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Water, Butter, Wine

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People often make rash assumptions about me.  For instance, people often assume that because I’m tall, I should play basketball.  Then I fall in front of their face and they reconsider.  But until they see me fall/drop something they believe me to have wasted years of potential talent.  Talent I promise I do not have (much to the chagrin of my high school history teacher, the basketball coach).  Another assumption people make about me is that because I cook well and run a food blog that I am knowledgeable about all food.  People, I am a SOUTHERN food writer.  I can also talk comfortably about Mexican and Italian food, but that is only because I eat a lot of Mexican food and my mother is Italian.  She’s also Irish, but I can’t say I’ve ever been served a traditional Irish dish.  If you met my grandmother, you’d understand why.  She doesn’t even make my poor grandfather cookies, let alone potatoes (just kidding, Grammy.  Wink, wink, Poppie.)

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One of the things I’ve noticed about the south is that European ancestry is not as important within the caucasian population as it is in other parts of the country.  In the northeast people define themselves by their immigrating forefathers, holding tight to their customs.  In the south it seems that people have shed a lot of those ties to Europe and are simply southern.  The southeast was heavily settled before the Civil War, but after 1892 people were funneled through Ellis Island in New York City.  As a result, the northeast had an influx of immigrants more recently and more heavily than the rest of the country.  On my father’s side the name-bearing European immigrant was a man named John Kwiatkowski.  He was Polish, and he immigrated indirectly to North Carolina, where he eventually married into a settled family.  When he arrived, he changed his name to Rosemond, because Kwiatkowski meant “man of the flower.”

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As a participant in all the hype surrounding Julie & Julia, I keep being asked a) what my favorite Julia Child recipe is and b) questions about French cooking.  Questions that I can’t answer because I don’t know the first thing about French cooking.  The only Julia Child recipe I’ve ever cooked are her biscuits.  This usually makes me feel like a foodie fraud.  Which I don’t think I am, I never claimed to know the first thing about French cooking.  I write about what I know, which is southern cooking.  Though I do love moules frites.

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This is all a round about way of admitting that another thing I know very little about is wine.  Dan and I have been trying to educate ourselves, but we are totally guilty of buying wine based purely on the label.  What do you expect, we went to art school. While I’ve had sips of white wine here and there over the years, I’ve always preferred red.  However on a recent trip to Williamsburg I realized how refreshing a glass of cold white wine could be in the summertime.

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There is a Polish proverb that says “fish, to taste right, must swim three times- in water, in butter, and in wine.”  So this week I made dolphin fish sauteed in lemon and butter, and served with a cold white wine. And an arugula salad, which is so Italian of me.

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Lemon-Butter Dolphin Fish

1 dolphin steak, skin on

1/8 cup butter

1 lemon

Salt & pepper

Rinse off your fish and pat dry.  Sprinkle the meat side with salt and pepper and squeeze lemon juice over.

In your pan, melt your butter.  Place skin side down and cook 8 minutes.  Flip and cook an additional 8 minutes.

Serve.  The fish should flake easily off the skin, you should not eat the skin.

Serves 2.

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Cranberry Pecan Sandies

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You hear about (and see on reality television) people that are addicted to food.  People that cannot, no matter what they do, stop themselves from eating everything and anything.  And then there are people that have “food weaknesses.”  For them, certain food items are addictive.  They can’t help themselves from eating an entire jar of peanut butter, a bag of chocolate chips, or all the pot-stickers in stock at Trader Joe’s.  Luckily, I suffer from neither of these conditions, but I think we can all identify with struggling to resist eating certain things in excess.

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For me, there are a few things I have a hard time saying “no” to.  For one, gummy worms.  Also, white cheddar popcorn.  Tacos, chips and (good) salsa, chocolate covered raisins/cherries, and rolos.  I LOVE rolos.  Pecan sandies.  I’m not a huge fan of most cookies, I like them a specific way.  But these particular cookies I could eat hundreds of.  They have a great toasted pecan flavor, with hints of orange and almond.  Perfect anytime of the day… in moderation, of course.

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Cranberry Pecan Sandies

2 cups flour

1 stick butter, room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp almond extract

Salt

1 tbsp orange zest

1 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup whole pecans

1 cup dried cranberries

Whisk together flour, salt, pecans, and cranberries.  Set aside.

Cream together butter, sugar, almond extract, and orange zest.  Slowly add in flour mixture until a dough forms.

Roll the dough into a block and refrigerate 1 hour.  Slice into 1/4 inch cookies and lay on an ungreased baking sheet.  Press a whole pecan into each of the cookies.

Bake for 10-12 minutes in a 350 oven.

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Pony Magical Mousse Pie

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I mentioned recently that my biggest failures always have an audience.  Dan’s sister Megan, her husband John, and their daughter Meredith have been on the receiving end of some of the worst desserts I’ve made.  The first time I ever visited their house, I made a frozen lemonade pie that melted in the car (I underestimated the Northern Virginia I-95 traffic).  Since then I’ve served them such lowlights as gummy hand pies and a pumpkin pie that tasted like nothing.  It’s a miracle they’re still willing to try what I serve them.

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This weekend they invited us over for dinner and I was given the option of bringing dessert or salad, and I chose the opportunity to redeem myself.  It took me a week to come up with the perfect choice.  When I saw them in West Virginia a few weeks ago I brought my bourbon white peach pie, so I knew peaches were out.  In May I served them banana cream pie, so that was off the table.  I’ve made so many mountain pies this summer that I didn’t really want to do that, and anybody can serve a cherry pie.  I wanted something fresh!  Something that was light and rich but could withstand an hour’s drive from one end of the D.C. area to the other.  Something that would suit the tastes of two foodies and a precocious three year old.

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My first step was to settle on a fruit.  I knew I wanted a berry, but wasn’t sure which one.  I’d been working with strawberries and blueberries all summer, so I narrowed it down to raspberries and blackberries.  Ultimately I chose to work with raspberries because I wanted their color.  That splash of red, not to mention the tart, fruity flavor it brings, is the perfect compliment to the rest of the pie.  After I decided on raspberries, I thought about what to pair raspberries with.  My mind flew at first to something akin to a chocolate pie, before I decided it was too heavy.  In mid-August you want a dessert that refreshes you, that compliments things like peach soup and corn on the cobb.  Something like chocolate mousse.

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After I had mentally constructed the pie and it’s layers- the ganache to give a rich chocolately essence,  the mousse with its light and creamy texture, and the raspberries to make it all pop, I needed a name.  After tossing around the names that Meredith and I liked, things like chocolate raspberry pie or chocolate mousse pie, John suggested a name that trumped them all- Brake for Mousse pie.  That is, until Meredith pulled out a (talking) card she had received for her birthday, which wished her a “pony magical day.”  And if there is one definitive way that I would describe this glorious pie, it would be pony magical.

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Chocolate Raspberry Pie

Chocolate mousse (recipe here)

2 pints fresh raspberries

2 sticks bittersweet chocolate

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 tsp cardamom

1 tsp cinnamon

1 pie crust (recipe here)*

* To your pie crust, add cardamom and cinnamon

Begin by making your pie crust.  Lay it into the dish and bake it at 350 for 25 minutes, or until cooked through.  Allow to cool.

In a double boiler, melt chocolate, spices, and heavy cream, stirring occasionally.  Pour into the bottom of the pie crust and allow to cool overnight.

Your next step is to make your mousse.  Then, use a pastry knife or a fork to crush 3/4 of your raspberries.  Spread the crushed berries on top of the layer of ganache.

Spread your mousse on top of the raspberries in an even coat.  Top decoratively with the remaining raspberries and allow to set at least one hour, or overnight.

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