Here's a story about a woman and a man and the full moon:


The Way to a Man's Heart Is His Stomach

She never saw a harvest moon without thinking of him and the duck that flew for them the night of a full moon. From shrimp to duck, the story of a love affair.
When he first told her he loved her, it was while eating shrimp from the Georgia coast. “You're wonderful,” he said. The way to a man's heart is his stomach.
He said he loved her food. She woke up planning what she wanted to feed him for dinner. She became more desperately in love as time went on, even as the relationship began to deteriorate. He was frequently late for dinner and too busy to call. Her grocery menus were frantically made, obsessive lists of things she wanted to cook for him—asparagus, roast duck, chocolate mousse, The way to a man's heart is his stomach.

One night they made plans for dinner out. She would rather have cooked for him—to have exercised her culinary prowess. He wanted control, to be free of her food, and made reservations at a country restaurant an hour's drive away. She decided she had to have her hair done for him so he would tell her again she was beautiful. Her hairdresser was running late and she sat in the beauty shop, trapped and full of foreboding. She arrived home and he was sitting on the doorstep, silently, angrily waiting, his control thwarted.

There was a full harvest moon, their dominant companion as they drove, with the smell of her harshly permanented, now frizzy and ugly, hair filling the car. They squabbled about her being late, at the distance he was choosing to drive rather than eat her cooking. He didn't say she was beautiful. She had to force herself to breathe through the pain in her chest.

They arrived at the allegedly romantic restaurant only to find it nearly closed, wearily patient waiters holding the dinners he had preordered. They sat alone in the empty dining room. When she cut into her duck it was so tough it flew off the plate and slid down his starched white shirt front. Distressed, she still couldn't suppress a grin. He said she had done it on purpose. She hadn't, but might have if she'd have thought of it. He stormed out and waited in the car. Picking her duck off the floor, she told the stunned waiter to bring her the check. Her rage at her love's rejection of all she was rippled through her physically. They had a violent fight in the light of the moon. When her hysterics abated, they drove the long way home in silence, and separated for a long time.

Ten years later, after he had married and divorced another, she wanted him to eat a duck she had cooked herself. She took it on a trip to the mountains. They remembered that night with uneasy laughter, recalling what they might have lost. She had cooked many ducks since then with crisp tender skins. And she always removed the backbone and ribs. One had never shot off her plate again. The way to a man's heart is his stomach.



Boiled Shrimp (p.95) or Marco Polo Shrimp
Roast Duck with Orange Rhubarb Sauce
Duchesse Potatoes
Kay's Zucchini-stuffed Tomatoes or Fiddlehead Ferns
Caesar Salad
Pecan Lacy Wafers with Chocolate Mousse

To serve 2 look for “variation for 2” on individual recipes.
The potatoes, rhubarb sauce, mousse, and cookies may be made several days ahead or even frozen. The shrimp and duck may be cooked earlier in the day and reheated when ready to serve. The tomatoes may be assembled several hours in advance, ready for heating, as may the fiddlehead ferns. The salad may be washed and dried, the dressing made and refrigerated, all ready for tossing. The shrimp may be assembled for last-minute reheating.
If you wish, the menu can also be easily multiplied to serve 4 to 6.

Marco Polo Shrimp
Serves 6 to 8
2 pounds large shrimp in the shell

Marco Polo Pesto

3 tablespoons oil
1 to 3 tablespoons hot peppers, seeded and chopped (preferably fresh)
2 cups fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 to 3 tablespoons fresh ginger, chopped
1 teaspoon dark oriental sesame oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice or dry white wine
freshly ground pepper
3 to 4 fresh basil leaves

Cut each shrimp shell along the back, keeping the shell on. If the vein that runs along the back is full and black, remove by scraping it out with the tip of your knife. Purée the oil, hot peppers, basil, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, and lemon juice in a food processor. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon a little purée under each shrimp shell. Cover and refrigerate until needed, up to 4 hours.
To broil, place the shrimp on a broiler pan and broil under high heat about 3 minutes per side. To grill, heat up the grill and place the shrimp on a narrow wire rack, then grill until just pink, about 3 minutes per side. Peel, if you like, before serving. Top with fresh basil leaves.

Variation for 2
Use ½ pound shrimp, in the shell; 2 teaspoons oil; ½ to 1 tablespoon hot peppers, seeded and chopped; ½ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped; 1 clove garlic; ½ tablespoon lemon juice; and ½ teaspoon dark oriental sesame oil. Top with 1 to 2 basil leaves, chopped

Mix the sauce with shelled shrimps and bake, rather than stuffing it under the shells, for 20 minutes at 350°F.

Add ¼ pound butter, the oil, and sesame oil to a frying pan with the sauce, add the shrimp, and heat until the shrimp turn color, then bake at 350°F for 15 to 20 minutes.

Try serving the shrimp on thin pasta or oriental egg noodles lightly coated with sesame oil.

Add 2 tablespoons chopped green onions or scallions to the sauce.

Tip: This serves 6 to 8 as a starter, 4 to 6 as a main course.
Tip: 2 cups fresh basil leaves, chopped, makes only 4 to 5 tablespoons chopped basil!

Orange Rhubarb Sauce
Makes 2 to 3 cups

1 pound rhubarb, sliced in 1-inch pieces, fresh or frozen
1 cup orange juice
¼ cup sugar
zest of 1 orange, all white removed and shredded

Place the rhubarb in a heavy saucepan, with its juices, along with the orange juice and half the zest. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat to a slow simmer, and simmer uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes, until the rhubarb is soft and there is some thick sauce surrounding the remaining slices. Add the sugar and cook 15 minutes more on low heat, until thick. Be careful not to scorch or let the liquid boil out. Will keep several days in the refrigerator or may be frozen. Garnish with remainder of the orange zest.

Variation for 2:
Use ½ pound rhubarb, ½ cup orange juice, 1/8 cup sugar, and half the zest of an orange when serving duck for 2 people.

Add ½ tablespoon freshly chopped ginger.

Serve cold, with cream, for breakfast.

Add more sugar and you have a sweet sauce.

Tip: Serve with duck, lamb, pork, turkey, and game.

Roast Duck with Orange Rhubarb Sauce
Serves 2

1 (5-pound) duck, defrosted if necessary
zest of 1 orange, with all white removed, shredded finely
1 recipe Orange Rhubarb Sauce (p.263)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Remove the neck, liver, giblets, and so on from inside the duck's cavity; also remove excess fat around the opening inside thigh area. Prick the duck's skin all over, about 1/8 inch deep, to release the fat, taking care not to puncture the duck's breast meat. Place the orange peel inside the duck. Truss or tie together the legs. Place on a rack in a roasting pan with at least 2-inch sides and put the pan in the middle of the hot oven for 1 to 1½ hours. Keep thick hot pads next to the oven, and prepare a work surface that will accommodate the roasting pan and a metal pan or bowl to receive the fat. Periodically remove the duck from the oven, move to the work surface, and use a metal spoon or baster (avoid a rubber or plastic baster; it may melt) to remove the fat. Put the duck back in the oven until it reaches 170°F on an instant meat thermometer inserted in its thigh. Cook the duck ahead of time and cool. Split or cut down either side of the backbone form neck to tail and divide the duck in 2 pieces. Pull out the breast and rib bones. When ready to serve, place the halves under broiler to crisp the skin and warm through. Serve with orange rhubarb sauce. May be served hot or cold.

Substitute grated ginger for the orange zest. Brush with hoisin sauce, fresh chopped ginger, and soy sauce, mixed. Garnish with green onion brushes.

Tip: One duck serves 2 people well, 4 people skimpily. for 6 people, roast 2 or 3 ducks.
Tip: Make a Brown Duck Stock (see p.218) with the giblets and neckbone. Chop up the backbone and breastbone and add to the stock for further flavor.
Tip: The fat can be rendered and used to sauté croutons for Caesar salad.
Tip: Tie legs together to insure even roasting.

Duchesse Potatoes

Serves 8 to 10

7 to 8 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 cup milk, heated to 180°F
5 to 6 tablespoons butter
freshly ground pepper
2 to 3 egg yolks
½ cup imported Parmesan cheese, grated

1 egg, beaten with ½ teaspoon salt

Put the potatoes in a pan with enough cold water to cover, bring to the boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer approximately 1 hour until completely tender. Drain. Place the pan over low heat and add the potatoes. Beat over low heat with electric mixer or mash until soft. Beat in the hot milk and butter. Add salt and pepper to taste. Beat the egg yolks into the mashed potatoes and add the cheese.
Preheat oven to 400°F. While the potatoes are still warm, spoon them into a pastry bag fitted with the large star tube. Pipe rosettes, figure eights, or tablespoon-sized mounds of potato onto a buttered baking sheet or oven-to-table dish. Brush with the egg glaze. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until browned, or do up to a day ahead, warm in a low oven, then brown quickly under the broiler. Remove from baking sheet.

Variation for 2
Combine 2 medium-cooked, peeled, and quartered potatoes, ¼ cup hot milk, 1 to 2 tablespoons butter, salt, pepper, and ¼ cup grated Parmesan, and ½ an egg yolk. Pipe. Brush with remainder of the yolk beaten with a dash of salt.

Substitute sweet potatoes! Sounds funny, but they are very pretty and very tasty.

Use as a garnish around meat dishes.

Kay's Zucchini-stuffed Tomatoes
Serves 8

2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon chopped shallots or onions
½ pound zucchini, grated
¼ teaspoon fresh chopped thyme
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
pinch of ground cloves
freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons pine nuts (optional)
8 small or 4 large tomatoes

Preheat oven to 400°F. Melt the butter in a skillet, add the shallots, and sauté until soft. Add the grated zucchini, thyme, parsley, cloves, salt, pepper, and optional pine nuts. Toss for 1 or 2 minutes over medium heat. Remove the tops and insides of the tomatoes, leaving about ½-inch pulp against the skin so the tomatoes will not collapse while baking. Slice a small portion of the bottom of the tomato to level. Put the tomatoes on a baking sheet. Spoon the zucchini stuffing into the tomatoes. Bake 6 minutes or until done.
To do ahead: Let the tomatoes drain upside down on a rack in the refrigerator. Make and refrigerate the filling. Assemble several hours in advance. Place room-temperature tomatoes in oven 6 minutes before serving.

Variation for 2
Use 1 teaspoon butter, 1 teaspoon chopped shallots or onions, 1 small zucchini, 1 teaspoon chopped parsley and thyme, dash of ground cloves, salt, freshly ground pepper, 1 teaspoon pine nuts (optional), and 2 small tomatoes.

Use cooked, drained spinach or grated summer squash for the zucchini.

Fiddlehead Ferns
Serves 6 to 8

1 pound ostrich-fern fiddleheads, washed
4 to 5 tablespoons butter or olive oil
freshly ground pepper

Dry ferns. Heat the butter or olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the ferns and toss over low heat for 2 to 3 minutes or longer if you desire softer ferns. Season with salt and pepper.

Sauté 1 pound button mushrooms, chanterelles, shiitake mushrooms, or morels in butter. Add the cooked ferns and heat all together.

Variation for 2
Use 1/3 pound fiddleheads and 2 teaspoons butter or oil.

Tip: Fiddleheads come frozen as well as fresh. Frozen ones need only be defrosted.

Caesar Salad
Serves 6 to 8

4 to 5 garlic cloves, peeled
8 anchovies
6 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 egg yolks
6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1½ tablespoons Worcestershire
1 cup oil
1 large head romaine lettuce (1½ pounds)
½ cup imported Parmesan cheese, grated or sliced
2 cups croutons

freshly ground pepper

Crush the garlic and anchovies together in a food processor or blender. Add the mustard and egg yolks, blend, and then add vinegar and Worcestershire. Beat or whisk in the oil. Wash and tear the romaine lettuce.
At the table toss the romaine with the dressing, Parmesan, croutons, and salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Variation for 2:
Use 1 garlic clove, 1 anchovy, 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, 1 egg yolk, 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar, dash of Worcestershire, 1 tablespoon oil, ½ head of romaine lettuce, 1 ounce Parmesan, 1/3 cup croutons, salt and pepper.

Southwestern Caesar: Toss croutons in ½ cup melted butter and 2 tablespoons chili powder. Shave the Parmesan off with a peeler in long strips and serve on top.

Tip: 1 large head = 1½ pounds = 8 to 9 cups = 2 small heads

Pecan Lacy Wafers
Makes 50 cookies

4 ounces whole pecans, toasted
2 ounces whole almonds, toasted
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons sugar
½ cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup currants or raisins
peel of 1 orange, grated
¼ cup flour, sifted
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground allspice

Preheat oven to 350°F. Chop half the nuts finely and leave the other half chopped roughly. Beat the butter until light. Gradually add the sugars, beating well. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Add the currants and orange peel. Sift the flour with the salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and allspice onto a piece of waxed paper.
Line 2 baking sheets with aluminum foil. Grease well with butter. Drop teaspoonfuls of batter onto the aluminum foil at least 2 inches apart. Bake each sheet 11 to 13 minutes, until batter is spread and golden at the edges. Move the cookies with a spatula to a wire rack to cool. Repeat until all cookies are baked. If cookies lose crispness, they may be recrisped in oven for about 2 minutes. They freeze well.

Simple Chocolate Mousse
Serves 6

8 ounces semisweet chocolate bits

4 tablespoons water
½ teaspoon rum or vanilla flavoring
1½ tablespoons butter
4 egg yolks
4 egg whites
½ cup heavy whipping cream, whipped

Melt the chocolate and water together in a small pan or the microwave. Stir int he rum flavoring and butter, then the egg yolks, one by one. Beat the egg whites until stiff. Fold the chocolate mixture into the egg whites using a rubber spatula or a metal spoon. When thoroughly mixed, pour into small pots or a glass bowl. Cover and chill overnight. Serve with a rosette of whipped cream piped on top. May be made several days in advance or frozen.

Variation for 2:
Use 4 ounces semisweet bits, 2 tablespoons water, dash of flavoring, 2 teaspoons butter, 2 egg yolks, 2 egg whites. Garnish with ¼ cup whipping cream, whipped. Or make whole recipe, spoon into individual pots, serve 2, and freeze the rest for another time.


Since my dear long-time friend Pat Royalty commented on my on-going cough, I must tell a story on both of us that will make you giggle. Pat was one of the first students at Rich's cooking school, and signed up for several series of classes. I had, as I do now, a lingering cough. It seems to be a cross of allergies and a cold. Anyway, finally I got better. Pat, a very spiritual person, came up to me and said,"Nathalie, are you well now? I've had you on my prayer list for church for several months now and I'm wondering if it is time to take you off."  I was enormously touched. 

I knew she didn't have a copy of the Joy of Cooking, so I decided to get her one. I ran up to the cookbook department, which was next to a ladies room, and said to a sweet old lady there, Mrs. Goldsmith, "Mrs. Goldsmith, here is my credit card.  Would you please charge me a copy of joy and seal it (necessary for employees) and I'll pick it up when I leave the ladies room as I HAVE to get back to class!"  Mrs. Goldsmith, ever accommodating, had the sealed package ready for me as I ran back to the class. Just as I walked into the door of the school, I thought...this is awfully light for the Joy of Cooking. But I handed it to her. As Pat, who had I don't remember how many children at the time, but a goodly number, opened it, rather than an exclamation of Joy! There was a silence. I was the Joy of Sex, something she surely did not need. She tooke me off the prayer list for sure,  I gave the book to someone who needed it, and purchased Pat "The Joy of Cooking." 


 Remember how Bill Clinton always got raspy by the end of a campaign? Me too.  I have a bit of a sore throat and am sticking close to home where I had planned to get out to the farmer's market and hustle a few more votes.

In fact, sickness has hit our little campaign a bit.  Poor Brooke got food posioning, we think, on Thursday night.  It was what I thought was the best meat and three type restaurant( lunch or dinner) we'd had the whole trip - I had mac and cheese, fried okra,collards,  chicken fried steak; brooke just had barbecue and fried okra, but by the time the party was over for us that night lunch was a bad memory for Brooke.  We had a multi-stop trip home.  Fortunately, Jack drove, and Brooke spent the night upstairs, sleeping in as much as possible Friday.   But a disappointment about the lunch.  Its hard to know about food poisioning.  We tend to blame the mom and pop restaurant more than McDonalds, but we had stopped there for a late  breakfast as we left home at 6 a.m. on Thursday to drive to Columbia.   Brooke's up and at em today, however, after a day off, and is passing out cards for me at the farmer's market instead.

Now, back to MacDonald's.  I had sworn off MacDonald's completely after reading about their meat.  (I'm not going to repeat Kim Severson's article of some months ago, but trust me, it convinced me.)  Prior to that, I had stopped at two places on the road, one of them being McDonalds.  I felt it was reliable, a bit of a treat in that I rarely eat hamburgers, and I like their Ice Cream smoothy things.  And their bathrooms. I remember before the Big Mac when you had no decent bathrooms on a road trip, and for years theirs were the cleanest, although frankly that has slipped too.  But I'd been able to avoid eating there for all that time until this campaign.  The alternatives are just not always there.

(See note above about Brooke's food poisioning.)  So its sort of the devil you know.  But there is just no satisfaction, not even a little feeling of sin, eating there anymore.  ITs just "Well, if I don't eat I'll get mean and I don't want to make a fool of myself so I'll eat."

Our alternative to McDonalds is the Waffle House.  Once again, we feel like we know what we are eating.  We can eat an omelette and raisin toast, and avoid the margarine, and have a good meal.  I do like their whirred-up two egg omelets, and somehow their nearly-cheese grilled cheese sandwich makes me think of growing up at eating them at drug store counters.  Buttery on the outside, as they were grilled, and near-cheese really melted.
     But Waffle houses really make me think of my father, who loved the waffle house.  He loved the waitresses, and had a bad habit of loaning them money, which they rarely could afford to pay back.  He went to one of two waffle houses every day for breakfast towards the end, although a few years before he had spread himself around at several diners.  He purchased the same thing for breakfast every day, including a tomato sandwich to go for lunch. An early riser, always, he would leave the dogs in the car and bring them bacon or sausage as a morning treat.  He had an old Hornet AMC -- bright blue -- and had built a cage inside of wire so that the windows could be left open for the dogs without them getting out.  (Once he had a cat who would ride on his shoulder.) He loved diners where the waitresses kept packets of sugar in their pockets to dispense sparingly -- have you noticed they no longer have those sugar jars that had a metal cap where you could pour out all the sugar you wanted?  And he flirted with the waitresses.  He always flirted with waitresses. My parents were divorced acrimoniously but by the time they were in their eighties and both their spouses died they were the only people who called them by their first name, so they started seeing each other and courting. Ultimately mother got furious about the waitresses and started refusing to go to breakfast with him, and worried about what the church would think of her spending so much time with an unmarried man even if she had once been married to him, so it sort of fizzled out.

Friday was a much better food day for me. The literacy lunch was at a Marriott on Lockwood avenue that is always reputed to have good food. The chicken breast was actually moist and just the slightest pink, the smashed potatoes had garlic in them and were good for dry-type smashed potatoes; the dessert was donated and was a good carrot cake; and, as I said earlier, I was able to cook dinner at home after the Film Society meeting.

I really don't understand the state's obdurateness about not supporting the film industry.  Army wives and other television and films bring so much attention to the low-country.  But these film makers want tax incentives and rebates, feeling they contribute to the economy with all they spent here.  At worst, i think it might be a wash out.  But having creative people in a community who are constantly thinking of ways to capture the mood and beauty – particularly in such a beautiful state - is a good thing. Anyway, it was easy to speak to them about how important I thought they were. DeMint, of course, didn't send any one to speak.  No surprise as he got an "F" on supporting the arts. He seems very dull, so I'm not surprised.  I bet the last play he saw was his senior play, most likely "Our Town".

The raspy throat is still with me so I'm off to gargle. 


 So many of you have been thinking of Shirley's biscuits as well as Kate's, that it stirred up a request from Catherine Thompson asking me about the pork chop theory.

To tell you the truth, I'm not sure about who started the theory.  But here's how it was applied.  When we first started IACP, our professional organization, and Atlanta was beginning, just barely, to make a name for itself as having restaurants other than continental, and serious cooks, there were three of us that were prominent in IACP –  myself, Shirley Corriher and Diane Wilkinson.  The temptation was to think, as women had always thought, that there was only room for one of us nationally.  That we had to knock each other out of the row boat.  Well, none of us were good knocker-outers.  We were all cooks, cooking teachers, and completely different, with different areas of expertise.  So we made a pact.  We might grumble amongst ourselves about each other, but outside of Atlanta we would not cririticise each other, but would support each other.
Rather than limiting ourselves to just one prominent woman from Atlanta, we applied the pork chop theory.  What is the pork chop theoy?  If there is only one pork chop in the pan it goes dry; if there are two or more, the fat from one feeds the other.  And so, we operated on the pork chop theory.  Diane became head of a committee, which was what she wanted, and Shirley and I were both elected to the Board of Directors.  Now, the Les Dames des Escoffier and many other organizations have proved us right....when you apply the pork chop theory, you give a lot of people the juice to keep on pushing, and there is room for us all.  It is easier to expand than to shove someone out of the boat and live with the consequences of falling out yourself.


Here is a story I wrote many years ago about Kate Almand in 1987, to be exact, and was published in my book, Nathalie Dupree's Matters of Taste.

 I will miss Kate, and I always knew it. She passed on today, January 10, 2011

It was a hot night, and the sun was setting later and later each day. Worrying about her grandmother, the small child couldn't sleep. She was staring at the ceiling, when her mother came in to tuck her in. Since she normally fell to sleep when her head hit the pillow, her mother asked if anything was wrong. “No,” Jamie replied. “Are you sure?“ her mother asked again. “Well,” the tot replied, knowing somehow she wasn't concerned about her grandmother's mortality as much as her own self-interest, “I was just wondering—who's going to make biscuits for us when Grannie Kate dies?"

At a young age, the child had hit upon something most of us only learn late in life. There are certain foods that will linger in our memories and hearts long after the people who made them are gone. And it's important to learn from them how to make their treasures so they will live on.

Grannie Kate, still in robust good health, is the best biscuit maker I know. Her biscuits are tender, light, a bit smaller than the average, just large enough to hold sautéed pork tenderloin or a sausage without crumbling until the very end when the juices break it up. Whenever Kate Almand is around, everyone else is tempted to take a backseat and let her make the biscuits, Although I frequently tell people she was born with a biscuit bowl in her hands, she's only been making them since she was a small child herself. One of thirteen children, she was told by her dad one day, when her mom was gone, to make the biscuits. She tried, and made a mess. The next day he had her make them again, and told her how, and she's been making them ever since.

Biscuits are quite cheap to make—just flour, baking powder, salt, and shortening in most cases, with a bit of milk or buttermilk. But it's like learning to hit a golf or a tennis ball; the chances are you aren't going to be happy until you practice a bit, and study the basics.

First, the right ingredients help. Kate uses a southern soft winter wheat flour, White Lily, because it is low in protein, and that contributes to the fluffy lightness of the biscuit. She also likes Crisco better than any other shortening. She prefers sweet milk (the southern term for homogenized milk) to buttermilk, but she can make a biscuit out of any flour and shortening because she has the technique down pat.

She doesn't measure her flour. This probably goes back to the days when she bought it in huge sacks and used those sacks to make her daughter dresses. The flour, in an opened flour sack then, was as susceptible to change as it is today. In a dry season, it will absorb water differently than in a rainy one.

When possible, she uses a biscuit bowl, larger in circumference than it is deep. She places a large quantity of flour in it, makes a well in the center, then cuts in shortening and milk in a soft motion that kneads the flour briefly as the liquid is mixed in. She winds up with a very soft dough, which she turns and coats in flour, leaving it nearly wet in the middle, but dry enough to handle on the outside. She pulls off a piece of her dough, dips the wet portion in the flour, and rolls it lightly in her floured hand. She places it on a baking sheet, keeping all the biscuits close together, so they will stay tender When finished, she sifts any leftover flour back into a container, ready for the next day's use.

Too much kneading will make a tough biscuit. Too little will not give you as nice a rise. Too much shortening makes a crumbly dough, too little robs it of tenderness.

This recipe is from the upcoming book, Southern Biscuits, by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart  

About wooden bowls: Wooden bowls are the easiest to make biscuits wiped out and ready for use again. They are large and shallow enough to allow the sweeping motion required, combining the ingredients without spilling flour everywhere; and if used regularly, they don’t require washing. Any remaining dough scrapes out easily.

Makes 12 to 18 biscuits

The method of making biscuits in a traditional wooden bowl, without a recipe, was traditionally practiced by home cooks all over the South. A sack of flour was emptied into the bowl, a well was made in the flour, and then the number of biscuits desired was miraculously shaped by the addition of fat and liquid. The remaining flour mixture was then sifted and returned to the bowl, covered with a tea towel or flour sack, or to the sack itself until the biscuits were made again later in the day.

Alas, this process is so intimidating to novice cooks, until they get the “feel,” that I have to caution the novice to try another recipe first. Please come back and try these after practicing with easier versions, because this version makes biscuits the way they are supposed to be—meltingly light, tantalizingly tender, flaky, moist—and unforgettable. I have never had a better biscuit than Kate’s.

1 (5-pound) bag self-rising flour, to use 2 1⁄2 cups flour

1 portion sweet (fresh) milk, approximately 1 cup

1 handful chilled lard, hard shortening, or butter, approximately 1⁄3–1⁄2 cup

Softened butter, for brushing

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.

Fill a wooden biscuit bowl 2⁄3 full with as much of the bag of flour as possible. Use the back of a hand to form and simultaneously pack an 8-inch well in the center of the flour, leaving a small amount on the bottom. Gently pour the milk into the well-packed center of the well. Scoop 1⁄3 cup of room temperature lard into the milk. Using the fingers of one hand, mush together the milk and fat until it looks like thick lumpy pancake batter. Making a massaging motion with the fingers of one hand, slightly akin to playing the scales on a banjo, move the batter around the well in a whirlpool. Continue moving the fingers steadily around the bowl as a rotary mixer would, like a centrifuge. The batter will gently pull in the packed flour. After a few rotations, it will have pulled in sufficient flour to make a very wet dough in the center of the bowl, cradled by the rest of the flour. Re-flour both hands in the remaining flour and scrape the wet mess off the gooey hand back into the dough. Re-flour both hands and slide under the dough, turning it completely over in the remaining flour with the wet portion of the flour at the bottom of the dough and the top portion completely floured. Re-flouring hands as needed, pinch off an egg-sized portion of the dough sufficient for a 1 1⁄2-inch biscuit. The portion pulled from the dough will be wet. Dip it into the flour so the total exterior of the dough is now floured. Cup one hand, making sure the palm is floured, and move the dough on top of the palm. Use the palm of the second hand to smooth the top of the dough with pinkie and thumb to keep it round. Using a



Makes 12 to 14 (2 1⁄ 2-inch) biscuits

Sour cream biscuits are among the easiest of all the biscuits to make. Using a homemade or commercial self-rising flour makes it easier again, as then only two ingredients are needed. The acid in the milk products tenderizes the biscuits as well as activates the baking powder already incorporated in the flour. This recipe is enormously easy and makes exceedingly tender, moist, and fluffy biscuits with a tang. They have a great rise, to about three times their height.

2 1/4 cups commercial or home made self-rising flour, divided

1 1/4 cups sour cream, divided

Softened butter, for brushing.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Select the baking pan by determining if a soft or crisp exterior is desired. For a soft exterior, use an 8- or 9-inch cake pan, pizza pan, or oven-proof skillet where the biscuits will nestle together snugly, creating the soft exterior while baking. For a crisp exterior, select a baking sheet or other baking pan where the biscuits can be placed wider apart, allowing air to circulate and creating a crisper exterior, and brush the pan with butter.

Fork-sift or whisk 2 cups of the flour in a large bowl, preferably wider than it is deep, and set aside the remaining 1⁄4 cup. Make a deep hollow in the center of the flour with the back of your hand. Pour 1 cup of sour cream into the hollow, reserving the remaining 1⁄4 cup, and stir with a rubber spatula or large metal spoon, using broad circular strokes to quickly pull the flour into the sour cream. Mix just until the dry ingredients are moistened and the sticky dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

Use the reserved sour cream as needed to incorporate the remaining flour into the shaggy wettish dough. If the dough is too wet, use more flour when shaping. Lightly sprinkle a board or other clean surface using some of the reserved flour. Turn the dough out onto the board and sprinkle the top of the dough lightly with flour. With floured hands, fold the dough in half, and pat dough out into a 1⁄3- to 1⁄2-inch-thick round, using a little additional flour only if needed. Flour again if necessary, and fold the dough in half a second time. If the dough is still clumpy, pat and fold a third time. Pat dough out into a 1⁄2-inchthick round for a normal biscuit, 3⁄4-inch-thick for a tall biscuit, and 1-inch-thick for a giant biscuit. Brush off any visible flour from the top. For each biscuit, dip a 2 1⁄2-inch biscuit cutter into the reserved flour and cut out the biscuits, starting at the outside edge and cutting very close together, being careful not to twist the cutter. The scraps may be combined to make additional biscuits, although these scraps make tougher biscuits. For handshaping and other variations, see pages 24–26.

Using a metal spatula if necessary, move the biscuits to the pan or baking sheet. Bake the biscuits on the top rack of the oven for a total of 8 to 10 minutes until light golden brown. After 4 minutes, rotate the pan in the oven so that the front of the pan is now turned to the back, and check to see if the bottoms are browning too quickly. If so, slide another baking pan underneath to add insulation and retard browning. Continue baking another 4 to 6 minutes until the biscuits are light golden brown. When the biscuits are done, remove from the oven and lightly brush the tops with softened or melted butter. Turn the biscuits out upside down on a plate to cool slightly. Serve hot, right side up.

  • If the sour cream is too thick, add a little milk


 The front page story in the NYT today about the death of Elaine Kaufman brought back a swirl of memories of this remarkable woman.  But my favorite memory is of the day New Southern Cooking was celebrated in New York.  It was a heady day when New Southern Cooking was clasped to my bosum, an amazing feat, my first hard back book.  I was stunned and in a state of disbelief that the years of work had come together after one hard push in the last year.  I was President of IACP, or on the Board, I'd have to look that up to verify which, and there was simultaneously a meeting of in New York.  I was there with a representative from White Lily, who was sponsoring my cooking show, and we were also doing rounds of media promoting the show, which had been out for several months.
Peter Kump was having a party of sorts for me at his cooking school.  Kate Almand, my right hand, a country woman from Georgia, was cooking there while we were rushing around, and did biscuits and grits, among other things, I believe, from the books.  Julia Child came and towered over everyone there, physically as well with her inimitable personality.  She was so gracous about the book, and even mentioned it later in her round up of best books on Good Morning America.  Julia was always generous and kind to me and I was always awkwardly grateful. The party was the happiest in memory...I was in a glorious daze.
We went back to the hotel afterwords, the old Barbizon hotel for women, and changed, checking out of the hotel then, and the White Lily ffriend and I were to go to Elaine's where friends Stuart Woods, Barbara Nevins and Nick Taylor were eating and had invited us to join them.  Outside the Barbizon was a line up of people trying to get taxi's in a miserable rain.  We told the doorman we were going to Elaine's, and he said, "Well, those men are going there too, indicating some rather good looking men."  Somehow we all piled into the cab, including, of course, our lugguage and my huge publicity poster thing of New Southern Cooking. Squooshed into the back seat, coats smelling of wet wool, one of the men said, "you must feel like I did with my first platinum record."  I hadn't the foggiest idea who they were, but the White Lily lady, from Tennessee, did.  IT was the Gatlin Brothers of country music fame.  But I got it that they were no slouches.
When we arrived at Elaine's, the Gatlin brothers grabbed our suitcases and I clutched my poster board, and burst into Elaines with a gust of wind and rain.  Stuart Woods was a habitue and always sat on "the line", the tables against the wall reserved for regulars and he was as startled as Elaine at the bell boys carrying our bags.  The restaurant was compelled to turn and stare by the ruckus we made.  We made it to Stuart's table, Elaine fawned (if one can use that word about Elaine) over the Gatlin Brothers and got them a table as close to the front as possible. I went up a considerable notch in Elaine's eyes -- she never forgot it.  Sitting there, about to order, Elaine brought a bottle of champagne, which cost an arm and a leg there.  She informed me the Gatlin Brothers sent it. Ah, never did champagne taste so good, no osso bucco to follow.
Arnsenio HAll, Woody Allen, and goodness knows who was there that Saturday night.  We mixed and mingled, table hopped, drank, and, well, frankly, I felt I was Queen for a Day.   God Bless you Elaine, wherever you are. 


 I only met Elizabeth Edwards once, but she left a vibrant impression.  I admit. I never liked John Edwards, with no real reason for my aversion.  But I always admired her.  I liked her vibrance, her resilience, her keeping moving' no matter what was holding her back, and even her loyalty and faith in her husband.  (That was early on, of course.)
I met her at a lunch for the wives of the  Democratic candidates for Preisdent two years ago.  It was held at High Cotton, and we ate an exquisite fish.  So hard to serve simultaneous orders of fresh fish, with each person --  the wife of a governor, the wives of four senators, was it? – anyway,  all of them knowing what good food was, and expecting the best from the rare restaurant respite after heavy campaigning and rubber chicken.
I didn't see Elizabeth Edwards.  She arrived after I did, I sat with another candidate's wife, with my back to the main part of the room, for part of the lunch.  Then I hopscotched over and met a few others.  Afterwords, there was a group picture.  I stood with the photographer from the Post and Courier, wanting to be sure I had the names in the right order, wanting to be sure they all looked good, all the things one wants to do for an article.  As soon as the photographs were taken, this ball of energy, radiating with smiles, came up to me.  Elizabeth Edwards said, "I think I'm the only one here who hasn't met you.  I'm Elizabeth Edwards."
This woman had more charisma in her little finger than John Edwards did in his whole body.  She was warm, immediately embracing.  It was as if I had known her a long time, as if I could tell her my secrets, sit and talk with her with a cup of hot tea and talk about our lives, our families.  She had a gift – for being herself.
I admit, I was charmed.  I wanted to talk to her more.  I was thrilled she wanted to meet me, even if it was because I was writing a newspaper story.  She made me feel alive, feel like I was valuable.
She taught me more about living ones life to the fullest, about grabbing joy every minute, fighting tiredness and insisting on surrounding herself with – what? Love? – radiance, an aura? I've never found the words.  But then, I didn't need to.  I just knew she was valuable and that I wanted to live my life as fully as she did.  God Bless, Elizabeth.  Sorry you were married to a man who didn't deserve you. 


Whenever I can I read the New York Times "Portraits of Grief," a daily series of personal glimpses of the victims of the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center. I am not aware of anyone I know having been there. I am instead searching for a common connection, bonds of brotherhood, perhaps-- and the need for putting names and faces to my nameless, faceless grief. Last week, the headline "a Fearless Cook" caught me unawares and I found my heart beating as I searched the photographs and word portraits.
Every cook’s most asked question is, “What is your favorite dish,” and most of us answer something different each time -- according to the weather, the company, the occasion, our mood, and the ear of the inquirer. In truth, most of us do want to be remembered for some special food, something that will be spoken of when memories are shared about us. And we wish that every meal could make its mark, could reach for the sky in its perfection. In the South, women are known for the specialties they bring to funerals and church suppers -- Aunt Ruth’s carrot cake, orMaMa Dupree’s caramel cake-- without which an occasion would not be complete.
Ribollita is just such a fitting memorial for Lydia Estelle Bravo, who died at the World Trade Center. The mention of it brings up memories of comforting food shared by large groups of laughing people, whether in a café or sitting around a long table in a Tuscan farm house. Ms. Bravo loved cooking, even taking cooking lessons at Peter Kump’s (Sic) New York Cooking School. Her fiance said she cooked Ribollita in their New York apartment the night before she died , accompanied by some Sangiovese wine.
A specialty of Tuscany in Central Italy and the heart of the Cianti region, Ribollita varies every time you eat it, tomatoes dominating in their season , and a special Italian green leafy vegetable (“Cavelo Nero”)and cabbage as it heads into the fall. (I use a mixture of collard greens and cabbage and it works just fine.) It is, simply put, vegetable soup, reboiled (“Ribollita” means just that , with the additional caveat of "cooked a long time" built into its definition) and served over the traditional unsalted Tuscan bread in the bottom of a dish, then sprinkled with an extra virgin olive oil, and perhaps Parmegiano Reggiano, the unique cheese from Parma, Italy. Usually ribollita is eaten with Tuscan’s special wine, Chianti Classico, which by Italy's legal definition is primarily made from Sangiovese grapes. Since many of the vineyards that grow the Sangiovese grapes for Chianti Classico also grow olives and bottle their own olive oil, the whole meal - the wine, the extra virgin olive oil and the cheese, makes a completely compatible experience. The best of everything.
Sometimes the bread breaks up enough to make a thick soup eaten with a fork. Other times, its vegetable broth reigns, and a spoon is used. Nothing else is needed, except good friends and loved ones.
Now, as I recall the number of times I ate Ribollita in Tuscany , another face comes into my mind, that of a stranger, a women who so loved life that she cooked the food she loved and God gave the grace to cook it the night before she died. May I make every meal for my loved ones as memorable as this one was . And when I cook, as I will today, I will bless the food as I cook it, rather than at the table, and think of her.

This recipe is not meant to be followed exactly – omit or add as you like, including water, to get the flavor and texture you like with the ingredients you have at hand. Leftovers refrigerate well for several days, or freeze.
¼ - ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 finely chopped onion
1 medium leek (optional)
1-2 finely chopped garlic cloves
8 ounces red cabbage, shredded
8 ounces Savoy cabbage or collard greens , shredded
1-2 peeled chopped carrots. optional
1-2 peeled celery stalks (minus leaves), optional
2-4 cups drained canned cannellini or white northern beans
1 cup canned peeled tomatoes, coarsely chopped, with their juice
Freshly ground pepper
1 slice good crusty Italian bread for each serving
1-2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmgiano-Reggiano for each serving
Basil, parsley or other fresh herbs, chopped

Heat a heavy casserole or soup pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil and when hot add the onion, leek and garlic. Cook until soft. Add the cabbage, collards, carrots, celery, drained canned beans, and tomatoes with their juice. Season with pepper and salt. Add 5 cups of water and bring to the (sic) boil. When it is boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 1-2 hours, according to your taste. (Many Italians like it almost creamy. Others like it when you can tell the beans are beans.)

Lightly toast or grill the bread, or use stale bread, and tear into big pieces, some in the bottom of each soup bowl. Ladle the hot soup over the bread and let it stand for about 5 minutes. Just before serving, drizzle a little of the olive oil over each serving and sprinkle with the Parmiagiano-Reggiano cheese and fresh herbs if desired..



When I was twelve or thirteen I asked my mother for enough money to eat at an upscale French chain restaurant, Longchamps, as my birthday present. My friend Juli and I went alone, on the bus, to the local shopping center. The restaurant had white table cloths and the waiters were in tuxedos. We were the first guests, as we went quite early in the evening in order to catch the last bus home. They welcomed us as if we were royalty, bowing slightly as they showed us to our seats and held out our chairs. Our waiter whisked a large white cloth napkin on my lap, and handed me an embossed menu larger than the top half of my body. We looked to the waiter for suggestions.
And so I began my romance with fresh parsley, chopped garlic, and escargot. The fat escargot, served on a scorching hot round tin plate with indentations for the delicate pale shells, seduced us by their aroma before we saw them. The waiter, delighted by our unabashed enthusiasm, taught us how to hold the snails with a special tong, as well how to pull the snails out of their shells with a tiny fork. We sopped the bread in the indentations holding the buttery remains, sated only when every last bit was gone. We were presented with little bowls with petals floating in them, told to lightly run our fingers in the water to clean them from our excesses. (Thus I was saved from the embarrassment of drinking from a finger bowl.)
From then on I have always relished dipping bread in the garlic butter sauce, even preparing it when there are no escargots. Sometimes I use this sauce with fresh clams; other times mushroom caps; but have been known to eat just fresh home baked bread, garlic, parsley from my garden, and good butter.
We had just started wearing stockings (and garter belts – this was long before panty hose.) When we left the restaurant it began to rain. We huddled against the wall and hid each other while removing our stockings, one by one, so we wouldn’t get them wet in the torrent that followed while we waited for our bus in the dark. We stood barefoot, against the wall, until finally the child in each of us broke loose, and we danced around, not caring about anything but being grown up enough to eat out in a restaurant where waiters hovered over us and we could eat anything we liked. The garlic memories danced in our mouths until long after we got home.
My sophomore year in college my friend from grammar school, Juli (now called Juliette), and her much older and sophisticated beau took us to dinner in a real candle-lit restaurant, with obsequious waiters and an extensive menu.
Iceberg lettuce was the only lettuce I had ever eaten before. That night we had romaine lettuce in our Caesar salad, crisp and cooling, coddled egg sauce (which the waiter prepared at the table for the salad, mashing in the delicate anchovies) and crispy croutons fried in butter. I do not understand how anyone who has had a proper Caesar salad can desecrate it with chicken or other additions.
I had my second escargots that night, drenched in a thick butter and garlic sauce, each plump snail in its own hollow in the circular plate topped with the sauce and fresh garlic. Juliette’s beau showed us again how to use the escargot tongs, and gave us permission to dip our bread into the left-over sauce. As if he could have stopped me.

All along I had been eating and cooking snails. Not fresh ones, of course, but the kind in a can tucked into a hearty plastic sleeve with delicately striped taupe and white shells piled on top. Fresh parsley was available in grocery stores when no other herbs were, or, alternately, there was dried parsley and butter along with freshly chopped garlic.
The garlic was not chopped as fine as I learned to chop it later at the Cordon Bleu, nor did I know how to peel it by a firm swack. I pulled with my fingernails until it was naked, then cut the garlic clove in my hands with whatever dull knife was at hand.
I purchased numerous gadgets to cut both the parsley and the garlic. There was a chopper-type thing inside a clear container. I would raise the metal chopper thing up and down rapidly. Ultimately it chopped what was in the bottom, but the effort seemed arduous. I tried scissors for the parsley, but they were not adequate. It was years before I learned what good kitchen scissors are – like Joyce Chen’s little sharp red ones that will work wonders on a small batch of French parsley, or my Henckels that will cut rosemary from the bushes outside my window. But somehow I got it done. I had six plates with six hollows for the shells, and six metal holders, which you squeezed to open enough to hold the shell. I even had the tiniest of forks to pull the snails out. I used good butter, and even the fainthearted among my friends learned to enjoy them. If they didn’t, they could at least mop up the sauce with French bread I purchased, and I would eat their snails.
The snails I had in Paris, with real French bread, were better than the ones that I cooked. Or maybe it was being in France for the first time. Maybe it was just France. Although one can walk through the huge Parisian Chef’s Market, Rungis, and see tin plate after tin plate with stuffed snails, ready to be popped in the oven, it is possible to see, even in the modest “Super U’s” of France, five or six kinds of fresh snails on ice, ready to be cooked by the enterprising chef or housewife.
When I fixed (the southern word for “cooked”) snails for Neil, his mother, Corrine, and her husband Saul, I hadn’t started out to fix them at all. I was already a good cook, if not a baker, when I met Neil. My trip to France had heightened my awareness of food. After a brief time living in the lower East Village, I moved to an apartment with three women. There was little cooking being done there except for a Weight Watcher’s recipe of someone’s that had limp pea green canned asparagus and a caraway laden Swiss cheese on toast, I think, all heated up in the little toaster oven. I did cook at Neil’s, simple suppers we both enjoyed, and on occasion cooked for his mother and Saul. It was not unusual for Neil to ask me to cook birthday dinner for Corrine.
I dearly loved Corrine, with her perfectly made-up plump face, long acrylic painted nails (the first I’d ever seen) and tastefully chic clothes. We went to Church together every Wednesday and Saturday, so we were very close. It was easier to accept her love than Neil’s.
Neil said that his mother had a favorite dish she hadn’t been able to get in New York – mountain oysters. I had a real appreciation for oysters and other seafood, and presumed that mountain oysters were, like mountain trout, a fresh-water variant of some sort. There were a lot of things I’d never eaten – after all, I had only recently eaten my first fresh omelet and first loose leaf lettuce in France the previous summer.
Neil picked me up on Corrine’s birthday and said we were heading downtown, I assumed to the fish market. But no, we wound up in the slaughter-house district. That’s when I found out we were – I was – cooking not oysters at all, but an oyster-shaped meat, also called lamb fries, which was – were – testicles. I felt a bit stunned, but game. And then a bit more stunned to find out that so many animals had testicles. Well, I mean I knew all mammals had testicles, I suppose, or something like testicles, but who knew that ducks had them? And veal? And pigs, large and small? And who knew they were so cheap? They were about twenty five cents a pair. We figured a pair per person would do, but we couldn’t figure out what kind Corrine liked, and what the best were, or even what size, or shape. I also felt that we needed some for me to practice on.
The butchers, who found it humorous, no doubt, to tell me how to cook them, told me I could slice them in half and sauté them like scaloppini, or batter and deep fry, or roll in crumbs and pan fry, and on and on. They could hardly contain themselves with the debates – whether to peel them or not to peel them, and which kind were best. I soaked it all in, and wound up thoroughly confused. We left with nearly $30 worth of testicles – from marble shooter sized duck pairs to small lamb and veal pairs, piglet pairs, porcine pairs, and even steer pairs.
Walking down the street, we passed a Chinese man selling snails. They were in tin cans that were about two cups in size. Their price? One dollar. Having previously spent up to $10 for the kind that came in the tiny can with the shells piled on top, inside a plastic sleeve, I was thrilled! What a bargain! We purchased two cans and happily set off for Neil’s high-rise.
Neil dropped me, the snails and the mountain oysters off. One of the cookbooks I had brought with me – which one I cannot remember — said to put the snails in a wooden keg or barrel, sprinkle them with oatmeal, and then cover the barrel with a cement block. I was on the 15th floor of an apartment on East 86th Street, and there was neither a barrel or cement block. So I put the snails, still in their shells, in the sink with the oatmeal and the liquid that was in the can.
Neil’s apartment was a typical New York one. The dining room table stood immediately inside the entrance, to be pulled out during dining. The kitchen was adjacent. The living room formed an “L,” with a porch opposite the dining room table. I covered the table with newspapers, using platters to hold the various types and sizes of mountain oysters. Neil’s large butcher’s knife in hand, I practiced on the mountain oysters. I peeled some. I cut some in half. I fried some. I marinated some. Testicles piled high on the table, I went to the porch with the cookbooks, sat in the sun and mulled over the dinner.
      I dozed, perhaps, in the warm sun. It was delicious to be alone and not with all my roommates. As I stood and walked back to the kitchen, I thought I heard a sound. A little clicking. Standing at the kitchen door, I realized it was the snails, clicking around the kitchen as they hauled their shells on their little feet.
     These were very tiny snails, much smaller than the snails that come in cans. They were no bigger than my fingernail. Now there were hundreds of them, roaming around Neil’s immaculate kitchen, having been rejuvenated by their snack of oatmeal and water, and eager to explore their surroundings. They were between the stove and the refrigerator. On the walls. On the ceilings. On the floor. On the cabinets. And they were alive. All of them.
I suppose it was self-evident that they were alive when I put them to soak in the water. But it wasn’t to me. Once I realized they were alive, I became squeamish at the idea of picking them up.
I ran to the apartment next door, where two men lived. I hadn’t really met them, but I had seen them when visiting Neil. I knocked frantically on the door, and when they came to the door I was too speechless to articulate the problem. They came rushing back into the apartment with me.
There, some peeled, some not, some sliced, some not, piled high, in all sizes and shapes, lay the mountain oysters, with the bloodied knife resting on the cutting board. The men took one look at me and turned on their heels. This occurred a long time before Jeffrey Daumer, an infamous murderer who dissected human bodies and ate their parts, but they clearly had an instantaneous impression of a mass murderer -- or at least a mass castrator. “No,” I said, “you don’t understand.” They kept running, to the elevator. I ran after them.
When I caught up with them, sans knife, I must have looked easy to overcome by force, so they listened. They started laughing in disbelief, and followed me to the apartment. Bless their hearts, they helped get all those snails up while I put the mountain oysters in the refrigerator.
When the snail removal was half done, Neil returned and helped with the rest, laughing as hard as the rest of us. I proceeded to boil the snails in their shells, then remove them from the shells and bake the shells to sterilize them, like the book said. And then it hit me. These were New York City snails. They had been roaming around, God knew where, eating whatever. The oatmeal was to clean out their digestive tract. I didn’t believe it had been cleaned in the short time taken pepping them up to jump out of the sink.
I threw them all away and sent Neil out for more snails. The kind that came with a plastic sleeve of shells. And the mountain oysters? The best kinds are duck and veal, fried. I’ve become a specialist in them now.

The French call them frivolities – to me a peculiar name for something so integral to the procreation of mammals – and have quite a number of ways of preparing them. So, too, do people out West. Here’s my favorite recipe:

When I was thirty I found myself running a restaurant in rural Majorca - one hour's drive from the major city, Palma. I could hardly believe I had been hired.
My then-husband, David, whom I had married after Neil and I had broken up, was the bookkeeper. I was the chef. Neither of us spoke Catalan, the patois of French and Spanish spoken in Majorca. I had barely scraped by college Spanish, confident I would never need it. Wrong again. The maitre d' and one of the waiters spoke English, but not the maids who helped in the kitchen. The restaurant occupied an old finca, or farmhouse, built around an olive press. A massive olive tree kept watch just out the door of our bedroom. I could pick figs and roses during the short walk up to the restaurant.
I had never even worked in a restaurant before I became Chef. Armed only with an Advanced Certificate from the London Cordon Bleu, I had no idea how little I knew.
One evening, it rained just as we closed the restaurant for the evening. We hadn't seen much rain. We welcomed it, and that particular, fresh smell rain brings after a long dry spell. Taking a drive down the dark and winding country roads, we started seeing little lights dotting the fields and vineyards. We were bemused - even, perhaps, a little alarmed. Could it be poachers? If so, what on earth were they poaching, and why were they using flashlights to do so?
The next morning, we were eager to share our observations and went up to the restaurant together quite early, finding all the staff -waiters and kitchen staff alike - already assembled.
All around the kitchen were buckets of snails. Small snails. Alive. I eyed them warily, alert with memories of Neil’s live snails. The lights we had seen were lanterns and flashlights owned by all the local people, searching for snails with enthusiasm. The staff viewed us with a bit of derision for not having a few kilos of our own to add to the stash. We were to have a snail feast!
There was a great deal of joking about how many snails a typical person could eat, most people claiming 100 each, and a long discussion about the preparation. The upshot was that the snails were washed, placed back in the buckets whose tops were covered with a wire mesh to prevent the snails from wiggling out. The snails were to be fed cornmeal, rosemary or fennel until Sunday, which was several days away, as well as a day when we didn't serve lunch. (Some people say to purge them rather than feed them. But feed them we did. I was told it affected the flavor. I cannot swear to it.)
After church on Sunday the normally empty kitchen was full of people talking and moving rapidly people. The maids, their husbands, the wife of the arrogant Maitre’d, were busily scrubbing snails, dressing, cleaning and rinsing ducks, separating eggs.
I joined the Maitre’d in moving several tall stockpots to the back of the stove. To each we added a dead and cleaned duck, a dead and cleaned chicken, handfuls of thyme and fennel from our garden, cut up onions, cut up tomatoes, salt and pepper and water. We opened several bottles of a favorite Spanish white wine, added water to fill the stockpots three quarters of the way to their brims, and covered them with lids. We cooked these all together for an hour or so, and then, finally, added the snails, their shells scrubbed before being rinsed in vinegar and water. Their veils had been removed as well.
With the gas turned on high under the pots, we waited again until bubbles appeared and then turned the heat down to a simmer. The aroma was tantalizing. We were all ravenous. Meanwhile, we whisked eggs with oil to make the aioli, the local farm-raised eggs mounting easily. We pulled down the ripe red Majorcan tomatoes from the white tiled arched hallway where they were strung together, separated by knots, to semi-dry. One group chopped the tomatoes until, after what seemed to be a tortuous long time to me and my stomach, the pot’s contents were deemed “done.” Pulling out the chicken and duck with tongs, we let them cool until we could remove the flesh from the bones and discard the skin. We scooped up the snails and put them in another pot while we boiled the stock down to a rich, full flavored broth, as sumptuous as any eaten in a three star restaurant.
Finally, duck, chicken and snails were stirred into the thick broth and we ladled the mixture into bread lined bowls, adding dollops of the aioli and the tomatoes. I headed to the terrace, where I could look out at the acres of fig and olive trees and the roses lining the walks. I ate my snails slowly, wondering at the magic of the midnight rain. I think I ate a hundred, but how can I be sure?

1 cup olive oil
6-8 cloves of garlic, peeled
Salt to taste
1 egg
1 egg yolk
Juice of 1 lemon
Freshly ground pepper

Crush the garlic and 1/2 teaspoon of salt together on a board with a palette knife and place in a bowl or process in a food processor until it makes a paste. Add the egg and egg yolk and beat until thick and air is incorporated. Slowly add the oil until thick. Taste for seasoning and add the lemon juice, pepper and more salt if needed.


Dribs and Drabs of food in my refrigerator haunt me. I blame the farmer’s market for the lush tomatoes and vivid red and yellow peppers that I like to keep on the table – ignoring them until they are on the edge of extinction. Eggplants always seem so sturdy and indestructible with their thick skins that I ignore their girth when I purchase them only to be frustrated with them when they take up the whole refrigerator vegetable bin. And who ever purchased one ear of corn? (Also refrigerator hogs, by the way.) There’s always one that will not fit on the grill or in the microwave and languishes lonely and near forgotten until desperation hits the dinner table.
Fortunately, restaurants have set the stage for serving dribs and drabs. So what if you don’t have enough one of thing to feed everyone what would formerly have been considered a portion? A few dribs and drabs of everything will make an empty plate look like a vegetable repast.
Or stretch it -- let them eat a bit of manqué choux, which accommodates shrimp quite nicely, or ratatouille, which is easily tucked underneath a cooked chicken breast.
Dot blanched green beans with sautéed mushrooms so dark and wizened some need to have their stems tossed in the stock pot along with the corn husks. If need be, as pictured here, have a massive cook off, cutting the bad spots out of eggplants, chopping them rather than slicing them, cutting the peppers into diamond shapes, and using all the zucchini at once. Baked rather than sautéed, the cook’s work is done and bon bons are in order.
If all that is in the refrigerator is one pie crust a partial container of feta and half a log of goat cheese, with demise beckoning a very ripe tomato, bake the pie crust in a tart pan (please, please go out and buy one to use with the rolls on pie crusts from the refrigerator section in the grocery store), slice and cook the tomato in the oven until enough moisture is gone to prevent a soggy pie and the flavor is intensified, and peel that hapless zucchini with a potato peeler, lengthwise, before forming the resulting ribbons into a lattice atop the roasted tomato and sprinkled goat cheese and running the whole thing in the oven to heat through and melt the cheese. It too will accommodate cooked shrimp or shredded chicken if need be, and certainly is a meal for a king.

Makes 6-8 servings

This is a dish that does not require much preparation before it is baked and soon on the table. A time saver like this is a good choice for any cook. This cut is new to the South, originating in the 1950’s in California, and taking until the turn of the 2000’s to reach our grocery stores on a regular basis. It is known for its combination of flavor and tenderness when not overcooked. Cut from the bottom triangle of the sirloin, the tri-tip is an irregular triangle that provides well done meat at the ends of its triangle, with more rare pieces on the thicker point. If only one temperature of meat is desired, the bottom points may be tied together making a thicker roast that has all parts cook more evenly. It is important to remove it from the oven ten minutes before carving to enable the temperature to rise and for the roast to rest and its juices distributed.
1 beef tri-tip roast (1-1/ to 2 pounds)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
1-2 teaspoons cracked black pepper
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/ teaspoon salt
1/ teaspoon dried thyme or rosemary
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Combine olive oil, packed brown sugar, cracked black pepper, garlic, salt and thyme. Rub this seasoning mixture onto the beef roast. Transfer to an oiled baking pan and bake uncovered, until internal temperature reaches 135 degrees for rare, 140°F for medium rare; 155°F for medium, approximately 20-30 minutes depending on thickness. Tent loosely with aluminum foil; let stand 10 minutes. Carve against the grain into thin slices.


Watermelon has always been a staple at southern cookouts This is a spectacular addition with a crumble of salty feta and a handful of the fresh, sweet blueberries that are in season simultaneously, it makes a beautiful red white and blue salad that’s delicious and healthy.

2 cups fresh watermelon, cut into sticks or cubes
1 pint fresh blueberries
6 oz feta cheese, crumbled or grated
1 (5oz) package fresh mache or baby spinach
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/ cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and fresh pepper
fresh herbs to taste (basil, thyme, rosemary, etc)

Whisk the Dijon mustard and honey with the balsamic vinegar in a small bowl. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Season with salt and fresh pepper. Add fresh herbs from the garden if available! Toss the greens with the dressing (you may have some leftover) and divide onto 4-6 serving plates with the watermelon, blueberries, and feta. If using for a cookout, assemble salad ingredients together in a large serving bowl and dress just before serving.


Serves 6-8 as an appetizer

For casual summer tarts and pies there is no need to struggle with pie pastry. The rolls of pie crusts found in the refrigerator section of the grocery store are excellent. I much prefer the “name brand” pie crusts to the store brands I have encountered, however. Serve at room temperature as a snack or appetizer. Alternately, treat this as an upscale grilled cheese and tomato sandwich and serve it with tomato soup on a rainy day.

1 pie crust (may be store bought)
1 log goat cheese
1 recipe oven roasted tomatoes
2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, thyme, oregano or marjoram (optional)]
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Roll out the pastry to fit a 10 inch tart pan, preferably with removable bottom. Trim off the excess around the edges. Move to a baking sheet. Sprinkle the tomatoes over the pie crust. Dot with half of the goat cheese. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil.

Bake 25-30 minutes or crust is golden and cheese is melted. Sprinkle with remaining cheese – sliced or in dots -- and return to oven for a few minutes. Add herbs if desired. Allow to rest 5 minutes before cutting.


The best tip I learned recently was to perfume my olive oil. The Chef took great handfuls of garlic (about 6 heads, broken into cloves) and added them to a bottle of olive oil he had poured into a oven roasting pan. He then heated the oil with the garlic, added several big handfuls of fresh basil, thyme and rosemary STEMS, bringing carefully, and slowly, just below the boiling point. He removed the pan from the heat, poked the herbs in with the stems and garlic, and left it to infuse. An hour or two later he strained up the oil for using in the dishes. It had an extraordinary flavor and color, and added greatly to the dishes. The oil will keep up to a week in the refrigerator, covered. (I suspect longer, but have not had any LAST longer than a week yet!)

Serves 4
There is no limit to what sliced vegetables you can add.
1 red bell pepper
5 small new potatoes, washed but not peeled
2 onions
1/3 cup olive oil
1 (1-pound) bulb fennel (12 ounces after fronds are removed) or California anise
1 garlic clove, chopped
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 cup freshly grated imported Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
3 heaping tablespoons finely chopped fennel frond
Spray grill with nonstick spray and preheat

Place the pepper on the hot grill until blackened all over. Remove and place in a plastic bag to steam off skin. When cool enough to handle, remove charred skin and seed them.
Add the new potatoes to the grill and cook, turning as necessary. Remove when nearly soft, approximately 20 minutes. Quarter the onions, toss in the olive oil, and place on the grill. Trim the base of the fennel to remove the discolored portion but leave the bulb attached at the base. Remove any tough outer layers. Cut off the fronds, reserving them. Cut the fennel in quarters, then each quarter in half, leaving a small section to the base attached to each piece. Toss in the oil and add to the grill. Drain the potatoes, toss in the oil, and add to the grill. Grill the vegetables until lightly charred all over. The inside of the onion and fennel should still be crisp.
In a bowl add the garlic and vinegar to the remaining oil. Add the pepper strips, potatoes, onions, fennel, and cheese and toss. Season to taste with salt and pepper and the chopped fennel frond. Serve at room temperature or chilled. May be made 2 days in advance and kept covered and chilled.


Having just taken a wonderful cruise on a barge in England, I started out this week prepared to write about the food the chef had made. We did six television shows together, to air in late fall or early spring. The young chef, Steve, had some brilliant food, and so I started to translate his recipes into American measurements and verbiage. (Plastic wrap vs. cling wrap; cups vs. gills; ounces to cups, etc.) His spelling is worse than George Washington’s was. (George couldn’t spell broccoli either.)
A new apprentice, Meri Spalviero, winner of Trident Tech’s Culinary Institute’s Nathalie Dupree scholarship, started working with me on Tuesday, eager to try something new. So we printed out Steve’s recipes, rarin’ to go. One thing led to another. The fennel from my major grocery shop before Memorial Day weekend had frozen. In fact, everything in my produce drawer had frozen, because I had had so much crammed into the refrigerator the air stopped circulating. The shortening had gone bad after being moved to the shelf after opening.
We realized we should go to the store, but the refrigerator was laden, as was the fruit and vegetable bowl that sits on my kitchen counter. Everything was getting over ripe. The tomatoes had been heading for ruin so the night before so I had stuck them on a pan, drizzled them with olive oil, and baked them. Some were cherry tomatoes, others were those “on-the-vine” type. I didn’t have time to do two pans full, so I cut the large ones in quarters and the cherry tomatoes in halves and roasted them together. When I was ready for bed I turned the oven off and left them in all night. There was a case of apples left from the two cases someone had given me in March. There were four oranges off of a Charleston orange tree that were older than they should have been. The pineapple – oh, I do love a fresh pineapple, and oh, do I hate to peel them – was getting soft.
We felt too guilty to go to the store, so we used butter, which I had on hand, for the Eccles cake that called for half shortening and half butter. We didn’t have the right amount of milk, so we used up the cream purchased for holiday weekend house guests, now gone. In fact, all this produce was for them, and only half of what I had purchased had been eaten. My eyes had been bigger than my guest’s stomachs. We got the pineapple and the oranges sliced, applesauce made, the Barge chef’s pastry finished and the day was over.
he next day, Meri showed up with all her vegetables and fruits that were going bad, inspired by my attempt to staunch the waste of my food, to clean out her refrigerator. The article on the fabulous barge food had become a story of saving money and using up what you have before you go grocery shopping. Chefs do this automatically. But home cooks have gotten lax, I’m afraid, over the years of cheap American food. (We have long had the lowest ratio of food cost to living cost of any nation.) As our food costs rise with the cost of gasoline, we have to relearn conserving, and using every last bit that we have. It is miraculous how slicing, making a salad, or cooking changes produce enough that it becomes useable for many days.
Stale biscuits become bread pudding that can be frozen. Tomatoes become roasted tomatoes, kept ready in the refrigerator for any number of uses, but in this case Tomato Pie, along with two kinds of goat cheese that had been opened and neglected. The oranges are softened in sugar syrup, ready to be eaten as a special treat, candied further, or to chop and use in the Eccles cake. Meri’s sale Bing cherries, perhaps already on the edge of ripe when she purchased them, become a wonderful foil for cooked pineapple sauce. Her multi-colored tomatoes and two ears of corn become a corn salad. My half frozen fennel is just enough for Steve’s Fennel Salad, with the use of a little half frozen celery and Meri’s spring onions. The applesauce is ready for an Apple Charlotte, perhaps, or just breakfast, or I might just call the friend who gave me the apples and give it to him. We had a bountiful feast. Actually, we ate some for lunch, Meri took some home to have a surprise dinner party for a friend, and I called friends for lunch the next day, something I wouldn’t have done if everything hadn’t been ready. Oh, and if you want information on the barge trip, email me at


Serves 2

1 to 2 ribs celery, strings removed

2 to 3 Kalamata olives

2 to 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Slice the celery as thinly as possible. Chip the olives off the pit in small pieces. Toss together with 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil, adding more as needed. Season well with salt and freshly grated pepper. Serve chilled.


Makes 6 servings

10-inch-round of Sicilian or focaccia bread

2-3 large garlic cloves, crushed

1 cup chopped green olives stuffed with pimientos

1 cup pitted and chopped Kalamata or Italian black olives

1 rib celery, finely chopped

1/2 cup roasted sweet red peppers, chopped

3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 cup olive oil

1/3 pound capicola

1/3 pound salami

1/3 pound mortadella

1/3 pound Emmentaler Swiss cheese

1/3 pound provolone

Cut the bread in half horizontally, scooping out a little of the inside to have enough room for the filling. Toss the garlic, olives, celery, roasted peppers, parsley, vinegar and olive oil together to make the olive salad. Drizzle some of the olive oil and juice from the olive salad on each side of the open loaf to dampen it. Starting with the bottom half, layer capicola, salami, olive salad, provolone, Swiss cheese and mortadella. Top with the other half loaf. Slice into wedges.

This crispy, refreshing salad is a wonderful addition to any table. Tiny pieces of orange are a nice addition on occasion. It is adapted from Kim Sunee's "Trail of Crumbs."


Serves 10

1/4 cup Creole mustard

2 tablespoons paprika

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup white vinegar

1 cup finely chopped green onions

Dash of Tabasco sauce

1/2 cup finely chopped celery

1/2 cup finely chopped parsley

1/2 cup ketchup

1/2 cup prepared yellow mustard

2 cloves of garlic, minced

3 eggs (at room temperature)

Juice of 1 lemon

1 1/3 cups salad oil

80 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (8 per person), approximately 2 1/2 pounds

For the sauce, put the first 14 ingredients into a blender container.

Cover and mix at high speed until well blended.

Remove cover and gradually add the oil in a steady stream. Sauce will thicken to mayonnaise consistency. Chill.

Boil or saute shrimp until done. Let come to room temperature. Serve topped with remoulade sauce.

I've adapted this muffuletta recipe from several on the Web, so I don't know how close it comes to the one at Central Grocery. Nevertheless, it is delicious.

Note: The Central Grocery lets its olive salad, which includes cauliflower, sit 24 hours before using.


New Orleans has been beckoning me for some time.

I kept dreaming of shrimp po' boys, Cafe du Monde's beignets, Paul Prudhomme's K-Paul's, Commander's Palace's Barbecued Shrimp, Cafe Adelaide's Creole cheesecake and more. Recipes were floating during my REM, unwilling to stop for me to write them down.

My dreams were inspired in part by Kim Sunee's memoir, "Trail of Crumbs." She had such a passionate love for New Orleans as well as French cooking that it made me want to get up in the middle of the night and cook. Once, I did, just having to try her celery and olives, of all things, which is absolutely delicious and was worth eating at 3 a.m.

Her stuffed crawfish heads wooed me. Although she has a source for them, I couldn't quite see ordering them.

Two weeks ago I realized my fantasies, attending a conference in the Big Easy. There I was on a panel with Tory McPhail, chef of Commander's Palace. Tory has cooked at Charleston's Food & Wine Festival for three years.

I said, "Tory, could we stuff shrimp heads?"

"Why not?" he answered.

And so, when I went to Commander's to eat, there it was, Shrimp Bisque, with a stuffed shrimp head proudly standing up in the middle of the bowl. We followed the bisque with Barbecued Shrimp and Shrimp Remoulade, regardless of their place on the menu.

After a party at Cafe Adelaide, where author Ti Brennan was the consummate hostess, I thought I could eat no more. But I was shameless. All I wanted to do was to get some Creole cheesecake, take it to my room to eat and go to bed. So I did. I sat on my bed and poured the caramel sauce on the cheesecake, pulled out a fork, and ate it as if it was my last dessert. It would have been a worthy one.

Not that all my eating was in grand style. I had that shrimp po' boy at a nondescript place in the French Quarter and it satisfied my hunger. And I ate a muffuletta at Central Grocery, standing in line for half an hour for the honor of purchasing one. They've been making them there since 1906, and it is still worth the effort to get one of the world's best sandwiches.



These shrimp recipes are courtesy of Commander's Palace restaurant. Chef McPhail is coming out with a new cookbook in the fall, "Commander's Wild Side: Bold Flavors for Fresh Ingredients From The Great Outdoors."

This dish needs head-on shrimp because the fat content in the body is what gives this dish some of its flavor. Make sure the shrimp are fresh. Because of the weight of the head and shell, 1 pound yields only about 8 ounces of meat.

This dish is cooked very fast, so preparation is key.

It is critical that the garlic is not burned while cooking the shrimp. Other fresh herbs, such as marjoram, thyme, etc., may be added.

Serve with French bread, lots of napkins and finger bowls.

Tyrone Walker
The Post and Courier

Barbecued shrimp swims in a garlicky, spicy sauce that begs for a piece of crusty French bread to soak up all the flavors.
Makes 4 appetizers or 2 entrees

2 pounds large, head-on shrimp

2 tablespoons Creole seafood seasoning

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large head garlic, cloves peeled and minced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

3 tablespoons hot sauce

1 lemon, juiced, quartered (reserve the juice)

1/3 cup beer

Salt and pepper to taste

1 stick butter, room temperature

Lemon pieces for garnish

Season shrimp with half of the Creole seafood seasoning and lightly toss.

Preheat a large skillet over high heat, put the oil in the pan, and heat until the oil begins to smoke. Place garlic and rosemary in pan and stir to brown garlic. Be very careful not to burn.

Add shrimp and carefully stir.

Add Worcestershire, hot sauce, lemon juice and lemon quarters.

Deglaze with beer, stirring to release any bits clinging to the bottom, and boil the mixture to reduce while shaking the pan. Allow shrimp to cook 2-2 1/2 minutes (timing will depend on size) and add remaining seafood seasoning. Salt and pepper to taste.

When shrimp are finished cooking, the liquid will have a sauce consistency. Reduce heat to medium high and add butter. Saute until butter is emulsified and sauce is thick. Adjust seasoning. Remove lemon quarters.

Garnish each serving with a lemon piece.