Category Archives: tasting north carolina

8/100: Durham County Grilled Pimento Cheese

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When I started this series creating recipes that represented each of North Carolina’s 100 counties, I always knew that Durham would be the most difficult. As a Durham native who has been living outside of the 919 for almost 10 years, I didn’t know where to start. Do I make a burrito in honor of the many afternoons and late nights spent at Cosmic? Do I honor the fried chicken sandwich at Shrimp Boat, a sandwich I regularly have dreams about? Is it even a post about Durham without a nod to the late great Magnolia Grill? Or should I write about the new restaurants and eateries popping up on the Durham food scene, like Scratch or Mateo? The directions feel endless.

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Thankfully, my friends at the Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau were there to help me see my home county through objective eyes. They suggested I stop into Parker and Otis. Immediately I was all, “Duh.” As an alum of Durham School of the Arts, I spent a lot of time frequenting the restaurants in the Brightleaf Square area. Parker and Otis is a stone’s throw away from the school and has been a favorite hangout since it opened many years ago. It’s a favorite place to meet friends and family for coffee, meals, shopping; and it’s a place where I always run into someone that I love. Their food is incredible: Southern, quirky, homemade, and delicious – perfect to represent Durham.

grilled pimento cheese 2Dan and I both love the grilled pimento cheese with bacon, something that immediately came to mind when I started noodling on what to cook for the blog. I adapted their recipe slightly, adding fresh tomatoes and basil. It turned out to be out of this world. The cheese melts and binds together all the flavors and textures, creating a sandwich that hits it out of the Durham Bulls Park. I originally made this sandwich in the fall when my counters were still bursting with tomatoes, but it's just about now (in the dregs of February) that this sandwich, made with some local hydroponic tomatoes (I found some and they were heavenly!) or pickled green tomatoes and basil from the plant in my living room, hits the spot exactly. durham blt 1It's hard to express what it means to me to be a native of Durham, especially these past few years. Growing up it often felt like Durham had been abandoned in a different era, a more prosperous era. Its story is one that is common throughout America- it was heavily impacted by industrialization, negative race relations, white flight, the fall of the tobacco industry, the destruction of thriving cultural hubs in the name of "progress.". During my formative years it felt like Durham was having an identity crisis; being from Durham carried the weight of the feeling that your town was always fighting to be seen, to be heard, to be valued. But  recently it seems as though that underdog spirit is what allowed it to pull itself up and push forward into the amazing place it is becoming. Durham is experiencing a renaissance. duke 1When I was a senior in high school my friend Julia and I did a photography project where we documented downtown Durham. More than anything, it felt like we were photographing a ghost town. Today, ten years later, a trip down Main Street feels like a completely different world. There are new restaurants and businesses opening up in spaces that were vacant for years. Instead of continuing to sprawl towards Apex people are coming back downtown, reinvesting themselves in the heart of the community. James Beard nominated restaurants are opening, local urban farms (including my brother's farm, Sol Patch) are cropping up all over town, young graduates from some of the best universities are choosing to stay in the area, Durhammites are making the choice to return to Durham, to be a part of something great. It's exciting to watch the town that I love grace the pages of the New York Times touted as an amazing place to visit and live. It makes me proud, as proud as ever, to claim Durham as my own. durham blt 2 Grilled Pimento Cheese Sandwich 8 slices sourdough bread

1 1lb thick cut bacon

Bunch fresh basil

Red tomatoes

pimento cheese:

3/4 lb cheddar cheese

2 red pimentos (or 1/4 cup jarred pimentos)

1/2-3/4 cup mayonnaise

1 tbsp paprika

1 tsp red pepper flakes

Salt & pepper

Dice the pimentos and toss in olive oil. Roast for 20 minutes or until tender at 425. In a food processor combine cheese, mayo, red peppers, and spices. Pulse until combined, adding more mayo as necessary until pimento cheese is smooth. Cook bacon and set aside. Drain off most of the drippings, leaving some in the pan. Smear each piece of bread with cheese and layer bacon, sliced tomatoes, and basil on each sandwich. Assemble sandwiches and cook in bacon drippings for 2-3 minutes per side. Serve hot.

7/100: New Hanover County Watermelon Kefir

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In the 1840’s a man named John Kwiatkowski immigrated from Poland to the United States, coming through New York City. After settling in and changing his name to John Rosemond (Kwiatkowski meant “man of the flower” in Polish) he hopped on a boat heading to Mexico, ready to fight for his new country in the Mexican- American war. Unfortunately John, along with many other new recruits, suffered from terrible seasickness, and couldn’t hack the long trip. These men were dropped off in the port of Wilmington, where they made a new life. John opened a small business, married a woman named Sarah Pleasants, and eventually moved his family to Hillsborough, where Rosemonds can be found to this day. John had a son named Jerome, who had a wife named Mary Parker and a son named James, who had a wife named Sybil Walker and a son named Kenneth, who had a wife named Barbara Ballenger and a son named James who had a wife named Cathy Waldron and a daughter named Elena, who has recently found herself living right back where it all started, in New Hanover County.

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Before I moved to Wilmington I hadn't spent much time in New Hanover County. When we beached we headed to Morehead City, where the Rosemonds have had a family home since the 1950’s (the Swamp House), and had only visited Wilmington once or twice in high school and college. It is an understatement to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of life and culture that this town is brimming with. Thanks to a thriving film industry (thanks to North Carolina’s tax incentives for film) and a large University, Wilmington draws people from all over the world, all walks of life, who have changed this small port city into a diverse and fascinating place. New Hanover County is located in the Southeastern part of the state, and was formed in 1729. It is one of the original port cities in North Carolina and played a vital role in the development of the state and the colonial USA. It is surrounded by Pender County to the North and Brunswick County to the South.

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I was particularly amazed to find a rich food culture in Wilmington that went far beyond your expected coastal fare. There is a community of people focused on eating and making real food, with an emphasis on whole, local, and responsible eating, things that I am personally commited to and passionate about. Organizations like Feast Down East and Down East Connect help local farmers and community members connect to bring fresh seasonal food into kitchen’s without a middleman. The local co-op Tidal Creek just finished a month long challenge motivating and helping people to eat a month of local food. And one woman, Ryanna Battiste, is helping people change their relationship with food through a small business called GRUB.

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I met Ryanna through many connections all at once, and it became clear after we moved to Wilmington that Ryanna was someone that I needed to know. Over the past year I’ve attended her workshops, partnered with her, and had long, amazing, compelling conversations over a glass of wine about how food can nourish us, and harm us, and how important it is to commit yourself to learning about what it is you’re putting in your body. One of the things that GRUB is doing that I was immediately intrigued by was promoting a fermented probiotic drink called water kefir, something she describes as an “affordable and bio-available way to deliver healthy bacteria” that produces a “fizzy and delicious fermented soda.” Water kefir, like kombucha or yogurt, introduces probiotics into your system that can help with gut health and over all body health. Since she started selling water kefir kits she’s grown a community of over 400 home-brewers all over the country.

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After attending a water kefir demo I brought home a kit (you can also order them online: http://thisisgrub.com/projects/water-kefir/) and immediately started brewing. The kefir is flavored with fruit, and since we started brewing we’ve made everything from lemon ginger to mango to our new favorite, watermelon. The brew is light and fizzy, like a soda, and the watermelon kefir is nothing short of incredible. It’s easy to see why so many people in this community are whipping up batches of their own.

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This summer watermelon  has made up around 80% of my diet, leaving me to wonder what else I can do with it. Smoothies? Absolutely. Watermelon vodka tonics? Naturally. Watermelon, mint, and feta salad? Of course. Watermelon and lime jam? Why not! Nothing says summer to me quite like a cold slice of watermelon, so I ask- what are your favorite ways to use this most delicious of fruit?

watermelon kefir 4 Ed note: After I approached Rye about featuring her in this series, she decided to sponsor B&S through a Water Kefir badge in the sidebar. Thanks for the support, Rye!

Watermelon Kefir makes 1 quart

1/4 cup sugar, cane or brown

3/4 quart filtered water

2 dried figs

1/4 cup kefir culture

1 cup pureed watermelon

In a quart jar combine water, sugar, figs, and the culture. Mix to combine, cap, and store in a dark cabinet for 24-48 hours.

Strain out the grains and discard the figs. Combine the liquid (the kefir after first ferment) and the pureed watermelon in a second jar. Let ferment an additional 24-48 hours. Chill and serve.

Watermelon Lime Jam makes 1 1/2 pints

2 cups pureed watermelon

4 tbsp instant pectin

1/2 cup sugar

Juice of 4 limes

Stir all ingredients together until thoroughly incorporated, 3-5 minutes. Transfer to half pint jars and let sit 30 minutes. Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

6/100: Grilled Peaches with Ice Cream & Caramel Sauce

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Summer is, without argument, the most magical season. Long days, warm nights, endless possibilities and freedom. Summer brims with nostalgia and potential, all wrapped up in the warm glow of the long sunlight evenings. I pack my days and nights full with people and parties and travel and salt and sand and laughter until before I know it months have blurred into one long humid afternoon. Exactly the way that I like it.

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Recently I had an unexpected weekend all to myself, which never happens, and had me giddy with the possibilities. Would I go to the beach and lay in the warm sand for hours? Would I buckle down and get to all that work I probably should tackle (unlikely)? Should I curl up on the couch with the dog and marathon Gilmore Girls while polishing off the last of the salted caramel sauce? As I sat at my computer that Saturday morning checking the weather and sipping my coffee it occurred to me that this free weekend might be the perfect opportunity for spontaneity. A little Googling and a few phone calls later it was decided, I was going peach picking in Brunswick County.

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Brunswick County stretches from the Cape Fear River to the border between Carolinas, making it the southernmost county in the state. Its 1,050 square miles include the Brunswick Beaches- Sunset, Ocean Isle, Holden, Oak Island, Caswell, and Bald Head Island. Driving through Brunswick County you'll find farmlands, fast growing communities, beaches, riverfront, and plenty of golf. Founded in 1764 it was named for Brunswick Town, a settlement and major 18th century port. Brunswick Town is now a colonial ghost town, but it was the first settlement on the Cape Fear River and thrived until it was destroyed during the Revolutionary War. The county seat is Bolivia, and Brunswick County borders Columbus, Pender, and New Hanover to the north and Horry County, South Carolina, to the south.

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I’d been thinking that my late summer installment of Tasting North Carolina should focus on the stone fruits currently flooding the market, and had been toying with the idea of visiting a peach farm. That Saturday my friend Brandy and I drove the hour south to Calabash to visit a farm that (according to the web) had pick your own peaches, berries, figs, and more. It sounded like heaven! It sounded like fate! I should have known better! As we pulled into the farm the skies opened up, letting loose the kind of rain that only a week of unbearable heat in the South can elicit. We scrambled inside and started to make arrangements, only to discover that they a) only offer pick your own in the early morning (we got there around 11.30) and b) don’t ever pick your own peaches, just blueberries. A double whammy of disappointment.

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Thankfully Brandy and I glass-half-full type people, especially when we’re on a spontaneous road trip, so we bought some peaches, green peanuts, and hot sauce (made right there on the premises) and headed on our way. Our original plan of visiting the beaches were dampened by the rain, so we headed back on home, happily chatting as we drove about how we were going to spice our boiled peanuts.

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The real highlight of the trip happened in Leland, just over the bridge from Wilmington, when Brandy spotted a massive alligator on the side of the road. And because this was a day of spontaneity I turned the car around and we pulled out our cameras, sprinting to find it. As we approached he swam from one side of the marsh to the other, towards us, allowing us an up close look at easily the biggest alligator either of us have seen in the wild. The moral of the story? Things may not always work out as you expect them to, but in the end there will probably be alligators.

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Grilled Peaches with Ice Cream & Caramel Sauce Serves 4

2 large peaches 1 tbsp coconut oil Vanilla ice cream

caramel sauce:

1/2 cup sugar 1/2 stick butter ¼ cup cream 1 tsp vanilla extract

Begin by making your caramel sauce. In a heavy skillet melt the sugar, stirring constantly. Sugar will clump and then melt, continue to stir as it turns an amber brown. Cube butter and stir into sugar until combined. Remove from heat and add cream. Stir rapidly until fully incorporated. Add in vanilla extract and allow to cool.

Slice peaches in half. Brush each half with coconut oil. Grill peaches flesh side down for 5-6 minutes or until tender. Serve hot with ice cream and drizzled caramel sauce.

3/100: Polk County Lemon & Chardonnay Seafood Sauce

chardonnay sauce 1One 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. chardonnay sauce 5 chardonnay sauce 4 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. polk   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). chardonnay sauce 3 chardonnay sauce 2 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. chardonnay sauce 7 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.  

2/100: Nash County Sweet Potato Chess

sp chess 2 I've made no secret about the fact that chess pies are the greatest pies that exist. I mean sure, almost nothing beats a good apple pie and mountain pie is my special birthday treat, but as a category, chess pies rule. For one, they're versatile. You can make anything from a Tarheel Pie to the Baltimore Bomb to a vinegar pie and they all fall into the same category. Like cousins in an incredibly tasty family. Secondly, they're a dying art. Growing concern about sugar and fat consumption makes people vary wary of chess pies, meaning you don't find them as often as you once could. To this I say- everything in moderation and long live the chess pie. sp chess 9 sp chess 5 This month, as an homage to National Pie Month and National Sweet Potato Month, and as the Nash County installation of Tasting North Carolina, I'd like to share the recipe for sweet potato chess pie. A light and soft pie, this chess is a delicate variation of a traditional sweet potato pie. With only one cup of mashed sweet potatoes, as opposed to four to six in a classic sweet potato pie, it has all of the sweet potato flavor with none of the density. And lest you think "sweet potatoes are for Thanksgiving!" I'll assure you that I had no problem gobbling up my (much more than a sliver) slice last night, late February date on the calendar and all. sp chess 8 sp chess 4 I topped the pie with freshly shelled pecans that had been caramelized with butter, brown sugar, and spices. I'll admit, the pecans on top and the cinnamon in the crust put this pie over the edge, from "pretty delicious" to "holy sugar high I'm going to eat this whole thing in one sitting." I'm currently playing the "if I have just a sliver it doesn't count" game, which, when you have about 100 "just a slivers," quickly becomes girl you just ate a whole pie. Which is all to say, make this for company. nash sp chess 3 I chose this pie as the recipe representing Nash county, which is located in the Northeastern part of the piedmont between Franklin, Wake, Edgecombe, and Wilson, because Nash county is the largest producer of sweet potatoes in North Carolina, and North Carolina is the largest sweet potato producing state in the country (and has been since the 1970s), accounting for 50% of the country's sweet potatoes. So, if you decide to make this pie, chances are good you're enjoying a NC sweet potato, probably even a Nash County gem. Nash County is named for the American Revolutionary War Brigadier General Francis Nash, who was mortally wounded at the Battle of Germantown in 1777, the year Nash County was formed. Of Nash county's many townships, I have the most personal connection to Rocky Mount, where a fair amount of Rosemond-side relatives reside. My most vibrant memory of Rocky Mount was a childhood Christmas visit where my brother Reid (maybe aged 5 or 6 at the time) recited the infamous Home Alone line "Merry Christmas, you filthy animal" to my Great Aunt Francis. She did not get the reference and my family still jokes about that moment and the horrified look on her face. Reid has always been good with impressions. sp chess 1 I wanted to take a moment to thank all of you for the generous outpouring of support and interest in Tasting North Carolina. Since I launched the project a few weeks ago I've received countless emails, phone calls, and letters about recipes from all over the state and inquiries about how this community can get involved. I am psyched to make all of these delicious foods and I thank you for trusting me with your stories and your recipes. One thing is overwhelmingly clear- North Carolinians love this place and we're fiercely proud of our food culture. Thank you. I'm prouder than ever to call myself a North Carolinian. sp chess 6 This post is part of the ongoing series, Tasting North Carolina. Read more about the project here. Sweet Potato Chess pie crust: 1 1/4 cups flour 1 tbsp shortening 1 stick butter 1 tbsp brown sugar 1 tsp ground cinnamon 1/4 cup cold water filling: 1 cup mashed sweet potato (this was about 1/2 a medium size sweet potato. Either get a small sweet potato or do as I did and feed the other half to your pup) 5 eggs 1 1/2 cups brown sugar 1 stick butter, melted 1/2 cup cornmeal topping: 1 cup chopped pecans 2 tbsp butter 1/4 cup brown sugar 1 tsp ginger Dash of cinnamon Start with your pie dough, about 2 hours before you plan on making your pie. Stir together sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Work in shortening with your hands. Cube butter and work that in until the consistency is like cornmeal or sand. Stir in water until a ball forms, then wrap the ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. Peel and boil your sweet potatoes until soft. Combine in a mixer with remaining ingredients and blend until smooth and fluffy. Heat your oven to 350 and press your pie dough into your pie pan. Pour in filling and bake for 40 minutes or until the top has browned. Let cool until solid. Combine pecans, butter, and sugar in a skillet and cook over low heat until caramelized. Slather on top of the pie and give it all about an hour to settle. This pie is best served at room temperature.  

1/100 Onslow Oysters

onslow oysters 2 It was incredibly hard for me to decide what county, what recipe, what food group I was going to choose to launch Tasting North Carolina. I grew up in Durham County, have spent countless summers and made incredible memories (including my wedding) in Carteret County, and now find myself living in New Hanover County. But the task of picking a food that defined Durham was more than I could tackle at the beginning of the project, so I decided to focus on something coastal. I figured that if I put my ear to the ground, it would come to me. Thankfully, this weekend, it did. oysters2 One of my favorite family traditions is eating grilled oysters over the holidays. Best practices has, in the past, said that the best time to eat oysters was any month ending in "-er" so as soon as November rolled around we'd load up and fill ourselves. We always stopped on the way home from the Ballenger family Christmas party in Richmond to get a bushel of oysters and then devoured them straight from the grill. It is heaven and easily my favorite way to spend the afternoon with my father, brothers, uncles, and cousins. grouper skewers 3 Our family home in Morehead, the Swamp House, has massive oyster beds behind it in the low saltwater marsh, like much of the creeks and sounds of North Carolina. I've spent countless days in pockmarked rain boots mucking through the oysters and swimming in Calico Creek but it never once occurred to me that we could eat those oysters. In fact, I don't think I'd ever had a Crystal Coast oyster. Recently, however, my dad and I had a conversation about how he'd discovered two things. 1) That he prefers oysters that come from the colder season months when the water is much colder and their taste gets salty and 2) that he's discovered he's not only a fan of Crystal Coast oysters but that he prefers them to oysters from other areas. I took this as a sign that I should find myself some local oysters. onslow oysters 7 onslow oysters 6This past weekend our two dear friends Brit and Aaron visited us in Wilmington. We love being with them because above all else we have so much in common. We share a passion for food and drink, Dan and Aaron obsess over the same music, and being with them is easy and comfortable. We made our goal for their visit to show them the very best that Wilmington (as far as we've discovered) has to offer. On Sunday morning we headed down to Kure Beach to hunt for fossils with our friend Dave, a PhD candidate in Marine Biology. On the way back to the car I asked him if he knew where we could get some fresh local oysters. His response? That his favorite place to buy invertebrate was Seaview Crab Shack. Spoken like a true marine biologist. onslow oysters 8 On the way home from Kure we stopped into Seaview and sure enough there were big, beautiful, local oysters. We picked up a 1/2 bushel of oysters from Topsail Island, along with firewood and two oyster shuckers, and headed on our way. Topsail Island is located in two counties- Onslow in the north and Pender in the south. These oysters came from Stump Sound in the northern part of the island. Onslow County  is situated between Jones County to the north, Pender and Duplin to the south, and Carteret to the east. The seat of Onslow county is Jacksonville, and much of the county sits on water- either the Atlantic or one of the number of bays. Jacksonville is the home of Camp Lejune, a large U.S. Marine base. It is also a good portion of the drive from Morehead City to Wilmington, a drive we've done frequently in recent months and a drive that I genuinely enjoy because of the scenery. onslow oysters 9 onslow oysters 1 Oysters are an important part of any marine ecosystem as they filter the water and their shells help define marsh areas and prevent erosion. North Carolina has worked hard to encourage a depleting oyster population through initatives such as the NC Oyster Shell Recycling program (something I'll be doing with our shells once we're done eating them!). It's no surprise that, like all the seafood you can find here in North Carolina, the oysters are delicious. onslow oysters 4 onslow oysters 10The oysters we picked up were fat, juicy, and salty. When I first started eating oysters the texture weirded me out so I'd cover them in horesradish and tobasco, plop them on a saltine, and swallow the the thing as fast as I could. These days I've grown to appreciate foods of different textures, and yesterday when I popped a raw oyster, undressed, in my mouth I was in heaven. Sure there's a visual barrier but the flavor is so worth it. Sometimes you just need a little mental disconnect. We ate a dozen or so oysters raw and the started to roast them over hot coals. Dressed with tobasco, horseradish, and a sauce Aaron made (white wine, white wine vinegar, minced shallots, and cracked black pepper) they were smokey and delicious. Some came off the fire hot and cooked through, others came off perfectly warmed. It was an awesome afternoon with friends and I'm so glad that we could enjoy this meal together. Thanks Onslow County!   onslowonslow oysters 5 onslow oysters 3Oysters are a mussel so strong and so well designed that no human can open a live oyster with their bare hands. This is why the shucking knife is genius. Simply insert a shucking knife (or a screwdriver, we've learned) into a crack or opening or into the lip, and pry open. If the shell opens easily (when raw) the oyster is dead and should not be consumed. After roasting (which essentially steams them in their juices and saltwater) for a few minutes the shells will open as the mussel dies, and then they can be eaten. This post is part of the ongoing series, Tasting North Carolina. See more about the project here.

Tasting North Carolina

tasting nc   When I started this blog in 2008 it was because I was feeling totally alone in a strange place, a strange life, and I missed home. I needed tastes of my childhood to help me remember who I was and why I had chosen this path. In the years that followed the blog became a haven during jobs that I hated or when I felt creatively stunted. And as I continued to live in the Northeast it became a way to stay connected to my home state, to assert my North Carolinian identity. Through all this, the cumulative eight years I spent in Maryland, I always knew I wanted to come home. And as Biscuits and Such grew and became a part of my routine and a part of me, I didn't ever stop to consider how it would change when I was no longer a displaced Southerner trying to find pieces of home in a Northerner's world. These days I'm surrounded by the things that I love and missed. If I wanted to I could eat grits and biscuits every day and I wouldn't even have to make them. I no longer have to recreate home because I am home. And in a lot of ways, because of that, the blog has changed. I've felt uncertain of its direction, uncertain of its purpose. I'm sure you've noticed it, this hasn't really been a settled space in months. The process of moving, taking time for the holidays, and settling in has given me a lot of time to think about what I wanted out of this website. Asking myself the age old question (that I usually hate), what's next? We are in a new house that we love, we have new jobs (that I'll talk about soon enough, I'm sure), we're feeling happier than we've ever been. I want that enthusiasm and love of this place to seep into every part of my life, especially Biscuits and Such. I want this blog to become more than a tribute to the South I remember, I want it to become a celebration of the South that is. So, with that, I'm excited to launch a new project, Tasting North Carolina. My goal is simple, over the next few years I'd like to create and share a recipe that is representative of each of North Carolina's 100 counties. This is a huge undertaking, and I'll admit to feeling a bit intimidated. I don't know much about most of the counties in North Carolina, but that's what excites me about it. It will involve research, travel, and learning the stories of the state that I am so happy to call home. I envision the foods to be a mix of regional cuisines,  specialty dishes, and old favorites. Because North Carolina has so many counties I'm hoping that I can pull some unique and hyper-regional dishes and recipes to share here on the blog. I'll be posting them all with links to a main roundup where you can follow the progress and revisit favorite recipes. I want to showcase each part of this wonderful place, and I invite you to help me do it. If you have a recipe that you think would be perfect for your county or a county in NC that you love, please email me (elena@biscuitsandsuch.com). I am so excited to launch this project and I hope that you will join me! We'll be kicking off tomorrow with a seasonal favorite from Onslow County- oysters!