In The Fridge: Cooking Corn at Midnight

If ever there was a day to write an “in the fridge” post, it was last week. We came home a day early from New Orleans in the wake of  “Hurricane/Tropical Storm/Turned-out-to be-Barely-Cloudy-in-New Orleans Karen (it was petering out to sea as we were boarding the plane, only we were delayed because of ‘high winds’ at Newark international. Do I need to point out the irony? Oy).

 

CornCastIronSkillet

 

I’m always fearful when I open the door to our house after a trip. Something a little scary always happens when we’re gone, only this time I was hardly worried since my parents were house sitting for all but the last day. I walked in and there was this vague scent of musty vegetables. I put a deliriously tired Francesca to bed and then went to investigate. It took me a good long while to realize the freezer wasn’t completely closed from ice build-up, which happens from time to time. Everything was still vaguely cool, but definitely not frozen.  Most things had to be thrown away, but there was a lot of corn that was still cold. Fortunately, I remembered a recipe I taught once for a farmers market class – Lime Ancho Corn Soup  – which I once modified during a class for a student who didn’t eat any dairy.

 

limezestancho2

 

I took out my cast iron skillet, turned up the flame, and voila re-created this great, fast, and easy side dish that combines blackened corn with lime and ancho chile powder. This dish can also be converted into a salad by chilling the corn and adding red onions, tomatoes and avocadoes as well.

 

 

corncastiron

 

 

I was feeling very jet lagged and very bummed to be cooking at midnight, but of course very happy the next day to have the corn with roasted capon. Fortunately, you don’t have to wait for a refrigerator mishap to make this dish. Enjoy!

 

 

cornsaladplate2

 

 

Question of the Day: Have you ever turned around a refrigerator disaster like this? What did you do? We want to know!

 

 

Burnt Corn with Lime and Ancho Chile Spice

From: Heide Lang

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 pounds (about 4 ½ cups,) frozen or fresh organic corn*
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 limes
  • ¾ teaspoon pepper
  • 1-1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons ancho or chipotle chili powder divided
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 medium red onion coarsely chopped
  • 2 avocados diced (optional)
  • 2 tomatoes coarsely chopped (optional)

Directions:

  1. Heat canola oil in a non-stick pan, preferably cast iron.
  2. Add corn. Mix well to assure all the kernels are coated with oil.
  3. Add the salt, stir and cook on medium high for 10 minutes, or until the kernels start to brown and even burn in some places. (It will smell vaguely of popcorn and may even pop a kernel or two, so be careful!)
  4. Zest both limes (you should have 2 teaspoons of zest)
  5. Add the zest and the juice of one lime to the skillet. Mix well and then add the ancho powder, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Stir well and serve. You may also serve the corn as a light and healthy salad by letting the corn cool for at least an hour in the refrigerator and adding red onions, avocado and tomatoes. Sprinkle the juice of the second lime over the salad, mix well and serve.

Persian Heaven in a Stew

Francesca is a very picky eater. She’d be happy to eat “yellow pasta,” penne with a little bit of kosher salt and olive oil, practically everyday. But like every kid, she can be unpredictable. Her eyes light up when I open the lid of the Dutch oven and she sees we’re having “fesenjoonie,” as she calls it. The actual name of this ridiculously delicious Persian khoresh (stew in Farsi) is fesenjan, and it is also one of favorite dishes of all time.

 

Saffron for Fesanjan – a Traditional Persian and Pomegranate Stew that will blow your mind | The Road Home

 

We had the privilege of visiting Iran 10 years ago with when hubby Mark was invited to give a talk in Tehran. I foolishly thought before visiting that I had tasted all the great cuisines of the world, so I gave little thought to Persian food and spent most of the time reading about the great sites, such as the ruins of Persepolis and ancient city of Esfahan.

 

Square in Esfahan, Iran – one of the most beautiful places on earth | The Road Home

 

Dumb dumb me should have thought about the food. I probably had never tasted real Persian cuisine before and just assumed it would be in line with more familiar Middle Eastern foods, such as hummus and pita bread. I was so very wrong.

 

Saffron for Fesanjan – a Traditional Persian and Pomegranate Stew that will blow your mind | The Road Home

 

We arrived in Tehran in the middle of the night, and almost instantly a whole world of spices, nuts, and fruits opened up to us. We stayed with relatives of our dear friends Vahid and Shahla Mohsenin and were greeted by mounds of perfect pistachios, dried apricots, and dates. This 3 a.m. greeting party was considered just a little nibble. The food essentially never stopped coming for the two weeks we visited this beautiful and baffling country.

 

A Traditional Persian Restaurant in the Hills Near Tehran | The Road Home

 

You will no doubt hear a lot about Persian food from Gabrielle and me. Persians are famous for their hospitality and it seemed there was a lavish dinner party every night once the word got out that there were Americans in town (fewer than 500 Americans were allowed to visit Iran at the time). Many dishes combine the same ingredients – saffron, rose water, orange water, nuts, pomegranates and dried fruits –in countless ways to create unforgettable dishes. Fesenjan, for me, combines all of my favorite Persian flavors. The blend of slow-cooked pureed walnuts, saffron, pomegranates, and onions with chicken creates an earth, nutty, exotic taste you can’t imagine until you’ve taken your first bite.

 

Pomegranate Juice for Fesanjan – a Traditional Persian and Pomegranate Stew that will blow your mind | The Road Home

 

I’m not sure how Persian households eat this way all the time (and they seem to), because some Persian dishes take a little while to prepare. Not only is the investment worth it, but also keep in mind that any Khoresh, like most stews, usually tastes better a day or two later so they are perfect do-ahead company food.

 

Saffron for Fesanjan – a Traditional Persian and Pomegranate Stew that will blow your mind | The Road Home

 

I became a fesenjan connoisseur while we were in Iran, and sampled many interpretations of this extraordinary dish all from Teheran to Yazd. When we arrived home, I immediately bought the classic Persian cookbook available in English by Najmieh Batmanglij titled, Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies. Her version of fesenjan inspired my own, which is quite different. I’ve substituted some of the traditional pomegranate juice, God help me, with wine! Alcohol is forbidden in Iran, but I think wine adds a lovely fruitiness to this exquisite dish. Before the Islamic revolution in 1979 very fine Syrah was produced in Shiraz, and so I’ve used a full-bodied Syrah in this dish. (Sadly the vines are now used to only to produce grapes.)

 

Fesanjan – a Traditional Persian and Pomegranate Stew that will blow your mind | The Road Home

 

Here is the recipe, and do let us know if your taste buds are as tickled as ours by this very unique dish:

Khoresh-e Fesenjan Ba Jujeh (Chicken Pomegranate Stew)

From: Heide Lang

Ingredients:

  • ½ pound (2 cups) walnuts finely chopped
  •  5 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 large onions peeled and thinly sliced
  • 12 chicken thighs, bone-in (approximately 5 to 5 ½ pounds)
  • 2 cups pomegranate juice
  • 2 cups Syrah wine
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
  • 1 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 ½ teaspoons saffron dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water
  • 2 tablespoons grape molasses or sugar (optional)
  • ¼ cup pomegranate seeds (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons toasted walnuts (optional)

Directions:

  1. Toast the walnuts at 350 degrees for 5-7 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
  2. Heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil in a large pot or Dutch oven (8 quarts is ideal) over medium heat until very hot. Sauté the onions until they are glassy and just beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Remove the onions with a slotted spoon and let cool in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
  3. Season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides. Add 1-2 tablespoons of additional oil and brown the chicken (you will need to do this in two batches).
  4. Remove the chicken from the pot into a medium bowl and set aside.
  5. Puree the onions and the walnuts in a food processor. Add 1 cup of pomegranate juice, pomegranate molasses, salt, pepper, turmeric, cinnamon, saffron water and grape molasses (or sugar) and mix well to a creamy paste.
  6. Pour the mixture into a medium size bowl and add the remaining pomegranate juice and wine.
  7. Add the onion-walnut mixture to the Dutch oven and stir well. Add the chicken and gently mix again (if stirred to aggressively, the skin will come off the chicken).
  8. Bring Mixture to a boil and give the stew a good stir. If you are cooking the stew in an oven-safe Dutch oven or pot, cover and cook in the middle of the oven at 350 for one hour, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. You may also cook the stew on the stove top on low for an hour.
  9. Taste the khoresh sauce after the first hour. It should be sweet and sour and have the consistency of heavy cream. Adjust the taste by adding more pomegranate molasses for sour, and more grape molasses (or sugar) for sweetness.
  10. Stir the stew well again and place back in the oven until the chicken is thoroughly cooked the sauce is the thickness of heavy cream.
  11. Remove from the oven and let cool uncovered before refrigerating (covered) overnight. When ready to serve, re-heat in the Dutch oven at 350 degrees. If you don’t have a Dutch oven, heat on stovetop with a low-medium flame, stirring occasionally.
  12. Serve over basmati rice or, if you’re feeling ambitious, Chelow, a saffron steamed rice with a golden crust. You may also add sprinkling of pomegranate seeds and toasted walnuts (optional).

A Better Beignet

It doesn’t take more than a trip to a carnival (or really an imagination) to know how great fried dough is, but a really great beignet can take one of the world’s best street foods to a whole new level. Last year we went to New Orleans and visited Café du Monde, the French Quarter’s premier beignet shop, but we found it to be a bit over-hyped. Like, no question they were worth every Calorie, but fried dough generally is.

 

This beignet could model, couldn't it?

 

When we began to formulate our version of Tiana’s “man-catching beignets” for Francesca’s birthday party, we knew we had to take it to the next level. Our recipe is inspired by a Buttermilk Beignet recipe we found on epicurious.

 

 

This one particularly struck our fancy because buttermilk gives so many Southern treats moisture with just a touch of tanginess. They’re quite easy to make (much much much easier than we expected) so we should warn you:  it will take a lot of willpower not to make this sometimes food every day.

 


Everybody’s Irish

 

As a cooking instructor, I love Ballymaloe for their genius educational philosophy, for their respect for the environment, and for the care they put into each aspect of a meal. But, as we all know, none of that means much if the food isn’t good.

 

A small sampling of the beautiful selection of food that was prepared during our demonstration

 

But of course, the food at Ballymaloe is incredible. The recipes were cleverly divided into clusters, each centered on a core ingredient. For example, Rory created many dishes based on Irish Smoked Salmon.

First, he paired it with sweet cucumber salad, potato wafers (fresh chips), and horseradish cream…

 

 

…then he made a Salmon Roulade with cream cheese and dill…

 

Smoked salmon is rolled around herbed cream cheese filling. These are just two of the beautiful ways this recipe can be plated.

 

…and finally a beautiful Salmon-Trout Pâté.

 

Smoked salmon is placed in a ramekin, filled with a beautiful salmon-troute mousse, and then beautifully turned out onto a plate.

 

For our main course, he made a breathtaking Pork en Croute (tenderloin in puff pastry) with Duxelle (mushroom) stuffing. He served this with a simple but delicious brambley apple sauce and gratin dauphinoise, a spectacular and versatile potato gratin which is cooked almost completely in cream and milk in a saucepan and then baked for only 10-15 minutes. It was just amazing. I can’t wait to make it myself!

 

Left: Rory slices open a pork tenderloin, and Right: stuffs it with duxelle mushroom stuffing.

 

Dessert was the most spectacular part of the meal. Here, Rory used ice cream as his core ingredient. He made several, including chocolate, cappuccino, coffee, vanilla and praline flavors. And being a genius food stylist as well as chef, he came up with endless plating styles!

 

Instead of investing in an ice cream maker, Ballymaloe advises making a mousse and then freezing it. That way, you get the airyness of ice cream made in a machine, without unnecessary kitchen gadgets!

 

He made parfaits with hot chocolate sauce, an ice cream bombe made with coffee, chocolate and praline ice cream…

 

Frozen chocolate mousse bombe is topped with pastry cream and little chocolate-filled chocolate cups. Basically death by chocolate, Irish style.

 

… and cappuccino ice cream served with chocolate curls in beautiful coffee cups…

 

Coffee cups are filled with coffee ice cream and topped with beautiful chocolate curls.

 

… but the best things he made, without a doubt, were the iced chocolate oranges. This recipe is simple brilliance at its finest. He simply hollowed an orange, filled it with mousse, froze it and garnished with orange flavored cream and a tiny bay leaf. So beautiful, so delicious.

 

 

In three short hours, Rory even taught us how to delicately make tiny chocolate cases. It takes a lot of patience, but other than that all you need is cupcake wrappers, melted chocolate (50-70% cocoa) at room temperature and a spoon. You carefully spread the chocolate along the sides of the paper, taking great caution to spread the chocolate evenly in a thin layer. Refrigerate for at least an hour and then gently peel the paper away.

 

Rory fills a cupcake wrapper with chocolate to make adorable little cups that you can make at home!

 

Expect some to crumble your hand – Rory says a few always will, its just the nature of this delicious beast – but it is thoroughly worth the effort. Here they are, filled with amazing chocolate ice cream!

 

Clockwise from top left: An assistent tops chocolate filled cups with beautiful pastry cream; she then covers them with cocoa powder; others are flattened on top for an equally fantastic look.

 

Just writing about Ballymaloe, I long to return. I’ll leave you with some other images of my day. Pictured first is the herb garden, of which Susan, a member of Darina’s cheery staff, gave me a lovely private tour as the sun was setting. The focal point of the meticulous garden is the Myrtle bush, in honor of Darina’s mother-in-law, Myrtle, the original Ballymaloe maverick. She was Alice Waters before Alice Waters was. She opened a Ballymaloe’s acclaimed restaurant a little less than 50 years ago and she insisted on changing the menu daily based on what was fresh and seasonal, which was unheard of back in 1964.

 

Left: the myrtle bush dedicated to Myrtle Allen, Darina's mother-in-law. Right: a bush in the Ballymaloe gardens.

 

Most of these recipes can be found in the glorious food bible, Darina Allen’s Ballymaloe Cookery Course. Reading the book isn’t of course, as cool as being one of those lucky people who gets to spend three months in Ballymaloe heaven, but it’s a treasure of delicious, manageable recipes, and it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite cookbooks. Please check it out, and let us know if you decide to try anything!

 

Images of the beautiful shell house in the Ballymaloe garden.

Beyond Brown Bread

Before we left for Ireland a few weeks ago, a foodie friend told me about Ballymaloe Cookery School in the tiny town of Shanagarry a short distance from the coast in County Cork. I thought it would be great way to spend an afternoon, never really expecting to have an inspirational day. But every once in a while you come across an experience that gives you perfect joy, and that is the kind of the journey I had recently at Ballymaloe.

Ingredients set out for a cookery class

Ireland is known for ancient castles, for mysterious stone circles dotting the Celtic countryside, and for lush green hills with sheep and picturesque houses.

What you think when you think Ireland

But recently, Ireland has become packed with exciting restaurants and chefs promoting local, seasonal, and organic versions of traditional Irish cuisine. Yes, mushy peas still unfortunately grace pub menus, but you’re just as likely to find fresh salmon smoked by a local artisan or prawns caught just hours earlier wrapped in phyllo dough.

Smoked Salmon with Potato Wafers and Horseradish Cream

Mark generously offered to drive 2½ hours from our beautiful seaside house in Dingle,  so I could take an afternoon class.

Francesca and Isabella run on the beach

Fortunately there was a wonderful zoo near the school, so Mark, Isabella and Francesca were happy to let me leave.

Yes this is Ireland. No it's not typical.

I had my preconceived notions of what a “cookery” school would be. We’d learn the secrets of brown bread and black pudding, and there would something with bacon in it for sure! I’d leave feeling saying was a pleasant few hours…

Dead wrong.  Not even a little right.

Oranges filled with mousse ice cream.

As we pulled into the narrow old gates to the Ballymaloe estate, and I entered the school, I knew instantly that I just entered Irish gastro-heaven. The aroma from lunch students just finished wafted so intoxicatingly. A beautiful clay bowl of floating flowers and a sumptuous basket of delicious fresh foccacia baked with superb black olives welcomed visitors.

 

Beautiful flowers in a bowl

Darina Allen along with her brilliant brother Rory founded Ballymaloe in 1983. Since then, they have created a nationwide movement from their sprawling estate in the Irish countryside; 400 acres of organic vegetable and herb gardens, cottages, and cow pastures. They are collectively the Alice Waters of Ireland (in fact Rory helped Waters at Chez Panisse in the ’70s).

Rory puts the finishing touches on a chocolate mousse cake.

At Ballymaloe, there is a love for the all aspects of a great meal, going beyond ingredients and encompassing the earth, the community (Darina founded the first modern day farmers markets in Ireland), and even the seasons. Darina and Rory bring respect, passion and infectious joy not only to the food, but also to each person they teach. You see so many happy people at Ballymaloe, despite the long hours they work, because they see cooking as an opportunity to share the gospel of great food.

Cooking together

I’m not sure many chefs or schools in the United States can boast that virtually all the ingredients are local, organic fresh and self-sustaining as much as we all believe these ideals. It helps that Ballymaloe devotes more than 100 acres, a quarter of their land, to organic gardening. There are 50 varieties of tomatoes, and every herb and root vegetable imaginable. The neighbors provide, the hens, ducks and additional produce when theirs runs out, and the fish in caught in the nearby village of Ballycotton. Students not only get to experience this first hand, but learn to prepare food that is very well seasoned, beautiful and utterly delicious. The earth, says Darina, is an essential component of great food. She’s been preaching this for decades, long before Whole Foods made it fashionable. On day one, for example, students are introduced to Eileen and Kay, the head gardeners, and Darina herself (who describes herself as an eccentric, grey-haired hippie woman on a mission) shows them a barrow full of rich soil. After running her hands through it, she tells them, “Remember, this is where it all starts, in the good earth, and if you don’t have clean fertile soil, you won’t have good food or pure food.”  Then they get their first recipe; how to make compost!

It's amazing how Ireland has a knack for looking beautiful even in the middle of winter.

Their teaching method is very clever. The professional students watch a three-hour demonstration every afternoon, which is the class I took. Afterwards, there is a tasting so they know what how each dish should taste and students get ideas for presentation. The next morning, they cook the same exact menu and at lunchtime everyone (students and instructors) has a family meal and enjoys the fruits of their hard work.

Beautiful table set for a family-style meal after classes

Perhaps the real reason I fell so in love with this place is that their philosophy about food is so similar to my own. No foams, weird vapors or dumb food combinations. I can’t stand it when chefs offer things like fried watermelon with wilted dandelion greens. (I’m serious. I had this once at a restaurant considered one of the best in the country. It was of, course, dreadful). The food prepared here is innovative, delicious and beautiful, but doesn’t involve Herculean effort to prepare. And of course, it was perfectly seasoned. A great chef knows that the above all else, the food must be well seasoned or it won’t taste good. It seems obvious, but this makes the difference between a good meal and a great one.

This sea salt is, perhaps, the best in the world.

The demo featured more than 20 great, clever and versatile recipes featuring fish, meats, vegetable dishes and desserts with ingredients that were perfectly fresh and beautifully presented. Stay tuned for the highlights!

Check In

I did it! I finally arrived at college last Monday, I managed to set up my bedding on the top bunk, I connected to campus WiFi and, most importantly, I found a group of friends who are willing to make bruschetta with me tomorrow afternoon. In 18 years I have never once felt this proud of my accomplishments.

So even though I haven’t had much time to explore New York yet, I thought I’d just give a quick update on life in the big city! It’s scary how many opportunities there are to eat here. There’s a Pinkberry within walking distance of my dorm and a farmers’ market across the street from me (with 10 varieties of eggplant!). My room is also conveniently placed across from the community kitchenette, so I’m going to keep cooking. And the good news for you is that my new kitchen is equipped with nothing more than 4 electric burners (2 of which function) and a microwave. So if I can make something here, you can certainly make it at home. I also have many new friends who are kosher and/or vegetarian, so you’ll reap the benefits of my new culinary challenges.

What I can tell you after a week is that Tom’s Diner (the Seinfeld Diner) makes much better milkshakes and pancakes than one would expect from a tourist trap (Order the Broadway Shake. It’s made with chocolate and coffee ice cream, and it’s not on the menu. And if you were wondering, they will serve it at breakfast. Not that I would know…), and I can also tell you that little green plums are not quite as good as little purple plums, but that skinny cucumbers are much better than regular cucumbers, and that okra comes in red, and that fairytale eggplant is  adorable.

My new camera has yet to arrive, so the pictures will get better and more frequent. For now enjoy a few snapshots of the week, featuring the local farmer’s market and Yoko Ono’s Wishing Tree at the Museum of Modern Art. I can’t wait to start sharing restaurants and recipes!

Sugar High: A Mini Anecdote

I love my family for only taking foodie vacations, but after a while the calories will catch up to you. So I was actually a little relieved when my high school friends and I settled on New Hampshire for our post-grad bonding trip, rather than what would have inevitably become an expensive and calorific gastronomic tour of Quebec. We brought The Chef along to chaperone (cook), but I thought we were planning to spend our days on our feet hiking, swimming or at least antiquing. And we did…

mostly.

What I failed to realize, was that the house we rented, on a strict college student’s budget, was a whole hour from Mount Washington, but a mere seven minutes away from the biggest budget basher known to mankind: the world’s longest candy counter.

It’s very dangerous to let me loose in a store like Chutters. With whole bins of cappuccino jelly beans, peach-apricot fruit slices, cognac cordials, chocolate-covered pretzel balls and chocolate-covered gummy bears (tasteless in one sense, so tasty in another) I was like a kid in a… never mind.

Candy here is stored in big jars, and sold by the pound, but I was assured that a pound of candy was a lot, so I set a budget in my mind, and set out filling my bag with what was, to my mind, a very reasonable amount of candy. I took a break from candy buying to take pictures, and 1/2 an hour later joined my friends at the checkout counter. All four of them spent exactly what they planned to… I rang up to almost twice as much.

I call this a mini anecdote, but really it’s the story of my life.

The End.

Lazy Days in Chestertown

We are still in the middle of cornfields, which, oddly, I love. My husband, Mark, and I always describe ourselves as the Eva Gabor and Eddie Albert pair from the 1960s oldie-but-goodie television show, “Green Acres” (remember that?). For those of you too young to know this gem, Oliver opens with:

Green acres is the place for me.
Farm livin’ is the life for me.
Land spreadin’ out so far and wide
Keep Manhattan, just give me that countryside.

To which his wife, Lisa, responds:

New York is where I’d rather stay.
I get allergic smelling hay.
I just adore a penthouse view.
Dah-ling I love you but give me Park Avenue….

These lyrics sum up our differences on urban life, but when I’m in Chestertown on the Eastern shore of Maryland and we make a right on to Route 290 and head into the cornfields, this feeling of complete relaxation comes over me. I also somehow stop worrying about things like whether we’ll have a leaky roof when we get home, or whether I forgot to pay the gas bill (which, come to think of it, I probably did!).

Part of the joy of coming here is staying with our favorite American innkeepers. We love Tracy and Jim Stone of The Inn at Mitchell House in nearby Tolchester. Their house is immaculate but has that wonderful old house smell.

Tracy makes the most scrumptious and hearty country breakfasts, such as homemade waffles with local blueberries and thick French toast with strawberries and perfectly crisp bacon. They are truly living an envious country life, with a balance of wit and hard work.  I often wish I could be Tracy mowing all 12 acres singlehandedly, or Jim who enjoys fixing the tree swing for the millionth time after working all day as captain of a skipjack at the Echo Hill Outdoor School in nearby Worton.

We love going to the Dixon Furniture auction in Crumpton on Wednesdays, eating delicious crab dishes, playing croquet, and buying trinkets at Twigs and Teacups in town. But I what I really like the most about Maryland’s Eastern Shore is that I don’t feel like I have to do anything and that clears my head to do some of the things I love, like looking through my favorite magazines. We have piles of The New Yorker, Bon Appetit and Saveur on – I hate to admit it – the staircase leading to the second floor at home. I sometimes clear the deck for company and they get shoved in a lonely pile in the attic. I feel defeated every time I see them; the only time I can justify this kind of pure joy is here in Chestertown.

I also started a new indulgence when I opened the Fig Cooking School – Cookbooks.  I love taking brightly colored stickies and marking pages of recipe inspirations for classes. The girls always run to get a glimpse of a newly acquired cookbook before it gets “mom-afied” – the point in a book’s life where it has so many post-its, the page perimeters looks like they’ve grown feathers. Over the course of the week, Mitchell House becomes my Mom-ification workshop.

The girls and Mark are ready to be picked up from kayaking. I’m sure they’re feeling baked from the sun and ready for lunch at the Fish Whistle, a great local place that overlooks the Chesapeake Bay. I’ll be back soon… In the meantime, enjoy these end-of-summer images from our trip.

This Week In Pictures

I had such good intentions of doing a Wordless Wednesday post, but I realized too late that I’m incapable of doing anything wordlessly and on top of that, without my noticing, Wednesday turned into Thursday, and my plans were foiled. But I have a great many pictures to share with you, and they deserve an explanation anyway. Once a year or so my family has to take a vacation to a place with open fields, cows, fresh air, fireflies(!) and farms, or we’ll just go insane. There are a few different places we’ve tried but few work their magic quite the same way as Chestertown, MD. The difference between us in Connecticut and us in Maryland is immediate and extreme – Isabella even let me take a picture or two of her! My fantasy is to one day move down here, buy an old farmhouse and divide my days equally between cooking, exploring cornfields and catching fireflies in glass jars (with my children of course). It’s a very realistic dream.
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We can’t cook down here, so we take pictures instead. Here are some scenes from our life this week.This post will be wordless starting… now.

Fig Travels: Nashville and Fried Chicken

You haven’t been to Nashville if you can’t come home raving about your favorite “meat ‘n’ three” spot. The hometown of Country Music is also the birthplace and epicenter of this heavenly rich comfort food package. A meat ‘n’ three consists of one meat, fish or poultry dish and three “vegetables,” (i.e. baked beans, cole slaw, candied sweet potatoes, squash casserole, mashed potatoes, fried okra and, yes, macaroni and cheese). Nothing in the world is more comforting or more delicious and as for calories, with food this good, honestly, who’s counting?

Ask 20 Nashvillians their favorite place to have this uniquely southern meal, and you’ll get just as many different answers, but The Loveless Café was, hands down, our favorite. The biscuits served with all natural homemade jam, and fried chicken that blew us away. You have to taste it to believe it, and fortunately, we’ve included our own perfected version of their fried chicken below so you can!

Locals and tourists have been coming to Loveless from miles around for more than 50 years, ever since Annie Loveless first started serving her unusually light and tasty biscuits. An anointed “keeper,” most recently Carol Fay Ellison who sadly passed away in April, guards the secret recipe. No biscuit comes close to being as flavorful and airy as a Loveless Biscuit, and our (perhaps impossible) dream is to one day recreate the taste in our own test kitchen. And after devouring our little pieces of heaven with peach and blackberry jam, our immense platter of golden fried-to-perfection chicken arived. Thank goodness we ordered it family style because we just couldn’t stop eating.

Here is our version of this classic southern comfort food inspired by the Loveless Café’s own cookbook. But first, please keep in mind that there are some essential ingredients and tools that are important to assemble if you want to make your chicken truly special. We are just as health conscious as many of our readers, but we believe in cultural food immersion, and that means eating like the locals. After the jump you’ll find a breakdown of what you may need to make these and many other first-rate southern dishes.

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