Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Ultimate Cornbread


I have never actually been that big a fan of cornbread, but I think that is more based on having had mostly bad cornbread over the years. You know the kind I'm talking about, so dry you can't swallow it without a giant swig of tea or so sweet it's like eating some kind of cornmeal cake. Not appealing.


However, there are some meals that beg for cornbread, case in point, Brunswick stew. Last fall I took all of my leftover meat from BBQ judging and made an enormous and incredibly tasty batch of Brunswick stew, then looked for a cornbread recipe that could stand up to such a bowl of perfection. Enter the Barefoot Contessa. When none of my other cookbooks had recipes that struck quite the note I was looking for, her jalapeno cheddar cornbread sounded like a winner, and it was.


I have made it a few times now, making a few modifications along the way, and I think the one I made last week to go with another thawed batch of Brunswick stew was the epitome of cornbread.


Ultimate Cornbread
based on Ina Garten's Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread

3 c all-purpose flour
1 c cornmeal
1/4 c sugar
2 tbs baking powder
2 tsp kosher salt
2 c buttermilk
3 eggs beaten
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted, cooled
8 oz cheddar grated, divided
1/2 c chopped cilantro
2 large jalapenos roasted, chopped finely
1 1/2 c roasted corn

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 13x9 glass baking dish with the butter wrappers. Stir together dry ingredients in a large bowl. In separate bowl combine buttermilk, eggs, butter. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until mostly combined, but don't over mix. Then stir in 2 cups of the cheddar, the cilantro, jalapenos and corn. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake 30-45 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. If you cut it straight from the oven it falls apart a bit, so you may want to let it cool a bit. Or not.

My dad likes his with more butter and honey, but I can just eat it piping hot straight from the pan. If you make it, let me know what you think and if you think you have a better recipe, I would love to see it.

Monday, February 21, 2011

That Funky Monkey

Does anyone else hear the Beastie Boys in their head every time they think of Dutch Monkey Doughnuts? No? It's just me? Substitute the word Dutch for the word brass and then just start humming along. Then again, maybe not, this is a family friendly place.


The Lemon Meringue Pie doughnut is one of my favorites, although you can't go wrong with anything that is filled with one of Arpana's heavenly citrus curds. My personal favorite doughnut out of all the flavors that I have tried is the Passionfruit Bismarck, if they have it in when you go, you are in for a real treat.


Not that you would be disappointed by any of their confections, from the classics like the First Anniversary Dutch Monkey, a dulce de leche filled bismarck topped with freshly sliced bananas and rich Callebaut chocolate icing, to the flavors that change daily like last June's sour cream bars topped with sour cherry compote, made with cherries handpicked by Arpana from her father-in-law's trees in Roswell. You can't get more seasonal or local than that.


If you come on a Saturday or Sunday, chances are this hallway will be packed with little kids, faces pressed against the glass, watching the magic happen within.


I have to admit, I can't stop myself from taking a quick look every time I stop in, there's always something interesting going on, like the time they were wrapping the bacon around the dough for the buttered maple bacon doughnuts.


They also craft some excellent beverages to wash down all those doughnuts, from the Maple Spice Latte to the Gingerbread Steamer. Hopefully, we will see a return of the Gingerberry Lemonade with the warmer weather. A refreshing blend of fresh ginger, lemons and raspberries, it makes your mouth zing!


If regular coffee or espresso are your thing, they've got you covered.


Then there is the Dutch Monkey hot chocolate - think giant cubes of ganache on a stick that get melted when covered in steamed milk. With or without homemade marshmallows or whipped cream, the choice is yours, but you might as well go all the way.


If hot beverages aren't your thing, they do stock a variety of sodas and also do a great iced tea.


Now that I have you craving fried dough, head out to Cumming and tell them I sent you. You won't be disappointed.

They are located next to the Burger King, across from the Avenues at Forsyth at:

3075 Ronald Reagan Blvd
Cumming, GA, 30041

Tuesday-Friday 5:30AM-4:00PM
Saturday-Sunday 7:00AM-1:00PM

They are closed Monday to recuperate from their 2:30AM wake-up call the other 6 days of the week.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Stracciatella alla Romana








I am fortunate to have friends like Brooke, whose gorgeous chickens produce the most delicious eggs. When you have access to eggs this fresh, you don't want to waste them baking chocolate chip cookies, you want to use them in recipes that really showcase the eggs. These things poach like a dream, they make the richest spaghetti carbonara imaginable and are fantastic just scrambled with butter.

You can also use them to make Stracciatella, a soup I first discovered at a little Italian cafe across the alley from Harrod's in London. It's very light, but warming and so flavorful. It's basically the Italian version of egg drop soup and is so easy to make, you can have a steaming bowl in your hands in under 15 minutes.

48 oz chicken stock (homemade is best, but store bought is also fine)
3 fresh eggs
1/2 c. finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano (this is not the time to use the cheap stuff, buy the real thing and grate it yourself)
1/4 c. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
freshly grated nutmeg to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Bring the stock to a boil in a heavy bottomed sauce pan. While it is heating, whisk together remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Once the stock is at a bowl, reduce the heat to medium low and stir the broth in a clockwise direction. Slowly drizzle in the egg mixture and stir with the whisk 2 or 3 times. Let cook for 3 minutes, then serve with more freshly grated cheese if desired.

Fun fact: the egg actually clarifies the soup and this technique is often used by chefs making consommes.

Come join Soup-a-Palooza with TidyMom and Dine and Dishsponsored by Bush’s Beans, Hip Hostess, Pillsbury and Westminster Crackers

Saturday, February 12, 2011

World of Fire

The February meet-up for the Atlanta Food Bloggers Alliance was held at a new restaurant at the Prado in Sandy Springs, Fuego Mundo-World of Fire. This fast casual restaurant is the brain-child of husband and wife team Masha Hleap-Hershkovitz and Udi Hershkovitz. During a trip to Central and S America, they found themselves inspired by a meal in Panama City, nothing fancy, just flavorful wood-grilled meats and a friendly atmosphere. They brought that concept back to Sandy Springs and Fuego Mundo was born.
The most important part of the restaurant is the grill on which most menu items, including vegetables, are cooked. It is a focal point for a reason, it gives you that sense of community created by sitting around cooking and eating by an open fire. They only use non-treated oak to fire their grill and don't worry that you will leave smelling like smoke, their enormous hood vent takes care of that problem.
Meat is the star on the menu, we got to sample the churrasco and spicy chicken sausage (so good you wouldn't even know it was chicken), but they also have seafood options like honey-citrus-pepper glazed salmon and sea bass. They also cater to the vegan crowd with grilled tofu, stir fried veggies and all of their sides are vegan. The menu is dairy free and with the exception of a few desserts, gluten free.
The atmosphere is warm and inviting, with bright colored tile, and the real star of the show, the oak, prominently displayed around the restaurant.
Along with the churrasco and spicy chicken sausage, we sampled the tilapia (not pictured), the chicken and steak skewers, and a number of sides and desserts. The sauce that they baste the meat with while it is grilling is their take on a chimichurri, it's not spicy, but, along with the wood smoke, it really brings out the flavor of the meat.
What sets this place apart from a lot of fast casual restaurants is that they also serve beer and wine. They also have a deliciously fruity white sangria and a sweet red sangria. You might as well get the pitcher because that stuff goes down ridiculously easy. Fuego Mundo was kind enough to offer my readers a coupon for free yucca fries.

Fuego Mundo hosted the AFBA and provided the group with the food and beverages described above. I was not paid for this post and all opinions are my own.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Smokin' Away a Golden Maple Afternoon

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As you already know if you read this blog, last January I was certified by KCBS to judge BBQ. I was incredibly fortunate to be invited to judge 5 1/2 contests last year. To put that in context, we were advised at our judging class that we would be lucky to judge 1 or 2 our first year because there are exponentially more people wanting to judge, than there are contests to judge. At any rate, I judged the 2010 Aflac Outdoor Games Pig Bowl in Columbus, Pigs n' Peaches in Kennesaw, BBQ & Blues at Lake Oconee, Sherman's Last Burning in Covington and judged both Backyard and Professional at the Cherokee Pignic. temp26jan 016
I had an amazing time, met some great people and basically ruined BBQ, one of my favorite foods, for myself. While not every bite of meat I judged was the best I'd ever eaten, the majority of it was superior to almost all of the BBQ you can get around Atlanta (there are a few exceptions, but that's another post). Combine that with the fact that the Competitive BBQ circuit goes on hiatus from roughly November to March and you can begin to see my dilemma. I was starting to have BBQ cravings, but bad. It's almost a physical need to have sauce smeared on my face and fingers that smell like smoke and spice for days after judging.temp26jan 019
I was having a hard time finding any 'cue in Atlanta that would scratch that itch. Enter Joey Bridgers of Golden Maple Food, a caterer and a master of smoked meats, @joeybridgers on Twitter. I met him and his lovely wife Mandy at an Atlanta Food Bloggers meetup and was very fortunate to score an invite to a smoking demo he was doing the very next week.
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Mandy - the Self Trained Chef and Becky - Whats 4 Dinner Tonite and I spent the better part of a beautiful, if chilly, November afternoon listening to Joey's tips on producing incredibly moist, tender smoked meats. Then we got to eat and eat some more. The first thing to come out was the brisket, which was possibly the best I've ever tasted. Brisket is the trickiest meat to smoke because if you let it get too hot or too done, you have beefy rubber bands, but if you don't cook it long enough or hot enough you get great mouthfuls of blubbery fat. There is a real art and skill involved in creating brisket that you actually want to eat, and Joey Bridgers has that talent.
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Next off were the chickens, another test of smoking skill. I can count on one hand the number of times I was offered white meat to judge in competition. There's a reason for that. It is so hard to cook chicken to a safe temperature and still have it be moist and tasty. You should have seen the juice dripping out when he carved that breast, this was not chicken that you have to bathe in sauce to choke down. The same held true with the turkeys, gorgeous mahogany skin (it does lose its crispiness when its smoked, but its still nicely rendered and tasty) and juicy succulent meat.
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The only slight disappointment for the day were the ribs. Joey said that he hadn't been happy with the last couple of batches he had gotten from his supplier and when he first pulled them out, said this batch were just not cooking like he wanted them. He put them back on and we waited until the end of the afternoon to try them again. He still wasn't satisfied with them, but I thought they showed promise with good smoke flavor, they were just this side of chewy. If we hadn't all been scared of getting stuck in Atlanta's notorious afternoon traffic, we could have given them another hour or so and they probably would have been perfect.
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If you want to try some of Joey's delicious BBQ, follow him on Twitter, as he is out with his smoker nearly every Saturday afternoon and he tweets the time and place to his followers. You can also have him come and smoke at your place or cater your next dinner, just contact him for details. I hope I'll see you out there one Saturday soon.