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Filtering by Tag: cooking

The Simple Art of Stew I: Braised Short Ribs

Suzanne Pollak

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As Summer turns to Fall — or rather to Hurricane Season as we know it in the Lowcountry — so we shift from our Salad routine to making Stews of all kinds. In our newest recipe series, the Dean shares the art of preparing one-pot wonders that will feed a crowd and streamline suppers on busy school nights. Though most stews require some prep. time, the rest is just keeping an eye out as they simmer on the stove. They always taste better the next day and freeze beautifully. Even if you are only cooking for one or two, stews are smart! Simply divide the large batch into individual portions. What could be better after a long day of work?

Stews make for a healthy, delicious dinner; comfort for the stomach and spirit. And don’t forget the aromas funneling from the kitchen and making their way into every nook & cranny of your house. To kick off our Stew series: Red Wine-Braised Short Ribs! But first, let’s talk about browning your meat. The searing process takes place in a hot pan with a little oil, and relies on patience as you must work in batches, careful not the crowd the pan. The purpose is to release fat, caramelize the outside of the meat, and deepen the flavor. Don’t be afraid to go dark; extra dark means extra flavor.

For Short Ribs, you will need:

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  • 2 tablespoons oil

  • 3 tablespoons butter

  • 5 pounds short ribs

  • 2 large onions, peeled and roughly chopped

  • 1-2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped

  • 1-2 stalks celery, roughly chopped

  • Head of garlic, sliced through

  • 1 bottle red wine

  • Some branches of thyme

  • A bay leaf or two

Here’s what to do:

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  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  2. Put oil in a deep skillet or Dutch oven and turn heat to high. Brown the ribs well on all sides. This will take about 20 or 25 minutes. Salt and pepper as you cook. As the ribs finish searing, remove them to a plate.

  3. While the ribs are searing, put 2 tablespoons of butter into another pan and turn the heat to medium-high. Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic and salt and pepper. Cook until the onion is soft, about 10 minutes.

  4. Remove the fat from the Dutch oven. Add the meat and onion mixture back into the pot, then pour in the wine and thyme and bay leaves. Cover and put into the oven for about 3 hours, until the meat is falling from the bone. Stir every hour.

  5. Transfer to a platter. Strain the liquid, put into another bowl and refrigerate. The following day skim the fat from the liquid. Reheat, bring to a boil and add the ribs. When ribs are warm, stew is ready to serve.

Tips & Tricks from Tony Hendra

Suzanne Pollak

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Why is Tony Hendra (AKA Ian Faith and the Academy's Dean of Wit) such an amazing cook? Tony is a master of details. He's got his program down. He only cooks his favorite foods and since he has spent decades doing so, his recipes and techniques are works of art, every time. We should all be so brilliant and dedicated; but in case you are at the early stages of your cooking life, or not as passionate as Tony, you can still learn lessons from Mr T.

Number One. There is no need to be a master of 100 recipes or to go to cooking school. A few favorite recipes perfected will see you through a lifetime of satisfying meals, and will always delight your family and friends, no matter what else is going on. Chaos can be raging like wildfire all around you, but if you can put a delicious dinner on the table, life calms down at least for a while. Amazing results come from just wanting to feed yourself and sharing that food with others. It's guaranteed that more people will love you. Gathering your crew for a nightly feast happens to be a smart way to manage a family too. 

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Tony has spent years choosing his tools, perfecting his knife skills, building collections which include antique, ridiculously thick, beyond gorgeous cutting boards which are almost too heavy to transport (I know because I wanted to steal them all); hand made ceramic casserole and Dutch ovens; every type of knife, including crescents. Tony's knife skills are as good as any chef's but Tony: please get yourself a better sharpener! You could do better than using other knife blades to sharpen. However, that doesn't really matter. Tony can bone a rabbit in less time than it takes me to make an Old Fashioned and he is capable of spellbinding everyone around him while carving a smoked duck. 

Tony never makes the mistake of using too many ingredients. He also doesn't make stupid mistakes with knives or mise en place because he pays attention and focuses. Dinner and cooking is serious business to this man. Preparing dinner is his transition from the end of a hard days work to relaxing, creating in a form other than writing comedy and spending time with the people he loves.

Not for one moment would Tony consider standing up while eating, or not paying attention to his food. Every day is a celebration of food and wines and cheese, especially cheese. No matter where he goes this guy carries his own butter, chocolate and cheese like the rest of us carry our lipstick and cash. Even on planes! He is so picky that he hides his chocolate and cheese in his own house so he does not have to share. These traits do not mean Tony is greedy. Rather, it means that when he craves a certain pick-me-up, he doesn't want to find his food stash stolen. When I needed an afternoon boost I poked around the kitchen and discovered his chocolate bars behind the spice jars. Nothing get past the Dean. His favorite brand of chocolate? Ritter Sport with Whole Hazelnuts. Finding his cheese is easy because he likes the stinky kind (especially époisses) so stinky that his family insists it be kept in hard-to-find nooks.  

As a rule, never ever throw away bones, ever! Tony’s ghost might haunt you. His pots of stock simmer at all hours on back burners. This man is a stock master, the real stock broker.  He has stock on hand at all times (in the freezer or on the stove) to flavor any sauce or deglaze a pan. Spoonfuls of stock of this quality transform the plainest fillet into scrumptuous meals. 

Tony's expertise after decades of cooking? Knowing the exact second to take a breast duck out of the pan and place on the plate. Knowing how to dissolve a family crisis with a family meal. Knowing that the simplest dish made well will bring a table to silence with the very first bite. Knowing how to make a dinner party go on for hours. Knowing how to get those guest to leave. Knowing the secrets of a beautiful life.  Can you see why the Dean loves Tony? 

Finally, Tony's tips for the world's best cousous: measure exactly the same amount of stock and grain. That is the KEY to great couscous; plus sliced braised leeks, freshly ground cumin, ras el hanout (it's fresh if it smells good), yellow raisins all mixed together when couscous is ready...

Suzanne Pollak for The Roads Travelled

Suzanne Pollak

[Image: Mary Gilbert, The Roads Travelled.]

[Image: Mary Gilbert, The Roads Travelled.]

Many thanks to blogger Mary Gilbert of The Roads Travelled for writing all about her recent culinary lesson with Suzanne Pollak, starring frisée, bacon, and the renowned Academy croutons...(guest-starring a red scarf by J. McLaughlin!) 

Gilbert sat down with the Dean after her tutorial on Tradd Street to ask a few Qs on everything from growing up the daughter of a diplomat in Afraica, to entertaining in historic homes around the world -- including how Pollak's distinctive entertaining style has been shaped by her large family, lifetime of travel, and love for Charleston.

Read the full post HERE on The Roads Travelled (and contact us to book a cooking class of your own!)

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.

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.

No Time for Foolishness

Suzanne Pollak

Recently the Dean heard news she cannot like; in fact, it has her recoiling in horror. Say it ain’t so! That people the Dean knows, and knows of (with children no less) have not turned their stoves on for over six months -- told like a brag, even with pride! This is foolishness beyond belief. These people are missing out on some of life’s greatest pleasures: relaxation, creativity, bonding, feasting at home.

Here’s what else these fools are missing:

  • eating healthier meals,
  • making the kitchen (instead of TV) the heartbeat of the house,
  • teaching children manners, healthy eating habits, patience, focus and concentration by simply sitting at the dining table, 
  • and one of the most joyous daily occurrences, spending time together with people you love eating food you love.

The Academy cannot help these folks. Is there an Academy out there for common sense?

The Stock Broker

Suzanne Pollak

Stock is an ongoing project at Chez Host of the Dean while she is on vacation in the South of France. This household wakes up each morning to the smell of stock simmering away on a back burner while the host, a dedicated amateur cook, swims laps and bikes miles, already having started his stock at sunrise. He repurposes last night's roasted guinea hens or quail bones, and any left over wine* in today’s stocks -- not one iota wasted in his kitchen. His liquid ratio is half water half wine (red, rosé or white, but definitely some red to add body.) 

A few hours later, when today’s stock from yesterday’s roast is strained, the stock becomes a foundation for gravy, a liquid for stew, a spoonful to flavor salad dressing. Even though these bones have already roasted and simmered they are not thrown away. They have more flavor to give! After straining the stock, the Stock Broker pours boiling water over the bones, and even more nourishment and flavor is released; this liquid is the beginnings of tomorrow’s stock.

*The very first night eleven diners consumed twenty bottles of wine. Not sure if any was left over for the making of stock. 

Cooking with Pat Conroy

Suzanne Pollak

My friend, Pat Conroy, died on March 4th in Beaufort, S.C. Pat was best known to many as the bestselling author of many titles, including The Prince of Tides and The Great Santini. But to me and my family, Pat was a friend and comforter, someone we came to love for his sense of humor and his sense of humanity. Pat was also my co-author, my partner in crime, in creating The Pat Conroy Cookbook: Recipes and Stories of My Life, which we published together in 2004.

Pat and I began our cookbook in 1994, not long after we were introduced by a mutual friend. He entered my kitchen, a man bigger than life and full of joy, and (I found out later) carrying a gun. What is it like to have a man like Pat Conroy hanging out in your kitchen twice a week – for a year – and then off and on for ten years? It’s more fun than you can possibly imagine. While we made beef stock, fried squash blossoms, and baked gooseberry pies, he regaled me with animated stories, as only a gifted storyteller such as Pat Conroy could, acting out his tales for emphasis. I was captivated as he described Barbra Streisand’s call about making The Prince of Tides into a movie, insisting she sing The Way We Were over the telephone to prove her authenticity. Pat proceeded to sing to me his version of Barbra singing the tune while frying flounder.

In another of Pat’s stories, local activist Wilson Lane “Tootie Fruity” Bourke sprang to life in the body of Pat, as he mimicked the man who singlehandedly integrated Beaufort, directed traffic, and led virtually all parades, including one for the Ku Klux Klan, who didn’t know what to make of him. One time, Pat removed a life-sized portrait of me from the dining room wall, and when my young children asked what was he doing with it, he answered, “Dancing with your mother.” On Christmas Eve one year, Pat, my daughter, Caroline, and I made squash tortellini, and when Caroline’s twin brother, Charles, complained, “Tortellini. Again?” Pat described a dinner of canned dog food his mother once served his father, helping my children appreciate the bounty in front of them. 

There was one afternoon when Pat drove up to our house and saw my eldest son, Pete, sitting in the yard, unraveling countless knots of fishing line. Pat took one look and declared to Pete, “Right there is why I do not fish.” He shot hoops with the boys in the driveway, and had Pete demonstrate his left-handed pitch, bringing a quiet confidence to my son with his approval. Pat and I watched from the window as my youngest son, Christopher, buried his school of goldfish in the garden in small raisin-box coffins, while reading the funeral service from the Book of Common Prayer. Right then, Pat declared our book must have a chapter on dying. He predicted that all the shrimp in South Carolina would shake in their shells the day he died, because he envisioned buckets of pickled shrimp served at his funeral.

Our friendship grew as we worked together and discussed our distinct childhoods, impacted by our fathers’ careers (his military, mine CIA). Pat attended 11 schools as a kid, while I attended 12. It was Marion O’Neill, Pat’s physiologist and my close friend, who introduced the two of us. I later realized that she may have had an ulterior motive. During this time, Pat was walking around with a gun, (his brother, Tom, had committed suicide three months later) and Marion had Pat drive an hour and a half from his home on Fripp Island to her office on Hilton Head twice a week for sessions. She wanted Pat’s time filled with activity. What better way to accomplish that than by starting a huge project, combining three of his passions – writing, cooking, and eating.

Marion arranged our introductory dinner in May of that year, the same week Jackie Kennedy died. Marion, my husband, Peter, and my youngest child, Christopher, sat in the dining room at the Bray’s Island Main House. Christopher, at the time a fourth grader, told Pat he had just written a book, and the hardest part was sewing it together. Christopher asked Pat how he sewed all his books. Pat treated the boy’s question seriously, and then explained that sewing wasn’t half as difficult as cutting down trees and making enough paper.

I next invited Pat to dinner at my house and, when he arrived early, I put him to work. Here’s what he said about that evening in the introduction to our book: When I walked into Suzanne Williamson Pollak’s kitchen in Hilton Head Island several years ago, she was fixing supper. She had her hands full and could not shake hands, but looked up, smiled, and said, “Hey, Pat. Why don’t you make the pasta?” On the counter was a mound of flour with three broken eggs set in its well. I had never made fresh pasta in my life, but I made it that night as Suzanne gave me directions from the stove. The directions were clear and easy to follow. We have been cooking together ever since. She is more fun to cook with than anyone I ever met except for my passel of fine and comely wives. Suzanne and I are both dedicated amateurs, but we can cook our little fannies off. We collect recipes and cookbooks, and both of us believe that the cooking of food is one of the most delightful activities a human being can do during the course of a lifetime. There is joy in the preparation of food that we share and try to spread around to those we love. Now we will try to spread the source of this joy to you. Suzanne is the great workhorse and beauty behind the recipes in this book. I provide the hot air and sense of story. 

Within that year, Pat was living in the Surrey Hotel in New York City, editing Beach Music, and he decided that it would be a good idea for us to cook dinner for his agent, Julian Bach. I called Mr. Bach to find out his favorite meal, but the agent asked for more time to consider the question. The following day, he called with two menus. The plan was for Pat and I to cook in the Bach family’s elegant Upper East Side townhouse, but where in New York City was I to find Mr. Bach’s requested wild venison? Here’s where things got a little tricky. I bought a deer that had been dressed, but not wrapped well enough. I walked through the Savannah and LaGuardia Airports carrying my white plastic garbage bag filled with ice and meat, leaving a trail of venison blood and somehow managing not to get arrested. Pat feigned sickness and left me to manage cooking in Julian Bach’s basement kitchen. I was convinced that Mr. and Mrs. Bach had never entered the room, and Pat roared with laughter because he knew it had to be true. Though the couple’s knives could not cut softened butter, and their tin pots didn’t sit evenly on a stovetop, it all worked out. We sat in their opulent, chocolate-brown dining room, one floor up from the barren kitchen, feasting on sole quenelles, white asparagus, venison loin, and chocolate soufflés.

One chapter Pat planned to write, but never did, was "The Best Meal I ever had in a Hospital came from an IV." And, this is the number one reason I will love Pat Conroy forever, grateful until my dying day for what he did for my eldest son when he had spinal cancer. Pete was in the hospital in Savannah, before his transfer to Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York for the six months between Thanksgiving and Easter that year. When Pete was in intensive care with a MRSA infection, we thought he was going to die. Early on in the ordeal, I left a message for Pat, asking if he would please call Pete and say something to make him smile. Pat proceeded to call every single day for six months. I have no idea what he said in those conversations with my son, but the minute 19-year-old Pete answered the ringing phone next to his hospital bed, I knew it was Pat, because Pete always started laughing. I am convinced that what Pat had to say over those 180 or so phone calls was just as important as the radiation and medicine in saving my son’s life. 

I will miss our cooking days together, Pat. May you rest in peace.

8 Lessons Learned in a Oaxacan Cooking Class

A. K. Lister

1. Shop Local (and don't forget to haggle.)

A vendor and her homegrown produce for sale at Mercado de la Merced (including dried crickets in the bottom of frame.)

A vendor and her homegrown produce for sale at Mercado de la Merced (including dried crickets in the bottom of frame.)

Another vendor explains huitlacoche -- a fermented corn kernel that is akin to a mushroom or truffle, usually sauteed.

Another vendor explains huitlacoche -- a fermented corn kernel that is akin to a mushroom or truffle, usually sauteed.

On a recent post-holiday Mexican getaway, my partner and I took a class at the La Cocina Oaxaqueña Cooking School with Chef Gerardo Aldeco. Before the lesson, located in the open-air kitchens in his family's sprawling Oaxaca City home, Chef took us to the one of the best of many overflowing, street block-sized markets to show us how to source the ingredients for one of the traditional cuisine's seven molé sauces. Each is made from a different chili grown in- state (Mexico's most biodiverse), and the two darkest of all molés include incredibly tasty local chocolate. His tips for sourcing good dried chiles: not too dry, slightly pliable, so they don't crack when you squeeze them. Wipe clean; remove stem, slit one side top to bottom, remove the veins and seeds. Don't touch your face.

An assortment of dried chiles for molé, on display at La Merced in central Oaxaca City.

An assortment of dried chiles for molé, on display at La Merced in central Oaxaca City.

Also, when ponying up your pesos at the market, don't be shy! Counter-bid. Bartering is customary: a blessing on the transaction, and sign of mutual (and self-)respect.

2. Tamales take time.

Visiting Professor/ Chef Jason Stanhope  tries his hand at toasting banana leaves for wrapping tamales.

Visiting Professor/Chef Jason Stanhope tries his hand at toasting banana leaves for wrapping tamales.

PRO. TIPS:

  • Finely ground the masa made from boiled corn, at least 3x. Then, use chicken stock to really thin it out.
  • Cut seam from banana leaves and save to use as tamale ties. Fill and wrap just like a present, according to the natural direction of the banana leave (horizontal "hot dog" style.)
  • Layer the pot: chicken on the bottom, vegetables and cheese on the top. Steam for an hour or more.

3. Eat the dark meat.

The mother of our instructor, a master sous chef, busied herself in the background as our cooking class carried on under Aldeco's instructions. Tasked with shredding an entire boiled chicken, I set the gizzards aside, assuming they would have some other purpose than the filling of tamales. When the señora came over to inspect our work, she asked, in slightly horrified Spanish, if I really wasn't going to use the most flavorful part? Then she sliced them herself into perfect and utterly delicious slivers to cook along with huitlacoche (a delicacy) and squash blossoms in a steamed fresh corn tamale.


4. Always tackle prep. work with a friend!

Jeannie and Barbara from Santa Fe, NM, pick herbs while they catch up on all the hot gossip.

Jeannie and Barbara from Santa Fe, NM, pick herbs while they catch up on all the hot gossip.

Mole Verde fixin's

Mole Verde fixin's

5. Molé is like gravy. Keep stirring...

Whenever you add a hot liquid to a starchy mixture, masa de maiz in this case -- do it very gradually and stir, stir, stir like the wind! A golden rule for every roux under the sun.

6. Try adding a cactus worm to your salsa?

Oaxacans use freshly ground worms and salt for everything from cocktails to salsa.

Oaxacans use freshly ground worms and salt for everything from cocktails to salsa.


7. Make fresh tortillas.

A traditional tortilla press and colorful woven basket for keeping them warm.

A traditional tortilla press and colorful woven basket for keeping them warm.

Chef Gerardo shows a fellow student from NYC how to gently slide the tortilla onto the tamal.

Chef Gerardo shows a fellow student from NYC how to gently slide the tortilla onto the tamal.

PRO. TIPS:

  • Lightly mold a lemon-sized ball of dough into a thick disk, then press (in tortilla press) between two sheets of plastic wrap.
  • Peel one side of plastic and flip; peel the other side; remove from press and gently slide onto a tamal. Practice using one hand to push and the other to pull so it lies flat.
  • The tortillas will pillow up with steam and fall again (pure magic!) just before they are ready to serve.

8. Have a little mezcal, even at lunchtime.

To be fair, seems that Oaxacans start the day with a huge breakfast of memelas, empanadas, or chilaquiles, and enjoy their second meal more like a middle-of-the-afternoon feast. Chef G. told us that most of the time they skip dinner because lunch is such a grand affair. The traditional high-gravity accompaniment is a true art form at it’s best — i.e. made according to (arguably) prehispanic tradition from 100% agave, which grows wild and often takes a quarter-century to fruit (meaning that it might be harvested and cooked by a farmer younger than the plant itself!) Good mezcal is quite low in sugar; so while surely still possible to overindulge, a couple of small glasses won't leave you with a hangover.

Finally, because the production process is so labor-intensive, and the drink itself a requisite at celebrations, many distillers will hoard their lot in anticipation of a wedding in the family, leaving little left for the rest of the market. In short: if you're lucky enough to get the good stuff, enjoy it, with new friends and a fantastic meal, regardless of the hour.