Monday, September 27, 2010


Though we live in New Bern, NC, one of my doctors is in North Charleston, and another is in Orangeburg, SC, making for an almost-1,000-mile round trip.  We always stop to visit our old-time friends, Poppy & Don, who were previous neighbors when we all lived in Long Valley, New Jersey.  When time permits, we also have lunch in Charleston.  Charleston is known for its good restaurants, but once we found the Noisy Oyster, we stopped looking.  The Noisy Oyster gets its local seafood brought in daily.  It's cooked properly and the prices are reasonable for the quality of the ingredients.  The restaurant is charmingly funky, with it’s warehouse-type windows that open (no screens) to the street.

Ceiling paddle fans and boating decorations add to the ambiance.  No air-conditioning here, it’s open-air
dining inside.


The menus are just as interesting as the ambiance, with a decidely Southern/island slant.  Where else have you seen fried gator tails listed as an appetizer?  Or maybe you’ll want a shrimp corn dog, or a low-country shrimp and grits spring roll.  You’ll have a hard time deciding, because everything sounds delicious – and a little different.   I usually agonize over my menu choice, but this time it was an instantaneous decision.  As soon as I saw grilled Mahi Mahi tacos, my mind was made up.  My obsession with grilled fish tacos started with our last trip to San Diego, and hasn’t let up.  Guy ordered the flounder sandwich.

With each sandwich, you have a choice of sides.  I ordered the day’s veggie, green beans, and Guy ordered a baked potato.


My mouth was watering for the fish taco.  Although I make them at home, I never seem to get enough.  The Noisy Oyster makes their own version, different from San Diego’s.  The ingredients are rolled up in a large tortilla, then sliced on a diagonal, resembling a burrito more than a taco.  Black beans and mango salsa are incorporated in the wrap instead of being served separately with rice.  If I had to vote on which fish taco was the best, it would be a draw.  This was different, but equally as good as the fish tacos I had in Ocean Beach.  I could only eat half – it was just too big.  We wrapped the remainder in tinfoil and put it in the cooler.  When I had it about 3 hours later, it tasted just as delicious as when it was warm.  The green beans, however, are typical low-country beans, cooked to death with a ham hock.  Not so good to a Northerner who likes crisp-tender green beans.


Guy said his flounder sandwich was the best he had ever eaten.  The flounder was juicy and meaty, and the breading was not overpowering.  We both feel flounder should be treated with respect when it’s cooked, so as to preserve the delicate flavor and texture.  The Noisy Oyster must agree.


We’ll be going back in 6 months and will be doing our best to work in another lunch at  the Noisy Oyster.  If you get to Charleston, plan on visiting the open market across the street and having lunch or dinner at one of the best restaurants for seafood in the country.
(Please note:  I have not been compensated in any way for this endorsement.)

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Guy and I have been successfully dry aging whole ribeyes at home for more than a year.  When whole Black Angus filet mignons went on sale recently at Harris Teeter, I questioned Guy about dry aging on this cut of meat.  He decided to give it a try.  We bought a whole filet mignon in the cryovac package and kept it in the original package until the expiration date.  We thought that would give the beef the most wet aging to develop some flavor.004
On the day of expiration, we cut the beef out of the package and rinsed it under cool water.
The beef was patted dry with clean paper towels.
Then it got wrapped in clean 100% cotton cloth.  (The cloth is never washed with soap.  It gets rinsed in cool water, then “washed” in the sanitary cycle of the washing machine with no detergent.  After they are dry, we fold them and pack them in clean resealable plastic bags.)
Blood will get on the cloth.  The dry aging dries up some of the blood, so there will be less and less blood on the cloth each day.  Once a day, the old cloth is removed and a new clean cloth is wrapped around the beef.
The wrapped meat is placed in a dedicated refrigerator, where the humidity and temperature must be within specific ranges.
Filet mignon cannot be dry aged for 2-3 weeks like a ribeye.  We only dry aged this piece 4 days before we trimmed it and cut it into steaks.
The steaks are incredibly tender and flavorful because of the extra aging.  Salt and pepper are the only seasonings needed to enjoy the filets.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


coconut cream pie
It’s been years since I’ve made a coconut cream pie, one of my family’s favorite desserts back in the day.   When I saw Birdseye  unsweetened coconut  in the freezer case of my grocery store recently, I thought I’d try my hand at a new creation.  Canned coconut milk, white chocolate and unsweetened coconut create a rich, yet light, delicious filling that’s made almost smooth after a whirl in the food processor.  Sweetened whip cream, toasted sweetened coconut and white chocolate curls top off this pie and really make it special.   I’ve revisited one of our old favorite desserts and brought it to new heights.  You can bet I’ll be making this again. 003
Source:  Judy’s Kitchen
Rating:  10 out of 10
INGREDIENTS:  13.66 oz. can lite coconut milk
1/4 cup coconut-flavored rum (or regular rum) 
16 oz. heavy whipping cream, divided use
1-1/2 cups frozen unsweetened coconut flakes
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1-1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch
3 Tbsp. flour
2 large egg yolks
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 square (1 oz.) Bakers premium white chocolate
3/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 (9”) deep-dish pie crust, blind-baked and cooled  (I used Perfectly Flaky Pie Crust)

Topping:  Reserved heavy cream from 16 oz. container, divided use 
2 squares  (2 oz.) Bakers premium white chocolate, divided use
3 Tbsp. confectioner’s  sugar
1 tsp. coconut-flavored rum
1/2 tsp.vanilla
1 cup toasted sweetened coconut flakes

In 3- or 4-cup measuring cup, combine coconut milk, rum and enough heavy cream to equal 2-1/4 cups.  In work bowl of food processor, combine coconut,  sugar, salt, cornstarch and flour.  Add 1/2 cup of liquid.  Pulse till well combined and coconut is finely chopped.  Add egg yolks and pulse till combined.  Transfer coconut mixture to a 2-quart saucepan with remaining liquid.  Heat to boil over medium heat, whisking constantly.  Boil one minute.  Remove from heat.  Stir in butter, white chocolate and vanilla.  Cover with plastic wrap placed directly on surface; let stand at room temperature 30 minutes.  Pour into cooled crust.  Cover and chill several hours or overnight, till set. 

While pie cools, prepare topping.  In small saucepan, heat 1/4 cup heavy cream till simmering.  Stir  in1 square white chocolate.  Remove from heat; stir chocolate till melted.  Stir in remaining cream; cover; chill till thoroughly cold.  Transfer chilled mixture to mixing bowl, or whip right in pot.  Add sugar, rum and vanilla and beat till stiff peaks form.  Spread over cooled pie.  Sprinkle toasted coconut over outer edges of pie.  Shave remaining 1 oz. of  chocolate over center.  Yield:  8 servings


This recipe, from Aida Mollenkamp at Food Network, has been tweaked by me and it’s pretty good.  Instead of using all-purpose flour, I used part White Lily flour to make the crust more tender.   I added some liquor to the dough to create more tenderness also.  For my coconut cream pie (pictured), I used 1 Tbsp. coconut-flavored rum, but you can use whatever alcohol will complement the dish you are making. 
Perfectly Flaky Pie Crust
Adapted from Aida Mollenkamp, Food Network
Rating:  9.5 out of 10
INGREDIENTS:  (single pie crust)
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup low-protein flour, such as White Lily all-purpose bleached
2 tsp. sugar
3/4 tsp. sea salt
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, diced, frozen
1/4 cup Crisco shortening, chunked, frozen
1 Tbsp. liquor of choice, chilled
About 4 Tbsp. ice water

In resealable plastic bag (I used a sandwich bag), combined flours, sugar and salt.  Seal and shake bag to mix well.  Place in freezer for 15 minutes.  In work bowl of food processor, pulse  flours, salt and sugar till well combined.   Add butter; pulse till coated with flour.  Add shortening; pulse till mixture forms pea-size pieces with some larger chunks.  Check mixture will fingers.  It should come together in fist-sized clumps when squeezed.  Transfer mixture to medium bowl and drizzle in the liquor and 2 Tbsp. ice water.  Rake through the mixture with fingers  until it is just moistened.  Drizzle in remaining  water 1 Tbsp. at a time and comb  through with fingers to moisten.  It will go from being a shaggy mess to coming together.  Dough is moist enough when it is moistened through but is not wet when pressed.  (Do not overwork the dough or it will become tough.)coconut cream pie (3)
While rotating the bowl with 1 hand, push dough between other palm and side of bowl to gather into a ball.
coconut cream pie (6)  
Turn dough onto a piece of plastic wrap, press into a flat disk, then close in wrap. 
coconut cream pie (4) 
Place in coldest part of fridge (usually back  bottom shelf) at least 30 minutes (overnight is better) before rolling out and forming into a crust. 

Monday, September 13, 2010


peach frangipane

In September, 2008, I made the most delicious peach frangipane tart.  The tart has three components:  pastry dough, frangipane and fruit filling.  I used a standard gallette dough and my own peach filling.  The frangipane was made using a recipe on the back of Bob’s Red Mill almond flour.  There was no reason to try any other frangipane recipe, because Bob’s was superb.  But, thinking that Epicurious might have a better one, I ventured out.  The Epicurious recipe uses double the amount of almond flour and egg, and I thought it might possibly be a new favorite.  I was wrong.  Bob’s Red Mill has the best recipe for frangipane, IMHO.  The flavors are spot on and there’s just the right amount of almond flour.  I’m not saying the Epicurious recipe is bad.  It’s just richer, but still very good.  Topped with Dove raspberry sorbet-vanilla ice cream, it’s a little bit of heaven.  When I make another frangipane tart, though, you can bet I’ll use Bob’s recipe.

peach frangipane (2)

Adapted from
Rating:  8 out of 10
CRUST:  Flaky Cream Cheese Pie Crust

PEACH FILLING:  1 Tbsp. butter
1/4 cup peach or apricot preserves
3 large peaches, peeled, sliced
2 Tbsp. peach brandy

FRANGIPANE:  3/4 cup almond flour (about 3-1/2 oz.)
1/3 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. amaretto or other almond-flavored liqueur
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
1 egg

In large skillet, heat butter, preserves, peaches and brandy over medium heat till peaches are just cooked through but still slightly firm.  Transfer peaches to large baking sheet to cool.  Boil liquids in skillet to a syrup and pour over peaches.  Cool completely.
Roll out pie crust to fit a 9” tart pan with removable sides.  Trim and finish edges so they are slightly above the top edges, then turn the edges so they form a lip.  Press onto the outside edges of the pan to lock them in.  This will keep the dough from shrinking when you blind bake it.  Pierce lightly all over with a fork, then refrigerate for 30 minutes to set the dough.  This is another step to keep the dough from shrinking.  Preheat oven to 400F.  Place a round of parchment paper in the tart dough, fill with weights or beans, and bake about 10 minutes.  Remove parchment and weights, prick the dough again lightly being careful not to go all the way through.  Bake another 5 minutes, or till crust is light brown.  Cool completely on rack.

In small bowl, combine frangipane ingredients.  Mix with spoon or spatula till well combined; spread over cooled crust.  Top with peaches and syrup.  Bake about 20 minutes, till filling starts to bubble up and brown.  Cool on rack.  Serve at room temperature with whipped cream or ice cream.  Yield:  8 servings  (This is best eaten the day it is baked.)

Monday, September 6, 2010



Looking for a moist, tender, delicious-tasting coffee cake with a good coffee flavor?  This is it.  And it’s the perfect size for two people (or one very hungry piggy).  The wonderfully aromatic coffee-flavored cake is accented by an equally aromatic coffee-flavored glaze.  Cocoa and chocolate chips added to the batter make this irresistable.  If you have a Wilton Excelle Elite 6-Cup Mini Bundt Pan (available thru for $21.49), you can make six of these little devils and freeze the ones you don’t eat immediately.  And they are devils, because they will tempt and entice you from the freezer.  If you don’t have the mini bundt pan and don’t want to buy one, just make 12 cupcakes.  Either way, this is one memorable dessert.

Rating:  8.5 out of 10

Streusel:  1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1-1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1-1/2 tsp. unsweetened natural cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. powdered ginger
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup toasted pecans

Combine all ingredients except pecans in work bowl of food processor.  Pulse till well combined and crumbly.  Add pecans and process till the nuts are in small pieces.  Set aside.

Cake:    2/3 cup light sour cream
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. instant coffee  granules
5 Tbsp. butter, softened
1-1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 cup no-sugar-added fine applesauce
2/3 cup semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips

Grease and flour mini bundt pans.  Heat oven to 325F. 

In small bowl, stir together sour cream, vanilla and coffee granules; let soften.  In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter, sugar and sour cream mixture  on medium speed till light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating till each is combined and yellow disappears.  On lowest speed, gradually stir in flour, baking soda and salt.  Finally, stir in applesauce. 

Spoon half the streusel over the bottoms of the mini bundt pans.

Top with half the batter; sprinkle with chocolate chips. 

Spoon remaining streusel over chocolate chips.

Top with remaining batter.
You may have some batter left over (I did.)  I used it to fill a mini-muffin tin.  You could squeeze all the batter into the mini-bundt pan too, but I was afraid it would be too much.  And it was nice to have the little mini-treats.


Bake about 22 minutes, or till a toothpick inserted in cake returns with just a few crumbs.  Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then turn cakes out onto wire rack to finish cooling.  

While cakes are cooling, prepare glaze and spoon over warm (not hot) cakes.  Yield:  6 mini-bundt cakes.  These freeze well.

Glaze:  2 Tbsp. melted butter
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 Tbsp. creme de cocoa (or hot coffee)
1-1/2 tsp. instant coffee granules

Whisk all ingredients in small bowl until smooth.  Drizzle from whisk over cakes.  If you place a rimmed cookie sheet lined with wax paper under the wire rack, cleanup will be a bit easier, but this is still a messy project.  You will definitely need to wash your rack.  But it’s oh, so worth it for this sumptuous treat!