Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Culinary Diversion

I have procrastinated on delivering my promise of a post on Asheville, NC. However, I have a good and related excuse. I recently received a Biltmore House cookbook as a gift and was instantly intrigued by the complicated recipes and the traditional slow cooking methods. This is a no nonsense kind of cookbook in which some of the ingredients require separate recipes. Some dishes take a full day or more to prepare. Part of the appeal of travel for me is to experience different foods and ways of cooking that I might try to replicate back home. It's a way to extend and relive the journeys. This journey felt like one not only to another place, but to another time, when everything was made from scratch on a sustainable farm.

For those of you not familiar with the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, it is the largest home in America with 250 rooms that dates back to the 1800s, originally owned by George Vanderbilt. It is open to the public for tours and sampling of food and wines in the restaurants and the winery.

The Biltmore cookbook is divided by seasons. I decided to try to cook my way through the book. However, I'm not going to be a purist in this venture. I'm skipping recipes for ingredients that I don't care for, such as veal and duck. I just can't foresee spending the money on food that I dislike. And some of the recipes call for so much butter and sugar that I felt inclined to make some modifications. Still, the results of everything that I've cooked so far have been fabulous. I thought I would share some pictures and comments about the recipes.


Artichoke Crusted Salmon (pg. 108)
Brussel Sprouts with Vidalia Onions and Bacon (pg. 110)
Lemon Grits (pg. 104)

I fixed this meal for a dinner party and it was a big hit. The cookbook did not pair these recipes together, but I think the flavors blended so well that I'll replicate the same menu again.

Salmon: I had to alter this recipe because it called for crab in the artichoke topping and I'm allergic to shellfish. But it stands alone just fine between the artichokes, shallot, garlic, butter and cream cheese. I only made 4 salmon fillets, so I was left with extra topping to use on toast later. Next time I'll process this mixture less so that it will retain some artichoke chunks.

Brussel sprouts: These came out so tender and I think even those who avoid this vegetable would be won over by the bacon and caramelized onion topping. It is tricky not to overbrown the onions. I suggest cooking them longer on lower heat.

Lemon grits: Wow. Very tangy and creamy. The lemon flavor goes very well with fish. I'm not sure how much I would like it with other meats. The recipe calls for lemon zest and 2-3 lemons and 2 seems to be plenty of tang. It also needs enough pepper for balance, determined by taste testing. The mascarpone cheese makes it creamy, but its mild enough not to turn them into cheesy grits.

I also made a rustic apple tart (pg. 120), but we ate it before I remembered to take a picture. It was the second one I've made and I'll likely make another one soon, so I'll post the picture later. You make the dough from scratch and it makes for a pretty dessert. It's very artistic, but simple to make and goes great with whipped cream and some coffee.

Look for future posts on more Biltmore recipes as well as other "Travel Like a Local" guides coming soon.


Cindy said...

I'm not a fan of brussel sprouts but I might would try those if they have bacon with them. Anything is better with bacon!

ARH said...

I'm getting hungry just looking at your picture! You'll have to give me the recipe for the artichoke puree, I love artichokes!