Rosey the Riveter

Monday, February 27, 2017

Pimento Grits ala Vivian Howard

March is the month where two of my cooking challenges collide.  The March Food52 Cookbook Club book is "Deep Run Roots."  I've been cooking through it for awhile now with my friends back in VA.

Two years ago, before we moved to Guam, we celebrated my birthday with a road-trip to Kinston, NC and ate at "The Chef and the Farmer" and also "The Boiler Room".  It was one of those memories I will never forget.  I had watched all of the episodes of "A Chef's Life" on PBS and felt like I knew Vivian.  Her food was amazing.  So of course, when she came out with her first cookbook, I had to have it.
My friends and I have been tackling the chapters one at a time, saving the summer foods for, well, summer.  February was "Ground Corn" month and so I chose to make the "Pimento Cheese Grits with Salsa and Chips"  (you can find a similar version of hers here).  I'm a New England girl, y'all... the first time I ever had grits was at the Chef and the Farmer and no one was more surprised than I was when I absolutely fell in love with the 'Dirty Grits' with sausage and chicken livers (pictured above).

I promise that I speak the truth when I say that I intended to make the pimento from scratch, from the recipe that is also in the book.  I have a jar of pimentos in my pantry to prove it.  But really, now... did I honestly think the Commissary here would carry white cheddar?  When I saw the $1.50 container of ready-made pimento cheese, I grabbed it.

I started out with the grits in a homemade double-boiler.  After the recommended time, they still hadn't really thickened, so I put them directly on the heat and that did the trick perfectly.

I transferred them to a cast iron pan and dropped spoonfuls of pimento cheese on top, then spread it (do not try the wax paper tip from Vivian with store-bought, it's too sticky and wet to roll out) and popped it in the oven.

At this point, it was time to make the 'salsa'... which I would call more of a pico de gallo.  The 'tomatoes' we get here are notoriously awful.  Barely orange on the shelf, refrigerated, and don't even think about letting them ripen because they'll be a soft mess in about 12 hours.  But I bought a couple just for this recipe, chopped up some purple onion, threw in a couple of frozen cilantro/evoo cubes, and called it good.

The cheesy grits came out of the oven as bubbly goodness and I added the salsa on top.  It just seems wrong, but I served it with "Hint of Lime" chips (our favorite), and called the family to try.  We literally stood at the counter, scooping directly from the hot pan on the stove until the bag of chips was almost gone.  It was truly that good.  Even the picky 13 year old scooped around the onions and wolfed it down.

I will say it's better served warm than cold, but that didn't keep me from finishing off the leftovers straight out of the fridge.  This would make a great appetizer, assuming you are hosting the party and can serve it warm, or you know your hostess well and can heat it in her oven before serving.  I don't think it would travel well after cooking.

The next time I make it, I think I will only use half of the grits called for (or double the salsa) because I think I would prefer that ratio better.  But none the less, this one is another winner.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Art of Pie... Lemon Meringue

I need to make an effort to clean out the fridge and freezer.  Both of them are too full at the moment.  So I grabbed a ball of pie dough from the freezer and the jar of local-lemon juice that's been sitting in my fridge for the past month (remember this?) and decided to try my first ever lemon meringue pie.  I love lemon desserts, so I'm not really sure why I've never attempted one before.  May be I was a tad intimidated by the meringue.

I followed Kate's recipe (not for the pie dough... I'm still waiting for my order of leaf lard to be delivered and I had that ball in the freezer so I couldn't justify making more...) and it worked just perfectly.  The only change I made was that I did not have any lemon zest, so I added in a bit of homemade lemon extract instead.

I couldn't have been more pleased with the results.  The youngest took one bite and said "oooooh!  This is GOOD!"  The oldest ate vegetables at dinner so she could have dessert.  The husband said "You've never made Lemon Meringue before!" (15+ years of marriage and THAT'S what he notices???)

The struggle was waiting for it to cool completely before cutting in to it.  It was a long, hard wait.

It was real good, y'all!  When I can get my hands on more calamansi, I'm going to try that instead of the lemon.  Kate, you're killing me here.  I do not have the room on my shelf for another cookbook!  (I know Kindle is an option but when it comes to cooking, I want the real thing.)  I still have one more ball of dough in the freezer and a can of pumpkin in the pantry, so I might have to be the only person who bakes pumpkin pie in February.  And hopefully the lard gets here soon because I really want to try the Chicken Pot Pie.

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Art of Pie... Cottage Pie

Last week, I happened to stumble upon a new Facebook site called the Food52 Cookbook Club.  Basically, every month they pick a cookbook and cook from it.  This month's pick is The Art of Pie by Kate McDermott.

Now, I have been stingy lately when it comes to buying new cookbooks.  I sifted through A LOT of them before we moved to Guam and donated about 75% of my collection (they are heavy, and we have a weight-limit when it comes to moving).  I vowed that I would become much more disciplined when it came to adding any more to my collection.  Since then, I've only purchased 2 of them...  Vivian Howards "Deep Run Roots" was a no-brainer because I love her show, I ate at both of her restaurants, and I knew it would be worth having.  I also bought Alana Chernila's "Homemade Kitchen" because I had her first cookbook and really liked it.

All that to say I do not plan on buying all of the cookbooks that the Cookbook Club works through.  I do, however, plan to try as many recipes from those cookbooks that I can, relying on library downloads to my kindle and also online sources for recipes.  When I cook enough to determine the book can hold its own, I may buy it.

Fortunately, Kate McDermott's website has several pie recipes (you can find them here.)   Unfortunately, many of them call for leaf lard for the crust, which is just not something that is readily found in this tropical paradise.  So I decided to start with the "Cottage Pie" recipe because I knew all of the ingredients could be easily found.

I anticipated push-back from the family.  First of all, my husband will not eat Shepherd's Pie and this isn't all that different.  Secondly, the eldest daughter despises onions and, well, anything new.  But I am desperate for new dinner recipes (I feel like I've been in an 18-month rut, since moving here totally changed how and what we eat) so I persisted.

I loved that I could assemble this ahead of time, prepping before the 'witching hour' when kids were home from school, whining about homework, and underfoot looking for snacks.  I grumbled at having to lug the food processor out to shred the carrots, but then realized I also had to use it to shred the block of cheddar so it kind of felt like I was killing two birds with one stone.

Half and hour before we wanted to eat, I threw the pan in the oven.  Complaints from the eldest ensued, even after I explained there wasn't actually any cottage cheese in the Cottage Pie, but she didn't want to make her own salad (the only other option we give them when they don't like what's put in front of them) so she begrudgingly filled her plate.
The husband said "This is tasty."  So of course I had to ask him why he'd eat this and not Shepherd's Pie.  His answer?  This has cheesy potatoes and carrots instead of corn (which he eats alone but not mixed in anything else.)  The eldest child picked out the onions and ate everything else... and went back for seconds.  The youngest child claimed the leftovers to pack for lunch tomorrow.  And in a blink, the entire pan (which is supposed to serve 6-8) was empty.

If you would like to give it a try, here's the recipe.  Completely Lepper Colony approved.  Next up, I may try the lemon meringue pie since I have some juice of local lemons in the fridge.  "The Art of Pie" is getting great reviews on Amazon, and so far I concur!