Pizza La La

Remember when you were in school and the best two words that could be spoken or heard were, “pizza party”?

Yeah, it didn’t move me. The trouble is that red sauce. 

I was raised on it.  My mom was famous for her all-day, slow-cooked spaghettie sauce.  When my friends ate dinner with us and spaghetti was on the menu, they were lost.  They spent the rest of their lives chasing that red, garlic-scented dragon. 

For me though, after seventeen or eighteen gallons of it, the bloom was definitely off the pasta rose.  I’m just not a fan.

But, as you may know, Gentle Reader, I am first in line for bread.  And made well, pizza crust is a glorious celebration of yeast and gluten.  I make foccacia with my sourdough starter and use it as pizza crust.  My toppings of choice are marsalla onion jam, shatteringly crispy shards of bacon, and fresh mozzerella or goat cheese—no red sauce.


Turns out my pizza dressing is a very close cousin to the French pissaladière, except I use bacon instead of anchovies (Bacon rather than little smelly fish? Duh.).

This focaccia is a yeast, rather than sourdough version that The Kid makes all the time.  It’s an adaptaion from a recipe that comes from the website, Serious Eats.

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at

Cast Iron Pissaladière-ish


3 & ¼ cups all-purpose or bread flour

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon instant yeast

1 tablespoon sugar

1 ½ cups minus 1 tablespoon water

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided

5 slices bacon, cooked crisp and broken into large shards

¼ cup deeply caramelized onions

1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese

Coarse sea salt freshly cracked pepper

Combine flour, salt, sugar, yeast, and water in large bowl. Mix with hands or wooden spoon until no dry flour remains. The bowl should be 4 to 6 times the volume of dough for rising.

Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap, making sure edges are well-sealed, then let rest on countertop for 8-24 hours. Dough should rise dramatically and fill bowl.

Sprinkle top of dough lightly with flour, then transfer to lightly-floured work surface. Form into ball by holding it with well-floured hands and tucking dough underneath itself, rotating until it forms tight ball.

Pour half of oil in bottom of large cast iron skillet. Transfer dough to pan, turn to coat in oil, and position seam-side-down. Using flat palm, press dough around skillet, flattening it slightly and spreading oil around entire bottom and edges of pan. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let dough stand at room temperature 2 hours. After first hour, preheat oven to 550°F.

After 2 hours, dough should mostly fill skillet up to edge. Use fingertips to press it around until it fills every corner, popping any large bubbles that appear. Lift up one edge of the dough to let air bubbles underneath escape and repeat, moving around the dough until there are no air bubbles left underneath and it’s evenly spread around skillet. Spread onions and bacon over surface of dough, dot with cheese, and press down with fingertips to embed slightly. Drizzle with remaining olive oil. Sprinkle with coarse salt.

Transfer skillet to oven and bake until top’s golden brown and bubbly and bottom’s golden brown and crisp when you lift with spatula, 16-24 minutes. Using a thin spatula, loosen focaccia and peek underneath. If bottom is not as crisp as desired, place pan on burner and cook over medium heat, moving pan around to cook evenly until crisp, 1 to 3 minutes. Transfer to cutting board, allow to cool slightly, slice, and serve. Leftovers can be reheated on rack at 300°.

From Brussels With Love

Like Chef Chrissie said, you can’t really know if you dislike a food until you’ve eaten it prepared by somebody who knows what they’re doing.

In their natural state.

And conversely, you know you really like a food if you enjoy it even if it’s prepared by a dolt.

I can’t remember ever eating a Brussel sprout that I didn’t like.  And I’m including school cafeterias and hospital food.

But why is it that they can be so problematic?  How is it that you can take a perfectly innocent vegetable and overcook it literally into a weapon of mass destruction?

Cut the sprouts some slack.  It’s not their fault.  They come from a bad family.

You go on with your bad self, Mr. Wizard.

Brussel sprouts are among a group of veggies like broccoli, horseradish, and mustard that contain something called glucosinolate sinigrin, an organic compound that contains sulfur.  That is why you can smell the rotting cabbage left in the field after harvest, even when it’s a couple miles away.  It’s also why when someone in an apartment building overcooks broccoli, the whole floor knows about it. It’s also partially responsible for a little something called mustard gas.

But Brussel sprouts are full of really healthful things like vitamins C, K, and B, folic acid, dietary minerals, and fiber.  They contain phytochemicals as well, which may have anti-cancer properties.

Sprouts are super versatile.  They’re even good raw.

Shredded Brussel Sprout Saladshaved br sprouts1-pound sprouts, cleaned and sliced extremely thinly

¾ cup toasted pecan halves

½ cup dried cherries

¼ cup green onions, sliced very thin on the bias (optional)

5 slices bacon, cooked crisp, bacon fat reserved


br sprout dressing

Fat from cooking bacon

Juice of 1 large lemon

1-2 tablespoons honey

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Salt & pepper to taste

Whisk together dressing ingredients, then refrigerate for at least one hour.

Toss all slaw ingredients except bacon.  Mix in dressing a very little bit at a time (You want it a little dry because the sprouts will leach out water as it sits.Refrigerate for 2 hours up to overnight.  When ready to serve, sprinkle crumbled bacon on top of each serving.  Serves 6-8.

When cooking them, you usually need to blanch and shock the sprouts.  Get a big pot of heavily salted water up to a rolling boil.  Put your cleaned veg into the water and cook on high until they are a bright green (3-5 minutes).  While they’re blanching, fill a large bowl with cold water, lots of ice, and 2-3 tablespoons of salt.

Using a slotted spoon, place the now blanched sprouts into the ice water and let them soak there until they are completely cool (this is called shocking).  Drain, then use them for any cooked preparation.  I have recently found a recipe that I am loving.

Drunken caramelized Brussels sproutsdrunken sprouts

1 pound cleaned and blanched sprouts

½ cup dry white wine

3 tablespoons butter

Salt & pepper

Throw all the ingredients into a large skillet.  Cover, and cook on medium-high until sprouts are barely tender.  Uncover and cook, turning frequently until wine has cooked off, and each sprout has a couple chocolate brown sear marks (about 7 minutes or so).  Watch carefully so they don’t burn.  Serves 4-6.  Once you clean and blanch your sprouts, you can finish them in any manner that tickles your fancy.

But I strongly suggest that you don’t steam them and cover in hollandaise.  I had a craving when I was pregnant and was sick for a week.  I swear, at the end, I was revisiting food I had eaten in kindergarten.Just don’t do it.

Thanks for your time.

Siding Irish

They say dogs are incapable of experiencing embarrassment.  So putting a sign around the misbehaving pooch’s neck with a “confession” for the consumption of the internet set is a colossal, mean-spirited waste of time.

So knock it off–it’s not nice.  What if your dog turned the tables and posted humiliating snaps of you eating Lucky Charms in your underwear? But what those Lucky Charms were doing in my boxers I’ll never know.

Normally my self-consciousness knows no bounds.  My default complexion is red-faced.  I am convinced that my entire life is one big blooper reel packaged for the world’s amusement.But when it comes to corned beef, I am decidedly canine.  I could eat my weight of it in front of the queen, and feel nothing but satisfaction.  I could proudly down a Reuben roughly the size and shape of a dorm fridge while chatting with international amazing humans, George and Amal Clooney.

What is this embarrassment of which you speak, Queenie?  George, would you mind passing the potato salad?  I’ll tell you when I’ve had enough!  Shut up!  I can quit anytime I want!

In previous columns, I have sung its praises and waxed rhapsodic about my fine friend, corned beef.So today, in honor of the upcoming holiday, I thought I would share with you, Gentle Reader, my version of a side dish that is even more appropriate and traditional than corned beef at the Saint Patrick’s Day feast.

The process of corning meat is very similar to turning pork into ham.  It’s a way to preserve meat.  But peasants in Ireland could not afford beef.  Cows require a lot of very fertile land.  Pigs don’t need much space, and are not finicky eaters.  So when the Irish were lucky enough to have meat on their table, it was usually some version of preserved pork.When the Irish came to America, they discovered rather than a luxury, canned corned beef (also called bully beef) was cheap food to fill hungry bellies.

In Ireland corned beef has no widespread historical foundation.  But to meet tourists’ expectations (especially American tourists), it can be found in restaurants throughout Ireland.

This side dish though, is pure Irish.  It’s colcannon, which is made with potatoes, cabbage, onions, and bacon.  The ingredients are humble and readily available on the Emerald Isle.  The extra ingredient is time, which costs nothing, but can’t be bought.

When making this, try to have the skillet containing the onions and cabbage completed when the potatoes are finished cooking, so everything is hot enough to both melt the butter and serve.

Colcannon with cabbage two ways


6 medium-large red skin or Yukon Gold potatoes

1 large Russet potato

1 head regular cabbage

1 large yellow onion

8 slices bacon

1 stick butter

1 cup heavy cream (approx.)

Salt & pepper to tasteCut bacon into one-inch strips and cook in a skillet on medium-low until fully rendered and perfectly crispy.

While bacon is cooking, cut cabbage in half, and core.  Cut one half into large chunks.  Slice the other half very thin.  

Peel potatoes and cut into similar sized chunks.  Place in a large pot of heavily salted water.  Turn on medium-high and cook until not quite tender.  Put cabbage chunks into the water and cook everything until it is fork tender.  Drain, then put back into pot.After bacon has finished, remove from frying pan, but keep in the fat.  Slice onion into thin half-moons.  Turn skillet to medium-low and add onions and season.  When the onions start to turn golden, add cabbage, season, and cook until the veg are amber colored.

Heat the cream in a small saucepan on low.

Assembly: pour caramelized onions and sliced cabbage into pot with potatoes and chunks of cabbage.  Add 6 tablespoons of butter which you’ve cut up.  Mash with potato masher until mostly smooth, but with a little chunk left.

Stir in cream a little bit at a time (you probably won’t use all the cream).  You want these just a little looser than you want the finished product (the starch in the spuds will tighten it up).  Season, taste, and season again if needed.  Put into serving dish, dot with the remaining butter and sprinkle top with crispy bacon.Serves 6-8 diners.

Like most potato dishes, this one reheats well, and also makes a mighty tasty potato pancake.  But don’t just wait for St. Paddy’s Day to enjoy it.

And about the fact that corned beef isn’t a traditional Irish food…

Don’t care.  Want large amounts anyway.Thanks for your time.

Please don’t judge me before you judge the salad

I had an awful time deciding on this week’s topic.I knew what I wanted to write about, but I was hesitant to do it.  It’s not that the recipe isn’t tasty because  It’s not that the preparation is difficult, because literally a child (with a little adult supervision) could make this dish.   And it’s not that it requires a lot of expensive ingredients, because chances are you have everything on hand right now.

No, the problem is that on the face of it, this recipe not only seems heavy, it also seems very plain—even boring.  How could these few ingredients combine to make something tasty?

I’m here now to tell you I have no idea how it does, either.  I think it’s some kind of gestalt thing; you know, ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’.

But every time I make a bowl of this stuff I think that I really need to give you, Gentle Reader, this recipe.  I love it so much that I’ve felt guilty not spilling the beans to you.  Petey loves it, and The Kid, who wasn’t crazy about an earlier version, can’t get enough of it.

There we are…we rent the other two kids to round out the table.

So, The Kid’s coming for dinner tomorrow night and I’m serving it, along with some herbed potatoes and a new preparation of pork cubed steak.  It was the first time I’ve used cornmeal to crust meat.

But enough with the beating around the bush.  The dish I’ve been rhapsodizing about is broccoli salad.  See? I told you it didn’t sound very exciting.  But gosh it is good.

A few tips about making it, though.

Cut the broccoli into very small florets.  Small as in three florets would be bite-size.  And when you add the hot water to thin the dressing, make it as hot as your faucet gets, and whisk it in very well.  You are basically making an emulsion, and you don’t want it to separate after you’ve mixed it into the salad; that’s not appetizing.

Broccoli/Bacon Salad


8 cups broccoli cut into very small florets

4 slices bacon, cooked until crispy, reserving ¼ cup bacon grease

1 cup mayonnaise

2/3 cups finely shredded Parmesan. Divided

Very hot water, aprox. ½ cup

Salt and pepper

Cut broccoli into small pieces and place into a large bowl.  Add half the cheese, and gently toss.

Make dressing.  Mix mayo, bacon grease, and half the cheese.  Whisk together.  Add enough hot water to make it the consistency of thick pancake batter.  Season, taste, and re-season if necessary. 

Pour dressing over broccoli and mix until veg is coated.  Crumble bacon into salad and stir in.  Cover and refrigerate.  It’s better after twelve hours or so, and lasts 4 days in fridge.Makes 8 servings.

I haven’t found anything that doesn’t go well with this salad.  It packs up great for picnics, as long as you can keep a chill on it.  It’s terrific as a potluck too, because it doesn’t look very exciting, then you taste it.  It’s the sleeper cell of side dishes.

Tomorrow we’re having it with that cornmeal crusted pork cubed steak I talked about.  It’s really easy, with a big flavor payoff.

Cornmeal crusted cubed pork: Four to six hours before cooking make a three-part dredge of seasoned flour, non-fat buttermilk, and self-rising cornmeal.  Crust the pork in that order.  Place on parchment paper covered plate, cover with another piece of parchment (so there is no stickage), seal with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cooking time.When you’re ready to cook, heat a heavy skillet on medium-high.  Add about 1 inch of vegetable oil.  When the oil is nice and hot, cook pork until browned and crispy on one side then flip and cook the other side.

Petey likes his with a piece of provolone melted on top.  The Kid and I like a spritz of lemon juice.  They also make a great filling for hearty sandwiches.

And while the salad is definitely not spa food, there is only about 300 calories per one cup serving.  My trouble comes in limiting it to that one cup.  I promise you, this stuff is amazing (and so tempting).

Thanks for your time.

Breaking It Down

The following statement came to me in my sleep: Man can wait, but not breakfast.

It sounds a lot more profound when in a semi-conscious state, but what it means is that with very few exceptions, breakfast foods are meant to be prepared at the last minute, and eaten immediately.

A couple years before the Louisiana Purchase, when I was in the hospital after having The Kid, each day I was delivered a little card with meal choices on it.  Every afternoon I’d fill it out, and look forward to the next day and my picks.

One morning I was really looking forward to lifting that cloche.  I’d ordered an omelet.  Instead, my breakfast was a banana.  Sitting in that warm, moist environment for an extended period had mutated those eggs into a rubber doggy chew toy.  Honest, in all aspects, that omelet had become a silicone movie prop.

rubber food

…and that’s not a steak, an ice cream, or a happy meal either.

Even Petey knew better.  When I complained, he said, “What do you expect? Eggs can’t sit around like that”

Lesson learned.

Growing up, when my mother needed to make dinner fast, or the cupboard was bare and payday a few days away, sometimes we’d have breakfast for supper.  My poor mom would always apologize.  What she never understood is that we looked forward to those nights.  Breakfast for dinner is kinda renegade, a little indulgent, and totally awesome.

Fast forward to present.  Each week I inventory the kitchen and make a semi-flexible meal plan.  And on that schedule is usually some kind of breakfast for supper.

Years ago I realized something.  There’s no way to do much of the cooking beforehand.  Bacon though, is my friend.  You can make it anytime, because as long as it’s crispy, you can happily eat it at any temp.  But almost everything else has to be made right before eating; it needs to be eaten hot.  Reheating just leads to sadness and regret.

My kitchen always looks like a hurricane has hit after dining on breakfast.  Everything gets done at the same time, and there’s no time for tidying before eating.

And that’s why I say breakfast waits for no man.

Here’s a half-exception, though.  Next time you’re baking potatoes, bake an extra few.  When they come out of the oven, let them cool a bit, and then bag them up and toss them in the fridge.

When it’s time for breakfast (AM or PM), peel ‘em or not, then dice into 1-inch pieces and put them into a big bowl.  If you’re not doing baked any time soon, parboil any type tater you’ve got on hand.

Next, it’s time to go treasure hunting.  Open that Frigidaire and look for some sad orphans.   Did you find some leftover pot roast, corned beef, or another protein but not enough for a full meal or even a sandwich for one?  We’re making hash here, so cut it up and throw it in.  What about some droopy mushrooms, carrots, or peppers?  In they go.  Even mostly empty jars of things like jalapeños, beets, or capers work.

And this, you can do even a day or two in advance.

Helpful Hash


Potatoes, diced into 1-inch cubes (about 3 heaping cups)

Refrigerator booty (roughly half as much as potatoes)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon butter

Salt and pepper

Place spuds into bowl.  Put in booty also.  If you have any hard veggies like carrot or parsnip, par-boil until not quite fork tender.  Drizzle in vegetable oil, and gently toss to coat.   Season (then taste for seasoning).

Heat a cast iron skillet on medium-high.  Place butter in it, and when melted, add potatoes and booty in one layer.  Give them a little smoosh with spatula so you get more surface contact, thus get more caramelized, crispy bits.

Let cook until there’s a golden crust, then flip and cook until that side’s crusted.

Plate and top with eggs (for the best scrambled eggs ever, don’t whisk, mix in the blender until frothy then cook quickly in lots of butter).  Serves 4-6.

I love breakfast for supper.  The only way I could love it anymore is if I ate at Waffle House, and let them clean up after me.

After supper, all I have to do is loosen my belt.

Thanks for your time.


Cooking with Nathalie

Nathalie Dupree has an issue with how the traditional, historic Southern diet is remembered.

This was a very typical dinner.

Sure, folks ate fat back, or streak o’ lean.  But it wasn’t a slab on a plate, it was in a big pot of greens.  And likely the only other food on the menu was a piece of cornbread.  The pork was the sole protein.  A meal didn’t contain  3 or 4 proteins, like fried chicken, ham, and fish.  Those were special occasion foods that most were lucky to eat once a week.

This is not how your average Southern family ate every day.

Life was not a fancy Southern buffet with 20 or 30 different foods.  Families made do.

When it comes to Southern food, cooking, and history, doyenne Nathalie Dupree knows her stuff.

Friday night I attended a cooking class at the Southern Season in Chapel Hill, taught by Nathalie.  There was quite a bit of laughter—she’s really funny.  But there was an equal amount of gasps and “Oh wow!’s”.  Because what Nathalie has forgotten, most of us would be lucky to know.

Here is just a small sampling of what I learned.

A little iodized salt will not kill you–and will prevent this.

1.)Did you know goiters, those thyroid-related neck growths from the mists of time are making a comeback?  The small amounts of iodine in table salt essentially eradicated them.  But since everyone has switched over to fancy sea salt sans iodine, doctors are seeing a resurgence.

2.)When you chop herbs, the smaller pieces fall to the bottom of the pile, so keep moving the pile around to get a uniform cut.

Change the season or the venue–try indoor cultivation.

3.)Speaking of herbs, ever wonder why the tender herbs like cilantro and parsley are a bear to grow, yield little, and play out quickly?    It’s because we don’t live in Maine.  All of those plants do great above the Mason Dixon in the summer.  But down here, not so much.  In actuality, soft, leafy herbs are a fall or spring plant.  Just make sure they don’t stay out overnight in a freeze.

4.)Okra has more protein than any other vegetable.  To eliminate the much feared and loathed slime, cook with acid, like vinegar, lemon, or even tomato.  Okra and bacon taste great together, as shown in the delicious cakes Nathalie made for us.

Here’s her recipe:

Okra Griddle Cakes

okra griddle cakes4 slices cooked bacon, drippings reserved

1 cup cooked okra, finely chopped

1 ½ cup self-rising cornmeal

½ cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

2 cups buttermilk (Nathalie likes old-fashioned, full fat buttermilk)

3 tablespoons butter, melted

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Shortening or vegetable oil for frying

Sour cream (optional)

Finely chop the cooked bacon and okra.

Up to 2 hours before serving, whisk together cornmeal, flour, and sugar in a bowl.  Stir in buttermilk, butter and eggs until just mixed.  Add bacon and okra to batter.

Heat a griddle or large iron skillet until hot.  Add enough oil to coat the bottom.  Sprinkle on a bit of batter to test that the griddle is hot enough to sizzle (Nathalie says that you cook with your ears and your nose) and the batter is of pouring consistency.  Add more water if necessary, 2 tablespoons at a time.

Ladle ¼ cup batter for each griddle cake onto hot griddle and cook until the top of the cake is dotted with large bubbles and the bottom is light brown.  Flip with a large spatula, and cook until the other side is lightly browned.  Keep warm in a 200 degree oven on a rack over a baking sheet or serve immediately.  Continue with the rest of the batter until it’s all gone.  Serve hot with optional sour cream.  Variations:

Top with sour cream and a little extra chopped bacon and okra.  Or, substitute a little chopped turnip greens and hot pepper, a few chopped shrimp or crab in the batter for the okra and bacon.

5.)To check if potatoes are cooked and ready to be mashed, rub one between your fingers, they should be smooth.  If not return to the boil.

6.)Thanksgiving was never meant to be healthy.  Go for broke.  As Nathalie said, “When you’re dead and gone, you want them to lie in bed and say, ‘I wish she were here to make that’.”

7.)And season with love.


Thanks for your time

Things I learned in class


“What did we know from scallions?”

She may not have known a whole lot about scallions, but Nathalie Dupree is a walking encyclopedia of culinary knowledge and history.

Friday night I went over to the Southern Season in Chapel Hill, and attended a cooking class given by the Grande Dame of Southern Cuisine; Nathalie Dupree.  And boy, was I taken to school.  Below is just a few of the many, many things I learned.

1.)Nathalie is kind, and very funny.  And she absolutely does not believe in giving yourself a migraine by stressing in the kitchen.  The history of Southern cooking is not fancy and fussy, it’s making do with what you have on hand.

2.)When you’re cooking a large meal, write a list of everything you need to do, so you’re not sitting down to dinner and realize you forgot the rolls.  Order the list by cooking time.

3.)Okra.  Cut it lengthwise, and toss in olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until colored and crispy.

To dice okra, treat it just like an onion.  Leave on stem, cut width and length-wise.  Then slice it into a dice.

4.)Thomas Jefferson, who was an accomplished and curious farmer, is the reason why there are so many varieties of peas and beans available to us.  Using a couple types, our first course was this delicious salad.

Corn and butter bean salad

corn and bean salad

1 pound shelled butter beans, butter peas, speckled peas or any combination, fresh or frozen

6 ears corn on the cob, preferably Silver Queen, kernels and juice scraped from cob

1 green onion or scallion, sliced, white and green parts

8 slices bacon, cooked crispy and crumbled

¾ cup mayonnaise (Good Southern girl Nathalie has a strong preference for Dukes)

4 tablespoons white wine vinegar

3-4 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme

Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Add the beans to boiling salted water, reduce heat and cook about 3 minutes.  Add the corn and cook 1 minute more.  Drain the beans and corn and run under cold water to stop the cooking and refresh them.  Drain again.

Gently toss together the beans, corn, onion, bacon, mayo, vinegar, and thyme.  Taste, then season.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour before serving for the best marriage of flavors.


*Variation: Substitute one pound package frozen white shoe peg corn or other whole kernel corn (see, I told you she doesn’t believe in getting all crazy in the kitchen about ingredients or technique).

5.)This is absolutely genius: Because it’s a summer crop in the north, and a winter crop in the south, flour grown in Northern climes are harder, ie; contain more gluten, which makes for stretchier bread dough (a good thing).  Southern flour is softer, which is much better for flaky pie crusts and biscuits with crispy crusts, and tender insides.

WhieLilly, Martha White, and Southern Biscuit are all from the south and therefore better for cake, pastry, and biscuits.

King Arthur flour is from Vermont, and thus is a much harder wheat, and really good for bread making.

Gluten is protein.  So, if you’re not sure how much gluten is in a particular brand of flour, check the nutritional label.  Flour with higher protein content per serving has more gluten.

Nathalie Dupree is my kitchen hero.  To illustrate her laid back cooking philosophy, I will leave you with one of her best lines from class.

“If it turns out great, serve it.  If it doesn’t; make a trifle.”

It doesn’t matter what the original plan was…anything can be a trifle.

Thanks for your time.


Of Rice and Men

I kept seeing it everywhere.

3 mags.png

Every month, without fail, I read three magazines cover to cover: British Cosmopolitan, Mad Magazine, and Our State (you’d think I’d be embarrassed by that admission, but, no, not so much).

I occasionally pick up other titles like InStyle, Family Circle, and the odd cooking magazine.

But I draw the line at those one-off, specialty food publications.  You know the ones; church supper potluck recipes, gifts from the kitchen, 200 recipes for hamburger, that kind of thing.

While I love specially curated culinary collections, they start at about ten bucks and go up from there.  I just can’t justify laying down that amount of cheddar for a magazine that I might only read once.

But lately, every time I’ve stood in line at a grocery or bookstore, this one publication was staring me in the face.  There was a stack of gorgeous, golden fried green tomatoes on the cover, and the promise of many more delights inside.

It was Southern Cast Iron, and after I saw it for the fourteenth time, I finally broke down and bought it.

I’m really glad I did.

It was no bait and switch rag.  It had tons of delicious-sounding recipes, and the inside was as gorgeous as the cover.

There was one story that really caught my eye.  It was an interview with Nathalie Dupree and co-author Cynthia Graubart about their book, Mastering The Art of Southern Vegetables.  This was actually before I knew we’d have a food chat.  Quelle coincidence!

They talked about the history of vegetables in the south, their philosophy, and their love of cast iron cooking.  Along with the interview were some recipes.

One was for okra pilau (unbelievably it’s usually pronounced “per-lou”—don’t ask, I’ve no idea).  Pilau is a Southern take on rice pilaf.

Regardless what it’s called, every rice culture has some kind of pilaf.  It possibly originated in ancient Persia, but traveled far and wide, and showed up in various cultures with names like, pilau, polow, and even paella.

Well last week I made it, and it was a huge hit.  It was simple, but full of flavor.  The Kid thought I had added herbs and spices, but the sole ingredients were bacon, rice, okra, salt and pepper.  Since the magazine has already printed it, I’m doing a pilau which is inspired by Nathalie’s tasty, tasty dish.

Pecan Pilau

corn pilau

3 tablespoons butter

1 cup pecan pieces

1 large yellow onion, sliced into half moons

1 cup white shoe peg corn

1 cup rice

2 cups water

Salt and pepper

Heat large cast iron skillet to medium.  Melt butter and add pecans.  Season and sauté until toasted.  Remove and set aside, leaving the butter.

Add onions, and reduce heat to medium-low.  Season, and cook stirring occasionally until caramel colored.

Turn burner to medium, add corn, and cook until there’s a little color on the kernels.  Add rice, and cook until the grains start to smell nutty.  Add water and bring to boil.

When it begins to boil, cover, reduce heat, and cook for 17-20 minutes or the water’s all cooked in.  Remove from heat, leave covered, and let rest for 10-15 minutes.

When ready to serve, add back pecans, and gently toss with a large fork.  Serves 4-6 as a side.

So, there you go.  You learned a new recipe and some history about rice.  And now you probably know way more about what goes on in the dim, chaotic crawl space of my mind than you ever wanted.

Thanks for your time.

Sloshed, yet sophisticated


It even looks sinister, doesn’t it?


When I was a very little girl, and had a horrible tummy ache, as a last resort my mom gave me this miracle medicine.  It never failed to calm my belly and send me off into drugged slumber.  It was available over the counter until 1970 and was called paregoric.  The flavor was why the phrase “medicinal tasting” was invented.  It was also chock full of morphine (guess that’s why you can’t just pick a bottle off the shelf at the Rexall anymore).

About two and a half centuries later, when I was a bartender at a country club, I made swimming pools full of gin and tonics without indulging.  Finally, I took a taste.

I was transported right back to my footy pajamas, choking down a spoonful of that nasty stomach medicine.  Nope, I decided that g&t tastes like paregoric, and thus would never again pass these lips.

I’m not really a big drinker anyway.  For a few reasons.

  • I don’t drink very much of anything. In my entire life, I don’t believe I’ve ever finished a bottle of Coca-Cola all by myself.
  • Being out of control is scary and embarrassing. The worst is when sober Debbie’s in my head, trying to help, and drunk Debbie’s yelling, “Back off, Captain Buzz Killington! Besides, we’re fine; totally graceful, witty, and charming.”
  • Alcohol is stuffed full of calories. And if I’m mindlessly consuming vast quantities of calories, they absolutely need to be of the chocolate persuasion.

But on Saturday, June 11th, The Kid and I went to The Carolina Inn for a BBQ Throwdown.  There would also be plenty of various alcoholic libations

When I woke up that morning, I decided that at the throw down, all nutritional bets and caloric considerations were off.

Right after we checked in and got our arm bands, we sampled four kinds of Jack Daniels.  They were good.

Then somehow I decided it was time to give gin another chance (although it may have been the Bourbon samples deciding for me).  There were garnish ingredients so we could personalize or drinks.

I chose cucumber and lime.

How glad I am that I gave this most British of spirits a second chance.  It was clean and bracing.  The garnish worked well.  And it gave me an idea.

Cucumber Gin

cuc gin

1 Fifth of crystal gin minus 1/2 cup or so

2 cucumbers, peeled and grated

Stuff cukes in bottle of gin.  Let sit in a cool dark place for 2 weeks.  Drain, and pour gin back into bottle. 

Green gin and tonic:

green gibn

2 ounces cucumber gin

4 ounces tonic water

½ lime

Pour gin and tonic into a rocks glass with ice.  Squeeze lime into glass.  Give it a gentle stir.  Run the squeezed lime around the rim of the glass.  Serve.

There were eight competitors, and I had at last one small plate from each—and more than one at a few.

The Carolina Crossroads’s Chef James Clark and his right-hand man, Chef Bill made my heart race in the very best possible way.  Duck barbecue, and fries covered in lashings of roasted tomato aioli.

I took elements from Chef James’ entry to make some finger food.

B.L. Teenies

Roasted tomato aioli:

tomato aioli

Cut 10-12 Roma tomatoes in half, length-wise.  Sprinkle with olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme.  Roast at 450 for 25 minutes or ‘til dry and caramelized.

Chop in food processor until completely smooth.  Stir into 2 cups mayo, either homemade or store-bought.



Cut leftover grits into rounds, 2 inches across by ½ inch thick

1 tablespoon butter

Toast grit rounds in butter until browned on both sides.

Then drop a small amount of pea shoots on each round.  Lay on top crispy piece of bacon, about 1 ½ inches square. Drizzle aioli on top. 

After the gin and an orange old fashion my knees got a little noodle-like, I knew it was time to switch to water.

But the other guests at the Throw Down have no idea what they missed.  One more glass full of liquid courage, and I would have swung from the chandelier while singing an enthusiastic if not melodious acapella version of Pink Cadillac.

Thanks for your time.

The Red Menace

There are three types of people.

There are folks who like brown/mushroom gravy inside, outside, and on the side of their meatloaf.  And there are those who love meatloaf to come sporting a shiny red cap of glaze.

I actually have a Kitchenaid, but other than that, this looks exactly like me when cooking.

But there are the enlightened ones, those noble humans whom, like myself, have love for both varieties.

The Kid?  Not so much.  That child likes red meatloaf about as much as flat beer and the heartbreak of psoriasis.  If it ain’t brown, The Kid ain’t down.

There is one little logistical glitch, though, with red meatloaf.

We can do way better than this…

When I make brown meatloaf, I start by making a nice, rich mushroom gravy.  I then use it in the mix, I ladle it over the top for baking, and spoon it over the mandatory buttermilk mashed potatoes.  And no matter its complexion, with an old school protein like meatloaf, potatoes are in fact, mandatory.

French fries just don’t work.  It’s like black suede boots with a white eyelet dress.  Baked potatoes are an option, but fully dressed is an awful lot of starch and fat.  And red meatloaf isn’t terribly flashy as a main, you don’t want it to disappear completely next to the showgirl that is a loaded spud.

My answer is to serve braised baby potatoes.

Braised Baby Potatoes with Herbs

braised creamers

2 pounds baby potatoes or little creamers, washed
1 cup beef stock
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped herb of your choice (like chives, dill, or tarragon)
Throw everything into a large heavy pot with a lid.
Cover and cook on medium until the potatoes are fork-tender (15-20 minutes), stirring frequently.
Uncover and let the liquid cook down into a thick, buttery sauce.
Right before service, stir in herbs and check for seasoning. Makes 4 servings.

I’ve broken down the meatloaf into small steps.You can do them early in the day; or even the day before, then put it together right before baking.

Red Glazed Meatloaf

Glazed onions:

glazed onions

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

½ teaspoon dried thyme

½ tablespoon granulated onion

1 tablespoon tomato paste

½ cup Marsala wine

Pinch of salt and pepper


Heat a skillet and add veg oil.  Put in chopped onion, thyme, granulated onion.  Cook until onions start to brown around the edges.  Stir in tomato paste.  When the paste darkens, pour in Marsala.  Let the wine cook out, then take off heat.

Meatloaf mix:

red meatloaf

4 slices multi-grain bread, ground fine in a food processor

4 eggs 

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons horseradish

2 pounds ground chuck

Salt and pepper


In a large bowl, place in bread crumbs, eggs, Worcestershire sauce, and horseradish.  Add cooked onions.  Mix everything with vigor until it is a homogenous mass.  Break beef into large chunks and put in bowl.  Using clean hands or disposable gloves, mix meat and bread crumb mix until it is completely mixed in.  Form into loaf shape.


red glaze

1 cup ketchup, divided

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

2 teaspoons brown sugar

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons horseradish

Pinch salt and pepper


Take out ½ cup of ketchup and set aside.  Whisk together the other half cup of ketchup and the rest of the glaze ingredients.  Spread 1 tablespoon of this in the bottom of the dish in which you’re baking the meatloaf.  Using a paint brush, paint the glaze all over the meatloaf.

Bake at 350 for 40 minutes.  Remove from oven and pour/paint the plain ketchup on the top.  Return to oven and bake 30 minutes more.

Remove from oven and let rest for 20 minutes before service.  Serves 5-6.

I served this with my cool, crunchy broccoli salad.

Bacon Broccoli Salad

broccoli salad 2.0

4 large stalks of broccoli
4 pieces bacon
1/3 cup grated parmesan, divided
1 cup mayonnaise
Hot water
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
Place bacon on parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Put it in the oven, then set oven to 350 (if you put the bacon into a hot oven it will seize up and never fully render; it also keeps the slices flatter). Cook for 15 minutes, flip each piece over and cook until it is golden brown and crispy. Remove from oven to a paper-towel covered plate. Reserve ¼ cup bacon grease for dressing.
While the bacon is cooking, cut the broccoli into small, bite-size florets. Place into a large bowl with half the cheese.
For dressing, whisk together mayo, bacon fat, and parmesan. Thin with hot water, a little at a time until it’s the consistency of pancake batter. Mix into broccoli until it’s lightly coated. Refrigerate until service. Makes about 8 servings.

If you have leftovers, the meatloaf makes epic sandwiches.  Just slice and put it in a hot skillet.  Cook until it browns and forms a crust.  Flip and cook the other side then melt a thick slice of horseradish cheddar on it.

You know, I’ve been thinking about that “three kinds of meatloaf people” philosophy, and I think I need to amend it.

What if you don’t eat red meat? Or you like it cheese-stuffed, or bacon wrapped?  Maybe you like it spicy, or Horrors! What if you actually don’t like meatloaf at all?

You know…there is one meatloaf that I could live without.

Thanks for your time.