Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Heritage by Sean Brock: A Cookbook To Own, Treasure And Pass Down.....

Sean Brock's Heritage cookbook is one of my new favorites. It was a holiday gift and one I've been eager to own since hearing rumors of a new book in the works. If you have not purchased a cookbook in a while this is one to get. A cookbook to own,While paging through the book in hopes of discovering new Southern recipes to try, I found myself completely wrapped up in Brock's storytelling.


He brings the recipes on the pages to life, giving them feeling — salt herrings and cantaloupe have that power over me, no question. Summer vegetables literally take me back to standing barefoot in my grandparents' giant (what seemed giant at the time) home garden.


Sean's food manifesto struck a chord with me — enough so I felt compelled to share it here on the blog in the event it sparks a similar feeling with you. It's a long list, but I think it's worth the read:

Cook with soul—but first, get to know your soul.

Be proud of your roots, be proud of your home, be proud of your family and its culture. That's your inspiration.

Cook as if every day you were cooking for your grandmother. If your grandmother is still alive, cook with her as much as possible, and write everything down.

Respect ingredients and the people who produce them.

Visit the farmers' market at least once a week, and use most of your food budget at the market.

Buy the best that you can afford.

Grow your own—even if it's just a rosemary bush. You'll taste the difference and start planting more right away.

Do as little as possible to an ingredient when it's perfect and at its peak. 

You can never be too organized; a clean work space allows for a clean mind that can produce a clean plate of flavors.

Cook in the moment. Cook the way you are feeling, cook to suit the weather, cook with your mood, or change your mood.

Let vegetables tell you what to do. Taste them raw before you start thinking about how to cook them. Are they sweet? tender? crunchy? starchy?

Cook a vegetarian feast occasionally. Vegetables cooked with  care can be just as rewarding as a piece of meat.

If you are dead set on making a specific recipe but when you go to the market the ingredients don't speak to you or feel and smell perfect, don't make the recipe. Cook from the hip—you may surprise yourself. Perfect ingredients don't require much; shop for flavor, not concept.

Overseason something with salt and acid just so you know what is too much. Then ride the line, and you'll find your balance.

Listen to your tongue; it's smart.

Cook using your instincts. Cooking times are just guidelines.

Try to make every dish better every time you make it. Keep a notebook to document successes and failures. And record your creative inspiration in it as well.

Eat with your hands as much as possible.

Be curious! Ask yourself questions: Why did the fish stick to the pan? Why did my sauce break?

Never stop researching and seeking knowledge in the kitchen.

Cooking should make you happy. If it starts making you angry, stop cooking and go eat at a nice restaurant. Come back the next night and think about what went wrong and give it another shot.

He who dies with the biggest pantry wins.

Credit  Above manifesto republished from Sean Brock's Heritage cookbook.

Simple, right? And yet so powerful. I appreciate Sean's sensibility, putting many of my own thoughts and food values into words I can't seem to articulate. Do you ever have moments like that?

P.S. Brock's recipe for pimento cheese nails it. It's similar to the version I make, which I have to admit pumped me up a bit and leaving me eager to try adding hot sauce and a little Hungarian paprika to the next batch I whip up.

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

What's Been Cooking in the E.A.T. Kitchen

 Petite Swiss Chard Quiche Tartlets

As usual, I've been cooking up a storm around here and thought I'd recap some of the recent favorites I've been whipping up around the web in case you missed them. Above, I made a mini spin on traditional quiche with these amazing petite swiss chard quiche tartlets. Below, I shared how to make a miso soup with shrimp and spinach from the comfort of your home. Both were over the top good!

 Miso Soup with Shrimp and Spinach

Summer means an abundance of squash, and this was my take on the classic squash casserole — a squash casserole with a dill herbed goat cheese crust. Yes, it tasted as good as it looks!

 Squash Casserole with a Dill Herbed Goat Cheese Crust

With figs making there appearance in my neighbor's backyard again this summer, I assembled these fig, gorgonzola, prosciutto, honey and thyme pizzas as opposed to the fig jam I've made in the past.

 Fig Gorgonzola Prosciutto Honey and Thyme Pizzas

With cherry tomatoes coming out of our ears in the garden, this tomato jam on toast with egg was absolutely in order, making for welcome breakfasts and a couple lunches:

 Tomato Jam on Toast with Egg

And finally, if bison isn't among your regular dietary rotation, give these these oven roasted bison stuffed poblano peppers a try:

 Oven Roasted Bison Stuffed Poblamo Peppers


With September now in full swing, I began to think about the changes to come with eating seasonally. The likes of corn, tomatoes, and yellow squash will slowly disappear. These will be replaced with hearty greens like kale, collards and spinach. Squashes will continue to come but in the form of butternut, pumpkin and acorn. Brussels, kohlrabi, cauliflower and broccoli will also seasonally return to our plates.

Eating seasonally is an exciting way to follow the seasons. Just like those who look forward to that first summer tomato, I too look forward to everything the new season brings to our plates. What are you most looking forward to eating as the season begins to change?

E.A.T. local E.A.T. well

Monday, August 25, 2014

Ham Steak in a Whiskey Mustard Thyme Gravy


Most of us think of ham steaks as a salty, reddish pink cut packaged in single thick slices — simply open the package, toss in a pan and heat until crispy to serve. Once removed from the pan, leftover juices are turned into a red-eye gravy for some. Served with eggs at breakfast, this is the classic cured country ham steak.

Today I've been looking forward to sharing a recipe for uncured ham steak. You typically will not find them uncured in a big box grocery store, so your butcher or specialty grocery store will work. If living in RVA, we are lucky to have Harvest Grocery & Supply which now not only carries uncured ham steaks but a variety of pork cuts from heritage rare breed mulefoot hogs from Lockhart Family Farm 40 minutes north of Richmond. You might recognize Lockhart Family as the same farm I purchased a whole hog from last year.

An excerpt from Lockhart's web page about the mulefoot:

The American Mulefoot is one of the oldest and rarest breeds of swine in North America, with the Livestock Conservancy claiming there are fewer than 200 annual breed registrations, making it critically endangered. Prized for their fat content and taste, the American Mulefoot thrives in a woodland setting and its meat has some of the reddest and best marbling of all breeds. The Mulefoot’s name comes from its unconventional feet which are not cloven and instead look like that of a mule. With competition from large scale factory farms, it is imperative that consumers and farmers work together to make a market for these amazing creatures and bring them back from near extinction. This breed has also been chosen as one of Slow Food’s “Ark of Taste” animals due to its exceptional taste and need for conservation.

So let's get cooking!

Brine Ingredients for the Ham Steak:
  • 1 1-1/4 pound uncured ham steak (note the beautiful marbling in the photo below)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of cloves
Whiskey Mustard Thyme Gravy Ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup bourbon whiskey
  • 1/4 cup apple cider
  • 1/4 cup dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • Pepper to taste

Starting with the brine, mix all of the wet ingredients and spices into a medium saucepan. Heat over medium until the liquid comes to a light simmer, stirring the mixture until the salt is dissolved. Remove from the stove and allow to cool. Once cool place the ham steak into a large bag and pour the brine over it. Remove the air from the bag and seal. Lay the bag into a dish (in case the bag leaks) and place in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Turn the ham steak several times during the brining process.


Once the brining process is complete remove the steak from the bag and rinse well. Dry with a paper towel and set aside.

Place a cast iron pan in the oven and preheat to 375°. While the oven is preheating grind pepper on each side of the steak. Once the oven is at temperature, carefully remove the pan and place the steak directly inside, returning to the oven. Roast the steak in the oven (18-20 minutes per pound) flipping half way through. 

While the steak is cooking, mix the ingredients for your gravy and heat over low heat on the stovetop.


Remove roast from the oven and baste with the now warmed whiskey mustard gravy, flipping to baste the other side. Once coated I drizzled the gravy around the steak. Return to the oven for 8-10 minutes or until pork reaches an internal temperature of about 140°.


Remove from oven and place on a platter with the gravy or serve directly from the cast iron pan.


The ham can be cut into smaller pieces and served individually. This dish was amazing and can be served with a side of collard greens for a true southern feel!

E.A.T. local E.A.T. well

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