Easy As

Pie

Of course

In the summer, when the tomatoes are really great, we make tomato pie, that wonderful concoction of layered tomatoes, green onions, basil, salt and pepper all baked under a mixture of cheese and mayonnaise.

We always buy two deep dish pie shells. Ain’t nothing wrong with store bought pie shells

We always say we’re going to use the other pie shell. We never do. Instead, we throw it in the back of the freezer where it burns and desiccates into a cracked mess

Instead of that waste, I am prone to make a dessert pie to go with the tomato pie

And, what is easy as pie?

Buttermilk Pie

Specifically that from one lady named Sibyl

I have a splattered sheet entitled “Sibyl’s Buttermilk Pie – Junior League of Jackson, Miss”

It’s really the easiest pie in the world

Most of time, I have the ingredients on hand

Yes, I still buy buttermilk

It’s a great summer dessert

Especially on a Sunday afternoon

And so damned easy

Sibyl’s Buttermilk pie

1 9 inch deep dish unbaked pie shell

1/2 cup butter, softened to room temperature

2 cups sugar

3 tablespoons flour

3 eggs

1 cup buttermilk

1 tsp vanilla

Dash ground nutmeg or mace

Cream butter and sugar with mixer until light and fluffy. Add flour and mix well. Add eggs one at a time and mix well after each addition. Stir in buttermilk, vanilla, and nutmeg. Mix well. Pour into pie shell and bake 350 for 45 -50 mins. May need to shield the crust after 30 minutes or so.

Let cool completely before serving

If you want to gild the lily, you can add whipped cream or some such when serving. I never do

With thanks to dear Sibyl from Jackson.

Punchy

Iced tea spoons. You have some of these, right?

I loathe sweetened ice tea. Or is it sweet iced tea? O sweet ice tea? Or sweetened iced tea? It matters not. I don’t like it no matter how it’s spelled or what it’s called

It’s very Un-Southern of me. Like lose your Southerner Card Un-Southern of me. And, don’t get me started on that foul concoction known as banana pudding. That’s a tale for another day

At the now shuttered Price’s Chicken Coop in Charlotte, NC, I once asked the lady behind the counter for an un-sweetened ice tea to wash down my boxed lunch of fried chicken, slaw, hush puppies

She glared at me and said, “Baby, we only have sweet tea”

As she said it, I watched another lady across the kitchen space mixing freshly brewed tea with pounds and pounds of sugar

“But, she’s mixing unsweetened tea with sugar right there”

She was not to be trifled with by me

“Baby, we only have sweet tea.”

So, I drank the sweetened humming bird nectar and felt heart palpitations, headache, and more thirst. Sweetened ice tea does nothing to slake thirst. In fact, it only makes the drinker all the more thirsty

Change my mind

You can’t

Protective even

All that being said, there is one sweetened tea mixture that I will drink by the gallon

It’s my great grandmothers Tea Punch made with strong black tea, sugar, lemons, mint, pineapple juice, and ginger ale, pronounced jin-juh -A-uhl

My great aunt in Savannah used to make it for family functions

“Well, I’m serving mama’s tea punch” she would tell us

It’s really refreshing on a hot summer day

It can be served in a punch bowl with punch cups, too. But, I like it in a glass with a ton of ice

We children couldn’t get enough of it. It’s not cloyingly sweet like that stuff they pour all over the South, but, boy, is it good

I have the index card with my great aunt’s writing on it that reads “Big Easy’s Tea Punch”. Notes included. It’s those notes that are a treasure.

Because it’s the summer, I’m sharing this with all four or five of you who follow me. Some of you have had this at my parents’ house, too.

Wish you could have quaffed it at my great-aunt and uncle’s house in Savannah paired with shrimp creole and hot rice and beaten biscuit along with that green salad with a secret dressing on the side

Pass additional sliced lemon and mint and serve over lots and lots of ice

Mint won’t grow in a henpecked house. It grows with abandon at our house

Big Easy’s Tea Punch

3 family sized Lipton’s tea bags

2 lemons, quartered and additional lemon slices for garnish

1 cup sugar

1 cup pineapple juice

1 cup ginger ale

1/4 cup fresh mint leaves plus more for garnish

In a pot bring 3 quarts water to rolling boil and add the tea bags. Add a quarter cup of the mint. Let steep for at least 20 minutes

In a separate pot, place the quartered lemons and add 3 quarts of water. Place on the heat and remove as soon as bubbles form. Don’t bring to a boil. If it boils, it will be bitter as gall per my great aunt. She used that term a lot, bitter as gall.

N.B. I have no idea what gall is but I know that Sinners, whose love can ne’er forget the wormwood and the gall are told to spread trophies at His feet in “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” so it must be pretty nasty if our Redeemer took away our sins and exposure to gall

Remove the lemons and add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Once the lemons have cooled, juice them into the sugar syrup

In a pitcher combine the tea, sugar/lemon syrup, pineapple juice, and ginger ale. Let cool completely and serve over ice

This can be doubled, tripled, quadrupled as needed

Serve with additional lemon slices and mint

Guess I can get my Southerner Card back if I admit to at least liking Big Easy’s tea punch. Now about that banana pudding …..

A Little Gassy

Is it 1974?

On May 11, 2021, the Southeast lost its collective mind again…this time over gasoline

“The Colonial Pipeline shut down may lead to some gas shortages” the newspaper told us that morning

Well, what does everyone then do?

Hightails it to the nearest Exxon, BP, Shell to fill up the tank

So stupid

I needed gasoline after traveling the prior weekend

On my way to pick up some lunch, I stopped at the convenience store cum gas station not far from my office

This was around 11:45 in the a.m.

I was not aware that the panic buying had begun

There were lines already at the gas station

I got in line behind a car with Massachusetts plates

Lest ye think I was judging just because of the plates, Dear Reader, please know that I went to high school in the Bay State and think that Massh**e is a terrible expression

We sat for a few minutes when finally the two cars ahead of us cleared the two pumps for which we were waiting. Or so I thought.

Mr. Massachusetts, instead of pulling up to the far pump, stopped at the closer pump and pulled up far enough that someone couldn’t get to the farther pump easily

Terrible move

I got out of my car, knocked on his window

He rolled it down and said, “Yes?”

“Sir, can you please pull up so we can use both pumps?”

His reply, incensed, “No…no I cannot…you’re going to have to wait”

So be it

While waiting, I noticed a utility van/service vehicle of a local contracting company circle around the parking lot

Then, I heard the BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP of that vehicle backing up to get to the pump that my new buddy from Boston would not pull up to after being requested to by me

When my Codfish Stater finished pumping his gas, he realized he was blocked in by the contractor and by me

He huffed and made gestures to the contractor who shrugged his shoulders and must have said it would be a minute

Next thing I know, the Baked Bean Stater was at my window demanding that I back up to let him out

I just looked him in the eye and said, “As someone I know recently told me, you’re going to have to wait”

Bienvenidos a Miami

What does one do when Jet Blue changes a flight to Florida ?

Well, one calls one’s traveling companions and books an extra night

At the Fountainebleau in Miami Beach

I’ve never been

If it’s good enough for James Bond; it’s good enough for me

One night in Miami Beach might be fun

And, if it’s not, well, it’s only one night

Little did we know about the Spring Break riots to come and curfews and crackdowns

“Largely peaceful protests”

Oh well, we’d already booked our tickets

So, it was up at 4:45 a.m. and straight to the airport on a Saturday morning in March

Sailed through TSA for the first time since Oct. 2019

Felt a little weird, TBH

We landed in Ft. Lauderdale at 8:23 in the a.m.

Straight to get the rental car – mini van naturally

The two teenagers were mortified

The four adults were o.k. with it

The girls were starving, so we stopped at a Waffle House

In Miami Gardens

A wee bit industrial

The manager of the place was originally from Batesburg-Leesville, SC

Always good to find a fellow Sandlapper

Even amid the strip clubs of Miami Gardens

A quick trip down I95 and up and over a bridge or two and there we were

Not much traffic that early on a Saturday morning

“I think I see Crockett and Stubbs,” one of our party said

“I think you mean Crockett and Tubbs,” one of our party corrected

Where is Philip Michael Thomas these days?

Pulling up to the Fountainebleau by 10:00 a.m.

We were sure the rooms would not be ready

As we stood in line for the front desk, it was clear we were no longer in Kansas

I travel in a blazer/sport coat/jacket

I was the only person in blazer/sport coat/jacket

I was also the only person with a Yeti cooler strapped across his chest, too

You can take the boy out of South Carolina

Clerks always treat customers better

With the Yeti cooler strapped across said customer’s body

No, not really, but with the blazer/sport coat/jacket

Really

Try it

Saying “Yes, Sir” and “Good morning” to the nice man at the desk, we were told our rooms were ready

By 10:25 a.m.

Amazing

And, welcome to the United Nations

All kinds of accents, languages, visages

Place was packed

Man in line behind me had just flown in from Tel Aviv

“We finished the Seder and got on a plane. We weren’t able to do it last year. We’re so glad to be back”

“Everyone in Israel is vaccinated”

As we waited to go to our rooms, we stared in wild amazement

So much bling

Have you ever seen a Gucci romper on a man? I have

Have you ever seen a Louis Vuitton romper on a man? I have

Have you ever seen a Goyard bigger than the lady carrying it? I have

Have you ever seen a Rolex so tacky you were embarrassed for its wearer? I have

All in the lobby that morning

Along with a lot of ink

Room was amazing

Full view of the beach and Kingman turquoise waters beyond

We went down to the sundecks/beach/pool where almost every chair was occupied

Attendant found us a spot and said, “Man, you’re lucky. You have to get out here by 6 a.m. usually to reserve a spot”

So, we began to break spring

We lathered on the sunscreen

We roasted in the heat

We watched influencers influencing

Mask?

What mask?

Drank a couple of cold beers

Got the children some drinks

We got snacks from the hotel shop

$40 for almonds

What a bargain

We still explored the place

Morris Lapidus’ design holds up

Goldfinger….the man with the Midas touch

The pool with boompcha boompcha boompcha tsss tsss waaah waaah boompcha boompcha boompcha blaring was not for us

We hung out in the sun for a while, but it was really hot and we had all gotten up really early

Astroturf retains heat

We were tie-uhd

Extended rest period needed

The girls fell asleep actually

We all showered and refreshed and agreed to meet in the bar around six

The Bleu Bar

Bottle service available

Ice cold martinis, margaritas, old fashioneds, and Shirley Temples

Cocktail service available

Ice chunks floating on top

So necessary

“You know what we call a Shirley Temple that we add vodka to? A Dirty Shirley”

Learn sumpin new every day

One martini, two martini, three martini, floor

After the drinks, we summoned our ride for the evening

$95 Uber to Joe’s Stone Crab

Worth every penny

When they brought out the bag of warm bread, well, it was like no one had ever eaten before that moment

Six people destroyed the entire offering in just a few seconds

Foil wrapped butter pats never saw such abuse

Then came the stone crab bisque and cole slaw and stone crab claws with the famous mustard sauce and creamed spinach and hash browns and lobster macaroni and cheese

Worth every penny

We came, we saw, we devoured

The waitress was shocked to learn we catch stone crabs round these parts but always throw them back with one claw

“That’s what we do here, too. Season ends May 1”

Guess we made it just in time.

A storm was blowing up when we summoned our second $100 Uber ride

We had some time and milled about the entrance and closed bar

The manager began talking to us and offered a tour

The numbers they pull in are astronomical, even during a pandemic with a closed bar

Places can’t be legendary for over one hundred years unless they’re doing something right

So damn good

Eat at Joe’s

Really

Eat at Joe’s

When our Uber driver, Miguel, finally arrived, he was across the street

No big deal

When we crossed the street and got in his min-van he said, “Oh, man, sorry. Didn’t know you were at Yo’s”

Miguel was a literal trip giving us a run down of Miami Beach over the last 30 years

He should quit driving an Uber and open up a tour service

“My friend was stuck on the bridge from like 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. the other day because of the curfew. It’s rough around here some times”

I guess he wasn’t lying

We made it back to the hotel and watched people for a bit in the lobby

I called my parents to advise all was well and that we loved eating at Yo’s

“You do know your grandparents went there to see Frank Sinatra?”

What?

How on earth would I know that?

“Yeh, they went to that hotel a couple of times to see him”

I had no idea my grandparents were that cool

“Daddy thought it was full of Yankees but Mama thought it was wonderful with all the people watching”

Not much has changed

These may have been the most Miami people I ever did see

Slide slide slippity slide

Mask? What mask?

The next morning being Palm Sunday, I got up early and went to the beach to watch the sunrise

All Glory, Laud, and Honor!

And this guy

“When I’m out walking/I strut my stuff/And I’m so strung out”

He was listing to starboard and still on something from the night before

“I slept out here, dude…. what time is it?”

He rubbed his face so hard I thought it was going to peel off

Meth is a helluva thing

“You got a cigarette?”

“No, Sir,” I replied

He then went up to the next sunrise gazer and asked the same question

He had to move on down the beach as the tractor raking the sand was a coming

Eat your heart out Frank Zamboni

Back to the room to pack and get the hell out of dodge and head on down to the Keys

More my speed

Our elder daughter tried to warn us

She had just spent her own spring break there

She had way more than one night

But, she is young and fun and the target audience

Guess I just don’t bounce in the club where the heat is on

But, really, eat at Yo’s

It’s damn good

Bienvenidos a Miami

Adios Miami

Mon Cherie

Where’d she go?

The Elevator Lady

The Elevator Queen

The Lady in the Lift

Who?

Cherie Berry, head of the North Carolina Labor Department

Pronounced Sherry Berry, of course

For over twenty years her face was in every elevator in North Carolina verifying the inspection of the carriage, pulleys, hydraulics, brakes

For over twenty years, if you entered any elevator in the Old North State, you saw her

Memes

T-shirts

Jokes

The most well known signature in North Carolina

The most well known face in North Carolina

She assured any Tar Heel and anyone visiting North Carolina that the rider would not fall to his death in the elevator shaft

The Lady in the Lift

There she is in her signature red pointing to a black and white picture

She upgraded to color with a red jacket and blonded hair

The most famous visage in North Carolina

Recently, we learned she retired

The current head of the labor department’s photograph is slowing replacing mon Cherie

He’s not as recognizable

Average white guy

Mon Cherie’s cherry jacket stood out

As the new dude supplants mon Cherie, elevators with her picture in them have now turned into collectors items

Were I to be in such an elevator, I might swipe the inspection certificate and frame it so mon Cherie’s visage could kindly remind me that I would not be plunging to my death

There is a t-shirt company based out of Charlotte, NC, that puts a silk screened likeness of Ms. Berry on it

The caption states “Cherie Berry Gives Me A Lift”

Not any more, though

Being my second favorite state, being a proud UNC graduate, being the father of children who attended camp in North Carolina, and, now, being a father of a Tar Heel, I have flat logged some hours in North Carolina

I have flat logged a lot of time with mon Cherie smiling at me from the corner of the inspection certificates

That she is gone from mechanical hoisters in the Vale of Humility makes my life a little less, well, lifted

Her Twitter handle is Elevator Queen

That she was, is, and forever shall be

Cracka Meal

My father was and is a proud graduate of the Citadel in Charleston

My mother taught in Charleston

Growing up in Beaufort, we went to a lot of Citadel football games

Also, growing up in Beaufort, it felt like we had to drive to Charleston to buy almost anything

There’s a joke at home that my mother will drive to Charleston for a gallon of milk. She still keeps Highway 17 hot.

From the time I was born until 1998, if we were travelling to the Holy City from Beaufort any time on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, we tried to time it right to hit The Edisto Motel & Restaurant in Jacksonboro, South Carolina, known to all in the Lowcountry as the Edisto Motel.

At one brief time, Jacksonboro was our State’s capital on the banks of the Edisto River

From 1947 when it opened until it closed in 1998, the Edisto Motel was the main draw for Jacksonboro, which consists of a few houses, a few gas stations

Owned by the Hickman family who lived next door and only a stone’s throw from the black tannic waters of the Edisto River, the Edisto Motel remains for me the zenith of seafood cooking. I compare any seafood restaurant to the Edisto Motel. Some restaurants have come close, but none are as good

None

Change my mind? You can’t and won’t

Thirty five minutes from Beaufort

Thirty five minutes from Charleston

Fifteen minutes from Walterboro

Folks flocked to the motel for supper those three nights

Zelda Hickman and her sister Doris Cook ran the kitchen and cooked the food themselves. Really.

I know this because one evening my youngest brother was being very picky about eating his perfectly fried local shrimp

Mrs. Hickman always moved round the restaurant asking if everything suited her guests. That evening she stopped by our table, “Hey, how y’all this evening?”

She could see my brother’s reticence to eat despite my parents’ pleas. She squatted down beside him and with her lilting accent said, “Oh, Son, I need you to eat those shrimp. My sister and I peel and devein each one and then fry them just for you.”

Church honor

He gobbled every bite

People from all over the Lowcountry still bemoan the closing of the Edisto Motel Restaurant. As I said, we compare any fried seafood to Ms. Hickman’s and Ms. Cook’s. Knowingly, we roll our eyes and say to one another, “Still not as good as the Edisto Motel”

It was a family affair not just for the Hickmans and Cooks but for their guests, too

There were no reservations made

Instead, cars pulled in off of Highway 17 and patrons emerged to stand in line. If you were really lucky, you would arrive right at 5 p.m. on your way home from wherever you were going. Or you made that special trip to the Edisto Motel just for early supper

Standing in line and waiting was one of the best parts of the experience, because, it being South Carolina, all the customers would begin to chat and know people who knew people

“Oh, we’re from Walterboro”

“We live in Mount Pleasant”

“Just drove over from Lady’s Island”

“Came down from Summerville”

“We’re on our way back to Savannah”

Sometimes the wait would be for an hour or so

It did not matter one bit

I don’t recall anyone saying, “I’m not waiting in this line”

If they did they were a fool

The line was completely democratic and a cross section of humanity

The wealthy northerners that wintered at nearby plantations

The local folks who cleaned their houses

Black, White, Old, Young, Singles, Families, Folks from Off, Home Folks, Binyahs, Comeyahs, everyone went to the Edisto Motel

Inside the hallway of the building holding the restaurant there were long, metal, industrial coolers stocked with beer and soft drinks

Dads would always go inside and grab a couple cold ones and pass them around

By the time you snaked through the line and reached Mr. Hickman to seat you, he would ask, also in a wonderful Lowcountry brogue, “How many?” Then ” How manydidya have?” It worked on an honor system for the beer and cokes. They never monitored the coolers.

But no one came for the drinks

If you did not experience it, then there is no way I can describe it

Sorry

But, I’ll try

The seafood was fresh and local

Small creek shrimp

Mr. Hickman would drive to B&B Seafood at Bennett’s Point, to Gay Fish Company on St. Helena, and any shrimp dock in between to get the shrimp

They bought local oysters

Their flounder was flounder that had been swimming earlier that day

Their scallops were never skate wing

Crabs were deviled in the shells

Each meal was served with coleslaw or salad, baked potato or French fries, and hush puppies

I can hear Mr. Hickman now

Holding his order pad and pencil ready to go

“What ya having?”

“Slaw or salad?”

“Blue cheese, French, Thousand Island, Eye-tal-yun, Ranch, Oil and Vinegah, or Honey Musstahd?”

“Baayked or fried?”

He asked every diner that same question

Meanwhile, in the kitchen the ladies would put the seafood in a little egg and milk mixed together with some salt while you waited

They would then coat the seafood in cracker meal

Cracka meal as we say

Crushed crackers reduced to a flour like consistency

(N.B. Recently, a friend asked the Hickmans’ son what the secret was and he divulged the method and the brand of cracka meal. I’m in on the secret, but I’ll never tell)

Then, they would place the seafood into hot oil for just a brief spell then onto the plate with either the baayked or fried, some tartar sauce and some cocktail sauce. A lot of customers would order slaw just to have it to go with the seafood

The hush puppies fried in the same oil accompanied unnecessarily but oh so necessarily

The fried oysters in the winter were a work of art

During the early spring, if the shad were running, Mrs. Hickman would let you know that they had shad roe. She would fry it up and bring it sizzling to your table. I can taste the fried fish eggs popping in my mouth right now. I might be drooling

John Martin Taylor put the Edisto Motel fried shrimp receipt in his book Fearless Frying Cooking

He knew perfection when he found it

Like him, we knew perfection, too

We went their often growing up

During Law School in Columbia, a group of us went to the Edisto Motel for supper one night. Mrs. Hickman smiled and said, “I just love seeing people I’ve known for years all grown up” Little did we our days of fried perfection were not for long back in the 1990s

My family’s strongest and strangest memory of the Edisto Motel was sometime when I was in middle school. On a cold Saturday night on the way back from something in Charleston, we stopped for supper. It being cold, there was not much of a line. We were seated quickly at a table near the front corner of the restaurant

Across the restaurant were the Graces and Tuppers who also lived in Beaufort

We were next to a table of folks from Walterboro one of whom had draped what looked like a cheap rabbit fur coat on the back of her chair

After the usual slaw or salad, baayked or fried inquiry, we sat and chatted about the day, the weekend

In almost no time, our food arrived

Several of us had chosen the French fry option that night

Out of habit, my father grabbed the glass bottle of Heinz ketchup and began to shake it

Not knowing that the top was loose, he began to shake ketchup all over the dining room

He thought my mother had been shot

Mrs. Hickman, walking through the dining room, got ketchup on her glasses

Gene Grace’s shirt got hit from behind

The woman from Walterboro would never wear that cheap rabbit fur again

He shook with great vigor

No half measures

Finally, Mr. Hickman got hit behind the counter

Ketchup coated the ceiling

Once my father realized it was his violent shaking of the ketchup bottle and not a Stephen King movie come to life, he really started to laugh. So did all of us. My brothers and I didn’t get a drop on us

For years, whenever we went to the Edisto Motel, Mr. Hickman would wink at my father and tell him he checked the ketchup bottle tops just for him

I think there was a bill for the rabbit fur cleaning, too

I don’t know what that cost my parents

I do know that I would pay any exorbitant sum of money to have those shrimp and oyters again with some baayked or fried

On a camping trip a couple of years ago, a group of us almost recreated the fried shrimp using local shrimp, the right cracka meal, and hot clean oil

It was pretty close

But, it wasn’t the same without hearing Mr. Hickman asking if we wanted our potatoes baayked or fried

Kneadful Things

Where the hell have I been? Under a rock? Not paying attention? Why have I not known about Jim Lahey and Mark Bittman’s No-Knead Bread from the New York Times? Paradigm. Shifted

Man shall not live by bread alone. Matthew 4:4

But, he wishes he had known about this sooner as this had to have been inspired by the Word of God. It’s that good

According to the NYT, it’s one of the most popular things they have ever published. They say as much on the NYT Cooking website. There’s a video, even

This is from Jim Lahey of the Sullivan Street Bakery in NYC. I made a couple of changes

I did read the Notes and used some of the tricks in making my first batch recently

This bread tastes like a French boule straight from your favorite bakery. It’s got a chewy hard crust and a light as air crumb on the inside with big air holes from the yeast and steam and fermentation. Not quite a sour dough, but the chew, the mouthfeel (I hate that term), the flavor profile (I hate that term) aren’t that far away from sourdough

You will need a heavy, oven proof Dutch oven – enamel, cast iron – with a tight lid. I used a LeCreuset that can go into up to a 500 oven.

It takes a while

Up to 24 hours

Seriously slow process

But don’t rush it

It’s amazing

As it cools on a rack it snaps, crackles, and pops. Let it cool fully, slice with a good bread knife, then slather a thick slice with butter

It ain’t gluten free, though, so sorry to our pals who can’t eat gluten

I about fell out in my kitchen when I turned it on the rack to cool

Look at that beauty

Look at those gorgeous cracks and seams and splits and air bubbles all from fermentation and then cooking in an oven in an oven….thanks Mr. Lahey

No-Knead Bread

3 1/2 cup bread flour – not White Lilly – I used King Arthur brand with hard red wheat, high gluten content. Not good for making biscuit but on time for this bread.

1/4 teaspoon yeast. (Note: if you are using active, dry yeast, you will need to proof it as I did. If you are using instant yeast, no reason to proof it)

2 tsp. Kosher salt

1 1/2 c. + 2 tbs. water. I used the 2 tbsps to proof my yeast and used warm water for that.

Flour for sprinkling work surface, and for sprinkling the bread. You can use wheat germ or cornmeal to sprinkle on the bread, too.

In a large bowl combine flour, salt, proofed yeast and water and stir until blended. The dough will be shaggy and sticky. You will wonder why it looks such a mess. Use a wooden spoon. You will think, there is no way this going to work. Trust the yeast. It does all the work for you.

Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let dough rest at least 12 and up to 18 hours at room temperature. I made it before supper one night and then baked it the following mid-day.

The dough is ready when there are bubbles dotting the surface and it looks like it has come together. I checked on it in the middle of the night, and bubbles had just started. Even so, I was super skeptical that this would work.

After the 12-18 hour rest, line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper. Lightly flour it and place the dough on it. Sprinkle with a little more flour and fold it on itself a few times. Cover with the plastic wrap from the bowl and let it rest 15 minutes

With barely floured hands, roll into a ball quickly. Srinkle top with a little flour more flour or cornmeal or wheat germ, and cover with a cotton dish towel – but not terry cloth.

Let rest for two more hours.

When it’s ready it will be doubled in size and not bounce back when pressed with your impeccably clean fingers

A half hour before the end of the two hour rise, heat your oven to 450 degrees. Not on convection if you have a convection oven. Put a heavy 6-7 quart covered Dutch oven and the lid- cast iron, enamel, Pyrex, ceramic – in the oven as it heats. You’re creating an oven in an oven that will trap steam and heat. Trust me. It works. I had to take out one of my oven racks so that the top of the lid had room to fit.

When the dough is ready, using potholders for sure, remove the Dutch oven from the oven.

Plop in the dough. I threw it in with the parchment paper. I won’t do that next time as I think there would have been a darker crust, which would be fine with me

Place the lid on the Dutch oven, return it to the oven, and bake for 30 minutes

After 30 minutes, remove lid and bake 15 to 30 minutes until it is as brown as you want it to be. That’s the key. To brown it well. Had I not plopped it in with the parchment, I think I would have had a better colored crust. I will do it the right way next time.

After the bread gets as brown as you like it, remove it from the oven and turn out on a rack to cook. I held the rack over the Dutch oven and inverted it, then turned the bread over again right side up to cool

Let cool on a rack and listen to the snap, crackle, and pop

I may never buy bread again.

So crumby….look at all those pockets…can’t believe this worked

Hey, We Saw That First

Mise en place

There was an old commercial aired on local channels in the Lowcountry back in the 1970’s. At one point, one of the actors stopped and said, “Hey, we saw that first!” as he claimed all right, title, and interest in the hocked product.

I feel the same way about gumbo

Yes, gumbo

That national dish of New Orleans, be it Creole, file, z’herbes, whate’z’s

South Carolina beat them to the pot

Literally

We saw that first

Old cookbooks here call gumbo a mix of orka and tomatoes stewed and served over rice

It’s got Gullah roots

The word gumbo comes from an African word for okra

Okra is still one of our favorite foods in South Carolina. Having come over from Africa with the slaves brought to these shores against their will to grow rice, okra has been paired with South America’s tomatoes, Europe’s herbs, and local swimps and oysters for over three hundred years.

All about that rice

Carolina Gold

We had been serving okra with tomatoes and rice since well before Jean Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville named that historic Indian portage near the Bayou St. John for a French duke in 1718

That all being said, I love a good old New Orleans style gumbo, but, hey, we saw that first

I roux the day, which certainly is not from round these parts

I use the andouille sausage, which certainly is not from round these parts

I love a gumbo

I’ve been known to serve this to company. That’s how much I love gumbo

I also have a set of gumbo spoons. Wide bowls to scoop up all the goodness. Not cream soup spoons. Not bouillon spoons. Not place spoons. Full on gumbo spoons

I recommend them highly

In your silver pattern

And, yes, you need a silver pattern

Gumbo spoons work for all manner of soups and stews but work best for, you got it, gumbo

Here’s my version of Gumbo cobbled together from old South Carolina cookbooks, Emeril (BAM!) Lagasse’s (BAM!) cooking show on the Food Network, and Elizabeth’s on 37th in Savannah, Georgia, a city I love, with deep rice culture roots, too.

Remember to serve with steam producing white rice, some good bread, and the hot sauce of your choice.

Sorry to all my pals in the Big Easy, but, hey, we saw that first.

Gumbo

3 tbsp vegetable oil

1/3 c. all purpose flour

1 green bell pepper, chopped – when I say chopped I mean quarter inch style diced – that’s one of those cook’s notes of which I hear

1 yellow onion, chopped

2 ribs celery, chopped

1 tbsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. fresh black pepper

1/2 tsp. cayenne red pepper

1 lb okra, sliced

4 c. chicken borth

1 14.5 oz can chopped tomatoes

4 c. water

2 bay leaves

3 tbsp fresh thyme leaves

1 tsp. oregano

1 grocery store rotisserie chicken, all meat picked off the bones, skin discarded, and torn into bite sized pieces. We all know that I eat the skin as I pick the meat off the bones. Or, 5 chicken thighs baked for 45 minutes, cooled, and then skin discarded, meat torn into bite sized pieces. The grocery store yard bird is so easy

1 lb. andouille sausage – cut into bite sized rounds

1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled (optional)

1 pt. oysters (optional)

Juice of a lemon

1/2 c. fresh basil, chopped

That good cooked white rice – steaming hot

Parsley – if you must – for garnish

In a large pan, make a roux of the flour and oil by whisking slowly over medium heat. Cook until almost the color of dark peanut butter, dark brown sugar, milk chocolate. Add the green pepper, celery, onion, salt and both peppers. Cook until vegetables are soft – about 10 minutes. Add the roux, veggie mix to a large pot along with okra, tomatoes, water, broth, bay leaves, thyme, oregano, chicken, and sausage. Bring to a boil. Then, cut back heat to a low simmer and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes. If using seafood, add the shrimp 5-7 minutes before serving. Add the oysters and their liquor right before serving. To finish, add the lemon juice and basil. Makes it sing. Serve with that steaming white rice and hot sauce on the side. I usually ladle the gumbo into the soup bowl, then add the rice. My bride does just the opposite. Then, sprinkle on a little chopped parsley. If you must.

Wait, you made this?

We had our cohort, bubble, safe zone over for supper recently. Half of the group works in the medical field and had already been double dosed with the microchip by Pfizer

It being winter, I decided to pull out an old faithful citrus dessert from the pages of Southern Living some nine years ago. It’s super easy at the height of citrus season

It’s a perfect ending to a heavy meal with the mildest sweetness and silky luxurious goodness

Cooked cream

Panna Cotta with Orange Curd and Grand Marnier

As one member of the cohort, bubble, safe zone dragged her spoon over the dregs in her sorbet cup, she said incredulously, “Wait, you made this?”

Yes, ma’am

All me

It helps to have some really cool silver sorbet cups in which to serve like those bad boys up there

I highly recommend inheriting some

This is for the nice lady who was shocked I made this.

She said she felt like she was back in Italy

High praise

Grazie, Senora

Panna Cotta with Orange Curd and Grand Marnier

1 envelope unflavored gelatin

1 cup cold milk

3 navel oranges

1 1/4 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 cup turbinado sugar

1 cup orange curd – receipt below

1 bottle Grand Marnier – or Grandma to the cool kids

Sprinkle gelatin over 1/4 cup of the milk in a mixing bowl. Stir and let stand. The mix will be lumpy. Remove 3, 2×1 inch strips of rind from 1 orange with vegetable peeler. In a 3 quart pot, cook cream, sugar, and orange rinds over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved for about 5 minutes. Do not boil. Remove from heat and stir into gelatin. Add vanilla and remaining milk. Discard orange strips. Poor into six sorbet cups or wine glasses. Cover and chill at least 8 hours.

To serve, section the oranges and roll the sections in turbinado sugar.

Pour a bop/teaspoon/little hint/however much you want of Grandma over the panna cotta, then top with a tablespoon or so of orange curd, then garnish with the sectioned oranges covered in sugar.

Southern Living did not add the Grandma, but, trust me, you want it, as it makes it even more a l’orange

Orange Curd:

2/3 cup sugar

2 1/2 tbsp cornstarch

1 1/3 cup orange juice

1 egg, beaten lightly

3 tbsps butter, cut into pieces

2 tbsp orange zest

Pinch of salt

Combine sugar and cornstarch in a 3 qt saucepan. Whisk in orange juice. Whisk in egg. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking the whole time, and boil for 3 minutes. It will thicken up quickly. Remove from heat and whisk in butter, orange zest, salt. Place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap placed directly on the surface of the curd to keep a skin from forming. Really great on top of the panna cotta

I’ve been known to eat the leftovers cold from the bowl

When you serve this, your guests will ask, “Wait, you made this?”

Take full credit

LWSUS

For thirty three years, I have worn the same shorts.

Patagonia’s 5″ Light Weight Stand Up Shorts

Organic cotton

Five pockets

Bought my first pair in Boston in 1987

Bought my last pair in Charleston in 2018

They last forever

Worn them until they fall to shreds

Khaki

Stone

Olive

Brown

Green

Blue

Grey

Red

I’ve had them all

And, now, Yvon Chouinard and crew seem to have discontinued them

Why, Yvon, why?

There is an entire generation that grew up wearing your LWSUS’s

We wore them

We wear them

We will wear them

But, now, we will have to rely on our reserves

Didn’t we suffer enough in 2020?

Now, this

This cruel blow to our wardrobes

This cruel blow by the company that supposedly cares about its customers, their environmental activism, their stewardship of nature

I really need Patagonia to re-issue the 5″ LWSUS

Because I need them

What else am I supposed to wear?

I have worn those shorts to hike high hills

I have worn those shorts to work in the yard

I have worn those shorts to all manner of summertime events

I have worn those shorts to baseball games

I have worn those shorts to thirty-two 4ths of July

I have worn those shorts to concerts in Massachusetts, New York, South Carolina, North Carolina

I have worn those shorts to see The Dead in the most cliched wearing of those thirty-three years

I have worn those shorts from the Keys to Kenya, from Maine to Miami, from Lamu to Los Angeles, from Paris to Pawleys

Talk about a tribal marker

Whenever I see another pair of LWSUS on a fellow traveler, I know that person is one of my people

Why, Yvon, why?

Can it be that there is no more demand?

Can it be that all the organic cotton crops failed?

Can it be that those of us of a certain age are the only ones so sartorially inclined to wear LWSUS?

Can’t be

Does change.org work?

If it does, I beg of you to sign the petition I plan to send to my friends in Ventura, California

Because, I sure as hell ain’t wearing any shorts called Chubbies