Pinto Bean Burgers and Culinary Fight Club at Central City BBQ

I am dazzled by the transformation of Central City over the last half decade. Tonight KP and I visited a new establishment, Central City BBQ. I am delighted by the artful and homegrown approach to urban bbq! Central City BBQ hosted the Culinary Fight Club competition tonight—the challenge: burgers with 25% mushroom blend—the competitors: Chef BJ Creswell, Room Chef at Scarlet Pearl Casino Resort, Chef Ryan Andre, Corporate Chef, City Pork Hospitality and Chef Mike Newhall, Executive Chef, Elite Catering & Events. Judges were Isaac Toups, Chef/Owner, Toups’ Meatery and Tory McPhail, Executive Chef, Commander’s Palace, and Chef Will Avelar from Meril.

Central City BBQ is one of my new favorite institutions in town. Loved watching these chefs get off to the races and down to business fighting for the best burger in town.

The clear winner was Chef Ryan Andre—who made a delicious double-patty umami-flavored king oyster mushroom blend for the burger. Incredible flavor.

So thrilled to be given the opportunity to be a voting participant in the the Taste Bud Challenge. Glad my winner took home the golden knife and top prize! Ryan Andre! Given my belief that a burger too frequently will prematurely end your life, I recently fixed burgers for my family and Jazz Fest guests, with a mostly bean blend. (and a little chorizo).

Pinto Bean Burgers

Adapted from Martha Stewart

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

½ cup chopped shallot

1/3 cup toasted almonds, chopped, plus more for serving

1 3/4 cups cooked pinto beans

2/3 cup panko

1/2 cup chopped roasted red peppers

1 large egg, lightly beaten

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup cooked and chopped andouille or chorizo sausage

1/2 cup full-fat Greek yogurt

Sprouts, sliced avocado, and lemon wedges, for serving

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium. Add shallot and cook until soft, 3 minutes.

Pulse shallot, almonds, beans, panko, 1/4 cup roasted peppers, sausage and egg in a food processor until just combined. Season with salt and pepper and form into four 3 1/2-inch patties.

Wipe skillet clean; heat remaining oil over medium-high. Cook patties, flipping once, 8 minutes.

Mix yogurt and remaining 1/4 cup peppers. Spread on burgers and serve, with sprouts, avocado, lemon, and almonds.

I’ll end with a little pig art to delineate male and female bathrooms at Central City BBQ. Top notch artwork.

And all my new favorite chefs. I love you New Orleans.

Blueberry Cornmeal Cake Jazz Mornings with CC’s Coffee

We keep on Groovin—last night was Earth Wind and Fire on the mainstage with Sweet Crude and Lake Street Dive my second favorites. Enjoying Jazz Fest with Dad on his 65th birthday, Tower of Power, Stevie Wonder—the spice of life to be sure. We are having lots of coffee these AMs and I am grateful to Community Coffee for sending over some of their Vanilla Crème Brulee and Sunrise Blend to help pop our eyes open for another day of music!


Blueberry Cornmeal Cake

Adapted from Southern Living

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing pan

1 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 tablespoon lemon zest (from 2 lemons)

¾ cup all-purpose flour

¾ cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup medium-grind yellow cornmeal

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

2/3 cup buttermilk

1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries (about 7 oz.)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter an 8-inch springform pan. Set aside.

Beat sugar and butter with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add lemon zest, and beat on medium speed just until combined.

Stir together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt; add to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat on medium-low speed just until combined after each addition. Pour batter into prepared cake pan, and sprinkle with fresh blueberries.

Bake in preheated oven until the cake starts to pull away from the sides of the pan and springs back when lightly pressed in the center with a fingertip, 45 to 50 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, and cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove cake from springform pan; serve warm or at room temperature.


Stracciatella and Jazz Italian Style

Decided on a staycation in New Orleans this week for my hard-won week off. What a delight to live in a city where just participating in the social fabric feels as though I have gone far away (from work). Of course this week is a little better than average for NOLA—it is Jazz Fest—which brings a sense of purpose and renewal to the culture as we attempt to show off all our strong notes—crawfish monica, Dr. John, Walter Wolfman Washington, Oscar Donahue’s jazzy jewelry, Mardi Gras Indian second lines, and how to dance in the mud.

In the spirit of vacation, in addition to Jazz Fest, this week we’ve gone to the Saenger to see Alton Brown perform on Food as Science.

Last night we went to Tipitina’s to enjoy Galactic.

Intentionally couched in the birthplace of jazz, I’ve been enjoying this new book on the history of jazz by University of Cambridge press by Anna Harwell Celenza, Jazz Italian Style, which provides numerous scholarly insights on how the influence of jazz during the first and second World Wars added to the conversation between American culture and Italian culture, with its inherent tensions during the time of fascism; also she paints a portrait of the unique psychodynamic significance Sinatra took on for the bereft post-war crooner generation of women in the 1940s-50s. I’d say this book goes well with a Negroni and the accompaniment of John Boutte with a side of keys.


Perhaps also with an italian-style dinner.


Adapted from Food and Wine

6 cups Basic Chicken Stock* or good-quality store-bought stock

2 large eggs

1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken

1 cup frozen peas

2 cups leaf spinach (about 2 ounces), thinly sliced

1 cup basil leaves, thinly sliced

Kosher salt


In a medium pot, bring the chicken stock to a simmer over moderate heat. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and cheese. Slowly add the egg mixture into the hot stock, stirring constantly, until the eggs are just set, about 1 minute. Stir in the chicken and peas and simmer until heated through, about 2 minutes. Add the spinach and basil and cook until just wilted, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

**Chicken Stock

Basic Chicken Stock

Adapted from Food and Wine

One 3 1/2- to 4-pound chicken, quartered (or I just use the bones and skins of one I’ve already eaten)

2 medium white onions, quartered

3 large carrots, scrubbed and cut into 2-inch pieces

3 celery ribs with leaves, cut into 2-inch pieces

2 garlic cloves

2 parsley sprigs

2 thyme sprigs

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

6 black peppercorns

Kosher salt

In a large stockpot, combine 4 quarts of water with all of the ingredients except the salt. Simmer over very low heat, partially covered, for 8 hours; skim the surface of the stock as necessary.

Strain the stock into a large bowl and season with salt; discard the solids. Let the stock cool, then refrigerate. Skim the fat from the surface before using.

Sour Cream Drop Biscuits and Avocado Yellowtail Crudo

Oh this world and the people in it! Jazz Fest is here and a multitude of rapscallions have migrated to New Orleans to take in the pleasures of music, food and dance at the fairgrounds. KP’s dad arrived, now sporting around town on a Honda Harley scooter, and he has been dubbed “Jazz Fest Santa”—photo ops are available at a discount price to select fans. And CONGRATULATIONS to SUSAN from Minneapolis who won the CLICK giveaway last month! Hopefully your free Click will keep you Jazzed, my dear.

It’s gonna be breakfast and brunch only at home for the next week. Here are some tasty dishes to whisk together for hungry house guests.

Sour Cream And Scallion Drop Biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, cooled, divided

4 scallions, thinly sliced

1½ cups sour cream

Hungarian hot paprika (for serving)

Preheat oven to 400°. Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and baking soda in a large bowl. Drizzle in 6 Tbsp. butter and mix lightly with your hands just to distribute butter. Make a well in center of bowl and add scallions and sour cream. Mix with a wooden spoon until no dry spots remain and mixture forms a shaggy dough.

Using 2 spoons, drop ½-cupfuls of dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing at least 1½” apart, or into a 12″ cast-iron skillet, arranging so sides of biscuits are just touching (you should have 8). Brush tops with remaining 2 Tbsp. butter; sprinkle with paprika. Bake biscuits until tops and bottoms are golden brown on top and bottom, 12–15 minutes.

For Brunch, make this!


Yellowtail Crudo With Citrus And Avocado

1 avocado

1 garlic clove, chopped

1 tablespoon crème fraîche or sour cream

2 serrano chiles, seeded, finely chopped, divided

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, divided

Kosher salt

4 ounces sashimi-grade skinless, boneless yellowtail fillet

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 teaspoon fish sauce

1 teaspoon finely chopped shallot

½ teaspoon finely grated peeled ginger

½ teaspoon yuzu kosho

1 radish, trimmed, thinly sliced

Cilantro leaves with tender stems and thin fancy crackers or crispbread (for serving)


Mash avocado with garlic, crème fraîche, half of serranos, and 1 Tbsp. lime juice in a small bowl until mixture is mostly smooth; season with salt.

Hold your knife at a 45° angle and slice fish with the grain into ½” slices (use a sharp blade and aim for one long, clean stroke). Cut each slice crosswise into ½” pieces.

Combine oil, fish sauce, shallot, ginger, yuzu kosho, remaining serrano, and remaining 1 Tbsp. lime juice in a medium bowl. Add yellowtail, season with salt, and gently toss crudo to combine.

Spread avocado mixture on plates. Top with yellowtail, radish, and cilantro. Serve with crackers.

Smoked Gouda Carbonara in Honor of Carbon #GoScience

What better way to celebrate science than to gather the elements and use your kitchen as a laboratory. I’m here on site in DC today and plan to wave my poster tube around like a wand or a torch. All around me in our nation’s capital are examples of the beauty of nature and the human striving to know and master the lessons there for us when we look deeply.

Some inspiration from the Hirschhorn Museum.

Consider this rhododendron a pompon for science today.

And this dinner a reward for marching for those of you who hit the pavement with your posters and song.

Smoked Gouda Carbonara

Adapted from Food and Wine

1 pound spaghetti

5 large egg yolks

1 large egg

1 cup (4 ounces) finely shredded smoked Gouda, plus more for serving

Kosher salt

Black pepper

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

6 ounces slab bacon, finely diced

3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.

I recommend making your own pasta– tastes infinitely better. See here for basic pasta recipes.

In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks with the whole egg, the 1 cup of Gouda, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 2 teaspoons of black pepper. Very gradually whisk in 1/2 cup of the reserved cooking water to temper the eggs.

Meanwhile, in the large pot, heat the olive oil. Add the bacon and cook over moderate heat until rendered but not crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the pasta, crushed red pepper and 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta cooking water. Cook, tossing, until the pasta is coated, 1 to 2 minutes. Scrape the pasta mixture into the large bowl and toss vigorously until creamy, 1 to 2 minutes; add more cooking water if needed. Season with salt and pepper. Divide the pasta into bowls and serve, passing more Gouda at the table.

Shout out to the chickens who prolifically laid eggs for all the yolks in this dish. YUM.

Have Your Sour Cream Vanilla and Blueberry Cake and Eat it for Easter

Hot off the press, Have Your Cake and Eat It: Nutritious, Delicious Recipes for Healthier Everyday Baking by Mich Turner, is a beautiful new baking book from Sterling Epicure that features the work of the celebrity baker who has fashioned delectable desserts for Downton Abbey and Buckingham Palace!

I was so inspired, page after page of gorgeous creations, Almond Toscaners, Lemon Meringue Chiffon, Chocolate and Coffee Roulade… and where possible, Turner points out ways to make her recipes healthier. Sugar is sugar, but in the fat department, there is room for improvement. And many of the cakes have prunes and dates and fruits and nuts and oats to vie for righteousness.

I really appreciated the design ideas—Turner is a master in presentation and in the cake I chose to make here, I adapted a recipe to have a structural variation from the “Skinnylicious Vanilla Cake” –which involves sparing frosting in exchange for meringue.

Sour Cream Vanilla and Blueberry Cake

Adapted from Have Your Cake and Eat It


2 sticks of butter, softened

1 cup superfine sugar

4 medium eggs

1 TB vanilla bean paste

2 cups self-rising flour

1 ½ tsp baking powder

½ cup sour cream

2 cups blueberries



2/3 cups cream cheese

½ cup powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla bean paste

¼ cup sour cream



1 ½ cup superfine sugar

1 ounce light corn syrup

¼ cup water

4 medium egg whites (5 ounces)

Preheat oven to 325 F. Grease and line with parchment two 8 inch round pans. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy, then add beaten eggs one at a time. Beat well. Add vanilla paste. Sift flour and baking powder together and fold that in. Stir in sour cream, then finally fold in 1 cup of the blueberries. Spoon batter evenly into each pan and then bake for 45 minutes. Let cool then chill for several hours.

For the frosting, beat the cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla, and sour cream. Chill for 30 minutes. Spread onto both tops of the cakes.

For the meringue, measure the corn syrup, sugar and water into a saucepan and heat over medium heat. Stir until temp gets to 176 F, then don’t stir until temp gets to 230 F. Put egg whites into a clean bowl and start whisking on full speed. When the syrup gets to 246 F, remove the pan from heat and while the egg beater is still going, slowly pour a steady stream into the whites. Keep whisking until it looks glossy and is a little cooled down, then use right away.

Put meringue into a frosting bag and fit with an open rosette pipetter, and pipe a layer in a flowery pattern on to the top of each half, stacking them up so it looks like an ice cream sandwich. A beautiful ice cream sandwich. Torch the meringue so the lines get better defined.

Wow the masses.

It went great with Easter. Also these napkins mom sent.

The cake tasted especially rewarding after the Crescent City Classic. Selfies with Mr. T (on the course) to follow…

Also, big thanks to Sterling Epicure for a complimentary copy of this book.

Gouda Friday Savory Pancakes

A delicious Good Friday morning. Squash blossoms yawning open with the sunrise. Hot coffee and fat buttermilk gouda pancakes with a side of crackling bacon. The nest thick three chickens deep; a solo clarinet issuing “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” from a radio hitched to the coop (I believe the ladies are urged along in their egg laying when serenaded with Southern gospel). Sandaled feet kicked up on a lattice creeping with vine; I meet the morning without ceremony, hair wild and undone, donning broken grease-smeared sunglasses and a draw-string muumuu. Clouds blink out the sun as they laze their way across a blue sky.

The raised bed in a bath tub is starting to overflow after three weeks of rain and sunshine.

Gosh. A day off never wears out its welcome.

On this holyday, pancakes as thick as English muffins to spurn quiet reflection. May the sunset tonight on the noble accomplishment of nothing.

Gouda Friday Savory Pancakes (such an awful pun)

Adapted from Martha Stewart Living

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

2 large eggs, room temperature

1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk, room temperature

2 tablespoons safflower oil, plus more for skillet

1 cup shredded gouda (2 1/2 ounces)

3 scallions, thinly sliced (1/2 cup), plus more for serving

Crisp-cooked bacon and Greek yogurt, for serving

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and 1 teaspoon salt in a bowl. Add eggs, buttermilk, and oil; whisk until just moistened. (Do not overmix; a few small lumps are fine.) Fold in cheese and scallions.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium. Drizzle skillet with oil; rub with a paper towel to evenly coat. Cooking in batches, ladle 1/4 cup batter per pancake into skillet, spreading in an even circle. Cook until edges begin to set and undersides are golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip; cook until golden and crisp, 2 to 3 minutes more. Top with more scallions, bacon, yogurt, and pepper; serve.

The habit of gardening helps remind the gardener of how much can be accomplished in the world without you, growth and change in places you neglect to watch.

Happy Spring, from just us chickens.