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Stuffed Vidalia Onions

From Savannah Seasons: Food and Stories from Elizabeth on 37th by Elizabeth Terry

6 medium onions (Vidalia, Walla Walla, or Texas Sweets)
1/4 cup butter, melted
Salt and fresh cracked pepper
2 cups minced reserved onion centers (see instructions) 1 pound bulk spicy sausage
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
2 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh sage
3/4 cup grated white raw-milk Cheddar cheese

Lemon Butter Sauce:
1 tablespoon virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced shallot (optional)
1/4 cup white drinking wine or dry white vermouth
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup heavy cream
6 tablespoons cubed, cold, unsalted butter

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Peel the onions, cut 1 inch from each end, and scoop out the centers with a sharp-edged spoon. Mince and reserve the centers for the stuffing.

3. Place the onions in a shallow baking dish, and drizzle with the melted butter and salt and pepper. Pour boiling water into the dish until it is about halfway up the onions.

4. Cover with a lid or foil, and bake for 30 minutes, until the onions are tender. Remove carefully from the water so the onions do not come apart. Drain, and set on a buttered baking sheet.

5. In a medium skillet over high heat, combine the minced onion centers and the sausage. Stir and saute to break up and brown the sausage, about 5 minutes. Drain and discard the fat, and then toss the sausage mixture with the orange zest, herbs, and 1/4 cup of the cheese.

6. Spoon the stuffing into the cavity of each onion, sprinkle with the remaining cheese, and return to the oven to heat and melt the cheese, about 5 minutes.

7. To prepare the Lemon Butter Sauce: In a small saute pan over high heat, combine and simmer the olive oil, garlic, shallot, white wine, lemon peel and lemon juice. Reduce to about 2 tablespoons, add the cream, and reduce again to 4 tablespoons. (This happens very quickly, so do not leave the pan.)

8. Reduce the heat to medium and whisk in the butter, 1 piece at a time, until all the butter is melted and the sauce is thick. This will take no longer than a minute.

9. Strain the sauce. This sauce must be kept warm until used or it will separate. Keep it in a Thermos or over a pan of hot water for up to 2 hours before serving.

10. Serve with Lemon Butter Sauce spooned onto each plate.

Serves 6.

Spicy Roast Duck with Crispy Noodles and Cashews (Yam Pet Yang)

From The Thai Table: A Celebration of Culinary Treasures
Originally by Philippa Kingsley, Marshall Cavendish

When Philippa Kingsley decamped to Atlanta, Georgia, from her former home in the Hague (Dutch taste buds were never quite the same again), she did not miss a single “fiddle dee dee” cooking Thai food in America’s deep South. She pops up every so often in local food magazines and is very active on the Board of the Thai Association of Georgia.

For this recipe, roasting the bird is straightforward enough, and there are various ways to do this, depending on taste. And fear not: The sky will not fall if you purchase a ready-roasted duck or a portion of breast, as it saves effort and time. However, Kingsley urges the cook to start from scratch.

6 duck breasts
7 ounces dried egg noodles
Cooking oil for deep-frying
1 red onion, peeled and finely sliced
1 handful of mint leaves
1 handful of coriander leaves
3 1/2 ounces of unsalted roasted cashew nuts

1 cup lime juice
8 tablespoons northern chilli paste
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar

1. Wash duck breasts, then pat dry with paper towels.

2. Preheat oven to 475°F for 15 minutes. Fill a deep baking dish with 2 1/2 cups cold water. Place a roasting rack over baking dish, and arrange duck breasts on top. Roast duck for 20 to 30 minutes. Duck meat should be cooked to medium-well done. Remove, and leave to cool. Cut into thin slices.

3. Combine ingredients for marinade in a mixing bowl, and mix well. Place duck slices in to steep in the marinade for 1 hour, then drain, and set aside for 1 hour. Again, drain, and set aside.

4. Separate noodle strands, using your hands to break them up into short lengths. Heat oil over medium heat, and deep-fry noodles until crisp and golden brown. Remove, and drain well.

5. Arrange crispy noodles on a serving dish, and arrange marinated duck slices on top. Serve garnished with red onion, spring onions, mint and coriander leaves, and cashew nuts.

Serves 6.

Chicken and Dumplings

From Atlanta Kitchens: Recipes from Atlanta’s Best Restaurants
Originally from the kitchen of Cakes & Ale, Gibbs Smith

Cakes & Ale—the hip little Decatur haven for farm-to-table foodies—offers a European-inspired twist to this Southern classic. The dumplings are actually the little potato-y dough puffs known in Italy as gnocchi.

Potato Dumplings:
2 large russet or baking potatoes
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1 small egg or 1/2 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup “00” flour (may substitute all-purpose flour)
Rice flour, to dust
2 tablespoons butter

1 (2 1/2-pound) chicken
4 quarts chicken broth
1 large bay leaf
3 tablespoons butter, divided
1 carrot, diced
1 cup diced young turnip
1 rib celery, diced
1 onion, diced
1/4 cup salt
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup fresh black-eyed peas
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1/4 pound wild mushrooms
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. To make the dumplings, cover the potatoes with water in a saucepan, and boil until the potatoes are easily pierced with a knife, about 25 minutes. Remove from the water, and let steam for 2 minutes. It is important to make the dough while the potatoes are still hot. Hold the hot potatoes in a towel with one hand, and carefully remove the peels. Puree through a food mill or ricer onto a clean counter. Flatten the potato to make a circle about 1/2-inch-thick. Sprinkle evenly with the salt, and rub the egg over the surface. Evenly cover the surface of the potatoes with the “00” flour. Gently knead the dough until well combined, and shape into a large log, 3 to 4 inches in diameter. Let rest 5 minutes.

2. To prepare the chicken, put the chicken into a large pot, cover with the broth, and add a bay leaf. Bring to a boil, and skim off any impurities that rise to the surface. Turn off the heat, cover the pot, and leave the chicken for 1 hour.

3. Remove the chicken from the pot, and strain the poaching liquid. (Reserve 4 cups for this recipe.) When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove all chicken meat from the bones and set aside.

4. While the chicken is being poached, dust a sheet pan with rice flour.

5. Cut the dough into pieces 2 inches in length and roll each piece into a rope about 1/2 inch in diameter. Cut into dumplings approximately 1 inch long with pastry cutter. Sprinkle with a little rice flour, and gently toss to coat. Place on the prepared sheet pan.

6. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan, and add the carrot, turnip, celery, onion, and salt. Saute 3 to 5 minutes, until vegetables are limp. Add the flour and stir until vegetables are coated. Add the reserved poaching liquid, and bring to a boil; skim fat from the surface. Simmer 15 to 20 minutes, until the liquid is thick.

7. To blanch the black-eyed peas, bring 2 quarts salted water to a rapid boil, add the peas, and cook until tender, about 20 minutes.

8. Heat a saute pan to very hot, and add the vegetable oil. Add the mushrooms and the remaining butter. Cook 5 minutes, until slightly brown.

9. Add the mushrooms, thyme, chicken, black-eyed peas, and cream to the simmering vegetable mixture. Heat through. Add the parsley, tarragon, lemon zest, and salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm.

10. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Melt 2 tablespoons butter, and pour into a bowl. Add the dumplings to the boiling water, and cook only until they rise to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon, and put in the bowl with the butter. Toss to coat, and sprinkle with salt.

11. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

12. Pour the chicken mixture into 8 small or 1 large casserole dish. Cover the chicken with dumplings and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake 10 to 15 minutes, until the top is slightly brown. Serve hot.

Serves 8.

Old-School Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya

From Real Cajun: Rustic Home Cooking from Donald Link’s Louisiana by Donald Link, Clarkson Potter

In my opinion, there are two types of jambalaya: Cajun and Creole. The main difference is that, in the Creole version, the rice is cooked in a tomatoey sauce, and the recipe might include shrimp along with meat and sausage.

The Cajun approach is simpler and more rustic. I prefer the way the chicken and sausage flavor blend into the rice, creating a dish with a robust meaty flavor. Searing and caramelizing the meat and onions develops colors and deeply browned flavors. Reducing the chicken broth adds that unique saltiness that you just can’t achieve by adding salt. I call it the MSG effect.

Just about every funeral I’ve been to has had some version of this style of jambalaya, usually served in a tin roasting pan with aluminum foil on top. This dish becomes even more flavorful after it sits for a while, and it’s delicious at room temperature.

Be sure to add the vegetable trimmings for the chicken broth.

1 (3 1/2- to 4-pound) chicken, roasted
2 medium onions, 1 quartered, 1 diced small
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 pound smoked sausage, diced
2 tablespoons butter
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced
2 small jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced
1 bunch scallions (white and light green parts), thinly sliced
3 celery stalks, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon Donnie’s Spice Mix
2 teaspoons salt
5 bay leaves
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 1/2 cups long-grain rice, rinsed

Donnie’s Spice Mix:
2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon ground white pepper
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
4 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder

1. Pick all the meat from the chicken (discard skin) and use your hands to shred it into pieces, or chop into medium pieces, as you prefer. Save all the juice and fat from the roasting pan (or container) as well and set aside; refrigerate chicken until needed.

2. Place the carcass, quartered onion, and vegetable trimmings into a large pot to make broth. Add 10 cups of water, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for about 1 hour. Strain the broth, and discard solids. You should have about 6 cups.

3. Heat the oil in a medium cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, and add the sausage. Sear until the sausage starts to color. Parts of the sausage will begin to stick to the pan. When there is a good coating stuck to the pan, pour in 1/4 cup chicken broth, and scrape it loose. Let this cook until all the liquid has evaporated. Transfer the sausage to a plate, and set aside.

4. Return the pan to the heat, and add the butter. When it melts, add the diced onion, and cook about 10 minutes, until a nice deep brown color. About halfway through, the onion should start to stick to the pan; deglaze with 1/4 cup chicken broth, and let this reduce until the skillet is dry (or au sec, as they say in French kitchens). When the onion starts to stick again, add 1/2 cup broth; when this is almost gone, add the bell peppers, jalapeños, scallions, celery, garlic, spice mix, salt, bay leaves, oregano, and tomato paste. Cook the vegetables for 10 minutes, stirring often, until they start to stick to the skillet. Deglaze with another 1/4 cup broth and reduce again until dry, then add the shredded chicken, 1 cup broth, and the juices from the chicken, and reduce again by half.

5. Transfer the vegetable mixture to a heavy-bottomed pot, and add the rice and the remaining 4 cups broth. You want this mixture to have plenty of room, so the rice will cook more evenly. Cook, covered, over low heat for 40 minutes.

6. Remove pot from the heat, and keep covered for 10 minutes more. If the rice seems unevenly cooked, leave this lid on a little longer, and it will even out. When jambalaya is done, transfer to a casserole dish and serve. (If you leave it in the pot, it will overcook.)

Serves 6 to 8.

Southeastern Ski Scoop

Cataloochee Ski Area, NC cataloochee.com Just three and a half hours northeast of Atlanta, Cataloochee is ideal for a weekend trip. Sixteen slopes cater to a mix of skill levels, indicated by names such as “Upper Omigosh” or “Over Easy.” Beginners will benefit from the ski school, while more advanced visitors can navigate the Cat Cage terrain park. Lodging in surrounding Maggie Valley ranges from inexpensive motels to spacious cabins.
PRO A dedicated snowmaking team keeps the mountain open from early November to late March—a respectable Southern season.
CON “When the skiing’s good, it’s going to be crowded,” says Ann Christenson, a longtime member of the Atlanta Ski Club and weekend ski patroller at Cataloochee.

Sugar Mountain Resort, NC skisugar.com State-of-the-art snowmaking and a five-hour drive make Sugar another great weekend destination. With twenty trails and a vertical drop of 1,200 feet, it offers the most skiable acres in the state—plus a terrain park, tubing, and ice-skating. Rent a slopeside condo or chalet, or stay in one of nearby Banner Elk’s homespun B&Bs. Last October, the winner of the town’s Woolly Worm Festival (think Groundhog Day for caterpillars) predicted a cold winter.
PRO Lots of blue and green runs for beginners plus a magic carpet for easy uphill transport.
CON Same as Cataloochee: The mountain can get congested. Avoid holiday weekends.

The Homestead, VA thehomestead.com Located eight and a half hours away in historic Hot Springs, this mountain resort pre-dates the Revolutionary War. Besides the grand Georgian-style hotel and usual resort offerings (golf, tennis, a spa fed by the area’s famous thermal springs), the Homestead boasts nine meticulously groomed ski runs, two tubing lanes, a terrain park, and an Olympic-size skating rink. Snowmobile tours and carriage rides further illuminate the grounds.
PRO Luxurious accommodations and plenty of diversions for nonskiers.
CON It’s more “ahhh” than adrenaline rush.

Snowshoe Mountain, WV
snowshoemtn.com “When I lived in upstate New York, we drove down to Snowshoe to ski,” says Christenson of this more distant destination (about nine and a half hours from Atlanta), which features sixty downhill trails on three mountain faces, four terrain parks, and a 1,500-foot vertical drop. Atop the mountain is a “village” of hotels, condos, and chalets where you can open your door and hit the slopes—plus restaurants, a spa, and even a comedy club.
PRO Thanks to its nearly mile-high altitude, the mountain averages about 200 inches of natural snowfall per year.
CON Skiers may have to contend with blustery weather.

Photograph of Sugar Mountain Resort by Todd Bush, www.bushphoto.com

Pimento-Cheese Potato Gratin

From The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern by Matt Lee and Ted Lee

Pimento cheese, sometimes called the South’s “house pâté,” is a simple cheese spread made with extra-sharp cheddar, mayonnaise, and diced roasted red peppers. It’s a very mildly peppery blend straight from the midcentury, and it’s delicious on celery sticks, sandwiches, and hamburgers. Why not juice up a gratin with the peppery double hit of sweet roasted peppers and hot crushed red chile? We went into the test kitchen and developed this casserole that has dethroned our macaroni and cheese for the title of favorite cheesy dish in the house!

3 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 shallots, finely diced (scant 1/2 cup)
1/4 teaspoon crushed dried red chile flakes
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
One 9-ounce jar roasted red peppers or piquillo peppers, with their liquid
8 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated (about 2 cups)

1. Heat the oven to 375°F, with racks positioned in the middle and the top third of the oven.

2. In a 3- to 4-quart stockpot, bring 2 quarts water and 2 teaspoons of the salt to a boil. Add the potatoes, and cook for 10 minutes. Then drain, and set them aside.

3. Combine the cream, shallots, chile flakes, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, the black pepper, and 2 tablespoons of the liquid from the jar of roasted peppers in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer, and cook until the chile flakes have begun to stain the cream, about 2 minutes. Add half of the cheese and stir until it melts, about 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat.

4. Layer roughly a third of the potatoes in a 6-cup baking dish, overlapping them slightly so that they fit in an even layer. Scatter half of the roasted peppers on top of the potatoes (cut up any peppers that have remained whole so that they lie flat), and repeat layering potatoes and peppers until all the peppers and potatoes have been used. Pour the cream mixture over the potatoes and peppers, and agitate the dish to distribute the liquid throughout. Cover with aluminum foil, and bake on the middle rack for 15 minutes.

5. Uncover the dish, sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top, and place the dish on the top oven rack. Bake for 8 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and gently browned on top. Serve immediately.

Shrimp and Deviled-Egg Salad Rolls

From The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern by Matt Lee and Ted Lee

Think of these rolls as the Lowcountry cousin to lobster rolls—those uber-decadent (and expensive!) sandwiches of lobster morsels dressed with mayonnaise, lemon juice, and diced celery that get served in roadside joints up and down the New England coast in the summer. The idea here is simple: It’s a super-tasty deviled-egg salad with chopped shrimp folded in, loaded into a hot-dog bun, then garnished with bacon bits and scallions.

2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 pound headless large shell-on shrimp (26 to 30 per pound)
6 large eggs
2 ounces slab bacon, or 2 strips thick-cut bacon, finely diced
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons high-quality store-bought mayonnaise, such as Hellmann’s or Duke’s
1 tablespoon pepper-vinegar hot sauce, such as Tabasco
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Freshly ground black pepper
2 vine-ripened red tomatoes, cut into 8 slices total
4 leaves butter lettuce
4 top-loading hot-dog buns
2 scallions (white and green parts), finely sliced

1. Fill a large stockpot with about 2 quarts water and 2 teaspoons of the salt, and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove the pot from the head, add the shrimp, and cook (off the heat) for 1 to 2 minutes, until the shrimp are pink-orange and slightly firm. Using a slotted spoon or a skimmer, transfer the shrimp to a colander. Rinse them under cold water until they are cool enough to handle.

2. Return the shrimp water to a boil and then reduce the heat to low so the water simmers calmly. Add the eggs gently, lowering them to the bottom, two at a time, with a large ladle. Let the eggs cook at a simmer for exactly 14 minutes.

3. While the eggs cook, peel and chop the shrimp and put them in a large bowl. Saute the bacon in a skilled over medium-high heat until it is firm and just turning golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel to drain.

4. When the eggs are done, transfer them to a strainer and rinse under cold water until they’re cool enough to handle, about 2 minutes. Peel the eggs, and cut them in half lengthwise. Separate the whiles from the yolks. Coarsely chop the egg whites, and add them to the bowl with the chopped shrimp. Press the yolks through a mesh strainer into a medium bowl. Add the mayonnaise, hot sauce, mustard, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt to the yolks and whisk until the mixture has the consistency of cake batter, about 1 minute.

5. Using a rubber spatula, fold the yolk mixture into the shrimp mixture until the shrimp and egg whites are evenly coated with the deviled-egg dressing. Season with salt and pepper, and toss again. (Covered, the shrimp and deviled-egg salad will keep in the refrigerator for 2 days.)

6. To serve, load 2 slices of tomato and 1 leaf of lettuce into each of the top-loading buns, and spread 3/4 to 1 cup of the shrimp and deviled-egg salad into each roll. Garnish each roll liberally with the reserved diced bacon and the scallions.

Beauty School: Five Facials Under $50

Fabu Face Spa
Photograph by Caroline Kilgore

Rejuvenate Spa’s Minifacial, $20 (Wednesdays only, cash only) The spa caters to Downtown workers on the go, and on hump-day you can snag this treatment (normally $50) for a song. It includes a cleanse, steam, exfoliation, a mask, and hydration with all-organic products. The esthetician even taught our tester how to make similar concoctions at home. 303 Peachtree Center Avenue, Suite AL-112, 404-577-4877, rejuvenatespas.com

Float Spa’s Minifacial, $35 ($21 for members) This tidy, earthy spot in Inman Park bills itself as “the affordable spa experience.” The minifacial saw us cleansed, exfoliated, masked, and moisturized with products by local line Silky Smooth Urban Oasis, and we emerged softer, cleaner, and—in a welcome twist—fit for public appearance. 240 North Highland Avenue, Suite F, 404-228-4423, floatforvalue.com

Fabu Face Spa’s Men’s Fitness Facial, $45
Inside a cozy, pale blue treatment room, our tester received a daily cleanser from the Jack Black product line, a papaya- and pumpkin-enzyme exfoliating mask of Fabu’s own invention, a carrot vitamin mask, herbal toner, and Jack Black SPF 20 moisturizer—plus plenty of hot towels and gentle massages. Bliss. 335 West Ponce de Leon Avenue, Suite E, Decatur, 404-377-6363, fabufacespa.com

Jazmin Spa’s Hydra Flash Facial, $45 The regimen features a precleanse, cleanse, exfoliation, and colloidal mask using only Dermalogica products. By the end we felt so warm and tingly we didn’t want to move. The best endorsement? Getting an unsolicited compliment on our complexion later in the day. Three intown locations, including 506 Moreland Avenue, Suite B, 404-521-3002, jazminspa.com

Invigo Spa’s Minifacial, $45
(15 percent discount for members) Our experience consisted of a cleanse, enzyme peeling cream, a high-frequency wand to zap bacteria, and a gel mask, plus intermittent hand, shoulder, and head massages. We loved the crisp, citrusy scent of the Pevonia Botanica skin care line as well as the smooth morning-after results. 2550 Sandy Plains Road, Suite 125, Marietta, 678-905-7377, invigodayspa.com

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