My Beverly Hills Kitchen: Classic Southern Cooking with a French Twistby Alex Hitz
From the restaurateur and television personality Alex Hitz comes this cookbook of more than 175 all-time favorite Southern dishes. In My Beverly Hills Kitchen, Hitz blends the home cooking of his mother’s Atlanta kitchen with lessons he learned from some of the world’s great chefs and hosts to come up with classic, satisfying comfort/i>
From the restaurateur and television personality Alex Hitz comes this cookbook of more than 175 all-time favorite Southern dishes. In My Beverly Hills Kitchen, Hitz blends the home cooking of his mother’s Atlanta kitchen with lessons he learned from some of the world’s great chefs and hosts to come up with classic, satisfying comfort food.
These step-by-step recipes are so clear that anyone can do them. Hitz shows you how to prepare a meal for two or twenty and that quality is achievable on any budget. He reimagines best-loved dishes and adds that little something extra to make them more delicious than you ever dreamed possible. The twelve chapters include such signature recipes as Sweet Potato Vichyssoise, Cold Pea Soup with Mint, Scrambled Eggs with Caviar, Dorothy’s Baked Cheddar Grits, Millionaire’s Macaroni and Cheese, Salmon Pot Pie, Perfect Roast Tenderloin of Beef, Dorothy’s Fried Chicken, Salted Caramel Cake, Apple Pear Crumble, and Molten Chocolate Cake with Bourbon Whipped Cream. There are also recipes and stories from Hitz’s famous friends who were known for their simple but fantastic food—Bill Blass’s Sour Cream Soufflé, Nan Kempner’s Bacon Sticks, Connie Wald’s Penne with Vodka Sauce, and Betsy Bloomingdale’s Peach Ice Cream.
Hitz suggests perfect menus for every season and will show you how to make every day a special occasion. He shares his secrets about entertaining, ingredients, and cookware that guarantee the best results and will make a difference as you become a great chef and host on your own.
Comfort food has never been this irresistible—or easy.
Sybil Pratt, Bookpage, Top 10 Cookbooks of 2012
- Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
- Publication date:
- Sales rank:
- Product dimensions:
- 7.86(w) x 10.60(h) x 1.23(d)
Read an Excerpt
My philosophy on hors d’oeuvres is simple: less is more. With apologies, I will continue to say this phrase throughout this book. These days, I find hors d’oeuvres just too complicated. They should set the stage for the main course to come, not try to usurp the role.
When I give dinners, I rarely serve more than one hors d’oeuvre, sometimes two, and never more than three. They’re always passed, small (generally one bite—which all hors d’oeuvres should be), and fairly simple. Hors d’oeuvres should whet one’s appetite for more. They’re small microcosms of flavor, a tiny burst of sensuality that is there, and then gone. Maybe you should have another, or maybe you should just wait until dinner.
Dorothy’s Cheese “Straws”
Which aren’t straws at all, but, actually, wafers
Anyone who has ever lived in the South knows what a cheese straw is: a savory, salty cocktail cookie shaped long-ways like a straw, made of sharp Cheddar cheese, butter, flour, and cayenne pepper, and always on hand for that Southern habit of dropping by. Seemingly every household has its own version, and great pride is taken in the exploitation of its subtleties.
Dorothy Davis, our beloved family cook, rarely used a recipe, but I had the foresight to write this one down. The secret to Dorothy’s cheese straws is that they featured dried dill and chopped pecans. These days, perfectly delicious cheese straws are easily purchased, but few are as delectable as Dorothy’s.
yield: 60 small wafers
1 pound extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
2 sticks (16 tablespoons) salted butter, at room temperature
2 cups flour
1⁄8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped pecans
2 teaspoons dried dill
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place the cheese and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. On medium speed, cream the butter and cheese together until they are light and fluffy, approximately 3 minutes.
Mix together the flour, cayenne pepper, salt, pecans, and dill in another bowl. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients slowly. This whole process should take no more than a couple of minutes, and the dough will be coarse and dense.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and place it in the refrigerator for an hour. Take the bowl from the refrigerator and pour the dough onto a floured surface. Cut the dough into 3 equal portions, and roll each portion with your hands to make 3 balls, making the balls into logs about 2 inches thick.
Be sure the dough is condensed so there are no air holes. Roll the logs in wax paper and put them in the freezer for 1 hour. Remove the logs from the freezer and slice them into half-inch slices. Place them on the parchment-lined baking sheet, and bake them for approximately 10 minutes, until they are golden but not yet brown in color. Let them cool at least 15 minutes and either freeze them or serve them.
Note: These will keep in the freezer for up to six months.
My Cheese “Straws” (Parmesan Tuiles)
Note: These aren’t straws either . . .
With no disrespect to Dorothy, my “straws” are easier, quicker, and infinitely lighter. Try both and make your own decision: there’s no way to go wrong with either one. Please note this recipe calls for shredded Parmesan, not grated. Shredded Parmesan, when it melts, will make a sturdier “straw.” I pass these little gems around with Champagne, put them in small silver bowls on the bar, or serve them with any hot or cold soup.
yield: 16 medium-size tuiles
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Line a heavy baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place a small (1 ½-inch; I prefer small, but you decide how large you like them) biscuit cutter on the parchment and drop 1 tablespoon of shredded Parmesan into the circle. Repeat, spacing the piles about 1 ½ inches apart.
Bake the tuiles for 10 to 12 minutes, until the cheese has melted and the tuiles are beginning to become golden. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and, while the tuiles are still hot, grind some black pepper over the tops. Remove the tuiles from the baking sheet with a spatula and either serve them or store them in an airtight container or freeze them to serve later. They will keep at least a week, but I bet they will disappear the day that you cook them.
I pride myself on being a fairly disciplined person but have an embarrassing weakness for these incredible cheese puffs. I simply cannot stop eating them. Gougères are a staple in France, hailing from Burgundy, with a similar omnipresence as the cheese straw in the South. Their flaky lightness, breathless beauty, and craggy complexity suggest that a super-skilled pastry chef has prepared them. Nothing could be farther from the truth. They are essentially fool-proof, and exponentially worth the minimal effort they require. They can be served hot or cold, and are just as good when done ahead and reheated. Once you master this version, get creative, and substitute other cheeses for the Gruyère, or throw in some bacon, or sautéed onions, or any herbs you choose, and we’ll see just how disciplined you are!
yield: 80–100 puffs, depending on the size
½ cup whole milk
½ cup water
1 stick (8 tablespoons) salted butter
3⁄4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
6 large eggs
1 ½ cups grated Gruyère cheese (or 3⁄4 cup grated Gruyère and 3⁄4 cup crumbled Roquefort), firmly packed
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, firmly packed
1 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
1⁄8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a heavy baking sheet with parchment paper. In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, bring the milk, water, butter, and salt to a rolling boil. Add the flour all at once, and begin stirring quickly. Keep stirring until the dough begins to come together and pull away from the sides of the pan. This whole process should take no more than a minute or a minute and a half. Remove the pan from the heat and let the dough rest for 5 minutes.
Using a rubber spatula, spoon the dough into the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and beat it on medium speed, adding the eggs, one at a time. If the dough separates, don’t fret! It will come back together. After adding all the eggs, increase the mixer speed to high and beat in the cheeses, mustard, and cayenne pepper for about 3 minutes. The dough should be shiny and sticky—gorgeous!
Using a measuring spoon, scoop the dough in 1-teaspoon increments onto the parchment-lined baking sheet, each mound approximately 2 inches apart.
Turn the oven down to 375°F. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake the gougères for 10 to 12 minutes. Rotate the pan and bake them for another 4 to 6 minutes, until their tops are golden brown.
Remove them from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet for at least 5 minutes before serving, or let them cool completely and freeze them. They will keep for up to 3 months in the freezer. Reheat them, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes at 350°F and serve them warm.
Mushrooms Stuffed with Blue Cheese
These are easy, quick, and gorgeous. You can substitute hollowed-out cherry tomatoes for the mushrooms, if you’d like.
yield: 12 to 14 bite-size hors d’oeuvres
12 to 14 whole medium mushrooms, stemmed
4 ounces blue cheese (Roquefort, Gorgonzola, Stilton)
4 ounces cream cheese
1 tablespoon half-and-half
½ teaspoon lemon juice
1 ⁄4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
12 to 14 roasted whole pecans
Wipe the mushrooms with a cloth dipped in acidulated water (1 ½ teaspoons lemon juice or white vinegar to 2 cups water) to remove the grit. Do not rinse or wash the mushrooms in water as they will get soggy, bruise, and generally not hold up well when stuffed.
In a small mixing bowl, using an electric hand mixer, Cream the blue and cream cheeses together with the half-and-half and lemon juice.
With a rubber spatula, transfer the cheese stuffing mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a star tip. Pipe the mixture into the mushroom tops, neatly and in a pretty pattern.
Place a whole roasted pecan on top, and serve.
Mushrooms Stuffed with Mushroom Duxelles
This warm hors d’oeuvre is slightly more challenging than the previous cold one, but not enough to dissuade you from trying it. It is also excellent for stuffing chicken breasts, beef tenderloins, or roasted quails. You can also substitute it for the Gruyère in the Gougères (page 161). Don’t be afraid to use it in just about anything else that could benefit from a rich, savory stuffing.
yield: 24 hors d’oeuvres
24 medium mushrooms
6 tablespoons salted butter, divided
½ pound medium mushrooms, minced
2 tablespoons brandy
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 cup minced green onions (both white and green parts)
1 ⁄4 teaspoon salt
1 ⁄4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 300°F.
In a large skillet over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. When the foam has subsided, add the minced mushrooms and stir.
The mushrooms will release a fair amount of water as they are cooking. When all the liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are very soft, add the remaining 4 tablespoons of the butter, the brandy, cream, and onions. Continue cooking over medium-low heat until all the liquid has evaporated and there is barely any liquid in the pan. Set the pan aside and allow the mixture to cool for at least 20 minutes.
Place 1 ½ teaspoons of the duxelles mixture into each of the mushrooms’ crowns, rounding off the tops. Place the mushrooms on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, let them cool slightly, and serve.
Fried Green Tomatoes with Pimiento Cheese
As you know, a green tomato is an unripe tomato, not a special variety of its own. In the summer, they are readily available in grocery stores and farmers’ markets in the South, and at Whole Foods or farmers’ markets in New York. In some parts of the country, like Los Angeles, they are not as easy to find. I order them from the produce guru at my local grocery store, and it usually takes him a day or two to find them. They are worth it. This unlikely combination is an hors d’oeuvre that will knock guests’ socks off. I never had fried green tomatoes growing up, and, in fact, only when the movie with Kathy Bates came out did I start thinking about them. Nothing sounds more Southern, except when you add pimiento cheese.
yield: 36 to 44 bite-size hors d’oeuvres
2 large green tomatoes
2 large eggs, beaten
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
3 cups vegetable oil
Pimiento Cheese (recipe follows)
Cut the tomatoes into ½-inch slices, and then take a one inch biscuit cutter and cut the sliced tomatoes into 1-inch rounds. You will get approximately 3–4 rounds per ½-inch slice. Pat the tomatoes dry with a paper towel.
In a large, deep skillet, heat the oil to 375°F using a candy thermometer to measure the temperature because a meat thermometer won’t get that hot.
In three medium bowls—one for the beaten eggs, one for the flour, salt, and pepper, and one for the bread crumbs—dredge the individual tomato slices first in the eggs, then in the flour, shaking off the excess, and last in the bread crumbs.
Immediately after dredging—they will get too soggy if you wait—fry the tomatoes in batches in the skillet until they are golden brown on both sides, approximately 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove the first batch of fried tomatoes from the skillet and drain them on paper towels. Repeat this with the second batch. Garnish them with a generous dollop of pimiento cheese and serve them warm.
This Southern staple, in one form or another, is a very easy spread to make and a true crowd-pleaser. I’ve served pimiento cheese to many a finicky gourmet who greets it skeptically, tastes it reluctantly, savors its deliciousness in shock, and then asks for the recipe. There are endless variations—pickles, pecans, currants, onions, and so on—but this recipe, with fresh roasted peppers and Worcestershire sauce, is the one I always like the best.
yield: About 1 pound (enough for all of those fried green tomatoes, plus an extra sandwich or two for the cook . . .)
3⁄4 pound red bell peppers (2 to 3 large peppers)
½ pound sharp Cheddar cheese, preferably orange in color, grated (and weighed before grating)
½ cup mayonnaise
1⁄8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1⁄8 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Preheat the oven to 450°F.
Roast the peppers on a baking sheet in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until the skins begin to blacken and blister. When the skins are fully blistered, remove the peppers from the oven, let them cool for 2 to 3 minutes, and then cover them with plastic wrap and let them steam for 15 minutes (the steam will loosen their skin). Remove the plastic wrap and peel the skin. Chop the peppers in half, discard the seeds, and dice the remaining pepper strips.
Place the cheese, diced peppers, mayonnaise, cayenne, salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce in a large bowl and mix them together. Let the cheese mixture chill in the refrigerator, covered, for several hours, or overnight for the best flavor. Pipe the cheese mixture with a pastry bag over the warm fried green tomatoes and serve. There’ll be left over pimiento cheese that you just won’t be able to stop eating!
Hot Artichoke Custard (on Toast Rounds or as a Dip)
Blushingly, I include this recipe, which I am sure will make food snobs doubt my credibility. I am prepared for that. This recipe is a beloved, guilty pleasure, widely recognized and largely referred to in varied Southern regional patois as “Cup, Cup, Can.” No proper Junior Leaguers would ever have been admitted without knowing this recipe.
Even though I have tried to make it a bit more up-market by adding some fresh minced garlic, there is no way to imagine that it would ever be an award-winning innovation of elegance. I might suggest that you make your own mayonnaise for this, but it’s so good with plain old Hellmann’s (Best Foods, west of the Rockies) that, quite honestly, it’s just not worth the trouble. Serve it as a dip, or as an hors d’oeuvre or toast rounds.
yield: About 21 ⁄4 cups
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, firmly packed
1 cup mayonnaise
2 (14-ounce) cans artichoke bottoms, drained
1 teaspoon minced garlic (approximately 1 small clove)
1⁄8 teaspoon salt
1⁄8 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, pulse the cheese, mayonnaise, artichokes, and garlic until they are coarse—5 or 6 times depending on the length of the pulses. Do not process the mixture until it is smooth as you will lose some of the pleasure of eating the delicious lumps of flavor.
Using a rubber spatula, transfer the mixture into a 4-cup soufflé dish. Place the soufflé dish on the center rack of the oven and bake it for 15 to 20 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Remove the baking dish from the oven and let the custard cool for 10 minutes before serving. Serve it with crudités or crackers.
Priceless Pecan Bars
If pecan bars had a gold standard, this would be it. I have never, ever had any better. So many pecan pie-like-things are made with corn syrup—a practice I cannot ever see as acceptable in my kitchen. I have replaced that product with sugar, eggs, and butter, and if they aren’t the best you’ve ever had, please send me your recipe, and we’ll test them together, because I just don’t believe you!
yield: One 9x13 baking pan, or one quarter sheet pan
2 sticks (16 tablespoons) salted butter, cold, plus more for the baking pan
1½ cups dark brown sugar, firmly packed
2 cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
1½ cups dark brown sugar, firmly packed
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ cups chopped pecans
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9 × 13-inch metal baking pan.
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed, cream the butter and sugar together until they are light, about 5 minutes.
Turn the mixer to low and add the flour and salt, mixing until you have coarse crumbs.
Pour the crumbs into the prepared baking pan and press them down with your fingers to cover the pan evenly.
Bake the crust for 20 minutes, until it is just brown, remove it from the oven, and let it cool completely.
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, on medium speed beat the eggs and sugar together until they are smooth, approximately 3 to 5 minutes.
Turn the mixer to the lowest speed, and add the salt, vanilla, and chopped pecans. Turn the mixer off.
Pour the pecan topping over the cooled crust and bake it for 20 to 25 minutes, until it is just set.
Pumpkin Pecan Flan with Roquefort
Growing up in the South, we never had pumpkin anything. It wasn’t until I spent my first Thanksgiving in New York, and then in Los Angeles, that I had pumpkin in the fall with any regularity. Here’s a recipe I devised several Thanksgivings ago to punchup the flavor of regulation canned pumpkin with the warmth of my favorite nut, the pecan, and the tang of delectably indescribable French Roquefort.
yield: 6 to 8 servings
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
3 large eggs
2 egg yolks
½ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
½ teaspoon salt
1 ⁄4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
½ cup crumbled Roquefort (or other bleu cheese)
1 ⁄4 cup roasted pecans
2 tablespoons chopped chives for garnish
crème fraîche or sour cream for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter an 8-cup soufflé dish or two 4-cup soufflé dishes.
Combine the pumpkin, eggs, yolks, heavy cream, ginger, salt, black pepper, and sugar in a food processor fitted with a metal blade and process until smooth.
Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dishes and assemble a bain-marie (see note, page 000).
Top the pumpkin mixture evenly with the crumbled Roquefort and then the roasted pecans.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until barely still trembling; bake for 5-10 minutes, less time if you will reheat it the next day.
Serve warm, garnished with the chives and crème fraîche.
ASSEMBLING A BAIN MARIE
Note: it sounds fancy, but it’s very easy, and makes such a difference in cooking perfect custards, that you owe it to yourself to learn how. Place a soufflé dish into a deep roasting pan, and pour boiling water into the sides of the pan, so the water comes about a quarter of the way up the sides of the soufflé dish. Be very careful when you put the bain marie in the oven so you don’t burn yourself!
Butternut Squash Soup
I’d be utterly delighted to eat this soup all year round. It’s a fragrant, pungent combination—a magnificent synthesis of flavors, sweet and savory, with just the right hint of richness. The apples in it, combined with the squash and onions, are a diametrically opposed but balanced delicacy, and the underlying aromas of oregano and rosemary distinguish it among squash soups, which often rely on the accent of milder and more lemony thyme to carry them through. I recommend this soup as a first course for Thanksgiving dinner, or, for that matter, for any lunch or dinner during the fall. I think you’ll find it addictive, unexpected, and oh-so-easy.
yield: 8 cups, or 6 to 8 servings
1½ pounds butternut squash
1½ pounds Red Delicious apples
1½ cups diced onions
2½ cups chicken stock
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 cup heavy cream
Peel and chop the squash into approximately 1½ inch cubes. Peel and core the apples, and chop them into pieces the same size as the squash.
In a medium-sized stockpot over a medium heat, combine the squash, apples, onions, chicken stock, salt, rosemary, and oregano. Bring them to a simmer and cook until the vegetables and apples are tender (you can pierce them with a fork), approximately 15 to 20 minutes.
Remove the stockpot from the heat and, in a food processor fitted with a metal blade, puree all the ingredients until smooth. You may need to do this in batches.
Pour the pureed vegetables into a medium mixing bowl and stir in the heavy cream. Cover and refrigerate it overnight. When it’s time to serve, reheat the soup to a simmer, and serve hot.
Meet the Author
A graduate of Peter Kump’s Cooking School in New York and Le Cordon Bleu, Paris, Alex Hitz was a partner of Mary Boyle Hataway at the renowned Atlanta restaurant The Patio by the River and now appears regularly on HSN with his own line of luxury prepared comfort food, The Beverly Hills Kitchen.
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