Our Korean Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day

We spent many days in November making yummy, seasonal, Thanksgiving-themed meals. Since we sort of get a kick out of breaking tradition and as we both had to work all the days before and after Thanksgiving day, we decided to relish in the peacefulness and quiet of just spending the day together, cooking. We decided to cook something we had never attempted in our kitchen… Korean food! Both Grant and I had only had Korean food a couple of times before moving to Nashville, where we have several good Korean restaurants. Korea House quickly became one of our favorite joints but we still felt we had a limited knowledge of Korean food, often just ordering our couple of favorites over and over (because they are so delicious!). Here’s what we came up with. Keep in mind, this was our first Korean cooking endeavor…

We decided to try the Bo Ssam Pork which was a good choice for Thanksgiving given that it is way easier and cheaper to buy a local pork shoulder from our neighborhood butcher than a turkey. Grant got up super early to start cooking the meat. And then, we relaxed and went for a great walk at the park with Lucille, our hound dog.

Momofuku Bo Ssam
(This is our adapted version, based on the NY Times adapted from “Momofuku,” by David Chang and Peter Meehan.)
Serves 4-6
1 half bone-in pork shoulder (4-5 pounds)
1 cup cane sugar
1 cup kosher salt
5 tablespoons brown sugar

The day before cooking, place the pork in a large, shallow bowl. Mix the cane sugar and 1 cup of the salt together in another bowl, then rub the mixture all over the meat. Cover it with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight. When you’re ready to cook, heat oven to 300. Remove pork from refrigerator and discard any juices. Place the pork in a roasting pan and set in the oven and cook for approximately 6 hours. After the first hour, baste hourly with pan juices. Cook until the pork collapses, and easily falls apart when forked. At this point, you may remove the meat from the oven and allow it to rest for up to an hour. When you are ready to serve, turn oven to 500. In a small bowl, stir together the remaining tablespoon of salt with the brown sugar. Rub this mixture all over the cooked pork. Place in oven for approximately 10 to 15 minutes, or until a dark caramel crust has developed on the meat. Serve hot, place pieces of the pork in a lettuce leaf and then top with side dishes, hot sauce, and the scallion sauce. Each little lettuce bundle can be made differently. Variety is part of the fun with this dish.

Ginger-Scallion Sauce
2½ cups Scallions, thinly sliced, both green and white parts
1″ Fresh Ginger, peeled and finely chopped
¼ cup Grapeseed Oil
1½ tsp Tamari
1 tsp Sherry Vinegar
½ tsp Sea Salt, or to taste

Mix all ingredients together and serve in a bowl.

And this next sauce, we did not make, but plan to next time. Instead, we just used Sriracha as our hot sauce.

Ssam Sauce
2 Tbsp Fermented Bean-and- Chili Paste (Ssamjang, available in many Asian markets, and online)
1 Tbsp Chili Paste (Kochujang, available in many Asian markets, and online)
½ cup Sherry Vinegar
½ cup Grapeseed Oil

Pork

About a week and a half earlier, Grant made his first batch of Kimchi. He started making homemade sauerkraut about a year ago but he had never attempted Kimchi. We also bought a pretty straightforward version (as a backup) at the grocery store. It is made in San Francisco. I also picked up a locally made Kimchi at Mitchell Deli that was made from spinach rather than cabbage, just for variety. Here’s Grant’s recipe for his Kimchi.

Big Smokey’s Kimchi
1 head Cabbage, cored and chopped
3 Scallions, chopped (green and white parts)
1 Tbsp Sea Salt
1 Tbsp Srircha
1 tsp Fish Sauce
1 tsp Garlic, minced
1 tsp Ginger, minced

Mix cabbage, scallions, and salt in a large bowl. Massage with your hands for several minutes until the cabbage is reduced and releasing liquid. Mix the remaining ingredients into a small bowl and then add to the cabbage mixture. Smoosh into a jar and put a lid on it. Let sit on the counter 3-5 days, opening jar to release gasses and press down cabbage daily. Taste occasionally and once it is as sour as you like, place the jar in the refrigerator. It will keep for about a month or so…

Kimchi

And we still made sides, only they were more Korean themed such as Kimchi Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans and Shiitakes sauteed with Tamari and Sherry Vinegar, and Korean-style Bean Sprouts.

The Sides

Traditionally, the pork is to be served in (butter) lettuce wraps with a Scallion Sauce.

Sauces & Sides

Pork & Sides

We made different combinations, incorporating our sides with every wrap. It was Thanksgiving after all. Each one was so delicious and really fun to eat.

Leaf

Then falling back into tradition- but only briefly- we watched The Last Waltz before heading out to a Nashville Predators’ hockey game! Haha. We got free tickets and had a ball.

Hockey

We are so thankful for all we have and all the many friends and family that are dear to us.

End of the Summer…

I can’t believe how fast this summer has come and (almost) gone. I thought it would be a good idea to post a couple of my favorite new concoctions we came up with this summer.

Grant came up with this one-pot wonder one night as a way to eat up all of our veggies from the garden. This is pure comfort food!

Big Smokey’s Southern Chicken Bog

3-4 chicken thighs, bone and skin on
¼ cup flour
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp onion powder
sea salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp bacon fat or butter
1 small red, orange or yellow pepper, chopped
½ Vidalia onion, chopped
6-8 okra, cut in slices
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 Tbsp dried chopped rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 ½ cup white Basmati rice
3 cups stock

Heat a cast iron skillet on medium. Add bacon fat when pan is hot. While pan is heating, mix flour, spices, salt & pepper together in a bowl. Dredge chicken thighs in flour mixture. (Save flour mixture for use with okra.) Once pan is hot and bacon fat is sizzling, add chicken skin side down. Cook for 5-6 minutes, until skin side is a dark golden brown. Turn chicken over and continue to cook 5 more minutes. Put chicken aside. Add onion and pepper to pan. Dredge okra in remaining flour mixture and add to pan. Cook until onion and pepper is soft and okra is slightly brown. Add chopped tomato, rosemary, bay leaf, and cook for 5 more minutes until tomato starts to break down. Stir in rice. Salt and pepper a little more to taste. Nestle the chicken back into the mixture, skin side up. Add 2 cups of the stock. Reduce the heat to medium low. Let cook 15 minutes or until the rice has absorbed all the stock. Stir mixture without turning the chicken. Add the remaining cup of stock and cook for 10 more minutes until rice is done to taste. Optional- last two minutes, turn pan on medium high and cook until a dark brown crust forms on the bottom of the rice (Lady Smokey is especially fond of how this makes a yummy crispy rice crust!). Remove pan from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. One pot wonder or serve with a side salad! Hot sauce is recommended. YUM!

And another meaty dish, this was inspired by our new found love of tomato gravy.


Tomato Smothered Chicken Fried Pork Chops
Serves 3

3 boneless pork chops
2 cups buttermilk
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
dash of cayenne pepper
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
¼ cup grape seed oil
½ cup all purpose flour
dash of cayenne pepper
sea salt and black pepper to taste
2-3 fresh tomatoes, chopped

Heat oven to 400 degrees. You will want to use an iron skillet (or wide, oven proof skillet). Mix buttermilk and spices together in a bowl. Soak pork chops in buttermilk mixture for about an hour. Heat skillet to medium heat. Add grape seed oil (enough to fill your skillet ¼ inch deep). In another bowl, mix flour with another dash of cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Take the pork chops out of the buttermilk soak and place in flour mixture. Coat on both sides and place in skillet. Cook pork chops until golden brown on both sides (about 5 minutes on each side). Move pork chops to sides of pan. Add 2 Tbsp flour to middle of pan and stir in, mixing flour thoroughly to the oil in the pan to form a rue. Once you have a nice rue formed, add 2-3 chopped tomatoes. Place iron skillet in the oven for 10 more minutes to finish the pork and give the tomatoes time to break down. Place pork chop on a plate and spoon the tomato gravy over top.

Tomato Smothered Pork served with asparagus and sauteed corn.

We have so many friends who have new albums out or coming out in the next few weeks. It is very exciting and I look forward to listening to them all. This week, however, we were thrilled to get to see Connie Smith again and pick up a copy of her new album and her first release in 15 years, Long Line of Heartaches.

Connie Smith and guitarist Rick Wright at Grimey's Record Store August 2011.

One of the greatest voices in classic country music, Connie Smith grew up in West Virginia and Ohio. Bill Anderson first heard Connie Smith sing in a talent competition back in 1963 and he invited her to come sing in Nashville. She recorded the classic hits, “Once A Day” and “Cincinnati, Ohio,” and after almost a decade of country music stardom and hit songs, Connie left the spotlight to pursue motherhood and a gospel music career but remained an influential figure in country music. Dolly Parton once said that Connie Smith is the best female country singer. Many would agree. She also seems like a beautiful woman- inside and out. Locally, Connie Smith often performs on The Grand Ole Opry, with her husband of almost 15 years, Marty Stuart, on his  t.v. show on the RFD network, and she occasionally plays with her band, The Sun Downers (featuring the amazing Rick Wright on guitar), at the Station Inn. This month she is the Artist In Residency at the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Don’t Mess With Texas


We just returned from a trip to Austin, TX. We love Texas! I totally did not understand the phrase, “Don’t mess with Texas” until visiting Texas a couple times and then I suddenly got it. There is so much pride in Texas that even as we just visit and drive through the state, I feel such an incredible sense of place. It sort of reminds me of the feeling I get when I visit Canada. There is such loyalty and camaraderie felt amongst all the locals. It really does feel like its own little country. We were there for a wedding (congratulations Ruby & Jorge!) but stayed a few days so we could do all of our favorite Austin things and experience a few new sights. Wimberley is my new favorite place to daydream about. That Blanco River is something else- so peaceful and serene. The Wild West Store has some of the most beautiful boots I have ever seen. What a collection!

And we visited Senglemann (Dance) Hall in Schulenberg. (Note to self: Most small towns are completely closed on Mondays.)

Many of the old Dance Halls across Texas are being restored. It is very exciting!

Another new adventure for us this time was experiencing the kolaches at Czech Stop in West, Texas about an hour and a half North of Austin, right off I35. All of our friends who travel through Texas on a regular basis always talk about these yummy little Czech pastries. West claims to be the “Kolache Capital of Texas” and apparently everyone knows it because this place was super crowded. We sampled several different varieties from savory to sweet including an apple, prune, and a sausage and jalapeno. The Czech Republic seems to have had a good influence on Texas in more ways than one.

Of course one of the most significant aspects about visiting Texas to us is… eating as many tacos as we possibly can! Last Spring, I reported on all my favorite Austin taco joints. This year, we returned to many of those spots and found a few new places, as well. I finally learned to exercise restraint and only order one taco at a time so I could order more frequently throughout the day! Our first stop was Torchy’s Tacos. To be honest, this was not a favorite for me last trip. I felt like they were a little too “gourmet” and not authentic enough. However, the one thing that led me back was that amazing queso dip. It was still just as tasty…

And, only because I did not want to regret never tasting it, I ordered the Brush Fire Taco (jerk chicken and mango salsa) which friends Ruby and Derek both kept bragging about all last year. I was pleasantly surprised with how well all the flavors went together.

The Brush Fire Taco at Torchys & Grant ordered a shrimp taco and pulled pork taco.

One of our very favorite spots from last year was Curra’s. This year, it was better than ever. My only advise is very carefully control your chip and salsa intake because they do not offer tacos a la carte so you have to order a full plate which consists of rice and beans. My al pastor tacos were so amazing and dang if I didn’t fill up and couldn’t eat both. I’m still mourning the loss of that second taco. Oh, and also, Curra’s has the most delightful avocado margarita. This, coming from a girl who never orders frozen margaritas and usually has them very simple- on the rocks. The avocado is just right- creamy and not too sweet and oh, so delicious!

We actually missed getting to go to Maria’s this year as we didn’t realize they closed early on Sundays. We did buy some of her amazing Chimichuri at the market, though, to bring home with us. And we did, however, get breakfast at Polvos again. Their salsas are really good! I had one taco with nopalitos and eggs which was a great combination!

And we also enjoyed breakfast tacos at La Mexicana with our buddy Teri one morning. These guys make the best flour tortillas we’ve tasted. We were surprised to discover a new little espresso stand inside that had some great coffee, too.

La Mexicana also has a bakery which is good for late night snacks!

We returned to Guero’s on S. Congress for shrimp tacos. Their shrimp tacos are the best. The shrimp is cooked with sliced mushrooms and tomatillos. I added grilled onions when we went for lunch. We enjoyed their tacos so much that we went back for another taco at dinnertime a few hours later- just because we could!

On our way out of town we met our buddy Claire at Juan in a Million over on the East side of town. Juan seems to be the unofficial mayor of the East side! He served up some of the best migas tacos I’ve ever had. Deelicious!

A couple places we didn’t have time to check out but that were on our list to try are: Mi Ranchito in Manchaca, Texas and Arandas in Austin, right next to the G & S Lounge. Next visit!

We did our usual grocery store tour, paying homage to the HEB Central Market and the flagship Whole Foods. We also stopped by one of several Saturday morning Farmer’s Markets, The Barton Creek Farmer’s Market, which is huge!

There is always so much great music to see in Texas. We got to see our friends Teri Joyce & The Tagalongs play (with one of our very favorite drummers of all time- Lisa Pankratz) and Ruby Dee & The Snakehandlers play their first show as a married couple! Ruby & Jorge had an amazing band, Los Pinkys, play at their wedding party. Los Pinkys play Texas-Mexican style dance music known as “conjunto music.” They were so fun. And we got to hear Dale Watson at the Broken Spoke and the amazing, one and only, Redd Volkaert, with his band Hay Bale at the Continental Club. Texans have a lot of fun!

Los Pinkys

I’ll close this post with one of Grant’s new favorite recipes for Chile Verde. His recipe is adapted from a recipe he found on Simply Recipes. It is a time intensive recipe but well worth the effort as Chile Verde makes some damn good tacos!

Roasting the tomatillos!

Chile Verde
Serves 8

Ingredients:
1 1/2 pounds tomatillos
5 garlic cloves, not peeled
2 jalapenos, seeds and ribs removed, chopped
2 Anaheim or Poblano chiles (optional)or 12 can of Roasted Green Chiles
1 bunch cilantro leaves, cleaned and chopped
3 1/2 to 4 pounds pork shoulder (also called pork butt), trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1 to 2 inch cubes
Sea Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
2 yellow onions, chopped
5 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 Tbsp of chopped fresh oregano or 1 Tbsp of dried oregano
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 Pinch ground cumin

Remove papery husks from tomatillos and rinse well. Cut in half and place cut
side down, along with 5 unpeeled garlic cloves, on a foil-lined baking sheet.
Place under a broiler for about 5-7 minutes to lightly blacken the skin. Remove
from oven, let cool enough to handle.

If you want the additional flavor of chiles other than jalapenos, you can add a
couple Anaheim or poblano chiles. Either use canned green chiles or roast fresh
chilies over a gas flame or under the broiler until blackened all around. Let
cool in a bag, remove the skin, seeds, and stem.

Place tomatillos, skins included, into blender. Remove the now roasted garlic
cloves from their skins, add them to the blender. Add chopped Jalapeño peppers,
other chilies (if you are using them), and cilantro to the blender. Pulse until
all ingredients are finely chopped and mixed.

Season the pork cubes generously with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a
large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium high heat and brown pork chunks well

on all sides. Work in batches so that the pork is not crowded in the pan and
has a better chance to brown well. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, lift pork
out of pan and place in bowl, set aside.

Pour off excess fat, anything beyond a tablespoon, and place the onions and
garlic in the same skillet and cook, stirring occasionally until limp, about 5
minutes. If your skillet is large enough to cook the entire batch of chile
verde, with the sauce and meat, then add the pork back to the pan. If not, get
a large soup pot and add the onion mixture and the pork to it. Add the oregano
to the pan. Add the tomatillo chile verde sauce to the pork and onions. Add the
chicken stock (enough to cover the meat). Add a pinch of ground cloves. Add a
little salt and pepper. (Not too much as the chile verde will continue to cook
down and concentrate a bit.)

Bring to a boil and reduce to a slight simmer. Cook for 2-3 hours uncovered or
until the pork is fork tender.

Adjust the seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with Spanish rice and
warmed flour tortillas or freshly made corn tortillas.

Happy Eating Y’all!

Harvest Time

It is November and finally getting chilly out, although, we are still pulling green tomatoes off the vines. Late summer and autumn are blending together. The leaves were beautiful but only for a short time this year.

I’ve realized I really need to be more creative and come up with different ways to eat green tomatoes than simply frying them but they are soooo good. We did mix it up and serve them for breakfast with cheese grits, biscuits, eggs, and Billionaire’s Bacon. What’s Billionaire’s Bacon, you ask?! Let me tell you! First of all, I’ll just say up front that we only allow ourselves to eat this a few times a year and usually it is for a special occasion such as a holiday or as in this case, for special house guests. We use Benton’s bacon made right here in Tennessee and known around the world for it’s deliciousness. Pat the bacon dry with paper towels to remove excess moisture. Then rub the slices with brown sugar! Next, bake in the oven on 400 for 8 minutes on each side. This delicacy is like a party in your mouth. Bacon candy!

With the cooler weather, I’ve been craving comfort food and we’ve already started making soups and chili. I made Mac & Cheese with sauteed mushrooms and onions. The addition of vegetables to Mac & Cheese is my sorry attempt to make traditional Mac & Cheese healthier. I will tell you that mushrooms contain many minerals and vitamins and a great deal of protein. They also stimulate the immune system and help prevent cancer. Maybe not so much when smothered in cheese and layered with pasta, but… And onions are amazing in their health benefits! They help fight infection, regulate blood pressure, and also help fight cancer (at least in their raw food state!). I served it with sauteed spinach and peas to up the vegetable count and increase the goodness. See recipe below.

Mac & Cheese
olive oil
mushrooms, sliced
onion, chopped
2 cups macaroni (I use Montebello brand)
3-4 cups grated cheese (I use combination of sharp cheddar & gruyere)
1 tsp butter (to coat bottom of baking dish)
1 tsp salt
1-2 tsp hot sauce
2 tsp dry mustard
2 eggs
2 cups milk

Saute the onions and mushrooms in olive oil. Set aside. Cook pasta until al dente. Drain and blanch with cold water. Cover bottom of buttered baking dish with 1/2 of pasta. Mix in 1/2 of the sauteed mushrooms and onions. Spread 1/2 of the cheese over. Repeat. Beat eggs, milk, and spices together. Pour over. Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes.

We’ve also been eating lots of beans! We had some left over mashed sweet potatoes so we made potato cakes, placed those over a bed of raw spinach, and topped with some Cuban style black beans! I also bought some Adzuki beans. I always see these but wasn’t exactly sure how to use them. I did some research. Turns out these are of Asian origin and most of the recipes I found were for Asian dishes. We decided to make them with more of a jerk style seasoning. Grant cooked them in some homemade chicken stock. He then browned some pork chops and placed on top of the beans and finished them off in the oven. He served them with spinach rice. Delicious. The Adzuki beans are a little nuttier and sweeter than Pintos.

A couple weeks ago, we welcomed a pedal steel guitar back into our house! Grant missed his and has decided to play it again. YAY!

And speaking of pedal steel guitars, we had another Red Barn Round-Up a week ago and were fortunate to have the amazing Chuck Mead provide our musical entertainment! Chuck is a big fan of the Red Barn Round-Up and we sure are a big fan of his.

He had a stellar band, as always, which included Martin Lynds on drums, Mark Miller on bass, and the legendary Carco Clave on pedal steel. Carco is an amazing steel player who has performed with Asleep at the Wheel, BR549, Little Jimmy Dickens, Tex Ritter, Merle Travis, Dale Watson, and so many others. Grant was fortunate to get to play with him down on Lower Broadway when we first moved to town.

Chuck has a new album out. You can hear some of his new songs and purchase the new album here!

We saw another amazing show at the Ryman a couple weeks ago, too- DON WILLIAMS! He retired four years ago but with his new Country Music Hall of Fame status, he decided to come out of retirement for a few shows. Even suffering with bronchitis, he managed to give an excellent performance. The sold out crowd was ecstatic and joined in to help him out on many songs. He is a gentle giant indeed!

I made apple pies for Jamey Johnson (or at least his crew- I never actually saw him eat any) who played a benefit for the Normandy Volunteer Fire Department that our friend Nikki, owner of the River Cafe, organized! GO NORMANDY! And I made some pear pies for the Round-Up. Still working on finding the best cookie recipes and trying to perfect my own buttermilk pie recipe. Meanwhile, I am trying to recover from all those Reese’s cups I overdosed on due to lack of Trick-or-Treaters! Happy Fall Y’all!

Low Country Cookin’

We love the South Carolina Low Country and all the gastronomical goodness that accompanies it. Some years back, while still living in Seattle, Grant stumbled across an article in a wine magazine about Low Country cooking which featured some recipes from Loius Osteen’s book, Charleston Cuisine. We tried a few of the recipes and they were delicious! About a year later, a dear friend of ours was getting married in the Low Country and during our visit to Pawley’s Island, we were able to dine at Louis Osteen’s restaurant and we bought his book, pictured above. A few of his recipes quickly became staples for us such as his Baked Sweet Onion Rice which I will include here. We serve this all the time and everyone always raves about it. It makes great left overs, too.

Baked Rice With Wadmalaw Sweets

Serves 6-8
Ingredients:
4 tbsp unsalted butter
8 cups sliced sweet onions
2 cups minced shallots
1 bay leaf (we use 3-4)
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 cups stock
1 cup long grain white, such as basmiti
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350. Heat butter in an ovenproof skillet with a cover over medium  heat. Add the onions and shallots and saute, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until onions are translucent. Add bay leaves, thyme, and stock and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add rice and stir to mix well. Cover and transfer to a preheated oven for 18-20 minutes or until the rice is cooked through and the liquid is absorbed. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Gently fluff rice with a fork before serving.

One of the best things about this super side dish, is all the amazing dishes you will be inspired to create to accompany it! Grant made this yummy BBQ Shrimp last night to accompany our Sweet Onion Rice. It was a perfect Sunday night dinner.

And, back to Louis Osteen… A few months back I was thinking about him and decided to do a google search and find out what he was up to. Turns out he and his wife just moved to Nashville and he is now cooking here, as part of the new BBQ restaurant in the 12th South neighborhood, Blind Pig. Psychic? I think so! We are anxious to see what culinary delights he brings to Nashville.

Continuing the Southern culinary inspirations, we have had some delicious fried green tomatoes lately- Monell’s served up some amazing little sweet ones when my Dad was in town a couple weeks ago. Everyone has them on the menu right now because we all have them in our gardens. I came home from work last Saturday and Grant had fancy Southern BLTs waiting for me. They included- red leaf butter lettuce, crispy bacon, green tomatoes from the garden coated with corn meal and spices and gently fried, Big Smokey’s special sandwich sauce, and rosemary bread. Delicious!

And you know what makes a great sandwich side dish? Roasted okra! Yes, we still have local fresh okra thanks to the late, hot summer we had.

I’ll end this post as I usually do- on a sweet note. People seem to like my pies and I really enjoy making pies but have to admit that pies are not my favorite dessert. I don’t eat many sweets but when I do, my favorite dessert is cookies.

Lately, I am obsessed with cookies- more specifically, my friend Rebekah’s cookies. She is the pastry chef at City House and she keeps showing up with bags of her cookies every time I see her and these are the best cookies in the world. I can’t stop day dreaming and obsessing about them. She has inspired me to want to be a better cookie baker so I have started trying to make all the good recipes I can find. I am in search of the perfect cookie recipes! Until I figure that out and have some of my own recipes, be sure to check out her amazing recipe for fancy gourmet Peanut Butter Moon Pies! Heavenly…

Chi-Town Eats and Comfort Food

We just returned from a long weekend in Chicago. Grant played a gig there with Derek Hoke and we decided to make a long weekend out of it. We had so much fun visiting lots of different friends and exploring the Art Institute and Bucktown Arts Fest where lots of our buddies were showing their art all weekend. We didn’t really plan ahead. In fact, we did not research anything beforehand which is odd for us but we just let it all happen. We ended up finding lots of good food anyway. Our first night there, we explored Chinatown with our buddy Ed. We had yummy food and cocktails (Mai Tais!) at Cantonesia. The firemen recommended it and firemen always seem to know about good food. After dinner, we watched as they filmed Transformer 3 down the street.

Ah, real Chinese food!… The next day we had an Anthony Bourdain moment for lunch as we ate famous pork sandwiches from Maxwell Street Depot in Bridgeport, where we were staying. Our friend Joe recommended it. Apparently, this is a Chicago establishment. Some even say it is run by the mob! They had great fries and literally, it was a pork chop on a bun- bone and all!

Our friends Jon & Sally met us at one of their favorite spots, Cafe Central, which serves Puerto Rican food. We got there first and I was looking at the menu thinking “this place is a mistake” as it just seemed like any old diner. Luckily, I was wrong. It was delicious. I had an amazing chicken and rice dish and we had some fried plantains that were delicious!

After traveling around town on the L one day and exploring the Art Institute, we jumped back on the L and headed up to Wicker Park. The train let us off and voila, a noodle house stood in our midst. Penny’s Noodles, turns out, is a favorite of many of our Chicago friends. What a lucky find!

And on our last morning there, our friends Dolan and Ali Marie took us to brunch at Toast in Bucktown. This place was amazing! They have stuffed French toast!

So, for not having done any research, I’d say we fared pretty well in Chicago. We hope to go back soon so we welcome suggestions of favorite restaurants for future visits.

Oh, and there was music of course… Derek and Grant borrowed the Waco Brothers’ rhythm section for a great set of music at the Bucktown Arts Fest. Next, our friend Jon led us up north to Skokie so we could visit with friends from Seattle, The Presidents of the United States of America, who were playing the Skokie Silent Film Festival. Who knew we’d end up in Skokie? We had noticed that Dave Alvin was playing across town, too, and it is always hard to pass up a chance to see Dave so we drove all the way back down to Fitzgerald’s in Berwyn where we got to surprise another friend from Seattle, Christy, who is a Guilty Woman extraordinaire. If you haven’t seen Dave Alvin and the Guilty Women, you should. They are amazing! He’s assembled some of the most talented women in music now for his backing band and they will blow your mind!

The temperatures in Tennessee finally broke and with temperatures in the upper 80’s and low 90’s, everyone suddenly thinks Fall is on the way. This and battling bad colds at our house has made us crave more comfort food! Here’s a Chicken Pot Pie I concocted last week that turned out really well.

Chicken Pot Pie

2 chicken breasts
10-15 cloves garlic, peeled
4 red potatoes, cut into small wedges
herbs de Provence
sea salt
black pepper
olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 Vidalia onion, chopped
1/2 cup all purpose flour
4 cups organic free-range chicken stock
1 carrot, diced
1 big handful green beans, trimmed and cut in small pieces
8-10 mushrooms, sliced
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
2 cups self-rising White Lily flour
1/4 cup unsalted, organic butter
3/4 cup buttermilk

Heat oven to 350. Place chicken, garlic cloves, and potatoes on baking sheet, rub with olive oil, and sprinkle with herbs de Provence, salt, and pepper. Roast in the oven for 35 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat the chicken stock. In a large skillet or Dutch oven, melt the butter and a little olive oil and saute the onions over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent. Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the hot chicken stock to the sauce. Simmer over low heat for 1 more minute, stirring, until thick. Add in the carrots, green beans, and mushrooms. Add 2 teaspoons salt and about 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Add the cubed chicken, potatoes, garlic and fresh parsley. Mix well. Pour into an oven safe dish.

Next, make the biscuit topping! Place self-rising flour in a bowl. Cut the butter into pieces and then with your hands, slowly mix the butter into the flour. Try to get the butter into tiny pieces, resembling rice grains. Work this slowly, not to over mix. Add the buttermilk and quickly stir with your hands. Use a large spoon and place “spoon biscuits” on top of your chicken mixture. Be sure to leave room in between biscuits. I used such a big dish that I needed to make 2 batches of biscuits in order to have enough to top it. (And, if you happen to have extra dough, you can make a pan of biscuits for tomorrow’s breakfast!)

Bake at 375 for about 45 minutes.

Also a favorite while I was a sicky was a Chicken Tortilla soup Grant made with leftover whole roasted chicken. It was loaded with fresh garlic and green chilies and was very delicious and nourishing. Garlic is so good for boosting your immune system and fighting infection!

Chicken Tortilla Soup

1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 leftover roasted chicken, skinned, boned, & chopped
10-20 whole cloves garlic, peeled
1 onion, diced
1 jalapeno, seeded & diced
1 can Hatch diced green chilies
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 tbsp cumin powder
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp oregano
1 lime
sea salt & black pepper to taste
leftover corn tortillas, cut into strips (or tortilla chips)
Queso Fresco (or Jack cheese)
fresh cilantro, chopped

Saute the garlic in the olive oil and butter until it is browned and starts to soften. Add onions. Saute until soft. Add peppers and saute until soft. Add chicken and saute until warm. Add spices and mix thoroughly. Add stock. Bring to boil and then simmer 1/2 an hour up to 2 hours. Add juice of 1/2 lime before serving. Garnish bowls of soup with tortillas, cheese, cilantro and wedges of lime.

Speaking of being sick, I stayed home from work one day and watched the food channel all day long! One of the recipes that caught my eye was a tandori style chicken Rachel Ray made. Even better, though, was the okra dish Grant made up to accompany it. It was spicy and yummy!

OKRA MASALA (of sorts)

2 Yukon Gold potatoes
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp garlic powder
sea salt
20-30 small okra
1/2 vidalia onion
2 Anaheim peppers from the garden, sliced
2-3 small tomatoes from the garden, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
cumin
turmeric
coriander
smoked paprika
1/2″ fresh ginger, grated
1/2 cup chicken (or veggie) stock
juice of 1 lime

Par-boil the potatoes, whole. Set aside. Once cooled, cube.

Clean and cut the okra. Mix flour with curry powder, garlic powder,
and a little sea salt. Dredge the okra in the flour mixture. Fry it up
in olive oil. Put aside to drain.

In same pan, add a little butter to the olive oil. Sautee up the diced
Yukon Gold potatoes and chopped onion. Next add in peppers from the
garden,  garlic. Let it cook a few minutes. Add chopped tomatoes,
turmeric, cumin, smoked paprika, fresh ginger, and corriander, chicken
stock and lime juice. Next add the okra back in.

And, with summer winding down we’ve been trying to cook as much as we can with all the summer veggies still available. Hurry up, the okra won’t be around for much longer. We made one more pot of gumbo! Gumbo-rific!

The local, fresh blueberries are almost gone, too. I made a few more blueberry pies last week.

Turns out my favorite music to make pies to is a little box set by The Browns called, “A Country Music Odyssey” which is amazing! We just saw Jim Ed Brown perform on Ernest Tubb’s Midnight Jamboree and his voice is so good and strong. He’s quite funny, as well. He’s a real gem! Or as they like to say here in Music City, “He’s an American Treasure.” I’ll end this post with one of my favorite youtube videos of The Browns…

Grits and Bluegrass and Tomato Cobbler!

Grits are delicious. That is my opinion but I would guess that those who think they don’t like grits, just haven’t had real grits. Real grits are stone ground and are ground at old mills that have been around forever. I used to get my Sis to send them to me all the way from Charleston but have since found them in many other little towns in Virginia- along the Blueridge Parkway and near the Shenandoah Valley. We have some in Tennessee from Falls Creek that I plan to try next. Also, Anson Mills in South Carolina is famous for their stone ground grits! You can order those online here. Anyway, it is important to have real grits I think. As I’ve blogged about before, one of our favorite ways to eat grits is Shrimp & Grits, a low-country specialty. I also LOVE grits for breakfast. My favorite way to eat them is a little odd but really delicious…

The grits are slow cooked with either some butter and/or cheese (add when almost done). Then I like to pour hot sauce and maple syrup over them (I somehow always feel like Will Ferrell’s character in Elf when I do this step!), then top with a fried egg and a turkey sausage. Yum!

Then the next morning I sauteed onion, yellow squash, and tomato to eat on the left over grits and then shredded Parmesan Reggiano on top! It made for a perfect brunch.

Sunday was another Red Barn Round-Up party and we finally had some bluegrass with Off The Wagon who are amazing. You can catch these guys at the Station Inn once a month usually and you can hear more of their music here. They are super nice fellas, too, and some of them happen to live in the neighborhood so we were delighted to have them play. Derek Hoke opened.

Here’s a clip of Derek and Off The Wagon from The Station Inn a couple months ago:

Sunday, lots of music-loving friends brought some yummy food and a great time was had by all.

So, I have been totally inspired by all of the amazing heirloom cherry tomatoes this summer. My favorites are the ones from the Habegger farm, a Mennonite family run farm, in Scottsville, KY which I buy at The Turnip Truck. They taste like candy!

I have these tomatoes on my mind quite often lately. I was probably thinking about them when I read an email from a friend who mentioned making cherry cobbler. For some reason, I thought she had written cherry tomato cobbler. When I realized I had read it wrong, I couldn’t stop thinking about cherry tomato cobbler! So, I mulled it over in the back of my brain for a few hours, thinking of course that it was an original idea. I made sure to establish exactly how I wanted to do it before googling to search for other recipes. Of course it has been done before but I made it my way anyhow. It went something like this…

First I placed the cherry tomatoes in an oven-safe dish with some olive oil and roasted them for 20-30 minutes at 375. Meanwhile, I sauteed some vidalia onions in olive oil and then added sea salt, freshly ground pepper, and some fresh basil and rosemary. I pulled the tomatoes out and combined those with the onion mixture and added in one teaspoon of flour. These tomatoes are so amazing on their own that I did not want to add many more flavors. Next I made some biscuits (2 cups self rising White Lily flour, 1/4 cup unsalted butter, 2/3 cup buttermilk- see previous post for directions) and added in freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano and black pepper. I then dropped the dough by spoonfulls over the tomato mixture, leaving a few tiny gaps between. I baked this for about 40 minutes when the biscuits were golden brown and the tomatoes were bubbling up!

We served this with some grilled okra which was tossed with olive oil, sea salt and pepper and grilled pork chops which Grant brined with some fresh sage leaves and then slathered with homemade pesto. This meal was a super delicious summer meal! (Except that it was so incredibly hot outside that my camera lens steamed up as I went outside to photograph Grant’s grilling methods!)

I’ll end with a sweet musical note here… last night we saw the incredible Desert Rose Band with the original line-up at the Belcourt Theatre. They are all amazing musicians and their harmonies are as smooth as butter. They made me so happy. This was truly comfort music to my ears! Musical guests included Emmylou Harris and Brad Paisley.

It was another amazing musical night in Nashville.

Comes A Time

Comes a time for me to appreciate Neil Young. You see, I have never been a big Neil Young fan. In fact, besides hearing friends play his music or whatever I came across on the radio, the most time I had ever spent with Neil Young was watching The Last Waltz countless times. Until tonight.

I knew Neil Young was talented and too many people whose musical taste I share hold him in such high regard. I knew I needed to get to know him better and that once I did, I would understand who he is but the time had never seemed right. I was a little intimidated maybe. His music doesn’t pull me in. It seems more like an acquired taste that takes time and I just hadn’t really wanted to put the time in yet. Until tonight.

Tonight, Neil Young played the Ryman Auditorium, one of my very favorite places in the whole wide world. I felt a little guilty getting to go without being a huge fan although, Grant is and has seen him six times and I knew if I was going to finally get to know Neil Young, the Ryman was the perfect place. Tickets were pricey. I joked all night about spending our summer vacation at the Ryman! But, I have to say that it was well worth every cent.

Neil was a one man band with 2 Martin guitars- one a small bodied with a mahogany top and one full bodied with a spruce top, a black Les Paul, one of my favorite guitars- a Gretsch White Falcon, a piano, a grand piano, his famous pump organ, and a harmonica. He spoke very little but still acknowledged us, his audience, with a quiet disposition. He reminded me of my Uncle Les who seemed on the surface to be a grumpy old cus but every once in awhile, he’d say something and I’d see a twinkle in his eye and get a genuine, warm feeling that he really liked me. Neil went from instrument to instrument and played what he wanted- some acoustic, some full on distortion and it all felt familiar, like we had all been there before. He seemed very comfortable. This was a perfect first meeting.

Unfortunately, no cameras were allowed, so I tried really hard to remember every moment. I had my tiny camera but could not disrespect the Ryman or Neil (oh, and there was also the fear of being kicked out as they threatened). The rainbow pictured above did appear in the sky just as we were walking to the Ryman.  I’ve also included various photos of The Mother Church of Country Music herself, past and present.

And luckily, I have many photos of our most recent adventures in Normandy, Tennessee. Our friends Nikki & Mike, brother and sister team extraordinaire, opened their new restaurant last weekend and we were fortunate to be a part of it. We drove down Sunday and spent the day- I helped take orders and Grant tended the smoker with Mike.

Normandy is a tiny town in Bedford County, about an hour outside of Nashville, that sits on the Duck River which is known for its pristine waters. The little main street, around the corner from George Dickel’s distillery, was previously abandoned until Nikki found this building and decided to make her dream become a reality. This is the beginning of something amazing, let me tell you! They decided to go ahead and open Saturdays and Sundays as they finish the remodeling and expand the menu and their ideas. For now, you can get some of the best smoked meats in Tennessee and delicious sides- they post a chalkboard menu out front.

June has just begun- many family and friend visits, yummy summer veggies, and tons of music (including this year’s first Red Barn Round-Up!!!) to come.

Spring is Here!

Spring in Tennessee is exciting!

Everything is starting to bloom, all the local produce crops are starting to come in, people are beginning to emerge from hibernation and the fun has begun! Most of my musical enjoyment this past week came from films at the Nashville Film Festival! A couple of favorites were Pickin’ & Grinnin’ and “Do It Again.” Also exciting Spring events happening this week were Earth Day and Record Store Day!

As soon as the warm weather starts, we crave more salads. Last week we made this one with Romaine lettuce, mandarin oranges, red carrots (which are amazingly beautiful!), white radishes (which are a tad bit sweet), and super delicious Holboldt Fog cheese. We like this salad with a simple honey vinaigrette and topped with toasted walnuts.

And, thanks to our friend Nancy who turned us on to the NY Times 101 Simple Salads, we have tons of new super easy and delicious salad ideas!

Other great Spring vegetables that I’m excited about… Artichokes and Asparagus (here served with a Soy Sauce Chicken Thigh)!

Spring is a transition season as we move gently (hopefully) into the warmer temperatures. It seems too warm for soups but with our busy schedules lately, I’ve still been excited about making some one-pot comfort meals that we can eat on throughout the week. I realized we had all the ingredients for a Jambalaya or maybe I should call it a Jambalaya-inspired dish as I didn’t follow a recipe. I also made it a little healthier by using brown rice and chicken andouille sausage and served it with some steamed broccoli with a squeeze of lemon on top.

And then tonight we got inspired to make one of our all-time favorites… a recipe from my home state, South Carolina low-country Shrimp & Grits! Bacon is an essential ingredient and we do make it with bacon sometimes but tonight we made it with veggies and shrimp as that is what we had on hand. And, it’s nice to know we can make it well for our fishaterian friends when necessary.

I use only real stone-ground grits, often that I have had my Sis or my friend Angela mail me from Charleston. I add a few extra ingredients to my grits- local Hatcher Family Dairy buttermilk and some sharp cheddar.

While the grits were cooking, we started cooking some collards. We sauteed a little finely chopped onion and garlic in a little olive oil with a small amount of balsamic vinegar and a little stock.

Next, in another pan, we started sauteing onions, red pepper, mushrooms (portabella and some button), garlic, shrimp (mixed with some garlic and flour), and a few tomatoes. We seasoned it with salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper.

We like to layer the greens, grits, and shrimp & veggies in a bowl for serving. It was delicious and really easy to cook.

And the best part about having left-overs with this meal is that we can now have grits for breakfast! My favorite way to have them for breakfast is with a little maple syrup and hot sauce. I know, it is a little strange but I love it. It is cheesey, hot, salty, and sweet!