back on the blog train

Happy 2012!

I’ve had the itch to start blogging again for the last couple of weeks, but this time, it’ll be with a different focus…a FOOD focus. A few months back I finally achieved one of my 2011 NY resolutions…to take a cooking class! I started taking monthly classes at Amelie’s French Bakery in NoDa (a fantastic 24/hr. bakery in Charlotte, NC) and have LOVED them.

I LOVE food. I’ve always loved food, well, really just eating it, but it wasn’t until I got married that I even considered learning how to actually cook. For the first few months of our marriage, I tried a new recipe every single day of the week. As with all new adventures, there were some victories and boy, there were some pretty terrible failures (what a brave, PATIENT husband I have). Nevertheless, out of all those victories and failures, I grew to absolutely LOVE cooking.

So here we are. I thought I would start this new blogging venture off with the recipes I tried today for our New Year’s Day Lunch. I recently subscribed to this amazing Southern living magazine, Garden & Gun. If you haven’t seen it yet, go out and get it RIGHT now. The tagline is “South of the Soul” and every issue I’ve received has truly rekindled my love for the South…the food, the culture, the art…everything. In the Dec/Jan issue, they featured Stephen Stryjewski’s recipe for Hoppin’ John. Jay, my husband, immediately insisted that I try my hand at THIS particular recipe to start our 2012 off the right, Southern way…”the beans represent coins and the pork optimism, because pigs forage forward and don’t look back.” Amen.

In addition to the Garden & Gun-inspired pork and beans dish, I HAD to make collards! They’re the dolla-dolla bills, ya’ll!? And THAT…is MY southern grandmother’s tradition, so I found a lovely Collards & Bacon Recipe via The Wall Street Journal a la Donald Link, chef and co-owner of Herbsaint and Cochon in New Orleans.

You know what is so RANDOMLY awesome about this recipe being paired with the other?? Chef Stryjewski is actually the NEW co-owner of the SAME restaurant, Cochon, as Chef Link!? It was MEANT to be and these two dishes paired beautifully together…and by the amount of empty plates at my table following lunch today, I think my guests agreed. So here are the photos of my cooking adventure today:

Collard Greens w/Bacon Recipe

{via WSJ}

Yield: 6-8 servings
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes

4 strips thick-sliced bacon, sliced crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black peppercorns
Several dashes hot sauce
1/4 cup apple-cider vinegar
2 pounds collard greens, stems removed, sliced into 3-inch-wide strips
1 cup homemade or canned low-sodium chicken broth or water

  • Place the bacon in a large pot or Dutch oven and cook over medium heat until it just starts to brown around the edges, stirring occasionally. Mix in the onions and cook until they’re soft and starting to brown, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the garlic, sugar, salt, pepper and hot sauce and cook until the garlic becomes fragrant, stirring often. Pour in the vinegar, bring to a simmer, and cook until the amount of liquid is reduced by half, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot to work any browned bits into the sauce.
  • Stir in the greens and the chicken broth (or water) and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until completely wilted and the color of the greens have lost their brightness, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with additional vinegar and hot sauce and serve with a generous ladle of the pan juices from the pot.

Hoppin’ John Recipe

{via G&G}

1 lb. dried black-eyed peas, rinsed and picked over
¾ lb. Tasso ham, diced
1 onion, halved
3 cloves garlic
3 bay leaves

In a large Dutch oven or kettle, combine ingredients with 6 
cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer gently until beans are tender but not mushy, 2 to
2 ½ hours. Drain the black-eyed peas and ham, saving cooking liquid separately. Remove and discard the onion pieces, 
garlic, and bay leaves.

½ lb. bacon, diced
1 onion, diced
3 ribs celery, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
½ tsp. fresh thyme
1 cup Cajun Grain rice (or a good-quality long grain rice)
6 green onions, sliced
½ bunch parsley, chopped
1 tsp. coarse salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper

Wipe out the pot and return to stove over moderately high heat. Add bacon and render until golden (8 to 10 minutes), then add the onion, celery, bell pepper, and jalapeño. Using a wooden spoon, stir occasion-ally, cooking until onions look translucent (8 to 12 minutes). Add the thyme and 2 ½ cups water, and bring to a boil. Lower heat, stir in the rice, cover, and simmer until the 
rice is tender, about 17 
to 22 minutes.

Stir in the green onions, parsley, and black-eyed peas and ham, season with salt and pepper, and adjust the consistency with the reserved cooking liquid. The hoppin’ John should be lushly moist but not soupy.


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