Wednesday, September 19, 2012

ENOUGH with the Fried Chicken already !!

If I had a dollar for everytime I am asked, “How can you call yourself a southern restaurant and you don’t serve fried chicken?” or a dollar for everytime I am walking through the dining room and I over hear one of the servers fumbling through an explanation to a guest why there isn’t either fried chicken or chicken at all other than chicken salad. 

I know, I know there is nothing more southern than fried chicken. A southern cook is distinguished  by her ability to fry chicken. In the movie and book “The Help”, several minutes of screen time and ink on the page were devoted to Mini and her famous fried chicken! Trust me, I get it. People love their fried chicken and at times, I LOVE IT TOO! 
Fried chicken brings back memories of Sunday dinner with the family, for me you knew it was about time to hit the road for a long road trip in the summer, when you smelled the chicken frying, a special occasion dinners after church or between Sunday services. For a lot of us “grown ups”, there’s not a significant family gathering that was not enhanced with a large platter of steaming hot fried chicken. So believe me, I understand the nostalgia  but my stance on chicken is the same as it is with cupcakes. Unless I can do something amazing with it, I am NOT going to fry chicken! The Southern Cuisine repertoire is so vast that I honestly feel that I am and would be doing my customers a disservice if I resort to something as cliche as frying chicken. 

The decision to not serve chicken was a very deliberate one. It was not an easy decision to make and in-fact, when we first opened, we had fried chicken on Sundays. However, after a couple of weeks of struggling with it, I decided to LET IT GO! We are a contemporary southern “Bistro” whose purpose is to challenge people to experience traditional southern ingredients and food in a different way.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

90 Days & Counting 

I know that it has been a month of Sundays since I've last blogged but now that my 30th birthday has come and gone, it's so hard to imagine that Magnolia's has been open for a little more than 90 days. Even before I started culinary school, it was a goal of mine to open my own restaurant. I talked about it and mentally planned the concept with every free moment that I had.

Getting to this point was not easy. There was a lot of bumps in the road; and many times where I wanted to throw my hands in the air and yell "Forget it! That's it!" But somehow I was able to find the inner strength to keep pressing forward. One would think that the closer we came to opening, the more excited I would be but let me tell you, that was most definitely not the case. As the date approached, my anxiety grew and on a 10 scale, my stress was 1,000! Most of my days were spent obsessing over every little detail. Things that no one but myself cared about. "What about this on the menu? What if people don't like it? What if no one comes? Who's going to work here? What if they don't like me? Hell, what if I don't like them?! I love the color purple. What about painting the bathroom purple? Is that too feminine? Would guys feel comfortable using a purple bathroom?" The list goes on and on. At night my head would be spinning with all the what if's. I am sure that I was getting three good hours of sleep a night. 

Throughout this process, I have really gotten to know myself and in some ways been challenged to my inner core. I have had to toughen up a bit, get a thicker skin and in so many words stop taking things so personal. Magnolia's is like my new born child and anytime I would get any negative feedback it would hurt me to the soul. I have also had to learn that "sarcasm" is not an effective way to manage people. Mainly because employees have a hard time figuring out if you are serious or not. Another lesson that took me a while to figure out was that this is MY dream and MY baby and people are not going to care about it as much as I do. When you own a business, it is unreasonable to expect people to care about it as much as you do. To respect it as much as you do. 

Regardless of all the ups and downs, the challenges that I have faced, I am so grateful to God because he has been with me through the whole process. Watching me, protecting me, uplifting me, and at all times comforting me. I am grateful for my "circle" for encouraging me, being understanding and supportive. Being my personal cheerleading squad. Next I am gratetful for my "party people", my children. They have sacrificed their summer to be here with me. We had lots of late nights and early mornings at Magnolia's. They are here with me with little to no complaining and at times working harder than the regular employees. Lastly but surely no least I am SO grateful to Magnolia's customers and guests. Since our opening, we have had the pleasure of sharing in our customers' anniversary celebrations, retirement parties, baby showers, bridal showers, and this past July our very first wedding! Having the opportunity to experience these moments, the times when I am able to get past my shyness and come out in the dining room and interact with you and at your request, partake in your photos make it all worth it to me. The kind words that you all have given me have touched my heart. More than you all will know!!! 

Lastly I would like to thank all of your "Behinds"for enduring our outrageously uncomfortable chairs! It bring me great joy to inform the world that we have ordered new chairs and they will be here in about two weeks. If you have a free moment I encourage you to stop in and check them out!!! 

~ Chef Shanita 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Valentine’s Day Chez Vous

Make Your Dining Room Love Central This Feb. 14

“What are you doing for Valentine’s Day?” Inevitably, I get asked this question dozens of times every February, and each year the answer is the same—working. As a chef, I know firsthand how busy and expensive restaurants can be on Feb. 14th. That’s why I’m dedicating this month’s blog to helping you create the perfect Valentine’s Day ambience in the comfort of your home and at a fraction of gourmet restaurant prices.

The centerpiece of my Valentine's Day is, of course, the dinner. To me, there is nothing more sensual than experiencing a well-prepared meal. I am a firm believer in the aphrodisiacal nature of food. If you have ever fed grapes to a lover or shared a loving and painstakingly prepared meal with someone special, then you don’t need to be convinced about the power of aphrodisiacs.

The good news is that aphrodisiac foods are low in fat and high in vitamins and minerals. Packing your diet full of these types of foods not only leaves the body healthy and full of energy, but also improves blood flow and increases certain hormone levels necessary for a peek sexual experience in the bedroom.

So, let’s get to the aphrodisiac-rich menu I have created for your Valentine’s Day celebration…

Tomato Basil Soup
Grilled Lamb Chops with Coffee Rub
Sautéed Asparagus with Butter and Shaved Parmesan
Herbed Risotto
Chocolate Fig Bundles
Basil Lemonade and/or Honey Lemon Spritzer

While each component of the meal has a sexy quality, some more obvious than others, here are some fun facts about two ingredients that don’t get enough credit for their aphrodisiacal qualities (basil and figs) as well as a time-honored favorite (chocolate).

Basil: Considered to be the royal herb of the Greeks and sacred in India, its alluring power has been used to keep the wandering eye focused homeward.

Figs: Eating a fig is like tasting pure unadulterated sensuality! When you eat a fig you experience one of the oldest-recorded fruits in history (think Adam and Eve adorning themselves in fig leaves, Cleopatra’s favorite fruit, a Dionysian orgy, or the Roman saturnalia).

Chocolate: Pure cocoa butter causes chocolate to melt in your mouth (or whatever else you put it on). The cacao plant’s caffeine properties stimulate and surge blood flow while arousing with its “cannabis- like” fatty acids. Chocolate is also believed to boost serotonin levels, a brain chemical linked to sexual arousal.

Now before you look at the menu and think I am crazy, don’t worry I am not going to leave ya’ll hanging on this one. I am going to demonstrate the entire menu, and with the help of Eco Posh Designs, show you some budget-friendly decorating tips.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Pie Day Friday ( Repost)

Although I am a summer baby fall is my favorite season of the year, not only because of the weather but the flavors of fall. If I didn’t work so much during fall I swear I’d gain 25-30 pounds because I love the seasonal food of fall so much that I just can’t stop eating.  I know that it may sound cliché but for me the ultimate fall comfort food is Apple Pie. So much so that I honestly can’t bring myself to enjoy and Apple Pie any other time of the year. Apple Pie is probably the reason that as a young child I made up in my mind that I was going to be a chef. Like clockwork as soon as Stephens Apple Orchard was open my dad would round us up for apple picking, sometimes my mom would come and then we would enjoy a lunch at the Stephens Restaurant (back when the food was worth eating, but as usual all good things must come to an end). My siblings and I would get our paper sacks and run up and down the orchard picking more apples than our arms would carry and eating ( OMG Yes I ate un-sanitized fruit, this was before I took the serve safe course and became a germ phobic) apples until we were sick.  Now there were four of us so I am sure you could imagine my mothers horror when we all walked in with a brown paper grocery sack filled to the brim with apples. My mom was a good cook but not a very adventurous one so she would make as many apple pies as she could stand and then we would eat or give away the rest of the apples. Now the pies that she made were amazing and people in the neighborhood and family loved them but me being the over analytical child that I was could not understand why we went through the effort of picking, peeling and cutting up apples only to then put them in a mediocre store bought pie shell. Don’t get me wrong I loved the pie but I knew that I can make them better.
When I was about 13 I started experimenting with the crust, there was no way in hell that my mom was going to make crust because she felt like that was way too much work. Then my godmother and cousin Sarah taught me how to make her Apple Cake and I was off from now on it was my responsibility to take care of the apples. I was making Pies with homemade crust, Apple Cake, muffins, apple sauce and butter. It was not until I got older that I started to explore cooking with apples in my savor meal preparation, but that is another blog this one is all about PIE!!! I promised that I was going to share a recipe with you so I am going to share my Carmel Apple Pie….This recipe is so good that my little brother one a cooking competition with it .
The Foundation of any great pie is the crust, to me if the crust is not right you may as well forget. When you look at this recipe you will notice a few ingredients that you would not normally find in Pie Crust. I have been making crust since I was 13 so this recipe has evolved over the years. Try it out and let me know what you think, this is my “go to”. Nothing to me is more comforting than APPLE PIE
Magnolia’s Carmel Apple Pie
Deep Dish Pie Crust (this makes enough dough for one two crust pie)
4 ½ cups Sifted All purpose flour
1tsp salt
2 eggs beaten
4 tablespoons sugar
1 cup Ice cold butter
½ cup ice cold shortening
6 -8 tablespoons of milk
Unless you want to do it for nostalgia reasons it is no necessary to make this by hand…Thanks to the domestic Diva Martha Stewart I learned how to make crust in the food processor. You have to have one with a full size bowl because there are 4 cups of flour if not you can use a mixer with a paddle just be careful not to over mix.
  1. In mixer or Food processor bowl add in the Flour, salt and sugar make sure they are thoroughly incorporated
  2. Add the cold butter and shortening and mix till fat is in pea size pieces
  3. Mix together the eggs and the milk and add to the flour shortening mixture till comes together…BE CAREFUL you are not making bread and over mixing will make a tough dough
  4. Form into two balls, flatten, wrap in plastic and chill, while you work on the rest of the ingredients
Apple Pie Filling
Carmel Sauce (you can use a prepared sauce if you want but why?)
1 ½ cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1 ½ cups Heavy cream
½ tsp vanilla
Zest and juice of one orange
8-10 Jonnagold or Gala, Granny Smith (if you like a little tartness)Apples ( I like LOTS of APPLES )
½ cup unsalted Butter
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
½ cup white sugar
½ cup brown sugar
(if using caramel cut the sugar down to ¼ cup each )
3 tablespoons of Cinnamon
Fresh grated nutmeg to taste
  1. Peel , core and slice ( thick slices) apples
  2. Toss in sugar Cinnamon and flour
  3. Place in the bottom crust ( roll out to 1/4 inch thick)
  4. Add the butter in pieces and pour in Carmel Sauce about ½ cup
  5. Put on top crust and the easy way is to crimp edges with fork
  6. Brush crust with heavy Cream or egg wash and sprinkle with sugar
  7. Bake in oven 425 for 15 mins then lower temp to 350 for 35 to 40 mins
Just like a steak you want to let this cool slightly before cutting and serve with homemade vanilla ice cream and a little more caramel sauce !!

Monday, December 12, 2011

So It Begins .....

Today is December 12th and I have final decided to jump into this blogging thing. Since the year is almost over there is no point in recapping the ebb and flow of 2011 lets just say that from a business perspective we have pushed through and are coming out on the other side YAY ME and YAY Magnolia's !!

So what is the point of this blog you may be wondering, well let me tell you what it is Not, I am not going to be sharing personal life drama,rants about my "haters" or hyping my rather boring life. What I am going to share with you is my culinary journey, until 2008/ 2009 I hadn't cooked professionally for 5 or 6 years. Getting back into the business has been weird, and this blog with chronicle my experiences as a chef and this wonderfully stressful process of opening a restaurant ( in a down economy, I am crazy right? ). Let me warn you in advance so you don't think I am illerate but writing was NOT the focus of culinary school, with that being said at times my grammar & spelling my be a little questionable, I am aware so please don't judge me :)

With the evolution of Food Network the business has changed and so has the customer, but I have stayed the same, my foundation as a chef is SOILD, I love simple, yet flavorful food. If you are looking for gimmicks and the latest food trends I am not the Chef for you. I know that it is old fashioned but I just don't believe in all that, for me the food, the ingredients and the preparation should be the star not some foam infused, liquid nitrogen concoction !! Let me not get on that soap box today we can talk about that some other time.
Well this first entry has been super fun, I have gotta run I am teaching a group of home schooled children how to make holiday meringue cookies this afternoon don't worry I will post pictures and recipes later. In the mean time subscribe to this blog & share is with your friends also if you have any food questions post them in the comments section and I will do my best to answer them.