Sassy Southern Cooking with a French Twist

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Yankee Tradition Goes Southern with Sweet Potato and Grits Twist

I looked at the calendar yesterday and realized that Thanksgiving,  my favorite holiday, is a little over a week away. October flew this year, with travel to visit my father who was ill (but thankfully is much better), a dreadful cold that lived in my sinuses for two weeks, and fast and furious recipe development for my newest cookbook baby (working title: Mashed) that will be released by my publisher Gibbs Smith in fall 2016. I wanted to share this recipe with you, because it’s one of my favorites from those yet developed for the book, but also because it’s a perfect ending for your Thanksgiving feast. I love the color and flavor sweet potato adds, and the grist of the grits melts into the pudding as it cooks. Delicious! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. I think I’ll be making it again next week.

Sweet Potato Indian Pudding

(Yields 6 to 8 servings)

This rustic and gorgeous sweet pudding combines elements of the traditional Indian pudding I grew to know and love as a child in my native New England, with ingredients widely used in in my adult hometown of Charleston, SC and throughout the South – sweet potatoes and grits. The New England version skips the sweet potatoes all together and uses cornmeal as the “corn” element of the pudding, while this recipe adds the perfectly appropriate flavor and texture girth of mashed sweet potatoes and grits – a rougher, stone-ground version of cornmeal. The results are stunning. As southerners are apt to say, “It’s the best thing you’ll ever put in your mouth.”

It’s best warm with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream on top. If you can’t find stone-ground grits, cornmeal or polenta will work fine. But, skip the instant variety. Longer cooking soaks up all the flavor of the pudding and melts the corn into one integrated bowl of perfection.

Sweet Potato Indian Pudding – an advance preview from Holly Herrick’s next cookbook release.

1 cup cooked, mashed sweet potatoes

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature

3 cups Half & Half

1/3 cup stone ground white or yellow grits (or substitute cornmeal)

1/4 cup molasses

2 large eggs

1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

2 teaspoons real vanilla extract

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

 

The day before cooking, prep the mashed sweet potatoes. Preheat oven to 425F. Scrub and pierce a large sweet potato a couple times with a knife. Bake until soft and skin is puckered, about one hour. Remove skin when cook enough to handle and mash until fine and fluffy. Reserve (refrigerate, covered, for several days).

On pudding day, preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 1 1/2 to 2 quart deep-sided baking dish with 1 tablespoon butter. Bring the Half & Half up to a simmer over medium high heat in a medium-sized pot. Do not boil! When simmering, whisk in the sweet potatoes, grits and molasses. Whisk, constantly, over medium high heat until thickened to a thin pudding stage, about 5 minutes. Turn off heat and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, salt, vanilla, ginger and cinnamon until frothy. Whisk in 1 cup of the warm pudding mixture. Pour in the remaining pudding mixture and whisk to combine. Pour the pudding into the buttered baking dish. Bake on center rack for 40 minutes. Add the cold butter cubes, sprinkling evenly over the top. Reduce the heat to 325F. Cook 45 – 50 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. The pudding will quiver slightly to the touch. Remove from oven. Rest 10 to 15 minutes before serving. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Creamy Potato and Brussels Sprouts Holiday Gratin

Cooking at Christmas

Cooking is something I enjoy doing all year round. To me it’s a peaceful, meditative process that always brings me right into the moment of creating something delicious and transports me far away from any worries or strife. Perhaps that’s why I especially love cooking during the holidays, which can be a stressful time despite the import of the season’s messages of peace and joy. This year, I will be home (finally!) and cooking for a small group of friends. I’m particularly looking forward to a simple meal. My “core” menu item will be a standing rib roast of beef with a horseradish cream sauce and au jus for juicy dipping and my annual creamed spinach gratin.

I love gratins for many reasons – perhaps the biggest being their crunchy, buttery tops and tender, creamy centers. With those pre-requisites in mind, I created the recipe that follows. Even though I’m not a huge Brussels sprouts fan (except for using them as baby heads of lettuce in my childhood doll’s house kitchen), in keeping with the season and their rewarding versatility, I slipped them into this recipe.  The bottom layer is a mixture of grated Russett potatoes blended with sour cream, Parmesan, chopped, hydrated porcini mushrooms that ends up tasting like a soft, glorious loaded baked potato. The Brussels sprouts are quartered and nestled into the top of the potatoes and the whole glorious dish is topped with buttered panko crumbs tossed with plenty of fresh thyme. The Brussels sprouts neatly roast themselves and their light cabbage flavor into the nutty, creamy dish and the end result is nothing short of smashing.

I’ll be serving this alongside the beef at my holiday table, but it would also pair very well with turkey, pork, chicken or game. It could double as a main course for vegetarians, or even makes a delicious Christmas morning breakfast. It’s especially nice that it can be completely assembled, tightly covered and refrigerated overnight before baking. One important note: You’ll want to get your mis en place put together ahead of time and grate the potatoes at the last minute or they may discolor just a bit.

Creamy Potato and Brussels Sprouts Holiday Gratin

Creamy Potato and Brussels Sprouts Holiday Gratin

Creamy Potato and Brussels Sprouts Holiday Gratin

(Recipe makes 8 to 10 heaping side portions)

Needed: Large, shallow oven-proof casserole or gratin dish, roughly 3″ deep X 9″ long X 5″ wide.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 ounce (about 1 cup) dried porcini or substitute another strongly flavored dried mushroom

Enough water to cover – about 1 cup

3 large Russett potatoes, peeled and coarsely grated (about 8 cups)

4 cloves crushed garlic

1/2 cup whole cream

1/2 cup whole milk

2 cups whole sour cream

2 cups grated Parmesan cheese

2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt

1/2 teaspoon greshly ground black pepper

1 pound fresh Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered

For the topping:

4 tablespoons unsalted, melted butter

2 cups unseasoned panko bread crumbs (or another variety of plain, coarse bread crumbs)

1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves

Method:

Preheat oven to 3250F. Butter the casserole/gratin dish with the 2 tablespoons of butter. Place the porcini in a non-reactive 2-cup measuring cup or small glass bowl and cover with water. Heat in the microwave on high for one minute. Set aside for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, prep and grate the potatoes. Place in a large, clean kitchen towel and twist firmly over the sink to extract any excess water. Set aside, reserving in the towel wrap.Return to the reserved mushrooms. Strain the mushrooms out of the liquid and squeeze any fluid back into the “mushroom water.” Coarsely chop the mushrooms and set aside. Pour the reserved mushroom water into a small saucepan, being careful to strain out any possible grit through a paper towel or cheese cloth. Add the garlic, bring up to a boil and reduce to a simmer, cooking for about 5 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced down to 1/4 cup. Remove and discard the garlic cloves. Whisk in the cream, milk, sour cream, Parmesan and salt and pepper, and reserved chopped mushrooms. Heat over low heat to incorporate. Taste and adjust seasonings. Set aside.

Place the grated potatoes in the buttered dish. Pour the entire cream mixture over the potatoes and toss thoroughly to coat. Spread the top evenly with a spatula to flatten it evenly. Arrange the Brussels sprouts, cut side down, evenly over the top. Season lightly with salt and pepper.  To prepare the topping, combine the melted butter, panko, seasonings and thyme in a small bowl. Drizzle evenly over the top of the entire gratin. Bake for one hour, or until golden brown, soft in the center and lightly bubbling. Serve warm with a garnish of fresh thyme sprigs.

Have a joyful, safe and delicious holiday and Christmas season!

Holly

 

 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving Recipe Files – Part II

Gratin Goodness

The Thanksgiving countdown has begun, and hopefully you’re all taking time to smell the roses and savor the goodwill as you’re prepping your way toward the feast and the occasion.

I love gratins in general, and especially as an easy, delicious do-ahead side for Thanksgiving and other holiday meals. A kind of sassed up casserole, they’re hugely versatile and look as sophisticated as they taste homey and nurturing.

The recipe to follow (like the grits from a post earlier this week) is from my Southern Farmers Market Cookbook (Gibbs Smith, June 2008). Although when I created it, I thought of it as more of a late fall, early spring dish, in retrospect I think it’s splendid for Thanksgiving, too. Onions are glorious with turkey, and the acidic bite and creamy edge of gooey Brie should marry beautifully with a good pan gravy.

Fresh Sweet Onion and Tomato Gratin from Southern Farmers Market Cookbook (Gibbs Smith). Lovely photo by Rick McKee.

Fresh Sweet Onion and Tomato Gratin from Southern Farmers Market Cookbook (Gibbs Smith). Lovely photo by Rick McKee.

Fresh Sweet Onion and Tomato Gratin

(Serves 6 to 8)

Recipe:

For the gratin:

5 tablespoons unslated butter, divided

3 medium fresh sweet onions, trimmed, quartered and thinly sliced

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

2 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced

For the custard:

1 1/4 cups whole milk

2 eggs

4 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1/4 cup finely chopped sweet onion greens (from tops of onions or substitute scallions)

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the topping:

1 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs

Zest of 1 lemon

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Six (1-inch long) slices Brie

Putting it together:

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Heat 3 tablespoons butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions, and then season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until softened, about 12 to 15 minutes; set aside to cool. Coat a deep-dish 9-inch pie pan or gratin dish with remaining butter.

Meanwhile, prepare the custard. Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until smooth; set aside. To prepare the topping, combine the breadcrumbs with the zest and seasonings in a small bowl.

To assemble, drain any excess liquid off the cooked onions. Distribute about one-third of the onions evenly on the bottom of the buttered pan. Top with a single layer of sliced tomatoes. Top with half of the remaining onions, another layer of tomato, and finish with remaining onions. If needed, season lightly with salt and pepper. Pour the custard mix over the entire surface of the layered onions and tomatoes. Top with cheese, spaced about 3 to 4 inches apart, along the top of the gratin. Finish with an even layer of the breadcrumb mixture.

Bake until golden and bubbly and the custard has set, about 35 to 40 minutes. If desired, finish under a hot broiler or a flame torch for an extra golden glow. Allow to sit for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing into wedges or squares.

NOTE: The gratin can be prepared ahead, covered and refrigerated, and then baked just before serving.

Southern Farmers Market Cookbook. Photos by Rick McKee.

Southern Farmers Market Cookbook. Photos by Rick McKee.

Bon appetit and Happy Thanksgiving!

Holly

Exciting News and Wonderful Veal Stew for Warming Fall Nights

Hello again from my “old” post at hollyherrick.com. After a few months away at The Permanent Tourist Charleston, I’ve decided to return “home” and put a new polish on my old site.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be working on a cleaner, more visual look, more widgets to connect with bloglovin’ and other new places, adding cooking classes and recipe development pages, new recipes from my personal, unpublished recipe file, restaurant and Charleston cooking/food news, and of course, cookbook giveaways.

In fact, when we launch with the new live pages from the wonderful folks at Charleston Public Relations & Design in a few short weeks, I’ll be giving away a cookbook trifecta – three signed copies from The French Cook series including Sauces, Cream Puffs and Soups & Stews…nearly a $100 value just in time for the holidays. So, you’ll want to keep your eyes open for that and tell your friends about it, too. It’s easy to subscribe on the home page here if they want regular emails of new posts.

In the meantime, to follow is a fantastically fragrant and easy to prepare stew prepared with veal, apples and sage – the flavors of fall.  Snow is literally already on the way for some of this weekend. Time to pull out your favorite braising pot and get cooking. If you like, substitute veal for pork.

Daube de Veau et Pomme à l a Sauge

Veal , Apple , and Sage Stew

(Makes 6 servings)

From a culinary standpoint, the Normandy region of France is known for two things: apples from its myriad orchards (thus cider and Calvados, an apple brandy) and dairy (thus cream and cheese) from its celebrated cows. It is a large and exquisite region, decorated with a quilt of hedged emerald-green fields, usually damp from a recent rain, with cattle almost incessantly mooing at a low, pleasing hum. This stew combines the sweet tartness of fresh cider and Granny Smith apples with the milky mildness of veal. Sage provides an earthy counterpoint that is just right, especially when finished with a splash of cream. Because the cider is such a big part of the stew, fresh is what you need and the best you can find.

Veal and Apple stew

(Beautiful photo by Chia Chong with Libbie Summers)

Recipe:

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 1⁄2 pounds veal shoulder cut into 2-inch cubes

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 medium onion, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped

2 ribs celery, finely chopped

1 tablespoon dry rubbed or ground sage

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 1⁄2 cups best-quality fresh apple cider

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into

1-inch cubes

1 1⁄2 cups beef or veal stock

1⁄3 cup whole cream or crème fraîche

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage, for garnish

Melt the butter and olive oil over medium-high heat in a 5 1⁄ 2-quart Dutch oven or similarly sized pot. Meanwhile, pat the veal dry and season generously on all sides with salt and pepper. When the oil is just sizzling, arrange about half the veal in a single layer in the bottom of the pan; do not overcrowd. Cook until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Turn and repeat on the second side.

Remove the meat from the pan and reserve nearby. Repeat with remaining veal.

Reduce heat to medium-low. Add the onion, garlic, celery, sage, and a light sprinkle of salt and pepper. Stir to coat and cook for 5 minutes, or until just starting to soften. Return the reserved veal and any juices to the pot. Sprinkle the flour over the meat and vegetables, stirring to coat, and cook for 1 minute. Deglaze by adding the cider, stirring up any brown bits on the bottom or side of the pot. Bring to a boil over high heat and allow the cider to cook off and reduce for about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and establish a very gentle simmer. Add the apples and stock. Cook uncovered, continuing at a gentle simmer, until the veal is very tender, about 1 1⁄ 2 hours. Taste, and adjust seasoning as needed. (Note: You can stop here, allow to cool, and refrigerate overnight.) Add the cream or créme fraîche (no other substitutes here, or it will curdle) and fresh sage at the last minute. Heat through and serve. This is delicious over rice or broad noodles.

Bon appetit!

Francophile Alert!

A very authentic taste of France has arrived in Charleston. Chez Nous is authentic, charming and delicious. And, she joins a gaggle of tasty new French enterprises in town.

A recent sampling from Chez Nous' menu, which changes daily - swordfish in a tomato, garlic and saffron sauce with fresh min.

A recent sampling from Chez Nous’ menu, which changes daily – swordfish in a tomato, garlic and saffron sauce with fresh mint.

Bon appetit!

 

 

 

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