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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!
There are a million and two engagements happening in Charleston this Holiday season, per usual. Were you invited to all of them? No, probably not (full disclosure: neither were we) but perhaps could be in future seasons if you heed this advice.
It's not Rocket Science. Just say "Thank You!" in the most memorable way possible: a handwritten note, in specific detail, on your favorite stationary.
One day, a very long ago, a famous magazine editor, and his family, happened to be staying with us. He wanted to know where we kept our iron and ironing board, telling me unashamedly that he enjoyed ironing his shirts (or at least he did then.) He shared his ironing tricks; explaining that there was nothing to it…just pay attention to the collar, cuffs and strip with the buttons. This man -- a haughty, brilliant, intellectual with his finger on the pulse of everything everywhere -- did not turn his nose up at ironing. Who knew?
So why did I? I am ashamed to confess that I believed ironing was beneath me, a waste of time plus a pain in the neck. For years I collected antique linens and got others to iron. Now, I iron myself, and I enjoy it. My ironing sessions are for afternoons when I am doing heavy brain lifting, very difficult for me. My brain and I need frequent breaks. I am a believer in multi-tasking by pairing something that does not engage the mind with something that does. I plug in the iron; remove a few linens from my refrigerator (more on that trick in the video below) and find the back and forth of ironing soothing, contemplative, and surprisingly rewarding. In no time at all, my mind disengages enough to solve whatever weighty problem is stressing me out, plus I have a pile of lovely linen napkins ready and waiting. Like a Battalion Commander planning an exercise, I feel that one detail is completed for future dinner parties.
There is something so satisfying seeing the pieces of cloth go from wrinkly to smooth. Now if I could just figure out what handy machine gets that result on my face.
Time for Math class at the Academy, Put away your calculators -- this one is easy. What do you get when you add one part water with one part sugar over heat? The answer...delicious drinks!
The secret to so many great cocktails is Simple Syrup. No need to buy this in a bottle. All you have to do is count to two: equal parts sugar and water, boiled for a minute, and then stored in your refrigerator for up to a month. What could possibly be easier?
James Bond may not have preferred ice in his cocktail, but at the Academy, it's paramount. The old adage is true: "You can never have enough glasses, nor enough ice." But why not serve your drinks over ice worth remembering? With just a few 7" water balloons (and tin foil to stabilize them in your freezer), you can impress your guests with idiosyncratic spheres that will keep cocktails colder, longer. Nobody wants a watered-down drink, ever.
Here's why our freezer is filled with balloons:
May we suggest serving Party Ice with a tipple of Old Weller, or better yet, an Old-Fashioned made with it. Cheers!
Believe it or not, Thanksgiving -- even Christmas -- is right around the corner. Whether you have two pieces of silver, or two thousand, the Holidays present the perfect opportunity to put it to use. (If you aren't using your silver at all, the Dean says time to sell!)
Simplify your life. Go ahead and check polishing off your list with this quick, easy trick utilizing aluminum foil. It doesn't need to take all day, or even an hour. Your silver will be shiny as new in minutes, less time even than takes to down a glass of wine. Why not?
Full Disclosure: There is a rumor floating around on the Internet that silver will tarnish faster using this method. We say, who cares? We're just trying to make it through New Years without passing out from sheer exhaustion. In the name of brilliant advanced planning, short cuts are A-OK with the Academy.
AK here, writing from a hotel room at the Inn at the Crossroads, which just happens to be the grandest hotel Lake City SC has to offer. My boyfriend and I found ourselves stuck here last night in a foolhardy attempt to get home from a mini-vacation in the mountains over the weekend. While driving through the thick of the storm, we were re-routed from the main stretch/I-95 to local highways, large parts of which are still underwater today.
The sight of houses and cars ruined by unprecedented rainfall along the way made us all the more grateful to arrive in Lake City and eventually (after calling a friend in Charleston who knew someone who knew someone else here) find a place to lay our heads. We have since been counting our blessings -- our apartment on the third floor of a two-centuries-old Charleston house undamaged, our belongings accounted for, our friends and families safe. But we are still desperate to be cozy at home.
Once we find ourselves back, we will no doubt be hankering for a homemade meal of the most comforting kind. But, thanks to the houseguests who occupied the apt. in our absence, I expect our pantry is likely to be stripped down to the bare minimum. If cabin fever is setting in & making do with whatever is left over sounds like a situation you can identify with, then here is what we'll both be having for dinner:
In aside...absolutely NO judgement if you are face-to-face with a bag of Uncle Ben's, but if you have any say in the matter, go Gold.
Finally, on behalf of the CADP, stay safe out there! As we make our way back to Charleston -- which probably still looks more like Venice than it probably should -- we keep all those in SC who have lost people they love and places they call home in our hearts today.
The Bloody Mary is a sweet, spicy, savory cocktail for taking with on the road and sipping when the sun is still high in the sky. While this is undoubtedly the best recipe, there are a million and two ways to customize with garnishes: dilly beans, a celery stalk, skewered olives, pickled okra, even candied bacon if you're feeling frisky. This is traditionally a brunch beverage -- our motto is no bloodies after 2PM, but the bottom line is it's your life & you can do what you please.
Whether going for a picnic or tailgating for the big game, show up with a tank of these + a bottle of vodka and you will undoubtedly be named MVP.
Everyone knows that a table set for a dinner party should have a commanding conversation piece at it's center. But somehow this small, still crucial, detail seems easy to forget until the moment guests are knocking at the front door. Don't panic. Check your fridge -- is there a forgotten can of beer in the crisper? (Why is there always beer in our crisper?) Open it, take a sip, relax! Are there a couple bunches of cilantro/parsley/chives/thyme/rosemary in there, too? Make a last-minute centerpiece...
No need to let said herbs go to waste afterwards. Hopefully, you had big plans for them all along. If not, make an omelette for breakfast tomorrow. Make a frittata and take it to a picnic on a grassy knoll. Gather any leftover stems in a mason jar, plus a few wildflowers if you see any. Spontaneity FTW.
But, if spontaneous centerpieces are not your thing, we get it. In October, Lily Peterson of local Flowershop fame comes to the Academy for the first in a three-course workshop all about assembling your own bouquets, centerpieces, and wreaths just in time for the Holidays. (Tickets may be purchased HERE starting 10/1.)
Start with a beautiful wooden bowl. Add a basic bunch of leafy greens or go ahead and assemble a fanciful mix of late Summer fruit and early Fall root vegetables. Top it all off with croutons and this quick & easy vinaigrette, which owes its creamy texture not to actual cream but to the magic of emulsification.
There you have it! You can thank us (and Science) later.
XO, the Academy
Nothing makes our Daily Salad sing quite like giant cubes of bread, sautéed in olive oil.
At the Academy, we've long realized that simple luxuries make the mundane sparkle. An effortless sleight of hand in the almighty cast-iron skillet gives a guilt-free lunch the illusion of indulgence. A bowl of vegetables, particularly those perfectly in season, should never bore anyone to tears. In fact, it could be the very thing that carries you from the salad days of Summer to the Autumn's longing embrace.
For a superlative salad, start with late Summer's leafy greens and slices of ripe fruit, gently tossed with roasted early Fall vegetables. Just add Croutons. Here's the secret: don't skimp on the EVOO! And always remember, "A cold crouton is a useless crouton."
It's Friday, and it's time for a POP QUIZ!!! Pencils out...eyes on your own paper...
Relax, kids. This one is not for credit. All we want to know is: how do you set the table for a dinner party? Ever wonder if you are doing it correctly? Let the Dean show you how it's done, three different ways.
Our secret weapon? Sans question: Pork Butt in Milk.
When a dinner party (or just dinner) looms at the end of a long day of work or play, all that's needed is an inexpensive pork butt + salt, sugar, milk + 8 hours to set-it-and-forget-it. What will emerge from your oven is a feat of invention and alchemy -- tender, flavorful meat with just a hint of the perfect crust -- even the Dean cannot explain.
There are a million and ten ways to serve this, but we like it as the main dish with a side of Cabbage Slaw (recipe below, straight out of the Academy Handbook) and Ice Cream Sundaes for dessert.
The Pork's Perfect Partner.
1/2 red cabbage, shredded
6 bunches scallions
1 large knob (2-3 tbsp.) of ginger, minced (in a mini food processor if you have one.)
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. light soy sauce
1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients and let macerate for up to 1 hour. Make banh mi sandwiches the next day with leftover pork and cabbage; sprinkle with chopped jalapeño.
Thanks to the long line of Italian cooks and Marcella Hazan for passing on the magic of Pork Butt in Milk. May it find itself in perpetual rotation on your dining table, to wide and illustrious acclaim, just as it does on ours, without fail.
(And P.S. If you are in search of more tried-and-true Roasting Pan recipes, tips, and tricks, there are just a couple of tickets left for our class at the end of September...)
Along with your warm greeting, a punchy party soundtrack, the scent of a something delicious to come, and a stiff cocktail at the ready -- the thoughtful placement of an eye-catching arrangement by the front door should be the first thing to welcome guests to your home.
It doesn't have to be an elaborate bouquet (...not that we would ever protest.) All you really need are a few interesting leaves and branches, clipped from the garden/yard/public park across the street, in the dark of night, so local law enforcement and nosey neighbors don't notice you at work.
The Dean is not here to judge anyone's methods for procuring their flora, but simply to offer quick & easy instruction for arranging them. Without further ado:
All right, technically, this recipe for Tomato Sauce takes Ten Minutes to make, plus 45 to cook while you check something else off the list. But 45 minutes is positively nothing in kitchen years. Just ask our trusty mascot & dog-bud Teddy. He's 106 but feels like he's seven (until it comes to hiking up the five flights of Academy stairs...)
Listen folks, it's hot. The only good thing about being in the Carolina Lowcountry this time of year are the TOMATOES!!! Only, we're tired of salads and sandwiches. Aren't you? Take ten minutes out of your afternoon, whip up this little Stock Pot delicacy, and let it simmer.
No need to tend. Set the table! Make some croutons! Make yourself a martini. Put on some mambo music. Take a bath. Oh yeah, make some pasta. Top it with Sauce, maybe some basil if yours survived the heat. Everything is going to be okay, babies. Mangia!
OK, OK, 4 ingredients if you count salt.
Sorry to drill it home but Labor Day weekend has arrived (yes, it officially starts Friday AM, class dismissed!) and Summer is packing her bags while Fall cha cha's in the back door.
But it's still hot as Hades in Charleston, and the rain seems like it might wash us all to sea. Your life raft: a few friends/neighbors, a sassy hat, and a pitcher of margaritas you can make faster than you can say, "Siri, find me a Mariachi Band." Sassy hat optional. Mariachi band...strongly encouraged.
Give that old Summer feeling a proper farewell.
XOXO, the Deans
P.S. Pro. Tip #1:
P.P.S. Pro. Tip #2: Do not drink the pitcher all by yourself. One margarita usually does the trick, but two could have you feeling ten feet tall, bulletproof, and wild as a hornet's nest. That's what happened to a friend of ours one time, anyway...
Richard Avedon said style is based on repetition, not duplication. All you need are a few signature recipes and drinks - and own them. No need to reinvent the wheel every time you entertain. Guests will look forward to your specialty.
Instructions as per the Deans:
- Serve one specialty cocktail -- for this party we recommend making a pitcher of a refreshing tequila, citrus & soda mixture
- Pass 3 hors d'oeuvres -- steak bites, warm olives & cantaloupe wrapped in prosciutto
- Make sure you have all items in place -- ice on the bar, powder room ready, and party music playing
- Don't forget cocktail napkins
The Many Benefits of Hosting a Pre-Party Cocktail Hour:
- Party where you get all the credit with very little work.
- Party takes less than a half hour to put together.
- Party is so easy it can be last minute (some of our favorite parties have been last minute).
- Party is over before you know it. One hour and your hosting is done.
- Party expense is minimal, but impact is big, lasting and fun.
1 1/2 cups tequila
1 cup citrus juice (mixture of freshly squeezed lime, orange, lemon & tangerine juices)
3/4 cup (or more) soda water
1. Combine all the ingredients in a pitcher and stir.
2. Pour into cocktail glasses and serve over ice.
1 cup olives with pits (use assorted colors)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 strip orange peel
1 teaspoon fennel or Herbs de Province
1. Heat small sauté pan over medium heat for a minute; add olive oil, and then remaining ingredients.
2. Cook over low heat, stirring, for a few minutes until olives are warm. Turn off heat and pour olives in a small bowl.
3. Place a smaller bowl, or cup, near the olive bowl for the pits.
Sebastian thought he had learned all he needed to learn at Columbia. Double majoring in Classics and History—and graduating with honors, mind you—he believed his education had been as broad and as profound as any young sophisticate's could hope to be.
He was wrong.
What Sebastian didn't realize was that there was a world of knowledge waiting for him outside the halls of academia. And, perhaps not entirely by chance, he stumbled upon the very heart of that world: the Charleston Academy of Domestic Pursuits.
At the Charleston Academy, we welcome pupils at all levels—including slightly arrogant intellectuals. But there is one trial that all pupils must undergo:
Our Columbia grad passed with flying colors, despite being a total neophyte to the art of the Southern Biscuit.
Watch his trial below and marvel at the mouth-watering portraits of the final product.
MAKES 12 to 18, depending on size of biscuit cutter
3 cups self-rising flour, preferably White Lily
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 4 equal pieces
1 1/2 cups whole buttermilk
1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Using two knives or a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour until it forms pea-size pieces. Add the buttermilk and stir with a wooden spoon until the dough almost forms a ball.
3. Place the dough on a silicone baking mat and begin folding up the sides, right and left, until a ball forms. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough to 1/2-inch thickness. Fold one side of the dough into the center and then fold in the other side. Roll out again and refold in the same manner three to six times. (Each roll and fold creates flaky layers within your biscuits.) Roll out one final time until the dough is 3/4-inch thick.
4. Cut the biscuits with a 2-inch biscuit cutter or an inverted glass. Place the biscuits on a nonstick baking sheet. Gather the scraps, re-roll, and cut out more biscuits until all of the dough has been used. (At this point, you can cover the unbaked biscuits with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours, or freeze up to 3 weeks.)
5. Bake until lightly browned on the top and bottom, 10 to 12 minutes. (Bake frozen biscuits at 425 degrees F for 25 minutes.)