Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Roast of a Chicken

A few weeks ago I signed up for a blogger's game of Recipe Telephone put together by FoodBlogSouth, an organization that hosts an annual conference of food bloggers in Birmingham, AL (yes, I will be going in 2013!). The idea is based on the old game of "Telephone," in which someone in a group starts a secret, and as it gets passed from person to person miscommunication naturally occurs and the ending message is completely changed. Hilarity ensues. In Recipe Telephone, FoodBlogSouth published a roast chicken recipe, and passed it on to the first blogger in the series with instructions to change, add, or omit 3-5 ingredients. The next blogger took that recipe and did the same. And so on. Counting the very first recipe, I am number 5.

The blogger who preceded me is none other than Nancie McDermott, the author of my two favorite dessert cookbooks: Southern Cakes and Southern Pies. I have already referred to these books many times on my blog. Yeah, I think she's completely awesome, but whatevs. When I saw my name and blog title on her blog, I definitely did not squeal. Loudly. Or make every person who passed my office door come in to see. Or go to everybody else's office to make sure they had heard. Nope. Didn't do any of that...

Not me (Bus-ted)

At any rate, here we are and it's my turn. Ms. McDermott posted a scrumptious-looking Thai-inspired roast chicken, but as it was my first ever whole roast chicken I decided to keep it simple. Well, except for lighting the thing on fire. But...we'll get to that. 

Roast Poulet, en Flambé
With Roasted, Toasted Sunrise Medley Potatoes

Friday, December 14, 2012

Persimmon Pie

 No fancy musings this time, just good ole fashioned recipe-in'. Persimmons are a seasonal delight, very sweet and delicious. Why there is even one person who doesn't like them is beyond me, although I have been told that some "people" don't like chocolate. People. Allegedly. Seriously, though. No beating around the persimmon tree. This recipe comes from Southern Pies by Nancie McDermott. I've also made the sweet potato and pumpkin pies from this same book...all to die for.

Should you find persimmons as irresistible and more-ish as I do, here are a couple of other great recipes:

Two Peas in Their Pod-Persimmon Cookies

The Pastry Affair-Persimmon Cake

Persimmon Pie with Homemade Crust

Couldn't Have Said it Better

"It's already 95 degrees outside. Mississippi got the most unorganized weather in the nation."

The Help

Kathryn Stockett


Night before last there was a freeze. By tomorrow it'll be in the seventies again. Welcome to Mississippi, where we keep two seasons' worth of clothes and linens at the ready from                 October 1-January 10.


Actual Weather Report

Thursday, December 6, 2012

What's a "White" Christmas?

The traditional idea of Christmas doesn't really apply to the Coastal South. We have no snow, and therefore no snowmen, thermal underwear, red noses, or real reasons for hot beverages. And, since people originally used their actual footwear for decor, those wool stockings on the mantle are also kind of pointless. So is having a mantle and fireplace, for that matter.

And yet.

And yet for generations we've ignored all these practical points and forged ahead with Hallmark's idea of what Christmas should look like. When it's 72 degrees outside we paint our windows with "frost" and stand up inflatable snowmen and guys dressed in ski gear in our front yards. We blatantly ignore the weatherman and bury ourselves in totally unnecessary scarves and boots, then proceed to sweat all day long. We ship angular evergreens all the way from freaking Canada so we'll have the "right" kind of tree. We abandon iced coffee.

Y'ALL. Why are we doing this??

Let's just stop and think for a minute. What if the coastal South (the chunk I'm thinking of is east of Texas and south of Jackson, straight across from Shreveport to Savannah) had developed without any influence from the rest of the country? How would our holiday traditions be different? Here's a couple of ideas:

1.  Timing
Christmas as we know it functions to break up the bleak gee-will-I-die-from-exposure-this-time? feel of the winter in places like Russia, England, and Fargo, North Dakota. Winter is sucktastic, Christmas helps folks forget that for a while.

Based on this logic, in the isolated Coastal South of my imagination we wouldn't celebrate anything major in December. I would never, ever, ever need a party to make me feel better about the winter here. On the other hand, our summers are sent directly from the devil himself, and we do die from the heat sometimes. So THE annual holiday would actually be more useful on or around July 30. Just think: we could complain about how "we haven't even gotten through Memorial Day and they're already advertising Christmas gifts!" Etc.

2. Decorations
Really, y'all? Snow? Ok, ok. We do see "snow" every couple of years. For one day. In late January. But is the dirty film of ice that patches on the ground and melts with the dawn really what the songwriters had in mind? I don't think so. It's rarely even consistently cold by December 25. So nix the snow. Ditto snowmen (unless ironically dressed in bikinis), Santa's fur/wool suit, and reindeer. Just use regular deer. Or alligators. Here we go, "local flavor" Santa: same dude, in khaki shorts, being pulled through my yard by a disgusting amount of possums. Wait. I may have actually seen that guy...

Definitely an improvement

 3. Expectations
I think it's high time we all accepted two things about living in the Coastal South: first, the summers are going to be 300 degrees hotter than you're anticipating. Every year. And you'll feel like you're breathing underwater. Second, the winter is never going to "look at lot like Christmas." At least not Christmas in Boston. So let that be ok. We don't have to be the Southern version of a Northern Christmas. While we'll certainly keep the stuff that fits, let's work towards finding our own overall rhythm of the holiday. 

Here's some ideas to get us started: 

Christmas on the Bayou
It's nothing to be on the water in December around's not cold. Can I say that enough?

Christmas at Beauvoir

Christmas at the Jefferson Davis home of Beauvoir displays gorgeously lighted live oaks, the true Coastal South Christmas tree. Can't find them anywhere else!

Winter Wonderland Christmas- Over 40,000 Christmas lights & decorations encompassing over three acres
 Don't let that guy's suit fool you. He's either got a "fur" coat made of jersey or he's .2 seconds from heatstroke. 

Exhibit A under "Silly Things We Think We're Supposed To Do at Christmas"

What do y'all think of my assessment? I swear I'm not trying to be a humbug. I just don't believe that no snow = no go. What other ways can we make Christmas a more local event?

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Blogger Blues (Or Happy Turkey Day)

I wish, I wish, I WISH I was one of those bloggers. You know, THOSE bloggers. Who take their own photographs and are therefore ALWAYS ready for a photo op. Who manage to get their head in the writing game at will. Who never seem to struggle for something to say. Who document their holiday recipes before the day, so that their readers can make use of them should they so choose.

But, alas, I am not. If I tried to take my own photographs they would a) be woefully and laughably sub-par to the ones already here and b) most likely be nonexistent, because I would drop my camera in bubbling caramel sauce and then run around screaming like Beavis from Beavis and Butthead. And as for writing, I am at present a slave to my manic whims, which provide the only state in which I am focused and truly productive. So basically, I'm screwed and those of you who read me faithfully will be instantly recognized at the gates of heaven. By the Lord. Because you are saints.

Boyfriend Adam took the pictures from our Thanksgiving Feast, dutifully documenting every dish, not to mention committing to history images of my every bloated kin. Thanks, Boyfriend. I won't be photoshopping that poochy belly at alllllll....

I have just remembered it's Thanksgiving, and I have a blog. All the other bloggers are blogging on their blogs about Thanksgiving. Le crap. Last minute boyfriend bribe, stat!

OMG. Turkey. Turkeyturkeyturkeyturkey. Incidentally, we use Alton Brown's turkey recipe...or "Uncle Alton," as he's known around our house. I feel like I should probably not make a point of sharing this detail with him...

Top left: my brother will not touch turkey without gloves. It's in his contract. The Ed-dog fires mind bullets at him, willing him to upend the entire carcass on her face. Top right: my desserts. All of them. Stay back. I bite. Bottom middle: coconut flour crust homemade pumpkin pie with red wine caramel sauce. If you're good, I'll post some recipes for these! If you're not, well. You know. Coal.

Chocolate pie with meringue topping. A seasonal non-negotiable MUST-HAVE in our house for as long as I can remember. I mean, it's no coincidence that there are two of these babies. Yes, we are accommodating some food allergies (the one on the left is crustless and thickened with cornstarch) but we're also paying tribute to my grandmama, great-grandmama, and materfamilias's who came before. We are all about family and traditions, even if we tweak our understanding of them both as the years go by.

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all! I do hope it was so blessed. 
Tell your mama and them I said how they doin'.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

MS On the Path to Wellness

One of the things I love/hate the most about where I live is the weather. There's no gray area here; I'm never just ambivalent about it. Either it's dear god hang me from the rafters hot or this is almost getting me high lovely. "Lovely," because it doesn't really get "cold." Just breezy, brisk, and justifying a hot chocolate for a few consecutive days.

The weather in South Mississippi is a huge deal to us. In the "fall" (which we don't really have) and the "spring" (which could come as early as January or as late as May) it's a different season every day. Literally. I've worn shorts on Christmas day after having spent all of November huddled in a ski jacket. And we discuss the weather a lot. Especially the heat. Sometimes with scorn, suggesting that this heat really should get a job or something and quit bothering us. Seriously, heat. Grow up.

The summers can be so brutal that we actually forget about them once they're over, in the same way I've heard women say they forget about the pain of childbirth. It sucks so much that our sweet little brains volunteer amnesia just so we don't ever have to revisit the experience. Of course, what that translates to is that every year we are stunned by just how hot this place gets, and we swear it has never gotten this hot before. I've lived here for 26 years and am only just starting to be skeptical of my expectations.

So now to the "love" part: we have a year-round growing season. That's right! While you couldn't harvest so much as a freezer-burned gopher from the ground in Massachusetts from mid-October until sometime in April, our only limitations are what we can plant. And we are an agricultural state! So the obesity epidemic that currently grips us is simply...inexcusable. We used to have gardens and farms. My own great-grandmother got most of her produce from her garden/the woods and kept chickens. But once the national food industry started trying to sell more cheap food to the same amount of people, a marketing campaign emerged that told country folks their way of life was backwards and shameful. Civilized people bought their food, they didn't grow it. So years of this fabulous unending growing "season" were lost! But I'm so excited to see that now it's becoming popular, if not necessary, to return to the homestead. Or at least the Farmer's Market.

One example of this shift is a great show on MPB called "Fit to Eat" that teaches cooking with local ingredients to a generation of Mississippians who are regrettably disconnected from our roots. He uses not only local produce, but local dairy/meat/poultry, and local seafood! By the way, another perk of living on the coast: fresh, right out of the water (if you care to get up that early) seafood. And yes, it is safe to eat, in spite of BP's best efforts.

I'll probably be drawing on this show a bit to post my own recipes! It's a fascinating day to be a Mississippian!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

How to Make a Gluten-Free Red Velvet Cake

Because everybody loves Red Velvet Cake. And almost everybody (these days) is gluten-free.

The office where I work celebrates its employees by having a birthday party a month for the appropriate folks. When there are more than 3 in a month, or we're just wanting extra reasons to shirk work and eat cake, we have multiple birthday parties.

Goes without saying, those months are the best.
Now because the people I work with are patient, accommodating, and selfless (practically sainted), they allow me to butt into their lives enough to actually make their respective (usually gluten-free) birthday desserts, thus foregoing their shot at the decadent cakes available at any one of our several fabulous bakeries. I imagine they do this with the same mindset as when they allow their small, begging children to decorate the Christmas tree:

"This is NOT going to go well, but it means so much to them. Why not." Beer swig.

The results are pretty much the same, too: only the bottom gets decorated, I may or may not lose interest halfway through (and subsequently half ass the rest), and I never know if the outcome is really any good because everyone's pretty much obligated to gush over it. Also I make a huge mess and lick everything.


The most recent of these little adventures was a red velvet cake I made with Better Batter brand gluten-free flour (we have some wheat allergies around the office). BB swaps 1:1 with all purpose flour and requires no additional ingredients. Also there's no funky taste to it like with some gluten-free flours.

Who shall remain nameless.

How to Make a Gluten-Free Red Velvet Cake

Crumb Coat Method

Have you ever looked at a perfect carrot, red velvet, or even chocolate cake and wondered, "How in the heck do they keep the frosting so perfect? And blissfully crumb-free?" Have you then sighed, remembering all the crumby cakes you yourself have turned out, certain that only the crème de la crème of bakers could know the secret technique behind flawlessly smooth frosting veneers?

Well, cher. I am about to give you the key to the castle. For freezy.

The trick to a beautifully frosted cake is the Crumb Coat Method. Here she be:

Crumb Coat Method

Monday, October 29, 2012

Southern Loving

Y'all know I just love these little doo-dads. 
Good manners: one of the many things Mississippians still do right. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Best Ever if You're A Low-Carbie

Diet root beer and cream or half and half (local dairy, please). Y'all, this is a damn root beer float. At least it sure starts to pass as one when you haven't had the real thing in several sad, deprived years.  And even though I'm trying to slowly but steadily ditch my diet soda habit, I'll still have one of these if/when a craving for sweetness starts to eat me alive. Hope you think it's as good as I do!

Y'all Come Back Now!

Photo by Michelle Chasser/Brainchild Theories

Monday, October 8, 2012

Cornbread. Hold the Sugar.

I went to this "Cajun" restaurant once in Massachusetts. I wish there was something more emphatic than quotes to express just how allegedly "Cajun" this place was. I'm not trying to sound snooty, I promise. Ok maybe a little. It's just...Yankees do good lobster. Sorry, "lahbstuh." And it's called Boston Cream Pie for a reason. But the red beans and rice? Negatory. Sweet tea? Nonexistent. And, oh god, sin of sins. 

The cornbread.



I'll give you a moment to digest that. And have indigestion. And contemplate a bulimic episode. 

Sweet cornbread = corncake. Period. End of story. I'm sorry, I am a good Southerner and I took my oath and on this I cannot budge one single iota. That said, the BEST cornbread I've ever had was my great-grandmama's recipe. Probably my great-great-grandmama's recipe, since that's generally how great-grandmamas came by their recipes back then. Anyhow, it has never met its rival (unless we're talking about YOUR great-grandmama in which case, of course, hers is superior. Commence war of courtesy) 

And now, for the first time ever, I am publishing Granny Morris' Cornbread Recipe on the Internet. For you, dear 10 readers. For you.

So Let's Make Some Damn Cornbread!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

How to Make "Buttermilk"

Why, oh, why do They still resist the idea of putting buttermilk in smaller containers? I mean, who the hell ever* uses up a half gallon of buttermilk before it goes bad? You can even buy LIQUOR in small containers, and don' nobody ever be drinking teeny bits of that. Shoo.

*my Granny, that's who. She...::gulp::...drank it. the glass. Shudder and gag.

I mean, given the already sour odor of the stuff, how can you even tell when buttermilk's gone bad?

When Buttermilk Goes Bad (by Adam Rewis)

So here's what to do when you only need a cup of buttermilk to bake, say,

The Buttermilk Imposter 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Eating Out in the South

It's probably not news to most that Southerners are fiercely protective of our reputation as fine, if provincial, cooks. I say provincial just because most of us gag at the thought of fois gras, but we have wars over cobbler or meatloaf. I myself have major reservations about giving up my great-grandmother's recipe for cornbread. So rather than reaching for new heights of culinary imagination, we take what we know and make it better, ad infinitum. No matter what part of the country (possibly the world?) you're from, it's fairly common knowledge that we know what we're doing in the kitchen. Just ask us (but be sure you have a comfy seat and have recently visited the john). So what I'm about to say maaaayyy get me murdered. But please, hear me out before you organize the torches and pitchforks. Ok, here we go:

We have a lot of really, embarrassingly, crappy restaurants.

It's not that there aren't a few decent restaurants around here that I patronize with relative frequency. It's that of these, there are none that sell really good food. Most tend to capitalize on their patrons' lack of cultivated palate and weakness for bargains, and as a result sell the same New Orleans/MS hybrid-style fare, with very little imagination and very much heavy cream and butter. And God help you if you're watching weight, cholesterol, blood pressure...

Please don't get me wrong. I would have little use for this world without heavy cream and butter.

But it is an abuse to these such delicate and rewarding indulgences to use them and other shortcuts as masks for otherwise dull, flavorless, out of season food. Boo, chefskies. For shame.

I won't be naming any names on account of my mama taught me better than that. But if, by one in one-millionth chance, an owner or chef happen to pass by, I do hope they are inexplicably inspired to step it up a notch. I hope somebody takes the risk that we are more than our hushpuppies and crawfish etouffee. Because Lord do we need a good restaurant.

Now, it's probable that I'm being horribly unfair, but off the top of my head I can't think of anywhere that I'd call a good eat (copyright Alton Brown?). So, fellow Coast Trash, any recommendations? I'm begging you to make a fool of me.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Just a li'l Somethin'-Somethin'

I remember from my childhood that Paul Harvey's "The Rest of the Story" was a daily event. Much in the same way that the morning news (no negative story, please and thanks) kicked off the day, Paul Harvey helped to close it. He had the most interesting stories - always, of course, with a twist at the end. This is one of his broadcasts that I missed as a kid, but perhaps that's best. I don't think the message would have truly resonated until I had a couple of decades of localized social injustice. By now, my readers should know what my position is on my home state of Mississippi. (For a refresher, please refer to About Me and The One With No Pictures.) So I guess it goes without saying that I agree whole-heartedly with everything Mr. Harvey has to say here. Do you?

Paul Harvey:
Mississippi is still burning. Times have changed, but the incendiaries won’t quit. Mississippi, statistically, could shame most of our states with its minimal per-capita crime, its cultural maturity and its distinguished alumni. But Mississippi has enough residual gentility of the Old South not to rub our noses in our own comparative inadequacy.

The pack-media could not wait to remake the movie MISSISSIPPI BURNING, into a TV version called, MURDER IN MISSISSIPPI. Thus yet another generation of Americans is indoctrinated with indelible snapshots which are half a century out of date. The very idea that anybody from New York, D.C., Chicago or L. A. could launch stones from those shabby glass houses toward anybody else is patently absurd. Lilliputians have a psychological need to make everybody else appear small and Mississippi, too nice to fight back, is such an easy target.
The International Ballet Competition regularly rotates among four citadels where there is a sufficiency of sophisticated art appreciation: Vama, Bulgaria; Helsinki, Finland; Moscow, Russia and Jackson, Mississippi.
Only Mississippi has a satellite art program in which the State Museum of Art sends exhibits around the state for the enjoyment of smaller communities. No state can point to a richer per capita contribution to arts and letters. William Faulkner, Richard Wright, Walker Percy, Ellen Douglas, Willie Morris, Margaret Walker Alexander, Eudora Welty, Tennessee Williams, Thomas Harris (Silence of the Lambs) and John Grisham are Mississippians.
As are Leontyne Price, Elvis Presley, Tammy Wynette, B. B. King, Jimmy Rogers, Oprah Winfrey, and Jimmy Buffett.
Scenery? The Nachez Trace is the second most traveled parkway in our nation. With magnolia and dogwood, stately pines and moss-draped oaks, Mississippi is in bloom all year ’round. And the state stays busy—manufacturing more upholstered furniture than any state; testing space shuttle engines for NASA; and building rocket motors.
Much of our nation’s most monumental medical progress has roots in Mississippi. The first heart transplant in 1964. The first lung transplant in 1963. The most widely used medical textbook in the world, THE TEXTBOOK OF MEDICAL PHYSIOLOGY, reprinted in ten languages, was authored by Dr. Arthur Guyton of the University of Mississippi.
The “Case Method” of practicing law, the basis of the United States legal system, was developed at the University of Mississippi.
Nationally, educators are chewing their fingernails up past the second knuckle anxious about the disgraceful rate of dropouts and illiterate graduates. In Mississippi, the state government and two philanthropic organizations have teamed up to put a computer-based literacy program in every elementary school in the state. Maybe Mississippi is right to downplay its opportunities, advantages and refinement. The ill-mannered rest of us, converging, would surely mess it up.
This is Paul Harvey…Good Day.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Hot Dang-Tomato Gravy

Growing up, I used to hear all the time about my grandmother's tomato, or "Red Eye" gravy. My mom says it was her absolute favorite thing, especially over steamed white rice. Of course, not long after I arrived Mom declared war on all (food) things white, so I had never actually tasted the infamous dish.

Until now.

I have no way of knowing if this is the recipe my grandmother (and great, and great-great, etc) used, but based on an Internet investigation it would appear that there's pretty much only one tomato gravy. And everybody makes it the same. Pretty much. So now "close enough" counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and tomato gravy.

"Red Eye" Tomato Gravy

Monday, April 30, 2012

Uncle Alton's Seven Minute Frosting

Eek! It's been far too long since I posted, especially considering I know you're just patting your foot waiting on this dang frosting. Probably had to go on and eat your cake without frosting altogether by this point. So sorry. I take full responsibility. Thank goodness that cake is good enough to stand on its own...

But we want more than good. We want life-changing. So, with no further digression....drum roll....


Uncle Alton's Seven Minute Frosting


3 large egg whites
12 ounces sugar, approximately 1 3/4 cups
1/3 cup coconut water
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Grated coconut from 1 coconut, approximately 8 to 10 ounces

Friday, April 20, 2012

Coconut Cake-Now with REAL Coconut!

Question: have you ever eaten coconut?  No, no. The bagged junk doesn't count. Who knows how long it's been there, or what kind of adulteration it's endured. So much flavor and texture is lost. That's why I prefer this recipe, which calls for the processing and use of your own fresh coconut. It's a bit of a hassle, but once you get the hang of it it's not hard at all, and believe me-

Believe me-

you'll be glad you did it.

I love making cakes in general, but coconut cake is among my favorites. It's a complicated procedure, sure, but to me that makes the successful final product that much more exciting. The recipe I use is directly from Good Eats, no alterations. We now refer to Alton Brown as "Uncle Alton" in my family  due to how many of his recipes and methods we have adopted, and his coconut cake is the best I've had. The only amendment I made was that I used two coconuts, just to be sure I would have enough.

Coconut Cake with Fresh Coconut and Seven Minute Frosting

Homemade Coconut Milk, Cream, and Extract


For the milk:

2 ounces freshly grated coconut, approximately 1/2 cup
1/2 cup boiling 2 percent milk

For cream:

4 ounces freshly grated coconut, approximately 1 cup
1/2 cup boiling 2 percent milk

 Heat 1 cup milk (whole milk is best here) until boiling. 

In separate containers, portion out 4 ounces of coconut for the cream and 2 ounces for the milk.

Divide boiling milk in two. Pour 1/2 cup each milk over coconut in first two containers.

Cover all three containers, and let milk and cream stand for 1 hour.

After 1 hour, process the milk in a blender for 1 minute, then strain through a clean towel, cheesecloth, or paper towel.

Aaaand: lobster. Or in this case, coconut milk and cream.

For the extract:

1 1/2 ounces freshly grated coconut, approximately 1/3 cup
4 ounces vodka

Combine vodka and coconut in a glass container (yes, that's plastic. I goofed.)

Place in a dark place for 5-7 days, shaking every day to combine. 

And on the seventh day, rest. (After you've strained coconut and returned vodka to either original bottle or jar, to be kept for up to 1 year.)

Use with Alton Brown's Coconut Cake with Seven Minute Frosting. A true Southern Favorite!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The One With No Pictures

Look, we need to talk.

The first thing I'd like you to know is that I debated even writing this, because I know it's controversial and one of the things I try to avoid with this blog (and in real life, though that is much, much harder) is offending anyone. Lord knows I do try to keep it light. But it feels like I've been holding my tongue more and more often on an issue that really gets under my skin, and I believe that I must address it in order to be true to the title and description of this blog. Not to mention to myself.

Ladies and gents of the rest of the country, we Mississippians know that we don't live in the most ideal setting, with the most progressive people and culture. We know that - insert all evil things here - run rampant in our state. That maybe the last stand of truly conservative, ignorant, and backwards Americans is being made here. So, dammit, you don't need to remind us all the time. Unless you are here on some act of goodwill: bringing charity, nutritional awareness, sex education, or something else that demands frank talk, what business is it of yours to constantly point out our faults? We call that "acting superior," and when you do this (I confess I can't believe I'm explaining this to an adult) you are being rude.

Dang. Now I feel rude. Which is precisely why I've let it go for so, so long. But every outsider's sneering jab about some sub-par aspect of my home - that's right, that's my home you're self-righteously bitching about - is like sandpaper on my sensitive skin. And I'm just too raw to endure it any longer.

The only reason you've gotten away with it this long is because one thing my state's culture does teach is good manners. So rather than jump all over the first offense, I've forced a smile and hoped it was just a passing and forgivable act of thoughtlessness. Unfortunately, it happens now with too much regularity to be dismissed. 
Mississippi is, for me at least, something like a very difficult and perhaps disabled relative. One who embarrasses me in public. It is sorrowful and exhausting to observe this person's struggle of one step forward, two steps back, and yes, I lose my patience more often than I am proud to admit. I can and have numbered said relative's faults openly, and at times I grow weary of defending him. But it has never crossed my mind that I don't love this relative. Fiercely, protectively, and unconditionally. And god help you if you, an outsider, who has never put in your time with him, presume to throw him under the bus in my presence.

Look, if you don't like it here, no problem. Plenty of other states to choose from. No offense taken. But if you do make the choice to stay, do keep in mind that we're people, and this is our home. 

Please: mind your manners.

Monday, April 9, 2012

(Blue) White Chocolate Ganache

Chocolate ganache is typically made from pouring warm cream onto room temperature (and good quality, please!) dark chocolate. Unfortunately for this recipe, the silky, glossy, utterly drinkable result of this confectionery alloy is decidedly brown. And as my Pantone-savvy readers know, brown is not easily coaxed into blue. So? Enter white chocolate ganache.

Now, a word of caution: white chocolate (because it's not "true" chocolate) does not behave like dark or even milk chocolate. High temperatures and overmixing are extremely offensive to Madame la Blanc, so you'll have to find your inner patience. You can, in theory, nuke the chocolate, but I wouldn't, because you have so little control over the process. But if you're feeling adventurous, get on wit yo' bad self.

No recipe credits here; I learned to make ganache when working at a fabulous but now sadly out of business restaurant called ConFusion in my hometown.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Vanilla Buttercream

Let us have a moment of silence in the name of buttercream frosting.

It is the fluffiest, most decadent, and most forgiving cake topping I have ever run across. And by forgiving I mean: stick it in the freezer for 6 months, haul it out, mix the hell out of it, add any color or flavor you can think of, and it complies. Willingly. Happily. There is no overmixing this stuff.

Buttercream frosting and good dogs possess a level of charity to which we mere humans can only aspire.

Now, I warn you. When we get going on the actual process of making the buttercream, you're going to hate me. And you're going to think I'm insane for ever singing such praises. But just wait.

One note: it's pretty crucial you have a stand mixer for this particular project. Try and use a hand mixer, and both your arm and the machine will be pretty much useless forever.

Two note: we're making about four times as much as we actually need for this project. I took the advice from the writer at Brave Tart (from whence my recipe cometh) and went ahead and made enough to store for future use. The process is pretty involved, so you might as well make as much as possible at one time.

Vanilla Buttercream, dyed blue for the filling of 
my K-shaped Basic White Cake
Recipe and method taken from the Swiss Buttercream recipe at Brave Tart

Thursday, April 5, 2012

How to Make Wax Paper Circles

How to make fitted wax paper inserts for baking pans

First, cut enough wax paper to completely cover the bottom of the pan. Fold in half.

Fold in half again, along folded seam. Repeat, creating a triangle.

Line point of triangle up with center of pan, and cut off excess at edge of pan. Unfold, and voilà! Eet feets.

Eat Cake!

Recently, my designer friend and coworker approached me with a baking idea for a photo shoot for an ad she was designing. She says: Michal. I need you to make a 5 layer white cake with pale blue frosting and dark blue chocolate ganache dribbled off the top.

Says I: No problem. Easy as pie. Er...cake. And I set about assembling the necessary ingredients.

But OH-she remembers-It has to be in the shape of a K. It needs to be able to stand on its own.

I said: 


 Very well. 

Challenge: accepted.

Note: I'm doing this in a three-part installment because I'm long-winded and it got a bit ridonkulous.

The mission

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Heat is (Almost) On

Believe it or not, the thing we bitch about the most and the most often around here is the heat. Because when it's hot in the deep South, it's merciless. You can't breathe, you can't move, and all you have to do to start sweating like a sinner in church is step outside. On a side note, I'm pretty sure our reputation in some circles as layabouts can be laid at the feet of the 13 months of immobilizing summer.

That and the fact that laying about is so intensely satisfying.

The phenomenon is that every year, without fail, we're all surprised at just how hot it can get. And we all swear it's hotter than it was last year. The astonishment is evidenced by the fact that the heat becomes the number one conversation topic. More important than whatever war, than unemployment, than what's for supper, is the heat. Have I mentioned it's hot?

But even having said all that, I still maintain that it's worth it. Maybe it's because I've been here forever and am part biased, part acclimatized, but I would MUCH rather sweat steadily for most of the year than hole up and turn into a freezer-burned steak. The summer here is a small price to pay for the mild winters and early, wisteria-smothered springs.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Biscuits, Fools!


Oh, god. How I love biscuits. The smell, the flake, the buttery-oft-salty warm deliciousness. How versatile they are. How domestic and unassuming. Perfect on their own, or with breakfast sausage, or sandwiching ripe strawberries and hand-whipped, lightly sweetened cream. Or whatever.

But for all that, for all their deceptively welcoming demeanor, they are unbearably hard to make. At least, for me.

My first ever, not under my Grandmama's careful eye, big girl batch of biscuits were roughly the size and consistency of river pebbles. I'm serious. “Rocks,” as in: they would not let you board a plane with those things.

Second batch, slightly better. No more broken teeth, at least...but you still wouldn't want to take more than one bite. Utterly flavorless and with the approximate consistency of 200 layers of tissue paper.

And third date, nonexistent. I got thrown twice and ain't gettin' back on that mustang.

Until now. Verily I say unto my fellow Southern (or otherwise) Ladies (or otherwise):

No more shall we fear the biscuit. We shall conquer the biscuit. And it shall submit.

I'm using Paula Deen's Mmm Biscuits Recipe. Say what you will about the woman, but there are times when ole Two Sticks of Butter has it right.