kiss my grits

February 27th, 2012

My friend Kurt, whom I met in Arizona twenty years ago, is relocating from Boulder to Savannah and I am pea green with envy.  Mild winters, a beckoning seaside, and about fifty fewer sweaters is what Savannah means to me, so I’m enjoying his progress and anticipation as vicariously as can be possible.

I did a menu search of Savannah restaurants and discovered that the three constant food items offered on menus are Shrimp ‘n Grits, Crab Stew and Fried Green Tomatoes, which seem fitting for a southern seaside. And, of course, Skillet Fried Chicken, Pulled Pork BBQ and Sweet Tea fill in any dietary gaps.

Kurt has just returned from a reconnaissance trip and mentioned that he had Shrimp ‘n Grits five days in a row which put my teeth on edge and left me no choice but to up the ante in my own North Boondocks kitchen.  Out came the skillets and in the smaller one went a Grits Soufflé studded with bacon and sautéed scallion that puffed into a golden and feathery-light mass.  The big skillet seared up a pile of blackened shrimp and when the pair of skillets got together, a long and slow “Ahhhh…” ensued.

As they say down south, it was “some kinda good!”

Blackened Shrimp 'n Souffléed Grits

 

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that’s amore

February 21st, 2012

Once you’ve had a New York pizza, there can be no other.  Restaurants around the world claim to serve New York pizza, but they’re not even a close facsimile of the real thing.  The very worst pizzas can be found in Russia and Korea.  In Easter Europe, popular toppings include canned corn and a sunny-side-up egg.  Italy serves a sublime pie, of course, although it’s very different from a slice of New York.

We have two pizzerias up here in the Boondocks, both of which are exceptional for being utterly unexceptional.  Tasteless dough, under-seasoned marinara and too much cheese are the prevailing problems.  One has no choice but to concoct a custom pizza in one’s own kitchen, albeit still no closer to New York.

Having some leftover marinara was ample reason yesterday to whip up a pair of pizzas for dinner.  Pepperoni and Spanish olives were on hand for toppings and in lieu of mozzarella, I used Fontina and Pecorino for the cheese.  A generous sprinkling of oregano and basil and the two discs hit the 500 degree oven with ease.

Best of all, the leftover slices were superb served cold the next morning for breakfast!

Pepperoni and Olive Pizza

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timeless

January 20th, 2012

Being chained to a virtual proxy laptop for the last ten months meant scant time for preferred diversions and a daily challenge to get the bread made and a proper dinner on the table each night.  Shed now of that, my first week back into a normal routine provided the time to appreciate having time and luxuriating in that fact.

The highly satisfying art of baking gobbled up the majority of this reacquired time and happy faces and stomachs were the result.  Little fruit pies, savory Palmiers, buttermilk sandwich buns, richly fragrant herb biscuits and cherry Clafoutis started the week off with grateful enthusiasm.

By Friday, I decided to return to a previous bread experiment, left unfinished since last November.  The hope was to create a bread with a stretchy crumb and I’d previously tried numerous combinations of starters, doughs and techniques with no notable success.

After reviewing the earlier attempts, I settled on a simple overnight starter mixed into a dough not dissimilar from our everyday Basic White Bread, which resulted in a very sticky and wet dough that bloomed under its own chemistry.  My fingertips knew instantly that this was a very different dough.

The two boules baked in a very hot oven bathed in a sheen of olive oil and then rested on a rack with crusts actively crackling.  After thirty excruciating minutes of cooling, I sliced into one, certain I’d find a crumb laced with chewy, porous holes, and lo and behold, it was exactly as hoped.

Best Bread Ever!

 

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whine, whine, whine

January 13th, 2012

As noted in my favorite monk, I am pestered twice a year by bottles of Dom Pérignon in my Christmas stocking and on my birthday.  It is the only wine and food pairing that’s never obvious to me.  Bright and briny Blue Point oysters would be perfect, of course, except for the inability to get them up here in the boondocks.

Seafood concoctions bathed in cream are generally a good partner for bottles of French bubbles; a lobster bisque perhaps, a Coquilles St. Jacques, or a simple Shrimp Newberg, except not so perfect with Monsieur Dom, which should never have to work overtime to cut through creams and butters and still remain assertive and generous.

Waltzing my way through Mecca today and plucking luscious goodies from the lamb and cheese counters, did I espy a locked case perched above the fresh fish counter.  “What have we here,” murmured the shopping cart as it veered sharply to the right to explore.  “Can it be?” asked we, simultaneously.  A medley of Russian caviars — in New Hampshire?  ’Twas not a vision, dear readers, and ‘tis the best friend Dom Pérignon can ever hope to find.

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