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instant vacation: new orleans barbecued shrimp

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By Jen White · January 6, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

Sometimes, even though I know I'm a pretty lucky gal, I get jealous of friends who come down to Nola to visit.  They're ready to take in as much of the city as they can, they've got extra money in their pockets, and no amount of walking the Quarter or the Marigny seems excessive.  I remember the first time I visited, for Mardi Gras in 2006. I was enchanted, gobbling up every bit of food and life I could get.  Living here is wonderful--I love it, I still pinch myself sometimes--but I miss that feeling of falling in love with it for the first time.

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grillades and grits: get your brunch on!

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By Jen White · December 30, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

If you've never had or heard of grillades and grits, then I apologize for not mentioning them earlier.  They're one of the two most wonderful things to eat for brunch in New Orleans (shrimp and grits being the other).  I've never been to anyplace in town for brunch that didn't offer one or both of these goodies.  Grillades (gree'-awds) are made of beef, veal, or pork; I haven't encountered a rabbit version yet, but I won't be surprised when I do.  The beef is a thin, flat cut of top round or chuck--something that can withstand a long, slow cooking.  It simmers in a pot with the trinity (onion, celery, bell pepper), garlic, and a little jalapeno--not traditional, but I really like it--until the rich broth thickens and intensifies, so what you get is a powerfully flavored beef "stew" that is perfect over creamy cheese grits.  This is a great Louisiana recipe to try if you're hankering for some thick, rich goodness but you don't feel up to stirring a roux, because you don't have to.  The small amount of flour used in the browning of the beef will produce all the roux you need.

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fancy pants white chocolate cherry shortbread

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By Jen White · December 16, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

Happy Friday, cookie monsters!  It's the final day of my bake-a-thon, and I am beat (ha).

This last little cookie is a real show-stopper that I found online at bhg.com. They're called White-Chocolate Cherry Shortbreads, but they also have a slight amaretto quality to them due to a shot of almond extract. They're super-rich and taste a bit like cherry cheesecake. In short, my, my, they're outstanding.   I was looking for something really different in flavor and appearance from the other items going in my gift boxes, which are mostly shades of brown.  This hot little pink number really fit the bill, and they taste professional-bakery-fancy.

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the best sugar cookies: no icing required

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By Jen White · December 15, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

Day 5 of the cookie bake-a-thon, and it's time for classic sugar cookies! (Only 1 day left!)

I'm usually not into decorating cookies with icing or sprinkles--at all.  My sister is the queen of this; her sugar cookies are always perfectly glazed, smooth as little skating rinks, with patiently drawn borders, dots, and squiggles.  I'd rather put more effort into the cookie's appearance before it's baked. I'll roll them in sprinkles, or shape them into crescents, I'll even sandwich two doughs together, roll them up and make a pinwheel, though that's pushing it.  The point is, once the cookie's out of the oven, I JUST WANT TO EAT IT.

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ginger crinkles for kris kringle

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By Jen White · December 14, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

It's day 4 of my cookie bake-a-thon...my glycemic index runneth over.

How long has it been since you opened a jar of molasses and took a big whiff?  Well, that's too long.  I find it very easy to forget what molasses smells like, even if it's only been a few days since I've smelled it.  I just had to go get the jar again and take a big pull so I could remind you: it smells like a blend of dark-roast coffee and soy sauce.  That doesn't sound like a good idea for cookies.  But molasses in ginger cookies?  It's necessary, in a big way.

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pepper jelly rugelach: a change of spice

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By Jen White · December 13, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

Welcome to the third installment of my Christmas Hannukah bake-a-thon!

Have you ever had rugelach?  Ever heard of them?  They're these awesome, petite crescents of cream cheese and butter dough wrapped around a filling such as cinnamon, nuts, or preserves.  The fact that the dough is almost nothing but cream cheese and butter pretty much had me hooked.  But I also saw an opportunity to inject a little deep-south peppery twist on this classic cookie.

Pepper jelly. You know, the jalapeno-spiked stuff that gets poured over blocks of cream cheese?  Turns out it's a remedy for someone who bakes and eats lots of cookies and, quite frankly, needs a little help preventing palate fatigue (that's Melissa Clark's term, not mine, but it's well-put).  I was afraid these might be too spicy in the end, but they're just spicy enough, and a welcome change of spice from the typical holiday range of cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg.  I think you'll like them.  And let's forge ahead and put pepper jelly in all kinds of sweet things!  It'll be a revolution.

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orange-pecan biscotti, and bakers as sharers

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By Jen White · December 12, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

Welcome to Part 2 of my Christmas cookie bake-a-thon! (Part 1: Butterscotch Bars)

The thing about baking is that unless you're a pasty chef, or exceptionally gifted in the kitchen, or happen to have memorized countless ratios of fat to sugar, you can't really bake without a recipe.  It's different for savory dishes, like a stew or salad, whose recipes afford lots of room to add, subtract, or substitute ingredients according to your taste.  That's why baking recipes are still so important to me, why 90% of the recipe hunting I do in my life is geared toward cookies, pies, and cakes.  It's also why it's so important to share the good recipes when we find them.  Bakers must be a society of sharers.

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butterscotch bars, or saving the world one cookie at a time

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By Jen White · December 11, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

Welcome to my cookie bake-a-thon.

Aside from a few years in grad school, when mountains of papers that demanded grading trumped my heart's desire to bake cookies in the weeks before Christmas, I've been making cookie boxes for friends and neighbors for over a decade.  I love doing it.  The tradition started out simply enough, with just one kind of cookie, when I was new to the whole thing; over the years it's grown into a multi-batch affair, an assortment of 5 or 6 varieties of the very best recipes that I could find that weren't too daunting to make, but were still beautiful and a bit different.  Collecting these recipes has taken a lot of (admittedly enjoyable) research.  Every year I plan to make a little recipe booklet to include with the boxes so other people can make them too. That would be very Martha of me, wouldn't it?  But it never happens.  Thankfully, a few blog posts will do the trick.

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iron skillet cornbread, and how to wish for something

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By Jen White · October 31, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

When I get a hankering for something, I become a relentless researcher.  In a way, it's a hindrance--I believe there is one perfect way to make what I want using the ingredients I already have, and I look through every book and website I can find, sure that it will appear.  That rarely happens, but that's how I end up making my own versions of things.  (Sometimes it would be nice to just look up a recipe and buy what it calls for, though.)

Paul has been busy lately re-seasoning the cast iron skillet, and it's more beautiful than ever; it's got that slick, midnight-black, nonstick coating that it never really achieved before the last time it got caught in a little flood in the basement.  We were anxious to get some good cracklin' cornbread going in that thing, although we didn't have cracklins, we just had bacon. And I didn't have milk, I just had buttermilk. And I wanted a little tiny bit of sugar and some flour along with the cornmeal, so we didn't have to eat cornmeal hockey pucks. The search was on. I never found a recipe that used the exact size of skillet we possess (9") and hot bacon drippings and buttermilk, etc., so I ended up adapting John Besh's recipe from his book My New Orleans.  Luckily--and it was truly lucky, because I never really know what's going to happen when I alter recipes for baked goods--it was just what we wanted. A little chewy, very savory, and crispy on the edges from the screaming hot skillet.

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blueberry lemon cake of great happiness

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By Jen White · August 21, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

Meet my favorite blueberry cake.  It's got a great texture thanks to chopped almonds scattered throughout, it's not overly sweet, and it's really easy to make--you don't even need a mixer.  If you like blueberry muffins in the morning, this cake makes a great substitution, but it can also be tonight's dessert thanks to its pretty sugar-sprinkled top.  And I'll go ahead and tell you that it works beautifully with vanilla ice cream, although you probably already guessed that.

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