Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Story of D & Bourbon Balls - Then & Now

Hi Berry Patch followers. Again, I begin with an apology for taking so long to share an update on the Journey. Since my college days, I have found there is no busier time of the year than spring. No matter the stage in my life, there is something going on every time I turn around in April.

Today, I bring you the story of D (aka my mom, Dianne) living out a childhood desire through the Commanding Journey.

Whenever Brad travels for work, D and her poodle Coco drive from Corinth, MS to stay with ChiChi and me. I realize how blessed I am for the opportunity to spend so much time with my mom. She is a wonderful woman loves Brad, ChiChi, and me dearly. A few weeks ago, Brad was out of town, and it was time to prepare a new recipe. The night before D arrived, I gave her special instructions: The cookbook will be on the dining room table, flip through and find several recipes you would like to prepare (this will give us options due to some ingredients not easily available), and we will finalize the selection when I get home from work. I had no idea what she would select, but wanted it to be her decision. That night, she told me her top choice was Pecan Bourbon Balls. Alright! I love sweets and this one had to be fairly easy.

I asked D why she chose the recipe, and that's when I fell in love with this part of the Journey. She shared a childhood memory with me about her Uncle Arthur and his wife, Cordelia (incorrectly pronounced Cordealy).

When I was a child, I absolutely loved hearing stories about my great Uncle Arthur. D must have enjoyed talking about him also because she would recall vivid memories of him from her childhood. You see, Uncle Arthur somehow made it to the big city of Memphis all the way from small-town Corinth, MS where he grew up with no shoes and walked 10 miles a day to school for the few years he and my Papaw J.S. Ayers, D's father, attended. The idea of city life fascinated me as early as I can remember, so I think this is partly why I liked hearing about Uncle Arthur so much.

Berry Patch Followers, meet Uncle Arthur. Note the tapered suit pants. Everything comes back in style.

I sure hope Uncle Arthur and Aunt Cordelia were happier in their marriage than this picture indicates.

Uncle Arthur was an ice cream delivery man for Garber's in Memphis, the proud home owner of a nice little house in East Memphis, and sounded like a wonderful man. By all accounts in my child mind, he was very successful for these reasons. My mom has fond memories of my Papaw J.S., her brother Jerry, and she visiting Uncle Arthur and Aunt Cordelia's home. He always had a stash of ice cream to share, drove them around Memphis to see the sites, and his wife made this strange dessert called Bourbon Balls during the holidays. Oh, how D wanted to taste one of these bourbon balls but always received the same response, "These are not for kids, only adults."

D and my Uncle Jerry during one of their Christmas visits at Uncle Arthur's in Memphis. Looks like she was stewing over those Bourbon Balls.

I don't remember ever meeting Aunt Cordelia and don't know that much about her. However, I think I would not question her telling me no to anything.

Uncle Arthur after eating an entire batch of Bourbon Balls. Maybe this is why Aunt Cordelia wouldn't allow the children to eat them.

Approximately 45 years later on this day in April 2010, ironically enough only about 3 miles from the very house where she begged Uncle Arthur and Aunt Cordelia for this forbidden adults-only dessert, D would have her first Bourbon Ball with her daughter. Yes, I now live right around the corner from that little house of my great Uncle Arthur and was able to share a special memory with my mom not only eating her first Bourbon Ball but creating them together.

The recipe is ridiculously simple - pulse vanilla wafers in the food processor, mix with bourbon, corn syrup, confectioner's sugar, vanilla, cocoa, and chopped pecans. Roll into small balls then coat heavily with confectioner's sugar. They were y-u-m-m-y. I'm glad I used good bourbon since it was a dominant flavor. After setting overnight in the fridge, the flavors were well blended and more subtle. I could have eaten them all but limited myself to only a couple.

Start with Nilla wafers in the food processor or crush in a baggy.

I added additional corn syrup to mix better and ended up having to mix with my hands to get this consistency.

Almost finished.

Just look at all that fluffy powdered sugar.

Before bed, Mom and I sat in the house which she has always said reminds her of Uncle Arthur's and enjoyed our first bourbon balls together. Here's to the Commanding Journey for a memory with D that I will always cherish. Who knows, maybe I will share this memory of my mom and Uncle Arthur with my child one day while making a batch of Bourbon Balls for the holidays.

Tata for now.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Survey Says...

When I was younger, I loved Family Feud. Not sure what it was about the show that grabbed my attention, but it did. Maybe it's because I'm nosy and want to know what others think about things. It was a pulse on some unknown group of people polled on random topics. I no longer care for the show and am pretty sure it's because I was grossed out when I watched reruns of the original host groping all the females.

Before I jump into the latest creation in the Commanding Journey, I want to let you know I missed chatting with you the past couple weeks. I kept expecting to get fan mail begging for the next post, but suprisingly you devoted Berry Patch followers are of a patient nature. Many things have been going on with the Berry's, and I just needed some time to retreat. You know, the days you come home from work, take off your workie works, put on the jammy jams, and don't think about anything. On top of that, the time change always gets me in Spring.

Now on with the real topic, I won't keep you waiting any longer.

It was time for a dessert. I truly enjoy preparing sweet delights and was craving it, thus I landed on French Bread Pudding with Clear Rum Sauce. I've enjoyed many-a-bread pudding desserts but never attempted to make it. The recipe looked simple enough and I had most of the ingredients in the cabinet.

Essentially bread pudding is pieces of bread soaked in custard and then baked in a water bath (place pan with food inside a larger pan of water). That's it. When I've eaten it in the past, the bread was cubed, but this recipe called for sliced. I will cube next time. I must call for a moment of silence in honor of how delicious the custard was. I helped myself to a little, and it was divine. If it weren't so rich, I could eat it like a bowl of chilled soup.
Sliced French bread soaking in custard.

Soaking on the other side...Just look at that frothy custard.

The most difficult part of the recipe was the Clear Rum Sauce. The ingredients are rum (light or dark - I used dark), sugar, water, cinnamon, butter, and cornstarch. I took the description literally as the sauce would be clear. I tend to take things too literally. The directions say to stir sauce until clear and it will be thin. Thanks Ella & Dick for no timeframe on how long it will take to become clear. Twenty minutes into stirring the sauce, it hit me...How did I expect the sauce to be crystal clear with the color of the ingredients? I came to the conclusion that clear sauce must mean all solid particles/lumps are gone. If nothing else, that's the definition in Berry's Dictionary, First Edition.

No amount of stirring could turn this clear.

It was 9:00pm on Monday night and time to taste. The bread pudding was yummy, rich, mushy, and sweet. I enjoyed it but not as much as some other bread puddings I've had. Maybe that's because it was the first time I had eaten traditional bread pudding. I enjoy the ones enhanced with chocolate, blueberries, or anything really. I took out one bite for Brad because he rather eat Hamburger Helper than something mushy with sauce. So, how would I share the bread pudding and find out if it was really good or not?

It does look delicious in this picture.

Survey says....
Ah-ha. I decided to take it to work and let the lovely and talented ladies in the Event & Patient Liaison Department (EPLD) decide. I packed everything up and took it to work the next day. In an effort to get honest feedback, I drafted an anonymous survey. After getting everything set up in the EPLD Bistro (FYI - I cleared everything in advance with Bistro manager, Lesssslie.) and waited for the ladies to arrive.

This has Christie Berry written all over it.

I started to get a little nervous. What if everyone was really quiet and didn't say much? That would mean they thought it was grodie...Would I get defensive or my feelings be hurt? What if people that I was a nerd?...To late for that and I am pretty much at peace with who I really am.

So, everyone arrives and checks it out. It was funny because most everyone knew immediately this was the workings of Truly Yours.

Now for the results.....Drum Roll Please......(Picture Sparky's wife in Christmas Vacation just before he connects the chords for the first time)......

As you can see from these semi-scientific survey results, it was a hit! Unless everyone thought differently and just didn't have the heart to tell me. Just like my mom didn't when I asked her if I was chubby as a child or could sing special music at church on Sunday. Gah.

I will leave you with this -
I find it interesting that after knowing my co-workers enjoyed the dessert, I remember it tasting better than I did before knowing. Hmm.

Tata for now.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Oh the Things I Learned

Big Guy and I were home this weekend, so Sunday was cooking day. With a hectic week, I didn't put as much thought into this week's recipe so I had to find a recipe with easy to find ingredients. I also felt it was time to experiment with fish. Maybe it was a subconscious desire due to that horrible yet funny McDonald's commercial promoting their fish sandwich. I'm still not clear on what the mounted fish is singing but the tune pops in my mind often.

I landed on Grilled Redfish as the entree. I managed to create four more recipes - Commander's House Salad, Commander's Garlic Bread, Creole Seafood Seasoning and Grilled Fish. To recap this portion of the Commanding Journey, I will share the top 10 things I learned:

  1. It is impossible to find Redfish or an appropriate substitution in Memphis. I tried sweet talking the East Memphis Fresh Market seafood specialist into ordering for me, went to multiple Kroger's, cold called a seafood distributor that services Memphis grocery stores and restaurants, and contemplated ordering online. The only Redfish I found is 22lb frozen increments, and I don't need or have space for 22lbs of anything. Finally Brad and I settled on Chilean Sea Bass at Fresh Market.
  2. Sea Bass is not a suitable substitution for Redfish. At least not when I'm cooking it or with this recipe. Also, there were these weird little bones in the filets that I couldn't get out before cooking. Oh, we got them out while eating dinner.
  3. Grilled means least to Commander's Palace. At first glance, I thought this recipe could be cooked on the Big Green Egg; however, the book specifically says use a heavy cast iron skillet. With a little searching, I learned the cast iron skillet is the traditional way to blacken.
  4. Blackening fish in a cast iron skillet will completely fill a 1279 square foot cottage with fish smoke. I am not exaggerating. Again, the recipe said it's important to have a very hot skillet. In fact, it says cook fish in a white hot cast iron skillet. A quick search on the handy iPhone confirmed my suspicion that white hot means heating an object until it turns white. After a solid 20 minutes of heating the skillet on medium high heat, it was still as black as when I turned on the eye. I experienced a little panic and perspiration - fair to say the perspiring could have been caused by the radiating heat from the skillet. I gathered my gumption and dropped one filet in, flung myself away from the stove, and stood amazed wide-eyed and mouth opened as smoked billowed from the skillet. The first thought was to drop in the other filet, so they would be the same whether good or bad. With the second one, came a continuous billow of fish smoke. While I was traveling through this part of the journey, Brad was in the shower. You can only imagine his surprise when he got out. He said the fish smoke and smell almost knocked him down when he opened the door. He probably felt like he needed to take another one.
  5. Fish smoke doesn't go away quickly. We opened the back door for a while to get the actual smoke out of the house. No such luck with the horrific smell. It was just bad. We had to close the door because of massive mosquitos coming in which is an entirely different subject - how do we have mosquitos already after four snows? After eating dinner (see #6), we went to see Alice in Wonderland 3D at the Paradiso. When we returned, I got a little peek into how Brad felt when he opened the bathroom door. We walked in the front door and shew-wheee. Operation candle lighting in every room. The smell was still lingering Monday evening after work. I cooked a roast in the crock pot today, Tuesday, so we're almost clear of fish stink.
  6. We don't like blackened Chilean Sea Bass cooked in a skillet. I tried to justify different elements of the meal but only because how much hard work was put into it. I rated it a generous six, and Brad gave it a five. Twenty-four hours later, I gave it around a three. Maybe the fish scent has a permanent place in my olfactory system and brought back an unpleasant memory. Whatever the case, I will not cook more fish on top of the stove.
  7. I do like creating sauces. The recipe called for a lemon butter sauce to accompany the fish. I realized peeling the lemons, mashing the pulp, melting the butter, and whisking the liquid until it thickened made me happy. I haven't learned why; just that it made me happy and that's enough for now.
  8. Peeling lemons is a such a refreshing and an inexpensive way to freshen up your kitchen. Eureka!...just learned something else. I need to peel about 10 lemons in the kitchen to rid it of any lingering fish. 
  9. My husband has joined the Commanding Journey. He is coming around slowly and did encourage me last night at a Mexican restaurant to change to a Mexican cookbook but he's accepting my self imposed challenge. He helped me shop for ingredients at Fresh Market after church, ate the Grilled Chilean Sea Bass, gave it a rating of 5 out of 10 in fear of a marital melt down, and took me to see Alice in Wonderland all in one day. I love him for these things.
  10. A cookbook is only a guide. I need to use it as such, taste test along the way, and make personal adaptations to create more enjoyable cooking and dining experiences. To successfully complete this journey, I must utilize the cookbook as a tool kit. This is my hobby, and I'm going to put my personal stamp on it.
Creole Seafood Seasoning on Chilean Sea Bass

Colorful vegetables to slice and saute.

A glimpse of our tiny kitchen while cooking these meals.

After the smoke simmered down.

I looks much better than it tasted. Except the Garlic bread. It was yummy.

Tata for now.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Celebrate, We Did

Hi everyone. The Berry Patch reading audience is growing, and I couldn't be more excited about it. I do apologize for not posting about last weekend's cooking experiences, but this week has been a whirlwind.

Last weekend was all about celebrating. I managed to travel and prepare four more recipes.

On Saturday night we surprised our good friend Melanie with a 30th birthday party with her closest friends at Marriott Shoals. It was officially the first surprise party I had ever attended or helped organize. Melanie was truly surprised and had a great time.

I must show off the decoration. It was so fun and easy to do!

It was sweet to see Melanie and Nick's little Cole join the party for a short time. This was only Nick and Melanie's second time to spend the night without Cole, so we needed to give her a good night out.

Of course I had packed the cookbook in my suitcase (because doesn't everyone take a cookbook with them for a weekend getaway?) just in case the perfect opportunity presented itself...and it did. After most everyone left and a handful of us were left, we needed a special toast to Melanie's birthday. "Hold on everyone. Let's find just the right drink in my cookbook." Now if these were not close friends, they would have probably been surprised that I had a cookbook with drink recipes readily available. But they know me, so this seemed normal.

Stephanie suggested Kir Royale, and we agreed because it just sounded so festive and fancy - just like us. Forty minutes until the hotel bar closed, so off to the bar we went with cookbook in hand.
Todd, Stephanie's husband, entertained us on the elevator ride to the lobby bar.

I wonder what people thought when we walked in carrying the cookbook. We got some looks, and the bartender was surprised but played along. She even allowed us to take pictures of her preparing the recipe.

Side note - Doug, who was once at The Peabody Memphis, is now in Florence at Marriott! It was fun catching up with him. We go way back...paint ball in the snow at The Peabody's retreat a couple years ago.

Unfortunately for us, the Kir Royale doesn't taste nearly as good as its name. The champagne and raspberry chambord concoction tasted like drinking cough medicine out of a champagne glass. We all agreed it was pretty hard to mess up champagne but this did it.

When we gave the guys a chance to taste, one of Nick's staff thought it was just the grandest thing and drank the remaining. So for the record,  Commander's cocktails are 0-2.

Sunday morning, I was on to the next celebration. My mom's 55th birthday was Monday, so I stayed in Corinth with her Sunday night and Monday during the day to have mother/daughter time. My mom is one of the most wonderful women I know. Of course, I'm biased because she's mine, but she continues to overcome and endure such hardships and manage to stay so humble and loving. During the USA vs Canada Olympic hockey game, we started talking about cooking out came the cookbook again. If this was going to work, I needed to find a simple recipe. No chicken stock required as it was in Memphis, no seafood because I didn't know where to get fresh seafood in the quaint town of Corinth, MS on a Sunday evening, and something my mom would enjoy because this meal was for her.

I landed on Crepes Claire, named after Ella & Dick Brennan's brother's wife Claire. Fresh crepes are filled with diced cooked chicken breast, crisp crumbled bacon, mushrooms, and green onions blended in a béchamel sauce. I've been intrigued by the idea of making crepes for a while now.

First up, crepe making. Do you know how easy these things are to make? It obviously doesn't take much to intrigue me, because all they consist of is eggs, butter, vanilla extract, water, salt, and flour. Yep, that's it.
Get the consistency thick enough to lightly cover a spoon.

Now, how to actually make the crepe itself. The recipe didn't insist on using a special crepe maker and were limited directions using a skillet with hot oil. The recipe says it prepares 18 - 20 crepes. I obviously did something wrong because I only managed to get 10. I added water along the way to thin the mixture and that helped with the last few. Out of 10, I managed to be pleased with four of them.
Not the prettiest crepes, but they will do. They actually look like they are leprosy crepes.

Next, béchamel sauce. I looked up a description online to get an idea of what I was about to create. Béchamel is a creamy white sauce known as one of the mother sauces of French cuisine and named after Louis de Bechameil (1630 - 1703). Bechameil was a financier who held the honorary post of chief steward to Loius XIV. The sauce first appeared in Le Cuisinier Francois published in 1651. How interesting, my mom and I were preparing something that originated so long ago. I was proud of us. My mom was putting in the dash of nutmeg and hot sauce, I was stirring, we were doing this together.

Crepes were made, chicken boiled, bacon cooked and crumbled, mushrooms and green onions sauteed, and bechamel sauce to a perfect consistency. All that was left to do was assemble. Broil a fresh tomato sprinkled with parmesan and voila.

It was time for my mom to enjoy her first crepe ever while we celebrated a mother/daughter dinner in our jammies. We both loved them and thought they were perfect. I highly recommend this recipe, just as the Brennan's do, for a ladies' luncheon because of yummy flavor and the ability to prepare in advance and assemble right before time to eat. I give this recipe a 9 out of 10.

Before I go, I must set the record straight about Mr. Bechameil and this creamy sauce. I started thinking, why would a financier for Louis XIV create a sauce. Did he have a knack for cooking? With a little more research, I found there are four theories of different people originating the sauce. Supposedly Bechameil perfected an existing form of the sauce and it was dedicated to him as a form of flattery after a comment made by the Duke of Escars.
"That fellow Béchameil has all the luck! I was serving breast of chicken à la crème more than 20 years before he was born, but I have never had the chance of giving my name to even the most modest sauce."
I'm not so sure Bechameil should receive the credit, but it is more fun to pronounce his name than the other three!

Tata for now.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Who Knew Jambalaya Could Take All Weekend to Prepare

Whew. I had an awesome weekend of purchasing, chopping, and researching how to cook Jambalaya. Who knew Jambalaya could talk all weekend to prepare? I chose this recipe as the first of the Commanding Journey for a couple reasons. The main reason being it was a safe call. However, walking on the safe side has its trade-offs. It all started Friday night with purchasing my very first stock pot at Bed Bath & Beyond after dinner. Now, that's a date night.

New stock pot with fancy insert strainer.

If we want to be technical, which I prefer to be, I prepared a total of five recipes. So much for taking it slowly. To my defense, the Jambalaya called for three and suggested a fourth recipe - Chicken Stock and  Clarified Butter in the Lagniappe section, suggestion of serving Creole Sauce from Shrimp Creole Recipe over the Jambalaya, and then the Jambalaya.

Let's start with the Chicken Stock. The recipe called for one cup of chicken stock which is one of the recipes. I've got to cook it sometime, so let's go ahead and get a stash built up. Gag, gag, and gag. Have you ever stopped and wondered how the chicken broth gets in the the cans on the store shelves or even better yet those extra nice new boxes it comes in? Well, if you don't have a tough stomach and if working with boneless chicken breasts gets you queasy, then don't think about how the chicken stock is made...and skip to the next paragraph because I'm going to tell you. First of all, stock gets it's flavor from the bones of a chicken. After reading the recipe calls for four chicken carcasses, I realized how crazy I was going to sound at the grocery store saying, "Um, hi. Aah yeah, do you have any extra chicken carcasses in the back that I can purchase? See, I'm cooking my way through a cook book...." Thankfully, the butcher at our wonderful neighborhood High Point Market remembered me and the Beouf Bourguignon. Hook line and sinker, I got him. Unfortunately, he doesn't have full carcasses but he saved me a stash of chicken backs. I'm not sure if it was necessary but I felt the need to remove the excess fat and meat from the backs. On Saturday morning, I had, oh, about forty-five minutes to gag a few times, think about the poor chickens, then tell myself how I was doing a good thing because their backs would never be used if it wasn't for me, and then gag a little more. About half way through the four pounds, I think a primal instinct took over. By now, I was convinced that I could make it in on Survivor, not in the wilderness, but Survivor. That only lasted a few minutes then I was grossed out again. Finally, time to make the stock. From there, it's easy peasy. So easy, the Big Guy volunteered to man the stock making while I focused on shopping for the Jambalaya ingredients. I love him for helping me.

Here it is...The makings of Chicken Stock.

Finished product

To prepare the Jambalaya and Creole Sauce in advance as much as possible, I chopped the vegetables, took the tails off the shrimp, sliced the sausage, and measured out the seasonings last night while watching the Olympics here and there. By the way, there are about a thousand ingredients in Jambalaya. I had time to think about restaurants and always have Commander's kitchen in mind. I mainly thought about how locally owned restaurants, whether it be casual or fine dining, deserves every single penny they charge. This is manual labor. I'm talking, of course, about truly great restaurants who do everything from scratch. Anyone can buy vegetables already pre cut and stock in a box, but it's those restaurants who have their staff put time and effort into it that I respect so much. I thought I couldn't possibly cut another onion when I was done and had the smell of onion engrained in my nostrils when I laid down last night. How must the staff in restaurants feel after a day of chopping vegetables. We should write a note to include them in the tip also.

Shrimp Creole Ingredients

Jambalaya Ingredients minus the canned tomatoes - I forgot to place them in picture.

So this afternoon, all I really had to do was combine everything following the mostly clear directions of the Creole Sauce and Jambalaya recipes. The Creole Sauce was a breeze and gratifying to create. Brad expected more heat to it but it's not spicy at all. The Jambalaya was easy except for one ingredient -  Clarified/Drawn Butter. To saute the vegetables you're only supposed to use clarified butter. I haven't had a chance to research why, but who am I to second guess Dick & Ella Brennan? The recipe says to melt the butter in a saucepan and skim the foamy white part off the top. Well, how might one go about skimming this off the top? Your guess is as good as mine. First I tried straining it. That was not the way, so I put it back in the pan, got out a spoon and dragged it across the top of the melted butter.

Before Clarifying

Semi- Clarified

As I scooped the spoon across the butter, I smiled to myself because at this moment I couldn't be farther from resembling Julia Child who inspired me to do embark on this Commanding Journey. She would know exactly how to do this, know why she was doing it, and have her pearls on while doing so. I on the other hand had on p-jankers, pony tail, apron (beautiful toile, so that earns a couple points), and snaggle tooth. Yes, snaggle tooth. My $1,000 porcelain crown came out last night before the chopping commenced. I bet Brad had to tie himself down to the recliner to avoid coming in that kitchen and scooping me up!

Sexy or not, I prepared the Big Guy a down home meal from scratch that will keep on giving for longer than we will ever want to eat Jambalaya. The recipe says it prepares for six servings. I don't know how many cups a serving is in Louisiana, but after three bowls tonight there are 16 more cups of Jambalaya. I'm keeping some but sharing the rest with family and friends. Who's hungry?

Finished products

Total prep time took a couple hours, excluding chicken broth, and cook time was approximately an hour. I thought the consistency would be thicker but am just fine with it as is. I rate it a 7 and Brad rates is 6.5 (again because it isn't spicy) out of 10. Maybe we're not Jambalaya lovers or I didn't do something right or the recipe is just ok.

To cap off the night, Brad and I toasted with the fifth recipe, Brandy Flip cocktail. I had some Brandy that I use for cooking, thus very inexpensive, so I thought it would be nice to toast with a Commander's cocktail. The drink is brandy, simple syrup, and a raw egg! Brad took one drink and I took three. It was a mix between a White Russian and spiked Egg Nog with cheap liquor. I could have finished, but the raw egg was messing with my mind each time I took a drink.

Cheers to the Commanding Journey

To sum up my Chicken Stock, Creole Sauce, Jambalaya, and Brandy Flip experience, I can only think of one way I would rather have spent this weekend, and that is do it with a group of friends or family.

Tata for now.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Guidelines of My Commanding Journey

Here ye, here ye. It is time to outline the guidelines of my Commanding Journey - how I now refer to the project.

But first, let me share with you something the journey has already brought to me - an opportunity to bond with my my best friend's brand spanking new husband. He enjoys cooking and watching the Food Network like me. Everyone wants to be like us. He and I haven't had a true bonding opportunity yet but we're going to cook together soon! Haley - if you haven't informed Trent yet, you might want to since I'm sharing with all the world....ok, more like 6 people. I'd hate for him to find out from someone else. And Brad - if you're reading and I haven't already told you - we're going to spend time with Haley and Trent in the next couple months. How great will it be for all of us to share time together, cook, and eat. Very special people and three of my favorite things all at one time.

Ooh look, Brennan's restaurant in New Orleans is on TV advertising Community Coffee. Maybe the chef channeled some culinary excellence my way.

Ok, back to the guidelines.
Here ye, here ye. I hereby proclaim the most relaxed and flexible guidelines I've ever put together for a project.


This will be fun, without stress or too much internal pressure. Why get stressed over cooking a pigeon which just happens to be one of the dirtiest birds ever, at least so I've heard. Instead, this is an opportunity to stretch myself into a new heavenly realm of cooking. Those of you who know me, realize I am likely to experience stress just thinking about not stressing.

Turn my tears of self pity into laughter when I royally screw up some of this...and we all know it's going to happen. I have an innate ability to cry on demand that rivals all others who have this ability/curse. It's a wonder, I didn't tear up while typing the last sentence. I promise to air all crying turned to laughter episodes...regarding the Commanding Journey...not all of them.

I did minimal research by reading through the ingredient lists of each recipe to identify items not easily available in Memphis and quickly browsed through some of the recipes to get an idea of how intense some are. Let's just say, it's gonna take deep breaths to get through this. Taking these factors in consideration, my goal is at least one recipe per week. But remember this will be stress free, so I reserve the right to skip a week if necessary for personal or professional reasons.

Sharing is a majore part of this project. The obvious is sharing with you all through this forum, but I want to share the food with some of you....get ready ALSAC Event & Patient Liaison team. And better yet, I want to experience actually cooking in person with you. So, if there is something you're craving, a special occasion you're not afraid to risk on me, or just dying to spend time with moi, let me know and let's whip something up together.

I will begin at the front of the cookbook, because goodness knows we've got to start this off with a toast, and cook one recipe from each section then repeat over and over and over until all have been created. I reserve the right to change this pattern due to seasonal ingredients, special occasions or cravings. Matter of fact, I'm going to break this right out of the gate. I have two options in mind and neither are in the first couple sections. Remember, part of the rules is the ability to change them.

I reserve the right to scale the recipes. This will save money, waste, and the guilt I would feel about uselessly taking the lives of 36 snails for a pasta dish we are very likely to not enjoy.

No deadline. I always confine myself with deadlines, and my work as an event planner is partly defined by deadlines. The real test will be if I can finish this without one. Whether it is a year or three when I finish this, I will finish. And I will finish in a beautiful way. Just read, watch, and taste.

My Commanding Journey first recipe commencement ceremony (reference likely came to mind since the Winter Olympics ceremony was three days ago) to take place next Sunday, the twenty-first day of February, Two thousand and ten. I'm ready to stop chatting about it and get this party started. Tata for now.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Special Delivery

"The Commander's Palace New Orleans Cookbook" was tucked nicely in the front door frame waiting on me when I got home this evening. I didn't open it immediately because there was a good chance my crunchy gordita from Taco Bell was getting soggy....and I was kinda scared of the book. After eating my polar opposite dinner entree, I stood over the large cardboard envelope and stared at it with hesitation.

I had a rushing "Oh my. What have I done?" moment last night while reading all the reviews of the book on Amazaon. I flipped back through the previewed Index and my chest got a tinsy bit tight - kinda like now - when I realized I must prepare escargot.

The envelope was calling my name, I opened it slowly, as will most likely be the pace of this journey, and started reading out loud.


As I read the Introduction, I had a sense of comfort which is exactly why this is the only suitable book to have selected. I love the Brennan family. Don't know them and probably won't ever meet them; however, these are my favorite kind of folks. Well-rounded, self-educated, hard-working, down-to-earth, Southernly good people. Here's my favorite part of the Introduction -

"The ambience we try to create at Commander's is one of causal elegance on an intimate scale. Visitors receive all the courtesies they would in our home. This is part of the Southern tradition of hospitality, and the way we were brought up to entertain."  - Ella Brennan & Dick Brennan (brother & sister)

(Insert disclaimer here to all authentic Creole & Cajuns, as I may have interpreted something incorrectly)
Commander's has implemented "Haute Creole" on their menu, and a majority of the recipes we will experience are categorized as such. I just had my second educational conversation of history and differences of Creole and Cajun (The first was by Nick Speyrer, true LA man/husband of Abby, one of my best friends/Kate's, one of the most beautiful baby girls, dad.). How amazing is it that Cajun and Creole cooking has influences from France, Spain, West Indies, Cuba, Mexico, Louisiana region, and Choctaw Indians! It's half the world mixed in one cuisine.

Now, there is one final decision to make before announcing my culinary manifesto - How should I go about it? Should I cook one chapter at a time? Or should I skip around? There are a few things I must research that will dictate some recipes such as oyster season, finding good duck in Memphis (if this is possible), turtle and escargot. All four readers, including Brad who has yet to realize I am serious, that I think are out following, tell me what you think. Darn, that means we need a fifth reader to vote as tie breaker.

To make an educated decision, here is the breakdown of chapters -
  • 14 Cocktails
  • 36 Appetizers & Soups (fyi - 8 oyster and 2 escargot)
  • 17 Salads
  • 14 Egg Dishes
  • 32 Seafood (fyi - lots of crab, redfish, 2 oyster, and 2 crawfish)
  • 14 Chicken & Game (fyi - 5 duck, 1 quail, and 1 Pigeon...really!)
  • 17 Beef & Veal
  • 31 Desserts & Coffees
  • 17 Stocks & Sauces
  • Total of 192 recipes
Now, I'm going to sleep to dream about this fine sir shaking up a delightful concoction for me at Commander's in NOLA.

Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio
Brad and me in Florence, Italy