Friday, December 14, 2012

Friends Around the Table

Nancie McDermott's Lemon-Filled Coconut Cake

I’ve made a lot of friends around the table in my life, but one very special group to me is made up of other Southern cookbook authors. They all live hours and hours away, yet we manage to stay in touch, support each other, offer advice, and share the love for each others' books and work. No matter the profession, having friends that deeply understand the path you’re on is priceless. These women are the ones that offer their homes to me when I’m on the road, attend events when they’re already over-booked, and shout praises of a new book from the rooftops. They take me to dinner with their family when I’m homesick for my own peeps. We also share notes on what works and what doesn’t on the journey from the kitchen counter to the printer. They've also taken me under their wings before really even knowing me.

I’m filling my table with their recipes this Christmas season. It’s the next best thing to having them stop by for a visit. Sandra Gutierrez, Nathalie Dupree, Cynthia Graubart, Jean Anderson, Virginia Willis, and Nancie McDermott are all experts on Southern cooking, but all in slightly different ways. They create the perfect collection of knowledge of the hows and whys of cooking in the South. Make room on your cookbook shelf and fire up the stove for the holidays. Collect all of these books (and Around the Southern Table too, of course), and you’re simply set for 2013 to be as sweet and savory as possible. 

Sandra Gutierrez’s Pickled Mushrooms

These meaty, juicy mushrooms offer a little bit of sweetness and a touch of vinegar in every bite. Pickled vegetables are a common feature in Latin and Southern repasts. The pickling technique,  used here, in which a vinaigrette is cooked along with the vegetables, pickling them as they cool, is known as escabeche. The beauty of this method is that it doesn't require a long period of time. Arab cooking techniques such as this one were introduced into Spain during the Ottoman Empire. Many of them made their way into Latin cuisine as a result of the European conquista. Modern Latin features myriad examples of this cultural amalgamation. Serve the mushrooms at room temperature with plenty of crusty bread to sop up the caldillo (juices).

½ cup white wine vinegar
¼ cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
⅔ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced yellow onion
1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded and sliced thinly into strips ¼ -inch thick
8 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 bay leaf
6 whole black peppercorns
1 ½ pounds whole white button mushrooms
4 large garlic cloves, sliced paper-thin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a medium bowl, combine the vinegar, water, and sugar; set aside. In a medium stainless steel or enamel coated saucepan with high sides, combine the oil, onions, bell pepper, thyme, bay leaf, and peppercorns; cook over medium heat, stirring gently for 4-5 minutes (being careful not to brown the onions).  Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the mushrooms; cook for 3-4 minutes stirring often. Add garlic and cook for 30-40 seconds. Add the vinegar mixture and increase the heat to medium. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and bring to room temperature. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the mushrooms to a nonreactive bowl; cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours. Bring them back to room temperature when ready to serve. These keep, if properly chilled and covered, for up to 1 week. Serves 6-8.

From The New Southern-Latino Table: Recipes that Bring Together the Bold and Beloved Flavors of Latin America and the American South. Copyright © 2011 by Sandra A. Gutierrez. Used by permission of the University of North Carolina

Nathalie Dupree’s and Cynthia Graubart’s Creamed English Peas and Potatoes

Serves 4 to 6

“Creamers” is the name for just-picked small potatoes. Combined with English peas and a cream sauce, they add a splendid touch to holiday or company meals, hence, “creamed ” creamers and English peas. Use a large pot to prevent the potatoes from boiling over.

12 small creamers or fingerling potatoes
8 tablespoons butter, divided
1 medium onion, sliced

2 cups shelled fresh English peas
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup heavy cream

 & Freshly ground black pepper

Peel a band around the potatoes with a swivel peeler or knife. Cut up any large potatoes so that none are larger than 1 1 ⁄ 2 inches in diameter. Rinse and add to a pot of boiling water to cover. Return to the boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork, 20 to 30 minutes, depending on size.
Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of butter in a frying pan. Add the onion and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes.
Melt the remaining 5 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan. Stir in the flour to make a roux. Add heavy cream to the roux, stirring continuously to make a white sauce. Bring to the boil. Pour the sauce into the undrained potatoes and peas. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Reprinted with permission from Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart, copyright © 2012. Published by Gibbs Smith.

Jean Anderson’s Marmalade Tea Cake

Makes a 9 x 5 x 3-Inch Loaf

I found this recipe in Coastal Cookery, a slim spiral-bound volume first published in 1937 by the Cassina Garden Club of St. Simon’s Island, Georgia.  It has now gone through at least eight editions, the last printed in 1972 and the one I have.  This is my updated version of that long-ago recipe.  Unlike many Southern cakes, this was is not very sweet – perfect, I think, for an afternoon tea or open house.  In fact, it’s more tea bread than tea cake.

2 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder  
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt  
1 cup orange marmalade  
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, slightly softened 
1 large egg  
3/4 cup fresh orange juice  
3/4 cup finely chopped pecans, black walnuts, or English walnuts          

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice 1/4 cup sugar
Preheat oven to 325° F.  Line 9 x 5 x 3-inch pan with baking parchment or aluminum
foil, then spritz with non-stick oil-and-flour baking spray.  Set pan aside. 
Whisk flour with baking powder, soda, and salt in medium-size mixing bowl and set aside. 
Beat marmalade and butter at high electric mixer speed about 1 minute to combine.  Scrape sides of bowl, add egg, and beat 2 minutes until light. 
At low mixer speed, add combined dry ingredients alternately with orange juice, beginning and ending with dry and mixing after each addition only enough to combine.   By hand, fold in nuts.  Scoop batter into pan, spreading to corners. 
Slide onto middle oven shelf and bake 1 to 1 1/2 hours until nicely browned, loaf begins to pull from sides of pan, and cake tester inserted in middle comes out clean.
Transfer loaf to wire rack, placing right side up.
 Glaze: Combine lemon juice and sugar in small non-reactive saucepan, set over moderate heat, and cook, stirring constantly, about 1 minute until sugar dissolves.  Pierce cake 10 to 12 times with toothpick, spoon hot glaze slowly over cake, letting it soak in and dribble down sides.   Let stand 15 minutes in upright pan on wire rack.
Grasping edges of parchment, gently lift cake from pan to wire rack and cool to room temperature before removing parchment.
To serve, cut tea cake into slices about 3/8 inch using your sharpest serrated knife and a gentle see-saw motion..   Note: Some Southern hostesses halve or quarter each slice – easier to eat while balancing a cup of tea or coffee.

Reprinted with permission from From a Southern Oven: The Savories, The Sweets by Jean Anderson, copyright © 2012. Published by John Wiley & Sons. 

Virginia Willis’ Garlic-Stuffed Prime Rib Roast with Crispy Potatoes

Serves 8

1 (8- to 9-pound) prime rib or standing rib roast (4 ribs)
4 to 5 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced and seasoned with salt and pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
12 ounces fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
Remove the roast from the refrigerator. Using a paring knife, make 1/2 inch deep slits every 2 inches on all of the meaty sides of the roast. Insert a sliver of garlic into each slit. Set aside and let the roast stand at room temperature for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 450°F.
Season the meat all over with salt and pepper. Heat a large roasting pan over medium-high heat. Add the canola oil and heat until shimmering. Add the prepared prime rib, fat side down. Cook until dark brown and crusted on all sides, about 5 minutes per side. Finish with the roast meat side up and rib side down.
Roast for 15 minutes, then decrease the heat to 350°F and roast the meat for 18 to 20 minutes per pound, adding the potatoes and tossing them to coat in the pan drippings about 1 hour before the roast is expected to be done. The roast is done when an instant-read thermometer inserted into a fleshy section registers 115°F to 120°F for blue, 120°F to 130°F for rare, or 130°F to 140°F for medium-rare.
Remove the roast to a meat carving board and cover it loosely with foil. Let it rest for at least 15 and up to 30 minutes. (The temperature will increase another 5°F to 10°F.) Return the potatoes to the pan to continue cooking while the roast rests.
To carve, lay the roast on its side. Using a chef’s knife, remove the meat in one piece from the bone. Set aside the bones. Remove the potatoes from the oven. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Transfer to a warmed serving platter. Slice the meat against the grain into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Serve immediately.

Reprinted with permission from Basic to Brilliant, Y’all: 150 Refined Southern Recipes and Ways to Dress Them Up for Company by Virginia Willis, copyright © 2011. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc. 

Nancie McDermott’s Lemon-Filled Coconut Cake

Coconut cake is always very sweet, and luscious lemon curd provides a sunburst of tangy flavor that I adore. You can buy it at specialty food shops, but lemon curd is also simple to make. Once you know how, you can share small jars as gifts for your most precious friends, or enjoy it on breakfast biscuits or tea time scones. If you make the lemon curd yourself, but skip the frosting, you can cover the cake layers with whipped cream and shower the cake with coconut flakes.

2 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened, or 1/2 cup shortening
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk

Fluffy White Frosting
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
2 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
About 3 cups freshly grated coconut, or shredded sweetened coconut
1 recipe Lemon Curd, or 1 cup (10 ounces) store bought lemon curd

To make the cake:
Heat the oven to 350 F, and grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans. Combine the flour and sugar in a large bowl, and mix with a fork to combine them well. Stir the vanilla into the milk.
Add the shortening, eggs, and 1/4 cup of the milk to the flour mixture. Blend well with a mixer at medium speed, stopping now and then to scrape down the bowl, until you have a thick, fairly smooth batter, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining 3/4 cup milk, and beat only until the batter is smooth and well combined.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pans and bake at 350 F for 25 to 30 minutes, until the cakes are golden brown, spring back when touched lightly at the center, and begin to pull away from the sides of the pans.
Cool the cakes in the pans on wire racks or folded kitchen towels for 10 minutes. Carefully turn them out onto the wire racks or onto plates, turn the cakes so they are top side up, and cool completely, topside up down.
To make the frosting:
Bring about 3 inches of water to a boil in a medium saucepan or in the bottom of a double boiler. Meanwhile, combine the sugar, corn syrup, water, egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt in a large, heatproof bowl which will fit snugly over the saucepan, or in the top of the double boiler. Beat for 1 minute with a mixer at low speed, until the egg white mixture is pale yellow, foamy and well combined.
Place the mixing bowl or the double boiler top over the pan of boiling water, and adjust the heat to maintain a gentle boil. Using a hand-held electric mixer, beat the sugar-egg white mixture at high speed for 7 to 14 minutes, or until it triples in volume, swelling into a voluptuous cloud of frosting that holds firm curly peaks when the beaters are lifted. Remove from the heat, add the vanilla, and beat for 2 minutes more, scraping down the bowl once or twice.
To assemble the cake, place one layer, top side down, on a cake stand or serving plate. Cover it generously with the lemon curd, spreading it almost to the edge of the cake. Place the other layer, top side up, on top of the lemon curd. Cover the cake generously with the frosting, and then place it on a cookie sheet or tray to catch any coconut that doesnít stick to the cake. Sprinkle coconut generously all over the iced layers, and then carefully pat coconut on any bare spots.

Lemon Curd
3 eggs

3/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

6 tablespoons cold butter
Bring about 3 inches of water to a lively simmer in the bottom of a double boiler, or saucepan that will accommodate a medium heat-proof mixing bowl so that it sits snugly above the water.
Meanwhile, combine the eggs, sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in the top of the double boiler or the heat-proof bowl. Whisk or stir with a fork to mix them together very well. Cut the butter into small chunks.
Cook the egg-and-lemon mixture over the simmering water, whisking and stirring often and well, for 8 to 10 minutes, until it thickens to a luxurious, bright yellow sauce, like lightly whipped cream. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter, a few chunks at a time, whisking to melt the chunks into the lemon curd before adding the next little batch.
Cool to room temperature, and then transfer the lemon curd to a glass jar. Store it covered, in the refrigerator up to 1 week

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

From "Southern Cakes: Sweet and Irresistible Recipes for Everyday Celebrations". Copyright: Nancie McDermott, 2007. All Rights Reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Rebecca Lang Cooks, LLC. All rights reserved.