Food Network Star Damaris Phillips Hits the Right Notes in Our Empty Nest

Got My Reservations 25 Days of Christmas 2013 Medium Button15 days until Christmas, and we’re making progress. How are you doing?

Over the last two weeks I have made two recipes from Damaris Phillips’s new show on the Food Network, entitled Southern At Heart. And they were both fabulous.

I’m going to be perfectly frank here; I was not convinced about Damaris when she won Food Network Star this year. Although I liked loved her unfiltered personality, I wasn’t sure that she had what it takes to join Alton, Giada, Ree, or even Guy (not my favorite) on her own show.

She has proven me wrong.


I like everything about the show. I like how she starts by visiting a local Louisville purveyor to get her special ingredient. I like the guys who have signed on to be taught to cook a special meal for their sweethearts. I like her sass and I like her recipes.

Recipes are where it’s at in the rundown to Christmas.

What is usable and what is not? If you are going to try something new that’s out of your traditional rut, where do you want to go?

Click into photo for recipe.

Beer Mac and Cheese. Click into photo for recipe.

We made the Beer Cheese and Mac and her Curry Cauliflower and Rice casserole in the last two weeks, and they were both winners in the empty nest. I highly recommend that you consider these recipes for your Christmas entertaining. Both have unexpected ingredients that take a familiar recipe to the next level, and that’s why I recommend them.

On the Christmas countdown tally sheet, we’ve ticked off some items. We set up the three new pillow top mattress sets in anticipation of the Christmas Gathering of the Clan, bought a paper towel holder (isn’t it always the mundane things that drive you crazy when people are working in your kitchen?), and talked to the visiting English chef/daughter’s boyfriend about the menu. He says he can make naan bread from scratch. Really??? I’m pretty sure I would buy it from my local Indian market — we live in Chicagoland and we are fortunate that there are actually Indian markets that are likely to be open on Christmas day, but I’m willing to let him do whatever he wants. That’s what I promised, a no-drama mama Christmas. 🙂

How are you doing on your preparations? Do you have your gifts purchased? I’m almost done with that as well; thank goodness for online shopping! Thanks for stopping by to see how Music Man and I are getting ready for Christmas in our empty nest.

Got my bags, got my reservations,
Spent each dime I could afford.
Like a child in wild anticipation,
I long to hear that, “All aboard!”

Music and lyrics by Bud Green, Les Brown and Ben Homer (1944)

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My Week with Julia: Roasted Chicken

Julia Child has been my summer obsession.

I’ve read several books related to Julia, and I started to actually cook from my mother-in-law’s copy of her cookbook. My most successful dish was also probably the easiest for the “servantless cook” to master — Poulet Rôti. Julia included multiple versions of roasted chicken in her various cookbooks and I will link up some recipes at the end of the post for you to try!

Although Julia appeared to be very laid back, I’m pretty sure she would not have approved of the one adaptation I made to her recipe.

I decided to use an upright roaster to drain off some of the fat from the chicken. I put the roaster in a larger pan to give it more stability and make it easier to handle and to catch any drippings that didn’t go into the little drip pan.

It came out of the oven with a glorious crispy skin and it was moist and delicious on the inside despite the upright roaster. Success!

I served the roasted chicken with corn on the cob and our favorite go-to summer dessert, fruit salad.

The web is full of recipes claiming to be Julia Child’s — this video is one of many. The guy drives me crazy when he calls the divine Mrs. C Julia Childs, but otherwise, it’s a good tutorial if you’ve never stuffed and roasted a chicken before.

While not exactly like Julia’s recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, this recipe is a simplified version and has the steps that Julia liked to use when she wrote cookbooks.

This recipe is from a 2000 edition of Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom and apparently Emeril used it on the Food Network when he cooked roast chicken.

The fun thing about getting to know my way around Mastering the Art of French Cooking is that it turns out Julia Child was right.

The servantless American cook CAN master French techniques if you just follow Julia’s instructions. She worked for ten years to create a foolproof book, and at least in the roasted chicken department, she succeeded.

Bon appétit!

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Provence Week: Two Food Network French Menus

Anchovies. I love them but many people want to “list them.”

Apparently I’ve been watching too much HGTV while I clean my house. I can’t decide if I love or hate Love It or List It. I’ve also been watching lots of Food Network since I can’t abide the thematic approach HGTV is taking with daytime programming. I miss Joan Steffend. Remember her?

Anchovies figure large in the recipes of the Provencal region because they are fished from the Mediterranean and are commonly used in bouillabaisse, pasta dishes, salad dressings, and toppings for breads.

The Food Network loves French cooking (or what purports to be French cooking).

Just this week there were two segments showing Ina Garten and Melissa Darabian making French meals. Although I haven’t yet made the full meals, they look relatively easy and something that I might attempt.

On the Ten Dollar Dinners show, Melissa Darabian presented a Provencal meal with a pizza, salad, and grilled pineapple. With the exception of the poached egg  (I don’t do runny eggs), this menu seems doable. And the pizza has anchovies on it, but I saw several different versions of Pissaladiere online, including this one which may also be vegan. I’m hoping that some of my friends actually want to eat this with me when I make it — will they love it or list it?

I couldn’t find a photo of Darabian’s pissaladiere, but this photo (Image Credit) is part of a blog story about a young man going to culinary school. Gorgeous photos of the food!

Our favorite Barefoot Contessa also created a French Bistro lunch in a segment airing this week. Her menu seemed within my ability to recreate and includes Roasted Butternut Squash, a French apple tart, and Sole Meuniere. No anchovies in these recipes, though. What initially caught my eye was how she set the outside table in anticipation of her French-inspired party.

So this gets us back to anchovies.

One of my summer goals is to learn how to make my favorite salad dressings at home with ingredients I can control. I watched Ina make Caesar Salad with Pancetta in another episode, but it got me thinking about cooking with raw eggs. It seems like there has been an awful lot of food scares recently so I researched alternates for the raw egg in the Caesar Salad Dressing. There are a lot of opinions on this issue, including that only raw eggs are appropriate, but this one by Alton Brown looks promising. It uses tofu instead of egg for the thickening agent. And this one just flat-out subs the egg with egg substitute. Will I “love” any of these recipes or want to “list them” down the garbage disposal?

Still no anchovies.

I’ve always bought my anchovies in the tin, but Costco had anchovies in the seafood case that actually looked like fish instead of sun-dried tomatoes with fur. Has anyone tried them? Do they actually have the “anchovy flavor” or is the flavor we expect from anchovies actually coming from the salt-curing process? I’m feeling as though I’m probably going to stick with the basic tin of salty goodness — and I can get them in a six-pack from Costco practically for free. 🙂

Adventures in Home Cooking continues next week — catch up with me then to see if any of these recipes actually worked — or try them yourselves and let me know what happened!

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