Roadtrip bites: Marion's Pie Shop

This post has been a long time coming, I realize, but better late than never, right?  As you all know, a few weeks ago, Dan and I went to the Cape for a little getaway.  On the way back, we stopped in Chatham (whoa, that's a rich town) at a friend's suggestion (thanks Jess P.!).  She tipped us off about a LOVELY little pie shop that, really, might be worth the drive from Boston all on its own.  Behold: Marion's Pie Shop.
We picked up a seafood pie for dinner and it was utterly divine.  It had lobster (big, fat, juicy chunks, nothing wimpy here), scallops, shrimp, and cod all bubbling away in a cream sherry sauce and encased in the most tender, flaky, buttery pastry crust I've ever put in my grateful mouth.  In case I'm not being clear, it was a sublime act of baking.

To keep it short and sweet, I'll skip to the moral of this story: If you find yourself within a hundred miles of this place and you don't stop, you're missing out.


Cafe Oriental

In a new feature, we collaborate with Daniel Le Ray. I'll pick one of my photographs for the talented Mr. to be inspired by and to write on. 
It hadn’t been the pain that he liked, but the sympathy. Even as a child. Crawling beneath the splintered oak table in his parents’ kitchen and emitting a howl more befitting mortal injury than a scratched kneecap or stubbed toe. He was the boy who cried wolf, and his mother and father had come to realize this. In the end, even their sympathy had ebbed away.


April Cake: Double Header

Anyone who's ever been in the Jones household during one of my and my sister's visits home knows that my mom loses all sense of proportion in the kitchen, cooking every one of our requests, old favorites, and new recipes that she can cram into a usually already-crammed schedule.  As luck would have it, I have a similar disregard for common sense in cooking and baking and whenever I'm home I join in the festivities with gusto. While visiting home last weekend, I remembered that I had only a couple of weeks left to come up with a cake for April.

So, naturally, I baked two.  

Cake, the first:

This cake comes from The Cake Book by Tish Boyle, which is an altogether beautiful book with varied recipes from everything from pancakes to pound cakes. The sour cream lemon poppyseed cake had a satisfying ration of poppyseeds to cake (enough that it's very poppy-y, but not so much that it overpowers the other flavors), was impossibly light and tender with a subtle lemon flavor.  I could go on and on.  The ganache was originally meant to be whipped (which is a brilliant idea and definitely one I need to try when I have enough patience to let the ganache sit for 6 hours, which I did NOT have last week), but I left it as a glaze.  The lemon zest gave the white chocolate a much more complex flavor than white chocolate on its own and the flavor and texture was absolutely perfectly matched to the subtle complexity of the cake.
Sour Cream Lemon Poppyseed Cake with White Chocolate Ganache
from Tish Boyle's The Cake Book
  • 2 1/4 c cake flour
  • 1 1/4 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 3/4 c poppy seeds
  • 14 T unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 c sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 T lemon zest (I used 3 lemons)
  • 1/4 c lemon juice (I used 3 lemons)
  • 1/2 t vanilla extract (I used 1 t, because I never think less than that is enough)
  • 1 c sour cream
  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Prepare pan(s).  (The recipe called for a 9"x13"sheet pan, but I opted for two 9" square pans).
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add the poppy seeds and whisk to mix well.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar in an electric mixer.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.  
  4. Beat in lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla.
  5. Add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating it with the sour cream in two additions and mixing until just blended.  Scrape the batter into the pan(s) and smooth the top.
  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes until tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Cool for 15 minutes and then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely.

White Chocolate-Lemon Ganache

  • 6 oz white chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 c heavy cream
  • 1 t lemon zest

  1. Place the white chocolate in a bowl and set aside.
  2. Bring the cream to a gentle boil over medium heat.
  3. Pour the cream over the chocolate and let it stand for 1 minute to melt the chocolate, then whisk until smooth.
  4. Whisk in lemon zest.
  5. Let cool until ganache will thickly coat the back of a spoon.  Pour over cake.
Cake, the second: 
Unfortunately I have only one photo of this cake, but that should not reflect negatively on its taste or abundant beauty.  I loved both of these cakes, but (and I feel like a parent choosing between two beloved children when I say this) the lemon buttermilk cake wholly eclipsed the other.  The buttermilk gave it a silky texture and tangy taste and the glaze and lemon sugar topping were rich and unsubtle in their lemony goodness.

Lemon Buttermilk Sheet Cake 
from The Cook's Country Cookbook
  • 2 1/2 c cake flour
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 3/4 c buttermilk (room temperature)
  • 1/4 c fresh juice
  • 3 T lemon zest (about 3 lemons)
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 c sugar
  • 12 T butter, softened
  • 3 eggs plus 1 large egg yolk (I just realized I didn't add the extra egg yolk, but it didn't have any negative impact)
  1.  Preheat oven to 325.  Prepare a 9"x13" pan.
  2. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Combine the buttermilk, lemon juice, and vanilla in a measuring cup.
  3. Make lemon sugar: Beat together the sugar and lemon zest until moist and fragrant.  It will have the texture of fluffy brown sugar. Transfer 1/4 c of the lemon sugar to a bowl, cover, and reserve.
  4. Add the butter to the remaining sugar mixture and beat until light and fluffy.  
  5. Beat in the eggs one at a time (and add the yolk, if you're actually following the recipe).
  6. Reduce mixer to low speed and add 1/3 of the flour mixture followed by half of the buttermilk mixture.
  7. Add half the remaining flour mixture, then the second half of the buttermilk mixture.  
  8. Mix in the remainder of the flour mixture until smooth. 
  9. Scrape batter into the prepared pan and smooth with rubber spatula.
  10. Tap the pan to settle any bubbles out.  
  11. Bake until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (about 28-34 minutes).
  • 3 c powdered sugar
  • 3 T fresh lemon juice
  • 2 T buttermilk
  1. Whisk ingredients together.
  2. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes, then spread the glaze over the warm cake and sprinkle with the reserved lemon sugar (I used a not-very-fine mesh sieve, which did the trick nicely).
Update: I baked this cake again for a big party.  It's still spectacular and this time was prettier!


    Food Photo Extravaganza: Ramsey's, Lexington, KY

    Please pardon the inclusion of approximately forty-two photos in this post.  It may seem excessive, but just assume that the number of photos is directly proportional to the absurd happiness this restaurant made me feel.
    Fig. 1. Very, very happy.

    Last week, I had to travel to Lexington, KY for an academic conference (Riveting! Thrilling! Hold on to your hats!) and had the distinct pleasure of my mom's and sister's company on the trip.  On our first evening in town, we debated whether we ought to try one of the yuppie/hippie/foodie restaurants in the area, but all of us agreed something slightly less fussy was in order.  So we looked around and found Ramsey's Diner, near the university.  (It turns out there are four locations of this restaurant in and around Lexington, but I'd bet good money this one was the original.)

    Now, before you start thinking this was a diner diner, just hold your horses.  Ramsey's is more tenderloin sandwiches and $5 bourbon than burgers and shakes.  This was a diner specializing in Kentucky Cuisine - a.k.a. The Food of My People (nods to Blue Jean Gourmet, whose series of this name is a joy to read).  No, I didn't grow up in Kentucky, but most of my family comes from the Hills of Eastern Kentucky (a phrase so often-repeated in my youth that I sometime hear it in my sleep) and my blood runs UK blue (thanks to my grandpa for instilling in me a true and deep respect for Wildcats Basketball).  I grew up with the smell of ham hocks melting into pots of green beans, cornbread puffing up (but not sweet, Yankee style) in the oven, and fried green tomatoes dredged in cornmeal hitting pans of sizzling oil.
    Fig. 2. Clockwise from Mac & Cheese: Pinto Beans, Green Beans, Fried Green Tomatoes, and Cornbread.

    It's these tastes that I remember and crave when I've gone just a little too long between visits home.  So, imagine my delight when Ramsey's served up all my favorites (Green beans like my mom makes and her mom before her!) just like I like them!
    Fig. 3. Clockwise from pinto beans: fried okra, collard greens, stewed tomatoes, and cornbread.

    They also served me another favorite of my childhood - the great, the legendary, the incomparable, irreplaceable, so-rich-you-might-keel-over Kentucky Hot Brown.  When I was little, I occasionally went over to Henderson, just across the Ohio River from our hometown to have lunch with my dad, who was working over there in those days and we'd mostly go to Wolf's Tavern, a semi-dingy tavern whose walls were lined with portraits of the great racehorses (Secretariat, Man-O-War, Citation).  Every time I ever ate there I ordered the Hot Brown, an open-faced 'sandwich' that involved bread, ham, turkey, tomatoes, and a seriously delicious Mornay sauce.  Oh, and BACON - how could I forget?  I don't want to blow this all out of proportion, but it might just be the most delicious thing in the entire world.
    Fig. 4. Kentucky Hot Brown.

    Well, I ordered up one of these for dinner at Ramsey's and it blew precious Wolf's attempt clear out of the water.  It brought tears to my eyes, something that food does to me on occasion - the most memorable of which involved Blood Orange Gelato at a really sweet gelateria in Trastevere.
    Fig. 5. Clockwise from Green Beans: Cornbread, Corn Oyster, Apple Fritter, Mac & Cheese.

    This was almost a two-hanky situation, but I calmed myself down enough to enjoy tastes of my sister's "veggie plate" (Ramsey's is the kind of place that counts Mac & Cheese as a vegetable), which featured these ridiculously delicious apple fritters - I don't know how in the world they made the batter stick or managed to cook them so that they were crisp on the outside and the apple cooked through, but with a little crunch and not burned.  Amazing.
    Fig. 6. Chicken & Dumplings, Creamed Corn, Green Beans, Cornbread.

    Anyway, I could go on and on.  Suffice it to say that we went back for lunch the next day.  Chicken and Dumplings.  Creamed corn.
    Fig. 7. Lemonade that was squeezed to order at the bar.  

    Utterly amazing, this place.  If you find yourself in Lexington in the near future, you know what to do.  I'll be envious.


    New recipe adventures: Barbara Lynch's Stir

    Occasionally you find yourself (by which I mean I find myself) arrested by an outfit, a magazine, a dish, a piece of cake or some other thing that you simply must own. This happened with me several weeks ago when, browsing in a bookstore, I found Barbara Lynch's Stir:Mixing It Up in the Italian Tradition. It's a very pretty book - not fluffy or silly in any way, but also not willfully plain.

    Barbara Lynch's story is compelling - rags to riches, Southie to Beacon Hill. It's like a foodie fairy tale. And let me tell you, the recipes are simply divine. For my first outing with this book, I decided to try two things I'd never done before: homemade ricotta and homemade gnocchi. In her book, Barbara tells us that the first time you have hand-made gnocchi is a transformative experience and wow. She's right. The gnocchi I made with her help was tender, yet toothsome, with a very delicate potato flavor and divine texture. The dough was very tender and a little sticky. Perhaps it needed a little more flour? But I think my restraint with the flour, while it made forming the happy little nuggets difficult, probably resulted in the staggering tenderness of the finished product.

    I topped the gnocchi with some simple tomato sauce and dollops of homemade ricotta. Before I go on to the tomato sauce recipe (very simple, so if you have even the vaguest idea how to make tomato sauce, don't bother reading on), a note on making ricotta: as with hand-made gnocchi, homemade ricotta is transformative. The flavor is intense, the texture is smooth, and it cooks up beautifully. If you haven't ever tried this, DO IT. It's the easiest thing in the world and the results are stunning.

    My tomato sauce doesn't really follow a recipe as such, so take the following lightly and feel free to riff as you please. Also, the recipes for gnocchi and ricotta are in StirStir: Mixing It Up in the Italian Tradition, so have a look there!

    Simple Tomato Sauce
    • ~2 T olive oil
    • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
    • 1 large (15 oz?) can crushed tomatoes
    • 1/4 t cayenne pepper
    • salt and pepper to taste
    1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat until shimmering.
    2. Add garlic and cook until you can just smell it strongly, before it starts to brown.
    3. Immediately add crushed tomatoes and cook until creamy.
    4. Add cayenne, salt, and pepper to taste. Be sure you taste it before seasoning, as canned tomatoes have unpredictable saltiness.
    To assemble this thing, I placed the gnocchi in baking dishes, topped with tomato sauce, and dollopped (yes, that is a verb) some ricotta on top. Then I grated pecorino romano on top and popped the whole thing in the oven for about 15 minutes at 400.

    It's also possible that I am so very happy with this recipe because we ate it on the roof! It was the first rooftop meal of the year - first of very, very many this summer.



    I love those days in early spring when the nascent leaves compensate for their small size and fragility with an aggressive, almost toxic, saturated yellow-green. Against that green the white and pink of little blooms also take on a greenish hue, almost as if trying to fit in with the leaves that will, soon, replace them.
    Of course, all of a sudden early spring seems to have passed us by! A few days in the steamy almost-South where summer seems to be in full swing and coming back here I see that the blossoming trees are done and the daffodils are all gone. But the weekend was frosty and some tulips are flopped over, swooning from frost. In short, it's a typical New England spring.
    These shots are from my first-ever roll of cross-processed slide film (Fuji Velvia 50, if you were wondering). I'm pleased with the results, even if the green cast is much more pronounced than I really expected. It suits the spring. And Leavitt & Pierce's window.And my rather fetching orchid, which looks lovely in this light, I think.


    Also, not to make excuses, but it's been really busy around here, so I haven't been sharing anything with you all. Thanks to those of you that are still hanging around here. Keep the faith and we'll be back soon with more!