On the Gulf Coast, we tend to avoid the post-Mardi Gras blues because right on its heels is crawfish season. (That is, if you didn’t give up crawfish for Lent. But that would be crazy, n’est-ce pas?) From January to May, bars all around the region entice imbibers with those two little magic words: “free crawfish.” Looking for crawfish in Mobile, Alabama? Read on to see how the Haberdasher, a little gem of a cocktail bar on Dauphin Street, does it in the Port City.
When the buds on our cherry blossom tree unfurl, and the azaleas bushes pop into a riot of pink, I always think about rhubarb. Its appearance, like artichokes, asparagus, and Cadbury Creme Eggs, signify the of arrival of spring to me. Despite the chokehold winter has taken on much of the country, it is definitively spring in Lower Alabama. In our spacious backyard in Montana, we had a six square foot patch of rhubarb. The gorgeous, fig-shaped leaves were as big as elephant ears. At first, I had no idea what to do with all of those funny-looking things I thought looked like red celery stalks, but with a little help from our friends in town, I quickly made use of the delightfully tart ingredient, namely in this delectable Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble Pie.
French Macaron vs. Macaroon: what’s the difference? Ever since those French cookies became the new cupcake, there’s been a lot of confusion around what one actually calls them. They’re often labelled macaroons, a seemingly harmless misnomer. In fact, a macaroon is not an interchangeable word for those French confections; a macaroon is an entirely different cookie altogether, in almost every way.
Instead of the usual artificially-colored-green treats for St. Patrick’s Day, try whipping up these fantastic, easy stout brownies from scratch. Inspired by a recipe from Bon Appétit magazine, this brownie recipe’s secret ingredient is a St. Patrick’s Day must-have, a rich dark stout beer (I prefer Guinness but you could use anything you like.) The secret: reducing the Guinness on the stovetop until its flavors are concentrated. As a result, these brownies are rich, decadent, and gooey. The glaze is definitely gilding the lily, but why not?
French macarons, those elegant, shatteringly-crisp meringue cookies sandwiching delectable fillings, are a little finicky. My first attempt at making French macarons was so abysmal that I didn’t even bother making a buttercream or ganache to fill the misshapen, overbrowned things. In fact, the shells went straight into the trash. See my failure here, if you’re so inclined. Pretty awful, right? I’m surprised I didn’t give up right then and there and decide macaron (pronounced mac-a-RON, and don’t you forget it) making was just not in the cards for me. I’m sure my persistence had something to do with my infatuation with them, a serious affliction since January of 2010, when I ate my first pistachio macaron in Paris and fell desperately in love with the ethereal pastry.
We are nearing winter’s finish line, so it’s time to use up all of the bountiful citrus you’ve collected this season. Although lemons are undoubtedly my favorite, grapefruit is not far behind, and this Grapefruit Icebox Pie is supreme. It’s no surprise grapefruit’s botanical name means “fruit of paradise.” With sweet-tart, tangy flesh and color ranging from pale pink to coral, grapefruit is a welcome star in salads, pies, curds, or simply sprinkled with sugar and broiled. Continue Reading
Scent is inextricably linked to the acts of cooking and eating. My nose tells me when the onions are getting ready to caramelize, and it warns me that if I don’t take the skillet off the heat right this second, the pecans will be beyond toasted. As a child I would rub vanilla extract behind my ears as “perfume.” In my later teenage years, I discovered Demeter fragrances. These perfumes embodied the scents of foods (Lemon Meringue Pie, etc). Recently, I decided to experiment with DIY solid perfume and capture some of my favorite food scents into wearable, easy DIY solid perfumes.
I’ve learned one thing about king cake while living in the Gulf Coast: people have strong feelings about this confection. Last year, when I devised the idea of a king cake tasting, everyone chimed in with their own area favorites–and they varied considerably. This year was an even bigger fête than the last, with a spread of fifteen king cakes. For our tasting, Fairhope Roasting Company generously donated a pound of their Holiday Blend coffee, a bold dark roast that blended perfectly with the sweetness of the king cakes. Need to know where to get your Gulf Coast king cake this Mardi Gras? There’s something for everyone here.
Have you tried sheet pan dinners yet? They are so incredibly easy, and the cleanup is a breeze. If you haven’t guessed, they’re called “sheet pan dinners” because you toss a bunch of ingredients together (normally vegetables and some sort of meat) and bake them on the same pan. You know those evenings you’re frantically scouring the fridge for something that can pass as dinner? Sheet Pan Italian Chicken with White Beans, Peppers and Kale to the rescue!
This dish is so easy to throw together. You just toss some veggies of your choice (I used peppers and kale, but you could use zucchini, yellow squash, green beans, asparagus, whatever) along with a drained can of whatever beans you like (I like cannellini or large butter beans) in a bowl with some olive oil and salt and pepper. Pour out the veggies onto a large sheet pan with a lip. Add your chicken breasts to the same bowl, add some balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, Greek or Italian seasoning, and a little olive oil, toss and nestle the chicken breasts into the veggies on the sheet pan. I garnished with basil, but you could do what you like.
When I visit a new place, I tend to research food first and foremost. I want to know the “must-eats” of the region. Downtown Mobile is enjoying a boom. There are new restaurants and establishments popping up every month, it seems. Two Mobile residents, Chris and Laney Andrews, of Bienville Bites Food Tours, have a unique and tasty way of showing some of the best of what downtown Mobile has to offer to tourists and locals alike in their food tour. The three hours of this Bienville Bites Food Tour passed like minutes in the stroll down Dauphin, as we listened to Chris tell fascinating stories of the history of our fair city and its most famous dishes.
King cakes come in myriad fillings, from fruit to chocolate to cream cheese. Last year, I made a semi-traditional Pecan Praline Cream Cheese king cake. The year, on the advice of my 5-year-old son, I went a little out of the box with a Meyer Lemon Cream Cheese king cake. We had a plethora of Meyer lemons from the plea I put out on Facebook a few weeks earlier. (Our former home had a citrus orchard that I desperately miss, and some kind-hearted neighbors filled the void with their own bounty.) Meyer lemons are a sweeter, less tart cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange, and they make a fantastic curd, which is what I used in the filling of this king cake.
Chili and I go waaaaay back. When my husband and I lived in Montana, I entered a chili cookoff. I came in third out of four entries, which did not leave me best pleased. I wrote a food column for the local newspaper, for Pete’s sakes. I could not be coming in second to last in any cookoff. So I perfected my recipe, and the result is this Blue Ribbon Chili.
A Southern tradition, the eating of black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day is said to guarantee good luck for the entire year. Ham and collard greens are said to bring fortune, as well; to hit all the bases, I came up with this Black-Eyed Pea, Collard Greens, and Ham Soup for the New Year. Black Eyed Pea, Collard Greens, and Ham Soup is tasty, filling, and perfect for New Year’s Day or any other winter day. Continue Reading
On the 12th day of Christmas, there was an awesome giveaway! This lovely set of Williams Sonoma* Ginger- Jar Measuring Cups will be my present to one of you. Stoneware with hand painted decorations, they’re a classic blue and white must-have for any kitchen. It’s a set of four, 1 cup, 1/2 cup, 1/3 cup and 1/4 cup, each in a different pattern. Continue Reading
Hot Buttered Rum is a classic winter cocktail. It’s sweet, slightly spicy (thanks to nutmeg and allspice) and delightfully boozy. I had no idea how many iterations there were until I researched recipes. The preparation is much the same; you cream butter and sugar together, add cream or melted vanilla ice cream, and winter spices like nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice. When making a cocktail, you add two tablespoons mix to a heatsafe mug and add a shot of rum and top with hot water.
DIY BBQ rub would make a perfect gift for the BBQ-obsessed on your list. Pulled pork in the South is more than a picnic staple; it is an institution. Southerners guard their barbeque recipes so close, you’d think they were printed on hundred dollar bills. I get it. It’s a serious thing to bequeath a treasure to the world. My mother spent most of her youth in North Carolina and Virginia. I grew up eating only North Carolina style pulled pork; consequently, it’s my BBQ of choice. Continue Reading
Give the gift of booze this holiday season, and whip up a batch of this easy homemade coffee liqueur. It makes a killer White Russian, and it’s dynamite poured over vanilla bean ice cream. Friends of my father used to gift us a bottle of their homemade recipe, and it was absolutely delicious. I researched several recipes to make this, but I bypassed the ones calling for instant coffee. I wanted a more authentic coffee flavor. In the end I really had to improvise and combine elements of a few recipes. Continue Reading
If the Christmas Wreath Pavlova wasn’t enough of a showstopper for you, I’m thinking this Gluten-Free Yule Log (aka Flourless Chocolate Bûche de Noël) might be what you’re looking for. Even if you don’t avoid wheat, this Gluten-Free Yule Log will be a showstopper for your holiday table. Bûche de Noël, or French for “Yule Log”, and I go way back. My senior year of high school, we were assigned a final project for our International Baking class. I, ever the Martha Stewart fan, decided to make her Bûche de Noël recipe –a three-day endeavor. Her beast requires a chocolate mousse filling, chocolate genoise cake, ganache frosting, and fussy little meringue mushrooms. Kudos to my mother for indulging my ambitions and forging on with this project that I never would have completed without her help. It was success. I got an A+++ on the project (formerly thought mathematically impossible) and a recommendation from my teacher that I go on to the CIA (which confused me until I realized she meant the Culinary Institute of America).
Last week, some good (nay–amaaaazing) friends gifted us a loaf of Stollen–a German Christmas Yeast Bread; we ate it record time. There may have even been a few squabbles between me and my husband regarding who just exactly ate how much of this stuff. When the inevitable heel of the loaf appeared, I thought, “hey–this can’t be that hard to make.” And I was right. It takes the a day to bake and the better part of a week to let the loaf “ripen” into its decadent glory, but most of it is inactive, soaking or rising time.
Is there anything more indulgent than a baked brie? Puffy, crispy layers of puff pastry encasing warm, gooey triple-cream cheese is #holidayappetizergoals. Usually, I use cranberry sauce, but for this Brie en Croute (Baked Brie) with Pepper Jelly, I decided to give this one a little Southern twist. For those of you not familiar, pepper jelly is a jelly made out of peppers–both mild and hot. It’s delicious–sweet and spicy and usually served with cream cheese and crackers (or if you’re feeling fancy, some goat cheese).