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Fig Cake from Carolina, Plus Magic Buttermilk Icing: Southern Cooking for Company

Fig Cake from Carolina, Plus Magic Buttermilk Icing: Southern Cooking for Company

Considering how many Southern homes have a fig tree, you’d think we’d all have a stash of fig recipes. But it’s not so. Most years, I can’t even use up the abundance of figs from my brother’s tree. They go into the freezer, then surprise me mid-winter when I’m digging around in the back bins.  I’ve experimented with fig ice cream (delicious with a swirl of caramel), fig jam (no one but me would eat it) and Fig Newtons. The Newtons were good, but you need serious arm strength to roll the pastry thin enough for a proper filling-to-pastry ratio. My default recipe is a fig coffeecake–your basic sour cream coffeecake topped with a layer of chopped fresh (or thawed) figs and a thick layer of streusel.  But I wanted a traditional cake recipe that used figs, and found it in Sheri Castle’s New Southern Garden Cookbook The recipe calls for fig jam, but overripe figs work very well. It’s glazed with a heavenly butterscotch-y buttermilk glaze that was similar to my grandmother’s usual cake icing.  I’ve rarely seen it anywhere else, which is a mystery, since it’s simple to make and devastatingly delicious (and is good on pancakes, if you’re out of syrup). The original glaze recipe included cornstarch, which gave it a pasty consistency, so I’ve used my family recipe here.  If you make it, leave a comment and share a photo.  Okracoke Fig Cake | Buttermilk Glaze 2014-06-19 15:04:17 Serves 12 The recipe calls for fig jam, but an equal amount of overripe (or thawed) brown turkey figs plus an extra 1/2 cup sugar works just as well. Write a review Save Recipe Print Ingredients 2 cups all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg 1 teaspoon ground allspice 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon fine sea salt 3 large eggs, at room temperature 2 cups sugar 1 cup vegetable oil 1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 tablespoon hot water 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 cup chopped or mashed overripe fresh (or thawed) figs 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional) Buttermilk Glaze 1 1/2 cups sugar 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 3/4 cup buttermilk 1 stick butter 2 tablespoons corn syrup 1 teaspoon vanilla extract Instructions Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan, tapping out any excess flour. (A dark metal, nonstick, or heavy Bundt pan will make the crust too dark and thick and will alter the baking time.) For the cake, sift the flour, spices and salt into a large bowl. Beat the eggs until foamy. With the mixer running, beat in the sugar until thick and pale, about 3 minutes. Slowly add the oil, beating until well mixed. Beat...

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French Casserole Chicken

French Casserole Chicken

In the category of  “dishes I made often during one period of my life” this recipe sits squarely.  It’s a classic from the Joy of Cooking, included in the ’53 and ’73 editions, but not in the mid-1990s edition or the 75th anniversary edition. The headnote kind of explains why: “makes such a good dish of a poorish bird.” Unlike Irma Rombauer (the Joy author), I haven’t experienced barnyard birds of poorish quality, but this recipe really does turn a big baking hen into a nice French dinner.  Simmering the chicken fills the kitchen with wonderful smells, but as an apostle of the pressure cooker, I must mention it does French Casserole Chicken in about 20 minutes, with a least a little of the appetizing chicken aroma that makes everyone ask, “What’s for dinner?”   French Casserole Chicken 2014-03-31 22:11:57 Serves 4 The Joy of Cooking 1973 and previous editions Write a review Save Recipe Print Cook Time 1 hr Cook Time 1 hr Ingredients 1 (5-pound) baking hen, cut into serving pieces 4 tablespoons butter 1/4 cup dry white wine 2 small tart apples, pared, cored, sliced 6 celery ribs, chopped 1 onion, minced 3 parsley sprigs 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon sweet or smoked paprika 2 1/2 tablespoons flour 2 cups chicken or other broth 1/3 cup cream or sour cream 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil or tarragon Shredded Parmesan cheese Instructions Sear the chicken in butter in a heavy pot until well browned. Add the wine and cook a minute or so. Remove the chicken from the pot. Add the apple. celery, onion, parsley, salt and paprika to the pot and cook over medium-low heat until tender. Add the flour and broth and cook, stirring, until the mixture boils. Add the chicken. Cover and simmer for 1 hour until tender. Preheat the broiler. Transfer the chicken to an ovenproof baking dish. Strain the sauce into a saucepan. Warm over low heat. Add the sour cream and basil. Pour the sauce over the chicken. Sprinkle with cheese. Broil until the cheese is melted. By Irma Rombauer The Project Kitchen...

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Homemade Marshmallows: What does “Easy” Mean?

Homemade Marshmallows: What does “Easy” Mean?

I love marshmallows–in candy, toasted on the fire, in Mississippi Mud cake and s’mores, in that whole category of 1950s puddings made of melted marshmallows and maple/coffee/etc. In fact, my Twitter handle is “nashmallow.” I got no problem with commercial marshmallows–they get the job done as far as I’m concerned. Consequently, I haven’t felt the need to make marshmallows, except for one time about 20 years ago. I usually give a little giftie bag to neighbors and colleagues for Christmas. I’m not a great planner about these–whatever the occasion, I usually just make whatever interesting recipe is at hand. This year, it happened to be marshmallows. They turned out to be easy, in the sense of “foolproof” and “not a lot of complex steps.” Not “easy,” as in, “throw everything in a bowl and you’re done.” The recipe requires a heavy-duty mixer, for starters. My old Oster mixer, which handles dense bread dough perfectly well, choked on the marshmallow mixture. I could smell the motor overheating. The Kitchen Aid finessed it, but the gooey texture definitely slowed even its powerful motor. The other challenge is cutting them. A long knife is a must, and a tall pitcher of hot water for heating the knife. And a lightly oiled paper towel for drying and oiling the knife. So not exactly an “easy easy” recipe, but the taste and texture are beyond expectations. Satiny and soft, with a delicate vanilla flavor, but a hint of almond (which I added–it’s my mother-in-law’s secret ingredient). Besides the almond extract, the recipe is Martha Stewart’s, from The Martha Stewart Cookbook. If you’re inclined, and it’s Christmas, you might use a drop of peppermint extract and a grain or two of dry red food coloring.   Marshmallows from Your Kitchen 2013-12-14 22:59:10 Yields 9 Satiny texture, light vanilla almond flavor. Write a review Save Recipe Print Ingredients 3 cups sugar 1 1/4 cups light corn syrup 3/4 cup water 1/4 teaspoon salt 4 enveloped unflavored gelatin 3/4 cup water 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1/4 teaspoon almond extract 1 cup confectioners' sugar Instructions Combine the sugar, corn syrup, water and salt in a saucepan and set over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and cook to soft ball stage, or 238-240 degrees. Meanwhile, pour the water into the bowl of a stand mixer. Sprinkle the gelatin over it. Let stand to soften. Also meanwhile, line a 9x13 (or even an 11x17) pan with foil. Butter or spray the foil. Any unbuttered area will seriously stick to the marshmallow mixture. Turn on the mixer, then gradually pour the hot syrup down over the soaked gelatin. Beat for about 10 minutes or until very stiff. (Might take up...

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The Origin of Ladyfood Discovered

The Origin of Ladyfood Discovered

    Look what fell off the cookbook shelf this week–a cookbook apparently in my collection that I’d never laid eyes on. I don’t know how I came to own this book. I didn’t buy it, and I don’t recall anyone gifting it. I would definitely have remembered that, because it’s an important book to me. It was published by my alma mater, or actually, the little school that preceded it. That school, Ward Belmont, had its roots in two other schools, The Ward Seminary and the Iris School, both the types of institutions that bright, well-heeled young ladies attended.  Its year of publication, 1934, was an important time culinarily. Refrigeration was fairly widespread, making possible a whole other type of dish–one that required chilling. Commercially canned food was reliably safe, making it possible to serve fruits and vegetables out of season. Those were just two of the new technologies changing how people cooked and ate. The contributors to this book, who would have been in their teens and early 20s, already knew how to cook, since most meals were eaten at home. But the book doesn’t reflect that. There aren’t many recipes for what you’d call “dinner.” For every “chili con carne” and chicken a la king recipe, there are 10 recipes for tea sandwiches, chicken salad, stuffed tomatoes, cheese straws, frozen strawberry cream.  So it’s a cookbook for entertaining, for feeding guests, for special occasions. Which is apt: plenty of these well-heeled young ladies went on to be the gracious hostesses we all wished we could be, or be invited...

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Correcting an Error in the Kokum Guinness Recipe

Correcting an Error in the Kokum Guinness Recipe

  Maneet Chauhan’s recipe for an Indian-Irish fusion drink she calls Kokum Guinness was a deeply thrilling recipe that I both edited and couldn’t wait to try. It’s a fascinating drink, combining deep, dark Guinness with a blend of kokum extract and spices, plus a dash of chaat masala. Chaat masala is shaken over fried street food and other snacks in India. The distinctive note in it is black salt, a slightly sulfurous mineral. It smells weird and somewhat stinky on its own but has a sharp flavor and addictive quality . So I made the kokum blend and poured it into a glass, then topped it with Guinness. I wish I’d queried this item in the editing process (actually, I believe I did), because it’s obvious that the kokum-chaat masala mixture will flavor for 4, 6, or even 8 drinks. Now that’s more like it.   Kokum Guinness 10 to 12 dried kokum 1/2 cup sugar 1 teaspoon lime juice 1 teaspoon ground fennel 1 teaspoon ground cumin 1 tablespoon chaat masala Pinch of asafetida Several mint leaves Soak the kokum in 1/2 cup water for 1 hour. Combine with the sugar, lime juice, fennel, cumin, masala and asafetida in a food processor. Process until a smooth paste forms. Add 1/2 cup water and mix well. Strain the mixture, discarding the pulp. Add the mint leaves to the liquid. Pour 1 tablespoon of the mixture into a tall glass. Top with Guinness. Add more of the kokum mixture to taste. Makes up to 10...

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Orange Apple Miso Turkey

Orange Apple Miso Turkey

I’m already planning what to serve for Thanksgiving, and like millions of people, I’ll be cooking turkey for a crowd that would probably prefer a burger, or fettuccine, or ham for the holiday. I struggle with this too–the breast meat is bland and can be dry, particularly in commercially raised turkeys. Compared to the vibrant ethnic flavors that most people eat year-round, turkey is one-dimensional. My collection of recipes for nontraditional turkey preparations grows every year.  I really like this Miso-Orange-Apple Cider Turkey.  The miso coating gives turkey skin a rich soy taste, and the orange and cider have autumn-y flavors. The turkey underneath the skin is still turkey-flavored so people who don’t like the soy-flavored skin can remove it and have a pretty normal-tasting serving of turkey. People who like the combination can have an extra dab of gravy for a different and definitely not traditional holiday flavor. It seems like a problem solved for the year. Orange Miso Apple Cider Roast Turkey Making gravy from the pan liquid is optional, but try it the first time. A 12-pound turkey yields about 8 pounds of meat that looks nice enough to serve. 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter 1 cup light miso 12 to 16 pound turkey 2 tangerines 1 red  onion, cut into wedges 2 to 3 cups apple cider 1 cup dry sherry, optional 1 cup whipping cream, optional Melt the butter in a saucepan. Whisk in the miso and mix well. Rub the mixture all over the turkey. (You can rub it under the turkey skin to flavor the meat, but try it on the outside first.) Pierce the tangerines all over with a knife. Stuff the tangerines and onion into the turkey. Roast at 350 degrees for a total of 20 minutes per pound. After 1 hour, pour the cider over the turkey. Baste every 20 minutes or so. About 30 minutes before the end of the cooking (around 3 hours for a 12-pound turkey), pour the sherry over the turkey. Cook, basting once more, until the turkey tests about 158 degrees on a meat thermometer. Let the turkey rest for 20 minutes. Pour the pan liquid into a fat separator or spoon off the fat. Combine the pan liquid and whipping cream in a saucepan. Heat until hot and serve the sauce with the turkey....

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Hello, I’m Nicki

I've written about food for a living since The Silver Palate was new. Discovering a new cookbook or technique is my idea of fun. And kitchen gear--I'm helpless to resist. Like kitchen projects, the posts here are occasional and open-ended, so please subscribe. You can read more about my work at the "About Nicki" page.

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