Tag Archives: Cooking

ALABAMA CHANIN – JAMIE DEMENT + A RECIPE 1

JAMIE DEMENT, THE FARMHOUSE CHEF, + A PECAN PIE RECIPE

In honor of the autumn season (and national dessert day this past Monday), we’re taking a look back at our favorite cookbooks and recipes. A favorite of The Factory is Jamie DeMent’s The Farmhouse Chef: Recipes and Stories from My Carolina Farm.

Jamie DeMent and her partner, Richard Holcomb, own and operate Coon Rock Farm, a 55-acre farm in Hillsborough, North Carolina, that grows sustainable, heirloom varieties of produce and livestock. Jamie also owns the award-winning restaurant Piedmont, located in downtown Durham, North Carolina. She is also a guest lecturer at UNC Chapel Hill, NC State University, Duke University, and teaches cooking classes around the country. Jamie uses her work to find ways to revive the simplicity of eating healthy, locally grown food. The Farmhouse Chef offers over 150 recipes for all occasions, inspired by seasonal harvests.

With pecan season approaching next month, we share a recipe from the book for Cane Syrup Pecan Pie—the only pecan pie recipe you’ll ever make again…

CANE SYRUP PECAN PIE

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Makes 6–8 servings

1 unbaked piecrust
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/2 cups pure cane syrup
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup pecan halves
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon bourbon

Preheat the oven to 450°. Line a 9-inch pie pan with the piecrust. In a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter and stir in the flour and cornstarch until smooth. Add the cane syrup and sugar, and boil for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool. In a separate small bowl, beat 2 eggs. Add the eggs and the rest of the ingredients to the pot, and stir them to mix well. Pour everything into your piecrust and lightly tap it on the counter to even out the nuts and release any air bubbles. Place the pie in the oven and bake at 450° for 10 minutes. Turn the heat down to 350° and bake for an additional 30–35 minutes—until the pie is done and not jiggly in the center. Remove the pie from the oven and allow it to cool a little before serving.

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Images by Felicia A. Trujillo. Recipe and images courtesy of UNC Press.

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CREATIVE PROCESS WITH JUDITH WINFREY OF PEACHDISH

Judith Winfrey is an Atlanta native with a deep connection to the land and an extensive knowledge of farming. Her work with various organizations in Georgia has created a great impact on the state’s slow food culture. Judith was co-founder of Community Farmers Markets—developed to create a local food infrastructure to impact the community in a meaningful way— along with Wholesome Wave Georgia, a group that works to increase a greater circle of access to reasonably priced local foods. She and her husband, Joe Reynolds, founded Love is Love Farm in 2008. Love is Love is located at Gaia Gardens in Decatur, Georgia, where it serves to mentor young farmers through providing community supported agriculture with a focus on servant leadership. Joe currently runs the farm as Judith is the founder and creative mind behind the Atlanta-based meal kit delivery service, PeachDish.

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Photo credit (left): Kate Blohm for PeachDish

PeachDish has a “farm-to-table” approach and sends out over 2,000 meal kits per week, each one based upon the seasonal harvest availability; they currently work with about 200 farmers and focus on organic offerings, whenever possible. Overall, PeachDish ships to kitchens in each of the 48 continental states. You can purchase PeachDish gift cards in varying amounts, which would make a wonderful holiday gift. Visit here for more information.

We had the opportunity to ask Judith some questions recently. Keep reading to learn more about Judith, her creative process, and her inspirations

AC: Do you have any creative rituals?

JW: Yes!  It’s important to me to stay both grounded and in communion with my higher self.  I have a daily morning ritual that consists of study, journaling, meditation, and a good long walk with my two dogs.  It gives me perspective and helps me set intention for the day.

AC: What makes you curious?

JW: The natural world.  Currently, I’m very curious about the sentience of trees and epigenetics. Free will and whether or not we actually have it. I’m also perpetually curious about communication — when it does and doesn’t work and how and why. Extrasensory perception. Telepathy.

AC: What do you daydream about?

JW: World Peace. Throwing big, extravagant parties for my friends. Gardening again. Travel. Having tea with Alice Walker.

AC: How important is education to your creative process?

JW: Very important. Education stimulates new ideas. New ideas are the beginning of creativity. Education doesn’t have to be formal. Podcasts are education. Art Museums, concerts, conversations, documentaries, films, basking in someone else’s wisdom — all of these are education. The best education nourishes the soul as well as the mind.

AC: Do you have processes or tricks to spur creativity?

JW: You can’t force flow. If I’m really struggling, the best thing I can do is walk away, and do something else for a while. Creativity is like a spring. All the right conditions must be in alignment for the vent to boil. My job is to get out of the way; make sure that there’s not too much clutter; take care of my body and my mind so that energy and ideas can stream to me and through me.

AC: Do you have to be in a certain mood in order to create?

JW: I need quiet. Solitude is good, too. I don’t think I have to be in a certain mood, but my mood will impact the quality of what I create.

AC: Nature or nurture? Do you imagine creativity is part of human nature or must it be learned?

JW: Nature. For sure. I think creativity is innate. However, I think we can and should nurture creativity in ourselves and, especially, in children. It’s tragic when people are conditioned not to be creative. Creativity for me is essential. It’s freedom. It’s an expression of joy.

AC: What is the difference between an idea or a product being interesting and being creative?

JW: Well, history is interesting, but it’s never creative. I guess action is the difference. Action and newness or innovation.

AC: What have been some of the most successful campaigns you have launched? Why did you feel successful?

JW: We launched an organic farm, Love is Love Farm. It’s ten years old. That’s been successful. It has fed thousands over the years. It gives us an opportunity to care for and commune with a piece of land. It has given us an incredible community of employees and partners.

I helped launch an organization called Wholesome Wave Georgia that makes healthy food more accessible by doubling the value of SNAP benefits at Farmers Markets and supporting Fruit and Vegetable prescription programs in Georgia. Over the years, we’ve raised millions of dollars and made millions of dollars worth of fresh healthy food accessible to all Georgians. Of course, launching PeachDish has been my greatest endeavor and my greatest success.  I am so proud of the incredible product delivered every week. I’m proud of (and grateful for) our thousands of loyal customers. I am most proud of and grateful for the incredible team that keeps the whole thing going every week.

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Photo credit: Kate Blohm for PeachDish

AC: How do you define success?

JW: Staying alive and thriving.

AC: If your creative process or project isn’t productive, at what point do you cut your losses? Or is there a point? Do you keep pressing on?

JW: That’s difficult to determine. An important indicator is one’s own joy. If the project still brings joy, it’s worth continuing. If it’s not really productive and it’s draining your life force, then it’s time to put it aside — at least for a moment or two. When it’s time for something to die. I think you just know. You have a peace about it.  You can still grieve, but the grief is release not resistance.

AC: What parts of your work seem the “heaviest” and the “lightest”?

JW: Managing cash flow is the heaviest. Managing people is the lightest.

AC: What parts of your imagination seem the “heaviest” and the “lightest”?

JW: The fearful, worrisome side of my imagination is the heaviest. I try not to spend time there. The lightest aspect of my imagination is connected directly to spirit. I am often working on recognizing the guidance that is direct from the source versus my own ego-based ideas. It’s a subtle difference, sometimes, but it’s important. Our egos can really create havoc if we let them lead.

AC: Does spirituality play a role in your creativity?

JW: Yes. Spirit is the mothership.

AC: What makes you nervous?

JW: Seeing people get injured. I can’t watch violent movies because of it.

AC: In what ways would you want to change your imaginative spirit?

JW: I’d like it to be more outlandish. Dream bigger and bolder.

AC: Is there something that can halt your creativity? Distractions, fears, etc.? Have you found a way to avoid those pitfalls?

JW: Social media is not only a big-time manipulator; it’s also virtually useless.  It will quickly rob me of creativity. I try to limit my screen time.

AC: Have you ever censored your imagination or creativity because you don’t want to offend anyone? If so, how?

JW: I don’t think I’ve censored my imagination. Just because you think or create something, doesn’t mean you have to share it.

AC: If you had to start over, would you choose a different path in your career?

JW: I would have trusted myself more and sooner. I had this idea that most people knew more and better than me.  I was wrong in most cases.

AC: If you were no longer able to use the medium that you are now working in, how else would you express your creativity?

JW: I would like to have a huge ornamental garden.

AC: Do you critique your own work?

JW: Yes. Nothing is ever perfect and there is always something to learn.

AC: Has rejection ever affected your creative process?

JW: Rejection has hindered both my creativity and my productivity.

AC: Who do you define as a visionary?

JW: Visionaries come in so many different forms. Clarence Jordan was a visionary. Marina Abramović is a visionary. So is every immigrant everywhere and everyone who escapes a dysfunctional relationship (with themselves or someone else).  My mom, Dixie Eloise Alvarez Winfrey, is a visionary. She would never identify that way, but she is.

AC: What last made you think, “I wish I had thought of that!”

JW: Patagonia’s official response to the 2016 election was pretty brilliant.

AC: If you were to become a professor, what classes would you teach?

JW: The Power of Positive Thinking.

AC: What are your favorite things to do? What do you distinctly NOT like to do?

JW: I love walking. I love cooking with my husband. I love music. I don’t like picking up my dogs’ poop. I don’t like waiting in line.

AC: Is there one single act that can open your imaginary mind?

JW: Meditation.

AC: Which ones of your products and/or services inspire you the most?

JW: Our meal kits change every week. I’m always inspired to see how our customers integrate them into our lives. We have some customers who cook with us every week and they often post pictures of their meals. It makes me so happy.

AC: Are there parts of your life that you always make a priority? That you struggle to make a priority?

JW: My morning ritual is always a priority. When you’re the boss, a lot of people get your time. Making time for myself first thing ensures that I get in self care.

AC: Where does inspiration come from? Where does inspiration live?

JW: Inspiration can come from anywhere. Colors are inspiring to me. Music is inspiring. Inspiration lives at the feet of the master.

AC: Where does imagination come from? Where does imagine live?

JW: Imagination comes from the ether. Imagination lives in the galaxy and beyond.

(This project is made possible in-part by a fellowship from the Alabama State Council on the Arts)

Lead photo credit: Kate Blohm for PeachDish

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RED TRUCK BAKERY COOKBOOK

Former art director of several national magazines, including Smithsonian, House & Garden, and The Washington Post, Brian Noyes knows his way around a publishing house. He also knows his way around a kitchen. After purchasing a small farm just outside of Washington, D.C., Noyes started selling jars of jam at his farm and at local country stores, using a red truck (fashioned after his own vehicle) on the labels. The popularity of the jams encouraged him to expand his offerings to baked goods—which became an in-demand item around the community. The New York Times featured Red Truck Bakery as a favorite food purveyor two years in a row, which only increased its following.

Red Truck Bakery is situated in Marshall, Virginia, and works closely with farmers to utilize organic and naturally grown produce and dairy products. It has been featured in magazines like Saveur, Travel + Leisure,  and it was named one of “America’s 13 Sweetest Bakery Destinations” by Conde Nast Traveler. It also got a thumbs-up from President Barack Obama, who enjoyed their sweet potato bourbon pecan pie for Pi Day.

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This year, Red Truck Bakery published their first cookbook, Red Truck Bakery Cookbook: Gold-Standard Recipes From America’s Favorite Rural Bakery. It includes 85 recipes for dishes like Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits, Shenandoah Apple Cake, and Appalachian Pie with Ramps and Morels, alongside stories of the bakery’s history and anecdotes about the dishes.

If you are looking for holiday baked goods, Red Truck Bakery ships thousands of items nationwide each year. After meeting at this year’s Southern Foodways Alliance symposium, Noyes sent Natalie a copy of the cookbook (check out our Heath Ceramics collaboration plate with the Pecan Pull-Aparts above), some of their famed granola, and a gluten-free almond cake. The items ship beautifully and we highly recommend sampling their goods yourself. For more information on their offerings and shipping details, click here.

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THANKSGIVING PICKUP

We all dream of a homemade Thanksgiving dinner, but sometimes (and these days more often than not) we get swept up in the busyness of life and find ourselves scrambling to put together a last minute meal. For our Shoals community, The Factory Café is offering Thanksgiving Pickup again this year.

Our menu includes Thanksgiving favorites like Cornbread Dressing, Sweet Potato Casserole, Baked Mac + Cheese, and Cranberry Sauce – all made from scratch in our kitchen. If you’ve been tasked with providing dessert, we’ve got those too. Choose from a list of sweets that includes autumn treats like Carrot Cake + Cream Cheese Icing, Natalie’s Apple Crisp, and Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Download the complete menu with prices here.

Call 256.701.8667 or email events@alabamachanin.com before 5:00pm on Wednesday, November 16th to place your order for pickup on Wednesday, November 21st. If you live in The Shoals, we’ll even deliver your dishes to you.

Give us a call, sit back, make merry, and enjoy.

Photo courtesy of Abraham Rowe.

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JOHN T.’S POTLIKKER PAPERS + A SYMPOSIUM

“Southern history encompasses migrations from Africa to the Americas, from farms to factories, from the rural South to the urban North and back again,” writes John T. Edge in his book, The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South. In this book, John T. reports on 60-plus years of Southern food histories—from the innovative use of traditional dishes to advance the civil rights movement to today’s more modern attempts to demonstrate that Southern cuisine is more beautiful and complex than stereotypes suggest.

The book begins with acknowledgment that much of Southern cuisine is a direct product of African and African American influences. As he explained to Arts Atlanta, “For so much of the South’s history, when you hear certain segments of the population talk about the region, they’re implying somehow that word South means white South and that the word southern means white culture,” he said. “That’s just demonstrably disingenuous. [The title of my book] is a metaphor for boiling down a pot of greens to its essence. If you boil down Southern culinary culture to its essence, the most defining trait, the most defining cultural trait in Southern cookery and culture, are the contributions of African-Americans. I don’t say that with guilt as a white man. I say that with a pure-eyed vigor.”

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John T. begins his examination of the civil rights movement with a section on Georgia Gilmore—cook, midwife, and mother of six—who set up a restaurant in her own kitchen, hosting leaders of the Montgomery bus boycott and serving them chicken sandwiches and pork chops. She also headed up fundraisers, selling cakes and sweet potato pies to raise money for alternate forms of transportation for the black citizens who relied upon buses as their main form of travel. Gilmore helped the black women she organized as fundraisers to see that what they provided to white households as domestics held power in the movement. He writes, “Georgia Gilmore inspired black citizens of Montgomery. And she worried whites, who clung to the idea that, through daily intimate exchange, black cooks and maids became members of their family. Domestics worked for love, whites came to understand, but that love was for their own black families.”

The book also delves into the controversy surrounding soul food, which both connected African Americans with their history and became almost fetish foods for whites looking for something exotic. Fannie Lou Hamer, founder of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, began to focus on health problems widespread in the African American community and started a national conversation on democratizing food access and worked to convince black Americans to reclaim their connection to the land as a way to combat poverty. She founded the Freedom Farm and Pig Bank which, in her mind, was a strategy to subvert the past. “Hamer preached the differences between the white-owned plantations where she was raised and the interracial cooperative farm she operated… To many blacks in the Delta, though, the land that Hamer farmed was tainted. And so was the labor required.”

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John T. explores the 1970s and 80s through stories of The Farm, a commune founded by Stephen Gaskin in Summertown, Tennessee. He was a pioneer of the back-to-the-land movement embraced by a generation of disillusioned hippies. In contrast, he delves into the story of Colonel Harland Sanders who, in franchising his company and its secret recipe of herbs and spices, became rich and recognizable—and eventually realized he may have made a deal with the devil, serving as a conflicted “living mascot” for his democratized version of Southern fried chicken.

The Potlikker Papers reveals the clash of subcultures, of the old-school innovators and the new breed of chefs who combine provincial cooking with experimental techniques. It also attempts to tackle some of the thornier aspects of Southern cooking, including cultural appropriation and the romanticism of ingredients and dishes that were the direct result of brutal slave labor. The book is a primer on the changes in perception of Southern food and the brutal underbelly of its provenance. It should inspire the reader to dig deeper into food histories—being proud of what we have achieved despite hardship, but keeping in mind the struggles and horrors of Southern history.

John T. Edge and the Southern Foodways Alliance (of which he is the director) are fresh on our minds. John T. MC’d our Friends of the Café Dinner with John Currence in August, and we always visit his hometown of Oxford for the SFA’s Annual Symposium.

We’ve also been digging into our research for Project Threadways which has partnered with the Center for Cultural Studies at the University of Mississippi. John T.’s truthful and challenging work, as seen in The Polikker Papers, has set an extraordinary example for us as we begin our project.

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SUMMER VEGETABLES + BUTTERMILK-HERB DRESSING

Summer is the season of vegetables, whether from your local farmers market or your backyard garden. And there are countless summer veggie recipes on the Journal, like this one for a Southern Antipasti, the beloved Tomato Sandwich (the secret’s in the homemade mayo), or a Grilled Vegetable Quiche.

At The Factory Café, we eagerly anticipate each summer when fresh vegetables are in abundance. And while they are delicious on their own, we love any excuse to accompany them with our Buttermilk-Herb Dressing. Perfect on salads, sandwiches, or as a dipping sauce. Find the recipe below.

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BUTTERMILK-HERB DRESSING
Makes one quart

1.5 cup sour cream
1 cup buttermilk
½ cup Duke’s Mayonnaise (or the mayo of your choice)
Juice and zest of one lemon
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon chives, chopped
1 tablespoon dill, chopped
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper

Mix all wet ingredients together. Mix in fresh herbs until combined well. Serve in a Weck Juice Jar (available at The Factory).

Lead image: Fresh vegetable delivery from Sonlit Meadows Farm

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RESIDENCY: THE HAMBIDGE CENTER

During June 2018, Natalie took month-long respite and creative journey during her residency at The Hambidge Center in the woods of north Georgia. She reflects on her time there and shares her experience for which she is eternally grateful:

In the summer of 2017, I was going through what will always be known to me as “The Summer of Onslaught.” It was, in other words, a brutal period of my life. Diverse and disparate events and actions, all outside of my control, barreled down on me like a fireball; I had no moment of respite. As soon as one event—personal and/or professional—seemed even mildly resolved, more turmoil arrived. My life felt like a beautiful birthday cake with trick candles: you blow and hope for your heart’s deepest wish but, to your horror, the flame reappears. You blow and blow until you realize that no amount of breath or effort can stop the onslaught.

I think of myself as a wildly positive person—the eternal optimist. How else could Alabama Chanin, The Factory, Building 14, and The School of Making even exist? But even the most optimistic human can burn out, burn up, fold in on herself, and shut down. Last summer—in the midst of chaos, I was sitting on my back porch with a friend and said, “I don’t see an end. I don’t see a break from the little fires erupting around me on all sides. I wish that I could have one moment to clear my mind; I need time to understand this. I want something like a residency.” And although I didn’t really even know what that meant and had never done a residency, I knew that it was something that might save me.

In a matter of days, I received a call from my dear friend Angie Mosier telling me that The Hambidge Center for the Creative Arts and Sciences was trying to get in touch with me about… a residency. She put us in touch and, indeed, I was awarded a monthlong residency program thanks to a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Sometimes it is important to speak something out loud, if only to one other person, and the universe will go about making it happen.

The view through the dogtrot of Mary’s Cabin, looking out to her porch. –Photo: Rinne Allen

The Hambidge Center, the legacy of famed weaver Mary Hambidge, is a creative residency program nestled on 600 acres of forested mountain terrain in the North Georgia mountains, near Rabun Gap. The sanctuary belonged to Mary and her partner Jay Hambidge—who both worked to develop and promote the theory of Dynamic Symmetry. The residency program is open to any creative person in the fields of visual arts, writing, music, dance, culinary, textiles, and/or the sciences. The Center believes in a classic, self-directed residency where they provide a simple place for creative development and production, based on an individual’s wants and needs. Included in the residency are living quarters and a studio space, along with a support system for artists and scientists to provide room for creative encounter. There is no internet access in the studio, no cell service, four evening meals a week are provided—and lots of leftovers for lunch the next day. That’s it. In essence, they protect and nurture your time so that the little fires from the outside world are removed from the resident’s life and there is space for exploration.

It’s now almost exactly a year since I received that call from Angie. I’m sitting in the Brena Studio—my studio—at The Hambidge Center as I write this. I’ve been here for three weeks. I look out my window and see only trees and sky. The lush, temperate rainforest beckons morning and afternoon walks, waterfall swims, and deep breathing. I hear water running in the distance, leaves blowing in the trees, and the occasional call of a bird. My workspace is clean and orderly and perfectly arranged in a manner most conducive to my personal creativity. And I’m working.

In my residency, I follow an impressive array of writers, photographers, chefs, and creative thinkers from all genres. My beloved friend Scott Peacock worked on The Gift of Southern Cooking with his friend and mentor Edna Lewis in Mary Hambidge’s original cabin. My heroine Natasha Trethewey, former U.S. Poet Laureate (when such things were appreciated), worked here before me. My friend Angie Mosier was here in residency in 2016. She started a project which attempts to connect individuals in today’s changing social climate in the mountain south through food. Angie’s family is from the Smoky Mountains and she is exploring the relationship that links together that history and culture with those recipes and materials. It is a fascinating story that is unfolding and today, as I write this, she is at the nearby Walnut Hill Studio—on her second residency—continuing this important piece of work. In the same studio, Lisa Donovan, acclaimed pastry chef, author, and recent recipient of the James Beard Award for Journalism is working on her memoir, to be published by Penguin Press. Two days ago, these two brilliant women taught a workshop called Elemental Pie that connected flour and butter with the trajectory of making, women, and humanity. It was thrilling. These are the types of unexpected, yet artistically stimulating projects happening around me and inspiring me to continue my own work.

From the class description:

Lisa will speak to the emotional elements that take over when she is baking and how that makes its way into her writing. Angie will talk about how she uses her photography to capture the techniques but also the beauty of working hands, ingredients and the joy of cooking.

“All art is a mixture of science and emotion, no matter what the medium.” —from The Hambidge Center description of Elemental Pie

Boiled peanut, gruyere, and onion hand-pies from Lisa Donovan and Angie Mosier at The Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences.

Lisa Donovan teaches pie crust. “Work the flour into the cold butter by smearing,” she tells us. “You want these flakes to create this beautiful marbled effect.” Photo: Rinne Allen

Lisa Donovan pushes the completed pie shell into the “corners” of the pan. “This is how you make sure that your walls don’t collapse.” Photo: Rinne Allen

Angie Mosier teaches us about light and camera interaction. “See this beautiful light?” she says. “It creates shape and texture for your photo. You don’t need fancy equipment, just look for the light.” Photo: Rinne Allen

Angie Mosier shows us how to vary height and angle to interact with light. “See this beautiful stack of pies?” she asks. “I’m going get down on the same level and make this stack my hero.” Photo: Rinne Allen

Carley, from Literature of Food, in Charleston, and a guest at the Pie workshop doubles as our model with the beautiful pie shells. Photo: Rinne Allen

Although I also taught two lovely workshops during my residency, it was such a treat to sit and listen to this group who had gathered for this workshop and talk about creative inspiration for making pie, for making dough, even how creative impulse lead Angie and Lisa to substitute boiled peanuts they bought on the side of the road for the originally planned, but unsalvageable, mushrooms for the hand-pies. (They were delicious.) Conversations wandered to how women and men have had to physically and metaphorically untie apron strings and put tools away and choose between making, work, and family because there are just too many of those fires to put out—and it all takes time.

I don’t know if your experience is the same, but my truth is that creative endeavor needs space and time to breathe. It requires this moment of silence for what ancient Greeks called eudaimonia (inspiration or creative flow) to arrive, be heard, and find its way out into the world. Whether it is designing fabric, developing silhouettes, writing a story, or planning a space, inspiration isn’t dropped from the big, blue sky; it needs to be tended and listened to and coaxed into reality. It needs to be tested and evolved and shared in a safe space. It is something that is ephemeral and solid at the same time. Last summer, living in chaos and constantly putting out fires dulled my senses; residency cleared a space for ideas to form and shapes to emerge.

I believe that to be human means to be creative. Elizabeth Gilbert writes in her lovely book Big Magic, “We are all makers by design.” It is in our very DNA to make, because when you look back in time and the trajectory of your own family, you most often find, as Gilbert puts it, “…people who were not consumers, people who were not sitting around passively waiting for stuff to happen to them. You will find people who spent their lives making things. This is where you come from. This is where we all come from.” And I understand deeply that this is where I come from and that to be a full and well-rounded human, for our society to be well-rounded, we have to make and we have to create space for creative thought and endeavor to emerge. And that takes time—and courage.

View of Rachel K. Garceau’s work and exhibition at the Antinori Ruins on The Hambidge Center property. Photo: Rinne Allen

Rachel K. Garceau, ceramicist and sculptor who is also in residency this month, pointed me towards Rollo May’s book titled The Courage to Create. On page 21 May writes, “Whereas moral courage is the righting of wrongs, creative courage, in contrast, is the discovering of new forms, new symbols, new patterns on which a new society can be built.” This is what residency is for me: the opportunity to discover new forms, new symbols, and new patterns in my own work.

Joan Didion once said, “I don’t know what I think until I write about it.” I feel the same way. Until I was able to sit and write about the last year of my life—solely for myself—I wasn’t able to know what I thought about it. And until I understood that year, I was unable to think of creative undertakings or have true creative courage.

My work table is orderly, I feel filled with courage and I‘m ready for creative endeavor.

I’m eternally grateful to The Hambidge Center and the National Endowment for the Arts for a Community Engagement Grant. As part of my residency, I was lucky to curate a show in collaboration with Rachel K. Garceau. Titled Process in Works, the show is open to the community through September 8th, 2018. Rachel’s work is site-specific to Hambidge and will be on display for approximately a two-year period. It is well worth the trip to visit Hambidge, the North Georgia Mountains, and, of course, our collaboration.

View of the gallery in Mary’s Weave Shed highlighting “Process in Work” by Alabama Chanin and Rachel K. Garceau. Photo: Rinne Allen

From The Hambidge Center:

Process in Works is a growing, evolving show of work by Natalie Chanin and Rachel K. Garceau about the purposeful setting of intentions, approaching the world with curiosity, exploring the meaning of value, and creating cumulative beauty with small, everyday acts and objects. This exhibit is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Painted stencil as an artifact of process as part of the show “Process in Work” at The Hambidge Center. Photo: Rinne Allen

The gallery show offers imaginative and interactive experiences inside and out through textiles, ceramics, making stations, an inspiration library and so much more. We are so proud to bring these two truly amazing women together for a show like no other.

Address: The Hambidge Center, 105 Hambidge Court, Rabun Gap, Georgia

Gallery Hours: Tuesday – Friday, 9am-4pm; Saturday, 10am-5pm

Gallery Phone: 706-746-5718

Detail of Rachel K. Garceau’s installation in the homestead ruin at The Hambidge Center. Photo: Rinne Allen

There are different types of creative residencies and you can gather more information here.

Apply for a creative residency here.

Support The Hambidge Center here.

And even if you can’t make a visit to this magical place, make space in your life for your own personal residency—ten minutes at a time.

Rachel K. Garceau’s installation in the homestead ruin at The Hambidge Center. Photo: Rinne Allen

P.S.: I’d like to thank The Hambidge Center and the Rabun County Public Library for hosting workshops during my residency. Inspiring one and all.

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RUSSET POTATO + DILLY BEAN SALAD WITH ASHLEY ENGLISH

We’ve long been fans of Ashley English—southern cook, homesteader, and holistic nutritionist. We have listened to her advice on how to be a gracious host as we create memorable experiences for our guests at The Factory—and even made a few of her pies. Ashley is back with a newly released cookbook, Southern from Scratch: Pantry Essentials and Down-Home Recipes. The goal of the cookbook is to help the reader build their very own southern-style pantry, completely from scratch. And it puts your new pantry to use with over 100 recipes.

We’ve picked out several must-try recipes, but our favorite is the Russet Potato + Dilly Bean Salad. Enjoy making the recipe below.

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RUSSET POTATO + DILLY BEAN SALAD
Serves 8 to 10

¼ cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons sea salt, for the cooking water
4 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-size cubes
1 cup Dilly Beans, chopped to ¾-inch lengths
½ cup Dilly Bean brine
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons coarse prepared mustard
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Stir the vinegar and salt into 3 quarts of water in a large pot. Add the potatoes and turn the heat to high. As soon as the water comes to a boil, turn the temperature down to simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

When the potatoes are done, drain them well in a colander and let them sit for 5 minutes to let off some steam.

Spread out the potatoes on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes.

Transfer the potatoes to a medium mixing bowl. Gently fold in the dilly beans, pickling brine, mayonnaise, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste.

Cover the mixing bowl and place in the refrigerator. Cool at least 1 hour before serving.

DILLY BEANS
Makes about 5 pints.

2 pounds green beans
3 cups white vinegar
3 cups water
¼ cup pickling salt
10 garlic cloves, peeled
5 teaspoons dill seeds
5 teaspoons brown mustard seeds
2 ½ teaspoons black peppercorns
10 sprigs fresh dill

Fill a canner or large stockpot with water, place five-pint jars inside, and set over medium-high heat. Bring just to the boiling point.

Bring the vinegar, water, salt to a full, rolling boil in a medium pot. Remove the pot from the heat. Transfer the brine to a pourable, spouted container, such as a heatproof measuring cup, if desired.

Using a jar lifter, remove the hot jars from the canner and place on top of a kitchen cloth on the counter. Place 2 garlic cloves, I teaspoon dill seeds, 1 teaspoon mustard seeds, ½ teaspoon peppercorns, and 2 sprigs fresh dill in each jar. With the help of a canning funnel, pack the green beans into the jars, topped off by the brine, reserving ½ inch headspace.

Use a spatula or wooden chopstick to remove any trapped air bubbles around the interior circumference of the jars. Wipe the rims clean with a damp cloth. Place the lids and screw bands, tightening only until fingertip-tight.

Again using a jar lifter, slowly place the filled jars in the canner. Be sure that the jars are covered by at least 1 inch of water. Bring to a boil, and then process for 10 minutes, starting the timer once the water is at a full, rolling boil.

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P.S.: We’re hosting an Instagram giveaway with Ashley for your chance to win a copy of Southern from Scratch. To enter for a chance to win, follow @smallmeasure, @roostbooks and @alabamachaninfactorycafe on Instagram, leave a comment on @alabamachaninfactorycafe’s post and tag a friend.

The giveaway ends on June 30th at 11:59pm CST and is open to U.S. residents 18+ older. We will pick a winner next week and message you for your contact information. Good luck!

Recipe courtesy of Southern from Scratch by Ashley English, © 2018 by Ashley English.  Photographs by Johnny Autry, © 2018 by Johnny Autry. Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, CO.

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FRIENDS OF THE CAFE: REBECCA WILCOMB MENU PREVIEW

We are counting down the days until James Beard award-winning chef Rebecca Wilcomb is in house for the second dinner of our 2018 Friends of the Café Dinner series. To add to our excitement, Rebecca recently sent the menu for the night. It’s infused with Italian accents, a nod to her family history. You won’t want to miss this.

Rebecca will kick off the evening with crab melt, chickpea fritters and Caponata, beef with anchovies and olives, and shrimp spiedini.

The first course will be Giannina’s tortellini. The second course, served family style, will feature porchetta from Bear Creek Farms and grilled cobia with Calabrian chilies, served with an Italian rice salad, marinated peppers, and a charred okra salad.

The night will come to a close over summer fruit hand pies. If that sounds as good to you as it does to us, please join us.

Q&A WITH CHEF REBECCA WILCOMB

Rebecca Wilcomb has worked for and under the tutelage of several renowned chefs, including Keith Pooler at Harvest and Ana Sortun at Oleana, both in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Even so, it is safe to say that she has found a place to truly shine at Herbsaint in New Orleans, Chef Donald Link’s flagship restaurant.

After moving to New Orleans in 2008, Wilcomb worked the line at Herbsaint under Link and Chef Ryan Prewitt, eventually taking over as chef de cuisine in 2011. There she is able to combine the rich Louisiana food culture with her family’s Italian culinary heritage. Her dishes feel both personal and rooted in a sense of place. A member of the Southern Foodways Alliance, Rebecca works closely with local fishermen, farmers, and purveyors to maintain the highest possible level of freshness and quality. In May of 2017, she won the James Beard Award for Best Chef: South, and soon she will be overseeing our upcoming Friends of the Café Dinner. We took the chance to speak with Rebecca in anticipation of the event.

AC: What drew you to New Orleans? And how has its unique and varied food culture impacted your way of looking at food?

RW: Honestly, I moved to New Orleans to escape winter. I was living in Boston at the time and just couldn’t stomach another long, cold stretch. New Orleans just kind of called to me. It’s so rich with culture, food, music, art…at the time it seemed so exciting. Ten years later, it still fills me with that same feeling. Life is really celebrated here. I can’t imagine being anyplace else.

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AC: You stepped into renowned chef Donald Link’s flagship restaurant, Herbsaint. Did you feel any pressure to put your own stamp on the place? What did you want to shine through on your menu?

RW: Herbsaint is a special place. For me, being a good steward and maintaining the standards set by Donald was very important. Part of that is pushing hard every day—grinding it out. When you do that, your stamp naturally gets put on a place. It becomes a part of you, and you of it. I’m not a planner; I let things happen organically. The only goal I had for the food was to stay true to the ingredients and to myself. What ended up shining through on the menu was an expression of who I am and where I come from. From my first dish on the menu of blistered chilies with whipped feta and fried lemon, to lamb lasagna, to beef with anchovies, to ceviche—every dish has come from love. The chilies were an ode to Oleana, a restaurant I worked in as a young cook and was deeply influenced by. The lamb lasagna is a labor of love—the love of a granddaughter for her Nonna. The beef with anchovies is a reflection of my deep pride in my Italian heritage.

AC: With the growing challenge to a male-based culinary culture, do you see yourself as a role model for women in professional kitchens? What are the biggest challenges for women in the industry? How does an organization begin to tackle those challenges? (We know this is a big question!)

RW: Geez. Well, this is a big question, and I hope is something that continues to be a part of the dialogue for a long time. We should never stop talking about how to make the world a better place. It’s important for women and men to make good choices. Choose to work for people who have a strong moral compass and treat their employees well. Choose to speak out against injustices and unfair practices in the workplace. Choose to work hard every day and treat those around you with respect. I’ve always worked for people and companies who treat their employees well. Tackling big challenges isn’t an issue if you start out doing the right thing. We as women have found our voice, and people are listening. Poor behavior can no longer be tolerated.

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AC: What is your earliest food-related memory?

RW: I remember being very young and in Italy for Christmas, and seeing my Nonna cut the head off of a goose and a corn kernel falling out of its neck.

AC: Do you remember the first dish you ever cooked by yourself?

RW: Pasta with tomato sauce. I loved making that when I was a kid. It was easy, and I couldn’t mess it up.

AC: What is your most reliable go-to ingredient? What do you always keep on-hand in your home kitchen?

RW: I always have good olive oil. I start and finish everything with a good olive oil.

AC: Do you have seasonal favorites? How do you incorporate seasonal foods into your menus?

RW: I have so many seasonal favorites. I especially love greens—turnip greens, mustards, arugula, lacinato kale, cabbage, spinach—I could eat greens with every meal. Braised, grilled, fermented, pickled—they’re the best. We have a company forager and have built a vast network of farmers who grow awesome things for us. Most of our meat, fish, produce, dairy, and rice come from people in our community. I try to use as much as possible from our neighbors.

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AC: When was your last truly great meal/dining experience?

RW: I went to Mosca’s a few weeks ago. It’s this old-school Italian place outside of New Orleans. The food is straightforward and delicious, the staff is welcoming, and you get to play your own music on the jukebox. It’s a really special place with a lot of history.

AC: In a culture where fast and easy solutions often prevail, what do you think is most important for home cooks to focus on? And what should they avoid buying when pre-packaged, if at all possible?

RW: Basic technique. If home cooks learn the basics, cooking becomes that much more fun. Don’t ever buy pre-packaged gnocchi. They are terrible.

AC: Like Alabama Chanin, you are an active member of the Southern Foodways Alliance. What drew you to the organization and what does it mean to you?

RW: I was introduced to the SFA by Donald Link. The organization is filled with people passionate about the South and its history. I’ve always been interested in the history of things and where stuff comes from. The SFA examines and preserves our history, and considers our future while saving a seat for everyone at the table. Knowing where we, all of us, come from is vital to understanding who we are. And who we are is not only what we eat and drink, but also why we eat and drink what we do. The SFA is a very important piece of who I am as a chef in the South.

AC: At Alabama Chanin, you can often find music influencing the mood and the workflow in the studio. If you have music in your kitchen, what is your favorite music to cook by?

RW: I really like listening to Buena Vista Social Club and Gypsy Kings while cooking. I need something upbeat. Opera, rock, hip-hop all make the list. My new favorite is Kendrick Lamar—his music is really great. Rarely do I put on anything mellow.

AC: Congratulations on your James Beard Award! What was it like hearing your name called?

RW: Thanks! It was surreal. I just didn’t think I stood a chance of winning. It was quite a shock and a very special moment.

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THE GATHERING: BISCUIT LOVE BRUNCH

Karl and Sarah Worley’s restaurant concept Biscuit Love had its beginnings in an Airstream trailer food truck named Lilly. From those humble first steps, the Worleys have now opened three brick-and-mortar establishments in the Nashville, Tennessee, area that can attract lines of customers, hungry for biscuits and other Southern fare. Sarah and Karl are a husband and wife team, both of whom hold culinary degrees from Johnson & Wales. Together, they have tapped into something genuine, by focusing on ingredients, technique, and community. Biscuit Love locally sources as much as possible, serving dishes that make both Nashville natives and tourists feel at home. The Biscuit Love team will be a part of our upcoming annual picnic and gathering, so we spoke with Karl as a way to introduce the company to the uninitiated.

AC: Who taught you how to make biscuits?

KW: I watched my grandmother as a child. I never took the time to learn from her, unfortunately. I taught myself as an adult.

AC: Almost every biscuit maker has a special family-based story around their biscuit recipes. I think that is the same case with you. Would you like to talk about that?

KW: I think biscuits are one of those personal things. My grandmother’s drop biscuit recipe is the same for me. It takes me back home every time I make them.

AC: Both Karl and Sarah have culinary degrees from Johnson & Wales. That being said, how did the simple biscuit become the centerpiece of your business?

KW: Sarah was the brilliant one behind that, but I believe it speaks to so many southerners personally. We are honored to carry on the tradition.

AC: You started as a food truck? What gave you the idea and the gumption to serve biscuits from a food truck?

KW: Yes…a borrowed one. (Thanks, Jason.) Sarah told me my hot chicken (before the craze) idea would never work! She suggested biscuits, and I liked the idea of serving sandwiches from a food truck!

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AC: You now have 3 locations and your restaurants often have a line of customers willing to wait quite a while to get inside. How did you make the decision to expand?

KW: #Blessed! We had always wanted to see where the business would go. We love what we do, and think we have built a platform to have Biscuit Love locations in a few areas!

AC: Why do you think you have been able to cultivate such community support?

KW: We serve honest food! We try to serve amazing Southern food that touches something in a person’s soul.

AC: A biscuit may seem like a simple offering, but making a truly great biscuit is an art. Do you have any secrets to share or tips to improve biscuit making technique?

KW: Use GREAT ingredients, cast iron is your friend, and pick a recipe and keep perfecting it. It is like riding a bike. It takes a while to get the hang of it, but after you do, you don’t forget how!

AC: You also serve other classic Southern dishes that are simple but elevated. How do you decide which dishes make the cut?

KW: I usually begin with an idea, and work to get a dish out for Sarah and our family to try. I am not afraid of honest feedback as to if the dish should hit the menu. Sarah is a great visionary of if the dish will work and how to better execute it!

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AC: Basing your entire business around a biscuit seems like a risky undertaking, and yet you have been undeniably successful. How do you balance trend and tradition, and how do you think you are able to appeal to both tourists and locals so successfully?

KW: I think breakfast is one of those meals that naturally makes people happy. We didn’t go into it with that in mind, but I am glad we chose the breakfast space for that reason.

AC: I imagine it can be tricky to navigate running a business with your spouse. How do you negotiate those hurdles? Or, has it been a natural fit for you?

KW: We are still learning every day. If anyone has pointers, I am all ears. We are learning to work in our strength areas and know when to hold tight to what is important to each of us. We try to be a little better every day with it!

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AC: At Alabama Chanin, it is essential to our product that we create relationships with our makers and choose the right sources and suppliers. What part does this play in your philosophy?

KW: It is one of the things we are most proud of. We still source around 50% of what we use locally. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Forming partnerships with people who have amazing products and being able to actually call and talk to my vendors is a big reason I love the business. We have seen some of our vendors grow as we grow, which is an amazing feeling!

AC: How many biscuits would you estimate that you serve on an average Saturday?

KW: 3500… Whew, that is a lot of biscuits from 5-6 dedicated people!

AC: And is it true that you don’t use an electric mixer for your biscuit dough?

KW: Never… you have to feel the dough to know what it’s telling you!

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FRIENDS OF THE CAFÉ: STEVEN SATTERFIELD

Steven Satterfield is co-owner and chef of Miller Union, a restaurant located in Atlanta’s west side that focuses on seasonal ingredients. His relationships with local farmers and producers are the driving forces behind his menus. Chef Satterfield is an active member of Chef’s Collaborative, Southern Foodways Alliance, and Georgia Organics. In 2015, Satterfield released his first cookbook, Root to Leaf: A Southern Chef Cooks Through the Seasons, and in 2017 was named Best Chef: Southeast by the James Beard Foundation. In anticipation of our upcoming Friends of the Café dinner featuring chef Satterfield—an event held in conjunction with our annual community picnic and gathering—we asked Steven a few questions.

AC: You pursued a couple of other vocations before becoming a chef. For instance, you studied architecture and fronted the band Seely. How did you move from the drafting table to the stage to the kitchen?

SS: Well, when I decided to study architecture I was applying for college at Georgia Tech and I was probably 16 at the time, so you know it’s just one of those decisions you make as a teen that you hope works out. I had a very challenging but successful experience in school, including studying abroad in Paris my final year of design, but when it came down to working in the field, my heart was just not in it. I guess I rose to the occasion when it came to deadlines with my professors, but I didn’t love the practice as much as the theory. Additionally, the year I graduated was when everything was transitioning to computer-aided design, or CAD, and I knew I wanted to work with my hands. That summer after I graduated (1992) I picked up a guitar for the first time and started learning how to play. I already had musical experience playing clarinet, bass clarinet, and singing in choral group through high school, but this time I wanted to play modern music. I formed a band and we ended up getting signed to a label in the UK called Too Pure in 1994. We released 4 records between 1995-2000 and then disbanded. At that time I was 30 years old and had been working in restaurants to make ends meet. I loved the restaurant culture and the instant family that forms with a good team. I weaseled my way into Floataway Café under Anne Quatrano and learned so much in one year. Our last tour was in 2000 and I had to leave Floataway to go on tour. When I returned I started working at Watershed that summer.

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Photo credit: Heidi Geldhauser

AC: You have worked in several kitchens, including working with Scott Peacock at Watershed. Can you tell us a little about your journey and how it led to opening Miller Union?

SS: I ended up working at Watershed for nine years. I started as a grill cook, then transitioned to sauté, sous chef, and finally executive sous. That is a long time to work in one place but I just kept learning and growing and Scott really taught me a lot. I finally decided to take the risk and go out on my own when I realized that I could do it.

AC: Your “root to leaf” approach focuses on what vegetables are in season and using as many parts of the vegetable as possible. Is reducing food waste a priority, a fortuitous side effect of exploring ingredients, or both? 

SS: Food waste is a serious cultural problem in our country. Food is viewed as disposable because we have so much of it, yet there are still many people that are food insecure and go hungry. It is a very unbalanced system. We all need to be more mindful of food and participate in fighting food waste as consumers.

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Photo credit: Heidi Geldhauser

AC: And what is your biggest takeaway from viewing vegetables and ingredients as whole entities and not just pieces and parts?

SS: If you’re going to spend your hard earned money on beautiful food, vegetable, or animal, you owe it to the grower or rancher to honor the ingredient and you owe it to yourself to utilize as much as you can to make the most of your purchase.

AC: What is the most challenging part of your job?

SS: Managing people is always difficult and getting your team to care and subscribe to your philosophy is something that we are always working on.

AC: Do you have any early memories of cooking? Did it play a role in your upbringing or was it something you came to as an adult?

SS: My earliest memory of cooking is helping my grandmother make biscuits in her Asheville home. I also used to cook dinner or weekend lunch for my family when I was a teen, and my mom let me help her in the kitchen. I definitely was able to cook for myself all through college and it was a natural progression for me to end up in a restaurant kitchen, as I felt comfortable with the general tasks required for cooking.

AC: What is your most reliable go-to ingredient? What do you always keep on hand in your home kitchen?

SS: I love to use extra virgin olive oil and citrus on lots of things. They have a natural balance that just tastes great. In my home kitchen, I rarely cook but I always have healthy snacks: nuts, nut butters, eggs, granola, frozen fruit, greens. I make breakfast mostly. I’m rarely home at lunchtime or dinner.

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AC: What is your advice to home cooks on how to find the best produce – and how to not get overwhelmed and intimidated by trying new things?

SS: I would have to say buy a copy of Root to Leaf and read it and then you’re all set!

AC: In a culture where fast and easy solutions often prevail, what do you think is most important for home cooks to focus on? And what should they avoid buying when pre-packaged, if at all possible?

SS: Unlimited options clutter our minds and stifle our imagination. Start with whole fresh ingredients and treat them with respect and you will not only eat better but will appreciate the source more.

AC: What steps can you offer the average family on reducing food waste in the home?

SS: Tips for the home consumer

  • “best by” or expiration dates are manufacturer’s guidelines for quality and freshness, not food safety. They are often not cues for throwing perfectly good food away. Just be wise about them – cultured dairy and dry goods last longer than advertised, and dry packaged goods may have an arbitrary manufacturer date on the package – use your best judgment and assess as needed.
  • Make soup or stock with odds and ends from the fridge, leftovers, or items that could potentially go to waste and use them to create flavor and add nutrition to your cooking.
  • Shop in smaller amounts and shop more frequently.  Purchasing food in smaller increments means less chance of waste and more awareness of what you have on hand
  • Preserve or put up for later use.  If you have too much of one product and you want to avoid wasting it, pickle it, preserve it, freeze it, or repurpose it.

To experience chef Satterfield’s cooking firsthand at The Factory, get tickets to our April 12th Friends of the Café Dinner.

Lead image credit: Heidi Geldhauser

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APPLE BBQ SAUCE

Last week we shared a group of recipes inspired by cooking over open flame. We’ve written extensively on the subject of BBQ and its respective sauces in the past, and even barbecued wedding dresses for the Southern Foodways Alliance. And though winter isn’t the ideal time to BBQ, we bring you a seasonal take on BBQ sauce created by our chef, Ray Nichols. We love to serve this Apple BBQ sauce over meat and roasted vegetables at The Factory Café.

Though this recipe calls for apples, it can be altered to include any similar fruit like pears, persimmons, plums, and pineapples. This versatile recipe can also be adapted to suit your mood or the season—add more or less sweetness, heat, or acidity to personalize it.

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APPLE BBQ SAUCE

1 28-ounce can of whole, peeled tomatoes
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced thin
6 Granny Smith apples peeled, cored, and cut into 1″ pieces
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
Juice from 1 orange
1/4 cup sorghum
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon of your favorite hot sauce (we like Franks Red Hot)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon ground mustard
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
Salt to taste

Heat the canola oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the onion and season with salt, cooking until translucent. Next, add the apples and cook for about one minute before adding the spices. Cook until fragrant. Add the remaining ingredients and stir, bringing to a boil, and then turn down the heat and simmer for about an hour or until mixture has reduced by half. Take off the heat and let cool to room temperature. Blend in a blender in batches until you have a smooth sauce the consistency of ketchup. Pass the sauce through a fine sieve if desired. Adjust salt and chill in the refrigerator. The sauce will last up to a month in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

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CAMPFIRE RECIPES

Groundhog Day brought us six more weeks of winter, but here in Alabama the weather is trending a little warmer—and that has us dreaming of outdoor adventure. There’s nothing quite like cooking over an open fire, whether at a campsite or in your backyard. Chef Ray has cooked up some recipes that are perfect for preparing over a campfire and taking advantage of winter’s lingering harvest.

BURIED SWEET POTATOES

This recipe is called “buried” sweet potatoes because you wrap them in aluminum foil and bury them in the coals of a fire. It works great with smaller sweet potatoes because they have a delicate, sweet flavor and a much shorter cooking time.

8 small sweet potatoes
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 whole head garlic, cut in half laterally across the equator
10 sprigs fresh thyme
4 fresh bay leaves
Salt and pepper to taste

Start by washing the sweet potatoes thoroughly. Next, roll out two sheets of aluminum foil 24″ by 12″. Stack them on top of each other to create a double layer. Place the potatoes in the middle of the foil, drizzle the olive oil over the potatoes, season generously with salt and pepper, and add the garlic and herbs. Fold over the ends of the foil packet to make a tightly sealed pouch. Using tongs or a shovel, make a coal bed by the side of your fire and place the foil packet directly onto the coals. Place more coals and ash over top the packet to insulate it and speed up the cooking process.

The total cooking time should take 40 – 50 minutes depending on the size of the potatoes. However, every fire is different and you should begin to check them after 30 minutes of cooking. Use the tongs to poke at the sweet potatoes, when they begin to soften they are done.

Carefully, remove the packet from the coals and let rest for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, open the packet, and the sweet potatoes are ready to serve. (If you don’t have a campfire, you can also make this recipe on a charcoal grill or in a 400-degree oven.) Serves 4 people.

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BRAISED CABBAGE

The recipe is very simple, calling for just three ingredients. It can be made at home on the stove or outside over an open fire. Use the type of cabbage that looks best at your local farmer’s market. (Red cabbage turns a beautiful purple color once cooked.) Aside from salt and pepper, use the vinegar as your other seasoning. Taste throughout the cooking process to dial in the level of acidity. Add crushed red pepper flakes to the pan after you add your butter to make it spicy.

1 large head cabbage, red or green
1/2 stick of butter
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (or any other vinegar you like)
Salt and pepper to taste

Begin by removing the loose outer layer of leaves. Next, cut the cabbage into quarters and remove the core. After removing the core cut the cabbage into 1-inch pieces. This doesn’t have to be exact, you’ll want bite-size pieces. Next, use a shovel or rake to move the hot coals from the fire to the side and make a coal bed big enough for your skillet or dutch oven. Melt the butter in the skillet until it begins to bubble, then add half of the cabbage. It will wilt down once it starts cooking. Add the other half of the cabbage and season generously with salt and pepper. Once the cabbage starts wilting, add the vinegar. Simmer on high for about 20 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated and the cabbage is cooked to your liking. (I like to have a little bit of crunch left in mine.) Check the seasoning and acidity before serving. If you think it needs more vinegar, add a splash and give it a stir.

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EMBER-GRILLED COWBOY RIBEYE

This dish is an homage to the time I spent working under Chef Sean Brock at Husk Restaurant in Nashville, Tennesse. Working there gave me a love for cooking over embers and open fire. Husk sources beautiful ribeye steaks from Bill and LeeAnn Cherry at Bear Creek Farm outside of Nashville near Leipers Fork, Tennessee. They would be seasoned, grilled directly over the embers, and served with what we called “love love” sauce. Here is my version of that dish geared towards a campfire.

2 1.5″-thick cut, bone-in ribeye steaks (set out for 30 minutes to come to room temperature)
1 tablespoon neutral cooking oil (canola, vegetable, peanut, etc.)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground coarse black pepper

For the baste/sauce:

1 stick of unsalted butter
4 garlic cloves, smashed
1 bay leaf
5 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 lemon juiced (keep the lemon after juicing)
1/2 cup of Worcestershire sauce

Once your campfire has been burning long enough to have a substantial amount of coals, it will be the perfect temperature to cook the steaks. You will need a long pair of tongs, a small pot, two rocks roughly the size of a softball, and a grill grate or wire resting rack.

First, rub the ribeyes with oil and season heavily with salt and pepper. These are very big steaks and you are only seasoning the outside, so don’t be shy.

Let the steaks sit for about 15 minutes and begin working on the basting sauce. Melt the butter in a small pot. Once it is melted, add the garlic, peppercorns, and herbs. Cook until they become fragrant and then add the Worcestershire and lemon juice. Toss the lemons in the pot and place it at the edge of the fire to stay warm while you cook your steaks.

Rake hot coals to the edge of the fire to make a coal bed big enough to fit under the grate. Set the grate directly on the coals and let it heat up for a few minutes. Once hot, place each steak directly on the grate. Cook for about two minutes without disturbing them then check for a nice sear. Flip the steaks and repeat on the other side. After the first flip, use a pastry brush to baste the sauce on the steaks. Repeat this until you have reached the desired doneness (125 degrees Fahrenheit for a nice medium rare). Because you are cooking directly on the coals, the steak will color quickly. Place the two rocks to under the grate to lift it off the coals and slow down the cooking time. Don’t be afraid to flip and baste often. Every fire is different and your patience and persistence will be rewarded. If the coals smother out before the steaks are done, rake fresh ones underneath the grate and keep grilling. Once the steaks are cooked, pull them from the fire, baste one last time, and let rest for ten minutes. Cut off the bone and slice against the grain or serve the steak whole. Once you’ve eaten a steak cooked directly over embers, it’s hard to go back to a gas grill.

ALABAMA CHANIN – CAMPFIRE RECIPES – 4

NATALIE’S APPLE CRISP

Desserts can be tough for camping. S’mores are the gold standard, but when I camp I want something that warms you up. When I found out Natalie had a recipe for apple crisp, I couldn’t think of a better camping dish. Natalie’s Whole Wheat Apple Crisp recipe has been modified from a home oven to a cast iron dutch oven that can be used on a campfire. This recipe was originally featured in Bon Appetit’s October 2015 issue.

6 medium tart apples (such as Pink Lady or Gala), peeled, sliced
1/2 cup (packed) dark brown sugar, divided
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, divided
3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Vanilla ice cream (for serving)

Peel and slice the apples then place in a 2-quart cast iron dutch oven and toss with brown sugar and butter. Toss oats, whole wheat flour, cinnamon, salt, remaining ¼ cup brown sugar, and remaining 4 tablespoons butter in a small bowl until evenly mixed and no dry spots remain (it should be very wet and form into clumps when pressed together). Sprinkle oat mixture over apples.

Place the dutch oven on a small coal bed, covered for the first 20 minutes. Check after the first five minutes to see if it is simmering. Add or remove coals to get desired temperature. Rotate, uncover, and bake for another 30 minutes. Press down on the crust halfway through baking to smash the apples. This step should be done on a coal bed and near enough to the fire so that some color appears on the top of the crumble. Bake until topping is golden brown (it will crisp as it cools) and filling is juicy and bubbling, 50-60 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes to let juices set. Serve topped with scoops of ice cream. Serves 8.

Images courtesy of Abraham Rowe and styling by Susan Rowe.

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BURNT HONEY SWEET POTATO DRESSING + A RECIPE

One of the best parts of a good salad is the dressing. Good dressings introduce flavors that complement the ingredients without overpowering a salad. A staple on our menu, The Factory Salad has always been served with a Lemon Citronette dressing—until last year, when we introduced two new dressings: Buttermilk-Herb and Burnt Honey Sweet Potato.

The seasonal Burnt Honey Sweet Potato dressing combines an earthy root vegetable flavor, brightened with vinegar, and subtly sweet with caramelized honey. It’s also a great way to use up extra or over-cooked sweet potatoes. We share the recipe below for you to make at home.

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BURNT HONEY SWEET POTATO DRESSING

2 medium-sized sweet potatoes, roasted until soft, cooled and peeled
3/4 cup sherry vinegar
3/4 cup cider vinegar
1 cup neutral oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Juice and zest of 1 small orange
1/2 teaspoon salt (more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup water
2 tablespoons burnt honey

Begin by washing your sweet potatoes then coating them with oil and salt and pepper. Roast in a 375° oven until soft, the time will depend on the size of the potatoes. Allow them to cool and then peel off the skin. Place the potatoes and all other ingredients except for the oil and honey in the blender and blend until smooth. You might need to stop and scrape down the sides to get it to blend properly until smooth.

In a small pot on the stove cook honey until it comes to a boil for approximately 3 minutes or until it begins to caramelize and darken slightly in color. The color change will all depend on what honey you use and the color it is to begin with. Once darkened, drizzle into the blender until honey is incorporated. On low to medium speed, slowly drizzle in the oil until completely combined and emulsified.

Once combined, taste for salt and acidity level. This will vary based on the size of your potatoes and your taste for acidity in your typical salad dressing. If the dressing appears to be too thick add a splash of water and blend to combine.

This recipe works great with any roasted root vegetables like winter squash, pumpkin, or carrots. Serve over salad greens or even in a grain bowl.

P.S.: Find The Factory Salad on the Daily Menu at The Factory Café.

ANNOUNCING 2018 FRIENDS OF THE CAFE DINNERS

In 2018, we will mark our fourth year of our Friends of the Café charity dinner series. A look back at our Journal reveals the incredible chefs that have generously donated their time and resources to raise money and awareness for important causes.

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Our first dinner of 2018 is scheduled for April 12th and is hosted by Steven Satterfield of Atlanta’s Miller Union, author of Root To Leaf: A Southern Chef Cooks Through the Seasons, and 2017 James Beard Award winner for Best Chef: Southeast. The Thursday night dinner will kick off our community picnic weekend—three days of special events and workshops celebrating our community (more details to come)…

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Our May 10th Spring Harvest Supper highlights our very own café chef— Ray Nichols—and will feature the freshest ingredients from local and regional farmers and purveyors.

On June 21st, we will welcome Rebecca Wilcomb, chef de cuisine at Donald Link’s flagship restaurant, Herbsaint, since 2011. In 2017, she was also honored with a James Beard Award for Best Chef: South.

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Tandy Wilson will oversee our final dinner of the year, on October 21st. Tandy opened City House restaurant in Nashville in 2007 and was named Best Chef: Southeast by the James Beard Foundation in 2016.

Find more about each of our featured chefs on the Journal. Visit our Events page to purchase tickets to our upcoming dinners. Tickets are limited and are reserved on a first-come, first-served basis.

We’re looking forward to meeting you at the table!

ALABAMA CHANIN – REDBEANS ROADSHOW

PABLEAUX JOHNSON + RED BEANS ROAD SHOW

We’re bringing a piece of New Orleans to Florence this January, as we collaborate with photographer/food and travel writer Pableaux Johnson for a special supper hosted at The Factory Café.

Appropriately called Red Beans Road Show, Pableaux’s pop-up dinner series shows guests Louisiana hospitality and is held in a casual family-style format, creating a unique and interactive dining experience. The dinner encourages conversation between guests and for phones to be left in bags and pockets—the perfect post-holiday pick-me-up.

The Red Beans Road Show series was inspired by Johnson’s grandmother’s dining kitchen table. He found himself in possession of it—remembering the days of his childhood. The table was resurrected and became a gathering place for Johnson and his friends. Why red beans and rice? It’s historically a meal of convenience and traditionally made on Mondays (laundry day). It’s a simple dish that’s satisfying, warm, and inviting.

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Pableaux spends his time traveling the country cooking up these suppers, entertaining, and photographing his native New Orleans (look for more on that later on the Journal). Pableaux’s photographs will also be on display at The Factory for a limited time.

ALABAMA CHANIN – CHERRY BOMBE COOKBOOK

CHERRY BOMBE: THE COOKBOOK

You might have noticed that, while the mainstream culinary world might still be considered a bit of a boys’ club, more and more women are working their asses off to earn their spots in the food world. Take, for example, the ladies behind Cherry Bombe, a biannual magazine founded by Kerry Diamond and Claudia Wu, who met while both working at Harper’s Bazaar. After Diamond—at that point a fashion journalist—and her boyfriend opened a restaurant, she realized that there was not a major community of women she could go to for advice, connect with, or collaborate with.

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After a successful Kickstarter campaign, she and Wu launched the magazine, which focused more on community than on a traditional recipe-based format. And from the void that Diamond experienced emerged a strong and talented collection of women, across all disciplines and occupations. Cherry Bombe the magazine has birthed “Cherry Bombe” the radio program and Jubilee, a female-centric food and beverage conference. It was inevitable that the two women would write Cherry Bombe: The Cookbook.

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The cookbook is a collection of recipes from 100 women from various creative backgrounds—chefs, bloggers, celebrities, models, and more. The bubblegum pink cookbook is as irreverent as the magazine and includes dishes from influential women like Ashley Christensen, Lisa Donovan, Vivian Howard, Karlie Kloss, Padma Lakshmi, and Chrissy Teigen. The book is fun but practical and definitely not intimidating.

“Food is having a feminist moment,” Diamond said to Vogue in a recent article. We agree, and we are convinced that this is not a moment—it is a movement.

ALABAMA CHANIN – CHERRY BOMBE COOKBOOK

ALABAMA CHANIN – ASHA GOMEZ + FRIENDS OF THE CAFE

RECAP: ASHA GOMEZ + FRIENDS OF THE CAFE

In our grand finale for the 2017 Friends of the Café Dinner Series, Asha Gomez and her team hosted a lively and lovely evening, sourcing from our local farmers in combination with her own collection of spices.

In My Two Souths, Asha states, “I call my style of cuisine ‘two Souths cooking.’ Its flavors and dishes are characterized and rooted in my deep affection for the resourcefulness and soulfulness of cooking in both my mother country India, in the far southern state of Kerala, and my chosen home in American’s southern, culinary-savvy city of Atlanta, Georgia.” The dinner was the perfect culmination.

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Cocktail hour kicked off the evening with the “Muscadine Vine” created by our Events Coordinator, Anne Ryan, and made with muscadine syrup, prosecco, lime, and mint. Wines selected by Anne Ryan and Melissa Bain were accompanied by Blackberry Farm’s newest addition, canned craft beers.

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ALABAMA CHANIN – ASHA GOMEZ + FRIENDS OF THE CAFE

The passed hors d’oeuvres included Black Pepper and Black Salt spiced roasted cashews, Fry Bread with mint chutney and quick pickled carrots, and curry chicken samosa pockets. The mint that was used in meals throughout the dinner was picked fresh from Natalie’s garden.

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The first seated course was a brightly colored Sunday vegetable stew ­with a creamy, coconut base and chunky vegetables.

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The second course of Asha’s dinner was Kerala fish curry, served on a bed of kichadi grits and tempered mustard oil. Kidachi is a rice, lentil, and butter comfort food seasoned with ginger and leek and found throughout India. Asha’s version substitutes stone-ground grits from Anson Mills. A fillet of catfish from Simmons Farm Raised Catfish in Mississippi was served atop the bed of grits.

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The third course was Asha’s take on Beef Biryani. Asha described this rice dish as a “celebration dish” comparing its creation to American pit masters.

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The fourth and final course—Asha’s Three Spice Carrot Cake, one of her most widely loved desserts and a tribute to her mother, was the perfect end to the evening.

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A big thank you to Asha and her team (including her son, Ethan), The Factory Café team, the Southern Foodways Alliance, and to all the local farms and purveyors who helped to make this dinner so special. Be on the lookout for more events coming in 2018.

P.S.: Find some of these dishes and much more in Asha’s cookbook, My Two Souths.

ALABAMA CHANIN – NATIONAL CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE DAY

NATIONAL CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE DAY

National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day is recognized as August 4th, though we celebrate every day around here. (They’re offered on the menu in The Factory Café Monday – Saturday.) Today we pay homage to the American dessert that has acted as temporary relief from financial woes during The Great Depression and became a symbol of support for American soldiers fighting in the Second World War.

The chocolate chip cookie was invented by a woman named Ruth Graves Wakefield of Whitman, Massachusetts. Ruth and her husband owned an inn and restaurant called the Toll House Inn, where she was known for her tasty desserts.

There are many stories about how exactly Ruth came up with the idea for a chocolate chip cookie. Some say that she ran out of baker’s chocolate and replaced it with chips from a Nestle chocolate bar. However, the most likely story is that she was simply utilizing her culinary curiosity and experimenting with a new cookie recipe to be served with ice cream.

All the same, the success of Ruth’s chocolate chip cookies skyrocketed. Nestle received word of her using their chocolate and offered to buy the recipe from her for $1 in 1939. Ruth agreed, and although it has been said that she never received payment, Nestle reportedly gave her a lifetime supply of chocolate and named their Toll House cookie dough in honor of Ruth. Her original recipe is still found on Nestle packaging today. Ruth died in 1977 and the Toll House Inn burned to the ground in a fire on New Year’s Eve in 1984. A Wendy’s fast food restaurant currently stands in the place of the Toll House Inn; it houses a small museum commemorating the invention of the chocolate chip cookie.

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Here at The Factory, we enjoy classic Chocolate Chip Cookies with a pinch of sea salt sprinkled on top of the cookie while it is still warm. Glass of milk optional.

ALABAMA CHANIN – Q&A WITH CHEF ASHA GOMEZ

Q&A WITH CHEF ASHA GOMEZ

Several months ago, we introduced you to Asha Gomez—chef, innovator, author, and charity ambassador. After beginning her career as a professional chef in Atlanta, she realized the inherent similarities between Southern cuisine and the dishes she prepared in her birthplace of Kerala, India. This presented her with the unique opportunity to explore both food histories and the communities that can be built when we recognize our cross-cultural similarities. Her cookbook, My Two Souths: Blending the Flavors of India into a Southern Kitchen, does not take a food fusion approach; instead, it offers a new style of cooking that embraces food traditions from both cultures and finds common ground in sometimes surprising ways.

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We recently spoke to Asha about her history, her thoughts about modern cuisine, and what she has in the works for the future.

AC: What is your first food memory? Do you remember the first dish you cooked by yourself?

AG: The very earliest memories I have of food revolve around mangoes and mango season. My great aunt Rita Netto stored straw-lined baskets full of mangoes in a darkened room off her kitchen behind cobalt blue doors. Even as a small child, I adored the mangoes’ spectrum of colors: bright red, radiant yellow, pinkish orange, deep purple, and delicate soft green. Eating fresh mango, I imagined the succulent flesh must taste just like sweet sunshine. It is that same sense of delight and discovery of simple yet potent ingredients that inspire me today.

Typically, in Kerala households a daughter’s role in the kitchen is largely supportive, guided by her mother. As a teenager, when my skills had advanced enough for my mother to trust me with preparing a whole meal, I was both nervous and excited. For my first solo meal, I chose to prepare a rabbit dish, and even after all these years, I still select rabbit for family meals. For my inaugural dish, I decided to venture away from my mother’s standard and frequent rabbit curry and chose a fried rabbit rendition. Her heartfelt after-dinner praise of my efforts remains my earliest and perhaps, my greatest culinary triumph.

AC: What inspired you to become a chef?

AG: I guess you might say that childhood memory may have lit a spark in me, though I didn’t heed the call until many years and a whole other career later.

AC: What motivated your move from Kerala to the United States?

AG: My parents migrated when I was really young.

AC: What are the most important things about cultural identity, food, and simple childhood memories of your life in Southern India that shape you today? In a sense, you have two homes—one in India and one in the United States. What most connects you to Southern India?

AG: I found a kinship between this concept of hospitality in the South and the way I was raised to treat guests that is just part of my cultural DNA.

AC: You have spent a great deal of time and energy working toward ending hunger worldwide. What inspired you to become involved in this cause?

AG: I feed people for a living, and people come to me to satisfy their hunger. I felt that it’s a travesty that only those who have the means and access can do so, and when there is so much abundance in our world there are too many who go to bed unable to satisfy such a basic human need.

AC: We have noticed that chefs often donate time and energy to charitable causes and organizations. Do you think there is something specific about those who work with food or local farmers and suppliers that inspires community involvement?

AG: More and more today, chefs have a voice that people listen to and respect. We have an opportunity to change the way people interact with and make choices about the food they buy. As chefs, we can use our time in the limelight to be the voice for those whose needs aren’t always heard, and we can find ways to help locally in our own communities and reach out to others doing good work. My fellow chefs are truly a passionate community of human beings.

ALABAMA CHANIN – ASHA GOMEZ Q+A

AC: Your James Beard nominated cookbook, My Two Souths, illustrates that classic Southern food and dishes from Southern India share many of the same qualities. When did you first come to this realization? What key elements are most prominent in their similarities?

AG: It was after many years of an abiding appreciation for the culture and cuisine of both of these places that I have called home that the thoughts and ideas to marry the two evolved. Although they seem like separate universes, surprisingly, I found their shared aspects—a warm, humid climate, abundant produce varieties, expanses of rice acreage, and busy coastal communities, along with a spirit of sharing, a gift for entertaining and storytelling, a talent for creating bounty out of an often-modest pantry, and a sincere embrace of simplicity—blend easily in my South-by-South cuisine.

AC: How can we best encourage home cooks to explore ingredients that might initially be unfamiliar to them?

AG: [That is] essentially what I explored in my book: this idea of taking familiar, classic staples and infusing them with unexpected spices to unlock flavors and enliven the palate. By using accessible dishes like biscuits, pies, and beignets to show home cooks new and fresh takes on classics will hopefully motivate them to reach across to the under-explored side of the grocery aisle.

AC: It seems that Indian food is occasionally simplified in American restaurants. Are there things that frustrate you about how Indian food is viewed and prepared in the United States? What would you most like for people to know about authentic Indian cooking?

AG: Every cuisine in the world has what I call high-low cooking. Indian cuisine is 5,000 years old and is the culmination of many diverse influences and layers of sophistication in what presents. And yet in America, we are only accustomed for the most part to view Indian food in terms of a buffet line or in the cheap eats section.

The way Indians cook at home is vastly different from what is represented in mainstream restaurants. I take exception and considerable umbrage to the notion in some circles that culinary innovation happens primarily in a Euro-centric milieu.

AC: What ingredients most inspire you?

AG: Local produce that is best in each season and the introduction of spice to make the ordinary extraordinary.

AC: What was your last true great dining experience?

AG: I recently experienced a meal at Zahav restaurant in Philadelphia. It was a mind-blowing experience. So much heart and so much soul in the culinary story that revealed itself before my eyes and taste buds.

AC: What do you do when you are not in the kitchen?

AG: l love traveling. I’m often planning food experiences around the places that I travel to.

AC: At Alabama Chanin, you can often find music influencing the mood and the workflow in the studio. What is your favorite music to cook by?

AG: Music, like food, adds so much sweetness and texture to our everyday lives. My musical tastes are pretty eclectic and vary depending on my mood. The soundtrack of my life includes Leonard Cohen, k.d. Lang, Bollywood/Sufi, Prince, Ceasaria Evoria, to Willie Nelson and so many more.

AC: You seem to juggle so many diverse projects. What is on the horizon for you?

AG: I have a new web-based series of cooking classes called “Curry and Cornbread”. It is a subscription-based service that offers one new recipe per week. Curious home cooks can also purchase videos individually. It is an easy way to learn more about new cuisine and cooking techniques that is not intimidating.

ASHLEY CHRISTENSEN + POOLE’S

It’s widely known that we believe Ashley Christensen is a total badass. We were giddy fans of her work, long before we ever really got to know her. Now that we know more about Ashley the person and are no longer admiring from afar, we find her even more impressive. Ashley may be a James Beard Award-winning chef, but she is also thoughtful and relatable—something that becomes obvious as you flip through the beautiful pages of her first cookbook, Poole’s: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner.

ALABAMA CHANIN – ASHLEY CHRISTENSEN + POOLE'S

Poole’s offers home cooks recipes that nourish and inspire. There are several of what Ashley calls “back pocket” recipes that can easily be folded into your regular dinner repertoire, and there are others that may take more time and preparation (and maybe aspiration). She uses simple ingredients to create sometimes complex flavors. Her red wine vinaigrette (now a forever kitchen staple) has 5 ingredients, but the instruction provided goes beyond anything I’ve found in other cookbooks; Ashley perfectly details how things should look, how they should smell, and draws attention to the stages of change as the ingredients transform into the final product.

The recipes offered here are reflections of what Ashley believes to be important: fresh seasonal ingredients from local purveyors (whenever possible), used thoughtfully to create dishes that make sense—because they are tied to the land, the region, the people, and her guests.

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Even as Ashley details how the food is impeccably prepared from start to finish, she also weaves her personal story into the history of Poole’s Diner—one of Raleigh’s oldest restaurants and a place her father frequented as a young man. Almost immediately it became clear to Ashley that Poole’s history would play a part in her present. She writes, “In using the original name, Poole’s Diner, I knew that I was tapping into a collective memory, a fixture that could continue to act as an anchor for a city that was changing and evolving. Without even realizing it, opening Poole’s Diner turned me into a community organizer.”

ALABAMA CHANIN – ASHLEY CHRISTENSEN + POOLE'S

Some of the most poignant moments in the book emerge when she writes about her parents and how they passed on a fervent love of food and the comfort found in making it. Her parents danced when they cooked, they laughed and enjoyed being together, in the moment. “Dinner was never a rote exercise; it was an occasion, an experience.” Her family did not sit down to eat a regimented dinner at the same time every night. “We ate when it was ready, which meant after my parents had enjoyed winding down the day with a glass of wine and some tunes, while cooking a meal that was as much about the process as the finished product.”

ALABAMA CHANIN – ASHLEY CHRISTENSEN + POOLE'S

That same warm feeling is present in Ashley’s recipes, as is her impeccable technique. Pimento cheese is a Southern staple, but in her hands it becomes singular and a bit elevated. She admits to being most at ease when cooking vegetables—and there are plenty of options for those who want to serve fewer meat dishes at home. You can also find recipes for some of Poole’s signature plates, including their most requested dish: Macaroni Au Gratin. When Ashley participated in our Friends of the Café Dinner series, we were treated to the watermelon salad with Vidalia onion vinaigrette shown on the book’s cover. (There are instructions in the book on how to fan your avocado slices, which you will immediately want to try. It’s fun.)

ALABAMA CHANIN – ASHLEY CHRISTENSEN + POOLE'S

Poole’s Diner and Ashley Christensen’s six other properties in the Raleigh area have helped revitalize the downtown and the regional food scene. In the book, Ashley explains that those who visit her restaurants are not “customers”—they are “guests”. You can feel the difference when you eat at one of her establishments and you get the same sensation flipping through this book.

*Originally published on October 26, 2016

ALABAMA CHANIN – ASHLEY CHRISTENSEN FRIENDS OF THE CAFE DINNER SERIES

2017 FRIENDS OF THE CAFE + ASHLEY CHRISTENSEN

This year’s Friends of the Café dinner series has been a gratifying success, as we once again have worked with some of the most talented and knowledgeable chefs in the South to raise funds for the Southern Foodways Alliance. Our upcoming dinner will be hosted by James Beard Award-winning chef Ashley Christensen, a longtime friend who has volunteered her time for our dinners in the past.

ALABAMA CHANIN – FRIENDS OF THE CAFE 2017 ASHLEY CHRISTENSEN

Alabama Chanin’s relationship with chef Ashley goes back a number of years, as she partnered with us during one of our Makeshift conferences, in a conversation connecting “Love and Raw Materials in Food, Fashion, and Design”. Ashley spends an impressive amount of time and energy on charity work and educational initiatives, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for her community. (Southern Foodways director John T. Edge has estimated that Ashley’s impact on the organization’s bottom line is so substantial that it covers at least one employee’s annual salary.) She also works in outreach programs—everything from child hunger, to arts in education, to participating in the Fatback Collective with her fellow food ambassadors.

All of this reflects Ashley’s embrace of collaborative making. At Alabama Chanin, we share many of the same goals that Ashley holds dear—sourcing responsibly, uplifting our community, elevating makers and creators, developing close relationships with those in our supply chain, and creating spaces where we can celebrate and advance those ideas.

ALABAMA CHANIN – FRIENDS OF THE CAFE 2017 ASHLEY CHRISTENSEN

We are excited to announce that we will continue our collaboration with Ashley, creating a capsule collection inspired by her chef’s jacket and sense of style. (Launching next week.)

Ashley will also be signing copies of her book Pooles: Recipes and Stories From a Modern Diner. We look forward to seeing you soon and to sharing more of our collaboration with Ashley.

FRIENDS OF THE CAFE + SCOTT PEACOCK

We are constantly surprised and honored by the talented and generous chefs that agree to be a part of our Friends of the Café dinner series. A look back through our Journal shows just how many brilliant individuals have traveled to our corner of Alabama and offered their time, energy, and creativity for a good cause. As part of this year’s series, we were able to accomplish something we were not sure was possible: coaxing legendary Southern chef Scott Peacock out of semi-retirement to prepare a truly special dinner that we won’t soon forget.

When planning his menu, Scott insisted on a couple of things that sound simple at first glance: the ingredients must be fresh and they must be good. Luckily, we already partner with a number of farmers and vendors that provide us with the freshest local and organic products. But we also sought out some new and trusted sources that could provide us with the freshest ingredients—because when Scott says fresh, he means FRESH. That means that the menu was not 100% finalized until he knew exactly what he’d be working with—and each dish he presented proved his philosophy to be right, again and again.

Cocktail hour featured a specialty “Plum Blossom” cocktail concocted by our Events Coordinator, Anne Ryan, and combined Prosecco with plums that Chef Zach preserved last year, and garnished with violets that Natalie foraged. We asked Scott to select beer from his favorite brewery, and he selected Orpheus Brewery in Atlanta, as it is owned by the son of a close friend. Each course was also accompanied by wine pairings that we chose by working closely with our distributor to get the right complement for each course.

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The passed hors d’oeuvre course included iced oysters that Zach sourced, served with Miss Edna Lewis’ spicy dipping sauce; Blackbelt Pineywood sausage brought in by Scott; fresh buttered radishes from Bluewater Creek Farm; tomato toast with canned tomatoes and fresh goat cheese from Humble Hearts Farm; and soft boiled eggs from Cog Hill Farm, atop garlic parsley sauce.

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Scott’s first seated course was a salad of morning-gathered watercress, wood sorel, and violets. And when we say “morning gathered”, that is no exaggeration. The greens were delivered that day by Heirloom Harvest and the watercress and wood sorrel was foraged early that morning by Natalie at a local aquifer and a friend’s farm. If diners did not understand the importance of truly fresh ingredients before, this dish left no doubt. The greens were flavorful and delicate and almost melted in your mouth; we have never witnessed such a reaction to a simple salad before—and we may never again.

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For the second course, Scott prepared what he called “Straddle Stew”, because we were straddling two growing seasons—using fresh produce from the last harvest alongside ingredients from the first harvest of this season. The dish included chickens from Cog Hill Farm, organic kale, chard, and shallot buds from Alchemy Farms, turnips from Bluewater Creek Farm, and fresh bay from Scott’s garden. (If you’ve never eaten a just-picked carrot, I guarantee it is a game changer.) The stew was served with Dorothy Peacock’s hot water cornbread made with Pollard’s extra-fine cornmeal from Hartford, Alabama.

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We were delighted to have Angie Mosier and Lisa Donovan working alongside Scott and our staff in the kitchen and they provided helping hands and fresh ingredients. The dessert course was sweet cream biscuits made with buttermilk that Lisa sourced from Cruze Farm, topped with fresh strawberries that Angie brought from Red Earth Organic Farms and Woodland Gardens.

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One of the most remarkable connections we made through Scott was our introduction to Will Dodd and his non-profit organization Heirloom Harvest. With their motto, “Food from down the Road,” the organization’s goal is to improve the food economy in Alabama as a way of addressing and improving socio-economic conditions. They partner with small, independent farmers to help with planning, warehousing, sales, marketing, distribution, and communication with customers—with the goal of getting those fresh and local ingredients into restaurants and stores throughout the region.

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We could not have been more grateful to have Scott Peacock co-host this dinner with us. Our guests recognized how special the evening was; it really was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to share an intimate dinner with an influential but humble artist.

ALABAMA CHANIN – SFA FRIED GREEN TOMATOES + SHRIMP REMOULADE

SFA FRIED GREEN TOMATOES + SHRIMP REMOULADE

In celebration of National Shrimp Day on May 10th, The Factory Café will serve Fried Green Tomatoes + Shrimp Remoulade made with Royal Red Gulf shrimp for lunch next week. With a recipe from the SFA Community Cookbook, this dish will be available from May 9th – 12th.

Natalie and the Alabama Chanin team constantly draw inspiration from the Southern Foodways Alliance—which has been pioneering important work in the ways of Southern food culture and the role it plays in our Southern history for almost two decades. We look to the SFA Community Cookbook for classic recipes shared by their members (including Natalie).

ALABAMA CHANIN – SFA FRIED GREEN TOMATOES + SHRIMP REMOULADE

Combining all these favorite flavors into one dish, the recipe for Fried Green Tomatoes + Shrimp Remoulade is found on page 41 in the SFA Community Cookbook. Get a copy of the cookbook and make it yourself at home or stop by The Factory and try chef Zach’s version.

(It is also no secret that Alabama Chanin fully embraces the tomato as a warm weather essential—see countless recipes here.)

ALABAMA CHANI – A SALAD OF CUCUMBER AND RADISH

A SALAD OF CUCUMBER + RADISH @ THE FACTORY

The day is nearing. Saturday, Scott Peacock will be in house, hosting his Friends of the Café Dinner. We’ve shared Scott‘s varied talents with you on the Journal over the years. Scott is (currently) an experimenting indigo farmer and dyer, an avid influencer of Southern food culture, and inspiring writer and oral historian. Who wouldn’t want to attend a dinner hosted by someone with that range of skill, knowledge, and personality?

ALABAMA CHANIN – A SALAD OF CUCUMBER AND RADISH

To extend the celebration of Scott, The Factory Café will be serving Scott’s Cucumber and Radish Salad from The Gift of Southern Cooking next week from April 17th – 21st. Drop by and try it for yourself.

P.S.: Shown here on Heath Ceramics with a Top-Stitch Placemat and Organic Cotton Jersey Napkin.

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SCOTT PEACOCK + FRIENDS OF THE CAFE DINNER

Scott Peacock, native of Hartford, Alabama, was in his late twenties when he met the legendary, late Edna L ewis, considered to be the “Grand Dame” of Southern cuisine. At the time, Scott was chef for the governor of Georgia, and he and Miss Lewis were assigned to cook together for a fundraiser—though neither of them realized that they were also beginning an extraordinary relationship that would last until the last days of her life. After years of working together—with Miss Lewis acting as both muse and endless source of knowledge, and Peacock serving as faithful collaborator and eventual caretaker—the two partnered to write what is now considered a modern classic Southern cookbook, The Gift of Southern Cooking: Recipes and Revelations from Two Great Southern Cooks.

But in the years leading up to that partnership, Scott was finding his place in the culinary world. He began his career as a pastry chef at Tallahassee, Florida’s The Golden Pheasant before transitioning into his position in the governor’s mansion for two terms—cooking primarily French-inspired dishes. After some time, with the encouragement of his father and Miss Lewis, Scott embarked upon a new path and earned acclaim at Atlanta’s Horseradish Grill before moving to Watershed restaurant in the Atlanta suburb of Decatur. She encouraged him to embrace his Southern roots and to cook food that was true to their Southern experiences, rather than focus solely on what might be considered caricatures of traditional dishes. While Scott eventually became quite well-known for his fried chicken recipe, he also knows how to coax the best flavors from collard greens, okra, seasonal vegetables, and fish. Scott makes no secret of the impact that Miss Lewis had upon his life and his approach to cooking—and to living. The two became family and their bond lasted until the end of her life; she spent her final years at his Decatur, Georgia, home. As he told the St. Petersburg Times, “She’s my best friend. The least of what I’ve learned from her has to do with cooking.”

Alongside Miss Lewis, Scott co-founded The Society for the Revival and Preservation of Southern Food, a precursor to the Southern Foodways Alliance. Scott has been nominated for six James Beard awards, and in 2007 was awarded the prize for Best Chef: Southeast for his work at Watershed. His recipes have appeared in a number of publications, including Southern Living, The New York Times, Bon Appetit, Food and Wine, and Gourmet, among many others. He has also made frequent appearances on the Today Show, Good Morning America, Martha Stewart’s talk show, “Martha” and is a contributor to Better Homes and Gardens. Additionally, Scott has dedicated years to documenting the stories and food memories of Alabama’s oldest residents.

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His longstanding mission has been to celebrate the true nature of Southern food and the community-related approach that surrounds the Southern table. He once told us, “Pure, wholesome food—should be democratic and available to everyone. At my mother’s and grandmothers’ tables, there was a strong awareness of where our food came from that made it distinct. Co mparisons were made between vegetables we grew, those grown by friends and neighbors, and those that came from Mr. Spear’s Market or the Piggly Wiggly. Within the community, individuals were distinguished by who grew the best corn or made the best pound cake… People in Hartford had certain ways of cooking peas that were different from the way peas were cooked in Slocomb, 6 miles away, or where my father’s mother lived, way in the country. There was a uniqueness that set us apart and also bound us together.”

“But even then, I realized that it’s a very different experience to cook or eat food grown by someone or from somewhere you know.” He explained, “To me, food is all about relationships. To have a relationship with your farmer, with your community, with the people who prepare your food, with yourself, and even with the ingredients themselves is so important. When I’m in the kitchen, I’m there because I’ve been inspired—by people, by stories, by my surroundings. The dinner is being served family-style, so that people will interact with one another, serve food to one another, and hopefully, build relationships—with each other and the food.”

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These days the renowned chef, oral historian, and storyteller has taken a sabbatical from the kitchen and is dedicating his time to living in and growing in The Black Belt of Alabama—specifically focusing on natural dyestuffs, indigo, and rare antique wheats. His commitment to thorough research and practical experimentation is as comprehensive as his work exploring Southern food histories and traditions. Even so, we have somehow managed to coax Scott out of his temporary retirement to host our upcoming Friends of the Café Dinner, benefiting the Southern Foodways Alliance. This is an extraordinary opportunity to share food, fellowship, and stories with one of our most celebrated and knowledgeable food historians in America.

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LIFE SKILLS WITH HUGH ACHESON

Hugh Acheson is a practical man. He’s witty and inventive, too, but he has the ability to cut through nonsense like a hot knife through butter. Hugh opened his Athens, Georgia-based flagship restaurant 5 & 10 in 2000 and followed in 2007 with a second space, The National. He has since opened the Atlanta-based Empire State South and Spiller Park Coffee, and The Florence in Savannah, Georgia (now closed). He is a six-time James Beard nominee for Best Chef Southeast and the 2012 winner of that award. His wry humor, paired with a natural storytelling ability, makes him unintimidating to the at-home cook—resulting in a growing library of cookbooks, including A New Turn in the South and The Broad Fork, two of our favorites from recent years.

A New Turn in the South won the James Beard Foundation’s award for Best Cookbook in the field of “American Cooking” in 2012—and we often reference the book’s “Message About Community”. Hugh wrote:

“The small steps that you take as a consumer are multifold: Shop at your farmer’s market, buy local crafts and art, frequent local independent restaurants, buy locally roasted coffee, buy native plants, learn how to garden, don’t eat overly processed foods, know the person who raises your eggs. This has nothing to do with a political stance and everything to do with a community stance. I am not a fanatic, just a believer. I believe in the place we live and in finding ways to make it great every day. I am endlessly enamored of my local sphere, my community.”

When we spoke with Hugh recently, we asked him to expand a bit on the roles of sustainability and community in his life. “I think the idea of sustainability should be compared to a life of hiking and camping: ‘Pack it in, pack it out. Leave it as nice as when you went in.’ I think we need to think about generations way beyond our own and think what legacy we can leave them. As for my food journey as it relates to my community, I am constantly intrigued by being involved. If I was a dentist I would feel the same way but as a chef, I have a connection to the community through food and can highlight the importance of sustenance and availability in many different ways. I like that ongoing journey.”

Though he is a native of Ottawa, Canada, Hugh has lived in Athens for over two decades and is more knowledgeable of Southern food history and traditions than most born-and-bred Southerners. His thoughts on Southern food culture speak to its potential and its true history, and he is quick to point out the differences between “real” and “fake” Southern foods. “We honor Southern food by cataloging the stories and recipes of the past and the present. We pay homage by realizing that the vast majority of Southern food came here as a product of slavery. It is a painful history of food and nourishment but it is a story that should be told. I think the Jim Crow era of Southern food with the Aunties and the Pitty Pat Porches is luckily coming to an end and has been replaced by a truly intellectual look at tradition and legacy. Southern food is not a bucket of fried chicken and biscuits, but rather a celebration of the agrarian richness that has provided for us in a seasonal way for so long. I would rather hear about Southern food from Edna Lewis than Paula Deen.”

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Our dear friend, collaborator, and sometime-muse Rinne Allen has worked with Hugh on several projects and she clearly has a deep admiration for him. She remembers, “We all really bonded over this project [A New Turn in the South], as corny as that sounds—we worked on it for a very long time which normally does not happen in the world of cookbooks. (Normally, they are condensed into a very short time frame.) Our group met every other week for almost a year at Hugh’s home kitchen to cook and take photographs. And then most days we would sit down and enjoy the food afterward and that, really, was the best part of the project…that kind of camaraderie that comes from sharing food, as well as sharing in such a good project.” She speaks of her experiences working with Hugh as incredibly collaborative. His thoughts on collaborating with her are equally as fond. “Rinne is the most delightful collaborator. She is an endlessly fascinating person with so many skills and mediums to express her art. Collaboration should be about a meeting of minds and ideas that work together. Always collaborate with people you think are smarter and better than you! Leave your ego at the door and listen and appreciate what they bring to the table.”

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A couple of years ago Hugh unexpectedly took on yet another project when one of his daughters shared with him what she’d been learning in her Family and Consumer Sciences class: how to take prenatal vitamins, baking Red Velvet cupcakes from a boxed mix, cooking canned pastry dough wrapped in bacon. Hugh saw what he considered to be a missed opportunity, mostly resulting from a lack of resources. As a strong advocate for his adopted hometown and a supporter of public schools, he saw a chance to partner with his local school district and help revamp curriculum to address real-life issues and provide students with practical skills for living and succeeding that they could carry into adulthood. That collaboration resulted in the creation of Seed Life Skills, a non-profit designed to teach concepts that students can retain and employ throughout their lives. “Seed Life Skills is a rewriting of curriculum to make it contemporary and retainable. It is like life skill merit badges of urban homesteading: poaching an egg, making a vinaigrette, reading a lease, sewing on a button, fixing a toaster, debating a simple premise, understanding debt. It is meant to empower kids to be better suited to tackle the endless hurdles in life. A Happy Meal doesn’t really require skills.”

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After years of advocating for more education in the “living arts”, we understand Hugh’s frustration that most people don’t know how to do things or make things anymore. Part of our mission at Alabama Chanin has been to support the reintroduction of those practical skills that were once essential to life but have become casualties of convenience. We want to renew and instill respect for these skills (sewing, farming, cooking, etc.) and demonstrate their true value. We asked Hugh to share some thoughts and advice on how to continue that journey—and whether programs like Seed Life Skills could be applicable to other disciplines, like ours. “Just realize that everything is STEAM and STEM applicable. List out the ten most important skills that you use daily that have fallen by the wayside in current culture and then whittle those down to basic lessons that engage with a kid who really, despite everything we hear and are told, just wants to LEARN. Teach them what you know.”

Because of his growing expertise in this area, Hugh has partnered with the National Head Start Association to serve as their Healthy Living Ambassador—visiting Head Start programs nationwide to speak with children and families about the importance of preparing nutritious meals and raise funds to enable Head Start centers to build their own gardens. All of this AND he is finishing up work on his fourth cookbook, The Chef and the Slow Cooker which, in a way, is extending his Seed Life Skills curriculum into the adult kitchen sphere. “People want to get back in the kitchen, but they’re terrified of getting back in the kitchen; they’re terrified of cooking from scratch” he recently said. “So we need them to find the tools that make that easier for them and it’s kind of a segue. It’s getting them back in there, slowly but surely.”

We tossed a few more questions Hugh’s way, so enjoy…

AC: You are the chef/partner at five different restaurants. How do you balance your roles at each of them? And what parts of your personality or POV does each reflect?

HA: My POV and personality matters little hopefully. Restaurants are run by a team of people, assembling together to produce great food and beverage with great service and style. I merely curate the ideas, and then triage the daily routine. As you grow in business you have to hire people better and smarter than yourself and trust them with responsibility and leadership. And naps. Naps are important.

AC: Your second cookbook, The Broad Fork, celebrates vegetables and offers home cooks ways to use ingredients from their CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box that they might not be familiar with. What are your favorite vegetables to highlight each season?

HA:

winter: cabbage

spring: peas

summer: tomatoes

fall: apples

AC: What sort of advice do you have for CSA subscribers working with unfamiliar or challenging ingredients (other than purchasing The Broad Fork)?

HA: Google it! The web is a resource for ideas and information.

AC: What are the best ways to engage kids in the home kitchen?

HA: Cook with them from scratch. Kids are sponges. Talk about where and why and how.

AC: What is your earliest food-related memory? Do you remember the first dish you cooked by yourself?

HA: I made paprika-cheese toast when I was 4. Wasn’t very good. But I was proud.

AC: What was your last true great dining experience?

HA: At home. Roasted chicken with local rice, turnips and chow chow. It made the family smile.

AC: At Alabama Chanin, you can often find music influencing the mood and the workflow in the studio. What is your favorite music to cook by?

HA: Depends on the day, but I have been listening to a lot of Archie Shepp these days. Jazz is great to cook to.

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Images courtesy of Hugh Acheson. First and fourth images by Rinne Allen. Portrait of Hugh Acheson by Emily B. Hall.

ALABAMA CHANIN – NATIONAL CHILI DAY

NATIONAL CHILI DAY (NEXT WEEK @ THE FACTORY)

Chili con carne, usually just called “chili” around these parts, may have a Spanish name but it’s an undeniably American dish—with more than one group of people claiming some form of ownership. The earliest written description of chili came from J.C. Clopper of Houston, Texas. In his writings about a visit to San Antonio in 1828, he described a dish, made by the poorest of San Antonio’s residents, that closely matches our definition of chili. “When they have to pay for their meat in the market, a very little is made to suffice for a family; this is generally into a kind of hash with nearly as many peppers as there are pieces of meat—this is all stewed together.” Listen to more about chili in San Antonio at Fugitive Waves: Chili Queens of San Antonio.

There is evidence indicating that the first chili mix was created around 1850 by cowboys and explorers looking for an easily packaged trail meal. Cooks would pound dried beef, fat, pepper, salt, and chili peppers into rectangles that they could rehydrate in boiling water. These “chili bricks” were easy to pack and could be made at just about any trail stop. Around 1860, prisoners of Texas state penitentiaries also claimed to be the creators of their own version of chili—made from the tough beef they were given as meal staples, chopped into tiny pieces and mixed with chili peppers and spices, then boiled until it was suitable for eating. Supposedly, inmates used to rate jails across the state by the quality of their chili.

The San Antonio Chili Stand set up operations at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago and officially presented the dish to those outside of Texas for the first time. Eventually, San Antonio itself became a tourist destination and an increasing number of Americans were introduced to chili, firsthand. In the late 1800s, chili stands serving “bowls of red” began to appear on plazas around the city, run by women known as “chili queens”. These women served chili con carne and other Mexican-American foods from dusk until dawn, setting up their own tables, benches, and pots of food over open fires. Author O. Henry wrote a description of the setting in his short story, “The Enchanted Kiss”: “the nightly encampments upon the historic Alamo Plaza, in the heart of the city, had been a carnival, a saturnalia that was renowned throughout the land… Drawn by the coquettish senoritas, the music of the weird Spanish minstrels, and the strange piquant Mexican dishes served at a hundred competing tables, crowds thronged the Alamo Plaza all night.” The city unsuccessfully tried to get the stands shut down for decades, eventually succeeding in the 1940s with help from the city Health Department.

ALABAMA CHANIN – NATIONAL CHILI DAY

As families moved from Texas to other areas across America, they took their chili recipes and traditions with them. In the early 1900s, family-run chili parlors began to pop up in cities across the country, offering other regions an introduction to traditional Texas fare. These spots became trendy and soon most notable cities had their own famed chili joint and preferred recipe. Cincinnati Chili is a well-known regional dish created in 1922 by a Macedonian immigrant, Tom Kiradjieff, who created a chili using Middle Eastern spices. His famous “five way” is a dish of spaghetti topped with chili, chopped onion, red kidney beans, shredded cheese, and served with cheese-covered hot dogs. Springfield, Illinois, has its own unique chili culture and spelling; in 1993, the Illinois state legislature passed a resolution proclaiming Illinois to be the “Chilli Capital of the Civilized World” and recognized the official spelling to include two letter Ls. (You can imagine how well this was received in Texas.)

Chili consumption spiked in the U.S. during Lyndon Johnson’s presidency. His favorite version became known as Pedernales River Chili, named after his Texas ranch. Lady Bird Johnson published the recipe in the Washington Post in 1961 and the White House printed up recipe cards to mail out, as they received many requests for the recipe each day. Johnson, like any Texan, would tell you that real, original chili has no beans. This bean-free chili is the official state food of Texas, “in recognition of the fact that the only real ‘bowl of red’ is that prepared by Texans.”

Of course, there are now dozens of varieties of chili—both with beans and without. Vegetarian chili, chili verde, white bean chili—all have their own devoted followings. This week, in honor of National Chili Day (traditionally on the 4th Thursday in February), the café will be serving our version of vegetarian chili, from February 27 – March 4. I’m certain there will be chili cook-offs across the country this week where you can enter or support your preferred version—and you can share your favorite version with us as well. Please stop by and say hello and enjoy a bowl (or two).

P.S. We serve our chili on Heath dinnerware with 100% organic cotton jersey Dinner Napkins.

ALABAMA CHANIN – BILL NEAL, SOUTHERN COOKING, AND CHICKEN PURLOO

BILL NEAL, SOUTHERN COOKING, AND CHICKEN PURLOO

“I remember Bill once telling us that the kitchen, within certain bounds, was a laboratory. Occasionally a tart would be lopsided or the mirepoix was never all exactly the same dice, and I remember him saying one time: We do everything homemade here. Everything is made by hand, so there’s nothing wrong with it looking like it.” – Bill Smith, chef, Crook’s Corner

There is a mystery and a mythology surrounding Bill Neal that never really dissipates. His was one of the first voices in the modern celebration of regional cuisine and, as the most academic, it is perhaps one of the most respected. Bill came of age and came to relative prominence in the days just before the celebrity chef and so he escaped much of the recognition and the scrutiny that comes with that fame. However, his contemporaries and those who still love and use his cookbooks know him to be both historian and innovator.

Bill Neal and his then-wife Moreton Neal opened their first restaurant, La Residence, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in 1975 after Bill’s love of cooking overtook his graduate studies in English. He was never formally trained as a chef, but was intensely dedicated to studying cooking techniques, flavors, and ingredients. The kitchen became his classroom and workshop. Neal’s next venture, the now-legendary Crook’s Corner, put to bed the notion that fish camps and barbecue joints were the only restaurants focusing on true Southern food. And as Bill researched and cooked, he began to do something that no one else was really doing at the time: take Southern food seriously.

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John T. Edge, director of the Southern Foodways Alliance describes Bill as “early and important.” Bill Neal, he says, “was the first Southerner who applied an academic rigor to cooking. We were not very proud, back then, of ourselves and our cuisine. He rekindled our respect for the cooking of our own forebears. And he gave Southern cooking a strong national platform.”

It was around this same time that other chefs began to make names for themselves by focusing on fresh ingredients and regional cuisine. Alice Waters, who remains the most recognizable figure in Slow Food, was defining modern California cuisine at Chez Panisse; Paul Prudhomme became one of the most recognized faces in America and a literal advertisement for new and traditional New Orleans food; Jasper White was on his way to becoming the leading authority on New England seafood.

At this same time Bill Neal was being christened by New York Times food critic Craig Claiborne as the spokesperson for Southern foods, which Neal described as a ”confluence of three cultures — Western European, African and Native American — meeting, clashing and ultimately melding into one unique identity, one hybrid society, which was changed forever by civil war in the 1860’s.” In the magnificent Southern Foodways Alliance short film about Bill called, “They Came for Shrimp & Grits: The Life & Work of Bill Neal,” New York Times writer Kim Severson says, “Bill Neal was one of the real early adapters of southern regional awesomeness and the way that he was able to, in a very intelligent way, articulate it both on the plate and the pages of his cookbook, built a foundation for what all the southern chefs are doing right now.”

ALABAMA CHANIN – BILL NEAL, SOUTHERN COOKING, AND CHICKEN PURLOO

Southern Cooking was Bill Neal’s first cookbook and it offered evidence that Southern fare is not quaint, unsophisticated, or unimportant. His research and recipes acknowledged the complicated, sometimes difficult history of a food shaped by region, by agriculture, and by an ethnic mix of willing immigrants and enslaved peoples. To quote John T. Edge again, “Bill Neal was one of the first chefs who, by way of what he cooked in his restaurants and what he wrote in his books, said to eaters and readers, ‘These foods are of merit.’” His subsequent books, Good Old Grits Cookbook, Biscuits, Spoonbread, and Sweet Potato Pie, and Gardener’s Latin: A Lexicon allowed him to explore his subjects further and stretch his legs as a writer. He was becoming a recognizable voice in the Southern food vernacular, just as he had become an influence and role model for his peers.

When Bill Neal passed away at the young age of 41, he left behind a rich legacy—and, quite by accident, created a new Southern classic dish from a traditional Low Country staple. “I made a dish that was taken from the traditional Charleston dish, shrimp and grits,” Neal said. “The first time I put shrimp and grits on the menu everybody thought that was the strangest thing they’d ever heard of. Now if I don’t have it on the menu, everybody complains.” Crooks Corner chef Bill Smith agrees. “Bill introduced shrimp and grits to the world here. It was a huge hit at once and now it’s inescapable; it’s everywhere.” Like many chefs, Natalie’s son Zach counts Bill Neal and his shrimp and grits as important influences.

ALABAMA CHANIN – BILL NEAL, SOUTHERN COOKING, AND CHICKEN PURLOO

In honor of Chef Bill Neal, Zach will be serving Neal’s version of Chicken Purloo (a dish that is akin to pilaf—made with chicken and rice—and found in Bill Neal’s Southern Cooking) in the café starting today and until Friday. We hope you will stop by to celebrate Chef Neal or, if you are unfamiliar with Bill Neal, use this as an introduction to his work and his lasting legacy.

ALABAMA CHANIN – ON THE LINE + STRATEGIC PLANNING

ON THE LINE + STRATEGIC PLANNING

Esteemed chef Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin, one of six Michelin three-star restaurants in New York (there are only 14 in America) has an incredibly meditative approach to life and business—appropriate for a practicing Buddhist, but uncommon for a high-powered chef. As a young chef, his hot temper led to heavy staff turnover and what he felt was an imbalance in his daily life. Ripert’s food, his vision, his reputation—those were the things that occupied his thoughts. With time, reflection, and meditation, he has changed the way he works in the kitchen. Today he sees himself as more of a teacher, guiding staff through excellent training with a focus on teamwork.

ALABAMA CHANIN – ON THE LINE + STRATEGIC PLANNING

All of this and more are on display in his gorgeous book, On the Line: Inside the World of Le Bernardin, written with Christine Muhlke. On the Line is a detailed account of a day in the life of Le Bernardin, offering a behind-the-scenes look at the precise operation created by Ripert and his business partner Maguy Le Coze. Part biography, part cookbook, it is made up of five sections: The History, In the Kitchen, The Dining Experience, The Business, and The Recipes. Each part is comprehensive, describing almost every element from the front of house to the basement offices. Readers learn a fairly typical day’s schedule, menus, the staff hierarchy and each person’s duties, the timetable of a dish—from order to service—and numbers, numbers, numbers. There are 500 pounds of black bass served each week, 1,300 glasses washed by hand each day, 14,000 bottles of wine in their cellar, and $12,000 per month spent on flowers. Plus, you can read Le Coze’s 129 Cardinal Sins for her front-of-house staff.

ALABAMA CHANIN – ON THE LINE + STRATEGIC PLANNING

Each January we prepare our company-wide strategic plan for the year. As we approached this year’s agenda, we revisited On the Line for inspiration, helping us narrow our focus and be specific about each goal—whether it’s a new budget, prioritization of needs, revenue increases, cutting costs, or creating new systems.

ALABAMA CHANIN – ON THE LINE + STRATEGIC PLANNING

Though a day in the life at Alabama Chanin may look slightly different from one at Le Bernardin, some of their systems and their focus on attention to detail apply to our own way of doing things. We have a hierarchy of systems that we use to help make decisions, with quality being first. We focus more each year on safety, monitoring each of our machines closely and even offering CPR courses for our staff. We also have timelines and strict standards on how each product is made. Eric Ripert’s kitchen requires all 120 of its employees to be performing as well as possible to ensure excellent service; at Alabama Chanin, we don’t yet have 120 staff members, but each performs essential tasks and must be counted on to produce high-quality products on a consistent basis.

ALABAMA CHANIN – ON THE LINE + STRATEGIC PLANNING

Much like Ripert and Le Coze have done at Le Bernardin, we want our passion for excellence to be contagious in our staff and artisans. No garment or meal in our café is about only the finished product. It is also important to us that our customers feel a connection to the details of our processes from basic design to order delivery. That means a lot of training, meetings, work, and dedication from our staff, across the board. It also means making the extra effort to source the best and most sustainable materials, on a consistent basis. Just as with a precise dish, consistency is essential to our products.

If you are looking for inspiration on creating your own schedules or ways to organize your own life or business, we recommend consulting On the Line and Le Bernardin’s standards for excellence. Their leadership, their systems, their products, and their reputation inspire us. Onward, to an excellent 2017.

ALABAMA CHANIN – ON THE LINE + STRATEGIC PLANNING

FRIDA’S FIESTAS + MACAROONS

When she was a teenager, Guadalupe Rivera Marin moved to her father and stepmother’s home in Coyoacan, Mexico City—a home that was well known by friends and neighbors both for its famous occupants and the opulent parties they loved to throw. Guadalupe’s father was muralist Diego Rivera and his wife was painter Frida Kahlo, both of whom she and co-author Marie-Pierre Colle celebrate in Frida’s Fiestas: Recipes and Reminiscences of Life with Frida Kahlo.

ALABAMA CHANIN – FRIDA'S FIESTAS + MACAROONS

Diego Rivera was famously food obsessed and Frida (who did not cook much—or enjoy cooking) studied how to make Mexican cuisine to please him. Rivera Marin writes, “From her wedding day on, Frida realized that good cooking would be an important part of her life.” Frida, oddly enough, learned how to cook primarily from Lupe Marin—Guadalupe’s mother and Diego’s ex-wife. Lupe was an excellent cook and her mother, Isabel Preciado de Marin, published The New Mexican Cookbook in 1888. As the two women became very good friends, Lupe would teach Frida how to make Diego’s favorite dishes.

ALABAMA CHANIN – FRIDA'S FIESTAS + MACAROONS

What Frida initially lacked in technique, she made up for in presentation. Each meal was almost a still life, arranged for Diego. Guadalupe remembers her as organized and a wonderful host, who loved arranging the house and decorating everything. Frida set elaborate Mexican tables with embroidered tablecloths and vases of flowers. She embraced nearly every chance to celebrate and throw a party, which is reflected in Frida’s Fiestas. The cookbook is organized by month, beginning with August (Frida and Diego’s anniversary month) and also including the Posadas (at Christmas), the Day of the Dead, Mexican national holidays, and a gala they referred to as The Meal of the Broad Tablecloths.

ALABAMA CHANIN – FRIDA'S FIESTAS + MACAROONS

Frida’s Fiestas includes more than 100 recipes for the types of traditional Mexican foods that Frida would prepare for Diego and their guests. The book also includes many illustrations, copies of pages from Frida’s cookbooks and notebooks, vintage portraits, and reproductions of her paintings. Guadalupe has also filled its pages with loving memories of her life with Frida and Diego.

ALABAMA CHANIN – FRIDA'S FIESTAS + MACAROONS

Frida’s remarkably simple recipe for macaroons can be found on page 124.

You won’t be disappointed; get your very own copy here.

#womenartists

ALABAMA CHANIN – INTRODUCING ASHA GOMEZ

INTRODUCING ASHA GOMEZ

Yesterday, we announced the lineup for our 2017 Friends of the Café dinner series. Visiting chefs Scott Peacock and Ashley Christensen are familiar to our Journal readers, and today we want to introduce Asha Gomez—our guest chef in August.

Asha Gomez is an Atlanta-based chef who combines influences from her birthplace in Kerala, India, with those of her current home in the American South. The region of India where she was born is known for its Dutch and Portuguese influences, and the cuisine is distinctly different from what we consider traditional Indian food. As a child, Asha’s mother and aunts taught her how to cook using ingredients that arrived via the city’s trading port and traditional Kerala ingredients like asafoetida, a spice derived from a ten-foot-tall plant related to fennel.

ALABAMA CHANIN – INTRODUCING ASHA GOMEZ

Gomez and her mother emigrated to the United States when she was 16. As a teenager in Queens, New York, she gained experience with professional cooking, assisting her mother with her catering business. In 2000, Asha and her husband moved to Georgia, where she felt an immediate kinship with the Southern hospitality that reminded her of her birthplace in Southern India. She became known in the community for her Keralan meals and founded the Spice Route Supper Club, where she hosted small groups of diners in her own kitchen. The supper club’s popularity eventually led Asha to open her first restaurant, Cardamom Hill—a fine dining establishment that was named one of Bon Appetit’s 50 Best New Restaurants, was one of Southern Living’s 100 Best Restaurants in the South, and was a James Beard semifinalist in 2013 for Best New Restaurant. Its signature dish, Kerala fried chicken (her mother’s recipe), is well known and loved among Atlantans. In July 2014, she voluntarily closed the restaurant to spend more time with her family.

ALABAMA CHANIN – INTRODUCING ASHA GOMEZ

In 2013, Asha opened Third Space, a warm and inviting event venue that she calls a “culinary conversation.” The project allows her to have a more ideal work-life balance. The venue offers cooking classes in a home-style kitchen with Gomez and guest chefs. The space is intimate—with a 10-seat counter and 12-seat dining room—and allows participants to build relationships with their expert collaborators. For her, the classes are a return to the more intimate cooking style Gomez prefers with patrons. Third Space also hosts corporate events and small, private dinners.

Asha’s second restaurant, Spice to Table, opened in 2014 and is a fast-casual Indian patisserie connected to Third Space. At Spice to Table, Gomez and her staff plan their daily menu based off of finds at one of Atlanta’s many farmers’ markets. It has been named one of Zagat’s 12 Hottest Brunch Places in the US and one of the 25 best new restaurants in America by GQ Magazine. Here, she combines the best of South India with the American South by taking a classic Southern dish and amplifying it using Indian spices like clove, cardamom, and fresh peppercorns in her carrot cake. While managing these two ventures, she also acts as a Chef Ambassador with CARE, a non-profit that provides emergency relief and long-term international development projects.

In October, she published her first cookbook, My Two Souths: Blending the Flavors of India into a Southern Kitchen. The cookbook tells the story of how she blended her Indian heritage with her American home, to create a new style of cooking. As with her other endeavors, My Two Souths presents a platform for Gomez to share her love and knowledge of the world’s cultures as it relates to food. Gomez thoroughly prepares readers to cook by including a glossary detailing the origins of and ways to use ingredients. Throughout the book, she provides a further glimpse into her life with images of food, family gatherings, and her trips to the farmers market.

ALABAMA CHANIN – INTRODUCING ASHA GOMEZ

ALABAMA CHANIN - ANNOUNCING 2017 FRIENDS OF THE CAFE DINNERS

ANNOUNCING 2017 FRIENDS OF THE CAFÉ DINNERS

Alabama Chanin hosted our very first Friends of the Café Dinner in May of 2014, and since then we’ve experienced meals and enjoyed gatherings that were nothing short of magical. In retrospect, we almost cannot believe the lineup of talented chefs who have graciously donated their time for these special fundraisers: Sean Brock, Ashley Christensen, Lisa Donovan, Adam Evans, Chris Hastings, Vivian Howard, Rob McDaniel, Angie Mosier, Anne Quatrano, Drew Robinson, Rodney Scott, Frank Stitt—and more.

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This year’s schedule is no less impressive, with appearances (and reappearances) from some of the South’s most respected chefs. We have long hoped to convince Scott Peacock to co-host a dinner, and this year his schedule will allow him to join us for 2017’s first event on April 15th. On June 24th, Ashley Christensen will return for her second dinner, and on August 24th, we will welcome Atlanta-based chef Asha Gomez to The Factory for the first time. (Learn more about Asha on the Journal tomorrow.) All proceeds from the Friends of the Café Dinners will once again benefit the Southern Foodways Alliance.

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Look for more information on the featured chefs in the coming months, and purchase tickets now in our online store.

THE SHORT STACK COOKBOOK

We have been fans of Short Stack Editions since they published their first short volume in 2013. Each edition is hand bound with bakers twine and focuses on a single ingredient, offering 20 – 25 clever and approachable recipes written by a variety of chefs, food writers, and cookbook authors. To date, 24 editions have been published which, together, act as a well-rounded recipe guide that encourages experimentation, discourages food waste, and offers something for just about every palate.

With these ideas as the foundation, publisher Nick Fauchald and editor Kaitlyn Goalen invited 27 soon-to-be or current authors of Short Stack Editions to participate in their cookbook, The Short Stack Cookbook: Ingredients that Speak Volumes. The cookbook (which is not a compendium of recipes from the individual editions, but an entirely original collection) uses the same types of bold colors and smart graphics seen in the individual editions to create a volume that is truly a work of art. Unlike the individual editions, The Short Stack Cookbook includes colorful photographs of finished dishes.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE SHORT STACK COOKBOOK

The book focuses on 18 meticulously selected essential ingredients—including honey, eggs, and brussels sprouts—to create over 100 new recipes that encourage the audience to develop new skills through practice. Each ingredient has 8 to 10 different recipes unique to the cookbook that celebrate the best things about each ingredient and also challenge readers to see those same ingredients in a new way.

It’s important to note that the level of involvement varies depending on the recipe. For weeknights when you’re short on time, we recommend recipes like the Smoked Mozzarella & Sage in Sourdough Carrozza. When you have more time to experiment, try the Crispy Chicken Skin Tacos, which would work well for dinner parties.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE SHORT STACK COOKBOOK

The Short Stack team accommodates all levels of home cooks. They provide helpful information on sourcing ingredients, storing, substitutes, and food pairings. Additionally, the authors included thoughtful suggestions—like hints on kitchen equipment and event-specific menus—throughout the book. The Short Stack Cookbook encourages home cooks to have fun while exploring new ways a single ingredient can exceed expectations.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE SHORT STACK COOKBOOK

Find The Short Stack Cookbook.

ALABAMA CHANIN – ARTISAN DESIGNED + MADE: SMITHEY CAST IRON + WOHL WOODWORKING

ARTISAN DESIGNED + MADE: SMITHEY CAST IRON + WOHL WOODWORKING

As part of our Artisan Home series, we are highlighting the makers of two of our newest featured products—Smithey Ironware Co. and Edward Wohl Woodworking and Design. Both makers design products with classic style, made in America.

Charleston, South Carolina-based Smithey Ironware was born from the single-minded curiosity of founder Isaac Morton. Morton had a talent for buying and restoring vintage ironware pieces and was particularly gifted in refurbishing old cookware, which he often gave to friends and family members. After years of working on cookware, Morton became something of an expert in cast iron; he saw that there was a noticeable difference in craftsmanship between old pieces and new. One particular piece, a vintage Griswold cast iron skillet, stuck out because of its smooth, glassy surface—which was nothing like the rough, grainy texture of modern cast iron. That skillet inspired years of research and, eventually, Morton’s livelihood.

ALABAMA CHANIN – ARTISAN DESIGNED + MADE: SMITHEY CAST IRON + WOHL WOODWORKING

As he began to study old ironware pieces and learn the hundred-year-old techniques used to make them, he was able to explain why those old skillets were different and why things changed. In the years before production was automated, iron cookware was polished for hours, by hand. Once the process became automated, it was not practical to spend man hours hand-finishing the cookware.

After spending over a year researching design and learning about the iron industry, Smithey Ironware launched operations in 2015. Morton partnered with a foundry in Indiana that was able to produce on a small scale. From Indiana, the pans are shipped to South Carolina in their porous, grainy state. Morton mills the heavy grit off the metal, then grinds and polishes them by hand and machine before tumbling each one in a tub of rocks to achieve their signature smooth finish. As a final step, each pan is seasoned with a layer of oil to create a natural non-stick finish.

ALABAMA CHANIN – ARTISAN DESIGNED + MADE: SMITHEY CAST IRON + WOHL WOODWORKING

Edward Wohl is an award-winning woodworker who, alongside his business partner and wife Ann, founded his workshop in southeast Wisconsin where he both designs and builds custom furniture and home goods. He began designing wood furniture in 1970, after graduating from Washington University in 1967 with a degree in architecture. His products have a sculptural feel and are designed to be utilitarian and beautiful to the touch and the eye.

According to Wohl, “I was searching for a career where work and play were indistinguishable. I make things of wood that I’d like to have myself—functional pieces that are quiet, peaceful, and a pleasure to touch and look at. My approach emphasizes select materials, structural integrity, and utility. I like to let the wood do the work—to coax nature to imitate art.”

His handmade birds-eye maple cutting boards are created by joining sections from a single piece of wood, so the tone and wood grain are seamless. Birds-eye maple is rare in nature, with perhaps one in five hundred hard maple trees exhibiting the pattern, making both the wood and Wohl’s designs immediately recognizable.

The cutting boards are hand shaped, finished, and beveled to be perfectly balanced and practical. Wohl works largely with maple because it is durable and long lasting and because it has an even wood grain pattern; hard maple resists deep knife cuts and tends to absorb little moisture from food. Once sanded, his cutting boards are dipped in mineral oil, linseed oil, and wax—a technique he also used for his custom furniture.

You can purchase a Smithey Cast Iron Skillet in the Cook + Dine section of our website and in-store at The Factory.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE JEMIMA CODE

THE JEMIMA CODE

America’s food culture comprises an undeniable mix of influences from around the world. African-American women have a significant impact on the foods we eat and have eaten for centuries. Unfortunately, that impact has often been overlooked or overshadowed by racial stereotypes like that of “Aunt Jemima” and other tropes—fetishized mammy stereotypes and caricatures that coopted African-American culinary traditions. In The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks, author Toni Tipton-Martin challenges us to look beyond the encoded message that “black chefs, cooks, and cookbook authors—by virtue of their race and gender—are simply born with good kitchen instincts,” because it diminishes their knowledge, skill, ability, and pure culinary artistry.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE JEMIMA CODE

It is true that for years African-American women worked in early kitchens throughout the United States, both as slaves and then as low-paid workers. There is a false notion that those talented cooks were directed by their white masters or employers when, in fact, most managed their own kitchens capably—often with the precision of modern-day chefs. Early recipes, like many traditions, were passed down as oral histories, which make them difficult to document—particularly because many African Americans were barred from learning to read and write. Once they were able to compile the knowledge in family notebooks or cookbooks, those women (and a few men) were almost never able to make a profit from sharing their life’s work. But slowly recipe collections began to see the light of day.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE JEMIMA CODE

Tipton-Martin has spent years collecting over 300 cookbooks written by African-American authors (one of the world’s largest private collections of cookbooks of the genre) compiling information in The Jemima Code from over 150 of those, in an effort to illustrate their impact on American food culture and traditions and to inspire African Americans to embrace and celebrate their culinary history. John Egerton (founder of the Southern Foodways Alliance) wrote in the book’s forward that Tipton-Martin delved deep and discovered the gifted cooks “who quietly broke the Jemima code and have taken their rightful place among the best of America’s culinary professionals.”

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE JEMIMA CODE

The earliest recipe collections featured in the book date back to an 1827 house servant’s manual—considered the first book published by an African American on the subject—and Tipton-Martin’s compendium extends to modern volumes by celebrated authors like Edna Lewis and Vertamae Grosvenor. The collection is arranged chronologically and chapter introductions provide important information on the cultural significance of the featured cookbooks, including histories of the authors themselves. She also includes pictures of the book covers and some individual recipe pages.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE JEMIMA CODE

Tipton-Martin won the James Beard Foundation’s award for Reference and Scholarship, which is a reflection of its relevance and the quality of its content. The author says, “My hope for this book, as it was for my ancestors and these authors, is that when we know more about them as individuals, we can then learn to respect them, to learn from them, to be inspired by them. And to return to the kitchen at a time when we’re all being encouraged to take better control of our health by cooking for ourselves and consuming less fast and processed food.” As you read The Jemima Code, you will learn just how much you didn’t know about an entire culture’s food traditions and you will be inspired to take those recipes into your own kitchen—ensuring their relevance for years to come.

Purchase your copy of The Jemima Code here.

 

DECORATE YOUR TABLE TOP

Our Cook + Dine textiles help you set a beautiful table year-round. Mix and match our solid, colorblock, and hand-painted designs with varied materials and textures in your kitchen, like our Heath Ceramics dinnerware, Etched Glasses, and Shelter Collection glassware­—or your own pieces that have been gathered, passed down, and collected over the years.

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Made from organic cotton, our kitchen textiles are machine sewn in our Building 14 facility. They’re designed and made right here in our headquarters in Florence and include Top-Stitch Placemats and Coasters, Colorblock Napkins, and our Aria Tea Towels and Apron.

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We celebrate more artisan made with the introduction of new kitchen goods from Edward Wohl Woodworking and Design and Smithey Ironware Co—both Made-in-America companies. You can find Wohl’s Maple Cutting Boards and Smithey’s Cast Iron Skillet in the Cook + Dine section of our website. And look for more about each of these companies on the Journal next week.

VIVIAN HOWARD: DEEP RUN ROOTS

Clocking in at 564 pages, Vivian Howard’s new (and first) cookbook, Deep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South, is by far the largest cookbook I own that is not a compilation. Vivian, friend and collaborator on our Friends of the Café fundraiser dinner, has created a modern American classic book of recipes. Almost equal parts storybook and cookbook, Deep Run Roots shows us that there is not one single definition of “Southern” cooking; each region has its own unique contributions and food histories.

ALABAMA CHANIN – VIVIAN HOWARD: DEEP RUN ROOTS

The cookbook has 25 chapters, each focusing on a single ingredient. Every chapter includes between 5 – 10 traditional recipes for its ingredient, followed by more modern or adventurous alternatives. There is something to be found for cooks of every skill level, and some of the dishes that appear challenging are remarkably easy to pull off. Each chapter also has a “Wisdom” page or section, where Vivian shares a little extra background on each ingredient, including her personal experiences, tips, and tricks. She also offers personal stories or memories, relating the ingredient to her own life.

ALABAMA CHANIN – VIVIAN HOWARD: DEEP RUN ROOTS

Like her award-winning television series, “A Chef’s Life,” this book celebrates regional culinary traditions, family, and community. When Vivian returned to her North Carolina home over a decade ago to open her restaurant, Chef and the Farmer, she decided that rather than chase food trends, she would be much more challenged and gratified by learning how to cook using the same ingredients her neighbors used—the same ingredients that have been used by generations of families in her community. This cookbook reflects her resourcefulness, her willingness to partner with local purveyors, and her sheer creativity.

ALABAMA CHANIN – VIVIAN HOWARD: DEEP RUN ROOTS

In the book’s introduction, titled, “Don’t You Dare Skip This Introduction!” Vivian explains that the book’s ingredients are characters who shape her life. “Eastern North Carolina is my Tuscany, my Szechuan, my Provence,” Vivian writes. “This is a Southern cookbook, but not one that treats the South like a homogenous region where everybody eats the same kind of fried chicken, ribs, shrimp and grits, collard greens, or gumbo. Instead, I interpret Southern cooking the way we’ve long understood French, Italian, and Chinese food: as a complex cuisine with abundant variations shaped by terrain, climate, and people.” This cookbook is massive and yet intimate. It is personal but has something for every palate.

We encourage you to pick up your copy of this cookbook in time for the holidays, as there are an incredible number of recipes that are perfectly suited to your seasonal meals.

ALABAMA CHANIN – VIVIAN HOWARD: DEEP RUN ROOTS

JOHN CURRENCE’S BIG BAD BREAKFAST

As we have reported more than once, the annual Southern Foodways Alliance symposium is a pretty magical occurrence where like-minded individuals come to discuss, debate, celebrate, and (most importantly) eat the very best of what the South has to offer. It was at one of these events where we first really got to know chef John Currence. Anyone who knows much about southern food knows about John’s restaurant City Grocery or any of the other five restaurants he runs from his home base in Oxford, Mississippi. But, our love for John (and his breakfast) was cemented a few years ago on the final Sunday morning of a symposium—after a rousing evening and maybe one too many glasses of bourbon—when we were all handed Chinese to-go containers filled with crumbled biscuits and sausage and a heavy dose of John’s tomato gravy. Out of four days of some of the most amazing food in the world, this was one of the meals that stuck with us for good.

ALABAMA CHANIN – JOHN CURRENCE'S BIG BAD BREAKFAST

John’s newest cookbook, Big Bad Breakfast: The Most Important Book of the Day, named for one of his successful restaurant concepts, is perhaps the most raucous recipe collection you’ll ever own. His persona comes across immediately—knowledgeable, unfiltered, and hilarious. You won’t find any other cookbooks that make you laugh this hard, that are also packed with truly delicious, unintimidating recipes. And who can resist a breakfast cookbook with an entire chapter devoted to cocktails…

In the introduction, John traces his obsession with breakfast to his New Orleans childhood and memorable meals at bakeries, breakfast joints, and lunch counters. He believes that breakfast took a turn for the disastrous when those diners slowly faded from existence, to be replaced by flavorless fast food biscuits, rubbery bacon, and (shudder) the Egg McMuffin. He, in fact, writes a letter to America’s favorite fast food chain that begins, “Dear McDonald’s, You make shit for food.” (He also admits, “My lawyer and my publisher hate me, if you haven’t guessed. Fortunately, my editor thinks I am kind of amusing.”) But John does not merely criticize; he also provides plenty of alternatives, ranging from sausage cinnamon rolls to skillet scrambles, to homemade pop tarts. There are elevated selections and international options, like crab cake benedict, chorizo migas, shakshouka, and a grits and collard soufflé. Plus, he will teach you how to cook an egg just about any way you can think of.

ALABAMA CHANIN – JOHN CURRENCE'S BIG BAD BREAKFAST

Some of the recipes in Big Bad Breakfast may require that you forego your calorie counting, but there is an entire chapter for “Cereals, Grains, and other Pseudo-Virtuous Things.” And, in times of absolute emergency, John offers the ultimate hangover killer: The Pylon. This Belgian waffle, topped with hot dogs, chili, sweet slaw, cheese, and multiple condiments is lauded in the book’s foreword by famed chef David Chang, who credits the dish with reviving him from the worst hangover of his life. The point is—there’s something here for everyone. Pick up Big Bad Breakfast and visit one of its brick and mortar locations today.

SETTING THE HOLIDAY TABLE

There is sometimes no greater pleasure than planning for holiday get-togethers and the excitement that goes along with them. Many of us have traditions we look forward to all year, and family or friends that we only see on special occasions. There is meaning to be found in the —smallest things, from preparing a dish or setting the table—or doing the dishes together. You wash, and I’ll dry.

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In an effort to get things just right, it is possible to let preparations overshadow the occasion, shifting the attention from the people to the scenery. The easiest way to avoid this is to involve more people in the process—to allow the event to become more of a collaboration. It really is okay to let someone else choose the napkins, and even really young children can set the table with just a little help.

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The table will never be the most important part of a holiday, but it is our gathering place. Mismatched plates can make as beautiful a place setting as your grandmother’s wedding china, as long as there is a seat for everyone. Our newest home goods collection is designed for almost anyone’s table (holiday or not). These new machine-sewn items are meant to be practical, but beautiful and are available in an array of colors and designs. Our new offerings include: Top-Stitch Coasters, Top-Stitch Placemats, and Colorblock Napkins. Shop our updated home collection, alongside other carefully curated kitchen and dining items here.

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P.S.: Mix and match your place settings with our Heath Ceramics dinner and serving ware—and soon to come Shelter Glassware collaboration with The Commons.

A COLANDER, CAKE STAND, AND MY GRANDFATHER’S IRON SKILLET

We love the idea that items can have a sort of sense memory or be associated with a specific moment in time. It is something we explored in our Heirloom series—and author Erin Byers Murphy goes deeper into that concept in her cookbook, A Colander, Cake Stand, and My Grandfather’s Iron Skillet. The concept is simple: every cook has a favorite tool, and that tool can tell you a lot about the person using it.

ALABAMA CHANIN – A COLANDER, CAKE STAND, AND MY GRANDFATHER'S IRON SKILLET

Most of our well-loved recipes have a good story behind them and cooks are some of the best storytellers. Food can tell a story of a person’s past, a family’s past, a region’s past, their present, their values, or the very ingredients they use. That is why cooking for others can be an intimate experience; every element—from the ingredients to the cooking preparation and method, to the utensils and tools used, to the dining experience—has the potential to reveal something essential about the person preparing the meal.

In A Colander, Cake Stand, and My Grandfather’s Iron Skillet, Murphy (a Nashville-based food writer) collects stories from 37 top chefs, including some of our favorite cooks, like Steven Satterfield, Virginia Willis, Ford Fry, Kevin Gillespie, and Tandy Wilson. Each shares a personal story of their favorite tool or utensil, how they acquired it, and why it is so essential to their kitchen. Alongside each story, each chef offers a recipe utilizing his or her tool of choice.

ALABAMA CHANIN – A COLANDER, CAKE STAND, AND MY GRANDFATHER'S IRON SKILLET

Natalie was honored to be included in this book, and she shares the story of her grandmother’s rolling pin. Over the past 30 years, it has rolled out hundreds of pans of biscuits and been “around the world and back again (a couple of times).” On pages 102 and 103 you will find her story and biscuit recipe. Like all the chefs in A Colander, Cake Stand, and My Grandfather’s Iron Skillet, we know you will be inspired to look in your own kitchen and find the tool that embodies your history and has helped to create some of your own signature dishes.

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ARTISAN MADE: HAWKS AND DOVES

Last December, Natalie was invited by Chef Ashley Christensen to speak at Raleigh’s Contemporary Art Museum, presenting a lecture celebrating women in art and design. Ashley, who has been a constant source of inspiration for us, is deeply involved in the organization and in her community in Raleigh. As a thank you gift, Natalie received a personalized knife clutch, which was made by Raleigh-based company, Hawks and Doves.

Hawks and Doves was created by Jessica Ullom in 2012, as her obsession with Americana textiles grew into the business. Jessica uses repurposed materials, combined with both new and dead stock American-made textiles in all of her products. She strives to source her materials as locally as possible. Hawks and Doves products include everything from bags and accessories to kitchenwares and utilitarian home goods and have been “used, abused, tested and approved” by chefs and cooks to be incredibly durable.

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Jessica’s husband, Andrew, is pastry chef for Ashley Christensen Restaurants, and the couple collaborated on designing a knife roll—a necessity for every professional cook (and home cooks, alike) to transport their tools. These bags are made from water-resistant waxed canvas with oiled leather closures. They are the ideal and safe place to store knives and kitchen utensils—especially for someone on the go.

FRIENDS OF THE CAFÉ: INTRODUCING RODNEY SCOTT

On March 24th, we will be hosting our first Friends of the Café dinner for 2016 featuring Rodney Scott and Frank Stitt (see more about that below). At first glance, Frank and Rodney may seem like they exist on opposite ends of the spectrum:

Rodney is an absolute master of barbecue—what the uninitiated might consider “working man’s food.”

Frank is known for his French, Italian, and Mediterranean-inspired dishes and his lovely cookbooks.

However, they are of the same mind when it comes to making locally-sourced Slow Food and preserving southern food traditions.

Rodney Scott and his family have been serving pit-cooked barbecue from their Hemingway, South Carolina, restaurant for over 30 years. Scott’s Bar-B-Que was founded in 1972 by Ella and Roosevelt Scott, who still run the restaurant with their son Rodney serving as Pitmaster. Rodney, who cooked his first whole hog at age 11, is a perfectionist of his craft—but, by most descriptions, a laid back perfectionist.

ALABAMA CHANIN – FRIENDS OF THE CAFE: INTRODUCING RODNEY SCOTT

Like any good artist, Rodney places great importance on materials—not just methods. Barbecuing a whole hog, pit-style, takes an incredible amount of wood, which Rodney and his family cut themselves. They use oak, hickory, and pecan and keep a large reserve on their property. But keeping the Scotts cooking is a community effort; if a neighbor’s tree falls down, they always call the Scotts to cut it and cart it away.

The community is part of the entire Scott enterprise. The idea of “locally sourced” may be relatively new to many restaurants, but the Scotts have always sourced local pigs—and they rely on local labor and materials throughout their process. A local meat market butchers and delivers the hogs; Rodney works alongside local builders who weld together his custom burn barrels, fashioned from scrap metal piping, truck axles, and other repurposed materials.

These barrels are used to burn the wood down to coals, which are shoveled and spread evenly across his barbecue pit—over and over, throughout the entire evening it takes to roast a whole pig. The whole pigs are butterflied and laid out across a grate covering the pit. Rodney insists the smoke this pit creates is the key to the product. And though he humbly says that cooking a pig isn’t hard to do, those who have tasted Rodney Scott’s pulled pork know it takes a special talent to create such unique flavors.

In 2013, the Scotts’ wooden cookhouse burned to ashes two days before Thanksgiving. Rodney did not waste a moment, putting together burn barrels as soon as the fire was extinguished. He told our friend Billy Reid, “Yeah, the same day the pits burned, the fire department told me I could set them up in the back. I had four hogs left that didn’t get affected at all (by the fire) and I just went with that and I sold those until I ran out. You can’t stop. It’s like tripping and falling down. When you’re walking and you trip and fall, the first thing you do is you get back up. I felt like we fell and I just jumped right back into it and got started.”

ALABAMA CHANIN – FRIENDS OF THE CAFE: INTRODUCING RODNEY SCOTT

Rodney’s brothers and sisters in southern cooking—The Fatback Collective—rallied, creating the Rodney Scott Bar-B-Que in Exile Tour to raise money for a rebuild. And so, he drove portable versions of his burn barrels from state to state, creating a loyal fan base along the way. With the funds raised, Rodney and the Collective built a new pit room—and the important work continues. (Joe York and the Southern Foodways Alliance made one of our all-time favorite documentaries, CUT/CHOP/COOK, about Rodney. Watch it here.)

More here on chef Frank Stitt.

Photos courtesy of Angie Mosier

ONE GOOD EGG

One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2016 was to cook more at home. And I have. I started my New Year’s Day, after a good night’s sleep, with a delicious cup of my famous Coffee Milk—an indeterminate mixture of a latte, cappuccino, and a café au lait—made with whole milk (raw when I can get it)—brewed in my vintage Krups. I use The Factory Blend coffee that is, despite current trends for greener beans, roasted to a dark, chocolaty finish. While drinking my coffee, I glided through Prune by Gabrielle Hamilton, and as I dreamt of her Pasta Kerchief, I found myself scouring the kitchen for possible breakfast egg possibilities.

In the end, I wound up with a beautiful avocado toast with a fried egg (over easy) but only after falling down the rabbit hole of internet egg delights. Follow below…

Bon Appétit has a lovely little piece by Adam Rapoport on an egg fried in olive oil—with tips by Allison Roman—their senior food editor:

http://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/how-to/article/olive-oil-fried-egg

Browse the comments below the piece for lively commentary on butter vs. lard. vs. nut oil vs. bacon grease vs. olive oil. I cooked mine just like the sweet little film below but with a second-or-two over-easy and it was delicious—crispy bits and all:

http://video.bonappetit.com/watch/the-ultimate-fried-egg

In fact, I got lost in a few of the Bon Appétit films, like How to De-Stem Every Green and How to Make Crème Anglaise. There are also LOTS of other eggy ideas.

I then remembered an article I’d read in the New York Times by Amanda Hesser titled “A Marriage of Convenience,” published on Valentine’s Day in 2001. I followed her path from one southern Italian cookbook to the next—getting lost in the idea of eggs in pasta (and the debate on using cream or no cream). At the end of the article, I found myself reunited with Gabrielle Hamilton and a recipe for Pasta Kerchief with Poached Egg, French Ham, and Brown Butter—adapted from Prune.

ALABAMA CHANIN – ONE GOOD EGG 2

Alas, I wasn’t prepared for making pasta on New Year’s Day (although I will be one day soon). But the idea itself made me think of Eugenie Brazier and the recipe for Symphonie D’Oeufs (Symphony of Eggs) on page 45 of La Mere Brazier: The Mother of Modern French Cooking which I had just read the week before and which led me to my kitchen—where I found one egg and a perfectly ripe avocado laying on the kitchen counter.

In the end, I cut two slices of thick toast from day-old Ciabatta bread made by my son Zach at The Factory Café (and inspired by Rob McDaniel at The Spring House). I then sliced half of my perfect avocado, sprinkled it with salt and pepper, lightly smashed it to a spreading consistency, and applied to the perfectly (medium) toasted ciabatta. On the top came the egg—fried in olive oil (over-easy)—with a final sprinkle of salt and pepper.

My resolutions are off to a great start.

Here’s to good eggs in 2016. (I plan to surround myself with them).
xoNatalie

Photos courtesy of Rinne Allen and Angie Mosier.

FRIENDS OF THE CAFE DINNER SERIES

I spent quite a lot of time over the holiday season digging into some of my favorite cookbooks. This was sparked on by several things:

  1. My son, Zach, and I started talking about what we want to accomplish with The Factory Café in 2016 and got side tracked talking (for a very, very long time) about our very, very all-time favorite cookbooks.
  2. We finally finished organizing our company library—including the growing cookbook section. (See the P.S. below about our organization system of choice.)
  3. I read La Mere Brazierwhich made me want to get out all my favorite cookbooks and start reading them all over again. (I adored Eugénie Brazier’s story of her childhood and rise to kitchen fame in the introduction.)
  4. I looked back on all the good work Alabama Chanin has been involved with in 2015. I’m super proud that I (and all of our team) got to work with great chefs like Angie Mosier, Lisa Donovan, Rob McDaniel, and Anne Quatrano (Queen Anne) at The Factory—and also with the likes of Cheetie Kumar, Anne Quatrano (again!), and Gabrielle Hamilton organized by Ashley Christenson for the Southern Foodways Alliance Femme Fatale Dinner at the 21c Museum Hotel in Louisville. (Yes, 2015 was a great year.)

With these delicious moments and meals in mind, we’re gearing up for our 2016 Friends of the Café Dinner Series. Some details are still being finalized, but there’s no doubt: it’s going to be another fantastic year.

ALABAMA CHANIN – FRIENDS OF THE CAFE DINNER SERIES

We’re starting out of the gates on March 24th with Frank Stitt (Highlands Bar and Grill, Chez Fon Fon, Bottega, and Bottega Café in Birmingham, Alabama) and the famous (and infamous) barbecue pit master, Rodney Scott of Hemingway, South Carolina. This promises to be a once-in-a-lifetime event. Frank has already sent along some menu ideas that include not only the gorgeously roasted meats from Rodney, but also foraged specialties like dandelion, henbit, asparagus shoots, and chickweed.

After that we’re hosting our first-ever Spring Harvest Dinner on May 21st, featuring local and regional harvests from farmers and purveyors alike—curated by our chef (and my son) Zach and our amazing team at The Factory Café.

In August (date TBD—most likely the second or third Thursday), our (now annual) Shindig Dinner—in conjunction with Billy Reid’s Shindig—features Shoals-native, Atlanta-based chef Adam Evans (formerly of The Optimist, now with Brezza Cucina in the Ponce City Market). This dinner becomes more popular every year, so be on the lookout for the event announcement.

ALABAMA CHANIN – FRIENDS OF THE CAFE DINNER SERIES

Sean Brock (McCrady’s in Charleston, Husk in Charleston and Nashville, and Minero in Atlanta and Charleston) will be joining us for a Fall dinner on October 8th. Details will unfold as the season rolls into focus.

ALABAMA CHANIN – FRIENDS OF THE CAFE DINNER SERIES

See you here. See you there. Happy 2016 from all of us @ The Factory and Alabama Chanin
xoNatalie

P.S.:  To organize our growing library, we wound up using Libib—one of the apps we originally investigated. It was one of the highlights of 2015 to see our library come to life, beautifully displayed in the design studio, organized perfectly by theme, with books standing straight and tall like little soldiers, ready to go out and change the world.

FERMENTATION (+ HARVEST ROOTS FARM)

Lindsay Whiteaker and Pete Halupka – Harvest, Alabama natives and who met in the 5th grade – launched Harvest Roots Farm and Ferment in 2011 with less than $1,000. What was then a small, organic vegetable farm has grown into a full-scale “fermentory” – focusing on producing wild, fermented food and beverages. Lindsay and Pete found that their produce customers were increasingly interested in their small line of fermented goods and ultimately switched their focus from farming to full-time fermentation. They forage and glean – and also process vegetables from local farms, then mix everything together in their Mentone, Alabama, kitchen.

In this context, fermentation refers to the low energy chemical conversion of carbohydrates into alcohol and carbon dioxide or organic acid—using yeast, bacteria, or both. Beers, ciders, kombucha, and other naturally effervescent drinks are the result of fermentation. The process of fermentation also leavens bread, as carbon dioxide is produced by active yeast. It can also be a method of preserving goods—resulting in delicious foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and yogurt. Harvest Roots uses wild yeast in its fermentation and preservation techniques to create distinct flavors in foods that may also have medicinal benefits.

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TURKEY AND SUCH

Most every family has a host of Thanksgiving traditions and closely held recipes. Still, there is plenty of room for experimentation while still keeping up family rituals. Our friends at Local Palate, a print and online publication focusing on Southern culinary history and culture, share this recipe for a turkey dry rub. It is a slightly different take on a conventional seasoning mix—but still in keeping with a familiar flavor profile.

You can utilize a dry rub whether you opt to roast or fry your holiday turkey. We recommend using this recipe to dry brine (or pre-season) your bird. A dry brine helps season a turkey much in the way that a traditional wet brine does, but without the water. With a dry brine, you rub the seasonings directly into the meat and skin, then let the bird rest in the refrigerator—at least overnight.

A large bird like a whole turkey can be easily overcooked and made dry. Applying seasonings in advance draws out the turkey’s juices, which are then reabsorbed, adding moisture and flavor. The larger the piece of meat, the more time required for an effective brine. You can begin the process by seasoning the turkey a day or two in advance. The thawed and seasoned turkey should rest—uncovered or lightly covered—to keep the skin dry, making for a deliciously crispy skin when cooked.

The Local Palate’s Turkey Dry Rub

1 tablespoon coarse black pepper
1 tablespoon white pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon chili powder
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 tablespoon ground thyme
4 tablespoons paprika
4 tablespoons smoked paprika
¼ cup kosher salt

Combine all ingredients. They can be stored in a sealed container until ready for use.

When ready to season your turkey, place your bird on a large surface or cutting board. Don’t forget to check the inside of the bird’s cavity to make sure the neck and giblets have been removed. Pat the outside of the turkey dry with paper towels.

Gently loosen the skin over the breast and legs, separating it from the meat. Season the cavity using at least 2 teaspoons of the dry rub—according to your personal taste. Rub the seasoning mixture under the skin of the legs and breast. Sprinkle the remaining spices over the skin of the turkey. Refrigerate, breast side up, in a roasting pan for 1-3 days.

You can cook your turkey using any method without patting it dry.

SHORT STACK EDITIONS

Short Stack Editions is a beautiful series of small-format, hand-bound publications that are half cookbook, half food magazine. Each 4 1/2” x 7 1/2” edition is inspired by a single ingredient and written by an array of chefs, cookbook authors, and food writers. To sum it up, Short Stack Editions are a food-lovers’ pocket-sized dream—and are as functional as they are collectible. (Our staff has been poring over the volumes since their arrival at The Factory.)

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THE BROAD FORK

In his last cookbook, A New Turn in the South, Hugh Acheson won us over with his focus on community, sustainability, and organic products. We so agree with his “Message About Community” in that book that we refer to it often in conversations about our own work and how to set standards for what is important in our work:

“My mantra is this: local first, sustainable second, organic third. Local has impact and impact produces change. Change is the process of making the farming sustainable, and once sustainable, the next step is certified organically grown.

The demand for immediate and complete change by some food advocates is one that just is not feasible for most farmers and one that the average consumer cannot yet afford. Small steps will win this race and those first small steps are about your local sphere. The small steps that you take as a consumer are multifold: Shop at your farmer’s market, buy local crafts and art, frequent local independent restaurants, buy locally roasted coffee, buy native plants, learn how to garden, don’t eat overly processed foods, know the person who raises your eggs. This has nothing to do with a political stance and everything to do with a community stance. I am not a fanatic, just a believer. I believe in the place we live and in finding ways to make it great every day. I am endlessly enamored of my local sphere, my community.”

A New Turn in the South was a great marriage of the practical + the anecdotal + the delicious that we were delighted to receive his most recent cookbook, The Broad Fork: Recipes for the Wide World of Vegetables and Fruits. This cookbook (along with A New Turn in the South) was photographed by our dear friend, Rinne Allen—who is also a frequent collaborator of Acheson’s.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE BROAD FORK

The Broad Fork maintains Acheson’s relatable tone with the same goal of making good food unintimidating. The idea for this most recent cookbook was hatched at a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) produce pickup, when a neighbor stopped Hugh for advice on how to use some of the lesser-known vegetables in that month’s box. Or, as Hugh remembers it, “What the hell do I do with kohlrabi?”

If, like us, you’ve ever subscribed to a CSA you know that your box of produce can be filled with surprising, unfamiliar, or an overabundance of one or more vegetables. Some days you get a sort-of veggie anxiety, thinking: what is the best way to use celery root? Or how am I ever going to eat all of this squash? This cookbook is perfectly aligned for those committed to using fresh produce, whether from a CSA, a local farmer’s market, or the grocery store. There are (seriously) about 200 recipes included focusing on around 50 ingredients, broken down by season and by vegetable—which helps you assess your vegetable haul and make a plan for the week’s meals. This cookbook is nothing if not comprehensible and relatable.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE BROAD FORK

Just as she did with A New Turn in the South, Rinne blends her style with Acheson’s, using his handwriting in the photographs and design to make the book feel more handmade and relatable. Most of the recipes are accompanied by her stunning full-color photographs that make us want to head to the farmer’s market ASAP.

Get your copy of Hugh Acheson’s The Broad Fork: Recipes for the Wide World of Vegetables and Fruits.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE BROAD FORK

SUMMERLAND: ANNE QUATRANO

A year ago last week, I wrote about Anne Stiles Quatrano and her cookbook, Summerland on our Journal. I mentioned how we were waiting for the perfect time to host her for our Friends of the Café Dinner Series.

We are excited to (finally) announce that Anne will be joining us in October at The Factory, as the guest chef for our Friends of the Café Dinner. This dinner will celebrate a new collaboration between Southern Makers and the Oxford American Magazine. (Look for more about this special evening on our Journal coming soon.) The event will bring together makers, artisans, and creatives from all across the southeast region—like-minded individuals making the South an amazing place to work, eat, play, and create.

This week I will be making the four-hour drive from Florence to Atlanta to spend some time with Anne, as we work on a special collaboration for the upcoming dinner. I can’t wait.

ALABAMA CHANIN – SUMMERLAND: ANNE QUATRANO

So today, in honor of the exciting announcement, we revisit Anne and Summerland:

James Beard award-winning chef and restaurateur Anne Quatrano is enthusiastic about food and community—passions I admire and write about often here on our Journal. Around her home-base of Atlanta, Georgia, she is referred to “Queen Anne” and is the city’s “undisputed Grande dame” of the farm-to-table movement according to The Local Palate. It makes sense; Anne owns and operates six of Atlanta’s most celebrated restaurants, including: Bacchanalia, Quinones at Bacchanalia, Star Provisions, Provisions To Go, Floataway Café, and (newly-opened) Little Bacch.

Anne was raised in Connecticut and attended culinary school in California, where she met her husband and business partner, Clifford Harrison. After school, they relocated to the East Coast, but decided to journey to the South in the early 1990s. Anne had family from Georgia, and Atlanta seemed like the perfect Southern city to make their home-base, as it was becoming a cultural and culinary hub at the time. Although they work in Atlanta, they live on Summerland Farm near Cartersville, Georgia, a property that has been owned by Quatrano’s family for five generations. Anne makes the 80-mile roundtrip to commute to Atlanta every day, because she “can’t imagine living anywhere else.” Summerland is where she and Clifford grow and source food, host gatherings, and delve into true Southern hospitality.

ALABAMA CHANIN – SUMMERLAND: ANNE QUATRANO

Much to our delight, Anne has released a book of recipes celebrating the South, sustainable food, and life on the farm. Summerland: Recipes for Celebrating Southern Hospitality focuses on eating seasonally, and each chapter is associated with a specific month, kicking off with September—perfect timing. I’m looking forward to trying her October cocktail, the Mint Julep. Anne notes that “many people think of the mint julep as a spring or summer drink, associated in particular with the Kentucky Derby. But the brightness of the mint with the warmth of the bourbon is just as appropriate for the fall.”

Summerland is filled with beautiful photography of the farm and food, and features hundreds of mouth-watering recipes perfect for entertaining. When browsing through the book, I was jealous to see that Anne and Clifford have an Airstream trailer on the farm just beyond their peach orchard. (It has long been a dream of mine to own an Airstream—the possibilities are endless: home office, design space, or just a good spot to read a book and nap.) Anne serves cocktails to her guests from her Airstream and has even built a makeshift patio for the trailer from wooden pallets. She is resourceful in every way.

Anne’s recipes offer up ultimate comfort, and any home cook should be comfortable following her simple approaches for creating delicious menus. She even offers bread and base recipes in the back—a very useful resource.

ALABAMA CHANIN – SUMMERLAND: ANNE QUATRANO

You can purchase Summerland here. Reserve yours today, as our dinners have been selling out quickly. More to come in the following weeks about our upcoming dinner…

IN THE KITCHEN: RAY EAMES

…the role of the architect, or the designer, is that of a very good, thoughtful host, all of whose energy goes into trying to anticipate the needs of his guests—those who enter the building and use the objects in it. – Charles Eames

Our favorite Eames quote above is now on our café tables, the production cutting room, and displayed front and center on our design room inspiration board. I looked at the pages above and tried to imagine what Charles and Ray would have served in their gorgeous mid-century kitchen. The kitchens of my 1960s childhood were inspired (through trickle-down design) by Charles and Ray Eames—who sought specifically to target the needs of the average American family.

And the American family was changing from the mid-1950s through the 1960s and 1970s. Where cookbooks in the 1950s advised women to have dinner ready for their husbands when they got home from work, moving into the 1960s they began to offer recipes for busy moms. You could now make dinner by opening cans and boxes of prepared foods. That meant a lot of casseroles and inventing creative ways to use canned foods like soup, tuna, and even SPAM. The food fads of the day leant a sense of the exotic and the exciting to the dining room. Fondue, Chinese woks, Julia Child’s advocacy of French cooking, and…all Jell-O everything—brought about food inventions the likes of which had never been seen.

For those who want to relive the good old days of Chicken a la King, ambrosia or gelatin salads, meatballs with grape jelly, onion soup dip, cheese balls, or Baked Alaska, we recommend visiting Mid-Century Menu or, my personal favorite, White Trash Cooking—for a treasure of Jell-O based recipes.

For everything else, we defer to the queen of the Mid-century kitchen: Miss Julia Child.

 

CANNING CALENDAR

The process of canning and preserving is just one of the “living arts” that we are thrilled to see making a comeback. This year at The Factory Café, we have set ourselves the goal to “put-up” as much of the bounty of summer as we possibly can. (Not to mention my plans for my own backyard.) Our kitchen staff is constantly searching for ways to further source organic and local ingredients. Part of that solution means growing herbs, tomatoes, and other vegetables on-site; canning as much locally grown produce is another.

Last summer we made my Gram Perkins’ recipe for 14-Day Pickles for our café Egg Salad and, unfortunately, ran out of pickles by November. This coming summer we plan to, well, make better plans.

We are starting with the canning calendar below to save our harvest at its peak and preserve only the freshest garden fare. (Please note, the calendar below is tailored for the Southeastern U.S., but you can look for more specific information on your region or zone on The Old Farmer’s Almanac website.)

Find more information and resources on home canning at the National Center for Home Food Preservation website. We also recommend the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life for further inspiration.

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DETOX 2015

In 2011, and just before my 50th birthday, I publicly—on this Journal—declared a detox. I don’t really like to write much about my private life, as Alabama Chanin has grown into something so much bigger than me. And, truth-be-told, I am a rather shy and private person. However, I forged ahead and wrote in the second post:

“I felt reluctant to continue writing about my detox after the first post as I thought that it could be, frankly, a bit boring. Each of us has visited a site where the writer has a fondness to overshare about their eating habits and diet: each morsel eaten, photos of unmentionable detox attributes, things that we really don’t want to know—way too much information. I don’t want to be that person.”

But, the fact of the matter is that I completed the detox, lost 25 pounds, and felt better than I had in years. At the time, I vowed to stay “on the path.” I swore to be committed, stay focused, and to forge ahead. The best laid plans of mice and me…

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HOMEMADE BITTERS (REVISITED)

In December of 2011, we started playing with bitters. Today, we explore how craft meets cocktail with Jesse Goldstein. Read on to learn how to make variations of your own of cocktail bitters and how to use this relatively simple ingredient to add complex layers to your own drinks:

It was in 1806 when the word “cocktail” was first defined in print. The Balance and Columbian Repository of Hudson, NY classified it simply as “a stimulating liquor composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters.” Fellow cocktail enthusiasts may recognize this description as what we would call an Old Fashioned today; but it’s that last, often misunderstood, ingredient listed in the lineup that has fascinated me for many years.

The term “bitters” typically refers to alcohol infused with a variety of botanical ingredients resulting in a somewhat bitter or bittersweet taste. There are really two classifications of bitters: digestive bitters like Campari are sipped neat or on the rocks after a meal; concentrated tinctures of cocktail bitters (often referred to as aromatic or potable bitters) like Angostura are used in drops and dashes in many classic and modern craft cocktails. I’ve often referred to bitters as the “salt and pepper” of cocktails, providing amazing depth and flavor that you can’t get from basic booze ingredients alone. But the more I looked into bitters, the more fascinated I became with their history, their variety and, eventually, the process of making them myself.

Though modern Americans are only recently regaining an appreciation of bitterness, our ancestors once embraced the taste of bitter flavors. Bitters were originally developed for medicinal purposes, with a history traced as far back as ancient Egypt. The proliferation of distilled spirits and an obsession with pharmacology led to even more concentrated varieties in the Middle Ages. The use of bitters for ailments continued for generations, often used as preventative medicine for everything from seasickness to heartburn.

Bolstered by the renaissance of craft cocktails, bitters have been gaining steam amongst cocktail connoisseurs for the past few years. The old standbys of Angostura and Peychaud’s have been joined by companies like Hella Bitters, Scrappy Bitters, and The Bitter Truth popping up all over the country—reimagining bitters in small batches with flavors created specifically for cocktails. These purveyors are joining classic bittering ingredients of gentian, quassia bark, dandelion, or wormwood with ingredients more commonly found in your kitchen spice cabinet. But these craft bitters are not cheap, often fetching more than $10 for a single ounce.

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COLLARDS & CARBONARA

Vino or Moonshine? Both, please. Memphis chefs, Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman’s new cookbook, Collards and Carbonara: Southern Cooking, Italian Roots published by Olive Press, showcases their distinctly Southern-Italian dishes—or is that distinctly Italian-Southern dishes? Either way, it’s fusion cuisine with an accent.

The two chefs and best friends opened the upscale Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen in Memphis back in 2008. After much acclaim, they opened a more casual sister restaurant, Hog & Hominy, right across the street in 2012. The two attended culinary school together in Charleston, South Carolina, and refined their skills in Italy. They compare their partnership to the dynamic of being in a band; they feed off one another for ideas and are always discovering inspiration together. The cookbook is a manifesto of sorts that establishes the greatness of duplicity in heritage cooking. At the root of their success is the fact that they simply love to play and work and learn and cook together. They share their stories revealing the secret to their success and the gospel of food according to these good Italian boys.

Each dish represents a new discovery and a step on their culinary pathway. The funky fusion dishes are as beautiful as they are humble. Warm pig’s ear salad with pears and Gorgonzola, fried green tomatoes with blue crab and bacon jam, gnocchi with caramelized fennel and corn; the pairings may seem unusual, but the flavors make sense together. Recipes for basic dishes like their famous boiled peanuts and pizza dough each have unlikely nuances that bring Italian and Southern American cuisines together.

COLLARDS & CARBONARA

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THE LOCAL PALATE

Based in Charleston, South Carolina, The Local Palate is a food culture publication that celebrates the region’s best culinary figures, recipes, and processes. The magazine has recently launched their digital presence, resulting in a beautiful, easy-to-navigate, and delicious website.

From The Local Palate website:

Food in the south is intrinsically connected to life in the south. It is through eating, sharing, and creating food that pleasure is evoked, connections are forged, context is offered, and history is created. Across southern states, individual interpretations of food are as varied and compelling as the people who live in our unique cities and towns. Yet the importance of food in enriching our lives, our culture, and ourselves is a concept that is universally understood.

This description of food (and life) in the South has been my experience since childhood. And since opening The Factory Café last year, I’ve witnessed firsthand how food brings people together in an entirely new context. This concept is especially true this time of the year, as family and friends begin to gather together around the table in celebration of the holidays.

I’ve bookmarked several recipes and cocktails on the website as I begin to plan my holiday gatherings, parties, and meals. Citrus Sweet Potatoes, Sugared Pecans, and the Love Holiday are sure to find their way into my kitchen (and belly) this season.

We recently caught up with the editor in chief, Maggie White, of The Local Palate, and she was kind enough to answer a few of our questions about food culture, community, recipes, and launching a new site:

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A RECIPE FOR FIGGY PUDDING

Last year, when delving into the history of holiday carols, I found myself asking a question that I’ve wondered about since my youth: What exactly is figgy pudding?

The traditional English dessert is mentioned several times in the popular carol “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” (Now bring us some figgy pudding and bring it right here), referring to the caroling traditions of 16th century England where Christmas treats and drinks were given to carolers by wealthy well-wishers as a thank you for the songs. Often, these treats included puddings.

After a bit of research, I discovered that figgy pudding is actually more cake-like in form. It is similar to modern-day Christmas puddings and plum puddings, and—like it or not—is a cousin to the unjustly maligned fruitcake. But, don’t let that keep you from trying this delicious, boozy dessert. (Yes, classic figgy pudding includes a good dose of rum and brandy—perfect for warming chilly carolers.)

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VIVIAN HOWARD + BUTTERY TURKEY

Thanksgiving is a holiday rich with memories, traditions, and foods we only eat this time of year. For about two days leading up to Thanksgiving dinner, I can guarantee that there is nearly always something either going into or coming out of my oven, and aromas both sweet and savory waft throughout the house.

Our friends at Local Palate share a love of food and storytelling through their magazine, recipes, and blog (look for more on their revamped website and a Q&A in the coming weeks). You can find quite a few delicious seasonal recipes in their catalogue (conveniently sorted by holiday), including this offering from North Carolina-based chef Vivian Howard.

“This combination of turkey, cranberry, pecan, and sorghum, will make you hide your gravy boat for a year or two. All joking aside, these components, when paired with a green bean dish and side of sweet potatoes, would compose a perfectly balanced Thanksgiving plate all by themselves. And if turkey’s not your thing, this profile works beautifully with chicken, ham, or duck.” – Chef Vivian Howard

BUTTERY TURKEY WITH WARM SORGHUM VINAIGRETTE and CITRUS SWEET POTATOES WITH PECAN CRANBERRY RELISH

–From Chef Vivian Howard of Chef & the Farmer in Kinston, North Carolina, star of the PBS show A Chef’s Life, and featured on the November 2014 cover of The Local Palate magazine 

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GETTING IN THE MOOD (AGAIN)

This post originally ran on November 12, 2011. I’m making the pie again today for our guests who will arrive in the coming days.

Happy Thanksgiving week…we’ve got lots to be thankful for.
xoNatalie

My daughter Maggie has been decorating the house for Thanksgiving this last week. In fact, she went directly from Halloween to a strange mixture of Thanksgiving and Christmas rolled into one. (Yes, our holiday tree is up and mostly decorated.) All this festiveness—along with the sound of too loud holiday music and too many left-over pumpkins—has moved us directly from unicorn costumes to Thanksgiving delights.

My friend Stacy orders tamales from Texas to celebrate the holidays. I have an uncle that believes pilgrims would have preferred steaks and potatoes so he spends the day grilling. At the farm, we eat a load of Gulf seafood in Low-Country Boil style off of a wooden board across the tailgate of the truck. I am also somewhat of a traditionalist at heart and delight in the staples—no Thanksgiving comes without dressing. (Gulf Shrimp + Dressing—you don’t know what you are missing until you have tried it!) However, despite the fact that most consider it a staple, I’ve never been one to put a pumpkin pie on my holiday table. I actually have always had a strong dislike for the most revered of Thanksgiving desserts. Then, I tried this recipe.

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FRIENDS OF THE CAFÉ + JIM ‘N NICK’S BAR-B-Q

The t-shirts for Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q read, “You can smell our butts for miles”. This was certainly the case on Friday, October 10, as their giant meat smoker nestled up to Alabama Chanin’s front entry and sent out the signal for our final “Friends of the Cafe” dinner of 2014, featuring chef Drew Robinson and Nicholas Pihakis. The two were in town—along with members of the Fatback Collective—to provide lucky diners with an exclusive, elevated barbecue experience.

Good People Brewing Company provided craft beers for each course. The Birmingham, Alabama, based brewery showcased a few of their “Ales from the Heart of Dixie.” There may not be a dinner more currently in demand across the United States than beer and barbecue; on this night, we had the best of best.

FRIENDS OF THE CAFÉ + JIM 'N NICK'S BAR-B-Q

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HISTORY OF DEVILED EGGS (+ A RECIPE)

It takes a special kind of food to require it’s own specific food transportation system. Anyone who has ever attempted to serve – and certainly travel with – deviled eggs knows that eggs resting on an ordinary plate will end up smashed, flattened, or in the floor. I personally have at least 3 different deviled egg plates – one plastic, one ceramic, and a “fancy” glass one for special events. As a child, I would rush to the buffet table at every church dinner to get the biggest egg. As an adult, I ration out only one on my Thanksgiving dinner plate, but have been known to sneak extras when no one is looking.

My grandmother’s were always my favorite growing up, perhaps because they were made with dill pickle relish and an extra spoonful of mayonnaise. I avoided my aunt’s because she made her eggs with sweet pickles, which I strongly disliked. Our neighbor (who called them “angel eggs” to avoid association with wickedness) topped her eggs with paprika, which seemed elegant, colorful, and exciting. But—at heart—the deviled egg itself is not particularly fancy and has many incarnations. These days, I like them all.

The basic deviled egg is hard boiled, shelled, and halved. Each half is filled with a scoop of the hard-boiled yolk mixed with ingredients like mayonnaise, mustard, and pickle relish and served cold. Each family seems to have their own variation that might include vinegar, paprika, chili powder, or even kimchi or Sriracha chili sauce.

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SUMMERLAND + ANNE STILES QUATRANO

James Beard award-winning chef and restaurateur Anne Quatrano is enthusiastic about food and community—passions I admire and write about often here on our Journal. Around her home-base of Atlanta, Georgia, she is referred to “Queen Anne” and is the city’s “undisputed Grande dame” of the farm-to-table movement according to The Local Palate. It makes sense; Anne owns and operates six of Atlanta’s most celebrated restaurants, including: Bacchanalia, Quinones at Bacchanalia, Star Provisions, Provisions To Go, Floataway Café, and Abbattoir.

Anne was raised in Connecticut and attended culinary school in California, where she met her husband and business partner, Clifford Harrison. After school, they relocated to the East Coast, but decided to journey to the South in the early 1990s. Anne had family from Georgia, and Atlanta seemed like the perfect Southern city to make their home-base, as it was becoming a cultural and culinary hub at the time. Although they work in Atlanta, they live on Summerland Farm near Cartersville, Georgia, a property that has been owned by Quatrano’s family for five generations. Anne makes the 80-mile roundtrip to commute to Atlanta every day, because she “can’t imagine living anywhere else.” Summerland is where she and Clifford grow and source food, host gatherings, and delve into true Southern hospitality.

Much to our delight, Anne has released a book of recipes celebrating the South, sustainable food, and life on the farm. Summerland: Recipes for Celebrating Southern Hospitality focuses on eating seasonally, and each chapter is associated with a specific month, kicking off with September—perfect timing. I’m looking forward to trying her October cocktail, the Mint Julep. Anne notes that “many people think of the mint julep as a spring or summer drink, associated in particular with the Kentucky Derby. But the brightness of the mint with the warmth of the bourbon is just as appropriate for the fall.”

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THINK (RE)THINK: THE FACTORY CAFÉ

From time-to-time, we write about the business of running a business: about how we make decisions, about how many times decisions just make themselves from lack of decision-making, and about how those decisions sometimes work—and often don’t. The truth of the matter is that running a business (or a life, or a family) is about thinking about something—and then rethinking it again—and then rethinking it again. So it is with our menu at The Factory Café.

In some ways, it’s hard to believe that The Factory—including the store and the café— has only been open since November of 2013. The Factory space feels like such an important part of our studio; in reality, we’ve celebrated our connection to our community over and around our farm tables for less than a year.

In the kitchen, we’ve developed new recipes, presented delicious dishes from award-winning chefs, and celebrated those chefs (and an array of worthy organizations) through our Friends of the Café Dinner Series.

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FRIENDS OF THE CAFÉ, SOUTHERN FOODWAYS, AND ASHLEY CHRISTENSEN

Alabama Chanin’s Friends of the Café Piggy Bank Dinner for Southern Foodways Alliance, featuring Ashley Christensen, was a singing success last Thursday. Not only did the ingredients sing on the plate, but our diners have adopted the habit of singing to our featured chefs. This time, Ashley Christensen was serenaded with a round of Happy Birthday after an enthusiastic round of applause for her inventive take on Southern cuisine.

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Q+A WITH ASHLEY CHRISTENSEN

Last week, we introduced you to Ashley Christensen: chef, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and badass. She is August’s featured chef in our café (and collaborator for our upcoming Piggy Bank Dinner). Ashley recently spoke to us about good food, sustainability, community, and what she has planned next.

AC: Congratulations on your recent James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southeast. How did you celebrate? (We hope you took time to celebrate…) 

We had a total of 22 folks sitting with us at the ceremony, so we kind of brought the party with us, which was really fun. After the awards, we decided to make the party about simply having a good time with our crew. We called in a pile of to-go Shake Shack burgers, ordered a bunch of champagne and crowded about 40 friends into our little room at the Ace Hotel. We followed this celebration by attending Jamie Bissonnette’s victory party at Toro, and then the Nomad’s epic party at the Highline Ballroom. It was more perfect than I could ever find the words to describe.

AC: You currently operate five restaurants in the Raleigh, North Carolina area – with more on the way. Do you have a different role at each establishment? How do you balance your roles at each? And how have those roles changed as you continue to grow?

In addition to being the proprietor, I’m the Executive Chef for the company, but I consider my most important role at this point to be “lead catalyst”. I have lots of ideas for new projects, and for refining existing projects. My job is to make sure that we ask of ourselves to improve each day, and to see the opportunity in studying the details that guide us to do so. We have an amazing crew of folks who make it happen every day, on every level. It is also my job to provide the tools and support that make them feel competent, empowered, and appreciated.

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THE FACTORY CAFÉ CHEF SERIES: ASHLEY CHRISTENSEN

I am just going to say it: Ashley Christensen is a badass. (And there are many who would agree with this sentiment.) I could say plenty of nice, lovely things about her and they would all be true. But, if I’m being honest, that’s the first word that comes to mind when I think of her: badass. How else could she open and operate five successful restaurants (with more on the way) AND walk away with the 2014 James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef in the Southeast award – all while still in her thirties. You have to wonder if Ashley operates at any speeds slower than an all-out sprint.

In today’s food-obsessed culture, five restaurants equates to a virtual culinary kingdom. And yet, somehow, Ashley still manages to seem real and relatable. Perhaps more importantly, the food is approachable and delicious. She is an actual presence in each of her North Carolina-based restaurants: Poole’s Diner, Beasley’s Chicken + Honey, Chuck’s, Fox Liquor Bar, Joule Coffee, and the soon-to-be-opened Death and Taxes. Crowds have been known to line up around the block at Poole’s, a former pie shop turned diner, where the egalitarian approach does not allow for reservations; it’s first come, first served. I once heard the story of Ashley driving her car to the front of Poole’s and serving drinks from her opened trunk on a busy night with an especially long wait time. That’s what I mean: badass.

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FRIENDS OF THE CAFÉ, SOUTHERN FOODWAYS, AND VIVIAN HOWARD

Last Friday night, we hosted our second “Friends of the Café” dinner, which also served as our first Piggy Bank Dinner fundraiser for the Southern Foodways Alliance (SFA). Chef Vivian Howard of Chef & the Farmer restaurant and the Peabody-award winning television series A Chef’s Life traveled to The Factory from North Carolina for an evening of delicious food, cocktails, much laughter and lively conversation, and music, performed by friend and songbird, Shonna Tucker.

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Vivian’s show, A Chef’s Life, focuses on regional food traditions and explores classic Southern ingredients. Friday’s dinner highlighted the story of our own local farmers and their fresh ingredients, with Vivian’s Eastern Carolina twist.  Each course was accompanied by a wine pairing, chosen by Harry Root (Bacchus Incarnate) of Grassroots Wine.

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I love what Christi Britten—one of our dinner guests and the author of Dirt Platewrites in her review of the evening:

Pretty much, Vivian Howard gives a damn. She gives a damn how the food she serves is raised, prepared, cooked, presented, eaten, enjoyed, and thought about. She gives a damn about her community’s food culture and wants to suck up as much knowledge as she can about where their food comes from and how to make it. She gives a damn about the farmers that work hard every single day to feed a community as well as their families.

She has, with her own hands, butchered whole animals to use from snout to tail in her restaurant. She speaks with a tone of reverence and authority over the food she creates. And basically she is a food medium. She is confident, yet humble and puts us all into a place where we can visualize the care taken to prepare what we put in our mouths.

This farm to table dinner celebrated local farms and Southern food culture by bringing together the summer bounty into one meal among a diverse community of eaters.

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COMMUNITY COOKBOOKS (AND COOKS)

Community cookbooks – collections of recipes gathered by churches, women’s societies, rotary clubs, and other regional clubs and foundations – have been the foundation of home kitchens across America for decades. These collections often present an air of nostalgia, using old-fashioned techniques, offbeat ingredients, and occasionally include really great anecdotes. They are—in their best versions—a direct reflection of the region of their origin and an admirable labor of love. The recipes are seldom fancy, and most often highlight the kind of meal that is made in an average kitchen on an average evening by an average cook who finds an epiphany of enlightenment in a great recipe. Even more captivating is the community cookbook filled with family recipes passed down from prior generations and lovingly shared with the community at large.

Caxton Press in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania published what is believed to be the very first charity cookbook in 1864, during the time of the Civil War. This assortment, titled A Poetical Cook-Book, by Maria J. Moss, was filled with foods common to that era, like leg of mutton, mince pies, johnnycakes, and hasty pudding. The book was sold to provide funds for field hospitals and aid wounded soldiers.

Many, like the ones I was given by my mother, grandmothers, and aunts, are overflowing with sense memories of a location and an era. While similarities exist among the cookbooks, there are distinct differences between what the women of the Virginia Eastern Star were making in the 1920s and the dishes prepared by the late 1960s Junior League of Coastal Louisiana. Regardless of the when and the where, there is copious information on what the (mostly) women were like in each specific time and place. The ingredients tell a story of rural vs. urban landscape and wealthy vs. working class cooks. If a recipe called for a pinch or a handful, you might assume that the writer was a seasoned home cook who learned passed down recipes and perfected dishes by taste, not by measurement. If a recipe was “eggless” or “butterless”, you might suppose that it originated during wartime, when certain foods were rationed.

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VIVIAN HOWARD’S BLUEBERRY BBQ CHICKEN FLATBREAD

Blueberries have made their way to peak season here in Alabama. While they have many health benefits, their taste and convenience are equally valuable. Ever since Maggie and I planted a bush in the backyard, there are days that we eat them by the handful. We’ve been serving a variety from our local farmers’ market along with our café’s crepes (a not-so guilty pleasure).

We debut our monthly menu curated by Peabody award-winning chef Vivian Howard. Vivian provided us with an array of seasonal, flavorful dishes from her restaurant Chef & the Farmer, including the (absolutely) delicious recipe below – Blueberry BBQ Chicken Flatbread.

Stop by the café during the month of July to experience tastes from Vivian’s repertoire, as well as beloved recipes from The SFA Community Cookbook. Also, make plans to join us on the evening of July 25 for A Piggy Bank Dinner fundraiser for the Southern Foodways Alliance, featuring Vivian and friends.

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The recipe below is straight from Vivian’s kitchen at Chef & the Farmer to recreate the dish in your home kitchen.

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THE FACTORY CAFÉ CHEF SERIES: VIVIAN HOWARD

I feel a certain kinship with Vivian Howard, even though we’ve never met. We both left home at an early age, finding big lives and successful living elsewhere; we also both followed our inspirations as they directed us back to our regional homes, where we’ve found hard-won fulfillment. Vivian works with food as her medium, much in the way that Alabama Chanin works with cotton jersey. She explores regional food traditions and seeks to translate them into a modern light.

We are thrilled that Vivian Howard will be the featured chef for the month of July in our café, and also visiting us here at The Factory on July 25th for our second “Friends of the Café” Piggy Bank Dinner, benefiting the Southern Foodways Alliance.

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HOT AND HOT TOMATO SALAD

This month, we launched our “Friends of the Café” Dinner Series with James Beard award-winning chef Chris Hastings. When searching for like-minded chefs and restaurants to collaborate with for our ongoing chef series in the café, Chris was one of the first people who came to mind. His dedication to locally-sourced ingredients is something we value highly here at Alabama Chanin, and it was wonderful to see (and sample) his work at The Factory.

A big hit of the evening was the Hot and Hot Tomato Salad, a fresh and colorful take on an old Southern favorite: succotash. Guests watched in awe as Chris and members of the Alabama Chanin team put together mouthwatering layers of the tomato salad. The special version of the salad presented at our dinner was topped with fresh Alabama Gulf shrimp (and bacon), and served with fried okra on the side.

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TOMATOES WITH BASIL + GOAT CHEESE

Nothing tastes like summer quite like a fresh, home-grown tomato. In fact, I embark on a tomato sandwich diet each summer. While I’m still patiently waiting for my own garden plants to get ripe enough for picking, I’m enjoying the vegetables from my CSA share each week (and of course, our locally-sourced café ingredients).

Good tomatoes don’t need to be dressed up to be delicious. But, it can be difficult to source really great tomatoes – just another benefit of buying local produce and knowing your farmer. Unfortunately, most tomatoes that you find in chain grocery stores are there because they survived the journey; they were the toughest and able to maintain nice color and shape in transit. Tomatoes bred for shape, color, or endurance don’t always have the best flavor.

Chris Hastings of Hot and Hot Fish Club, whose recipes are featured in our café this month as part of our ongoing chef series, understands that delicious produce offers complex flavors. When you take the time to find quality ingredients, they shine on their own, without too much fuss.
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THE FACTORY CAFÉ CHEF SERIES: CHRIS HASTINGS + HOT AND HOT FISH CLUB

Alabama Chanin’s slow design ideals are deeply rooted in and inspired by the Slow Food Movement, whose tenets call for good, clean, and fair food for all. Local, organically sourced food echoes through the pages of the Hot and Hot Fish Club Cookbook by husband-and-wife team (and friends) Chris and Idie Hastings. In continuation of our Factory Café Chef Series, the café will feature recipes inspired by Chef Chris Hastings during the month of June. Additionally, we are proud to host Chris for our inaugural “Friends of the Café” Dinner Series on Thursday, June 12. He will also hold a brief discussion and sign copies of his book after the farm-to-table meal. A portion of ticket and book sales from the evening will benefit the Alabama Gulf Seafood organization.

Chris graduated from the Johnson & Wales Culinary School in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1984. After graduating, he began working for Frank Stitt, as Chef D’Cuisine of the Highlands Bar and Grill in Birmingham, Alabama. In the introduction to his cookbook, Chris describes how he and his wife later moved to California “with a trailer in tow, in 1989 journeyed three thousand miles from Birmingham, Alabama, to San Francisco—a hotbed of great food in America—in just two days.” In California, he helped Bradley Ogden launch the Lark Creek Inn in Larkspur, California, and witnessed the rise of the farm-to-table movement first hand.

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FIRST PRIZE PIES

Allison Kave, a truly creative baker and expert on all things pie related, credits her mother with her passion for food. Her mom, Rhonda Kave, is owner of Roni-Sue’s Chocolate in New York’s Essex Street Market. Growing up, Rhonda had a rather unexciting childhood filled with canned and boiled vegetables and she wanted more nutrition and excitement for her own children. Research into various cuisines led to a love of chocolate, which inspired her very own confectionery shop. All of this unbridled love of food couldn’t help but inspire Allison and her brother, Corwin, a renowned executive chef in New York City.

Like some of us, Allison did not find her calling immediately. Her route to the culinary life modeled the circuitous path her mother took. Eventually, her boyfriend encouraged her to enter the First Annual Brooklyn Pie Bake-Off – and she walked away with the award for Best Overall Pie. So, she asked: Why not make pies? In fact, Allison recently partnered with fellow baker Keavy Blueher, and together they are opening Brooklyn’s first dessert and craft cocktail bar, Butter & Scotch.

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HIDDEN KITCHENS: NASCAR (+ GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE)

We all have different definitions of comfort food—the dishes that make up those meals that leave our bellies (and our hearts) full. They are the dishes you crave when you are far from home; a hankering for something familiar and soothing. For me, this includes an array of casserole dishes, fresh garden vegetables, and my Gram Perkins’ egg salad.

When Davia and Nikki of The Kitchen Sisters agreed to be our featured chefs this month as part of our ongoing Factory Café Chef Series, I started browsing through my copy of Hidden Kitchens. Soon, I found myself totally immersed in the stories I’d heard on the radio years before. I began re-telling stories to the staff at The Factory, and we were all excited about a recipe I found in the chapter about NASCAR kitchens, titled “Slap It On the Thighs Butter Bar”—aptly named, since the ingredients called for yellow cake mix, egg, margarine, powered sugar, and cream cheese. The recipe was originally from the 25th anniversary edition of the Winston Cup Racing Wives’ Auxiliary Cookbook, published in 1989. Curious to know what other comfort food recipes from the kitchens of racing existed, we tracked down a copy of the book on Ebay.

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HIDDEN KITCHENS: THE FORAGER (+ WILD FENNEL CAKES)

Foraging is the act of searching for and gathering wild food. Perhaps you remember learning about nomadic hunters and gatherers in grade school—these early societies moved from place to place, following animals, fruits, and vegetables in order to sustain life. Modern humans followed this way of life until about ten thousand years ago, when agriculture was developed.

Today, most of the world’s hunter-gatherers (or foragers) have been displaced by farmers and pastoralists. Modern foragers often look for food in their surrounding environments, and do not move from camp to camp like their predecessors. In fact, foraging has become a livelihood for some—by sourcing wild food resources for restaurants, chefs, markets, and the like.

Below, The Kitchens Sisters share their discovery of modern-day forager Angelo Garro (and his hidden kitchen).

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IN THE (HIDDEN) KITCHEN

When I was a young girl, my mother’s mother would cook green beans for what seemed like every meal. They would be fresh from the garden when in season or, during the winter, they would come from her reserves of “put up” vegetables that had been canned and stored. By the time I was about 10, I couldn’t stand the sight of a green bean. Though it took years to reawaken, my love of green beans did eventually return.

All of this cooking and storing of green beans and the bounty of summer took place in the makeshift “outdoor kitchen” that was nothing more than a concrete platform that was the roof of my grandparents’ storm cellar. The tools of this summer pop-up kitchen included a single garden hose, several dull paring knives, and a variety of galvanized buckets and tubs that had seen the better part of several decades. Beans, fruits, and vegetables of all sorts were initially washed and left to air dry on the shaded expanse of the concrete roof, which remained cool from the deep burrow below in the hot summers.  Kids and adults alike gathered there in random pairs to shuck, peel, and prod those fruits and vegetables into a cleaner, more manageable form that would then be moved from the outdoors to the “real” kitchen inside. In her small kitchen, my grandmother would boil, serve, save, can, freeze, and generally use every scrap of food that came from the garden—a tended plot large enough to serve extended family and close friends. The preserved treasures would then move from the house, back outside and into the cool depths of the storm cellar to await their consumption—just below the makeshift kitchen, and alongside a family of spiders and crickets who made that dark place home.

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I wasn’t conscious of it at the time, but by offering up that summer kitchen to any willing hand (and by serving all of those green beans), my grandmother was providing love and nourishment the only way she knew how—while teaching all of us kids the usefulness and practicality of growing our own food. Stories unfolded over those buckets of produce, and because of her patience and generous time sitting on the edge of that storm cellar, I learned that food could be used to pass down a love of nature, the earth, family tradition, and culture.

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THE FACTORY CAFÉ CHEF SERIES: THE KITCHEN SISTERS

This May, Alabama Chanin is featuring two of my personal heroines (and, now, dear friends) as part of our ongoing Chef Series at the café. They might not be chefs, but Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva are The Kitchen Sisters—independent producers who create radio stories for NPR and other public broadcast outlets. Davia and Nikki are two of the most genuine and real women I know. Without their dedication to telling the real story, I would not be the person I am today. Route 66 changed my perception of storytelling in the autumn of 1994. I remember the first moment I heard their tracks; in the third story of a rented house on a square in Savannah, Georgia. Just like that my life changed.

Davia and Nikki met and began collaborating in the late 1970s, hosting a weekly radio program in Santa Cruz, California. Their name was taken from two eccentric brothers—Kenneth and Raymond Kitchen—who were stonemasons in Santa Cruz in the 1940s. One night, they were discussing the Kitchen Brothers, who were featured in a book about Santa Cruz architects, as prep for an interview with the book’s author—while also cooking dinner for a group of people on the commune where Nikki lived—and got caught up in legends of local masonry (chimneys, yogi temples, Byzantine bungalows…), and food prep fell to the wayside. Dinner that evening was a disaster, and The Kitchen Sisters were (laughingly) born.

Oral histories heavily influenced their style of radio production. Over the years, they have produced a number of series, such as Lost & Found Sound, The Sonic Memorial Project, The Hidden World of Girls, and Hidden Kitchens. Regardless of topic, Davia and Nikki find a way to build community through storytelling.

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THE BLACKBERRY FARM COOKBOOK

For several years now, Alabama Chanin has drawn ideals from the Slow Food movement (Slow Design is rooted in the tenets of the movement)—a philosophy we share with Blackberry Farm. We are currently featuring some of their goods and recipes on our café menu and are excited to be holding a Weekend Away Workshop there this June.

A few years ago, Sam Beall, proprietor of Blackberry Farm, wrote a cookbook that he hoped would reflect what he and others involved at Blackberry Farm experience every day and that would inspire readers to not only enjoy the recipes born from the Farm but encourage them to “savor [their] own region, meal by meal.”

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BLACKBERRY FARM’S GREEN TOMATO PIE

It is no secret that Southerners love green tomatoes. We fry them, pickle them, stew them, bake them in pies, and even write books about them. Readily available at the beginning and ending of each summer season, this under-ripe fruit has a firm flesh and an acidic, sour taste—which allows them to be used in an array of dishes.

The chefs at Blackberry Farm suggest selecting medium-size green tomatoes, since larger ones can have woody, inedible cores and clumps of bitter seeds.

From The Foothills Cuisine of Blackberry Farm, page 109:

“Here is our classic twist on a classic Southern favorite, red tomato layered pie. We borrow the flavor and textures of the traditional accompaniments to fried catfish- tart lemon, creamy tartar sauce, and fried hush puppies- and present them in an untraditional way: Green tomato stands for lemon to provide the acid, buttermilk mayonnaise and cheese provide the creamy richness of the tartar sauce, and the flaky crust that holds it all together stands in for the hush puppies.

The lard and the buttermilk contribute flakiness and great flavor to this pie crust, but the real secret to its tenderness is the rolling method. Folding the dough onto itself and rolling it out several times forms thin layers within the dough. When the fat melts in the heat of the oven, the evaporation of moisture contained in the tiny space between the layers forces each layer to rise, just like in puff pastry.”

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BLACKBERRY FARM’S ZUCCHINI CAESAR SALAD

This month, we are featuring Blackberry Farm and Chef Joseph Lenn as part of our ongoing Chef Series here at The Factory. As promised, we are sharing our favorite recipes with you; this week, a twist on a simple spring salad.

From The Foothills Cuisine of Blackberry Farm, page 121:

“When the garden and farmer’s markets are overflowing with zucchini, it’s time for this salad, which pairs lovely long threads of sweet raw zucchini with a creamy yet light dressing and Blackberry’s twist on Italian frico, made with our own Singing Brook cheese (Pecerino Toscano is a very appropriate substitute).”

The café is serving Blackberry Farm’s Zucchini Caesar Salad alongside our Quiche Lorraine and local greens. Stop by The Factory Café this week and explore our menu, or recreate the tasty dish yourself.

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INTRODUCING THE FACTORY CAFÉ CHEF SERIES: JOSEPH LENN + BLACKBERRY FARM

Beginning today, Alabama Chanin is launching a Chef Series for The Factory Café. Each month, we will feature seasonal dishes on our menu from chefs (or restaurants) that share our values of celebrating place, artisanal craftsmanship of all kinds, and, simply said, good food.

Our focus through these collaborations will be on regional chefs and regionally-inspired cuisine—dishes that we can recreate in our café by locally sourcing ingredients. In the upcoming year, The Factory will host brunches, dinners, book signings, and even cooking and cocktail workshops with an array of chefs.

A few years ago, I made an extraordinary trip to Blackberry Farm, located in beautiful Walland, Tennessee, on the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. Ever since that first journey (thanks to friends at the Southern Foodways Alliance), I’ve had a deep appreciation and respect for the artisans and chefs working at the Farm—and have loved using their cookbooks in my own kitchen.

From making biscuits to hosting an upcoming Weekend Away Workshop, my relationship with Blackberry Farm has grown over the years. So, I was thrilled when Chef Joseph Lenn and Blackberry Farm agreed to launch our Chef Series in the month of April.

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20 YEARS @ RURAL STUDIO + SCOTT PEACOCK

I have a deep respect and admiration for the work happening at Rural Studio, located in Hale County, Alabama. Founded in 1993 by the late Samuel “Sambo” Mockbee and D.K. Ruth, the studio is now celebrating its 20th anniversary.

After having the chance to visit the stunning Yancey Chapel in 2008, I noted on the Journal that “the work and life of Samuel Mockbee is a yardstick for us to hold up to our lives each and every day to take measure of the road that we walk on this planet.”

I will be heading to Hale County this weekend, for a special dinner and pig roast as part of their yearlong 20th anniversary celebration. My friend (and acclaimed chef) Scott Peacock is preparing the menu and family-style meal. The evening will be a celebration of Rural Studio and an acknowledgement of their ongoing community project at Rural Studio Farm—where students are working to construct a greenhouse, irrigation system, planter beds, and more. In fact, a few of the vegetables that will be served over the weekend were grown by students at the farm. The Hale County community is contributing to the dinner, providing fresh hen eggs for deviled eggs and the local pig that was raised to be roasted just for this occasion. Friends of Rural Studio are also making contributions—Alabama Chanin donated 170 organic cotton jersey napkins for the event, which students of the studio will manipulate and design for the dinner. It will be an evening filled with laughter, community, delicious food, and storytelling.

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GRAM PERKINS’ EGG SALAD + HOMEMADE PICKLES

My Gram Perkins passed down several recipes to me through the years. I keep most of them in a recipe book my mother compiled of family recipes. From Chocolate Pie to Thanksgiving dressing, Gram Perkins’ delicious Southern dishes continue to make their way onto my table—always tasting amazing, but not quite as good as when she made them.

One of the simplest (and most beloved) recipes she gave to me was for egg salad, featuring homemade Fourteen-Day Pickles (also known as sweet or bread-and-butter pickles). I think of it as one of the ultimate comfort foods. When I was a child, Gram Perkins often served it to me as a summer lunch or afternoon snack. I have vivid memories of sitting in her kitchen, watching her prepare her famous egg salad sandwich for me—always with extra pickles in a jar on the table.

After my Gram Perkins passed away, my granddaddy, lovingly known as Perk, continued making the famous Fourteen-Day Pickles. My mother carries on the family tradition today by gifting pints of these treasures every holiday season. Egg salad is definitely better with this homemade version but there are great bread-and-butter pickles available on the market today that you can use for your homemade egg salad. We recently taste tested the Blackberry Farm version and found it delicious.

No one really knows when egg salad itself was created, but it became a popular luncheon salad in the early 1800s, after French chef Marie-Antoine Carême invented mayonnaise as we know it today. A sister to tuna and chicken salad, egg salad is a nice option for those looking for a simple lunch, packed with protein.

We’ve started serving Gram Perkins’ egg salad in The Factory Café, complete with homemade pickles, made from her recipe. Stop by for lunch and try it served open-faced on house made ciabatta.

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THE HISTORY OF LANE (DRIVE) CAKE

Alabama Chanin’s first-ever sewing workshop took place in 2008 alongside a seminar on Southern cooking, organized and presented by our friend and collaborator, Angie Mosier. While the sewing participants stitched and chatted, the food preparers fried up some chicken, steamed collard greens and made pot likker, then baked the most delicious Lane Cake. At each meal, Angie explained the history of each dish and its significance within Southern culture. This is where I first learned the details behind one of Alabama’s culinary specialties, the Lane Cake.

Lane Cake was created by Emma Rylander Lane of Clayton, Alabama, as her entry into a county fair baking competition in Columbus, Georgia. She originally called the recipe, “Prize Cake,” but eventually leant her name to the dessert for all posterity. She self-published a cookbook called Some Good Things to Eat in 1898 and included the recipe as one of her featured desserts. Lane Cake is a white, layered sponge cake (originally designed for 4 layers) iced with a frosting that includes coconut, raisins, pecans, and bourbon. It is often found in the South at receptions, holiday dinners, or wedding showers. Chef Scott Peacock writes in The Gift of Southern Cooking that he was served a Lane Cake every year on his birthday.

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CHICKEN STEW

As a Southerner and a cook, I often find myself included in lively debates about regional cuisine, long-winded discussions of the dozens of types of barbecue preparations, cornbread recipe swaps, or conversations on the perfect biscuit dough. Those of us who love food treasure the dishes we were raised eating and love to swap recipes and tips.

In my travels, I have done my fair share of boasting about my hometown’s specialties. One dish that I speak of frequently, that is such a big component of The Shoals’ local food culture, is chicken stew. And almost every time I mention it (outside of my home region), no one else in the room seems to know quite what I’m describing.

“Is it like a vegetable soup?” Not exactly. “A Brunswick stew?” Hmm. Not really.

So, I gradually came to understand that this dish—that was as ubiquitous to every neighborhood kitchen as cornbread or tea—wasn’t a staple meal for the rest of the world. In fact, it really doesn’t exist much outside of our small region of the Tennessee Valley.

Truthfully, the origins of chicken stew cannot be traced. And, no one can explain exactly why it is so specific to this region. I remember being told by an aunt that, once upon a time, chickens were kept for the eggs they produced. By the time a family killed a chicken for its meat, it was a “tough old bird,” only suitable for stews and other slow-cooked dishes. As with many rural households, you made the most of what you had and, logically, a stew fed more mouths than one fried chicken. Most likely, as with most regional foods, the recipe was created when poverty crossed paths with farmers, native people, and West African-style dishes. The result, in this case, is a dish that’s similar to existing recipes but that remains explicitly exclusive to one place.
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HOMEMADE MINI MOON PIES

Our café kitchen has been testing, developing, and tasting new items for our dessert menu. We are intent on staying true to foods that reflect our roots, incorporating traditional Southern elements into decadent dishes.

Moon pies are treats that fit the criteria of being both definitively Southern and decadent. For those who have not yet had the pleasure of experiencing one, a moon pie is a sandwich cookie consisting of two layers of a soft graham cookie, a marshmallow filling, and a flavored coating, typically chocolate.

The first Moon Pies were made by the Chattanooga Bakery in 1917 and were based upon requests from hungry coal miners. When a Chattanooga Bakery salesman visited a company store that catered to coal miners, the miners told him they wanted something solid and filling, because they often didn’t get time for a full lunch. When the salesman asked them how big the snack should be, a miner framed his hands around the moon hanging in the sky and said, “About that big.”

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A CAKE FOR GEORGIA GILMORE

In celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. week, we turn the spotlight to one of the unsung heroes (or heroines, rather) of the Civil Rights Movement: Georgia Gilmore.

Georgia (whom we have written about before) lived and worked in Montgomery, Alabama, and was a true servant to the cause of the movement. Georgia was a big lady with a big personality—frankly put, she didn’t take any bull from anybody. She worked as a midwife, as well as a cook at the National Lunch Company. After Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to leave her seat on a bus in December of 1955, a group of black ministers and community leaders formed the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA)—and initiated the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Led by Martin Luther King, Jr., the Association often held secret meetings around the city. As soon as Georgia heard of Rosa Parks’ arrest on the radio, she joined the MIA, determined to aid the effort in any way she could.

Outspoken and feisty, Georgia let her disapproval of the discriminatory bus drivers be known—an action that got her fired from her job at the cafeteria. When that happened, Dr. King and other leaders helped her set up a restaurant in her home kitchen. Georgia was well-known around town for her fried chicken, pork chops, and stuffed bell peppers and often served these and other dishes to Dr. King and fellow supporters of the boycott. She even hosted secret MIA meetings there in her kitchen.

Georgia’s love (and talent) for cooking and her passion for equality and change led her to start a club with a few of her friends, named “The Club from Nowhere.” The ladies in the club, most of them maids and cooks, sold homemade pies and cakes (and even Georgia’s chicken dinners) to supporters of the movement in order to raise money for the boycott. The Club from Nowhere often set up shop in beauty parlors, Laundromats, and on street corners in downtown Montgomery. Both black and white supporters of the boycott were able to contribute anonymously. The Club from Nowhere used the money they collected to buy gas and station wagons, which were used to transport people to and from work during the boycott. Georgia always said that the money came “from nowhere.”

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MOMOFUKU MILK BAR

The Momofuku restaurant group started up in 2004 as a postage stamp-sized ramen noodle bar in New York City’s East Village. It garnered a following rather quickly for the innovative ramen dishes and simple, but incredibly addictive, pork buns. At the helms of chef-owner David Chang, Momofuku steadily grew over the years to include numerous branches and locations in New York and Toronto, such as Ssäm Bar, Noodle Bar, Momofuku Ko, Ma Pêche, and Milk Bar.

Momofuku Milk Bar, which opened in 2008, was the group’s long awaited ode to classic, sugary concoctions. Headed by Christina Tosi, Milk Bar offered a menu that consisted of familiar sounding sweet treats cleverly graced with the creative edge the brand had come to be known for. Cornflakes were steeped in milk and sweetened to make cereal milk soft serve, and were mixed into cookie dough with marshmallows and chocolate chips to create a rewarding cookie with an extra crunchy, sweet and salty flavor.

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POTATO CANDY

The winter holidays seem to evoke the strongest food memories from many of us. Certainly there are family Thanksgiving dinner traditions, and the plethora of other delights that come with the rest of the season – pumpkin pie, homemade eggnog, savory soups, and gingerbread cookies. When I was a child, potato candy was one of the treats that only made an appearance in the days and weeks before Christmas. It is hands-down the strangest of holiday treats, but perhaps the delicacy was more delicious as the wait from year-to-year seemed immense.

To those who have never eaten potato candy, the concept may seem a bit odd. But those who have eaten it know that it is incredibly sweet, much like fudge or caramel. In retrospect, perhaps this dessert is reserved for the holidays because it contains so much sugar. It is possible that the adults chose to ration the candy in order to contain rambunctious children. (I know that I am guilty of that.)

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MARKET HIGHLIGHT: SHOTWELL CANDY CO.

The Memphis, Tennessee-based Shotwell Candy Co. produces delicious, hand-crafted caramels, soon to be some of your favorite things. I learned about the company from John T. Edge of the Southern Foodways Alliance. The company was launched last year in the home kitchen of Jerrod Smith – a corporate lawyer and, now also, confectioner. Jerrod was inspired to create his business by his great-grandfather, L. Shotwell George, also known as “Grandpa Shot”. Grandpa Shot owned a general store in Kentucky, which was always stocked with candy bins full of chewy caramels and other sweets. Jerrod (who admittedly has a sweet tooth, especially for caramels) has recreated timeless flavors through experimentation with complimentary ingredients, such as beer and pretzels, espresso, whiskey, and salt.

We love the Original Salted Caramels, featuring buttery, soft caramel infused with house-made Tennessee whiskey, vanilla extract, and finished with flaky Celtic grey salt.

ALABAMA BISCUIT MIX + NATALIE’S APPLE CRISP

The Alabama Biscuit Company is changing the way people perceive (and eat) biscuits. Jonathan Burch of Birmingham, Alabama, has developed a delicious and healthy recipe for biscuits using organic sprouted spelt flour, aluminum-free baking powder, and organic Celtic sea salt.

The biscuit mix is now a favorite of the Alabama Chanin team. We made biscuits with it at the Heath event this past August and are now using and selling it in our café.

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THE HISTORY OF AMBROSIA

For many Southerners, ambrosia salad is a dish often associated with holiday potlucks or aunts and grandmothers. It occasionally gets a bad rap, along with the often-maligned fruitcake, but when prepared correctly it can be light and delicious. The dividing line between love and hate seems to be one ingredient: coconut. But, this much is clear – ambrosia salad absolutely must include coconut.

Ambrosia salad also has a bit of an identity crisis. Depending on your family’s prerogative, it might be considered a salad, but it may also be considered a dessert. It is a fruit dish so, depending on preparation, it can be light, like a salad. Other recipes are sweeter and include layers of whipped cream or even marshmallows, placing it clearly in the “sweets” category. My family always placed it in a different spot in the buffet line, depending on which aunt had prepared the dish.

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WINTER VEGETABLES + A RECIPE

This year, I’ve been supplementing my garden’s harvest with fruits and vegetables from local farmers’ markets and the occasional Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) box. Typically, participating in a CSA program involves purchasing a share of a farmer’s crop before it is produced, but some farmers (like ours) will accept weekly payments for pre-ordered boxes. While quantities vary, the amount of food in a CSA box, usually a 1/2 bushel, typically feeds a family of four for a week. That is a bit too much food for just me and Maggie, so I seldom order a box unless I’m preparing a large meal for family and friends or needing quality, local ingredients for The Factory’s new café. Our friends at nearby Jack-O-Lantern Farm wrapped up this year’s CSA box program last month and I was able to pre-order and pick up a box for the café from their last batch of the season.

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ROASTED PUMPKIN + A RECIPE FOR SOUP

Autumn is most certainly the season of the pumpkin. I admit that, though they are beautiful decorations, I haven’t always been a big fan of the fruit. But, as we get older, our tastes continue to change. These days, I find that I crave them more than ever. The flavor can be sweet, even complex, and I am looking for more ways to incorporate them into our meal rotation. Here, I share some of my favorite, easy preparations for adding pumpkin to your table.

Pumpkin soup is, outside of pumpkin pie, perhaps the most common recipe available. While you can find cans of organic pumpkin at many grocery stores (and I’ve successfully used them on occasion), there is a distinct difference between canned pumpkin puree and a fresh, roasted pumpkin. Don’t be intimidated by the idea of roasting a pumpkin, it is easier than you think. I don’t recommend using carving pumpkins for roasting because they can often be stringy and less flavorful. Sugar pumpkins (also known as pie pumpkins) or any of the smaller varieties are tastier but, depending upon size, you may need to prepare more than one.

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A YEAR OF PIES

Recently, the always-inspiring Southern Foodways Alliance symposium, held in Oxford, Mississippi, sponsored a rollicking debate on an intensely dividing subject: Which is better: Pie or Cake? While my love for a good cake has been well documented, some of the arguments for pie, eloquently spoken by Kat Kinsman from CNN’s Eatocracy, spurred me to take another look at the versatile dish. Devoted pie makers everywhere may relate to her statement that, if you are ‘crafting’ a pie crust:

 “…it’s most likely because, at some point in your life, someone thought well enough of you to stand beside you at a counter and gift the muscle memory from her hands to yours. Your mother, your aunt, your grandmother, or – heaven forfend – your mother-in-law decided it was time to truly assume you into the sisterhood. She guided your fingers as they worked the flour into the fat, flicked in the water, and kneaded it all to the proper mass.”

A YEAR OF PIES

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TASIA’S KITCHEN + MAKING CHEESE

Our friend Tasia, owner of Alabama’s Belle Chevre creamery, has been busy with several new projects since we last saw her at Southern Makers. Her first cookbook, which features a foreword by Natalie (and is full of amazing Southern and Greek-inspired recipes), was released last year. Tasia has been crafting new recipes, teaching cooking classes, working on a second book and, most recently, she opened a new cheese tasting room at their flagship storefront in Elkmont, Alabama.

A few months ago we discovered Belle Chevre’s DIY Kits are perfect for gifting (and for starting your own goat cheese tasting room). We often snack on Tasia’s amazing cheese creations here in the studio. Tasia notes that her goat cheese can be used as a base for many of her recipes, as well as a substitute for mayonnaise, sour cream, cream cheese, and butter. The possibilities are endless. We recently substituted some of our homemade goat cheese for mayonnaise in a warm potato salad, sprinkled with fresh herbs from the farmers’ market, and served alongside baked organic chicken. The results were richer and creamier than a traditional potato salad. And a bit of leftover goat cheese was devoured atop fresh pumpkin bread with some local honey. Decadent and delicious. Here’s Tasia’s recipe for making goat cheese at home.

TASIA'S KITCHEN + MAKING CHEESE

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A FIRE IN MY BELLY

Kevin Gillespie grew up in Locust Grove, Georgia, outside Atlanta, with nine cousins within five years of age living five hundred feet from each other. While his parents worked, his paternal grandmother watched the kids, cooking three meals a day so the family could always sit and eat together. At age ten, Kevin became interested in cooking and decided his grandmother shouldn’t be the only one feeding the family. The family supported him one hundred percent, even when he turned down a scholarship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to attend culinary school at the Art Institute of Atlanta.

Fire in My Belly is a collection of Kevin’s memories and stories on how he came to love food with classic recipes tweaked and made simple for the home cook. Almost every tale focuses on family and the person who introduced him to a new food or way of cooking. There’s an emphasis on fresh, local ingredients, just the way his grandmother always cooked. Nothing is too fancy and every component is easy to find, no matter what part of the country you live in.

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PHILLIP MARCH JONES, COUNTY CLUB, AND A RECIPE

We are pleased to welcome back friend and writer, Phillip March Jones, who we have convinced to join us as a regular contributor to this Journal. Phillip will be writing about art, visual design, music, food, and travel.

This week, Phillip shares a photo essay of (and a delicious recipe from) his new favorite restaurant, County Club, in Lexington, Kentucky. This new gathering spot is a stones-throw from Institute 193, Phillip’s gallery. Chef Johnny Shipley’s menu looks mouth-watering and County Club’s Instagram feed has me ready to jump on a plane to Lexington.

Please welcome Phillip with lots of comments below,

xoNatalie

Turner & Guyon, a design team based in Lexington, Kentucky, recently partnered with local chef Johnny Shipley, to transform an abandoned cinder block garage into a full-service restaurant and bar named County Club. The original structure, located on Jefferson Street in the historic Smithtown neighborhood, was built in 1974 as a storage facility for the Rainbow Bread factory’s day-old shop. The factory closed in the early 90’s, and the storage building was eventually purchased by a local man who used it as a garage and auto body shop.

Hunter Guyon and Chesney Turner (Turner & Guyon) have both lived within a few blocks of the building for years, and their familiarity with the neighborhood is evident in the restaurant’s interior, which is elegant, sparse, and comforting.

Memory is one of the driving forces behind both the restaurant’s design and menu, which explores new takes on classic barbecue dishes with a special focus on regionally sourced, in-house smoked meats. County Club, which only opened a few months ago, already feels deeply rooted in the fabric of Lexington’s food and social culture.

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SOUTHERN CHEFS/SOUTHERN LIVING

I’ve been a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance for years. I plan to be at the 16th Annual Symposium this coming October, if I can get a ticket soon enough (last year’s event sold out in minutes). The Symposium (as it’s loosely called) is wonderful simply in the fact that you spend the series of days learning, dining, and drinking among such an amazing group of individuals working to preserve the South’s culture and history through food. Last year, Alabama Chanin designed BBQ-inspired dresses for the 15th annual Symposium. This year, we have new plans in the works.  As I’ve written over and over again, what I love most about the SFA is their commitment to documentation and preservation of the present, the who’s who, if you will, in Southern kitchens (across the nation) today.

In the February 2013 issue of Southern Living, an article featured a handful of chefs from Louisiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, and of course, Alabama, who are preserving southern cuisine in new and reimagined ways that reflect the changing landscape and demographics of the contemporary South.

SOUTHERN CHEFS/SOUTHERN LIVING

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CHERRY BOMBE

Makers and doers Kerry Diamond and Claudia Wu, two friends and former Harper’s Bazaar colleagues, have teamed up to produce the first indie food magazine to celebrate women in the food world. Beautifully designed and expertly curated, Issue #1 – The Tastemaker Issue – will be released in May. I’ve just contributed to their Kickstarter Campaign, which ends this Friday, May 3rd.

Kerry Diamond, working on the editorial side at Harper’s, went on to open two wonderful Brooklyn restaurants (Seersucker and Nightingale 9) and a coffee shop (Smith Canteen) with her chef boyfriend. Claudia worked on the creative team at Harper’s, later starting her own design firm, Orphan, and the cult indie publication, Me Magazine.

These Real Women are making tremendous inroads, and doing it (really) well. Read more about Kerry Diamond on Refinery29 and more about Cherry Bombe Magazine on their Kickstarter page. Make a donation and get good magazine.

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MOM AND THE CASSEROLE

I think that we all have memories of family dinner with Mom bringing one single bubbling hot dish to the table. I have a favorite casserole from childhood, something that my mother called “goulash” that I’m sure bears little resemblance to the actual Hungarian dish. I’m not sure that I’d even like it if I ate it today, but the thought of the curly noodles and the hearty aroma is enough to make me still believe it was practically gourmet cuisine.

MOM AND THE CASSEROLE

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AFTER THE PLAYBOYS

Last weekend we hosted the Texas Playboys from Austin, Texas. The baseball club made up of artists, architects, musicians, photographers and entrepreneurs joined us for a weekend of great music, food, cocktails, and baseball. We were thrilled and honored they voted to visit Florence, Alabama for this year’s travel game (see ballot above) and flattered they challenged our not-too-shabby Billy Reid + Alabama Chanin team in Barnstorm2013.

AFTER THE PLAYBOYS - Photography by Abraham Rowe

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DIY GOAT CHEESE FOR MOM

My friend Tasia of Belle Chevre – that wonderful goat cheese I’ve mentioned (a few times) before  –  has created Make Your Own Goat Cheese Kits. I love this idea for a Mother’s Day gift. Maybe if I let my Picky Eater help me make it, she’ll actually eat it. Kit includes everything you need, just add milk (and Mom).

Find kits here, or visit Belle Chevre’s beautiful new tasting room in Elkmont, Alabama.

Photography by Stephanie Schamban for Belle Chevre.

 

GULF SHRIMP + A RECIPE

It’s been nearly three years since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, and the repercussions still linger. Tar balls continue to wash up on shore as we wait patiently to learn how much BP will pay in restitution. But the fishing, shrimping, and oyster industries have rebounded in strides, as restaurants on the coast and inland support our ocean’s harvest.

Friend and Chef Chris Hastings of Hot and Hot Fish Club in Birmingham, Alabama, has played a significant role in supporting the industry, spearheading a campaign with the Alabama Seafood Marketing Commission to bring awareness and support to Alabama Gulf seafood, and sharing recipes like his Alabama Bouillabaisse with the reading public.

GULF SHRIMP + A RECIPE

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GREEK LOVE

We try to share a staff lunch once a week here in the studio. It gives everyone a chance to sit down together, laugh, and share ideas. We are, after all, a family of sorts. This week we had hoped to entertain and enjoy time with our friend and collaborator Anna Maria Horner, to whom this week’s journal theme is dedicated. But sometimes life gets in the way, and we were unable to coordinate our time; however, we decided to have a Greek lunch in her honor anyway.

Anna Maria’s family comes from Greece and her grandmother passed down many Greek traditions and treasures to her, including hand-loomed wool blankets and recipes. I love tzatziki, and even though cucumbers are not technically in season yet, we fortunately have a local organic farmer with a solar powered greenhouse – Jack-O-Lantern Farms – and were able to acquire some Alabama cucumbers for the tangy, yogurt dip, as well as greenhouse-grown tomatoes and south Alabama eggplants (still beats vegetables trucked in from Mexico).

GREEK LOVE - TZATZIKI

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SKIRT STEAK

Perhaps we too often think of women in the kitchen as just that: women (moms, wives) in the home kitchen, baking cookies and making dinner for their families. Whether this is because the “Chef” title has been dominated for so many years by men, or if it’s because we – those of us in the dining room, far away from the heat and toil of the galley – simply don’t think about how many, if any, women are actually preparing our meal, is up for debate (though it’s probably a little of both). Thank you to Charlotte Druckman for bridging an important industry conversation to us laymen and laywomen. There are not enough women in professional kitchens. Druckman’s cerebral, meticulously researched work, Skirt Steak: Women Chefs on Standing the Heat and Staying in the Kitchen highlights some of the problems and how (some) of this is changing today.

Women are the minority in most professional kitchens, often the only female on a crew of many. Professional cooking is a difficult, physical job with long hours, weekends and holidays dedicated to work in a very hot environment. It’s more than a job. It’s a lifestyle. As in many professions, women have to make choices between work and family. Societal demands and family responsibilities sometimes curtail how a woman can CHOOSE to do her job. Additionally, women are often subject to sexual harassment, intimidation, and unfair standards—and at times these situations go unobserved and unchecked in the late night environment that surrounds this industry.

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SISTER SCHUBERT AND THE YEAST ROLL

Yeast Rolls can be such a source of Southern pride that even the best cooks shy away from these elusive delicacies.  My grandmother made the best yeast rolls in the county, maybe this entire country. Although, I suspect that half of Lauderdale County would say that their grandmother made the best. (Perhaps you feel the same). The truth is that there are just about as many recipes as there are grandmothers.

A Google search reveals recipes with shortening, recipes with lard, and recipes with butter.  This alone can bring chefs to heated debate over glasses of wine and/or cocktails.  I once asked John Currence, “Butter or lard?” He answered, “For what?” Some believe “half-and-half” works best (and I’m not talking about cream).

Boil the milk, add eggs, don’t use eggs, Carnation Milk makes an appearance in one recipe I have… one thing they all say is “serve hot.” (My grandmother served often.)

Last week, I had the pleasure of eating yeast rolls from the queen herself, Sister Schubert. One of our great local schools, Riverhill, hosted a luncheon with Sister and one of our great local chefs, Betty Sims.

SISTER SCHUBERT AND THE YEAST ROLL
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PINK DEVILED EGGS

I get lost in the thousands and thousands of captivating images and creations shared daily on Pinterest. One thing leads to another and before I know it I’m fifteen tabs deep in my web browser…

While pinning to our boards recently, I came across a beautiful food blog – one of many that belongs on our ‘The Kitchen + Other Pleasures’ board.

On said food blog, there is a recipe for Pink Deviled Eggs, vibrant and saturated with a deep pink-purple hue. Perhaps this pin fits better with Reds (Carmine, Rose, and Pink)?

So to continue our theme of all-things-Valentine, we made these Pink Deviled Eggs for our studio lunch (along with some extra homemade fundraiser soup made by Zach for Maggie’s school).

I share a traditional recipe for Deviled Eggs in Alabama Studio Style. While you might not pass this recipe down to your daughters, it was fun to make, look at, and eat.

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RED VELVET CAKE + HOMEMADE SPRINKLES

Red velvet cake is as much a Southern tradition as fried chickenpot likker, and cornbread. So when the idea for red velvet “Valentine’s Day” cake came up, it was a given that we would be eating the cake at our weekly office lunch.

In our community, this three layer cake is traditionally topped with a cream cheese icing – although I have seen it with buttercream, chocolate, as well as with a combination cream cheese and chocolate icing. I prefer the subtle tang in the cream cheese version, with or without the commonly used addition of chopped pecans or shredded coconut. We’ve added an Alabama Chanin touch of homemade pink sprinkles in our Facets stencil pattern cut to fit perfectly over our cake.

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REAL WOMEN EAT LETTUCE (+ SHERRY HONEY VINAIGRETTE)

On Monday, Sara wrote her thoughts on fashion and designing for real people with different body types. We’ve written before ‘On Beauty’ and the comeback of pin-up style. Even though media representations might make you feel differently, the fact is that women come in so many beautiful shapes and sizes. This is a deeply important and significant subject, and will be a recurrent theme for us this year. Our journal is a platform to share our views and opinions on any matter of the body (and mind), and we always encourage you to share your own stories and thoughts in the comments section.

It’s the New Year (10 days in already), a time when many of us reflect on our life in the past year, resolve to find peace in each day, and to look ahead to new goals and achievements. 99.9% of the time, weight loss is a top goal for resolutions in the New Year.

Diet. Eat salad. Lose weight. Be skinny.

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PEACE CHICKEN (WITH OLIVES)

It’s a bit of a stretch to call chicken made with olives “Peace Chicken,” but it did recently bring a bit of peace to my family life.  Here’s the story:

Although I have spent years cultivating my backyard garden, honing my cooking skills, learning how to shop in my small community (grass-fed local meat from here, fresh vegetables from there, rice in bulk, milk from only one store in the community – on Thursdays only.) Yes, years have been spent on this orchestration.

All these years of refinement, patience, planning, and adaptation and I am stuck with a six-year-old who can’t stand my food – any of it. “This is the worst dinner I have ever had,” she sighed (loudly) in the kitchen one night. She has a sweet tooth of the worst kind. I would like to blame her, but the love of sugar does run in my father’s family so, as we say in Alabama, “she comes by it honest.” I have twin aunts who are as “big as a twig” put together and, as a child, I remember them eating only sweets (or at least it seemed that way).

My father and my six-year old have come up with elaborate excuses to head out to my most dreaded part of town, “The Mall,” only to return with a dozen Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. These days, they have stopped making up excuses and just go, on a regular basis. They will visit one of my twin aunts and grandmother with a dozen. Ritual.

This child of mine would eat jelly toast at every meal if I would let her. For a change of pace, she would like biscuits or pancakes.  To her, the ingestion of one-quarter of a freshly picked, crisp apple is worthy of a trophy and, as far as she is concerned, that trophy should be of a bowl of ice cream (not sorbet).  It’s enough to make me crazy.

I go through phases where I just tell her to go hungry. She will, after all, eat those peas if she is starving?  Instead, she has a will of stone and far more patience than I ever possessed in my 50 years; she will hold out until school, or Meme and Pop’s house, or anywhere else she can eat to avoid a freshly cooked vegetable.

However, this particular chicken recipe resulted in a sweet glance and the words, “Mama, this is the best chicken I’ve ever eaten.” See what I mean? Peace Chicken. The funniest part is that the first time I made this dish, I was simply trying to clean out the refrigerator; just about everything went into the pot. It never crossed my mind that she would eat it, let alone like it. Continue reading

THE YEAR IN EATS (+ A NEWFOUND LOVE FOR SORBET)

This year saw our Journal take a more structured tone and we devoted particular days to particular topics. Wednesday’s became Recipe Wednesday and we worked to get ourselves organized and cook. EVERY WEEK.  It was quite a feat of organization since we also run the production office, online store, design, pay bills, and as I mentioned on Monday, also manage this Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Facebook. It’s a lot of content. Erin joined the team full-time early in the year, Sara continues to make this stuff worth reading, we planted the garden (again), and we got cooking.

My biscuit recipe made it into the Wall Street Journal thanks to Charlotte Druckman. (More on Charlotte’s terrific new book Skirt Steak in the coming months.)

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THE NEW YEAR TRINITY

In our family (as many families in my community), today will be celebrated with Hog Jowl, Collards, and Black-eyed Peas (although you might want to try the Three Sisters with some root vegetables). It’s one of the few days of the year my father (who is gratefully still with us and in remission) actually cooks (well, at least the Hog Jowl).

This holy trinity of the South supposedly brings us health, prosperity, and love (along with our famously thick waistlines). Tomorrow is (gratefully) another day and we will take care of our waistlines then…

Happiest New Year,
xoNatalie

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THE GIFT WREATH

Homemade jams are wrapped in organic cotton jersey and tied with a cotton jersey pull; these jams are the basis of our wreath for today and are ready for delivery (as soon as my son Zach’s homemade bread arrives).

As I set off for the holidays (later this afternoon), I am thankful for your support this last (big, beautiful, exciting, glorious) year and grateful for each and every one of you and our entire Alabama Chanin family.

Peace on Earth,
xoNatalie

P.S.: Meet us back here on Wednesday, December 26, 2012 at 9 am (sharp) CST for our first-ever (online) Garage Sale, featuring items from our recent sample sale, trims, notions, fabrics, DIY Kits, and treasures galore.

 

FALL GARDEN

Apples, sweet potatoes, autumn squash, turnips, rutabagas, leeks, and greens of every shade—I await the fall garden and all of its bounty each year with as much eagerness as the changing of the leaves and the relief from blistering Alabama summers. Root vegetables are at their prime this time of year and their heartiness is a beautiful accompaniment to braised meats. A meal of slow-cooked beef or pork alongside a simple roast of beets, potatoes, and turnips is my way of welcoming the season. Autumn squash, with its wonderful versatility, may find its way into a bisque or pie. And no fall meal is complete without a serving of greens—collards, mustards, turnips, kale, cabbage, spinach, etc.—served braised, sautéed, or dressed in salad.

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EXTRA VIRGINITY

From Extra Virginity:

“…Wine’s effects on us are vivid and swift, while oil works on the body in hidden ways, slow and lingering in the cells and in the mind, like myths. Wine is merry Dionysus; oil is Athena, solemn, wise, and unknowable.

Wine is how we would like life to be, but oil is how life is: fruity, pungent, with a hint of complex bitterness-extra virginity’s elusive triad.”

Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil is, surprisingly, quite the page-turner. Tales of scandal with delicious detours into the history and ceremony of olive oil will change the way you look at this kitchen staple forever.

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TASIA’S TABLE

Tasia Malakasis, owner of local fromagerie Belle Chevre, is a dear friend of Alabama Chanin. She, like so many Southern women, has never met a stranger and can spend an afternoon discussing recipes, bourbon, and the weather, with genuine ease and enthusiasm. Her big heart and zeal for life are not easily contained and show through in so many recipes in her new cookbook, Tasia’s Table.

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A RECIPE FOR BBQed DRESSES

Alabama Chanin, Florence, Alabama, in collaboration with Drew Robinson, Jim ‘N Nick’s, Birmingham, Alabama

Ingredients

64 yards 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey, colors white and nude
47 spools Button Craft thread
112 yards embroidery floss
1 pound white glass beads
9 garment patterns
4 stencil designs
1 quart textile paint
24 talented embroidery artisans
27 needles
Embroidery scissors, both large and small
8 sticks hickory
Kindling
Matches
Patience

Construct garments by combining the first 10 ingredients, adding love and care. Once constructed with love and care, smoke embroidered dresses with hickory. This is the wood most commonly used for barbecue in our part of Alabama because it is the most plentiful. As luck would have it, burned hickory produces a subtle flavor and color in pork and dresses, respectively.

It made sense to us to use the same wood to smoke our homegrown garments (well, as much sense as it could make to smoke a dress, anyway).  Like a pig, dresses require a low temperature and lots of finesse.

Once you get the fire going, smoke your dresses at a temperature close to 170 degrees for about 18 hours.

Serves the Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium, 2012.

GRAVY #44 – PLEASANTLY LUMPY BARBECUE SAUCE

Thank you to the Southern Foodways Alliance for allowing us to share “Vinegar and Barbecue: Tales of Live Cultures and Red Herrings” by Hugh Acheson.

The perfect prelude to a barbeque infused Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium weekend. Oxford, Mississippi awaits.

xoNatalie

From Gravy #44:

In the world of barbecue, vinegar is a seasoning, a spritz, a wash—an agile épée to porcine succulence. Vinegar is a necessity when it comes to giving barbecue its glory. Good barbecue has a char, a pit-borne crust, and a rich, tender interior that yearns for that jolt of peppery vinegar.

I will not speak to the Mendoza Line of barbecue sauce, where vinegar yields to sweetness. I will not debate the merits of mustard or tomato, for the sauce I will share with you has both, but neither is dominant. I will not regale you with arguments about how whole is better than finely chopped. Or how ribs pale in comparison to brisket. Or how I think baby back ribs are a red herring, a cut sucked into vacuum bags in the deep recesses of a factory in China to be sold many moons later at a chain restaurant in the suburbs of Hoboken. I will tell you of the sauce I love.

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BBQED DRESSES

BBQ, Barbeque, Bar-B-Que, Bar-B-Q.  However you spell it, we are awash in this delicious madness here in North Alabama.  Mention barbecue and you will have an instant conversation starter: “Mustard based sauce!” “Are you kidding me? No way! Ketchup!” “What!  Please don’t tell me you are putting mayonnaise on that meat?” These are the ingredients that can bring men and women alike to heated discussion. We have spent the last few weeks preparing for an exhibition celebrating the Southern Foodways Alliance’s 15th Annual Symposium, entitled Barbecue: An Exploration of Pitmasters, Places, Smoke, and Sauce.

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JOHN T. EDGE’S THE TRUCK FOOD COOKBOOK + A Q&A

As John T. Edge explains in his new book, The Truck Food Cookbook, (which we mentioned here) the food truck phenomenon that has swept the country over the past several years has been exciting to watch. Citizens of many American cities are challenging the regulations placed on food truck vendors in an effort to make streetscapes more alluring and encourage the street food movement. (Note: A simple Google search reveals an ongoing–sometimes heated–dispute between cities and food truck owners.)

Food trucks are practical on several fronts when considering the state of our economy – they offer value-driven meals and are relatively inexpensive start-ups.  Plus, our current society has become accustomed to eating on the go, which has also contributed to the movement. Rather than venturing into fine-dining ambitions, young chefs have opted “to dish the culinary equivalent of the Great American Novel from retrofitted taco trucks.” Immigrants are using the mobile meals approach to showcase their native cuisine. Consumers have begun to blend a demand for “quick access food” with a desire for “honest and delicious food,” and street food has answered the call on both fronts.

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BISCUIT FESTIVAL + BLACKBERRY FARM

If you’ve spent any amount of time at The Factory you know a thing or two about biscuits. There’s at least a dozen different recipes in the Alabama Chanin library, and Natalie can make some of the most flakey mouthwatering creations you’ve ever tasted with no measuring cup in sight, all while wrangling a six year old.

My grandmother had similar powers, but they must skip two generations as I haven’t quite mastered the technique. However, what I lack in skill, I make up for in appreciation. So when the opportunity to attend the International Biscuit Festival and Southern Food Writing Conference presented itself, my heart nearly leapt out of my chest. Storytelling, biscuits, Blackberry Farm = “Yes, Please”.

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APPLE BUTTER

With the introduction of the Foxfire Book Series on Monday, we began our two week discussion of modern homesteading.

Modern homesteading sounds like an oxymoron; I prefer to think of it as a simple lifestyle adapted to contemporary times. Technology has made leaps and bounds since the 1970s when the Firefox series was written. We do and make things differently now, but often times seek the very same outcome. We have traded in the act (art) of “making” in order to, well, “make” our lives easier. On Monday, we shared an article on Facebook that further discusses (criticizes?) the modern DIY movement.

Apple Butter, like most food, is a good example of this shift from making a product in the traditional way to producing in a more convenient manner. Apple Butter was a staple in my home growing up and my daughter has a new-found love of the spread.

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PEAS + SUCH

Thank you to the Wall Street Journal for including me for their “In My Kitchen” series. “Crafty Cook Natalie Chanin”  by Charlotte Druckman (who was a pleasure to work with).

Here you have the full interview (with a small disclaimer) and the recipes for the full menu we cooked that day:

“I GOT MY NICKNAME from biscuits,” said Natalie “Alabama” Chanin, the force behind the handcrafted clothing and housewares company Alabama Chanin, based in Florence, Ala. She earned the moniker a dozen years ago after baking her signature buttery discs for a group of hungry strangers while on vacation in Venezuela. “They called it ‘pan de Alabama’ [Alabama bread] and they’d call me that, too,” she said. That same generous spirit is one of the defining principles of her business practice—she recently introduced a line of table linens at a more accessible price point than the rest of her wares, and she makes it a point to employ local seamstresses and pay them a living wage.

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BREAD PUDDING + VISITORS

Last month, I had the incredible honor of hosting a studio visit from three amazing women who have inspired me for years. On a beautiful summer day, Rosanne Cash, Gael Towey, and Maira Kalman arrived in Florence for a two day sewing workshop and adventure. The idea for the trip was hatched on a spring afternoon in New York City and I can hardly believe that it actually happened. With incredibly busy schedules, these three women cleared their calendars, bought their tickets, organized their lives, picked up their daughters, and headed south.  Gael Towey (an incredible woman who has shaped the look of modern life as we know it) wrote about their Alabama adventure for Martha Stewart’s “Up Close and Personal Blog”. I spent an amazing afternoon with Gael talking about all things design and inspiration… that post will be coming in the next weeks.

Magpie + RUTH, my son Zach’s catering company, made a fantastic lunch for us each day. The bread pudding recipe below was a favorite with the entire crew, our Alabama Chanin team, and the photo above a favorite with our Facebook followers.

Bon Appetit,
xoNatalie

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TOMATO + TOMATO PIZZA

Last week, during a photo shoot at my house for our new Indigo + Carmine pieces, my son Zach took time from his busy day of new fatherhood and running his growing catering company to make us lunch: a simple, delicious pizza piled with tomatoes.

This summer has been hard on my garden. Many of my herbs have simply withered away, and my tomatoes have been scorched in the harsh sun. Between the drought and my absence in travels, I’m surprised (and thankful) I’ve managed to gather a few heirloom tomatoes.

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JEN’S WHOLE WHEAT CRACKERS

From Alabama Stitch Book, page 94:

One day when I was feeling a bit down, my friend Jen Rausch called. She told me I was allowed 20 minutes of self-pity, but then I was to get up and get on with my work. A few hours later, Jen arrived at the office with a tray lined with a beautiful tea towel, which held a china bowl, a jar of warm soup, and some homemade whole-wheat crackers. I will always be grateful to Jen for that sweet gesture.

Today, I’m pairing Jen’s Whole-Wheat Crackers with Zach’s Farm Cheese for an afternoon snack at our photo shoot. These recipes are fitting for most any occasion and come with little prep-time.

xoNatalie

JEN’S WHOLE-WHEAT CRACKERS

¾ cup vegetable oil
1 cup water
3 cups quick oats
2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 cup wheat germ
2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to about 300 to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Blend or beat the liquid ingredients, and pour them over the dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix, then roll out the dough on the bottom of two large baking sheets to the edges. Sprinkle with salt, and cut 2” squares. Bake for about 30-40 minutes or until crisp and golden brown.

Yield: Makes about forty 2”-square crackers.

FARM CHEESE

My son Zach has a beautiful way of adapting traditional recipes in his cooking. For our studio lunches, he makes a salad with handmade, moist farm cheese crumbled on top. We also enjoy it (probably too much) with fresh baked bread and crackers.

Farm cheese got its name because all of its ingredients could be found on any farm. Many “well-off” households during my grandparents’ youth had their own farms, or at the very least, one cow to supply milk for the family.

This very simple recipe can be made with just a few ingredients from your refrigerator: milk, buttermilk, and lemon. My refrigerator is always stocked with organic milk. I have lemon, which I use for hot tea. And buttermilk often lingers after biscuit-making endeavors on the weekends.

The added convenience is farm cheese is fast and easy to make. It requires no special equipment, except cheesecloth.

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REPORT FROM PENLAND: WEDNESDAY 7/18/2012

The food might just be the best thing about Penland… other than the yoga every morning (and afternoon), the view, the beautiful studio, the great people. Let’s just say that the food is one of the things that make Penland great.

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner served on schedule. No preparation or clean up – thanks to the amazing staff, core students, and work study students. This allows you to settle into life and to think about nothing but creativity, development, and growth. It is a beautiful and nurturing place to grow.

I have been eating salads every day but my commitment to my detox wavers when I see something like these Mexican Hot Chocolate Short Bread cookies calling to me.

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WATERSHED FRIED CHICKEN + A QUILT

I first tasted the fried chicken at Watershed restaurant in Georgia about 10 years ago, while visiting friend and colleague, Angie Mosier. This was also my first meeting with Scott Peacock, the then-head chef of Watershed who led them to a James Beard award in 2007.

Scott’s close friend and culinary mentor, Edna Lewis, is hands down the Mother of Soul food, a legendary figure and icon to the Southern culinary world—dare I say the world at-large. Together they wrote, The Gift of Southern Cooking: Recipes and Revelations from Two Great American Cooks, a staple in my kitchen.

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FRIED PIES

If you’ve been to a convenience store in Alabama, chances are you’ve encountered a fried pie, stowed in a basket at the counter and wrapped tightly in cellophane or butter-drenched wax paper. Growing up, family road trip pit stops didn’t mean Cracker Jacks or candy bars for me; it was the fried pies I coveted, portable pockets of apples and peaches wrapped in a pie crust shell. A certain gas station in Cullman, Alabama, sold my favorite pies, so stopping there was always one of the most anticipated parts of a trip to the beach.

I was inspired to try my hand at the fried pie after a recent brunch at Dyron’s Lowcountry in Birmingham, where I had an apricot-goat cheese fried pie served alongside brown-butter ice cream. This got me to thinking about the endless possibilities of fillings and thus the fried pie experiment began. Two things I’ve since learned: don’t overstuff the pies, and make a large batch because they go fast. Here are a couple of recipes that I hope would make my Southern grandmother proud:

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STRAWBERRY COBBLER

Some five years ago, Martha Hall Foose visited Florence, and made the best strawberry cobbler I’ve had to date. Strawberry season came a little early this year. In early May, my patch began producing.  I’m hoping that the plants will continue bearing through the coming weeks so my son, Zach, can make his classic strawberry cobbler for our 4th of July celebration.

We originally shared his recipe in our ‘Celebrate America’ catalog.

Looking forward to the upcoming holiday…
xoNatalie

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SAVORY STAR BISCUITS

I have collected quite the assortment of cookie and biscuit cutters over the years, all crammed into a drawer in my kitchen. Each year for Valentine’s Day, my daughter Maggie and I make heart-shaped biscuits. We also have a few animal shapes for pet themed birthday parties…

What more appropriate shape for Independence Day than the star?

The colors and shapes of our table setting have bold, graphic qualities with a simple color-blocking that appeals to my design aesthetic.

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ROASTED PORK LOIN AND NEW POTATOES

A traditional southern barbecue will almost always have the option of pork, whether in the form of pulled pork sandwiches, slow-cooked ribs, or smoked pork butt. Our July 4th pork dish may be a little more formal than those options, but it is actually very easy to prepare.

Our pork loin was sourced locally and roasted with fresh herbs from my garden. It looks even more delicious in a Large Serving Dish by Heath Ceramics. The dish helps hold the moisture, keeping the pork moist and allowing the flavors to emerge. I love the red color in contrast to our White and Navy Center Stripe Table Cloth.

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CELEBRATE AMERICA 2012 CATALOG

Old Glory

“Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair.” –George Washington

The flag is the centerpiece of American cultural imagery. Growing up in the 1960s and 70s, the flag came to mean so many different things: pride, controversy, rebellion, commitment, more, so much more…

It has taken me decades of living, working, and traveling the globe to understand my own relationship to this symbol of our great nation. I have grown to love the flag in all its incarnations – as a reminder of where I come from, our collective history, and, of course, of the wise and honest standard to which I believe we are raising our repair.

xoNatalie

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TART APPLE PIE + Q&A WITH JOHN BIELENBERG

John Bielenberg and his work with PieLab aren’t new to Alabama Chanin, or our blog. We were curious what John has been up to, so we caught up with him between his travels to learn more about Project M, PieLab, and recent goings on in Greensboro, Alabama.

We also got our hands on a delicious recipe from the pop-up café, PieLab, for our Wednesday Recipes.

Their Tart Apple Pie with White Cheddar Crust has a beautiful lattice top that looks like the pies I ate growing up. Combining the tartness of the apples with the savory of the white cheddar makes for a fabulous slice of pie. If only it weren’t a three hour drive down to Greensboro to get a slice. Recipe then Q&A with John to follow:


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MOLASSES + COOKIES

As a child, I ate molasses these ways: drizzled over my biscuits at my grandmother’s table, in Shoofly Pie, barbeque sauce, and baked in fresh gingerbread. As an adult, I’m beginning to notice plenty of restaurants adding this sugar cane syrup to their dishes in glazes and sauces, salad dressings, and many delicious cocktails. I have eaten molasses-rubbed pork tenderloin, a tuna sashimi with pomegranate molasses, and at Blackberry Farm, I had a to-die-for cocktail sweetened with molasses.

Molasses is making a comeback. Like beer, there are modern versions that might be considered “craft” molasses. Today’s molasses is more than a sweet syrup – it’s also a presence in the re-emergence of handmade, small, traditional, and local goods. Continue reading

GRILLED VEGETABLE + WHITE CHEDDAR QUICHE

For our weekly Studio Lunch, my son Zach prepared a savory Grilled Vegetable + White Cheddar Quiche with cherry tomatoes. In a move that delighted me, he delivered it to the studio and included a heaping salad of fresh greens- Butterhead lettuce, Red Oakleaf, and arugula- all from Jack-o-Lantern Farms, one of our local farmers’ markets. For the salad, he also made strawberry-balsamic vinaigrette, with which I (for certain) over saturated my greens.

Quiche is one of my all-time favorite dishes. It can be eaten for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner depending on your choice of ingredients. Continue reading

MUSHROOMS + FERNS

Meet Kristy – friend, caterer for our Weekend Workshops @ The Factory, and the newest contributor to this blog. I love the symbiotic relationship between the ferns and the mushrooms – along with Kristy’s recipe. Enjoy!
xoNatalie

On a visit to the Florence/Lauderdale County Farmers’ Market last fall, I was taken by the beautiful shiitake mushrooms offered by one of the vendors. ”These are grown locally? Wow!“ was my initial thought, and that was before I tasted them. The mushrooms were not only beautiful, but deliciously earthy and some of the tastiest I’ve ever tried.

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CONGRATULATIONS + THANK YOU

Congratulations are due today to Chris Hastings, Rob McDaniel, and Sedesh Boodram for championing last night’s Iron Chef America. I have had the pleasure of getting to know Chris over the last few years and sharing all that the Southern Foodways Alliance holds common for us. Chris, chef and co-owner of Hot and Hot Fish Club, is a guest speaker at many events across the South and is the Alabama spokesperson for Wild American Shrimp. A giant round of applause for all that Chris does – aside from winning Iron Chef.

And another round of applause for Rob – the gracious host of our One-Day Retreat at The SpringHouse Restaurant this past January. We ate beautifully that weekend- shrimp and grits with cured bacon, miniature fried sweet potato pies, and a sampling of classic Southern dishes from SpringHouse’s menu.

And, finally, congratulations are in order today for Octavia Spencer. Originally from Montgomery, Octavia won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar last night for her role in The Help. In her acceptance speech, she first thanked her family- then the state of Alabama. Yes, Alabama love…

THE SFA COMMUNITY COOKBOOK + STUDIO LUNCH

Since the beginning of time, food has been an essential part of family life and, on a larger scale, the community. As the kitchen is often described as the heart of the house- the recipes and food made within move outward- connecting people to their neighborhood and even their region. A community cookbook exemplifies that connection with a collection of recipes from an array of contributors, all bound together by a sense of place.

Community cookbooks have graced the kitchens of every grandmother and mother in the South for decades. The Southern Foodways Alliance pays the ultimate tribute to said books in its Community Cookbook, and does a mighty fine job of compiling the prized recipes of chefs, artisans, farmers, writers, and cuisine-fiends from our beloved region. The beautiful publication is presented complete with metal binding rings.

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SOUTHERN BISCUITS + GINGER ALE

Biscuits are a popular topic of conversation here at Alabama Chanin. We’ve enjoyed their flaky goodness in friends’ company at Blackberry Farm, pondered the great question of butter or lard (butter trumps here), and—of course—given you our favorite recipe in Alabama Stitch Book. Just when we think we know all there is to know about biscuits, Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart teach us even more in their glorious cookbook, Southern Biscuits, that pays homage to the floury, doughy concoctions. Continue reading

SARA’S LIVING ARTS

When I began work at Alabama Chanin almost 10 years ago, I had no concept of what the company did or what it would eventually mean to me. I walked into my interview in my only suit, having answered an advertisement in the paper. As soon as I found out what the company did, I broke into a cold sweat.

Luckily for me, they hired me. As I worked each day at my computer, I would glance over at the beautiful garments being produced with a jealous eye. I wanted to know how to make things as amazing as these. But I didn’t know how.

Natalie has often talked about the importance of preserving the “living arts,” those things that are essential to our survival – things that we as a society have forgotten or simply chosen not to learn. I was a perfect example of the person who never learned these skills.

My mother cooked family dinners, but she worked hard all day and it sometimes seemed a joyless task for her. She could make delicious meals, but after a day’s work it was often a chore. I was always fascinated to watch my paternal grandmother – a former cafeteria cook – craft large, luscious meals. I would watch pots bubble on the stove all day, their contents creating amazing smells. She was happy as she stirred those sauces or rolled out her biscuits; there was real joy and pride there. I wanted to understand it.

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A NEW TURN IN THE SOUTH

Our friend Rinne Allen has been photographing our work for the last few years and shot pictures for our upcoming Alabama Studio Sewing + Design. Her work is beautiful. She also just completed the cookbook A New Turn in the South with her friend Hugh Acheson – and it’s a beauty. The combination of type, hand written notes, the lovely photographs, and the rich approach to making beautifully simple food took me aback the first time I opened the cover.  This book just feels different. I gave a copy to a friend for the holidays and she said to me over lunch a few weeks later, “It is so casual, beautiful and comfortable.” I agree.  Hugh has a great love for one of my favorite vegetables, the Brussels sprout. His recipe “Not Your Mama’s Brussels Sprouts” from page 207 begins like this, “Brussels sprouts are the hated vegetable of my generation and I am hell-bent on changing that.” You have to love a man who thinks like that.

Rinne took a few minutes to talk with me about her work this week and shared a few of her favorite photographs:

AC: I know that you have been shooting food for quite a while, but is this your first cookbook?

RA: Prior to working with Hugh, I had photographed one cookbook called Canning for a New Generation. It came out in August 2010. The author, Liana Krissoff, also lives in Athens, Georgia, so I was lucky to work with her on such a fun and endlessly beautiful topic. We actually just finished another project together that will be out in the fall of 2012…and hopefully there will be more projects with Hugh, too!

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BLANKET STATEMENT: QUILTING FOR A CAUSE

Thanks @ Stephanie LaCava for this lovely piece in the New York Times today:

“I may be their most passionate member,” says the snow-white-haired designer Natalie Chanin of the Southern Foodways Alliance (S.F.A.), a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the culinary heritage of the American South. For years, it’s been Chanin’s calling to preserve the textile traditions of Florence, Ala., with her clothing line, Alabama Chanin. So when the S.F.A. director John T. Edge approached her about doing a collaborative project, hand-sewn quilts seemed like an obvious departure. Auctioned off this weekend at the Taste of the South event at the bucolic Blackberry Farm in Tennessee, this particular blanket features the words of Roosevelt Scott, the founder of Scott’s Bar-B-Que in Hemingway, S.C.: “…Cut. Chop. Cook. It’s all right here. In the wood.” But it’s just one quilt of many. “Sign me up for a baker’s dozen,” Chanin said when she joined the cause.

For information on bespoke quilts, e-mail office (at) alabamachanin.com.

P.S: I wrote to John T. Edge last night that I am most certainly a very passionate member of the Southern Foodways Alliance; however, I question if I am their MOST passionate member.  That title might go to Rathead Riley (Rathead T. Edge) – just saying… xoNatalie

THE STITCHED CAKE

Our local bakery—called Sugarbakers—makes the most beautiful cakes. I personally think of them as “old-timey,” because they remind me of my childhood birthday cakes with white buttercream frosting and plenty of scallops and swags.

Here is a beautiful cake they recently made for me for a special occasion using a “stitched” Anna’s Garden pattern on the top. I think that this would make such a beautiful wedding cake (or birthday, or shower, or anniversary).

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GET YOUR GRAVY (+ MAKE BROAD BEANS)

Get yours online and join the Southern Foodways Alliance that you can have this kind of deliciousness mailed to your door (with a side of grated tomato):

 

Slow-Roasted Broad Beans by Sheila and Matt Neal of Neal’s Deli, Carrboro, NC
– from pages 8-9 of Gravy #42

WE THINK OF OUR PASTRAMI PLATE AS A MODERN MEAT-AND-TWO, built around our house-smoked pastrami and a couple of side dishes from the deli case. Broad beans, also known as Roma beans, are one of our favorite sides at the deli. We serve this dish every year when they are plentiful. (We cook most of our sides with vegetables procured from nearby farmers.) They make a great plate with our pastrami and creamy coleslaw. This is a great entertainment dish: It’s economical, it feeds a crowd without too much work for the cook, and it tastes better if made a day ahead.

INGREDIENTS

2 5 lbs. broad beans (also called Roma beans), rinsed and stemmed
5 cup peeled and thinly sliced garlic
2 cups diced yellow onion
2 medium-sized tomatoes, grated*
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
5 teaspoon black pepper, coarsely ground
4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 bay leaves
1 cup water
5 cup extra-virgin olive oil

PROCEDURE

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Gently and thoroughly combine all the above ingredients in a roasting pan. Place parchment paper directly onto the beans. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid or foil. Cook until the beans are tender, stirring well every 15 minutes for about an hour and 15 minutes. Keeps well for 3 days.

* This is a great trick we try and share with everyone. The easiest way to “peel” tomatoes is to grate them. Cut the tomato in half, and with your fingers remove as many seeds as you can. Place the cut side of the tomato down on the coarse holes of a box grater. Run the tomato back and forth until all the flesh is grated and you are left with the skin. Discard the skin.

 

THE YEAR IN EATS (AND A RECIPE)

In the spirit of “The Best Of” week as we move towards New Year’s Eve, I had to recap some of the best meals of my year – and they were plenty (despite my detox).

2011 started with a trip to Blackberry Farm’s Taste of the South with an amazing array of chefs and artisans.  The weekend is somewhat of a blur – perhaps because of all the wine tasting with Angie Mosier, and Charles and Kristie Abney.  I remember a biodynamic wine that was a glowing, beautiful orange color. (Charles and Kristie – if you are reading, can you remind me of the name of this wine? I would love to share it with others!)

Pardis Stitt will not let you leave her house, restaurant, or presence without a “to-go” box. And I know this may come as a surprise, but one of the best meal moments of my year was eating freshly cooked homemade chips and charred onion dip from Bottega in my car, on my way home to North Alabama. The recipe for this deliciousness can be found on page 23 of Bottega Favorita: A Southern Chef’s Love Affair with Italian Food. I have not been able to replicate the perfection of that afternoon in my own kitchen – must have been the “Pardis Love” that made the difference.

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BARBEQUE COLLECTION

About this time last year, I agreed to create a barbeque inspired collection for our next Fall/Winter line – yes, that’s right, barbeque. Although it seems impossible, time moves SO QUICKLY and it is time to get started. John T. Edge is headed to our studio today to discuss the upcoming work, as the barbeque collection will be shown at the Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium in Oxford, Mississippi, next year.

In preparation for that collection, I have been working on a series of barbeque inspired Textile Stories Quilts for the Taste of the South auction next month.  When thinking about barbeque (and we have our share here in Florence), what better place to start than with Joe York’s film Cut Chop Cook.

I love this quote from barbeque master Roosevelt Scott (it starts at the 4:48 minute mark):

“After building the fire, while the fire is getting ready put the pig on the pit.  And after you put the pig on, when the coals get ready then you start putting the coal under the hog.

We take the shovel.  Scoop it in there.  Scoop up what we need.  Take it on the inside and we have an open door at each pit where we go under with the shovel and spread the heat at both the ham and the shoulders.  No where else.  And all the heat meets in the middle.

You hear folks all over say they use the wood.  But then they say they use wood chips, or they may use a few pieces of wood.  They might smoke for a little bit. This right here?  All wood.  Nothing else.  One hundred percent wood. Nothing but wood.

Cut. Chop. Cook.  It’s all right here.  In the wood.”

You can almost smell the barbeque.  Food for the soul:

CUT/CHOP/COOK from UM Media Documentary Projects on Vimeo.

 

BRILLIANT Y’ALL

For those of you who have been reading this blog for years, it will come as no surprise that I have a girl crush on Virginia Willis. For me, she embodies all of the things that are required of a great Southern Chef with an added hearty laugh. Her book Bon Appetit, Y’all is in constant rotation in my kitchen and the beautiful photographs still take my breath away.

Book - Basic To Brilliant Yall - Robert Rausch (1)

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PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE + CLIMBING DAISY

We have so very much to be thankful for this year – and decade.  It has been a time filled with friends, family, color, design, light, laughter, growth, and, of course, good food.

May your celebrations this year be filled with laughter, light, love, and Pumpkin Cheesecake!

xo from Natalie and all of us @ Alabama Chanin

To make pumpkin puree:

Cut in half one sugar pumpkin and scoop out the seeds. Place the pumpkin half-side down on a roasting pan and fill with ¼ inch of water. Bake at 350 degrees for an hour, or until soft. Scoop out the meat and puree until smooth.

I have also used organic canned pumpkin with good results.

For the crust:

1 c. graham cracker crumbs (I have also used crushed shortbread cookies)
1/4 c. chopped pecans
1/4 c. brown sugar
4 T. unsalted butter, softened

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with rack in center. Assemble a 9-inch nonstick springform pan, with the raised side of the bottom part facing up.

In a medium bowl, mix cracker crumbs, pecans, sugar, and butter until moistened; press firmly into bottom of springform pan. Bake until golden around edges, 10 to 12 minutes.

For the Filling:

4 (8 oz.) packages of cream cheese, very soft
1 1/4 c. sugar
3 T. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c. pumpkin puree
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground ginger
1/4 t. freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 t. ground allspice
1 T. bourbon
1 T. vanilla extract
1/2 t. salt
4 large eggs, room temperature

Make the filling: With an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar on low speed until smooth; mix in flour (do not overmix). Add pumpkin puree, spices, bourbon, vanilla, and salt; mix just until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, mixing until each is incorporated before adding the next.

Place springform pan on a rimmed baking sheet. Pour filling into springform, and gently smooth top. Transfer to oven; reduce oven heat to 300 degrees. Bake 45 minutes. Turn off oven; let cheesecake stay in oven 2 hours more (without opening).

Remove from oven; cool completely. Cover and refrigerate until firm, at least 4 hours.

Gently lay our Climbing Daisy Stencil over the top of the cooled cake and dust with cinnamon.

 

FRESH GINGER LAYER CAKE

Autumn is definitely in the air – even here in Alabama. With autumn, comes a selection of spicier, richer deserts for all the upcoming festivals and celebrations. I adore fresh ginger: the color, the smell, to drink ginger tea and to eat ginger candy.  Our local Ginger Ale – Buffalo Rock – is beautifully hot (very hot), spicy, and hands-down my favorite Ginger Ale.

Get your ginger fix with this great new recipe – the latest in our stenciling series combining cooking with our Bloomers Stencil from Alabama Stitch Book:

FRESH GINGER + BLOOMERS LAYER CAKE

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THE COOLEST PLACE ON EARTH

The Museum of Electronic Wonder & Late Night Grilled Cheese Parlour is exactly as the name implies: part museum, part sandwich shop. Brainchild of Adam and Krista Bork – of Food Shark fame, this is the place for late-night gatherings in Marfa, Texas.

 

Open from 9:30 until “thirty minutes after the last bar closes,” the menu includes grilled cheese offerings like the Classic with Bacon and Tomato options, Brie with Spicy Cherry Chutney, and Gruyere with Brussels Sprouts and Caramelized Onion.

 

Originally conceived as a kitchen for the Food Shark, the museum has become an extended living room for the Bork’s – hosting locals and visiting art and music enthusiasts for late-night eats.

Why is it that small towns often have the coolest places?  Every small town needs one of these.

See more pictures here.

The Museum of Electronic Wonder & Late Night Grilled Cheese Parlour
300 West San Antonio Street
Marfa, Texas

 

PICO DE GALLO

I arrived back from Berlin to find that tomatoes are still dropping off the vines in my backyard.  I just can’t seem to keep up with them this year.  In a situation like this, the best thing to do is to make Pico de Gallo.  A great dish for the heat of summer, it’s also known as Salsa Fresca, a name that can cool you off just by saying it. If you have a small vegetable garden there’s a good chance that you can get most of the ingredients right outside your back door.

Assembling the ingredients reminds you that the garden knows what flavors do well together.  Or, as my friend Angie reminds me, “What grows together, goes together.”

Even the colors are beautiful together. What better way to prepare for my trip to Texas?

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REVERSE APPLIQUÉ BLOOMERS PIE

Labor Day in my family means delicious home-cooked food.  And while I won’t be indulging to excess this year, I still look forward to family get-togethers and the cooking involved.  While browsing my cookbook collection in preparation for our family meal, it occurred to me that covered pies are really just applique with dough. Fascinated by that concept, I began to imagine all of the things you could do with stencils in the kitchen. With this recipe for Reverse Appliqué Bloomers Cherry Pie, I start exploring ways to combine Alabama Chanin stencils with good home cooking – imagine the possibilities.

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(RE)DETOX – DAY 7

(Re)Detox – Day 7 – and I have to say that it is so much better to detox with friends than alone. We have been sharing lunches, telling stories, laughing, and, at times, commiserating.  This round has been easier for me (although I had a little slip on Friday night that involved a bottle of beer) and I continue to feel better and better.  I made this soup last week which was a favorite – and everyone wanted the recipe you find below.

The preparation is very simple – slightly off the plan since it contains tomatoes, but they are still growing in my backyard and dropping on the ground.  I will stop eating tomatoes in October when there aren’t any more good ones to eat.

My friend Sara cringed, “Seriously? No tomatoes? That is upsetting to me.”

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THREE SISTERS AND A NEW TRINITY

Last weekend, I finally got a chance to read my Gravy: Special Louisiana Edition, the Spring 2011 Issue of the Southern Foodways Alliance’s “Food Letter” to its members. (Better late than never!)

On page 6 of the downloadable PDF, you will find a story about – and a recipe by – Susan Spicer of New Orleans. Titled “Eggplant, Oyster, and Tasso Gratin: A New Sort of Trinity,” the introduction to the recipe refers to the “trinity of Louisiana cookery: onions, celery and bell pepper.” Susan, a “self-described eggplant freak,” created her own trinity with eggplant, oysters and Tasso – recipe included. (You will also find this recipe and text on pages 35-36 of the Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook.)

While I was reading about Susan and her trinity, I kept thinking of the Indian legend of The Three Sisters. If you aren’t familiar with this story, it is really just a beautiful explanation of companion planting told in story form. The tale explains that corn is planted on a mound and provides the stalk for the beans to climb. In turn, the bean vines embrace the corn stalk and provide stability. The squash planted on the mound shades it from direct sunlight and prevents moisture from evaporating. Native Americans encourage eating the three “sisters” together, since together they offer the elements to sustain life: the corn delivers carbohydrates, the beans provide protein, and the squash contains essential vitamins.

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CLEAN LIVING

As reported last week, I eased off my detox and back into everyday life. Using the photo shoot for our HEATH Ceramics collaboration as a happy start-date, I indulged easily back into my old way of eating and living. After enjoying some (quite a bit of) bread, a piece of wedding cake (or 2) that we had made for the shoot, some after-work cocktails, and other earthly delights, I am happy (and surprised) to report that I miss my new way of eating.

Saturday, I went back to the farmer’s market and yesterday my girlfriends and I started our “hard core” cleanse – together and one week early. In the coming weeks, I will share some of our favorite recipes that we develop while navigating the backyard garden, the farmer’s market and Clean.

The recipe below was a favorite of Angie and Cathy this week while we were shooting – it is absolutely approved under the Clean program.

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DETOX UPDATE

I felt reluctant to continue writing about my detox after the first post as I thought that it could be, frankly, a bit boring. Each of us has visited a site where the writer has a fondness to overshare about their eating habits and diet: each morsel eaten, photos of unmentionable detox attributes, things that we really don’t want to know – way too much information. I don’t want to be that person.

However, I was surprised over the last week to receive emails, phone calls and questions from friends, and friends of friends asking about my progress. What I found was that there are people who genuinely want to know how it is going, how I feel, and if I have made progress.

If you are one of those people who really does NOT want to know, please look the other way, skip this post and forgive me. I won’t be offended.

I think that the crux of the matter is this:  we all have things about ourselves that we want to change.  And however difficult those changes might prove, they are harder in the “thinking about them” than they are in the doing. So we get inspiration for making our own changes where we can and sometimes look to others for inspiration on our own path. Hopefully, this update inspires courage to change and not just a bit of eye-rolling!

My uncle George used to say that the hardest part of running each morning was “tying his shoes.” On detox day seventeen, I have to agree. I put off a detox for years (literally).  There are myriad excuses:  can’t live without my morning coffee, my evening beer, wine, cocktail, my bread and olive oil, my _____ (fill in the blank).  Today, I am strangely elated to report that I don’t really miss any of those things.  The hardest part was actually starting and the withdrawal from those luscious, delicious, beautiful things.

I did continue to document my progress in short snippets – which you find below.  I want to say upfront that I would urge anyone attempting a similar cleanse to taper off and go slowly into the process rather that taking my lead to go cold turkey.

All the books present it, doctors sternly recommend it, and everyone you talk to is in agreement: phase out toxins, phase in the detox.  Why I chose to approach it this way, I cannot say – perhaps I threw caution to the wind?  I am stubborn?  I didn’t have time? (I chose a time when my daughter would be out-of-town.) Perhaps it was the only way I could have done it? Whatever the excuse, I don’t recommend it! Don’t do it… employ moderation.  (A theme I have spent my life trying to learn.)

All this being said, I am happy to report that I did survive (regardless of the pain of Day 6).  I am still here and I am still at it.

We left off on Day 5:

Day 6 – If I hit the wall on day three, the wall fell today.  More like the dam broke.  Sick. Sick. Sick.  I see myself as a healthy person, I grow our food, I cook at home, I eat organic. How could my body be so sick? Complete breakdown after the dam broke, I go to bed and start to feel better. I am alive. I sit very still.  I meditate.

Day 7 – Feeling better this morning.  And I mean better than before I started the detox. I write lunch on my calendar and pledge to take the time to prepare, sit and eat each day (well, at least three days a week). I breathe. Pilates feels good.

Day 8 – I tell my friend Angie that I am actually beginning to enjoy cooking in this new way.  Trying new combinations of smoothies. Meals without wheat.  A week ago I thought I could never live without coffee, wine, bread, and cheese – today a quinoa salad with baked chicken for lunch is delicious.

Day 9 – High energy.  First day since I started detox that I am not hungry. I feel energized and want to smile at the whole world. No one really notices the new me – except me. Sigh.

Day 10 – Ditto.

Day 11 – Ditto – High energy seems to be becoming a way of life…

Day 12 – I break down, break out and have a “wild” day:  A few pita chips with my salad, and a frozen yoghurt at night. I feel great and I am not ashamed. My girlfriend laughs that my “wild day” has certainly evolved (can’t imagine what she might be referring to).

Day 13 – I wake up and feel like I want to make a plan for life. I have lost 8 more pounds.

Day 14 – Finally, friends start to notice that I am standing up straighter, feeling better, and have more energy.  They ask what I have been doing and I explain my detox/acupuncture/Pilates combo.  I haven’t had a headache since the third day and three girlfriends commit to joining me in detox.  I urge them to taper off and ease in. We make a plan to go “hardcore” in two weeks.

Day 15 – I ease off the detox “program” and feel like a whole new world and way to look at food is beginning. I have a plan.  I will continue to ease off the detox for the next two weeks but, I won’t do the full three-week detox with friends – partners.  So, I am easing off but starting again – from the beginning.  However, this time without the withdrawal symptoms – at least they will not be as severe.

I have a good day that includes a visit to my favorite Mexican restaurant in celebration of my daughter’s first day at kindergarten – it includes a salad and a margarita. Two weeks ahead to learn what feels good to my body and what doesn’t. I make the “Natalie Plan” which is a mixture of eating from my garden, the farmers market, Clean, Fat Flush and “The Maggie” (my daughter’s plan).

Day 16 – I wake up each morning energized – without my morning latte (or 3).  I head to the farmers market and buy a load of fruit to freeze for my morning smoothies – seems to make it easier for me and the smoothies become like ice cream.  I will work in the studio for a while and then head home for my planned, healthy and relaxing lunch. There will always be a few “treats” included in my day, but they feel like just that – “treats.”  I will savor each and every one.

I purchase Canyon Ranch: Nourish which my friend Kay recommends.

I vow to cook more. I will celebrate.

Thank you for all the well-wishes, emails, phone calls, recipes, ideas, and support along the way,
xoNatalie

A PLATTER OF FIGS

Not a platter, but a bowl of figs landed at my door yesterday.

Beautiful. Delicious. Figs.

I baked some whole with chicken breasts marinated in basil, lemon juice, olive oil and black pepper for lunch.

A Platter of Figs is just as delicious.

DETOX DAY 5

The book Clean, by Alejandro Junger, has been sitting on my nightstand since December of last year. Over the last months, I have read parts of it and “toyed” with some of the recommended practices (eliminating aluminum pans from the kitchen, drinking clean water, etc.), but it has taken some time for me to actually embrace the full-on detox program.  I started last Wednesday.  And when I say “started,” I mean hardcore:  no coffee, no dairy, no wheat, no red meat, no sugar, no alcohol, and as much organic as possible.

Cold turkey.

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LEFTOVER BISCUIT + TOMATO PIE

This recipe was the lucky culmination of a recent visit to the Lodge Factory Store in Scottsboro, Alabama, the abundance of cherry tomatoes in my garden, and leftover biscuits from this morning’s breakfast. It features the biscuit recipe from page 80 of the Alabama Stitch Book and is a riff on the Put-Up Tomato Pie on page 89 of Alabama Studio Style.

Maggie woke up clambering for biscuits this morning and I was one cup short of the white flour that she loves best.  So, I substituted one cup of wheat flour on the board and used that for rolling.  It made a light but hearty biscuit that was the start to a great day; we finished our evening with this hearty dish that was a hit with my family (i.e. no leftovers).

Add some Benton’s Bacon for meat lovers.

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CHICKENS + EGGS

Chicken and Egg has been lying on my kitchen work table now for weeks. I pick it up, put it down, then pick it up again and have been trying to decide just why I like so much. The beautiful photographs by Alex Farnum certainly take my breath away and the stories of backyard chickens and homesteading by Janice Cole are inspiring but it is the selection of simple recipes that keeps me coming back.

A guest at our studio recently told a story about how she has an ongoing competition with friends on who can find the most difficult recipe. She laughingly says, “When the recipe starts with ‘Visit your local Fishmonger,’ she knows that she is in trouble. “Do I have one of those?” she asks.

The recipes in Chicken and Egg seem deceptively simple but inspire me to go out to my garden to pick some basil and mint (bumper crops this year) and prepare the Baked Eggs with Basil-Mint Pesto (page 83) for dinner.


Some of my favorites include (in no particular order): Creamy Deviled Egg-Stuffed Chicken Breasts (page 65), Golden Spinach Strata (page 145), Toasted Chicken Sandwiches with Caramelized Apples and Smoked Gouda (page 228), Paprika Chicken with Hummus (page 235). (Try substituting field peas for your hummus if you live in the south.)

Desserts are deliciousness like Key Lime Cream Pie with Billowy Meringue (page 47), a Bittersweet Fudge Pound Cake (page 49), and the Blueberry Sour Cream Tart (page 99).

From the introduction:

“The chapters are arranged seasonally because chickens are seasonal in their behavior. In the fall and winter, the number of eggs that chickens produce decreases, sometimes so dramatically that they don’t lay at all for days or even weeks at a time. As a result, each egg is more precious, and we’re more careful about how many we use. In the spring and summer, the increased daylight stimulates the chickens to produce lots of eggs, which we use with abandon.”

Since we are also having a bumper year for blueberries in North Alabama, I am off to make the Blueberry Sour Cream Tart with abandon.

Chicken and Egg: A Memoir of Suburban Homesteading with 125 Recipes

P.S.  Janice suggests the Eglu to get started.

AVEC ERIC

I wrote about Eric Ripert back in 2008 when friend and colleague Angie Mosier was documenting the PBS television show Avec Eric and working on the companion book.  (By the way, individual episodes of Avec Eric are now available for download as podcasts at the iTunes store.)

I finally have the Avec Eric book in my hands and am totally in awe.  I can attest that it is a difficult thing to write a book.  You have to get so many, many things right: the text, the photos, the technical details (in this case the recipes), the design, the printing and all the myriad of details in between.

(Read Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird should you ever want to be a published author.)

Avec Eric is a forthright, relaxed, joyous celebration of food that is neither too heady nor too difficult for the lay-chef.  Eric Ripert is a stunning story teller and the book is infused with the beautiful photos, prose and spirit of our friend Angie.  Star Chef named it one of the Top 10 cookbooks of 2010. Wiley hits a 100% as it is graced with lovely paper, printing, trim size, photos, stories and is simply a beautiful collection of recipes.

As I refuse to part with my copy of Avec Eric, I have purchased a copy of for my son who has opened his own catering company a few years ago called MAGPIE + Ruth (after my Maggie and his sweet girlfriend Ashley).  I am hoping that he will be preparing Crab-Stuffed Zucchini Flowers and Cornmeal Biscuits for us all this summer.

Get your copy of Avec Eric.

You will not be disappointed on either count.

I love what Anthony Bourdain writes about the Avec Eric television show in the introduction:  “Remarkably, the TV show, Avec Eric, for which this volume is a companion, does NOT suck!”

Indeed.

WILD CARD QUILT + GULF OYSTERS

Back in the studio today after almost a month of working from home, the holidays, an amazing trip to Taste of the South and a few (beautiful) snow days.  It was a great luxury to have some time to read over the holidays and I have savored many a volume (both trash and treasure).

Wild Card Quilt by Janisse Ray is such a beautiful, soulful  story of coming home. It speaks to sustainability of community, of people, and of the plants, foods and stories that tie us together.  I find the stories especially moving a decade after I made the leap to come home – a move that changed my life.

This year Taste of the South featured a fantastic talk by Gary Nabhan (Coming Home to Eat – another wonderful book).  Gary spoke gushingly of Janisse Ray (and read a portion of the essay below) while my dear friend Angie leaned over and said, “I just LOVE Janisse Ray.”

I adore her too.

Some of you will remember my mention of The Ecology of a Cracker Childhood Janisse’s story of her Georgia youth and the Longleaf.

I love the line below from page 43 of Wild Card Quilt.  Anyone with a rural Southern childhood will understand:

“I heard Mr. Henry Eason say one time, with the advent of paved roads and electric lights, there ain’t near as many ghosts as there used to be…”


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CAST IRON COOKING

This is what I want for the holidays: the largest cast iron skillet that can be had for oven-roasting vegetables.

I am no recent convert to the joys of cast iron cooking as the pans pictured above have traveled the world with me for 30+ years. However, I was reminded of the detriments of aluminum while reading Clean last week and want an alternative to parchment paper and the large “roasting” pans in my kitchen cabinets.

In terms of sustainability, reasonably priced cast iron lasts forever and, with a bit of care, provides a stick-free surface for life. Use kosher salt and water to clean and your “seasoned” pan will thank you.

When I was pregnant with Zach, my doctor was shocked that my iron levels kept getting better and better as I had a tendency towards anemia… of course the answer was cast iron cooking.

I am planning a family outing to the Lodge Factory in South Pittsburg, Tennessee and have been dreaming of designing my own pans.  Imagine “Alabama Chanin for Lodge”… mmmm.

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CANNING AS GIVING

And in speaking of happiness…

Nothing like giving – and receiving, hint, hint – the bounty of summer.

Canning-Jar Covers – pictured here – from page 137 of Alabama Studio Style.  Made with scraps of our 100% organic cotton jersey, Small Medallion stencil pull-out from Alabama Studio Style and an extra-fine permanent marker.

Prepare to be loved.

Have you ever baked in canning-jars? Angie Mosier did this when we were in New York City last year and I have been wanting to try it… seems like a perfect way to wrap up some holiday joy for friends.

Got recipes for me to try out with Maggie on these cold and icy days?

WORKSHOPS + WALKING CAPE

Thank you to everyone who came to our studio in Florence last weekend to participate in the Weekend Workshop.  What a great group… the stories, fellowship, sewing, and laughter were perfect.

A special thanks to Amy for sharing the sewing of her beautiful wedding dress.  What a special way to start a lifetime of beauty and commitment… and to Sarah – who made the trip from New York.  More about Sarah later this week.

Saturday’s meatloaf was amazing and everyone was clamoring for the recipe which, thanks to Kristy, I have posted below.

We have just posted our Weekend Workshop dates for 2011. Fill your holiday stocking, plan your trip and join us in the studio:

March 4 – 6

June 24 – 26

November 4 – 6

Look for our Berkeley workshop at the Edible Schoolyard soon and congrats to Deborah Kennedy for being the lucky winner of my favorite Walking Cape.

Check back soon for other special offers, visit us this Friday, November 12th from 12 -5 and Saturday the 13th from 10 – 5 for our annual Holiday Open House & Sample Sale.

We have extended hours this year and will also be open Friday November 19th from 12 – 5.  Get there early as everything goes quickly.

And now, Kristy’s Individual Meat Loaves

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THE BEST OF THE BEST

“I daresay any fine recipe used in Jackson could be attributed to a local lady, or her mother – Mrs. Cabell’s Pecans, Mrs. Wrights’ Cocoons, Mrs. Lyell’s Lemon Dessert.  Recipes, in the first place, had to be imparted – there was something oracular in the transaction – and however often they were made after that by others, they kept their right names.  I make Mrs. Mosal’s White Fruitcake every Christmas, having got it from my mother, who got it from Mrs. Mosal, and I often think to make a friend’s recipe is to celebrate her once more, and in that cheeriest, most aromatic of places to celebrate in, the home kitchen.” — Eudora Welty of Jackson, Mississippi

I returned this week from Bloomington, Indiana to find a box containing my copy of The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook.  One part old-timey church cookbook, one part storybook, the compilation of recipes from SFA Members is spectacular.  Edited by friend John T. Edge with Sara Roahen, the recipes vary from Brown Butter Creamed Winter Greens by Linton (“Why It Is Worth So Much”) Hopkins (on page 70) to Shout Hallelujah Potato Salad by our friend Blair Hobbs (page 61). Indeed, the entire book contains the best of the best.

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GREEN GRAPES + SIX WEEK SLAW

According to friends, I might be the only person in North Alabama still harvesting tomatoes.  I was angry at myself for not getting them in the ground earlier this year; however, it seems that my busy life made the perfect storm for a great harvest.  One of Zach’s friends gave me a load of heirloom plants to try and I have to say that there were some great selections in the mix:  purple, yellow, and plums to name a few.  However, the “Green Grapes” have become coveted around my house.  I have saved some seeds for next year and will certainly (hopefully) have more than one plant.

Try out this great lunch:  Six Week Slaw (recipe below) with shaved Parmesan and halved green grapes.

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HARVEST FEAST

Come out and join us for an amazing field feast — all proceeds to directly benefit the fishermen of Bayou La Batre.

Birmingham Weekly said it best:

“By now, you can probably already envision yourself at the Harvest Feast, sleeves rolled up and elbow deep in great seafood. As the sun starts to set, you can almost hear the band start to tune up and you’re ready for one of those signature cocktails. But listen, there are only 160 tickets available for this unique event, and they are selling like the proverbial hotcakes. Visit www.gardenandgun.com/harvestfeast to purchase your tickets and help support the fisherman of Bayou La Batre.”

HOPE IN BARBECUE

Our friend and hero John T. Edge knows that there is “Hope in barbecue.”

Check out the great interview from Nightline: Barbecue Heaven

“We have this burden of the past upon us. We’ll deal with that history. But we’re looking for opportunities, we’re looking for places to deal with that history. And I think one great place to deal with that, to sit across from our fellow man, is a barbecue restaurant…I think there’s hope in barbecue.”

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BOTTEGA FAVORITA

Plan your road trip and join Alabama Chanin, along with Frank and Pardis Stitt, on the 28th of August, 2010 for our annual One Day Workshop/Retreat at the award winning Bottega Restaurant and Cafe in Birmingham, Alabama.

Delight in a special menu from James Beard award winning chefs and restaurateurs Frank and Pardis Stitt, sit, sew, laugh and breathe …

Limited seats available –  phone: +1-256-760-1090

And get ready for your day with Bottega Favorita – one of my all-time favorite cookbooks.

*Photos from Frank Stitt’s Bottega Favorita: A Southern Chef’s Love Affair with Italian Food

CHEF’S PRESS

We were lucky when last in the Bay Area to be able to sit down and visit (eat) with Chef Bruce Hill at Restaurant Picco in Larkspur. Partner to our dear friend Kim from RedBird in Berkeley, Bruce is one-part chef, one-part entrepreneur and one-part inventor.

When he could not find what he deemed an appropriate chef’s press, he invented a set of his own. The set is clever in that they are designed with vents to allow moisture to release during the cooking process, they are stackable that you can choose the perfect weight for your recipe, they clean easily and are just beautiful objects for the kitchen.

Honestly, I had never used a press in cooking before and am delighted with my new found tool. I have been using mine for everything from French Toast (Maggie’s morning favorite) to the sausages (shown above) that I made last night. The best part about using the press set is that they save electricity by reducing cooking time – perfect for hot Alabama summers.

Chef’s Press by Bruce Hill

*Butch still says that our meal at Picco was one of the best that we have ever had in the Bay Area – not an easy feat in that food-rich community. Looking forward to our next trip.

PIMENTO CHEESE + TWO HOUR WORKSHOPS

Thank you to everyone who braved the weather and joined us for our Open House, Sample Sale and Earth Day Celebration over the weekend. (And to Butch and Robert Rausch for playing along…) It was lovely to open our studio and the event was so successful that we decided to go ahead and plan for next year… Mark your calendar & plan your trip:

Alabama Chanin
8th Annual Open House & Sample Sale
April 29 & 30, 2011

We have also added Two-Hour Workshops to both our Events and to the Open House next year. The seating is limited for each session so register early. We also have a range of these new Two-Hour Workshops coming soon:

May 1st and 2nd @ Textile Fabrics in Nashville

May 8th @ Barneys in Chicago

May 14th @ Purl Soho in New York City

June 12th @ Warehouse Row in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Contact us for more information.

My son Zach cooked for us at our Open House over the weekend. I asked him to write up his recipe for Pimento Cheese since we had so many folks rave about his special blend. I have always prided myself as a good cook but I believe that Zach has surpassed me.

Lovely when your children do you one-up…

Zach’s Pimento Cheese

3 cups shredded Hoop or Sharp Cheddar Cheese (about one large block)
9-10 squirts of Tabasco (Or as you see fit)
1/4 cup Roasted Red Peppers diced
2 tablespoon Prepared Horseradish
1 1/2 tablespoon Lemon or Lime juice
1/2 cup Aioli or Mayo made with olive oil
Fresh Herbs fine chop (Oregano, Thyme, Rosemary, Parsley)
Salt n Pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and stir vigorously.  If too spicy add another tablespoon of Aioli.  If not spicy enough, add more Tabasco.  You may want to find some of the different styles of Tabasco such as Chipotle or my favorite, the Roasted Garlic style.  Enjoy!!

If you have another great Pimento Cheese recipe, please share it with us in the comments below!

FROM TOBACCO TO FOOD (GOOD FOOD)

I lived in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina for almost 10 years of my life. In fact, I lived at one time or the other in just about every one of the cities and my son, Zach, was born 28 years ago when I lived in Durham.

Shortly before Zach’s arrival and in teenage rebellion style, I left Alabama at 18 with my best friend (and a whim) heading towards Chapel Hill. Our first house in the area – rented for $50 a month –  was in the middle of a tobacco field and you could literally see the sunset through the kitchen wall. I remember telling my mother, “This is paradise.”  The memories of that first summer still make me laugh but at the arrival of winter, I found more suitable “paradise” where the heat from the wood stove actually warmed the house.

However, I can still smell the rows of tobacco being worked by migrant farmers that drifted through those walls. And from time to time, I feel the sense of driving down the streets of Durham with the overwhelming smell of tobacco infusing the entire community.

How lovely to read this article today in the New York Times about how the greater Durham/RTI community has been able to make the leap from traditional (and chemical ridden) tobacco farming to sustainable local cuisine. I especially love the story of Neal’s Deli where the son of famed chef Bill Neal carries on the family tradition.

It is heartening to think that the fields on the outskirts of our little town may one day be bountiful again.

*Photograph by Travis Dove for The New York Times

CALIFORNIA SISTERS + CHILI

Flying out the door to fly to San Francisco and thinking about my lovely Kitchen Sisters playing on the iPod… and the beautiful story of the Chili Queens. I can smell the chili cooking as I fly.

I will be that annoying person on the plane today with a four year old who talks too loud and sings out-of-tune. If you are traveling my way, grant me grace – if just for today.

Looking forward to all my California Sisters!

*Photo courtesy of Kitchen Sister Davia

TRUCK FOOD NATION

And while we are on the subject of all things food related coming back to John T. Edge

All of the pictures – taken by dear friend Angie Mosier – for Truck Food Nation have been posted.

Our friends have elevated truck food culture to white tablecloth – amazingly beautiful and inspiring.

I can’t wait to hold (and review) the book and am looking forward to our trips to San Francisco and Portland to check out a few of their finds…

More on Portland next week… Have a great weekend.

CHOCOLATE PIE

I am upcycling this blog post from 2006 as I have just had so many questions about it recently…

Celebrate the official release of Alabama Studio Style this week by Baking a Pie for a Cake Plate:

Below is my Gram Perkins’ famous chocolate pie recipe that my cousin Joy continues to make. It was printed in 1958 in the “Favorite Recipes of Alabama Vocational Home Economics Teachers” cook book. My mother gave me a copy of this book when I moved out into my first apartment. You can find other great community cooking in A Gracious Plenty by John T. Edge and Ellen Rolfes.

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MAGGIE’S FAVORITE COOKIES

Maggie has her Valentine’s Party this morning at school and she started the day jumping up and down saying, “I am so excited. I am so excited. I am so excited.” Her enthusiasm for this holiday has been amazing to see crescendo as the week comes to a close. This (almost) four year old girl has been sitting for a week now patiently writing her name on each card and envelope. Then, she meticulously packs cards, candy and treats inside the envelopes – custom-stylized for a special friend. Amazing.

The gist of this is that we are going to celebrate Maggie’s new favorite holiday by making her (my) favorite sugar cookies over the weekend and I have to get ready today.  Notice how the hearts (cookies) in the drawing above are larger than anything else in her world – including house, pets, and parents! Got to love a girl who loves to cook…

The base of our recipe comes from Kim’s Cookbook For Young People that was given to me by my Grandmother Smith on my 13th Birthday.

For whatever reason, this recipe has never been surpassed – well, with a few modifications:

MAGGIE’S FAVORITE COOKIES

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar (we use raw sugar)
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
½ teaspoon homemade baking powder (see below)
¼ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Beat butter and raw sugar on medium speed until they are creamy – about 3 minutes. (That mixer would make a great Valentine’s Gift for a deserving chef if you still don’t have an idea and they don’t already have one.)

Add 1 egg and 1 teaspoon vanilla to butter and raw sugar and blend on medium.

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl and add in quarters to dough. Blend on low until just smooth – do not over beat.
Chill your dough for 1 hour – trying not to taste.

Roll to about 1/4” thick on a lightly floured board. Cut with floured heart cookie cutters. Place on parchment paper lined pan and bake for 8 -10 minutes. The trick is not to overcook. Test often to make sure that the cookies are “done.”

Remove from pans and cool on wire racks.

Decorate with Buttercream Frosting.

A Note on Homemade Baking Powder
The Gift of Southern Cooking by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock (In my top ten list of cookbooks and also a great Valentine’s Day gift):

Distressed by the chemical additives and aftertaste of commercial “double-acting” powders, Miss Lewis years ago started making her own baking powder – a traditional mixture of cream of tartar and baking soda. When I first used her formula (from her books, before we met), I couldn’t really taste any difference. Soon, though, I realized that muffins and quick breads made with aluminum-sulfate-based powders left a metallic “tingle” on my tongue. Today, I make up a batch of this powder every week for use at the restaurant and bring a jar home for Miss Lewis. We recommend it for all the recipes here. If necessary, you can substitute commercial baking powder in equal amounts.

Sift 1/4 cup cream of tartar with 2 tablespoons baking soda together 3 times, and transfer to a clean, tight-sealing jar. Store at room temperature, away from sunlight, for up to 6 weeks.

Happy Valentine’s Week(end),
From all of us @ Alabama Chanin

SNOW + 1/2 CHILI

A blanket of snow gave a surprise visit in Alabama today and, in typical Southern fashion, we celebrated by closing the city and cooking.  I made a pot of my famous secret-recipe chili – one of my favorite dishes.

So… here you have my secret chili recipe.The secret is really in the homemade chili powder:

Homemade Chili Powder

I make a supply of this by doubling or tripling the recipe then storing in an air-tight jar.
3 teaspoons paprika
1 tablespoon cumin (I love cumin so always add an extra shake or two)
3 teaspoons cayenne (best picked and dried from the garden and ground just before using)
3 teaspoons dried oregano
Optional:  1 tablespoon garlic powder – I prefer to use fresh cloves and eliminate the garlic powder.  I add the fresh cloves during cooking (see below).
I always find the best way to test a chili powder is to just smell it. If it smells like chili you would like to eat then it is perfect.

Natalie’s Chili

1 lb. ground beef (preferably locally raised and grass-fed)
Worcestershire sauce in desired amount
3 cloves garlic, pressed
Olive oil, a turn around the pan
1 onion – chopped (I prefer the chop a bit on the larger size for a hearty chili)
Homemade chili powder – as much as you can take or about 6 tablespoons
6 cups stewed tomatoes (from your garden if possible)
Salt and black pepper to taste

Generously douse your ground beef with Worcestershire sauce before you start your cooking and set aside.

Press 3 cloves of garlic and set aside separately (garlic reaches its full potential and is ready to use after sitting for approximately 10 minutes!).

Chop your onion. In a large pot, coat bottom of pan with olive oil and saute chopped onion over low heat until it just begins to caramelize.  Raise heat to medium, add meat and excess Worcestershire sauce and cook until almost brown.

Add pressed garlic and chili powder, stirring and turning constantly for a few minutes.  Turn heat to high only to raise the temperature and quickly add stewed tomatoes – a quick steam to release all the flavors.

Turn heat immediately back to low and simmer for as long as you can stand.  I have boiled chili up to five hours.  Add salt and black pepper to taste. Continue to simmer and add additional water or beer as necessary to keep chili from getting too thick and sticking to the bottom of the pan.
If you have time, cool and let chili sit in the refrigerator overnight. If you don’t have time, just go ahead and add the beans, following the instructions below and eat.

We sometimes cannot wait until the next day and have to have this for supper before adding the beans… At my house, this stage is called 1/2 Chili. Serve 1/2 Chili with hoop cheese, sour cream, hot sauce and nacho chips – our family favorite.

If you are using dried beans, wash and soak your beans overnight in salt water.
Cook dried kidney beans in 6 cups water and keep adding water (or beer) as needed until beans are soft.

Alternately, if you are using canned beans, simply add beans to warmed chili and stir constantly over low heat for about 30 minutes. Cooked beans & chili will stick to the bottom and burn if not watched, loved and stirred constantly.

If this happens, don’t tell anyone and skim the unstuck chili from the top – being careful not to scrape the bottom – and serve with hoop cheese, sour cream, hot sauce, and cornbread.

FARM-TO-TABLE

Okay – before I start – I have to say – JOIN THE SOUTHERN FOODWAYS ALLIANCE… good?

I made it through the snow and ice in Arctic temperatures to Walland, Tennessee. My trip to Blackberry Farm might be one of the most extraordinary trips I have ever taken – anywhere. I know that is saying a lot BUT the warm, gracious hospitality that you experience from the time you drive in the gate is exquisite. Add to Blackberry the wit, education and pure joy of the Southern Foodways Alliance and you have – hands down – one of the best events in the world.

I could fill this entire page but have to just highlight a few morsels of the weekend:

Blackberry Farm – I had the luxury of sitting next to Sam and Mary Celeste Beall on Thursday night and was struck by their deep knowledge of this farm and understanding of the ultimate Farm-to-Table experience.

The Blackberry Farm Cookbook – on the inside flap – says it best: “In the foothills, you don’t eat to eat, you eat to talk, to remember, and to imagine what you will eat tomorrow.” The book is lush with photographs of the estate, the kitchens, the gardens and luscious Farm-to-Table recipes.

While talking about the upcoming weekend, Sam and I spoke about the biscuit making classes (see below) and he asked me, “Butter or Lard?” This was just about the best question I have ever been asked over a five-course dinner – with wine pairings. You just have to love a man who understands the true essence of good bread. I laughed and replied, “Butter.”

Friday morning, the Blackberry Farm Chef Team of Josh Feathers, Adam Cooke, and Joseph Lenn offered a Cast Iron Skillet demonstration – which I unfortunately missed – but came home with the following recipe by Chef Josh Feathers which I am going to make and then bake in my cast-iron:

Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes **Courtesy of Taste of the South notepad so generously supplied for all our cooking and tasting notes!

3 pounds red bliss potatoes 6 ounces butter 10 ounces buttermilk half & half – as needed Kosher salt – to taste 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Simmer potatoes until tender. Strain and dry in the 300-degree oven for 15 minutes.

Run potatoes through a food mill with a medium die to mash. Stir in remaining, heated ingredients. Taste for seasoning.

Note: Those of you who are new to cast iron, NEVER wash your pan with soapy water. Clean your skillet first with a handful of kosher salt then rinse in warm to hot water and dry thoroughly. I learned this from Angie Mosier while working on Alabama Studio Style.

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RECIPES, GRAVY + BLACKBERRY FARM

Forgive me for taking a vacation just after the holidays; BUT, I am headed out today for my first vacation – on my own – in 10 years (snow permitting)… very excited & for good reason:

Taste of the South @ Blackberry Farms

Alabama Chanin donated one of our Textile Stories Quilts to the auction benefiting the Southern Foodways Alliance at Blackberry Farm this weekend.

The quilt – shown above – is called Aunt Mag’s Chicken Recipe – a story from my favorite great-aunt about her secret recipe for fried chicken that she served only for her quilting circles.

Our entire series of quilts was inspired by the Oral History program  – a series of inspiring recipes, stories and films that are made, collected and cataloged by the Southern Foodways Alliance.

SFA Oral History:  The Story Behind the Food

Thank you to John T. Edge, Angie Mosier, Mary Beth Lasseter, Amy Evans, Joe York and a million more who make the SFA Oral History possible.

If you are not already a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance, join today – if for no other reason than to receive your printed copy of Gravy.

Back next week rested and with recipes and stories for the next decade – Natalie

FISH SOUP

In 1999, at the tail end of the last decade, I chose to leave my life in Vienna, Austria, to spend what I deemed a “sabbatical” on an island off the northern coast of Venezuela called Los Roques. How I got there is a story for another day. What had drawn me there was a woman – Nelly – and “El Canto de la Ballena.” Little did I know that my entire life was about to change.

I credit the beginnings of the work I have done the last ten years with a few months spent on that island. It was a time when hurricanes and storms wreaked havoc and destruction to the coast of Venezuela. I was on this tiny island – due north – as the weather passed through for weeks on end.

I wrote this story in February of 2000 when I had landed in cold New York but still had the stories of Los Roques fresh on my mind… I hope that my translation of Nelly’s words from the original Spanish do her justice.

Fish Soup

The point of the whole thing is food,” she said. “Good food. Real good food. A lot of people have forgotten,” she continued. “Three meals a day, sit down, take your time and eat warm food that is prepared with good ingredients and love. That’s the key,” she stresses, “love. It’s the way it’s washed, it’s the way it’s cut, it is the way one touches and it is the way one thinks as one touches. That,” she said, “is food and food is love.”
–Nelly Camargo, December 1999, Los Roques

Nelly made fish soup that day. I remember that is was one of those first days when the waves began to crash onto the porch. I don’t remember exactly when it happened, but I know that by that day, the beach was already gone, taken by the hurricane. And, I definitely remember that it seemed on that day like the waves were coming back for the porch. Soon after this day, we made sandbags because shortly after, the house next door fell into the sea.

The soup took hours. As the weather had been acting up again, everyone had the feeling of being wet and cold. Saying nothing, Nelly just went into the kitchen and started to work. In went the fish, the heads, the bones and just about everything else that could be found in the kitchen and on the island.

I guess that everyone who passed Nelly’s house that day could smell what was going on. So the soup cooked and the word spread, “Nelly is up to something.” And before I knew it, we were five people in the kitchen. Everyone was washing and cutting and chopping and rolling and laughing and talking. I know that I had never seen anything like it before that day. Music blared from the stereo and some were even dancing in the tiny, warm space.

In Nelly’s kitchen there is a window which looks down the hall and out to the sea. When you stand there and see the wooden spoons and the open window and the green-green sea in the background, you cannot help but stand still for a moment and breathe deeply. But that day, no one even looked to the window until about one in the afternoon, when the first faces began to appear.

The islanders were greeted with a big, warm smile and the question, “Are you hungry?” We went on that day to feed what seemed to be the whole island. Many faces and stories and laughter passed through my life that day. Nelly asked everyone, “Have you met Alabama?”

The feast went on into the night and here are a few of the recipes that were made. The fish soup was the best I have ever tasted in my life, but it remains Nelly’s secret. All I can remember is to put in everything you can find (plus coriander – the “spice of life”) and to do it with lots of love and laughter.

Fish in the Pan

Crush 5 cloves of garlic and salt in mortar. Add juice of two limes and a splash of soy sauce. Pour over fish fillets and let stand for awhile. Cook the fish on hot skillet with  the marinade.

Zucchini Carpaccio

Grate zucchini with skins into thin rounds. Lay flat on a big plate. Cover with juice of lime, salt, pepper and a little vinegar. Finish by grating parmesan cheese to cover.

Serve.

Red Cabbage

Cut cabbage into very thin strips. (The cutting is very important!) Crush garlic and salt in mortar; add roasted sesame seeds and crush a little bit more. Add vinegar, a little sugar, a little sesame oil and more roasted sesame seeds. Pour over cut cabbage and serve.

Nelly’s Arepa

Mix salt (about one-half teaspoon) and warm water (about three cups) in a big bowl with a tablespoon of oil. To this mixture, add ”P.A.N” or Arepa Flour until dough is of a consistency to roll in your hand. Shape into 1/2” thick rounds and fry in hot oil. Cook until brown. When they are finished, you have to “thump” them. If they are really done, they make a kind of hollow sound.

This is just the basic recipe. You may choose to add white cheese, sesame seeds or just about anything you want to add.


Nelly moved El Canto de la Ballena in January of 2000, just after the storms had stopped. The new building is a bit further from the beach and behind the fishing pier.

I left Los Roques a few weeks after the Y2K panic was over and our world continued to spin; however, I don’t think that we would really have noticed any computer meltdown on that island. I have not laid eyes on Nelly since that time and have not spoken to her for much too long. I hope that she remembers me and will be proud when I say that the seeds for my work with the former Project Alabama and now Alabama Chanin were watered in her kitchen.

HEATH RED

From Vogue Daily:

Still under the radar, West Coast-based Heath Ceramics is a Vogue editor favorite. Imagine our delight upon discovering that their new color for fall, out today, is this divine shade of red, reminding us of the fall collections (think Prada, Louis Vuitton, and Galliano). “Even though we’re in California, the warmth of red ceramic ware in winter takes the chill off our damp, foggy afternoons,” says coowner Catherine Bailey of the new shade.

Heath is a family affair (Catherine owns the company with her husband, Robin), and when asked what they will be serving in this fabulous casserole (of which only 75 were produced), the couple suggest Maryana Vollstedt’s Brussels Sprouts and Baby Onions with Mustard recipe from The Big Book of Casseroles (Chronicle).

“Our whole family loves brussels sprouts, and the bonus is that they look great in this red dish.” Another suggestion is a Baked Couscous Pudding with Raisins from John Pawson and Annie Bell’s Living and Eating (Clarkson Potter). “The recipe is simple and the texture is a great surprise in a pudding. I find the leftovers can make a great breakfast as well,” says Catherine. It is no wonder they count Alice Waters’s Chez Panisse among their clients (they collaborated on the restaurant’s dinnerware) and, as they happily admit, they have found solace creating simple, beautiful things. What’s next? A collaboration with Alabama Chanin is in the works.

Heath Ceramics large red casserole, $195; heathceramics.com.

—Virginia Tupker

Photo: Liam Goodman

Recipes below…

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COMING HOME

Although the travels of the last months have been truly wonderful, there is nothing quite like coming home. My garden survived the neglect and the tomato plants are now at shoulder height with green pearls of delight starting to form. And while I have been a bit lax in keeping up with reading and writing, I have saved a few articles over the last months that I look forward to sharing.

I was surprised and delighted to find Preserving Time in a Bottle in the New York Times and see it truly as a sign of changing times. I am looking forward to savoring my time at home, eating in my own kitchen, keeping my suitcase packed away, devouring fresh tomatoes with Maggie, trying out new recipes, “putting up” our garden and letting the summer arrive slowly, slowly…

Photo: Evan Sung for The New York Times


STRAWBERRIES

My little strawberry patch is working miracles this year. It is wonderful for us to be able to go out the back door and pick breakfast. Maggie has appointed herself the official color inspector and tells me which ones are red enough to pick and which ones have to wait until tomorrow. I follow her lead religiously.

For a special treat this weekend, we are making our own version of Strawberry Shortcake with the recipe for my Aunt Mae’s Pound Cake that was originally posted about Georgia Gilmore. There is a reason that they call it Pound Cake.

Here it is again and perfect for fresh strawberries:

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White cake on a homemade cake stand

THREE-LAYER CAKES, COOKBOOKS, AND BIRTHDAYS

My holidays – up until Monday morning – were all about cookbooks. We made birthday dinners (Fried Chicken a la Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock), holiday brunch (Turkey Pot Pie a la Screen Doors and Sweet Tea), buttermilk rolls (The Joy of Cooking) back-yard picnics (Bunyan’s Barbeque and anything from White Trash Cooking #2), homemade truffles (a la Nicole Spiridakis) , seasoned pecans (Bon Appétit Y’all) and an array of other goodies. But the highlight of two weeks “kitchen play” was the three-layered (and sometimes two-layered) cakes.

I told Angie recently that I am terrified by the three-layer cake. Although I see myself as accomplished in the kitchen, I have never been one to do much baking. However, I have become obsessed with the three-layer cake. My grandmothers and great aunts could whip out a cake in an early morning. They made layer cakes for church bazaars, birthdays, neighbors who fell ill or just because it was time for Sunday supper.

I took the holidays as an opportunity to face my fears, channel Angie, go beyond the simple cupcake and try my hand at the stacked treasure. (I have actually been working up to this for months.) In August, I purchased a cake decorating set which has been unused in the drawer since purchase. And recently I purchased 3 – 9” round cake pans.

First step: Butch requested a Red Velvet Cake with Chocolate Icing and Pecans for his birthday on the 24th of December. I got an old-time recipe from page 277 of my favorite, A Gracious Plenty, the soulful Ellen Rolfes Book from John T. Edge. The Chocolate Buttermilk Icing is a recipe passed down from my great-aunt (in Alabama Studio Style) and this was topped off with freshly shelled pecans.

Maggie (three-years old) and Zach (27 years old) each have their own cakes--one white, one a naked cake that is white with green decorations.

Second: It was hard to believe that my son Zach turned 27 on January 4th! And although he does not really like sweets, I asked him to name his favorite cake. He said that he once ate a yellow, chocolate chip cake with cream cheese icing that was the best cake he ever tasted. In adventure mode, Maggie and I attempted a yellow cake, scattered with chocolate chips and our three layers became two when one layer fell apart!

Not to be deterred, I attempted it again and wound up with two perfectly iced layers.

I found a great set of cake tips on page 460 of The Lee Bros. Southern Cook Book and ordered The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum – which came highly recommended by Angie.

My copy of BakeWise by Shirley O. Corriher arrived yesterday morning & it is AMAZING… lovely how baking can be broken down to a science. Shirley prefers to bake one cake and then slice into three layers. The book is filled with interesting math – like the perfect measuring methods and baking stones. I now know how little I know and can’t wait to get started baking again…

Butch swears that he is going to make cakes every Thursday of the New Year.

Now, I am off to the gym…

Anybody have a recipe for Chocolate Chip Cake with Cream Cheese Icing?

White cake, with a red tablecloth

GOOD ENOUGH TO EAT

Okay. Sorry to send you to the same place two days in a row… BUT I am SO making these caramels over the weekend!

Holiday Gifts Good Enough To Eat

**And scroll on to the bottom for Chocolate Truffles and Flavored Salt!

CHEZ PANISSE FOUNDATION

On Saturday afternoon, I had the honor of touring the Edible Schoolyard and having lunch in the new Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School Dining Commons. Alice Waters, the Chez Panisse Foundation and a team of others are working towards changing the way we see the school lunch program in America.

The program was inspiring, delicious and beautiful and I am committed to bringing this philosophy into the life of my own daughter.

Here is an overview of the work being accomplished by the Chez Panisse Foundation:

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DINNER SOCIAL

Eric Ripert believes:

I believe that the act of preparing, eating and sharing food should be at the center of our lives – not only feeding our bodies but our emotional and spiritual needs as well. One of my favorite things about cooking is sharing this experience with good friends and family. As it gets cooler, a simple and elegant home cooked meal is the perfect excuse to gather together to enjoy the bounty of the Fall harvest. The markets right now are a fantastic source of inspiration with all of the amazing fruits and vegetables available. A great dinner party does not have to be complicated – good, simple ingredients and clear organization are all you need to create a wonderful meal to share with loved ones. I want to show you how dinner parties can be fun for everyone – not just your guests!

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THE GENTLE ART OF DOMESTICITY

When our editor Melanie described this new Abrams title, I could not fully imagine how a book about domesticity could be so interesting. And now, I am taken aback by the beauty, prose and “comforts” of Jane Brocket and The Gentle Art of Domesticity.

When opening the book, I was stuck by the very first line: “There is a world of difference between domesticity and domestication.”

Jane makes me long for more time at home studying the simple beauty of life and love.

THE GIFT (PART 2) – OR SQUASH ON THE DOORSTEP

Okay. If you live in the South (and perhaps everywhere else for that matter), summertime is filled with anonymous gifts left on your porch.

Martha Foose writes, “When it is not possible to eat all the squash that comes out of the backyard garden quickly enough, the Kornegays have admitted to leaving anonymous gifts on neighbors’ doorsteps under the cover of darkness. They, too, have been on the receiving end of this generous gesture.”

Well, let me attest to the fact that this has been “one particularly prolific summer” for crooknecked squash.

When I lived in Vienna, I visited a restaurant called “Panigl” just about every (other) night of the week. (Is my name still scrawled under the table at my seat?) Well, I used to love an antipasti dish of slow-roasted vegetables that seemed to melt in your mouth. My dear friend, Agatha Whitechapel, once told me how to make the dish and I have approximated her instructions here:

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