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FRIED

Fried. It's such a multi-use word. Burnt out. Brain dead. Or dropped in hot oil. In my case, it means all three and sometimes together.

There has been a lot of change in Spoon Saga land the last year. Job change, moving, marriage, managing distance. It's been one heck of a roller coaster that has left me exhausted. Fried. And there is only one thing that makes that better - fried pork chops. Intensely good, slap your grandma chops. 

There are many ways to fry a chop but ingredients are critical and technique matters. First, skinny chops are a must. Just say no to those big chops. You have to finish them in the oven to get them done appropriately and in case you haven't noticed, I'm frying due to stress. I will not wait for pork goodness. Capiche? Good. 

The other is the pan. People. Put the All Clad away. Now is not the time. Even though I show it in the picture, just don't. Your Lodge cast iron is the best tool for this. If you don't have this pan, shame on you. And shame on me for not using it. 

Lastly, we need to talk breading. Double breading is a must. Dip the chop in egg, then a 50/50 mix of GF Bisquick and yellow grits, then repeat egg and coating. 

Now it's time to fry. Patience. Let the Canola shimmer, drop in the chop, and wait. NO!!!! Resist the urge to touch it. Use this meditative time to add salt and pepper. Why now? Because I was so fried I forgot to put it in my breading mix. When the edges get golden and the bottom third of the chop to whiten, then you can flip using tongs. Repeat this exercise and add some mushrooms to the pan. When your chop is done (rule of thirds gets you moist chops where all white makes for dry), remove from the pan and add heavy cream to the mushrooms. Whip till thick. Your chop has finished cooking on the plate and is perfectly moist BUT gravy makes it better so spoon your mushroom gravy on and grab that fork. 


Fried. It sends you into a zen like state and resets the panic button to off. Peace on a plate for a Southern girl. Yum.

I have been in hell...

Does that title sound dramatic? Well yes, it is. But really, I have been in a form of hell. It is called a rental apartment with the smallest galley kitchen EVER. It was smaller than the one in my Savannah apartment in college. I could not make anything without melting the lid on some container. This went on for a year. I killed tupperware when making sausage balls for my wedding (recipe to come). I melted the parmesan cheese container trying to make lasagna. And don't EVEN talk to me about having enough room to chop things and cook cause it wasn't going to happen. Nothing, I mean NOTHING, was happening in this kitchen worth writing about. 
So 3 months turned into a year. And when I finally sold the last house, and started to look for new houses, the kitchen was a priority. 
New kitchen needs new counters. And a double oven. And a new dishwasher that actually gets dishes clean. But oh..... the counter space. It is luscious. It is inspiring. It makes me want to leave this office right now and make dinner. Then pray thanks for the guidance to find it. 
'Night y'all. 

Wow.... has it really been that long?

Has it really really really been that long since I wrote a kitchen post? Much less any post? I guess it has. I suppose there are lots of reasons - ahem - excuses, but not really. I think I was just burnt out. And then came Thanksgiving. And Rex Goliath, the chicken. 

My mother hates to cook. I hate to go to the grocery store. We have a pact that if I make the shopping list and cook, she will procure. I love this deal. I hate turkey. So off I sent her to get a roasting chicken. Usually when I get one it's 2-3 pounds. Somehow, she found the chicken to end all chickens.... a 5 pounder the likes of which I had never seen. In honor of the wine I was drinking, we named it Rex Goliath. 

I know that wine is for a 47 pound rooster, but this chicken was like a girl in a Kink's song. 

Rex Goliath produced a wonderful thanksgiving lemon and garlic chicken. An a post Thanksgiving chicken and dumplings. And a post-post Thanksgiving chicken pot pie. Honestly. This is the chicken that kept giving the family wonderful meals. 

So thanks Rex, for the food, the joy, the laughs over your oddly humongous size. And here's to the next Thanksgiving. 

L

I finally got to the farmers' market....

I know. I'm lame. It's late July and I just made a visit to the farmers market. I think it may be the first time this year. As you get older the years seem to role together so I'm not sure! 

Anyway, it was like homecoming. I got to see all my favorite people, and some new ones too. Yeah for the hydroponic lettuce people. Boo that by 11:40 they were sold out of things I wanted. Yeah for strange little purple cherry tomatoes from Sequatchie Cove Farms. These things are so good! Yeah for blueberries and blackberries and all sorts of yummy veggies. 

But my big "Yeah" goes to Paul at Humble Heart for amazing goat's milk products. Anyone who reads this blog knows I am a fan. While I was there I heard one disappointed customer learn that Hickory goat cheese was a limited edition flavor. Do you think he should add it to the line permanently? It is awfully good on turkey burgers. No worries for me though because I snagged his new Mediterranean flavored goat cheese. At this writing, I am spreading it all over my cherry tomatoes for lunch. So, so good. The other divinely yummy thing he had was a peach, goats milk sorbet. AMAZING!!!!! I know it's a healthy alternative to ice cream, but I had to run away after tasting it. Eating a whole gallon of anything is bad, and this sorbet is so tempting I don't think I could put my spoon down if given more opportunity!

I won't be at the market next week. Sigh. I wish I were though. There are so many good things to try and bring home for a fresh tasty summer. I hope to make it back and see my friends again before harvest time ends!

L

Designing for Gourmet Retail

Recently I undertook a challenge, one not located in the kitchen. I decided to help a friend with the labels for their line of sauces and condiments. I'm a designer, and I LOVE food, so easy peasy, right?

Wrong!!!!

People, designing food labels is hard! In my usual super-obsessive style, I did research. I went to Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Earth Fare, etc to check out the competition. There are a ton of items out there I had never even noticed before on my trips to the store. Then I had to cross reference to price points to make sure I was comparing apples to apples. Are you going cross-eyed yet because I almost did! Finally, after all that, came sketching and then rendering. 

One would think that after sketching my ideas, the rest would be easy. Well, I was working on this over the July 4th weekend while visiting with family. If you've been reading the blog and the site, you know I love my family. But they are one opinionated bunch of people. I wasn't asking for comments... but boy did they give them.  Whew! Their "design by committee" attitude near wore me out! Still, they mean well, and they are the type of people to purchase high-end food stuffs. I have determined it was an early stage focus-group, not a design intervention, to keep the love going. 

Finally, I have 2 options the client (aka friend) loves. Thank goodness. Because if he didn't, this project may have gone south - like to Costa Rica for a break south - really fast. The new designs should launch in early September, and when they do, I will post about them to toot my horn! Be on the lookout and feel free to give an opinion on the blog. It will make you just like family.

L

Summer Vinho Verdes

I love Total Wine. There aren't many places where you get that kind of selection with that level of knowledge. Sigh... I'm on a Spanish and Portuguese wine kick now that the weather is getting warm. Try these Portuguese Vinho Verdes for a light, refreshing alternative to cava.
  • Gazela
  • Aveleda Fonte 2008
  • Nobilis
I love theme for the light crispness with just a touch of sparkle. At 9-10% alcohol, they won't go to your head the way higher alcohol whites might. They make for a lovely sipper alone on the back porch or a great pairing with a salad, light fish dish or Asian fare like a spicy Thai or sushi!

Baked Potato Salad

I'm dating again. That's right. I even changed my status on Facebook to "In a Relationship". Here's the deal though. He's a chef. A pretty high fallutin' chef. It can be intimidating when he talks about his restaurant's specials like Southern-style cassoulet or scallops with some fancy Asian sauce. Delicious yes.... but way out of my league cooking wise. I would go to the restaurant every night and eat, but fortunately for my waistline, it's in another city. 

Yes. I am getting somewhere with this. 

So that leaves me in my charming little Chattanooga neighborhood on many Friday and Saturday nights. I love my neighborhood, and I love my neighbors. Last night, I was invited over to dinner with some of my favorite people to grill. Of course, they said bring nothing. They had it all taken care of down to my preference for turkey over cow. Uh huh. Being brought up well in a small town, I cannot arrive empty handed, even if all I have is wine to bring. Call it leftover manners learned from my parent's bridge club. But going back to the new romance with the aforementioned chef, I now feel a bit intimidated on what to make for dinner. I think that may be why I've been on a frozen pizza kick for a week! Not really, but it sounds good. There is a whole new world of food opening up to me and it is daunting. Honestly, there is a whole brick of tamarind paste in my kitchen that I have to figure out, but that's another post entirely. 

After great deliberation, and a full-our refrigerator rummage, I refused to be thwarted by fancy smancy food and embraced my own brand of domestic prowess! Yes!!!! I decided to make Baked Potato Salad. I swear it is the easiest thing ever. No need for a French culinary education here. The potatoes weren't even baked for heavens sake, although I suppose you could if you are averse to false advertising. This to me is a supreme Southern comfort food, and I like the way it holds up versus mayo based potato salads. There are lots of variations on this. My mom likes dill in hers. The chef recommended celery seed. But here's my take and what I brought to dinner last night. And it rocks next to a turkey burger, cilantro butter grilled corn, and bourbon baked beans. Yum!!!!



Baked Potato Salad

the Grocery List

  • Baking potatoes - say 6 small ones (or use those cute little new potatoes)
  • 8 oz (a half container) sour cream (you can use light but why would you?)
  • 1/3 c. crumbled bacon or bacon bits
  • 2 green onions
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
  • salt
  • pepper

Prepping & Cooking

Pick all the eyes out of your potatoes, peel and wash them. Then chop them into chunks. I typically quarter my potatoes long ways and then slice half inch sections. If you are using the cute little new potatoes, don't peel them. Just wash them and cut them in half. 

Boil your potatoes until they stick easy with a fork. Do not let them get mushy. This makes for icky potato salad. Trust me. I let it happen once. Drain them and let them cool while you finely chop the onions down through the white part. Don't waste!  

Mix the potatoes with the sour cream while they are still warm, add the other ingredients. Salt and pepper to taste and serve. 

Sometimes I just want to eat...

I haven't written in a long time. I know. If you follow me, I've let you down. I'm sorry, but I can deal with your disappointment and my guilt. Because for the last 2 months, really, I haven't had anything to talk about. 

I've been on the dreaded post-holiday diet. 

That's right. My mom and I had a contest to loose the most weight before a recent girls trip to Florida. You wouldn't have wanted to read about all the salads I ate. And you wouldn't have wanted to read about me being hungry. And even worse, you would not have wanted to read about my obsession with 100 calorie nut packs or having to check luggage because I was carrying Slimfast with me to avoid high calorie greasy omelets. 

Seriously. 

So we went on our trip. We both did really well though to loose our extra padding, but I won the contest by like maybe 2 pounds. Yeah!!!!  Finally I could hit the cheese and gluten-free bread and have a cocktail for heaven's sake. (yes... I was really trying. The prize was another trip!).  Since we were on a "spa weekend" at the Hilton Marco Island though, our lunches were delightful salads. How healthy. How.... normal. 

That night we went out to dinner. I ordered grilled shrimp and a seafood risotto with parm. My mom wanted to know why I wasn't photographing dinner and why I wasn't writing anymore. And it dawned on me, after 6 weeks of really being good at home and on the road, I did not want to take the time to art direct. I didn't care about sharing my experience. I just wanted to eat. 

And so I did. 

Fried Oysters

The holidays have been super busy, and this year they culminated in one of the strangest Christmases we have ever had as a family. Typically, my parents come from NC to visit me. However, we had a last minute change of plans. You see, my dad decided to fall off the roof. 

He claims he was cleaning the chimney for Santa's arrival. Seriously?

He didn't kill himself, but he was badly bruised and broke his heel / ankle in five places. Needless to say he couldn't make a seven hour drive, even though mom thought it would be grand to load him up on painkillers and throw him in the back of the SUV. I really don't think she wanted to cook. So for the first time ever, I bought a plane ticket and checked in the same day so that I could fly home on Christmas Eve. I even took the bows off the packages so that I could pack presents and bring them in an extra bag. Flight delays, changes in airlines, and potential luggage fees were not a deterrent for me to see my family this year! And it was my job to cook anyway. 

Since they were coming to my house originally, there were bare essentials in the cupboard in NC. Mom stopped by the store on the way to pick me up at the airport so we could have Christmas Eve dinner - ham, roasted root vegetables, cranberry sauce she had already made, and asparagus in case anyone is wondering. This was all good and well, but she didn't pick up anything else for the holidays. And considering a snow storm blew in on Christmas Day, causing us to be housebound, this was a bit of an issue. 



Luckily, a neighbor had brought pears, and another had sent oysters over. In a snow storm, on the deck, I proceeded for the first time ever to shuck oysters. Did I have one of those fancy knives. Um... no. I had a flat screw driver. Genius. Just what we needed was so me home-grown stitches in case I gashed my hand. And better yet, I had never fried oysters. I had very little idea of what I was doing. I decided that since I had eaten enough though, why not try. How hard could they be?

So with pure creativity, and in theme with the year, I made the oddest Christmas Day dinner yet. We started with said fried oysters (which aren't difficult at all to make), followed by pear and asiago salad, and finished with a portobello cream sauce over pasta. Thank heavens it was really good. And while my mother didn't have to cook and chose cleaning instead, let me tell you, frying is a messy past time!

The fried oysters were the best part of the meal though, and frankly, the pasta doesn't photograph very well. Here is the recipe, as best I can recall. May this become a new Christmas tradition, minus the broken leg. 

Fried Oysters

the Grocery List

  • 2 dozen raw oysters
  • 3/4 cup course cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup fine cornmeal
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 - 2 cups canola oil (amount depends on pan size)

Prepping & Cooking

Heat your oil till shimmering in a heavy pan - preferably cast iron. Be really careful that you don't have any water on your hands doing this because this oil will POP! Mix your dry goods together well. Dredge the raw oysters in the cornmeal mix, then in the buttermilk, then back in the cornmeal. Add them one by one, carefully and with your fingers, to the oil. Fry them for about 2 minutes each side, or until golden. Don't over fry because you want them tender. 



For the sauce, I mixed a 2 to 1 ratio of mayo (Duke's of course) to horseradish spread. Then I tossed in some finely chopped homemade bread and butter pickles and added a pinch of cayenne. Simple tartar sauce will work or even cocktail sauce if you prefer. 

Here's the finished goods. Yummy!!!! They were gone in a flash. 


Post Thanksgiving Bliss



So what does a food blogger eat on Thanksgiving. Everything she can get her hands on. One week later and I swear I may still be in food coma. It can make it difficult to type. Really.

So we had the traditional turkey, and home make corn bread stuffing, which is my job to do (yes... it's home made corn bread with sausage and sage and other stuff oh my!). 



But my crazy (in a good way) momma wanted to change things up a bit. This year's big hits were a frilled romaine salad (a shot out for dad on the grill), and a complicated but delicious butternut squash and apple casserole. We have to find ways to simplify that one, but gosh it was good. It may have been the Arkansas Black apples. 





There was no pumpkin pie either. The staple of all staples was replaced by a pineapple upside down spice cake. Momma was surely inventive. 




It's the only time of year we all four get together. I think the tryptophan in the turkey lulls us into good behavior. Whatever. Fat and happy.... it's always worth the trip home. 

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