Thursday, December 5, 2013

Making Merry with the Slow Cooker

The tree is glimmering in the night, the air is filled with hints of cinnamon, the gifts are ready to be wrapped, and the sweet joys of Christmas are everywhere. Those holiday perks also mean there's little time to cook supper on busy days. It's truly the most wonderful time of the year, but it often leaves the least amount of time for things like Wednesday night meals. The saving grace is simple. It's the slow cooker.

Instead of racing into the dreaded 5:00 frenzy, I choose to make supper while the mornings are fairly calm and the house is quiet. It's always amazing when the peeps come home in the afternoon and the smell of supper is already wafting throughout the house. It makes for a relaxed mother and one much more likely to be in the holiday spirit.

On several occasions I've turned to Kendra Bailey Morris' Carolina-Style Pork BBQ Sandwiches for nights when I could really use a few elves of my own. After trying these, you might just find yourself adding her new book, The Southern Slow Cooker, to your Christmas list.

Carolina-Style Pork BBQ Sandwiches

Serves 10 to 12 (about 8 cups of meat)

2 large onions, sliced
5-pound boneless pork shoulder roast
6 cloves garlic, smashed
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1½ teaspoons dried red pepper flakes
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup apple cider or apple juice

2 cups cooking liquid (reserved from the slow-cooked pork)
½ cup water
¼ cup ketchup
¼ cup cider vinegar
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1½ teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1½ teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and black pepper

Buns, slaw, and hot sauce, for serving
Spray the inside of a slow cooker with cooking spray.
Put the onions in the slow cooker. Make slits in the pork roast and insert 
the garlic cloves. Rub salt, pepper, brown sugar, and red pepper flakes into the meat. Place the pork in the slow cooker fat side up and pour in the 
vinegar and apple cider. Cover and cook on low for at least 10 hours and up to 12 hours, until the meat is falling-apart tender.
Transfer the meat to a large bowl and shred it with two forks. Set aside.
Pour 2 cups of the pan juices into a measuring cup; discard any leftover juices still in the pot. Let cool and skim off any visible fat. Pour this liquid into a saucepan. Add the water, ketchup, cider vinegar, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, paprika, dry mustard, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Return the shredded pork to the slow cooker and add 1 cup of the sauce mixture (more if you like it wet). Give it a stir and set the slow cooker to warm until ready to serve.
Serve the pork straight from the slow cooker with a slotted spoon, along with buns, slaw, and hot sauce. Serve the additional sauce on the side.

Reprinted with permission from The Southern Slow Cooker by Kendra Bailey Morris, copyright © 2013. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.

Photo credit: Erin Kunkel © 2013

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Thanksgiving Cupcakes

In the true bounty of Thanksgiving spirit, I take pride in offering two desserts at the end of the meal. This year, we're pleasing each sweet tooth with Carrot Cake Cupcakes alongside my Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie. Cupcakes make the children feel like they have a dessert just for them and they always get excited when it's time to make the batter. If there's one thing I'm thankful for, it's having my peeps in the kitchen with me.
No matter what dishes fill your table or which dessert you end the day on, there's only one rule to remember for Thanksgiving. Be Thankful! We are all blessed in some form or fashion. Be grateful for what you have and each and every gift you've been given. It's a little piece of this holiday that we should celebrate daily.

Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing

2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 large eggs
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3 cups peeled and finely grated (by hand) carrots (about 8 carrots)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup butter, softened
8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
16 oz. box powdered sugar, sifted
Pecan halves, toasted

Preheat oven to 325°. Line muffin tins with paper cupcake liners. Combine flour, allspice, ginger, salt, baking soda and baking powder.
Using an electric mixer, beat eggs until well blended. Add sugar, oil, carrots, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Add flour mixture, beating just until blended.  Add raisins.
Pour batter into paper lined muffin tins, filling about 2/3 full.
Bake for 23 to 25 minutes, or until set. Cupcake tops will appear shiny. Cool completely on wire racks.
For frosting, beat butter and cream cheese until blended and fluffy.  Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.  Gradually add powdered sugar.  Beat just until blended.
Spread frosting evenly over cooled cupcakes. Top each cupcake with one pecan half.

Makes: 30

Copyright 2013 Rebecca Lang Cooks, LLC. All rights reserved. Photo credit: Dennis McDaniel

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Funeral, a Pound Cake, and a Lesson on Manners

Photo by Jennifer Davick
To the man that was driving behind me on highway 316 headed out of Atlanta last week, I know you are not from here. There’s no way you are Southern and you acted the way you did. Your behavior is absolutely unacceptable.

I could spend all day writing about things in the South that we do better than anywhere else in the world. But if there’s one thing we can do with the utmost of manners and grace, it’s a funeral. As I drove out of the city several days ago, I heard sirens as I neared a red light. All the cars around me collectively slowed to see where the sound was coming from. With a glance in the review mirror, I saw blue flashing lights and the parting of traffic as if God himself had separated the sea. Behind the pulsing sapphire glow was a hearse.

I was in one of two lanes filled with cars headed home and we split. I pulled off the road to create an open area down the middle line for the funeral procession to squeeze through. Every car but one was doing the same. The car behind me never moved. It sat squarely in the middle of the lane. The procession had to inch around the rude driver. The blue lights passed, then the hearse, then a series of black town cars. I could then see a long stream of cars with headlights shining in the light of day to pay respects to someone who was no longer here.

I sat, just as everyone else did, waiting to see a car that no longer had headlights glaring. After only the third card following the hearse, the person behind me blew the horn and never let off. As the mourners passed, the horn continued to sound. The entire road sat still. Someone's life is over and their family and friends are grieving. Shouldn't we all be able to stop and wait a few minutes? There was no way my car and my manners were moving until the lights were no longer shining.

I’ve been in the procession of my fair share of funerals and there’s nothing quite like riding in a cloud of shock and grief and seeing absolute strangers pull to the side of the road as you pass by. It’s respectful and thoughtful.

As far as the man driving the car behind me, bless his heart. Maybe he was from far away and had no idea what was happening. A hearse is hard to recognize, right?

A sweet recipe is obviously in order. Again, bless his heart.

Pound Cake from Heaven

Perfect for a funeral or any other time. Pound cake makes all things better.

11⁄2 cups unsalted butter, softened
3 cups sugar
5 large eggs
3 cups all-purpose soft-wheat flour (such as White Lily)
1 tsp. baking powder
1⁄4 tsp. salt
1 (5-oz.) can evaporated milk
2⁄3 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
Garnishes: sweetened whipped cream, fresh strawberries

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Place butter in the bowl of a heavy-duty electric stand mixer, and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy (about 6 minutes). Gradually add sugar, beating until blended. Beat 1 minute more. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until yellow disappears after each addition.

2. Combine flour and next 2 ingredients. Combine evaporated milk and cream; add to butter mixture alternately with flour mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition, stopping to scrape bowl as needed. Stir in vanilla. Pour batter into a greased and floured 10-inch (16-cup) tube pan.

3. Bake at 350° for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 1 hour; remove from pan to wire rack, and cool completely (about 1 hour). Garnish, if desired.

Makes: 12 servings

Hands-on Time: 15 min. Total Time: 3 hr., 30 min.

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

Copyright 2013 Rebecca Lang Cooks, LLC. All rights reserved.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Southern Living Taste of Charleston


Friday, September 27, 6:00 - 10:00 PM
Taste: Sweet and Southern on Shem Creek at The Cottage on the Creek, Mount Pleasant
Join us for an intimate evening on Historic Shem Creek featuring performances from world-renowned singer/songwriters. Guests will also be treated to Lowcountry cuisine served by a variety of the area's top caterers as well as moonlit harbor cruises.
Ticket price: $50

Friday, September 27 and Saturday, September 28
Taste of Charleston Dine Around at Participating Restaurants.  
See list of participating restaurants. 

Saturday, September 28, 6:00 - 9:00 PM
Taste: Iron Chef at The Culinary Institute of Charleston's Palmer Campus
A showcase of the best local chefs in a heated head-to-head battle in the Culinary Institute of Charleston's state-of-the-art amphitheater kitchen.
Ticket price: $50 for amphitheater; $25 for general admission

Sunday, September 29, 10:30 AM - 5:00 PM
Southern Living Taste of Charleston Main Event at Boone Hall Plantation, Mount Pleasant
Don't miss Boone Hall as it is transformed into a sea of culinary enchantment! Fifty of the Lowcountry's favortie casual and fine dining restaurants provide exclusive tastings. Don't forget to stop by the Southern Living Pavilion for recipe demos, giveaways and more from Test Kitchen pro Noman King and Contributing Editor Rebecca Lang.
Ticket price: $17.50 in advance; $25 day of.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

How to store Vidalia Onions

The fields that were bursting with vibrant onion tops this spring are now patiently waiting to produce the sweetest crop of 2014. Vidalia season is nearing an end for this year, but with a little careful storage, sweet onion time can stretch into the holidays. These onions are not only special in Georgia, but they are also prized all over the country. No matter where you live, a little Vidalia Onion know-how can lend these famous sweet onions to shine on the Christmas table.

Because Vidalia Onions have a higher moisture content than other onions, they tend to have a shorter shelf life. There are numerous storage options to make them last longer. The key to remember is keeping them cool, dry and giving them lots of air flow.


Storage Solutions for Long-lived Vidalia Onions

1. Wrap each onion loosely in paper towels or aluminum foil and store in the refrigerator.

2. Quickly remove from the bunch any onions that may have gone bad. They will encourage others to take the same turn.

3. Store onions on a cooling rack in a dark, cool closet or in a basement. Leave room between onions so they don’t touch.

4. Fill legs of clean pantyhose with onions. Tie a knot between each onion to separate. Hang in a dark, cool closet.

5. Keep onions away from the potatoes. They don’t get along as well as everything thinks.

If storing the summer's onions for months to come isn't a choice you'd make, freeze now and enjoy later. Chop onions and spread on a rimmed baking sheet and place in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer onion pieces to a large zip-top bag and freeze. Cook your favorite Vidalia recipes while onions are still plentiful and freeze for later.
Dinner is then much closer on busy nights and not one precious Vidalia has gone to waste. Try my freezer friendly recipes below.

Oats and Bacon Meat Loaf
2 pounds lean ground beef (7% fat)
3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup diced Vidalia Onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 eggs
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 slices bacon

Preheat the oven to 400˚F.

Mix the beef, oats, onion, garlic, eggs, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper in a large mixing bowl.

Using your hands is the easiest and fastest way to mix.

Pack the beef mixture into a 4 1/2 by 8 1/2-inch loaf pan.

Cut the bacon slices into 4-inch pieces so they will fit on top of the meat loaf without hanging over.

Place the loaf pan on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 60 minutes or until a meat thermometer registers 160˚F.

Serves 6

Freezing instructions: Line loaf pan with plastic wrap before filling with meatloaf mixture. Pack meat into pan (do not top with bacon), cover with addition plastic wrap. Freeze until solid, about 8 hours. Use wrap to remove frozen meatloaf from the pan. Seal in a large zip-top plastic bag. Freeze for up to 3 months. To thaw, unwrap frozen meatloaf, fit in loaf pan, and place in refrigerator overnight to thaw.
Top with bacon and cook as directed.

Recipe from Quick-Fix Southern by Rebecca Lang
(Andrews McMeel, 2011)

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

2 large butternut squash (about 2 1⁄4 lb. each)
1⁄4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
1⁄2 tsp. salt
1⁄4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 large Vidalia Onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1⁄2 tsp. curry powder
1⁄8 tsp. ground red pepper
3 1⁄2 cups chicken broth
1⁄3 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp. honey
1⁄2 tsp. salt
Garnishes: creme fraiche, fresh pomegranate seeds, freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400°. Cut squash in half lengthwise; remove and discard seeds.

Arrange, cut sides up, in a jelly-roll pan. Rub cut sides with 2 Tbsp. olive oil.

Sprinkle with salt and black pepper.

Bake at 400° for 1 hour and 30 minutes or until very tender when pierced with a fork.

Cool slightly, and scoop out pulp. Discard peels.

Heat remaining 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat.

Add onion; saute 7 to 8 minutes or until translucent. Add garlic; saute 2 minutes.

Add squash, curry, and red pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes. Stir in chicken broth.

Process mixture with a handheld blender until smooth. Stir in cream and next 2 ingredients.

Simmer 5 minutes.

Divide among bowls or cups. Garnish, if desired.

Makes: 8 cups

Freezing Instructions: Freeze soup before adding cream, honey, and salt, in freezer-safe containers or a large heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag. Freeze for up to 4 months. Thaw overnight in refrigerator. Bring to a simmer in a large Dutch oven. Add cream, honey, and salt before serving.

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

Chicken Spinach Burritos

1 rotisserie chicken
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained well
1 (10-ounce) can tomatoes and green chiles, drained
1 small Vidalia onion, diced
1 cup small curd cottage cheese
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup pickled jalapeño slices, diced
4 cups preshredded Mexican cheese blend
18 (6-inch) flour tortillas

Preheat the oven to 350˚F.

Lightly spray 2 (9 by 13-inch) baking dishes with nonstick cooking spray.

Remove the skin from the chicken and pull the meat off the bone. Use your fingers to shred the meat by pulling it apart in strips.

Stir together the chicken, spinach, tomatoes and green chiles, Vidalia onion, cottage cheese, sour cream, salt, jalapeños, and 1 1/2 cups of cheese in a large mixing bowl.

Spoon about 1/4 cup of the mixture down the center of each flour tortilla. Roll up and place, seam-side down, in the prepared baking dishes. Sprinkle half of the remaining cheese (1 1/4 cups per casserole) on top of each dish.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Serves 16 (Makes 2 casseroles)

Freezing Instructions:
Cover casseroles with plastic wrap before baking. Wrap well to seal out as much air as possible. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw casseroles overnight in refrigerator. Remove from refrigerator and set on counter for 30 minutes. Bake uncovered at 350˚F for 40 minutes.

Recipe from Quick-Fix Southern by Rebecca Lang
(Andrews McMeel, 2011)

Copyright 2013 Rebecca Lang Cooks, LLC. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Best Lunch Box Ever!

The countdown has begun. We start back to school in a week and a half. Second grade is fast approaching and all the signs are pointing that way. A new backpack is awaiting for new adventures, school paperwork is complete for turning in to well-rested teachers, and bedtimes are creeping back to an earlier hour. We are getting ready for new beginnings and a brand new year.

It's not often I find my seven year old son on the sofa watching Sports Center while marking pages in a cookbook. Yesterday, he was enthralled with Katie Morford's new book Best Lunch Box Ever. He takes his lunch to school four days a week and a snack each day. Like most moms, I'm always trying to put together meals that are travel friendly and contain enough goodness to keep him going until the school bus spits him out in the afternoon. All while making them appealing to him in the lunchroom. Trust me - that's a lot easier said that done.

When I saw Camden reading (and enjoying) Katie's book, I was thrilled. I'm taking it as a sign that lunch boxes will be easier for both us. As a mother, I love that she included a chapter on making over leftovers to be appealing for little people the next day. Those are my favorite kinds of lunches. From basics of picking out the right packaging to keeping lunches cool or hot until noontime, Katie's included it all.

The recipes that Camden marked as his favorites are BLT Roll-Ups, Sweetie Pie Quesidillas, Crispy Applewiches, Sour Cherry Oatmeal Bars, and Everybody Loves Chocolate Pudding. Both of us are super-excited about the DIY Microwave Popcorn that has kernels popping in brown paper lunch bags instead of the less-desirable version we've all known for years.

May all mothers everywhere find this school year opens with lunch boxes that are less stressful and healthier for those we love the most. Thanks to Katie, that's entirely possible.

Sweetie Pie Quesadilla

I've been making chili with black beans and sweet potatoes for years. This takes those two winning flavors and pairs them with melted Monterey Jack cheese for a quesadilla that is far more satisfying than the norm. Cooking the quesadilla over medium instead of high heat allows the sweet potato to get tender by the time the outside is crispy and the cheese is melted. Leftover cooked vegetables such as broccoli, zucchini, or peppers can be chopped up and substituted for the sweet potato.

Makes 2 servings

3/4 cup coarsely grated Monterey Jack cheese
Two 8-inch whole-wheat flour tortillas
1/2 cup grated peeled raw sweet potato
1/4 cup cooked black beans, drained
2 tablespoons mild green taco sauce
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

Sprinkle half of the cheese evenly over one tortilla. Scatter the sweet potato over the cheese, followed by the beans. Spoon the taco sauce over the beans and top with the remaining cheese and the remaining tortilla.

In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Put the quesadilla in the pan and cook until golden brown and crispy, 2 to 3 minutes. With a spatula, flip the quesadilla and cook until the second side is golden brown and crispy, about 2 minutes.

Transfer the quesadilla to a cutting board and let cool for a few minutes.

Cut into quarters. Wrap or pack into two containers.

MAKE-AHEAD NOTES: can be made a day ahead and stored in the refrigerator. In the morning before school, reheat in a pan or pop into the toaster oven to restore crispiness, if you like.
*Recipe and photo from Best Lunch Box Ever.

Sour Cherry Oatmeal Bars

The sweet-tart taste of sour cherry jam over a crumbly, brown sugar–sweetened dough is pretty scrumptious. The recipe is a twist on a fruit crisp I’ve been making for years, only in this version the crust shows up on both top and bottom, and jam subs in for fresh fruit. I cut the bars into petite squares that are just big enough for a lunch-box treat (or an after-school snack along with a glass of cold milk). If you can’t get your hands on a jar of sour cherry jam, feel free to substitute apricot or raspberry instead.

Makes 20 bars

1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup rolled oats (not quick oats)
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
3/4 cup sour cherry jam

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper so that it drapes a couple of inches over two sides.

In a large bowl, add the flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt and stir with a fork. Add the butter and, using an electric mixer on low speed, mix until the ingredients form a uniformly crumbly mixture, about 45 seconds. Add the walnuts and continue mixing on low speed until they are evenly distributed, about 5 seconds.

With your hands, press two-thirds of the dough firmly and evenly into the bottom of the prepared baking pan. (If the dough sticks to your hands, cover it with a piece of parchment paper as you work.)

With a spoon, spread the jam evenly over the dough. Sprinkle the remaining one-third of the dough evenly over the jam. You will see the jam peeking through.

Bake until the top is deep brown and the jam along the edges begins to darken, 45 to 50 minutes.

Let cool in the baking pan for 30 minutes.

Run a knife along the two sides of the pan that don’t have an overhang of parchment paper. Grab the two ends of parchment paper and carefully lift out the sour cherry oatmeal square and transfer to a cutting board.

Cut into 20 bars. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days in the pantry or 2 weeks in the freezer.
*Recipe and photo from Best Lunch Box Ever.

Recipes and photos from Best Lunch Box Ever used with permission. Photos by Jennifer Martiné. Copyright 2013 Best Lunch Box Ever by Katie Sullivan Morford, Chronicle Books.

Copyright 2013 Rebecca Lang Cooks, LLC. All rights reserved.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Tasting the Best of July 4th

Photo by Jennifer Davick
The fourth of July has always been one of my favorite holidays. As children, my sister and I played in the water hose, swam, and ran circles around our Scuppernong arbor while Dad's barbecue smoked away most of the day. We ate on the screen porch while mosquitoes practically hovered right outside the door waiting for their lunch. The day ended on creamy sweet spoonfuls after we anxiously waited on homemade ice cream to churn. 
No matter the childhood memories or the big plans for the perfect summertime menu, it's a day to be proud to be an American. God Bless America!

Spiced and Smoked Boston Butt

1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3 Tbsp. paprika
1 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. celery seeds, crushed
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. ground red pepper
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
3⁄4 tsp. ground allspice
1 (5-lb.) bone-in pork shoulder roast (Boston butt)
10 cups hickory chips
1 disposable, aluminum-foil roasting pan
Vinegar Sauce

1. Combine first 9 ingredients in a small bowl. Place pork in a large bowl. Generously coat all sides with 3⁄4 cup spice rub. Reserve remaining rub for another use. Cover pork with plastic wrap; chill 8 to 24 hours.

2. Soak wood chips in water to cover 30 minutes to 2 hours.

3. Place aluminum-foil pan half-full of water on 1 side of a ceramic smoker (such as a Big Green Egg), under the grate, to collect drippings and keep them from burning. Light hardwood charcoal on the other side of the smoker, and bring internal temperature to 300°. Maintain temperature for 15 to 20 minutes.

4. Drain wood chips, and place 2 cups directly on coals. Place pork, fat side up, on cooking grate over the water pan; cover with smoker lid.

5. Smoke pork, maintaining smoker temperature at 300°, for 6 hours and 30 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion registers 190° and the meat falls off the bone. Check smoker every 30 minutes, adding wood chips (1 cup at a time) as needed to maintain smoke, and adjusting vents and adding charcoal (5 to 6 pieces at a time) as needed to maintain 300° heat. Keep the lid closed as much as possible. Cover meat with foil when the crust is browned to your liking.
6. Let stand 30 minutes before chopping or pulling. Serve with Vinegar Sauce.

Makes: 8 to 10 servings

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

Vinegar Sauce

1 1⁄2 cups cider vinegar
1 cup ketchup
1⁄3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
3⁄4 tsp. dried crushed red pepper
1⁄4 tsp. salt
1⁄8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1. Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or until brown sugar dissolves. (Do not boil.) Store in refrigerator up to 3 months.

Makes: 3 cups

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

Easy Ice Cream

Fruit and extract of choice (see below)
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup half-and-half
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

1. Place the fruit in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Process the fruit until pureed.
2. Combine the pureed fruit, extract, milk, cream, sugar, half-and-half, and lemon juice in a 4-cup measuring cup.
3. Set up a half-gallon ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Turn on the machine, then pour the ice cream mixture into the freezer container. Turning on the machine first keeps any ice cream from sticking to the inside of the freezer container. Freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Makes: 1/2 gallon

1 pint fresh blueberries
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

3 fresh peaches, peeled
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 pound fresh strawberries, stemmed
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Recipe from Quick-Fix Southern by Rebecca Lang (Andrews McMeel, 2011)

Copyright 2013 Rebecca Lang Cooks, LLC. All rights reserved.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Caramelized Vidalia Biscuits with Rosemary

Biscuits simply don’t come better than this. Expect each one to be incredibly moist and perfectly balanced with the sweetness of Vidalias and a zing of rosemary. Try them hot out of the oven with butter and a slice of country ham.

1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 Vidalia onions (about 2 lbs.), finely chopped
1 1/2 cups whole buttermilk
1 1/2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
4 cups self-rising Southern flour (such as White Lily)
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. table salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled
Parchment paper
Cooked country ham, optional
Softened butter, optional

Melt 1/4 cup butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add Vidalia onions. Cook for 35 minutes, stirring often, or until deep golden brown. Remove from heat. Cool 35 minutes. (You should have 1 cup caramelized onions.)

Preheat oven to 425°. Stir together buttermilk, 1 cup caramelized Vidalia onions, and rosemary in a medium bowl.

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Cut 3/4 cup butter into flour mixture with a pastry blender until it is crumbly and resembles small peas. Add  buttermilk mixture and stir just until dry ingredients are moistened.

Turn dough onto a well-floured surface and knead 4 times with lightly
floured hands. Pat dough to 3⁄4-inch thickness. Cut with a 2 3/4-inch round cutter. (Be very careful not to twist the cutter.) Place biscuits about 1-inch apart on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

Bake at 425° for 22 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve with country ham and softened butter, if desired.

Makes: About 15 biscuits

Rebecca Lang is the paid spokesperson for Vidalia Onions.  
Copyright © 2013 Rebecca Lang Cooks, LLC. All rights reserved.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Seeing Stars in Charleston

Charleston garden gate South of Broad
There are some places that will always feel like home, no matter how far away I move or the time that’s grown between present and the past. Charleston, South Carolina is one of those places for me. I only lived there for about a year while in culinary school, but the city managed to seep deep into my soul in that short time. In many ways, I grew into an adult when I was there, I learned what it was like to truly work hard there, and I found the path that was meant for me.
    Thankfully that road often leads me back to Charleston for work.  As a mother and an author, I'm lead in so many directions that it’s not often that I have the chance to go out to eat with my parents and simply visit as a daughter and a friend. Thanks to a trip to the Charleston Wine + Food Festival, we had that opportunity. My parents were my dates for a weekend that was gloriously filled with more wine and food than should be legal. The night we’ll remember forever was at Charleston Grill. I’d eaten at the acclaimed restaurant on other trips to the Lowcountry, so I knew it would be nothing short of a treat for my parents (and for myself).
    To say we enjoyed ourselves would be a massive understatement. The jazz band was playing, not one piece of sterling was out of place, no server off-key, and all the timing was perfect. It takes a lot of stars to align for a dinner experience to be magical. The heavens were certainly in our favor this night.
    It doesn’t take a food writer to see that the driving forces here are marching to the beat of the same hospitable drum. General Manager Mickey Bakst and Chef Michelle Weaver are noticeably in sync. They make the door between the back and the front of the house swing seamlessly. Mickey glides through the night making everyone feel like they are the most important soul that’s ever come through the door. He seems to float around the dining room managing every detail effortlessly, all the while knowing the names of nearly everyone and ensuring their favorite drinks are being stirred and shaken at the bar. He is truly one of a kind.
    Michelle’s talent is obvious with each plate and every bite. On a previous visit, I ordered foie gras with black cherries and was sent into such a state, I literally couldn’t speak. Words simply are not worthy. I couldn’t wait to have the menu at my fingertips again. Not surprisingly, I ordered more adventurously than my parents. Once again the meal was incredible, but this time it spanned two generations.
Charleston Garden
    The night was a much-needed reprieve from everyday schedules and all that they entail. We drank, we ate as much as physically possible, and listened as the band played “Take Five” (Dad’s favorite song). We took in each bite, savored each second, and made a memory that will last a lifetime. The desserts finished out the night in a fashion that we still talk about. Very, very rarely does a dining experience, either at home or in a restaurant, have every single detail right, including the company. And when it does, life doesn’t get much better.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Lemon Icebox Pie Squares

Photo by Jennifer Davick

Spring is coming and a chilly dessert is the only real way to welcome warm weather and sunny afternoons. Open the screen door, enjoy the flowers, and think out of the box for these lemon squares. They're cold, creamy, and ultimately pucker-worthy. The crust is thick and delightfully perfect. I love graham cracker crusts to the point that I've woken up at night thinking about the crunchy sweet layer. (I also have issues with getting it all out of the bowl and pressed into the pan without having a good snack.)

I made this recipe with Meyer lemons this week. If you can find them, try it. You'll be speechless. Use the same quantity of juice and zest as regular lemons.

This recipe and over 150 more are found in my newest book, Around the Southern Table. 

Lemon Icebox Pie Squares

18 graham cracker sheets
1⁄2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1⁄3 cup sugar
7 egg yolks
2 (14-oz.) cans sweetened condensed milk
1 Tbsp. lemon zest
1 cup fresh lemon juice (about 6 lemons)
1⁄2 tsp. vanilla extract
Sweetened whipped cream (optional)
Garnish: fresh mint sprigs

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Pulse graham cracker sheets in a food processor 3 to 4 times or until crackers resemble coarse sand. Add butter and sugar. Pulse until crumbs are moist.

2. Line an 11- x 7-inch baking dish with aluminum foil, allowing 2 to 3 inches to extend over sides. Lightly grease foil. Press cracker crumb mixture firmly on bottom of dish.

3. Whisk egg yolks until blended. Whisk in sweetened condensed milk and next 3 ingredients. Pour over crust.

4. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until slightly set. Cool completely on a wire rack (about 1 hour).

5. Cover with plastic wrap; freeze 8 to 24 hours. Lift pie from dish, using foil sides as handles. Remove foil; place pie on a cutting board. Let stand at room temperature 15 minutes; cut into squares. Serve with whipped cream, if desired. Garnish, if desired.

Makes: 8 to 10 servings

Hands-on Time: 15 min. Total Time: 9 hr., 45 min.

Recipe adapted from Around the Southern Table by Rebecca Lang

Copyright © 2013 Rebecca Lang Cooks, LLC. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

10 Cooking Tips to Remember

1. Line the cake stand or plate with strips of waxed paper before placing the bottom cake layer on the stand. Once the cake is iced, carefully pull out strips one-at-a-time for a completely clean cake stand. I learned this trick years ago from Nathalie Dupree.

2. Place a wet paper towel under cutting boards to keep them from slipping and sliding. 

3. Keep your knives sharp. Cuts heal faster when made with a sharp knife. 

4. Instead of crumbling bacon when it's crispy, chop it before you cook it. A lot more can cook at one time and cook faster than in strips.

5. Store skillets with paper plates in between the pans to prevent scratches.

6. Spray measuring spoons or cups with nonstick cooking spray before measuring sticky ingredients, like honey or sorghum. Instead of sticking in the spoon, it will pour right out. 

7. Mince garlic cloves while loosely wrapped in plastic wrap. Use a meat mallet to pound them to a mince and the back of knife to scrape into the pan.

8. Make all brownies the same size squares. Cut down the center of the pan first, creating two equal squares on either end. Then cut squares in half. Keep halving until all bars are cut.

9. Slice rolled cookie dough with unflavored dental floss to prevent one side of the cookie log from squishing flat. 

10. Buy nuts in bulk and store in the freezer. It's much less expensive and prevents last minute grocery trips for just one cup of pecans.