Category Archives: IN THE KITCHEN

BITTERS

A month ago I was totally intimidated and scared of bitters, what they were, and how to use them. A recent encounter changed that.

It all began with a cocktail drink at Patois in New Orleans.  The beautiful drink menu started off with a lovely champagne cocktail that was something like this: Champagne, Cointreau, Orange Bitters and a twist of orange.  Sounds simple right?

I turn to Nathalie and Brett and ask, “What exactly IS Orange Bitters?” I am not the biggest fan of orange-infused anything and I wanted to be SURE to make the best of the most delicious cocktail that evening. Drew explained that bitters are essentially any fruit or spice marinated in 100% Pure Grain Alcohol. Nathalie added, “You can make it yourself.”

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THE YEAR IN EATS (AND A RECIPE)

In the spirit of “The Best Of” week as we move towards New Year’s Eve, I had to recap some of the best meals of my year – and they were plenty (despite my detox).

2011 started with a trip to Blackberry Farm’s Taste of the South with an amazing array of chefs and artisans.  The weekend is somewhat of a blur – perhaps because of all the wine tasting with Angie Mosier, and Charles and Kristie Abney.  I remember a biodynamic wine that was a glowing, beautiful orange color. (Charles and Kristie – if you are reading, can you remind me of the name of this wine? I would love to share it with others!)

Pardis Stitt will not let you leave her house, restaurant, or presence without a “to-go” box. And I know this may come as a surprise, but one of the best meal moments of my year was eating freshly cooked homemade chips and charred onion dip from Bottega in my car, on my way home to North Alabama. The recipe for this deliciousness can be found on page 23 of Bottega Favorita: A Southern Chef’s Love Affair with Italian Food. I have not been able to replicate the perfection of that afternoon in my own kitchen – must have been the “Pardis Love” that made the difference.

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ALABAMA ROYALE

I have been taste testing tonight for our Holiday Market and cocktail party this Thursday evening. Come by The Factory to visit with great artists and musicians and, of course, to try my Alabama Royale:

Fill glass with Belstar Prosecco
Add two wedges of organic lemon
Drizzle with a teaspoon of Elderberry Syrup (courtesy of Mothering Herbs)

Sip + enjoy (responsibly).

Join us @ The Factory:

Cocktails + Shopping
Thursday, December 15, 2011, 6 – 9pm

Holiday Shopping + Sample Sale
Friday, December 16, 2011, 10am – 6pm

Thank you to Brian Herr with International Wines in Birmingham for the lovely Belstar Prosecco!
xoNatalie

BRILLIANT Y’ALL

For those of you who have been reading this blog for years, it will come as no surprise that I have a girl crush on Virginia Willis. For me, she embodies all of the things that are required of a great Southern Chef with an added hearty laugh. Her book Bon Appetit, Y’all is in constant rotation in my kitchen and the beautiful photographs still take my breath away.

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COOKBOOKS – AGAIN

I have to admit that I visit allrecipes.com pretty often, mostly from my phone. I’m the person blocking an entire aisle at the grocery store with all of my attention focused on the screen in my hand. Was it brown sugar? Baking powder or cornstarch? Then suddenly I’m rethinking my entire plan because of a comment made by someone called “lovestocook22” in 2004.

I’ll still receive my daily email from Epicurious.com, but this year I am banning the endless internet recipe hunt. In my search for the best cornbread recipe, my query returned 4,940,000 results. My former self would have attempted to read every single one. This year I’m embracing the cookbook instead.

I’ve always adored cookbooks. The best ones have dog-eared corners, notes in the margin, a dusting of flour in the pages. They are all at once nostalgic, sentimental, and incredibly helpful. This holiday season we’re going to share a few of our favorite cookbook selections and a recipe from each one. Comments welcome of course!

–June

BELLE CHEVRE

I wrote about Tasia, and her beautiful goat cheese company, Belle Chevre, back in 2008 (including the recipe below). Tasia’s work has gotten better and better since that time with a wide range of products, a cookbook, and a whole series of cooking classes. Delicious.

Join us on Belle Chevre Twitter tomorrow for a chat with Tasia, the folks from Belle Chevre, and our dear friends from Billy Reid:

“This chat’s topic is ‘How Art Is Changing Alabama’ (as part of the broader series titled The New South: Chatting about the Future of Our Art, Food, and Culture). We’ll cover design, art and fashion, from any angle.  Basically it is a virtual cocktail party.”

The chat starts at 1 pm EST | 12 pm CST. Tag your comments #thesouth so we can find them.  See you there!

Here my Tuscan Chevre Salad again (it is worth repeating on a weekly basis in your kitchen – smile.):

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PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE + CLIMBING DAISY

We have so very much to be thankful for this year – and decade.  It has been a time filled with friends, family, color, design, light, laughter, growth, and, of course, good food.

May your celebrations this year be filled with laughter, light, love, and Pumpkin Cheesecake!

xo from Natalie and all of us @ Alabama Chanin

To make pumpkin puree:

Cut in half one sugar pumpkin and scoop out the seeds. Place the pumpkin half-side down on a roasting pan and fill with ¼ inch of water. Bake at 350 degrees for an hour, or until soft. Scoop out the meat and puree until smooth.

I have also used organic canned pumpkin with good results.

For the crust:

1 c. graham cracker crumbs (I have also used crushed shortbread cookies)
1/4 c. chopped pecans
1/4 c. brown sugar
4 T. unsalted butter, softened

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with rack in center. Assemble a 9-inch nonstick springform pan, with the raised side of the bottom part facing up.

In a medium bowl, mix cracker crumbs, pecans, sugar, and butter until moistened; press firmly into bottom of springform pan. Bake until golden around edges, 10 to 12 minutes.

For the Filling:

4 (8 oz.) packages of cream cheese, very soft
1 1/4 c. sugar
3 T. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c. pumpkin puree
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground ginger
1/4 t. freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 t. ground allspice
1 T. bourbon
1 T. vanilla extract
1/2 t. salt
4 large eggs, room temperature

Make the filling: With an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar on low speed until smooth; mix in flour (do not overmix). Add pumpkin puree, spices, bourbon, vanilla, and salt; mix just until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, mixing until each is incorporated before adding the next.

Place springform pan on a rimmed baking sheet. Pour filling into springform, and gently smooth top. Transfer to oven; reduce oven heat to 300 degrees. Bake 45 minutes. Turn off oven; let cheesecake stay in oven 2 hours more (without opening).

Remove from oven; cool completely. Cover and refrigerate until firm, at least 4 hours.

Gently lay our Climbing Daisy Stencil over the top of the cooled cake and dust with cinnamon.

 

WHAT’S FOR LUNCH TODAY?

Since my fall garden is finally coming in beautifully:

Organic Arugula

Amish Deer Tongue Lettuce

Red Iceberg Lettuce

Spinach

Hard Boiled Egg

A sprinkle of ground flax seeds

My Favorite Dressing:

1 clove pressed garlic
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
1/3 c. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Make in a small glass jar, cover with lid, shake vigorously, drizzle salad with dressing and serve.
xoNatalie

 

SERVING TONIGHT: THE HANDMADE

Made (and Grown) in the USA:

Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. Small Batch Tonic
Tito’s Handmade Vodka
Heath Glass
Lemon Verbena – from my garden (and thanks to Angie Mosier)

My friend John T. Edge – the man who understands everything culinary and loves “liquor and its accompaniments” – wrote yesterday of Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. Small Batch Tonic: “Just told Blair I want some for Christmas…”

Yes, it is that good.

Combine with Tito’s Handmade and drink responsibly…

Also in the picture at top:

Limited Edition Commune DesignHEATH Ceramics Bowl and Clemson Spineless dried okra – from my garden.

xoNatalie

GETTING IN THE MOOD

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.

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