Friday, November 23, 2012

Cheesecake

This Thanksgiving we went to my grandma's house in South Carolina and spent time with my mother's family. The one thing my mother is famous for among her family, is cheesecake. This treat has been present at every special occasion I can remember.  So, in keeping with tradition, my mom and I whipped up this family favorite on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  Today, I am going to share with you her coveted recipe.


Start by whipping 5-8oz. blocks of room temperature cream cheese.

Add 1 3/4c. of sugar


Whip until incorporated.


Don't forget to scrape the sides of the bowl!


Add 1/4 c. heavy whipping cream. 


Mix until incorporated.


Add 4 whole eggs and 2 egg yolks.
(we had a bit of tragedy with one yolk.)


Add one at a time.





Finally add 1tsp. vanilla


It should look like this when you are finished.
Let the mixture "rest" while you make the crust.



For the crust, start with 2 1/2c. of graham cracker crumbs
and 1/2c. of sugar. 




Add 10tbs. of melted butter.



Mix with a fork until you get a texture like wet sand.
(appetizing, right? :))




Press into a 9" springform pan and all the way up the sides.
Bake the crust for 7 minutes at 350 degrees.



When the crust is finished pour in the cheesecake batter.



Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, then turn down the heat 
and bake for another 60 minutes at 250 degrees.
Let cool in the oven for 2 hours if possible 
(with the oven door cracked slightly open).
Let cheesecake chill a minimum of 4 hours in the fridge, preferably overnight.


                                       
The finished product!


The perfect cheesecake has a firm, yet creamy texture.

Some things to remember when making a cheesecake: 

  • Always let the cream cheese warm up to room temp before mixing! If you don't, you will have a very lumpy, unappealing cheesecake. 
  • When making the crust, it is better to have too much than not enough. You may not use all of the mixture, but it is better to have more leftovers than to run out. 
  • Make sure to press the crust all the way up the sides of the pan.  If you don't, the mixture will rise too quickly and cracks may form on top as it expands.
  • Finally, when the cake is baking, treat it like a soufflé. No jumping around in the kitchen or making loud noises that can cause vibrations.  If you do, then you risk the cheesecake "falling" or having cracks on top.
  • Cheesecake is not a "last minute" dessert.  We always make it the day before an event.  It is best chilled overnight, but at least 4 hours.  
  • When serving, we have found the cake is most flavorful when allowed to sit out about an hour before serving.
  • May be garnished with cherries or fruit of your choice, if desired. 

If you love cheesecake, you will LOVE this recipe!  Everyone raves over this dessert.  It's really a lot easier than than you might imagine.  Just be sure you bake it in a 9 inch springform pan.

Let me know if you try out this recipe and how it turned out for you. Do you have any traditional dishes for special occasions? Let me know in a comment below! Until next time.

Happy Cooking,
-Savannah

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

French Press

Okay, okay. I know, I fail as a blogger. I'm sorry. But I'm here now so be happy! Today I bring to you how to use a french press. This is perfect if you don't want to make a whole pot of coffee or you need coffee fast. You can get a french press at kitchen supply stores such as Williams Sonoma, Macy's or online at this link. They come in fun colors and different sizes. Here is my purple one. :)


Start out by putting in 3 tablespoons of ground coffee.
My rule of thumb is just add the coffee up to the top of the color.
Add 1 1/3 cups of boiling water.

Keep the lever up and let it brew for 4-6 minutes depending on how strong you want it.

You can see the grounds floating at the top!

When the time is up push down on the lever  so the  coffee grounds go under the mesh strainer.
Add to some frothy milk and viola!

Have you tried a french press before? Are you thinking about getting one? Let me know in the comments below! Hope you learned something and don't hate me for being slack. :) Until next time!

Happy Cooking,
-Savannah

Monday, October 1, 2012

Tangerine

I've been in a restaurant slump recently. The good places are generally too expensive to eat at regularly and many times the food/service is not up to par at moderately priced (or over-priced in some cases) restaurants.  However, I have recently found a real hidden gem in Savannah. It's called Tangerine. Tangerine is owned by the same people that own a restaurant nearTybee called Elé. Elé is pretty well known as one of the best restaurants in town and Tangerine is definitely just as good. Tangerine is open for lunch and dinner 7 days a week. It serves Asian fusion cuisine and is also a sushi bar. The food is absolutely to die for and the service is impeccable! We went there to eat lunch a couple of weeks ago and decided to go back last Thursday evening to celebrate a special occasion. Let me tell you, this is THE place to go to celebrate anything. Our lovely server, Nancy, greeted us right away and seated us. We told her that we were celebrating a special occasion and when she came back with our drink orders (I only ordered water), she gave me this fabulous treat.


A virgin Mai Tai cocktail. It was not only beautiful "eye candy," it was equally delicious and refreshing.  This was my very first Mai Tai. I'm not really sure exactly what Nancy put in this one, but I believe I tasted orange, coconut and pineapple flavors.  Maybe a hint of lime?  It was a fabulous combination of ingredients!


Since it is the beginning of oyster season here on the coast, we just had to order the fried oysters to start our culinary experience. These oysters were absolutely scrumptious! The breading was light, crispy and airy.  The oysters were large and juicy,  not shriveled up from being over-fried.  They were served with a sweet chili dipping sauce which complemented the salty oysters to a tee.   Finally, they were garnished with a nice cucumber and carrot salad. A perfect appetizer!


When it came time to order our entreé, I got a thumbs up from my parents to order something I have wanted to taste for quite some time--Kobe steak! For those who don't know, Kobe is the top of the line when it comes to beef (and that usually means top price on the menu too!).  It is meat from Japanese Wagyu cattle (called Kobe), which are specially raised to produce a beef that is highly prized for its extreme tenderness.  According to one article I read, "Kobe beef producers are secretive about their methods. Many ranchers in Japan feed beer to their livestock to induce appetite. They also massage cattle daily, sometimes with sake. According to Yo Matsuzaki, Ozumo restaurant's executive chef, some Wagyu cattle listen to classical music, a method used to relax them."  Whatever they do to them, it works!  My steak was rich, sweet and perfectly marbled.  The fat in these steaks dissolves at a lower temperature than typical beef fat, so it literally melts in your mouth!  My 4 oz serving was cooked to the perfect medium rare temperature that I love. It also came with a wonderful dipping sauce on the side that was very tasty.  And honoring our special occasion once again, Nancy added a complementary lobster tail on the side. What an unexpected treat! 
H-E-A-V-E-N! 
The lobster was cooked to perfection and was a very nice companion to the beef.  "Surf and turf" will never be the same after this experience!



Here's a close-up shot of my steak.  Just look at that marbling! I am terribly sorry for any damage done to your keyboard or mobile device caused from excessive drooling. MMMMmmmmmm.....

Did I mention that my meal came with wonderfully cooked, crisp-tender veggies?  Suffice it to say they were delish as well, but I must admit, my attention was focused elsewhere!  I should point out, however, that all of their dishes are not only delicious, but they are beautiful.  They pay close attention to every detail and each garnish is placed in a thoughtful and artful way.  Heck, their restroom even has orchids and real hand towels!!!

Now for the grand finale.  Dessert!  Once again, Ms. Nancy had me covered.  She offered a custom dessert made especially for us. I know!  The dessert was two-fold.  First, there was sweetened black rice topped with coconut milk and sesame seeds. It was natural black rice that tasted somewhat like rice pudding, but much, much better.  And the coconut milk mellowed out the flavors in an unusually delightful way, while the sesame seeds added a nice nutty crunch.

Part two...the pièce de résistance... a chocolate tuxedo bomb. And boy, was it exploding with choclatey goodness. I would have to rank it as one of the best desserts I have ever eaten.


In a word: AMAZING! Chocolate cake on the bottom, with a layer of chocolate mousse and next what I think was whipped cream.  All of these layers were covered in a velvety chocolate topping that was drizzled with several chocolate sauces to finish it off. This bomb that was "the bomb!"

Feast you eyes upon this delight.  Once again, sorry for any keyboard damage. This treat was just other worldly. So, so, so delicious!

If you live in Savannah or ever visit the city, please, please don't miss out on a opportunity to dine at Tangerine. It was the best local restaurant experience I've had in a very long time.  It is located on the south side of town, so out of the normal tourist hub-bub (in other words--abundant parking available!).  Everyone on the staff there is extremely courteous and attentive.  They go out of their way to make you feel welcome.  As for the food,  I find myself searching for new adjectives to describe the yummy goodness I experienced there.  Finally, there are options on the menu to fit every budget.  Whether you go for lunch or dinner, without a doubt, you will love it!

Cruise on over to their website and check out the hours, the menu, and pictures here: http://www.tangerinefusion.com/ .  Let me know in the comments section below if you have been to Tangerine or Elé and how you liked it.  Haven't been there yet?  Go!  Also, I'm always looking for my next foodie adventure. If you know of any other hidden gems in the Savannah area (or anywhere, really), be sure to let me know!



Until next time,
-Savannah


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Slightly North of Broad



I feel very fortunate to have experienced many superb meals at some of the finest restaurants in the country, even though I am only fourteen years old.  And because of this it can be pretty difficult to find a meal that truly impresses me.  Little did I know that only two hours northeast of Savannah I would have one of the BEST culinary experiences of my life!

My mom and I went to Charleston, SC recently with one of her best friends, Sandra.  Sandra’s sister owns a carriage house there and she invited us for girls’ weekend.  She also set up dinner reservations for us on Friday evening. The restuarant?  Slightly North of Broad, affectionately known as "S.N.O.B."

Arriving at the restaurant, I was bowled over to learn that not only were we eating at one of the best restaurants in Charleston, Sandra’s sister had reserved the best seat in the house for us…the Chef’s Table! 

I was beyond excited because I had never eaten at a chef's table, and I had heard many great things about S.N.O.B. and the head chef, Frank Lee. Now I was going to sit front and center and watch all of the magic of the night unfold.  Who needs Disney when you have a ticket to this ride of a lifetime? Cue the theme song from "2001 A Space Odyssey."  
When we arrived we were immediately greeted warmly by the hostess who took us to our table. We had an amazing view of the kitchen, which had a beautiful brick arch in front of it.  Fresh, local ingredients were in bins in plain view, which was their way of letting you know that the real star of this place is the food.  And speaking of the food, it was absolutely some of the best I have ever had. 

On their website, the restaurant is described as "an eclectic low country bistro that brings together an abundance of local ingredients and thoughtful, expert presentation with a friendly, contagious energy." I couldn't agree more!  

Chef Lee was genuinely one of the nicest, most personable people I have ever met. He spent a great deal of time at our table explaining everything that was served in detail.  He even surprised me with a personal tour of the kitchen.  We were served eight courses total...yes eight!  I know that sounds like a lot, and it was, however, each course was a mini version of the items from the menu, so it was a perfect dining experience for me.  Like our friend, Sandra said "just when you think the food can't get any better, you get the next course"!  I documented every morsel with a photo and took detailed notes about the ingredients. Let me tell you about our awesome experience in detail... 


Me with chef Frank Lee


View from the Chef's Table
At the Chef's Table listening to Chef Lee



When we sat down at the table our waitress, Sarah, took our drink orders and brought me the specialty of the house, The Maverick Punch. It was incredibly delicious with different fruity flavors and just a splash of grenadine to make it sweet and give it that beautiful red color.  After our drinks, Chef Lee came out and talked to us for a while and asked if we would like to order off of the menu or have them just "cook for us." We opted for the more adventurous, fun route and told him to surprise us. He did not disappoint us!


The first course, known as the amuse bouche (the French term for palate amuser), was a salmon croquet atop a homemade bread and butter pickle and topped with a homemade mustard remoulade. It was absolutely scrumptious. Perhaps you're thinking that salmon and a pickle would not go together, but let me tell you, these flavor combinations were fabulous!

The second course played upon Chef Lee's southern roots.  It was okra and tomato soup with a slice of homemade kielbasa sausage and a perfectly cooked shrimp. Since my father is from New Orleans, I have grown up enjoying all of these rich, hearty and spicy flavors. What made this dish especially great was that the okra was pan sautéed rather than just boiled in the tomatoes. Many times okra can be slimy, but this preparation kept it crisp-tender. It was absolutely extraordinary!




The third course was one of my favorites. The sheer beauty of the dish was aesthetically pleasing and the taste was exquisite.  We had a pan seared sea scallop with a butter bean puree and sunflower sprouts finished with a truffle oil vinaigrette. I love scallops. I have eaten many, many scallops and this was hands down THE best!  I also learned an interesting bit of trivia while eating this dish.  Chef Lee came over and talked to us before each course. During this one, he told us that sometimes scallops in the store are soaked in a chemical called sodium tripolyphosphate (STP) to make them appear extremely white and heavier.   This chemical also makes them water logged and when you cook them all the water comes out and they will not brown if you try to sear them.  It also makes them rubbery.  So, if you have had problems cooking scallops at home before, you may have purchased "wet pack" scallops.  Chef Lee only uses "dry pack" fresh scallops that are shipped to him twice a week, without any additives, and you can sure tell the difference!

The fourth course was swordfish over black beans on a base of green pea coulis and topped with pickled red onions. This was my first time eating swordfish. Sad, I know. I've been tempted to try it many times, but somehow always ended up ordering something else instead.  However, dining at the Chef's Table gave me the perfect opportunity to try a little of almost everything on the menu.  I'm so glad the swordfish was one of the offerings. It was flaky and moist and the tartness and acidity of the onions perfectly balanced the creaminess of the coulis and black beans. Simply divine!



The fifth course was grilled tuna with a mustard based barbecue sauce and fried oysters served with a country ham butter and fresh corn. Yes, you heard me right.  Barbeque sauce with tuna!  Chef Lee said he always thinks of tuna as a red meat and being from the south he said, "why not put some barbeque sauce on it."  It not only works, it is a genius combination.  This was definitely my favorite course. Not only was the tuna spot-on, so were the oysters.  Living on the Georgia coast I have eaten many fried oysters. As with the scallop, these oysters win hands down as the best ever!  Sometimes oysters can be rubbery, like scallops, but these were both crispy and juicy. Ah-ma-zing! What an outstanding dish!




And the courses keep on coming!  The sixth course was another first for me. A seared quail breast filled with a cornbread stuffing served with a side of collard greens and a savory sauce made with duck stock. The quail was succulent and moist and the cornbread stuffing had a hint of sweetness. Another marvelous pairing.  The collard greens, a southern favorite, were seasoned to perfection and a great companion to the quail. 



Now it was time to start slowing down a bit and get ready for dessert.  After experiencing all of these wonderful savory flavors, we had an opportunity to cleanse our palates.   For our seventh course we were presented with a homemade coconut sorbet that was garnished with a small wedge of fresh pineapple.  The coconut and pineapple flavors blended perfectly.  It was a refreshing way to prepare for the sweet ending to our meal.   


Our eighth and final course was dessert.  It was a beautiful, freshly made profiterole stuffed with a light, fluffy chocolate mousse and topped with homemade chocolate sauce as well as hot, salted caramel sauce.  The caramel sauce was poured over the profiterole at the table as part of the presentation.  What a decadent treat.  It was light and very satisfying without being too heavy or rich.  The perfect ending to a perfect meal!

The only part I didn't like about this meal was leaving!  If you find yourself in Charleston, you should definitely make time to visit S.N.O.B.  If you are a foodie like me and have a hard time deciding on an entree when dining out, you should consider planning ahead and get a reservation for the Chef's Table.  It will be an experience of a lifetime!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Fried Shrimp

For those of you who don't know, my mom travels sometimes for her job. My dad and I used to eat out a lot when she was out of town but we got tired of going to the same old places.  Now,  instead of eating out, my dad and I like to cook meals at home when mom is away.

One of the best things we have made lately is fried shrimp. Sounds simple, but there is a real art to cooking good fried shrimp.  We had never really tried cooking fried shrimp at home, but a while back we had extra uncooked shrimp in the fridge left over from a low country boil and we needed to use them before they spoiled.  My dad decided that he didn't want to just have plain old boiled shrimp, so he looked up a recipe for fried shrimp and took it from there. They were SOOOO good that I single-handedly ate 12 of them. Yeah, I know.  Wish you had some?  Well, I am here to give you the method for the best fried shrimp you will ever make!

Fresh shrimp
Start out with fresh, preferably local, peeled shrimp and make sure that they are really dry before you bread them.  Lay them on a paper towel and pat them dry before you start.  This way the breading will stick better.

 Next, take flour (about 1 cup for 1 lb. of shrimp) and season it with salt and pepper to taste.


Then you dredge the dry shrimp into the flour.
(Thanks to my dad for being a lovely hand model :))


After you dredge the shrimp in flour, dredge it in a beaten egg.


Finally, dredge it in cornmeal. The cornmeal is what makes the shrimp crunchy.

They should look like this when you are done.

After you finish breading, put some oil in a pan heated on medium to medium high heat and put the shrimp in.

Shrimp really do only take about a minute and a half to cook on one side -- maybe 2 minutes if the shrimp are particularly large -- but my dad does a minute and a half on each side and they are great every time!

After a minute and a half, they will be golden brown on one side. Flip them over and cook the other side for another minute and a half.

After 3 minutes total, take the shrimp out of the oil and drain on paper towels.   They should be golden brown on both sides.

Now I will let you in on a little secret that my mom loves! It is a dipping sauce that really tastes good on anything but is especially good on fried shrimp. The best part is, it is only two ingredients!

You only need coarse ground mustard and orange marmalade.

All you have to do is mix equal parts mustard to marmalade and you have a fabulous dipping sauce! The mustard gives it a bit of heat but is balanced perfectly by the sweet marmalade.

Believe it or not this is also a great dipping sauce just for plain pretzels!

It is optional to leave the tails on but I think it looks prettier and makes it easier to eat.

Now of course, this is not something you are going to eat every day, but when you do, you will wish you could eat it every day!  It truly is one of my favorite things that my dad has made for me.  Just the sheer beauty of fried food combined with that scrumptious dipping sauce makes this dish like heaven! If you try out the shrimp or dipping sauce (or both), leave me a comment telling me how you liked them. 

Until next time...

Happy Cooking!
-Savannah