Category Archives: dessert

>Twenty Eleven


Happy 2011!
On New Year’s Day, my family eats corned beef and cabbage, and black eyed peas. Since I’ve never made this myself, I decided it would be nice to carry on the tradition.
Now – for those of you who don’t know – a black eyed pea is not a pea.  Rather, it’s a legume – or for the sake of keeping it simple: it’s a bean. As you can see from this picture, it gets it name from its prominent black spot. So, why do we eat this on New Year’s? It’s a very common Southern tradition. But where did it originate?
Eating black eyed peas on New Year’s is thought to bring good luck and prosperity for the year ahead. The tradition actually dates back to Babylonian times, when those of the Jewish faith ate the so-called “lucky beans”  or rubiya on Rosh Hashanah, accompanied by beets, dates, leeks, and spinach. All of these together were thought to be symbols of good luck. 
The practice of eating black-eyed peas in the South was adopted when the first Jews came to the US in the 1730s and settled in Georgia. The meal was then adapted to include greens (collards, turnip, mustard) and ham or some sort of pork dish. The greens symbolized money, and the pig symbolized moving forward, since pigs always move forward when they forage for food (learn something new everyday right?).
Well, I’m not sure why the corned beef got thrown in there. Or the cabbage. Other than the fact that cabbage is green (money) and that corned beef is a pretty cheap cut of meat. Cabbage is about $1 a head, too. The way I’ve always heard it: cabbage for money, black eyed peas for luck, and corned beef for health. All great things to eat while kicking off a brand new year, right?
That’s all for today’s history lesson. Now, here’s how you make the stuff.
I wasn’t sure what to do with the corned beef brisket. Cook in on the stove or in the oven? What about the crock pot? I swear by my slow cooker. It’s the most wonderful electronic appliance you can have in your kitchen, especially if you’re a busy person. Just throw it all in there, come back 8 hours later and dinner is served! So crock pot it is.
I was up until about 2am on NYE and decided that if I just soaked that brisket in it’s seasoning and water and put my crock pot on “warm”, that by morning I’d have a pretty tender piece of meat. (my “low” setting cooks a lot faster than you might think”. It was mostly cooked when I woke up on NYD, but I wanted it to be tender so I cranked the heat to high and cooked it for about 5 more hours. 
Meanwhile, I boiled a ham hock.  What? You don’t know what a ham hock is? Only the most wonderful, fatty piece of pork ever. It’s pretty safe to say that it’s the pig’s “ankle”. (see diagram)

Southern cooks use ham hocks a lot to flavor stews and soups. I love to use them in red beans & rice, and I swear that it just does not taste the same without them. Problem is, they are tough to find, so whenever I see them at the store I buy about 4 of them.
Once the water and my hock came to a boil, I added the black eyed peas which I’d had soaking in water the night before so they could rehydrate. (I used Bayou Magic’s brand that comes with a seasoning pack: click here to order some, along with some gumbo or jambalaya mix!) I added in the seasoning pack and a chopped onion and just let them simmer for about an hour. Towards the end, I cut the meat off the ham hock and put it back into the pot. (I think whoever gets tons of fatty meat in their bowl is EXTRA lucky – just because it’s so delish)
Remember, that brisket is still slow cookin’ in the crock pot. So I got going on my cornbread. Because what kind of hearty, Southern meal doesn’t have cornbread?
 I used a recipe from my new cookbook, Bon Appetit Y’all, by Virginia Willis. And I am happy to share…
Buttermilk Cornbread
2 cups white or yellow corn meal
2 cups buttermilk
1 tsp salt
1 large egg, beaten
2 tbs butter, or bacon grease
Preheat oven to 450 and add butter  to baking dish. Let melt in oven 10-15 min.
Mix all of the above together (and if you want to make it even more special, add a can of corn!) and bake  for 25 minutes. I also brushed some honey over the top of the bread when it was done. The butter  (or bacon grease, if you have it) gives the bread a beautiful golden brown color around the edges and on top.
Now, for the cabbage. Don’t hate on the cabbage. I know you’re thinking of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and his poor old grandparents sitting in that one bed together and eating cabbage soup. Stop it. Cabbage is good.
I took some of the liquid out of the crock pot and put it in a pot on the stove.  I added chopped onions (large pieces, not finely chopped), half a head of cabbage, quartered red potatoes, and baby carrots. I added some more of the liquid on top and let that simmer until all of the veggies were tender. 
We put the brisket into a frying pan to give it a good crust on both sides, and then Jon sliced it up. It was so tender and pretty! 
Another family tradition for New Year’s = Chinese New Year Candy. I realize that it’s not the CHINESE New Year. But it’s still the new year. And it’s not really chinese except for one ingredient. Lots of people call these haystacks because of their appearance, but I will always call them Chinese New Year Candy. Here’s the recipe.
Chinese New Year Candy
1 bag chocolate chips
1 bag butterscotch chips
1 8oz can of salted peanuts
1 can of Chinese chow mein noodles
1. Melt chocolate and butterscotch in a double boiler or in the microwave. 
2. Once throughly melted, pour over noodles and peanuts. Mix until coated with chocolate/butterscotch.
3. Cover the bottom of a baking dish with wax paper and drop spoonfuls of the mixture, just like you’re making drop cookies. 
4. Feel free to lay another sheet of waxed paper over the first layer, and just layer your candies in your baking dish.
I think the salty/sweet combo of these is great!
I’m not so sure what this New Year has in store for me, but I prepare to keep on cookin’. Marc’s mom sent him home with dungeness crab, king crab legs, salmon, prawns, and scallops for Jon and me to eat. So prepare to see some seafood creations soon!
Until then….Happy 2011!

>Strawberry Shortbread Cobbler

>This one has a back story.

It started last night when, in the spirit of Christmas, I decided to do something really nice for Jon. He loves anything that is maple flavored: candy, ice cream, syrup, and…fudge. Given my recent obsession with making fudge, and the fact that I’d already made chocolate fudge and peanut butter fudge, maple fudge sounded pretty darn good.

So we bought some 100% pure maple syrup at Whole Foods (read: not Aunt Jemima and expensive), and I  found a recipe online. I even got a candy thermometer to make sure they syrup reached the right temp, and it seemed pretty simple: 2 cups maple syrup, 1 tablespoon light corn syrup, 3/4 cup heavy cream. I mixed all of the above together, and the recipe said to whisk until it reached a rolling boil and to let it boil until the temp was 240 degrees. The problem was, I left the thermometer reading up to the boyfriend. I’m sure that he read the thermometer correctly, but, maybe it was at 240 degrees too long. Apparently when you overcook maple syrup and heavy cream, you get caramel. I decided that it couldn’t hurt to continue with the recipe and see what would happen…

The next step was to pour the mixture into a Kitchen Aid mixer and beat for 10 minutes until the fudge was more opaque than glossy. Ha, try doing that with overcooked maple syrup. We did, however, make some really tasty caramel goop. 

I had already buttered a square Pyrex dish for the fudge. And honestly, why waste a perfectly good buttered pan? So I decided to make chocolate dipped shortbread. Had I ever made shortbread before? NOPE! And it definitely showed. This was another disaster. While the buttery cookies tasted delicious, when I tried to cut them into sticks so they could be dipped into chocolate…they crumbled. I was pretty sad to have wasted 3/4 lb of butter!

The good news is my boyfriend is a genius. “Why don’t you get some strawberries and make it into a crumb topping?” he says. I was sold. After Erika’s parents’ Christmas party, we stopped at the store and picked up a pound of strawberries. I cut them in half, sauteed them in butter and sugar, and poured them into a square dish. I got out the trusty Kitchen Aid and beat the shortbread cookies to crumbs, while adding brown sugar and cinnamon, topped it with a few pads of butter, 350 degrees for 20 minutes. And voila – Strawberry Shortbread Cobbler was born.

While I admit that it wasn’t very pretty, it was so buttery and delicious. Not bad for something that all started with ruined maple fudge.

I also made dough tonight for ravioli. We’ll be making them tomorrow to eat on Wednesday for our early Christmas celebration. I’ve never made it on my own, so we’ll see how this goes! Hopefully I’ll make my Maw Maw proud.

Until then…


PS- if you do need to look at something cute after seeing that pile o’ sugar and butter above, look at this guy who came to visit me today! Luckily I woke up this morning feeling so much better after the cold I’d been battling, so I was OK to give this guy some kisses. The last time I’ll see him for a while…sweet little Bentley!