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Thanks (again!) Martha Stewart Weddings

Suzanne Pollak

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We're blushing, thanks to a third appearance on the Martha Stewart Weddings site -- and in great company, to boot!

To quote: "There's nothing like authentic southern hospitality, but Pollak's Charleston Academy of Domestic Pursuits will teach you how to replicate it back home. With entertaining, cooking, and etiquette classes, the Academy's curriculum shows you how to 'use every inch of your house,' says Pollak. It's a fun (and useful!) place if you're about to move into your first home, but it's also the perfect activity for a bachelorette party. You can all take turns throwing picture-perfect house parties when you return home." 

Read the full article HERE. (And contact us to book a private class with the Dean!)

'TIS the Season for a Cocktail

Suzanne Pollak

Who wouldn't love to be at this cocktail party?

Who wouldn't love to be at this cocktail party?

Too many parties are unremarkable, and not for lack of work on the host's part. Some just don't stick in your memory, or leave you feeling thrilled you attended. Maybe they didn’t cast that luminous glow on life, even if for a few moments. If you've ever wondered how to give a cocktail party that makes each guest leave happy, satisfied, and thankful for you, the Dean has a couple secrets up her sleeve.

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Growing up in Africa, I went to remarkable parties every week, even every night. There were cocktail parties in Mogadishu, Somalia, where we lived in a pink house on a hill over looking the city and the Indian Ocean.  All kinds of people attended: ambassadors, hunters, Arabs, Italians. One time American Olympian Jesse Owens came over, the era’s Usain Bolt. Especially overseas, in third world countries, parties build a community for a few hours, lasting til dawn. Those parties ended when the sun rose. I was on my way to bed when most guests arrived, and just waking up when they left.

The length and mix of parties cannot be duplicated but the lessons to learn are to set the stage and invite interesting people, beloved old and exotic new...

Setting the Stage:

So much concerted effort when it comes to hosting a party  -- stress over what to wear, what to serve and drink, how to decorate the house, the gimmicks, the glasses, on and on. The strange miracle that seems to elude us as we busy ourselves with party details is that all these elements don’t add up to a hill of beans. The most important point is to make guests relaxed the moment they walk in the door, able to step outside themselves for the duration. To experience that seizure of happiness, a floating feeling that lasts for days, is the ultimate goal. It all comes down to real meaning versus gimmicks. Gimmicks are fine, fun, even fabulous if they set the stage. Your job is to create magical moments. This takes deep thinking and off-the-cuff intuition.

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Set the stage that works for your taste, energy, house and budget. It’s not difficult because this is about your personality.  Not about money, not about working yourself into a frazzle, not about doing things other people do. It’s about your personality asserting itself in the details. Taste is subjective! If you like plastic and silver together, great. The best houses are personal, not interior design-driven. If you only have time for picking up cocktail snacks at Trader Joe’s and Costco, that's fine too. Tip: buy truffle potato chips and fill with tuna tartare or pickled shrimp.

Whom to invite:

Everyone and anyone, not just the usual suspects. Invite at least a few new faces. Guests fall into two camps: comfortable if they already know everyone else, or ready to make new connections. But everyone everywhere loves to talk with an interesting person, known or not. Small talk gets stale in moments. Don’t let your party become a distant memory because small talk drowned the energy. 

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Cocktail parties, and in fact the most fun parties, are all about the C’s. Be comfortable, which makes others comfortable. Connect guests. Start conversations, using your contacts and your charisma. Serve canapés and Champagne (e.g. Henri's Reserve) perhaps even in punch! For an in-person tutorial on how to host an unforgettable cocktail party, contact the Concierge at the Restoration Hotel to book a private class with the Dean.

Cheers!

 

Thank You Orbitz!

Suzanne Pollak

It's officially Oyster Season in the Lowcountry! For an insider's guide to the beauty of bivalves and Charleston's rich Winter traditions featuring them, turn to the Academy. The Dean does a class all about Oysters, available to book through the Restoration hotel -- a unique holiday office party, visiting guest retreat, or gift for extended family.

Read more via Orbitz.com below, and link to full article HERE...

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The Beach Club at Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina, South Carolina
At this hotel, produce isn’t the only type of food grown and harvested. In fact, the employees center on finding, roasting, and even slurping oysters and making sure guests can partake in this seafood bliss with a little guidance. The hotel holds an oyster class conducted by a Southern etiquette expert, Suzanne Pollak, dean of the Charleston Academy of Domestic Pursuits. She provides an insider’s guide to choosing the best seasonal oysters in Charleston, then teaches participants how to make a world class Oyster Pan Roast in a 1740s South of Broad house. Guests will take home recipes from the Dean and their own oyster knife for future “Southern style” oyster roasts.

Thanksgiving Cooking at the Restoration

Suzanne Pollak

Watch out, Turkey! This Thanksgiving, it's all about the sides... (John Eder via Getty Images)

Watch out, Turkey! This Thanksgiving, it's all about the sides... (John Eder via Getty Images)

There’s a deep sense of time and place in the dishes we remember, reflecting our family’s lineage and our own hometown heritage. Master the most beloved Southern staples with the Dean of the Charleston Academy, in a Thanksgiving Sides Class at the Restoration Hotel on Wednesday, November 15th, 6-8PM.

Despite the millions of "How To" articles published this time of year, the best place to learn is from an expert. For more than thirty years, the Dean has hosted holiday meals, and no gatherings were more anticipated then her Thanksgiving dinners for twenty. This class involves cocktails and feasting on Academy trademarks -- Pumpkin Soup, Ham Biscuits, Ginger Roasted Beets and more -- as well as hands-on cooking: Lady Peas, Creamed Butter Beans, Spicy Collards, Mashed Turnips, and Medway Sweet Potatoes. 

Leave with a personalized Academy Handbook, fresh ideas, new recipes, plus tips on shopping, clean-up, and centerpieces. Tickets are $150/person, available to purchase HERE.

What's for Dinner?

Suzanne Pollak

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Though we've only had a fleeting taste of brisk Fall weather in Charleston, it's still fun to pretend. Go ahead! Crank the AC, bundle up, start a fire, put on on a jazzy record, and get some Rigatoni with Braised Beef Sauce going.

This dish happens to be one of our favorites around this time of year, when it's too hot to be standing in the kitchen all day but cools off enough at night to tuck into a hearty dinner. Plus, it couldn't be easier to make -- you can even prepare the beef sauce in advance and freeze for busy school nights -- and feeds a crowd. 

Happy Fall y'all!

Everyday Cooking at the Restoration

Suzanne Pollak

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We are so excited for the upcoming Everyday Cooking Class with the Dean at the beautiful Restoration Hotel! "Nothing expresses the warmth and charm of classic Southern Hospitality better than a delicious home cooked meal. Join us for a cooking class that will lovingly walk you through every part of the process, from shopping to chopping to serving. It’s guaranteed to be a class you and your family will treasure for many years (and meals) to come."

But this is NOT just an ordinary cooking class. We will also discuss the importance of structuring daily meals, rituals and traditions. We will talk about manners, dinner conversation, dealing with boredom, and different food cultures. Hopefully students will leave with some delicious recipes and a few new skills, plus a new perspective on the time and energy spent in the kitchen as a way to make life more rich and rewarding. 

THURSDAY OCT 26 | 6–9PM THE EXCHANGE SUITE AT THE RESTORATION

For tickets, please click HERE to go to Eventbrite or contact the Concierge at 843.518.5119. $175 per person.

Starry Starry Nights

Suzanne Pollak

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Even though my family lived in Enugu, Nigeria, for a few months before evacuating during the Biafran Civil War, we established our daily rhythm right away. Living as nomads, what kept us tethered to normalcy was structure. My all-Nigerian school had walls four feet high, red clay in the courtyard; sewing classes for the girls, gardening for the boys; scripture in the mornings with a teacher wielding a long ruler, ready to whack you on the head or hand if your pronunciation of Old Testament names was off. That’s when I learned my fainting trick. I could pass out before I got called on. I almost broke my two front teeth using this ruse one too many times. 

After school I did as the school boys, tending to my own vegetable patch in our huge backyard, or else I visited the zoo with no cages down the road. Night times were for walking down the road, skipping over snakes, drinking with the neighbors who had naughty monkeys that finished everyone's half-empty cocktails. Sometimes, after dinner, my father and I sat in his library listening to the Voice of America radio. But it was evenings on an upstairs terrace, listening to the sounds of Africa that I liked best -- the frogs, the animals, the night times sounds, the symphony of nature. Once the blackness of night descended, always at 6 p.m. sharp (no Daylight Savings Time) the stars danced across the sky and my father taught me about the constellations.

Remembering the stars and sounds makes me think of the Cole Porter song Night and Day: like the beat beat beat of the tom tom drum when the jungle shadows fall... I recall wondering where I belonged in the world, and, of course, the taste of shoe string potatoes. The only thing our cook made that was actually delicious were shoe string potatoes. To this day, I prefer those tasty fries to the plain old American French fry. They are crisper, quicker, and even good when cold. For slightly healthier version that is equally delicious, try Fried Zucchini, the Academy way.

XO, the Dean

Silence at the Table

Suzanne Pollak

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Ever watched a couple at a restaurant in total silence? Did they run out of things to talk about, or have nothing surprising or delightful to say to each other? Worse still, are they absorbed in their devices, two people together yet a globe apart?

For onlookers, it could signal a scary glimpse into the future. The Dean wonders if budding relationships which might have turned into happy marriages stopped before they could even start. Young lovers may be alarmed at such a sight and decide, Not for me! I’d rather by alone than silent with a lifetime partner. 

One way to skirt around this seemingly unsurmountable fact of many lives is to invite a third or fourth for dinner. Lonely silence that is bound to happen between two people once in a while, won’t happen with three or four. If you are in need of a conversation helper, look no further than a friend in need of a meal. Sometimes all we require is a fresh perspective to get us out of a rut of same ol' deafening silence. 

One caveat however, depending on the relationship and setting: silence can signal two people at ease. Restaurants may be for lots of two-way talking, but sitting on a sailboat, or a patio overlooking a salt marsh with flying ducks in silence is anything but awkward. It's blissful wordless communication. 

So Long Tomatoes

Suzanne Pollak

Photo by Landon Neil Phillips for CAoDP.

Photo by Landon Neil Phillips for CAoDP.

Invariably there is an abundance of tomatoes at the end of the season. Now is the time to take a day and several bushels of the fruit to make sauce and can juice for the months ahead. A classic seafood stew in tomato sauce couldn’t be easier, quicker or more delicious. It makes a fantastic weeknight, work night, school night dinner. And once you've tasted homemade tomato juice, you will be ruined for any store-bought version. Concoct the world’s most delicious Bloody Mary on football weekends or for a weekend brunch... 

Tomato Sauce

We give no amounts in this recipe because you do not need any! Only common sense. In a large pot over medium heat, sauté a chopped onion until translucent, add a few cloves of sliced garlic and continue cooking until caramelized. Fill pot halfway with coarsely chopped tomatoes and continue cooking uncovered until thick, about 45 minutes. Add course salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. When sauce is cool, pour into Ziploc bags to freeze. 

Squid Stew

Squid Stew is our new favorite go-to stew, but any shellfish or firm white fish will make it delicious. Scallops, clams, shrimp, Dungeness crab, Alaskan King Crab (flesh removed and cut into long pieces), monkfish (tastes like lobster), are all fine on their own, but if choosing is too difficult, combine for a tasty treat. This recipe is loose because it's up to you to decide how many olives you want, how much garlic you like (for us: plenty!), ditto with the capers. 

  • 2-3 cups Tomato Sauce
  • 3/4 lb. Squid tentacles 
  • 1/4 lb. Squid tubes, sliced 
  • Garlic, coarsely chopped
  • Capers in liquid
  • Black olives, pitted
  • Oregano 
  • Pepper

 In a large, heavy-bottomed pot over high heat, sauté garlic, capers and black olives in olive oil. When brown, add squid tentacles and tubes, plus two or three cups of tomato sauce to cover. Turn heat down and simmer until liquid reduces and squid is done, about ten minutes. Never overcook squid! If you do, they turn to rubber bands. Serve in a shallow bowl with a large crunchy crouton on the side. 

Mrs Alice Wanner's (1869 - 1958) Tomato Juice

It was pretty radical stuff to drink tomato juice in Mrs. Alice Wanner’s day. Tomatoes weren’t eaten much before she was born, still recovering from their reputation amongst colonists as purely decorative. (Legend even has it that Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson ate an entire basket of tomatoes on the steps of the local courthouse in 1830, simply to prove to onlookers that they would not send him into fatal convulsions with their poison, as expected.)  So Mrs. Wanner was obviously a domestic diva. This recipe is courtesy of her great-granddaughter, Kathy Phillips, and makes about ten quarts:

  • For the juice, you'll need thirty pounds or more tomatoes. This all depends on how juicy they are; you may need as many as fifty pounds. Wash tomatoes, trim off stems and any dark spots, quarter. Fill a large pot and bring to boil. Boil hard for ten to twenty minutes, until they are soft and liquid-y. Meanwhile, sterilize quart-sized Ball jars and heat flat lids in simmering water.
  • Put Foley food mill or a tight weave strainer over a second large pot. Ladle in tomatoes and crank mill, or use ladle in strainer to mush and push until all juice goes into pot, leaving behind skin and seeds. Keep doing in batches until juice fills pot. Bring juice to boil and then ladle into sterilized, seasoned Ball jars to about 1/2" from top. To each jar, add: 1 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. celery salt, 1 tsp. sugar, grind of black pepper. Remove bubbles. (Use a teaspoon and go around the edge of the top of the juice where bubbles collect. Then wipe the rim clean, plunk on the flat lid, and screw on the ring.) 
  • Place fresh lids on jars, tighten ring, and set aside to "ping." Then they are sealed and will keep up to about three years. Beyond that they start to lose flavor. This process of cooking tomatoes and making the juice will be done many times, maybe four or more depending on the size of the pots you are using. So use big pots. 

For a Bloody Mary, simply add vodka, Worcestershire, lemon wedge and dash tabasco. Top with to Ms. Wanner's fine juice!

Lamb Tagine

Suzanne Pollak

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In my African childhood, we ate dinner in Middle Eastern restaurants every single Sunday night for eighteen years. The Moroccan, Lebanese, Turkish, Indian, Iranian flavors bring back memories and feelings from my childhood. Every time I smell the sweet, savory spices of tagines, I am transported to the moments when I first tasted these flavors on my tongue.

These were dark little hole-in-the-wall restaurants with beaded strings for doors; a mother or grandmother standing over a tiny stove in the back; a waiter, her relative, placing plates of food we didn’t order all over the table, family specialties. Fancier restaurants with maîtres and head waiters presented us menus and explained the various dishes and their virtues. Whatever style of place, out tables were covered with feasts ensuring we sampled the Middle Eastern world through our taste buds. 

There was no such thing as: I don’t want that, I only eat white buttered pasta, No vegetables! How did today’s children get so damn picky? Consider bringing the world into your house through nightly meals. Pay attention to what you feed your children. You are making memories, even though taste, especially through taste. 

LAMB TAGINE

  • 2-1/2 lbs. lamb shoulder 
  • 2 tbsps. ghee
  • 14 oz. can whole tomatoes
  • 1 preserved lemon, chopped
  • 4 whole garlic cloves, peeled
  • 3 small turnips, chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb 
  • 4 dates, halved
  • Handful baby cippolini onions, peeled
  • Ras El Hanout, dry rub plus medium-sized dash
  1. Coat lamb shoulder in Ras el Hanout dry rub four hours in advance of cooking.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sear shoulder in medium skillet using ghee. Place in tagine dish and layer remaining ingredients on top.
  3. Put tagine (lid on) in the oven. After about an hour and a half of cooking, the aromas will begin to round out. The dish is done in two and a half/three hours, when meat is falling off the bone. 
  4. Enjoy adding these exotic tastes to your very own flavor bank!

Thank You Global Traveler

Suzanne Pollak

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We are delighted by the marvelous review of our private classes for the Beach Club at Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina, written by Becca Hensley for Global Traveler. Here's a clip:

"No visit to this centuries-old magnolia blossom of a harbor town would be complete without a visit with [Dean Pollak.] A cookbook author, socialite and expert on Lowcountry manners, she welcomes me, throws me an apron and gets me cooking the moment I walk in the door. Hoisting a glass of wine, nibbling on some fried zucchini cooked by a friend under Suzanne’s expert tutelage, I fold biscuit dough like origami animals. Suzanne swears this is the secret to flaky pastries. I chop dill for salmon flown in from Scotland that morning, and help mix an organic garden salad, composed from lettuce grown next door. Sitting down at the expertly set table for lunch, we relish our reward."

Jump to the full link HERE!

Après Eclipse

Suzanne Pollak

No need to call off the party after viewing the Total Solar Eclipse this afternoon. Make your friends a drink!

No need to call off the party after viewing the Total Solar Eclipse this afternoon. Make your friends a drink!

Q: What’s better than hosting eleven for dinner? A: Making cocktails for just a few!

This August, invite guests over for a Late Summer Old Fashioned. Serve with a platter of coppa, speck & pâté (we rely on Goat Cow Sheep) along with silver bowls full of almonds and heirloom cherry tomatoes. Easy Peasy!

Here's to make our signature cocktail, plus a tip on how to refresh your drink without overdoing it.

Late Summer Old Fashioned

  1. Fill cocktail glass with large cubes of ice. Pour in bourbon.*
  2. Sprinkle quite a few drops of peach bitters on top (five to ten according to your love of peaches) plus three or four drops Angostura bitters. 
  3. Top with soda, and garnish with a slice of peach and a cherry. 
  4. To slow down after one or too many drinks, without throwing in the towel, make this cocktail sans bourbon. In your same glass, refresh the ice, pour a speciality soda (Fever Tree or Mountain Valley), then top with a generous splattering of bitters. This concoction is as delicious as a real cocktail and will make you feel better in the morning.

*To use an old bartender's trick -- three to five second pours equal an ounce or two in the glass.

Cheers, and Happy Eclipse-ing, from the Academy's Summer School!

Pick from Your Neighborhood

Suzanne Pollak

When he walks down the steps and sees the fronds, the person living here thinks, This is my kind of house!

When he walks down the steps and sees the fronds, the person living here thinks, This is my kind of house!

Even if you must sneak out before dawn so as not to get caught, do it! Clipping fronds and ferns is not really stealing. Leaves grow back. The trick to the chicest arrangements is choosing different textures, colors and heights. Stuff your pickings into a long vase filled with water, bottom leaves stripped so as not to contaminate the water.

Think of this as an architecture project. Take a look at your space and then use your imagination. Leaving air between leaves allows imaginary butterflies to fly through. The goal is to for the width and height to fill the space on a hall table so every time you walk by, or go up and down the stairs, wherever your interior path may lead -- a jolt of jolly green pleasure hits you.

Natural, fresh, sometimes with a delicious aroma, this easy-to-DIY project breathes life into your space. The arrangement can actually make you feel different, like you are in the house that you deserve to be in. 

SUMMER PARTY PLAYLIST

Suzanne Pollak

Alain Delon, Brigitte Bardot, & Eddie Barclay beat the heat with style in St. Tropez. Where else?

Alain Delon, Brigitte Bardot, & Eddie Barclay beat the heat with style in St. Tropez. Where else?

Once you know what to wear to a mid- (OK maybe late) Summer eve cocktail party, you may as well just get gussied up and host one of your own. But you are going to need a signature cocktail -- perhaps a Paloma? -- and some choice tunes to make it all sing!

So we turned to our dear friend, Alex Admiral Collier, composer and music manager at Eastward Music for a summer playlist to help entertain guests and distract from the blistering heat. This playlist includes new and old songs alike, to usher in wistful memories of cooler, simpler times. Enjoy while imbibing with friends for a heightened sense of nostalgia while subconsciously creating new memories. CHEERS!

A Few Indispensable Tips on Cocktail Party Attire

Suzanne Pollak

It’s chic to wear a fantastic ‘something’ over and over to make it your signature. Just as smart hosts cook their favorite recipe again and again, no matter who comes to dinner, because they know their guests look forward to their culinary specialty; the chicest women throughout history know the style repetition secret. 

Even a simple ensemble can become your signature with the right attitude and accessories...

Even a simple ensemble can become your signature with the right attitude and accessories...

That 'thing’ can be an accessory, a dress, a shoe. The Dean learned from native and expatriate ladies swanning into her parents 1960's cocktail parties all over Africa. Women wore cigarette pants for casual affairs and jewel-toned satin mini cocktail dresses at fancier parties. Along with real hair dos (coifs, up-dos), eye liner flaring out just like Cleopatra, brilliant lips inhaling pearl or golden cigarette holders, perhaps even a huge cocktail ring or elaborate earrings...none of these beauties boasted a colossal wardrobe with unlimited choices but they had a cocktail uniform that took them anywhere. Once vital decisions are decided, brains are free to tackle life’s thornier problems: whom to invite to the party, which stranger to talk to first at someone else’s, how to grab attention, connect, ignite a fire, or tactfully end a conversation that's headed nowhere.

One Taffin ring...

One Taffin ring...

and another.

and another.

The teenage Dean appropriated the tip immediately and forever. Deciding and simplifying what to wear wherever is cheaper and quicker once you you know what suits you. Dressing becomes a snap, so be loyal and stick with your style. Adding that something extra, or taking it off, makes the outfit appropriate for the particular party and place. 

Because, of course, it makes a difference where the cocktail party is: Hollywood, California, Hollywood SC, Beirut, Tripoli or Paris; the Ambassador’s residence or your neighbor’s garden? "When in Rome," so the saying goes. You don’t want to be dramatically different than everyone else unless you can handle it. For example, a man does not wear a motorcycle jacket when he attends a soirée at Charleston’s  Yacht Club. Men there wear the proper uniform of khaki pants and a blue blazer. The Dean once knew two young American beauties visiting the south of France who were assured that everyone, absolutely everyone, went topless to parties at a certain place. Perhaps a little naïve, they showed up appropriately undressed to a party filled with elegant older couture-covered guests. Still embarrassed decades later! 

Dressing comes down to the first impression. What can a first impression tell us about someone whom we only met for a moment at a party? Of course we all know human beings are complex and contradictory, but you don’t have to live with someone to sense immediately if you want more of them or less. The package of you starts with eye contact, the smile and what is draping your body. Identify what you want out of the engagement. Something, or nothing? There to sip one bourbon, or to possibly meet your next business associate or romantic partner? You don’t want your clothes to get in the way. A woman does not want to be so flashy others are distracted from substance, but neither does she want to seem too dowdy. 

Figure out your primary assets -- cleavage, neck, arms, hair -- and choose cocktail attire accordingly. For your own engagement, you will need to move, sit and stand. As a guest you can swan around or sprawl on a sofa as you wish.

For reference, here is the Dean's summer cocktail uniform: Hart tassels, J. McLaughlin white blouse and cigarette pants, with extra pointy shoes to make legs look longer. This pair of Balenciaga mules harkens back to the time of Robin Hood! Because they are extravagant, they will be worn with jeans all fall and winter, for hosting ladies luncheons and gumbo dinner parties, with a Halloween costume, for a Thanksgiving feast and Christmas dinner, even just for hanging out at home.

MORE on How to Host a Bridal Shower (for Martha Stewart Weddings)

Suzanne Pollak

The Dean, Etiquette Expert Extraordinaire, returned to Martha Stewart Weddings with some additional tips on how to host a Summer Bridal Shower. For everything from menu suggestions (spoiler alert: no messy finger foods) to theme ideas, as well as how to hone your guest list, check out the full piece HERE...

A Case for Tarte Tatin

Suzanne Pollak

A tarte tatin is best of American pie but adds a French twist, perhaps most fitting in these days between Independence and Bastille Day. Since South Carolina peaches are at the peak of perfection, why not try using seasonal fresh fruit instead of the traditional apple?

Adding to the inherent deliciousness of caramelized fruit edges, making a tarte tatin is even easier than pie. For starters, the dough only involves two steps: making the dough and rolling the dough. No fitting dough into a pie pan, stretching it, wondering, Will go up the sides of the pie pan all the way around? Will I have enough dough to make strips for a lattice top? Then there is the chore of decorative edges on the crust using fork tines or thumb indentations. Pies are wonderful, tasty and works of art, yes, but a tarte tatin is all that and more! 

The extra sizzle comes from sautéing the tart when it emerges from its thirty minute bake so that the fruit edges crisp up and turn dark golden. To guild the lily even more, whip up a cup of heavy cream for a side spoonful. Vanilla ice cream is delicious, but if you are sticking with the French theme, then homemade whipped cream is heavenly. Bonus: your arms get a tiny bit of a work out. 

Pies and tarts say and do so much. It's the baker whispering to the eater (even when the eater is the baker herself), I love you, and all is right in the world...at least for this moment. Fruit tarts and pies satisfy, soothe, and signal Summertime. Paired with a cafe au lait, left over slices make a healthy and indulgent breakfast. What else so small can deliver so much satisfaction? 

Find the full recipe for Peach Tarte Tatin HERE...

The Dean on Bridal Showers (for Martha Stewart Weddings)

Suzanne Pollak

Betsy von Furstenberg and company ("Look" Magazine, 1950)

Betsy von Furstenberg and company ("Look" Magazine, 1950)

The Dean was pleased to offer her foolproof tips for throwing your first bridal shower, over on the Martha Stewart Weddings blog today. From how to plan and decorate, to properly introducing your guests to one another -- even how to get them to leave when the party is over -- the Academy is here to make sure the party happens without a hitch.

Read the full article, "How to Be the Ultimate First-Time Hostess," HERE!

The Makings of a Pork Chop

Suzanne Pollak

An advisor to the Academy, the Minister of Meat, maintains that a pork chop is harder to perfect than a steak.* We all know where a pork chop comes from** but not many of us know the simple secrets to cooking a chop that will blow your mind this time, and every time.

What we don’t want is a grey pork chop. A grey chop means the heat wasn’t high enough. It means that you were chicken. Don’t get chicken with the pig. The difference between chefs and home cooks is that chefs are not afraid of high heat. The pork chop goal is juicy pink inside, crispy fat on the outside. The difficulty lies between crusty on the outside and tender on the inside. The following are the Pork Chop Poobah’s exact directions for the perfect pork chop, which he follows to the letter every time: 

  • Pork chops 
  • Fresh sage leaves
  • Pears, apples or peaches, thickly sliced***
  1. For starters, buy your pork chops from the best butcher in town. It is literally impossible to make an inferior pork chop superior. In Charleston we go to Ted's.
  2. Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat. When surface is hot, pour a generous slug of olive oil in pan. You are not frying the chop, but you need more oil than a bare sheen. Using enough hot oil is the reason why the fat crisps and becomes delicious. This heated oil is definitely going to splatter, so wear an apron to protect your clothes, and know you will be wiping the stove and floor near the stove during clean up time. Your stomach and loved one’s stomachs are worth that hassle. 
  3. When the oil starts to pop or "spit" (about thirty seconds), lay the pork chops in pan and leave the chop alone for exactly five minutes. Then turn the chop over. The Pork Doctor says that the second side is the creative side. Not to make you crazy, but he says listen to the vibe. The Dean’s translation: depending on the chop’s thickness, temperature of pan surface, even the humidity, the second side is done in three to five minutes. After cooking pork chops a few times you will know exactly when it is ready by touching and looking. Until that time comes, know that your chop is finished when the second side’s fat is crispy but the interior is pale pink. Stick a knife tip into middle of the meat and take a look at the color. It’s a fine line between pinky perfection and grey overtones.
  4. When you turn the chop to the second side, place sage leaves and slices of pears around the chops. Both leaves and fruit will be ready in two minutes, when browned and crispy. If the chops need another minute, remove the sage and pears with tongs onto a paper towel first, and then take the chops out.
  5. Serve pork chops with sage and pears on the side.****

*Why is a pork chop harder to cook than a steak? Steak is more forgiving. Cooking a streak properly means charring the outside and leaving the inside rare. You can guesstimate by looking at the thickness. There is more leeway between black and blue rare and overdone for a steak than there is for a pork chop. 

**A pork chop is from the loin of a pig, which runs from the hip to the shoulder and contains the small strip of meat called the tenderloin. The most common chops you see in the butcher case are from the ribs and the loin.

***Fruit and pork go together like Fred & Ginger. Use apples or pears in the fall and winter, peaches in the summer.  

****For a colorful feast, serve alongside sautéed yellow wax beans and roasted cauliflower.