Southern Mac and Collards

Good day Crocks,

Last night I had a trial run of some dishes for my upcoming guest chef night at Elliot Borough Mini Bar. I am super nervous because number 1: I am no chef. The people who have participated in this in the past are all cooks from restaurants which is extremely intimating. Number 2: I am a…crocker? which is different because the bad boy does all the work, I’m just there to throw it all in. Number 3: I relate more to a writer who strictly writes about food and now here I am on the other end. So, yes nervous, but also thrilled about the opportunity and wouldn’t want to cook at any other establishment! So the rules of last night: You couldn’t say a dish was ‘good’. I needed some real feedback with describing words and solutions to what the dishes needed. Here’s how it went:

                                                 Crockpot Mac and Cheese

IMG_0018Ingredients
-Medium HT Traders shell pasta
-1 stick of butter, melted
-2 eggs, beaten
-4 cups of cheese: American, Cheddar, Gouda, Gruyère
-1 can evaporated milk
-1 can condensed cheddar cheese soup
-1 cup 2% milk
-Salt and Pepper to taste
Yields 6-7 servings
Cook pasta according to package. Transfer to crockpot and stir in melted butter.IMG_0022 In a separate large bowl, combine eggs, cheese, evaporated milk, cheese soup, and milk.IMG_0020 Pour mixture over macaroni in crockpot and cook on low for 3 hours.IMG_0023IMG_0028

(Original recipe calls for only putting the first 3 cups of cheese in crockpot and then adding the last cup at the very end just on top and sprinkling with paprika.) So my personal assessment, I wish the macaroni kept some of the creamy consistency it started with. If you look at the last two pictures, picture one is before the mixture cooked for three hours and it was very soupy. Picture two, the macaroni soaked up most of the liquid and the cheese separated a bit. However, Jayman and Raymond both agreed that they preferred this texture better. I believe Ray even stated, “This is more of a high end macaroni dish”. Katie had me add more salt and pepper which I agreed it needed and then Louise had a good recommendation, she wanted more sharpness. The cheeses cooked together to create a smooth taste and she wanted more of a bite from some sharp cheddar. And sweet Cath said her palate was too immature to know what we were talking about and she just really liked it. Thanks Cath I love you. Moving on to the collards.

                                                    Crockpot Collard Greens

Ingredients
-1 ham hock, 2lbs
-Collards 4.5lbs=~3bunches
-2 tablespoons Olive oil
-1 yellow onion, medium diced
-3 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
-1 cup chicken broth -1 tablespoon cider vinegar
-1 tablespoon granulated sugar
-salt and pepper
-Red pepper flakes
Yields 6-7 servings IMG_0004 IMG_0002 Place dat ham hock in the middle of the crockpot and well come back to it. Side note, ham hocks are awesome. I’ve been somewhat naïve of them as I marched straight up to the butcher asking for one and he had to redirect me to the prepackaged section. They add so much flavor and make me feel like I’m a Southern grandma cooking for my family of 10 on a Sunday with the dogs barking on the front porch. IMG_0006Thoroughly run collards under warm water in the sink to make sure all dirt and grit washes off, dry them, and set aside.

Next, heat olive oil in a large pot on the stove top. Once collards are dry, use your hands to remove collard leaves from stems and throw stems away. Allow plenty of time for this process because separating through 5 pounds of collards mimics paddling upstream in a kayak. I was going strong, but wasn’t making a dent and couldn’t see the dock. Worst part, my olive oil was burning! During this time I thought of Mama Connie and how she always had collards simmering on her stove top. I respect you so much more Mama Connie for all those long hours you did in the kitchen! Tip: Prepare the collards first and then heat your olive oil. Once olive oil is hot, add in the onions and garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes until onions are clear. Next add in chicken broth and increase heat to bring mixture to a boil. I used chicken stock I had saved from a  previous crockpot meal. Remember to always save the juice!IMG_0008 IMG_0010 Stir in collards a handful at a time, adding more as they wilt. I made the mistake of using too small a pot so I had to transfer some collards out to the crockpot prematurely to make more room. So again, make sure you use a very large pot. Also, I noticed the bottom of the pan was burning a bit and I wanted more stock to pour in, but had used it all. I had to substitute some white wine in its place just to give the pan more juice. Once all collards are in the pot, turn off the heat and add 1 tablespoon of vinegar, the sugar, salt and pepper, and red pepper flakes (your preference on measurement depending on desired spicy level).IMG_0012 Transfer all to the crockpot and cook on low for 3 hours, until the greens are very tender.IMG_0013 IMG_0015 After doing some errands and coming in the back kitchen door after a run, I knew something was right. The kitchen smelled like the Terrill’s kitchen. I’ll always think of that kitchen of home to the best Southern dishes and casseroles I’ve ever had. I loved eating dinner over there growing up because I was a deprived Southern child growing up with two Yankee parents who did not cook things like pineapple casserole or green bean casserole. (Mom, Dad-just kidding, just making the story more intense.) As I lifted the lid and lowered my face into the pot, Southern Sunday scents of a home cooked meal swirled in my nostrils and my mouth began to water. The last step is to take out the ham hock and cut it into bite-sized pieces and then stir it back into the greens. Now for the taste test.IMG_0026I wasn’t sure if the collards needed more sugar. Jay said it just needed a little more salt so I let him do the honors. Ray said he is used to collards being drenched in vinegar to the point where he can only eat a certain helping. He said he could eat these for days so they might need some more vinegar. Jay quickly opposed this idea so I went with Jay, sorry Ray, but I do appreciate your input. Louise and Katie said the collards didn’t need anything, and sweet Cath was happy. At the end of the day everyone is going to like their collards somewhat differently and I had to focus more so on whether or not they had a good base because you know I’M ALL ABOUT THAT BASS ‘BOUT THAT BASS. IMG_0030(Not pictured: Jayman and Susu) Thanks for coming out and testing frands and thank you to Katie for making some dank BBQ chicken, to Cath and Weez for the wine, and to Raymond for the ice cream sandwiches and snickers. I’ll let y’all know how the big day goes or hopefully will see y’all there: February 24th!

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Edmund’s Oast

Edmund’s Oast. If thy shall decide to dine at the Edmund’s Oast on the up skirts of the peninsula, thy must speak with the English tongue and drink whisky and dark bourbon and nibble on exquisite bites (in my best accent). Honestly, if you’re like me you will find yourself playing a certain role while at Edmund’s Oast…or maybe not I don’t know now. Regardless, the brewery is a beautiful restaurant with large ceilings, tall table tops, a display window of dried meats above the open kitchen, and a bar with endless options on tap.

meat 2

wall

I went to Edmund’s with Alex, Casey, and Danielle and I was confused at first with the menu. To my surprise, Edmund’s Oast is more of a fancy brew pub for drinking and social gatherings than an order a full dinner restaurant.  The menu is fairly light on food and focuses more on the variety of drink offers. So, while at Edmund’s Oast you must do as they do- drinks and small plates.

They first brought out to us a fresh charcuterie board with three different meats and nuts.

meat board

Next came Alex’s delicious lamb meat balls. They were light and tender with a nice browned outside. They were served with a citrus apricot sauce and mint.

lamb balls

Our third small plate should be pictured next, but as I’m writing this I just realized I didn’t snap a pic…any guesses on what and why that would be?? Because it was cheese. Pretty sure we devoured the cheese before my conscience even knew to take a picture. I will say we all wanted more because who can resist cheese…..not Alex! 😉

Next was the Carolina Gold Rice Heritage Chicken Porridge. Talk about comfort food. I would have ordered this as an entire meal. It was composed of shredded chicken and blue crab pieces in a creamy thick rice porridge. It had the perfect texture and the saltiness kept me from putting my fork down. For those of you that like shrimp, there were three large shrimp on top too.

porridge

The last side dish we ordered was the Whey Cooked Polenta- good call Danielle. This dish tasted like very light creamy grits and it had a slow poached duck egg in the middle.  The garnish was micros greens, charred pickled leek tops, and finely shaved parmesan cheese. I wanted to get full off this dish particularly, but each bite dissolved too soon. I think an enhancement would be three large seared scallops on top.

polenta

And lastly the desserts: the Blood Orange and Almond Cake and the Chamomile Panna Cotta. The Blood Orange cake’s outside was amazing with sweet citrus flavors and then balanced with the almond flavor in the inside and whipped buttermilk on the side…aka Michelin man.

orange cake

The Panna Cotta was also delicious with a beautiful kiwi and flower presentation, but I think we were all laughing through it.  When the waitress brought it out and described the dish, Alex yelled RICOTTA CHEESE??? She was clearly still upset that the cheese plate was too small and gone.

panacota

We had so much fun at Edmund’s Oast that we all decided on one more cocktail to end the evening. The waitress told us about a special cocktail off the menu that was like a bourbon milk punch with milk soaked apple jacks. The drink at first sip was so strong, but in a manageable way and made bourbon taste delicious (sorry Dad). And actually, with each sip the cocktail started to taste more and more like the sweet milk after eating apple jacks cereal. By the end of the night we were falling out of our chairs laughing and crying…”Carlos likes his cottage cheese on toasted toast!”

group 2

Edmund’s Oast- go now.

Homemade Pizzas

Hola Amigos,
Two words for you: Mexican Pizza.
Last night Catherine came over after work and we crafted up two beautiful pizzas and had so much fun in the process…as you can see!Image
Tuesdays have become a ritual of eating dinner together and watching ‘New Girl’, which if you’re not on that train yet…you should be.ImageAnyways-pizza. The original plan was to cook Mexican quesadillas, but then I had a thought: what if we put those ingredients on a pizza!? A loaded pizza topped with Mexican goodness is way better than the typical flimsy tortilla option (holding true for yesterday). Pizzas are very easy to make and allow you to be as creative as you want. It’s like playing with play dough for big kids. I have to give credit to Christine for the Mexican inspiration. I remember one time she used refried beans instead of tomato sauce on her pizza and it was delicious. I decided to use the same method for pizza number 1 and add to it the following ingredients:

 Mexican Cheese
Mozzarella
Onions
Red Peppers
Grape Tomatoes- halved
Cilantro

For pizza number 2, we decided on a margherita variation pizza with the addition of other cheeses I had in my fridge.

Gorgonzola
Mozzarella
Brie
Fresh Basil
Grape Tomatoes-halved 
Tomato Sauces

The whole pizza making activity is really a fun project. We used fresh dough from the Harris Teeter and Catherine was in charge of kneading it and rolling it out to create perfect pies. I mean, look at that circular pie..that honestly might be perfect (she’s an artist duh). She then added the sauce bases to each pizza. (Use a little flour here because fresh dough is sticky).bean spread red sauce spread
Next we added our toppings to each pizza.
 into the oven
Once our pizzas were fully decorated, the bad boys went into the oven at 415 degrees for 15-25 minutes. Make sure to keep an eye on them because we noticed the two pizzas cooked differently. The Mexican Pizza cooked for an additional 10 minutes after the Margherita Pizza.
While the pizzas were cooking, I made guacamole to put on top of the Mexican Pizza. For my last birthday, Ben got me a Molcajete. This is Spanish for a mortar and pestle (that’s what I meant Mom, sorry I didn’t mean to say ‘Grinder’). I hadn’t tested it out yet so last night was the perfect opportunity. For my guacamole I used:

2 Avocados
1/2 Lime-squeezed
1/4 cup White Onion
2 Basil Leaves- chopped
Cilantro Leaves-chopped
Grape Tomatoes- seeded and chopped
Sea Salt

guac 4 pics

Then our pizzas were ready!mexican pizza

Mexican Pizzacheese pizza Margherita Pizza

(Did not turn out as pretty because of the color from the gorgonzola cheese, but don’t let it fool you!)

guac pizza

We also added sour cream to the Mexican Pizza. Sorry we’re not sorry 🙂

guac pizza up close

Both Catherine and I agreed we would have paid mad $$$ for these pizzas. I would certainly recommend making the Mexican Pizza which was my favorite and don’t be shy with the toppings!

The rest of the evening we cozied up and watched New Girl and then proceeded to watch the ABC special of the magician David Blaine. YALL. I just have to say, I am weirded out by David Blaine. Honestly, I think it might really be magic. I couldn’t sleep.

Good night Crockheads!