The Not Pardoned Turkey

November 15, 2015
By Holly Jennings

Red Bourbon and Broad Breasted Whites_2

Last Friday the 13th, on a mild, blue-skied mid-November afternoon, I took a drive out to Keenbell Farm. Fridays are the Farm Store day at the farm, and are a good time to catch C.J. Isbell. The purpose of my trip was to run a couple of embryonic story ideas past C.J. and to check up on my pardoned turkey, a Bourbon Red hen who will remain nameless. Of course she is not “my” turkey, but upon hearing her story, I was immediately taken with this feisty broad who managed to escape the dinner table fate of her colleagues. Somehow I felt invested in telling her story for the Thanksgiving holiday, and I was curious to know how she was getting on.

C.J., co-owner of Keenbell Farm with his father, Eddie, had relayed the story to me in late August during a farmyard walkabout. (I was there to interview him about Keenbell Farm for a story published in the Nov/Dec issue of Edible Richmond Magazine.) During the tour C.J. introduced me to some of the farm’s outliers: Mimi, a fainting goat; Charley and Ritzy; two riding horses; and an escapee Bourbon Red turkey who moved so quickly I could hardly catch sight of her. Undoubtedly lonely but glad to be alive, she was the sole survivor from

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Bloody Butcher Cornbread—The Official Bread of Halloween

October 30, 2015
By Holly Jennings

Official Bread of Halloween copy

Owing to its phenomenal flavor, striking blood-red color, suitably macabre name, and Old Dominion pedigree, I name Bloody Butcher Cornbread the official 2015 Virginia State Bread of Halloween.

Even though not as commonly associated with Virginia as, say peanuts or ham, Bloody Butcher corn traces its roots directly to the state, where the first reference to the variety, a style of dent corn ideal for flour, cornmeal, and grits, was made in 1845.

When Bloody Butcher was named, referencing, as the story goes, the bloodied apron of a butcher, slasher films hadn’t yet been invented.

Back then, I imagine the colorful words connoted something of the ordinary facts of life, rather than the horrifying, especially for farmers, who would have had intimate knowledge of processing meat.

Until the recent whole-animal butchery renaissance, the sight of a bloodied butcher apron

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Holly’s Cow Peas — Authentic Country Cooking

October 13, 2015
By Holly Jennings

Holly's Cow Peas

It’s honest, simple food that speaks plainly of its origins, its parts, and aspirations. It’s the humblest of food that fit for a king, and it’s startlingly delicious.

Like Hank William’s “Lost Highway,” it’s direct and from the heart; it cannot tell a lie. Like the vernacular dogtrot house or Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water, it springs naturally from its place, its environment.

Dogtrot house

Dogtrot house



That’s what authentic country cooking is, and that’s what Holly’s Cow Peas are. Or, at least, they’re made in the spirit of authentic country cooking. The browned onion topping and garnish of chopped parsley probably never appeared on a bowl of cow peas back in the day, but this is now.

Country cooking’s unfussy ways are the secret to its success and the root of our modern day disappointment with it: More than any other type of cooking, it’s only as good as the ingredients used.

That’s why the food revival going on in the South right now is so

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Bean Cuit

October 01, 2015
By Holly Jennings

Bean CuitI wrote this post more than a month ago, when green beans were still plentiful. Then, before I had a chance to put the finishing touches on it, I got a story assignment, my first since moving to Richmond. (It’ll be published in the November/December issue of Edible Richmond Magazine). Of course I fell into that deep hole of writin’ and researchin’, like I always do when I get a chance to have a byline, so Bean Cuit had to wait. Hope there’s still lovely fresh green beans about somewhere. Considering how this method has you cook green beans to smithereens, I would think that a frozen stash of summer’s abundance will work just as well.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I may end up being one of those old people that you can’t let in a kitchen anymore because they’ll leave the stove on and burn the whole friggin house down. It’s going to suck to not be able to cook.

Several weeks ago I made a pot of slow simmered beans and peas: a couple of handfuls of pole beans from our 12-foot-tall Turkey Craw pole bean plant in our courtyard, the remaining bush beans from the plant in our community garden plot, and some shelled pink-eyed peas, also from our garden plot, added sequentially in descending order of size to a pot of water seasoned with a healthy teaspoonful of sea salt and even healthier spoonful of bacon grease. When the beans had become withered and dull in color and velvety soft, and when the water had transformed into nutritious pot liquor, I turned off the heat and went for a walk.

Upon returning, I thought I heard my husband in the shower, but at that moment I realized the sound I was hearing was the sound of the last amount of pot liquor evaporating into the air and sound of beans sizzling on the bottom of

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Succotash—More Than the Sum of Its Parts

August 23, 2015
By Holly Jennings

Succotash #1

Two versions of Succotash (#1 in the foreground)

Succotash is a perfect subject for this posting, my first on the foods of Virginia. You could argue that no dish is more Virginian than succotash, going way back, as many claim, to the Powhatan Indians, a tribe that lived along the eastern shore of what is now called Virginia. And it’s the dish that made me feel at home here during my first summer living in Richmond.

Last August, heading home from the Richmond airport on Route 5, past vestigial farm fields sprinkled among small businesses and light industry, I spied a tented farm stand on the left side of the road. After doing a quick maneuver, I pulled in next to the table of colorful produce.

“Do you add tomatoes to your succotash?” asked the farmer, as soon as I’d made my selection of tasseled ears of corn, shucked fresh lima beans, and bright red tomatoes.

Her question caught me off-guard. I hadn’t given the dish much thought, perhaps not since

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Magnified Procrastination

August 16, 2015
By Holly Jennings

I thought I was way past it: that thing of avoiding doing something a little bit, and then a little bit more, and then again and yet again, until the thing you’ve left untended and the space of silent absence that surrounds it becomes magnified and more awkward to return to by the day. I’m like that wayward parent who skips out on a child’s rearing, not stepping back in until years later. That’s me, stepping back into this blog one year and seven months from my latest posting.

I just vanished. The truth is I succumbed to full-time job and then to magnified procrastination.

It’s not a coincidence that the date of my last posting coincides with the same week that I started a full-time+ work-from-home editing job. I don’t know how some people find the energy to blog regularly (when those blog postings include recipe testing and development, writing, and photography) and keep a full-time job, let alone have children or any kind of social life. It’s impressive! I don’t have children or a hugely active social life. No, it was working full-time at a job at home alone that requires sitting in front of a computer and making heavy use of my brain that made even the idea of sitting longer still in front of the computer to write and post those writings, rather than getting out and about and speaking other humans, entirely unappealing.

That was then and now, happily, I’ve been able to cut back a bit on my day-job hours, so I’m ready to end the vanishing game.

For the time being I will not be resurrecting the cookbook club exactly as it was when I lived in Vermont; instead I will write periodic postings about the food of my surroundings, the Piedmont region of Virginia and sometimes beyond (most likely with the compass pointed a little bit east or west or further south). Books will continue to play a big role; they are how I make my living, one of the things I love dearly in the material world, and one of the things I love to share with you.

I will leave the information about starting and running a cookbook club in place on the blog for others to use who

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Best-Ever Wings

January 19, 2014
By Holly Jennings

Korean hot wings_72 dpi

photo by Heath Robbins

I wasn’t going to share this recipe with you. I’d already blown my wad on three permission requests for Jap Chae, Pork Ribs with Fresh Ginger, and Tofu and Clam Hot Pot, all equally good but in very different ways, and all from The Korean Table. But then I tried these wings, and I got greedy. Oh Tuttle Publishing, would you please grant me permission to use yet another recipe on the blog? Because of their generosity, I present you with the best-ever chicken wings. They are hot and

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Polar Vortex Food

January 07, 2014
By Holly Jennings

Taekyung Chung, co-author of THE KOREAN TABLE, stirring Tofu and Clam Hot Pot. (Photo by Mark Goodwin.)

Taekyung Chung, co-author of THE KOREAN TABLE, stirring Tofu and Clam Hot Pot. (Photo by Mark Goodwin.)

Right about now, whether you live in the north or the south, this is what you want to eat: a hot pot of steaming, spicy, and nourishing broth. This hot pot takes its name from pillowy soft tofu, but there’s much more going on in this soup besides sundubu (tofu): there’s pork, clams, egg, and beef via the broth. It’s both rich tasting and enriching to the body. Again, perfect vortex food.

This same dish was one of several served

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Summer Noodles with Vegetables

December 27, 2013
By Holly Jennings

I love it when members let me know what they think of DCCC picks. Most often, members relay their thoughts about a book in an email, which I then incorporate into my book reviews (the DCCC chapter in Denver has been consistently wonderful in this regard). All members, however, are invited to contribute postings, which can take just about any form (there’s information here about member-submitted postings).

Take this missive from Carlos Santa Coloma, one of the newest members to join DCCC. He lives in Florida, far from the location of the original DCCC (Vermont) and my new home base of Richmond, Virginia. He’s not letting that distance get in the way of his fun. He’s participating from a far, and has contributed a status report on his explorations of The Korean Table.

Carlos sent me his photo and greeting a some weeks back, so by now I imagine he’s become a Korean cooking pro. HJ

Photo by Carlos Santa Coloma

Photo by Carlos Santa Coloma

Hello. To members of DCCC who read this, greetings! I am a new member but I am a longtime avid, amateur cook. I love bold spicy flavors so Jerusalem, Entice with Spice and the current DCCC book, The Korean Table, have recipes that I really like. (Actually, exploring Ottolenghi’s cuisine is what brought me to this club.)

I offer a photo and a few comments on my first selection from The Korean Table. This is my version of Summer Noodles with Vegetables on page 132. I liked it because it has a lot of veggies—kind of like a salad and hearty meal at the same time,  and yes, it was quite tasty. These are flavors that I definitely want to explore. Next time I’ll ease up on the amount of somen . . . or figure it out better. It got too mushy. I think I need to cook the noodles less? Any ideas?

My wife complained that the meat was too cold. Other than that she liked it okay. The dish reminded her of cold sesame noodles. (She’s not one for effusive compliments. So I read her body language.) Today is the next day and I’m craving more from that exotic taste department. My youngest daughter who adores all things Asian is going to be jealous.

I think I’ll try to make kimchi with the Napa cabbage that was left over. The Kimchi Hot Pot on page 87 looks yummy . . .

—Carlos Santa Coloma



Pork Ribs with Fresh Ginger

December 06, 2013
By Holly Jennings

pork ribs with fresh ginger

photo by Heath Robbins

Have you ever sat back in your chair after enjoying a meal, allowing the flavors to linger in your mouth, reached for your water glass, and then regretted it? I have, until breaking myself of the habit. All it takes is one small sip of water to wash all of those wonderful flavors down the tubes, possibly never to be experienced again in exactly the same way.

This dish from The Korean Table, or rather its redolent sauce, which is the dish, is worthy of regret—should you lapse into knee-jerk mode and imbibe in a post-meal drink of H2O.

The base of the sauce is Sweet Soy Base Sauce, a soy sauce concoction that’s ramped up with brown sugar, wine, and aromatics (ginger, garlic, and black peppercorns). To that is added more wine and black pepper and a good amount of ginger and green onions. Then in go the pork ribs, carrots, pearl onions, and potatoes. The result is a rich, mellow, and well-balanced sauce that hits all the right notes: salt, sweet, acid, faintly peppery.

Soy sauce along with the pork supply the sauce with its umami, so it’s important to use good quality pork (translation: happy life, good diet, least stressful death possible). (I kinda hate throwing the term umami around because it’s an abstract one—like a lot of food flavor language—and most of the time I’m not exactly sure I could recognize it on my palate if I had to. But every so often I eat something that seems designed just to illustrate umami. And this is one of those foods. It’s deeply rich, complex, and satisfying in a completing savory way, and yet is as addictive as a sugary treat was to you as a kid—remember picking chunks of brown sugar out of the box as a kid? As far as I can tell, that’s umami. Scientifically, umami is provided by the amino acid glutamate, found in proteins, fermented foods of all types, and some vegetables.)

I shopped for pork ribs at my new local butcher shop—the Belmont Butchery, owned by Tanya Cauthen. When the man behind the counter handed me the ribs, I was happy to see they had a nice dark and meaty color to them (none of that tragic “other white meat” business, please). He said, proudly, that the ribs were from a Berkshire pig from a local farm. His comment, and his obvious love of food and love of talking food, made me realize that the only thing that could make me happier in my new home town of Richmond is if we lived in walking distance to Belmont Butchery.

I hope my description, and the enticing photo by Heath Robbins, are enough to convince you try this dish and savor it. And to find a butcher you can talk pig breeds with. That’s as much of a treat as the dish.

Pork Ribs with Fresh Ginger

(Adapted [very slightly!] from The Korean Table by Taekyung Chung and Debra Samuels)

Serves 4, amply

2½ pounds meaty pork ribs, separated into individual ribs
2½ cups water
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
7 ounces pearl onions, peeled (see Note)
¾ pound potatoes, cut into 2-inch cubes

¾ cup Sweet Soy Base Sauce (click here, and scroll down for recipe)
2 cups minced green onion (scallion)
2 ounces fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
½ cup red or white wine

  1. Place the ribs in a large bowl and cover with water. Let them sit for 20 minutes to remove excess blood. Drain and transfer the ribs to a large pot with a lid. Discard the soaking liquid.
  2. Add the sauce ingredients and the water to the pot. Cover and bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, or until tender. Add the carrots and pearl onions and continue cooking, with the lid on, for 10 minutes. Add the potatoes can continue cooking until the vegetable are soft, about 10 minutes more.
  3. With a slotted spoon remove the ribs and vegetables and transfer to a serving bowl. With a spoon, skim any oil from the surface of the sauce.
  4. Cook the sauce for another 10 minutes or so over medium-high heat, or until the sauce is thickened. Pour the sauce over the ribs and vegetables. Serve in wide shallow soup bowls with plain white short-grain rice on the side.

Note: Peeling pearl onions is extremely finicky work, unless you give them a pre-peel blanch. Trim the root ends of the onions, then blanch the onions in boiling water for about 30 seconds and transfer them to a bowl of ice water. Pinch the onions at the stem end to pop them out of their skin. If they don’t slip out, use a paring knife to remove the skin.

(Recipes and photography from The Korean Table by Taekyung Chung and Debra Samuels. Photography by Heath Robbins. Recipe for and photograph of Pork Ribs with Fresh Ginger reprinted with the express permission of Tuttle Publishing,