Nestled in the blue mists of Tennessee's Smoky Mountains, the 10,000-acre bucolic refuge of Blackberry Farm houses a top-rated small inn with one of the premier farm-to-table restaurants in the country. This sumptuous cookbook offers a collection of recipes that are as inspired by the traditional rustic cooking of the mountainous south as they are by a fresh, contemporary, artistic sensibility. Some of the dishes are robust, others are astonishingly light, all are full of heart and surprise and flavor — and all are well within the reach of the home cook.
California has the French Laundry, Virginia has the Inn at Little Washington, and Tennessee has Blackberry Farm, where the indulgences of a luxury inn are woven together with odes to nature — fly-fishing, hiking, foraging, bird watching, and heirloom gardening — to create a new way of looking at the world, a way in which anything seems possible.
This is particularly true at the Inn's table and in its award-winning wine cellar. To the farm's master gardeners, food artisans and chefs, meals are an opportunity to express not only the earth and the culture of this remote spot, but also its spirit. On a spring day this might mean Rye Whiskey-Cured Trout with Fresh and Pickled Fennel, and the summer garden might inspire a Chilled Corn Soup with Garlic Custard, a papardelle of baby carrots, or a tomato terrine. In the cooler weather, game and traditionally preserved food — cider-basted venison, a shell-bean and gamebird cassoulet, a dried apple stack cake or Bourbon Apple Fried Pies — keep conversation in front of the fire lively. For all its artfulness, however, Blackberry Farm's garden-to-table cooking tends to be an ode to a well-loved cast iron skillet, a backyard smoker or a wood-fired grill.
In the foothills, you don't eat to eat, you eat to talk, to remember and to imagine what you will eat tomorrow. In this book, the stories of the people who practice the traditional mountain food arts — the bacon man, the heirloom gardener, the cheese maker and sausage man — are woven together with the recipes, lore and regional history to reflect the spirit of the cooking at Blackberry Farm. Breathtaking photographs capture the magical world that surrounds the table — the hills and rushing creeks, the lights and shadows of the forest, the moods and moments of the garden.
Fig jam intensifies the fruit flavor in this tart. We make our own jam, but high-quality commercial versions work nicely as well. We like the free-form shape and rustic feel of the tart and have shaped them smaller to make individual tarts and larger to feed a crowd. Whipped cream, slightly sweetened, is a nice addition.
1/2 recipe basic pastry
1/4 cup fig jam
1 pound fresh figs, stemmed and halved lengthwise
1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large egg
2 tablespoons milk
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly butter a baking sheet and set it aside.
2. Divide the pastry in half. On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece of dough into a 9-inch circle. Place the pastry on the prepared baking sheet; overlapping the two circles a little on one side is okay as the edges will be folded in later. Spread 2 tablespoons of jam evenly over each piece of pastry, leaving a 11/2-inch border. Arrange the figs over the jam. Cover the tarts with plastic wrap and set them aside.
3. In a small saucepan, cook 1⁄3 cup of the sugar over medium-high heat without stirring until it melts and turns amber in color. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully stir in the cream and butter, stirring until the mixture is smooth. Brush the tops of the figs with the caramel mixture. Fold the edge of the pastry over the outer edge of the figs, pleating the dough to hold it in place.
4. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and milk. Brush the edges of the pastry with the egg mixture and then sprinkle with the remaining 1 teaspoon of sugar. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and the figs are just tender. Serve warm or at room temperature, cut into generous wedges. Basic Pastry
make s pastry for two 9 -or 10-inch pie shells or one double-crust 9-inch pie
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons shortening
1 l arge egg
1/2 cup plus 1 to 3 tablespoons ice water
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
1. Place the flour and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the shortening and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer to a medium bowl and set aside.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, 1⁄3 cup of the ice water, and the vinegar. Pour the egg mixture over the flour mixture and stir with a fork just until the dough comes together. If the dough is too dry, add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time.
Excerpted from The Blackberry Farm Cookbook by Sam Beall; Introduction by Molly O'Neill. Copyright © 2009 by Sam Beall; Introduction by Molly O'Neill. Excerpted by permission of Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
About Sam Beall
Proprietor SAM BEALL grew up on Blackberry Farm, which was founded by his parents, Kreis and Sandy Beall. After attending the California Culinary Academy, Sam Beall apprenticed at the French Laundry, the Ritz-Carlton, Cowgirl Creamery, and Chateau Potelle. He oversees the entire farmstead, from its restaurants to its heirloom gardens to its honey house.
About Molly O'Neill
One of the most recognized and respected food writers today, MOLLY O'NEILL, long the food columnist for the New York Times, is the author of three cookbooks, including the best-selling New York Cookbook, A Well-Seasoned Appetite, and The Pleasure of Your Company, as well as a memoir, Mostly True: Food, Family and Baseball. She hosted the PBS series Great Food and is the editor of the critically-acclaimed "American Food Writing." Twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, she has won the Julia Child/IACP Award for cookbooks and was awarded three James Beard citations for books, journalism and television as well as the society's Lifetime Achievement Award.
"Sam Beall’s heartfelt words and the beautiful images took me back to my first visit--to the Bealls’ incredible hospitality and the delicious meals they nurtured us with. I am excited that Blackberry Farm continues to evolve into an idyllic destination, grounded by its own sense of place and history."
—Thomas Keller, The French Laundry
"Hospitality, generosity, authenticity, quality, family...Life has stopped and our stress disappears at Blackberry Farm. The food and wine reveal the best of nature. Happiness is what can be found here."
—Alain Ducasse, Alain Ducasse at the Plaza Athénée and Louis XV - Alain Ducasse
"Like Blackberry Farm itself, this book is a celebration of the South and a family dream, deliciously realized. It will take you in, enfold you in a warm embrace and bring you home again to the nurturing hills of Tennessee."
—Patrick O’Connell, The Inn at Little Washington
"If the saying 'God is in the details' rings true, then he may reside along the green hills in the shadows of the Smoky Mountains at Blackberry Farm. The Beall family has created the ultimate destination for lovers of food, wine, gracious service and the infinite 'nice things' that make living grand."
—Frank Stitt, Highlands Bar and Grill
"I admire the Blackberry Farm ethic -- the reverence for place and people, the dedication to artisanal excellence, the trust in long-held tradition, and the belief that, as Wendell Berry once put it, eating is an 'agricultural act.'"
—John T Edge, writer and educator