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Filtering by Category: COOKING

Rice 103: Pudding!

Suzanne Pollak

While the first two rice dishes in our Rice summer school series — paella and risotto — have great cultural pasts, rice pudding is personal, evocative, emotional... 

For me, rice pudding brings up memories of college dinner parties my sister & I gave for our friends. Instead of time at the library, we devoted hours devising menus and guest lists, then walked together to the grocery store to buy ingredients only to haul them back to our apartment (as we neither owned a car nor even possessed driver's licenses.) We had small monthly allowances so dinner parties were a creative way to please people on a culinary shoe string, with our financial resources combined. Rice was our standby dessert because pudding pleased everyone, even if it wasn’t their childhood comfort food, or ours. Rice pudding was easy to make, exotic to our friends, foolproof, inexpensive, delicious.

[Illustration,  Pepperidge Farm Cookbook , c. 1970]

[Illustration, Pepperidge Farm Cookbook, c. 1970]

Our recipe came from an old-fashioned standard, Margaret Rudkin’s Pepperidge Farm Cookbook. We soaked raisins for a topping and always whipped heavy cream by hand to top the topping. Gilding the lily was our mantra straight through college, at least where food, parties, and dress were concerned. We didn’t always apply the philosophy to our studies — funny I should be a “Dean” now. But Charleston Academy classes always start with drinks followed by food, so perhaps none of this should come as a surprise.

Paella uses bomba rice, risotto: Arboria rice, both medium grain and starchy which do not make good puddings. This leaves long grain rice for puddings. Do not use ‘instant’ or ‘minute’ rice. Basmati and jasmine rice are excellent choices too. 

Pepperidge Farm Cookbook Rice Pudding

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Ingredients:

  • 1 quart whole milk

  • ⅓ cup rice

  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • ½ cup sugar

  • Dash of cinnamon

  • 2 tablespoons rosewater

Directions:

  1. Butter a 2-quart casserole. Put the rice in the casserole and pour in the milk. Add the seasonings and stir well.

  2. Bake for 3 hours, stirring every 15 minutes during the first hour to keep the rice from staying in the bottom of the casserole. 

  3. When cooked, sprinkle the rosewater over the top. Serve hot or cold, with or without soaked raisins (in brandy, cognac, or just hot water) and whipped cream.



Rice 102: Rainy Day Risotto

Suzanne Pollak

Risotto at its best has been lovingly tended to become a creamy dish, heaven to eat.

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First, soften a chopped onion in a couple knobs of good butter; then stir in two cups of rice grains until they are coated too. Add four cups of homemade stock by the ladleful, stirring with a wooden spoon all the while. Risotto is a dish of love, something to make when you have the time — time to work out knotty problems in your brain or to just let that brain take a rest; time for when you feel like facing the stove and hanging out with a family member or friend. It’s a perfect dish to make over a conversation, even a three-way telephone chat. 

Start to finish takes 30-40 minutes, and similar to a soufflé (but easier to make) risotto waits for no one! Slip a little more butter into the rice before serving, then top with plenty of grated parmesan, chopped parsley, freshly ground pepper. Witness a few separate ingredients, probably already sitting on your counter, transform into far more than sum of its parts. If you can’t visit the seven wonders of the world, you can make one all by yourself right there in your very own kitchen. That’s the exquisite nature of cooking and feeding people.

Summer School: RICE 101 - Paella Night

Suzanne Pollak

Hot take — some carbs are good for you! Cole Porter sang of romance: It's delightful, it's delicious, it's de-lovely. At the Academy, we sing similar riffs about rice. It’s delicious, it’s delightful, it’s delectable...

Paella Night

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Paella might be the pinnacle dinner party menu, the perfect food to knit together a group, especially when cooking over an open fire with guests standing around watching. It’s primal, it’s ancient, it’s deep. First off, to be in the hands of an Engineer of Paella is comforting and exciting. All will be good. You can feel it.

The feast begins with the visual — platters of fish and vegetables, a sack of bomba rice, pot of fish stock, bottle of Spanish olive oil, and tins of spicy paprika and saffron laid out on trays — teasing the eyes. This engineer had the largest tin of saffron the Dean had ever seen! Joy number one: watching a confident cook take charge, knowing exactly what to do with the order of ingredients. Your eyes, nose, and stomach anticipate a feast. A patient wait is required for the ingredients to transform into one of the world’s magnificent feasts, and a patient wait is just what we all need. Off the devices and face to face — right there the night becomes unforgettable. Meanwhile the wood smoke and tomato smells seduce the nose…

This particular engineer knows how to riff like any accomplished cook. No artichokes at the market? So what! Martha Vineyards Morning Glory Farms had asparagus just picked. What to serve first? Not too much at such an opulent feast. But guild the lily with local oysters. In this case honeysuckle oysters from waters pulled just that morning.

Here are the paella steps according to the Engineer’s method:

1. Shuck oysters.

1. Shuck oysters.

2. Build the fire.

2. Build the fire.

3. Lay out ingredients.

3. Lay out ingredients.

4. Sauté onion and green pepper.

4. Sauté onion and green pepper.

5. Sauté soft shell crabs and monster shrimp!

5. Sauté soft shell crabs and monster shrimp!

6. Sauté garlic and green onion.

6. Sauté garlic and green onion.

7. Add tomatoes whirled in the blender.

7. Add tomatoes whirled in the blender.

8. A good dose of paprika…

8. A good dose of paprika…

9. Be generous with the saffron!

9. Be generous with the saffron!

10. A quick stir…

10. A quick stir…

11. Rice makes an entrance.

11. Rice makes an entrance.

12. Time for asparagus and eggplant.

12. Time for asparagus and eggplant.

13. Scallops and swordfish enter the picture.

13. Scallops and swordfish enter the picture.

14. Add stock.

14. Add stock.

15. Add rice!

15. Add rice!

After we’ve heard the rice bottom pop and the paella has rested, it’s time to serve. The engineer decided to put the paella in the middle of the table as centerpiece. Who needs plates? The communion continued with everyone eating straight from the pan. Eat the triangle of paella in front of you. Communion and communication make a dinner party its best.

This Professor of Paella pulled off the two main tricks: all the flavor absorbed in the rice and the crusty layer on the bottom, Mmmmmmm. Plus two other secrets, including a fistful of saffron threads from that bottomless tin. The Dean was so mesmerized she forgot to find out the source and price for a treasure of saffron that huge. The other secret is the Bomba rice. Two expensive ingredients but WOW!

Remember a paella cannot be thick. This engineer owns three paella pans all the same size, perfect for serving six people from each pan so the rice is thin and gets that essential crust. But who wants 18 for a Paella feast? Five or six is perfect.

Polar Vortex Stew

Suzanne Pollak

Bundle up! No need to lose your cool…

Bundle up! No need to lose your cool…

Want to warm everyone around you, make the house smell amazing, and have something useful (but still easy) to do when you cannot leave the house? Providing you have the ingredients on hand, this stew is soul-satisfying because the flavor is more than just meat . We use a smoked ham hock and bones from the meat to extract even more deliciousness. 

Ingredients:

  • 3 pounds beef shank with bone

  • 1 - 1.5 pound smoked pork hock 

  • 2 - 3 tablespoons olive oil 

  • 2 cups wine - white, red or a mixture

  • 3 cups water or stock

  • 1 large onion, peeled and cut in half

  • 8 whole cloves

  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled

  • a sprig of bay, or 6 to 8 leaves

  • a couple sprigs fresh thyme

  • 4 carrots, cut in chunks 

  • 4 celery stalks, cut into 3“ pieces

  • kosher salt

  • black peppercorns 

Directions:

  1. Cut the beef into large pieces, trimming off some of the fat. 

  2. Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or casserole and cook the pork hock until lightly brown. Remove the hock. Put the beef pieces into the hot oil, searing on two sides. Add the bones from the meat and brown. 

  3. Deglaze the pot with a little wine. Add the rest of the wine, the meat, ham hock and meat bones and enough water or stock to cover the meat. 

  4. Stick the onion haves with cloves and put in the pot along with the garlic, bay leaves, thyme and celery. Season with salt — not too much because the ham hock will add salt to the stew. 

  5. Bring to a simmer and cook on stove top over low heat for four hours.  Alternatively cook in a 250 F oven. 

  6. Taste for salt and pepper. Remove ham hock and take off any bits of pork and add to the stew. 

  7. Serve with mashed potatoes, thick slices of toasted bread, or a pasta stirred into the sauce before serving. 

MT. VERNON XMAS PUNCH (& other Homemade Gifts)

A. K. Lister

There is no good reason not to have an arsenal of homemade gifts on hand this time of year, whether to give to hosts of the many Christmas (and Hannukah, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, etc.) parties you are sure to attend, or to reciprocate when a neighbor shows up with a little surcee for you and yours.  

Homemade gifts, like the Washington family's famed punch, can be simultaneously simple to prepare and yet still spectacular to behold, not to mention imbibe.  For as velvet-y as this punch may seem, it is a nonetheless quite potent mixture of bourbon, rum, Chartreuse, sherry, vermouth, and tea, cured for a week in tightly-sealed mason jars.  

Who knew George was such a party animal?!  You can find the recipe for Washington's Punch in our Archive.  Each jar may be individually labeled and tied up in a cheery ribbon, with serving instructions alongside for the recipient to enjoy at another occasion.

Now, there are a few ways to serve a jar of Mt. Vernon Christmas Punch.  For a small gathering of 5 or less, stick with cocktails.  Simply pour a couple ounces of the base over ice, top with either champagne or soda, and garnish with a cherry.  Why not present a plate of Cheese Coins alongside?

For 6 or more, get out the punch bowl -- we're having a party!  But first, you'll need an Ice Ring.  Simply fill a bundt pan halfway with cranberries, cherries, or any other festive fruit to garnish your punch.  Then run hot water over the pan to loosen the ice, flip it into the bowl, and top with 2-3 bottles of champagne to put it to action.  Like so:

There you have it, Mt. Vernon Christmas Punch, the gift that keeps on giving.  There are plenty of other goodies you can whip up and portion for casual gifting, whether alongside the punch or no.  Try biscotti, bourbon cake, or Raisin Scones.

But, if your kitchen is already sanctioned for other grandiose projects -- we're making Prime Rib for Christmas Eve dinner (more on that a little later this week) -- build your Holiday credit with promises for the New Year: offer to make a series of meals, complete with menu suggestions, for someone extra special, or plan to throw a dinner party in their honor.  Or, simply take all your girlfriends out for a nice lunch and hand out a few fabulous party favors.

Regardless, 'tis the season to let the people you love know exactly how you feel...and to drink lots of punch!

XO, the Academy

 

No One Can Enjoy Delicious Food through Gritted Teeth

Suzanne Pollak

Unless your oven conks out, your Thanksgiving meal will get cooked. Everyone puts so much thought and effort into the food that we just know that the flavor of your meal will be wonderful, wherever you eat it. 

What causes our annual breakout of holiday hives is that Thanksgiving food is endlessly thought about but the entirety of the day can be overlooked. Children need to be entertained, elderly people need to be comfortable, lonely neighbors and acquaintances need to be invited, not to mention you yourself must be taken care of! If you are in charge of the day and you break down, well then, everyone is in trouble. No one will mind if there is no creamed cauliflower, but they will mind if no one is getting along and the children are screaming and the sister-in-laws are bickering and the table is rushed to and and then abandoned in a total of fifteen minutes. No one can enjoy delicious food through gritted teeth. 

  • Start grocery shopping days before and be sure to get to the store first thing in the morning. Do not try to accomplish all your shopping in one fell swoop.

  • Make sure everyone has a task to do. This is no time to be a hero. People like to help. Let them.

  • Set the table the day before if you can. If not, be sure to delegate it to people not actively involved in cooking.

  • Assign the turkey carving to a person of competence as early as possible.

  • When someone asks what they can bring assign bottles of wine, or to bakers, a homemade pie.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are the two days you have people over who may be difficult whether you want them to or not. Although sometimes easier to bite your tongue when someone says something truly offensive, it’s not always best to remain silent. Remember your example to the younger generations, and that some things we should not simply let go. It is possible to respectfully present an opposing view, and then pivot to another subject so the tense moment dissipates. Or better yet, save your discourse for a private moment. Thanksgiving dinner is no place for politics after all, but a time to be thankful for friends, family, and good food!

The Simple Art of Stew III: Oyster Stew

Suzanne Pollak

Stews are something simmered in a closed vessel with a little liquid. The liquid can be wine, beer, water or stock. But don’t forget cream! An oyster stew is one of the most luxurious winter stews known to man. In the stew category, oyster is the quickest and easiest to make. Instead of searing and long-simmering, this one is finished in a matter of minutes. All you need is cream, butter, salt, pepper, and of course oysters.

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Oysters are romantic. A little bit of this stew goes a long way — an elegant beginning to a three course meal, or a luxurious lunch when paired with a simple side. Legend has it that Jackie O. would meet Aristotle Onassis at the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station for a midday oyster stew. It is a very old-fashioned way to start a romance; so old-fashioned that the time has come to revive this tradition. Pair with a dry champagne. Serve in silver cups or porringers if you have them.

Afterwards, your palate might crave something crispy like oyster crackers or a bright salad. Or, what the hell? Go for richness all the way through: beef tenderloin and poached pears! But no creamy sauce or whipped cream on the poached fruit.  Your heart might not survive, especially if it's romance you are kindling with those oysters. You will need that heart ready!

The Simple Art of Stew II: Carbonnade

Suzanne Pollak

Beer & Beef Stew

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Carbonnade of Beef is of French origin but was adopted by the Belgians, so now even the French call it a Flemish beef stew. At first glance, the list of ingredients might seem like a weird combo — a lot of onions, a lot of beer — but whatever you might expect, the stew is delicate and distinctive. A strong dark Belgian beer is an ideal choice for the liquid and of course to drink while eating.

Ingredients:

  • 4 lbs. chuck roast, cubed

  • 6 large onions, sliced

  • 4 tbsp. butter, plus more

  • 3 tbsp. AP flour

  • 2 12-oz. bottles of beer

  • 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

  • 3 thick slices of smoked bacon, such as Nueske's Applewood

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  2. Cook the bacon in a frying pan until medium crisp. Remove the bacon and leave the fat in the pan. You will use this to sear the meat.

  3. In a large pot, slowly sauté the sliced onions in butter. Cook over low to medium heat for about 20 minutes to color lightly.

  4. While the onions are cooking, reheat the frying pan with the bacon fat. When it is almost smoking, start browning the meat a few pieces at a time. Brown the meat on all sides using tongs. When they are done, remove them to a Dutch oven. (The less fat you use the more quickly the meat will brown.)

  5. When the last piece of meat is in the Dutch oven, turn the heat to low and add a little more butter? if needed (to make about 3 tablespoons of fat) and flour. Stir the fat and flour together with a whisk. This is called making a roux. Cook the roux very slowly until it turns darker brown and smells nutty. Now it is ready for the liquid. Pour the beer into the roux and keep whisking until the roux and beer have combined into a smooth sauce. Add vinegar, thyme and bay leaf. Put the meat and onion mixture into the roux and stir with a wooden spoon. The sauce should barely cover the meat.

  6. Cover the Dutch oven and put it into the oven for 2 and a half to 3 hours until the meat is falling apart. When the carbonnade is done, sprinkle the cooked bacon on top. This is delicious served with boiled little potatoes or buttered noodles.

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A Note on Slicing Onions…

Slicing six onions takes a little bit of time. For the Dean, it takes even longer because a hands-on task relaxes the brain so creative thoughts spring up. The ideas are ephemeral so one must stop, wash their hands, and write the idea down before it vanishes. The creative brain unlocks when you are busy doing something else and not thinking too hard. And stopping in the middle of what you are doing for a minute or two gives the cooking a better pace. You won’t rush the browning of the meat or melting of the onions.

Six onions seems like a lot of onions but they melt away. If you are new to longer cooking techniques, what happens to six raw sliced onions slowly cooking in butter is sort of a science miracle. They reduce and transform into soft, silken, shreds, and their aromas change from raw and strong to perfume. This is the ancient art of cooking, before your very eyes.

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.

A Dinner Party in Twenty Minutes

Suzanne Pollak

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie : the opposite of a twenty minute dinner party.

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie: the opposite of a twenty minute dinner party.

What happens when you invite guests for 6:00 PM, but then you get so involved at work that when you look at the time on your computer, it says 5:35? Can you get dressed & made up, set the table and cook dinner in just twenty minutes? The answer is, YES. (The Dean learned this by accident one recent Monday night.)

Here’s what to do:

Resist the urge to immediately call guests and say all of a sudden, you're not feeling well. The Dean knew her menu included seafood stew, a salad, roasted peach halves with bourbon for dessert. What she didn’t know was what to wear or where everyone should sit...

5:35. Turn the oven on broil, put a dutch oven over medium heat and add a slug of olive oil. 

5.37. Slice two large peaches in half, fill them with a spoonful of sugar and a slug of bourbon, and put the four peach halves in a sauté pan over high heat. 

5:37. Roughly slice a large red onion and place in hot Dutch oven with a few whole garlic cloves, peeled.

5:41. Place sauté pan of peaches under broiler. Put timer on ten minutes. Stir onions.

5:43. Exit kitchen, with onions on medium heat and peaches under broiler. Run three flights upstairs while deciding what to wear.

5:44. Put on one outfit. Decide that looks wrong and put on another shirt. Try to do some quick make up. Whatever!  

5:50. Race downstairs to the smell of caramelizing onions (another way of saying they are on their way to burning, but haven't quite. Instead, just perfectly caramelized which means extra flavor.) Stir onions and add a jar of tomato sauce. 

5:52. Take out bag of defrosted shrimp and bag of calamari from refrigerator. Realize that even though they have been in the fridge since morning (because you are so organized and an excellent planner) no actual defrosting has taken place...

5:53. Put bags of frozen shrimp and calamari in a bowl and run warm water over bags, saying a little prayer that by 6:25 they will actually thaw!

5:55. Take out four silver forks, knives, spoons, shallow bowls, dessert plates, olives, two different kinds of bourbon and cocktail glasses. 

6:00. READY TO ROLL! Doorbell rings, guests arrive.

The Dean then explained the situation, garnering laughs and offers to pitch in. Cocktails? One guy choose bourbon, one guy soda water, one woman white wine. High-alcohol beer for the host. While cocktails were being organized and poured, the Dean threw together the famous Academy croutons while tomatoes and onions simmered on low, the peaches came down to room temperature, and seafood (still) thawed in the sink. Finally, where to eat? Decision: a movable feast. One small garden table for Stew. Another small garden table for salad. By the time the mosquitos started biting, everyone moved inside for dessert of roasted peaches and chocolate bars at the dining table.

Perfect!

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...

Summer Salad #3: Art Project

Suzanne Pollak

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Rule #1 - We first eat with our eyes! Contrasting shapes and colors can be a beautiful thing. The cubes of croutons and logs of carrots make this feel like an art project, painting on the plate.  Flavor becomes a balancing act as well. Academy Croutons and roasted Carrots Vichy deliver the satisfying crunch, complementing the buttery texture of tender lettuce leaves.

Academy Croutons can sit in their frying pan for over a half hour after cooking, soaking up extra olive oil. The wait makes the fried bread even tastier, turning each cube into crispy little bombs delivering crunch, fat, flavor all in one bite. If there is still olive oil in the pan, use it to finish the salad.

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To make Carrots Vichy, peel whole carrots - not baby carrots, not woody large carrots in 5-lb. bags, but carrots in bunches with their leafy tops intact. Cook carrots in a sauté pan over medium heat with a little bit of olive oil and enough water to come halfway up their sides. When a knife tip can barely poke inside the carrot and the water is almost evaporated. Add fresh thyme. Wait till carrots are room temperature to use in the salad, either sliced into 1-inch lengths or simply left whole. Know that these beauties are yummy hot, cold or room temperature for apps and dinner. 

There are two ways to finish this sort of salad. For more crunch, you could add celery. Simply slice across the stalks to get a handful or two of pale green half moons. But if you crave more flavor, spice and fat, then salami is your friend! Thickly slice and dice and toss in salad. A little bit goes a long way. (In our latest version, pictured above, we opted for a few nubs of blue cheese. Delicious!)

Summer Salad #2: Porky Pig

Suzanne Pollak

Why do we love eating decadent fatty meals disguised as salads? Because everyone everywhere loves to be deceived, lulled into thinking their meal was extra healthy. But guess what? This salad is actually healthy, despite the indulgent addition of slow-roasted pork...

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FRISÉE - A lettuce that balances the fattiness with its bitter bite and texture. Remember, one small head delivers way more volume than you can imagine once you separate the leaves and tear them into manageable, bite-sized pieces. Tearing is absolutely necessary. Who wants a mouth full 4” spiky leaves, delicious as they may be?

PORK - We like to make this the day after serving Pork Butt in Milk with Cabbage Slaw for dinner. If you and your guests were not too piggy (pun intended) then you'll have plenty of leftovers. Simply reheat in a frying pan over low heat, or in the turned off oven after roasting the eggplant. The pig will crisp right up.

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EGGPLANT - Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Thinly slice unpeeled eggplant. Lay slices on parchment paper. Lightly drizzle olive oil on slices, turn over and drip olive oil on top. There is really no wrong way to do this. After years of making these eggplant slices, we can say for certain that sometimes they turn crispy, sometimes softer, but every time delicious! Roast slices in a 425-degree oven for 15 minutes, turn over and roast another 5-10 minutes, until golden brown on both sides. Some parts will blacken but that is okay. There is a fine line, a few minutes, between a little black, and the burn taking over the slice.

Summer Salad #1: Plain & Simple!

Suzanne Pollak

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When Summer brings a bounty of perfectly sun-ripened fruits and vegetables, there's no need to overdo it! Even dressings have been simplified at the Academy. These days we pour olive oil over salad, not too much, sprinkle a little coarse salt plus several grinds of black pepper. Then we toss salad with our hands. If a lemon happens to be around we might squirt drops on top but sometimes it's oil all the way!

Buy live lettuce because the head keeps cold for a couple of weeks so a meal can come together in a moment. Perfect when you find yourself too hot and bothered to fool with anything else! In the time it takes you to pour yourself a summer cocktail, your bowl of greens and vitamins will be ready and waiting.

MACHE - these leaves are delicate. Don’t take lettuce out of frig until ready to make salad.

TOMATOES - A Summer salad MUST have the ripest most delicious tomatoes you can find. No skimping or trying to save a dollar. Otherwise the salad will not make you swoon. It will just be ho hum. It is impossible to live a beautiful life without regular doses of swooning. Cut heirloom tomato, farmers market tomatoes, or ones grown in your backyard into wedges.

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BLUE CHEESE - We find already crumbled blue cheese a big flavor disappointment, and expensive to boot. Why is this even an option in a grocery store? Buy a wedge of blue cheese, slice off a hefty portion, and use your fingertips to crumble on top of the salad. In biggish clumps so friends and family know the blue cheese you choose was not pre-crumbled by a machine then stored and shipped in a plastic bag.

AVOCADO - The doctor says ‘eat an apple a day’. The Dean says ‘eat an avocado a day’. An avocado is the exact amount of fat you need per day. When the Dean gets her medical PhD she will prove this medical fact. To make an avocado last a few days, keep in refrigerator. Do not buy rock hard avocados. Why wait so long to eat one?

Cut avocado in half, remove pit, remove peel, slice or thickly dice on top of salad.

 

 

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!)

"A Delicious Idea" with Lucy Cuneo

Suzanne Pollak

The Dean thoroughly enjoyed making a Valentine's Day lunch with the inimitable Lucy Cuneo, including a rustic roasted pepper tart and Academy salad, featured over on her blog. Here's a little video of the kitchen action, edited by Lucy (and shot by her husband. : ) 

Read the full post, including recipes, HERE on lucycuneo.com. Thanks LC!

Time to Preserve Citrus

Suzanne Pollak

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If you are a fan of Tagines, you will want to grow your own lemon trees and preserve their fruit. Winter is when the lemons plump up and turn yellow to signal they are ripe. Here's how to do it:

  1. Start by washing your hands and sterilizing mason jars. You will need a couple medium/large lemons per quart-sized jar. Add two teaspoons of Kosher salt to the bottom of each jar. 
  2. Slice a tip off the bottom of each lemon. Quarter from top to bottom but not all the way through. Add a teaspoon of salt per lemon inside the lemons. Squeeze lemon closed and stuff into jar. Press another lemon on top of the first one to squish it down. Add more lemons to fill each jar, making enough lemon juice to cover the fruit. They do need to be completely submerged in their own liquid. Then, add a whole red or green chile pepper (not one that is blasting hot) for a bit of flavor. 
  3. Cover jars tightly. Turn jars every two or three days.

They will be ready to eat in one month, and will keep for a year without being refrigerated. To use in a recipe, simply rinse the quarter or half lemon you need. More is not more -- too much will overwhelm your dish. Use sparingly. 

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.