Plums. Apples. Peppers. I wanna galette you all up.
Pâte brisée has come into my life and we are going to be friends for a long time. The world of pies, galettes, and quiches has opened up in front of me. I made a couple quiches recently to feed friends waiting for breakfast and the pate brisee baked up into a beautifully flaky, crisp dough, even on the bottom. I have extra pie dough in the freezer and have never felt so prepared.
The thing is it’s just so easy. A few whirls in my stand mixer, and it’s done. How could I not keep rolling out this dough?
Let’s hear it one more time for tomatoes? This is Florida, and our so-called seasons start way late. It’s finally cooling down this week and this morning was foggy and in the 60s, but I’m still finding cherry tomatoes at the market along with all kinds of squash: blue hubbard, delicata, turban, acorn, and butternut. Fall, sort of.
I’m buying two or four of these cherry tomato baskets at a time as long as they keep showing up. I usually spread them out onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and shake the sheet until they all glisten from a glug or two of olive oil. Sprinkle with coarse salt and roast them at 400 degrees. Give them about 30 minutes, maybe 40. By then, I’ve figured out something for dinner.
Toss the roasted tomatoes into a bowl of pasta or an omelet with gobs of goat cheese. Stir into polenta. Maybe a sandwich the next day? Roasted tomatoes are like little bombs, intense with flavor and amping up anything you add them to. I keep roasting them whole, which really makes them little bombs. They might explode when you crack open the oven door for a peek. Just be careful. If that’s too much excitement, feel free to halve them. I like them that way, too, but pop them into the oven whole and you’ll be rewarded for very little effort. Easy like summer days.
Maybe it doesn’t look like it from here, but we’ve been cooking. We’ve made beet burgers, turkey meatballs, grilled bison steaks, quiche, and a plum galette I’d like to share with you soon. Pâte brisée is my new obsession and, as I half-jokingly told Danny, my homeboy. The dough comes together really quickly in a stand mixer; now I’ve got pie dough in the freezer and I feel more prepared than I’m accustomed to. I made pan-roasted chicken thighs with the crispiest chicken skin, seasoned with an herb salt. The ice cream maker finally showed up at my door and we plan on churning this weekend.
I’ll quit keeping these things to myself and start sharing with you. Let’s start with this brown butter pork chop.
The key moves for this pork chop are the brine and the basting. A salt and sugar brine with garlic and herbs makes a more flavorful, juicy chop. Basting the pork chop in brown butter infused with garlic and herbs intensifies the flavors and makes this the best pork chop I’ve ever had.
It was good from the start. We stopped to have biscuits for breakfast at our neighborhood cafe — setting the right tone for a trip through the South — and then headed north with a full tank of gas. Something about a road trip is a lot more relaxing and freeing than waiting in line for security at the airport.
You set your own pace. You can pull over when over you want to or see something interesting, and the roadsides on the way to Georgia and South Carolina certainly try to get you to stop. From Tampa, this route requires a sort of scenic drive through Ocala. Road signs try to lure you in for late-summer peaches. Keep driving and they’ll mention fresh shelled peas and local honey, too. About 10 miles outside of Charleston, the signs all want you to pull over for shrimp.
But we were planning on lunch in Savannah.
We didn’t arrive in time for a family-style meal so our first stop in Savannah was The Crystal Beer Parlor, one of the oldest restaurants in the city. It’s casual and the food was satisfying after a long drive. We tried some local beers and took a quick drive downtown, which has cute cobblestone streets, crazy roundabouts, and horse-drawn carriages. Then we checked into our bed and breakfast, a lovely house by a river.
For our one night in Georgia, our dinner reservations were at Local 11 Ten, where the cocktails were fantastic and we shared a particularly great dish of scallops with pickled ramps. Our airbnb host recommended we follow our $14 drinks with a round or two of $4 whiskeys at the American Legion next door. Good call.
Back in the Day Bakery was our quick stop for afternoon coffee and trinkets. I got my hands on a couple jars of INNA jam and spotted the most amazing marshmallow chandelier. Maybe we can make our own some time. We picked up an old typewriter print at a shop around the corner and found some plates at an antique/consignment store.
Traded my palm trees for palmettos that weekend.
In the morning, we headed to Charleston to make it in time for the farmers market, which is definitely worth a visit. We perused the goods at a kitchen store near the waterfront and shared a BLT and beers at Blind Tiger Pub. We spent three hours taking tours and exploring at Middleton Place. We learned that rice was the crop of this state and Southern brides here are given South Carolina rice spoons, which measure out the perfect serving of rice. Fleet Landing served up some pretty stellar grits and we made it to Wild Flour Pastry for sticky buns.
The Gin Joint was so good we went back a second time. It’s a small bar with excellent bar food (think pad thai popcorn or chicken and sweet potato waffles) with even better cocktails. Their list of cocktails is enticing (I almost ordered one called Squid Lips) but we couldn’t help ourselves from the bartender’s choice box of words. Choose two words and the bartender makes you a cocktail. Danny chose smoky and refreshing and won every time.
He chose those words for three rounds and got three different drinks. One was smoky from mezcal. The best were smoky from scotch. The first one, which the bartender called Flowers and Ashes, was a mix of Laphroaig, elderflower liqueur, and gin. I was blown away by how smooth, delicious, and balanced it was. The second scotch cocktail, the Angostura Prescription, boasted an ounce and a half of Angostura bitters and acid phosphate to maintain sourness. Whoa. We didn’t want to leave.
But we had a much anticipated dinner reservation at Husk; one of the best meals we’ve had at a restaurant waited for us.
Vacations revolve around food for us. There’s usually a list of must-try restaurants in a new city and probably a market or two. Other attractions are scheduled around brunch and dinner. You too, right?
But meals comes into focus when we’re playing host as well. Friends or family taking a trip to visit us means offering up good eats and good drinks.
I took Friday off to hang out with Danny’s mom, Kathy, who was visiting for a few days. The day started with a leisurely breakfast at a nearby cafe, which always makes it feel like vacation. Even if it’s not my trip.
For lunch, we arranged a fruit and cheese platter and later that night we grilled bison for the first time. There were three kinds of really good ice cream for dessert. Whiskey and Pecans. Dark Chocolate. Salty Caramel.
All good, yes, but I couldn’t let the trip end without making the recipe we’d bookmarked a few weeks ago. Kathy has a monster sweet tooth, but cheese always shows up on the table when we’re together, too. We first made baked feta more than a year ago. It was broiled, salty, and topped simply with almonds.