Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Charleston, SC -- To Have and to Hold

This wasn't a leisure trip, so NO, I did not eat at FIG or McCrady's although I hope to one day. We left Thursday afternoon from Atlanta and stopped in Columbia, S.C. at The Little Pigs BBQ. Since Bullet was with us, Jim went in and got some take-out. I walked Bullet around the kudzu enclosed parking lot listening to three black roosters try to out do each other while sitting atop a trailer in the back. We finally got a glimpse of them through the Zu and they were lined up in a row. Silly Roosters. We set up a nice little tailgate in the parking lot and feasted on BBQ, hush puppies and coleslaw. It was a little vinegar-y for me  (it was after all Carolina BBQ) but moist and flavorful.

Pressing onward, we met two toll booths and paid $2.50 to travel a 10 mile stretch from next-to-nowhere to nowhere. It seemed a little odd...we saw maybe 10 other cars on the road at 5 pm. Then we ran into a monsoon; you know the kind where you have to slow to 30 miles an hour just to see the car in front? After we got through that, it was pretty smooth sailing.  Finally, we made it to our destination and met up with sister Liz, Byron, niece Melissa and her fiance Rodrigo. We chatted a bit, but being old and tired we went to bed.

The next day we met up with the rest of Melissa's relatives, her father, his parents, his sister and husband, and her uncle Bruce, brother to Liz and me... confused? I was. Together (sans Melissa) we enjoyed some lunch at the Mustard Seed --part of the "dinewithsal" restaurant group LOL--  and headed over to her "White Coat" graduation from MUSC as a Physician's Assistant.

As graduations go, it was pretty standard. A small class (at least compared to Ga. Tech) around 75 grads I'd say, but I'm bad with math as I have stated here before. It was held in one of those new-fangled churches with the stage and sound system and all, but strangely enough there was very little light on the stage. No pictures, in other words. There were speeches, some sort of heartfelt, mostly boring and some just way too long (no matter what your position on the matter, have we not heard enough already about The Health Care Act?) but I'll grant  it was appropriate for the venue. I'd rather hear the ones about how hard they worked, how they supported one another, how they made lasting relationships. Anyway... that paragraph was a speech in itself. One last note, Liz commented to me, and I had noticed, all the young women looked alike! Sure, some were brunette, but all were fairly tall, slender, pretty, and had about the same hairstyle.  Seemed to be a comment on our culture; I'll have to ponder that.

Melissa and Rodrigo

Joe Moran, Melissa, Pam Pierson Moran, Jane and Steve Pierson

Mr. and Mrs. Pierson, Melissa and her Dad Steve

Melissa and Byron

So when all the graduation hugs and pictures were done, we headed back to Melissa's for an informal celebration.

STEPHEN is 21!

We all hung around catching up with one another and preparing food because we knew more people were coming for a graduation party later in the day, around 5-6pm.  Her Dad and his parents were staying in a hotel nearby and as they were leaving to freshen up, Melissa and Rodrigo pulled them aside and asked that they please come back, M and  R really wanted them to be there because.... they were getting married that evening!!!  Most of the reason it was planned this way is ALL of Melissa's family was there (except for cousins) and also, they wanted to start their lives together as Mel will be moving to another part of the state to start in her new job in September. Rodrigo will finish his studies in the CULINARY ARTS!!! in 2 semesters and split his time between Charleston and their new home.

The guests arrived and shared some food and wine, and when it seemed all were there, a wedding started! I believe there was an announcement made but it was all so exciting I can't say for sure.
Their friend Keranna was the officiant, and Rodrigo's niece and nephew, the attendants.

Emilio helping his son prepare (this picture is out of order and i got a headache trying to fix it)

The Bride and Groom (center) Kari (Rodrigo's sister left)  and Emilio his charming and handsome father, right
Some surprised guests!
People milling about smartly! Kari made the Tiramisu towers!

Rodrigo and Keranna
the Bride with the Mother of the Bride (above) and Father of the Bride (below)
Upon hearing there was to be a "surprise" wedding I thought... Who ever heard of such a thing? But I have to say, it was a lovely, heartwarming ceremony. What I saw was two young people so clearly in love,  equipped to overcome the obstacles life throws in our way over time.  I also saw and felt a room bursting with love and joy. It was perfect for them. It really was beautiful. I'm sorry about the people whose smiling faces aren't seen here. Melissa and Rodrigo know you were there!

We hear so much bad news these days, so many scary dreadful thoughts cross our minds in a world of too much instant information. This event gave such a joyful antithesis to all that, a respite that I think gave all of us hope and joy and a willingness to summon the courage to love and look for a fresh new day.

Rodrigo and Melissa, my personal wish for you is that your commitment to each other will strengthen each day, your love for each other will grow and that God's Peace which passes all our understanding abide in your hearts from this day forward.  God Bless You both.

Much Love,

See you soon!

Friday, August 13, 2010

What to do with Brioche?

TWO POSTS  in one day... wow!

I hate wasting food. If we have a few grapes fall into the bin in the refrigerator I'll always put them out for the squirrels and birds. Likewise with unused bread, but the giant mushroom shaped Brioche was a little large for that. And by the time I got around to figuring out what to do with it, it was a couple of days old. Which in, this case, is a very good thing.

Burg's French Toast adapted from A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg
3 large eggs
1c whole milk
1 T sugar
1t vanilla
pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
Canols or other flavorless oil
6-8 slices day old bread cut about 3/4 in thick
Pure maple syrup for serving

Into a shallow bowl or baking dish break the eggs and whisk together with the milk, sugar, vanilla, and nutmeg.

Then place your bread in to soak up all the goodness:

Flip so that both sides get to soak. Heat a good amount of oil in a skillet. You want to completely cover the bottom of the pan. Heat over medium high heat until you can feel the warmth. To test the oil, flick a little bit of the egg mixture in, if it sizzles you're good to go.

Carefully lower one piece of bread at a time into the oil. I used a large spatula because the pieces had become quite heavy and were about to break into bits. After a 1-2 minutes, flip and cook the other side.

When done, remove the pieces to a plate lined with a paper towel. Let them rest for a minute before serving.
Serve with warm maple syrup and anything else you'd like. We had a lot of fruit so I used that.

I think he liked it : )

See you soon.

Bouchon Croque Madame

As you undoubtedly know, a Croque Monsieur is a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. I don't know why it's called Croque Monsieur specifically, I mean, Madamoiselles and an occasional Madame might get a hankering for a grilled ham and cheese. I know I do. But we won't attempt to solve these mysteries today. A Croque Madame is like a Croque Monsieur on steroids  Lipitor. It's a grilled ham and swiss topped with a fried egg and Mornay sauce. It's the recipe Byron picked out when he and Liz visited for my birthday. Good job Byron!

Let's start with the bread. We are instructed to use Brioche or other egg based bread or Pain de Mie. Jim went to Whole Foods to pick up the ham and bread and came home with this:

When I was expecting something shaped more like a loaf and less like, say, a mushroom. So I made a trip to Alon's (a fine local bakery and gourmet food shop) and got these two: Brioche and Pain de Mie. Pain is bread and Mie is crumb- you figure it out.

Preheat your oven to 375. After slicing your bread,  place 2 oz (more or less) of ham on the slice, and don't you dare let any hang over the sides! Next place 1/2 ounce of swiss cheese on top of the slice. We made one with brioche and one with the pain de mie.

As you can see, L'escoffier police will be coming for me soon because my ham was hanging all over the bread. But it had been a long HOT day, so that's my excuse. Next, you melt 1 T unsalted butter in an oven proof nonstick pan and place the sandwiches (cheese side up - duh) in the pan to grill the bread. Once it is sufficiently browned, place the pan in the preheated oven to melt the cheese.

 I read this recipe over and over and never saw what happened to the top piece of bread. I had WSH read it and he said it must be open faced, then I showed him the picture. The instructions are either missing or so obtuse in the discussion of the number and types of pans you need they are unclear. ... sometimes I wish I was a cookbook editor. Anyway, this isn't rocket science. I heated another T of butter and browned the matching bread slices. When the cheese was melted I placed the "tops" on the sandwiches.

Next melt another T of butter in another ovenproof nonstick pan and when medium hot crack your eggs in. Cook until the bottoms are set then remove the pan to the oven to finish cooking until the whites are set.
When the eggs are done slide them on top of the finished sandwich. Ladel about 1/4 c of Mornay sauce on the whites of the eggs and over the sandwich without touching the yolk. Grind some fresh pepper on top and garnish with chopped herbs. I used chives, you could also use parsley.

The Bouchon cookbook suggests serving with french fries but having just celebrated my 55th that seemed like piling on. Obviously this is a knife and fork sandwich. It was very good. The mornay sauce (link to previous post with recipe) made it more than a sandwich, it was an elegant meal. Very rich and very delicious. We preferred the Pain de Mie because the Brioche added a slight sweetness that we felt wasn't necessary, but both were very good.

Other than the excursions to find the "correct" bread this was as short a Keller recipe as I've done.

See you soon!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Blessings upon us, the Bounty of Summer

Hi There! At last post Bullet was resting comfortably and having good days and some not so good. I am happy to say that she is hanging in there and seems comfortable, alert and any attention thrown her way is gladly received.

If you are interested, I had an artist named Rachael Rossman paint a beautiful watercolor portrait of Bullet which will be arriving and framed very soon. Here's the link. Bullet's health and comfort, are foremost in our minds as we count our daily blessings.

Also, I had yet another birthday! Wow.. how can that be? Anyway, Liz and Byron came down and we enjoyed a nice meal and a few glasses of wine together. Liz made me this FANTASTIC apron... I just love it. I wanted "something Aunt Bea would wear" but she gave it some panache like June Cleaver would wear. If you're too young to know who I mean, it really isn't important. If you can't tell from the picture, those are hearts and dogs with spots like Bullet's!!  Whew!  Liz was really glad Bullet pulled through (for lots of reasons)

Next to WSH's it looks like a prom dress!

Anyway, I only have little bit about food until I finish the next post, which was selected by Byron from the Buchon cookbook. It will be coming soon.

Remember the beauty of Summer and how blessed we are to be able to just go to a store, or stop by a stand get lovely, delicious items like these:

Strwberries, Blueberries, Cantaloupe and Watermelon are my favorite summer breakfast. You can make it a special dinner salad with a sprinkle of feta, some toasted almonds and your favorite dressing. I like a sweetish balsamic:

4 T Olive Oil
2 T Balsamic
1 T fig Balsamic (or other fruit insfusion)
1T Maple Syrup
1 t thyme leaves
salt and pepper.

It's really good

The peaches will become peach cobbler tonight!
More T. Keller soon I promise! Enjoy your days of summer goodness!
See you soon.

PS the Birthday Fairy brought me a very nice camera that happened to be designed in a such a way that my hand hit the functions menu every time I held it. So another is in the works.