Recreating Sand Tarts

I can remember getting Charles Chips delivered when I was a kid. While the taste of the potato chips  have faded from memory, I still think on the Sand Tarts we would also order from them sometimes. Those cookies weren’t entirely a sugar cookie and weren’t shortbread either. Light, crisp and with a hint of cinnamon, they were a delicious after school snack. Today, you can buy a 1lb tin for $19.99 but I’m not going to spend that much for cookies, so I needed to recreate this recipe for myself.

After searching the web and talking to my Mom, I decided to use a melange of several recipes. Using both shortening and butter makes the cookies crisp but not too fragile. Having both granulated sugar and brown sugar adds a depth to the flavor. You can also put in some finely chopped, toasted pecans if you want a good cookie that is (to paraphrase Douglas Adams) almost, but not quite, entirely unlike sand tarts.

Sand Tarts

1/2 cup shortening
½ cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cups brown sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2  cup toasted pecans, chopped fine (optional)
Cinnamon Sugar (Combine 1/2 cup sugar with 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon) to sprinkle on top of cookies

Cream shortening and butter and sugars together. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until fluffy. Sift together flour, salt and baking powder. Add flour mixture to butter mixture. Mix just until medium-soft dough is formed. Do not over-mix. Chill for several hours (or as long as overnight) in the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 350.

Roll out on floured surface as the sand tarts need to be thin to crisp up. Cut with cookie cutters into the shape of your choice. Brush tops with egg white, and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Place 1 inch apart on a greased cookie sheet and bake for 9-11 minutes. Let cool on the pan for one minute before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

 

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

I woke up this morning dreaming about stirring melted chocolate. It was very vivid and while that is better than waking up having the refrain from “Momma Tried” running through your head, it is still something that stays with you for a while after you get up.

I decided to go where my subconscious led me and made these chocolate, chocolate chip cookies. Basically, you melt 4 tablespoons of the butter with 4 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate. More chocolate is more better! They are crisp on the edges and chewy in the center – yummy!

My metal beastie stands guard over the cookies.

Chocolate, Chocolate Chip Cookies

4 ounces semi sweet chocolate
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter (two sticks), divided
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 (12 ounce) package semisweet chocolate morsels
1 cup toasted, chopped nuts, optional
flake salt for sprinkling, optional

Melt 4 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate with 4 tablespoons of the butter in a double boiler. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl.

Beat remaining butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Pour in melted chocolate. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts, if using.

Refrigerate the dough for at least an hour to give the flour proteins and starches a chance to rest. While Jacques Torres would have you rest the dough 24 to 72 hours, I’m not wired to be able resist that kind of temptation. An hour is my max and it is still an effort to not to sneak out all the cookie dough during that time.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove dough from the refrigerator and drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets. Sprinkle lightly with flake salt, if desired.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until they are slightly firm in the center. Remove from the oven and cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Cavan Restaurant

Last night, my good friends took me to Cavan Restaurant and Bar on Magazine to share a birthday meal. It bills itself as a Coastal American dining experience and the eclectic menu definitely reflects the variety of tastes that can be found along the seaboard and gulf coast. The atmosphere is a sort of modern decay chic with the pine tables contrasting with black and white photos on the distressed renovated style walls of the restored mansion. It did get a little loud as it filled up but the crowd was convivial.

We started with cocktails. I had the paloma while Charlotte tried first the Wilde #9 which was like a spicy sazerac with mescal. Her second had a pepper infused tequila and apricot liquor. Both were strong and flavorful.

We shared the corn fritters, served in a small cast iron skillet with honey lardo. It originally had five but I wasn’t fast enough with the camera to capture them all. More like hush puppies than fritters, they were still good and the sweet and savory sauce was rather tasty.

Thomas had the jerk rubbed fish. I worried the jerk spices would overwhelm the delicate fish but they were really delicious together. The rice could have been warmer but the melange of flavors made one forgive a minor issue.

Charlotte and I both enjoyed the fried chicken. It came with Coca-cola braised collard greens. She raved about the flavor of the greens and kindly ate my portion. We also ordered their seasoned wedge fries that came with a tangy house made ketchup. The chicken crust was very good but the chicken itself (especially on the breast meat) was a bit bland and little dry.

The staff was helpful and friendly with lots of explanation of the menu. With regular checkins, they made sure our drinks didn’t run dry and we had all we needed to enjoy our meal.

I have great hopes for this place and continued success of their creative chefs.

 

Limoncello Cheesecake For My Birthday

Michelle made me an awesome cheesecake for my birthday. With lemon juice and limoncello liquor, it was amazingly creamy and lemony and off the hook delicious.

This makes a lot of cheesecake – it almost overfilled a 10″ springform pan. You could use two store bought graham cracker pie shells, instead. If you’re making your own crust, it will take 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs mixed with 5 tablespoons of melted butter to coat the bottom of the well buttered pan.

Because this is a low and slow method of cheesecake cookery, do not use a water bath in the oven.

 

Limoncello Cheesecake

4 packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 cup sugar
5 eggs
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup 2% Greek yogurt (we used Fage)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup limoncello liquor
1 tablespoon finely chopped lemon peel
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.

Whip the cream cheese until smooth and fluffy. Add the sugar and mix to combine. Add in the eggs, one at a time. Beat in the flour and yogurt. Slowly mix in the lemon juice and limoncello. Add in the vanilla extract and lemon peel.

Pour batter into the prepared pan. Place in the oven and bake for 3 hours.

Remove from oven and crank the heat to 500 degrees F. Place the cheesecake back in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes to brown the top. Turn off the oven and crack the door and let the cheese cake cool down for 30 minutes. Then run a knife along the edge to release from the pan and cool on the counter for another 30 minutes before putting it in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours before releasing the sides of the pan.

Graham’s Fish Camp

On Highway 588 in Collins, Mississippi there is a small restaurant that does a booming business on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Only open from 3 to 9 on those nights, Graham’s Fish Camp is packed the entire time.

689 Highway 588. Collins, MS 39428

They start you out with a huge bowl of coleslaw while you look over the menu, although most folks seem to already know what they like. From looking at the other tables, catfish (Mississippi farm raised) was a heavy favorite.

We started with fried dill pickles and onion rings. One of Elvis’ favorite snacks, the dill pickle chips are battered in cornmeal and quite crunchy and tart. The onion rings were thick and hand battered. The baskets are huge, so I’d recommend the half portion sizes.

I had the fried shrimp platter – 12 shrimp, 3 hushpuppies and a mess of French fries. Crunchy batter on flavorful shrimp – quite tasty. The house made tarter sauce was tart and creamy.

Michelle had chicken tenders plus a catfish filet. Thin sliced with a delicious cornmeal batter, it was fresh and clean tasting. I can tell why so many people come here.

They end the meal with soft serve ice cream and your choice of toppings. For as busy as they are, the wait staff is friendly and quick with refills on the drinks and to check to make sure you don’t need anything else. The cost is quite reasonable, too – for under $20 a piece, we had a huge amount of great food. Definitely worth a visit.

La Boca

My parents are in town for my birthday weekend and we went out to La Boca for steaks to celebrate. I’m so glad we did!

I started with a pisco sour – more Peruvian than Argentinian but, close enough! It was very good, nice and limey.

Dad went for the 14 ounce New York Strip. It was cooked to medium rare and he ate more of it than he expected, it was so tender.

Mom and I splurged on the 24 ounce cowboy cut Ribeye Steak – it was ordered rare and came out nearly blue. One of the few times I haven’t had rare steak come out more medium than rare. So nice and tender, there was no talking, only moans as we chewed.

As you can see, we only had a little left on the bone at the end. Just perfect to take home in a doggy bag. Not that my dog got to gnaw on it until I had done so!

Accompanying the meat were some super good mashed potatoes. Creamy and buttery, it was some of the best I’ve eaten that I didn’t make myself.

As it was my birthday, the waiter brought me a piece of flourless chocolate cake. So very dark and delicious.

We also shared some dulce de leche ice cream. Decadently smooth and rich. I could see myself stopping by the restaurant just for the ice cream.

This is the top rated Zagat steakhouse in New Orleans and it shows. The cuts of meat were cooked perfectly and the portions sizes were immense. The waiter was very knowledgeable about the wine list and helped us find perfect pairings with some glasses of Malbec. I highly recomend La Boca.

Jo Bob’s of Grand Isle

My parents and I took the scenic drive down Louisiana Highway 1 to Grand Isle. We stopped at the Grand Isle State Park to read more about Jean Lafitte (pirate, privateer and patriot) and to watch the pelicans and seagulls fight to fly across the strong wind currents off the gulf.

On our way out of town we stopped at Jo-Bob’s Gas and Grill for burgers.

The burgers are 100% beef and made to order. Mom got the Jo-Bob burger with mushrooms and bacon and melty cheese with the seasoned fries. Very tasty burger and I ended up eating part of hers! Mine was the basic cheeseburger. Very good and meaty.

Dad ordered the cheddar burger and and it was deliciously cheesy.

They don’t have many tables upstairs but do offer free drink refills. Very friendly staff and a menu of more than just burgers. Definitely worth a stop after a day on on the beach.