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East Coast USA, United States
Lowcountry porch sitter. Appalachian Mountain lover. Finger Lakes dreamer.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Beyond soft shells there would be a Ham

How could we even think about eating past yesterday after a delightful day filled with soft shell crab at the 8th Annual Soft Shell Crab Festival in Port Royal?! (It was a capital experience to hang out on Saturday with a couple of my most admired local foodies [Ervena Faulkner, Island Packet and Food Network Star's Orchid Paulmeier])
Somehow, when Easter follows on Sunday there's really no way to not continue to take your palate to other serious eats. In our case, to a home prepared ham. Actually the ham preparation began three days ago with brine and refrigeration. The recipe for a Brined Fresh Ham comes from Anne Burrell and not as labor intensive as I originally imagined a ham would be (silly me, I thought the high cost that I had been paying for a spiral ham in retail outlets was because it was a complex and laborious process). I really liked the glaze of Dijon, whole grained mustard and honey that accompanies this recipe. Perhaps even more so I will relish converting the ham leftovers into a childhood favorite~ham salad for snacking on saltines.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Bánh Bông Lan (Blooming Orchid Cake)

The Lowcountry is filled with notoriety. From stars who live here, like John Mellencamp and Brooke Shields to films that were made here, like The Big Chill and The Great Santini. Our home DVD collections contain all the locally produced flicks so we can watch with our guests and visitors to point out the same locale when on a walk or to refer to the locale on screen as a must see when in town. Same goes for Food Network Stars. We eat at their restaurants, buy their cookbooks, take their cooking classes, and watch their cable television shows. As you know Paula Deen and her boys Bobby & Jamie Deen are just across the river in Savannah. And from the blog post on January 9th you know that Robert Irvine of Restaurant Impossible fame has a restaurant called eat! on Hilton Head Island. What you may not know is that we are embarking on naming another local favorite restaurant owner as the next Food Network Star in season 7. Enter your life Orchid Paulmeier of One Hot Mamas. This wife, mother, chef is as humble, homegrown and dynamic as any one person can be. If you have attended a festival in the area, you've seen Orchid-if you've eaten at the restaurant, you've seen Orchid-if your kids go to school in Beaufort, you've seen Orchid. But to know her is really rather special and though I'm sure the other 14 candidates might score some of the same accolades from their friends and acquaintances, I'm pulling for this young woman. Not because she's local...because she represents for so many women an authentic individual, a master at juggling career, family and ambition while staying humble and true to herself. So in honor of her I'm pulling out a delightful recipe for Bánh Bông Lan. This is no ordinary spongecake this is a French butter sponge cake otherwise known as biscuit au beurre. Famously simple and sweet, just like Orchid Paulmeier.

To vote for Orchid in the public opinion of naming the next Food Network Star go to:

Monday, April 11, 2011

You Pick Strawberries and a Jewish Mother's Meringue

When the announcement came that Dempsey Farms located on historic St Helena Island had succulent strawberries for the picking it did not take any arm twisting to get me on board for the activity. Dempsey Farms is a working farm that sells what they grow and permits the community to come "pick your own bounty" for whatever is in season at the time. I had already pulled out the Frozen Strawberry Meringue Torte recipe from my favorite Jewish mother, Twyla Sable, several weeks ago just waiting for the strawberries to reach their prime. How I came to possess this delightful dessert dish is as serendipitous as life can provide in a moment. I sat next to Twyla at a dinner hosted by a mutual friend and when I mentioned I had failed at making a really great savory kugel she quickly offered to send me a guaranteed delicious, easy to prepare recipe. To my surprise a rather large brown envelope arrived via the US Postal Service with what I would characterize as a collection of recipes, kosher and nonkosher, that any mother would pass on to her daughter. I smile just opening the envelope to pull out a recipe from this collection and appropriately make this particular occasion a family affair from picking the strawberries to the preparation to the service on the porch during a cool spring evening.

Note: I happen to love macaroons, especially the ones made at James's Candy and Fralinger's Taffy, but in a hand written note in the margin of my recipe sheet Twyla indicates "one could use graham crackers"

Monday, April 4, 2011

So long oysters. Hello Soft Shell Crab!

By this point in the year those of us living in the Lowcountry have had our fill of oysters (well, maybe not everyone) so the inclusion of a new item on many local restaurant menus in April is cause for some celebration. During what I would call a short lived period there is a delicacy that is coveted by many coastal dwellers. Actually we are simply taking advantage of a reoccurring phenomena found in nature. That is, the period of time when crabs have molted their old exoskeleton and are still soft...Soft Shell Crab. Just this past week I noted that Plums and Saltus in Beaufort and Pour Richards in Bluffton have shouted out they are serving the softies. The Town of Port Royal actually takes the celebration to the old village streets every year (this year, April 23), brings the music (featured this year are the Headliners) and food frolic for it's 8th Annual Soft Shell Crab Festival. Believe it or not I've never prepared soft shell crab at home, I've done many a preparation with the hard shell version, but never ventured here. I went for the cookbook authored by the woman who introduced me to my first soft shell crab entree...Elizabeth Terry. Specifically the cookbook authored by Elizabeth and Alexis Terry in 1996 called Savannah Seasons. I believe Elizabeth Terry retired from her restaurant Elizabeth's on 37th the year the book was published, but I suspect the next generation of cuisine at the locale includes soft shell as a seasonal item.

Tips for dressing(cleaning and preparing)soft shell crab:
Life Enrichment is like a travel and learn program...offering infusions that make every day life thereafter far more interesting! ~ Ann-Marie Adams, Reflections on a Meaningful Life