All posts by Pam Rauber

About Pam Rauber

Photographer, Writer, Home Chef

BBQ and Bourbon, A Blend of Southern Flavors

Baby Back Ribs

 

May is noted as being National BBQ month. It marks the beginning of cookouts, recreational activities as well as celebrations of assorted gatherings. With this comes Food.  Mostly cooked on a grill and potluck of side dishes and desserts added to the mix.

Four Roses Bourbon
#BourbonBBQ

From Ribs to Pork Shoulders smoked on the Big Green Egg, we’ve always made our own sauce and marinade to bring the savory flavors of smokey and spicy full circle.

For years, we’ve used the same recipe for each the marinade and the sauce, never venturing. This year however, we decided to add a new ingredient. Kentucky Bourbon. Four Roses Bourbon to be exact. When this Southern Favorite sent out a call for recipes using their bourbon, I was on it. When I suggested the idea to my husband, he looked at me with fright as though I was suggesting to toss the family recipe and use someone else’s. He realized I would never suggest such a thing and shrugged with “Why not? Can’t hurt!”

We enjoyed the bold flavor the Bourbon added to the tomato based sauce for the ribs.

When used in a marinade the Bourbon only enhanced the Olive Oil and Grey Poupon in an explosive blend of flavors.  Of course, sipping the Bourbon has its pleasures on its own. Being smooth on the palate with hints of cherry and dark fruit, leaves a lasting impression of satisfaction.

For the Sauce

29 oz can of Tomato sauce
10-12 oz can of tomato paste
One 11.5 oz can V-8 juice (use low sodium to live longer)
Four Roses Bourbon, see below for quantity
one white or yellow onion
1/3 cup cider vinegar
½ cup apple sauce
11/2 tsp chopped rosemary
3/4 tsp dried basil flakes
½ tsp mace
2 tbs dark brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, crushed into the sauce
2 tbs jerk marinade (Helen’s is a good choice)
1 tbs Pickapeppa sauce
1 tbs coarse ground black pepper
4 tbs Worcestershire sauce

METHOD:
1. Chop up the onion (the size of the chopped pieces is up to the cook
depending on how chunky the sauce is desired). Saute’ half of the onion
in olive oil until caramelized, the browner the better.

2. Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, apple sauce, and V-8 and heat to a
simmer. Keep a lid on the pot or else globs of the sauce will jump out of
the pot and onto your range while it tries to simmer.

3. Add the rest of the ingredients, except the Bourbon, stirring as added.

4. Simmer the sauce for at least two hours. During the last 15 minutes add
½ cup of the Bourbon. Then let stand to cool down for 1-2 hours, or
refrigerate if you will not use until a later time. This makes about 2 quarts
of finished sauce.

5. The sauce is intended to be served warm or hot. Therefore, before the
barbecue is to be served heat up at least half of the sauce (this should be
about a quart of sauce). While it is being heated add a ½ cup of the
Bourbon (or more depending how much Bourbon flavor you want).

Enjoy,

Pam and Alan

© 2014 A. Rauber

 

 

 

Fudge Cake…A Farm Journal’s Favorite

Fudge Cake

 

If you ever subscribed to a Farm Journal, you saw with each publication there would be a recipe sent in by a farm wife. Farm wives took great pleasure in baking competitively.  In the 1950′s a collection of recipes were tested and then published by Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook.  Over 1,000 recipes from all over the country are in this cookbook.  As I read the introduction written by Nell Nichols, Food Editor, she mentions the most requested recipe in the collection of Farm Journal’s archives was a Fudge Cake. The recipe comes from a farm wife in Montana.

This year of 2014, the Southeast has experienced unfamiliar winter weather. Sleet, freezing rain and snow gave me pause in venturing out. What does one do when house bound? Bake!  I decided after reading about this Fudge Cake recipe that I would just see what all the fuss was about.

First, the batter itself was addictive so I knew this was going to be worth baking. Next came the Date Cream Filling. I actually thought this would be some sort of cream cheese mixture but instead it was like making a Rue.  To finish off, a simple chocolate frosting.

The recipe calls for cake flour but lacking this, I substituted 1/8 cup Cornstarch to each one cup flour. In other words, remove 2 Tablespoons from one cup of flour and add back 2 Tablespoons of Cornstarch. For the sake of convenience,  I will modify the recipe to today’s standard of writing.  If you happen to open a cookbook from 50 years ago, it is assumed one has common knowledge of cooking or baking based on the abbreviations and methods used.  Today however, this is not the case since women are rarely referred to as Farm Wives and, the greatest invention, the internet, has made it possible for people across the globe to experience recipes from other countries.

For the Cake:

Preheat oven to 350°

3/4 cup butter, unsalted, room temperature
2 1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 whole eggs
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
3 cups cake flour or substitution cited above
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups ice water

Using a mixer (stand up or hand held) cream the butter, sugar and vanilla. Add eggs one at a time being certain to incorporate each. Beat mixture until fluffy. Add melted chocolate and blend well.
Sift together dry ingredients unless pre-sifted; add alternately with water to chocolate mixture.
Pour batter into three 8″ layer pans or two 9″ inch with leftover batter for small cake pan. Be certain to grease the pan and line with parchment or waxed paper. Bake 350° for 30-35 minutes or until the toothpick test or bounce back test is completed.
Allow cake to cool.

Date Cream Filling:

1 cup whole milk.
1/2 cup chopped dates. ( I used Dried )
1 Tablespoon flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used toasted pecans)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine milk and dates in a double boiler (separate pan or bowl placed over pan of boiling water, being certain bowl does not come in contact with boiling water) Allow milk and dates to get warm.
In a small separate bowl, combine flour and sugar, add beaten egg and blend well. Add this to hot milk.
Cook, stirring, until thick.
Allow to cool.
Stir in nuts and vanilla. Spread between layers

Fudge Frosting:

2 cups sugar
1 cup light cream
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, grated

Combine all ingredients in a heavy saucepan. Boil over high heat 3 minutes without stirring. Reduce heat and continue cooking until it reaches soft ball stage (238°). Cool.
Beat until creamy and of spreading consistency. Add cream if too thick.
Spread over cake.

Note: My first attempt at the frosting, I looked away a few seconds and the batch slightly burned. I waited until it cooled and tasted and decided to re-do. Fear of distraction and lacking in chocolate, I followed the recipe from the Hershey Cocoa Label. The original recipe would have been satisfactory had I not failed. Note to self: Pay attention.

If you happen to come across an old cookbook, consider all that was involved in testing.  In the 1950′s, appliances were just coming out and no sooner was a recipe tested, it had to be re-tested to accommodate yet a new invention.  Testing recipes today is difficult in and of itself. Imagine the women testing using newly invented equipment. Unlike Miss Patmore of Downton Abbey, they were futurists. I salute them.

Fudge Cake

Enjoy.  I sure did.
Pam

Credit: Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook, Doubleday & Company, Inc. Copyright 1959

 

The Food Scene of Birmingham, Alabama

Whenever I’ve traveled (rare as it has been), I’ve always carried a journal, writing down everything I did that day. A Journal, I know, right?  I’m so old school. The fact is…, I am old. I started out my young adult life using shorthand and typing 110 words a minute and that… was on a manual typewriter,  yet, still today, I can write faster than type.

Using my smartphone or tablet is just awkward or frustrating every time the screen goes blank for saving power. I’m certain this obnoxious piece of technology can be corrected but, that would be a call to one my kids. I don’t want to give them any thought I’m in over my head.

I spent the weekend in Birmingham attending the Food Blog South Conference #FBS2014, currently in their fourth year.  It’s geared towards food writers, cookbook authors, Chef’s alike. Blogging is a very important ingredient in the cyber world.  Google any subject and blogs pop up.  I even met one woman who wrote five different blogs from vegan cooking to neuro science.   It was great meeting people you’ve only heard about, authors of books you’ve collected, editors from Southern Living Magazine, and especially people you’re Facebook friends with but, never met in person.

I am so glad that I did keep notes for this past weekend. There was much going on and I would’ve never remembered half of the information I gained.

What I took in the most was the hospitality. Sadly, Atlanta is struggling to keep this Southern bragging right. From the housekeepers of the hotel to store owners and their staff and, particularly the staff of the restaurants whose food I will review in a bit. One of the greatest privileges for Birmingham will be their representation in the Chelsea Market in Manhattan this year.  Eight foot photographs will encompass the walls of this famous urban food mall bringing the south to meet the north. It’s sort of an “in your face, take that!” type approach but,  any decent food critic worth their salt will hop on a flight and experience the great food Birmingham offers.

During the one day seminar, topics included writing, of course, turning your blog into a career, culinary trends, and recipe developing all delivered by experts in the particular field.  Obviously, the topic was food. The food scene of Birmingham was spectacular and, has every reason to boast.

A friend commented on a short review I posted on Facebook regarding the popular restaurant, Highlands Bar and Grill, asking why I didn’t get BBQ. I’ll just say this…, I do love barbecue but, barbecue is everywhere. The BBQ trail begins in Hemingway, South Carolina (Scott’s BBQ) guiding connoisseurs’ across the south all the way to Texas including a stop off at my back porch.  This was going to be one weekend without BBQ.  I wanted to experience fine dining at its best, Southern Style.

Within the Aloft hotel, where I stayed, located in the SoHo district of Homewood, was Michael’s, a Steak House. I was skeptical trying it out because the reviews were somewhat unfavorable but, I really didn’t care to get back out to drive.  The restaurant was small probably 75 seat capacity. Hanging from the ceiling was a 30 foot wide panoramic photograph of the city of Birmingham, obviously shot from Vulcan Hill and taken at the twilight hour. It was impressive.

I ordered the house salad and Prime Filet or Steer Butt as the waiter referred to it. The salad was a simple, roughly chopped romaine topped with dried cherries and roasted pecans ladled with an explosive flavor of the house dressing, Feta Vinaigrette.

While not considered a Southern cuisine, my filet came seared, medium rare, with juices flowing just as I requested. As a side, I preferred mashed, not creamed, potatoes including the skins. (I never understood peeling skins, mashed or creamed) They were seasoned perfectly with salt and pepper and a hint of beef broth.  The wine list was short and rather plain. I had a decent Cabernet from someplace named “Cricket”.  I’m all for trying out the micro viniculturist.   The price tag for the night was $50. My only complaint was the music. I am sick of hearing Carole King, “So Far Away”. Don’t get me wrong, I loved her, I have the original LP. She’s a singer/songwriter icon from my youth but, I sure wish she’d sing something else.

The next evening I dined with a few, fellow Facebook, Southern Food Blogger friends, at Highlands Bar and Grill, a Southern cuisine with a French Twist. It was recently listed as one of the top restaurants to “try before you die” by the Charleston Southern Food Bloggers and, they know their food. Highlands is known for using local and seasonal ingredients and if I recall accurately, Chef Frank Stitt was the first in his industry in Birmingham to start this new approach in serving his guests’.

There were eight of us seated at a large, round table. The atmosphere the entire evening made me feel like I was in the scene of the French Restaurant, Le Grand Colbert, from the movie “Something’s Gotta Give”; a setting where Diane Keaton’s character, Erica Barry, celebrates her birthday each year. We had one main staff member who saw to our needs along with two other members of the wait staff who were right behind him.

Everyone ordered appetizers and we were delivered three more that were placed in the center of the table. I won’t go into what everyone ordered.  My suggestion if you want to visit Highlands is to check the current menu on the website; it changes with the season. After the appetizers, of course came the entrée. Here’s where I have just learned about food critics. Three of us order the Bourbon Braised Pork Shoulder. I thought mine was splendid and the other two were less impressed. I never used a knife to cut through mine yet, theirs contained bits of fat. Well, I know Pork Shoulder because my husband smokes them regularly.  It is difficult to avoid fat and perhaps too much was left on their portion.

When one gets older they tend to consume less.  I was the oldest among my table companions by 20 years. I didn’t have an appetizer because I wanted to enjoy the entrée and hope for dessert. I downloaded the menu in advance of coming to the restaurant. I had been fasting for the previous week and earned a night of good wines and luscious desserts. I knew right away that I would have the Chocolate Chip Mousse Cake complimented with Sauternes Château Villefranche 2010 Bordeaux.  I felt so sophisticated. I’ve benefited immensely from the wine classes I’ve been taking.  In times past, if a restaurant didn’t offer Sutter Home, White Zinfandel, I didn’t drink.  This night, I started with Prosecco, enjoyed a blended Red from Sonoma which paired perfectly with the Pork Shoulder and finished with Bordeaux. How cool am I?  After a 2 ½ hour relaxed, dining experience, this evening was well worth $87.

During one of the lectures, Jennifer Cole of Southern Living was asked “of all the restaurants in Birmingham, which was her favorite”?  Sheepishly, she admitted Chez Fonfon, which just happens to be next door to Highlands and…owned by the same Chef, Frank Stitt.  This is a French Bistro right down to the décor with what looked like marble speckled flooring and black and white tiled inserts. The bar was wood along with the stools, antique lighting fixtures, arched wall length mirrors, stressed, wood tables and an uncomfortable leather row of benching for seating which separated the bar from the small café on the other side.  At the front entrance hung, heavy, thick drapery blocking the unusual, bitter cold air, the South was experiencing.

Jennifer stated this was a place where one could go alone. Since, I have no problem eating by myself, I knew immediately where I’d go for dinner.  Walking in, it was no surprise to the hostess I was only one patron. As I was guided to my table, I saw four others were dining alone. This was on a Saturday evening. Yeah! No fear here of being seen without a companion.

I ordered, Hamburger Fonfon with Comté and pommes frites aka Hamburger with cheese and fries. The meat is ground each morning and hand pressed for grilling. A red onion, char grilled, only enhanced the juices flowing from this medium cooked rarity.  The buns are prepared and baked on site. The “frites” are julienned on site. No frozen stuff at this bistro.  I enjoyed yet, another Bordeaux with the Hamburger and, for dessert….well, if I want a birthday cake, I have to make my own and I’m the only person in my family who enjoys Coconut Cake, so I celebrated my close to Social Security collecting/Medicare age and paired this wonderful slice of toasted coconut with a glass of Sauternes Château Haut-Mayne ’09. My quiet evening while reading “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott  came to $60.

I will never make it to Paris to celebrate my birthday like Erica Barry, but I can drive two hours and experience the same fine dining experience. I don’t make it a habit eating upscale dining, because the budget doesn’t allow it. I knew in advance I was going to attend this conference and I put aside funds purposely to experience Birmingham’s Food Scene.

Get to Birmingham, it’s a beautiful location to visit.

Pam

 

Gougères: Cheese Puffs With a Spicy Twist

Jalapeno Cheese Puffs

I was assisting Chef Adeline Borra recently while conducting a hands-on cooking class.  One of the recipes Chef provided was a French cheese pastry titled “Burgundian Gougères”. Pronounced “goo/zhehr”

Gougères come from Burgundy in France.  They are enjoyed as appetizers while sipping Wine. Generally, Gruyère or Comtè Cheese is used in the recipe but I decided to change things up a bit…add a little spice.  Would this be considered a desecration to this famous choux pastry?  Possibly, but, when your greatest critics, aka family, prefer spicy flavors, why not add a few shavings of Jalapeño to the dough.

Now that the holidays are over and Super Bowl is approaching, I really wanted this to be a sophisticated finger food different from the usual and customary high in fat Cuisine of Football Fanatics. When one of your guests reaches for this light, airy dough of savory goodness, they will immediately pause, look down at the platter of swirly puffs and choose a few more over chips and dip. They provide a tiny taste of addictive flavor with the right amount of bite. Since my nephew grew up in New Mexico, he dribbled a few drops of hot sauce on a plate for his swirls. Ya’ just gotta love a man who takes it to the next level without any apologies.

One can use any cheese but, for this recipe I use Monterey Jack. If you want to cut corners, using the prepackaged Jalapeño Cheese will work.

Here’s what I did…

I preheated the oven to 400°

I shredded 4 ounces of cheese and set aside
I finely diced one Jalapeño, seeds removed
In a bowl, I cracked open four large eggs
I had both Sea Salt and Cayenne Pepper on standby

In a saucepan, I brought one cup of water and one stick of melted, unsalted butter to a rapid boil.
Then I added one cup of flour and vigorously stirred until this combination pulled cleanly away from the sides of the pan. At this time I turned off the heat and continued to stir for about 30 seconds longer.

I spooned the flour mixture into a mixing bowl. Using a mixer with a whip attachment, I whipped on medium speed. I added one egg at a time, making certain to incorporate each egg. Then, I added the cheese, pinch of salt. I whipped on medium high until the mixture became shiny.

Using pastry equipment with a tip of choice or a plastic storage bag, I spooned into the bag a large quantity of choux pastry dough. One may clip the pointed end of the storage bag allowing dough to stream out.

Squeeze onto a parchment lined tray, approximately two tablespoons of dough placing one inch apart. Depending on your taste, sprinkle cayenne pepper over the tops of each puff of dough.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes.

This recipe makes approximately 30 pieces.

These can be made ahead by placing raw dough on a parchment covered tray and freezing. When ready to bake, allow to thaw then bake for 20-25 minutes. Or, one can bake, allow to cool completely, place tray in the freezer. When frozen, remove individual puffs from tray and store in containers. When ready to eat, remove from freezer and allow to thaw on a parchment covered tray then, warm in the oven on low heat. Take this time to taste and add a sprinkle of cayenne pepper, if desired, before warming in the oven.

Enjoy,
Pam

 

 

 

Bringing in the New Year With Tomato Marinade

Tomato Marinade

Resolutions….every year after Christmas, many people stand around the water cooler revealing their New Year’s resolution. Even the morning shows parade out so-called experts on resolutions.

Resolutions always seem to be about starting the latest dieting trend, joining a health club, buying fashionable exercising clothing.  It’s become fashionable to wear these spandexy clothes all day while grocery shopping, picking up the kids from school, etc. as if, to flaunt “I went to spin class today.”  These outfits have become even more popular than women running around in their cute little tennis outfits.

When I see these perky, skinny people, I always wonder, do they really exercise or are they just naturally beautiful and wear the clothes to make a fashion statement? I mean their hair is always neatly pulled back in a ponytail. Surely, one doesn’t sweat on the spinning machine, then when finished run a comb through their hair. In reality, I’m jealous, they don’t make spandex for women my age. Notice I used the term “women” not “misses”. Department stores for unknown, politically correct reasons have distinguished females over a certain age and over a certain weight as “women”.

All that aside, I have to admit, I’ve made plenty of resolutions in my youth. These days, I just take it one day at a time.

Now that New Year’s and football championships are nearing, that means the parties continue.  Maybe you’re still full from all the food during the Christmas holidays. It’s time to enjoy food but on a lighter level.

I call this recipe Tomato Marinade.

I use fresh, plum tomatoes and, no, they’re not in season in the United States and are obviously shipped in from some South American Country Whole Foods contracts with. I made up for it though by using local Vidalia Onions, I hung in the nylons in the cooler part of the house and Poblano Peppers, I froze a couple of months ago.

Here’s what I did…

I used five plum tomatoes, removing seeds and finely dicing.

To the diced tomatoes, I seasoned with pinches of oregano, basil, salt and pepper.
I stirred in, a tablespoon of red wine and balsamic vinegar each, then drizzled about two tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
I covered the bowl of tomatoes and allowed to marinade in the fridge.

For the onions and pepper…
One Sweet Onion, thinly sliced, then quartered slices
Half of Poblano, seeded and finely diced
In a skillet or sauce pan, I added two Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil then added the onions and Poblano. I simmered over low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. I added one heaping teaspoon of light brown sugar then a couple of tablespoons of red wine. I continued to let simmer for another 10 minutes.

I removed the onion and pepper from the stove and allowed to cool, then I added to the tomato marinade.

One can make up a Bruschetta and top with the tomato marinade or just use a cracker, as shown here, lacking a lot of flavor distracting from the marinade of tomatoes.

Enjoy,
Pam