Last of the Rebels

2010.Jul.24 Saturday · 7 comments

in Casa SaltShaker, Food & Recipes

Little known facts about the great state of Georgia:

When the colony of Georgia was founded in 1733, lawyers, hard liquor, and Catholics were banned.

In Gainesville, the Chicken Capital of the World, it is illegal to eat chicken with a fork.

The kazoo was invented (by a man from Alabama) and introduced at the 1852 State Fair.

In 1943 it became the first state to allow 18-year olds to vote – 28 years before the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

While the Right Whale is Georgia’s official state marine mammal, the only land mammal laying claim to official fame is Pogo, the possum of cartoon strips.

Funny how quickly a week will slip by when you’re busy, and I find myself with two different dinners from last weekend, with stories as yet untold. July 15, 1870 was the date on which Georgia, the current subject, became the last of the Confederate States to be readmitted to the Union. It seemed a good theme, and the last time we hit upon this culinary theme it was quite well received. This time not so much, several people who contacted me made it clear that it was not a theme of interest to them and wished me to change it – at least to the former Republic of Georgia, or something. We ended up with only one night for the dinner as numbers dwindled – part of it was no doubt due to the snap cold of last weekend as locals holed-up and declined to venture forth, and part that this year we seem to have developed more of a tourist base than in past years.

I’d say, “by now people should know”, but why should they? Astoundingly, my blog is not read by the entire internet populace – not even the sum total of those with interest in food blogs – even if they ought to. The dishes that I prepare and serve are rarely what you would find in the regions that I explore – they are influenced by the flavors and ideas, but almost always very much my own style of cooking. So what might have appeared potentially pedestrian, or at least too much like back home, wasn’t. Only two of the dishes, the first and last, were taken from that earlier Georgian dinner, and they were not left untouched in either design or consumption.

Cruciferous Salad

Last year’s cruciferous salad was a hit, though a bit jumbled about and uninteresting on the plate – simple blanched vegetables with a goats’ cheese dressing. This year a bit of fiddling – the napa cabbage blanched and wrapped around the arugula and watercress greens, then topped with a swath of the dressing. The rest of the plate a mix of textures – just barely blanched broccoli tossed with a little hazelnut oil, roasted cauliflower with herbs and olive oil, and dehydrated and lightly crispy little brussels sprouts leaves. Much more interesting to play around with, and the plates came back licked clean.

Crab and Sweet Potato Chowder

Sweet Potato Cream Soup

No, this isn’t a test of the color rendering properties of your screen. The first photo, the “main” soup – a crab and sweet potato chowder packed full of fresh-picked king crab, bacon, sweet potatoes, corn, garlic, onions, celery, milk, a brown chicken stock base and a topping of chili oil and crispy leeks. The second, an option for our vegetarian and no-shellfish guests, a cream of sweet potato – with the spuds, celery, carrot, onion and garlic all simmered together, then pureed, more finely diced vegetable added, a good dollop of cream, and then the same garnishes.

Pappardelle & Cheddar

Did they really think my “mac ‘n cheese” was going to just be elbow macaroni out of the blue box? Silky pappardelle tossed with a white cheddar bechamel, then topped with a sauté of chopped garlic, hazelnuts and jalapeños. The spear of asparagus perhaps a touch out of place – tempura-battered and fried – I probably should have cut small segments and added it to the sauté mixture. Still, unquestionably the hit of the evening.

Spiced Sand Perch

Spiced Mushroom Terrine

Likewise, here, an option for the vegetarian amongst us. The first dish, a medallion of salmón blanco, the Brazilian Sand-Perch, marinated in a mix of warm spices like cinnamon, clove, and peppers, simply baked. Served atop slow cooked turnip greens and broccoli di rape, which in turn were served atop rice. Below, a mushroom and pistachio terrine, dusted with the same spices and then fried up in a little oil, and some quartered mushrooms that were also sauteed in the same spices. More on the terrine another day – I’ll do a step-by-step, as it turns out to be a winner.

Peach Pie

Our peach pie was, of course, not very pie-like. Two smaller empanadas filled with peach marmalade. Served over little scoops of a puree made from dried peaches (reconstituted), pink peppercorns and sugar. Stripes of homemade mascarpone. And diced stewed peaches tossed with brown sugar syrup.

And that’s my readmission to the Union celebration.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Martin July 26, 2010 at 20:32

Dan, I really am amazed that people “opted out” of your dinner because of a “theme.” I looked back over your list of menus and with a little imaginative righteousness, I could have advanced some reasoning that asserted you were celebrating or glorifying some person or incident with which I had an issue or issues. The state of Georgia apparently worked this sort of adverse logic on a greater degree of individuals. History is a set of facts. It neither glorifies nor condemns–that is left to the student. Have we reached a point where, for whatever reason, we believe we can choose to ignore the facts and, by so doing, change them. I surely hope not. We know what happens to those people who “ignore the lessons of history. . . .”

Raj July 27, 2010 at 14:04

Dan — Here’s the vegetarian chiming in and happy to read that you’ll be providing a step-by-step of the terrine. It was indeed a winner and one I’d love to try to recreate myself. Thanks for providing such thoughtful and delicious options for me.

Tom roth July 27, 2010 at 15:16

Hi Dan.
“a medallion of salmón blanco, the Brazilian Sand-Perch” does this mean tha the white salmon is really a perch?
Tom

dan July 27, 2010 at 16:32

Tom – it does. It’s an ocean-going perch, though there is also a freshwater relative that in the U.S. is known as the squawfish or the Colorado pikeminnow.

dan July 27, 2010 at 16:36

Martin, I’m not sure that it was anything particularly anti the state of Georgia, but more of a prejudice about what the cuisine might be. Even amongst the guests who came, a couple mentioned to me that they were pleasantly surprised because it had been the only night they could come and they were dreading the sort of greasy, heavy, fried food that they’d been expecting. And, let’s face it, the south, in particular the sort of belt of Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, South Carolina tends to have that image, and while there are certainly plenty of dishes in their repertoires to justify the suspicion, there are also plenty more that don’t fit that mold and are healthy, light, and elegant. Plus, of course, the thing that people who haven’t been here tend to not realize is that I only use the themes as a stepping off point to influence my dishes, I rarely reproduce a traditional dish “as is”.

dan July 27, 2010 at 18:07

Later this week or early next week Raj – I need a day when I can set it up and take photos step by step… or maybe even video it… we shall see.

Martin July 27, 2010 at 21:49

Dan,

Indeed you may be correct about their prejudices; being from Louisiana, I know that they are mostly unfounded, but they do exist. Certainly, they had never had the opportunity to sample your cooking and style of cuisine which always manages to side-step such issues as “greasy, heavy, fried food” and make it a departure point for your own interpretation.

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