By golly, it’s butternut firefly chiffon pie.

butternut firefly chiffon pie

We’re in the thick of winter around these parts. As I write this, note that it about 70 degrees today with a light southerly breeze and sunny skies, so perhaps my choice of description, i.e. thick of winter, isn’t totally accurate. Sorry to all you folks out there whose weather is not, errr… ‘ideal’. Got to love the Lowcountry, though!

However, if we look at comparables in produce that can be found at the local grocery during this time of year, I think we are all in the same boat. Yes, I see zucchini from Mexico and pineapple from Costa Rica but what about  fresh, local (or regional) veggies and fruit? In my case this means gourds, greens (like kale and collards) and perhaps some carrots (from the farmers market). Butternut and acorn squash have both been long-time favorites in my family. But what to make? One can only eat so much roasted acorn squash in one winter.

After choosing a butternut squash, I dusted off some old family cookbooks, and thought about which combination of ingredients could be delicious and unique. I settled on a pie, similar to the rich butternut ones I made with my mother back in the day, but with a lighter consistency. Nothing says “light” like chiffon so voilà, the butternut chiffon pie was born.

I also have been experimenting in the kitchen with one of my favorite spirits, Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka, in different ways and I must admit it is exceptional in this recipe. I used the “skinny’ version of this flavored vodka, the tea-infused essence really gives the filling an extra punch and compliments the spices nicely. I think either the “skinny” or the regular version would both result in equally delicious fillings.

Firefly Distillery is located in nearby Wadmalaw Island (just outside Charleston, SC) and you can read more about their products, history and what not on their website. They also offer several other flavored small batch vodkas, a bourbon and produce a very good muscadine wine. The grapes for the wine are grown on-site and the tea used in all their tea-infused products comes from their neighbors at Charleston Tea Plantation.

I believe there isn’t anything much better than a cool Firefly lemonade on a warm Lowcountry afternoon… especially if there is a porch…a breeze… and like-minded friends involved. Toss in some local seafood on the grill and this butternut Firefly chiffon pie, and by golly, you’ve got yourself a party!

preparing butternut squash

Prepare your squash by splitting in half and scooping out the seeds.

After roasting the squash, open the foil and allow to cool enough to handle.

After roasting the squash, open the foil and allow to cool enough to handle.

Puree the cooked butternut squash. It should be very smooth.

Puree the cooked butternut squash. It should be very smooth.

Measure out the Firefly Vodka, add the water and dissolve the gelatin.

Measure out the Firefly Vodka, add the water and dissolve the gelatin.

In a heavy bottomed pot or double boiler you will cook the egg yolks, half & half and the pureed squash. Stir in spices...

In a heavy bottomed pot or double boiler you will cook the egg yolks, half & half and the pureed squash. Stir in spices…

Add the gelatin mixture to the egg/squash mixture. Mix well,add the vanilla extract and allow to cool completely.

Add the gelatin mixture to the egg/squash mixture. Mix well,add the vanilla extract and allow to cool completely.

Whip the egg whites with the sugar until stiff and then fold into the squash mixture. Yes, this recipe uses raw egg whites so if your immunity is compromised or you do not feel comfortable about using raw egg whites, please refrain from making this recipe.

Whip the egg whites with the sugar until stiff and then fold into the squash mixture. Yes, this recipe uses raw egg whites so if your immunity is compromised or you do not feel comfortable about using raw egg whites, please refrain from making this recipe.

Pour the filling into the prepared pie shell and refrigerate.

Pour the filling into the prepared pie shell and refrigerate.

After setting up in the frig for a bit (1 hour at least) the pie should slice beautifully. I add some lightly sweetened whipped cream and grated nutmeg.  Just like heaven!

After setting up in the frig for a bit (1 hour at least) the pie should slice beautifully. I add some lightly sweetened whipped cream and grated nutmeg. Just like heaven!

Butternut Firefly Chiffon Pie

  • 1 envelope gelatin
  • 3 tbl Firefly Vodka mixed with 2 tbl water
  • 1 ½ cups cooked, mashed butternut squash*
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Ginger People spread (or 1/2 tsp ground ginger)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup half & half
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar and 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 baked & cooled graham cracker crust
  • Ground nutmeg, for garnish

Separate the eggs. In a large bowl beat egg yolks and add 1/2 cup sugar, squash, half & half, salt, and spices. Cook until thick in double boiler stirring or whisking constantly. Soak gelatin in vodka/water mixture until dissolved, stir and add to the squash mixture. When it begins to thicken, remove from the stove, stir in the vanilla extract and allow to cool completely (to room temperature).

Beat egg whites with the 1/3 cup sugar, adding 1 tablespoon at time until stiff peaks form.** Fold into the squash mixture until combined. Pour into a baked and cooled pie shell and chill to set, at least 1 hour. Garnish with sweetened whipped cream sprinkled with nutmeg just before serving.

* To prepare the puree from fresh butternut squash: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Split a medium to large butternut squash in half and remove seeds. Spray with canola or light olive oil and wrap in aluminum foil.PLace on a cookie sheet and back in the oven until cooked through, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Remove from oven, unwrap and allow to cool so you can handle. Scoop out the cooked flesh and either puree in a food processor or blender, or run through a food mill to get a smooth puree.
** This recipe uses raw egg whites in the filling.

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Persimmons! It’s what’s for dessert.

persimmon white chocolate roll

Okay, I will admit that I have become obsessed with persimmons. Once I tried fresh persimmons last fall I fell in love with their flavor, their texture and even their pretty orange/coral color. Their taste remind me of mangos and a little of peaches and papayas. But I guess they are simply “persimmons”- with their own great flavor. My first recipe was to make some tangy persimmon jam, using a recipe from the Hot & Hot Fish Club Cookbook by Chef Chris Hastings. Chef Hastings makes a quick jam from wild persimmons, to accompany a foie gras first course.

Now not having access to any fresh foie gras nor wild persimmons, I nevertheless purchased some cultivated fruit at the market and set about making preserved persimmon jam. It came out quite nicely! We’ve enjoyed it on biscuits and in an appetizer I made with Camembert cheese and toasted pecans. I’ll share that recipe when the timing is right.

Having persimmons on my mind, I thought they would be delicious used in a dessert as well. Maybe a mousse? Or a perhaps a cake… thus I decided to work with them incorporating my recipe for a white chocolate jelly roll cake. This fit the bill for our Christmas dinner dessert. In the future I think I may add a drizzle of  crème anglaise just to add interest to the plate as admittedly my photography does not do justice to this recipe.

One other thing to point out is that this keeps beautifully if wrapped tightly in plastic and refrigerated. So it’s a great do-ahead dessert that impresses! And, surprisingly just today, I saw a large basket of persimmons at my local market. Persimmons seem like an undervalued fruit, to me, so allow me to spread the “good persimmon word” before some Food Network ne’er-do-well proclaims them the next big foodie thing…and they cost $5 a piece.

Peel the persimmons. They should be soft to the touch when ripe, not hard.

Peel the persimmons. They should be soft to the touch when ripe, not hard.

puree the persimmon

Persimmon puree. It has the consistency of mango (to me) and purees like them too.

Dissolve the gelatin in some rum or orange liqueur. Then warm it some so it is smooth.

Dissolve the gelatin in some rum or orange liqueur. Then warm it and stir so it is smooth.

Add the warm gelatin mixture to the puree while the processor is running and blend.

Add the warm gelatin mixture to the puree while the processor is running and blend.

CHill the puree and then fold in the sweetened whipped cream. Hold in the frig while the cake cools.

CHill the puree and then fold in the sweetened whipped cream. Hold in the frig while the cake cools.

To make the cake start by preparing the jelly roll pan. Line with parchment AND spray with oil.

To make the cake start by preparing the jelly roll pan. Line with parchment AND spray with oil.

The cake batter begins by beating the heck out of 3 eggs, adding sugar and whipping it up some more. It will more frothy like this...before adding the butter/chocolate mixture.

The cake batter begins by beating the heck out of 3 eggs, adding sugar and whipping it up some more. It will be frothy like this… before adding the butter/chocolate mixture.

Use cake flour like this NOT regular all-purpose flour. OR make your own cake flour by sifting all purpose flour, and measuring out 1 cup. Remove 2 tablespoons of flour (per cup of flour). Then add into that 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Sift again and you've got cake flour...

Use cake flour like this NOT regular all-purpose flour. OR make your own cake flour by sifting all purpose flour, and measuring out 1 cup. Remove 2 tablespoons of flour (per cup of flour). Then add back to that 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Sift again and you’ve got cake flour…

Pour the batter into the prepared jelly roll pan, bake  and in about 12-15 minutes you've got cake!

Pour the batter into the prepared jelly roll pan, bake and in about 12-15 minutes you’ve got cake!

While the cake was baking you should have prepared the powdered sugar covered kitchen towel. LIBERALLY sprinkle with powdered sugar!

While the cake was baking you should have prepared the powdered sugar covered kitchen towel. LIBERALLY sprinkle with powdered sugar!

Place the hot cake on the prepared kitchen towel. Peel off the parchment and roll it up. Allow to cool on a rack for at least an hour.

Place the hot cake on the prepared kitchen towel. Peel off the parchment and roll it up. Allow to cool on a rack for at least an hour.

After the cake roll is cool, spread the filling all over.

After the cake roll is cool, spread the filling all over.

Now wrap that baby up in plastic and allow to cool in the frig. Slice and serve with reserved persimmon puree, whipped cream, a sprinkle of powdered sugar etc.

Now wrap that baby up in plastic and allow to cool in the frig. Slice and serve with reserved persimmon puree, whipped cream, a sprinkle of powdered sugar, etc.

Persimmon White Chocolate Roll

For the White Chocolate Roll Cake

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tbl unsalted butter
  • 2 oz white chocolate
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbl water
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a jelly roll pan with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray. Set aside.

Lay out a clean kitchen towel that is larger than the jelly roll pan. It also helps if the towel has no texture so don’t use a terry cloth towel. Dust with a generous amount of powdered sugar.

In mixer bowl beat eggs on high speed until thick and lemon colored (5 minutes). Meanwhile melt the butter and white chocolate in small heavy bottomed pan over low heat (or use a double boiler). Stir to combine and then aside to cool.

Gradually add the sugar to the eggs, mixing well. Mix water and vanilla extract to cooled the butter/white chocolate mixture and stir. Add to egg/sugar mixture with mixer running. Add flour, baking powder and salt to the egg mixture and beat just until batter is smooth.

Pour into prepared pan. Bake 12-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Loosen edges with a knife and while cake is hot, turn out onto the powder sugared towel. Roll up the cake – with the kitchen towel.

Set the cake rolled into the towel on a rack to cool, about 1 hour. After cake has completely cooled unroll the cake and towel and spread with the persimmon filling. Roll back up, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator. When ready to serve, cut into slices (1 inch seems right). Sprinkle with a little powdered sugar, a dollop of persimmon puree and whipped cream.

Makes 8-10 servings. Leftover roll should be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated.

For the Persimmon Filling

  • 5-7 Persimmons (to make about 2 1/2 cups)
  • 1/3 cup orange liqueur (good quality rum will also work)
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream

Peel the persimmons, chop and grind to make a puree in a food processor. Measure out so 2 cups of puree is in the processor and mix ¼ cup sugar to the puree. In a small saucepan dissolve the gelatin in the liqueur. Heat slowly over low heat. With processor running pour the gelatin mixture into the puree. Pour the persimmon puree into a mixing bowl and place in the refrigerator. Meanwhile whip the cream with the powdered sugar until set. Fold 1 cup of the whipped cream into the persimmon mixture.

Reserve any remaining persimmon puree and whipped cream to serve with the Persimmon White Chocolate Roll.

Crunchy southern-style mixed salad: Carrot “slaw”

carrot slaw on the plate
In life there are some people who just do not like certain things and when this phenomenon relates to food the term that comes to mind is “picky”. As a self proclaimed “foodie” it pains me that I must deal with someone in my life who is rather “picky”, as well as a 5-year-old. Now the 5 year-old enjoys steamed oysters and grilled salmon, so for someone her age I think she’s on the right track to appreciate most foods as she grows older.

But the other person in question is, ahem, my husband. And at the risk of causing hurt feelings in my marriage I will leave it at that. However, I will acknowledge that Dear Hubby has loosened up a bit about the foods he will try, i.e. sushi & sashimi, okra, and on occasion, tomatoes and grits.

However, when it comes to mayonnaise he slams the refrigerator door. So, I am reticent to make anything that obviously includes mayo in its ingredients AND expect him to eat it. I came up with the following recipe to provide something similar to southern-style coleslaw, which I like to pile on barbeque sandwiches (and sometime shot dogs!). It does not contain any mayo but lots of fresh veggies (and a fruit) in a piquant, lemony dressing. The addition of radish kicks up the spice so add more if you’re a radish-lover!

Beautiful organic and locally grown carrots and radish.

Beautiful locally grown, organic carrots and radish.

Mix up the tangy dressing. The ground coriander adds a nice light lemon flavor.

Mix up the tangy dressing. The ground coriander adds a nice light lemon flavor.

Shred the carrots - I use my Cuisinart which makes quick work of it.

Shred the carrots – the Cuisinart makes quick work of it.

Use the same size shred for the pears which also should be under ripe. No need to peel them either but do remove the center and seeds.

Use the same size shred for the pears which also should be under ripe. No need to peel them either but do remove the center and seeds.

Slice the radish as thinly as possible. A mandoline would be perfect for this job!

Slice the radish as thinly as possible. A mandoline would be perfect for this job!

To assist in keeping the veggies and fruit from turning color, add the dressing to the carrots before shredding the next ingredient, mixing that in with the dressing coated mixture.

To assist in keeping the veggies and fruit from turning color, add the dressing to the carrots before shredding the next ingredient, and mixing that in with the dressing coated mixture.

Here is this slaw served with grilled sugar cane shrimp (wrapped in bacon).

Here is this slaw served with grilled sugar cane shrimp (wrapped in bacon).

Crunchy Carrot “Slaw”

Nice as a side for southern-favorite barbeque cookouts or as a first course with grilled shrimp or fish. Uses winter time in-season produce like carrots, pears and radish too!

  • 2 tbl rice vinegar
  • 1 tbl honey
  • Juice of half a lemon (remove seeds)
  • 2 tsp Ginger People Spread (OR 1 tsp fresh grated ginger plus 1 tsp honey or agave nectar)
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbl grape oil (or light olive oil)
  • Fresh carrots, enough to make about 3 cups shredded carrots
  • 5-6 fresh radish, washed
  • 2 pears, washed, peel left on and seeds removed. Do not use soft pears.
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 cup fresh parsley, washed and chopped

In a small bowl mix the first 6 ingredients and set aside. Grate the carrots into a large bowl and drizzle with the vinegar dressing. Stir gently to combine. Next grate the pears and add to the mixture, stirring so that everything is coated in the vinegar dressing. Slice the radish paper thin with a mandoline (or a very sharp knife) and add to the slaw with the red onion. Stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate at least an hour for flavors to meld. Just before serving stir in the fresh chopped parsley.

Serves 6-8.

Where for art thou, my sugar cane? On the grill with sugar cane citrus glazed shrimp… and an oink!

sugar caned shrimp wrapped in bacon

My trip to the local Farmers Market (Port Royal) this past weekend was quite successful. Not only did I snag some tasty and beautiful greens, carrots and radish but also something that is probably unusual to most folks, although I would bet most Americans eat it in one form or another every day. As I turned the corner at the market after my inaugural “once through” I spied a few pieces of something carelessly laying in the back of one farmer’s pick up truck.

I have been on the look out for this specific item since I started this blog and there it was! I immediately beelined it for the farmer, inquiring about said item. “Oh yeah, sure they’re for sale. A dollar a stalk.“ he replied. My heart leapt with joy…finally I have a whole stalk of real sugar cane!

Once I procured the “cane” I made my way through the jammed packed crowd, and felt many eyes on my sugar cane. I’m sure I heard at least one “What is that?” as a stalk of sugar cane is large – a good 5 feet plus. Not something you can tuck into a reusable market bag. But my head was reeling with ideas and I had to get back home. No time to strike up a conversation and besides the next question would be, “So what DO you do with that?” and honestly at this point, I had no definitive answer.

During my formative years there always seemed to be sugar cane around our house or at our neighbors, who were real honest-to goodness farmers by the way. As kids we would eat it as a snack – it’s basically pure sugar after all, so of course one did not refuse sugar cane. You could also use it to whack the ever lovin’ you-know-what out of someone. Even then it was more of a novelty, although I have been to a few folk-life festivals in Georgia where they actually go through the sugar making process to get (sulfured) molasses and well, sugar. Let’s just say it is a long, arduous, process. Be grateful for the 5 lb bag (Now 4 lb!) conveniently purchased at your local Publix or Kroger or Whole Foods or what have you.

Anyway, my sugar cane and I proceeded home where I tested Dear Hubby on knowing what this ‘thing’ was that I had purchased, and by golly, he got it right. Then I showed Girly Girl the sugar cane, explaining that the white sugar I make cookies and cupcakes with comes from this plant. Needless to say she was flabbergasted. She was further surprised when I whacked off a section with a large knife and a hammer, peeled back the bark and chewed on the pulpy inside. Let’s just say Mommy earned some coolness points with all this!

So after some thinking and pondering and a trip to the seafood market I came up with the idea of using the sugar cane to skewer some shrimp (which is not new, I realize) and making a glaze from the sugar cane juice. The fact that our weather was a lovely 75 degrees, added to our keen urge to grill so we were off to the races…

I served the shrimp with a super fresh and healthy “slaw” featuring those local carrots and radish from the farmers market plus under ripe pears and a light coriander dressing. If you dislike mayo or cook for someone who does (like me – Dear Hubby hates mayo) then this will make everyone happy. Plus it makes me feel better about indulging in these bacon-hugging shrimp!

stalk of sugar cane

Girly Girl with the stalk of sugar cane.

cutting sugar cane from the stalk

To get at the good stuff, use a heavy, sharp knife and a mallet or hammer.

sugar cane, peel the bark

Use a smaller sharp knife to cut away the “bark” – this part is fairly easy compared with stripping the “bark”.

sugar cane pulp

Here is a piece of sugar cane with a strip of bark removed. The inside is slightly spongy.

raw sugar cane

Here I have cut the sugar cane into chunks and spears (for the skewers). The chunks go into a pot with some water to cook out the juice.

cooked sugar cane pulp

Once the sugar cane has cooked down (it will still be in chunks and quite firm) grind it in a heavy duty food processor until it is very fine. Then squeeze out the juice by hand over a strainer.

Use that sugar cane "juice" to make the glaze for the shrimp. Vindaloo seasoning from Penzy's Spices and fresh citrus juice makes a flavorful glaze.

Use that sugar cane “juice” to make the glaze for the shrimp. Vindaloo seasoning from Penzy’s Spices and fresh citrus juice makes a flavorful glaze.

wild American shrimp

Here are the WILD American shrimp. These had been frozen but thawed they they were still beautiful, LOCALLY caught and tasted superb!

skewered shrimp

Use the sugar cane sticks to skewer each shrimp. To make it easier make the skewers narrow and …

Cut both ends of each stick at an angle. Cut a few more than you'll need in case a couple break.

Cut both ends of each stick at an angle. Cut a few more than you’ll need in case a couple break.

Prepare the bacon by cutting away the fatty part and just use the more meaty strips. You don't need much bacon per shrimp and less fat will means it will catch on fire less easily!

Prepare the bacon by cutting away the fatty part and just use the more meaty strips. You don’t need much bacon per shrimp and less fat will means it will catch on fire less easily!

bacon wrapped shrimp

Wrap each shrimp with the bacon and use a toothpick to secure, if needed – no one will tell, just remember to remove them before serving!

Place the bacon wrapped shrimp on the hot grill and rush with the glaze.

Place the bacon wrapped shrimp on the hot grill and rush with the glaze.

shrimp wrapped in bacon and skewered with sugar cane

Cook the shrimp on each side and brush with more glaze. When the bacon is cooked they’re ready!

Sugar cane citrus grilled shrimp – with an oink!

  • ¼ cup sugar cane “juice”
  • juice ½ of a large fresh lemon
  • juice of ½ of a large, ripe fresh lemon
  • ½ tsp (or more!) Vindaloo seasoning
  • 1 dozen extra large or jumbo fresh shrimp, peeled with tails left on
  • 12 sugar cane ‘sticks’
  • 6-12 slices thick bacon, excess fat removed*

To make the cane “juice” chop up about 2 sections of peeled sugar cane. Place this is 2/3 cup of water in a saucepan and heat until boiling. Reduce to a simmer and allow to cook like this for at least one hour. Stir occasionally and when the liquid has reduced to about ¼ cup remove from the heat.

With a heavy duty food processor grind the sugar cane stalks and the liquid using the highest speed to get a fine pulp. Place a mesh strainer over a medium bowl and pour the sugar cane pulp/liquid into it. With clean hands squeeze the pulp to release the juice (much like squeezing cooked spinach). Discard the dry pulp left in the strainer. You should have about ¼ cup juice.

Mix this juice with the lemon and orange juices and the Vindaloo seasoning. Set aside.

Skewer each shrimp with a sugar cane stick (cut ends of each stick at an angle for easier skewering). Skewer all the shrimp and then wrap each with bacon securing with an extra toothpick if necessary. Place the shrimp in the refrigerator while preparing your grill.

When grill is very hot, remove shrimp from the frig and place on the hot grill. Brush with the vindaloo/sugar cane mixture and grill about 3 minutes. Turn over and again brush with the vindaloo/sugar cane mixture. Continue to grill until the bacon is cooked, avoiding burning them or over cooking the shrimp. Take off the grill, remove any toothpicks and watch them disappear! And the sugar cane skewers are edible so that’s a conversation topic for your next dinner party!

* On a diet? You can also leave off the bacon and simply grill the shrimp on the sugar cane skewers without the added “oink” calories and fat. It is still excellent!

The sweet taste of success: meltaways (or, how to break that new years resolution)

meltaways almond

Are you up for a challenge? For the bakers out there, today’s post may, or may not, be just that. For those of you who forcefully pronounce ala Rachel Ray “I do not bake”, you may as well not click through, even if the image above is deliciously enticing. And, add to that if you’re in a hurry go on and pass by my post today…

What I’m offering up today is a challenge that requires several hours of your time and an oven. If you’re not scared yet, then by all means please read on…

Before moving back to the Lowcountry of South Carolina my family and I lived in Birmingham, Alabama for approximately 2 years. While the time there had both challenges and some good times, I did learn at least two things: there’s NO place for me to live happily but the Lowcountry and Savage’s Bakery in Homewood makes the best danish I’ve ever eaten.

Savage’s is a hole-in-wall type place (aren’t all the best places?) on the southern edge of Birmingham, a sort of suburb called Homewood. It is “sort of” a suburb because you’re simply ‘over the mountain’ (literally a 1,000-foot-high chunk of rock) and you are in Homewood, rather than technically B’ham. Homewood is cute, Pottery Barn cute, where what used to be called “yuppies” propagate numerous chill’in (Alabamanese for ‘children’), drive university-collaged SUV’s (‘Bama or Auburn) and are lucky to dine at some of the best farm-to-table restaurants in the country.

Within approximately a ½ mile area, exist all of the following bastions of southern eating:

  • Saw’s BBQ
  • Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q (the original)
  • Dreamland BBQ (outpost)
  • Highlands Bar & Grill (Frank Stitt*)
  • Chez FonFon (Frank Stitt)
  • Bottega (Frank Stitt)
  • Hot & Hot Fish Club (Chris Hastings – James Beard 2012 Best Chef in the South)
  • The J. Clyde (70 years old and still rockin’)
  • Savage’s Bakery (home of those meltaways)

Plus, travel afield in any direction and within 15-20 minutes you’re among farmsteads that many times sell their produce and products to local restaurants and/or at any of the numerous farmers markets. There are indeed a lot of “foodie-centric” reasons to like B’ham. Anyway back to Savage’s…

I passed by their storefront every weekday (twice a day!) taking Girly Girl to preschool. Right after we moved there, I stopped in to pick up a few treats for incoming out-of-town company, and that was it. Those meltaways were a carbohydrate drug. Dear Hubby and I determined early on which one was our favorite “ flavor” – almond. We tried them all, believe me, over those 2 years. I was told that the recipe was super-secret. While I lived in B’ham, I bided my time deciphering their taste, look, texture, filling consistency, size and glaze.

Now ensconced in Beaufort for the last year and half, I feel secure that I can reveal my own doppelganger meltaway recipe. My advice centers on three things: use the best butter you can, don’t over bake, and take your time – this recipe is the opposite of a “quick bread”. Oh, and don’t expect to serve just one per person – that would be both impossible and extremely disappointing for the eater!

* If you enjoy upscale Southern food then you should thank Frank Stitt! Frank Stitt is a James Beard awarded chef and cookbook author. Having worked for Alice Waters at her restaurant Chez Panisse, he met Richard Olney. Influenced by Ms. Waters, Olney, Julia Child, Jeremiah Tower and others he met while working there, he came back to his native Alabama to open Highlands Bar & Grill in the early 1980’s. Here, he elevated Southern cuisine and advocated the “buy local” and slow food movements, influencing a myriad of chefs, including Chris Hastings, in the South and across the nation.

Fresh zested orange. This and the cardamon gave the dough a very nice subtle flavor, especially good with the almond filling and lemon laced glaze!

Fresh zested orange. This and the cardamon gave the dough a very nice subtle flavor, especially good with the almond filling and lemon laced glaze!

Kerrygold butter

This was the brand I chose to use on this day, a recommendation of my mother-in-law, Kay. I found it excellent for baking!

butter and flour

Whip the butter and flour until light and creamy. Hold at a cool room temperature until it’s needed.

If you're a 'baker' then making this dough is a snap especially if you have a good mixer with a paddle or dough hook. If not, it still isn't really hard to make.  Here the orange juice is mixed with the yeast mixture.

If you’re a ‘baker’ then making this dough is a snap especially if you have a good mixer with a paddle or dough hook. If not, it still isn’t really hard to make. Here the orange juice is mixed with the yeast mixture.

Here the dough is mixed  and kneaded (either by the mixer or by hand). Use a little extra flour as it will be somewhat sticky to the touch. Wrap it in plastic and allow to rest in the frig.

Here the dough is mixed and kneaded (either by the mixer or by hand). Use a little extra flour as it will be somewhat sticky to the touch. Wrap it in plastic and allow to rest in the frig.

Take the dough from the frig and roll out to a large rectangle. It will be about 18" x 13".

Take the dough from the frig and roll out to a large rectangle. It will be about 18″ x 13″.

Spread the the butter mixture over about 2/3 of the dough.

Spread the the butter mixture over about 2/3 of the dough.

Next fold the left side of the dough over once to cover about half of the the buttered dough...

Next fold the left side of the dough over once to cover about half of the the buttered dough…

Then it over again. Now place the dough on a sheet of plastic on a cookie sheet and wrap it in the plastic. Allow to rest in the frig again.

Then fold it over again. Now place the dough on a sheet of plastic on a cookie sheet and wrap it in the plastic. Allow to rest in the frig again.

Here it is after it's rest in the frig. Roll it out again to a large rectangle....

Here it is after it’s rest in the frig. Roll it out again to a large rectangle….

Here's the rectangle. Fold one side (left) over a third of the way and then the other side (right) over. Cover with plastic and allow to rest in the frig. You will do this rolling out and folding again 3 more times for a total of 5 times. You do not spread any more butter in, however. The folding, rolling out and resting incorporates the butter through the danish and makes it all light and flaky. See?

Here’s the rectangle. Fold one side (left) over a third of the way and then the other side (right) over. Cover with plastic and allow to rest in the frig. You will do this rolling out and folding again 3 more times for a total of 5 times. You do not spread any more butter in, however. The folding, rolling out and resting incorporates the butter through the dough and makes it all light and flaky. See?

meltaways, spread on filing

When you are ready to make your meltaways, roll out the dough one last time and spread on the filling. You can also create your own filling: cream cheese, raspberry, rhubarb, blueberry – whatever you like.

Solo almond filling

Here is the store-bought filling I used. It was actually quite good. I did add extra sliced almonds, though.

Here you can see I left a good 1/2 inch edge all around. Then I brushed on some water  - it helps to keep the seam together once you roll it up.

Here you can see I left a good 1/2 inch edge all around. Then I brushed on some water – it helps to keep the seam together once you roll it up.

meltaways, slice into pieces

Roll up the dough jelly roll fashion. Then slice. I find slicing in half and then each part in half again after that, helps me create more evenly sized pieces. A sharp knife is key also!

Place the slices into prepared muffin tins. I also place a few extra sliced almonds on each one of them as well.

Place the slices into prepared muffin tins. I sprinkled a few extra sliced almonds on each one of them as well.

Allow the meltaways to rise in a warm spot for at least 45 minutes ad they will look like this!

Allow the meltaways to rise in a warm spot for at least 45 minutes and they will look like this!

almond meltaways ready for glaze

Fresh out of the oven! Allow to cool a few minutes but glaze while still slightly warm. Remove to a rack to cool completely.

gooey almond meltaways

Gooey almond meltaways! So good with a cup of coffee on a cold winter morning (or anytime – as my waistline attests!). There is some work involved, but are so worth it!

Meltaways (or how to break your New Year’s Resolution!)

  • 1 tbl yeast
  • 1/2 c. whole milk
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • ½ tsp ground cardamom
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, chilled
  • 1/4 c. fresh orange juice
  • 3 1/4 c cup all purpose flour plus extra
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 pound cold unsalted butter (bets quality)
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • Almond filling (1 can)
  • 1/2 – 2/3 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar (more or less)
  • 2 tbl. fresh lemon juice
  • 1-2 tsp milk

Make the dough:

Combine yeast and milk in bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Mix on low speed. Slowly add the sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, eggs, and orange juice and mix well. Change to the dough hook. Combine the flour and salt and add 1 c. at a time, increasing the speed to medium as it is incorporated. Knead the dough for 5 minutes, or until smooth. Add a little more flour if it is sticky. Transfer the dough to a floured baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and place in fridge for 30 minutes.

Make the butter block:

Combine the butter and flour in the bowl of your mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cream on medium speed for 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle. Cream for 1 minute more, or until smooth and lump free. Set aside at room temperature.

When the dough has chilled for the 30 minutes, transfer it to a lightly floured work surface. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to a rectangle about 18 x 13-inches. The dough may be sticky. Keep dusting it with flour. Spread the butter evenly over the center and right thirds of the dough. Fold the left edge of the dough to the right, covering half of the butter block. Fold the right third of the rectangle over the center third. The first turn has now been completed. Place the dough on a baking sheet, wrap it in plastic wrap and place in fridge for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes has passed, place the dough lengthwise on a floured board (work surface). The open ends should be to your right and left. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into another 13 x 18 inch, 1/4-inch thick rectangle. Again, fold the left third of the rectangle over the center third and the right third over the center third. (No butter is placed on the dough this time). The second turn has now been made. Repeat this process 3 more times, allowing the dough to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes in between.

Refrigerate the dough after the final turn for at least 4 hours or overnight. The Danish dough is now ready to use*.

*If you are not going to use it within 24 hours, freeze it. Roll it out to 1-inch thick before freezing as this makes it much easier to defrost.

Put together the Meltaways:

Butter or oil 2 muffin tins. Roll the Danish dough into 18 x 13-inch rectangle. (If the dough seems very elastic and springs back when you roll it, let it rest for 5 minutes, then roll again.)

Spread filling evenly over the dough, leaving about 1/4 inch edges all around void of filling. And sprinkle with ½ cup of sliced almonds. Dampen the edges with water.

Starting at the long edge closest to you, begin to roll up the rectangle, like a jelly roll. Roll tightly at first, then ease up and push the dough into a log. Pinch the edge.

Using a metal bench scraper or sharp knife cut the roll in half and then each piece in half to get approx. ½ inch slices. Place in muffin tins and top with a few additional sliced almonds if you like. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let proof at room temp for at 45-60 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400F. Place a rack in the center of oven. Bake for about 12-14 minutes. Don’t over bake. Makes 2 dozen meltaways.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan a few minutes. In a small bowl mix the confectioner’s sugar and the lemon juice. Stir in 1 teaspoon milk to make a thin glaze. Use 1 teaspoon more milk if it is too thick for your liking. Drizzle the glaze on each meltaway and allow to cool a few more minutes in the pan before placing on a rack to cool completely. I find  these do not need much glaze and you’ll probably have some glaze leftover.

Auld Lang Syne: Flounder meuniere with “champagne” lemon buerre blanc

Flounder meuniere with lemon beurre blanc

Whilst we were still in the year 2012, I made a resolution to lose weight and adopt a more consistent exercise routine in 2013. But before that promise was to come to fruition, I decided to indulge in one of my favorite entrees, a fish dinner swimming in my absolute favorite, decadent butter sauce – lemon buerre blanc. Setting off to my local fish market (The Sea Eagle Market here in Beaufort), girly girl and I made a purchase of local flounder and two pounds of fresh, locally caught shrimp. Girly girl likes to check out all the whole fish lined up behind the counter, watch the fish mongers furiously clean and slice the whole fish, and most importantly, counts on getting a quarter for the candy machine every time we stop here.

Now flounder (similar to sole and turbot) is a delicate fish, perfect for a hot pan sauté. And as I am proud that my 5-year-old loves salmon, a rather oily, very “fishy” fish, I can count on her liking flounder too, so I was satisfied it would fit into my dinner plan. The fillets at the market were just the right size, reasonably priced and as I noted above, locally caught. My version of a French classic: Prepared Southern-style with flounder and pecans!

I remembered that I also had at a bottle of decent champagne  (the real stuff) in the refrigerator (it had been there a while!) and it should be perfect in the sauce. So once I sent Dear Hubby out for some pecans (ran out during the holidays), I was all set for a “final meal” worthy of sending out 2012 in style.

Fresh flounder fillets, washed and dried. They are firm (but flexible), NOT slimy and do not have a strong fish odor. Fresh fish!

Fresh flounder fillets, washed and dried. They are firm (but flexible), NOT slimy and do not have a strong fish odor. Fresh fish!

I'm sure ya'll know what pecans look like, but I thought these were especially nice ones and you can see the chop size.

I’m sure ya’ll know what pecans look like, but I thought these were especially nice ones and you can see the chop size.

Here are the pecans after I ground them in my small food processor. Small but you can still tell what it is...

Here are the pecans after I ground them in my small food processor. A small grind, but you can still tell what it is…

Cook down the shallots in the "champagne" and the lemon juice to concentrate the flavors.

Cook down the shallots in the “champagne” and the lemon juice to concentrate the flavors.

After adding the cream, whisk in the butter 1 tablespoon at a time. Adjust the heat on the stove as necessary - do not allow the mixture to  boil! Yes, it uses a lot of butter...but that's why it is so decadent!

After adding the cream, whisk in the butter 1 tablespoon at a time. Adjust the heat on the stove as necessary – do not allow the mixture to boil! Yes, it uses a lot of butter…but that’s why it is so decadent!

dredge flounder fillets

Dredge the fillets in the pecan/flour mixture just before sautéing.

sauté flounder fillets

Sauté the flounder fillets in hot, melted butter on both sides until browned and cooked through. Do not overcook! Remove the fish to warmed plates and cover while sautéing all the fillets.

flounder fillet meuniere with champagne lemon buerre blanc

Here’s another shot of the finished plate. This was MY plate – notice all the sauce! More than a drizzle…better to soak up with some good French bread!

Flounder Meuniere with “Champagne” Lemon Buerre Blanc

  • 6 flounder fillets, washed and dried
  • ½ cup pecans, rough chopped and divided
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground pepper
  • 3-4 tbl all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbl. salted butter
  • 1-2 shallots, minced – to make about 3 tablespoons
  • 2 tbl fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup sparkling wine or champagne (a rich white wine will work too)
  • 1-2 tbl heavy cream
  • 10 oz cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes (about 1 tbl. each)
  • 1 tbl grape or vegetable oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a small saucepan combine the shallot, wine, and lemon juice in a non-reactive saucepan over high heat and reduce to about 2 tablespoons. Lower the heat slightly and add the cream to the reduction. Bring heat up to just under a boil and then reduce heat to low. Add butter one tablespoon at a time, whisking continuously. Keep whisking until all butter is incorporated. Keep sauce warm on a heated pad or stove-top (stir occasionally) while you cook the fish.

In a food processor or blender grind about ¼ cup pecans to a fine consistency. Reserve the rest of the pecans and set aside. Mix the ground pecans in a small bowl with the flour, ½ tsp salt and pepper. Transfer this mixture to a flat plate or platter. Meanwhile heat 2 tbl butter in a sauté or fry pan until hot (but not smoking).

Drizzle oil over all the fillets to coat. Dredge the flounder fillets in the ground pecan/flour mixture on both sides and place in the hot butter cooked about 3 minutes per side. Sprinkle with just a little salt and pepper. You may need to cook the fillets in 2 batches. Remove to a warmed, covered plate while you finish up cooking all the fillets.

Serve fillets with the warm beurre blanc sauce drizzled on top and a sprinkle of the remaining chopped pecans.

Celebrate a proper Southern New Years: Black-eyed peas, cornbread and mustard greens

traditional southern new years plate

The Southern US is a superstitious place, especially when it comes to welcoming the New Year. The household of my childhood was no exception. Specifically my mother adheres to the traditions that will supposedly usher in happiness, money and just general good luck in the upcoming year.

The two main traditions revolve around eating (of course!). The first is to always enjoy a bowl of black-eyed peas and the second is to follow those peas with a good helping of cooked greens. Black-eyed peas equal good luck and greens mean money. My mother prepares either mustard greens or turnip greens, even though collards is what most folks think of when they think “cooked greens”. Collards are okay, but I prefer mustard greens with their peppery overtones and subtler flavor (and smell!).

A big bowl of black-eyed peas with rice, some mustard greens on the side and a hunk of homemade buttermilk cornbread round out a traditionally southern new years meal. Even if you believe superstitions are all bunk and hooey, with one spoonful of black-eyed peas and a bite of crispy, buttery cornbread and you’ll know today is truly your lucky day.

New Year’s superstitions with a southern twist

  • Empty pockets or empty cupboards on New Years Eve predict a year of poverty.
  • Black-eyed peas bring good luck (see above).
  • Eat greens on News Years Day to bring money in the New Year. Apparently each bite of greens you eat is worth $1000 in the upcoming year.
  • Eat cornbread as its ‘gold’ color represents “coin” money or pocket money. Plus, it goes well with collard greens, peas and pork.
  • On New Years Day avoid:

            Breaking things

            Throwing things away

            Paying back loans or lending money

            Crying

How about you? Do you have any usual superstitions (New Years or not) to share?

From my childhood: Does your ear itch? Then someone is talking about you. Does your nose itch? Then you will kiss a fool within the next 24 hours.

From my mother-in-law Ginny here’s one: If the first words you say on the first day of the month are: “white rabbit”, you’ll have good luck all month. (Sounds sort of “groovy ’60s” to me, but I like it!)

The "four food groups" for a successful Southern style New Year's Day feast: black-eyed peas, cornbread, greens and rice.

The “four food groups” for a successful Southern style New Year’s Day feast: black-eyed peas, cornbread, greens and rice.

Easy black-eyed peas with rice (This is the way I grew up eating black-eyed peas)

  • (1) 10 oz package fresh or rehydrated black-eyed peas* (find in the refrigerated produce section)
  • 2-3 slices hog jowl or 1 small smoked ham hock or 3 slices chopped bacon
  • 1 cup vegetable stock or broth
  • 1 cup water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup sweet onion, chopped (optional)
  • hot sauce (optional)
  • cooked rice

In a medium saucepan (with lid) cook the hog jowl over medium heat until rendered. Add broth, water and black-eyed peas. Stir. Bring heat to a low boil, stir and allow to boil (low to medium boil) about 5 minutes with the lid off. Lower heat to a simmer and cook another 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Lower heat again, add the lid and cook another 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper to your taste.

Serve on hot cooked rice, topped with chopped sweet onion and hot sauce.

* You can also use dried back eyed peas, however the cooking time will be much longer (several hours) and require more liquid (4-5 cups water or broth in total).

Hoppin’ John: the concoction you hear more often than the plain ‘black-eyed peas and rice’ above. It’s more of a one-pot meal.

(from Hoppin’ John’s Lowcountry Cooking)

  • 1 cup small dried beans such as cowpeas or black-eyes
  • 5 to 6 cups water
  • 1 dried hot pepper (optional)
  • 1 smoked ham hock
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about ¾ cup)
  • 
1 cup long-grain white rice

Wash and sort the peas. Place them in the saucepan, add the water, and discard any peas that float. Gently boil the peas with the pepper, ham hock, and onion, uncovered, until tender but not mushy — about 1½ hours — or until 2 cups of liquid remain. Add the rice to the pot, cover, and simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes, never lifting the lid. 

Remove from the heat and allow to steam, still covered, for another 10 minutes. Remove the cover, fluff with a fork, and serve immediately.

Mustard greens. Be sure to wash the greens very, very well. All those pretty, fluffy curled sprigs catch every grit of sand they were grown in.

Mustard greens. Be sure to wash the greens very, very well. All those pretty, fluffy curled sprigs catch every grit of sand they were grown in. Trust me – wash them at least 3 times!

You also need to strip the thick stems from the center of each stalk. You just eat the leafy part.

You also need to strip the thick stems from the center of each stalk. You just cook the leafy part.

In a large pot cook the pork - you can use fat back, bacon, pork jowls or here I used pork sides and a pig tail. Yes, that is a fresh piggie tail.  Once that is cooked, add the greens and then the broth/stock.

In a large pot cook the pork – you can use fat back, bacon, pork jowls or here I used pork sides and a pig tail. Yes, that is a fresh piggie tail. Once that is cooked, add the greens and then the broth/stock.

The green will begin to wilt. Then cover and allow to cook on low heat awhile until the green are very tender. Season as you like with salt and pepper. I find that by using vegetable broth/stock I don't need to add extra salt.

The greens will begin to wilt. Then cover and allow to cook on low heat awhile until the green are very tender. Season as you like with salt and pepper. I find that by using vegetable broth/stock I don’t need to add extra salt.

Here are the mustard greens ready for your plate.  If each bite of greens is worth $1000 I'll be be enjoying a HUGE bowl today!

Here are the mustard greens ready for your plate. If each bite of greens is worth $1000, I’ll be be enjoying a HUGE bowl today!

Another shot of my Southern style New Year's Day lucky plate special.

Another shot of my Southern style New Year’s Day lucky plate special.

Mustard greens

  • ½ lb. bacon sides, hog jowls, ham or combination*
  • 1 cup vegetable stock or both
  • salt to taste
  • sugar, optional

Wash the mustard greens 3 or 4 times in fresh water, draining them each time. This is very important – tiny bits of sand cling to greens and will ruin all your hard work if you do not wash them thoroughly. Strip the leafy part from the stems and add the stems to your compost bin.

In a large pot cook the bacon, hog jowls or ham until rendered, about 3-4 minutes. Add the leafy mustard greens. Stir together until greens start to wilt. Add the vegetable stock. Stir again. If necessary, add another splash of broth. Stir and allow to cook, covered, on low heat until greens are tender, at least 45 minutes. Stir frequently and do not allow the greens to burn. Season with a little salt – to your taste. Usually I find they need no additional salt. I’ve heard some people add a bit of sugar – 1 teaspoon – but greens are meant to be tangy and mustard greens are peppery so I’ll leave that up to you!

Serve with malt vinegar or pepper vinegar if desired.

* I  used a fresh pig’s tail and several slices of pork sides (pork belly)

Sarah Ann’s pimento cheese is the real deal!

pimento cheese

Need a delicious and easy snackie for, I don’t know…New Year’s day football watching?How about pimento cheese topped with slices of pickled okra!

There are just some specialities (many would say, “a lot of them!”) that the South is well known for having invented, or at least will take take any and all credit for perfecting. This would include: barbeque (of course), grits, fried chicken, iced tea, Krispy Kreme doughnuts and one of my favorites, pimento cheese.

Just like many good southern gals, I believe that my momma makes the best pimento cheese in the world. On any given day there will be pimento cheese in my mother’s refrigerator. Unless she’s out on a jaunt with the “gambling grandma’s” (this is story for another time!) there’s a Tupperware bowl of her pimento cheese on hand. As she says, “just in case anyone gets hungry.”

If your taste for this delectable spread has thus far been limited to any grocery store brand pimento cheese, then I urge you to try this recipe. This is applicable even if you 1) think said commercial brand(s) you have tried are putrid OR 2) you consider the commercial brand(s) palatable but nothing special. Good homemade pimento cheese will change your mind. But before I go further, I will state that there is one commercially-produced brand out there that I consider very, very good.

The brand is Palmetto Cheese, out of Pawley’s Island, SC. It is carried by Publix, Kroger, Piggly Wiggly and Costco among other mainstream grocers throughout the Lowcountry. For those who live outside this area (sorry!) you can order it online through the Palmetto Cheese web site. I especially like the Palmetto Cheese with jaleponos. When time is short and sandy Lowcountry beaches beckon, we’ll pick up a container at the Edisto Piggly Wiggly and enjoy it right out the carton with crackers (and a cocktail!) on the breezy back porch. It makes a simple, tasty sandwich for lunch, too.

But when there is time, we get out the grater and make Sarah Ann’s pimento cheese. Just be prepared to make another batch because this stuff is addictive! Just go ahead and buy a whole pound of cheddar to make that batch, you know you want to!

The ingredients are straight forward and simple. However, there is magic in the technique.

The ingredients are straight forward and simple. However, there is magic in the technique.

First off grate real cheddar cheese by hand. The better the cheese, the better the pimento cheese although a good brand of real cheddar cheese will suffice. I'm not that snobby!

First off grate real cheddar cheese by hand. The better the cheese, the better the pimento cheese although a good brand of real cheddar cheese will suffice. I’m not that snobby!

Hand grating will give you about 3 cups of finely grated cheddar.

Hand grating will give you about 3 cups of finely grated cheddar.

Secondly, mx the ingredients together using a fork. Use a light touch and stir until just combined.

Secondly, mix the ingredients together using a fork. Use a light touch and mix until just combined.

Lastly, is the pickle juice. This is juice from my own bread-and-butter pickle (sweet pickles). Adds a great tang and touch of sweetness. It is my mom's "secret ingredient".

Lastly, is the pickle juice. This is juice from my own bread-and-butter pickles (sweet pickles). Adds a great tang and just a touch of sweetness. This is my Mom’s “secret ingredient”.

These are homemade pickled okra I snagged at a local Church bazaar. I topped each 'snackie' with a slice of it - perfection in a single bite!

These are homemade pickled okra I snagged at a local Church bazaar. I topped each ‘snackie’ with a slice of it – perfection in a single bite!

Another look at the little bits of goodness. If you like some snappy heat stir in some chopped jalepeno peppers or top with a slice of jalepeno instead of the pickled okra.

Another look at the little bits of goodness. If you like some snappy heat stir in minced jalepeno peppers or top with a slice of jalepeno instead of the okra.

Sarah Ann’s Pimento Cheese

  • ½ pound cheddar cheese – medium or sharp or a combination
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • (1) 4 oz small jar pimentos, drained
  • 1-2 tbl sweet pickle juice
  • fresh cracked pepper
  • Optional: minced jalepeno peppers.
  • Optional: sliced pickled okra or pickled jalepenos

First step is to use a decent cheese. DO NOT use “cheese product”, i.e. American cheese or anything like that. This requires real cheese. The next step is to grate the cheese by hand, preferable using the smaller cheese grating slot, but not a microplane grater. You should get approximately 3 cups of grated cheese – place this in a medium mixing bowl.

The pimentos should be in a small chop so do that step, if necessary. However, note that you still want to recognize the ‘pimentos as pimentos’ so don’t mash them into oblivion. Add these to the cheese in the bowl.

Add the mayo to the cheese/pimento mixture. Using a fork (this is important) gently stir everything until just combined. *Add in 1 tablespoon of pickle juice and a few cracks of pepper and stir again just enough to combine. Then taste the pimento cheese. If it’s to your liking you’re good, if not, add another tablespoon of pickle juice and/or more cracked pepper. Stir and taste test. Makes about 2 cups of great pimento cheese. Store in the refrigerator, tightly covered until ready to use.

* If you like hot & spicy pimento cheese, at this point you should stir in several tablespoons of minced jalepeno peppers.

It’s a Christmas miracle: sizzling grit cakes with rarified roast beef, creamy horseradish and Asiago.

sizzling grt cake with rare roast beef, asiago, horseradish

This year I prepared Christmas dinner, our first back in the Lowcountry. Over the week or so leading up to the big day I also made several of my usual holiday recipes – “fantasy” fudge (yes, I use jarred Fluff), cut out cookies (Martha Stewart recipe) and I dry-aged a well marbled, choice rib roast. This is about the sixth time I have attempted the ‘dry aging’ treatment on a rib roast, and I think it came out the best ever this year – rarified beef indeed!

I like rib roast or lamb for Christmas dinner, ham for Easter and turkey for Thanksgiving. But I am not one to be overly traditional, so if I have some duck or even a nice venison tenderloin, either would be more than satisfactory for such an occasion as Christmas dinner. This year, though, it was rib roast. I aged it for 72 hours following the method of Alton Brown. I have a leave-in digital meat thermometer and it served its purpose perfectly. We enjoyed a wonderful rib roast cooked rare/medium rare as our main course and I happily packed a decent portion back into the frig afterwards.

Apparently I also had my thinking cap on this Christmas as I made a pot of grits Christmas morning for my daughter and myself (Dear Hubby still insists he doesn’t like grits) and I made extra for grit cakes. Now, I use the term ‘cake’ loosely as the congealed, sliced grits are not at all the consistency of a cake and that’s just how I like them. I’ve had restaurant grit cakes that are heavier than mine, and can be used almost like a cracker…or a hockey puck. Personally I like grit cakes to taste great, not just serve as a miniature, flavorless ‘plate’ for holding toppings. So my grit cakes are not portable – they need to be served warm, on a plate them selves and accompanied by a fork.

So, I have my grit cakes and I have my rare, tender roast beef. I also saved the bacon drippings from the Christmas morning breakfast. Easy enough to pair the roast beef with some horseradish (and I have a jar in the frig!). What else would be delicious with this combo? I do have a hunk of Asiago in the cheese drawer…I wonder?

But I did more than wonder. I put myself back to work in the kitchen to make these ‘snackies’. Leftovers never tasted so good! But that is not the miracle.Read on…

Dear Hubby noticed the aroma of bacon and asked, “What are you making?” I replied, “Oh just something for the blog.” He then heard the frying pan sizzling and saw me shaving some Asiago cheese. As he sat down with a glass of ale from his growler (a gift from me) I asked if he was up for taste testing. He said, “Sure!” and I lifted a fork to his mouth, casually mentioning that there were grits involved. But it was to late for him to resist, as all the flavors on the fork were already melding together in his mouth. I heard him fight back a “yumm” type sound as I wistfully asked, “What do you think? Do you like it? Think it’s good enough for the blog?”

His reaction of “Yes, it’s good.”  but included little enthusiasm. In a few minutes I added, “I can make some more up on a plate…if you’d like.” Surprisingly he answered, “Okay.” I proceeded to make him two more small plates. As I sat eating a few bites myself, he added, “This is definitely ‘blog worthy’. It’s really quite good”.

So as my Dear Hubby scraped the last morsel off his plate I thought, “Christmas is truly a time for miracles!” After almost 8 years of the ‘no grits, no way, no time’ I’ve broken through the no grits barrier, once as stubborn as the overcooked, leftover grits in the bottom of a thin, aluminum pot.

These grits may be slathered in bacon grease and topped with tender beef and tangy Asiago, but they’re still grits… and as the state of South Carolina wrote in 1976 when grits was declared the official state food:

Whereas, throughout its history, the South has relished its grits, making them a symbol of its diet, its customs, its humor, and its hospitality, and whereas, every community in the State of South Carolina used to be the site of a grist mill and every local economy in the State used to be dependent on its product; and whereas, grits has been a part of the life of every South Carolinian of whatever race, background, gender, and income; and whereas, grits could very well play a vital role in the future of not only this State, but also the world, if, as The Charleston News and Courier proclaimed in 1952: ‘An inexpensive, simple, and thoroughly digestible food, [grits] should be made popular throughout the world. Given enough of it, the inhabitants of planet Earth would have nothing to fight about. A man* full of [grits] is a man of peace.’


As for me, I’ll take this little ‘miracle’. May the grits of peace be with you and happy holidays!

* or woman

dry aged rib roast

Here is the leftover dry-aged rib roast.

dry aged beef rib roast slices

Slice the rib roast when it is cold and then allow the slices to reach room temperature (or almost).

grit slices, grit cakes

Slice the congealed grits into about 1/2 inch thick slices. You could also use ramekins or even a large loaf pan. If doubling the recipe, use a lined and oiled jelly roll pan.Then just cut out squares of grits.

Brown the grits slices in bacon grease (or butter or a high heat oil like grape oil). However use a NONSTICK pan. Believe me, you'll be glad you did.  Also clear away children from the immediate cooking area and use a splatter screen!

Brown the grits slices in bacon grease (or butter or a high heat oil like grape oil). However, use a NONSTICK pan. Believe me, you’ll be glad you did. Also clear away children from the immediate cooking area and use a splatter screen!

grit cakes

Gently turn each grit cake over and allow to brown. Remove to a warm platter or individual plates. Then add more grease/oil/butter, heat the pan and brown up the rest of the grit cakes.

creamy horseradish sauce

Mix mayo with prepared horseradish and a few cracks of fresh pepper. Use homemade mayo or store bought. Of course my store brand of choice is Duke’s.

warm grit cakes with rare roast beef, horseradish cream and asiago.

Once all the parts of this ‘snackie’ are assembled put it all together: grit cake, then roast beef, a dollop of horseradish cream and a shave or two of Asiago cheese. That’s it!

Sizzling grit cakes with roast beef, creamy horseradish, and shaved Asiago cheese

  • 2 cups cooked grits (see my recipe)
  • vegetable cooking spray
  • 2 tbl bacon grease/drippings (or butter or grape oil)
  • tender roast beef – cooked medium rare to rare (rib roast, beef tenderloin), chilled
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 ½ tsp prepared horseradish
  • several cracks of fresh pepper
  • shaved Asiago cheese

Prepare grits per my previous recipe or as you see fit. The grits should be on the thick side (rather than thin and runny). Prepare two mini loaf pans, round ramekins or any container you think would make a good mould for sliced grits. Line pan(s) with foil and spray lightly with oil.

Pour half the warm, cooked grits into each pan and set in the refrigerator to congeal. Cover ad allow to cool completely – at least 2 hours or overnight.

Meanwhile cut small, very thin slices of beef from the cold roast beef. Set aside shaved roast beef to allow it  reach room temperature (or close to it). In a small bowl mix the mayo, horseradish and cracked pepper. Feel free to adjust the amount of horseradish to your taste. Set aside.

When grits have congealed, remove from the ‘moulds’ and slice into ½ inch thick pieces. Heat 1 tablespoon bacon grease in a non-stick sauté or frying pan to very hot (but not smoking). Add half the sliced grits and cook for about 2 minutes per side or until a nice crust has formed. Note that the grits will sputter and pop so using a  frying screen will help protect your arms and hands as tiny, sizzling hot grits will fly at you. Remove the grit slices to plates and keep warm while you finish frying the rest of the sliced grits with 1 more tablespoon of bacon grease (or butter or grape oil).

Plate this up with 3 slices per person as a first course: top each grit cake with roast beef, then a dollop of horseradish mayo and then a shave of Asiago cheese. Serves 4 with 3 slices per person. This recipe can be doubled.

Hindo’s holiday* black bean chicken chili satisfies.

in the bowl 1

Before that winter storm apparently closes down the top half of our country, run out and get the ingredients to make this chicken chili! It will warm you up from the inside out as you finish up holiday preparations and/or will be a simple reheat if all that ‘prep’ has you exhausted. This is chili for a crowd so a very large pot is required!

In my ‘burg it is a balmy 70 plus degrees this afternoon with sunny skies and a slight breeze, so I am guessing a white Christmas is not on the agenda for us again this year. Not a surprise in these parts! But to all those out there who will be rolling in the deep… deep snow, that is… I salute you. May your holiday be festive, your home be warm with comfort, and your chicken chili spicy!

* This chili is deemed “holiday” by use of red and green bell peppers, but freestyle it with any bell pepper color you like!

The ingredients for this chili - well almost. Missing are the stock/broth, the beer and the other large can of tomatoes. Oops!

The ingredients for this chili – well almost. Missing are the stock/broth, the beer and the other large can of tomatoes. Oops!

Cut the chicken into small chunks. I like to cut up the chicken when it's partially frozen, easier to evenly cut up, I think.

Cut the chicken into small chunks. I like to cut up the chicken when it’s partially frozen, I find it easier to cut up into an even dice like this.

After cooking the chicken, saute the veggies in more olive oil. So pretty and smells delicious in my kitchen!

After cooking the chicken, saute the veggies in more olive oil. So pretty and smells delicious in my kitchen!

Mix teh seasonings (like salt) , the spices and the teaspoon of sugar in a bowl. Add this to cooked veggies.

Mix the seasonings, the spices and the teaspoon of sugar in a bowl. Add this to cooked veggies.

I use black beans in this chili. Wash them in a colander and allow to drain for a few minutes before adding to the veggies with the tomatoes.

I use black beans in this chili. Wash them in a colander and allow to drain for a few minutes before adding to the chili mixture.

Add the broth and stir gently.

Add the broth and stir gently.

Here is the beer I used in this batch - a nice amber ale. Use your favorite.

Here is the beer I used in this batch – a nice amber ale. Use your favorite.

I realize you probably know how to pour beer into a pot...but this was such a good shot - you can almost smell the beer and spices wafting  in the air!

I realize you know how to pour beer into a pot…but this was such a good “action” shot. You can almost smell the beer and spices wafting through the air!

If your chili is sort of foamy looking at this point (like this!) do not worry. It will calm down soon.

If your chili is sort of foamy looking at this point (like this!) do not worry. It will calm down soon.

After simmering for awhile, the mixture thickens and the flavors concentrate. Time to add the chicken!

After simmering for awhile, the mixture thickens and the flavors concentrate. Time to add the chicken!

Simmer the chile for awhile longer and add the hot peppers. I've always felt that spicy heat  is a personal choice. Thus, I use fresh peppers to bring up the heat to my liking and offer condiments to accommodate personal heat and spice preferences.

Simmer the chile for awhile longer and add the hot peppers. I’ve always felt that spicy heat is a personal choice. Thus, I use fresh peppers to bring up the heat to my liking, and offer condiments to accommodate personal heat and spice preferences “in the bowl”.

The chili is ready! Remember to remove any hot pepper halves from the completed pot. If not some one may get a surprise in their bowl.

The chili is ready! Remember to remove any hot pepper halves from the completed pot. If not, someone may get a spicy surprise in their bowl!

Here's my own bowl - with a dollop of sour cream and a spoonful of smoked pepper sauce. Yum!

Here’s my own bowl – with a dollop of sour cream and a spoonful of smoked pepper sauce. Yum!

Black Bean Chicken Chili

  • 5-6 lb skinless, boneless chicken breast (cut into small cubes)
  • 7-8 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 large sweet onions, diced (about 3 cups)
  • 3 large sweet bell peppers, diced
  • 3 large cans (26.5 oz) black beans (about 6 cups) rinsed and drained
  • (2) 28 oz size cans fire roasted crushed tomatoes
  • (4) 14.5 oz size cans fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 4 tbl olive oil
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken stock/broth
  • 2 bottles of good quality beer
  • 2-4 hot peppers (jalepeno, serrano, habernaro or your choice for the heat you like)

Spice & seasoning mixture:

  • 2 tsp. salt +
  • 2 tsp. adobo seasoning
  • 2 tsp. black pepper
  • 3 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 2 tsp ancho chili pepper – ground
  • 1 tsp. chipolte pepper – ground
  • 2 tsp. smoked sweet paprika (Spanish style)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • Favorite toppings and accoutrements like pepper sauce, hot sauce, sour cream, shredded cheese, chopped onions, etc.

In a very large pot heat 2 tbl olive oil to medium high (not smoking). Add in chicken and cook, stirring every so often until all chicken is just cooked through. This will take about 10-12 minutes. You may also cook in two batches, dividing olive oil and chicken between the two.

Remove chicken to a platter or bowl and set aside in the refrigerator. Pour out any leftover juices from the chicken. Add remaining 2 tbl oil to pot and heat to medium. Stir in the garlic, onions and bell pepper. Stir mixture and cook on medium about 6-7 minutes. Reduce heat to low, cover the pot and cook another 2 minutes.

Meanwhile mix all the spices and seasonings (and sugar) together in a small bowl. Uncover the vegetables and stir in the spices and seasoning mixture. Add in the beans. Stir. Add in the broth and all the tomatoes. Stir again. Bring up the heat to a simmer – this may take 10-12 minutes. Stir occasionally. Leave lid off.

When heated and starting to bubble around the edges add the beer, stirring gently after each bottle is added. Keep heating the chili mixture at a simmer (not a rolling boil). Simmer at this temperature about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Turn heat down slightly and add chicken. Stir gently. Allow to cook, uncovered, for 30 more minutes. Meanwhile, slice the hot peppers in half and remove the seeds. Use gloves to handle the peppers, if necessary. Place as many hot pepper halves into the chili as you like. Stir. Allow to cook on low for 15 minutes, stirring gently every 3 or 4 minutes.

At this point taste a sample of the chili to see if it has the heat you like. If it does, remove the pepper halves and if it does not, leave them in for another 10 minutes or so before tasting again. You can repeat this step again if you like. When the heat is right, adjust the salt, if necessary, as well. Be sure to remove the hot peppers prior to serving unless you’d like someone to get a rather fiery surprise!

Serve in warm bowls with hot sauce, pepper sauce, sour cream, chopped jalepeno, onion, what have you…

This makes a whole lotta chili. Enough for at least 15 large bowls, but it freezes well up to two weeks and leftovers are very tasty too!

Holidays were made for caramel cinnamon rolls.

Since Santa arrives in less than 2 weeks I thought it appropriate to repost my favorite holiday breakfast recipe: Caramel Cinnamon Rolls.  Although I’ll make these for any gathering where breakfast is served to a crowd, there is nothing I enjoy more to nibble on while gathered ’round the tree on Christmas morning than one of these beauties, drizzled with warm caramel. They also make a good hostess gift as they freeze well too. Just remember to include  some of the caramel sauce, as that sauce truly makes this recipe shine. Happy 14 days ’til Christmas!

Honestly I can’t remember when I began making these cinnamon rolls. It’s been a long time, though. I fooled around with different recipes for years before perfecting this recipe. Well, I think it’s perfect, although some may have suggestions for improvement. Being a southerner, I love pecans so there’s plenty of those nestled throughout the cinnamon swirl, but feel free to leave them out or switch to walnuts or hazelnuts or what have you.

The true ‘secret’ of these cinnamon rolls is the caramel sauce. This sauce lifts the cinnamon bun above the ordinary breakfast roll… in my opinion it leaves the ones that are crowned with white icing in the proverbial dust. I like gooey and I like caramel and that combination soaked into every morsel of buttery cinnamon-laced sweet bread… this is my idea of heaven on a plate.

I’ve saved this recipe all summer waiting for fall to arrive. And while it’s still somewhat balmy here in the Lowcountry, we have been able to shut off the air conditioning and open the windows for the most part. With the scent of cinnamon and bread baking I deem it officially fall.

Ingredients include good quality cinnamon, a couple of eggs and my favorite, King Arthur Flour.

After dissolving the yeast, add a little sugar and then the eggs.

After whisking in the eggs, add the milk and softened butter.

Begin adding in the flour first with the whisk and then…

a wooden spoon. Continue adding in the flour to create a soft dough.

Here’s the dough ready to knead. Turn onto a clean, lightly floured surface and knead 6-8 minutes. Then place in a bowl, loosely cover and allow to rise in a warm place (NOT hot ) until doubled in bulk.

Meanwhile you can make the caramel sauce. In a heavy saucepan heat the water and sugar.

Allow the mixture to come to a boil but do not stir once it gets going. You can use a brush with a little water around the outside edges of the saucepan to brush down (melt) any crystalized sugar that forms.

Watch the caramelizing sugar carefully – don’t walk away. It can burn very quickly. In this image the caramel is almost ready, not quite, but almost…

Hey, it’s ready. Turn off the heat and time to add the butter…

The mixture will foam after adding the butter – keep whisking and…

Add the cream and the vanilla extract. Whisk some more and allow to cool before pouring into a covered container.

Now back to that dough…punch it down and…

Roll out the dough into a large rectangle. Brush with melted butter.

This part goes quick…sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar.

Then add the pecans (if you like) and begin rolling up – along the long dimension.

When rolled you can use a touch of water to help “seal” the dough.

Slice the roll into relatively equal pieces. I find the easiest way to accomplish this is to slice in the center first, and then slice each piece in the center after that, until you have the size and number of slices you like. This recipe will make 12 nice sized buns.

After rising in a warm spot for about an hour, bake the rolls in a preheated 325 degree oven.

Remove the rolls from the oven and pour about half the carmel sauce over the top. Reserve the rest of the sauce for individual portions , or to top a bowl of ice cream! If only serving a few of the cinnamon rolls, I remove the rolls from the pan individually and then top each one with the sauce. But it’s a personal preference!

Caramel Cinnamon Rolls

  • 1 pkg. plus 1 tsp dry yeast
  • ½ cup scalded and cooled milk (no less than 2%!)
  • ½ cup barely warm water (NOT hot)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 ½ cups (plus extra for kneading) bread flour (or regular unbleached, all-purpose will work)
  • 1 cup unbleached white whole wheat flour
  • 8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided and softened
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

In a large mixing bowl pour the water over the yeast, swirl to mix and let stand 5 minutes. Whisk in the sugar and then add each egg, whisking after each. Pour in the milk and then 5 Tbl. of the softened butter. Whisk together – it will not be completely smooth. Mix the salt with the flour and add 1 cup of this flour mixture to the yeast mixture. Whisk to dissipate the lumps of butter. Keep adding the flour about a cup at the time and stir with a wooden spoon or spatula.

When almost all of the flour is incorporated turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 6-8 minutes adding small amounts of flour (1-2 teaspoons) as needed. I use about 1/3 cup of additional flour. The dough should not be sticky but smooth and elastic.

Place the dough in a lightly buttered bowl and allow to sit in a warm place (NOT hot) for about 1 hour or until doubled in size. If you like, you can store in the refrigerator at this point (prior to rising) overnight. Just be sure the dough is in an airtight container with room for expansion as it will rise some overnight, even in a refrigerator.

Once the dough has risen, roll out into a large rectangle on a flat, lightly floured surface. Approximately 18” x 13”. Brush 3 Tbl. of melted butter on the dough. Mix the brown sugar with the cinnamon and sprinkle over the buttered dough. Then sprinkle on the chopped pecans. Brush one of the long edges of the dough lightly with cool water. Starting along the opposite long edge roll up the dough. Crimp the edge that has been brushed with water to seal as best you can.

With a sharp knife, cut 1” slices of the roll and place in a lightly oiled or buttered baking pan. Leave some space between the individual rolls. At this point you can cover the pan tightly with foil and freeze for up to 1 week. Or continue with preparing now. Place the bowl in a warm spot and allow to rise for 45 minutes to an hour. They should double in size.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Bake the rolls for about 25-30 minutes until browned. Cool slightly and serve with warmed caramel poured over the entire pan of rolls OR pour over each individually after you remove them from the baking pan. Makes 12  cinnamon rolls.

Note: For frozen cinnamon rolls, allow to defrost over night in the refrigerator. Then allow the pans of rolls to rise in a warm place and follow the instructions above.

Vanilla Caramel Sauce

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 4 Tbl. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¼ cup water
  • ½ cup whipping cream
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extra

Have all measured ingredients assembled close by your stove. In a heavy bottomed saucepan, melt the sugar with the water over high heat. Watch continuously – do not walk away. When the mixture boils do not stir but swirl carefully. You can also use a pastry brush dipped in water to wash the sugar crystals from the sides of the pan if necessary.

The sugar water will begin to turn brown. When to your liking turn off the heat (remove from the heat) and add the butter. Stir and whisk in the cream. It will bubble a lot. Allow to cool and stir in the vanilla. This can be poured immediately over the baked caramel rolls or into a container, covered and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use. Makes 1 cup. Can be kept in the refrigerator in an airtight container up to 5 days

Fruit tart with rum cream, chocolate and blackberries

rum cream tart

The recipe today reaches back, way back, for me. It combines many elements that I find appealing in a dessert… fresh fruit, a cookie or shortbread type crust, whipped cream and chocolate.  Honestly, this is a dessert that lends itself more toward a fancy ladies tea than anything else. Baked as small individual tarts and artfully embellished with various summer fruits it’s a pretty and pleasing sweet for a wedding or baby shower spread. And I have made it for that purpose in the past, but for a dinner party a big ‘ole tart works just fine and is much faster to put together. While there are several steps and I do end up using lots of bowls, spoons, spatulas and such, none of the techniques are difficult and the resulting tart (or tartlets) are very well worth any trouble.

My Dear Hubby just went bananas for this dessert, surprising me to be honest. I think the rum cream filling is superb and works well with many types of fruit. The added layer of chocolate  helps keep the pastry crust from becoming soggy and hey, who doesn’t like chocolate? But I will confess,  you can skip the chocolate layer if you so desire, just be sure to assemble the tart at the last moment or you’ll have a ‘soggy bottom’. And if you don’t care to glaze the berries that’s okay too – it  just makes the fruit shiny and pretty.

The biggest secret to this recipe is the fruit. Use the best fresh fruit you can find – so ideally this is a summer dessert here in the USA. However, we’ve been getting some very good, large blackberries and raspberries here at our local grocery, so while I splurged here in December, you (and Dear Hubby) reap the reward. Enjoy!

Rolling in or rather, out the pastry. This pastry dough is very buttery so it must rest in the refrigerator before being placed into action under the pin....

Rolling in, or rather out, the pastry. This pastry dough is very buttery so it must rest in the refrigerator before being placed into action under the pin….

Line the tart pan with the pastry, trim the edges and prick the bottom and side a with a fork. This will keep the pastry flat while it bakes. You can also use pastry beans/beads but the fork method works great for me.

Line the tart pan with the pastry, trim the edges and prick the bottom and sides with a fork. This will keep the pastry flat while it bakes. You can also use pastry beans/beads but the fork method works great for me.

Mixing the egg, rum and milk.

Mixing the egg, rum and milk.

Mix the egg/milk mixture into the "dry" mixture. Then cook this slowly over heat to get the rum pastry cream.

Mix the egg/milk mixture into the “dry” mixture. Then cook this slowly over heat to get the rum pastry cream.

Here the rum pastry cream is cooking and I am whisking (or stirring)  continuously. Once it just starts to boil, remove form the heat and...

Here the rum pastry cream is cooking and I am whisking (or stirring) continuously. Once it just starts to boil, remove from the heat and…

chill OVER ice water. Keep stirring or whisking until it is cooled. Refrigerate while you make the other parts.

chill OVER ice water. Keep stirring or whisking until it is cooled. Refrigerate while you make the other parts.

The layer of chocolate  acts like a barrier to the rum cream and fruit so the crust stays "crustier" longer.  Plus chocolate goes together so well with fruit like berries...

The layer of chocolate acts like a barrier to the rum cream and fruit so the crust stays “crustier” longer. Plus chocolate goes together so well with fruit like berries…

Pour the warm chocolate into the cooled crust. Use a spatula or back of a large spoon to smooth the chocolate layer. Refrigerate the tart at this point. It must be cool before adding the top rum cream layer.

Pour the warm chocolate into the cooled crust. Use a spatula or the back of a large spoon to smooth the chocolate layer. Refrigerate the tart at this point. It must be cool before adding the top rum cream layer.

Fold the sweetened whipped cream to the cooled rum pastry cream. You can stir in about a third of the whipped cream if the pastry cream is thick and heavy. Then fold in the remainder of the whipped cream.

Fold the sweetened whipped cream to the cooled rum pastry cream. You can stir in about a third of the whipped cream if the pastry cream is thick and heavy. Then fold in the remainder of the whipped cream.

Spread the finished rum cream on top of the chocolate layer of the tart. Now we're ready for those berries!

Spread the finished rum cream on top of the chocolate layer of the tart. Now we’re ready for those berries!

Top the tart with the fruit and brush with the glaze. You can also glaze each berry by dipping it in the glaze and then placing it on the tart. I think the former technique is easier, though.

Top the tart with the fruit and brush with the glaze. You can also glaze each berry by dipping it in the glaze and then placing it on the tart. I think the former technique is easier, though.

The whole finished tart.

The whole finished tart.

Here's a close up of the sliced tart so you can see the layers better.

Here’s a close up of the sliced tart so you can see the layers better.

Fruit Tart with Rum Cream and Chocolate

Pastry

  • ½ cup butter
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour plus extra
  • 1 egg white
  • 1-2 tbl cold water

In a large bowl stir flour with salt and sugar. Cut butter into the flour mixture until crumbly. Stir in egg white and just enough water to make a dough. Gather dough and warp in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or up until 4 hours. When ready roll dough out on a lightly floured surface and line a 9 or 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Prick pastry with a fork many times and place back in refrigerator while the oven preheats to 400 degrees. Bake pastry crust 12-15 minutes, and cool in the pan placed on a rack.

Rum Cream

  • 1 tbl gelatin (1 packet plus a little more)
  • 2 tbl sugar
  • 2 tbl flour
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 3 tbl confectioners sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2 tbl rum
  • salt (dash)
  • ice water

In a sauce pan mix gelatin, sugar, flour and dash of salt. In a medium bowl whisk egg yolk, milk and rum until very well combined. Pout this into the gelatin mixture and heat slowly over low heat, whisking continuously. Turn up heat to medium and continue to whisk. Cook until the mixture thickens and just begins to boil. Remove from heat and set pan over ice water and continue to whisk until the mixture is cooled. Pour into a bowl, cover and refrigerate.

In a mixing bowl whip the heavy cream and confectioners until peaks form and the cream is whipped. Remove the rum cream from the refrigerator and stir well –using a whisk if it has set. Fold sweetened whipped cream into the rum cream until well combined. Cover and refrigerate.

Chocolate Layer

  • 1 cup chocolate chips (milk chocolate, semi sweet or bitter sweet – use your favorite good quality chocolate)
  • 1-2 tbl Crisco or other solid vegetable shortening

In a heavy bottomed pan or double boiler heat chocolate chips slowly, stirring as they melt. Add shortening and continue to stir until the mixture is smooth to your liking. Pour warm chocolate into cooled tart pastry and spread to smooth. Refrigerate 15-20 minutes or until chocolate filling is completely cool. Spoon the rum cream on top of the cooled chocolate. Refrigerate.

Glaze and Assembly

  • 1 pint fresh berries* (blackberries, raspberries, blueberries or a combination) washed and dried
  • ¼ cup light colored jelly, jam or preserves (apricot, peach, persimmon, etc)
  • 1 tbl water

In a small saucepan heat jam and add the water. Stir. Remove from the heat and set aside. Place fruit on the tart evenly and/or in a pattern if you like. Brush each berry with the warm glaze, careful not to drip the warm glaze on the rum cream. Alternately, you can brush glaze on each berry and then place the berries on the tart.

Serve immediately or can be held in the refrigerator for up to 1 hour or so. Makes 10-12 servings.

*Top the tart with whole berries to avoid a runny tart. Sliced fruit will drain onto the rum cream and while it will still taste fine, it may make a messy dessert, especially when sliced.