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Grammy’s Steak Sandwiches

This past weekend my grandparents invited us to their house for a picnic style dinner. My grandmother made a dozen little dishes and we sat around the coffee table and listened to stories, eating all of our favorite picnic foods.

My grandparents grew up in the same neighborhood in Trenton, New Jersey. They’ve known each other for almost all their lives. So when they tell stories about the people they grew up with, it’s the same people. They know each other more thoroughly than any two people I’ve ever met.

When they were a young married couple Poppie’s family (the Waldrons) would have large picnics in the backyard. Poppie is one of nine, so family gatherings were big events. They would eat potato and macaroni salads, summer sausage and roast vegetables, standing over the grill or sitting in circles, chatting.

But while most of the group ate sausages and hot dogs my great-grandfather, Pop-Pop Waldron, would sneak something special on the grill- steaks. These steaks, cut thin and grilled to perfection, would end up on snowflake rolls with nothing but a few tomatoes and a little seasoning. These steaks must have been something because all these years later, my grandparents are still talking about them.

Grammy’s Steak Sandwiches

Steak, thinly cut

Snowflake rolls, freshly baked

Grape tomatoes

Olive oil

Salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, oregano, basil

Salt and pepper your steak. Grill for 5-7 minutes, or until medium rare. Quarter the tomatoes and toss in olive oil and seasoning. Make your sandwiches and enjoy!

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The Picnic Series

Growing up, we  went on a lot of picnics.  Before my parents got divorced, when we lived in Florida, we would take the boat out to what we called Elena’s Island.  I thought it was mine for the longest time, that we were the only people that knew about it.  It was a small island off the coast of Stuart that was lousy with mangroves whose roots provided the perfect fort.  We’d pull up and spend the day swimming, exploring, and eating.  It was my favorite place, my own magical getaway.  There were other picnic spots, too.  Because my mom’s family was in the northeast and my dad’s was in North Carolina we were always on the road visiting people.  We’d stop along the way and have family picnics in parks, eating my mom’s specialty subs.

Later, after the divorce, picnics were an easy way for my mom to entertain us.  Despite our life-long allegiance to UNC, the Sarah P. Duke Gardens in Durham became an extension of our backyard.  Before their ban on climbing the trees (and probably the reason for the ban) we would spend hours in the branches of the magnolia trees, rolling down the giant hill, pretending we were characters from Anne of Green Gables under the weeping willow.  Okay, that last one was just me, my brothers had no interest in Anne or her bosom buddies.  During a time of intense family turmoil those carefree moments in the trees became what we all held on to.

My whole life, especially after my father remarried and there were eight of us to account for, we vacationed one of two ways.  We either headed to the coast and loaded up on a boat, eating fried chicken and salt and vinegar chips and chasing wild ponies, or we headed to the mountains, climbing our way as high as possible before eating lunch with our feet dangling off a cliff.

Picnics have always been a staple in our lives.   I’ve always loved picnicing.  Picnics were where I made my best memories, where I ate my best meals.  These days Dan and I love to picnic in the warm months, taking hikes or exploring a local park or botanical garden.  So much of my time is a whirlwind of technology, it’s great to get outside and enjoy a simple, relaxing meal in a beautiful setting.

Next month my mother and I will be featured in Southern Living magazine.  In the feature, mom and I are on a special mother’s day picnic, eating recipes I developed.  I am more than thrilled about this, it’s totally surreal and I can’t believe it’s happening.  To celebrate, and to lead up to it’s publication, I asked all the mothers in my family to send me their favorite picnic recipe with a story, photograph, or memory.  I was overwhelmed by the support and response, and I can’t wait to share them with you.

I read somewhere this winter that 2011 is the year of pie, picnics, Southern culture, DIY, vintage, and pork.  Which means, amazingly, this is my year.  These next few months, as I share the stories and photos from my family’s picnic adventures, I’d love to hear yours.

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Chocolate Pecan Pie

This week Dan’s company held a dessert-off.  The prize was steep, an iPad2.  We really wanted to win.  So I gave some instruction as Dan made chocolate pecan cup pies, that he served with his very own chocolate cherry stout.  It was a delicious combo.  We didn’t win, but Dan did learn how to make pie all on his own, which is something.

I filmed Dan making the pie and then he edited the video together. It was a combined effort, this video.

Chocolate Pecan Pie

1 stick of butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

3/4 cup corn syrup

1/4 tsp salt

3 eggs

1 1/2 cup chopped (or crushed) pecans

Pie crust  (recipe here)

1 cup mini chocolate chips

Melt butter and set aside to cool.  Beat eggs, then add sugar, syrup, and butter.  Whisk together.  Incorporate pecans.

Roll out dough and press it into a pie pan (or cupcake tins if you’re making cup-pies).  Sprinkle a handful of chocolate chips onto the dough.  Add a layer of the filling.  Sprinkle more chocolate chips and top with the remaining filling.

Bake at 350* for 30 minutes.  Let cool completely before serving.

 

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