Tag Archives: Cooking

DETOX 2015

DETOX 2015

In 2011, and just before my 50th birthday, I publicly—on this Journal—declared a detox. I don’t really like to write much about my private life, as Alabama Chanin has grown into something so much bigger than me. And, truth-be-told, I am a rather shy and private person. However, I forged ahead and wrote in the second post:

“I felt reluctant to continue writing about my detox after the first post as I thought that it could be, frankly, a bit boring. Each of us has visited a site where the writer has a fondness to overshare about their eating habits and diet: each morsel eaten, photos of unmentionable detox attributes, things that we really don’t want to know—way too much information. I don’t want to be that person.”

But, the fact of the matter is that I completed the detox, lost 25 pounds, and felt better than I had in years. At the time, I vowed to stay “on the path.” I swore to be committed, stay focused, and to forge ahead. The best laid plans of mice and me…

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HOMEMADE BITTERS (REVISITED)

HOMEMADE BITTERS (REVISITED)

In December of 2011, we started playing with bitters. Today, we explore how craft meets cocktail with Jesse Goldstein. Read on to learn how to make variations of your own of cocktail bitters and how to use this relatively simple ingredient to add complex layers to your own drinks:

It was in 1806 when the word “cocktail” was first defined in print. The Balance and Columbian Repository of Hudson, NY classified it simply as “a stimulating liquor composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters.” Fellow cocktail enthusiasts may recognize this description as what we would call an Old Fashioned today; but it’s that last, often misunderstood, ingredient listed the lineup that has fascinated me for many years.

The term “bitters” typically refers to alcohol infused with a variety of botanical ingredients resulting in a somewhat bitter or bittersweet taste. There are really two classifications of bitters: digestive bitters like Campari are sipped neat or on the rocks after a meal; concentrated tinctures of cocktail bitters (often referred to as aromatic or potable bitters) like Angostura are used in drops and dashes in many classic and modern craft cocktails. I’ve often referred to bitters as the “salt and pepper” of cocktails, providing amazing depth and flavor that you can’t get from basic booze ingredients alone. But the more I looked into bitters, the more fascinated I became with their history, their variety and, eventually, the process of making them myself.

Though modern Americans are only recently regaining an appreciation of bitterness, our ancestors once embraced the taste of bitter flavors. Bitters were originally developed for medicinal purposes, with a history traced as far back as ancient Egypt. The proliferation of distilled spirits and an obsession with pharmacology led to even more concentrated varieties in the Middle Ages. The use of bitters for ailments continued for generations, often used as preventative medicine for everything from seasickness to heartburn.

Bolstered by the renaissance of craft cocktails, bitters have been gaining steam amongst cocktail connoisseurs for the past few years. The old standbys of Angostura and Peychaud’s have been joined by companies like Hella Bitters, Scrappy Bitters, and The Bitter Truth popping up all over the country—reimagining bitters in small batches with flavors created specifically for cocktails. These purveyors are joining classic bittering ingredients of gentian, quassia bark, dandelion, or wormwood with ingredients more commonly found in your kitchen spice cabinet. But these craft bitters are not cheap, often fetching more than $10 for a single ounce.

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COLLARDS & CARBONARA

COLLARDS & CARBONARA

Vino or Moonshine? Both, please. Memphis chefs, Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman’s new cookbook, Collards and Carbonara: Southern Cooking, Italian Roots published by Olive Press, showcases their distinctly Southern-Italian dishes—or is that distinctly Italian-Southern dishes? Either way, it’s fusion cuisine with an accent.

The two chefs and best friends opened the upscale Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen in Memphis back in 2008. After much acclaim, they opened a more casual sister restaurant, Hog & Hominy, right across the street in 2012. The two attended culinary school together in Charleston, South Carolina, and refined their skills in Italy. They compare their partnership to the dynamic of being in a band; they feed off one another for ideas and are always discovering inspiration together. The cookbook is a manifesto of sorts that establishes the greatness of duplicity in heritage cooking. At the root of their success is the fact that they simply love to play and work and learn and cook together. They share their stories revealing the secret to their success and the gospel of food according to these good Italian boys.

Each dish represents a new discovery and a step on their culinary pathway. The funky fusion dishes are as beautiful as they are humble. Warm pig’s ear salad with pears and Gorgonzola, fried green tomatoes with blue crab and bacon jam, gnocchi with caramelized fennel and corn; the pairings may seem unusual, but the flavors make sense together. Recipes for basic dishes like their famous boiled peanuts and pizza dough each have unlikely nuances that bring Italian and Southern American cuisines together.

COLLARDS & CARBONARA

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THE LOCAL PALATE

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Based in Charleston, South Carolina, The Local Palate is a food culture publication that celebrates the region’s best culinary figures, recipes, and processes. The magazine has recently launched their digital presence, resulting in a beautiful, easy-to-navigate, and delicious website.

From The Local Palate website:

Food in the south is intrinsically connected to life in the south. It is through eating, sharing, and creating food that pleasure is evoked, connections are forged, context is offered, and history is created. Across southern states, individual interpretations of food are as varied and compelling as the people who live in our unique cities and towns. Yet the importance of food in enriching our lives, our culture, and ourselves is a concept that is universally understood.

This description of food (and life) in the South has been my experience since childhood. And since opening The Factory Café last year, I’ve witnessed firsthand how food brings people together in an entirely new context. This concept is especially true this time of the year, as family and friends begin to gather together around the table in celebration of the holidays.

I’ve bookmarked several recipes and cocktails on the website as I begin to plan my holiday gatherings, parties, and meals. Citrus Sweet Potatoes, Sugared Pecans, and the Love Holiday are sure to find their way into my kitchen (and belly) this season.

We recently caught up with the editor in chief, Maggie White, of The Local Palate, and she was kind enough to answer a few of our questions about food culture, community, recipes, and launching a new site:

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A RECIPE FOR FIGGY PUDDING

A RECIPE FOR FIGGY PUDDING

Last year, when delving into the history of holiday carols, I found myself asking a question that I’ve wondered about since my youth: What exactly is figgy pudding?

The traditional English dessert is mentioned several times in the popular carol “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” (Now bring us some figgy pudding and bring it right here), referring to the caroling traditions of 16th century England where Christmas treats and drinks were given to carolers by wealthy well-wishers as a thank you for the songs. Often, these treats included puddings.

After a bit of research, I discovered that figgy pudding is actually more cake-like in form. It is similar to modern-day Christmas puddings and plum puddings, and—like it or not—is a cousin to the unjustly maligned fruitcake. But, don’t let that keep you from trying this delicious, boozy dessert. (Yes, classic figgy pudding includes a good dose of rum and brandy—perfect for warming chilly carolers.)

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VIVIAN HOWARD + BUTTERY TURKEY

VIVIAN HOWARD + BUTTERY TURKEY

Thanksgiving is a holiday rich with memories, traditions, and foods we only eat this time of year. For about two days leading up to Thanksgiving dinner, I can guarantee that there is nearly always something either going into or coming out of my oven, and aromas both sweet and savory waft throughout the house.

Our friends at Local Palate share a love of food and storytelling through their magazine, recipes, and blog (look for more on their revamped website and a Q&A in the coming weeks). You can find quite a few delicious seasonal recipes in their catalogue (conveniently sorted by holiday), including this offering from North Carolina-based chef Vivian Howard.

“This combination of turkey, cranberry, pecan, and sorghum, will make you hide your gravy boat for a year or two. All joking aside, these components, when paired with a green bean dish and side of sweet potatoes, would compose a perfectly balanced Thanksgiving plate all by themselves. And if turkey’s not your thing, this profile works beautifully with chicken, ham, or duck.” – Chef Vivian Howard

BUTTERY TURKEY WITH WARM SORGHUM VINAIGRETTE and CITRUS SWEET POTATOES WITH PECAN CRANBERRY RELISH

–From Chef Vivian Howard of Chef & the Farmer in Kinston, North Carolina, star of the PBS show A Chef’s Life, and featured on the November 2014 cover of The Local Palate magazine 

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GETTING IN THE MOOD (AGAIN)


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.
xoNatalie

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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FRIENDS OF THE CAFÉ + JIM ‘N NICK’S BAR-B-Q

FRIENDS OF THE CAFÉ + JIM 'N NICK'S BAR-B-Q

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.

FRIENDS OF THE CAFÉ + JIM 'N NICK'S BAR-B-Q

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HISTORY OF DEVILED EGGS (+ A RECIPE)

HISTORY OF DEVILED EGGS (+ A RECIPE)

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.

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SUMMERLAND + ANNE STILES QUATRANO

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James Beard award-winning chef and restaurateur Anne Quatrano is enthusiastic about food and community—passions I admire and write about often here on our Journal. Around her home-base of Atlanta, Georgia, she is referred to “Queen Anne” and is the city’s “undisputed Grande dame” of the farm-to-table movement according to The Local Palate. It makes sense; Anne owns and operates six of Atlanta’s most celebrated restaurants, including: Bacchanalia, Quinones at Bacchanalia, Star Provisions, Provisions To Go, Floataway Café, and Abbattoir.

Anne was raised in Connecticut and attended culinary school in California, where she met her husband and business partner, Clifford Harrison. After school, they relocated to the East Coast, but decided to journey to the South in the early 1990s. Anne had family from Georgia, and Atlanta seemed like the perfect Southern city to make their home-base, as it was becoming a cultural and culinary hub at the time. Although they work in Atlanta, they live on Summerland Farm near Cartersville, Georgia, a property that has been owned by Quatrano’s family for five generations. Anne makes the 80-mile roundtrip to commute to Atlanta every day, because she “can’t imagine living anywhere else.” Summerland is where she and Clifford grow and source food, host gatherings, and delve into true Southern hospitality.

Much to our delight, Anne has released a book of recipes celebrating the South, sustainable food, and life on the farm. Summerland: Recipes for Celebrating Southern Hospitality focuses on eating seasonally, and each chapter is associated with a specific month, kicking off with September—perfect timing. I’m looking forward to trying her October cocktail, the Mint Julep. Anne notes that “many people think of the mint julep as a spring or summer drink, associated in particular with the Kentucky Derby. But the brightness of the mint with the warmth of the bourbon is just as appropriate for the fall.”

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