A Southern Girl and Her Potato Salad

I’m a Southern girl living in a very Southern world. This world includes Fall’s filled with College Football and tailgating. How could it not? I was born yelling “Go Dawgs!” and transitioned into saying “War Eagle!” after my time at Auburn. Fall is my favorite time of year solely because of football. Plus, during this time we get to chow down on Southern favorite’s such as fried chicken, mac & cheese, and BBQ. It’s pretty much essential to eat BBQ during at least ONE tailgate during the season and there are zero complaints coming from this girl. What’s not to love about BBQ? It’s smoky and succulent. If you mix in the famous Tennessee sauce that is ketchup and vinegar-based, then you have a win-win combination. Sadly, there is a downside to this wonderful time of year. A lot of the BBQ joints down here have killer smoked pork, chicken, and brisket, but they really let us down when it comes to the sides. They have the gall to serve us pre-made sides from vendors like Sysco and U.S. Foods. Let me tell you, it really puts a damper on the experience because you totally can tell that they purchased these sides. Taking the easy way out, I say.

Potato Salad dishThe funny thing is that it’s so ironic. I mean, BBQ takes 10+ hours to really be delicious. It’s a process that is difficult to master and is very time consuming. Kudos to them. Seriously. They really put in the effort, but then they serve pre-made, store bought sides with their delectable smoked meats. It really defeats the purpose. As if making cole slaw and potato salad takes hours of their time…puh-lease. This is what is so frustrating. In the time it takes them to order and unload their pre-made potato salad, they could make their own from scratch and it would be 10 TIMES more delicious.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be so hard on them. Maybe they don’t know that it takes 30 minutes (an hour, tops, if you include making it in bulk) to make potato salad. So, this post is for them. It’s to teach them that the perfect potato salad is within their reach.

Let’s get started…


  • Russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • Yellow onion, small dice
  • Hard boiled eggs, small dice
  • Mayonnaise (Homemade or store bought is fine. I’m personally using Blue Plate).
  • Salt and Pepper (to taste)

THE POTATOES. This is one of the simplest potato dishes out there. I’m not kidding. It’s 5 ingredients. FIVE. And most of these ingredients you probably have lying around the house already.

Potatoes ready to bring to a boil and then simmered until fork tender.

Potatoes ready to bring to a boil and then simmered until fork tender.

To get started, peel your potatoes and cut them into whatever size cube that you want your potato chunks to be in the salad. I’m using two potatoes because I’m just making it for a couple of people and I like to cut mine into about 1/2- 3/4 inch cubes. Not too small, but not too large. Place them in a pot and cover them with water (there should be one to two inches of water that comes up above the potatoes). Bring them to a boil and reduce them to a simmer. You don’t want them boiling the whole time because the outside of the potato will cook much faster than the inside and you will quickly have mashed potatoes instead of nice chunks for your potato salad.

Once they are fork tender, strain them and place them in a large bowl to mix the rest of the ingredients.

THE EGGS**. There is a lot of controversy over how to correctly boil eggs so that they are perfectly cooked. Do you place them in cold water and bring to a boil or do you place them into boiling water? How do you know how long to cook them? Do you need to put them in ice water afterwards?

Who knew that boiling eggs seemed so difficult? The good news is that I have the technique to give you perfectly hard boiled eggs every single time and it requires 4 simple steps.

Basically, the perfect hard boil egg!

Basically, the perfect hard boil egg!

  1. Bring a small pot of water to a boil.
  2. Carefully add your eggs.
  3. Cook for 15 minutes. (Now, if the eggs are jumping up and down in the pot, then turn down the temperature slightly. They are eggs, after all, and they will crack).
  4. Shock them in an ice water bath (to immediately stop the cooking process).

That’s it. You will have the perfect hard boiled egg. Every. Time. No lies.

THE MIX. Once your eggs are cooked and ready to go (peeled and chopped), place them in the bowl with the potatoes. It’s best if the potatoes are still warm (not boiling hot) because it will help in the absorption of the mayo. Add the onions and mayonnaise. We’ll start with a 1/4 of a cup and go up from there. You can always add more, but you can’t take away. Mix it up. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

The finished potato salad.

The finished potato salad.

Give it at taste. Need more mayo? Add a little bit more. Need more salt? Add a little bit more. The more you cook, the less guessing you will have to do. It starts to become second nature. Potatoes will take a lot of salt, though, so don’t be worried if you feel like you are adding a lot. Also, salt brings out the natural flavors in all of the ingredients and really brings everything together. Salt isn’t the enemy.

And you’re finished. Sure it isn’t an absolutely stunning looking potato salad. It’s all kind of the same color. If you want to add red onion or green onion to give it some color go for it. It is your dish after all, but I’m going to leave mine as it because that’s the way my mom makes it. You see, us Southern gals like to follow tradition.

All you have to do now is cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Some people like to serve their potato salad at room temperature. I call those people weird. Cold is the way to go, in my opinion.

ENJOY IT. Be sure to enjoy the potato salad. I’m personally serving it this evening with some Nathan’s hot dogs (see the very first photo). A quick and easy dinner for a busy day. There is no shame in that! But, it goes perfectly well with a multitude of grilled and smoked items. So, just walk by that container of pre-made potato salad. Give it the silent treatment. Relish in the fact that you made your own potato salad and it’s damn good.

* These ingredients certainly brake the bank, don’t they? That must be why many restaurants feel like they can’t make their own…

** Please do yourself a favor and cook the potatoes AND the eggs at the same time, but in different pots (clearly). It will take you forever to make this if you don’t do this. Also, while they are cooking, get all of your other ingredients together and ready to go. Once the potatoes and eggs are finished, there will be only 10 minutes left in the process. Cook smart! 


Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road? To Be Made into Chicken Piccata, Of Course!

Italy. How I love your food. The simplicity. The bright flavors. The laid-back style. Your cuisine is one that I crave often and also one that I make often.

Your wine rivals that of France and in my opinion, it’s better. Your land produces Super Tuscan’s and Pinot Grigio’s that playfully tickle my palette and so elegantly pair with the food.

Do you ever just crave something in that “gotta-have-it-right-now-kinda” way? That’s my relationship with Italian food. Or maybe it’s my relationship with Italian wine that pairs so wonderfully with Italian food…either way, it doesn’t matter. A craving is a craving and last night I had me a craving. A craving for something crisp and bright. So, I rushed down to the liquor store to buy a nice bottle of wine. (The South: It’s like living in the past down here sometimes. In Tennessee, you’re not allowed to sell wine in grocery stores. At least where I’m from. Bummer. So off to the liquor store I go.)

IMG_2262I arrived back at my apartment with two bottles of Pinot Grigio. Sometimes one just isn’t enough…I mean, I have to cook with it and probably share it with the beau. So, in the fridge it goes to chill. Both bottles were a 2013 Santa Margherita from Italy. Not the cheapest bottle of water in the store, but I have always wanted to try it. It was given to me as a gift a few years ago, but, me being me, I left it in the backseat of my car and forgot about it. A couple of days later, I open up the door and the bottle falls and smashes all over my parents driveway. Wine death by driveway, such a tragedy.

But, moving on…

What to make? What to cook that incorporates both using the wine and drinking the wine. (Remember: Always cook with a wine that you would drink. If you won’t drink it, then it has no business being in your dishes). It needs to be something light. Maybe something citrusy. Ah! I have it! Chicken Picatta, a classic Italian dish that will pair beautifully with the Pinot Grigio. Therechicken piccata 1 is also the added bonus of it being a super simple dish to make with a technique that one can apply to other dishes. I’ve really hit the jackpot on this one.


  • Chicken breasts, trimmed and thinly pounded (about ¼ inch thick)
  • Olive Oil (for browning the chicken)
  • Salt and Pepper ( to taste)
  • Lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • White wine
  • Chicken stock
  • Butter
  • Capers
  • Parsley
  • Angel Hair pasta

Basically, this dish has two parts (like lots of dishes): the chicken and the sauce.

Let’s break it down…

Chicken browning away!

Chicken browning away!

THE CHICKEN. The simple part of the dish. Trim the chicken up if it has any fat or other unwanted attachments. Place it between two pieces of plastic wrap and gently pound it out to ¼ inch thick. You can cut the pieces into a more manageable size if you wish.

  1. Heat a sauté pan over medium heat.
  2. Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
  3. Once the pan is hot*, add the oil to the pan.
  4. Add the chicken.
  5. Flip when it is nicely browned on one side.
  6. Cook until nicely browned on the other side.
  7. Remove from the pan to a plate for later use. (It will finish cooking in the sauce).

Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

The fond. Now, that is a good looking pan!

The fond. Now, that is a good looking pan!

THE SAUCE. This isn’t just any ol’ sauce. This is what’s known as a pan sauce, which is a sauce that is created in the pan the protein was cooked in. We do this so that the sauce picks up the fond (the brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan), which adds an extra depth of flavor. We’re building layers here. Layers of flavor are very important to a dish.

  1. After the chicken has been removed from the pan, it’s time to get those delicious brown bits off of the bottom. How do we do this? By deglazing, which is the process of using liquid (wine or stock) to loosen and dissolve the fond from the bottom of the pan.
  2. So, take some wine and add about ¼ cup or so to the hot pan. Stir and scrape those bits and incorporate them into the wine. Let the wine reduce by half.
  3. Add some stock and lemon juice** to the pan and allow that to reduce a little bit, too.
  4. Mounting with butter (Monter au beurre)

    Mounting with butter (Monter au beurre)

    You’ll notice that the sauce is very thin and that’s not fun for anyone. It’s time to thicken that baby up so that it coats the chicken. We do this by mounting the sauce with butter (or monter au beurre as the French say). You simply take the pan off of the heat and add small pieces of whole butter while whisking them into the sauce. Not too much at one time so that you can really incorporate each piece into the sauce. We’re creating an emulsion here.

  5. If done correctly, you’ll notice that the sauce begins to thicken and begin to look all glossy and velvety.
  6. To finish, season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the capers and the chicken to the pan.
  7. Right before serving, hit it with some freshly chopped parsley to add an element of freshness.
  8. Serve over buttered angel hair pasta.
chicken bathing away

The chicken bathing away in the sauce. Yes, that is a glass of wine in the background. After all, one can’t cook Italian food without enjoying a nice glass of wine.

ENJOY IT. It’s finally time to enjoy your hard work. Mastering the art of the pan sauce may take more than one attempt, but each time you’ll see progress. The best part is that a pan sauce is a pan sauce, so if you know the technique to make one, you know how to make them all.


* If you use a hot pan and cold oil, your food will never stick to the pan. That’s why cooking is all about the technique, people. 

** Cooking good food is all about tasting as you go. If you think it needs more lemon juice, add more lemon juice. If you think it needs more salt, add more salt. A recipe is a guideline, not a list of steadfast rules. Just as every person is different, every palate is different. So, play with the dish. Play with the flavors. Cooking is art, not a science.

Chicken Enchiladas

There are hundreds of food blogs on the Internet so why should you read mine? Why should you follow mine? Why should you learn from mine? Sure, I’ll be sharing recipes, but probably nothing you haven’t seen before whilst perusing Pinterest, Food Gawker, or WordPress. I’m not here to teach you new recipes (although, I might share a few along the way that you haven’t seen before). I’m not here to entertain you with my witty banter even though there will be lots of that. Or at least I hope you find the banter witty.

I’m here to teach you techniques. I’m here to teach you vocabulary. I’m here to teach you how to cook so that, one day, you don’t need that “too-tempting-not-to-pin” recipe. You’ll be able to create your own dishes because you’ll understand the process, not just memorizing the recipe. Bonus: You’ll be able to impress your friends and family with your newfound culinary knowledge!

Chicken EnchiladasDon’t get me wrong. I love Pinterest and I have quite a few recipes pinned. I have also cooked some of those recipes and they are delicious. I’m not here to tell you that they aren’t.

Now, I’m sure some of you have seen the Chicken Enchiladas with Sour Cream Sauce that’s been floating around Pinterest for the last year or so. I love it. My boyfriend loves it. It’s easy and it’s delicious. I will never bash something that has those qualities, but I create it without following the recipe. It comes out a little bit different each time, but different isn’t always bad.

For those of you who have made the dish or something similar, did you know that you make a roux while making the sauce? Or that the base of the sauce is a veloutè with other elements added to it? At the end of this post you will. I’m going to break down the recipe and explain the technique and the science behind why it works.

Let’s get started, shall we?


  • Chicken, cooked, shredded **shredded chicken
  • Cheese (whatever kind you like, I’m using a Monterrey Jack and Colby Mix)
  • Green chiles, canned (add as much as you like, they aren’t too spicy so go crazy)
  • Onion, small dice
  • Butter
  • Flour
  • Chicken Stock
  • Sour Cream
  • Paprika
  • Salt
  • Corn Tortillas (You can use flour here if you’d like, but I prefer the taste of corn)

Basically, there are two parts to this recipe: the sauce and the enchilada.

THE SAUCE. Like I said before, the base of this sauce is a veloutè, which is one of the five mother sauces of French cuisine. It consists of a light colored stock (like chicken or fish) that is thickened with a blond (or lightly colored) roux. It’s really just a gravy, but that isn’t a very fancy word and we chefs like to make things super fancy.

We've reached the proper consistency. Do you see how the sauce coats the back of the spoon?

We’ve reached the proper consistency. Do you see how the sauce coats the back of the spoon?

Traditionally, there is a correct method to make this sauce, but traditional isn’t always the quickest way to go about things. So, we’re going to rearrange some steps to make things move a little faster.

  1. Take 2 tablespoons of butter and melt it in a pot over medium heat.
  2. Add onions and sauté until translucent (3-5 minutes)
  3. Add 2 tablespoons of flour and fully incorporate it into the onions/butter. This step is making your roux, which acts as a thickening agent. A roux is equal parts fat and flour. If you remember that, you can make 1 cup of sauce or 10 cups of sauce. Going for technique here, not recipe memorization. (Rule of thumb: 4 ounces of roux to 1 quart of liquid).
  4. Cook this for 3-5 minutes. This will give you a blond roux, which is great because it’s what we are going for.
  5. Add chicken stock and stir. We’ll start with a cup. Let it come to a boil. Why? The roux isn’t activated until the temperature reaches that of a boil (212 F). No activation = no thickening. So wait for the boil before panicking.
  6. Once the thickening begins, you can gauge whether or not you need more stock, which you probably will since we just started with a cup. Slowly incorporate more until you reach the consistency you desire. Ideally, the sauce should just coat the back of the spoon.
  7. Cook 10 minutes at a simmer to cook out the flour taste. Flour alone tastes awful. Don’t believe me? Eat a spoonful of flour and let me know how you liked the experience.
  8. Turn down the heat to low to add the sour cream. Dairy curdles at high temperatures and
    The finished sauce.

    The finished sauce.

    that’s not really what we’re going for here. We are going for a smooth, velvety sauce. (Fun Fact: Veloutè comes from the French word for “velvet”).

  9. Add the chiles.
  10. Season to taste with salt, paprika, and pepper. (I don’t know how much salt you like, only you know that. All of my posts will say “season to taste” for this very reason).

And the sauce is finished. Not too difficult, was it? The more you cook, the better you will get at the process. Like anything else, you just gotta keep at it.

THE ENCHILADA. This part is a no-brainer. Take shredded chicken and cheese and place slightlyfilling enchiladas off-center on a warm, corn tortilla (the microwave is fine for the warming). Roll it up. Place in a lightly greased baking dish. Continue the process until you’ve got a full dish.

THE FINISH. Cover with as much sauce as you want. I’m a sauce-lover so I go sauce crazy, especially with this one because I find it delicious. Bake at 350 F until it looks all bubbly. Each oven is different so all cooking times will vary. Not once was a time given in culinary school (except in the pastry classes because that’s a science). If you asked the Chef how long something baked for, you got “until it’s done” as the response. Annoying, right?

ENJOY IT. There is no point in cooking if you don’t get to sit down and indulge in what you just created. It might not always turn out the way you wanted it to, but that’s the fun of cooking. Sometimes you get something even better than you imagined.

* You’ll notice that there are no measurements next to the ingredients. I haven’t measured anything in years. I use the “eye-ball” method. If you want the measurements, check out the original recipe from Raining Hot Coupons. Just a reminder that mine is slightly different. 

**For my chicken, I seasoned it with olive oil, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper. I baked it until it was cooked all the way through.



Eating Out Provides Much Needed Inspiration

I love to eat out. The food. The wine. The atmosphere. The conversation. All of these things fuse together to create an experience that is difficult to mimic elsewhere. I never go out to experience just one of these. I always go to experience all of them because if just one of the above mentioned topics is missing, then it’s forgettable, which is the worst thing that can occur when I go out to a restaurant to enjoy myself. I want to remember every restaurant I walk into, but, unfortunately, that isn’t the case for all of them. Maybe the wine and conversation were good, but the atmosphere left something to be desired. Or the atmosphere was great, but the food was lackluster. It’s during these occurrences that the restaurant fades away to the back of my brain to a place where I can no longer locate it.

But why am I droning on and on about eating out? Because when I eat out, I am introduced to new flavors, ingredient combinations, and cooking techniques. Sure, you can read about these things on various food blogs or in magazines, but it’s when you can use all five of your senses to experience it first hand that you truly understand and grasp the concepts.


farm-255When I was living in Athens, GA, I ate at Farm 255 (a local restaurant that is no longer open) with a friend. The concept was farm-to-table, which is very popular today. The layout went along with this theme and was very open with wooden tables and chairs. The kitchen was visible to the diners, which can be a nice touch, but isn’t necessary to be successful.

We ordered a bottle of red wine that was probably French in origin because that was my preference during those years. (I don’t remember the name of it because while I was dining there, I didn’t know I would one day be writing a piece on the experience. Just a reason that whenever you eat out, you should bring a pen and paper to write things down that you never want to forget). I’m thinking it was a Cote du Rhone, which is a favorite wine region of mine. Regardless, it was delicious.

For an appetizer, we ordered the cheese plate, which consisted of small-batch cheeses from farms in Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina. All ingredients were sourced from Southern states, something that quite a few restaurants down here have started to do. You know, staying local.

Anyways…the accompaniments for the cheeses included spiced nuts, fruits, honey, and bread. Each addition was paired with a particular cheese much like wine is paired with food. One of the local cheeses was of the blue variety and if you know me at all, I was never much for blue cheese. It’s pungent and overpowering. Not something I usually liked to indulge in, but the chef paired this blue with a local honey. I began the evening stating that the blue cheese was all his, but the foodie inside convinced me that I should always try new things. I ate beef tongue once and enjoyed it, for heaven’s sake. I should be able to muster up the courage to try the damn cheese. And I did.

© Foodspiration

© Foodspiration

Let me tell you something, this combination was the most divine flavor I had ever tasted in my entire life. It made me forget about all my preconceived notions concerning blue cheese because it does have a place and it can be utterly delicious.

The creaminess, saltiness, and tanginess were mellowed by the sweetness of the honey. The two ingredients came together to create a flavor that I’ve continued to crave to this very day. (It’s been two years just to keep you up to date on the timeline here).

It’s experiences like these that make dining out worth it. They make the bad experiences fade further from my memory while also making the good ones even more memorable. Maybe these memories have been pushed to the back of my mind while day-to-day tasks and stress have remained at the forefront, but I don’t worry. I know that the next time I try something new, a concept that I can’t seem to wrap my head around, it will bring a rush of these wonderful memories that allow me to re-live all of these experiences. Maybe this will happen to you. Who knows, it might inspire you to write your own piece on the experience.


Got Summer Tomatoes?

So, for the first official food post for my brand-new food blog, I thought I’d go with a popular Summer addition: Tomatoes. Most people love a good tomato (don’t worry, I’m counting out you people who have a strict, no-tomato policy.) Do I love taking a large bite out of one? Nope. Definitely not. I prefer to do that with an apple or a peach, but if done right, I love a good tomato.

© Pottery Monster

© Pottery Monster

Why? Because there is so much that you can do with it. You can make a sauce, a salad, a soup…it can be used as a topping, a side dish, the only dish.

But today, I am going to focus on one type of tomato–that vine-ripened Summer tomato. Why? Well, I’m so glad you asked…

If I’ve learned anything about the art of cooking, it’s that ingredients matter. It’s what turns something simple into something that is delicious. Fewer ingredients doesn’t have to mean bland food.

Take tomatoes, mozzarella (or burrata, which is a favorite of mine), and basil…cropped-img_1938.jpg

If all of these ingredients are fresh, ripe, perfect…and they are seasoned simply with salt and drizzled with quality olive oil—they create a delectable appetizer or even an entire meal.

BUT, if you take unripe tomatoes, shredded mozzarella from a bag (the horror!), and dried basil from one of those jars, you have perhaps the most disgusting thing ever created. (Not to totally trash those particular ingredients; they have their place…just not today…).

Ingredients, people, they matter.

And a good, quality tomato might just be the best ingredient a chef can ask for.

What Happened?

I went to culinary school at Johnson and Wales University in 2011. Graduated in 2012. Started working at Five and Ten during my final trimester.

But what happened before 2011 and after 2012?


I went to Auburn University after graduating from high school to major in Food Science. It was a lot of fun. There were parties, bars, football games, and, of course, classes. I enjoyed my studies and my social life, but I overloaded myself with courses Fall 2010. I was dating a guy that was a douche. I was stressed out. Suddenly, life wasn’t nearly as fun as it once was. I had to make a change.

I always wanted to go to culinary school. While I was in middle school, my class made a “dream ladder.” I didn’t have a clue what my dream job at that age was, but the ladder was placed in the lounge when we were seniors and I located my dream: Become a Famous Chef. You gotta remember that I was 12 years old and I had every intention of being famous because, at that age, it seemed like an easy feat. I remember being obsessed with the Food Network and Top Chef. While I was home alone, I would make pancakes as if I were filming my own cooking show (I seriously loved pancakes). It’s what I loved to do and I spent a lot of my time searching the internet for different types of recipes and cooking gadgets. So when my life turned upside down during my time at Auburn, applying for culinary school was the only thing that I knew to do. I dropped out of college after Christmas Break in 2011 and secretly applied to Johnson and Wales before I even consulted my parents. Imagine their surprise if you can, that is.

So, that was that. Goodbye, Auburn and Hello, Johnson and Wales.

You better believe I had the time of my life. Class consisted of learning cooking techniques and eating as we did. Braising, roasting, frying, baking…the list goes on and on. I woke up every day excited to go to class, but who wouldn’t when they knew that it was wine and cheese tasting day. Drinking wine at 7:30 in the morning? The 21 year old in me thought “hell yes”! The 25 year old that I am now is more like “hell to-the no…” Who wants a hangover by noon? Not this girl.

The opportunity at Five and Ten came about for my internship. I simply made a phone call, drove down to meet Dean Neff (the head chef at the time), and was hired. After all, no one turns down free labor. I quickly learned that what you’re taught in school doesn’t apply to what you need to know in life. There is simply no way to replicate the fast-paced environment that a Friday night in a high profile restaurant creates. You learn quickly, though. It’s fun, stressful, and hotter than you could ever imagine.559153_3604429678687_1014888367_n

It’s a hard life. Long hours. Little pay. Lots of drinking. Did I really want my life to be like that? No. I love food. I love cooking. I don’t love 80 hour work weeks. I don’t love getting home at 2 AM every night.

I left. My parents offered to pay for me to finish my Bachelor’s degree back at home. So I went. It wasn’t an easy choice. I was in the perfect place to start my culinary career, but I also knew that I wanted more in my life than to live and work in a kitchen. It just wasn’t for me.

But I learned a lot and I have a lot of knowledge to share. I’ve now officially graduated and looking to start the next phase of my life. What is it, you may ask? Not a clue, but it sure as hell is going to involve food.