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You would never know this has sour cream in it because you can’t really taste it — all you taste is delicious goodness, and certainly my favorite pound cake ever.

  • 2 sticks of butter, soft
  • 3 c sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 c flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract

Cream butter and gradually add sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Sift flour, soda and salt together. Alternate adding flour mixture and sour cream to batter, ending with flour. Stir in extracts. Line bottom of tube pan with parchment paper. Grease and flour sides. Bake 1 hr 20 minutes at 325.

Rosemary roasted chicken

Nick and I were wondering what to cook tonight; he found a recipe online around 5:30, which I adapted into the following with great results!

Ingredients:

  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 10 shoots of fresh rosemary, divided (strip leaves off of 6-7 shoots, save 3-4 for garnish)
  • sea salt
  • red pepper flakes
  • olive oil
  • two lemons, for juice and garnish
  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 4-5 good-sized red potatoes
  • brussels sprouts
  • cremini mushrooms
  • chicken broth

Chop potatoes into quarters and parboil in salted water for about 8 minutes — NOT until completely done. Drain and set aside. Meanwhile, make a pile on a cutting board of garlic, rosemary leaves, a generous portion of sea salt and some red pepper flakes. Chop together with chef’s knife until a coarse, paste-like consistency is achieved. Place in a bowl with a few tablespoons of olive oil and the juice of 1.5 lemons. Place chicken breasts into bowl and coat liberally.  The chicken may remain in the marinade until ready to cook (10-15 minutes should be sufficient time).

Preheat oven to 400. Place some oil in a dutch oven on cooktop on high heat; when hot, sear chicken breasts on each side until golden brown. Set aside, then brown potatoes and brussels sprouts. Combine chicken, potatoes, brussels sprouts, mushrooms, three spent lemon halves in dutch oven. Pour in remaining marinade and enough chicken stock (won’t require much) to keep the pan from drying out in the oven. Place remaining rosemary on top. Cover and bake approximately 45 minutes.

We enjoyed this with some wild rice. A very flavorful meal, but still tasted light and fresh — and fairly low-fat!

Our friend Adam has a great kitchen in his home in Inman Park, so we proposed hosting a dinner there once a month — Adam does the shopping and hosts, Nick cooks, and we all chip in for the cost of ingredients.  Tonight was our trial run.  We made pan seared scallops over gouda grits, a lovely salad and bananas foster for dessert. When Nick and I cook — especially when we try something ambitious or with many moving parts like tonight — the kitchen usually looks and sounds like a war zone. “You’re doing it wrong!” is probably the most oft heard volley, followed closely by, “This is a fucking disaster.” While Nick and I are unfazed by each other’s heat-of-the-moment kitchen criticisms and freak-outs, I think it makes our friends uncomfortable — so we’re working on using our inside voices (as in, inside our head and not verbalized at all).  Anyway, tonight’s effort was quite the gourmet feast — easily the best scallops we’ve made, an outstanding salad, and a new favorite dessert!

The reduction (start cooking this first — goes on the edge of the plate, to be eaten at will with the scallops and grits)

First, saute onion in olive oil.  Then add some fresh diced tomatoes, crushed garlic and some diced andouille sausage.  The tomatoes will make a lot of juice; cook at a high simmer until reduced.

Deglaze the pan with chicken stock and add a little homemade barbecue sauce (or whatever interesting BBQ sauce you have on hand).  Continue cooking at a high simmer to concentrate the flavors, adding more stock as necessary.

Season with fresh ground black pepper (probably won’t need salt if your stock is salty enough)

The grits (this recipe makes 2-3 servings; I tripled it to feed six, but we had some left over — plan for 20 minutes or so for this to cook):

  • 1/2 cup organic white grits from the DeKalb Farmers Market
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • salt and pepper
  • sharp cheddar
  • gouda

Bring milk and cream to a full rolling boil; add the grits slowly so as not to disturb the boil.  Cook on high for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low (lowest setting on my gas cooktop — should be BELOW a simmer) and stir occasionally.  I almost always have to add more milk as it thickens to prevent them from setting up like portland cement.  Shred (or slice thinly) some good sharp yellow cheddar, then some gouda.  Usually there is considerably more cheddar than gouda (perhaps a 5 or 6 to 1 cheddar to gouda ratio — most of the cheesiness should come from the cheddar, with just a little gouda for flavor — I tried using all gouda once, but it was actually pretty gross). I usually have to add more milk with the cheese, too — those grits just keep soaking it up, but in the process they get creamier and creamier. This is my standard process for breakfast cheese grits, but I only use cheddar — no gouda — in the morning.

The scallops

Get large sea scallops, dry pack if you can find them (for an amusing treatise on the virtues of dry pack vs. water injected scallops, click here).

Pat scallops as dry as you can get them, and pat them some more. Season with a little sea salt and fresh black pepper.

Heat a mixture of unsalted butter and olive oil in a large skillet — you want this to be on the highest heat your range will provide. Heat until oil is just below the smoke point, then add scallops.  Depending on their size, you’ll want to cook 1-2 minutes on the first side.  Ideally, the scallops will release from the pan when they are ready to turn — but they may need some coaxing with a set of tongs.  Then flip and cook another minute more.  The key is to get them nice and brown, and cooked through without overcooking them and turning them into a gross rubbery mess.

Remove from heat and place onto cheese grits, with reduction on the edge of the plate. Voila!

For salads, Nick and I usually whip up some homemade Caesar dressing — or just use olive oil and balsamic vinegar and dress it right at the table. But we were looking for something different — and Nick found a tasty-sounding vinaigrette recipe online that I decided to try.  It was fantastic — highly recommended and we’ll definitely serve it again.

  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped (about one small bunch)
  • 10 big leaves fresh basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons honey

Combine all ingredients in food processor (I used Nick’s little mini-prep cuisinart instead of my big one).  I also added more honey — probably close to a tablespoon in all.

For the salad, I like a mix of romaine and green leaf lettuce –washed and dried with a salad spinner so the wash water does not dilute the dressing. I added sliced carrots, cucumbers and red bell peppers. And feta cheese. I made the salad and dressing in our own kitchen before we headed to Adam’s.  We tossed the salad with this dressing just before serving — it was a big hit!

The coup de grace was our dessert — bananas foster.  I’ve never actually made it before, but after tonight we are going to add it to our stable.  Thanks to Paula Deen for this super easy and delicious recipe — only takes five minutes to prepare, 7-8 to cook… And it’s quite a show when you light it on fire.

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 4 bananas peeled and halved, cut lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup dark rum

Melt butter in a large skillet. Add brown sugar and stir together. Add the bananas and cook until caramelized over medium-high heat. Pour in the rum and catch a flame off of the gas stove or a BBQ lighter. Stand back when ignited and flambe. Turn off heat. Let flame die down on its own. Serve over vanilla ice cream.

Many recipes call for banana liqueur, which I detest — that concentrated, fake banana flavor is disgusting and overpowering.  This version has a great natural banana flavor.  Some recipes also call for cinnamon, which I did not try, but would probably be good.  Perhaps next time…

Brussels sprouts

We make these from time to time — got the idea from our favorite restaurant in Savannah, Local Eleven Ten.

Get some good looking Brussels sprouts; wash, cut off the stem ends then cut in half.

Fry up a few pieces of bacon in a skillet.  When fully cooked, remove bacon — but what you’re really after is the hot bacon grease in which you will sear the Brussels sprouts.

Keep the heat high, but not so high that the grease begins to smoke, and cook the sprouts until they are lightly browned. Add just a little brown sugar and maybe a dash of balsamic vinegar while cooking.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Just before serving, crumble up some of the cooked bacon and mix with the sprouts.  Yum!

Cracker pie

My mom used to make this and probably still does. I think she got the recipe from one of our neighbors. I made it yesterday afternoon for us to enjoy after jambalaya last night. Even Nick, who is not a fan of sweets, will eat this.

It’s the easiest dessert ever, and quite tasty:

  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 16 saltine crackers, crushed
  • 3/4 c crushed pecans
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Beat egg whites with sugar until frothy.  Add cream of tartar. Fold in remaining ingredients. Bake in ungreased glass pie dish at 350 for 30 minutes.

I usually serve this topped with fresh whipped cream (heavy cream whipped with sugar, vanilla and almond extract to taste). Delicious and so easy!

Jambalaya

We had leftover spaghetti for lunch today and froze the rest of the sauce to enjoy throughout the winter. Another cool and damp day in Atlanta inspired us to make jambalaya.  We’ve experimented before, but tonight I think we finally found a keeper. This is adapted from Emeril Lagasse’s cajun jambalaya recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 lb chicken breast cutlets
  • half a small onion, diced
  • about a third of a green bell pepper, diced
  • two ribs of celery, diced
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 5-6 campari tomatoes, diced
  • 1 tsp worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp hot sauce
  • 1 cup rice
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 lb andouille sausage, sliced

Cut chicken breasts into 1-inch cubes. Coat liberally with equal parts paprika, salt, garlic powder, black pepper, cayenne pepper, thyme and oregano (Nick said the finished product had too much oregano, so hold back if you don’t like oregano).  Work seasoning into chicken and set aside in fridge.

In large, deep cast iron dutch oven, saute onion, bell peppers and celery in olive oil until tender and slightly brown. Season with a little paprika, black pepper, cayenne pepper, thyme and oregano (again, hold back on the oregano unless you really like it — also do not add salt, as there is usually plenty of salt in the chicken broth). Add garlic, tomatoes, four bay leaves, worcestershire and hot sauce. Stir in rice and slowly add broth. Reduce heat to a low simmer and cook uncovered for 15-20 minutes, until rice is partially cooked.  Add chicken and sausage, and continue to cook until meat is done — about 10-15 minutes more.  Leave on a low simmer until most of the excess liquid is absorbed.

This makes a very large batch, so be sure to have plenty of freezer containers on hand to store the leftovers.  Will keep in the freezer for up to one year.

Main ingredients:

  • 28-oz can of tomato sauce
  • 28-oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • 28-oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 14-oz can of tomato paste
  • ketchup, several glubs
  • worcestershire, several glubs
  • 2 lbs ground beef, browned and drained (sometimes i will mix in a little sausage)
  • 1 small onion, diced and browned

Seasoning:

  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Thyme
  • Basil
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Black pepper
  • Sugar (not too much — should not be overtly sweet)
  • Bay leaves (three, remove before serving)
  • If I have fresh rosemary, I will add a few sprigs and remove before serving
  • Red wine (perhaps half a cup)
  • Vodka (perhaps a quarter cup)

Cook everything in a very large pot for three to three and a half hours.  In the last 30 minutes of cooking, add 10-12 cloves (yes, about a whole head) of garlic and a generous portion of sliced mushrooms.

I made a batch this afternoon — it’s cool and rainy in Atlanta.

We usually serve this over spaghettini (aka thin spaghetti) and pair with garlic bread and a salad.  For the garlic bread, I like to prepare a dipping sauce with half melted butter and half olive oil with a few cloves of crushed garlic mixed in.  For the salad, we usually do Caesar or vinaigrette, but today I was in the mood for blue cheese — and I just found a great recipe on line:

  • 2 1/2 ounces blue cheese
  • 3 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, mash blue cheese and buttermilk together with a fork until mixture resembles large-curd cottage cheese. Stir in sour cream, mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, and garlic powder until well blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper.