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Saveur Magazine Best Food Blog Award Finalists

saveur screen shot When you start a blog it’s only natural that you look to other blogs around you, amazing ones, to model yourself after. Actually that’s true of everything in life, not just blogs. You look for inspiration in the world and incorporate pieces of what inspires you into your own life. And for the past 4 years (almost 5!) as I’ve been building Biscuits and Such and looking to blogs that inspired me I’ve taken note of what blogs were winning what awards and thought to myself- that is the goal. You’ll know you’ve made it when you’re thereAnd I’m really thrilled and overwhelmed and humbled to say that I found out yesterday that I achieved one of those inspiration milestones. I’ve been nominated for the Saveur Magazine 2013 Best Food Blog Award in the “Best Regional Cuisine Blog” category. I’m up against four amazing blogs from all over the world and part of a cast of a few dozen fantastic finalists. I am so excited and proud and amazed I can’t even begin to express it.

Saveur looked at all the blogs nominated (and thanks to whomever nominated me, that was an exciting surprise!) and chose finalists based on their entire 2012 archive. What I’m saying is that I can only assume I made it this far because of that pan we lit on fire. A vote for me is a vote for cast iron. Voting goes until next Friday, April 19th, and can be done on Saveur’s website, saveur.com. You have to register to vote in order to prevent fraud (like that time I was in a recipe contest many years ago and my mom created a bunch of fake email addresses to vote for me), and can vote once in each category. It’s a huge honor to be a finalist and winning would be, well, unbelievable.

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3/100: Grilled Shad with Lemon & Chardonnay Sauce

chardonnay sauce 1 One of the many things that makes North Carolina an amazing state is it’s ever-changing terrain. From the Blue Ridge and Smokey Mountains in the Western corners of the state to the rolling piedmont to the barrier islands that hold the tales of pirates and colonists, this state has so much to offer. One of the reasons that a project like Tasting North Carolina appealed to me was because of the opportunity to explore (whether physically or virtually) the state that I call mine. What I know about North Carolina is so incredibly limited when compared to what there is available to learn, and I’m loving every part of diving in head first.

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The first person that contacted me when I started putting feelers out for this project was Alvin Pack, the owner of Green Creek Winery. Green Creek is located in Columbus, the seat of Polk County, nestled in the Blue Ridge mountains just southeast of Asheville. Green Creek has been in business since 2005, but wine making has roots in this state deeper than whole hog barbeque. Starting with Sir Walter Raleigh’s discovery of the muscadine grape in Washington County, North Carolina boasts a 400 year wine making tradition, over 100 wineries, and a temperate enough climate that nearly all varieties of wine grape can grow somewhere within its borders.

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Now I know, admittedly, very little about wine. I like spicy reds like Malbec, dislike heavily oaked Chardonnays, and can drink a sweet moscato like it’s water on a hot summer’s night. I know from wine tastings that my palate is not sophisticated enough to tell the difference between a $10 bottle and a $100 bottle. Like many consumers my decision to buy a particular wine is 75% price point and 25% label design. And even though I’ve been enjoying wine for years now I’m still familiarizing myself with what North Carolina has to offer. The state’s 100 wineries are scattered through many different regions, meaning you’re as likely to find a winery at the beach as you are driving through the mountains. Varieties range from scuppernog to the Red Chardonnay that Alvin has developed at Green Creek, and practically everywhere you visit you’ll have the opportunity to tour and taste (my favorite way to travel).

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One of the recipes that Alvin suggested was a Lemon Chardonnay sauce for fish. I loved the idea, so while my mom was down last weekend visiting we picked up a whole shad, stuffed it, and threw it on the grill. Stuffed with lemon, ginger, and garlic the fish was flaky and full of flavor. I chose a shad caught in the Tar River just north of here because shad, like many ocean dwelling fish, migrate upstream to spawn this time of year. And while they probably don’t ever get as far as Polk County, I wanted to honor the flavor of the mountains with a locally caught fish. Alvin’s sauce called for Chardonnay, soy sauce, lemon juice, and ginger, which was the perfect compliment of flavors. We stuffed and grilled the fish whole and paired it with a lemon basmati rice, sprouted beans (for crunch and color), and a simple arugula salad. It was a wonderful way to spend a Saturday, visiting the beach, picking up a local fish on the way home, grilling it and having an easy and delicious meal with family. Everything that is wonderful about cooking and eating, all at once.

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This post is part of the ongoing series, Tasting North Carolina. Read more about the project here.

Lemon Chardonnay Sauce for Fish
Adapted from Alvin Pack’s Green Creek Winery recipe

Sauce:

1/2 cup Chardonnay

3 tbsp soy sauce

Juice of 3 lemons

1 tbsp chopped lemon rind

3 cloves minced garlic

1 inch fresh ginger, minced

Dish:

1 4-5 pound white fish, such as shad (in the herring family), scaled & cleaned

1 lemon

5 cloves garlic

2 inches fresh ginger

Salt, pepper

Olive oil

Rinse your fish off and place it on a piece of tin foil larger than the fish. Stuff the cavity with half of your sliced lemon, sliced and peeled ginger, crushed garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Top the fish with the remaining ingredients and fold the foil up over the edges. Place on the top rack of the grill and heat to 350.

In a bowl mix together chardonnay, soy sauce, lemon juice, rind, garlic, and ginger. Pour over fish occasionally, reserving enough to sauce the finished fish. Cook fish for 45-60 minutes or until the skin flakes off easily. Remove from the oven and serve it whole.  Use a fork or a knife to open the fish up, peeling the skin back.  Allow your guests to pick the meat out, and offer the sauce on the side to top the pulled meat.

 

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Southern Brisket

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Easily the best thing about living at the beach is that people are excited to come and visit you. And the best thing about having formerly worked at a Jewish cultural institution is that some of your friends have off holidays (hey Shemini Atzeret what) that the general population does not have off. Which all leads to my point, which is that this past week, for the beginning of Passover, our dear friends Rachael and Alex (and their golden doodle Wednesday) made the trip down to Wilmington.

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It’s no secret that I adore Rachael, and I think she’s found a wonderful partner in Alex. We had such an amazing time in the five days that they were here, taste testing pizzas, touring the Battleship North Carolina, taking the dogs to romp around Poplar Grove and Topsail Island, making chorizo, and, of course, cooking a special dinner for Passover. Now, there is not a Jewish bone in my body, but since I’m always up for a challenge I was excited when Rachael asked if we could make a traditional meal for the first night of Passover. The matzoh ball soup turned out perfectly (we got floaters!), and the matzoh bark we made was addictive (the whole tray was gone by lunch the next day), but the brisket was the star of the show. Instead of a classic Jewish brisket we decided to try a traditional Southern brisket. Rubbed with a sweet and spicy mix and smoked on the grill, the brisket was tender, richly flavored, and perfectly moist. And while we didn’t do a full seder it was lovely to have the opportunity to learn some of Rachael and Alex’s Passover traditions and share stories. After all, nothing is more beloved in our house than sharing food and spinning tales.

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This was also the perfect opportunity for me to test my new Thermapen, a wireless thermometer made by ThermoWorks (thanks guys!), which was exactly what we needed for this recipe because it’s fast, accurate, and compact. Brisket, like most tough cuts of meat, should be cooked low and slow with a final internal temperature of 195F. We cooked it over indirect heat on the grill for about 4 hours, checking the temperature every 45 minutes or so, until the temperature read approximately 195 in a few different places. Then we finished it off in a warm oven with caramelized onions, which allowed the juices to redistribute as the meat rested.

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All in all, it was an incredible visit. A well balanced blend of relaxation and playing tourist in our own city, we adored every bit of having them here. Kaylee, especially. I’ve never seen that puppy so exhausted.

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Southern Brisket

1 3-5 pound cut of brisket
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp sea salt
1/2 tbsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
1/2 tbsp chipotle
1/2 tbsp paprika
1/2 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp cracked black pepper
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cayenne
Hickory chips
1 onion
1 pat butter

The night before you’d like to serve the brisket mix together all of your spices and rub them into the brisket, all sides. Place tightly in a plastic bag and let sit in the fridge overnight. Soak your hickory chips in water overnight.

Your brisket will need 4-5 hours to cook and then an additional hour of rest before you can serve it, so be sure to factor that in to your day.

Heat the grill to 250-300. If possible, you want the brisket to be over indirect heat, so a top rack is ideal. Place the drained hickory chips in a metal container on the bottom rack for added smokey flavor. Wrap the brisket loosely in tin foil and place on the grill.

Cook on 250-300 for 4 hours or until the internal temperature reaches 190-195. Check every 45 minutes or so.

In a large pan caramelize the onions in the butter. Add the brisket (and the juices!) to the pan and place in a warm oven to rest for an hour. Slice and serve!

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