Baked Goods

Review: Modern Hospitality by MasterChef Whitney Miller

The other day I caught an episode of Two Fat Ladies the quaint BBC cooking show hosted by corpulent culinarians Clarissa Dickson Wright and Jennifer MasterChefPaterson.  The particular episode I watched the ladies were waxing about how much they love the food of the American South.  I couldn’t help but think Who wouldn’t?

The ladies decided to demonstrate some traditional Southern recipes for their British audience.  They then went on to cook a menu that was anything but Southern.  The Two Fat Ladies are adorable. . .  except when they are butchering your native cuisine.  That got me thinking Why is it UK’ers cannot get Southern food right?

I remember another Brit, Danny Boome, on his old show Rescue Chef for the Food Network showing up in Atlanta to help a young bride make a traditional Southern chicken dinner.  Instead the menu consisted of chipotle-marinated chicken in a cornmeal batter, mango salsa, lemon-sour cream corn muffins, black beans and a raspberry tea cocktail with Prosecco.  Innovative?  Yes.  Traditional?  Hardly.

That’s why I was so happy when my review copy of Modern Hospitality – Simple Recipes with Southern Charm by MasterChef winner Whitney Miller arrived.  Miller is from Poplarville, Mississippi which is not too far from my home in South Alabama.  I went to college just 25 miles from Poplarville.  I knew Whitney would get it right and I was not disappointed.

Modern Hopisitality by MasterChef's Whitney MillerModern Hospitality weaves recipes, tips on entertaining and wholesome narrative with effortless grace.  There are plenty of color photos of both the food and Whitney’s famous smile.  Where the MasterChef cookbook was a chrome-plated amalgamation of recipes from contestants and every judge not named Gordon this book is all Whitney.  And, because I know you’re wondering, there is a foreword by Gordon Ramsay.

Whitney’s recipes strike a perfect balance between tradition and innovation.  She takes indigenous ingredients and gives them a make over like in her Field Peas with Okra and Andouille Sausage – three great ingredients that are seldom put together. When Miller does her version of a tried and true recipe her twists are whimsical yet logical.  Like her Jalapeño Cornbread.  It is cornbread kicked up with corn kernals, cheddar cheese and fresh jalapeño.

When I say it is cornbread I mean it is real cornbread – there’s no flour and more importantly no sugar.  You can play games with the fat in order to make it healthier or more luxurious but flour and sugar are two of my pet peeves.  Well, the flour thing isn’t a peeve as much as it is a philosophical difference.  It’s CORNbread not a baguette.  The sugar, however, is non-negotiable.  Cornbread should never, ever, under any circumstances be sweet.  If you add sugar you don’t have cornbread; you have corn cake.

Here, let me show you what a real cornbread recipe looks like courtesy of Miss Whitney Miller.

Jalapeño Cornbread
Recipe Type: Side
Author: Whitney Miller
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 30 mins
Total time: 40 mins
Serves: 4 – 6
From “Modern Hospitality – Simple Recipes with Southern Charm” by MasterChef winner Whitney Miller.
Ingredients
  • 2 cups fine ground cornmeal
  • 1 TBL baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup fat-free milk
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 1/2 TBL canola oil
  • 1/2 cup corn kernals
  • 3 TBL shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 TBL diced fresh jalapeño
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Mix the cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add the egg, buttermilk, fat-free milk, and 1/4 cup of the oil and stir until well combined. Mix in the corn, cheese, and jalapeños.
  3. Add the remaining 1 1/2 TBL oil to 9-inch cast-iron skillet. Rub the oil around to thoroughly coat the bottom and sides of the skillet. Heat in the oven for 6 minutes. Remove from the oven and pour in the batter.
  4. Bake until the crust is golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve hot.

July Fourth Recipe: Strawberry Shortcake

Recently I dropped by the set of Studio 10 to show the gang my take on this 4th of July favorite.  Be sure to stick around until the 4:35 mark for a little television history.  Check it out:

: Strawberry Shortcake – Stuart-style
INGREDIENTS FOR STRAWBERRY SCONES:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ cup finely diced strawberries

INGREDIENTS FOR STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE:

  • 4 Strawberry Scones
  • 1 cup strawberry crème cheese
  • Whipped cream
  • 1 cup fresh Driscoll Strawberries
  • 2 TBL sugar
STEPS FOR STRAWBERRY SCONES:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Lightly grease a baking sheet.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in butter. Mix the egg, strawberries and milk in a small bowl, and stir into flour mixture until moistened.
  3. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead briefly. Roll dough out into a 1/2 inch thick round. Cut into 8 wedges, and place on the prepared baking sheet.
  4. Bake 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden brown.

STEPS FOR STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE:

  1. Toss strawberries with sugar and set aside.
  2. In a bowl mix the cream cheese with a quarter cup of whipped cream (milk will do in a pinch).
  3. Split a scone in half, spoon in some of the cream cheese mixture, spoon on some fresh strawberries and set the top of the scone to the side.
  4. Top with whipped cream to taste.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 20 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 6

Outdoor Cooking: Grilled Pizza

Most people have run into this scenario:  You’re having a pool party and everyone starts getting hungry.  Half the camp wants to crank up the grill and the other half want to order pizza.  There is no reason you cannot have both.  Pizza translates well to the grill.

The secret to a really good pizza is a blast of heat from the bottom to cook the crust with a slightly softer heat to warm toppings and melt cheese.  That is right in the wheel house of your grill.  The open flame, be it from charcoal or gas, is perfect for crispy crust and closing the lid will surround the toppings with a blanket of cozy heat and a kiss of smoke flavor.

pizzaPizza, grilled or not, can be broken down into two elements – crust and toppings.

For the crust you can purchase some of the pre-cooked “skins” out there like Boboli or Mama Mia’s.  You can even get creative and turn various breads into crust like Italian loaf, naan or pita.  You can also stop by your favorite pizza parlor and purchase raw dough balls from them and put them in the freezer until you’re ready to use them.  Or you could make the dough from scratch with this handy recipe:

  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast or 1 oz brewer’s yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (between 100 and 110 degrees)
  • 3 cups AP flour
  • 1/2 cup semolina flour
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Pinch of salt
  1. In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast on the warm water and stir to dissolve it. Set aside until the yeast starts forming bubbles – about 5 minutes.
    Sift the flour. Pour the flour into a large bowl or on a work surface. Mold the flour in a mound shape with a well in the center.  With a wooden spoon, draw the ingredients together.
  2. Mix everything with your hands to form dough.  Sprinkle some flour on the work surface. Place the dough on the floured surface. Knead the dough briefly with your hands pushing and folding.  Knead just long enough for the dough to take in a little more flour, and until it no longer sticks to your hands.
  3. With your hand, spread a little olive oil inside a bowl.  Transfer the dough into the bowl.  On the top of the dough, make two incisions that cross, and spread with a very small amount of olive oil. This last step will prevent the surface of the dough from breaking too much while rising.  Cover the bowl with a kitchen cloth, and set the bowl aside for approximately 1½ – 2 hours until the dough doubles in volume.  The time required for rising will depend on the strength of the yeast and the temperature of the room.
  4. When the dough is double its original size, punch it down to eliminate the air bubbles.  On a lightly floured work surface, cut the dough into three equal pieces.  Knead each piece to form a ball – these are called dough balls.
  5. On the work surface, using a rolling pin and your hands, shape one piece of dough into a thin round layer. Make a pizza about 12 inches in diameter – this is called a skin.

I like to make large batches of pizza dough at one time and then freeze the dough balls in individual zip top bags until I want to make a pie.  They take a few hours to defrost at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator.

PizzaNow that you have your skin ready you can either throw it on the grill by itself to cook part of the way (par-cook) before topping it and returning it to the grill or you can top it first and then carefully move it to the grill. The latter will take some practice but you’ll be rewarded with a more cohesive pie.  Regardless of which way you go I suggest investing in a peel – the giant spatula that pizza parlors use.  You’ll thank me later.

As for toppings, well, that’s up to you.  You can stick to tradition with tomato sauce, pepperoni and mozzarella or experiment with less conventional adornment.  It is outdoor cooking so why not replace the marinara with BBQ sauce, pulled pork for the pepperoni and pepper Jack for the mozzarella?  Try basil pesto with grilled chicken, sun dried tomatoes and feta for a pie that is a good deal more authentic than many in this country know.

For the kids you can make a chili dog pizza with turkey chili, sliced turkey hotdogs and cheddar cheese.  Adults can garnish theirs with relish, kraut, onions or even jalapeños.  You can take a grilled pizza skin and cover it with yogurt drizzled with honey and sliced fruit for dessert.

In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast on the warm water and stir to dissolve it. Set aside until the yeast starts forming bubbles – about 5 minutes.
Sift the flour. Pour the flour into a large bowl or on a work surface. Mold the flour in a mound shape with a hole in the center.  Using a spatula, draw the ingredients together.  Then mix with your hands to form a skin.
Sprinkle some flour on the work surface. Place the dough on the floured surface. Knead the dough briefly with your hands pushing and folding. Knead just long enough for the dough to take in a little more flour, and until it no longer sticks to your hands.
With your hand, spread a little olive oil inside a bowl.  Transfer the dough into the bowl.  On the top of the dough, make two incisions that cross, and spread with a very small amount of olive oil. This last step will prevent the surface of the dough from breaking too much while rising.
Cover the bowl with a kitchen cloth, and set the bowl aside for approximately 1½ – 2 hours until the dough doubles in volume. The time required for rising will depend on the strength of the yeast and the temperature of the room.
When the dough is double its original size, punch it down to eliminate the air bubbles.  On a lightly floured work surface, cut the dough into three equal pieces.
On the work surface, using a rolling pin and your hands, shape one piece of dough into a thin round layer. Make a pizza about 12 inches in diameter.

New Recipe: Toaster Oven Baguettes

So here’s the deal.  I found a great little cottage on the Mobile River Delta, three acres on a picturesque creek.  I have a palatial garden (perhaps you saw it in my St. Patrick’s Day Rouxben video) that provides me with fresh herbs and veggies and I have snatched quite of few fish from the creek.  There are even squirrels should the economy continue to spiral out of control.  And the rent is ridiculously low.

Here’s the main drawback – the gas stove works, the gas oven does not.  I am welcome to purchase a new oven if I like and deduct it from the rent or just use my toaster oven.  Well, I have a pretty kickin’ toaster oven so I figured why bother. It has a built-in rotisserie and is large enough to cook any frozen pizza.  But alas, it is not large enough to make, say, a full size French baguette.

I am so digging this “living off the land” thing.  I mean, it’s fun now but it’s also practice for the eminent fall of western civilization.  One of the things I’m brushing up on is baking.  Toaster Oven BaguetteJust yesterday I made a pie with wild blueberries from the bushes in my yard.  Delicious.

I’m also reacquainting myself with bread baking.  In  the past week I’ve made a multi-grain quick bread and a batch of dough that yielded six pizza crusts.  Each has worked well in the toaster oven.  So now I devised the following recipe just for my toaster oven.  It produces a 10″ multi-grain French baguette perfect for po boys or just to tear and eat with a dish full of olive oil.  Have at it:

: Toaster Oven Baguette
  • 3/4 teaspoon quick yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon demerara sugar
  • 3/4 cup water (105 -115 F)
  • 1 cup bread flour plus extra for working the dough
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup oat flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  1. In a large bowl sprinkle yeast and sugar over warm water and let stand until foamy, roughly 5 minutes.
  2. Stir in the bread flour until combined. Stir in salt and remaining flour until it forms a stiff dough.
  3. On a lightly floured surface knead the dough for 7 – 8 minutes, or until smooth and elastic.  Form into a ball.
  4. Place the dough into a lightly oiled (I always use olive oil) bowl, turning to coat with oil to let rise. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap  and store in a warm place until doubled in size, about an hour.
  5. Punch down dough and form into a long slender loaf about 9 inches long.
  6. Put loaf diagonally on a lightly greased large or 12 x 12-inch baking sheet and let rise, uncovered, about 30 minutes in the toaster oven.
  7. Remove the baguette and set aside; preheat oven to 450° (American). While the toaster oven is heating make 3 diagonal slashes on the loaf with a sharp knife then lightly brush the entire top of the loaf with cool water.
  8. Bake the loaf in the middle of the oven for 20 – 23 minutes, or until golden and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Transfer to a rack to cool.

For a chewy interior and perfect crust fill an atomizer (that’s smart people talk for spray bottle) with water and lightly spray the top of the loaf periodically.

If you do not wish to have a multi-grain bread simply use a second cup of bread flour in place of the whole wheat and oat flour.

Be careful not to let too much heat out when you do this. Baguette may be made up to this point 4 hours ahead then chilled before making. It can also be frozen; just thought over night int he refrigerator before using.

Demerara sugar is a natural brown sugar with a slight molasses finish. You can substitute it with turbinado sugar, sugar in the raw, white table sugar, plain brown sugar, honey or agave nectar.

Preparation time: 1 hour(s) 30 minute(s)

Cooking time: 20 – 23 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield):  2 – 4

Culinary tradition: French

 

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less

Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards

2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up

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