespoons of butter and melt. Add 1/4 cup flour and cook, stirring constantly, until your roux has become a caramel color, about 10 minutes. Add onion, celery, and bell pepper; stir to combine. Add salt, oregano, black pepper, white pepper, cayenne, and red pepper flakes. Cook until onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add stock and thyme and bring to a simmer. Cook until reduced by half, about 30 minutes. Add crawfish, green onions, remaining tablespoon of butter, and hot sauce; stir to combine. Cook until crawfish are hot to touch, about 3 minutes.

Serve over steamed white rice with hot sauce for garnish.

Yield: 4 servings

P.S. You can easily order frozen crawfish tails online if they are not available in your area. We order ours from www.lacrawfish.com -- and they are superb. You can also substitute a pound of shrimp -- adding them with your green onions, butter, and hot sauce and cooking them until they are just pink and firm, about 5 minutes.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Wes Melling -- Hydroponic Hero

If you are an avid GO diner, you might have noticed a most intriguing cherry tomato garnishing our Straight from the Garden Salad from time to time. It’s almost purple – possessing a rather swarthy complexion – and its flavor is even more complex. First comes sweetness followed by a heady, earthy flavor – bringing to mind dark, rich soil. This is most ironic, considering these tomatoes are grown without any dirt whatsoever. Wes and Juanita Melling cultivate these Black Cherry Tomatoes (an heirloom variety) in their entirely hydroponic greenhouse in Moncks Corner.

There at Kurios Farms, they have over 6,000 plants – predominately, lettuce but also tomatoes, cucumbers, and basil. If you have never seen a hydroponic setup, it really is something to behold. From the outside, it might just be another greenhouse – a large white structure made of galvanized metal tubing with a plastic skin. And even when you first enter, it does not look so foreign. Rows upon rows of plants climb up wire trellises, and happy fruit hangs from vines. Bees even flit about, pollinating plants. But then you look down and notice there happens to be no dirt anywhere. Wes grows his plants in perlite – a crushed volcanic rock – and a maze of plastic tubes connects the plants. Water runs through these tubes delivering nutrients like calcium and pot ash, and this entire process is controlled by a silent sentinel that hangs on the front wall.

If you made a quick tour of the place, you might not even notice this Grower’s Choice computer, which controls all of the variables – humidity, temperature, feeding, cooling and air flow. During the height of the season, the plants are fed every 20 minutes for 3 minutes, and they use 1,500 gallons of water each day. It would be easy to give the computer too much credit – a bit like the Wizard in Oz – when, in reality, the Mellings deserve all the credit. They are constantly perusing the rows -- harvesting, pruning, and making sure those bees (which they buy bi-monthly) are doing their job.

Also, Wes is constantly reprogramming the computer, and he knows better than to blindly trust electronics. One year he noticed that his plants were not progressing at a normal rate, and he finally thought to check his ph meter. He discovered the calibration was off, which meant he was not treating his water correctly, and consequently, he had to rip everything out and start over.

“Every year things come up,” says Wes. “You think you have it all under control…”

Still, he would much rather tend to his plants than sit behind a desk. The Mellings moved to South Carolina from Ohio in 1999. Wes had worked in management at BF Goodrich for 12 years when they decided to move away from the cold weather. Originally, the Mellings planned on buying a floral shop in the Charleston area, but that deal fell apart and Wes began to look into other options. He says the hydroponic idea came from a magazine that described how you could make as much money off an eighth of an indoor acre as you could off 100 outdoor acres. Basically, the greenhouse would cost the same as a large tractor.

Wes had always loved gardening, and after visiting a hydroponic setup in Ohio, he decided to take the plunge. For $160,000, www.cropking.com provided all the pieces to build his operation and some technical support. Now, Wes talks casually about seriously scientific sounding topics like EC, or electrical continuity (which describes the amount of solids in the water) -- and he grows exquisite produce.

The Mellings sell their crops from the small storefront connected to the greenhouse and at the Summerville Farmers market. Their season is a bit different from outdoor farming, as it begins in November and ends in July. The plants must be torn out once a year, and July happens to be the perfect time due to the extreme heat and abundance of local tomatoes (which drives the prices down). This alternative growing season works out especially well for restaurants – allowing places like the GO to count on a consistent product during the winter months.

In July, the Mellings might try to take a little break and visit family in Ohio, but like traditional farmers, they are pretty bound to their trade. (They built a home that neighbors the greenhouse.)

“If I didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t do it,” Wes says. “If I figured out the time, I would make about $5 per hour.”

The Mellings’ son, Jarrod, does work with them, and Wes hopes he will take over the bulk of the work in the next few years. For now, his help proves invaluable with the more physical aspects of the job, like walking around on stilts to lower the plants when they reach the top of the trellis. It’s idiosyncrasies like this that make hydroponic gardening so unique and add a certain intrigue to the entire process. But when you ask Wes how he most enjoys his own product he gives a simple answer, “The tomatoes are nice sliced, and the lettuce is good on sandwiches,” he says.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Woman Behind the Golden Eggs

Celeste Albers is an iconic figure in the Lowcountry farming community. Her Sea Island Eggs are coveted by Charleston restaurants, and at the GO, we are lucky to serve them.

Cracking one open reveals a yolk as golden as a sunset. They literally make our bearnaise, deviled eggs, and desserts. During the heat of summer when the hens simply refuse to lay enough, we enter a time of mourning. We substitute other high-quality, farm-fresh eggs, but the bearnaise turns a pale yellow, more reminiscent of the washed-out midday sun than its evening splendor.

So who is the woman behind the golden eggs? Celeste’s roots lie in the Lowcountry. Her grandfather shrimped in Bulls Bay and ran a country store on Highway 17 near Awendaw. However, her father left farming to earn an accounting degree and wound up working for DuPont in Delaware. She remembers that he hated his job, and he eventually ended up back in Awendaw, farming the family land.

In 1993, Celeste moved down with her baby daughter, Erin, and joined him. She began selling their produce at the fledgling Charleston Farmers Market. There she met George Albers, who was selling his own produce. Celeste remembers that George used to stop by her booth, buy some of her wild blackberries, and chat for a while.

“It was the blackberries that did it,” says Celeste. “George stole me away from my dad, and before you knew it we had one booth instead of two.”

Together, they have navigated the rough terrain of making a living off the land. They have grown vegetables, shrimped, and finally raised chickens and cows. None of it has proven easy, especially since they lease rather than own their property -- negating any meager security you might expect a farmer to have. Furthermore, they physically labor every day of the year.

But Celeste maintains that she would rather this than a lifetime of working a job she hates. These days they do seem to have found their niche: focusing on their egg and raw milk production. And among those in the know, their product has achieved a cult-like following.

At the GO, we regularly receive phone calls from avid Celeste fans wanting to reserve their eggs and milk, and I truly understand their reverence. When the eggs become scarce, I reserve them for use only in our bread pudding, and with each of the 40 eggs I crack, I give thanks to Celeste.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Papa's Oyster Stew

Here, in Charleston we are lucky to have some warmer weather thawing us out, but I know that winter still has its hold on the folks up North! And regardless of your geographic location I am sure that everyone could a little gustatory hug as February drags on...

Well, I happen to have the perfect dish -- my father's oyster stew! Of course, you will need some freshly shucked oysters, but even inland states have great seafood markets! Seek one out and try out this simple, elegant dish for your next dinner party.

Papa's Oyster Stew

Every holiday season of my youth my father and I would go buy a Christmas tree together, and then we would buy quarts of freshly shucked oysters to make his famous stew while trimming the tree. Freshly shucked oysters may seem a bit incongruous if you remember that my hometown is the extremely inland hamlet of Columbus, Georgia. But my father's good friends, the Lunsfords, owned Rose Hill Seafood where they brought in oysters straight from Apalachicola, Florida. The flavor of those oysters and especially this stew is the flavor of my childhood.

1 quart shucked oysters and their liquor
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups chopped onion (about 1 medium onion)
3 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
Oyster crackers, for garnish

Place the oysters in a colander set over a bowl to drain off liquor. Reserve liquor and oysters.

Melt butter in a medium pot over medium heat. When foam subsides, add the onions and cook until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the reserved oyster liquor and cook until reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Add the milk and cream; bring to a simmer. Add the oysters; cook until their outer edges begin to curl, about 5 minutes. Serve hot with oyster crackers.

YIELD: About 4 entree servings

P.S. The stew might require more salt depending on the salinity of the oysters, but it is best not to oversalt at the outset.

P.P.S. I love a lot of black pepper in creamy dishes like this stew, but feel free to use less than the recommended 2 teaspoons if your palate is sensitive to spice.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Red Velvet Again -- For Valentine's Baking!

Just in case anyone wants to make a festive dessert for our favorite Hallmark holiday...I am reposting my recipe for Red Velvet Pound Cake!

Sarah's Red Velvet Pound Cake


Mystery surrounds the Red Velvet Cake; the particulars of its origin and ingredients vary from cook to cook. But any bona fide Southerner better have one in their repertoire. Mine comes in the form of a pound cake, as I feel the density stands up beautifully to all that cream cheese frosting! And I certainly don't go light on the food coloring, since red is the point, after all.

2 ½ cups sugar
8 large eggs
1 14-ounce can condensed milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 pound unsalted butter, melted
2 ¼ cups cake flour
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup red food coloring
Cream Cheese Frosting (see recipe below)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a Bundt pan with softened butter and then dust with cocoa powder.

Combine sugar, eggs, condensed milk, vanilla, and salt in a food processor; mix until combined. While running, pour butter into food processor bowl and continue running until thoroughly combined. Pour this mixture into a large mixing bowl. Sift flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder into egg mixture, whisking as you go. Add red food coloring; whisk to combine. Pour batter into pan.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 1/2 hours. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Release from pan onto serving plate.

Allow to thoroughly cool.

Applying frosting to a cake is a battle against crumbs. It is easier done when the cake is cold since it will be less likely to crumble; thus, there will be several trips back and forth to the refrigerator during the icing process.

To frost: Refrigerate the cake until cold. Once cold, remove the cake and apply a thin layer of Cream Cheese Frosting using an icing spatula. Return cake to refrigerator until frosting hardens. Remove cake and apply remaining frosting using icing spatula. Refrigerate until frosting stiffens up a bit. Slice while cold, but cake is best served at room temperature.

YIELD: 16 to 20 servings

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
24 ounces cream cheese, softened
15 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 1/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Combine the cream cheese and butter in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the sugar, vanilla, and lemon juice and mix on low speed until combined.

P.S. The icing can be made in advance and refrigerated but should be brought to room temperature before using.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Glenn Roberts -- Father of Anson Mills

To understand the mind of artisanal grain guru Glenn Roberts, you must imagine a raging fire of knowledge. A quick conversation with him could jump from his mother's black-skillet cooking to moonshine to his cultivation of true benne. Do not be fooled by the seemingly random nature of these topics. Inside his mind, Glenn connects all sorts of ideas, just in a roundabout way. Eventually, most wind back to his brainchild, Anson Mills, and the art of seed preservation.

Glenn officially founded Anson Mills in 1998 and began supplying heritage strands of rice and corn products to chefs around the country from his home base in Columbia, South Carolina. However, the cultivation of Anson Mills began long before that year, back before Glenn even considered farming as a career option. Glenn uses the word "nonlinear" to describe his professional track, and he does so with pride. "My idea was to be as counter intuitive as possible," he says.

Glenn was born in Delaware and raised in California, but his mother, Mary Elizabeth Clifton, has deep ties to the South. During the early 1900s her father owned hotels all along the eastern seaboard that catered to horse racing tracks. This afforded them a lodge near Savannah, a house on South Carolina's Edisto Island, and an African American cook and nanny who taught her the secrets of black-skillet cooking. In fact, she grew up pounding kitchen rice and hand-milling grits at their house on Edisto.

All of these lessons became exceedingly valuable when the Depression hit, and their family went from being comfortable to hoping they would not lose everything. Ultimately, Glenn's grandfather decided the best place for his daughter would be at the helm of their hotel in Aiken, South Carolina. Thus, she began running this property at age 14 in the depths of the Depression . "She was feeding more people out the back door than the front door," says Glenn. "Black and white -- everyone was poor."

Eventually, his mother moved back to Delaware, and there she met his father. Their common love of music brought them together: he was the church choir director, and she was a talented vocalist. This passion ultimately led them to La Jolla, California, where they could study under the plethora of musicians that performed at the Hollywood Bowl.

Despite the move, Mary Elizabeth kept up her southern culinary ways, centered largely on rice. Glenn remembers that the cooking of rice was a ritual in their house that denoted a sense of honor. He also remembers, with a smile, that he was only allowed to cook rice for the dog. While Glenn treasures all of these kitchen memories now, at the time, he wanted nothing more than to be an astronaut. This never materialized, but he excelled in his studies and went to college at age 14 on a music and math scholarship. The college happened to be the University of North Carolina, and just like that his southern roots reconnected.

Glenn worked a myriad of jobs during college -- none without purpose. As a doffer in a twine factory, he saw the power of primitive water-driven machinery. And as a musician he toured around the southeast extensively -- experiencing firsthand the culture of the region his mother remembered fondly.

His major in topology -- a branch of mathematics specializing in distorting an object's spacial properties -- enabled him to break into the world of architecture upon graduation, and in this world he found his professional footing. He worked with one of the top firms at the time, and eventually developed hotel/restaurant design as his specialty. Glenn traveled up and down the Eastern seaboard resurrecting historic properties. He especially loved this line of work, as he loved working with chefs. He remembers that at the time, during the 1970s, there was a definite lack of locality in restaurant cuisine. The chefs that recognized this missing connection between farm and table happened to be those who came over from Europe to work at hotels.

"These great European chefs had walked away from a system of people [farmers] bringing stuff to their back doors," says Glenn.

Their interest in the agriculture behind the food lodged in Glenn's mind, right beside his mother's stories of freshly milled rice and grits. He had been sending her grits throughout his southern travels trying to satisfy her childhood memories, but she finally told him to stop wasting his time because they lacked any real flavor. "She wasn't trying to hurt anyone's feelings," says Glenn. "She just had a keen palate and remembered what they tasted like."

These thoughts came together just as Glenn approached burnout in the design world. He decided to take a break and chose Charleston as his retreat. He lived at the beach and found work on Junior Magwood's shrimp boat. Despite Glenn's desire to "do nothing" for a while, he gradually found himself pulled into the Charleston food community. A rediscovery of local foodways seemed to be underway, and Glenn could not help but join the effort. He met farmers like George and Celeste Albers and found work at Perdita's restaurant. There, he cooked, but perhaps more importantly he developed relationships with the largely African American staff who had been there since 1952. "They remembered everything from their grandparents...stuff that wasn't normal uptown food in Charleston at the time," says Glenn.

All of this simply added fuel to Glenn's fire. That tiny flame lit by his mother began to burn brighter, and before he knew it Glenn found himself filled with a burning desire to resurrect historic foodways -- specifically artisanal grains, and even more specifically Carolina Gold Rice. Thankfully, he already knew some of the key players like Dick and Tricia Schulze who had repatriated Carolina Gold Rice on their plantation near Savannah.

The Schulzes came by their seed through Texas A&M University, and Glenn sought out seed there as well. Luckily, he came away with not just seed but also the acquaintances of a leading corn and rice geneticist Dr. Anna McClung and a renowned entomologist, Dr. Merle Shepherd. Both provided and continue to provide invaluable assistance in his grain cultivation.

Finding the heirloom varieties of corn would require Glenn to dig a bit deeper in his past. He knew that, sadly, corn had become one of America's most industrialized crops and consequently, an extremely homogenized crop. Many of the historic lines of corn that possessed complex flavor and aroma also happened to be difficult to grow. So the question became, "Who might still have corn seed that dated back before industrialized farming became such a dominant force?"

Glenn remembered from his days at the North Carolina twine factory that there had been much talk of bootleggers. The reality (legal or not) was that generations of rural southerners survived on their proficiency in distilling corn whiskey. This was a lifestyle that did not allow them to buy seed from the local co-op; but rather, they saved seeds from their crops year after year (going back decades). Through avenues that only Glenn could drum up, he found one such family that appreciated his interest in their agriculture and eventually grew a field of corn for him.

This first field of corn proved a valuable lesson for Glenn when a wind storm blew the entire crop down in a matter of minutes. The next year he grew smaller plots in multiple locations, and he finally yielded his first crop of corn. Of course, he sent some to his mother and took some back to the staff at Perdita's. The flavor brought back the memories that Glenn had sought out for so long.

Glenn specifically remembers when he finally succeeded in bringing his mother some freshly milled rice. "Quiet reflection over a bowl of rice is something to behold," he says.

Corn and rice proved just the beginning for Glenn; now he cultivates heritage wheat, peas, and more. However, Glenn insists that, at heart, he is a "rice guy." Unfortunately, the economics of growing heritage rice prove entirely unprofitable. "It's not a business venture, but a cultural venture," says Glenn. Thankfully, the other crops help sustain his efforts.

Glenn's steadfast dedication to quality demonstrated in such painstaking practices as cold-milling and on-demand production have garnered him quite a following from the very beginning. Top southern chefs like Anne Quatrono, Louis Osteen, and Frank Stitt bought Glenn's first corn and rice, and others from around the country soon followed suit. Within the first few years Charlie Trotter, Thomas Keller, and Daniel Boulud all recognized the importance of Glenn's vision and the superior product he provided.

However, it must be noted that despite his celebrity chef roster and unequivocal success, Glenn shrugs off any praise. His primary allegiance remains the same -- the preservation of heritage seeds. Through Anson Mills and the Carolina Gold Rice Foundation, he seeks to enlist farmers on his mission. Not only does Glenn contract farmers in growing the crops but also in milling the product. He proclaims with pride that even his accountant can operate a combine. Glenn assists in all areas of the process -- from the field to the mill to the paperwork. His longtime business ally, Catherine Schopfer, brokers the grains, which basically entails constant communication with their commercial customers. Glenn's wife, Kay, is a free-lance writer who met him when the New York Times sent her down South to capture his story. Now, she attempts to capture his knowledge for use on the Anson Mills website -- www.ansonmills.com -- which catalogs their various products.

Daring to distill the facts running through Glenn's head should be lauded. Like his ambition they seem ceaseless. Glenn has a favorite expression when describing folks he really admires -- from farmers to geneticists. He will say that they have forgotten more than most of us know. The irony is that he does not realize this statement describes himself perfectly.

Glenn Roberts has definitely forgotten more than most of know, and he's still learning.

***

At the GO we use Anson Mills "Carolina Whole Hominy Quick Yellow Grits" and Sea Island Red Peas.

You may buy directly from the Anson Mills website -- www.ansonmills.com

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Baby It's Cold Outside...Warm Up with Bread Pudding!

Okay, so maybe it's not as cold in Charleston as further north, but the dreary days of winter are certainly upon us. And I happen to have the perfect solution for the February blues...our World Famous Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce.

World Famous Bread Pudding

At the GO, we have served this dessert since day one, and we have called it “world famous” since day one -- it is just that amazing! The secret to its intoxicating powers lies in the beautiful, golden egg yolks that come courtesy of Celeste Albers. Her happy Wadmalaw Island hens lay the best eggs in town, and they are essential to the success of our bread pudding.

Read Celeste's story in my earlier blog!

15 egg yolks
¾ cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
4 ½ cups heavy cream
1 ½ cups milk
2 ¼ teaspoons vanilla extract
12 cups soft French bread, diced into 1-inch squares
3/4 cup chopped pecans
Whiskey Sauce (see recipe below)

Combine egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl; whisk to combine. Add cream, milk, and vanilla; whisk to combine. Add bread and pecans; stir with a wooden spoon until well combined. Cover and refrigerate overnight. (The mixture must be soaked at least overnight and up to a few days in advance.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Stir mixture well and pour into 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Bake until surface feels firm, 30 to 40 minutes.

Serve warm with Whiskey Sauce. You may pour Whiskey Sauce over pan of bread pudding or pass around in a dish or guests to pour over their individual servings.

YIELD: 8 to 10 servings

WHISKEY SAUCE
1 cup milk
½ cup sugar
2 egg yolks
¼ cup bourbon

Combine egg yolks in a medium bowl and have near stove with a ladle for tempering. Combine milk and sugar in a medium pot over medium heat. Heat milk-sugar mixture until steaming. Ladle about 1 cup milk-sugar mixture into bowl with egg yolks. Whisk to combine. Add egg mixture to pot with milk-sugar mixture and whisk to combine. Heat until the mixture just begins to simmer.
Remove from heat and pour through a chinois or other fine-meshed strainer into a medium bowl. Fill a large bowl with ice water and set the medium bowl of sauce in this larger bowl to chill. Add bourbon; stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. This can be made several days in advance but should be brought to room temperature before serving.

YIELD: About 1 ½ cups

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Very Special Treat -- Lisa's Coconut Cream Pie

As most of you devoted readers know, I am writing this blog as a companion project to our forthcoming cookbook -- Glass Onion Classics -- which should be on the shelves in May.

Many folks have helped with this cookbook -- the farmers who have shared their valuable time to enable my telling of their stories; my partners (Charles and Chris), who created most of the delicious recipes; my invaluable editor Suzanne who thankfully never tires of attention to every last detail...

But here I would like to personally thank Lisa Maki, a dear friend who has helped tremendously with the recipe testing for the final chapter -- Sweets! Appropriately, one standout recipe in this chapter happens to be Lisa's Coconut Cream Pie. I am happy to share that with you along with the GO recipe for pie/tart dough. Of course, you could just buy a frozen shell from the grocery, but if you have the time why not make your own from scratch. The difference will be delicious. And trust me, Lisa's pie deserves that little extra effort, as it is an outstanding dessert!

Lisa's Coconut Cream Pie


I met my good friend Lisa first as a customer at the GO. She had a neighboring startup business, and they basically thought of us as their personal corporate cafeteria. At the time I had no idea what a talented cook Lisa happened to be, but many Sunday suppers later I felt just as enamored of her food as she did of ours. And I coveted her Coconut Cream Pie recipe! She claims that a west coast restaurant inspired hers, but I think it totally belongs to Lisa. I've only restaurantfied it slightly -- using my go-to custard technique as I know it's foolproof.

1 unbaked frozen pie shell (see recipe below)
2 large eggs
1 13 1/2-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup cornstarch

1 1/2 cups flaked coconut, toasted

Whipped Cream, for garnish (see recipe below)



Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line pie shell with a sheet of tinfoil. Spread rice or beans across the pie shell, mounding them up a bit on the sides and going more lightly in the center.

Place pie shell on baking sheet. Bake until edges are dark golden brown and center has just begun to golden. Check crust's progress at 30 minutes, but total baking time should be about 45 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to cool with tinfoil and weights still in place. Once cool remove weights and reserve the weights for another day. Reserve crust until filling and meringue are both made. The crust can be baked off one day in advance, wrapped and held at room temperature.

To make filling, combine eggs in a medium bowl and gently whisk. Keep near the stovetop as you work on the rest of the recipe.

Combine coconut milk, cream, vanilla, and salt in a large pot. Mix the sugar and corn starch together in a medium bowl. Add a half cup of coconut milk mixture to sugar mixture and whisk to combine. (This is a slurry!)

Heat the coconut milk mixture over medium heat until steaming but not simmering. Add the sugar mixture to the coconut milk mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until it begins to thicken. The time for this mixture to thicken may vary as it is all dependent upon the corn starch reaching a certain temperature, but it will be obvious. The mixture will subtly thicken and then quickly become very thick. At this point it will be at a rolling boil and pulling away from sides of the pot. Remove pot from the heat.

Slowly drizzle a cup (using a ladle is helpful!) of the hot mixture into the eggs, whisking as you do so. (This is called tempering and should prevent the eggs from scrambling if done very carefully. But do not fret if your egg whites cook just a bit -- the mixture will be strained during final stepping, eliminating any unsightly lumps.)

Next, slowly pour the warmed eggs into the hot mixture in the pot, whisking as you do so. Return the pot to the stove over medium heat. Cook, whisking, until the mixture begins to gently boil. Remove from the heat and strain through a chinois or other fine meshed strainer into a medium bowl. It can be helpful to use a ladle to push the custard through the chinois. Fill a large bowl with ice water and set the medium bowl full of custard in this larger bowl to chill. As custard chills a slight "skin" will form on surface; vigorously whisk to eliminate. Once cool, stir in 1 cup of toasted coconut.

Spoon custard into reserved pie crust, spreading with rubber spatula to evenly distribute. Cover and refrigerate for at least a few hours or overnight. (This will insure that the custard fully sets, and the pie is easy to slice.)

Remove from refrigerator when ready to serve. Cover entire pie with Whipped Cream (see recipe below) and garnish with remaining 1/2 cup of toasted coconut.

YIELD: 8 servings

P.S. Lisa covers the pie with whipped cream before slicing (as described above), but if you will not be serving the entire pie in one serving you can simply garnish each slice individually with whipped cream and toasted coconut.

WHIPPED CREAM

1 cup heavy cream cream

2 tablespoons powdered sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract



Whip cream until soft peaks form using a whisk or electric mixer. Sift in powdered sugar, add vanilla, and continue whipping until moderately stiff peaks form.

Pie/Tart Dough


Even if you happen to be intimidated by pie dough, please do not skip this recipe. I am here to rest your fears and give some realistic advice. First, the actual making of the dough happens to be relatively easy with the help of the trusty food processor. Second, achieving the end result of a beautiful, golden brown pie crust to fill with your favorite ingredients relies on nothing more complicated than freezing your formed crust in its pan, which protects against shrinking during the blind baking process. Forming the pie crust is the last step in this recipe, and then you will be ready to move on to our specific pie and tart recipes. Finally, if your first batch of dough does not come out to your liking -- please try again. There are subtle nuances to knowing when your dough has reached that perfect consistency, and over time you will become an expert.

1 pound butter, cut into pea size pieces
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
½ cup water

Freeze butter for 30 minutes. Combine flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and run until combined. Gradually, add cold butter (while running) until the mixture resembles wet sand. Gradually, add water (while running) until the mixture balls together. (Your dough may require more or less water – so it is important to add gradually.) Remove dough from food processor. At this point it should be holding together nicely, but you might need to knead it with your hands to form a solid ball. Divide ball into 3 equal pieces if making dough for pies or divide into 2 equal pieces if making dough for tarts.

Wrap balls in plastic wrap and flatten to form approximately a 4” wide disk. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using. Dough can be made in advance and refrigerated for up to one week or frozen up to one month. Simply allow to come to a pliable temperature before using.

Once ready to use, roll out your dough on a lightly floured surface using a rolling pin. Roll with light pressure from the center out. Combat moderate sticking by dusting liberally with flour. If dough seems excessively sticky it is probably too warm and should be returned to the refrigerator for another 15 minutes. (You can drape it over the back of a pie plate if you need to put it back in the refrigerator.)

Continue to roll out the dough, dusting with more flour as necessary. Stop several times to turn dough (as if winding a clock) so that all sides receive equal attention. You might also flip dough over or at least dust other side to make sure there is no sticking on the backside! When the dough is about 1/4-inch thick place pie or tart pan on top to check for accurate size. Your disk of dough should be about 10 inches in diameter.

To transfer the dough from the table to your pan, simply fold it in half and then in half again so that you have a triangular piece. Place this in your pan with the pointy end at the center of the pan. Unfold and press into pan. At this point there are slightly different techniques depending on your goal of pie or tart.

To finish your pie: press dough firmly into the bottom and sides of the pan. Some crust should be hanging over edges of pan; trim with scissors so that only about 1/4-inch hangs over. Using a fork, press dough into rim of pan; this technique is decorative but also helps to prevent shrinkage during baking, in my opinion. Wrap again in plastic and freeze crust for at least one hour but up to one week in advance.

To finish your tart: press dough firmly into the bottom and fluted sides. There should a good amount hanging over edges. Trim with scissors or simply roll your rolling pin over the top of the pan. The sharp edge of the pan should trim dough neatly.

This next step is an extra precaution I have invented to deal with shrinkage of crust during baking. Take excess dough (that you just trimmed from outer edges) and roll out onto floured surface until about 1/4-inch thick. Cut dough into strips that are about 1-inch in width. Press these strips into dough that is embedded in fluted edges of pan. Line the entire edge of pan with this "reinforcement". The dough should be pliable enough to adhere to one another, and the two pieces will ultimately form one piece during baking. Discard any remaining dough. Wrap and freeze crust for at least one hour but up to one week in advance.

Yield: 3 9-inch pie crusts or 2 9 1/2-inch tart crusts

P.S. From here you can move on to any pie/tart recipe. I do blind bake all of my crusts, meaning that I bake them until golden brown before adding any sort of filling (even if further baking is required after filling.) I include this process in all of our pie/tart recipes.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Secret to GO Cole Slaw

Just last week I met two very nice customers who loved their first meal at the GO. They especially loved our cole slaw, which I describe as a classic rendition.

"But there was something special in it..." the gentleman said.

Ah, I realized he had hit upon the secret ingredient -- our GO pickle relish. We drain our housemade pickles and puree them in the food processor to make a pickle relish that adds beaucoup deliciousness to our cole slaw, potato salad, and other dishes.

So, per this gentleman's request I am sharing the recipes for our cole slaw and housemade pickles to let you in on our little secret!


GO Cole Slaw

1 head of green cabbage
1 serving slaw sauce (see recipe below)
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped green onions
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Remove outer leaves from cabbage. Cut into quarters and cut out core. Cut each quarter in half (not lengthwise) and then thinly slice each of these chunks lengthwise.

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings; about 2 quarts

SLAW SAUCE
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup plus tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon honey
½ teaspoon hot sauce

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk to combine.

P.S. The slicing directions might seem a bit complicated, but we are trying to insure you end up with easily edible pieces of cabbage. At the restaurant we use an electric slicer, which makes things simpler! But this method should yield a relatively fine slaw.

P.P.S. You can go totally GO and make your sweet pickle relish from our Housemade Pickles recipe (see recipe below). Simply drain the pickles and pulse them in a food processor or blender until they are roughly pureed.


Housemade Pickles


My partner Chris refers to these as "Holy Crap Those Are Good Pickles." These pickles really are outstanding, and on top of that they are super easy to make. You should make these all summer long when local cucumbers are dirt cheap and delicious. At the GO we serve them as a side, and we also puree them for homemade pickle relish. The have just the perfect amount of sweetness to seduce the palate without overwhelming it.

10 cups sliced cucumbers, peeled on 3 sides and sliced ¾-inch thick (about 5 medium cucumbers)
1 cup thinly sliced sweet onion (about ½ medium onion)
3/4 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper (about 1/2 medium pepper)
1/4 cup sliced carrot, peeled and thinly sliced into rounds (about 1 small carrot)
½ cup kosher salt
4 cups cider vinegar
4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon mustard seed
½ teaspoon celery seed
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

Combine cucumbers, onion, pepper, carrot, and salt in a large bowl or storage container. Let sit for one hour. Rinse thoroughly with cold water. Return to a large bowl or storage container.

Combine remaining ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Pour liquid over vegetables, cover, and refrigerate. Refrigerate overnight before serving.

YIELD: About 2 quarts