"This cake will do just fine girl?"
Said the woman dressed in a peach color flowered dress and house shoes that kicked up dust as she walked back in the house- slamming the door.
Let me start at the beginning.
One of the most entertaining things for me to read is about people who’ve “discovered” themselves. A discovery that always seems to take place thousands of miles away from home. Sitting at a small bistro table sipping coffee in France or skipping down the cobblestone streets in Spain. Often I wonder why they had to go so far. Does finding yourself, whatever that entails exactly, require that you cross an ocean?
What about 20 miles down the street, is this far enough along the lines of longitude and latitude to properly find who you are? Of this I’m unsure, but it can definitely put you in a place to find where you don’t want to be. Like standing in the hot Louisiana sun, holding a scolding hot sheet pan of cake, wondering how you got yourself into this mess.
But that’s not the beginning of the story.
Imagine being a freshman in college, outside the confines of where you’ve spent your entire life, all 18 years of it. Detached from the people who’ve surrounded you in this cocoon of familiarity. Imagine meeting someone, you’re in love instantly or in this case, captivated by a man with strange eyes and sweet words.
That’s where this begins.
Walking along the campus grounds of Tulane, he wasn’t a student, his reason for being there…
"Just tagging along.. cher.. "
More truthfully, visiting some other girl that had caught his eye. But so what?.. You’re blinded by the technicolor of intense attraction being wrapped around you like a tangled web, refusing to remember those ridiculous situations you were warned of.
“Those creole folks got voodoo magic, that’s the devil and the devil is a liar, be watchful of him” Perhaps that’s what it was, perhaps that’s what it wasn’t.
One day sitting at a table in his mother’s house, listening to his uncle tell me about the art of burning “cane” in the Louisiana fields, I instantly felt this sense of belonging. Possibly it was the voodoo, more than likely it was the cake. Because at the time, as I listened on, I was finishing off my third slice of this buttery, almost gingerbread like cake that I’d been told was made with cane syrup.
“It’s how we live, they don’t have this up in Carolina” said my beautiful man while he held my hand under the table as his legs brushed up against mine. That same night we watched the smoke rising from the burning cane fields as he told me some story that I can’t remember. Yet, the vivid memory of his mother and her scowl of indifference as she’d watch me out the corner of her eye will always be with me. That and the only time that she ever genuinely smiled at me. Which would be four years from then, as I drove away, never to look back.
Again none of this mattered, just this man who had completely enraptured me with his tall, dark and handsome good looks and smooth accent..
Now, many years later, dark and handsome is sort of how I would imagine the devil would look as he reigns from hell with a glint in his eye.
But that’s not part of this story…
Riding down the highway as he drove me back to school, listening to Sade tell you how this here just is no ordinary love, solidified what I foolishly felt.
I’m gonna marry this boy.
Which I did, marry that boy, wearing a summer dress and sandals, in a historic building that read city hall on the plague outside the door. The exact opposite of what I’d always dreamed my wedding would be, that would however come later, to someone else. This same day I found myself standing in the hot sun holding a sheet pan of Cane Syrup Cake that I was to carry down the hill to the people waiting below.
“We always eat this cake, do you think they’d want something else”
“Your husband-that’s what he is now-loves that cake, that’s what you’re here for. That cake will do just fine girl” said my now mother in law as she rolled her eyes, kicking up dust as she walked away. Turning around heading down the hill, I brushed off the unease of her hostility and went on to celebrate the day. He held my hand under the table as he smiled at me, my future ex-husband and again I had this jaded sense of belonging. It was there, roughly 20 miles from our house, close to the once burning cane fields, that I had the false realization that I had indeed “found myself”.
If only had this truly been the case…
*A few quick notes: You'll notice (other than the flower/ cheetah print realness that I'm giving you) that the cake in the photos is more sheet cake than the loaf size the recipe calls for. I simply doubled the recipe and baked the cake in a 9x13 in baking pan at 350 degrees for about 45-50 minutes, to accommodate the Sunday Dinner crowd.
Store this cake by wrapping it in plastic wrap and it can be kept at room temp for 3-4 days*
Louisiana Cane Syrup Cake
Prep Time- 20 mins Cook Time 35-45 mins Yields: 8 servings
Adapted from an old article from Times Picayune
1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/3 cup shortening
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup of pure cane syrup, ( I use Steen’s)
1/3 cup boiling water
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 8 by 4 in loaf pan with cooking spray. In a large bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.
In a separate bowl (it will need to be big enough to mix in the flour mixture), combine the shortening, sugar, syrup and boiling water and stir to blend. Add in egg and whisk to combine.
Stir in flour mixture a little at a time to the shortening mixture. Mix until smooth. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean when inserted through the center of the cake. Allow cake to cool before turning it out to prevent it sticking to the sides.
Slice and serve while still warm with a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream and a drizzle of cane syrup.
"The North thinks it knows how to make cornbread, but this is gross superstition. Perhaps no bread in the world is quite as good as Southern Cornbread, and perhaps no bread in the world is quite so bad as the Northern imitation of it."- Mark Twain.
This quote is the opening of an entire chapter of my dear friend Adrian Miller's book "Soul Food The Surprising story of an American Cuisine one plate at a time".
It's here that he writes in great detail about one of the south's most beloved foods- Cornbread, along with the history of it.
It doesn't get more southern than a thick slice or quartered off hunk of crumbling cornbread, does it? I'm sure there would be as many different answers to that question as there are debates about the right way to go about making it.
White cornmeal over yellow, is it baked in a skillet or not..?
Mostly it's the addition of sugar, which to some is a sin worthy of asking the good Lord for forgiveness. However, when you venture into what people refer to as the "soul food" realm of all things food, cornbread is undoubtedly sweet. Either using a trusty box of Jiffy or divulging in a more from scratch method, you better not forget that sugar, or you'll be talked about amongst the tables in the fellowship hall after church.
Cornbread was easily taught to me as a teenager, melting butter and sugar together before mixing it into the dry ingredients with "a little" egg to "stick it all together".
My instructions were about as vague as that and accompanied with the tale of my Great Grandfathers- Great Uncle Henry and the oral history of making ash cakes while working in the fields of a South Carolina rice plantation. A method adapted from the Native Americans- mixing cornmeal with water, placing it between two leaves and covering the leaves with hot ashes.
It was that story that stayed with me, one evening standing in some wayward field on the outskirts of Mebane, North Carolina. A group of us, home from college, decided to recreate the ash cake, mainly due to the urgings of a friend studying African American history at Winston Salem State. I was nominated to be the cook while he struck the fire and our friends looked on in amused silence. I remember the brightness of that fire on an already sweltering June night, Stephen (my scholarly- now history teacher) friend telling me to recount the story that my grandmother shared with me as I went about my way mixing cornmeal in a plastic bowl while spilling water on my shoes.
He recorded my nervous ramblings on an old Sony micro-cassette voice recorder that would skip, turn off and have to be restarted again and again. Using some collard leaves, I went about the process of cooking the ash cakes over the fire, burning through several until we got it right.
The night sky was pitch black when we finished, embers lit up around us like fire flies buzzing in glass mason jars. The smoke rose up clogging my eyes, making it hard to focus on the task at hand. He played the story back as we attempted to eat the fruits of our ash filled labor in utter silence. I'd be lying if I said the ash cakes were some enjoyable culinary discovery, because they weren't. Yet I doubt that was what my dear friend was in search of while conducting the experiment of cooking as our ancestors did.
With the improvement of their circumstances, African American cooks would evolve the ash cake, from hoe cakes to hot water cornbread. Better access to milk and eggs brought about the concept of spoon and egg breads along with the much loved skillet cornbread baked on the stove or in the oven.
Abby Fisher, an ex-slave who went on to publish the first cookbook written by an African American woman- her recipe for Plantation Cornbread or Hoe Cakes (which doesn’t call for sugar) reads as follows:
"Half tablespoonful of lard to a pint of meal, one teacup of boiling water. Stir well and bake on a hot griddle. Sift in meal one teaspoonful of soda"
In another recipe she calls for "sweet milk" which would've been fresh whole milk. I've taken that, the dispute over white cornmeal being the better choice and adapted this recipe for Sweet Milk Hot Water Cornbread, using the sizzling griddle Mrs. Fisher calls for and adding my own touch of sweetness with sweetened condensed milk. Crispy edges give these a little crunch as you bite into them, followed by soft bread like centers with a dab of sweetness.
Sweet Milk Hot Water Cornbread
Prep Time: 20 mins Cook Time- 15 mins Yields- about 10 cakes
2 cups white stone ground cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 1/4 cup boiling water
Vegetable oil for frying (about 3 tablespoons + more if needed)
In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal. baking powder and salt to incorporate the dry ingredients. Stir in the milk and 1 tablespoon of oil to combine. Slowly pour in the boiling water, stirring to combine the ingredients until the batter is the consistency of grits or thick mashed potatoes.
In a medium sized skillet, pour about 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil and heat over medium high heat until it simmers. Scoop the batter into 1/4 measuring cup and drop the batter into the oiled skillet, frying in batches. Fry each until crisp around the edge, flipping the batter over and cooking it on the other side. This takes about 2-3 minutes on each side. Be sure to watch as they will brown quickly over the high heat. Remove each cooked cornbread from skillet and drain on a paper towel lined plate. These are best served warm.
These have just the right hint of sweetness. Brush a touch of melted butter over the tops and really set these off.
*Don't throw away the unused can of condensed milk. When transferred to a glass or plastic container that has a tight cover, it can last up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator.*
Proudly I can say that I’ve un-packed somewhat all the boxes carelessly laying adrift in the hallways – with the exception of the few remaining in the garage. A few meaning 20 but "out of sight, out of mind" applies to carefully hidden moving boxes.
Unfortunately, I’m still stove-less which appropriately rhymes with hopeless because that would be the main feeling that hits me when I look at the blank space that should house a cooktop stove. (Preferably gas) This situation has resulted in lots of practice in baking and hatched a love for raw and roasted vegetables.
Can you get high on produce?
I think so… since a bunch of salads with asparagus and carrots have been in constant rotation. I have this new found energy and found myself dancing through my living room putting away towels and throwing boxes down the stairs. It was the last box that induced me to break dancing, for at the bottom was a rainbow striped unicorn kitten in the form of my waffle maker.
Waffles have never been my go to breakfast of choice. Give me a few stacks of pancakes or crispy slices of powdered sugared French toast and I’ll make you my honorary cousin. However, my kids love waffles and I was running out of options without having to make a grocery store run for dinner, yes dinner. So when the sizzling sound of waffle batter being poured onto the hot iron echoed thru my kitchen, it brought my hibernating bear (also known as my teenage daughter) down the stairs. Not having to bellow her name 16 times and her appearing on her own, is like spotting a whale gliding through the Mississippi River.
So waffles are definitely something I should make more often.
With hints of brown sugar and the homestyle magical touch that buttermilk creates, these waffles have a slight sweetness with a moist and fluffy interior making them a delicious addition to your breakfast (or dinner) repertoire.
• Preferably a waffle iron with variable heat controls that signals when the waffles are done is ideal. Here, I used a classic style waffle maker that creates a thinner style waffle than the thicker Belgian style waffle with thick pockets. This recipe will work with both styles.
• Easily freeze these waffles by wrapping them individually in plastic wrap after they have cooled to room temperature. When ready to serve, simply unwrap them and toast the frozen waffle (no need to unthaw) in a toaster until crispy. They will last in the freezer for up to one month, I wouldn’t keep them longer than that.
Brown Sugar & Buttermilk Waffles
Prep Time- 15mins Cook Time- 25 mins Yield- 10-12 waffles
Adapted from these waffles and American's Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. light brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. baking soda
2 large eggs
¾ cup buttermilk
¾ cup whole milk
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
In a large bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda.
In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, then add in the buttermilk and the whole milk whisking to just blend together all the ingredients.
Lastly, whisk in the melted butter. Make a well in the center of the bowl with the flour mixture (dry ingredients) and pour the wet ingredients mixture into the center. Using a rubber spatula, gently stir until just combined. The batter will be lumpy Heat waffle iron and cook waffles in batches according to manufacture’s instructions.
To keep waffles warm, heat your oven to 200°, place a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet. After removing each waffle from the iron once cooked. Place the waffle on the wire rack/pan and place in the oven. This will keep the waffles warm while you cook the remaining batches. Allowing you to serve the waffles at one time while they are still warm.
Garnish each with desired amount of maple syrup or sprinkles of powered sugar and fresh fruit.
How many times have you moved in your lifetime?
It's a question that I found myself asking to no one in particular, while securing a medium brown box labeled "kitchen" in red along the side.
"23" .. would be the answer mumbled under my breathe, continuing this one sided conversation with myself and thinking of the absurdity of that fact.
Down the street, across the way, or to another state, I've become a pro at the art of changing residences. Not sure if that's an all together good or bad thing. It just is.
From a U-Haul filled with boxes to nothing but the belongings I could fit into a bag and my 6 month old daughter on my hip, as we moved quickly out of desperation .
We moved out, we moved on, always moving forward no matter if it seemed differently.
About a year and half ago, my family relocated to the suburbs of Atlanta thinking a yard and more square footage would prove fruitful outside the perimeters of the city.
We were wrong, somewhat.
With an unhappy kid who dearly missed her friends and a dreadful commute that went from 10 minutes to 1 hour each morning, the decision was decidedly very wrong for us.
For sale signs went up, a new house went under contract and yet again I found myself moving out. Moving on, to a new place that is close to our old place we moved from 2 years prior; how ridiculous that sounds reading it back.
It never fails me to think of my mother each time the relocation process begins. For one, she's started to write my addresses in pencil so they can easily be erased. Secondly, are my reflections of her and the struggles she faced as a single mother, sometimes having to move out despite how hard she worked, the reasons often beyond her control.
"We don’t have to move out, we just gotta move on"
On to not always the best places, but enough for us, enough to make me see that a home is truly what you make it, and the people that fill that space ultimately determine how you feel when you walk through that door. No matter what you may see when you look out the window.
I brought this up to someone that introduced herself to me as an "aspiring food blogger" at a conference that I attended recently.
She told me of how discouraging it is to see beautifully laid out kitchens with expensive appliances, something she didn't have. "sorta like that Kinfolk feel that I could never afford" was what she relayed to me..
While I refrained from going into my detailed feelings about Kinfolk, I did give my thoughts on how the best food that I've ever eaten has been in a kitchen with tattered wallpaper and linoleum floors that were curling in the corners. A place that's still there with duck tape now securing the corners, owned by my pie making friend from college who loves it dearly and has experienced far less moves than I.
I asked that she not be discouraged and to post about what was real to her, not try to fit into what she perceives as what is popular. I'd love to see pictures of that, for the reality of this world is far from Restoration Hardware tables and Wolf appliances.
But it's often dressed up so prettily and layered beautifully with filters when looking into the window of your computer screen.
This conversation has replayed in my head so many times since that day, especially as we unpack boxes and stare at a kitchen that currently has no stove thanks to back-orders that haven't been filled and a story that deserves it's own post.
I remember always thinking one day I'll have this, one day I'll have that. Taking for granted what was already there and the experiences that I obtained by what was already given. My life for so long was far from picturesque and any filter was easily torn down by the realism that we were often dead broke and ate cereal out of plastic cups and those candlelight dinners of bologna sandwiches were because we weren't able to get an extension on the light bill. Real Talk...
So for me and much of the people that I know, food is a lot more than what's displayed on immaculately crafted white marble countertops.
I want my dear "aspiring food blogger" friend to know that the food we eat and cherish, is deeply rooted in us and far surpasses what's portrayed in that photo or what type of oven is posted up in your kitchen. It's the feeling that it brings, the memory it can recount, or better yet the experience, in some way shape or form had an impact on your life, at least to me.
That cake, when it was finished, did you have such a euphoric feeling of accomplishment that no pay raise after working 60+ hours a week could ever make you feel? Or when you make biscuits, do you think of the first time you made them for someone, let's say it was your mother, as she smiled at you, holding back the tears and fears of not knowing how we were going to make it.
To appropriately toast to new places we cracked open a bottle of Wild Turkey, my man and I. Sitting on the floor reminiscing on where we've been, how we got here and where we're going…
As we moved out, as we moved on, always moving forward.
* P.S - Dear Mama, I love you.. also Charles is pretty firm on the fact that we won't ever move again. He said it with such conviction that I'd like to say he means it. However you know how I am when I get the wild hair, so you never know.
Whiskey, like living outside of the city limits of Atlanta, is an acquired taste.. It's not for everyone. This American Honey brings out flavors of honey and orange notes. Adding the apple brandy in really makes this simple drink a star. When I made this for a friend, I topped hers with sparkling apple cider to taper down the strong whiskey flavor..
Inspired by a drink that I had at Knoxville Public House
2 parts of Wild Turkey American Honey
1 part Applejack- Apple Brandy
Sparkling Apple Cider (if desired)
Combine first 2 ingredients in a glass over ice, filling about halfway. Give a little stir and serve. Top of the glass with cider if desired. Cheers!
There is a lot to be said about a love that can touch a broken soul and make it whole again. The deep sigh of relief you expel knowing you've found someone you can forever hold on to and they in turn will hold you back.
Yet, sometimes we get so caught up in the misrepresented idea of what love and happiness is, we walk right past it, like an abandoned house down a lonely street, in search of a dream that seems more fitting for the pages of a romance novel.
I can say that I've done this, taken that road; a road that lead me to Louisiana following behind a beautiful man with strange eyes and creole blood. Whose daddy was an oysterman and his mama told me I should go back to where I came from. However, being young and infatuated that didn't matter.. all that matter was that he called me "Bebelle" and spoke a strange language when he was angry, making him even more intriguing. This was the makings of an anti love story, one that would never have ended happily, just painfully, as it did.
With the end result creating a curious little girl with the same strange eyes and sometimes-angry temperament when she's frustrated. In spite of all that, a year or so later, this same winding road would lead me to a stranger that happened to be visiting for work and thought to ask me my name. Which I'd angrily refuse to answer and turn the other way but he'd follow me anyway and ask me my name again.
"What's the harm in telling me your name"
So I'd tell him and many years later, as I typed a post about sweet lemon biscuits and he sat beside me watching t.v.
I'd tell him just how happy I am that he didn't let me walk away...
With that special day of Love coming up, I thought I would share a recipe for what I love to eat the most.. Biscuits. I also have a deep affection for sunshine, which has been lacking lately with this gloomy Atlanta weather. Luckily, I was able to obtain a little brightness via globs of lemon curd spread between the layers of my biscuit dough. The outcome producing fluffy clouds of biscuits tinged with the sweet tart flavor of lemon in each bite. It was also my daughter's idea, that took flight after making a lemon meringue pie and her protesting the thought of eating the remnants of left over filling with a spoon.
"We should save it for something"
Save it we did…
Sweet Lemon Biscuits
Prep Time: 20 Mins Cook Time: 10-15mins Yields: 1 dozen
3 cups self-rising flour
2 ¼ cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup lemon curd (I use this recipe )
1 tablespoon cream
Turbinado sugar for sprinkling
In a large bowl, add the self-rising flour. Make a well in the center and pour in heavy cream. Stir together just until the dry ingredients are moistened and the sticky dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and sprinkle the top with a light dusting of more flour, Using floured hands, fold the dough in half and then pat into about ½ inch thick. Flour again if necessary and fold the dough in half for a second time. If the dough is still clumpy, pat and fold a third time. Now pat the dough out into about ½ inch thick rectangle, spread the lemon curd on top of the dough.
Fold the dough in half gently pat down keeping the rectangular shape. At this point, you can use a knife to cut them into squares or use a biscuit cutter if you want to stick with the traditional circular shape. Place cut biscuits onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper about 1 inch apart.
In a small bowl, mix the egg with the cream and brush the tops of each biscuit with the egg wash. Sprinkle each biscuit with a light dusting of Turbinado sugar. This step is optional but it gave the biscuits a nice golden color with a bit of a sweet crunch on the tops.
Bake biscuits in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and serve while hot.
Do you enjoy a good story? Something left uncovered, only to be rediscovered when someone is in need of a good tale.
One that will lift your spirits, to captivate your audience or maybe because it's too intriguing not to share.
When I think of the beach, I think of standing in the sand as the water waves over my feet, and the tide threatens to pull me in like some invisible surfboard that tingles between my toes. Looking into the distance at the fading sails and bright rays of sun, I think of Freeman Beach.
Freeman Beach or Seabreeze, a coastal town in Wilmington North Carolina, was a popular beach resort for African Americans in the 1920s to the 1960s, as they were unable to visit any other beaches in the state during the Jim Crow era. Founded by a free man of color named Alexander Freeman, it's origins are a story in and of itself. There's an account of a great Seminole nation war chief, born of Native and African blood, who Alexander Freeman and his family supposedly descended from.
That I'm unsure of, however I do know of Doris and the love she found on Freeman Beach.
Due to it's popularity gained somewhat out of necessity, thousands flocked to Seabreeze. During the summers, church groups and school camps came on buses and took root on the shores of what was commonly knows as "Bop City". All in search of fun and vacation, a place to relax and escape the despotism of segreation. Doris was a young woman (some distant cousin of mine) spent time in Seabreeze with her family, which consisted of 4 sisters including her.
One summer somewhere on top of the wooden dance floor of a local piccolo (Juke Joint) she met Sam, a tall man who had all the right moves. His smile was infectious and his appeal was hypnotizing. They would spend the entire time Doris was there…together, riding Ferris wheels and hanging off boat piers, her sneaking away from family gatherings and him always being on time.
When it was ultimately time to leave, they made plans to meet again on the shores of Seabreeze, to which they did that next year after numerous exchanges via long love letters. Sam introduced her to Ms. Sally Wade’s hot clam fritters, while they sang along to Fat's Dominos "Aint that a shame", streaming from the Juke Joint a few steps away.
Alas, things must come to an end. They departed again with plans to reunite. Then like an angry mob, Hurricane Hazel blew through the beloved seaside town, leaving devastating demise in its wake. Places were destroyed and ultimately places came down. Doris went on continuing to write to Sam, who’d since enlisted in the Army.
At first a reunion seemed hopeful. Then letters eventually went unanswered and Doris became the last of her sisters to be un-wed. A year would pass with no sign of Sam and much like what used to be the bustling shores of Seabreeze, their relationship became desolate, nothing but an old legend for folks to share. But there’s truth to this story, just like there’s truth to the account of Freeman Beach. All past down from person to person within my family, along with the recipe for cousin Doris’s warm molasses bread.
The town of Seabreeze is an actually place, a small strip of land that runs alongside Carolina Beach in Wilmington, NC. Being from North Carolina, I heard numerous tales of Freeman Beach/Sebreeze, but to my astonishment, the history of this place seems to have washed away like the debris left behind after the hurricane.
I never had the pleasure of meeting the lovely love-struck Doris, however her recipe for warm sweet bread with hints of molasses and the rich flavor of chocolate is one that I use often.
And so can you…
Warm Molasses Bread
Prep Time: 30 mins Cook Time: 1 Hr Yield: 6-8 servings
Adapted from my grandmothers hand written notes.
2 cups self-rising flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 stick of butter, melted
½ cup molasses
½ granulated sugar
1 cup boiling water
2 eggs, beaten
Preheat oven to 350
In a large bowl sift together the flour, baking soda, cocoa powder, and cinnamon. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, combine the butter, molasses, and sugar. Pour the boiling water over molasses mixture, stirring to combine all ingredients. Once the mixture has cooled, add in the flour mixture and the eggs, mixing to incorporate all the ingredients together. Pour the batter into a 1lb loaf pan and bake at 350 for about 1 hour. This bread is best served warm, but you can allow it to cool on a wire rack before slicing.
"Running away. Go to it.
Where did you have in mind?
Have to take care.. Unless there's a where
You'll only be wandering blind.
Just more questions.
Different kind. "
-"No More- Into the Woods"
Which they left out of the movie
Did you see Into The Woods..?
There might've been this long post about the baker and his wife from the musical (turned movie) . Then I might've realized that a lot of folks might not know what in the world I'm talking about and decided not to go on this rant about how that movie didn't really do the musical justice.
So just picture me sitting in a theater (because my daughter made me) watching Johnny Depp's Tim Burton-ish Big Bad Wolf and trying not to be that person that points out everything that is different from the musical.
Just as a side note. I am that person.
It's a magical fairy tale story about 4 different characters, one being a Baker (and his wife) and their quest to have a family and all the drama that entails when you're in debt to a witch who sends you on a journey between fairytales.
Hold On while I start singing….
My first experience visiting Broadway and all it's grandeur and intrigue was to see the play Into the Woods with Berdnette Peters who just gave so much to her part as the witch.
So while I love Meryl Streep I think I was just ruined for all other remakes of that play.
Because dammit Bernedette Peters..
What does that have to do with potatoes? Absolutely nothing
I'm just unable to think of anything else but the Baker , his wife and Chris Pine as the prince, when trying to come up with some compelling story about Baker's Wife potatoes.
So let's get on with it.
Essentially this dish puts you in the mind of an au gratin, with it's thin sliced potatoes layered in a baking pan. I've always made this with a milk base, making those potatoes creamy and unbelievably rich when scooping them up and dolloping them on your plate.
Are you a dolloper? Is that even a word?
The red squiggly lines are telling me no but let's play pretend and say it is.
No this is not a dance move, its when you place an obscene blob of food on your plate when everyone else is using nice small spoon like proportions.
So I'm a dolloper… Ok so that sounds strange when I say it out loud..
A few years back when attempting to try this recipe sans milk (because whoever said milk does a body good has not been around my husband after he eats a bowl of ice cream-- OMG open a window), I ran across an article about Pommes Boulangére which is a French potato gratin. It uses stock in the place of milk along with herbs and hints of butter. Keeping with my old school recipe I added in the pork (cause I'm southern), more than a hint of butter (cause I'm southern) and some sautéed onions with a little garlic (cause a dish isn't really worthy unless it leaves you with bad breath and makes you wish your pants had an elastic waistband)
Which means you're in luck cause this does both.
So "Into the woods and out of the woods and happily ever after"… with potatoes?
I'm such a weirdo...
*P.S I might've skipped my step of adding foil to the pan to keep the potatoes from browning to fast. Don't do that*
*P.P.S or is it P.S.S… I might've also tipped the pan over when in the oven causing the juice to spill over the side into the bottom of my oven. Don't do that either.*
Prep Time- 30 mins Cook Time- 2 hours Yield 6 servings
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 yellow onion
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4 oz pancetta (optional)
3 cups chicken stock
8 medium size Yukon gold (or other waxy potatoes), peeled
½ cup butter, unsalted, cubed
½ cup fresh parsley chopped
kosher salt fresh ground pepper
Heat oven to 350
Using a mandolin, thinly slice each potato into a bowl and set aside.
In a large pan over medium heat, combine olive oil, onions and garlic. Cook until translucent making sure not to brown the onions, about 6-8 minutes. Warm the stock over medium heat. In a casserole dish, alternately layer the potatoes with the onion mixture, pancetta, a few cubes of butter, and a sprinkle of parsley. Add a little warm stock to cover each layer and season each layer with salt and pepper to taste. Bake uncovered for about 2 hours or until the potatoes are tender. If they start to brown to quick, cover with foil. Serve while warm adding more fresh parsley to garnish if desired.
-I would suggest placing the baking pan on top of a baking sheet pan to keep any juice from spilling over into your over.