February 28, 2010

Chess Pie

Chess pie has been served to me so many ways by members of my family that I decided to have a little taste off...confession: I am not the chef in my family. My husband is amazing...I can't boil water. I called my 91 year-old grandmother yesterday 6 times to go over the recipes... My "tasters" are unaware of my lack of skill -- tonight is the inaugural Slow Food Nashville Board Meeting - and in true Slow Food fashion, it is a potluck. Members include a James Beard nominated chef, a revolutionary farmer, the founder of the convivium who just so happens to have one of the most sophisticated palates of any Southerner I know, the regional Whole Foods culinary director...and more -- I am in hot water. My contribution to the meeting is dessert. (I thought about cheating and calling in a favor from a pastry chef pal here in Atlanta and bringing Phatty Cakes but guilt got the best of me.)

Chess pie: According to James Beard's American Cookery (1972) "chess pie was brought from England originally, and was found in New England as well as Virginia. Recipes vary, but are generally similar in that they call for the preparation of a single crust and a filling composed of eggs, butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla. What sets chess pie apart from many other custard pies is the addition of corn meal. Some recipes also call for corn syrup, which tends to create a more gelatinous consistency. The pie is then baked. The result is very sweet and is often consumed with coffee to offset this."

The other weekend, my husband thought he was making chess pie and really made a preparation of pecan pie -- using the core ingredient corn syrup. Chess pie does not contain corn syrup. I think David Chang's Momofuku / Milk Bar Pastry Chef Christina Tosi's crack pie might, however, but...that is another conversation entirely.

Photo of Crack Pie (thanks to Ed Levine of Serious Eats)

Many attribute the name's origin to a colloquialism really... "just pie" shortened to "jus' pie" or "jess' pie," and then corrupted to "chess pie". Some say that the name came from the way it would hold up well over time in the pie chest...

Version #1: This photo is of the first version I made...(ever). This one contains eggs, corn syrup, sugar, vanilla, butter..and I burnt the hell out of it (as expected). This is really the pecan pie -- this is the version that Jeff made a couple of weeks ago and I ate while it was supposed to be cooling (when he went out to run errands). It tastes exactly like Tosi's version...and yes, I feel like a crack whore with only $2 in my pocket eating it. My grandmother does not approve of this version (nor does she approve of crack).

Version #2 At first glance, it looks like I burned the hell out of this one too. I didn't. This is the brown sugar version. My paternal great great aunt used to make this one:

Ruth Smith's Brown Sugar Chess Pie

This contains the pastry holy trinity as well...butter, sugar, eggs...with the addition of brown sugar, vanilla...baked slow and easy at 325 for an hour... This one is going to Nashville to be judged this afternoon.

Version #3 I have high hopes for this one. It is a lemon chess pie. I think I should have pulled this one out of the over 10 minutes earlier -- it was in there 70 minutes (I was on the phone).

I have some meyer lemons left over from the cocktail sessions last week...so this one has 2 sticks of butter, 2 cups of sugar, 1 tbsp corn meal, 2 tbsp flour, 5 eggs, tsp vanilla, and somewhere around 1/2 cup of lemon juice. I made 2 of these...betting the farm.

Headed to Nashville now...stay tuned...

February 26, 2010

Album Design

I won't claim that the cover of this record is the only reason I bought it (take a look at that track list!), but this may be the best album cover art since Emerson Lake and Palmer's Tarkus.

February 19, 2010

Jim 'N Nick's

Spotted this on the Jim 'N Nick's trailer in Smyrna today:

Le Vigne - Dahlonega, GA

Here's a few more of Chef Steven Hartman's dishes at Le Vigne, the restaurant on the grounds of Montaluce in Dahlonega, GA.

Burger At U.S. Cafe - Smyrna, GA

The best-looking burger I've seen in quite a while...

February 17, 2010

Crazy J's Bar & Grill - Somewhere Between Nashville And Chattanooga

A couple weeks ago I got caught in a decent-sized snowstorm on the way from Nashville to Atlanta. After several hours of driving I-24 in 15mph traffic, I decided a burger was in order. I never bothered to check what town this was, but Crazy J's was quite a find. The sign made it a no-brainer:
Note the pickled eggs on the carpet-covered bar:
We're totally stealing this menu design for our next project:

Momofuku Ko - New York, NY

We finally managed to get a seat at Momofuku Ko after a good year of trying to make a reservation through their online-only system. The reservations fill up literally in a matter of seconds every day, so you have to be quick (and lucky) to score a spot...just like in the old days when you had to be the 10th caller to 96 Rock to win tickets to Supertramp. The meal itself was unreal - I stopped counting the number of courses after they had served us seven in the first 20 minutes. I don't know if I was more excited about the meal (yes, the frozen, shaved foie gras was great) or the fact that Dave Chang and I have the same taste in books:

Hogs & Dogs - Dawsonville, GA

I had a hard time choosing between Hogs & Dogs or the Dawsonville Pool Hall for lunch today. As usual, barbecue won out, and I was pleasantly surprised. These BBQ stands out in the country are always a crapshoot, but this one came up a winner. I'm still curious about the daily meat 'n three special at the Pool Hall. Next time...

February 16, 2010

The Wannabe Kitchen Crafter

A couple of weeks ago I was researching mail order fruit trees...I have not (yet) pulled the trigger on the Meyer Lemon tree (now on sale for $79) but I have found that I am buying a ton of citrus -- and its sweet goodness must be preserved, natch.

My husband, aka @greenoliveeats has this book in rotation in February...seems like we are on the same page. I have a bunch of Meyer Lemons sitting on the counter.

Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It by Karen Solomon
Karen Solomon highlights all of the things I wish I could have learned directly from my grandmother, now 92.

Solomon graciously provides guests of her website with a few recipes from the book -- the lovely Lemon Curd will be the first one I use.

lemon curd

6 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
1 cup sugar
11/2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 12 lemons)
10 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
Zest of 2 lemons, removed in large pieces with a vegetable peeler

Instructions In a large saucepan, with a whisk, beat the eggs and egg yolk thoroughly, then whisk in the sugar and lemon juice. Stir together until thoroughly combined.
The sugar should be completely integrated into the liquids, which will result in a much creamier curd. Place the pot over medium heat and gently warm the mixture. After 3 minutes, add the butter and the zest pieces. Whisk constantly for 7 to 8 minutes, until the butter melts and the mixture becomes very thick. Pour the curd into a clean glass jar and let it cool at room temperature, uncovered. Remove the zest and discard.

Eat warm, or cover and refrigerate for about an hour.

Store: Refrigerate, in a covered glass jar, up to 10 days.

February 11, 2010

Serious Southern Flavor from the Oxford American

In conjunction with The High Museum Atlanta Wine Auction

Atlanta, GA

Oxford American Southern Food Issue Seminar & Luncheon


John Kessler, one of the most admired food writers in the south today...has been writing for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution since 1997.

chefs Duane Nutter and Todd Richards of One Flew South

Florencia Palmaz of Palmaz Vineyards, and music by Caroline Herring.

Friday, March 26, 11:30 am

The Cook's Warehouse
1544 Piedmont Rd., Suite 403-R

February 9, 2010

Bill's Bar & Burger - New York, NY

Lunches don't get much better than what they're serving at Bill's - cheeseburger, chili cheese dog and disco fries (with gravy and cheese):

February 2, 2010

55 South - Franklin, TN

We recently designed the logo for the newly-opened 55 South restaurant in Franklin, TN:We also photographed some of their fantastic food: