Most Delicious Deviled Eggs Sunday, Apr 20 2014 

Originally posted on Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises:

Spring Flowers

I took the above photograph a few weeks ago at the Chapel Hill Farmer’s Market. It was a rainy Saturday morning, overcast and cool. The light can be so nice on days like that. I just love this photo, but I can’t claim too much credit. At this farmer’s market, like many, there was not much to do. Just point and shoot! I would really like to take photography classes. (In my spare time! Ok – maybe a reward for when I complete my second book proposal.)

 

These deviled eggs are amazing. It’s very important to puree the yolk mixture completely, and really I prefer using a sieve or tamis. This prevents lumps and makes the mixture so much smoother as well as prettier. This is another one of those recipes that there are very few ingredients which makes the technique is so important. 

I made these once for…

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Spring Flowers and New Beginnings Sunday, Apr 20 2014 

spring flowers

In honor of long-awaited spring, I thought I would share a few photos I’ve recently taken of lovely  flowers. After our long, harsh winter, it’s so nice to see these vibrant bursts of color. The words “the birth of spring” are trite and over-used this time of year. It’s certainly not great writing — but doesn’t that sound just about perfect when you look at these amazing miracles of nature?

Bon Printemps, Y’all 

Virginia

spring flowers http://www.virginiawillis.com

spring flowers on  http://www.virginiawillis.com

spring flowers at http://www.virginiawillis.com

spring flowers at http://www.virginiawillis.com

spring flowers http://www.virginiawillis.com

 

If you need a spring recipe to accompany your spring flowers, please make sure to check out my column Down-Home Comfort on Food Network.

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, virginiawillis.com. Thanks so much.

Please keep up with me on Facebook , Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Copyright © 2014 Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc.

Down-Home Comfort with Red-Eye Gravy and Deadlines Friday, Feb 28 2014 

Grits with Country Ham and Red Eye Gravy on Down-Home Comfort on Food Network

I’ve got a stack of books I’m in love with and can’t wait to share with you – Summerland by Anne Quatrano, Cooking Light’s Global Kitchen by Dave Joachim, Latin American Street Food by Sandra Gutierrez, just to name a few….But, my friends, I’m on deadline for my next book with Ten Speed Press, titled Lighten Up, Y’all.

It’s due March 17 and I have to stay super focused.

So, this is more of a catch-up than a proper post. Testing has been going really great – I am loving the recipes, as are my guinea pigs. How about a Lightened Up Cream Cheese Brownies, Macaroni and Cheese, AND Old-Fashioned Pot Roast?!

I’m especially excited because I requested this next book to be paperback — and less than $25. I want people to cook from my books and want this one to be as accessible as possible. It will have 100 recipes and over 75 extraordinary photographs by my dear friend, the beautiful and talented Angie Mosier.

There’s been a good bit going on — I’m working with IdeaLand and Pixie Wizard on a new website that will be AWESOME. I’m thrilled with their work so if you need someone to work on your corner of the web, make sure to check them out.

I’ve got lots of events and classes lined up for spring; please check out my events page. (Summer will be up soon.)

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The big news is that Down-Home Comfort on FoodNetwork.com is a BIG success. I’m heading into a photo shoot for the summer Down-Home Comfort posts as soon as my manuscript is finished.

This week I am sharing a recipe for Stone-ground Grits with Country Ham and Red Eye Gravy.

So, please forgive the sound of crickets from my own blog — and in the meanwhile, please follow Down-Home Comfort  on FoodNetwork.com – and, help a sister out – please like, pin, share, and tweet!

Bon Appétit Y’all!
VA

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, virginiawillis.com. Thanks so much.

Keep up with me on Facebook , Twitter, and Pinterest.

Copyright © 2014 Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc.

Atlanta Snow 2014: Heat Things Up with Curried Wings Thursday, Jan 30 2014 

Atlanta 

Curried Chicken Wings - www.virginiawillis.com

Atlanta got hit with 2-inches of snow and the world stopped. Literally. For 18-hours. It’s been all over the national news and everyone is in disbelief. If you you think it’s as simple as Southerners not being able to drive in the snow – you’re wrong…. However, I am not here to talk about politics, I am here to get you to cook and this week I’m heating things up with one of my favorite wing recipes, Curried Wings with Peach Dipping Sauce.

ATLANTA SNOW WWW.VIRGINIAWILLIS.COM

This photo was on the main street in my neighborhood, not technically within the city limits of Atlanta.

Before I start winging it, I want to let you know I am featuring Pimento Cheese and Crab Dip in my Food Network column Down-home Comfort that will pop up online on Friday, so stay tuned for those recipes for your Superbowl party. (You can sign up for the column RSS feed here.) Today, I am sharing with you one of my favorite recipes for Curried Chicken Wings that I am certain you will love – they are lip-smacking, finger-licking good.

Bon Appétit Y’all!
VA

Curried Chicken Wings - www.virginiawillis.com

Curried Chicken Wings with Peach Dipping Sauce
Makes about 24

Madras curry is a fairly hot curry blend, most often deep red from a heavy amount of powdered chile. Oddly enough, for a region that until recently considered any flavor other than bacon fat to be exotic, there is a history of curry in the South, which entered our region through the seaports of Savannah and Charleston.

Wings
3 pounds chicken wings (12 to 14 whole wings)
1 teaspoon Madras or spicy curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 to 3 jalapeños, cored, seeded, and very finely chopped, plus more for garnish
2 cloves garlic, very finely chopped
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Dipping Sauce
1/2 cup plain 2% Greek-style yogurt
3 tablespoons peach preserves
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce, or to taste
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cilantro sprigs, for garnish

To prepare the chicken wings, cut off the wing tips (reserve to make stock), and halve the wings at the joint. In a large bowl, combine the wings, curry powder, turmeric, cayenne, soy sauce, canola oil, jalapeños, garlic, salt, and pepper. Toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or overnight.

Meanwhile, to make the sauce, combine the yogurt, preserves, and hot sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until serving. Remove the marinated wings from the refrigerator and let come to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil, then set a large wire rack on the foil. (I don’t like to use a nonstick baking liner on the baking sheet in this instance because the curry can stain the silicone.)

Spray the rack with nonstick spray. Transfer the wings without crowding to the prepared rack. Bake until the wings are deep brown and the juices run clear, turning once, 15 to 20 minutes per side. (If you like charred bits, after the 40 minutes, turn the oven on to broil for about 5 more minutes.)

Taste the yogurt dipping sauce and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Garnish with cilantro and serve the hot wings with the dipping sauce on the side.

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, virginiawillis.com. Thanks so much.

Keep up with me on Facebook , Twitter, and Pinterest.

Snow Photo by Barb Owens & Wing photo by Helene Dujardin

Copyright © 2014 Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc.

Best Winter Squash Recipes: Cozy Comfort Wednesday, Jan 22 2014 

 

Winter Weather 

pan seared winter squash on www.virginiawillis.com

Wintery mix and snowy weather call for cozy, comforting foods. One of my absolute favorite recipes when I was a little girl was Roast Acorn Squash. Mama would halve the squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. She’d fill the scooped out center with a thick pat of butter, amber maple syrup, and chopped pecans and roast the halves until perfectly tender. The buttery syrup would seep into the squash and create a  magical mash, closer to dessert than a healthful vegetable.

Winter Squash Glossary on www.virginiawillis.com

Clockwise, starting at bottom left: Delicata, Acorn, Kabocha, and Butternut Squash

I’m still a huge fan of winter squash, although my recipes are now a bit less decadent. Winter squash are earthy, creamy, and rich – the definition of cozy comfort. Many varieties are available year-round, but their natural season runs from late summer to mid-winter. Many people gravitate towards acorn squash because they are familiar with it, but there are many other flavors and textures. Sure, they are all quite similar, but just different enough that I want you to give them a try. In fact, except for spaghetti squash, virtually any winter squash, including pumpkin, can be substituted for another in any recipe, from main dish to side dish to dessert. Here are a few of my favorites.

Delicata – Sweet and thin-skinned, this winter squash is quick cooking and very useful. The cream colored skin has dark green stripes in the ribs. My favorite way to cook this is to thinly slice it and roast it, seeds and all, to make delicata chips.

delicata squash on www.virginiawillis.com

Acorn – Sweet and nutty, the most common acorn squash are dark green in color, sometimes tinged with a bit of orange or yellow. The flesh is pale yellow and somewhat fibrous. As the name suggests, it is shaped much like an acorn. It has distinct ridges and a fairly tough skin, making it difficult to peel.

acorn squash on www.virginiawillis.com

Butternut – This is one of the easiest of all the winter squashes to work with because its smooth skin just pares away with a paring knife or vegetable peeler. Also, they keep well even once they have been cut upon – meaning, I shop for a large one, use what I need, and wrap the rest. It will easily last a week or so and can be carved on and be part of more than one meal. The long slender neck of the squash is perfect for cubing and I roast the bulbous end, skin and all, as in the recipe below.

Kabocha - Kabocha is the generic Japanese word for squash. It has a green, bluish-gray streaked rind and the flesh is deep yellow. Kabocha squash has a rich sweet flavor, and can be a bit dry when cooked. The outer skin is pretty tough so follow my instructions for handling rutabagas to cut these hard-skinned squash.

kabocha squash on www.virginiawillis.com

This week, I am sharing a vibrant, beautiful, and tasty recipe for Pan-Seared Winter Squash with Maple Syrup and Pecans. Check these recipes out, too:

Speaking of comforting foods for winter weather, I am having a great time with my column on FoodNetwork.com called Down-Home Comfort. (You can follow  the Down-Home Comfort feed on FN Dish with this link.) Stay tuned later this week for my Fried Chicken with Rice and Black Pepper Gravy!

Believe it or not, I am currently working on my next batch of posts that will run this summer. Please help me out and answer this poll:

Bon Appétit Y’all!
VA

Pan Seared Winter Squash - www.virginiawillis.com

Pan-Seared Winter Squash 
Serves 4

2 tablespoons canola oil, more if needed
1 acorn squash, cut into eighths
4-6 1/4-inch thick slices of butternut squash
1 small red onion, stem end trimmed and root attached, cut lengthwise into eighths
2 bay leaves, preferably fresh
2 thyme sprigs, preferably fresh
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1-2 tablespoons chopped pecans
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 350°F. Brush a large skillet with oil and heat over medium heat. Add squash wedges without crowding and cook on both sides until mottled and browned, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate. (You will need to sear the squash in batches.) Repeat with remaining oil, squash, and onion. Return all squash and onion to the skillet and season with salt and pepper. Tuck the herbs about the skillet and transfer to the oven. Bake until tender to the point of a knife, about 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and drizzle over the maple syrup and sprinkle over the pecans. Return to the oven to warm the syrup and lightly toast the pecans, about 5 minutes. Remove the herbs and serve immediately.

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, virginiawillis.com. Thanks so much.

Keep up with me on Facebook , Twitter, and Pinterest.

All Photos by Virginia Willis. Copyright © 2014 Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc.

Down-Home Comfort on FoodNetwork.com Wednesday, Jan 8 2014 

slow cooker brunswick stew

Food Network

I’m thrilled to announce that I have a new weekly column on FoodNetwork.com!

It’s called Down-Home Comfort and will feature user-friendly, seasonal recipes that will make your mouth water! I am honored to be able to promote Southern food and cooking and ecstatic to be a part of presenting these foodways to a very broad audience. While I will certainly feature some classic, indulgent recipes like Fried Chicken and Macaroni and Cheese, I am very excited to show that Southern food is a living, growing cuisine, and not all Southern food is — or has to be — unhealthy.

I kicked off the series last week with Collard Greens with Whole Grain Cornbread.

This week’s post is Slow Cooker Brunswick Stew– the perfect antidote to a Polar Votex. The other exciting piece of this is that I am shooting the photos, as well. I love learning and growing; it’s so exciting!

Please sign up for the feed and stay tuned on Facebook and Twitter.

I’m getting back on track with my own blog, so look for new posts in the next few weeks! In the meanwhile, please enjoy some Down-Home Comfort.

Bon Appétit Y’all!
VA

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, virginiawillis.com. Thanks so much.

Photo credit – Virginia Willis

Copyright © 2014 Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc.

Lifelong Learning: One Soufflé at a Time Monday, Nov 25 2013 

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I can’t describe how proud I am of this photograph. I’ve previously written about my admiration for my mentor and teacher, Anne Willan in a post titled The LaVarenne Way. I was recently able to be her sous chef at Rancho la Puerta and it was such an honor and privilege to assist her, once again. She graciously insists we teach together, but I know better. I may be an accomplished chef and food writer, but with Anne I am the constant student. She’s had an amazing career and each and every time I am in the kitchen with her I learn something.

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I admit I take it personally when folks don’t realize what an enormous contribution Anne has made to the world of food, cooking, and food-writing — or even sometimes who she is. Those who are in the know are also in awe. In May, Anne was inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s Cookbook Hall of Fame for her body of work, which includes 40 cookbooks and a 26-part PBS program. The list of LaVarenne alumni goes on and on — Amanda Hesser, Alex Guarnaschelli, Tanya Holland, Steve Raichlen, Kate Krader, and Gale Gand are just a few.

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All those folks may be in media and on TV, but that’s the thing, Anne is, as one review stated, “not the next Food Network Star.” Indeed, she is not, but without her there wouldn’t be one.

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Anne’s latest book is her memoir called One Soufflé at a Time. In it she documents her wonderful, wondrous life in food. It’s peppered with stories of smuggling truffles, as well as the birth of LaVarenne Pratique, the culinary masterpiece that was eventually translated into 9 languages and sold over 1 million copies. (It’s out of print and much sought after on e-bay. However, it will be available as an e-book soon. Make sure to “Like” Anne Willan on Facebook to hear about the release.

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Born and raised in England, she attended Oxford University and graduated with a degree in Economics. Her scores were not stellar and her father suggested she attend secretarial school. Instead, she thought she’d do something different and studied at Le Cordon Bleu. She went on to cook for the Van der Kamps at Chateau de Versailles where she cooked for British royalty, French aristocrats, and Heads of State. She later became the Food Editor for the Washington Star and an editor for Gourmet Magazine. In 1975, encouraged by her dear friends Julia Child and James Beard, she founded the Parisian cooking school LaVarenne, the first bilingual French cooking school in Paris. Whether you recognize her name or not, Anne Willan and LaVarenne were hugely impactful in popularizing French cuisine to the American public. She demystified classic French culinary technique for regular people who love food. Her recipes and instructions are clear and direct, much like Anne.

The reviews of One Soufflé at a Time have been been solid:

“Ms. Willan tells the story of her life—interspersing it generously with recipes, classic French and otherwise—in an easygoing, readable style, full of anecdote and insight. Along the way, she lets us intuit, rather than informing us, just what an influential figure she has been.” — Colman Andrews, Wall Street Journal

“When Julia Child introduced me to her dear friend, Anne Willan, she said, ‘You must get to know Anne, she is remarkable!’ Julia was almost right: Anne is extraordinary! For those of us who love Anne and have admired – and benefited – from her work (she trained some of my favorite chefs and editors), this memoir is filled with insights, lessons, inspiration and so many tales of adventure. And for those of you who are just meeting Anne, you’re lucky – you have a treat in store.”–Dorie Greenspan, author of Around My French Table and co-owner of Beurre & Sel cookies

..a memoir inundated with easy-to-follow recipes for classic French foods than a regular cookbook, the book reinforces what I’ve suspected all along: Storytelling is the best way to teach.” Praised as a “Book worth Buying” by Saveur Magazine

I have to be honest and admit I haven’t quite finished it. I’m savoring it like a French buttery sablé, enjoying bits at a time, sneaking reads in between a slew of deadlines. In it I hear Anne’s clear, strong voice and I feel like I am the constant student, joyfully learning once again.

In honor of Thanksgiving, I wanted to share Anne’s recipe for Moroccan Roast Turkey found in One Soufflé at a Time. I actually originally tested this recipe as an editorial assistant — over 15 years ago for her cookbook Cooked to Perfection. It’s positively delicious and like much of Anne’s work, has stood the test of time. If you’re wanting to try something a little different this Thanksgiving week, I can’t think of anyone else to trust.

Bon Appétit Y’all!
VA

MOROCCAN SPICED TURKEY
Serves 8

A 10-pound/4.5 kg turkey
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 cup/100 g slivered almonds, very finely chopped
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 onion studded with 6 whole cloves
2 tablespoons softened butter

For basting
1/2 cup/110 g honey
2 cups/500 ml chicken stock, more if needed
String for trussing

1. Heat the oven to 350F and set a shelf low down. Spread the chopped almonds and sesame seeds in a single layer in a shallow pan and toast them in the oven, shaking the pan occasionally, until golden, 8-10 minutes. Set aside to cool. Leave the oven on.

2. In a small bowl, mix the ground cinnamon, cumin, coriander, ginger and cloves with the salt and pepper. Rub both the skin and cavity of the turkey with the spice mixture. Set the bird on its back in a roasting pan and spread the skin with softened butter. Put the whole onion inside the turkey and tie it in a neat shape with string. Warm the honey and half the stock in a small pan and pour this over the bird.

3. Roast the turkey in the heated oven until it is golden brown all over and the meat starts to shrink from the drumsticks, 2 1/2-3 hours. During cooking, turning it on one side, then the other, and finally returning it to its back. The turkey is done when you lift it with a two-pronged fork, juices from the cavity run clear, not pink, and when you rotate a drumstick it will feel pliable not rigid. During roasting, baste the bird often and, when the juices begin to brown, add the remaining stock. Dilute with more stock towards the end of cooking if needed as that the honey scorches easily.

4. About 15 minutes before the turkey is done, take it from the roasting pan and strain the pan juices into a small saucepan. Skim off the fat and boil the juices to reduce them if necessary — there should be about 1 cup/250 ml of this glaze. Stir in the toasted sesame seeds and almonds. Return the turkey to the roasting pan, spread the glaze over the top, and continue roasting, basting very often, until the skin is dark golden brown and crisp, 10-15 minutes.

5. Transfer the turkey to a carving board or platter, cover it loosely with foil and let stand 10-15 minutes. Before serving, discard the strings and onion from the cavity.

Buy Grits by Short Stack Editions. And, if you buy any of my books from your independent bookstore or online, I’ll be happy to send you a signed bookplate!

Please keep up with me on Facebook and Twitter.

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, virginiawillis.com. Thanks so much.

Photo credit – Lisa Ekus

Copyright © 2013 Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc.

Get Your Grit On: Short Stack and SFA Grits Muffins Friday, Nov 8 2013 

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I love grits. I am a Grits Missionary. Folks tell me they don’t like grits and I tell them they haven’t had the right grits.

I like grits so much I wrote a little book about them that’s coming out in a few weeks. It’s a little collectible booklet by Short Stack Editions. Short Stack is a series of small-format cookbooks about inspiring ingredients, authored by America’s top culinary talents.  Each edition is a collectible, single-subject booklet packed with recipes that offer ingenious new ways to cook your favorite ingredients. They are  beautifully designed, hand-stitched, and retail for only $12. I am thrilled  to be a part of something so innovative in publishing and honored to be in such good company.

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To be able to write about grits is a dream come true. I can preach the gospel of grits beyond the Mason Dixon line! My grandmother fed my mother and her siblings grits for breakfast each morning when they were children. She would fill the plates to the brim. To this day, my mama has cheese grits every morning without fail.

I come from grits-loving people.

My short stack has over 20 recipes for grits of all kinds. I’ve got old-timey Southern recipes for grits including Cheese Grits Casserole, Nassau Grits, Garlic Cheese Grits, and my version of Shrimp and Grits. I’ve also got Italian polenta inspired recipes like Rabbit in Red Wine with Sage Grits and Baked Grits with Sausage Ragu. I share recipes for Caribbean-style savory grits with Fish Stew and Jamaican style sweet breakfast grits. I went crazy and mashed grits up with recipes from other cultures — I have a recipe for Chinese Congee made with grits not rice, and with the Grits and Pork Tamales below, in which the traditional corn product masa, is replaced with grits.

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Or, with these idlis, a traditional Indian steamed lentil bread I replaced the traditional accompanying grain, rice with grits. These are served with Spiced Okra and Tomatoes. Crazy, I tell you, I got to go crazy! Theses recipes may be out of the box, but every last one of them are absolutely delicious. It was very freeing to shake loose convention and just get gritty-with-it.

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My grits book explains the difference between hominy grits and stone-ground grits as well as the difference between polenta and grits. (There’s not much.) We include a source list of grits to try and chat a bit about the difference between yellow and white corn, as well as cormneal and grits. That little book is packed!

Then, in the midst of all of this, I was asked to cook the grab-and-go breakfast at the Southern Foodway’s Alliance Symposium. Director John T. Edge stipulated that whatever I served needed to be able to stand up to the excesses of the night before….I knew we needed starch and fat.

Typically, the grab and go is a breakfast sandwich or a biscuit. And, I might add it’s for about 400 people so make ahead was a must. I contemplated a few different dishes, but then I saw the light.

What could possibly be better than Cheese Grits Casserole? Who doesn’t like cheesy-baked goodness? I added a bit of sausage and bread to fill the boozy bellies. We made them in muffin cups so they would be grab and go and served heirloom apples on the side. Word on the street is that they were a huge success. It was such an honor to cook for this esteemed bunch, and I am glad everyone loved them so much.

Grits proverb 1: Grits are good and good for you.

Grits proverb 2: Grits will cure what ails you. 

I hope you enjoy this recipe for my SFA Cheese Grits Casserole Muffins. And, I hope you’ll consider buying my Short Stack Grits book, too.

It’s my Grits Missionary Bible.

Bon Appétit Y’all!
VA

PS Lots of BIG news coming – including a great, new gig on Comfort Food that launches in the new year. Details to come! Please keep up with my on Facebook and Twitter.

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Many thanks to John Currence and his staff for helping me get the job done and make 500 cheese grits casserole “muffins.” They did a great job and I couldn’t have done it without them.

SFA Cheese Grits Casserole “Muffins” 
Makes 8

Use extra stiff paper liners for these and understand they don’t actually come out of the paper like a baked muffin, and still need to be eaten with a spoon. I think they will be excellent for the holidays with guests and company. And, if you don’t want to make individual servings, you can always bake this in a buttered casserole dish. Simply increase the cooking time to 45 to 60 minutes.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups water
2 cups milk
1 cup coarse-ground grits
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
16 ounces country style breakfast pork or turkey sausage
2 slices challah or egg bread, cubed
1 1/2 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese (about 6 ounces)
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 jalapeño chile, seeded and finely chopped
2 green onions, white and green parts, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a jumbo muffin tin with cups. In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the water and milk and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir in the grits and return to a boil. Season with salt and pepper. Decrease the heat to low, and simmer until creamy and thick, 45 to 60 minutes.

While the grits are cooking brown sausage in a skillet until cooked through, about 8-10 minutes, breaking up the meat with the edge of your spoon.

Remove the grits from the heat. Add the cheese and 2 tablespoons butter.Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Add ¾ of the sausage, the eggs, cayenne, jalapeño, and green onions and 
stir until well incorporated. Scoop a heaping 1/2 cup of the mixture into each cup.

Meanwhile combine the remaining sausage with the cubed bread. Top each cup with a couple of tablespoons of the bread-sausage mixture. Bake until bubbly and golden brown, about 25-30 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool slightly before serving.

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, virginiawillis.com. Thanks so much.

Photo credits – Virginia Willis

Copyright © 2013 Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc.

The Dark Side: Five Recipes for Winter Greens Tuesday, Oct 15 2013 


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Summer produce is easy. Summer produce is the embodiment of an easy, breezy sunny day. Tomatoes are sliced. Okra only needs a short simmer or perhaps a bit of grilling. Fresh corn takes a quick dip in salted, boiling water and is eager and ready for a soft, melting knob of butter.

Fall brings wet mornings and long cool nights. The darkness of night lingers longer in the morning and quietly eases in earlier in the evening. As the days grow shorter, cabbage, kale, collards, spinach, Swiss chard, and mustard greens replace the tender lettuces and easy vegetables of spring and summer. The dark leafy greens of fall are more complex than sunny summer produce.

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Winter greens are members of the Brassica family and are noted for their bitterness. They need full, bold flavors to meet their match and test their mettle, like the red pepper flakes shown in the photo above. Yet, winter greens are also wonderfully versatile. The peppery heat of turnip greens are pungent and sharp when compared to the subtle grassiness of Swiss chard or the aggressive vegetal flavor of kale.

One troublesome aspect of cooking these nutritional powerhouses is that winter greens can be quite gritty. The best way to clean greens is to fill a clean sink with cold water, add the greens, and swish them around. The dirt will fall to the bottom of the sink. Lift the greens out, drain the sink, and repeat until the water is clear and the greens are free of dirt and grit.

As a helpful hint, if you don’t buy your produce from the local farmers market, look for the washed bagged greens sold in most supermarkets. These bagged greens can save a lot of time in the kitchen. After a day or so, make sure to blanch them in boiling salted water once you get them home so they don’t spoil in the bags. Once they’ve been blanched, you can store them 3 to 5 days in a sealable container in the refrigerator.

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Traditional Southern cooking cooks the life out of them. Oh, don’t get me wrong. Slow-cooked greens with some form of glistening fatty pig suspended in salty, smoky potlikker are the primary DNA of the taste memories from childhood. There’s nothing like a wedge of cornbread dipped in that rich, oily, green broth. However, it’s a real revelation when you understand you can cook greens 4 to 5 minutes, not 1 hour 45 minutes!

You may have avoided these nutritious greens in the past because of their bitter reputations and gritty nature, but when you balance their flavors with full flavored ingredients like garlic, red pepper flakes, creamy cheeses, smoked meat, and rich, crème frâiche —it’s easy to moderate their bitterness. Now is the time to celebrate the dark side this fall and welcome these beautiful greens into your kitchen.

Bon Appétit Y’all!
Virginia Willis

Mozz Greens Bruschetta

Mozzarella and Winter Greens Brushchetta
Makes 8

Fresh mozzarella is increasingly available in better stores and markets. This cheese is moist, soft, and delicate. It’s miles away from the hard pizza cheese. Mozzarella was originally made from water-buffalo milk, but now most fresh mozzarella comes from cow’s milk, both in Italy and here in the United States. Fresh mozzarella is normally sold in a container of water. It’s highly perishable, so refrigerate it in its liquid for no more than a few days.

1 baguette or Italian loaf
1 garlic clove, halved
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound tender dark greens, stems removed, leaves chopped
4 garlic cloves and mashed to a paste with 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shredded fresh mozzarella cheese
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the broiler. Slice the bread crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices and place on a baking sheet. Broil the toast about 4 inches from heat until golden brown, about 1 minute. Remove to a rack to cool.

Rub toasts with garlic on one side and lightly brush same side with about 1 tablespoon of the oil. Set aside.

Heat the remaining oil in a large heavy-bottom sauté pan over medium low heat. Add the garlic paste and cook, stirring constantly until fragrant, 45 to 60 seconds. Add the greens and season with salt and pepper. Sauté over medium high heat, stirring, until wilted and tender, about 3 minutes. Pour off any excess liquid and transfer to a large bowl. Stir in the mozzarella and taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Divide the greens between the toasted bread and serve immediately.

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Kale Tangle
Serves 4 to 6

1 to 2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
3 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 medium bunch kale (about 1 1/2 pounds), cleaned, tough stems removed and discarded, and leaves very thinly sliced in chiffonade
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the slightly damp ribbons of greens; season with salt and pepper. Toss once or twice, and then add the garlic. (I add mine after the greens to buffer the garlic from possibly burning.) Cook until the greens are bright green and slightly wilted, 3 to 4 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

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Vegetarian Collard Greens

Serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 sweet onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 medium bunch collard greens (about 1 1/2 pounds), stems removed and discarded, and leaves very thinly sliced in chiffonade
4 cups water
1 tablespoon smoked salt
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
Hot Pepper Vinegar, for accompaniment

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until soft and translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 45 to 60 seconds. Add the greens, water, smoked salt, pimenton, and apple cider vinegar. Season the mixture with pepper. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until the greens are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning with smoked salt and pepper. Serve immediately with the hot pepper vinegar on the side.

Smoky Slow-and-Low Mustard Greens
Serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 sweet onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, smashed to a paste
1 pound mustard greens, tough stems removed and chopped
2 cups fruity white wine (such as Riesling or Gewurztraminer)
4 cups homemade chicken stock or reduced-fat, low-sodium chicken broth
4 cups water
1 smoked turkey neck or drumstick
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 45 to 60 seconds.

Add the greens and cook until the greens are slightly wilted, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil; cook until reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Add the stock, water, and smoked turkey neck; season lightly with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil; decrease the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the greens are very, very tender, about 1 hour. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Ladle into warmed serving bowls with plenty of the flavorful broth. Serve immediately.

Spinach with Pine Nuts and Golden Raisins
Serves 4 to 6

1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup chicken stock low-fat, reduced-sodium chicken broth, heated
1/2 cup pine nuts
2 tablespoons pure olive oil
2 shallots, very finely chopped
2 pounds spinach, tough stems removed
Pinch red pepper flakes, or to taste
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the raisins in a small bowl. Pour over the heated chicken stock. Let rest to plump and rehydrate, 10 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the pine nuts in a large heavy-duty skillet over medium heat. Toast, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Remove to a bowl and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in the same skillet over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and cook until translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Increase the heat to high, add the spinach, and stir-fry until wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Drain the golden raisins, discarding the liquid or reserving for another use. Add the drained raisins, toasted pine nuts, and red pepper flakes.Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

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Braised Cabbage
Serves 4 to 6

This is another example of simple country cooking that would be equally at home cooked in a cast-iron skillet in the South or simmered in a cocotte on grandmère’s stovetop in France. Cabbage is an inexpensive vegetable, and if stored properly, will keep for weeks in the refrigerator.

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 medium head green cabbage, cored and thinly sliced (about 8 cups)
1/2 cup chicken stock or low-fat, reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 sprig of thyme
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large skillet, heat the bacon fat over medium-high heat until sizzling. Add the cabbage and saute until the cabbage starts to wilt, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock and thyme. Season with salt and pepper.

Decrease the heat to medium, and simmer until the cabbage is meltingly tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the sprig of thyme and taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, virginiawillis.com. Thanks so much.

Photo credits – Virginia Willis, Ellen Silverman, and Kathy Waites

Copyright © 2013 Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc.

Get out the Hat Rack! Wednesday, Jul 24 2013 


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Quick note to let you know I am actually not on vacation, but guest blogging on a couple of other sites. Click on the links and please check out Dianne Jacob’s Will Write for Food where I talk about being a food writer and wearing many hats. I am also blogging this summer for an organization near and dear to my heart and stomach, the Southern Foodway’s Alliance. We are featuring iconic summer foods through Labor Day. So far, we’ve had ice cream, corn, and this week is about tomatoes — and I make very clear my feelings on the purity of Tomato Sandwiches. (Next week, I am spilling the peas and the beans.)

Lastly, I was interviewed for HGTV’s Frontdoor and I’m now a guest blogger for Ty Pennington. I am honored and thrilled with these opportunities.

Soon, I will pop back over to this blog, too, but I wanted to share my new connections. Thanks so much for reading.

In the meanwhile, I have a very, very important question for you:

Bon Appétit Y’all!

VA

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, virginiawillis.com. Thanks so much.

Photo credit: Scott M. Porush

Copyright © 2013 Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc.

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