Monday, December 29, 2008

Chestnut Disaster

It's true - cooking disasters happen to everyone. After literally getting a blister from scoring chestnuts, I popped them in the oven and waited for what I thought would be a nice new holiday tradition. I followed a recipe exactly and experienced the disappointment that a bad recipe can bring. I had never attempted to roast chestnuts before (most Southerners have not) so I thought I would give it a try. How hard could it be?
After just a few minutes, the chestnuts were burned, a few exploded in the oven, and my house smelled awful. After cleaning the oven and opening the windows, I watched even the squirrels pass over the chestnuts that were now scattered in the yard. Nice.

Cooking at Sunrise

My kitchen has been filled with friends and family celebrating the holidays and eating their fill. Morning is my favorite time of day, which means I fired up the oven early each day for holiday cooking.
I hosted a morning party before Christmas for some girlfriends to come over after they dropped off the kids for the last day of school. We sipped on mimosas and relaxed over a breakfast of coffee cake, breakfast souffle, and grits. Every party should be so easy.
Christmas morning brought a new recipe to our family table. I made baked apples that were stuffed with granola and candied ginger. I served them with Greek yogurt and they were truly divine.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Lesson Learned

I learned a lesson over Thanksgiving, and no, it wasn't about turkey. You've heard it before, always pick up a pan as if it's hot. While not thinking, I managed to grab the handle of a cast iron skillet that was at least 350 degrees.
I can easily say it was the worst injury I have had in the kitchen. My right hand was essentially rendered useless for several days and that meant no cooking for me. (Thankfully my family chipped in and made all my recipes beautifully.)
I learned my lesson well - keep an oven mitt close by at all times.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Barb's New Blog

My friend Barb Pires has a new blog. You'll love it. She's the best cake baker I know. Her to-die-for Coconut Cake recipe is just a click away. Check it out.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Hawaiian Moli'i Fishpond

I traveled to Hawaii for the Les Dames d'Escoffier International Annual Conference. It proved to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. One of our first stops on Oahu was a tour of Kualoa, a place where visitors can get a taste of Hawaiian agriculture and fishing.
The Moli‘i fishpond dates back 800 years. Over 100 acres in size, it once provided the Hawaiian royalty with bounties of fish. Small openings allowed little fish in the pond and once the fish grew, they were too large to return to the open water.
We toured the pond by a flat-bottomed boat; we were told that if we fell out, just stand up because the water is only 4 to 5 feet deep.

Guavas on Oahu

These guavas are still soaking up sun on the west side of the island of Oahu. At a glance, I thought they were limes. The closest I normally get to a fresh guava is in a jelly jar. This was the first time I had ever seen the fruit on a tree.

Honolulu Fish Auction

We were lucky enough to take a tour of the Honolulu Fish Auction. It was amazing! There are only 2 auctions of its kind in the world. Fish were being brought off the boats at daybreak and we were able to see the live auction where the fish were sold to wholesalers and restaurants.

These pictures show Ahi tuna, some nearing 125 pounds. The flesh is cut and placed on small pieces of paper for the purpose of setting the starting bid. The darker red flesh brings a higher price.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Cooking at Blackhawk

I taught a class this weekend in a beautiful kitchen with a perk unlike any other class. The Soquee River was winding through the trees right outside the window. When we fired up the grill, the sound of the water moving downstream was heavenly.

Check out Blackhawk (it's a fly fishing stream with a cooking school) to see what I saw. Sadly, there was no time to fish after we left the kitchen. I'll definitely go back again for a trout of my own.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Shooting Food

This is my friend Dennis McDaniel shooting a roasted Cornish hen with grits and roasted lemons. The photos for my citrus story in the November issue of Athens Magazine were shot Wednesday at a local restaurant, Farm 255. With the natural light and rustic interior, it made for a beautiful location. I was cooking most of the day, so I can only take credit for the food. The staff at the magazine outdid themselves with styling the photos.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Gift from Heaven

When the UPS man dropped off an unexpected package at the back door, I was more than curious. After tearing into the box like a child on Christmas morning, I found the gift of Pickled Okra. Jeff Murrie, a student in my class in Charleston, told me after class he was going to mail me a bottle of his special okra. After telling me how to use the pickled okra juice in dirty martinis, I was intrigued, to say the least.
Jeff's okra may very well be the best I have ever tasted. Here's a toast with my martini to Jeff!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Fun in Chapel Hill

I have just returned from a wonderful trip to Chapel Hill, NC. I taught a sold-out fried chicken class at Southern Season on Sunday afternoon. I was truly in awe of the store and the cooking school is one of a kind. The store is a cook's dream with 60,000 square feet of all the things I love. This is a photo of my class. They were champs at frying chicken. We didn't have a single piece burned or undercooked!
I enjoyed a delightful dinner at Crook's Corner with prolific food writer and cookbook author Jean Anderson. We had the treat of Chef Bill Smith sitting with us for much of our meal. Every forkful was unbelievably delicious. The meal was one of the best I have ever had. I brought home a copy of Bill's book to add to my recipe collection.
After a breakfast of country ham and biscuits at Mama Dip's, I completed my trip, stuffed and happy. 

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Cooking on the Road

With cooking demos in different cities, I've been traveling with almost every pot and pan I own. I seem to keep packing and unpacking spoons, bowls, and all my favorite tools that I will not cook without. I joined a large group of women at Lake Oconee, Georgia, for a Girls' Night Out complete with martinis for everyone. I had a delightful time and couldn't have asked for prettier scenery.
The United Methodist Church in Kennesaw, Georgia, invited me for a Ladies' Night Out. The event was "Christmas in July" and I ate more than my fair share of the impressive desserts they prepared. The Cream Cheese Brownies (from Beth Patrick) may be the best thing I've tasted in a while. I swear I must have eaten five of them before I went on stage.
The best part of my job is meeting new people. There is always an instant connection when two cooks meet for the first time.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Picking Okra

Our garden is in full swing and I seem to be picking okra constantly. It's my favorite vegetable, so we planted 7 plants. The green pods are popping up as fast as I can clip them. Our organic garden is truly the best inspiration for me in the kitchen. Of course, I've fried batches, made okra pancakes, and even had a mishap with roasted okra. My pods were apparently too large to roast and I almost lost a tooth trying to eat one.
This is an okra flower from one of the plants. It's my new favorite flower.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Charleston Cooks!

I just returned from a fun and food-filled trip to Charleston, SC.
Teaching at Charleston Cooks is always a pleasure. With an unbelievably organized kitchen staff, the class runs almost effortlessly. With a sold-out crowd, we had another Girls' Night Out to remember. 
My friend and mentor, Nathalie Dupree, invited me over for a lovely lunch. In true Nathalie style, we enjoyed an impressive cheese soufflĂ©, a green salad (with herbs from her garden) and homemade tart shells filled with pineapple curd. I couldn't have found a better meal anywhere in town. Nathalie knows more about food and cooking than anyone I know and always inspires me. She was literally the beginning of my career and I will be forever grateful. 

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Summer Solstice Celebration

In my cooking classes, my students often ask about parties that I host at home. There is nothing like opening your home to friends and I've been looking forward to this day for weeks. Last night we hosted a Summer Solstice party in our backyard. The weather could not have been any prettier and even the humidity cooperated. We served what seemed like every kind of beer imaginable, my signature Key Lime Martinis, and White Wine Sangria. Our friends could shake their own martinis or just stand around and sip.
For supper, we served spicy slaw, a marinated vegetable salad like my mom always makes, White Barbecued Chicken, and the best hamburgers I have ever tasted. I cheated for dessert and served sliced watermelon. The burgers (from James McNair) were on the cover of BonAppétit in 2006 and have made an appearance at almost every family gathering I've hosted since. The burgers have a texture to really wrap your hands around, thanks to pecans and andouille sausage mixed right in. Try the recipe for your next cookout. You can't go wrong with these on the table.
Happy Summer Solstice!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Every Day on Monday

On Monday, I was a guest on the nationally televised show Every Day with Marcus and Lisa. I cook on the show once a month and I always enjoy it. This month I made Homemade Limeade, Peppermint Brownies and Tortellini Salad. 
The kitchen set is beautiful and a pleasure to cook in. Here's Lisa and I after the show. 

The show airs on FamilyNet

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Christmas in June

This week I have been cooking like it's December. I am doing some recipe development for Christmas with Southern Living. It's pretty strange to make pumpkin pie when it's 98 degrees outside. I have worked on Christmas projects in the past and almost all of them have a summer deadline. To make recipe work easier, each Christmas I buy all the canned eggnog, candied fruit, and mincemeat I can find to keep on the shelf until the hot weather rolls around. 
You never know when you'll need fruitcake in June!

Thursday, June 5, 2008


Culinaire, at the New World of Coke in Atlanta, was last night and was really a wonderful time. I headed home stuffed and happy thanks to all-you-can-eat tastings from 17 restaurants. With a theme of international flavors, it was almost like eating around the world in an hour.