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A trip to Atlanta and The Charleston Smashburger

It has been a difficult month for us over here West of the Ashley River, but the show must go on. We have a harvest meal in the works with the lovely couple running Blue Pearl Farms in the near future and some other projects we are excited about. Stay tuned for those details.

While the month from hell was/is drudging on, I found myself in Atlanta, Georgia last weekend to visit a college friend. As I was packing, I was day-dreaming about Usher songs and new and different foodie bites to try. And y’all know I was crossing my fingers for a Real Housewives siting. I actually went looking for them, but more on that later. I’m not a stalker, I swear.

My first night in the ATL was made up of box wine (classing the place up since ’05), reminiscing, some eye-opening truths, and laughing fits. My first morning in the ATL was made up of College of Charleston sized hangovers, my long lost ability to rally, some hair of the dog, and the Chef’s omelet at D Café and Catering in the Westview neighborhood. We also tried the salmon cake (#thebomb), extra buttery grits, and super fluffy biscuits.

Chef's Omelet
Chef’s Omelet

As we were finishing the chef came out to our table to ask if we would like to try a fried pie or two. Is there a person who would say no? If there is, it is definitely not us. Bring on the fried dough and sugar! We tried an apple one and a sweet Georgia peach one. When in Georgia, the peach wins always.

Fried apple pie- the peach one was inhaled
Fried apple pie- the peach one was inhaled

With bellies full of a down-home breakfast, we headed to a family birthday party. The birthday girl had asked for a scavenger hunt, so we headed to Piedmont Park to sweat. I mean scavenger hunt. I’m pretty sure we won, but there were some differences of opinion. A word to my future scavenger hunt partners: I am the teammate in charge of documenting the game on Snapchat, as well as the one who consistently asks, “How much longer until we get to the bar at the end of the clues?” I’m not completely useless, but if you take your game play seriously- pick another teammate. We ended up at the bar RIGHT INSIDE THE PARK. I had a couple refreshing cocktails, the “real adults” scared all of us “baby adults” with credit card roulette, and then we headed back up the street to the air conditioning to play cards.

The day was long, hot, fun, and everything I needed.

The next morning my host headed out to take Atlanta’s children to camp and I lazed around a bit longer until I dragged myself out of bed and headed out for a solo trip to Ponce City Market, home of the H&F Burger. H&F Burger is the brain child of James Beard award winning chef, Linton Hopkins. And although it was 11am and eggs would have been a more appropriate brunch option, I went for the burger. I’m so glad I did- two thin patties, melt-y cheese, pickle and onion toppings only, and served with a side of salty fries.

I left knowing I was going to try to re-create the winning cheeseburger at home. But first, REAL HOUSEWIVES. I was informed (after she shot down my RHOA bus tour idea the day before) that most of them live in the Buckhead area. The conversation went no further and I was excited because I was secretly remembering I had seen signs for Buckhead on my way into Atlanta and that I possibly, probably, definitely was going to stop through on my way home.

Don’t ever make secret plans. Because if I had told my friend of my idea to “run in to a Real Housewife at Whole Foods in Buckhead,” she would have told me that there are two Buckheads. She would have said the Buckhead area INSIDE Atlanta is home to some of the ATL’s most affluent families, including a couple of my favorite Bravo celebs, but that the Buckhead OUTSIDE Atlanta is home to what I only assume is the backdrop for the next horror movie filmed in Georgia. I went to the wrong Buckhead and did not see one. single. Housewife. Oh well.

Heading home I mentally prepared to source my copy-cat burger ingredients from some of my favorite Charleston shops and got ready for another week back in Charleston.


First thing Monday morning I went in search of ingredients for what would eventually be The Charleston Smashburger. I started at Saffron Bakery, hopped over to the glorious goat.sheep.cow cheese shop, and then ended up at Artisan Meat Share picking up buns, stinky cheese, ground beef, and pickles. The burger would not be an exact copy-cat of the H&F burger, just inspired by it.

stinky cheese
stinky cheese
gah-geous buns
gah-geous buns

To make the smashburger, you literally just smash the burger as it is cooking, letting the edges crisp up. I made the patties a bit smaller than normal (think slider-sized, but super thin) and doubled them up on the buns.

melty cheese on the smashburger
melty cheese on the smashburger

The burger was complete with some bread and butter pickles from Artisan Meat Share and some carefully caramelized onions. I die.

The Charleston Smashburger

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*makes 3 double decker burgers

1lb ground beef, seasoned with your favorite burger seasoning

3 buns, toasted

6 slices of your favorite stinky cheese

1 onion, julienned and caramelized

1/2 cup bread and butter pickles

Divide the ground beef in to 6 equal balls. Smash the balls as thin as you can without them breaking apart. Heat a cast iron skillet to medium-high heat and cook each patty on both sides until the edges are crispy. Remove to a plate and place a slice of cheese on each patty and cover to melt the cheese. You may have to do this in 2 or 3 rounds. When all the patties are done, place 2 patties (one on top of the other) on a bun and top with pickles and onions. Repeat for all three burgers.


We’ll be back later in the week with some corn chowder and other anecdotes from Charleston.

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Top 10 reasons to love Bay Street Biergarten

Alfonso and I are AT LEAST monthly visitors to Bay Street Biergarten. They do bier, dinner, and brunch for Charleston’s breezy crowd. If you love boozing it up on a tricked out patio, playing cornhole, watching your favorite football team, and drinking lots of beautiful biers, this is the place for you. There are hundreds of reasons to love Charleston’s favorite beer joint, but here are The Castejóns’ top 10.

1. Massive Selection of Delicious Biers

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The best reason to head over to Bay Street Biergarten is obviously the bier. Dark biers, light biers, local biers, foreign biers, and ciders make up the more than 30 craft biers constantly on tap. There is something for every picky palate in the bunch! Whether it is a boozy brunch, an afternoon happy hour, or a late night dance party, their bier hits the spot. It is also recommended as hair of the dog. In fact, this might be their greatest power.

2. Popcorn Gator

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After a bier or two you’re going to need something salty, crunchy, and preferably fried. Enter the Popcorn Gator: new to me, tastes like chicken, perfectly spiced, and doused in drinkable sauce. These bitty gators are slightly picante and perfectly accompanied by some sweet peppers and deliciously washed down with a nice, cold amber bier. I’m giving this dish an “H” for hard to share- you’re going to want them all to yourself!

3. Tots

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Sit down. I want to talk to you a minute about the tots. Bathed in a demi-glace. Smothered in a silky cheese sauce. Topped with crunchy little pieces of green onion. Going on my deathbed menu. We have these tater tots almost every time we go to Bay Street Biergarten and the times that we don’t, I always regret it. I feel like these are the best of the best- like the awesome dish a chef comes up with when everyone has long gone from the kitchen after dinner service and she is starving. These tots are representative of the chef’s soul. Now that I’ve waxed poetic about potatoes, we can move on. But, we will never forget.

4. Half-priced Burger Mondays

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Who doesn’t love a good burger? I sho do. And on Mondays they are half-priced! Try and say no to that beautiful baby. We love our burgers classic: cheddar cheese, pickles, lettuce, tomato, red onion, mustard, ketchup, and mayo. But, if you dare to be different, there are 4 others to choose from, including a veg option. There is no good reason not to head to the Biergarten on Mondays for your half-priced burger. No reason. None. Just go.

5. Outdoor Fútbol

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Do you like to watch fútbol? Are you tired of being inside four walls? Come on down to Bay Street Biergarten! With 2 giant T.V.s (maybe 3?) outside there is always sports games going on for you sports people to watch. Alfonso was pleased and once the Argentina Copa America game came on all I saw was the back of his head. So, belly up to the bar and watch your favorite team in the warm sunshine!

6. Cajun Chicken Wings

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I don’t think anything is more of a quintessential accompaniment to bier than chicken wings. The Cajun spices just kick it up a notch. The cold, creamy ranch and the crunchy, fresh celery bring the whole bite home. Wash it down with a Westbrook White Thai and you remember that life’s true purpose is to eat, drink, and be merry with good friends and family. There is nothing better than that perfect, meaty bite of chicken wing, except maybe…

7. Eating Cajun Chicken Wings on the Sunny Patio

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What’s one step up from the perfect chicken wing? Eating that chicken wing in your favorite Spanish political party t-shirt under the Charleston summer sunshine. One of my favorite parts of Bay Street Biergarten is their list-topping patio. Sip your bier, munch your snacks, watch your game, play some cornhole, catch up with friends, and soak in the rays. You can even bring your pooch- the one on the leash AND the one you got from drinking too much bier! Everything good about Bay Street Biergarten is one level more awesome on their patio.

8. Shrimp Po Boys

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When in Charleston, have the shrimp. Just go ahead and jot that down in your life lessons notebook. This sandwich is the bomb! Sorry for the early 2000’s high school slang, but it had to be said. The shrimp are super crispy and perfectly cooked, layered in between juicy bursts of summery grape tomatoes. I have a secret…I’ve never actually HAD a po boy before this one. I know, gasp. I’ve had all the components separately, but never the sandwich. BSB has definitely set the bar high for any future po boys I may order.

9. Cocktails for the Wierdos (like me!)

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So if you go to Bay Street Biergarten and don’t try one of the many, many biers you are probably crazy. But, if you don’t at least taste one of their hand-crafted cocktails you are missing out. I was on a bier ride until I saw the One Cool Cat cocktail made with Cathead Honeysuckle Vodka. I had to have it. It is a nice light stopover between dinner and dessert, or just something refreshing if you are not in to heavy bier for the day, but your spouse is pulling a Homer Simpson on Duff. And be not apprehensive, vodka foes, they have bourbon and gin options too.

10. German Chocolate Cake

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You might be a grown-up. You might pay the bills. You might be drinking on a Sunday afternoon because you can. But, no one is too grown-up to crack a child-like grin when this chocolate cake is set in front of them. Rich chocolate, smooth vanilla ice cream, and boozy cherries combine to make you wish you had just eaten an entire meal of Bay Street Biergarten’s German Chocolate Cake.

Don’t come to Charleston and not stop by Bay Street Biergarten downtown. Or worse, live here and not be a regular. Go for the bier. Go for the patio. Or go for the food. Just go.

Cheers, y’all!

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Wildhaven Ranch: The Recipes

Karen loaded us down with so many farm fresh goodies the other day on our trip to Wildhaven Ranch that we had to do two blog posts- one just for the recipes! We got straight to cooking when we got home and haven’t stopped experimenting with the free-range products since. In fact, we might even have to do another post sometime soon with ANOTHER round of recipes.

This past week we were mostly excited to work with some of the more unfamiliar to us cuts and pieces of meat. I can’t believe it, but this included pig skin and goat testicles, or as my Grammy called them when I told her about it- “literal nuggets.”

Would YOU eat these?
Would YOU eat these?

First up, Fried Goat Testicles.

These were surprisingly easy to make, a lot less “quease”-inducing than I expected, and mild. Alfonso also said they made him feel more powerful. Men. I don’t know if testicles will become my new go-to protein, but I wouldn’t turn away a nice crispy one. Nothing wrong with a good testicle every now and again.

flour dredging
flour dredging
Fry 'em up!
Fry ’em up!

Fried Goat Testicles Appetizer with Sriracha (Literal Nuggets)

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2 goat testicles (preferably from Wildhaven Ranch), sliced into 3 pieces each

1.25 cups flour

2 eggs (preferably from Wildhaven Ranch)

3/4 t salt

3/4 t pepper

1/2 t smoked Spanish paprika

2 cups oil for pan frying

sriracha for dipping

Heat the oil to 350ºF in a deep frying pan. Mix the flour, salt, pepper, and paprika in a large bowl. Beat the eggs and place in a separate bowl. Dredge a testicle slice in the flour mixture, knocking off the excess. Pass it through the egg mixture and then the flour mixture again, each time knocking off the excess. Repeat for all 6 pieces. Place immediately into the hot oil and cook until golden on both sides. Remove and place on paper towels to drain. Serve with sriracha.


 

Alfonso makes gelato at work and I have been dying to make some at home. We’ve been a little gun shy, for fear that the texture would be too “icy” since we don’t have an ice cream maker. Although, I’ve been whining about wanting an ice cream maker for the last 3 years, so maybe we should just buy one. Or not, because in Casa Castejón we like to do things the hard way. It’s a trait we both individually brought to the relationship, but when you multiply it…boy, is it fun!

So, gelato the hard way it is! Except, it really wasn’t that hard. We checked out the “Freeze and Stir” method from The Kitchn. It still turns out a barely noticeably “icy,” but the texture is better than anything I could have expected without an ice cream machine.

Also, you don’t expect the eggs to be a big part of the flavor profile in ice cream, but these gorgeous free-range eggs from Wildhaven Ranch gave the end product a beautifully whole, rounded out creaminess. There’s something about the yolks of stress-free birds that are out in the vitamin-giving sunshine everyday that just fills your mouth with joy.

brown, blue, and regular eggs
brown, blue, and regular eggs
gorgeous
gorgeous

The eggs, the organic sugar, and the super juicy local strawberries made this one dynamite gelato. I was kind of proud of us.

hulling the strawberries
hulling the strawberries
mixing the sugar and eggs
mixing the sugar and eggs
making magic- adding in the strawberry puree
making magic- adding in the strawberry puree

Strawberry Vanilla “No-Machine” Gelato

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1 quart fresh, ripe strawberries, pitted and halved

1.5 cups milk

4.5 oz. sugar, divided

3/4 cups heavy cream, divided

4 large free-range egg yolks (preferably from Wildhaven Ranch)

pinch of salt

1 t vanilla extract

seeds from 1 vanilla bean

Place the strawberries, 1 T sugar, and a splash of cream in a bowl and let macerate for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, blend the strawberries until smooth. For the smoothest texture, pass the mixture through a cheesecloth- this step is optional. Whip the egg yolks and the rest of the sugar until fluffy, doubled-tripled in volume, and pale yellow.

Heat the milk and heavy cream over medium heat until just before boiling. Add the milk mixture to the egg mixture very slowly so as not to scramble the eggs, whisking as you go. When completely combined, add the salt, strawberry purée, vanilla, and vanilla bean seeds and mix well. Pour in to a 1 quart freezer-safe container. Place in the freezer and re-stir the mixture completely every hour, scraping down the sides and mixing until homogenous. Do this until you can not longer properly stir it. Freeze until desired consistency.  Serve topped with strawberries.

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Like I’ve mentioned before, we like to make meals that will last a couple of days or that can be added to in order to last longer throughout the week. It makes it so much easier for Alfonso to eat real, wholesome food when he comes home late at night. He is no stranger to the nutritionally empty ham and cheese, or worse the fast food burger.

Braised Lamb Rib Chops to the rescue!

Instead of serving the meat with a side, I decided to braise it and then pull the meat for a pasta. If you make your braising liquid pasta-sauce-like it turns in to an easy tomato sauce for your favorite noodle. These Wildhaven Ranch lamb rib chops really didn’t need a whole lot of heavy seasoning on account of their depth of flavor- so good, Biddlecoms!

The searing in the beginning is really what takes the most attention, after that you can pretty much pop it in to the oven for the afternoon and tend to your nails or something. Or, you know, work on immigration reform. Us women are multi-faceted.

gotta get that sear
gotta get that sear

Braised Lamb Rib Chops over Pipette Rigate

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1/2 box of pipette rigate

6 lamb rib chops, trimmed (preferably from Wildhaven Ranch)

1 large can whole organic tomatoes, 28 oz.

juice of 1 lemon

1 onion, 1/4 inch sliced

2 carrots, small diced

3 large cloves garlic, minced

olive oil to sear

1 t pepper plus more to season

1/2 t dried thyme

1/2 t dried basil

1/2 t dried oregano

1 t salt plus more to season

2 bay leaves

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Heat a thin layer of olive oil over medium/medium-high heat in a Dutch oven and season both sides of the chops with salt and pepper. Sear each side of the chops for 1-2 minutes, until a crisp- but quick- crust forms. Remove the meat from the Dutch oven and set aside as it is done. You will probably have to do 2-3 rounds.

Without cleaning the Dutch oven add a sprinkle more of olive oil, lower the heat to medium and add the onions. Sauté the onions until tender and slightly caramelized. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the salt, pepper, basil, oregano, and thyme and stir around to mix the flavors for another minute. Add the lemon juice and deglaze the pan, getting all the good bits up. Add in the tomatoes (including juices from the can) and completely smash the whole tomatoes right into the onion mixture. Add the bay leaves.

Return the chops to the Dutch oven in a single layer. Cover and place in the oven for 3-5 hours, depending on how big they are. Mine took about 4. You will know it is done when it easily falls off the bone with a fork. It will be tough before it goes tender.

When the meat is done, boil the pasta with a little salt and olive oil. Serve the lamb rib chops over a bed of simple pasta or remove the meat from the bone and mix in the sauce and meat into the pasta (as seen here).

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Alfonso is definitely enjoying challenging his culinary skills with all the different proteins from the farm. We’ve never made rib chops before, we’ve never tried testicles before, and we’ve certainly never made homemade pork rinds before! Alfonso started the process this morning and I finished it off this afternoon. It takes me a minute to get over the fact that I’m touching testicles, pork skin, etc., but I’m so glad this particular category of fear conquering is turning out so delicious.

The pork rinds take a little time, but you can make a lot and they are an easy snack to put out, especially with a crispy, cold one! You start with the grossest looking part, the boiling. This is to easily remove the attached fat without ripping the skin.

before boil
before boiling
after boiling
after boiling

I am so glad we are getting to try all these different things from Wildhaven Ranch. Some of the goods I would never have thought of picking up, until now. Even if you are eating something naughty, like pork rinds, you can feel good about the nutritional value of the animals from where it came. Just close your eyes and pretend you didn’t just dump 3 cups of oil into the fryer. Actually, don’t close your eyes around hot oil. Keep them wide open, or you might just burn down part of your kitchen like Alfonso did in his crazy college years. Thank god he’s refined his skills since then. But, that’s a story for another day.

Cajun Chicharrones

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large pieces of pig skin

3 cups of oil for frying

salt

Cajun seasoning

Boil the pig skin for 1.5 hours and then let cool until able to handle. Scrape the fat off the back of the skin with a spoon, so as not to cut the skin. Place in a dehydrator or on the lowest temperature in your oven with the door cracked. Leave it for around 8 hours. The skin should be dry, but not yet crispy. Remove, let cool, and cut in to 1-2 inch pieces.

Heat the oil to 350ºF in a deep, sturdy pot or a fryer. Drop in the skin pieces and let fry until puffed up and floating on top of the oil. Do not crowd the oil. Remove and let dry on a rack.

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We have plans to keep pulling from the Wildhaven Ranch Santa sack in our freezer this week and see what we can whip up from there. One of my sisters and her boo thang are coming this weekend, so maybe we’ll see how far their palates can stretch, right Kristin?

Thank you again to Wildhaven Ranch for the awesome ranch life morning and the freezer full of inspiration! I’m 100% positive there is another Wildhaven Ranch: The Recipes post in my future. Don’t forget to check out their facebook page!

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