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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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Slow Cooked Winter Vegetables

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Last night we had the great pleasure of hosting new friends for dinner. Ryanna, her husband Nick, and their son are emblematic of the community we’ve found in Wilmington, and talking with them over dinner and wine was an absolute treat. Rye is the powerhouse behind the local food community Grub, where she aims, one workshop and consultation at a time, to help people find their way back to healthy, nourishing food. She and I see very eye to eye when it comes to seeking out full, real foods that come from plants and animals and avoiding foods that come from laboratories. It was one of those amazing conversations where I kept exclaiming “EXACTLY! I AGREE EXACTLY! Full fats ARE wonderful! Butter is NOT the enemy!” And that we also got to laugh about life, SciFi, family, and the South? I couldn’t have asked for a better dinner, I feel so lucky to have found them!  The more time we spend here the more we really do feel like Wilmington is exactly where we’re meant to be.

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I decided to make a dinner that showcased some of my favorite ingredients, so naturally, I served braised shortribs over creamy grits. I also wanted to add a roasted vegetables element to the meal, something that highlighted what is delicious and available this time of year, and also something that complimented the rather dreary dip back into winter weather we’ve been experiencing. I settled on collards, white sweet potato, cremini mushrooms, shallots, and some of Dan’s homemade bacon all cooked in a touch of butter. This kind of vegetable medley is a staple in my repertoire because it goes well with everything from braised meats to a fried egg, and can be made with whatever is available at the market. You could easily add beets, any kind of green, carrots, bok choy, and on and on. Thrown in the bowl along with the grits and the short rib and the vegetables brought all the warmth and earthy flavors I was hoping for along with a host of ingredients I feel great about serving to my guests.

vegetable medley 2 A note- I wanted to thank you for your patience as posting slowed a little here. Now that the marathon is over (hallelujah) and I don’t have 20 mile training runs to fit into my schedule I’m starting to feel like the world is my oyster once again. I’m so excited to dive into the projects we’ve got lined up for this spring and summer!

Slow Cooked Winter Vegetables

1/4- 1/2 stick butter

3 cloves garlic

2 shallots

1/4 lb bacon

1 sweet potato

1 bunch collards

2 dozen cremini mushrooms

Salt, pepper, cinnamon, chipotle, to taste

Large cast iron skillet or large frying pan

Slice your shallots, cube your bacon, and dice your garlic. Start half of the shallots and garlic in a pat of butter over medium-low heat. Slowly add in bacon, a few cubes at a time. Peel and cube sweet potato. Stir in to pan, along with spices, adding butter as needed to make sure nothing sticks. Cover (I use the lid from our stock pot which lays down directly on top of the veggies) and cook on low heat for 15-20 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. This gives the potatoes a chance to cook through a bit. Chop the collards roughly and stir in, along with the remaining shallots (and probably a dab more butter). Cover again and let simmer.

In a separate pan start a bit of butter for the mushrooms. Clean and cube them and then saute in batches, transferring to the larger pan as they cook. This allows the mushrooms the opportunity to sweat a bit and cook with their requisite space.

Once everything is in the pan cook over low heat until the collards are tender, approximately another 15 minutes.

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