Monthly Archive: April 2011

Adventures in Sconing

Happy belated Easter to you all! I hope you were all blessed with as beautiful an Easter Day in your home towns as we were in Charlotte. Simply gorgeous!

To celebrate this joyous day we joined some friends for an after church outdoor brunch. It was potluck. After last week’s potluck fiasco resulting in me showing up to a cookout with store-bought potato salad (gasp!), I knew I had to redeem myself. My foodie/cook reputation could be hanging in the balance…

So, I thought long and hard about what my contribution to this brunch would be and the answer was clear – SCONES!!  I ask you, what is more “spring brunchy” than SCONES?!?

Once again, I turned to The Foster’s Market Cookbook for inspiration.  More specifically, I chose to make Sara Foster’s Chocolate Chip Espresso Scones.

I got up early before church to whip these babies up.  Did I mention that I’ve never made scones before?  So they didn’t exactly “whip up”.  They were a little labor intensive.  Maybe that wasn’t a good idea when I’m trying to redeem myself from a major foodie faux pas!  I was nervous and in a rush after waking up 30 min later than intended.  So I don’t have a lot of pics because 1) I hadn’t had my requisite two cups of coffee (which is dangerous in and of itself) yet while I was making these and 2) these scones were stressing me out.

The recipe called for cutting the butter into the dry ingredients mix with a food processor.  I only have a mini-Cuisinart, not a full sized one.  So it took me several attempts to figure out how I was going to make this work in shifts.  Ultimately I cut little cubes of butter into the large bowl of dry ingredients then transfered it into the mini-Cuisinart for some pulsing in 3/4 cup shifts.  We got through it, but ultimately my kitchen looked like a flour bomb exploded in it.

Once cut and mixed, it was now time for me to add in the wet ingredients…buttermilk with espresso dissolved into it.  The Foster’s Market Cookbook maintains that it is the use of buttermilk, versus the typical heavy cream or half-and-half, yields a “lighter and flakier” scone.

The recipe called for this to be mixed in a large bowl, so I whipped out the largest bowl I have.  It apparently wasn’t large enough as I could really couldn’t stir the ingredients without sloshing it all over my already flour dusted countertop.  So…I dove in with my hands, trying my best to distribute the ingredients evenly.

So as I’m attempting to mix with my hands, thinking “This isn’t going well” to myself, and becoming increasingly aware that I’m running really late, I read the words “Do not overwork the dough” in the recipe. But that’s it.  No further indication of what action would result overworked dough.  Clearly, Sara’s target audience has prior biscuit making experience. I’ve said it before – I cook.  I don’t really bake.  Which, again, makes me think this wasn’t the best idea for today.  Don’t overwork the dough?!?  What does THAT look like?  How would I know?

I finally get frustrated trying to finish mixing the dough by hand in the bowl and just dump it out on the kitchen counter,

wash the espresso-buttermilk goo off my hands, and head back to the recipe.  Well, what do you know.  I was SUPPOSED to dump it out on the counter.  Maybe I have more “baker instincts” than I thought…

Confident in my new baker skills, I commenced rolling.  Gigantor chocolate chip cookie anyone?

Incidentally, the recipe makes two of those so that you end up with 12 total scones.  From here, it’s pretty easy.  You just cut it into six equal triangles, brush them in an egg wash, and bake them up.

The only problem now is, it’s 9:50 a.m. and I have to serve them at 12:30 p.m. – piping hot!  Will they be okay if I put them in the fridge for 3 hours before baking them?  Surely they will right?  That won’t mess up the baking chemistry will it?  AAAAHHHH….now I’m nervous again.  I should have asked somebody about this first.   I really don’t want to mess up my contribution to a friend’s potluck gathering for the second week in a row!

At this point I have no choice.  I’m pretty sure that it’s more “dangerous” to leave the raw sliced dough on greased  baking sheets sitting on my countertop.  So into the fridge they went.  And I rushed home from church an popped them into the oven before heading over to brunch…holding my breath along the way.

Well, they look like proper scones to me…

Okay, so we were 20 min late, but we showed up with fresh-from-the-oven, piping hot scones as everyone was sitting down on the lawn to eat.  Half of them were gone before I could get them to the buffet.

Rave reviews all around!  Comments from the peanut gallery went something like “Those are awesome!”  “These are fantastic!”  “Did you make these from scratch?”  I am redeemed…which has more than one meaning for me on this lovely Easter Sunday.

So, I think I can safely say that my foodie reputation in firmly in tact!

Cheers y’all!

Wine Girl

Permanent link to this article: http://kitchendoesnttravel.com/blog/archives/782

Red, Blue, and Blackend Voodoo

As Wine Girl told you previously, we attended the 2011 annual Ole Miss Alumni Crawfish Boil earlier this month. A few work trips delayed this write-up from the beverage point of view.

I’ll spare you the pronunciation for “crawfish boil” — after all, you are reading this to yourself, so call it a “boil” (bo-ee-ul) if it pleases your Yankee heart. It does mine, if only to annoy the Wine Girl. (Shhh … don’t tell!)

At last year’s boil, we took Blue Moon for washing down the mudbugs. Not a good plan! With all respect due to the best beer from Coors, it simply can’t cut the spicy bite.

So this year, I was on the prowl for a beer worthy of the bayou. At the Healthy Home Market, which has a beer section to rival the tofu selection, I bumped into an old friend — Dixie’s Blackened Voodoo!

Blackened Voodoo is one of my first beers to buy legally. Back in the day, ol’ Mississippi boys could buy at 18 years old in neighboring Louisiana. The exotic name and sinister label called me forth into the swamp of beer drinking adulthood … or something like that!

But for the crawfish boil, I was simply needing a good pairing for spicy dishes, and the Voodoo was a slam dunk. (I also picked up a six of Dogfish Head. but that’s a different tale). I poured one tonight, so that you could take a look:


Blackened Voodoo is a Schwarzbier, or “black beer” (German dark lager), from the Dixie Brewing Company. The brewery started in 1907 in New Orleans, but couldn’t survive Katrina, the flooding, and the looting. It’s now brewed under contract by Joseph Huber Brewing in Monroe, WI.
But it still tastes Cajun :)

When I poured the bottle, it yielded a dark coppery color (like a well circulated penny) and a thick head that dissipated quickly. I smelled straw and brown sugar, with hints of coffee.

My first sip was full of malt and toffee, and a little too sweet on the finish. It was crisp with a pleasant fullness, though not quite full or creamy, resulting in a smooth finish.

Something’s different tonight … I think it’s because I don’t have crawfish!
I find it to be a bit too sweet for drinking alone, but if you’re looking for good beer to complement a spicy dish, I recommend the Blackened Voodoo.

I’ll give it 4 kegs — any less would be bad juju!
4 of 5 Kegs

Beer Guy

Permanent link to this article: http://kitchendoesnttravel.com/blog/archives/784

poTAYto/poTAHto

Last Sunday BG and I attended an appreciation cookout as supporters of a friend’s ministry.  She was providing the main course and the rest of us were to bring sides.  I’ve mentioned that I have a reputation a foodie and cook amongst my Charlotte friends, so I wanted to make sure my side was especially scrumptious.  I settled on Sara Foster’s Potato Gratin with Tomatoes, Chevre, and Thyme from The Foster’s Market Cookbook.

I first made this about 5 yrs ago when taking a meal to my dear friend who was just home from the hospital with her first baby.  I mentioned to her then that it was all I could do to avoid sticking my face directly in the pan while I was making it.  You see, I’ve never met a potato I didn’t like.  Baked, scalloped, stuffed, mashed, whipped,  roasted, au gratin, or twice baked – you name it, I like it devour it.   But back to my original story…

The last three weeks in the Beer Guy/Wine Girl household have been ridiculously busy.  And, in keeping with that, I had another event I had to attend prior the aforementioned appreciation cookout.  This potato dish is quite rich and I don’t even want to know the calorie count, so this is not a dish I make on a regular basis…despite its orgasmic deliciousness.  This is a special occasion dish and, as such, I haven’t made it in a couple years.  Meaning…I totally forgot how long it takes to build and cook it!

Our cookout started at 5p.  I got home from my first event at 2:30p and meandered towards the kitchen at about 2:45p to start prepping my dish.  I set to work slicing my potatoes

and melting my butter.

The recipe recommends that you slice the potatoes (~1/8 inch thick) as needed while you build the layers. Something about the starch in the potatoes holding it together.  The butter is to brush along the surface of the baking dish as well as on top of each layer of sliced potatoes.

So I’m slicing, layering, buttering while throwing in some goat cheese, parmigiano reggiano, and thyme in the mix…

then layering in the tomatoes…

(Note to self – Buy a mandoline before making this again.) all the while, merely glancing at the portion of the recipe that said to “bake 30-40 minutes.”  Well, at 4:40p, I moved out of the slicing and layering zone, and looked at the recipe to refresh my memory on the final steps.  At this point I knew we were going to be late but, as I was thinking it only had to bake for 30-40 minutes, I thought it would be a fashionable 15-20 min late.  That’s when I saw it… the instructions to “bake, covered, 45-50 minutes” then “uncover and bake 30-40 min MORE!”

In a panic, I let a few choice words fly, slammed the layered concoction into the fridge, and yelled to BG upstairs that we had to go NOW!  We ended up taking a sad little store-bought side to the cookout, which was a total let down.  Luckily the good food (provided by other people) and even better company at the cookout lifted my spirits.  Then we came home and that’s when I really started to grin…

You see, I had already spent the money to purchase the necessary ingredients for this side as well as a lot of time putting it together.  I couldn’t just throw it out because I hadn’t finished it or taken it to the party.  I had to press on and see it through to the end.  It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s gotta do it.  Really at this point all I had to do was add the toppings and bake (albeit for nearly an hour and a half).  The recipe calls for pouring half-and-half over the ensemble, but I just happened to have some whipping cream left over from my recent creme brulee adventure.  So…

I went with that, then topped it off with some homemade bread crumbs, and baked it until it looked like this.

BG just so happened to be flying out on (yet another) business trip the next morning…and I would be at home…alone…all week…with my creamy, goat cheesy, potato gratin!  Hmmm…

Don’t mind if I do!

Like I said, I never met a potato I didn’t like.  It will be a miracle if this dish survives the next three days!

So was this an honest mistake or an evil brilliant plan?  You decide!

Cheers y’all!

Wine Girl

Permanent link to this article: http://kitchendoesnttravel.com/blog/archives/754

You’re Going to a What?

Crawfish Boil.  And to you Yankee readers that second word is pronounced BAW-IHL.  I was born and raised in the Deep South, but have moved around enough that I now say I’m going to get the oil (o-ee-ul) changed in my car.  But when you are cooking up crawfish, it’s just sacrilege to “boil” (bo-ee-ul).  You just have to say “boil” (baw-ihl).  There’s just no way around it.

This Saturday we went to the Charlotte Ole Miss Alumni Association’s annual Crawfish Boil.  For we expat Mississippians this is a MUCH anticipated event.  But my Carolina friends…well, they just don’t seem to get it.  This is the 4th Annual Crawfish Boil for our alumni club and every year I have to explain this event to my friends.  It always goes a little something like this:

Them:  “So what are you doing this weekend?”
Me:  “Going to an Ole Miss Alumni Crawfish Boil!  Woo-hoo!”
Them: “A what?”
Me: “A crawfish boil.”
Them: “Huh?  A what?”
Me:  (You must hear me saying this sarcastically slow and loud, taking care to sound out each syllable) “A C-R-A-W-F-I-S-H B-O-I-L…”
Them: “What does that mean?”
Me: (again, sarcastically) “Well…you take some crawfish…and you boil ‘em…then you eat ‘em…and you drink a few beers along the way.  You know, a CRAWFISH BOIL.”
Them:  “What’s a crawfish?”
Me: “Excuse me…Crawfish, crayfish, crawdads, mud bugs, Cajun caviar…none of this rings a bell?”
Them: “Nope.  Never heard of it.  What exactly is a crawfish?”
Me:  “Well, they look like miniature lobsters….”

The concept is quite simple, really.  You take a whole bunch of crawfish (if you live anywhere outside of MS or LA, you FebEx them in from New Orleans the night before your event)…

You put them in a big ol’ pot with potatoes, onions, sausage, corn and mushrooms

with the appropriate seasoning, of course,

and boil them until they turn bright red and all their little tails curl.  Then you dump them all out in the middle of a big table


and get cracking!  Cracking open the tails, that is…

And if you are really Cajun, you suck the head.  Personally, that’s part of the crawfish boil experience that I’ve never been able to psyche myself up for.  But, to each his own, right?

Our club dumps the onto a long table with a hole cut in each end, underneath which there are garbage cans.  Everybody stands around the table pinching off the heads, cracking open the tails, and chunking the shells and left overs into the garbage cans.

Of course, you have to rinse all this spicy goodness down with an ice cold beer.  I’ll let BG tell you about our chosen brews later.

We all stand around the big tables pinching, cracking, sucking, chunking, and rinsing until the table looks like this

Now I know to the outsider this may seem to be…well, what is the word I’m looking for here…DISGUSTING.   Sure, pulling something’s head and exoskeleton off before you eat it may be a little unsettling to some.  But I’m telling you, people. That’s good eating!  It’s a Deep South delicacy. They don’t call it Cajun Caviar for nothing!  And you haven’t tried it, you are missing out.

One word of advice, though.  Don’t bother getting a manicure before you go!

Hotty Toddy, y’all!

Wine Girl

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Tour de Kitchens

Our friend Ashley

is renovating her kitchen.  When I say “renovating” I mean “gutting”… as in knocking walls down, rewiring, moving the appliance locations, new cabinets – the works!  That means she will not have a working kitchen of her own for a least 8 weeks.  She and her roommate, Lauren, devised a brilliant plan to ensure that they won’t have to live off Ramen noodles and take out for two months.  It’s called the Tour de Kitchens.  Here’s how it works:

  1. Ashley and Lauren threw a big cookout for all their friends before the big kitchen demolition.
  2. While at said cookout, all the friends signed up for a schedule of dates to have the two lovely ladies over for dinner – touring the kitchens of their friends and blogging about it along the way.
  3. Ashley and Lauren throw a big dinner party for all these friends once the kitchen is complete.

In a sense, they feed us twice and we feed them once.  Not a bad deal.  And a super fun idea!  I highly recommend it to any of you planning a major kitchen reno in the future.

Well, Sunday was our turn to host.  I love to entertain and always want to leave my guests wanting more.  So, I always try to make my dinner parties memorable.  However, for this particular dinner party the stakes were especially high. Let me explain…

First, Ashley is a foodie.  A serious foodie.  In fact, she’s been writing a blog called The Charlotte Food Snob since 2006.  It chronicles her adventures in eating out in our fair city.  Secondly, she’s in our church community group which takes turns bringing wine and snacks to various events.  Through our years in this group, I’ve developed a reputation for bringing awesome snacks like this and great bottles of wine such as this and this to our gatherings.  Not to toot my own horn, but people tend to get really excited when they know it’s our week to bring snacks.  I mean REALLY excited.

So, I’m hosting The Charlotte Food Snob herself AND I’ve got a reputation to uphold.  That means, I had to bring my A-Game.  Nothing less would do.

I find that there are three basic elements that will make or break your dinner party, not including the guests.  I call them The Three M’s of  a Successful Dinner party – Music, aMbience, and Menu.

First, the Music.  I keep a playlist on my iPod appropriately titled “Dinner Party.”  It’s a list of nearly 70 songs ranging in artists from Coldplay, to The Beatles, to Diana Krall, to Ben Harper, to Dave Matthews Band.  They are all groovy, but unobtrusive so they play nicely in the background without being “noisy” per se.   I hit shuffle so the songs play randomly and repeat so the whole thing starts over again, should we work all the way through the play list.  I usually start playing it over the speakers in the living/dining area about 30 min before my guests arrive to start setting the mood in my head.

Secondly there’s aMbience…Well, you’ve got to set a lovely table

(dig my new chairs?) and lots of candles always help.

Finally, there’s the menu…Like I said, the stakes were high.  So this menu had to be FABULOUS.  It was pretty awesome, if I do say so myself.

The Menu
Appetizers – Goat Cheese Crostinis with Blackberry Ginger Balsamic Vinagrette
Salad – Baby Spinach with Goat Cheese, Raspberries, and Toasted Walnuts
in Warm Olive Oil and Blackberry Ginger Balsamic Vinegar

Entree – Salmon with Grits and Caper Cream Sauce and Asparagus a la Plancha
Wine – 2007 Stag’s Leap Cellars Sauvignon Blanc
Dessert – Coffee Caramel Creme Brulee

And, yes, the menu was so fabulous that I printed it up on card stock and placed it at each place setting. Like I said, I had to bring my A-Game.  And speaking of my A-Game, here’s my handiwork up close:

Well, most of it anyway.  I didn’t exactly get any pics of it, but I used an old faithful recipe, Goat Cheese Bruschetta, for the appetizer with a couple minor adjustments.  First, I used small crostini bread v. a large artisan loaf.  This gave them perfect bite-sized proportions.  Secondly, I used Blackberry-Ginger Balsamic Vinegar, rather than plain balsamic, for the vinaigrette.  Like I mentioned before…EPIC!

Next, there was a beautiful salad

The basis was a recipe for Baby Spinach with Warm Olive Oil and Toasted Walnuts that I saved from Martha Stewart Living months ago.  But, I wanted to add a little something extra to it.  Hence, the goat cheese and raspberries.  The recipe calls for white wine vinegar, but…I just happened to have this delicious Blackberry-Ginger Balsamic Vinegar from Mountain Town Olive Oil Co. in Park City.  So why go with white wine vinegar when I’ve got a bottle of that within reach?  Much more interesting!

I have to give a shout out to my colleague, Sam, who gave me a head’s up on the entree recipe from Epicurious.  Ladies and gentlemen, Salmon with Grits and Caper Cream Sauce

Sorry that the pic is kind of dark.  I was ready to dig in and did not have the patience for the subtleties of fine photography.   Nevertheless, it was as delicious and as it was easy to prepare, despite how fancy it sounds. However, in an effort to deliver the courses in a timely manner, I made the grits before our salad course and they weren’t quite as warm as I would have liked, despite keeping them in the “warming zone” of my range.  The grits cooked up very quickly.  Next time, I’ll just let the salad settle while I cook up both the grits AND the salmon.

Oh, I almost forgot about the asparagus.  It’s now one of my staples from my Spain cookbook.  So fresh!  So easy!  So YUMMY! (And it sounds super fancy if you are, I don’t know, say…printing it up on menu cards for your guests.  Just a thought…)  You basically drizzle a little olive oil and fresh lemon juice on some beautiful asparagus, salt & pepper them, then grill them up for 2-3 min on each side.  You can use an actual grill or a grill pan.  I, personally, like to use my Cuisinart Griddler.

Of course, no dinner party is complete without The Wine.  Ashley and Lauren brought a bottle of 2009 La Crema Sonoma Coast Chardonnay.


We sipped on that during apps and salads.  Epicurious especially recommended the 2007 Stag’s Leap Cellars Sauvignon Blanc to accompany my chosen entree.

Plus, there was a little bit of it in the Caper Cream Sauce.  It was a perfect pairing.  Needless to say, both bottles were empty before the evening was over.   And for the Piece de Resistance (drum roll please…)

Homemade Caramel Coffee Creme Brulee!

Yes, to make this dish at home did require the purchase of a small blow torch.

What?  There’s a rumor going around that this whole Tour de Kitchens thing is a competition.  So, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.  And if that means buying a blow torch…

then so be it! Seriously, though.  We had a blast hosting these ladies.

To hear their take on the evening, hop on over the The Charlotte Food Snob!  We’re looking forward to seeing how the rest of their Tour pans out.  And if this IS a competition, then I think we might just have this one in the bag! ;)

Cheers, y’all!

Wine Girl

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