It’s Christmas time again! Actually it’s been Christmas time for at least a month, based on when people on my Facebook feed seem to have put up their trees. But now that it’s December we’ve definitely crossed the Yuletide line. How does the crew of the World’s Only Live Radio Cooking Show (That We Know Of) celebrate? With food, of course. (It’s how we celebrate everything. It’s also how we celebrate nothing.)
Join us for an all-new episode on Wednesday, December 4, when we’ll be talking about some Christmas classics–some well-known, some forgotten–and how we might give them a new twist.
That’s Wednesday, December 4, 6-7PM, broadcasting live from the opulent kitchens of the Appalshop on 88.7 WMMT-FM, and streaming worldwide on wmmtfm.org. Tune us in, and if you’re in Whitesburg come on and join our Tasting/Dishwashing Panel. (We’d especially love to see you Whitesburgers this time as our usual coterie of Kitchen Angels will be otherwise disposed.)
Don’t miss it!
Are you Hazard-adjacent? Do you want to see the WCN! crew in action without peering through the door into the opulent Appalshop kitchen?
Then mark your calendar for December 17 at 6PM, when we’ll be doing the first in a series of WCN! Live! episodes, “recorded live before a studio audience”. This edition will take place at the First Presbyterian Church in Hazard, in their (legitimately) opulent kitchen, and we’ll be talking about “Cooking for a Crowd” for a show which will air on January 1.
Don’t miss it!
How often do we get to celebrate a holiday that won’ t happen again for 79,043 years? Thanks to some quirks of the Hebrew and Gregorian calendars, Thanksgiving and the first day of Hanukkah are happening on the same day this year, giving birth to the once-in-a-lifetime mashup of Thanksgivukkah.
Wednesday (11/6) on The World’s Only Live Radio Cooking Show (That We Know Of), we’ll take any excuse to make latkes, so on our November show we’ll be raising the Manischewitz and giving a Turkey Day twist to some Jewish favorites (and vice versa). We’ll help your already awesome Thanksgiving dinner miraculously become eight times as awesome.
That’s Wednesday, 11/6, from 6-7PM, on 88.7 WMMT-FM in Whitesburg, KY. As always, you can stream it here. And if you’re in town come on over and join the Tasting/Dishwashing Panel.
Don’t miss it!
* No actual Manischewitz will be consumed. That stuff is nasty.
Peaches in the springtime, baby, apples in the fall….even though modern grocery stores mean decent apples 12 months a year, and apple trees around here usually seem to have done their thing by the end of September, apples are a crucial element of what we think of as autumn cuisine. In many ways the apple is the perfect food–great with no more preparation than a quick rinse, but also an extremely versatile ingredient in pretty much anything. It’s no surprise that its magic is said to extend even to keeping the doctor away, although I wouldn’t recommend holding on to that aphorism if you’re suffering from, say, tuberculosis.
So what can you do with apples other than sauce and pie? On the October edition of The World’s Only LIVE Radio Cooking Show (That We Know Of) we’ll talk about using apples through the whole meal–appetizer, salad, main, side, beverage. Not just dessert!
That’s Wednesday, October 2, 6-7PM EDT, on 88.7 WMMT-FM in Whitesburg, KY. You can stream it live here, and it will eventually be uploaded to the WMMT site and posted to our archive page.
Don’t miss it!
There comes a time in the life of any true geek when he needs to surround himself with other geeks, if only for a little while. That’s true whether the thing you’re a geek about is comic books, firearms, jam bands, My Little Pony, or cooking and eating and telling the world about it.
I mean, it’s not like I don’t have people to talk food with. My wife shares some of my food nerdery, but one probably shouldn’t let one’s geek flag fly quite at full mast at home, for the same reason a person obsessed with the ukulele probably shouldn’t play it around his wife very much (as I mercifully don’t). Jenny is, of course, my culinary partner-in-crime, but I don’t want her to have a chance to get tired of my goings-on either. People who see my pics on Facebook ask me about food all the time, but I don’t want to be like one of those hardcore fanboys who launches into diatribes about the finer philosophical points of the various 80s X-Men runs with people who want to discuss Hugh Jackman’s ass.
This is what blogging conferences are all about. Oh, the sessions and the swag are great, but they’re mostly excuses to get a group of people together who share a similar pathology so we can feel normal for a little bit. We refer to this as “networking”, because that sounds productive, but it’s really just a chance to both be and have an unusually receptive audience. Yes, please tell me all about your blog. By all means, let’s discuss the merits of various macro lenses. I would love to hear all about your smoker, and for God’s sake don’t leave out any details.
It reminds me of those crack dens you see on gritty TV shows. If you’re someone who enjoys smoking crack, I have to imagine it’s really nice to go someplace where you can be around people and smoke all the crack you want and no one will judge you. And if you happen to pick up some pointers to improve your crack-smoking technique, all the better.
The crack house in question here is the International Food Blogger Conference, being held in Seattle September 22-24. This was held last year in Portland, and it was so educational, inspiring, and just plain fun that I barely hesitated before signing up for this year’s version. Even though it’s quite a schlep to Seattle (where the organizers are based, hence the PNW-centric locations), it’s a supposedly awesome city I’ve never visited, and in my two all-too-brief trips I’ve kind of fallen in love with the Pacific Northwest anyway. (Don’t worry, Portlanders–I’m not planning to move there.)
All that said, I still feel like a bit of an outsider at food blogger gatherings. For one thing, I’m a dude, and the ratio at these things is about 5:1 in the other direction. (And I am far too happily married to work that statistic to my advantage.) For another, our primary medium is terrestrial radio, which in this crowd is like saying we publish our blog on papyrus.
A lot of the blogs represented fall into one of several subgroups that I don’t fit into at all–mommyblogs, healthy lifestyle blogs, blogs about specific diets (gluten-free, vegan, etc.). Nothing wrong with any of those things, but I don’t have kids, and two of my favorite subjects are pork and yummy, yummy gluten, so I don’t get a lot of circles drawn around me in the Venn diagram.
I also draw up at the word “monetize”, which gets thrown around an awful lot at these things. Don’t get me wrong, I also dream of being the next Pioneer Woman (without the “prologue to Brokeback Mountain” feel), leaving my cares and day job behind and being paid handsomely as I turn my little blog and its tens of readers into a media empire, but I also dream of being Bruce Springsteen. (I also just hate the word “monetize”. It’s a perfectly cromulent word, I guess, but it always makes me feel like I’m playing Buzzword Bingo.)
Still, it’s our shared geekery that brings us together–our love for something that most people don’t really understand. If Star Wars and Star Trek nerds can coexist at the same convention, then certainly vegans and barbecue bloggers, mommybloggers and dessert bloggers, health nuts and hedonists, monetizers and rank amateurs can all sit at the same table. Where we’ll make sure to get a picture of everything before we eat.
NOTE: The IFBC has offered a reduced registration fee to bloggers who write three posts about the event. This is one of those posts. The WCN! blog is an independent publication, in that we are willing to be bought by anyone. Our email address is above if you’re buying.
If Jenny is going to shame me by getting one show recapped before we do another one, I guess I’ll play along (even if mine is a few days late).
I’m not usually one to fall in love with my own dishes, but if I were Oprah, I’d be calling this blackberry gastrique my new Favorite Thing and you’d all have a jar of it underneath your chairs. I can’t take credit for it, but for the life of me I can’t remember exactly where I read about it. I’ve served it twice now–once as an afterthought for a roast chicken, and once here with pork–and both times it ended up being the star of the show.
Gastrique is the Frogs’ version of a sweet and sour sauce, at its simplest just vinegar and sugar but often with other flavors. Just about every cuisine puts a version of this on meats; Italy calls it agrodolce, and Asian cuisines have endless varieties on the idea, all far better than the red glop you get with your Sweet and Sour Chicken at Samurai Chang’s Discount Scary-Yaki. If applying a vinegar and sugar combo to meat seems a little odd to the American palate, consider what you get if you just add some tomato to the party:
For such a show-stopper of a sauce, it couldn’t be simpler–combine equal parts sugar, fruit, and vinegar, chuck in whatever other flavors you might want, reduce it, season it, strain it. If you have a panful of meat leavings (aka fond) you can start with, even better, but it’s not necessary.
The Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys would suggest that you start with sugar and slowly and lovingly caramelize it until it is “like a copper Franc resting on the stomach of your mistress”, according to an actual French cookbook*, but I short-circuited that step by using a good, dark, flavorful honey. I used white wine for the vinegar; it’s subtle and won’t overwhelm the fruit the way apple cider vinegar might, and the extra sweetness of balsamic would probably get lost. (Red wine or even rice vinegar would probably be terrific.)
Pork Tenderloins with Blackberry-Rosemary Gastrique
1 package pork tenderloins, trimmed
A little flour
1 cup ripe blackberries
1 cup good dark honey
1 cup white wine vinegar
1 large sprig rosemary (left intact)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat a non-nonstick, oven safe saute pan to medium high and film it generously with the oil. Cut your pork tenderloins into pieces that will fit in the pan, dust them with a little flour, and season them all around.
Add them to the pan and brown on all sides, then transfer the pan to the oven until the tenderloins reach 140 degrees, or if you’re like Jenny and eschew empiricism, until they seem done to you. (Safe temp here is 145 according to the USDA, but they’ll carry over.)
Remove the tenderloins to a plate and tent it with foil. Meanwhile, return your pan to the stove over medium-high heat and add the vinegar; scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan.
Add the honey and stir to combine. Add the blackberries and the whole rosemary sprig. Let this come to a boil then turn it down to a simmer.
Give it a stir occasionally and mash the berries a little until it’s reduced by about 2/3 (that is, you’ve got about 1/3 as much liquid in your pan as you started with). As the tenderloins on the plate give up liquid, add it to the pan.
Send this through a strainer, saving the solids for any chickens that might be about. Season with salt and pepper, and add a little more vinegar or honey if you think it needs it.
Slice the pork into 1/4 inch slices, lay them out all pretty, and spoon the sauce over it.
Put the rest of the sauce out in a bowl with some crusty bread, or perhaps straws. Sign autographs.
The Cocktail: Smoked Blackberry Old Fashioned
We talked briefly about the two ways to make fruit syrup–boiling up the fruit in sugar and water, and tossing the fruit in sugar and letting it sit in the fridge until the sugar pulls enough liquid out of the fruit, mashing it a little bit every now and then. I like the cold-process method, but it does take a few days. Either way can make a great syrup and I admit I haven’t done the Pepsi Challenge on them.
It’s been way too long since I used the Smoking Gun on the show. If you’re not familiar with this device (with which our very own Tamara pretty much won Christmas forever when she got it for me a few years ago), you put some wood chips in a small chamber, light them up, and watch smoke billow from a small tube. (Its resemblance to devices used for less licit purposes has been noted.)
Sugary things do take up some smoke, though not as much as fatty things. But while breaking down a huge buyup of blackberries one weekend this summer, Tamara and I decided to try smoking some of the syrup, and we liked what it brought to the game. We used cherry smoke; cherry and apple give you that classic “campfire” smoke, while hickory and mesquite impart their own far more distinctive flavors.
You want to do this in a wide and sealable vessel, because the smoke only really works on the surface of the liquid. We gave this about three doses of smoke for about five minutes each.
We knew that this would go nicely with bourbon, since everything does. Adding some bitters to that combo made it a proper Old Fashioned; I really liked the nutty edge that Fee Brothers Black Walnut Bitters gave it, and orange bitters were really nice as well.
I know I’m usually all about exacting measurements in cocktails, but the Old Fashioned is kind of an exception. Just build it in the glass–ice, bitters, blackberry syrup, bourbon. Less syrup and more bourbon than you think. Stir, garnish with a blackberry, drink, repeat.
* I mean, probably. I haven’t Googled it or anything.
Blackberries are the quintessential fruit of summer, and like Jonathan says, if you aren’t sick of them by August, you aren’t doing it right. But for those folks who WERE sick of blackberries, the August 2013 show offered some new and different ways to use them: a blackberry gastrique (clearly the hit of the show, according to the tasting/dishwashing panel, and to me), a blackberry summer “pudding,” a green salad with blackberries and speck, and of course, a blackberry-themed cocktail.
Frankly, my head is still spinning from Jonathan’s gastrique. You’ll have to hop over to his post for details, but it blew my mind. I’d never even heard the term “gastrique” until Jonathan said he was making it for the show, and then I had to look it up. Suffice it to say that people were snitching the bread I was trying to use for my summer pudding just to drag it through the remnants of that sauce–and I didn’t blame them a bit.
But on to my dishes. When I got married, my dear friend Beth From Texas (we have a lot of Beths in our lives, so the geographical tag is necessary) came and stayed with us for nearly a month. Beth lives in a converted whorehouse in Deep Elem, and I feel like I’ve written those words on this blog before, but I digress. At one of the many drunken parties that proceeded my nuptials, Beth made this dessert, and it stuck with me. I’ve made it a few times over the years, but I always called it “Beth From Texas’ Berry Thing.” So before the show, I did some digging on the interwebs and found out that it is properly called a Summer Pudding.
Like most of my recipes, this is really less a recipe than a set of vague, half-baked (or in this case, completely unbaked!) instructions. But the end result is a delicious, simple, pretty, and yes, summery dessert, one that can be made a day or two ahead of time and pulled out with great fanfare. I suppose you could use any really juicy fruit to do this, but I’ve never made it with anything but blackberries.
Recipe: Summer Pudding
- One loaf of rustic bread, something with lots of holes. A sourdough is nice here, but anything will do, really. I once made this with squishy cheap white sandwich bread and it was still good. French bread works, too.
- About four cups of dead-ripe berries, plus a few more for garnishing.
- One cup of sugar (you can add more if your berries aren’t very sweet).
- One stick of butter, at room temperature (which is the only correct temperature for butter, if you ask me, and you kind of are asking me, if you’re reading this, right?).
- Mix the berries with the sugar and let them sit at room temperature for an hour or more, until they begin to give off juice. You can speed this up by crushing them a bit with a wooden spoon from time to time.
- Line a springform pan with plastic wrap so that the wrap hangs over the edges. If your springform pan is a little warped and not watertight because you sling it into the cabinet and it gets squished behind the cast iron, then be extra careful with this step, or you’ll end up with blackberry juice all over the bottom of your fridge (are springform pans supposed to be watertight, actually?).
- Cut the bread into slices, about a quarter inch thick. Or maybe a half inch. I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. Just cut it. You can remove the crusts if you want, but I leave mine on.
- Butter the bread on both sides, but not carefully. It pays to be fairly slap-dash here, because you want some bits of the bread to be unbuttered so the juice can soak in.
- Spoon about a quarter cup or more of the crushed berries, with their juice, into the bottom of the pan. Place a layer of bread on top. Try to make the edges touch, tearing the bread into the correct shapes if necessary, but don’t freak out if you have some gaps. Put another big scoop of berries on top–enough to cover the bread really well, maybe a half cup or so? (I should have paid more attention to myself when I was doing this.)
- Continue to layer the bread and fruit until everything is used up or you reach the top of the pan, whichever comes first (mine usually doesn’t come all the way up to the top of the pan).
- Wrap the overhanging plastic over the top and weigh the whole thing down with a plate that fits inside the pan and refrigerate it, preferably overnight. I put mine in the fridge with a plate on top and then sit every heavy thing I can find on top–jars of pickles, cartons of milk. You may have a more elegant system that involves actual weights. You may also have a refrigerator that is so neat and clean that fitting a springform pan into it without HAVING to pile stuff on top is not an issue for you. I wouldn’t know about that.
- After at least twelve hours (I’ve done this two days ahead and it turned out even better), remove the whole thing from the pan and flip it upside down onto a plate. Peel the plastic and the pan base off. Garnish with whipped cream and fresh berries and serve.
The other thing I made for the show was, of course, a salad. Jonathan makes fun of me for always making salads out of everything, but I can’t help it. I can’t resist the allure of green leafy vegetables and I think they make an excellent base for most of the things I like. And I love those pretty summer salads scattered with berries, but they are often a little too sweet for me. To cut the sweetness, I added speck, which is a deliciously salty cured Italian ham, which I diced up and sauteed until it was brown and crispy. I made a dressing with some delicious blackberry basalmic vinegar I scored from Stuarto’s Olive Oil Company in Lexington, Kentucky–and if you are ever in the tenth circle of hell as personified by Hamburg Place, get out of there and head on down the road to Stuarto’s, where Stuart Utgaard, the owner, will ply you with samples of amazing oils and vinegars until you’re dizzy enough to buy some. Once again, no recipe, really, but if I put the instructions in a bulleted list, maybe it’ll seem like one?
Recipe: Blackberry and Speck Salad
- One bunch of hearty, possibly bitter greens, washed and dried–some endive would be nice here, or I’ve been loving this blend called “Power Greens” that I’ve been getting from my local grocery store, which is a mix of baby kale and spinach and other things. (Also, a confession: I don’t wash those greens that come in the plastic box and I hope I don’t get e-coli but that’s half the reason I buy those, so I won’t have to wash them, right??)
- One small red onion, quartered and thinly sliced.
- One cup of ripe blackberries.
- About a quarter-pound of speck, or any other salty porky thing. Like bacon–that would work. (And I really wanted to make this with smoked tongue or duck breast, but I didn’t have time to smoke one before the show. But that would be really good, too.)
- Three tablespoons of blackberry basalmic vinegar (or you can crush about a quarter cup of berries into some basalmic vinegar, which is what I would have done if I hadn’t made the happy mistake of wondering into Stuarto’s the day before).
- Put the greens in a pretty bowl or on a pretty platter. Arrange the berries and onions over them.
- Fry the ham or whatver you have–I cut my speck into cubes, because I like a big meaty bite, but you may wish for something daintier. Remove the meat and drain it, but keep it warm.
- You should have about six tablespoons of fat when you are done. If you do not (or if you are using smoked meat, which you don’t need to fry), add some olive oil to the pan, which should be at a gentle heat–you don’t want the oil to smoke, but to shimmer. Immediately before you are ready to serve the salad, throw the blackberry vinegar into the oil, stir it, and quickly pour it over the salad and toss it a little bit. You may not need all the stuff in the pan–you don’t want to drown your greens, but just lightly coat them. They should wilt a little bit, but not a lot. I know I’m being unclear here, but really, just put as much dressing on the salad as tastes good to you–better too little than too much, since you can always add more. Just go slowly and taste as you go.
The blackberries are gone now, until next summer. Unless you happened to freeze a bunch, in which case you should give some to me! Just to be nice, and because you know I’m too lazy (and gluttonous) to have frozen any for myself.
Coming up on an all-new WCN!: our favorite show of the year! Our friends from the Pine Mountain Settlement School branch of Grow Appalachia will be bringing us a Mystery Basket of fine late summer produce that we get to turn into deliciousness on the fly. What will they bring? What will we make out of it? And who will wash the dishes?
That’s Wednesday, 9/4, 6-7PM, on 88.7 WMMT-FM in Whitesburg, KY. As always, you can stream it online here, and we’ll have the audio up as soon as it’s posted. And if you’re in town, come on by and join the Tasting/Dishwashing Panel!
Don’t miss it!
When I left you we were in lovely Asheville, NC, the guys-in-jeans-and-flip-flops capital of the world. (Seriously, guys. Either wear shorts or get real shoes.)
After sampling it up at SWEET and doing a respectable downtown beer crawl* into the wee hours of Friday night, Saturday morning hit us like a ton of handcrafted, locally-sourced bricks. But we reached down and found the strength to be leaning up against the door at noon for the Grand Tasting, the main event of the AWFF. This event filled the US Cellular Center (and its horribly renamed ExploreAsheville.com Arena) with 180 tables from local restaurants, wineries, breweries, food manufacturers, and philanthropic groups, all ready to show off their stuff.
If it sounds overwhelming, that’s because it was. I have no idea how to properly recap such a thing, so I think I’ll do it awards-style.
Asheville, NC–the South’s original hipster enclave. It’s been so ever since the 1880s, when George Washington Vanderbilt decided to ironically build a 178,926 square foot house in the middle of nowhere.
But while the Biltmore House* may be the center of Asheville’s tourist industry, it’s the DIY and artisan culture that has sprung up around it that really defines the town. If you’re the sort of person whose idea of a good time is going to a beautiful place, eating great food, drinking great drinks, and meeting interesting people, then a weekend in AVL is right up your alley.
Just in case there might be any doubt, Tamara and I are decidedly that sort of people. We try to make it to AVL for the weekend a few times a year, usually realizing that it’s time when our stash of Lusty Monk runs out. The problem, foodwise, is that there are so many places in town that we love so much we feel like we can’t skip them–which means we don’t get to try new places that often.
So I was excited to hear about the Asheville Wine and Food Festival, an annual event that attempts to pull together everything great about the WNC food scene and show it off all at once. How could we miss that? They were happy to invite us to cover the fest, and we were happy to take them up on it.
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