Tag Archives: South Carolina

Ricotta Gnudi with Mortadella Polpetti and Nona’s Fresh Tomato Sugo

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mortadella

Artisan Meat Share Mortadella

Ever since I saw Craig Deihl’s post on Facebook, showing his house made mortadella at Artisian Meat Share, I have been looking forward to trying it. I am inspired by Chef Ken Vedrinski’s (Tratoria Lucca) Ricotta Gnudi with Mortadella Polpetti (little meatballs). Tratoria Lucca is one of my favorite Charleston restaurants and the reason is Ken Vedrinkski. He is a hands on chef owner who absorbs himself in his cuisine in a way that most chefs simply do not hold a candle to. He sources many Italian delicacies on his frequent trips across the Atlantic, finding the most special olive oils, wines and cheeses to bring  back to Charleston. He also has special relationships with fishermen, ranchers and farmers who bring their goods to the back door of his restaurant.

Ken-Vedrinski

Gnudi are gnocchi-like dumplings made with ricotta cheese instead of potato, with very little or no flour. The result is often a lighter, “pillowy” dish, unlike the often denser, more chewy gnocchi.

There are three elements to this meal, they come together in a perfect symphony of flavor and texture.

Tomato Sugo Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 generous pinch crushed red pepper
  • 8 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and crushed
  • 10-12 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup of butter
  • Salt to taste

Method: 

  • Place olive oil in a pot over medium heat.
  • Add garlic and chili flakes
  • Saute 2-3 minutes
  • Add tomatoes and butter, blend well and add salt to taste
  • Reduce heat, cover and simmer about 30 minutes. Remove from heat.

Butter in the sauce

Mortadella Polpetti Ingredients: 

  • 4 slices of day-old ciabatta, crust removed
  • 2 cups milk
  • 5 ounces ground pork
  • 5 ounces ground mortadella (if you cannot find it, then use good quality bologna and finely chopped pistachios along with some black pepper)
  • 1/4 cup porcini powder
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup ground Parmesan
  • 3 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley

Method:

  • Soak cubes in milk for 5 minutes,then squeeze dry.
  • In a large bowl add remaining ingredients until well combined. Cover bowl, then refrigerate 1 hour.
  • Form Polpeti into 1 inch balls.
  • 45 minutes before serving time, add the polpetti to the sauce and put on a simmer burner at very low temp.

Meatballs cooking

Gnudi Ingredients: 

  • 16 ounces good quality fresh ricotta
  • 5 ounces microplaned Locatelli Pecorino Cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2/3 cup 00 flour (available at Italian specialty stores or online), plus more for dusting.

Gnudi Method: 

Gnudi before boiling

  • Mix all ingredients in a large bowl till a dough forms. Be gentle when mixing. cover bowl and chill for 1 hour
  • Dust the bottom of a sheet pan with flour.
  • Place dough on a floured work surface and roll into a 1 1/4 inch diameter log. cut on the bias into one inch pieces.Place on the floured surface
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to boil
  • Shake extra flour from gnudi. gently place in the pot cooked till cooked through. Put in a bowl and toss with the sauce.
  • Serve with freshly grated parm.

gnudi in sauce

Banh Mi the Ultimate Sandwich

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Banh Mi the Ultimate Sandwich

Banh Mi prep

There is nothing like a Banh Mi Sandwich! There are so many flavors and textures going on between the baguette. There are many ways to make this sandwich, in fact, my friend Andrea Nguyen has written an entire book on the subject! 

For each sandwich:

  • 1 petite baguette roll or part of a longer baguette
  • Mayonnaise (I use Duke’s)
  • Maggi Sauce (available at Hispanic and Asian groceries)
  • Char Su (this is Asian style pork belly) or BBQ chicken, pate’ or slices of rare steak
  • 3 or 4 thin seeded cucumber strips, pickling or English variety preferred
  • 2 or 3 cilantro sprigs, roughly chopped
  • 3 or 4 thin jalapeño pepper slices
  • Bean sprouts
  • Daikon and Carrot Pickle (Do Chua)

Banh Mi 1

  1. Slit the bread lengthwise, and then use a fork to pull out some of the bread, making a trough in both halves. Place the bread halves under the broiler on LOW, but watch carefully!
  2. Generously spread the inside with mayonnaise. Drizzle in some Maggi Seasoning sauce or soy sauce. layer the remaining ingredients. I like to start and end with some herbs.

DSC_0220Daikon and Carrot Pickle (Do Cha)

Makes about 3 cups

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Ingredients:

  • 1 large carrot, peeled
  • 1 pound daikons, peeled
  • teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons and 1/2 cup sugar in the raw or grated jaggery
  • 1  1/4 cups distilled white vinegar
  • 1 cup lukewarm water

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Method:

Either cut the carrot and daikon into julienne or use a spiral cutter to cut them. Place the carrot and daikons in a bowl and sprinkle with the salt and 2 teaspoons of the sugar. Use your hands to knead the vegetables for about 3 minutes, expelling the water from them. They will soften and liquid will pool at the bottom of the bowl.

Drain in a colander and rinse under cold running water, then press gently. Return the carrot and daikon to the bowl.

To make the brine, in a bowl, combine the 1/2 cup sugar, the vinegar, and the water and stir to dissolve the sugar. Pour over the carrot and daikon. The brine should cover the vegetables. Let the vegetables marinate in the brine for at least 1 hour before eating. They will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks. It is not traditional, but I like to add some dried red chile flakes too.

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Smoked Pork Butt Porchetta Style

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This is one of the most delicious recipes and the meat can be used in so many ways after the original meal. You can make pulled pork and porcini gravy over grits/polenta, pulled pork sandwiches with BBQ sauce, tacos, as a topping for fresh pasta, empanadas, tostados and tamales among other things. The spices in the porchetta filling are distinctly Latin and permeate the meat along with the smoke. Keep in mind that “Latin” includes Italy as well as Latin America. If you do not have a smoker, you can get the flavor by Braising the butt with liquid smoke and beer in a slow cooker or oven before you add the bourbon and do the second braise.

I have not posted in several weeks. I had a knee injury that kept me from doing a lot of cooking. It is getting better or at least the cortisone injection is making it feel that way. It is good to be able to stand for more than a few minutes again. Meanwhile the Low Country is in it’s early summer glory after we suffered through an unusual plant killing winter. It is so great to see green and blooms again.

Smoked Butt Porchetta Style

Ingredients:

  • A large, well marbled pork butt (shoulder) with the fat on one side. Bone in is fine.
  • 1 large bunch of flat leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup cumin seeds
  • 1/2 cup fennel seeds
  • 1/2 cup corriander seeds
  • 12 cloves of garlic
  • Olive oil
  • 1 Cup of Bourbon for braising

Method:

  • Put the seeds in a dry non stick pan and toast till you start to hear them pop. Remove and allow to cool

Porchetta seeds

  • In a food processor place the parsley, garlic, cooled seeds and a drizzle of olive oil. Pulse till a thick paste is developed. You may need to add more oil to make a paste.

Porchetta seeds.in blender

  • Place one inch deep and wide slits all around the meat about 1″ apart.
  • Fill each slit with the paste. If there is any paste left, rub it all over the meat.

porchetta ready for smoker

  • Place the butt fat side up in the smoker on lowest temperature. I used apple wood this time, but I often use maple or cherry.
  • Smoke for 8 hours do not let the heat get higher than 250.

Porchetta in smoker

  • Remove to a dutch oven or slow cooker pour the bourbon over the meat and cover. Bake on lowest temperature the oven will go to for another 8 hours or if using a crock pot, leave the lid slightly ajar. Cook on low for 10 hours.

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I made a gravy using porcini mushrooms the drippings from the meat (removed fat by chilling) and some cornstarch. For the first meal I served it with polenta/grits and it was delicious. Then on the next day we had pulled pork sandwiches and a few days later, we are having pulled pork tacos!

The Best Lobster Bisque

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Bisque 2

I make this every time we get live lobsters, which is only a few times a year. Over the years I have tweaked this. I always have to buy an extra lobster or two tails to add some meat to the soup. It is the best soup I have ever tasted. While it is rich, a single bowl and some bread make a fine supper with champagne.

Lobster

Lobster Bisque 
Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 3 1- 2 pound live lobsters

For the stock:

  • Lobster shells
  • 1 onion quartered
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 cups of lobster cooking water
  • Water to cover shells

For the Bisque

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, large dice (I use a sweet onion like Vidalia)
  • 1 large celery stalk, rough chopped
  • 1 large carrot, sliced
  • 12 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 20 grape tomatoes (or one large tomato rough chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons dried tarragon
  • 2 tablespoons dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8-10 whole peppercorns
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 1/2 cup dry Sherry (plus more for serving)
  • 4 cups lobster stock
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Lobster Stock (about 4 cups)
  • Chives and fresh black pepper for serving

Method:

To make stock:

  • Bring large pot of water to boil.
  • Add 1/4 sea salt.
  • Add lobsters head first and boil until cooked through, about 15 minutes. Using tongs, transfer lobsters to large bowl.
  • Reserve 2 cups cooking liquid. Cool lobsters
  • Working over large bowl to catch juices, cut off lobster tails and claws. Crack tail and claw shells and remove lobster meat. Coarsely chop lobster meat; cover and chill. Coarsely chop lobster shells and bodies; transfer to medium bowl. Reserve juices from lobster in large bowl.Or you can serve the lobsters and save the shells, reserving extra meat for the bisque.
  • In a clean pot add shells, onion, carrot and reserved cooking liquid. Add enough water to cover the shells with an additional 2″ of water.
  • Cook low and slow for several hours (I have a simmer burner and let it simmer over night), until the stock has reduced to the level of the shells. Strain over a large pot.
  • You can cool and save this in the freezer or refrigerator or use straight away.
  • Discard solids

Bisque:

Bisque beginning

  • Heat olive oil in heavy large pot over high heat.
  • Add onion and next 8 ingredients. Boil until almost all liquid has evaporated, about 4 minutes. *Note, if you are using tails for the meat, put them in with veggies and cook till meat is white, about 4 minutes Use one tail per serving. 
  • Add lobster stock
  • Simmer 1 hour.
  • Remove bay leaves
  • Use a stick blender to puree
  • Strain soup through sieve set over a pot, pressing firmly on solids. Whisk tomato paste into soup. Add sherry and cognac.
  • Simmer until soup is reduced to 3 cups, about 15 minutes. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate at this point)
  • Add cream to soup and simmer 5 minutes.
  • Dissolve cornstarch in 1 tablespoon water.
  • Add to soup and boil until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. 
  • Ladle soup into bowls and top with a pile of lobster meat, some fresh chives, freshly cracked black pepper and a drizzle of sherry. 

Cook it Raw Charleston ~ Part One

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Yesterday was a culinary memory I will never forget. I was invited to be a volunteer for Cook It Raw’s finale food fest, BBQ Perspectives at Bowen’s Island representing Les Dames d’ Escoffier and The Spice and Tea Exchange.. For those of you who do not know about Cook it Raw, it is a Chef’s Only week of discovery and learning about a region and its food that involves most of the truly important culinary luminaries in the world. The word “Raw” implies on the edge, not uncooked. So, from all corners of the world, the chefs came, they learned, they tasted and then they cooked. They cooked for each other and for the first time in the history of the event, they cooked for the public. It is difficult to put the experience completely into words, but in general I would say that it was one of the supreme dining experiences of my life, and I have eaten all over the world and in much fancier places than outdoors on the river with the briny smells of the marsh and happy music playing. At every turn there was amazing interesting food created with local ingredients and using creative wood fired methods.

Sean Brock laughing

Chef Sean Brock at Cook it Raw’s BBQ Perspectives

The man at the helm of Cook it Raw Charleston was Chef Sean Brock, a true visionary when it comes to the food of the South. The local chef community who have been committed to the renaissance of Lowcountry cuisine for almost 20 years; Frank Lee – Slightly North of Broad; Mike Lata – FIG & The Ordinary; Chris Stewart and Sarah O’Kelley – The Glass Onion; Michelle Weaver – The Charleston Grill; Craig Deihl – Cypress Restaurant; Ken Vedrinski – Coda del Pesce and Trattoria Lucca; Robert Stehling – The Hominy Grill; Jeremiah Bacon – The Macintosh & The Oak Steakhouse; Jacques Larson – Wild Olive Restaurant; Bob Carter – Carter’s Kitchen and Rutledge Cab Company; Josh Keeler – Two Boroughs Larder.

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It was a smoke filled event with over 12 open wood pits and about 15 smoker “rigs” set up. The larger of the rigs belonged to South Carolina’s premiere BBQ team, Rodney Scott’s Whole Pig BBQ, which had just returned from a stint in New York City. People waited for the pig to be lifted and pulled from the bone, mixed with the sauce and served up with chitlins and white bread in traditional South Carolina style.

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“Tradition” stopped right there. Every other team created a whole new perspective.  on BBQ. While there was a lot of truly innovative and delicious food using our Low Country ingredients.

The team that totally blew my mind came from Toronto of all places. Team Canada made plates from slices of birch and from salt and hay. They made a beef tongue BBQ with sea horn berries, pecans puff grains, beans all mixed with a killer sauce. They also baked salmon in clay and made packets of grape leaves with Carolina sticky rice, quinoa, bison sausage, peanuts, maple syrup and quince. Good eh?

team canada collageTeam Canada: 

And then there was Brandon Baltzley (from Chicago) who lead the Irish Team’s concept of Low Country Boil with grilled pig heads, corn, fingerlings and head on local shrimp.

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The International Chefs came from all over the world:

More to come in part 2, like the event, there is just too much to consume at once!

 

Best Fried Green Tomatoes… Southern Bliss

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Fried Green Tomatoes

I never even thought of Fried Green Tomatoes as a recipe until a few people asked me how to make them. They are super easy and very tasty when done right. My great grandmother used to make them, though hers were made with just flour, not the combo of flour and cornmeal that I use now. This method if dredging, dipping and dredging again is the secret to fried chicken and most any coated fried food. The final dredge changes, anything from seasoned flour to panko, but the method stays the same. In the fall green tomatoes are pulled from the vines before first frost, but here in the south, people treasure them all year and green tomatoes are sold in our farmer’s markets. To keep them from ripening, store in the refrigerator till ready to use. They will keep several weeks. I never refrigerate ripe tomatoes, as that kills the sweetness.

fried green tomatoes

Set up a dredging station:

Pan 1: All Purpose flour

Pan 2 :1 cup of buttermilk 1-2 eggs whisked in

Pan 3: This is where you get a little creative:

Then slice up the green tomatoes about 1/2 inch thick. This thickness allows for a crispy crust and tender interior.

Heat canola or peanut oil to 350 degrees in a frying pan, about 1  1/2 inches deep.

Dredge the tomato slices in the flour, then the buttermilk mixture, making sure that the entire slice is covered in liquid.

Finally dredge the slices in the seasoned flour, making sure that all surfaces are covered.

Place in the frying pan, taking care not to crowd. fry till crispy and golden brown on each side and remove to a rack to drain. Repeat.

They can be served with a remoulade sauce, sweet chile sauce or put them on a BLT! They are even good cold.

Fried Green Tomatoes and Remoulade

Carolina Peach Pie

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Peach Pie

Peach Season is here! Nothing can compare to peaches grown in South Carolina and Georgia and this is the time of year when they are at their peak. Beautiful soft orbs of sweet juicy fruit, which are naturally bright and beautiful can be utilized in many ways. I grill them, make chutney, jam them, eat in hand, freeze at least 20# to use for winter and of course make peach pies among other things. This pie is one of my favorites, the other style is a glazed peach pie, which I will be making soon. This one is so easy and delicious.

Carolina Peach Pie

1 recipe of pie dough for a double crust pie

10-12 large ripe peaches

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 cup of sugar

5 grinds of TSTE Baker’s Secret (cocoa nibs, vanilla turbinado sugar, cinnamon, maple syrup granules, ginger, nutmeg)

1/4 cup of all purpose flour

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) of butter cut into slivers

2 tablespoons of TSTE Coconut Sugar or extra fine white sugar

1 egg beaten with a teaspoon of water

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees

Peach Pie for the ready

Make an x in the bottom of the peaches, dunk in boiling water for 5 seconds and immediately plunge into ice water. Using a paring knife, pull off the skins. Cut the peaches into bite size pieces and layer with lemon juice sugar as you cut. When all of the peaches are sliced, stir and let sit for 10 minutes while you roll out the crust.

  • Using a spoon, pour off excess juice. Stir in the flour and Baker’s Secret.
  • Pile the peaches into the bottom crust so that the peaches are mounded high.
  • Add slivers of butter all around the peaches.
  • Put the top crust on.
  • Brush on the egg wash, covering the whole top crust
  • Sprinkle with Coconut Sugar
  • Make 3 slits in the top of the pie for steam to escape
  • Place on a foil lined cookie sheet
  • Make a cuff of foil to go around the edge of the pie (this prevents burning)and put into the oven on the center rack.

After the pie has baked for 30 minutes at 400, reduce the heat to 350 and bake another 30-40 minutes, until the crust is golden. Remove and cool. Allow the pie to rest for at least 40 minutes before slicing.