Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Dom's Magical Shrimp & Cheese Grits

Outside of the Southern states, a lot of folks have never eaten grits; some have never even heard of them! Known as the "Southern oatmeal," grits were favored over oatmeal before air conditioning was invented because they could withstand the heat and humidity better. Three-quarters of the nation’s grits are still sold in the "Grits Belt;" the Southeastern coastal states stretching from the Carolinas to Louisiana.

Grits are coarsely ground (dried) corn that are traditionally cooked with butter and served as a side dish for breakfast or dinner. Their name comes from the Italian word "gruzzi" which means crushed corn. Grits are very similar to other thick maize-based porridges including the Italian polenta. Grits, however, tend to be made from white corn and are more coarsely ground than the yellow corn used in polenta.

To a true Southerner nothing compares to warm, cheesy grits topped with succulent, sweet seafood, except maybe the addition of a magical, spicy bacon sauce.

  • 8 slices of bacon
  • 2 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and brined
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 12-oz. bottle of beer, room temperature
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • 1 cup stone-ground grits
  • 1 cup cheese, grated (Dom uses Gouda)
  • 2 tablespoons of Denise's peppers (optional)

Rinse shrimp in cold water and peel. Brine shrimp in salted water until ready to cook.

Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crispy, about 6-8 minutes. Transfer bacon to a paper towel to drain. Add chopped onions to the bacon grease in the pan. Depending on the amount of grease left from the bacon, add up to 1 tablespoon of olive oil as needed to coat the onions. Sauté onions until soft and translucent, about 5-7 minutes. The term “until translucent” is commonly used to describe onions sautéed in butter or oil.  Raw onions are fairly opaque, but as they cook they slowly become almost transparent. When this happens, add spices to the pan and stir to mix.

Next, add the beer, ketchup, and Worcestershire sauce, stirring to combine. Coarsely chop the cooled bacon and add to the pan. Cook until the pan juices are thickened and syrupy. 

Drain shrimp and add to the pan, tossing gently to completely coat shrimp. Bring sauce back to a boil, then cover pan and remove from the heat letting the shrimp rest for about 3-5 minutes to allow shrimp to steam and fully cook.

Meanwhile, cook grits according to package directions, stir in cheese and peppers until fully melted and incorporated. Serve immediately on a platter with a mound of cheese grits with the shrimp (and the magical sauce) in the center.

And now the really magical part… watch as all the shrimp and grits disappear!



Friday, May 11, 2018

Treat Mom to the Perfect Brunch

Each year, we all do our best to spoil our Moms on the day named just for her. We lay plans to let her sleep late and make her breakfast in bed. This year, why not go a step further and plan a brunch for the whole family replete with breakfast and lunchtime favorites accompanied by cocktails to complement the offerings. If you’re new to planning a brunch and would like to make your own this weekend, here are a few ideas that will make your brunch a treat worthy of Mom.

Eggs are the staple to brunch menus. Whatever you decide to cook, always include an egg recipe as either the main dish or a side dish. However, making eggs doesn't necessarily mean you have to be satisfied with the common scramble. Be creative! There are several ways you can dress up your eggs.

Herbs are a marvelous addition to accentuate their flavor. Parsley, cilantro, dill and tarragon are all good choices. One of the most common mistakes one can make when making eggs is to overcook them. Depending on how you’re making them, the perfect eggs will be creamy and buttery to the touch. A technique you can use for the perfect eggs are to turn off the burner as soon as they appear slightly under cooked  They’ll finish cooking as they rest on the pan. Another trick for better eggs is to add about a tablespoon of water into your egg mixture. This will make them airy and fluffy. Other egg dishes that lend themselves to a brunch buffet are frittatas, eggs benedict, omelets or even a south of the border classic like huevos rancheros!

Meats and Veggies:
Meat always makes an appearance at brunch. Europeans commonly serve platters of cold cuts and cheeses as part of their typical breakfast buffets.Whether it’s bacon, sausage, chorizo, pancetta or ham, meat is always a binding element that brings veggies (like red and green pepper, tomatoes, potatoes, mushrooms, or onions) and eggs together. Meat and veggie skillets are popular side dishes for brunch, providing a savory and salty contrast.

Crepes, Waffles and Pancakes:
Another component for a successful brunch is to have breads and pastries that will contrast the hearty taste and texture of eggs. Most common brunch ideas for batter-made foods are crepes, waffles or pancakes.

Waffles and pancakes are probably the easiest to make, nevertheless the bad execution of said dishes could make them chewy or tough. A tip to keep batter from becoming dense in the pan or oven is to hold back from over mixing. The more you beat the batter the denser they’ll be, leaving you with thicker but tough pan-fried dough.

There is nothing more spectacular than fresh seasonal fruit to complement any brunch table! Strawberries, blueberries, a selection of melon and even pineapple are delicious on their own or served atop your pancakes, crepes and waffles.

There are a variety of drinks that will both quench your thirst and enhance your brunch menu. Freshly squeezed orange or grapefruit juice are popular favorites. These also make delicious mixers for brunch cocktails such as mimosas or grapefruit sparklers. Bloody Marys are another common brunch beverage and our personal favorite is a Creole version:

  • 4 oz. tomato juice
  • 1 ½ oz. vodka
  • 1 tablespoon Creole mustard (we use Zatarain’s)
  • 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
  • 1 dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • Hot sauce to taste (we prefer Louisiana brand)
  • Lime wedge for garnish
  • Pickled okra (or any of your favorite vegetable condiments)

Combine all liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Pour into your favorite glass and add lime wedge and pickled okra.

By planning ahead and getting a little creative, you can start Mom’s day with a treat she will never forget!

Originally posted 5/7/2013


Monday, May 7, 2018

For Mom: Strawberry Shortcake on the Grill

Don’t you just hate those Mother’s Day meals where the kids have dreamed up an elaborate menu that has you cooking and cleaning on your supposed day of rest and relaxation? Well, we have you covered this year! This is a kid-friendly recipe that gets them involved, and keeps you out of the kitchen. Kids will love being able to assemble the ingredients on skewers and enjoy eating them even more.

This is the time of year when strawberries are in season and abundant in supply. Strawberry shortcake is a perennial favorite, but did you ever think of cooking it on a grill? Just like any fruit placed on the grill, strawberries get a smoky caramelized flavor that matches the toasty gooey marshmallows. We think this is going to be your new go-to dessert; impressive for guests and easy for Mom.

Grilled Strawberry Shortcake
8 – 10 large strawberries
large marshmallows
Angel food cake, cut into 2” cubes
Bamboo skewers
Chocolate sauce for serving

Preheat your grill to low. If you are using a charcoal grill, you should wait until the fire has died down after grilling your main dish.

Rinse and clean the strawberries and remove caps. Kids can help with this using a plastic knife or a straw inserted into the bottom of the strawberry and gently pushed through to the stem which pops right out cleanly. The straw method has an added bonus; the strawberry already has a hole for the skewer.

Thread the ingredients on your skewers. We allotted 2 strawberries and pieces of cake and one marshmallow per person, but there are no rules. Skewers can be uniform or freestyle – we won’t judge!

Gently place the skewers on the grill. We added an additional rack for easier removal and it added another layer between the skewers and the flame.

Turn the skewers frequently to achieve even cooking on all sides. Depending on how hot your grill is, you may be turning constantly. Keep an eye on the marshmallows as they are the most fragile of the ingredients.

When your skewers have reached the desired amount of doneness, remove them to a plate. Arrange the skewers on a serving tray and drizzle with chocolate sauce. Enjoy!

May 7, 2016


Monday, April 2, 2018

Deviled Easter Eggs

In early Christian cultures, both meat and dairy were verboten during Lent. However, since chickens can't turn off their egg laying mechanism, they keep on laying. So eggs laid during Lent were hard-boiled to preserve them until the end of the 40-day Lenten season when they then would become part of the Easter feast.

It's Easter morning, the eggs have all been found - now what do you do with them all? The perfect addition to any Easter brunch table is deviled eggs. This recipe is a little different than the traditional deviled eggs you grew up with. The cornichons and capers add a delicious, piquant flavor to our version!

  • 6 hard-boiled Easter eggs, peeled
  • 2 Tablespoons mayonnaise (we prefer Duke's)
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons cornichons* or dill pickles, very finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon capers, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Paprika, for garnishing

Once the eggs are peeled, carefully slice the eggs in half from top to bottom. Scoop the yolks into a medium mixing bowl and gently lay the whites aside. Add mayonnaise, mustard, salt and sugar to the egg yolks and using a fork, stir to thoroughly combine.
Place the mixture into a zip-top plastic bag and cut a small hole at one of the corners. Pipe the mixture into each of the white halves. Chill for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator and sprinkle with paprika for decoration before serving.

*Trader Joe’s sells the BEST cornichons (French for pickles) on the market. They are grown in the Garonne Valley in southwestern France for their company.  They are sour and crisp, and sell for a very reasonable price.

April 24, 2011


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Hot Cross Buns - A Good Friday Tradition

For some, hot cross buns are synonymous with Good Friday. Hot cross buns have a long history that goes back hundreds of years. These special sweet buns, marked with a symbolic cross in celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, are a fixture on many Easter tables and are historically considered to be blessed.

Many believe that sharing a bun with a friend will bring both the giver and receiver good luck and continued friendship for the following year. These lightly-sweetened, fruit-filled treats were sold in the streets of England during the nineteenth century to the cries of "hot cross buns; hot cross buns; one a penny; two a penny; hot cross buns!” With such a diverse past, it it clear that hot cross buns are a lovely and meaningful Easter tradition.

  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 5 teaspoons (2 packets) active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 sticks (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup dried currants
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh orange zest
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice or water

In a small bowl, stir together milk, yeast, and 1 teaspoon granulated sugar. Let mixture stand 5 minutes, or until foamy. In a separate large mixing bowl, combine flour, spices, salt, and remaining granulated sugar and mix together with a whisk. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut butter into bits and blend into flour mixture until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Lightly beat 1 egg with the egg yolk. Make a well in center of flour mixture and pour in yeast and egg mixtures, currants, raisins, and orange and lemon zest. Stir mixture until a dough is formed. Transfer dough to a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Transfer dough to an oiled large bowl and coat lightly with oil. Let the dough rise, covered with plastic wrap, in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat your oven to 400°F and butter 2 large baking sheets. On a floured surface with floured hands knead dough briefly and form into two 12-inch-long logs. Cut each log crosswise into 12 equal pieces. Form each piece into a ball and arrange about 1 1/2 inches apart on baking sheets. Let buns rise, covered, in a warm place until doubled in bulk again, another 45 minutes.

While buns are rising, lightly beat the remaining egg with confectioner’s sugar to make an egg glaze. Brush buns with egg glaze before baking them in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until buns are golden brown, about 12 minutes. When done, transfer buns to a rack to cool slightly.

In a small bowl, mix together confectioner’s sugar and lemon juice or water. Use a spoon to drizzle the glaze over the buns in a criss-cross pattern. Serve buns warm or at room temperature with softened butter and your favorite preserves. These delicious buns can be made one week ahead and frozen before being frosted, wrapped in foil and put in a re-sealable plastic bag. Thaw buns and reheat before serving.


Tuesday, March 27, 2018

One-of-a-Kind Cheese & Wine Tasting at CalyRoad Creamery

CalyRoad Creamery’s brick & mortar workshop with its petite shop and tasting room makes a cozy and intimate place for cheese and wine enthusiasts to gather for sips and nibbles. Created by two sisters who loved making cheese, CalyRoad Creamery was established in 2009 and was originally located on a West Georgia goat farm. As the business grew, they moved to operation to Sandy Springs and added cow’s milk cheeses to the menu of cheeses they offer.

Hosted by owner Robin Schick and Terry Tomasello of Domaine Wine Distributors, monthly wine and cheese tastings feature unique and rare wines curated by the partners of Domaine alongside the creamy-dreamy artisanal cheeses created in the “make room” visible through the plate glass windows of the Sandy Springs cheese shop.

“We take a very informal approach to our tastings. We suggest that you start with the lightest white wine and move through to the most robust red - pairing the cheeses in the same way. Because everyone’s palate is different, you may find a pairing that you feel is perfect that might otherwise be missed in a specific one-for-one tasting,” explains Schick.

On this evening, Tomasello, as our sommelier, shared the interesting background of the three wines from Spain’s Rioja wine region. We began with Belezos Rioja Blanco Bodegas Zugober 2014; a crisp oak-aged white with floral aromatics, citrus notes and a hint of cinnamon which matched well with the fresh feta, camembert-style WayPoint and particularly nicely with the pear-cardamom chèvre. Next, we sampled a Picardo Rioja Crianza 2014; a deep crimson color with a minerally bouquet and dark berry notes which paired well with a sun-dried tomato and basil chèvre and the Black Rock aged goat cheese with crushed black peppercorns. Our last tasting was of a Celler Hidalgo Albert '1270 A Vuit' Fina; a juicy red with nice vanilla and black currant flavors, medium acid and balanced tannins that best complemented the cheesemaker’s latest release Hilderbrand Tomme with its rich, aged cow’s milk flavor, light caramel notes and mild nuttiness.

As guests mingled and enjoyed their wine, they had the opportunity to shop for delicious treats to accompany their cheese purchases like crackers, lavash, honey, nut butters and preserves. To experience this unique tasting for yourself, please visit Culinary Local for more information or to purchase tickets. In addition, to monthly wine tastings, CalyRoad offers a monthly wine club with two wines and cheeses shared with members every 30 days.

Disclosure:  I attended this event as a brand Ambassador for CulinaryLocal. While the cheeses and wines I sampled were complimentary, the content and photographs are original and all opinions are unsolicited. #ad


Monday, March 26, 2018

Easter Eggs 101

Helping the Easter Bunny by decorating eggs is a favorite with most children. In my experience, some non-egg-eaters will even try the eggs after they have helped to decorate them. It is best to use white eggs as the colors are more true (unless you are looking for an antiqued appearance).

6 eggs
Water for boiling

Egg Dye:
1 cup boiling water (you can use the water from boiling the eggs)
2 teaspoons white vinegar
food coloring

It is a good idea to test the freshness of your eggs before boiling them. The best way to test whether an egg has gone bad is to float it in water. As eggs get older, the inside portion of the egg starts to decompose and gases build. Hence it floats. A fresh egg will not float, but lie at the bottom of the glass of water.

Place eggs into a pot of cold water, and then cover it and bring it to a boil. Once the water is boiling remove the pan from the heat, and let stand for 12 minutes. Then place the eggs in a bowl of cold water to cool as you begin peeling them under cold water.

Before preparing egg dyes, cover your work surface with newspaper to soak up spills. Then, mix boiling water and vinegar and divide into small containers large enough to place one egg covered with liquid. Add food coloring for colors desired using the color chart (or experiment with your own!) Many companies now makes neon food colorings too.

When dyes are ready, place boiled eggs in the containers one at a time. Metal spoons acan leave unwanted marks on the eggs, so use a plastic spoon “baste” the egg with the egg dye until the color is as dark as you like.

Eggs can be “batiked” by placing stickers or decals on the eggs and then removing them once the dye has dried. Stars, dots, and even hole-reinforcing loops make great designs. Wrapping the eggs with rubber bands creates stripes. Another idea is to use a white crayon to write mystery messages or designs which “appear” when the eggs are dyed.

Allow the eggs to dry on an egg carton (cardboard works better than styrofoam) that has been turned upside down.Paper towels work well but eggs can roll off.

April 22, 2011


Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Romantic Rack of Lamb

When the boys were little, it was never easy to find a babysitter on Valentine’s Day so we would put the kids to bed early and have an intimate dinner with a good bottle of wine and these amazing mustard-coated lamb racks served rib ends up and gently interlocked on an heirloom silver platter. A simple dessert of fresh strawberries capped off a quiet romantic evening.

The boys are older now and enjoy these lamb chops as much as we do. The racks can be cut into individual servings as well, then coated and roasted in the same manner. which makes serving a bit easier. You may want to have extra napkins handy because it is impossible to resist gnawing the bones to get every last tidbit.

2 racks of lamb about 7 ribs each
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 large cloves of garlic
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoon oregano (or rosemary or thyme), fresh or dried
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup coarse breadcrumbs, fresh or Panko
2 tablespoons melted butter

Mix the mustard, garlic, salt, herbs, lemon juice and olive oil and whisk together until it reaches the consistency of mayonnaise.

Your racks should be frenched for the best presentation. If your butcher did no French the racks, do this first. Then, score the fat side of the racks lightly by making shallow crisscross cuts. Leave the rib ends free and coat the tops and sides of the racks with the mustard mixture. This can be done up to a day in advance and kept refrigerated until ready to cook.

Melt the butter and mix with breadcrumbs.

Preheat your oven to 500°F. Roast the lamb for 10 minutes at 500°F to sear. Reduce the thermostat to 400°F removing the lamb from the oven to spread the bread crumbs over the top of the lamb racks and return to the oven. Roast the meat for another 20 minutes, to rosy rare. A meat thermometer insert into the center should read125°F. The meat should be just slightly springy when pressed. Remove the racks from the oven and let rest 5 minutes serving.


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