Monthly Archives: November 2013

Benne Wafers, or Sesame Seed Cookies

If there is one book every Southern household should posses, be it a one-bedroom apartment or a grand, ancestral estate; it’s Charleston Receipts. It’s full of amazing recipes, idioms and household tips from days gone by. Some of it is slightly out-dated, to be sure, but a good portion of it is delicious cookies. This recipe is one of a few for Benne Cookies, “benne” being another word for sesame seed.

Before we begin, let’s talk for a second about brown sugar. Brown sugar is my new best friend. Never, ever buy brown sugar. Whenever you need brown sugar, here’s what you do instead: Mix 1 cup sugar with 1 Tablespoon molasses. It will clump up a bit at first, but keep mixing and eventually you’ll end up with what is quite clearly brown sugar. Way cheaper and literally exactly the same thing. You’re welcome.

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Benne Wafers (makes 6-7 dozen, I made a half batch)

1 1/2 c. brown sugar (or 1 1/2 c. sugar mixed with 1 1/2 T. molasses, as per above)

3/4 lb. butter, room temp.

1 egg

3/4 c. flour

1/4 t. baking powder

1/4 t. salt

1 c. sesame seed

Pre-heat oven to 300F.

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This is just your standard cookie technique: Mix together sugar and butter, add the egg (a lot of people scoff at the notion of halving an egg, it’s very simple; scramble the egg, then measure it out and use half) and mix until smooth. Add dry ingredients and mix  until fully incorporated. Measure out in heaping teaspoons place about 2 or 3 inches apart on parchment paper (they spread pretty far) and bake for 15 minutes, one sheet at a time.

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Overnight Ox-tail Soup

I don’t how many of you are fans of You’re Doing It Wrong, but I am not. I firmly believe that there are at least 9 ways to skin a cat and 4 ways to dice an onion. BUT, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t little tricks out there that can help you improve certain dishes. Rinsing rice (except arborrio), and swapping bananas for eggs in scones come to mind. Here’s another: pretty much any soup will taste better the day after you make it. This is particularly true of a soup wherein you cook the meat first, because it gives you the opportunity to remove the fat which will solidify in the refrigerator.

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Overnight Ox-tail Soup

First Day:

-1 1/2 lbs ox-tail

-1/2 inch dice of aromatic vegetables (3 carrots, 3 stalks celery, 1 medium onion, 3 cloves garlic minced)

-2 bay leaves

-1 Tablespoon dried spices (I like to use equal parts thyme, rosemary and crushed red pepper; but feel free to mix it up)

-28 oz. can crushed tomato

-1 Tablespoon tomato paste

-Enough water to cover the meat

This definitely falls onto the complex end of the spectrum, but I promise you, it’s simple enough. Bon courage! And remember, this is a soup, so most of the measurements are ballpark and to taste.

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In a dutch oven, brown the ox-tail sections (I’ve never seen a whole one at the butcher’s, but if that’s all they have ask to have it cut) on all sides over a medium-high heat. This is an occasion to wear an apron, there will be spatter, and it will stain your shirt or burn your arm. Remove to a plate, but leave the fat in the pan. Add in the aromatic vegetables (what the French call mirepoix) and stir these until soft, the plan is for them to turn to mush by the time it’s done. Add the remaining ingredients, turn the heat down and let this whole business simmer at least 3 hours. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking and add water if it gets lower than the meat, but you can leave it alone for the most part. After a good simmer, let the soup come down to room temperature and then refrigerate it overnight.

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Second Day:

-1 1/2 c red wine

-Vegetables (this time we used half of a patty pan squash, a dozen Brussels sprouts, and maybe a pound of potatoes, but you can do whatever you want)

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Remove the solidified fat from the top of the soup (this time I got most of a cup!), add the wine and return to a boil. I suggest using a red that you wouldn’t mind drinking with the soup, this time I used a Spanish tempranillo that Svetlana at the Bottle Shop pointed us to.  Add the vegetables and continue to cook for about an hour or so. By then the vegetables should be ready and  the meat fork-tender. Done. Simple, non?

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