Southern Biscuits and The James Beard Outstanding Chef Award

June 19th, 2019

Ashley Christensen James Beard 2019

I am beyond excited about the results of this year’s James Beard Awards ceremony.  The winner of Outstanding Chef of the year is Ashley Christensen of Poole’s Diner in Raleigh North Carolina. Her empire has expanded to several other restaurants in Raleigh.  We spend a lot of time in the Raleigh area because our family is there.  Eating at Poole’s Diner has been on our bucket list, but it hasn’t happened yet.  The lines are long and reservations are not taken.  We even have a kitchen connection.  Our DIL Kristen’s brother David is one of the line cooks at the restaurant.  We will make it in there one of these days.  Her other local restaurants are Death and Taxes which specializes in Wood Fired cooking, Beasley’s Chicken + Honey for fried chicken, biscuits and waffles, Chuck’s for burgers, Poole’s side Pies for Pizza and Fox Liquor Bar, a subterranean drinking den.  The chef is multi-talented.

Chef Ashley Christensen’s first restaurant, Poole’s Diner hit the mark for traditional Southern fare with a creative edge.  Her signature macaroni and cheese au gratin is the most popular item on the menu.  You can find the recipe here.

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But the reason I am thrilled by Ashley Christensen’s recognition  is because she is a good person.  There is no cheffy persona in her wheelhouse.  She has turned her celebrated life toward good works.  She was quoted as saying  “I think that philanthropy, through restaurants, will ultimately end up being my life’s work.”  She works for both the Southern Foodways Alliance and the Frankie Lemmons School for Disabled Children.  The local Stir the Pot fund raiser is also one of her projects.  Supporting her community and other chefs is what she is all about. IMG_9041

In honor of her Southern roots, I want to share this biscuit recipe that I have found to be a winner.  I could never find Ashley’s biscuit recipe on line, but I have a feeling that it might be close to this one.  The flakey layers are obvious in these biscuits.  It is important to keep the butter cold while working the biscuits.  Instead of cutting the butter into the flour, which will warm the butter, the stick of butter is frozen and then grated directly into the flour and stirred in.   Working and turning the dough a few times ensures that it is not overly handled and produces many layers.  Making these biscuits puts me in mind of Edna Lewis, Ashley Christensen and all of the Southern cooks that have made our region recognized for its creative cuisine.  Congratulations to Ashley Christensen, a North Carolina native.

FLAKEY BUTTERMILK BISCUITS

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (250g)
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter (Frozen) 
  • 3/4 cup Buttermilk

Instructions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the dry ingredients.

With a box grater, grate the frozen stick of butter into the flour mixture.  Stir into mixture. Add the buttermilk and stir just until combined.

Dump the mixture onto a floured board.  Lightly flour top of dough and shape into a rectangle.  Gentle fold into thirds like a letter.  Rotate the dough 90 degrees and fold again.  Repeat several times.

Gently flatten dough to 1″ thick.  Using a 2 3/4″ biscuit cutter, cut out about 3 biscuits.  Pull dough back together and cut the remainder into biscuits.  You will get about 6 biscuits.

Place biscuits on baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes.  Remove from oven and brush the tops with melted butter.

PRINTABLE RECIPE

Shrimp with Orange Butter Sauce and Cornmeal Savarins

June 5th, 2019

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This is another one of my favorite posts from the past.  It was first posted in 2013.  To be quite honest with you, I had forgotten all about this wonderful shrimp dish with a cornmeal savarin.  I really need to make it again for an appetizer or luncheon dish.

Thumbing through some old Gourmet magazines the other day, I found this recipe for shrimp savarins.  I love molds of all kinds and descriptions, but savarin molds were new to me.

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Savarins are ring shaped sponge cakes often soaked in rum syrup and filled with fresh fruit.  They are named for Jean Brillat-Savarin, a famous French politician and gastronome.  They can be one single large ring or smaller individual rings.  You can buy savarin molds at several sources such as this.

I was excited to try this savory version of savarins.  I love how the shrimp fit nicely around the cornmeal rings.

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I decided that this recipe was perfect for a first course at a dinner party or a holiday meal.  I was even able to make the dish in stages.  The cornmeal savarins were made early in the day.  The shrimp was also easy to do ahead of time.  All I did near serving time was to arrange the shrimp around the cornmeal rings that I had arranged on a baking sheet and placed them in the oven to rewarm.  While they were warming I made the orange butter sauce.

This was a delicious combination.  The orange butter beurre blanc played well off of the light cornmeal rings and the shrimp cooked in vermouth and tequila was a perfect foil.  The presentation was amazing and unexpected in my humble opinion.  This dish is a keeper.

SHRIMP WITH ORANGE BUTTER SAUCE AND CORNMEAL SAVARINS (Adapted from Gourmet)

36 large shrimp, shelled and deveined, reserving 6 shells
2 cups dry vermouth
1/4 cup tequila
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

For the Sauce:
1 shallot, minced
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons dry white wine
6 tablespoons fresh orange juice
the zest from 1 orange
2 sticks (1 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits

6 cornmeal savarins (recipe follows)
1 tablespoon minced scallion top for garnish

In a large skillet combine the shrimp, the vermouth, the tequila, and the butter.  Bring the liquid to a boil, stirring, and simmer the shrimp for 1 minute and 30 seconds, or until they are just firm.  Transfer the shrimp to a plate with a slotted spoon and keep them warm.

Make the sauce:  Reduce the shrimp cooking liquid with the reserved shells over moderately high heat to about 3 tablespoons, discard the shells, and in a saucepan combine the reduced liquid with the shallot, the vinegar, the wine, the orange juice, and the orange zest.  Bring the liquid to a boil and simmer it for 5 minutes, or until it is reduced to about 1/4 cup.  Reduce the heat to low and whisk in the butter, 1 piece at a time, lifting the pan from the heat occasionally to cool the mixture and adding each new piece of butter before the previous one has melted completely.  (The sauce should should not get hot enough to liquefy.  It should be the consistency of then hollandaise.)  Keep the sauce warm over hot water.

Arrange the savarins on heated plates or shallow bowls and top each savarin with some of the shrimp.  My shrimp were small so I used 5 per savarin.  The original recipe used 3 per savarin.  Spoon some of the sauce onto the plates or bowls.  Garnish each serving with the scallion tops.  Serves 6.

CORNMEAL SAVARINS

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup flour
1 large egg yolk, beaten lightly
2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 large egg white at room temperature
1/4 cup corn kernels, thawed if frozen
2 tablespoons minced red bell pepper or minced pimiento
2 tablespoons minced Anaheim chili pepper

Into a bowl sift together the cornmeal, the baking powder, the sugar, the salt, and the flour.  In another bowl combine the egg yolk, the butter, the cream the buttermilk, and the baking soda and stir the mixture into the cornmeal mixture.  In a small bowl beat the egg white until it holds stiff peaks and fold it into the cornmeal mixture with the corn kernels, the red bell pepper and the chili pepper.

Spray 8 metal savarin molds, each 3 1/4 inches in diameter, well with non-stick vegetable coating and fill them with scant 1/3-cup measures of the batter. Bake the molds on a jelly-roll pan in the lower third of a preheated 400 degree oven for 15 minutes, or until a wooden pick comes out clean.  Loosen the edges of the cornbread with a small knife and turn them out onto a rack.  The cornbread savarins may be made ahead and kept chilled or frozen, wrapped in plastic wrap.  Makes 8 individual cornbreads.

Printable Recipe

Lemon Blueberry Coffee Cake

May 23rd, 2019

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So many blueberries.  I have an abundance.  I wish I could say that I picked them or got them from a farmer, but they were for sale at my local supermarket for $1.88 a pint.  I have plans for future dishes, but the first one I made was this Lemon Blueberry Coffee Cake.  I divided the batter between three 6 inch paper disposable liners; one to eat now, one in the freezer and one to share with a friend.

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I love this recipe because of the thick batter that doesn’t allow the blueberries to sink to the bottom, the rich buttery flavor and the lightness created by the lemon zest.  The crumble topping and the lemony powdered sugar glaze enhances it all.  Perfect for breakfast with a strong cup of coffee on the deck or boathouse.

Boathouse view

Our lake is transitioning from Spring to Summer with more boats in the water, music in the air and laughter filtering out of newly re-opened lakefront cottages.

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This recipe is originally baked in a 9-inch springform pan but is easily adaptable to a 8 or 9 inch square baking pan. In my case, I had the three disposable 6-inch liners.  Here is something similar.   We are looking forward to the Memorial Day Weekend.  Let the summer begin.

LEMON BLUEBERRY COFFEE CAKE  (Barbara Bakes)

INGREDIENTS

  •  2 cups all purpose flour
  •  1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  •  1/2 teaspoon salt
  •  1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  •  1 cup sugar
  •  2 large eggs
  •  2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  •  1/2 cup whole milk
  •  1 tablespoon lemon zest
  •  2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen

CRUMB TOPPING

  •  1/2 cup sugar
  •  1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  •  3 tablespoons butter, melted

ICING

  •  1 cup powdered sugar
  •  1-2 tablespoons lemon juice (You may need more)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350º. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with non-stick cooking spray with flour.
  2. Prepare crumb topping and set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, vanilla and milk. Mix in lemon zest. Add flour mixture and mix just until combine. Stir in blueberries.
  5. Spread batter evenly into prepared pan. Sprinkle with crumb topping.
  6. Bake at 350º for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. About 210 degrees with an instant read thermometer.
  7. Cool 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edge and remove ring. Drizzle icing on cake. Cool completely before serving. (Unless you’re like us and would rather eat it hot even though the cake doesn’t cut as well.)

CRUMB TOPPING

In a small bowl, combine sugar, flour, and butter. Mix until mixture is crumbly.

ICING

Whisk together powdered sugar and lemon juice to create a thin glaze.

Printable Recipe

Almond Puff Coffee Cake

May 14th, 2019

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As a continuation of some of my favorite posts, I am including this simple homemade coffee cake that has been in one of my recipe boxes for a long time.  The following blog entry was posted 10 years ago and reflected on our life in the Lake Lure Cottage long before we expanded it to a full-time home. We were in the process of renovating.

While cleaning out the back of an old closet for renovations, I found a small recipe box that I put together years ago. It was done shortly after we bought our 600 square foot Lake Lure cottage in 1984. We fell in love with this lake from the first time we saw it and when a realtor showed us a modest cottage with a huge screened in porch, we knew it would be ours. Our son Michael was seven years old at the time. He did not know how to swim, but an old speed boat came with the cottage and after watching all of the water skiers on the lake, Michael said he wanted to learn to ski. We had grown up on lakes in Michigan and had always skied. But a prerequisite to skiing is knowing how to swim. So he learned to swim and that was the beginning of wonderful summers of swimming, boating and water skiing with all of our friends and their children. Our small cottage was full most summer weekends. Because we had only two small bedrooms, each morning the living room floor and the screened in porch were full of sleeping bags containing exhausted kids. The trip to the coffee pot in the kitchen was a delicate dance, bobbing and weaving between the outstretched arms and far flung legs of deeply sleeping children. The trip to the top of the boathouse with freshly brewed coffee was much easier and the view was enough to quell any doubts about our decision to invest our modest savings in this most beautiful of places.

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Feeding the crowd was sometimes a challenge, but one that I enjoyed. That’s why finding my old recipe box was such a treat. There were recipes in it for things I haven’t made in years; Frogmore Stew, Quick Breakfast Rolls, Paella Salad, Quick Coconut-Pecan Upside-Down Cake and this recipe for Almond Puff Coffee Cake. I remember liking this recipe very much, but it was more suited to the adults than the children because of the distinct almond flavor. While they were munching cereal we would dig into this luscious coffee cake and plan another sunny day on the lake.

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Now another generation of children are enjoying the cottage and the lake. We have a lot more room now. But you know what? I miss the close quarters and stepping over sleeping kids. Shhh. Don’t tell my husband I said that or he will think all of our hard work was not necessary.

The coffee cake is really very simple. It is just a pastry crust base with a pate a choux topping that is baked and then drizzled with a confectioners sugar glaze.

ALMOND PUFF COFFEE CAKE

For the pastry base:
1/4 cup cold butter cut into small pieces
1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbls water (May need a little more)

Mix flour and salt and pulse in food processor to combine. Add butter cubes and pulse until butter is size of small peas. Add water and pulse until dough comes together. Form into ball and place on ungreased baking sheet. Pat into a 12″x 3″ strip.

For Pate a Choux:
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp almond extract (I now use 1/4 tsp. almond extract and 1/4 tsp vanilla extract)
1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 eggs, beaten

Melt butter in a sauce pan. Add water and bring to a rolling boil. Remove from heat and quickly stir in almond extract and flour. Return to low heat and stir until mixture forms a ball. Remove from heat again and add eggs. Stir until mixture is smooth. Spread over pastry strip. Bake for about 1 hour at 350 degrees until top is crisp and brown. Cool.

For Glaze:
3/4 cup confectioners sugar
1 Tbls soft butter
3/4 tsp almond extract (I use 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and 1/4 tsp almond extract)
3/4 tsp warm water (You may need a little more to make a spreadable glaze)
2 oz. sliced almonds, toasted

Mix ingredients except almonds until smooth and spread over top of cake when cool. Sprinkle with sliced almonds. Serves 6.

Printable Recipe

Soufflé Aux Epinards (Spinach Soufflé)

May 3rd, 2019

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The following blog post appeared 10 years ago in August of 2009.  It was an ode to Julia Childs.  I just made this spinach soufflé again this past weekend.  This time there were no mistakes.  Hope you enjoy hearing again of my travails in the kitchen.

Julia Child was my Muse. I was married in 1966. After a brief honeymoon on the shores of Lake Michigan and time spent in Gatlinburg,Tennessee, we headed for Florida where my husband would be attending graduate school. Some of my constant companions in the car on the way south were my cookbooks. I was just learning to cook and it fascinated me. When Julia Child first appeared on television I was hooked. We eventually moved to Greensboro, North Carolina and I had the opportunity to take cooking classes from Irena Chalmers who had the most enticing french cooking school and shop. I bought my first copper pan and Le Creuset braising pot from her. She taught me many of the basics of French cooking and she is still teaching today at the CIA in New York City. She was also an important mentor to me, as I am sure she was to many.  But there was always Julia. I bought Mastering the Art of French Cooking in 1971.

I have been wanting to post one of Julia’s recipes all month because of her birthday on August 15th and the release of the movie Julie and Julia, but the box containing my copy of her book was in our storage building, buried behind furniture and rugs. I finally rescued it this weekend when we brought a load of furniture home for our remodeled lower level. It was good to see it again, looking worn and stained from years of constant use.

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Last night I decided to make her spinach soufflé. I did not start it until 6:00. I had already brought the eggs and frozen spinach to room temperature. I was confident; maybe a little cocky. I loved the movie Julie and Julia, by the way. Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci were magnetic as Julia and Paul and the scenes of 1950’s Paris were mesmerizing. I wanted the whole movie to be about them. Amy Adams as Julie did her best, but I found her character sometimes whiny and annoying. Why couldn’t she have the joie de vivre of Julia? Cooking is supposed to be fun after all. I made my white sauce, grated the cheeses, squeezed the spinach dry and separated my eggs. One of the eggs broke strangely and I got a little yolk in the egg whites in the bowl of my Kitchen Aid. “Oh well, it was just a little”, I told myself. I added the egg yolks to the spinach mixture and turned on the mixer to whip the egg whites. I whipped and whipped and they refused to froth. It became clear to me that they were never going to whip because of the bit of yolk in the mixture. Unfortunately,  I was out of eggs. By this time it was close to 7:00. The grocery store in Lake Lure is twenty minutes away, but the gas station at the bottom of the hill is close. I ran to the car and negotiated the curving road to town. The gas station store had just closed at 7:00. I banged on the door like a crazy woman and the owner opened up for me. Unfortunately he was out of eggs. I had no choice but to continue around the lake to the Ingle’s store. I got back home at about 7:45 with a carton of cold eggs. I cleaned out the bowl of the Kitchen Aid, added the egg whites one at a time after first breaking them into a small bowl ( a good tip by the way ) and started the mixer again. The eggs immediately did what they were supposed to do. I folded them into the spinach mixture and poured the whole into my souffle dish, actually my charlotte mold. I learned a trick from Ina Garten to help a soufflé puff. Run a spatula in a circle about an inch in from the edge all the way around and the center will puff. Finally I had the dish in the oven. I was exhausted and I didn’t know if the cold egg whites would hinder the soufflé from rising. I was also a little cranky. Where had I seen that before? It was a humbling experience.

The soufflé finally came out of the oven at about 8:45, fashionably late and not as tall as I would have liked, but looking and smelling delicious. As Julia would say, “Never apologize”. We dug in with gusto.

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This time I added some chopped ham to the Spinach Soufflé for our Saturday supper.  We ate at a reasonable 6:30.

SOUFFLÉ AUX EPINARDS (SPINACH SOUFFLÉ) adapted from Julia Child with touches of Ina Garten

3 Tbls unsalted butter plus more for greasing soufflé dish
3 Tbls flour
1 cup scalded milk
a pinch of nutmeg
a pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling the dish
1/2 cup grated Swiss cheese
10 oz package of chopped spinach thawed and squeezed dry
4 egg yolks
5 egg whites
1/8 tsp cream of tartar

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 6 cup soufflé dish and sprinkle it with Parmesan cheese. Melt the butter in a heavy sauce pan and add the flour. Cook and whisk for about a minute. Add the hot milk off the heat and whisk until it is thick. Return to low heat if it does not thicken. Again off heat, add the two cheeses to the mixture. Separate the eggs in two bowls, discarding or saving one of the egg yolks. Beat the egg yolks. Slowly add the egg yolks to the cheese sauce while whisking. Add the seasoning and spinach and stir to combine.

Add the 1/8 tsp cream of tartar to the egg whites and beat them until firm and glossy peaks form. Whisk one quarter of the egg whites into the cheese sauce to lighten, and then fold in the rest. Pour into the prepared soufflé dish, then smooth the top. Draw a large circle on top with the spatula and place in the middle of the oven. Turn the temperature down to 375 degrees. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until puffed and brown. Serve immediately.

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© Penny Klett, Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen. All rights reserved.