Sassy Southern Cooking with a French Twist

ice cream

Super Father’s Day Sundaes

If it’s possible to still be a Daddy’s girl at 52, then I’m as guilty as the six year-old that wears him like a badge of honor on my heart, then as I do now.   He enforced strict discipline and never tolerated lies he was somehow able to sniff out like a dog on the hunt. He taught unconditional love at  every turn, returning from arduous week-long business trips, always ready to give his energy to his pack of four children and our mother on weekends.  These often involved long rides on our horses, tag football, and summer evenings spent watching fireflies on our country front porch. When we were really lucky, these nights ended with him recanting imagined tales of Cookie to all of us, under a “tent” in the living room.  And, when the summer heat really turned on, Saturday afternoons meant cherished and rare trips to Dairy Queen for ice cream. I favored the soft serve vanilla twist cones dipped in confetti peanut/candy, but sometimes one of us, Dad included, went whole hog and indulged in a hot chocolate sauce banana split. So, even now, I can’t think of ice cream sundaes without thinking of my Dad.

Time may have softened the lines of these memories, erasing the tears from an overly tired child or admonishments from a frustrated Dad, but at their core, they remain true to the man he was and is. The best Dad I could ever hope to have and my eternal night in shining armor, still shining at 84 years of age. The recipe that follows is an adult version of a very, very indulgent sundae that far surpasses DQ’s confetti candy and moves into the realm of butter, mashed bananas, brown sugar, walnuts and rum, though the latter can be wholly omitted without really missing a beat. From my cookbook Mashed – Beyond the Potato (Gibbs Smith), it might be just the right treat for your Dad this Father’s Day.

Mashed Bananas Foster Sundaes

(Yields 8 sundaes)

The classic brown sugar, butter and rum sauce wrapped around flash-cooked and flambeed ripe bananas was created by Chef Paul Blange at Brennan’s restaurant in New Orleans in 1951. The dark brown sauce is just the right foil for the sweetness of bananas. Lightly mashed and served warm over commercial vanilla ice cream with a crumble of chopped walnuts, it is sublime and comes together in minutes. To flambe, carefully tip the saute pan to meet  your stovetop gas flame, or quickly hit with a lighter flame. The flambe is important to cook off the burn of the alcohol and increase flavor, although the rum can be omitted altogether. This is best served straight from the pan, but will store refrigerated and covered for a day or two. Reheat before serving over a few scoops of ice cream.

Mashed Bananas Foster Sundaes from Mashed -Beyond the Potato (Gibbs Smith) by Holly Herrick. Photo credits to Alexandra DeFurio.



1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 tablespoons

1/3 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon real vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

4 ripe bananas, peeled, halved vertically, and halved again horizontally

1/3 cup dark rum (optional)

1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts


1 1/2 quarts best quality vanilla ice cream

In a large saute pan, melt the butter over medium heat and add the brown sugar, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, canilla, and salt. Cook together over medium-low heat, stirring, about 2 minutes. Carefully add the bananas and gently stir to coat, cooking for 3 minutes. Add the rum, stir to combine, and flambe, standing back to avoid the flame. Gently mash into large chunks using a manual masher or wooden spoon. Remove from heat and cool slightly for 1 – 2 minutes. Serve warm in individual bowls over 2 or 3 scoops of ice cream. Garnish with a tablespoon or so of chopped walnuts. Serve immediately.


Happy Father’s Day!



Super Fun Times for Kids and Parents on Upper King Street

As I discuss in the link to this recent post below, there is a lot more to do in Charleston and specifically on super popular Upper King Street than eat. This part of town is packed with fun things to do with the family – for  not a lot of money. Here’s the link:

Magnifilous is just one stop on a list of fun things to do with the family on Charleston's Upper King Street.

Magnifilous is just one stop on a list of fun things to do with the family on Charleston’s Upper King Street.


Casual, Romantic Weekend Plans in Charleston

Beautiful Charleston is full of wonderful things to do and delicious places to eat.  Whether history, gardening, beaches, cuisine or architecture is your passion, there really is something for everyone here.

The link below looks at local places to take in romance in a casual, easy way, that I enjoyed with my boyfriend visiting from Williamsburg, VA.

Michael and I enjoy a stroll on Folly Beach and a view of Morris Island Lighthouse.

Michael and I enjoying a stroll on Folly Beach and a view of Morris Island Lighthouse.


Enjoy! We surely did.

Meanwhile, remember that The French Cook – Soups & Stews (Gibbs Smith), my seventh and all time favorite cookbook (I love the recipes) officially releases on September 1.  Follow me here for updates on upcoming signings and look for it in bookstores near you and on Amazon.

The French Cook-Soups and StewsHappy cooking and bon appetit!




Cream Puffing Around

Thank you to the fine folks at Grilliant Ideas for inviting me to join their show this morning. We covered cream puffs, profiteroles, French cooking, croissants and more and had a lot of fun in the process. Visit the link below to listen in.

One of the co-hosts was particularly fond of the recipe for Salted Caramel Macadamia Ice Cream Profiteroles with Warm Caramel Sauce and this picture by Alexandra DeFurio on page 90 of  The French Cook: Cream Puffs and Eclairs.

Profiterole with Salted Caramel Macadamia Ice Cream and Hot Caramel Sauce. Photo by Alexandra DeFurio.

Profiterole with Salted Caramel Macadamia Ice Cream and Hot Caramel Sauce. Photo by Alexandra DeFurio.

While we’re talking cream puffs and eclairs, mark your calendars for tomorrow’s Second Sunday on King Street (October 13). We’ll be celebrating the recent release of the book in style at the corner of Wentworth and King Street, downtown Charleston from 1 – 5 p.m. Come by and join me to talk choux pastry and receive your own signed copy of the brand new book, as well as my other books.

Look for the bright pink sign! Hope to see you there.


Summer Solstice Screams For Ice Cream

In the South, summer is as much about squeaky screen doors, slowly swaying hammocks, sweet tea and fireflies as it is about watermelon, peaches, and that perennial summer staple, ice cream.

So, with the official launch of summer yesterday, it’s time to talk ice cream. Of course, there are oodles of commercial varieties available, but it’s so easy and fun to make your own. The recipe for Salted Caramel Macadamia Ice Cream that follows (adapted from my next book, The French Cook: Eclairs and Cream Puffs – Gibbs Smith, October 2013) kicks Ben & Jerry’s straight off its Rocky Road in the  pure deliciousness department.

In the book, I present it served within a cream puff and topped with hot caramel sauce (a variation on a profiterole) which is absolutely incredible. However, it’s summertime and the living is easy. Take a little baking break and serve it plain, with hot caramel sauce, or sandwich it between a best-quality commercial chocolate chip cookie, ginger snap, or dark chocolate cookie. And, when you’re eating it, be sure to give yourself license to get messy and let at least some of it drip down your chin. That’s part of summer, too. Bon appetit!

Profiterole with Salted Caramel Macadamia Ice Cream and Hot Caramel Sauce. Photo by Alexandra DeFurio.

Profiterole with Salted Caramel Macadamia Ice Cream and Hot Caramel Sauce. Photo by Alexandra DeFurio.



Hot Tips for Cool Ice Cream

Today’s world is filled with many first-class commercially prepared ice cream brands, but making your own is truly rewarding and simple. If you don’t own an ice cream maker, it’s worth making the purchase. My Krups basic ice cream machine cost less than $50, lasted 20 years, and made countless batches of ice cream. It is possible to make ice cream without an ice cream maker by stirring the blend with a fork every 15 minutes as it is setting up, but the results will be less creamy and less aerated. Most commercial ice cream makers designed for home kitchens use a frozen 1.5-quart container that turns while a paddle moves through the ice cream base to aid in even freezing.

Ice cream in French cooking is a frozen Crème Anglaise (see recipe to follow) for vanilla; additional flavorings can be added as outlined are in the recipes that follow. A couple of tips to keep in mind:

1. Make the Crème Anglaise the day before and refrigerate overnight before freezing. It needs to be cold when it goes into the machine to prevent crystals from forming.

2. Freeze the ice cream maker’s canister overnight, as well, for the same reasons. Shake it to test that the internal freezing agent is solid and not sloshing around. If you take these two steps, you will be rewarded with creamy, smooth ice cream in just 20 to 25 minutes.

3. Turn the prepared ice cream out into a well-chilled glass bowl or container, cover tightly, and store in the freezer until ready to use. It should store well for a week.

Recipe: Salted Caramel Macadamia Nut Ice Cream with Hot Caramel Sauce

Caramel lovers will think they’ve died and gone to France with this heady combination of caramel and crunchy macadamia nut ice cream with hot caramel sauce.

A day before freezing, prepare the Caramel Sauce (see below) and Crème Anglaise (see below). Cover and refrigerate each separately overnight.

The next day, whisk 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon of the cooled caramel sauce and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt into the chilled crème anglaise base. Freeze according to package directions, adding 1/2 cup coarsely chopped, salted macadamia nuts 10 minutes into the freezing process, before the ice cream is fully set. Continue freezing until set, about 15 more minutes. Warm the prepared caramel sauce over medium-low heat.  Drizzle over bowls filled with scoops of the ice cream.

Recipe: Crème Anglaise

Basic Vanilla Custard Sauce

Special equipment needed: chinois or fine strainer.

(Yield: 2 1/2 cups)

This creamy, vanilla-scented custard sauce is widely served as a dessert sauce with many classic French desserts. It also serves as a base for any and all flavored ice creams. It’s a snap to make, but needs your full attention, mild heat and constant stirring to avoid a pan full of scrambled, sweet eggs. This actually happened to me once when I was making a huge batch at Fauchon with another male apprentice. Trembling under the ever-present watch of celebrated pastry chef Pierre Herme, we were able to rescue it by getting it off the heat and through a chinois. You can do the same. If it looks like it’s starting to curdle or over-thicken, get it off the heat and through a strainer. Cool crème anglaise over a water bath of ice and water in a large bowl to get it to safe temperature and stop the cooking. It will store for several days covered and refrigerated.

1 cup whole milk

1 cup Half & Half

1 fresh vanilla bean cut in half vertically to expose seeds

4 egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar

Pinch sea or kosher salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Have a prepared ice/water bath prepared in a large bowl by adding a few cups of ice and 1 cup of water. Also, have the chinois or fine strainer nearby. In a large saucepan, heat together the milk, Half & Half, and halved vanilla bean over medium heat. Bring to a low simmer. Separately, combine the egg yolks, sugar and salt in a medium bowl and whisk vigorously until lemony and frothy, about one minute. Once the milk mixture is simmering, gradually stream it into the egg mixture, whisking the entire time, until it has all been added.  Return the sauce to the same pan the milk was heated in, cooking over medium low heat. With a wooden spoon, stir constantly, reaching all edges and bottom of the pan. At first there will be froth on the top of the sauce. This will disappear after 3 minutes. Watch closely now. Keep stirring another minute or two, or until the sauce has thickened slightly and naps the back of the spoon. You will know it is done when you run your finger down the back of the spoon and get a clear strip that holds without the sauce running back over it or when it reaches 170F. Pour the sauce through the chinois into a clean bowl. Set over water bath and stir until the sauce is cooled. Stir in the remaining teaspoon of vanilla extract. Refrigerate, covered,  until ready to use.

Recipe: Sauce Caramel

Caramel Sauce

(Yield: 1 1/4 cup)

Making caramel sauce, basically cooked and caramelized sugar finished with cream and butter, is not difficult but it deserves attention and respect. Hot caramel is dangerously hot stuff. Keep your eyes on it at all times and prepare it when young children and pets are not around. It’s best to have everything measured and ready to go before you get started. It takes a few minutes to get there, but once the sugar starts caramelizing, it goes really fast. Your nose will know. Your kitchen will smell faintly of caramel after about 5 or 6 minutes. Once it’s a golden, nutty, toasted color, it’s time to finish it off. Like all of the sauces in this chapter, it stores beautifully in the refrigerator, covered, for several days. Heat gently over low heat to return to its warm, sauce form.

1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons water

4 tablespoons room temperature unsalted butter

1/2 cup whole cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Generous pinch sea or kosher salt

In a medium, sturdy-bottomed sauce pan, stir together the sugar and water with a wooden spoon. Cook over low heat, uncovered, until the sugar granules are melted, about 2 minutes. Increase heat to medium high and allow to simmer vigorously, stirring here and there (not constantly or it might crystallize) with a wooden spoon. After 5 to 6 minutes, large bubbles will start forming at the top. This, along with a tepid caramel aroma, is your sign that the sugar is about to caramelize. Keep cooking, swishing the pan carefully, but not stirring, until the sugar turns fragrant and a nutty, caramel brown. Remove from the heat. Incorporate the butter in 4 parts, gently dropping into the pan and whisking gently to incorporate. The caramel will react when the butter hits it by bubbling up aggressively. Proceed with caution to prevent at burn. Return the pan to low heat, drizzling in the cream and whisking to incorporate. Simmer for 2 or 3 minutes, whisking to help re-incorporate any caramel that has hardened and until it becomes a thick, beautiful creamy golden sauce. Off the heat, stir in the vanilla extract and salt. Serve hot or warm.






Cracking the Cookbook Code Retreat

Join me and blogger, chef and author Beckie Carrico Hemmerling March 29 – April 1, 2019 for Cracking the Cookbook Code, Writing, Cooking, Marketing, Photography + Wellness Retreat. Limited to only 8 people, we will have a blissful few days in a beautiful, relaxing setting with like-minded souls, eating delicious food and having a wonderful time. Click for details.

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