This post originally ran on November 12, 2011. I’m making the pie again today for our guests who will arrive in the coming days.
Happy Thanksgiving week… we’ve got lots to be thankful for.
My daughter Maggie has been decorating the house for Thanksgiving this last week. In fact, she went directly from Halloween to a strange mixture of Thanksgiving and Christmas rolled into one. (Yes, our holiday tree us up and mostly decorated.) All this festiveness – along with the sound of too loud holiday music and too many left-over pumpkins – has moved us directly from unicorn costumes to Thanksgiving delights.
My friend Stacy orders tamales from Texas to celebrate the holidays. I have an uncle that believes pilgrims would have preferred steaks and potatoes so he spends the day grilling. At the farm, we eat a load of Gulf seafood in Low-Country Boil style off of a wooden board across the tailgate of the truck. I am also somewhat of a traditionalist at heart and delight in the staples – no Thanksgiving comes without dressing. (Gulf Shrimp + Dressing – you don’t know what you are missing until you have tried it!) However, despite the fact that most consider it a staple, I’ve never been one to put a pumpkin pie on my holiday table. I actually have always had a strong dislike for the most revered of Thanksgiving desserts. Then I tried this recipe.
We have reached that time of the year when, even in Alabama, we have to accept that winter has arrived. While there are many things to celebrate during colder months, the early frosts are the hardest to embrace. So, we were excited when guest contributor Jesse Goldstein offered up a bit of a tropical concoction for this month’s cocktail post. Enjoy:
Although I hesitate to admit it, I once thought of Curaçao as the blue stuff that went into supposed “fancy” drinks. Of course, this was in my early college years back when I felt very grown up ordering Rum and Coke. What I’ve learned over the years is that Curaçao isn’t always blue, has an amazing history, and, when made properly, is worthy of even the most discerning palate.
This month, we offer our second installment on creative cocktails from Jesse Goldstein on the often overlooked of beauty lavender as a flavor. Hopefully you will be inspired to experiment with your own infusions to create spirits with complex, but delicious, flavors.
While the idea of infusing herbs and botanicals into spirits may seem to be more popular these days than taking a “selfie”, the practice is nothing new. Take Chartreuse for example: infused with more than 130 botanicals, Chartreuse has been made by the Carthusian Monks in the French Alps since 1737. But just because infusing is an old idea does not mean that we can’t continue to interpret (and reinterpret) the process to create flavors that are fresh, modern and, most importantly, breathtakingly delicious.
The flavor of lavender has never really caught on in this country, though for centuries it has been used around the world as an herb and condiment. (Please watch Juliette of the Herbs.) While it often finds its way into an abundance of scented candles, lotions, and soaps, all too rarely does it find a home in our food and drinks.
The t-shirts for Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q read, “You can smell our butts for miles”. This was certainly the case on Friday, October 10, as their giant meat smoker nestled up to Alabama Chanin’s front entry and sent out the signal for our final “Friends of the Cafe” dinner of 2014, featuring chef Drew Robinson and Nicholas Pihakis. The two were in town—along with members of the Fatback Collective—to provide lucky diners with an exclusive, elevated barbecue experience.
Good People Brewing Company provided craft beers for each course. The Birmingham, Alabama, based brewery showcased a few of their “Ales from the Heart of Dixie.” There may not be a dinner more currently in demand across the United States than beer and barbecue; on this night, we had the best of best.
Today we welcome Jesse Goldstein, one of Nashville, Tennessee’s resident cocktail experts, as a regular contributor to our Journal. Jesse will be sharing stories of Southern culture and the spirits that surround it. Look for a cocktail recipe each month—including traditional mixed drinks and their modern interpretations.
One of my favorite things as a kid was going to the local volunteer fire department potluck suppers with my family. The quilt-covered folding tables were loaded with all sorts of casseroles, gelatin-based “salads”, and sweets that I would never get to eat the like of at home. One of my ultimate treats was what most people in the South like to call “church punch.” This version was made with a combination of ginger ale, pineapple juice, and sherbet and was like drinking pure sugar from the little waxed paper cup. I remember pretending not to love it for my parents’ sake but secretly savoring every sip of the sugary nectar.
Luckily our tastes change as we grow older. These days I prefer my salads without colored gelatin and cringe at the thought of how sweet that punch was. But there is something wonderful about the convivial aspect of a big bowl of punch and there’s no reason it can’t be brought forward to today with a recipe you would be proud to serve—to adults, that is.
Punch has an incredible history that goes back hundreds of years. Long before the invention of the cocktail, spirits were consumed socially in the form of punch. Made in large batches, punches were ideal for celebrations of all sorts. Times have changed, but punches still have a place at a party. All my friends know I’m a big fan of cocktails, but I personally prefer making punches when I’m entertaining. A good batch of punch takes time, effort, and the investment of good spirits that good friends are worthy of.
Alabama Chanin will host our final “Friends of the Café” Dinner of the 2014 season next Friday evening. The creative team from Jim ‘N Nick’s Community Bar-B-Q, including Nicholas Pikakis and Drew Robinson, will be on hand to direct the menu. I find it amazing that Jim ‘N Nick’s currently operates over 30 restaurants across the South and manages to maintain consistency and high standards. Their commitment to sustainability at such a large scope is outstanding. They care about every detail—from the farmers and hogs, to their choice of wood, to every seasoning and side dish…it seems they do it ALL.
We caught up with Nicholas and Drew and persuaded them both to answer a few questions.
AC: What role do you play in the oversight of those individual locations? How involved are you in the day-to-day operations?
Drew Robinson: I don’t oversee any one restaurant. We have a lot of talented local owners, general managers, chefs, dining room managers, and very dedicated staff that operate great restaurants every day. I’m engaged in culinary development—new recipes, products, menus—for the company. Operationally, my role beyond that isn’t to oversee a restaurant as much as it is to continually convey the standards of our food and coach what our chefs and cooks do so that we are, hopefully, always improving.
AC: I once heard that you have no freezers—whatsoever—at any of your restaurants. Truth or legend?
DR: Truth. The “no freezers” rule is one of our core values that started with Nick and his dad, Jim. They believed in bringing all the ingredients in fresh—we start fresh and prepare fresh. They were closely joined at the hip with that value of theirs, so there was no question about doing that across the board in each of the stores.
Join us at The Factory on October 10th for the last “Friends of the Café” Dinner of the year, a fundraiser for the Fatback Collective’s Fatback Fund,
featuring Drew Robinson and Nicholas Pihakis of Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q.
The evening will include cocktails and a four-course meal with craft beer pairings.
The menu features regionally and sustainably-sourced fare, like Pickled Gulf Shrimp,
Fatback Pig Project Porchetta and White Oak Pastures Guinea Hens with vegetables
from the Jones Valley Teaching Farm.
Friday, October 10, 2014
$88 per person (includes drinks and dinner)
Purchase tickets here.
Pre-paid reservations must be made in advance online or in-store.
Alabama Chanin @ The Factory
462 Lane Drive
Florence, AL 35630
For more information, contact Alabama Chanin: +1.256.760.1090
My love for barbeque is no secret. Though I might be partial to our local fixings, I can honestly say most of the barbeque I’ve experienced throughout Alabama and the South is both distinctive and delicious. Each region and territory has its own unique recipes and tastes. One of the most well-known barbeque establishments from our state is Jim ‘N Nick’s, founded in Birmingham in 1985 by father and son team, Jim and Nick Pihakis. The company is rooted in community (with claims that it is “the key ingredient in any good bar-b-q”) and their belief that good food brings people together. Each Jim ‘N Nick’s location is locally owned and operated, which encourages every restaurant to develop relationships within their respective communities and advance the company principles of education, health and wellness, and local farming.
I’ve known Nick Pihakis for several years now. He is one of the most generous folks I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting—always in good spirits (and never one to turn down a good bourbon libation). In fact, Nick and several other renowned Southern chefs, writers, and farmers formed the Fatback Collective while discussing barbeque competitions over glasses of bourbon. The Fatback Collective has participated in competition barbecue events, while keeping the focus on quality flavor and sustainable techniques; members include John T. Edge, Ashley Christensen, Angie Mosier, and John Currence. The collective, as well as Jim ‘N Nick’s establishments, all source their pork from the farms that are part of the Fatback Pig Project—a collaboration that supports pasture-raised, heritage breeds.
It takes a special kind of food to require it’s own specific food transportation system. Anyone who has ever attempted to serve – and certainly travel with – deviled eggs knows that eggs resting on an ordinary plate will end up smashed, flattened, or in the floor. I personally have at least 3 different deviled egg plates – one plastic, one ceramic, and a “fancy” glass one for special events. As a child, I would rush to the buffet table at every church dinner to get the biggest egg. As an adult, I ration out only one on my Thanksgiving dinner plate, but have been known to sneak extras when no one is looking.
My grandmother’s were always my favorite growing up, perhaps because they were made with dill pickle relish and an extra spoonful of mayonnaise. I avoided my aunt’s because she made her eggs with sweet pickles, which I strongly disliked. Our neighbor (who called them “angel eggs” to avoid association with wickedness) topped her eggs with paprika, which seemed elegant, colorful, and exciting. But—at heart—the deviled egg itself is not particularly fancy and has many incarnations. These days, I like them all.
The basic deviled egg is hard boiled, shelled, and halved. Each half is filled with a scoop of the hard-boiled yolk mixed with ingredients like mayonnaise, mustard, and pickle relish and served cold. Each family seems to have their own variation that might include vinegar, paprika, chili powder, or even kimchi or Sriracha chili sauce.
The last day of summer is officially September 22nd, but Maggie started back to school weeks ago. As the long days wind down, we must begrudgingly say farewell to peach season. This year, I found myself with an abundance of peaches throughout the summer. Whenever I swiped the last one from the counter to eat in my oatmeal, another batch would show up on my doorstep. Into the house that bag would come. The moment of anticipation and joy of standing over the kitchen sink—house perfectly silent—and biting into the soft flesh, savoring the moment as juice runs down my arm…for me, this is the essence of summer.
All peach lovers know that peaches develop their sweetness and flavor while on the tree. Once they are picked, they just get softer and juicier. Stay away from peaches that are firm and look for those who yield slightly to gentle pressure. To test firmness, don’t poke the fruit with your fingertip; hold the peach in your whole hand and squeeze gently. Peaches that are green around the stem are not yet ripe; shriveled skin means the fruit is too old. The best test for a peach’s flavor is its smell; a peach will taste almost exactly how it smells.
You can store firm peaches at room temperature. Once they begin to turn soft, put them in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator and plan to eat them soon. If you find yourself with too many peaches, you can freeze them (peeled and sliced) and keep them for up to 6 months.