Archive for the ‘By Ingredient’

The Jennings Sisters’ Boiled Custard

April 06, 2017
By Holly Jennings

 

Stir and chat. Chat and stir.

 

That is all you need to know to make a good batch of boiled custard. That and to completely disregard its name. If you bring boiled custard to a simmer, let alone a boil, you will have a lumpy scrambled mess on your hands.

 

The term boiled custard is an old-fashioned one that refers to the cooking process, done entirely in a pot over the heat, to distinguish it from its cousin, the set custard, which is gently baked, preferably in a water bath, to acquire a firm yet delicate texture. Today, boiled custard is more often called “stirred custard,” referencing the constant stirring required to ensure a smooth texture, or “soft custard” or “custard sauce,” describing its pourable, saucelike texture. Crème anglaise is a supreme example of this style of custard. In the South, though, the old-fashioned term lingers as does a particularly Southern way of enjoying it: as a traditional holiday beverage. Call it drinking custard. During the holiday season, you can find store-bought jugs of boiled custard in the dairy section of grocery stores, sitting right next to the eggnog, in some Southern states, Tennessee and Kentucky for certain. Leave it to Americans to transform an Old World dessert sauce the into a “big gulp.”

 

I know. It’s completely illogical to talk about southern boiled custard at the beginning of April, four months past its season, yet too early to capitalize on the strange Christmas in July phenomenon. But sometimes you need to run with what you’ve been handed, while the inspiration is still fresh.

 

At the end February, at a family gathering to celebrate my mother’s 80th birthday, my cousin Joseph, reminiscing about his grandmother’s cooking and holiday traditions, suddenly said, “Let’s make boiled custard!” Joseph, a Tennessean, was the sole family member there from my father’s side of the family—the Jennings side.

 

Joseph’s forty-six-year-old boyish enthusiasm is hard to resist, but (more…)


Okra—Now and Then, Again

September 22, 2016
By Holly Jennings

Hill Country Heirloom Red Okra

Hill Country Red Okra in my garden, mid-September

It was inevitable that I would to learn to how to prepare okra right about now. But that’s exactly how I knew it would be back when I planted okra seeds in my garden plot earlier this summer. That’s one of the great things about having a garden: it forces you to deal. If there is a vegetable you want to become familiar with in the kitchen, plant it in your garden. A pot in a courtyard or on a balcony will do just as well. Then, weeks, maybe months, later, the vegetable will have migrated from the soil to your kitchen counter, and finally into one of your cooking pots.

 

You may or may not have had ideas for the preparation of the vegetable when you planted it, and even if you did, a lot can happen along the way from seed to produce. I had pickles in mind when I planted my seeds, and, for that reason, of the two heirloom varieties I planted, Cajun Jewel and Hill Country Red, I was especially excited about the latter, described as (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…)


On the Verge with Salted Herbs

March 15, 2016
By Holly Jennings

Salted Herbs (photo by Sonia Lacasse)

Salted Herbs (photo by Sonia Lacasse)

 

There is comfort in stasis, in trees that are barren, and fields that are resting.

 

In those frozen, darker times, time is generous. You can make it your own and, with inexpensive switch-button illumination, it’s easy for everyone to make more of it.

 

Then comes the notion of soft rains falling—not yet falling, but soon, way too soon.

 

A frantic anticipation of springtime deadlines sets in: seeds must be ordered, seedlings started, ground prepared, planting schedules established. Time is no longer your own.

 

Fall harvest is the other time Mother Nature snaps a whip. Sometimes she offers extensions, but not always, and not any that you can count on.

 

Once the food from the garden is harvested, most of the work shifts to the kitchen, my first home. Cleaned and prepped, then blanched and frozen, dried, canned, or fermented, there’s a lot of work to be done, but the payoff is greater.

 

During the unpressured off-season months, all that you need to do to enjoy your hard work is (more…)


Leap Year Black Walnut Parsley Pesto

February 25, 2016
By Holly Jennings

Black Walnut Parsley Pesto

 

Usually, black walnuts are folded into fudge, cakes, pies, ice cream, and other sweets, where their wonderfully pungent and earthy flavor off-sets cloying sweetness, and where sweeteners round out some the nut’s sharper notes.

 

But, when eaten out of hand, the flavor of black walnuts, America’s own native nut, can be something to get used to, especially to the unschooled palate. In comparison, the familiar flavor of the reserved English walnut is facile; black walnuts require a training regimen. Black walnuts make you earn their respect.

 

Make this pesto part of your training regimen. Though it’s easy to fall in love with black walnuts when your introduction to them is in a lovingly prepared dessert, this savory treatment is just as irresistible, especially when paired with mushrooms and soba.

 

If you’re developing a taste for black walnuts, you might start with (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…)


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 (more…)



css.php