Tuesday, November 19, 2019

An Evening with Carla Hall

It's not often a celebrity chef travels to the Piedmont Triad. Last week, Carla Hall of "Top Chef" and "The Chew" fame did a cooking demonstration as a fundraiser for the Greensboro Public Library Foundation. It was so fun seeing this larger than life (literally - she is 5'11"!) TV personality showcase recipes from her new cookbook, and they were all absolutely delicious dishes. About 80 people turned out for this event, and it was quite an eclectic crowd. Carla married her love of soul food with her appreciation for local and plant-based foods for a fabulous meal. It was fun to be surprised by her inventive flavor combinations. And I want to be her best friend.
The woman herself!
Upon our arrival, we were greeted with a glass of bubbly. That's how I'd like to be welcomed into every room, every day. It was paired with a fluffy Buttermilk Biscuit, topped with Deviled Egg Salad. I'm usually not a fan of egg salad, but this had very little mayonnaise and had great herbaceous notes. She actually demo-ed the biscuits, and a diner at my table won them! So we got to try her biscuits fresh out of the oven. They were spectacular, as you'd imagine.
Deviled Egg Salad on Buttermilk Biscuit
The next course was a Caramelized Leek and Mustard Green Soup, topped with Chow Chow. This was the least attractive dish (hence the lack of photo), but maybe my favorite of the night. It was a shock to my taste buds, this earthy, tangy, satisfying bowl of leeks and greens, and the chow chow brought a nice texture and acidity. This is something I will definitely make again this winter.

Our taste buds were then transported to the Caribbean for Chicken Thighs smothered in a Coconut, Lime and Chile sauce. The chicken was cooked perfectly, and while the sauce was spicy, it wasn't overpowering and provided a really lovely heat. My dining partner doesn't enjoy spicy foods but had no problem with this dish. The Hot Water Cornbread that accompanied it was really fun to try. It was thin, crispy, salty and really delectable to dunk in the sauce.
Caribbean Chicken Thighs
Hot Water Cornbread
Garlicky Pork Tenderloin with Black-Eyed Pea Vinaigrette was some of the best pork I've ever tasted. It was cooked perfectly, which is difficult to do for multiple plates, and the sour, tangy vinaigrette was something I never would have thought to pair with this meat. The pork sat atop Roasted Cauliflower with Raisins and Millet, which reminded me of quinoa. Even the humble Rainbow Carrot was done justice, roasted and topped with Benne (like Sesame Seeds). I've had all of these ingredients before, but I hadn't enjoyed them like THIS before.
Garlicky Pork Tenderloin with Cauliflower, Millet and Rainbow Carrots

Dessert seemed like it was designed just for me - Poured Caramel Cake. I love a good yellow cake with thick caramel frosting, and I never thought I'd utter the words "too sweet", but it was indeed a shock to the palate after the sourness from the previous dish. The creme fraiche on top really helped cut through the sweetness, but don't get me wrong - I still ate every bite.
Poured Caramel Cake
I can't wait to repeat some of these recipes and explore more in Carla's new book, Carla Hall's Soul Food: Everyday and Celebration. She even signed it "Hugs and Biscuits". She is quite a talented chef, and I admire her even more now.

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