Monday, July 21, 2014

Beauty at Lake Austin Spa Resort

I could stay and teach cooking classes at Lake Austin Spa Resort forever if they'd let me. I've just returned from my third visit to one of the prettiest places there is. On the days I'm not teaching, I love to wander with my camera and try to capture as many images as possible to tide me over until my next visit. Here are a few of my favorites.

 


















Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Atlantic Shrimp and Grits



2 lb. unpeeled, large raw Georgia shrimp
4 cups chicken broth
1 (12-oz.) can evaporated milk
1 tsp. salt
1 cup uncooked stone-ground grits
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
31⁄2 oz. prosciutto, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
1 cup chopped white onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1⁄3 cup dry white wine
11⁄2 cups chopped tomato
1⁄2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme, plus sprigs for garnish
1⁄2 tsp. lemon zest
1⁄2 tsp. salt
1⁄4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Peel shrimp, leaving tails on; devein, if desired. Cover and chill.
Bring broth and next 2 ingredients to a boil over medium heat. Add grits; reduce heat to low. Cook, whisking often, 30 minutes or until creamy and tender. (If grits become too thick, add up to 1⁄4 cup water to thin.) Remove from heat, and keep warm.
Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add prosciutto, and cook 3 minutes or until lightly browned. Add jalapeno and next 2 ingredients. Cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Stir in wine. Cook 1 minute, stirring to loosen particles from bottom of skillet.
Add chopped tomato, and cook 3 minutes. Add shrimp, thyme, and remaining ingredients. Cover and cook 7 to 8 minutes or just until shrimp turn pink. Top each serving of grits with shrimp mixture, and garnish, if desired.

Makes: 4 servings

Recipe from Around the Southern Table by Rebecca Lang (Oxmoor House, 2012)
Copyright 2014 Rebecca Lang Cooks, LLC


Friday, May 9, 2014

Mother's Day Around the Table

Many families gather around the table on Mother's Day. Don't limit that special time to just holidays. As a mother of two, there's no place I'd rather be with my peeps than at our table. This is an essay I wrote to be included in my book, Around the Southern Table. It didn't end up in the pages of the book, but it rings true to this day. Honor the table, the mothers that make it wonderful, and all those that gather around it.

My Southern Table

Being welcomed at the table is nothing short of receiving a special gift. It’s a package filled with soothing assurance that you are not alone. It is not simply a piece of furniture made to support a plate and a glass; it is furniture that serves its owners in countless and amazing ways.
    Like so many others, my home is not determined by an address; my home is where those I love gather around the table. The location and the table aren’t always the same, but those that surround it are always family. In times of great celebration, quite reflection or deep loss, the table is forever in the center.
    Much of my life has been marked by unforgettable moments around the table. It was at the table where I tasted my very first tomato sandwich. I ate breakfast at the table while watching the Challenger liftoff and disintegrate into the sky. Years later I slipped my left hand across the shiny oak top to show my grandmother my engagement ring. In that exact same place at the table, my place, I was overcome by the sea of endless food delivered when she passed away. We gathered our parents around the table on a frigid January evening to share the news that their first grandbaby was on the way.
    While sitting down to a bushel of roasted oysters, I was ecstatic to tell my family I was writing my long-awaited third book. I swaddled our brand new baby girl in a bright pink basket on our table the first day we came home from the hospital. We added leaves and pulled up chairs for the biggest brunch I could cook after each of our children was baptized.  Hours after the death of my father-in-law, I sat alone at our table in the middle of the night and cried until no more tears would come. While sitting on his tiny knees at the table, my son said the blessing all by himself for the first time.
    It is at the table where I have grown-up, loved, laughed, prayed, celebrated and experienced so many of the defining moments in my life. This long relationship does not make me unique. Most Southerners could tell a very similar story about the table where they sit to dine each day. The Southern table does not just fill a room or a corner; it fills our very lives and enriches our souls.

Copyright (c) 2014 Rebecca Lang Cooks, LLC. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Sorghum French Toast


Any cook worth his or her salt would undeniably say a cast iron skillet is one of the most indispensable items in the kitchen. Lodge has led the way for Americans to cook honestly and sensibly for generations. The family-run company has a long history of making good cookware and giving back to their community of South Pittsburg, Tennessee.

I am proud to be included in their new book, Cast Iron Nation. Two of my favorite recipes, Sorghum French Toast and Gooey Chocolate Skillets, are between the covers. I also wrote an essay about inheriting my grandmother's skillet and what that fine pan means to me today. Bursting with 200 recipes, this book keeps cast iron pans hot from sunup to sundown.

It's not often we see Made in America anymore and Lodge is keeping that homegrown tradition alive. As one of those that continues to heat their basic black screaming hot on top of the stove and sizzle away with it in the oven, I am thankful that cast iron continues on.

http://www.amazon.com/Lodge-Cast-Iron-Nation-American/dp/0848742265/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1397040922&sr=8-1


Sorghum French Toast

This fancy version of French toast is as comforting and rich as it is beautiful. Right out of the oven, it’s puffed high above the skillet edge calling for a memorable morning around the table.

1/2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
10 oz. challah bread
1 1/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
8 large eggs
1/4 cup sorghum syrup
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground allspice
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground ginger  
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
2 tsp. powdered sugar

1. Grease a 9-inch cast iron skillet with butter.
2. Slice bread into 1-inch slices. Cut each slice into 6 pieces. Arrange in skillet, crust sides up.
3. Combine milk and next 6 ingredients. Pour over bread. Chill 45 minutes.
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
5. Remove skillet from refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes.
6. Combine cinnamon and next 3 ingredients. Sprinkle over top of bread. Dot with 1/4 cup butter.
7. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
8. Remove from oven. Use a small sieve to dust sugar over top of bread. Serve immediately.

Serves 6 to 8

Images and recipe from Lodge Cast Iron Nation, copyright 2014. Used and reprinted with permission.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Green Up and Pray for Spring!

This winter has been a long and cold one, no matter where you live. Thank goodness it's almost over. With spring right around the corner, take a fresh look at salads to welcome in the new warmer weather. Salads don't have to be on a leafy base. They can be filled with vegetables and bursting with a light and refreshing zing. Finding fresh English peas can be tricky, so I use frozen peas for this recipe. Try it for the first picnic of the season.


English Pea and Radish Salad

1 (16-oz.) package frozen petite green peas
1 cup very thinly sliced radishes
2 green onions, sliced (1⁄4 cup)
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint, plus a few sprigs for garnish
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
3⁄4 tsp. salt
1⁄4 tsp. freshly ground pepper

1. Fill a large bowl halfway with water and ice. Bring a medium saucepan filled with water to a boil. Add frozen peas, and cook 1 minute; drain. Plunge into ice water to stop the cooking process; drain. Combine peas and next 3 ingredients in a bowl.

2. Whisk together olive oil and next 4 ingredients until well blended. Pour over peas; toss to coat. Let stand 15 minutes before serving. Garnish, if desired.

Makes: 8 servings

Hands-on Time: 10 min. Total Time: 30 min.

Recipe from Southern Living Around the Southern Table by Rebecca Lang (Oxmoor House, 2012)

(c) 2014 Rebecca Lang Cooks, LLC

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Day Our Skillet Went Cold

Each year on January 27, I re-post my tribute to my grandmother Tom. She will be missed as long as I'm living.

It was on this day, only 11 years ago, that our family lost my beloved grandmother Tom. I’ve never written about that day. In fact, I don’t know that I’ve spoken of it with more than a handful of people. There are three days in my life that each and every detail live on so vividly in my mind and this is one of them. I was with her on the exact moment she no longer was on this Earth. It is equally as precious as the minutes when my children were born.
Tom was healthy her entire life, much more so than any other person I’ve known. She cooked daily until she was 100, never had a problem with arthritis, and often wore Nike running shoes the last few years of her life. Only weeks before her death, she was confined to a hospital bed, but still, uttered not one single complaint. Just like always, she never missed a moment to say, “I love you,” or to hold our hands.
I have always felt that Tom and I were connected on an even deeper level than that of a grandchild and grandparent. Our pure love of the kitchen bound us like nothing else could. It was her cast iron skillet filled with fried chicken that first taught me how comfort and love could be tasted and shared without saying a word.
For years, we cooked together, ate together, and talked for countless hours about recipes, cookbooks, and our loves of fat back, Coke in bottles, and Nathalie Dupree. One of her finest days was when Mama brought her to cook with Nathalie and me in the very kitchen she’d seen on television so many times. Simply by sharing a stove, she taught me how imperative the act of cooking can be to a state of real happiness. Being blessed with the gift of sharing the moment when her soul went Home seemed natural and was the ultimate last chapter in our long story together.
My parents and I were with her all day, talking of everything we could think to say. We tried to fill the empty air with subjects that would keep all of our minds off the fact that her death was eminent. We talked about food, work, family, friends, and memories of days gone by. The nurses kept coming in and out, checking Tom’s pulse and blood pressure, which of course reminded us of why we were all there.
A family friend, Jane Knowles, came in to visit Tom one last time. She held Tom’s hand, stroked her hair, and sang Holy Ground with a voice that was nothing short of an angel’s. It was during this magnificent song that Tom left us and went on to meet the Lord she so dearly loved. It’s as if she waited for Jane and her hymn to say goodbye to all of us. Recalling these few minutes of witnessing my Tom drift away leaves me short on words and overflowing with tears.
In memory of Tom and her life so very well lived, I share her fried chicken recipe that has brought me comfort hundreds of times. It is with her skillet that I cook on and never forget.


Tom’s Fried Chicken

1 (3.5 pound) whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
1/4 cup salt
1 1/2 cups vegetable shortening
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour

Place the chicken in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup salt and cover with cold water. Soak the chicken for 45 minutes. 
Remove the chicken from the salt water and drain on paper towels.
Heat the shortening in an 8-inch cast iron skillet or a large deep skillet to about 360 degrees.
Sprinkle the chicken with 1 teaspoon salt and pepper.  Coat each piece completely with flour, shake off the excess and gently place the chicken in the hot shortening.  Fry 10 to 12 minutes per side or until golden brown, about 25 minutes total. Fry chicken in batches to prevent the skillet from becoming crowded. 
Check the temperature of the oil occasionally.  If the oil is too hot, the chicken will be too brown on the outside but not fully cooked through.
Drain fried chicken on a cooling rack placed over a rimmed baking sheet.

Serves 4


Copyright 2014 Rebecca Lang Cooks, LLC. All rights reserved.
rebeccalangcooks.com
 


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Top 10 Quotes from Cooking Classes

After teaching hundreds of cooking classes over the last 12 years, I've heard quite a few interesting words from my students. I keep a small notebook in my office to record the most memorable. I came across the notebook recently and had several laughs reading over them. Here are a few of my favorites.

1.  “Do you have a good recipe for hedgehog stew?”

2.  “The chef is now firing up the big green apple.”

3.  When I was eight months pregnant with my first child, a gentleman in my class said,  “I’m surprised they let you in the kitchen with knives. Aren’t your hormones really up and down?”

4.  “I won’t cook without drinking.”

5.  “I didn’t know hot oil could burn you.”

6.  “I can’t cut up that chicken. It reminds me of a little baby.”

7.  “I need a left-handed skillet, please.”

8.  “I don’t cook because it makes me smell like food. How do you keep your clothes and hair from smelling like food all the time?”

9.  “If you start with cold water, it will come to a boil faster than hot water.”

10. “I don’t want to cook. I just came to eat.”


Copyright 2014 Rebecca Lang Cooks, LLC.