I started writing this post over a month ago. Since then I have started and stopped quite a few times. Then I just stopped. And stared. Nothing. Then I started again, but didn't know where to take it. I wasn't sure why. Normally once I start something, anything, I stay right with it until I finish. But this one is different. Change is afoot.
Like many writers, I often grapple with how much, or how little, to expose about myself here. To you. I like to talk, I like to tell stories, I like to share. It helps me process. It helps me see. I used to be religious about writing in my journals, almost excessively some days. In a sense, this has become my journal. The big difference is there is now an audience. An audience with reactions I cannot gauge while I 'talk'. For the most part I keep things on the lighter side, but I assure you that this voice is mine and mine alone. If you met me, that would be clear within moments. This voice is more disciplined, however, and part of an identity I am able to control.
Here I tell you about me, but within the framework of food and within the realm of my kitchen, or, perhaps, someone else's kitchen. I will tell you about Fred, or Besito, or anecdotes about any number of members of my family and certainly friends that come in and out of the spotlight at any particular time. And from all of that, and the years we've known one another, I can imagine you have gleaned quite a bit about me.
I have been hinting about some big news and I'm finally ready to tell you about it. At the end of September, after twelve years in the City of Angels I will be moving back home. And by home I mean Richmond, Virginia. I will not be alone, however. My love, Fred and our pups, Besito, Eduardo and our newest addition, Byron, will all be moving together. Our little family is going to join my Richmond family and the horizon is enormous.
I am not sure if you knew this, because I know I've never told you, but I have owned a dog walking business for the past decade. It has been quite successful and very good to me. This business has been the most solid, consistent, dependable and reliable thing I have known during my life in Los Angeles.
So, at almost forty years old, I am selling my business and am moving clear across the country. To do what? I'm not entirely certain, but the idea is a lot more of this. Writing. Cooking. Eating. Food. Recipes. Pictures. With Fred.
And there you have it.
I feel a little bit naked now. But good naked.
One very, very fun and exciting part of all of this is the actual journey. We will be driving and taking our time. Specifically, this will be a culinary journey from California to Virginia with a huge focus on the South. In the cities where we don't know people, we hope to rely on folks we know via social media to assist us in finding our next meal, or interview, or as Fred wants to do, a place for us to cook with locals; both home and professional chefs, and in both homes and restaurants. Part of the thrill of our cross country trip is the serendipity involved. We know that we will have food adventure and discovery that we are not even aware of at this moment. The best part is that we will be documenting everything as we go along.
I hope all of you get involved. Tell us where to go and what to eat. Better yet, if our paths cross, let us meet! And cook! And eat! Let's all do this together, shall we?
And, OMG, what should our hashtag be?!
In honor of this post I thought long and hard about what dish to share with y'all. Fred suggested I make something I've never made before, in the spirit of the unknown road ahead (very Robert Frost of him). I wanted to do something that represents what is happening with food here in LA then and now, so to speak, and food that signifies where I'm from and where I'm going: The South.
I settled on what I will call a Low Country Benedict: fried green tomatoes with Smithfield ham, poached eggs and a pimiento cheese hollandaise. Oddly, I have never made fried green tomatoes. And this summer my fecund garden is bursting with tomatoes – red, yellow, orange and green. When I think of eggs Benedict I think of the LA from the eighties, think LA Story and people lingering over coffee, mimosas and bloody marys and fancy, bougie French fare wearing sunglasses, white linen and big hats. That said, southern food is so, so, very, very en vogue here in LA (and everywhere) right now. Think Willie Jane and The Hart and the Hunter's entire menu, , A-Frame's fried chicken picnic, Son of a Gun's pimiento cheese with Ritz crackers,Lucques' annual rib-fest, everyone's deviled eggs, and so on. And perhaps most obviously, fried green tomatoes are, and have been for quite some time, very prominent in the south.
And so without further ado...
Fried Green Tomato Benedict with Smithfield Ham & Pimiento Cheese Hollandaise
Makes 4 servings
4 thin slices of Smithfield ham
2 tablespoons chopped chives, for garnish
2 teaspoons white or rice vinegar
4 large slices of fried green tomatoes
Salt & freshly cracked pepper
Pimiento Cheese Hollandaise
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
4 egg yolks
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 teaspoons powdered cheddar cheese (found in your standard mac n' cheese package)
1 4 ounce jar of pimientos, chopped
Dash of cayenne or tabasco
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
Salt to taste
Start with the fried green tomatoes. Recipe below. Once they're cooked, keep them in the oven on warm until you're ready to assemble the dish.
Next bring a large saucepan two-thirds-filled with water to a boil, then add the vinegar. Bring the water to a boil again, then lower the heat to a bare simmer.
Make the pimiento cheese hollandaise. Vigorously whisk together egg yolks and lemon juice in a stainless steel bowl until the mixture is thickened and doubled in volume. Place the bowl over a saucepan containing barely simmering water (or use a double boiler); the water should not touch the bottom of the bowl. Continue to whisk rapidly. Be careful not to let the eggs get too hot or they will scramble. Slowly drizzle in the melted butter and continue to whisk until the sauce is thickened and doubled in volume. Remove from heat, whisk in powdered cheese a teaspoon at a time, Worcestershire sauce and cayenne. Stir in the pimientos. Cover and place in a warm spot until ready to use for the eggs Benedict. If the sauce gets too thick, whisk in a few drops of warm water before serving. Salt to taste
Poach the eggs. Here is an easy method for poaching eggs. Essentially, working one egg at a time, crack an egg into a small bowl and slip into the barely simmering water. Once it begins to solidify, slip in another egg, until you have all four cooking. Turn off the heat, cover the pan, and let sit for 4 minutes. (Remember which egg went in first, you'll want to take it out first.) When it comes time to remove the eggs, gently lift out with a slotted spoon. Note that the timing is a little variable on the eggs, depending on the size of your pan, how much water, how many eggs, and how runny you like them. You might have to experiment a little with your set-up to figure out what you need to do to get the eggs exactly the way you like them.
Gently remove the eggs from the poaching water and set in a bowl.
To assemble the eggs Benedict, put two fried green tomatoes on each plate and top each with a thin slice of Smithfield ham. You can trim the ham to fit the tomato if you’d like. Put a poached egg on top of the ham, pour hollandaise over. Top with sprinkles of chives and fresh cracked black pepper. Serve at once.
Fried Green Tomatoes
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 medium-size green tomatoes, cut into 1/3-inch slices
Salt to taste
Combine egg and buttermilk; set aside.
Combine 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, cornmeal, 1 teaspoon salt, red pepper flakes, and pepper in a shallow bowl or pan.
Dredge tomato slices in remaining 1/4 cup flour; dip in egg mixture, and dredge in cornmeal mixture.
Pour oil/bacon dripping to a depth of 1/4 to 1/2 inch in a large cast-iron skillet; heat to 375°. Drop tomatoes, in batches, into hot oil, and cook 2 minutes on each side or until golden. Drain on paper towels or a rack. Sprinkle hot tomatoes with salt.