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Chef JoAnna is one of the original Los Angeles food blog writers. She started blogging before she enrolled in culinary school, but when school ended she decided that blog had to go. She started ChefBlog to transition from student to professional, and has been blogging about her Personal Chef and Catering gigs regularly (more or less) since then. Now residing in Prospect, TN, JoAnna is working on her new gig, MockingbirdAcres.com

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May 10, 2011

Book Review: Sara Foster's Southern Kitchen

I think it's safe to say that most Italian girls who grew up in Chicago aren't known for their fried chicken, cornbread or slow-cooked greens. Even in culinary school, we only spent a few weeks of our American Regional Cuisine class on "The South", but since moving to Tennessee I've immersed myself in local foods and learning how to prepare them correctly. My cornbread recipe used to come from the side of the cardboard canister the cornmeal came in, and was baked in a 8x8 pyrex baking dish. I've since found an all-corn recipe that asks for bacon grease, not butter, and tweaked it a little. I grind local popcorn into a fine cornmeal with my NutriMill. I add buttermilk instead of water, and I don't include sugar. It's baked in a pre-heated cast-iron pan, for exactly 17 minutes, and comes out perfectly every time. This is not the light & fluffy cake-like cornbread at Cracker Barrel, but one of the contractors who worked on our house grew up around here, and he said my cornbread was as good as his mom's. That's good enough for me!

Book Review: Sara Foster's Southern Kitchen
Sara Foster's Southern Kitchen

I recently received Sara Foster's Southern Kitchen cookbook. Her cornbread recipe includes both all-purpose flour and sugar. I've yet to make Foster's version, since I'm still recovering from Sunday's carb-loaded Chicken-and-Waffles extravaganza (I made cornbread to sop up the pot likker from the collard greens - YUM!)

As someone who cooks professionally, I really treat cookbooks like textbooks. The first thing i do is skip through to the back. The introductions are often hackneyed and full of trite old saws like "everything but the squeal" (yeah, really). The recipes themselves will prove themselves out eventually, as you try them. What you find when you turn to the last few pages of a cookbook are the things your author deems necessary for reference as you work. This information tells you a lot about the attitude and spirit of a cookbook.

Foster includes a section called "Must-Haves", which mentions covered casserole dishes, a cake stand and a deviled-egg plate. She writes "It may not seem like it today, but for Southern ladies of my mother's generation, for whom entertaining was paramount, serving dishes like this really do qualify as essential kitchen equipment. I agree that presentation is important, and I do confess to owning two deviled-egg serving dishes of my own (I cater, so I own at least two of everything, no matter what!) so I guess that if you are trying to emulate a proper Southern food experience, get yourself to a church rummage sale and get your hands on a deviled-egg dish.

"Pantry Essentials" lists two dozen ingredients that can southernize any meal, and nine of them derive from pork. I wonder, though -- don't most food-obsessed people keep a jar for bacon grease to use in other recipes? I wouldn't have thought of of that as a 'Southern thing'!

Another surprise was she didn't include smoked hog jowl, which I include in beans, greens and whatever else needs a meaty unctuous layer of flavor. If you go nuts over Italian guanicale, consider smoked jowl its country cousin: a touch less refined but still very pleasant company to keep.

Among the non-porcine essentials are Sorghum, Pecans, and the ubiquitous Pepper Vinegar which is, in fact, so ubiquitous that Foster also uses "ubiquitous" in its description. There are several recipes included in the book for most of the condiments she lists, so you can try your hand at making your own chow-chow and pimiento cheese.

If you're not a cooking-type foodie, but the gourmand-type foodie that reads a cookbook as prose instead of an instruction manual you might be interested in the section called "Sources". As you're reading this online, you've certainly conquered the world-wide-web, so even if you're on dialup, you can easily find local vendors that can sell you boudin, sorghum and grits. If you are lazy or woefully inept at research, Foster provides a list of companies willing to package & ship their delicacies to your home, should you find yourself in the unlucky predicament that your home isn't here in the South.

Now on to the recipes. As I mentioned above, many of them seem sound at first glance. The photos are positively lickable, and since I'm typing this at half past noon and I've not yet had lunch, it's a bit of a struggle to keep from doing exactly that.

Here's what's on my must-make list:
  • Sweet Potato Refrigerator Rolls Homemade breads are always yummy, and this has an interesting twist.
  • Summer Squash Casserole I can eat egg and cheese in any combination, any time.
  • Pork Rillettes This looks like a delight, and I haven't made Rillettes in a long time
  • Creamy Grits with Roasted Butternut Squash and Blue Cheese I've got a lone squash remaining from the Nashville farmer's market and some gorgonzola, so this should come together quickly.
I would have been thrilled to try the recipe Foster includes for guinea hen, had any of the 21 keets I tried to raise stuck around long enough to harvest, but they flew off and became wild. I guess I'll have to be content with a store-bought guinea for my plate, and cherish the times when my prodigal keets wander back to visit the pond for a drink.

Follow me on twitter! @chefjoanna

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December 30, 2010

Collard Greens & Pork Soup


2 ounces salt pork or pork jowl, cut into 1/4" x 1/4" x 1" strips
     Place a 6 qt stock pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.
     Fry the salt pork for a few minutes to release fat & liquid.
     The pork bits are called "lardons". Remove & reserve.
3 pork chops (bone in preferred!)
     sear chops on both sides. allow to cool. Remove bones & reserve bones & meat.
1 large onion, large dice (3/4 inch)
2 ribs celery, diced
2 large carrots, diced
     add, saute until onion is translucent
2 cloves garlic
     add, stir in well, don't let it get too dark
2 large bunches of collard greens, well-washed, shredded* (or 2 bags chopped, pre-washed)
     stir in chopped greens, until wilted
3-4 quarts fresh water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
     add just enough water to cover the contents of the pot.
     Add half of the lardons.
     Also add the bones from the pork chops, if there were any.
     Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for at least 30 minutes. The amount of time will vary with how young & tender the greens were to start with.
     Test for doneness of greens - they should be very tender!
1 (15 ounce) can navy beans, drained, rinsed **
     Remove bones from the soup
     Dice the reserved pork chops, and add to the soup.
     Stir in beans, and heat through, approx 5 more minutes.

Ladle the soup into bowls, sprinkle a few crispy lardons on top, and a drizzle of 3-2-1 sauce. Serve with crusty bread or fresh cornbread.

3-2-1 sauce
1 tablespoon of prepared red chili. I like the Lee Kum Kee stuff that comes in 4 oz jars.
2 tablespoon brown sugar
3 tablespoon cider vinegar
mix together & serve with soup.

JoAnna Minneci, http://ChefJoAnna.com/

* lay out leaves flat, use a knife to cut out ribs, then arrange into layers. Roll up into a huge cigar shape, and cut cigar lengthwise down the middle. Stack the two sides and slice into 1/2" strips.

** of course you can soak and simmer your own dried beans, but I'd be so proud of you if you made soup in the first place I can forgive you for opening a can of prepared beans. <3 Technorati Tags: Chef JoAnna is a and who's starting a in

June 21, 2010

where ya been?

I don't do stuff like foursquare or brightkite , but if i did, you'd have seen me checking in from some interesting places of the past three weeks!

Kelly's work took him to Salzburg, Austria... but we opted to make a vacation out of it, since his airfare would be paid for. We went to Frankfurt, Germany for two days, took a train through Munich to Salzburg, Austria spent a week there, and then took another train through Innsbruck, and went to Verona, Italy for another week. Finally, we took a quick train to Milan for a day, before flying out from Malpensa, IT.

Kelly and I drove to Atlanta to fly out of the airport there, so we could get a direct flight. Four hours in the car wins easily over several hours trapped in an airport trying to make a connecting flight! The bonus, of course, is that Atlanta is also the home of the closest IKEA I got to get some more stuff for my kitchen there.

My camera suffered from the curse of the Duomo in milan (the one snapshot of the famous church was the last my camera ever recorded!) and although it was a great camera, I imagine it will be more expensive to repair it than replace it. The photos are safe, tho, on removable media.

Now that we're home, though, I'm eager to settle in and start doing cooking lessons and working on the restaurant. As soon as i get a camera that works again, I'll upload the whole journal and the corresponding photo & video. We ate well, and looking at photos & reading my descriptions will be a good way to experience that again, without the calories!

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May 04, 2010

Mockingbird Acres: New photos! Virtual open house!

Hi, everyone!

Despite the rain and tornado watches, the open house did actually take place on May 1st.

(by the way, we’re far enough south from Nashville that we’re not suffering any effects of flooding at all, not to mention we’re at quite an elevation up here.)

I’ve finally taken photos of the dining room, including the newest addition, “Cabinetzilla Jr.”   Consider this a virtual open house... Please take a peek and let me know what you think!  




If you’d like invite others to receive these updates, let them know they can be on our mailing list by sending a message to subscribe@mockingbirdacres.com  Alternatively, if you want to stop receiving these messages, just send an e-mail to UNsubscribe@mockingbirdacres.com

January 31, 2010

Photos of the ice storm, as seen from Prospect, TN

Hi, everyone!

We’ve survived the weather here, luckily not having to endure any power outages or lack of telephone service.

Today the sun is shining brightly, and the sparkling ice lining every single pine needle, twig and branch is catching the light and making a gorgeous display.  

Kelly just blogged about it, including some photos of the ice storm, as seen from our house.



January 24, 2010

[[ Mockingbird Acres ]] It's too early to get eggs!

Kelly’s written a new blog entry, so here’s a reminder to check out the blog.

By the way, I’m not sure if I’d posted an announcement to this in a while, so you might scroll back and read a few earlier entries.


Hope you’re all well!


P. S.    If you’d like invite others to receive these updates, let them know they can be on our mailing list by sending a message to subscribe@mockingbirdacres.com

Alternatively, if you want to stop receiving these messages, just send an e-mail to UNsubscribe@mockingbirdacres.com

November 26, 2009

[Mockingbird Acres] and then there were seven...

Happy Thanksgiving!  

Kelly’s added a story to our blog:  http://MockingbirdAcres.blogspot.com   (As always, comments are welcomed & appreciated!)  

We had our neighbors and their daughter over for dinner the other night, so the dining room got closer to ‘done’ than it’s ever been.  I will post some photos to flickr, and update them on blog over the weekend, so keep a lookout for another post like this one.

We’re going to have our official grand opening in just a few months, so keep 4/24/10 open (it’s the last Saturday in April).

Here’s where you can find Mockingbird Acres online:
TWITTER:  http://twitter.com/mockingbirdtn
FACEBOOK:   http://www.facebook.com/pages/Prospect/Mockingbird-Acres/165180113434
GOOGLE GROUPS: http://groups.google.com/group/mockingbirdacres

Friend us!  Follow us!  Web 2.0 your little heart out!

Hugs and good wishes to everyone!


November 21, 2009

[Mockingbird Acres] Floors and doors and cabinets, oh my!

The blog has been updated!

And very exciting – a VIDEO!

November 07, 2009

New post at Mockingbird Acres Blog

Floors! (YAY!)
        Ladybugs! (boo!)
                Gravel! (YAY!)
                        Siding! (YAY!)
                                Ice Cream! (YAY!)

4 out of 5 YAYs isn't too shabby...


October 23, 2009

FW: [Mockingbird Acres] Falling Into Autumn

Kelly blogs about our new floor plan, insulation installation and a rescued turtle, using more puns than you can shake a stick at.


(Added Friday, October 23, 2009 7:23 PM)