Blogging 101

Dusk on the Parkway

There is rarely a perfect time to do anything.

My nest is emptying — I’ll be depositing my older son at college for his freshman year in about 10 days.  Between his lovely petite amie and rowdy bro-pack, my younger son is gone as often as he is home.

So while I am not spending a lot of tiBoone Golf Clubme meal planning and cooking dinner, I’m busy doing a lot of freelance editorial work, cranking out pubs in anticipation  of going up for Full Professor in the Fall, planning work/ play trips to Chicago and France over the next couple of months, dating regularly, learning to golf, hiking a couple of times a week and hanging out/ staying in touch with my girlfriends, old and new,  here, at the lake and beyond.

So nocone manor carriage trail, this does not seem to be the perfect time to dive back into blogging. Over the last few weeks though, I’ve felt faint stirrings of those compulsions that drove me to publish actively and passionately on my old blog, Another Marvelous Meal (AMM), for several years.  Admittedly, there were a lot of other things going on in my life at that time that drove me into that blog.  Suffice it to say that when you are in serious denial about the state of your relationship and life, and have hunkered down into survival mode to protect your children, writing a food blog about Happy Family Dinners can be a useful coping mechanism.  While AMM still gets tons of page views daily and has these inexplicable spurts in Facebook follower growth, I can’t go back there.  Hence this “new” blog which has limped along over the past couple of years.

I love the concept of Carolina Bon Vivant — living the good life here in the Carolinas. It’s Charcuterie Rhubarb April 2015not that I’ve not been doing that — I’ve just been lazy, inhibited, distracted, and generally unmotivated to blog until recently.  But now, I’m beginning to again find delight in photographing food and my surroundings, joy in cooking and creating recipes, adventure and passion in my kitchen adventures.

So despite it not being the perfect time to begin again,  I’ve signed up for Blogging 101 for the month of August and look forward to making time to write, photograph and edit, freeing myself from the self-imposed need to create, test, style, photograph and publish recipes and  spend the month enjoying sharing my good life.

Indian-spiced Grilled Chicken with Fresh Tomato Chutney

Indian-Spiced Grilled Chicken with Fresh Tomato Chutney

When grilling chicken, low and slow is the way to go…

Springtime for me means that it’s time for ripe tomatoes, fresh herbs, grilling and dining alfresco.  We’ve had warm, sunny days but chilly nights for weeks now. Nice enough to grill some nights, but too cool to eat on the deck. This past weekend, I took a chance and planted my herb garden.  And last night, we dined al fresco for the first time this season.

This recipe for bone-in grilled chicken uses a yogurt-based marinade to both flavor and tenderize the chicken.  Lots of do-ahead options: put the chicken on to marinate in the morning or at any point during the day, make the chutney earlier in the day or a day ahead, cover and refrigerate, then gently warm it while the chicken grills.

I like to keep the rest of the meal simple — Basmati rice and fresh sliced mango. Or maybe just some good naan with cilantro chutney.

Indian-spiced Grilled Chicken with Fresh Tomato Chutney

Ingredients:

For the Indian-spiced Grilled Chicken:

  • 2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoon spicy curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (not Greek)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 4 bone-in chicken breasts (I always try to find the smallest ones)
  • 3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro

For the Fresh Tomato Chutney:

  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots
  • 2 minced seeded Serrano chile
  • 2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic clove
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped seeded tomato
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons brown mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

Directions:

  1. Prepare the marinade for the chicken. Heat a small heavy-bottom skillet over medium heat. Add the coriander, curry, cumin, and black pepper. Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently, until the spices release their aroma.
  2. Combine the yogurt with the lemon juice and spices in a small mixing bowl. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken breasts evenly with the salt and put them in a large zip-lock bag.  Pour in the marinade and squish the contents around until the breasts are thoroughly coated. Marinate for at least 30 minutes. A couple of hours in the fridge would be even better.
  3. Prepare the chutney. Heat the olive oil in a medium heavy-bottom skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and the Serrano chile. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
  4. Add the ginger and garlic to the skillet. Cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently.
  5. Add the tomato, vinegar, sugar, mustard seeds and salt, then bring to a boil. Cover the skillet, reduce the heat to low, and simmer the chutney for 10-15 minutes. Uncover and simmer for about another 5 minutes or until the chutney thickens a bit. Set aside and keep warm.
  6. Prep a gas grill by preheating on high with the top down for about 15 minutes. Clean the grill thoroughly then carefully spray the grates lightly with cooking spray.
  7. Remove the chicken from the marinade, shaking it to let the excess drip back into the dish.
  8. Use tongs to place the chicken breasts on the hottest part of the grill, browning them for 4-6 minutes or so on each side. Keep a close watch so they doesn’t get torched.
  9. Move the chicken, skin side down, to the cooler part of grill, with the thicker side facing the hotter part of the grill.  If your grill is super hot, you may want to turn off the side burners and put the chicken there.  Low and slow is the way to go at this point.
  10. Grill for around another 20-25 minutes longer, turning the chicken occasionally until a meat thermometer reads 160 degrees. Pull it off the grill and let it rest for 5 minutes, during which time the temp will rise to 165 degrees.
  11. Top the chicken with the tomato chutney and garnish with cilantro.

Yield: 4 servings

Equipment: Gas grill, meat thermometer

Prep time: 65 minutes (including one hour of marinating)

Cook time: 40 minutes

Bon Appétit!

Stops Along the Way: Cork & Bean, Bryson City, NC

A few weeks ago I took a Saturday afternoon paddling trip down the Tuckaseegee River* in a canoe   It was a gorgeous day, warm in the sun and chilly in the shade.  My friend and his daughter are both experienced whitewater paddlers. I have mostly flat water kayaking experience on lakes, bayous and creeks so was pretty much just along for the ride.  After my initial horror that I would be spending the afternoon on my knees in the front of the canoe, my leg muscles and I relaxed and enjoyed the trip, picking up some paddling pointers and lingo along the way.  We spent the night at a group camping area in the Nantahala National Forest and had a fun time sitting around the campfire sipping red wine and listening to the kids tell jokes.

corkandbean1

  On Sunday morning, the weather was cool and drizzly so I headed for home early.  By mid-morning, I was starving so pulled off at the Bryson City exit, just outside the Smoky Mountain National Park, in the hopes of finding something good to eat.   I parked and spotted the Cork & Bean, but the restaurant didn’t start serving for another twenty minutes or so. Wandering down the street and over the bridge, I found a place that looked promising, but had a long line of people waiting to eat.  I’d rather spend my time window shopping than waiting so headed back up to the Cork & Bean, and am really happy that I did!photo-12

The Cork and Bean is located at the corner of Main and Everett street in the former Bryson City Bank building. It’s ambience is perfect for Sunday morning brunch — casual, a little bit of elegance combined with a little bit of funk:  Cabin-style wood paneling, moose folk art, fabulous old dark wood arched top windows and very cool wrought iron chandeliers.  The front room of the restaurant, where the bar is located is furnished with small tables as well as a cozy sitting area.  In addition to a good selection of wines and seasonal beers, the bar serves organic, free trade coffee and espresso,  mimosas and bloody marys.

The back room, the main eatery, is a little less less so, but still interesting and pleasant.  I was seated at a table in the corner by the window — a great spot for dining alone.  After ordering an ice coffee and some fresh orange juice, I turned my attention to the menu.  The restaurant prides itself on serving as much organic and locally-sourced foods as possible.  They are known for their crepes — both breakfast and dessert.  There were a number of enticing dishes on the brunch menu, but I only had eyes for one…

158 I had stopped in the pottery shop across the street to kill some time while waiting for  it to open.  The artist working there recommended the Eggs Benedict.  I didn’t need to be told twice!  Mine arrived with a side of stone ground grits.

Cork and Bean’s Eggs Benedict is slightly untraditional — a toasted english muffin topped with well poached eggs and rich hollandaise sauce served over a bed of fresh spinach with slices of bacon, ripe avocado and tomatoes on the side.  So much goodness!  It was a beautiful plate of food.  And I loved that the dish included more than token good-for-you fruits and vegetables to alleviate my guilt (just a little) about the poached eggs and hollandaise sauce.  I relished every bite.

I am not sure if I had been to Bryson City before that day.  I had in my mind that the town was one of the little tacky tourist traps that dot the Smoky Mountains.  And while there may be some of that in the summertime, the town itself is quite charming. With its many inns, lodges and B&Bs, it would be a lovely spot for a little romantic weekend getaway in the spring and fall.  And if it were my romantic getaway, I’d definitely plan on making more than one stop at the Cork and Bean.

*That is not me in the kayak, but the video gives you an idea about the scenery and water hazards!

Cork & Bean on Urbanspoon

My unofficial review of knife & fork

knifeandforklogomenuI didn’t take any pictures.  I don’t have a copy of the menu, although it changes daily so would only be illustrative anyway. I can’t remember the name of our charming and knowledgeable server.   I do know that I’ve been to Knife & Fork twice in the past couple of months, once for dinner and once for brunch, and that  most every morsel that I’ve put into my mouth has been divine.

The Spruce Pine, NC restaurant is owned by Nate Allen, the chef, and his wife Wendy.  I first heard of it a couple of years ago at the Asheville Food & Wine Festival where the finals of the WNC Chef Challenge, which Nate won, were being held.  A month or so later, I read about the chef and his restaurant  in Cooking Light magazine when he was given their Small-town Chef Award for 2011.  I’d been wanting to visit the restaurant and try his very inventive, farm-to-table food since.

Chef Nate clearly shares my fascination with charcuterie.  At Sunday’s brunch, I couldn’t help but order his confit chicken neck with asparagus, poached egg and grainy mustard. Everything about the dish was done well — the confit was meltingly tender and finished so that there were plenty of crispy bits.  The split stalks of asparagus were cooked perfectly, bright green and tender, sauced with the yolk of the poached egg.  With a slice of grilled bread and some grainy mustard, I was one happy diner.

On both visits, I’ve ordered the excellent house made charcuterie which comes with three varieties, a little salad and some grilled bread with spicy honey mustard.  I can’t decide which was my favorite — the  grilled rabbit liver or the pork terrine.  Both the pork rillettes and the rabbit rillettes were also heavenly.

The restaurant’s wine list has a carefully chosen selection of reasonably-priced bottles as well as a nice selection of wines by the glass.  You can’t order alcohol before noon on Sunday in Spruce Pine, but the charcuterie platter arrived just in time for a glass of a nice red blend of Paso Robles varietals, Troublemaker Blend 6.

I am looking forward to visiting this place often.  Hopefully my next trip —  during which I’ll order a number of new dishes, take lots of pictures and try another glass of wine or two so that I can write my official review — will be soon!

 
Knife & Fork on Urbanspoon
 

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