Friday, September 5, 2014

Come and talk food at the O.Henry

What are you doing  Sept. 26-28? See how this sounds: 10 books, 10 authors, lots of meals.

Our State magazine and the O. Henry Hotel in Greensboro are sponsoring the Savor the South Weekend, a whole bunch of events to celebrate the UNC Press book series that includes my books "Bourbon" and "Pecans."

Savor the South is a series of cookbooks on single ingredients (or ingredient-like events) from Southern cooking. Each book has 50 or so recipes, as well as stories, history and other information. The brainchild of UNC Press cookbook editor Elaine Maisner, four to six books are released each year, usually a couple in the fall and a couple in the spring. 

I was one of the first authors Elaine signed up, and I ended up being one of only two authors so far to do two books. Debbie Moose started with "Buttermilk," and now has second book coming out this fall, "Southern Holidays." 

The series, by the way, has become so popular that Maisner started out planning to do 14 books, but now is doing 24. 

So, Sept. 26-28 will be a celebration of the series at the O.Henry, including cooking demos, author panels and special meals. Ronni Lundy, the renowned author of several of her own books on Southern cooking, will be the special guest and moderator. 

The authors will be myself, Moose, Belinda Ellis ("Biscuits"), Andrea Weigl ("Pickles & Preserves"), Miriam Rubin ("Tomatoes"), Virginia Willis ("Okra"), April McGreger ("Sweet Potatoes," also out this fall), Kelly Alexander ("Peaches") and chef Jay Pierce, whose own book in the series, "Shrimp," will be released next year.

Also attending: Elizabeth Hudson and Amy Wood Pasquini of Our State, chef Nancy King Quaintance, and Green Valley Grill chef Leigh Hesling. 

A one-night package for Friday night, including Friday dinner and Saturday breakfast and lunch, is $295, based on double occupancy. A two-night package, including Friday and Saturday dinners, Saturday and Sunday breakfasts, Sunday lunch, and a cocktail party is $449, based on double occupancy. 

You can get all the details and reservation information by calling 336-854-2000, or

If you're there, please introduce yourself. I hear there will be quite a crowd. 

Who won the baking book?

We have a winner in our random drawing for a copy of Francine Bryson's "Blue Ribbon Baking From a Redneck Kitchen."

The cookbook goes to Diane Voorhis of Rock Hill. Thanks for entering, Diane.

Stay tuned. We'll have another cookbook giveaway soon.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Win a copy of Blue Ribbon Baking From A Redneck Kitchen

Francine Bryson got a chance to write her first cookbook after becoming a crowd favorite on the CBS show "The American Baking Competition." Her simple recipes, many from her family favorites, include pies, cakes, cookies, candies, cheesecakes and other treats.

The book isn't officially out until Sept. 9, but we've got a copy to giveaway. Bryson will be signing copies next Friday and Saturday (Sept. 12-13) at the Southern Women's Show at the Charlotte Convention Center.

To enter a random drawing for the book, send an email with "Redneck Kitchen" to Please include your town and a daytime phone number. The deadline is 9 a.m. Friday. We'll announce a winner Friday afternoon.

One Great . . . ginger chicken thighs

When summer starts to slide into fall, I start watching for the fresh ginger.

Grown by several of the Hmong farmers who come to the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market, it's a little different than the gingerroot sold at supermarkets. The skin is very thin and a little pink, and the tall green stalks are still attached. The women who sell it tell me they use the leaves to make a soup, and someday, I'll get around to trying that.

In the meantime, though, I revel in the fresh ginger. It's as juicy as the green garlic we get in the spring, when the growing season is just beginning again. I find that the ginger has a little more heat than the ginger that has been cured for long keeping at the store.

I've been watching for it for several weeks, and it finally showed up at the market on Saturday, at the beginning of the long weekend. I bought several fat rhizomes for $1. On Sunday, I was casting around for a use when I found this recipe at the website The ingredient list may look intimidating, but if you do any Asian cooking, you probably have most of this. Make it with gingerroot from the supermarket if you don't have a source of freshly grown ginger. The flavor will still be vivid.

Spicy Roasted Chicken Thighs With Miso and Ginger

2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs
3 tablespoons miso paste
1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
4 to 6 cloves garlic
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce or red chile paste

REMOVE the chicken from the package and pat dry with paper towels.

COMBINE the rest of the ingredients in a food processor or small chopper and process until combined into a paste. Place the chicken in a bowl, pour the paste of it and mix well, until chicken is completely coated. Refrigerate up to overnight, or cook immediately.

HEAT oven to 425 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Spread the chicken in a single layer on the pan. Bake for 30 minutes, turning the chicken pieces halfway through the baking time. When chicken is cooked through (the internal temperature should be 160 to 165 degrees), remove from the oven and let stand 5 minutes. Serve hot.

NOTE: You could probably also grill this with great results. Just keep an eye on the thighs to make sure the paste doesn't burn.

YIELD: 4 servings.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

One Great . . . Asian chicken wrap

I was talking to a friend recently about fast meals and she seemed surprised by one of my favorite tips: Tortillas.

Bread gets stale faster if you refrigerate it, but a pack of tortillas will keep for weeks in the refrigerator. And if you have tortillas on hand, you always have something easy you can make.

You can slap pretty leftover vegetables and meat with a little cheese between two tortillas, heat it on a dry skillet and call it a quesadilla. You can make a burrito with leftover rice and beans. You can slice up dried-up tortillas and toss them in soup to stretch it a little, or stir them into scrambled eggs.

Corn tortillas have more flavor and texture, but flour tortillas are more flexible. Honestly, I love both of them.

A few years ago, my friend Jane Snow, an Ohio food writer, spun off from the flavors of moo shu pork to make a sort of Asian wrap using cole slaw mix, a squirt of hoisin sauce (bottled stir fry sauce will work), rotisserie chicken and flour tortillas. I've been varying the idea ever since, tossing in any leftover meat from the grill for a midweek meal. I've even used sauteed tofu, or skipped the meat and tossed in leftover black beans.

Asian Chicken Wraps

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 (8-ounce) bag coleslaw mix
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce 
1 tablespoon soy sauce
4 flour tortillas
HEAT oil in a nonstick skillet. Add coleslaw mix and cook 2 to 3 minutes, until slightly softened but still crunchy. Add chicken and cook another minute or two, to heat through. Stir in hoisin sauce and soy sauce. Remove from heat.
PLACE tortillas on a plate and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave on high for 45 to 60 seconds, until softened. Place a quarter of chicken and cabbage mixture on a tortilla. Fold each end over, then roll to enclose. Place on plate seam down and serve.
YIELD: 4 servings

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tales of a traveling mouth

Where have I been eating the last few days? Well . . .

Saturday morning: I stopped by the new shop for Your Mom's Donuts. Last April, when we checked in with Courtney Buckley and Benjamin Frye (and baby Violet), they were working around the clock to make their square doughnuts from mostly local ingredients (including frying them in leaf lard) and deliver them all around Charlotte. Now it's August, Courtney is selling doughnuts on Saturday mornings at the Matthews Community Farmer's Market, and Benjamin is running the new shop a short distance away, in a little strip shopping center at  11025 Monroe Road. And Violet is about to get twin brothers. (Buckley and Frye think life is busy now?)

Sunday morning: I hit the road for 28 hours in Asheville, as a speaker at the Food Bloggers' Forum at the Biltmore. First, I stopped for lunch at the Indian street food restaurant Chai Pani across from Grove Arcade, which is as good as I've heard. I hate to fall for butter chicken (it's like going to a Thai restaurant and never ordering anything but Pad Thai), but this version was so good, it was hard to resist. I threw in a side of kale pakora to mix it up.

Sunday night: I was playing a game where I shot an obscure picture and asked Twitter followers to guess where I was. This one: John Fleer's new restaurant, Rhubarb on Pack Square. The Sunday Supper is a great feature, with a three-course meal for $29. This week, it included a wild mushroom arancini, a cannelone of heritage pork, a date stuffed with gorgonzola and walnut, a lovely bowl of grilled corn and summer squash salad with roasted peach vinaigrette, red pepper grits, thyme-braised kale and a fillet of Sunburst trout fillet coated with sesame seeds. Dessert: Chocolate bread pudding with coffee toffee sauce. My favorites were the house-made condiments, including Nana's Pepper Relish and Spiced Preserved Tomatoes -- cherry-style tomatoes in a little jar of sherry vinegar, jalapeno and a little sugar.

Monday afternoon: At the Food Blogger's Forum, put on by Jaden and Scott Hair ( and photographers Diane Cu and Todd Porter (, I spotted another reference to John Fleer when lunch included sweet tea-brined fried chicken. Fleer was famous for that dish back when he was chef at the Inn at Blackberry Farm in Tennessee.

Monday night: If you're coming back from a mountain trip this fall and you need dinner to go, pull off on N.C. 9 in Black Mountain: The Red Radish, 107 Mountain Creek Road (about a block off Highway 9 in downtown), is a sweet cafe, but they also serve dinners that are packed, chilled and ready to go, from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Friday. It's about $10 for three things (a protein, starch and side) that technically serve 1, although we found it served two. The menu changes daily, and you can find it at, or call 828-669-5100.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Winner of the Perfect Bacon Bowl

What's new about this set of Perfect Bacon Bowl molds? It's headed to Judy Bennett of Taylorsville, the winner of our random drawing after my column and followup story on the product and the people behind it.

Congratulations, Judy, and thanks to all the people who read the story and (or) entered to win the product.