Everyday I get the chance to give a visual voice to words on a manuscript. As Senior Photographer for Oxmoor House publishing, I have the privilege of shooting for brands such as Southern Living, Cooking Light, Sunset, independent authors and big companies such as Lodge Cast Iron. I work closely with a creative team of editors and designers and spend my days on set with super talented food stylists and prop stylists. Our passion for food and photography unites us everyday over the same goal, to give beauty and visuals beyond the words on a page that you will read later and enjoy in your kitchen.
That's the best I can describe my full time job. And I love it. When I moved to Birmingham to come work at Oxmoor House, I had no idea of what was ahead of me, the connections I would make with like minded people in the industry and all the beautiful cookbooks I would get the chance to work on with our amazing food and prop stylists. We are a tight unit taking our responsibilities to authors and recipes incredibly seriously. With their talents and our ideas, I am able to dive in my own photography freely and geek out, take risks and have a load of fun at the same time.
This past Fall, we worked on an amazing book for Lodge Cast Iron, the well known original American cast iron cookware. And what a blast we had. It's not easy to shoot things in black skillets let me tell you... but we were given complete creative freedom with just the directive of "make it beautiful, make it Lodge". This iconic brand deserved gorgeous imagery blending its natural rustic look and feel with modern styling and photography techniques and compositions.
I loved how we all came together and worked our butts off to make it happen. I was able to work with my dear fried, Tami Hardeman, professional food stylist and the voice behind Running With Tweezers, who came to spearhead the book with our food stylists. We were all gelling for sure. Some of my favorite shots if my career so far grace the page of this book. I am super proud of the work accomplished by all involved and I hear the company is absolutely thrilled about the results too. Woohoo!
The book, entitled Lodge Cast Iron Nation, came out a couple of weeks ago and is collection of tried and true recipes, family favorites and sophisticated yet attainable restaurant recipes. Some were ones I cook at home regularly such as clafouti or chowder while others were completely new and surprising (and delicious) such as chicken cooked over hay.
I am a bit late coming to share it with you (I will post about my trip and workshops to New Zealand soon!) but I am doing so today with a couple of presents...
To celebrate its release, Lodge Cast Iron is giving away a copy of the book as well as a 12-inch cast iron grill pan (I have it and love it to pieces).
To enter: leave a comment on this post between today, Saturday April 5th and Tuesday April 8th (midnight), one entry per person, no anonymous comment please. Super easy... The winner will be drawn at random and announced promptly after. Good luck!
I am leaving you with two tasty recipes that I enjoyed photographing for the book. And eating, let's face it, we ate really really well on set!!
Serves 6 to 8
For Tanya Holland, cookbook author and chef-owner of Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland, California, this dish is a celebration of her cooking experiences. “My paternal grandmother in Virginia always fried apples in a cast iron skillet. My maternal grandmother in Louisiana always toasted pecans in her pan. Cherry clafoutis was one of the first ‘exotic’ desserts I made when I was taking cooking classes at Peter Kump’s New York Cooking School...at 23, I felt so sophisticated just being able to pronounce it!”
¾ cup pecan pieces
1 ½ pounds firm, semisweet apples, like Fuji or Pink Lady
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1⁄4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon apple brandy
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Powdered sugar (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Pulse the pecans in a food processor until finely chopped; be careful not to process into a powder. Set aside.
2. Peel and core the apples. Slice the apples in half, then cut each half into 1⁄8-inch-thick half moons.
3. Heat a Lodge 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat; add the butter. When melted, swirl to coat the bottom. Add the apples, 1⁄4 cup of the sugar, and the cinnamon, and cook until the apples soften, about 10 minutes, stirring a few times.
4. While the apples cook, whisk the eggs, remaining 3⁄4 cup sugar, the milk, brandy, and vanilla together in a medium bowl. Whisk in the pecans and salt, then slowly whisk in the flour to avoid lumps. Pour the batter over the apples in the pan. Bake for 10 minutes at 375°, then reduce the oven temperature to 350°, and cook until the clafoutis is nicely puffed up and browned on top, another 35 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired. Serve immediately.
From Lodge Cast Iron Nation: Great American Cooking from Coast to Coast/ Oxmoor House
NORTH CAROLINA DOWN EAST CLAM CHOWDER
No, not Down East Maine, but North Carolina. All along our Outer Banks and Southern Outer Banks is home to this style of chowder. Somewhat akin to the chowders of Rhode Island, this style is more about the clams than the thick, cream- based chowders of New England. “It’s a type of chowder,” says Fred Thompson, a cookbook author, resident of Raleigh, North Carolina, and publisher of Edible Piedmont, “that you’ll find at a local’s home.”
1⁄4 pound salt pork or slab bacon, sliced 1⁄4 inch thick
1⁄2 cup chopped onion
4 cups water, or half water and half clam juice
1 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 quart coarsely chopped chowder clams
4 cups diced (1⁄2-inch) potatoes
2 dozen small clams in the shell, scrubbed (farm-raised from North Carolina are perfect) Milk, half-and-half, or light or heavy cream, as desired
Sliced white bread (optional)
Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish
1. Cook the salt pork in a Lodge 5-quart cast iron Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp. Remove the pork, and discard, reserving the rendered fat in the pot. Add the onion, and cook until tender (but don’t let it color), about 5 minutes, stirring a few times. Pour in the water, then add the salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Add the chowder clams, reduce the heat to low, and slowly simmer, uncovered, until the clams are tender, about 1 hour.
2. Add the potatoes, increase the heat to medium, and simmer until they are tender, about 20 minutes. During the last 10 minutes, add the clams in the shell, and cover the pot. Add the milk, if using, right before serving, but give it enough time to warm (a couple of minutes usually works).
3. If you like, set a slice of bread in the bottom of each large shallow serving bowl, then ladle in the chowder, making sure to get a couple of the shell clams. Sprinkle with parsley, and serve with oyster crackers.
Serves 10 to 12
Sidebar: How Fred Makes Chowder
1) The key to a good chowder is timing. Wait until the potatoes are fork tender before adding the clams in the shell, because they don't take long to cook.
2. Be careful not to overcook the clams. They will be completely cooked when their shells open wide (about 10 minutes). Discard shells that remain closed.
3. To thicken this chowder like the locals do, place a slice of white bread in the bottom of each serving bowl before ladling the chowder into the bowl.
From Lodge Cast Iron Nation: Great American Cooking from Coast to Coast by Lodge Manufacturing Company/ Oxmoor House