Sunday, August 31, 2008

It's still ice cream weather

Last night I went out to dinner with some girlfriends for a birthday celebration, then we retreated to a member's house for make-your-own ice cream sundaes and a cupcake tasting. It was a very foodie day! I'll write another day about the restaurant and the cupcakes; today I wanted to post the recipes for the sauces I made for the sundaes.

The first is hot fudge -- a recipe that mother has made as far back as I can remember. I modify it a bit by adding more chocolate. The second, a butterscotch sauce, is a recipe that's new to me; I wasn't absolutely thrilled with the final result, but it was fine and my fellow sundae-makers seemed to enjoy it. Today I discovered that I misread the recipe and did not use nearly as much cream as the recipe called for. I'm sure it'll be better next time when I actually follow the recipe. :P

Ferrell Hot Fudge

1 can sweetened condensed milk (preferably NOT low-fat)*
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, broken into several pieces
1/3 cup water
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 to 2 Tbsp butter, cut into small pieces

Add water to the bottom portion of a double boiler and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium. Combine condensed milk, chocolate, water, and salt in the top portion of a double boiler. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted. Continue to stir until all ingredients are thoroughly blended and the sauce is smooth and of a completely uniform color. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and butter. Stir until butter is completely incorporated. Serve hot or warm over ice cream.

* Sweetened condensed milk is an area where the brand matters to me -- I always use Borden's Eagle Brand.

NOTES: If sauce is too thick, stir in additional water, a Tbsp at a time. Sauce can be refrigerated, covered, for several days. May be reheated in the double-boiler or the microwave -- heat gradually using medium heat and stirring frequently to avoid scorching.


Butterscotch Sauce

Everyday Food

1 cup heavy cream
6 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
3 tablespoons light corn syrup

In a small saucepan, combine cream, butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup. Bring to a boil over high heat; cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar has dissolved, 2 to 3 minutes. Let cool to room temperature. Sauce can also be made up to 1 week ahead; cover and refrigerate in an airtight container.

TL's NOTES: This is a very thin sauce when hot. It is really best at room temperature. If you refrigerate it, bring to room temp before using.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What's Up in the Kitchen

Other than writing about my adventure at the Viking cooking school, I haven't written about food or cooking lately, obviously. I wasn't cooking very much the last few weeks, partially due to being busy with other things, and partially due to being glued to the TV for the Olympics. One of the things I've been busy with is finally -- finally! -- making some decor decisions and getting started on some house-fixing. The other is that I had a landscaping company come look at the disaster of a yard I have and talk about long-term plans for improvements.

The property has basically suffered from benign neglect for a number of years and needs some serious work to look "nice." That's going to be a multi-year project with a list of to-do items as long as both my arms. To start with, though, I wanted someone to come in and do some serious cut-back of some jungle-like growth of vines and brush along 3 of the 4 sides of the property, as well as trimming some trees, cleaning vines off the garage and house, etc. etc. The landscaper -- Eric Cook, Greenway of Nashville -- was nice and his crew did a good job. It put a serious dent in my pocketbook, but things look a lot more controlled. Eric had also suggested adding something attractive in addition to clearing stuff away, specifically some small holly and spirea on either side of the front steps. I had planned to eventually plant some things in those areas, so I told him to go ahead. It does look nice and spiffs up the front a bit. If I could find my camera (it's SOMEWHERE in the study, just exactly where is undetermined) I would post a picture. When the camera is located one day when I remember to look for it, I'll do so.

P.S. I remembered another factoid from the knife class ... brown and pink shrimp are always wild-caught. White and tiger shrimp can be either wild-caught or farmed. So there is your Culinary Fact of the Day.

Monday, August 25, 2008


Here are a few additional things I remembered today from yesterday's class.

  • When buying an onion, always sniff it. If an uncut onion actually smells of onion, don't buy it -- that means that the onion has been bruised or otherwise damaged.
  • The name of the dice created by cross-cutting the julienne is brunoise. Whew!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Gettin' Some Mad Knife Skilz

This morning I took a drive down to The Factory in Franklin to attend a cooking class at the Viking Store. Viking is the company that makes the huge "professional grade" refrigerators, stoves, and the like as well as cookware and gadgets. All but some of the gadgets are out of my budget range, but it's always fun to look around and daydream about that lottery win and the enormous white-tile kitchen that new fortune would buy.

The Nashville / Franklin store is one of a handful around the country that offers cooking classes, and is by far the most successful program in the whole company. The type and style of classes vary considerably. A few years ago I was part of a small group that did a demo-style class where the instructor/chef did most of the work and we could jump in and help as desired. That was fun, but I've been wanting to take a hands-on class for a long time. I finally bit the bullet and signed up for a couple, and today's was the first. Called Basic Knife Skills, 10 of us spent 2 1/2 hours learning about using a chef's knife the right way while preparing our lunch -- chicken & shrimp fajitas with a variety of vegetables and from-scratch salsa. We made julienne (1/8 inch strips), batonettes (1/4 inch strips), and then dice of the same, which had French names I can't remember. :P (Also, I think I remember from previous readings that there is a cut called baton, which I think is 1/2 inch.) We also did mince of garlic and cilantro.

I'm pretty good with a knife and know a few things, but here are two really fundamental things I didn't know:
  • I've been holding the knife incorrectly, both for the basic chop and the two-handed mince
  • There's an "Italian" way to slice and a "French" way -- I've been using the French way
I've seen a number of techniques done on TV but never tried them, and today I did:
  • Sharpening a knife on a stone.
  • "Breaking down" a bell pepper using the rolling technique, which was a LOT easier than you might think, and WAY cool.
  • Boning a chicken breast.
  • Holding down the vegetable with the fingers curled under. When I tried it before I always found it awkward. In class I made a more determined effort to try it, and found a little success. One tip I picked up that helped a little was to anchor the tip of the thumb at the back of object being sliced. So ... Practice will make perfect, I hope.
  • Peeling a tomato by dropping it into boiling water (after scoring a light cross in the top and the bottom), then dunking in an ice bath. The skin just slipped right off.
One of the best parts of these classes is that you always pick up tips and information not necessarily related to the topic of the class.
  • 3 drops of bleach in a couple of quarts of water is enough to sanitize non-porous surfaces -- i.e., your knife. I've always used a ton more.
  • Stock is made from bones only. Broth is made with bones and flesh. Skin, fat, and organs should never be used when making either.
  • Also: When making chicken stock/broth, add vegetables only for the last hour of cooking, and don't saute them first. For beef stock, the vegetables can be sauteed/roasted first since it's a heartier concoction.
When everything was cut, chopped, sliced, mixed, and cooked (where appropriate), we sat down at a long table in the kitchen and ate the fruits of our labors, along with a small pour of wine for those who wished. It was good -- I won't say that the recipes were anything out of the ordinary, but it was tasty and fun to see those wee nearly-perfect cubes of vegetables in the salsa.

When I signed up for this class, I also enrolled in a class on tapas that will be in late September. I found out, though, that there is also a "Knife Skills 2" class that will be in early September. I signed up for that as well, using the 10% discount I had available for taking today's class. So watch out ... I'll be dangerous!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Oh Brother, Part 2

My other brother Dale and his business partner opened a restaurant a few months ago. Their specialty barbecue wings have already won an award, and have garnered a mention in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution .If you're in the Atlanta area, head on down to The Square in Newnan and check out The Gridiron Grill. The name sounds like a sports bar, and it IS UGA red-and-black inside, but the food is definitely a step above your typical sports bar fare. The chef has a background in Lousiana cooking, so the focus is Cajun/Creole, but with New South, Old South, and plain ol' American casual food. (I had a regular hamburger and it was just what a burger should be.) Tasty, reasonable, and the square is a picturesque setting, inviting a pre- or post-meal stroll. Check out the menu, get a coupon, and learn more at They also have a MySpace page at