5.26.2015

South & Slocumb- A Pop Up Dinner Series…

ss Beignets- 1 (1 of 1)

Dinner Party

Once again we are having another pop up dinner.
With the overflow (and encouragement) of friends at our dinner table and the success of other pop ups where complete strangers made their way to private residences to commune over shrimp and grits and fancy cobbler, I've decided to make this a series. One that I hope will allow me to meet some of y'all and we can share stories over Bourbon and maybe even moonshine.

South & Slocumb pays homage to a group of ladies who served and cared for their beloved community in the small town of Goldsboro, North Carolina. These devoted women would serve fried chicken dinners and BBQ plates to sold out crowds in the Fellowship Hall of their church; later taking the proceeds to fund their Saturday Soup Kitchen that would feed those in need.
Oftentimes, on weekends they would serve sandwiches to the local kids who would hang out at the park, just south of the street several of the women called home; the park just south of Slocumb St.

Let’s join together in the spirit of community and the Ladies of South Slocumb St; enjoying creative spins on some of their most cherished dishes.

dinner party 2 (1 of 1)

*A portion of the proceeds will fund free programs teaching kids how to create everything from biscuits to building apps. * 

For this upcoming event we will be preparing a 4-course meal with cocktails and wine pairings for each course.

 Hope that y’all will join us.

Link to tickets here- South & Slocumb Pop Up Dinner Series by Southern Soufflé

There is also a link on the side bar.

Cheers!

dinner party  (1 of 1)

Ticket price includes cocktails,wine, food, tax and gratuity…

Get your tickets here… South & Slocumb Pop Up Dinner Series by Southern SoufflĂ©


5.21.2015

Ramp Havarti Focaccia

Ramp Havarti Focaccia 2 (1 of 1)

Ramp Havarti Focaccia 1 (1 of 1)

AKA the most expensive onion-garlicky bread ever.
Kinda.
Lately I've challenged myself in the art of bread baking, not only to feed my carb obsession which evidently effects the size and width of your hips. Also, the smell of freshly baked bread is better than any Febreze plug in you could ever buy. My attempts at different variations of focaccia have been met with amazing results; that has me on the fluffy bread cloud of euphoria and contemplating throwing in the technology towel and going to work at some little bakery making focaccia all day err day. Nevermind that, let me tell you a story..
Ramps never had a name to me.. They were "dirty onions" that grew in the woods behind Mr. Grady's house.
Who is Mr. Grady, that doesn't matter.
In search of honey suckles while precariously dogging bumble bees (that have disappeared from existence- anyone else notice that?), the woods behind his house held the most mesmerizing discoveries. A group of kids I was tagging along with, started digging up weeds, calling then dirty onions, all the while daring me to "taste it Erika!!"
"Umm Naw I'll Pass". Not to mention my grandma would kill me if I died out in the woods from eating some poisonous plant. Instead, I grabbed a handful, stuff them in my pocket and went about my business of watching the other kids to see how long it took them to turn into monsters after eating strange weeds growing out in the woods. Of course I forgot about my pocket plants, until they got washed with the other clothes and my grandmother cussed me to every 7th corner of hell.. (Because Hell has 7 corners in case you didn't know.) also now all my clothes had the most distinctive smell. Quickly, I went into this long spill about my walk through the woods and the discovery of "dirty onions"
"Ramps girl.. That's what there are ramps" 
"Uh-ok" 
"And they ain't poisonous, ask the Cherokee" 
"Do they live on this street?" 
The next day, my grandmother and I go back to the creepy place in the woods and I look on as she pulls up the remaining ramps, as well as few other things that she proclaims are "good for sickness". All the while I'm enraptured by her story of the people of Appalachia where ramps grow in abundance along the mountainous area. She cooked the ramps in stews with okra, mixed them in her grits and fried them in cornmeal, as the Cherokee who do, she'd say.
On the next day, we ate the saltiest bread with crusty cheese and a overpowering onion/garlic taste layered in the butter. So in other words it was incredible and sadly I have no clue how she made it. So I thought I'd create my own version, while recovering from a the shock of paying $20 for a pound of "dirty onions" that grow wild in the woods.
 I wonder if that large patch behind Mr. Grady's house still remains?

Ramp Havarti Focaccia 3 (1 of 1)

Ramp Havarti Focaccia 
Prep Time: 30mins + 1 hr- 30 to 40 mins rest time  Cook Time: 20-25 mins Yields: 8 servings 
Adapted from Back in the Day Bakery Rosemary Focaccia. (this is a great recipe)

Ingredients: 
5 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil + more to coat the bowl.
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup grated havarti cheese
1 package instant yeast
3 tablespoons ramps, roughly chopped
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/2 cups room temperature water
3 teaspoons flaky sea salt

Directions: 
Combine the flour, olive oil, sugar, havarti cheese, yeast, ramps and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Blend on low speed until ingredients are incorporated. Add in the water, pouring slowly and mix for about 3 more minutes or until the dough starts to come together. Once the dough has come together continue to knead for 5-6 minutes on medium speed for until smooth. Sprinkle with more flour if the dough is sticky.
Coat a large bowl lightly with olive oil (about a teaspoon) and transfer dough to the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm area until double in size. About 1 hour. Coat a jelly roll pan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Punch down the risen dough in the bowl then transfer to prepared baking pan. With olive oiled fingertips, stretch the dough out to edges of the pan. (this seems strange but it works) Allow dough to rise again uncovered in the pan for 30-40 minutes. While the dough is rising, preheat oven to 450. Once the dough has risen, press (olive oiled) fingertips all over the dough creating indentations.
Sprinkle with sea salt. Place in the oven and bake until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before cutting.

5.06.2015

Strawberry Lemon Biscuit Shortcakes...

Strawberry Lemon Cream Shortcakes 6 (1 of 1)

Strawberry Lemon Cream Shortcakes 3 (1 of 1)

Strawberry Lemon Cream Shortcakes 2 (1 of 1)

My post have been a bit heavy lately.. I promise to bring the humor back, however it's difficult when there are so many things whirling in the wind that effect your state of mind.
Which in turn shine through in the words that you type.
I wish there were words that could adequately convey how I feel about my mother.
How I feel about being a mother.
It's given me unspeakable joy and happiness, hope when I was hopeless, this superhuman power that allows me to keep going. I've been blessed with a kind-hearted daughter who makes the best pastries with stern concentration for a 14 year old and motivates me to do more of what I love, to show her she can be anything despite any stereotypes or negativity she may face. There is a place for her, always to shine bright. My brightest star, who writes the world in neon sharpies and wears mismatch socks. Dancing wildly in the front yard to her own drummer as her brother tries his best to keep up.
Truly one of my greatest treasures.

Strawberry Lemon Cream Shortcakes 5 (1 of 1)

Here she's made my favorite dessert, because It's for Mother's Day.. Duh... as she said when I asked. There is a story of course, the reason behind my love of shortcakes smothered in macerated strawberries and heavenly whipped cream.
My maternal grandmother felt strongly about Mother's Day and often my mother had to work causing us to spend that holiday without her. Each year we’d attend some fancy brunch, sometimes accompanied by my snazzy Aunt Rene, with her sequined berets and pet Chihuahua that would sit on her shoulder while she drove.
Yes on her shoulder.
One Mother’s Day afternoon in particular, we spent that mid day in May at a hotel brunch in downtown Durham. There was an array of typical southern delights and sitting proudly on the dessert table were golden puff pastry sandwiches stuffed with strawberries and cream.
"That's not a shortcake!" My grandmother whispered looking angrily at the table ahead.
 Huh? Why not?
"Then it's very improper to put out the dessert before you eat the first course!" She continues without answering my question. I knew nothing of proper dining protocol, however I wanted to eat those shortcakes. Unfortunately I didn't, for fear it would turn her anger away from the waiter putting out more pastries on the table- towards me. Instead we shared a slice of chocolate cake that she complained was "clearly not made with buttermilk."

Strawberry Lemon Cream Shortcakes 7 (1 of 1)

That next week I hear her singing in the kitchen, she always sang as she cooked or baked. Even now, years after she's been gone, when I close my eyes I can hear her.
"I've made us something!" She professes with such conviction, I figure it must be something wonderful. It was.
As we sat at the table, in front of two plates piled high with cream and strawberries dripping down the sides of golden flaky biscuits, I wondered exactly why we were eating this at 10 am on a Wednesday.
"That my sweetpea is a shortcake.. You use biscuits you see.. That's all you need is a big cream biscuit. And always add a touch of buttermilk to the cream. A shortcake should not be complicated" Her shortcakes were always incredible with tangy hints of lemon, yet I'd have to disagree.
Because my mother and I went back to that hotel brunch one year and they served those same shortcakes made with puff pastry.We ate 3 of them apiece and took some home with us. Sort of our little secret.
I've passed down my biscuit making magic to my oldest (along with the recipe to make Granny's shortcakes) and my youngest could eat all the strawberries and whipped cream you gave him if possible. We spent the day Sunday, filling up on strawberry shortcakes and reading over recipes to try for the perfect puff pastry, which is my mother's favorite. We'll make these when she comes at the end of the month, to watch as my oldest gets promoted from the 8th grade and sets on the path to high school.
We will cry together, my mother and I, hopefully eating strawberry filled pastries.

Strawberry Lemon Cream Shortcakes 8 (1 of 1)

Strawberry Lemon Cream Shortcakes
Prep Time- 35 mins Cook Time- 20 mins Yield- 8 servings 
Adapted from an old recipe that my grandmother adapted from an old Betty Crocker Cookbook. 

Ingredients: 
Shortcakes:
3 cups self rising flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
zest of 2 lemons
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 cups heavy whipping cream
Egg wash- 1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water

Berries and Cream:
1 ½ pound fresh strawberries, hulled and chopped about 3 cups, divided
4 tablespoons sugar
1 ½ cup heavy whipping cream
½ cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Directions: 
Preheat oven to 400

Whisk together the flour and sugar in a large bowl. Stir in lemon zest and juice. Add cream and mix together into dough just comes together. Note the dough will be sticky. Lightly sprinkle a board or other clean surface with flour. Turn dough out onto board and sprinkle a little flour on top of the dough. With floured hands, pat dough out to a ½ inch thick, fold dough in half and pat out into a ½ an inch thick for a normal size biscuit or about ¾ inch for taller biscuits. Cut out rounds with a 2 ½ inch biscuit cutter, brushing off any visible flour from the tops of the biscuits. Place the cut biscuits on a parchment lined baking sheet and brush each top with egg wash. Bake until tops are golden about 10-15 minutes. 

While the shortcakes are cooking- in a medium saucepan cook 1 cup of the chopped strawberries with 2 tablespoons sugar over medium high heat, stirring occasionally until the berries are softened about 5 minutes. Allow mixture to cool. Once cooled, mix in remaining chopped strawberries, mixing gently to combine.
To make the whipped cream- Using an electric mixer, beat cream, buttermilk and 1 tablespoon of sugar to soft peaks, about 4-5 minutes. To assemble: Split the biscuit “shortcakes” and fill with strawberries and whipped cream.

4.29.2015

Blackened Catfish Tacos w/ Sunflower Sprout Slaw + A Story of Redemption

Blackened Catfish Tacos 3 (1 of 1)

Blackened Catfish Tacos 6 (1 of 1)

Blackened Catfish Tacos 2 (1 of 1)

“At one time this list included crawfish because Cajun people ate it, and catfish because it was favored by African Americans and poor Southern whites. As these cuisines gained popularity, the food itself became culturally upgraded. Crawfish and catfish stopped being “trash food” when the people eating it in restaurants were the same ones who felt superior to the lower classes. Elite white diners had to redefine the food to justify eating it. Otherwise they were voluntarily lowering their own social status—something nobody wants to do.” 
                                                   - Trash Food, an essay written by Chris Offutt for the Oxford American


When diving into the study of food it is impossible to ignore the relationship between food and class lines, which as Chris Offutt points out, runs parallel to racial lines. His essay touches on what is perceived ignorantly as trash food and historically how this has closely associated the people most commonly known to eat said food in the same manner- unknowingly or often with an air of superiority.
That is until it’s deemed popular by the mainstream.
The mainstream…
Once a group of co-workers decided to visit a popular seafood spot here in Atlanta. I’d frequented this place on numerous occasions, favoring their lobster rolls, so it was no hardship for me to say “sure” when asked to tag along. About twenty of us gathered awkwardly around an oblong shaped table, the gentleman sitting several seats down leaned over glanced to his left and asked me “How’s the catfish here?”
I’m an emotional creature who often wears any internal conflicts with intensity on my face. Looking down and mildly shaking my head, I simple answered that I’d never had the catfish, all the while simmering with barely contained rage.
Lunch goes on and discussions about work-that are always unavoidable- dominate the conversations. Heading out, someone calls my name, telling me to hang on a sec. Over my shoulder I see it’s my catfish inquisitive colleague.
“You seemed angry by my question” 
“Why did you ask me?“ I ask apprehensively.
 He looks at me; eyebrows creased probably trying to assess how to answer that appropriately without sounding like a dick. Patiently I wait, already knowing what he’s response will be.
“I’m sorry, I really wasn’t trying to be offensive” he says looking away, anywhere, everywhere but at me- in the eye. Briefly, he tells me of a black friend of his who fries the best catfish and how he’d always assumed it was a community thing. Community was the word that he used. Tensely I shook my head, turned walking briskly towards my car.

Blackened Catfish Tacos 4 (1 of 1)

Catfish has long been associated with African Americans-once soured upon for that fact, used increasingly in a stereotypical way, the same with Fried Chicken. 
That is until it became popular with the mainstream.
There are older generations in my family that will not- to this day – eat catfish. Become agitated at the idea of its high standing in soul food culture. Constantly reminding me of its history laden in bigotry and sin in the eyes of some religions.
To be compared to fish that wallow in mud or bottom feeders that survive off the debris that covers the bottom of riverbanks and lakes. Trash left behind by those that no longer have use of it. 
Trash food…what does that make me if I eat it?
Yet nowadays catfish comes at a high price on the menu. Paying up towards $30 for a fillet that’s been cooked in some heavy sauce, positioned like art on a gleaming white plate, carried by a fancy waiter with wine suggestions that would pair well with it. I can’t help but laugh at that.
Would that be the same as Hot Fish and whiskey?
What is that you ask? It’s the dark and hushed history of the Fish Fry. Down riverside and country roads, red lanterns hung, a sign there was hot fish and whiskey readily available ahead. Whiskey that flowed like muddy river water, bringing about garish activities and the occasional murder.
But, I’ll save that story for another day.
I’ve never shared the same reservations as some relatives in regards to catfish, fully recognizing it’s delicious contribution to what’s often consider soul food. Something once drowning in sin like that hot fish in bubbling oil, is now dressed so pristine in the disguise of fine dining and expensive wine- the catfish has apparently redeemed itself.
Now that it’s acceptable among the mainstream..

Blackened Catfish Tacos 5 (1 of 1)

*Sunflower Sprouts are baby sunflowers and have a tasty crunch and a slightly nutty flavor. It's also a great way to sneak in the "greens" to those who don't like to eat them. I noticed that the slaw became a bit soggy the next day due to the sauce it was tossed in. I would suggest eating the slaw the same day it's made.*


Blackened Catfish Tacos w/ Sunflower Sprout Slaw
Prep Time- 35mins Cook Time 20 mins Yields- 6 to 8 servings  
The slaw was adapted from Smoke and Pickles by Chef Edward Lee 

Ingredients:
1 cup of fresh sunflower sprouts
1 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon fish sauce
4 Catfish fillets
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Tony's Cajun seasoning
1 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoon of dried basil
2 tablespoons butter, melted
4 Catfish fillets
Peanut oil for frying 
Grated white cheddar for garnish (optional)
6 to 8 soft warm corn Tortillas

Directions: 
To make the slaw- Combine the sprouts, cilantro, ginger, vinegar and fish sauce in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste if desired. Cover and let slaw rest in the fridge while you make the fish.
Mix the seasoning- In a medium bowl, mix together the salt, Cajun seasoning, garlic powder, black pepper, and basil. Set aside
For the blackened catfish- Pour melted butter in a medium bowl. Dip each catfish fillet into the butter and coat both sides with the spice mixture. Heat large cast iron skillet (or a large stainless steel skillet will work) with about 2-3 tablespoons of the peanut oil over medium high heat. Cook catfish for about 4 minutes on each side. Remove from the heat and transfer to a plate. To construct the taco- break up some of the cooked fish and place on a warm tortilla (or if you’re like my husband you can place half a fillet on your taco). Top it with the slaw and cheese. Serve while hot.

4.15.2015

Gateau de Sirop.. The Louisiana Cane Syrup Cake…

Louisiana Cane Syrup Cake 1 (1 of 1)

Louisiana Cane Syrup Cake 5 (1 of 1)

Louisiana Cane Syrup Cake 2 (1 of 1)

"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.

Louisiana Cane Syrup Cake 4 (1 of 1)

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…

Louisiana Cane Syrup Cake 6 (1 of 1)

*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 

Ingredients: 
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

Directions:
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.

Louisiana Cane Syrup Cake 3 (1 of 1)

4.08.2015

Sweet Milk Hot Water Cornbread...

Sweet Milk Hot Cornbread 5 (1 of 1)

Sweet Milk Hot Cornbread 4 (1 of 1)

Sweet Milk Hot Cornbread 2 (1 of 1)

"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.

Sweet Milk Hot Cornbread 1 (1 of 1)

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 Cornbread  (1 of 1)

Sweet Milk Hot Water Cornbread
Prep Time: 20 mins Cook Time- 15 mins Yields- about 10 cakes 


Ingredients:
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)

Directions:
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.*

4.01.2015

Brown Sugar Buttermilk Waffles

IMG_6043

IMG_5957

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.

Brown Sugar Buttermilk Waffles 2 (1 of 1)


• 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 3 (1 of 1)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 

Ingredients: 
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

Directions:
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.