When I heard recently that The Lee Bros. would be in Tampa at the Publix Apron's Cooking School to do a cooking demo, there was no way I was going to pass up the opportunity to meet them.
The award-winning, witty cookbook authors - aka Matt and Ted - came to town to promote their latest cookbook, "The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen."
I wrote about them a couple of years ago. Their second publication, "The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern," is hands down my most-used cookbook. It probably has more than two dozen parties' worth of splatters and stains.
That book was a tough act to follow but somehow they managed to pull it off.
Sporting orange pants Matt explained to our intimate audience of 40 that most of their recipes were inspired by extensive research done interviewing home cooks, fisherman, chefs, caterers and even funeral directors. Their research led them to recipe gems like Henry's Cheese Spread, a peppery dip from a beloved Charleston restaurant called Henry's.
Admitting they're not "fancy-pants chefs" but passionate home cooks and food journalists, Matt and Ted shared five of the 100 recipes from "The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen" during the cooking demo: shrimp and grits, collards, hominy, strawberry syllabub and a delicious Frogmore soup that harnessed the flavor of a low country boil.
A dash of sibling rivalry spiced up the evening as the brothers shared oodles of practical kitchen tips.
For example, shrimp cut lengthwise will curl up in a corkscrew shape once cooked and grab more sauce. Here's another: Saute your greens in garlic and oil until they have softened up a bit before boiling not only adds more flavor but speeds up the cooking time. And yet another: Don't throw away "pot liquor," the liquid left after greens are cooked. It can either be served with the greens as a dip for cornbread or reserved for poaching.
It was no surprise to me that my favorite dish of the night was a cloud-light dessert called syllabub. Yes, you heard right.
It combines two of my favorite things other than chocolate and wine - strawberries and wine.
Syllabub used to be made in every proper Southern household, but you don't see it much these days. Basically simple, it's fortified wine that's been seasoned with lemon juice and lemon peel, a little bit of sugar, and then whipped with cream until it's fluffy.
The stuff is pretty darn amazing paired with fruit. But don't take my word. Try it yourself.
Lynn Kessel is a freelance food columnist and blogger. For more of her recipes, visit southshore.tbo.com and enter the search words Lynn Kessel or look for her blog at www.lynnkessel.blogspot.com.
SYLLABUB with STRAWBERRIES and BLACK PEPPER
1/2 cup Sercial Madeira or Amontillado Sherry
Peel of half lemon
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup heavy cream, cold
Strawberries and black pepper:
4 ounces fresh strawberries, quartered
1 - 2 teaspoons sugar
Freshly ground black pepper
Put all the syllabub ingredients except for the cream into a large bowl,and whisk until the sugar has dissolved, about a minute. Let stand in the fridge about an hour.
Remove the lemon peel from the wine mixture. Pour the cream into the wine and whisk by hand until the cream is thick and holds its shape, about 2 minutes.
In a small bowl, gently toss the strawberries with the sugar. Let sit at room temperature until the strawberries have released their juices but are not yet mushy, about 30 mintues.
Divide the syllabub among four wine glasses or sundae cups and spoon the strawberries over each serving of syllabub. Grind a bit of black pepper over the top of each and serve.