Sunday, January 4, 2015

04 January 2015

Welcome to the first Sunday Supper of 2015! I hope your holidays were filled with peace, joy, and lots of great food. Although we flew to New Orleans with our friends on Christmas morning to spend the long weekend in the Big Easy, I managed to roast my customary standing rib roast for Jeff's family for Christmas Eve dinner. It turned out well, and I also baked an Italian Cream Cake for dessert. Of course, New Orleans was a non-stop food fest, and we had plenty of excellent meals. We were back in Canton in time to celebrate New Years Eve with a progressive dinner and cocktails with some of our neighbors and friends, and we joined some friends for New Years dinner for the quintessential fare: black eye peas, collard greens, cornbread and more. I contributed the collards and used a recipe by Virginia Willis that calls for a smoked turkey leg. Everyone enjoyed them, and all of the food was delicious.

After so many holidays and an odd work schedule, I am ready to get back to normal tomorrow. We finally took some time to slow down a bit this weekend, and the rainy weather encouraged us to watch some movies and hang out at home. We did manage to join some of friends at a special service this morning at Action Church. As many of you know, I am a big fan of their pastor, Gary Lamb, and of all the good work the church does in our community. Last year, they stepped up and opened Canton's official warming shelter when it got so cold, and they do so much many other things for our citizens in need. Their "Give Canton the Bird" Thanksgiving food drive was a huge success, and they fed a lot of families. This morning, Action Church launched their #ForCanton campaign, so I wanted to show up and check it out in person. I was joined by my fellow Council member, Sandy McGrew, and several of our friends for a very inspiring service. Gary's message centered around Action's upcoming building program and expansion into the old McFarland's grocery space which will increase their current 7,500 sq ft space by another 25,000. Gary talked about how this growth was not about the church but rather "for Canton." They want to better serve the needy in our city, and the new space will function as a distribution center and home for those in need of help and spiritual growth. I urge everyone to visit to hear more about their great work and how you can help make our great city even better for everyone.

After an uplifting service, I was even more excited to prepare a great meal for the first Sunday Supper of 2015 and the premiere of Downton Abbey, Season Five. In keeping with the show's theme, I decided to cook both "upstairs" and "downstairs" courses. For starters, I made a celery soup with bacon croutons and lemon infused olive oil. The main course was definitely downstairs with a crispy potato topped Cumberland Pie. It is basically a cross between beef stew and Shepherd's Pie. For dessert, I was intrigued with a dessert Martha Stewart made on her show I watched during a marathon PBS cooking show binge on Saturday – Ile Flottante. This "floating island" is a baked meringue cake with caramel sauce, and I served it with a vanilla and cinnamon creme anglaise. In keeping with the British them, the Cinnamon Hill stick from England was a special gift from my dear friend and fellow cook, Elly Hobgood. She gave me four distinctive cinnamon sticks from different countries to try, along with a special grater. This gift will be put to very good use! The ile flottante turned out perfect, and it is a very elegant and fairly simple dessert to make, not to mention fun.

So cheers to 2015! May it be filled with positive action, love for your community, friends, family and plenty of comfort food.

The Menu:

- Celery Soup with Bacon Croutons and Lemon Olive Oil

- Crispy Potato Topped Cumberland Beef Pie

- Ile Flottant with Caramel and Creme Anglaise

The Recipe: Celery Soup with Bacon Croutons
(Adapted from Food and Wine Magazine)


6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 medium leeks, halved and thinly sliced
2 medium onions, finely chopped
3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Kosher salt
12 large celery ribs (2 pounds), trimmed and thinly sliced
4 ounces bacon, finely diced
Three 1/2-inch-thick slices of country bread, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/2 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
Lemon olive oil, for drizzling (or regular olive oil)


n a large saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter. Add the leeks, onions, garlic and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper and cook over medium heat, stirring, until softened but not browned, about 12 minutes.

Add the celery and cook, stirring, until just starting to soften, about 3 minutes.

Add 8 cups of water and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to moderate. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are very tender, 35 to 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook the bacon over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until browned and crisp, 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel to drain.

Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in the bacon fat. Add the bread, and cook over medium heat, stirring, until browned and crisp, 8 minutes. Transfer to another paper towel, and season with salt and pepper.

Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender until smooth. Return the soup to the saucepan, whisk in the creme fraiche or sour cream, and season with salt and pepper.

Serve hot, topped with the bacon, croutons and a drizzle of lemon olive oil or regular, good olive oil.


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