The Piedmont Virginian's Blog

Serving and Celebrating America's Historic Heart

Tag: gourmet

Appetizerpaloosa -Holidays: Here Comes the Weird Stuff


By Brian L Lichorowic

Is it me or do people always serve pretty peculiar creations around the dark days of winter. Seems so to me…

I try everything put before me.

I guess it my upbringing in general, if someone took the time to make it, I’ll try it, and give an honest opinion to boot. Every year though, There’s always the conundrum. I’ll put something in my mouth that just makes me wince and, because I’m stupid, I’ll go back and get another one expecting a different end result.  Every year something new creeps onto the buffet table. This year’s winner was my Mom’s neighbor, Francine, down in Florida, who proudly put out a tray of “French Cocktail Prunes” These “were” normal prunes, stuffed with (and I kid you not. I have witnesses) oysters, anchovies, bacon, artichokes and onions.

At least that’s all I could make out with my stupefied palette.

Francine’s a nice 80 years young lady, claims proudly it was a 50 year family secret and “I’ll die before I tell you the recipe !!”. To which I thought to myself  “ Yea, I’d keep it a secret too.”

I thought of doing my part and “whacking” her just to stop the noxious cycle.

But, I ate it…with a smile and then the masochistic side of me goes back and has a 3rd just because I still can’t believe that what I just tasted. My wife Debi says “Don’t say a word, write about it…” So, I decided to write about it, so I had to go eat a 4th one of these Prune jewels so I could try and covey the ingredients.

I find that people, for the most part, put out their finest fare forward during these dark days parties. Particularly in the appetizer department. People have coveted recipes that have been tweaked to their (and our) liking. Why they only come out this time of year I don’t know. In my family, food is celebrated all year long, season to season. But I see the old yellow pages pf paper torn out of a 30 year old Better Home & Gardens with hand written notes all over it. These are the gems I search for during the silly season.

Honey Figs with Goat Cheese rolled in Pecans

1 Cup ROUGHLY Chopped Pecans

1 6 oz Log of a good goat Cheese

12 Fresh Figs either Black mission Calimyrna qtr’ed

1/2 cup Tupelo Honey (naturally an hone will work but there is a difference when you use Tupelo for browning or caramelizing. Remember that.


Let the Goat cheese get close to room temperature.

Chop the pecans so they’re fairly uneven in size and have few rough spots

Melt a dab of butter in a non-stick frying pan large enough so that the pecans spread across the entire bottom of the pan. Add the honey bring to a bubble let brown, remove form heat and spread across the piece of wax paper.

Roll the cheese log around in the pecans till covered use your fingers if you have to. Press the pecans into the cheese to make sure it covered well.

Refrigerate log until firm. Then cut into 1/2” slices.

Place the cheese on a small plate and add a couple pieces of the fig on top. Pour a couple of tablespoons of the honey over the fig and cheese. Continue reading

People Give Me Dead Meat…

By Brian L Lichorowic
People give me dead meat.  In the fall and winter, like clock work.  Either it’s Dr. Dave, my chiropractor who hunts on my property, who tells me to meet him behind his office in the parking, or the gentlemen whose name I’m not certain of, but for five years appears at my front door smiling and says, “Nice year for doe.  I’ve got some great loins and that burger you like.” (I like?? ) He then hands me 20 pounds of frozen, dead meat.

Photo by Venison World

Photo By Venison World

Next, I’m off in search of recipes and recipients.  I’m sure this will come as no surprise, but the Northern Virginia Piedmont area is considered a culinary hotbed for fresh venison.

I’ve eaten venison for a long time.  A couple times a year – tops – will do me. I think I’m like a lot of people that can stomach venison in small doses and usually if it part of a unique entree that makes my mental palate drool. Maybe it’s the whole “Bambi thing” I guess. But if it’s done right, venison is very enjoyable, very lean and pairs well with a nice, red burgundy.

Most recipes call for cooking the meat all day and drowning it in some sauce – usually ketchup or BBQ.  In my opinion, the goal of these recipes is to cover up the taste of the meat.  You could be eating a shoe and never know it.

I have assembled three venison recipes for all levels.  The first (Virginia Venison & Blue Cheese Meatballs) is a great starter dish for venison newbies, the second (Pan Roasted Venison with Spicy Cranberry Mexican Cinnamon Sauce) graduates to a more southwestern, fusion dish for the more daring and bringing up the rear ( Piedmont Venison Cider Stew) is a solid, winter wear stew perfect for keeping your “deer” friends and family warm.

[Editor’s note: Recipes after the jump] Continue reading

All Hail Kale !

By Brian L. Lichorowic

I’m told it rises up first, through snow if necessary, defiant and dignified. As if to say: “You call that a winter?”

Kale. Brassica oleracea.  Around the Piedmont, it’s everywhere. A non-hearting type of cabbage, meaning it doesn’t curl into a ball. Most commonly rolled into the “greens” category. Rich in calcium, heavy in C &; B vitamins, I eat kale because local, regional food is tastiest and the best for our bodies, as well as abundantly available seasonally. I believe that eating organic local produce, particularly in the spring, helps relieve my environmental allergies, as does local honey.

It’s an important winter vegetable in British cuisine and at the heart of “soul” cooking.

My first impression was not, however, prudent.  Our family restaurant used kale as a decorative garnish on one of our most popular banquet entrees, the Roast Turkey Dinner, which was a favorite of the lady shoppers on the tour buses stopping over for a quick bite before hitting the Oneida Silversmiths Factory Store en masse.

One leaf, trimmed with an orange slice and half of a maraschino cherry in the middle on the afore mentioned Turkey dish accompanied with homemade sausage stuffing, mashed potatoes and two (2!) hot vegetables with a choice of soup or salad and bread; $4.99.

If we ran out, we’d run kale through our commercial dishwasher, then dunk it in iced salt water for an hour only to be topped again with an orange slice and cherry and returned to the masses (a vicious circle…but good Karma, right?)  None of the blue hairs on the buses knew or cared. Equivalent to the wedding favors strategically placed at the hostess stand for them to pilfer as they exited. 300 small plastic top hats filled with small almonds and mints. Leftover from the Mentzer wedding. We left them out for a reason. Not one would remain and no one would care that the little plastic hat read, “Susan & Mark- Love Lasts Forever– July 9, 1977.”

As a garnish, it was indestructible. We never gave any thought to eating it. It wasn’t until a few years later, my freshman year at Boston University, when I dined at Perce Alston’s, my roommate’s parent’s home, did I realize that my family had treated it unfairly.

The Farmer’s Market is opening soon and kale will be there.  First in line in fact. Simplicity is key I’ve found with kale. Try it with another dominant flavor or spice. Its nutrients are undeniable.
[Ed. note: Recipes after the jump] Continue reading

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