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Exploring a Cookbook: The Glory of Southern Cooking

Exploring a Cookbook: The Glory of Southern Cooking
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  • Exploring a Cookbook: The Glory of Southern Cooking

    Post #1 - April 14th, 2008, 9:59 pm
    Post #1 - April 14th, 2008, 9:59 pm Post #1 - April 14th, 2008, 9:59 pm
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    Exploring a Cookbook: The Glory of Southern Cooking

    Southern cooking [is] the one legitimate cuisine in this country... right there on the same level with French cuisine bourgeoisie and Italian cucina casereccia-- the sacred traditions, the incredible variety of regional dishes, the prevalence of fresh local ingredients, the distinctive cooking techniques, everything. —James Villas

    Not for James Villas the campy admiration for diner kitsch of the Sterns. When this food writer for Town & Country and compadre of Child, Beard and Fisher gazes into a waterfront shrimp shack, he sees a humble place as serious and timeless as a Tuscan guest-house. The Glory of Southern Cooking attempts to make an argument for Southern cuisine (from the Carolinas to Louisiana, anyway; Texas is exiled as its own thing, even as Cajun is embraced) being our great indigenous food tradition, meeting the most important criteria of European food greatness (as we've understood them since California in the 80s, anyway)—local, fresh and traditional.

    Villas' recipes only partly fulfill the traditional part—at least they include a fair amount of recently invented dishes from the likes of Frank Stitt, Paul Prudhomme and Paula Deen, and others Villas has doctored for modern tastes with a dash of heat or a splash of spirits. (The plainness of so many downhome recipes seems to demand tinkering from our more-flavors-the-better mentality, which those in search of authenticity must summon the will to resist.) Aiming to win a popular audience rather than shape an entire field of study, the book's not as systematically thought-out or organized as, say, James Beard's American Cookery, a truly magisterial survey. But neither is it downhome favorites for yuppies, and by focusing in particular on some of the older and nearly forgotten dishes Villas revives and documents here, especially from the least fashionable area of American cuisine, white society food of the 19th and early 20th century, one captures a fuller picture of a Southern cuisine that goes beyond the standard BBQ shack/soul food paradigm.

    * * *

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    That at least was my goal when planning a meal built around some of the less obvious foods in Villas' book. Having just taken a trip through Memphis and other nearby parts of the South, I didn't have any intention of trying to outdo gastronomic temples such as the Les Troisgros of Nashville, Arnold's, or the El Bulli of Lexington, TN, B.E. Scott's at their own games. Here instead is what we had, beginning with the Cocktail Hour:

    Pecan Cheese Biscuits, p. 19

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    These look like cookies but they are in fact savory short dough biscuits with parmesan and cayenne, bright and eye-opening in their spiciness, which Villas calls "the backbone of any respectable Southern cocktail party or tea." He strongly urges good fresh pecans, which luckily I had just happened to spot at New Leaf in Rogers Park. Total made: about 45. Total left at end of evening: 0. Behind them in the bowl next to the burning-of-Atlanta-colored napkins are benne candies, basically a sort of sesame seed brickle, from Food For The Southern Soul. (Villas has a recipe for something similar, but I went for the $3.49 bag.)

    Shrimp Deviled Eggs, p. 11

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    Deviled eggs are to Southern receptions what chowder is to Northern clambakes... the special compartmentalized plates... are as important as the eggs themselves. As one hostess uttered to me not long ago, 'Anybody who serves deviled eggs on a plain ole white plate is just... tacky.'

    Well, I'll have to take his word on Northern clambakes. David Hammond and Carolyn Berg brought these (and have also been cooking from Villas at home), and while normally I am no great fan of deviled eggs, the addition of shrimp and capers (and having the requisite plate, of course) lifted these into another realm entirely-- and made a convert.

    Pimento Cheese Spread, p. 2

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    Cathy2 made this, not actually from the recipe in Villas' book (the very first recipe, in fact, showing how central pimento cheese spread is to the South) but using authentic Duke's mayo (well known for its aphrodisiac qualities). In fact, it's one of the few Southern things to have made it into my Kansas childhood repertoire, where it probably only ranked second to bologna as a sandwich filling. Here Louisa Chu demonstrates the proper method of scooping it up with Ole Salty's potato chips, which Cathy found in Rockford.

    Fried dill pickles, p. 22

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    Since having my first fried dill pickle at The Violet Hour, where I thought they would be kind of a bar stunt food like fried Twinkies (but was pleasantly surprised), I've devoted a great deal of thought to this item, and tried them wherever I've seen them. Two things I've noticed: the coating tends to be formidable, often bolstered with corn meal, and the Jewish deli-style pickles used are often way too salty, producing a metallic clang against the crunchy greasiness of the coating.

    Villas' recipe, which claims to be that of the restaurant in Tunica, MS where they were supposedly invented, the Hollywood Cafe (a claim much disputed, of course), solves the first problem by going back to basics-- this is a buttermilk, flour and egg batter, simplicity itself. For the second problem, I considered several possibilities, including a sweeter bread and butter style. Then I remembered a jar of pickles I had from Wienke's Market in Door County, shoved to the back of my fridge. I'd found them a bit bland by themselves when I'd opened them a while back. But sliced into thinner subspears, battered and fried-- they were perfect, just salty enough but not the teeth-on-aluminum foil jolt a deli pickle would have been.

    People must have agreed with my assessment, because I wound up frying pickles for the better part of 45 minutes until residual moisture from the dipped pickles had weakened my batter beyond usability. Villas makes no mention of a dipping sauce, but I winged something off this Emeril recipe and it was perfect-- or at least would have been if, at that point, I'd have had some Duke's instead of ungentlemanly Yankee Hellman's.

    Ocracoke Clam Fritters, p. 36

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    There were a lot of oyster recipes in the book I was interested in trying, but somehow I felt that the middle of a party was not the time to be learning a new and somewhat dangerous skill, prying open a jagged rock-like crustacean with my First Virginia Volunteers saber. Instead I settled for this simple recipe using canned baby clams, from the Outer Banks of North Carolina, battered in a dill-flavored batter with homemade tartar sauce for dipping. I made the batter a little too salty, but they were a hit too, belying my inexperience as a bivalvist.

    Sazeracs, p. 413

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    Originally made with a French brandy called Sazerac-du-Forge, the drink was probably created around 1850 at the Sazerac Coffee House in the French Quarter, but by the end of the century, the recipe had been changed to include not only a dash of local Peychaud's bitters but also American rye whiskey and a little absinthe... when the city's famous Roosevelt Hotel (today the Fairmont Hotel) bought the Sazerac House in 1949, rights to the cocktail recipe were included in the deal.

    Many thanks to M'th'su for commandeering the business of making sazeracs, one of the oldest and still most harmoniously balanced American cocktails, even down to quickly making the simple syrup I'd forgotten to make during pre-party prep. In picking up supplies, he and I both were persuaded by the argument of a shelf display at Sam's, which urged a house-branded rye made for exactly this purpose for them, they hinted, by the makers of a much more prestigious rye shelved directly above. I'm not sure if I've ever actually had a Sazerac before but I think I may have just found a new favorite, a little more unusual than the ubiquitous (if also harmonious and deeply venerable) Manhattan. (If nothing else, they fueled what has to be one of the world's, or at least America's, longest discussions of duck confit...)

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    * * *

    Main Courses

    Charleston Hobotee, p. 43

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    Innovative Charleston and Savannah chefs seem finally to be discovering perloo, awendaw, Huguenot torte, and any number of other distinctive dishes that once figured prominently in Carolina and Georgia Lowcountry cuisine. But, so far, not one seems to be even aware of this superlative curried meat custard that probably graced both breakfast and dinner tables during the plantation era... Served with glasses of semidry sherry as a starter to any seafood meal.

    One thing I read or somebody told me that really struck me when I was in Barcelona was that much of Catalunya's stubborn sense of separateness from Castilian Spain is rooted in the fact that for centuries, it was closer to Genoa or Naples than Madrid-- in the way of traveling that mattered then, by ship.

    Surely the same is true of what we now monolithically refer to as "the South"-- until the railroad, at least, a port like Charleston would have had more frequent commerce with London than, say, central Kentucky. And London, of course, would have had commerce with all the world-- not least India and other spice producing regions. Which explains how the powerful curry blast of a Charleston Hobotee comes to blow the doors off the stereotype of Southern food as comfily mild, white gravies over white starches.*

    As you might expect from a 19th century dish, the recipe is purposefully vague in certain respects-- you are free to start with a base of either beef, pork or veal, and all you are told about them is they should be "cooked." I settled for pork shoulder in Alton Brown's molasses brine, as being suitably Southern, and braised it with some onion and thyme until it fell apart. Mix the meat with curry, onion and some egg and milk-soaked bread, pour a custard over that and bake with a bay leaf:

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    One thing I have to say is: I just couldn't buy the old American-style curry powder, one-dimensional McCormick with its taste of spicy ground phone books, which I grew to hate all those times my mom made curry dip for the artichokes she and my sisters loved and I loathed. Damn the authenticity, I had to use my good modern-tasting curry powder from Whole Foods. So my apologies if this actually tasted better than it was supposed to. (Though perhaps curries in 1850 were far better, even after a long sea voyage, than industrial ones in 1950.) I served it, per instructions, with an Amontillado (Alvear's).

    If there was a hit of the evening-- well, along with Louisa's buttermilk whipped cream in pro kitchen dispenser bottle-- I think this was it, and indeed it would make a fine brunch dish. You can find the recipe by following this link and searching for either "hobotee" or page 43.

    * Someone suggested an African dish that is vaguely similar and might have inspired the name. Who and what was that?

    Maryland Terrapin Stew, p. 115

    Perhaps no dish in Southern cookery was ever more relished or respected than the rich terrapin stews prepared in Baltimore's 'turtle-soup houses' in the early nineteenth century—to such a degree that by the middle of the century, the stew had become the pride of the city's Maryland Club and other elite social venues.

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    Where do you get a turtle these days? They went from being hugely popular to being hunted (fished? amphibianed?) nearly to extinction in the days of turtle soup a century and more ago. (Hence the mock turtle in Alice in Wonderland, with its calf's head poking out of a tortoise shell.) I considered Chinatown, in fact Jazzfood and I poked around Chinatown Market for one one day, and no less a personage than Tony of Lao Sze Chuan gave me a few leads, but no luck. In the end I bought a turtle's worth of meat partly butchered from Exotic Meats USA in San Antonio, filling out my minimum order with yak burger, antelope sausage and kangaroo brats. (I don't know why my turtle said "Free Gift," it certainly wasn't.) The packet of recipes it came with includes "Roast Llama With Sweet Onion Sauce." In case you're wondering where to get that.

    Cutting it down to the minced pieces spec'd revealed another reason for the decline of turtle soup: it's very labor intensive. There are a couple of flaps of solid meat but most of it has to be sliced off thick vertebrae. I did this, slowly, and then tried making turtle stock out of the bones, an onion and a carrot. Two hours later... I had water that tasted like an onion and a carrot. With dinosaur bones in it.

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    Which is why a rich soup like this is nearly blood-clotting amounts of butter, chicken stock and sherry, with some onion, bits of hardboiled egg and the by now ubiquitous cayenne. Make the soup, and only then toss in the turtle meat-- which frankly toughened as it went from ruby red to gray; I don't know if I was supposed to cook it shorter or longer to be more tender, and I'm unlikely to find out from personal experience any time soon. Here was a perfect picture of men's hotel dining circa the Chester Alan Arthur administration, the ideal soup to wash down six dozen oysters before the roast beef arrives on its platter, for a light dinner before going to see Lilly Langtry or Nellie Melba. In my case, it went with:

    Grits, Ham and Turnip Greens Soufflé, p. 287

    (I forgot to get a picture.)

    Given the quantity of eggs used in this meal overall-- at least 3 dozen-- I didn't really need to make another baked egg dish, but this was the one grits recipe that let me precook them and prep a dish I could just pop in the oven. It was damned good, though, I may make it again since I still have all the stuff. Stoneground grits (from the same place as the benne candies, no, they're not whatever that trendy chef brand is), mixed with plenty of parmesan, cream and egg, with diced ham, blanched turnip greens and tabasco. Now this was comfy white starch.

    Also served with this were:

    Perfect Buttermilk Biscuits, p. 311

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    Accompanied by red pepper jelly (also from the benne candy link). People asked me if I made any of this stuff for practice beforehand, and the answer was mostly no, the success rate was probably a testament to how well-tested and foolproof these old recipes tended to be, compared to modern cookbooks full of things they just invented.

    The one exception was biscuits-- after ordering authentic Southern White Lily flour from Smuckers (who own or at least distribute two of the main Southern soft winter wheat flour brands, White Lily and Martha White), I pretty much made biscuits every night for a week, thinking of Evil Ronnie's sage words on the subject of another Southern specialty. Over time, using up an entire 5lb. bag of fluffy soft flour, making well over a hundred biscuits, with some additional tips from Scott Peacock and Edna Lewis here, I arrived at my personal recipe-- about 3/8 cup total fat, half my homecured bacon lard and half butter, to 2 cups flour and 1 cup buttermilk-- and, just as importantly, learned how to just mix without smooshing them or kneading them. If they look good, well, they are good. (A little while later, at the dessert table, Seth Zurer said, "You're a good cook but I think your real forte is that you're a very good baker." I will accept that, as a just compliment.)

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    You got pimento cheese spread on my biscuit.

    * * *

    Desserts

    Lemon Buttermilk Chess Pie, p. 338, with Georgia Corn Custard Ice Cream, p. 379, and Chocolate Grits Ice Cream, from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook

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    There are only two ice creams in the book, somewhat surprisingly, so eager to get started a week before the party, I made a Georgia Corn Custard ice cream attributed to an unnamed faculty wife at the University of Georgia. You know, in high season, when corn is sweet and wonderful, it's probably wonderful. In April, with corn out of a freezer case bag, not so much. Like I always tell Vital Info, you gotta eat local and in season to get the good stuff.

    Desperate for a Hail Mary pass to save this part of the meal, I poked around other books and found this recipe for a very dark and rich chocolate ice cream with partly cooked grits for a little crunch, which the Lee Bros. (Charlestonian expats in New York) say was inspired by... a chocolate grits soufflé at Lutèce, the Manhattan four-star joint of the 70s and 80s. Of course. What could be more Southern? Oh well, at least it shows how Southern cuisine fits into the hoity-toity mainstream today.

    Along with that I made a chess pie according to Villas' recipe; until a few weeks ago the only ones I'd made, out of Camille Glenn's Heritage of Southern Cooking (recently reprinted, get the old paperback cheap), had been plain flavored (that is to say, brown sugar and cream) and had formed a nice crust on top. Villas' has buttermilk and lemon zest, which is fine, I think lemon zest comes awfully close to being almost any pie's best friend, but it also had so many eggs it really formed a custard, not a crust, and also had some corn meal in the mix, which remains visible at the end. I cut the eggs down to get more of a thin and solid layer, and I like it just fine, but I may experiment with my own hybrid of the two recipes, I did like that almost cookie-like outer crust on the ones I used to make.

    So that was what I made, although we also had coconut cake from Cathy from another Southern cookbook, which she may want to talk about:

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    and Louisa brought an all-edge brownie to serve with her buttermilk whipped cream:

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    and we even had a special surprise guest drop in unexpectedly straight from the airport whom we were all happy to see and offer a stiff drink and big plate of dessert to. So a great gathering of LTHers and, I think I can say, an interesting look throughout at a side of Southern cooking quite different in many ways from the stereotype, delicious as it undoubtedly is, of humble, stick-to-your-ribs soul (and country and western) food.
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  • Post #2 - April 18th, 2008, 10:56 pm
    Post #2 - April 18th, 2008, 10:56 pm Post #2 - April 18th, 2008, 10:56 pm
    Hi,

    Thank you for a lovely occasion and an opportunity to continue my exploration of Southern food, too. The pimento cheese came straight off the Southern Foodways Alliance (SFA) website:

    Souther Foodways Alliance wrote:Lella's Pimento Cheese

    Cheddar cheese, grated, about 1/2 a food processor full
    1 small jar whole pimentos
    dash onion powder
    dash red pepper
    dash Worcestershire sauce
    pinch sugar (less than 1/4 tsp)
    Homemade mayonnaise (I substituted Duke's Mayo)

    Blend grated cheese and pimento in food processor until well blended. Add mayonnaise as needed, blend again, add other ingredients, blend.

    (The pimento cheese is a solid color and you cannot see the pimentos once blended)


    If you follow the link to Southern Foodways, then you will get the back story on this recipe, which makes it far more interesting.

    The original plan for the pimento cheese was to shape it into balls, roll it in hush puppy mix and fry. This was an appetizer I had at an SFA conference a few years ago. I haven't had it since, though I think of it often. If I had only made my pimento cheese the night before or at least earlier in the day, then it would have been rollable. Instead the pimento cheese was very scoopable on the Ole Salty's potato chips from Rockford, IL.

    ***

    I've belonged to Southern Foodways Alliance (SFA) for the last four-five years. It was the first food organization I belonged to whose membership directory had Julia Child listed with her street address and phone number. I never called, though I liked the idea I could because I now had her number.

    Last October I attended SFA's annual symposium in Oxford, Mississippi. At one luncheon I found myself seated next to Nancie McDermott who had just published Southern Cakes: Sweet and Irresistible Recipes for Everyday Celebrations. I introduced myself as a member of Culinary Historians who would be hosting her in November. I advised we would be preparing recipes from her book, did she have any tips? She advise all the recipes call for all-purpose flour, though she suggested I have White Lily. Based on her conversation, I upped my purchase of White Lily flour to 50 pounds to distribute to friends and volunteer bakers.

    In November, Nancie gave an interesting overview of Southern baking traditions. While the north had European baker immigrants and their traditions, the south didn't have the population density to support them. By necessity, the south developed a taste for home baked desserts. Nancie had a picture of a post funeral reception at home with many home baked cakes lined up on the counter. One cake towered over the rest with its 13 layers.

    For this meeting, I made Kathy Starr's Mississippi Delta Jelly Cake (page 37), which was a white cake finished with seedless blackberry jelly mixed with confectioner' sugar that was spread on the top of each layer. The jam dripping down the side was considered part of its beauty. This cake alone challenged my thinking of what constitutes a cake, because I am still deep into buttercream and lots of it.

    Josephine made Mother's Date-Nut Cake (page 84) that was the ultimate in date-nut cakes. I have always liked date nut bread, which seems so bready compared to this recipe. This date-nut cake was heavy in dates and nuts with eggs, butter and flour present to bind it together. I kept returning the Home Economist to buy more bulk dates over the holidays just to fuel this recipe.

    Another cake that caught my fancy was Orange Slice Cake with Orange Glaze (page 78) in the fruitcake chapter. The key ingredient was cheap orange slice candy along with dates, pecans and coconut. The glaze of fresh orange juice, grated orange peel and confectioner's sugar was poured over the cake while it was still in the pan and allowed to cool. The orange glaze would seep into the cake. My only challenge making this cake was keeping my Mother from eating the orange slice candy before I needed it. Who knew this was a nostalgia candy moment for her?

    Southern Cakes has a chapter devoted to coconut cakes with eight recipes offered. Coconut cake is not exactly a favorite in my household. If I make one, then I am have to find an audience because otherwise it is a wasted effort. Mike's invitation gave me an opportunity to make Miss Nannie's Fresh Coconut Cake (page 62), which was Nancie's grandmother's signature dessert. From Nancie's lecture, we learned the fresh shredding of coconut was one of the few times men might be seen in the kitchen. Of course if they wanted the delicious output, then shredding was the price.

    This fresh coconut cake begins by baking two layers of white cake, that is cut in half to create 4 layers. While the cake is baking and cooling, then the icing is prepared. I used approximately 1.5 coconuts to make the 3 cups (plus) of shredded coconut. I used several implements to vary the coconut's texture: 1) medium box shredder, 2) potato peel for wide strips, 3) Mandoline set with a fine grater and 4) a 7-in-1 Thai tool borrowed from Rene G using the papaya salad shredder attachment to make long thin strips. One cup of coconut liquid was boiled with 3 cups sugar and 3 rounded tablespoons of flour for several minutes. Into the boiled icing 2-1/4 cups of fresh coconut added, then cooked together for several minutes more. Once the icing is cooled to room temperature, then 25% of the coconut icing is spread on each layer and assembled. On the top layer after the icing is spread, then the remaining fresh coconut is patted on top. The icing seeps into the cake. If made at least 2-3 hours in advance of serving or overnight, then the cake takes on a translucent quality. This is another cake preparation that challenges one's concept of cake presentation.

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    I have enjoyed every opportunity to bake from this book, because not only turn out perfectly with great fresh tastes and new-to-me final assembly methods. I may like my buttercream, though I am quickly adapting a taste for jam glazes and icings.

    Thanks again for allowing me to make this cake.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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  • Post #3 - April 19th, 2008, 10:53 am
    Post #3 - April 19th, 2008, 10:53 am Post #3 - April 19th, 2008, 10:53 am
    With all that great food and drink - and a house full of even better company - why is the only photo of someone shoveling food into their mouth - with a Sazerac* in hand no less - of me? :wink:

    Cathy, that pimento cheese dip was terrific as is - and the Ole Salty's a great match - they were just thick enough to hold their own.

    Mike, I could've stopped after the fried pickles alone - Japanese tempura chefs have got nothing on you. I'm happy I paced myself through all the courses - especially the biscuits. They were beautiful and delicate, but most amazing was the warm bacon aroma - you didn't get it until you got in up close and personal. Those biscuits will be the ones by which all future biscuits will be measured.

    Thanks so much again for your fine hospitality.

    *BTW had I known, I would've brought absinthe - next time.
  • Post #4 - April 19th, 2008, 12:14 pm
    Post #4 - April 19th, 2008, 12:14 pm Post #4 - April 19th, 2008, 12:14 pm
    That looks like a wonderful meal, Mike and company. Great report.

    I considered Chinatown, in fact Jazzfood and I poked around Chinatown Market for one one day, and no less a personage than Tony of Lao Sze Chuan gave me a few leads, but no luck


    This is making me laugh with rueful irony. Two food experts, under the tutelage of Chinatown's master chef, can't find turtles in Chinatown.

    Meanwhile, my wife, who is in Chinatown about once a year, goes there with two girlfriends and buys two turtles (being sold as food) as pets in a moment of compassion. From a cart vendor in the middle of Cermak. For $4. In a paper carryout container.

    He tells her that, if she doesn't eat them, they will never get bigger than their current 3-inch carapace length, and that they are called "magic luck turtles." 10 minutes of internet research on my part turns up the fact that they are red-eared sliders (probably not the tastiest), not local, and get up to a foot and a half in diameter. They require all sorts of special care- (UV light, heater, variety of food, filter, increasingly large tank - to keep healthy, and they grow quite rapidly to 6 inches after we spend about $200 on equipment. They're cute and friendly, but our real estate agent says they have to go if we're going to be showing the place constantly (we have a tiny condo), and finding turtle-sitters in addition to dog-sitters is just not part of our long-term plan. We never name them, briefly but not seriously consider slipping them into the koi pool at the Oak Park Conservatory (there are other sliders there), and eventually find a friend in Minnesota with a place in her heart for reptiles. They are now 8" in diameter and named Terra and Pin. The friend invested another $150 for a filtered 40 gallon tank.

    Lest you think this is small-scale stuff (pun intended), the turtle vendor also had all sorts of "bigger, ugly turtles," both live and dead on ice. I understand from other friends that he rolls the cart out of the back of one of the gift shops down the street from LTH.
  • Post #5 - April 19th, 2008, 5:58 pm
    Post #5 - April 19th, 2008, 5:58 pm Post #5 - April 19th, 2008, 5:58 pm
    Two food experts, under the tutelage of Chinatown's master chef, can't find turtles in Chinatown.


    One thing I learned, shopping around for exotic animals, is that (not surprisingly given the smallness of the market) they tend to be seasonal or at least erratically available. And in fact Tony said that one of the things that has kept turtle off his menu is just not being able to be certain of a constant supply.

    As it was I felt a little better about a moderately-expensively-ordered turtle versus no doubt cheaper turtle in Chinatown when I took the kids to Reptilefest the day before the turtle soup and one of the first things I saw was a display talking about how certain Asian species are going extinct due to the turtles-for-food trade. I may not always buy grass-fed beef like Michael Pollan tells me to, but I can say that I only buy earth-friendly, environmentally responsible turtle.

    especially the biscuits. They were beautiful and delicate, but most amazing was the warm bacon aroma - you didn't get it until you got in up close and personal. Those biscuits will be the ones by which all future biscuits will be measured.


    Thank you, Louisa. Now I feel my week-long biscuit apprenticeship paid off. One thing I will say-- when I baked whatever I baked that evening (probably 30 at once-- 6 rows of 5 on a sheet), they all came out better than any previous batch (usually 8 at a time, 4x2). Clearly one secret of good biscuit-making is... make lots!
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  • Post #6 - April 20th, 2008, 7:51 am
    Post #6 - April 20th, 2008, 7:51 am Post #6 - April 20th, 2008, 7:51 am
    What a terrific array of southern food! It looks like it was a great evening.

    I used to make cheese/cayenne biscuits years ago. I once brought them to a party, foolishly thinking some of my friends would appreciate them. I found them in the kitchen on the counter. Everyone thought they were the worst cookies they ever ate, and one person was dragging people into the kitchen, one at a time, to try the "cookies." One guy spit it out straight into the garbage after I patiently explained that they were NOT in fact cookies, they were cheese biscuits. I packed up the rest of them and put them in my car and never made them again.

    After reading your post, I will attempt them again on my family, who understands food.

    Suzy
    " There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life."
    - Frank Zappa
  • Post #7 - April 20th, 2008, 8:02 am
    Post #7 - April 20th, 2008, 8:02 am Post #7 - April 20th, 2008, 8:02 am
    sdritz wrote:After reading your post, I will attempt them again on my family, who understands food.

    Suzy


    All you ever need is the right audience. Fortunately you have yours built in. I have a family of fussy eaters, so I have to go outside to find it.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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  • Post #8 - April 20th, 2008, 7:05 pm
    Post #8 - April 20th, 2008, 7:05 pm Post #8 - April 20th, 2008, 7:05 pm
    sdritz wrote:I used to make cheese/cayenne biscuits years ago. I once brought them to a party, foolishly thinking some of my friends would appreciate them. I found them in the kitchen on the counter. Everyone thought they were the worst cookies they ever ate, and one person was dragging people into the kitchen, one at a time, to try the "cookies." One guy spit it out straight into the garbage after I patiently explained that they were NOT in fact cookies, they were cheese biscuits.

    :D I had a similar experience. I had baked a coin-shaped version for a Hanukkah party and foolishly labeled them "Judith's gelt." Even though I stopped the hostess from bundling them onto a tray with sweets, they were not a success, even with the few people who had any idea of what the reference meant.

    My husband and I enjoyed them, though.
  • Post #9 - April 21st, 2008, 9:02 pm
    Post #9 - April 21st, 2008, 9:02 pm Post #9 - April 21st, 2008, 9:02 pm
    I just had a Sazerac at Galatoire's in New Orleans, and loved it. Any chance you can publish the recipe you used? I'd certainly love to know how to make a good one.
    "All great change in America begins at the dinner table." Ronald Reagan

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  • Post #10 - April 21st, 2008, 9:10 pm
    Post #10 - April 21st, 2008, 9:10 pm Post #10 - April 21st, 2008, 9:10 pm
    I would be happy to post on a food and drink-related matter, for a change!

    Go here, use the "search inside this book" feature for sazerac, and the precise text is on page 413.
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  • Post #11 - April 21st, 2008, 9:12 pm
    Post #11 - April 21st, 2008, 9:12 pm Post #11 - April 21st, 2008, 9:12 pm
    Cool. Thanks, Mike.

    And cheers.
    "All great change in America begins at the dinner table." Ronald Reagan

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  • Post #12 - April 21st, 2008, 10:15 pm
    Post #12 - April 21st, 2008, 10:15 pm Post #12 - April 21st, 2008, 10:15 pm
    Double cheers. I see neither brownin' nor curlin' here, and would be slightly offended to think our comments are anything less than that fine Singin' In the Rain mist at Dominick's that "locks in freshness and nutrients."

    This post inspired some deviled egg cooking tonight, with pickled okra. Really tasty. Thanks for the Southern inspiration.
  • Post #13 - April 21st, 2008, 10:20 pm
    Post #13 - April 21st, 2008, 10:20 pm Post #13 - April 21st, 2008, 10:20 pm
    It picked up after laying there for a few days like a dead dog on a country road.

    This post inspired some deviled egg cooking tonight, with pickled okra. Really tasty. Thanks for the Southern inspiration.


    Though I can't honestly say that's the best compliment in this thread (Louisa won that contest), it's not bad, and I'm glad to hear you made something and liked it.
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  • Post #14 - April 21st, 2008, 10:26 pm
    Post #14 - April 21st, 2008, 10:26 pm Post #14 - April 21st, 2008, 10:26 pm
    Mike G wrote:It picked up after laying there for a few days like a dead dog on a country road.


    As usual, I deliver on the roadkill.

    ***

    I am still thinking about the Charleston Hobotee. My family, especially my Dad, has a bias against custard. It's a dish I might not have made from glancing at the recipe. However it is high on my list of things to cook sometime soon. Again, thanks!

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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  • Post #15 - April 22nd, 2008, 12:45 pm
    Post #15 - April 22nd, 2008, 12:45 pm Post #15 - April 22nd, 2008, 12:45 pm
    Given the fact that they are both meat dishes with custard, and sound kind of alike, I wonder if there is a connection between South African bobotie and Charleston hobotee. Anyone know if there is a connection? Does the cookbook say anything aobut the origins of the Charleston dish?
    "All great change in America begins at the dinner table." Ronald Reagan

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  • Post #16 - April 22nd, 2008, 12:48 pm
    Post #16 - April 22nd, 2008, 12:48 pm Post #16 - April 22nd, 2008, 12:48 pm
    Cynthia wrote:Given the fact that they are both meat dishes with custard, and sound kind of alike, I wonder if there is a connection between South African bobotie and Charleston hobotee.


    Interestingly, a few sources list the Indonesian bobotok (a curried custard with meat) as the precursor to the South African bobotie.
  • Post #17 - April 22nd, 2008, 12:50 pm
    Post #17 - April 22nd, 2008, 12:50 pm Post #17 - April 22nd, 2008, 12:50 pm
    Bobotie! That's the one someone mentioned. Villas says nothing about it but yes, it seems hard not to believe that that's the derivation of the name, the similarities are very strong (adjusting for what would have been available in different locales).
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  • Post #18 - April 22nd, 2008, 1:05 pm
    Post #18 - April 22nd, 2008, 1:05 pm Post #18 - April 22nd, 2008, 1:05 pm
    Mike G wrote:Bobotie! That's the one someone mentioned. Villas says nothing about it but yes, it seems hard not to believe that that's the derivation of the name, the similarities are very strong (adjusting for what would have been available in different locales).


    There was a sizable slave trade in Charleston, which might account for the crossover of this dish.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #19 - April 22nd, 2008, 1:24 pm
    Post #19 - April 22nd, 2008, 1:24 pm Post #19 - April 22nd, 2008, 1:24 pm
    eatchicago wrote:
    Cynthia wrote:Given the fact that they are both meat dishes with custard, and sound kind of alike, I wonder if there is a connection between South African bobotie and Charleston hobotee.


    Interestingly, a few sources list the Indonesian bobotok (a curried custard with meat) as the precursor to the South African bobotie.


    A relative to the catfish custard we get at Spoon Thai? Does anyone know how that name is pronounced?

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #20 - April 22nd, 2008, 1:26 pm
    Post #20 - April 22nd, 2008, 1:26 pm Post #20 - April 22nd, 2008, 1:26 pm
    Cathy2 wrote:
    eatchicago wrote:
    Cynthia wrote:Given the fact that they are both meat dishes with custard, and sound kind of alike, I wonder if there is a connection between South African bobotie and Charleston hobotee.


    Interestingly, a few sources list the Indonesian bobotok (a curried custard with meat) as the precursor to the South African bobotie.


    A relative to the catfish custard we get at Spoon Thai? Does anyone know how that name is pronounced?


    It's written as haw mok, I believe. Any pronunciation attempt I'd make would only be a guess.
  • Post #21 - April 22nd, 2008, 1:39 pm
    Post #21 - April 22nd, 2008, 1:39 pm Post #21 - April 22nd, 2008, 1:39 pm
    Chai at Spoon pronounces it sort of "hoah moke" or "hwoa moke."
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  • Post #22 - April 22nd, 2008, 10:59 pm
    Post #22 - April 22nd, 2008, 10:59 pm Post #22 - April 22nd, 2008, 10:59 pm
    eatchicago wrote:Interestingly, a few sources list the Indonesian bobotok (a curried custard with meat) as the precursor to the South African bobotie.


    The South African dish evolved within the Cape Malay community, so the Indonesian connection seems likely -- especially given that Indonesia and Malaysia seem to have exchanged a lot of food terms, as well as recipes.

    I did a search for Charleston hobotee, and there were only 68 results, most from this forum or from the cookbook being discussed here. When I changed the spelling to "hobotie," I got seven responses, all but one in Dutch, but all saying this is the spiced custard of South Africa. So it sounds as though the two really are related.

    A little more research on South Carolina rice culture suggests that, at the outset of rice cultivation, some Malays from Africa and Malay-Africans were brought in to work the rice paddies. So if Malays or Malay-Africans from Africa were in South Carolina growing rice, that seems like it might be the link between Malay bobotie and SC hobotee. No definitive site states this whole line of supposition, but the pieces seem to fit.
    "All great change in America begins at the dinner table." Ronald Reagan

    http://midwestmaize.wordpress.com
  • Post #23 - June 18th, 2008, 7:24 am
    Post #23 - June 18th, 2008, 7:24 am Post #23 - June 18th, 2008, 7:24 am
    White Lily flour is about to be no more!
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  • Post #24 - June 18th, 2008, 7:31 am
    Post #24 - June 18th, 2008, 7:31 am Post #24 - June 18th, 2008, 7:31 am


    I knew Smuckers owned White Lily, like they own King Arthur, Pillsbury dry mixes and a number of bakery aisle items:

    But at the end of June, the mill, with its shiny wood floors, turquoise and red grinders and jiggling armoire-size sifters, will shut its doors. The J. M. Smucker Company, which bought the brand a year ago, has already begun producing White Lily at two plants in the Midwest, causing ripples of anxiety that Southern biscuits will never be the same.


    Thank goodness I don't have to go buy a stockpile.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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  • Post #25 - September 1st, 2008, 3:56 pm
    Post #25 - September 1st, 2008, 3:56 pm Post #25 - September 1st, 2008, 3:56 pm
    Mike G wrote:
    "There are only two ice creams in the book, somewhat surprisingly, so eager to get started a week before the party, I made a Georgia Corn Custard ice cream attributed to an unnamed faculty wife at the University of Georgia. You know, in high season, when corn is sweet and wonderful, it's probably wonderful. In April, with corn out of a freezer case bag, not so much. Like I always tell Vital Info, you gotta eat local and in season to get the good stuff. "

    This particular recipe really intrigued me and was one that I specifically wanted to try. Your comments made me have second thoughts, if it wasn't for the fact that you stated that in season sweet corn may elevate this dish.

    Interestingly, just when thoughts of corn ice cream were popping through my head, I happened to pass by The Village Creamery in Niles where I tasted some corn ice cream. In my opinion this tased like good vanilla ice cream with a few corn kernels. There was, however, no discernible corn taste.

    Last night I decided I would make my own, and recreated the recipe from memory as my copy of Villas' book was with a friend. I decided that the corn icecream I had tasted not only lacked corn flavor, but was also missing the chewy texture of corn. I pulsed the corn kernels and then warmed them with the cream. Rather than straining all the corn before making a custard, I left about a quarter of the pulsed kernels in the mixture.

    Sadly, even with in-season corn, the ice cream did not have much corn flavor. The bits of pulsed corn did enhance the texture of the ice cream but it still ended up being a fairly bland product.

    Jyoti
    Jyoti
    A meal, with bread and wine, shared with friends and family is among the most essential and important of all human rituals.
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