Archive for the ‘American’

Aunt Peggy’s Bestever Cake

November 24, 2016
By Holly Jennings

Bestever Cake

 

The cake above is not just any cake—it’s not even just the bestever cake, it is the last thing I ate prepared by my late aunt Peggy. I got news of her sudden and unexpected death a few weeks ago. That night as I lay sleepless, recalling her, I remembered that she’d made this excellent cake for our family reunion, in June of 2015. She called it simply “bestever cake” and said it was ridiculously simple to make.

 

More memories of Peggy Jo Rose and her cooking flooded back. On a summer morning when I was eleven or so, Aunt Peggy gave me and my cousins a great gift: encouragement to go out into the world to do some work, with daring, if needed, in order to return home to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

 

“If you kids go pick sour cherries from Mr. X’s tree, I’ll make you a pie. Remember to ask him first. And pick a big bagful—I’ll need a lot for a pie.”

 

A pie in exchange for picking cherries was more than fair. We ran off to ask Mr. X ourselves, to figure out how to get up and down the tree ourselves, and to not neglect our work, if we wanted enough fruit for a large, mile-high pie.

 

We did get that pie, and it was the best pie I’ve ever eaten. Looking back, (more…)


Baked Green, and Not-So-Green, Tomatoes

October 16, 2016
By Holly Jennings

oven-baked-tomato-dinner_with-text

Leftovers from a dinner of oven-baked green and half-ripened tomatoes, roasted okra, and fried bacon, a happy threesome if there ever was one.

One evening, I burnt the tip of my left index finger while frying green tomatoes in a cast-iron pan. Instead of using a spatula to flip the cornmeal-dusted rounds, I got right in there, with my fingers. Now, a week and half later, the spot looks like the veneer on an old piece of furniture, yellowed and crackled, and feels like dried wax, as if I’d had a run-in with a molten candle instead of hot bacon grease.

 

The altered condition of my fingertip made me think of a film I saw some years ago called Illégal in which the main character, Tania, deliberately burns her fingertips on a hot clothes iron to obliterate her finger prints. She does this to avoid identification, after slipping into France for better work opportunities, and to avoid deportation, if she is found out.

 

This spring I applied for entry in the Global Entry program that allows for speedier clearance into the U.S. upon returning from foreign travel. As part of the application process, your photo is taken and your fingerprints scanned. I used it the first time this (more…)


Cream of Celery Soup with Roasted Fennel Bulb

October 01, 2016
By Holly Jennings

Cream of Celery Soup with Roasted Fennel

 

This soup has been patiently waiting in posting queue, and now its time has come.

 

I developed it early last winter to make use of a powerful fermented flavoring accent called Salted Herbs. But it never got airtime because my attention was soon drawn to other ingredients and their stories: first to black walnuts, which kept me busy for several weeks, musing about their strange beguiling flavor, and then to the mustard greens and cabbage that, after laying quietly, like dead things, in my garden plot over the winter, had, by (more…)


Maple Black Walnut Ice Cream

August 26, 2016
By Holly Jennings

Maple Black Walnut Ice Cream_2

 

This custard-style ice cream is for devoted black walnut lovers, and wannabe lovers. It gives a double dose of the nut’s unique flavor: First, toasted nuts are ground into a flour and steeped in the cream and milk to impart their flavor, sight unseen; second, at the end of churning, finely chopped toasted black walnuts are mixed in for crunch and another layer of flavor. A few extra steps are involved in making this ice cream—like tempering the egg yolks and reducing the maple syrup—but the results are worth it. Ever since researching the inimitable black walnut for (more…)


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 (more…)


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

Fallingwater

Fallingwater

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 (more…)


Bean Cuit

October 01, 2015
By Holly Jennings

Bean Cuit

 

I 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 (more…)


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 (more…)


Strawberry-Rhubarb Galette with Suet-Butter Pastry

June 28, 2012
By Holly Jennings

Filled with seasonal, locally grown strawberries and rhubarb, this galette recipe could be in the newest DCCC pick, Ripe, a gorgeous book devoted to 23 fruits and nuts. But it is not. I haven’t quite left Fat yet, the last DCCC pick. (The club seems to be on a trend of sensual, single word titles.)

After following author Jennifer McLagan’s method for preparing suet for use in pastry, found in Fat, I used it to make a pie. I fell in love with the crispy, flaky texture of the dough, and found it (more…)


The Best Chocolate Pudding

November 07, 2011
By Holly Jennings

The mission at Cook’s Illustrated is “to develop the absolute best recipes for all of your favorite foods.” Who can’t recall creamy chocolate pudding as a favorite food, if from a distant childhood past? The problem with those childhood versions, however, is that they lack the amount of dark chocolate oomph needed to appeal to our more sophisticated, adult palates.

After sourcing recipes spanning four decades, (more…)



css.php