There's something special about Southern cooking, and it's an especially good choice for this time of year.
Cookbook author and cooking teacher Tori Ritchie says no one knows how to put together a gracious summer meal better than a Southerner.
On The Early Show Thursday, Ritchie presented an elegant menu that's tasty but not fussy, inspired by the regional flavors of the American South.
She shared it at the flagship store in Manhattan of specialty home furnishings retailer and The Early Show partner Williams-Sonoma.
Ritchie started with crab cakes, which are light for a first course, but could even serve as a main dish. She showed how to create the crab cake patties, and reminded viewers that the keys are to combine things lightly, so the mixture holds, and to chill it, so the flavors can marinate. The dressing ingredients are very simple: mayo, mustard, lemon juice, dill, and a touch of cayenne for some heat.
The main dish was a Kentucky bourbon skirt steak. Ritchie was inspired by the flavor of bourbon. She marinated the steak in the bourbon-based marinade, and simply grilled the steak. She served it with some delicious summer tomatoes and corn on the cob.
Finally, for dessert: peach cobbler. It's a sure Southern classic dessert. Ritchie showed how to assemble the cobbler, and explained the difference between a cobbler and a pie.
Cobbler: A traditional American baked dish, usually a dessert. Consists of a filling placed in a large baking dish, such as a Dutch oven, which is covered by a layer of pastry as a crust. The result is then baked. Cobblers are generally filled with fresh fruit, most commonly apples, peaches, and cherries. They can also be filled with meat and vegetables to be served as a main course. A cobbler is similar to a pie, but lacks the bottom crust.
Bourbon: An American whiskey distilled from a fermented mash of grain that's at least 51 percent corn. Bourbon is aged for at least two years in new, charred oak barrels. Bourbon, a true American whiskey, originated in Bourbon County, Ky., and even today most bourbon distilleries in the United States are in Kentucky.
Crab Cake Salad
Easy to prepare, this salad makes an impressive first course or light lunch. The recipe can easily be doubled to serve eight people.
1 lb. cooked fresh crabmeat, flaked
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup plus 1 Tbs. mayonnaise
1/2 cup white bread crumbs or panko
4 green onions, white part only, thinly sliced
1/4 tsp. salt, plus more, to taste
1/4 tsp. white pepper, plus more, to taste
Cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 1/2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbs. roughly chopped fresh dill
4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 Tbs. olive oil
Leaves from 1 head butter lettuce
6 radishes, cut into matchsticks
In a bowl, using a fork, stir together the crabmeat, egg, the 1 Tbs. mayonnaise, the bread crumbs, green onions, the 1/4 tsp. salt, the 1/4 tsp. white pepper and cayenne. Form the mixture into 8 patties and place on a baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 12 hours.
Using an immersion blender or regular blender, blend the 1 cup mayonnaise, the mustard, lemon juice, salt, white pepper and cayenne until smooth. Add the dill and pulse to incorporate. Cover the dressing and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Melt the butter in a skillet with the olive oil. Fry the crab cakes, turning once, until crisp and golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes per side. Using a slotted spatula, transfer the crab cakes to the prepared baking sheet to drain.
Serve the crab cakes on a bed of lettuce and radishes. Pass the dressing alongside.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma "Food Made Fast Series, Salad," by Brigit L. Binns (Oxmoor House, 2007)
Kentucky Bourbon Skirt Steak
1/2 cup bourbon
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. Tabasco sauce
1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. cornstarch
3 lb. skirt steak
In bowl, combine bourbon, brown sugar, soy sauce, Worcestershire, Tabasco, mustard and cornstarch; stir until sugar has dissolved. Pour marinade over steak and let stand at least 1 hour at room temperature or cover and refrigerate up to 4 hours.
Preheat cast-iron grill pan over medium-high heat. Or preheat a gas grill or barbecue. Remove steak from marinade and grill, turning once, 3-5 minutes per side for medium-rare, or until done to your liking. Transfer steak to cutting board, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest 5 minutes. Cut steak into thin slices; arrange on warmed platter.
Made with fresh peaches, this homey cobbler captures the essence of summer. Scoops of homemade vanilla ice cream add the finishing touch.
3 lb. peaches, peeled, pitted and each cut into 8 slices
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. granulated sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. firmly packed light brown sugar
2 1/2 Tbs. cornstarch
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 Tbs. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 batch cobbler dough (see recipe below this one)
1 egg, lightly beaten
Vanilla ice cream for serving
Preheat an oven to 425ºF.
In a large bowl, stir together the peaches, 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. granulated sugar, the brown sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice and nutmeg. Transfer to a 2-quart rectangular baker and scatter the butter pieces on top.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the cobbler dough 1/4 inch thick. Tear the dough into 3-inch pieces and place on top of the peach filling. Brush the dough with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the 1 tsp. granulated sugar.
Bake the cobbler for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350ºF and bake until the topping is browned, 50 to 60 minutes more.
Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for about 20 minutes. Serve the cobbler with vanilla ice cream.
Serves 10 to 12.
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
7 Tbs. cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbs. very cold water
In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar and salt and pulse just to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, with the butter pieces no larger than small peas.
In a small bowl, mix together the egg yolk, vanilla and cold water. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and pulse just until the dough pulls together; do not overmix.
Transfer the dough to a work surface, pat into a ball and flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Roll out the dough as directed in your recipe.
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