Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Grist Mill

Growing up in a diminutive town could be a bit of a challenge for a kid that yearned for the city life. For instance; learning to ride a bike on a dirt road and wanting nothing more than a sidewalk to get you to your destination. We kept busy during the day with school, chores and family affairs. Every once in a while on a warm sluggish night we would pile into the back of our neighbor Dub’s old Dodge pickup for a drive on the back roads. Dub was a slow poke and he never drove over twenty mph. We’d drive down dark windy paths through the East Texas Piney Woods in search of old, creepy, grown-over graveyards. He’d pull right up to the graveyards’ edge and then the old Dodge inevitably would, “run out of gas”. We were stuck for about a minute each time, until our shrieking screams brought the old Dodge back to life.
It was Magnolia Springs to be exact and I thank God to this day there is still country in those big woods.

When I think of Magnolia Springs and Hwy 252, I recall lots of cornfields, cornbread and cast iron skillets. My family always had a plethora of fresh field corn. Papa planted fields of Golden Bantam Heirloom Seeds that would sustain the Kirbow family with enough corn to put up for the rest of the year. We would cream the corn to freeze and gently steam the corn on the cob to be devoured at supper time. When the corn was dry and ready to be milled we would take it to Willy Grimes’ Grist Mill. Grimes had mastered the art of milling the perfect texture of cornmeal. I remember it was like cornmeal heaven; clean and pure giant heaping mounds of unrefined corn meal. I loved to run my fingers through the fine powdery residue that was left after the grinding took place and when we left it looked like we had taken a bath in the cornmeal because we were covered in a fine whitish-yellow tinted powder from head to toe.

Now, when I need cornmeal, I jump in my car and drive a few miles to the local market and scan the isles for something that looks like pure cornmeal and not a picture of a Quaker smiling at me from the shelf. Eureka! ‘Lamb’s Stone Ground White Cornmeal’ from Converse, Texas. It proudly carries the ‘Go Texan’ label and a brief product description listing it as Preservative and Gluten Free and “Same Great Product Since 1968”.

These grits have made their way on many plates of mine from which some pretty good recipes have been developed. Most recently I have been experimenting with grit cakes. I wanted to take the grit cake to the next level, so I deep fried it in panko bread crumbs. The texture was out of this world and the creamy center from the cream cheese produced an outstanding Grit Cake.

Grit Cakes
2 cups Lamb’s Stone Ground White Corn Meal
3 ¾ cups Chicken Stock

8 Tablespoons Butter
1/3 cup cream cheese room temperature
1 garlic clove
Kosher salt
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon Louisiana Hot Sauce
Black Pepper
Flour for dusting
Egg Wash
2 cups Panko bread Crumbs
Chopped Parsley
Canola Oil

Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment paper and set aside.
Make a garlic paste by finely chopping the garlic with kosher salt.
Combine chicken stock and garlic paste in a pot, season with salt, and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to medium and slowly whisk in cornmeal, ½ cup at a time.
This cooking process should take about twenty minutes.

When the grits separate from running a spoon through the middle, add butter and cream cheese.
Season to taste and turn off heat.
Gently, pour hot grits on the parchment lined pan and put in freezer for about an hour.

You may also refrigerate for about four hours until firm.
When grits are firm, aggressively flip the pan onto a cutting board and cut the firm slab of grits into squares.
Heat Canola Oil and begin staging for frying.

Dust the cakes in flour, egg wash then panko bread crumbs and fry for about 2 minutes.
Drain and Serve!!!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Maggie's Love Feast!!!

‘Valentine’s Dinner Soiree’
w/ Maggie Benckenstein & Friends
Saturday, February 12, 2011

Seghesio Pomegranate Spritzer
Amuse Bouche
Oyster Fritter, Apple-Lardon Confit
Butter Lettuce, Citrus, Walnuts,
Honey vinaigrette
Seghesio Brut
Garlic Gulf Shrimp, Grit Cakes, Roasted Tomatoes
Firefly Vodka Lemon Tea
Espresso-Chili Glazed Filet of Beef Tender, Parsnip-Yukon Puree, Lump Crab Béarnaise, Frito Misto Asparagus
Marquis De Riscal Spanish Rioja
Dark Chocolate Pot de Crème, Honey Toffeed Pistachio Bark, Candied Cherry Drops, Raspberry Godiva Shooter

Chef Monica Cobb

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Wine Tasting & Dinner w/ Chef Monica

Cena w/ Chef Monica
Jack’s Pak-It

***An ideal setting of Epicurean pleasures that include deep satisfactions like

friendship, family, and community.***

Once a month Chef Monica Cobb will be hosting and preparing dinner with a wine tasting at a private location. Please join Chef Monica for Cena at Jack’s Pak-It on Saturday, February 26, 2010 (7:30-9:30).

Louis B. & John B. will be in the meat market carving up steaks, Lori B. will be our hostess and Chef Monica and Cathy B. will be cooking dinner. Sommelier, Shawn Hare will serve and discuss the different varieties of wine selected with each course.

Chef Monica will prepare, cook and serve dinner and discuss various cooking techniques as well as create the perfect bite for each guest. We look forward to an incredible evening with friends, family and dinner.

This is a gluten-free meal. This is not a vegetarian friendly meal and there will be no substitutions on this dinner so that we can keep the quality service at its highest.

We will be hosting only thirty guests for dinner. To insure your dinner reservations please call no later than February 21, 2010 to make a reservation. To purchase your tickets, please contact Lori Blanda at Jack’s Pak-It (409-892-6345). Tickets are $100 per person-does not include gratuity.

Andiamo a mangiare!
Chef Monica Cobb

Butternut Squash Gnocci, Lump Crab, Brown Butter Sage, Panchetta
Espresso-Chili Glazed Filet of Beef Tender, Truffled Cipollini-Porcini Mushroom Risotto
House Cured Prosciutto, Aged Parmigiano-Reggiano, Arugula
Honey Pear, Raspberry, House Ricotta, Almond Short Bread Tart

Chef Monica Cobb

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

San Valentino Cena

San Valentino Cena 2011


Apertivo , Antipasto, Formaggio e Fruitta

'Pomegranate Perseco Cocktail'



Butternut Squash Gnocci, Lump Crab, Brown Butter Sage, Panchetta

'Campania 2005 Mastroberardino Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Bianco'



Espresso-Chili Glazed Bone In Ribeye, Truffled Cipollini-Porcini Mushroom Risotto

'Campania 2004 Vesevo Beneventano Aglianico'


Frutta Intermezzo

'Blood Orange-Pomegranate Sorbet'



House Cured Prosciutto, Aged Parmigiano-Reggiano, Arugula

'Piedmont 2006 Ceretto Blangé Arneis'



Honey Pear, Raspberry, House Ricotta, Almond Short Bread Tart

Liquers & Caffi

Chef Monica Cobb

Book Your Private Valentine's Dinner w/ Monica.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"Jack Rabbit Stew"

There is something about traveling the open road that can open your mind to all the possibilities outside the cast iron skillet. My road trips or culinary escapades have gone from cross country vagabond; desperado-camper; hot springs hopper; dessert moon dancer; macrobiotic burning man; cars without lights at night in Cairo; Winnebago- commercial chef in the Utah cliffs to the more current- motoring around two fabulous little whipper snappers to and from school, ballet; grandparents’; Magnolia Springs, and “ How much further?” and “Please, don’t open the door while we are driving”, “Almost there”, and “I’m going to turn this car around.”

As a traveling chef I find much inspiration in the people I meet along the way. I’m still cooking fancy California cuisine with a twisted Texas/Louisiana flare that always lights up a plate and a palate. However, what most excites me, is what other folks are cooking; eating; hunting, etc.
My last gig took us to the end of the road somewhere in Texas close to the Louisiana border by way of the Sabine River.

I was lucky enough to have two of my closest associates from the,“Road", join me and help me cook up some fine fare for about 15 people. We stayed busy morning to midnight cooking and serving. We settled into our bunk house porch after midnight and unwound under the wide Texas night sky by rehashing tales from the long day. Food and the creation of food brought us together and provided a sense of common ground and safety in knowing that we had worked hard for food.

Many songs were sung and tales were told but the best one was, “Jack Rabbit Stew".
J.R. met his demise on a dark Taos road by an old faithful VW Van. The driver- with his Indian spirit, took the road bumped J.R. on home to a pot and made a hearty stew that tasted better on day three.

In honor of the road; I salute the weary travelers stricken with high voltage wander lust and lonesome cowgirl blues. Happy trails and happy meals!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Jack's Pak-It----Corner Meat-ing Spot!!!!

Men + Knives + Butcher Block + Raw Meat = Butcher Shop

Jack’s Pak-It is my saving grace on a daily basis. As a private chef I find it very important to be able to forge and sustain a valuable relationship with a butcher and grocer. For five year’s I have been working with the Blanda’s at Jack’s.

Jack’sPak-It it is like a neighborhood pub where everybody knows your name. Instead of the bartender knowing your signature drink the Butcher knows your exact cut of meat.
I love to watch John french an entire rack of lamb into perfect little lollipops or Louis take an entire rack of ribeyes and cut into perfect two inch thick goodness.

On a sunny gorgeous day I like to ride my bike to Jack’s. (It’s about a mile from my house) I like to fantasize about being in the old world where everything is slower and more simple. I peruse the market for inspiration-usually my sense of smell gets the best of me and I make way for the meat counter. I may get a whole fresh young chicken-of course hormone & antibiotic free, a freshly baked Le Brea Bakery baguette, a simple bottle of Red-usually a Malbec, something sweet that Cathy just pulled out of the oven and the local newspaper. I love to see how I can make all of this fit in my over the shoulder pack!

I may pay a bit more at Jack’s than I would at the chain grocery stores but the price is well worth supporting our local small business owners. Our family is the most important part of our daily routines and with out these small family owned shops, what will our children gain from corporate run; chemically-laden; neon lit isles of high fructose corn syrup and shelved customer service.

Hopefully, when my children are adults and come home after college or the circus they will still be able to go to our beloved local Butcher- Jack’s Pak-It and there they will have a sense of familiarity that reminds them of days when life was much simpler and sometimes all you need is a cup of joe, a quick chat over bone-in ribeye and a sincere smile and hand shake.
Jack's Pak-It 409.892.6345 4505 CalderBeaumont, TX 77706

"The Blandas are Sicilians with roots in the cities of Corleone and Bisacquino near the capital city of Sicily, Palermo. In the early 1900's, the Blanda's ancestors began migrating from Sicily, Italy to the United States. Much of the family ended up in Southeast Texas and in particular Orange, TX. Most of the Blanda family remains in the Southeast Texas area.
The Blanda family’s tradition of the grocery business started in 1917 when Grandma Blanda opened the first grocery store in her home in Orange, TX. The Blandas are well known for their Italian culture. It shows in many of the foods they offer as well as how customers are embraced and welcomed as extended family. The Blandas also appreciate the way the customers in Beaumont and surrounding areas have taken them in as extended family as well.
In the family tradition, each day when the doors open for business, an owner is on site to welcome the customer. On any morning the "coffee crew" gathers to share stories and good humor before heading off to work."
“A Beaumont Tradition in Service” is the store’s motto and the Jack's Pak-It staff enjoys meeting their customers and providing personal service. Owner John Blanda says, "We want every customer to feel welcome and leave our store completely satisfied."

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

This Week's Fire Roasted Private Party Dinner Menu

Pears and Iberico Ham w/ Chimichirrri Sauce
Fresh Figs w/ Mozzarella, Oregano & Olive Oil
Herbed Caponata & Fire Grilled Crostinis
Argentina Style Fire- Roasted Pork Loin w/ Rescoldo Bell Peppers & Onions w/ Honey Gremolata

Herb Roasted Root Vegetables (Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, Parsnips & Asparagus) w/ Salsa Lucia

Winter Salad of Arugula, Manchego, Spiced Pecans w/ Apples & Red Wine Vinaigrette

Sweet Finish
TARDIO from Zuccardi's "Santa Julia" label.
Leche Quemada w/ Raspberries