Hey, there. I would appreciate it if all of you who subscribe (thank you!) to this blog change your bookmark or however you keep track of me to: http://www.thesouthinmymouth.com. I migrated my blog a few weeks ago to a simpler address. There’s no “wordpress” in the address anymore and all the new stuff is over at my .com address. So hop on over to www.thesouthinmymouth.com and subscribe over there. Thanks so much.
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It has come to my attention that I am an Internet idiot. I recently migrated this blog to a .com address in an attempt to widen the number of you wonderful people who like to read it. And I appear to have left many of you behind who subscribed to the blog and got e-mail notifications of new posts.
Bad Mommy, which is what I say about myself when I have apparently done something stupid. Not the .com thing. The “not understanding how to communicate to my subscribers what I’ve done” thing.
So, please hop on over to www.thesouthinmymouth.com and subscribe over there. And if this works, all you regulars, please comment. By the way, I think I am figuring this out because my newly minted 20-year-old son (Happy Birthday, Noah!) sat out here on the deck with me while I furiously slugged wine and smoked cigarettes in despair. And thanks to my good friend, Marida, for e-mailing me to ask: “Are you O.K? Haven’t seen your posts in awhile.”
Crossing my fingers. Brave new world in the .com space. Comment. I’m lonely!
It’s good to be Queen, even for a day and a half. Here I am in “my” $1.8 million home in the luxurious planned community of Serenbe, just outside Atlanta. Please note that I have all the essentials of the good life. Wine, Vaseline, cigarettes and a bag of Char-Broil goodies. One of my roomies, Julie Reinhardt, snapped the photo.
We are two of eight Char-Broil All-Star Bloggers invited to Serenbe to commune with the company executives, cook next to a picturesque lake, enjoy cocktails and fabulous dinners at the Inn at Serenbe and just basically have a good time. It’s a hard-knock life.
So this is one of those times when it’s good that “there’s no room at the inn.” After a long and arduous ride in a limousine fully equipped with a bar, which we took advantage of, we were regretfully forced to bivouac at a four-bedroom luxury home with pool, cabana, waterfall and our very own golf cart to toddle around the property on.
Serenbe is set up like a collection of English villages surrounded by lush forests, farmland and meadows. It is beyond beautiful. After we put away our meager belongings, we jump in the golf cart for a brisk ride down a country road to dinner at the Inn. Our other roomie, Danielle Dimovski, is the
driver. Actually, brisk is an understatement. For the next day and a half Julie and I hold on for all we’re worth as Danielle lurches along the road at top golf cart speed. Thank goodness we’d been drinking.
Is it possible for anything to be too perfect? I think not. The Inn is a picturesque former farmhouse. Many of the menu items are grown on Serenbe’s organic farms. We have more cocktails. We feast on organic chicken glazed with Serenbe’s own pepper jelly, sitting jauntily on a cloud of mashed potatoes with green beans from the garden. I am immediately so so very happy that a year ago I picked up the phone to hear a stranger say, “We’d like you to blog for Char-Broil.” Barry Martin, I love you man.
Well, the whole 1.5 days is just a dream and a half. Breakfast at the Inn – French toast with strawberries from the farm and crispy bacon. Lunch? The Char-Broil folks present about 15 pounds of various cuts of chicken, steak, sausages and fish to us so we can play on the bevy of grills they’ve set up at the Lake Pavilion. We do not even have to dirty our dainty digits turning the grills on. They are already lit. Then a tour of the HGTV Dream Home at Serenbe, which is sponsored by Char-Broil, and more cocktails. Dinner? Oh, yes, we have not eaten nearly enough. The frogs chirp as we enjoy a late night glass of wine in the courtyard of our $1.8 million house overlooking the pool. We wonder if anyone would notice if we simply do not leave. Ever.
It is exactly one week later as I write this, sitting in my garage because we don’t smoke in the house anymore. I am back to being a serf. In about two hours I will be a day laborer at the Community Resource Center, unloading donations from a major retailer. Where is my golf cart? Where are the drinks by the pool? Where in the hell is my organic salad and steak with horseradish cream? It was good to be the Queen.
We had an hour, but it is 20 minutes now until judging and the chicken is raw. And then there is the peanut butter issue.
In our basket at the Char-Broil version of Chopped are the mystery ingredients: a whole chicken, a fennel bulb, a stick of butter, bacon, a wedge of blue cheese, a pineapple and a horrifying jar of chunky peanut butter. We have to use all of them in our dish. The Char-Broil people, who have kindly invited the All-Star Bloggers to a resort outside Atlanta, have thoughtfully provided us with a nifty “kitchen” consisting of two disposable cutting boards, a half sheet pan, a moderately sharp knife, and four miniscule bowls.
But I have the ace card in my corner. My teammate is Danielle Dimovski, the reigning world pork champion better known as Diva Q. I am totally set here. This is going to be a walk in the park. “I know exactly what we’re going to do,” says Danielle as she hacks away at the pineapple. “We’re going to make beer-can chicken but we’re going to use the pineapple as the beer can. We can totally do this in an hour.” I have a slightly difficult time understanding her. Danielle is from Canada and she uses words like “aboat” (about) and “hoose” (house). Then again I use words like “haid” (head) and “bidness” (business). We have a slight language barrier, but we’ll work through that.
There are screaming hot Char-Broil TRU-Infrared grills set up around the Lake Pavilion at Serenbe, an insanely gorgeous planned community. Danielle slams that chicken onto the pineapple spike, rubs on some spices and citrus juice (the bloggers have a common “pantry” of additional ingredients we can use), slaps the whole thing authoritatively on the grill and slams the lid shut.
If you’ve ever watched Chopped, the Food Network Show where four chefs are given mystery baskets of insanely inappropriate ingredients, you will understand that Danielle and I had to take a few minutes to ponder the butter, blue cheese, bacon, fennel and peanut butter.
Bacon? Obviously, no problem. We cook it on a grill pan. Fennel? Shave it and briefly kiss it with some grill marks. Alrighty then. We’re left with the butter, blue cheese and peanut butter. Yummy, yum, yum.
I am slightly reticent to offer suggestions to the world pork champion, but I wonder if we can’t use the peanut butter with some barbecue sauce to make a dipping sauce for the chicken. Why the hell not? We throw the peanut butter, barbecue sauce, a bit of lemon juice and a bit of Worcestershire into one of our pygmy bowls. We throw in some bacon grease and butter. It looks like baked beans. But it tastes good.
It is now 20 minutes before turn in. Danielle lifts the lid of the grill. The chicken is…raw. Plan B. Plan B! This woman is a rock star. She takes the knife and dissects that chicken right on the grill! Two chicken breasts off the bird and onto the grill. I retreat to make a vinaigrette for the fennel.
I am going to cut to the chase.We made a grilled chicken breast over grilled fennel slaw in a citrus vinaigrette topped with blue cheese and bacon crumbles. But the single thing that makes our dish is this: We took some of the pineapple, cut into spears, and grilled it. Then we topped it with our peanut butter barbecue sauce concoction and then we put a strip of bacon on top. Sweet and salty on top of sweet and salty. They were over the top. The chicken and the fennel, not so much. Danielle and I knew this. Even though we don’t speak the same language we are realists.
We got honorable mention, based solely on our pineapple bacon bites. The winner was a New York
City chef, Christo Gonzales, who made a chicken breast stuffed with fennel, bacon and blue cheese with a peanut butter and citrus jus. What a show off. Oh, I’m sorry. That’s not ladylike. But we’re not bitter. We applauded Christo, took a bite of his chicken and conceded we were outdone.
I will say this. After the competition, we had quite a few pineapple bacon bites left. And one by one, our fellow bloggers slowly sauntered over to our station and ate them all. I’m just sayin’.
I am as cheap as they come. I revel in a $7.35 lunch for two at the Krystal. Fifty percent off of anything? I’m there. But once in awhile you just have to kick out the jams.
The Southern Foodways Alliance, of which I am a proud member, holds these Stir the Pot suppers around the South. They’re fund raisers for the SFA’s documentary film program. Watch one of the films here. I promise you it’s worth it.
So the Stir the Pot came to Nashville starring Chef Ashley Christensen of Poole’s Diner in Raleigh, N.C., ably assisted by Chef Tandy Wilson of City House (where the event was held) and Chef Tyler Brown of the Hermitage Hotel’s Capitol Grill. Yes, my cheap self shelled out $300 for Mark and I to gluttonize ourselves. I do not believe gluttonize is a word but it should be. And it was worth every mouthful.
So without further delay, here’s the menu:
Hook’s 3-year Cheddar pimento cheese
Oyster stew with vermouth and turnip
Cornmeal fried green tomatoes with roasted tomato slaw
Chicken liver pate with whipped honey and Fallot Dijon (I had to look up what that was – it’s mustard with a pedigree)
Wood-roasted asparagus with frissee, beets, Chapel Hill Creamery Calvander (a cheese) and tarragon emulsion
Crispy N.C. softshell crab with sunburst tomato and marinated white acre peas
Rabbit confit pizza with Carolina ramps, pickled carrots, and black pepper aioli
Slow-cooked flank steak with oyster mushrooms, macaroni au gratin, and broccoli raab in vinaigrette
Warm cornmeal strawberry shortcake with Cruze’s Dairy buttermilk anglaise and rhubarb jam.
This is more food than I eat in three days, folks. But you know what? I’ll remember every bite. And do you know what? The next day this is exactly what I ate: a package of cheese crackers. That’s how full I was from the night before.
This is so decadent in these times of trouble, spending $300 on dinner. But here’s why it’s worth it. If
you appreciate food, you appreciate it at every level from bacon-wrapped crackers to pimento cheese to a dinner like Stir the Pot. But Stir the Pot takes it up a notch. You taste things you’ve never tasted before. I practically licked the tarragon emulsion off the plate. The oyster stew with vermouth and turnips? One of our dinner companions said she hates oysters and she ate every smidge of it. Oh and let’s just wax poetic for a second about the
warm cornmeal strawberry shortcake. This was the last thing on the menu, after eight other offerings. I cleaned my plate.
Recipes? I have no idea. I could spend three years trying to figure out exactly what was in all this stuff and never come close. That’s why it’s worth $150. I can cook. I can cook damn well. But I can’t come close to that dinner.
By the way, I am making bacon-wrapped crackers right now for a Community Resource Center event. They are not worth $150 but I’ll bet I could get $5 a cracker for them.
So it is Tax Day. Boo hoo. Mark and I timed our marriage date poorly because we tied the knot on April 14. So every anniversary is the day before Tax Day. Needless to say, we do not go all out on anniversary presents. Once again, boo hoo.
Last night, in celebration of our 22nd anniversary and to note the fact that we have no money because it is, yes, Tax Day, I made Huevos Rancheros, a traditional Mexican dish served as a mid-morning meal on poor farms. I have some mint and rosemary growing in a pot by the garage so I think that qualifies Casa de la Mayhew as a poor farm.
And because I was doing this on the cheap I used what I already had in the pantry and fridge. I would like to say that I settled on pureed lentils from a can of lentil soup instead of re-fried beans because the lentils are healthier. But that would be a lie. Mark wanted lentil soup when he was sick about a year ago and then he got well and he didn’t want it anymore. But with the addition of some ancho chile powder and cumin it made a fine stand-in for re-fried beans.
I would also like to point out the irony that my husband will never, ever order sunny-side-eggs for breakfast but he will happily eat one when I tell him the yolk makes a “sauce.” He’s so easily led.
For the pureed lentils:
1 19-ounce can lentil soup (Progresso), drained and pureed in a blender
½ teaspoon ancho chile powder
¼ teaspoon cumin
Salt to taste
Heat the puree in a saucepan after blending.
For the tomato sauce:
½ cup diced red onion
1 tablespoon chopped green chiles
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
¼ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ cup red wine
Salt and pepper to taste
Saute the onions and chiles in 1 tablespoon of oil until they are translucent and beginning to brown. Add the tomatoes, cumin, paprika, red wine, salt and pepper and simmer until sauce thickens.
8 6-inch flour tortillas
Mexican melting cheese (or any cheese you have on hand), grated
Fry the tortillas in a dry pan until they are browned and crisped. Reserve.
Heat 1 teaspoon of butter in the same pan and fry the eggs.
To assemble: Place a tortilla on a plate. Top with the lentil puree and sprinkle with grated cheese. Add another tortilla and top with the tomato sauce and an egg.
I know, I’m about to digress and I haven’t even started. I’ll get to the lamb in a minute.
It is Palm Sunday and for the first time in about 17 years, I did not go to Palm Sunday services. Many of my blog followers go St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and they may be tempted to smite me. Or smack me. But I just needed one Palm Sunday off.
Palm Sunday is all about proceeding. We proceed because Christ proceeded. He proceeded into Jerusalem on a donkey, welcomed by people waving palm fronds. So we proceed with great vigor. But not on donkeys, of course. We just hoof it.
The first procession takes place during the Palm Sunday service and involves the children carrying palm fronds and marching up and down the aisles of St. Paul’s. Back and forth, to and fro. Usually this involves very young children whose parents may have nudged them out of the pews and into the aisle. I know this because I practically shoved Noah into the marching line. “I don’t want to,” he would say. “Just do it,” I’d hiss. “It’s Palm Sunday. Now proceed, dammit.” I wouldn’t actually say dammit, of course. I have never seen a child cry while proceeding, but I have seen some fairly confusing looks on their faces. Why, oh why, am I proceeding? Where’s my mommy?
But we’re not done. After the service, children and adults join one or two other congregations nearby and we proceed en masse through historic downtown Franklin. We proceed past the Starbucks, where bikers in their tiny shorts and funny shoes regard us with some confusion. We proceed along at a fairly good clip, the children carrying banners in front of us. The children are still not quite sure why they are proceeding but they get to carry banners and they’re outside so they’re usually compliant. Once we get down to the Square, we turn around and proceed back.
In general, I like proceeding. It’s one of the gentle, if odd, ways we proclaim our faith. And it’s good exercise. It’s worth a cup of frozen yogurt topped with caramel sauce and nuts if you have proceeded vigorously.
But this year, I did not proceed except to make my way to the grill to make lamb kabobs and grilled vegetables, a religious experience of a sort. A few notes about kabobs. First of all, you might be able to find a nice butcher to do the work for you rather than cutting up your own lamb. I can get pre-cut lamb kabobs at The Fresh Market. Secondly, I never alternate the vegetables with the meat on kabobs. I just throw the vegetables in a grilling basket. That way everything gets cooked as it should.
Lamb kabobs with grilled vegetables
½ cup olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
2 sprigs fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pound leg of lamb, cut into one-inch pieces
1 8-ounce package fresh whole mushrooms
2 red peppers, cut into large chunks
Olive oil and balsamic vinegar
Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, rosemary, salt and pepper. Marinate lamb for about one hour in the refrigerator. Thread the lamb on skewers. Set aside.
Cut the mushrooms into halves and combine with the peppers in a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Heat a grill to medium high. Add the lamb kabobs to one side of the grill and the vegetables to the other, using a grilling basket. Grill the lamb about five minutes and turn over. Continue grilling until the lamb springs back slightly to the touch. Continue grilling the vegetables until they have a nice char and are cooked through.
Let the lamb rest for 10 minutes before serving.