Monday, December 9, 2013

It's ˈDe-byu̇-ˌtänt Season

The ˈDe-by-ˌtänt Season is in full swing! 
It's extra special for me this year as my daughter Mary Bennett Bracalente will be debuting! 
Mary Bennett Bracalente

Jimmy Wood Photography -
Debutantes debut during their sophomore year of college and they pick two sophomore males to escort them.  Generally, not a significant boyfriend, since they could wreck the party at the last minute.  There are also Sophomore Sons who are sons of a member of the Cotillion Club.  More on that later.

Originating from 17th Century European customs, the debutante was a young woman who was eligible for marriage, and part of the purpose was to display her to eligible bachelors and their families with a view to marriage within a select upper class circle.  Things have changed and evolved over the centuries.  I know all Fathers involved in this Debutante Season are not ready to "display" their daughters for marriage.  Present day Debs are Sophomore college students who are making a formal debut into society, usually at a Cotillion.  The Cotillion is a formal ball and social gathering for debutantes during the debutante seasons.  So, to review so far:  Ball, Cotillion, Club and Assembly all go hand in hand with deb-u-tante.

In Sumter and Clarendon counties in South Carolina we have the following clubs: The Lord Clarendon Cotillion, The Azalea Ball, The Camellia Ball, The Cotillion Club, The Epicurean Club, The Trian Club, The Carolinian Ball and The Sumter Assembly.  Most clubs require "an invite" to join.  Our club, The Carolinian, is no different.  We know everyone in our club.  Most are neighbors and all of the Debuting Debs and Sophomore Sons went to the same High School and are great friends. 
The Trian Club

Jimmy Wood Photography -

There is a rigid Dress Code for the Cotillions and that's where I come in, since I rent a lot of the tuxedos for this Black Tie event.  Some gents, me included, like to break tradition.  I like to see David Merchant stroll into the ballroom with his velvet jacket, or tartan trousers or yes, velvet slippers to lighten up the sea of penguins.  This is for the Haberdasher, or the confident, not the beginner.  My advice at C. Anthony's Menswear is by the book.  If a gent is persistent to be different then let's roll with a vest or long black tie, but first we go by the rules.

The Carolinian

Jimmy Wood Photography -

White Tie - white tie means white tie.  The Debutante's Father, the escorts, and the Sophomore Sons will wear tails (preferably peak lapel), white pique shirt & vest and patent leather shoes.  White tie means tails, tails mean white tie.  You would never wear a black tie with tails.  Just as you would never wear a white tie with a dinner jacket.
The Camellia Ball
Jimmy Wood Photography -

Guest Attire:  First, the invitation is like a wedding invitation and should be answered immediately.  The hosts have carefully invited you since there are usually only 4-8 guests allowed per debutante.  These are mostly directed at single men or family.  Let's keep your formal attire simple.  Black tuxedo, black satin stripe pant, wing or regular collar white shirt, black bow tie and vest, wear a cummerbund - pleats always worn open side up.  The open side up dates back to the time when tuxedos were worn regularly to dinner.  The open pleats would catch the bread crumbs at dinner.  Keep cuff links and studs simple - no whimsy.

So the Fathers, Escorts, and Sophomore Sons have assembled their black tie look, now it's time to head to the Cotillion to discover what joys will be waiting there.  It goes like this: There will be a receiving line of Debutantes (they have never looked better) and their families (they have never looked better).
Lord Clarendon Cotillion
Jimmy Wood Photography -
You yourself have probably never looked better.  It feels good.  You will be introduced and move on to the reception area to down a few toddies before a formal sit down dinner. 
The Carolinian
Jimmy Wood Photography -
The Debutantes, Fathers, Escorts and Sophomore Sons will be presented.  Then the Cotillion or dance party will ensue with a live band.  Mostly in South Carolina the band will play beach music since The Shag is our State dance.
The Camellia Ball
Jimmy Wood Photography -

KEEP THE CODE all evening gentlemen.  Never remove your jacket or tie and please don't desert your date.  Be attentive - stand when she stands, remove her chair, remove her coat, open her door, retrieve her drinks.  Be attentive to the Debs - you would not be here if it wasn't for them.  In other words, be a gentleman and hold your liquor.  Stay away from your camera and for goodness sake leave your cell phone at home.  Only leave when you date is ready and don't drink and drive.  A limo is ok.

Get dialed up and ready to dance! 
Happy Eating & dress well - Cheers!

Chip Bracalente - T.P.H.E

Friday, November 15, 2013

Pack' s Landing Duck Breasts

There is a special place deep in the woods accessible only by boat.  It was built by several gentlemen from Sumter several years ago to escape from work, reunite with
friends, family and nature.  Verne Newman, one of my closest friends and a draftsman by trade, designed a cabin in the woods.  It can best be described as "architecture in the woods."  A two story cabin with running water, a four burner stove, a shower if you like, a front porch with a fire pit and seconds away from duck and hog hunting, and some of the best fresh water fishing in S.C. 

Verne and I had a lot to catch up on since we haven't seen much of each other since last year's Dove Season.  We were to leave after work and settle at the cabin for some seared duck breasts, red wine and a fire.  Catch a good nights sleep and return to work in the morning.  Easy cooking and relaxation for 2.  What transpired next took me off guard.  Verne likes to text.  He text "it will be 4", "then 6", "then 8"!  Luckily, I had just scored 8 duck breasts, skin on, from Maple Leaf Farms.

Maple Leaf Farms' Duck Breasts
I buy mine from 5 Star Distributing and Mike Mazzante will deliver to your home or office.  They are thick and juicy with nice fat content that makes a great crispy skin when scored the correct way.

We left out of Verne's cousins landing called Pack's Landing - check it out on Facebook.  We were spending the night at the cabin so we left our truck in the trusty leadership of two Labrador retrievers - Black Duck and Killer.  The Chevy was in good hands.

We putted across the flats of Pack's through all the stumps and structure to end up at our destination.  The scenery was magical as always.  There are no words to describe the beauty of this swamp, but I did manage to take some good pictures.  Most say they go here to escape reality.  We go there to get to reality.

We meet up with the gang for the night at the cabin and I started my prep work while they solved the problems of the world.

I like to derive my menu's from the season at hand.  I stopped by Bradley's Market to check out what Robert Bradley had purchased that day.  He bought some heirloom tomatoes from Lexington, SC. 

A great fall crop that produced a tomato with great acidity flavor and colors of deep purple, green and red.  I thought these would make a great tomato salad for a side dish.  Bradley's had no shortage of fresh apples - about 10 varieties.  I settled on the Honey Crisp Apples.  I needed a sauce for the duck, so I kept it seasonal with some apple cider and splash of Bourbon since I'm sure that would be present at the cabin. 
I grabbed a few bags of Cole Slaw mixture and applewood smoked bacon from the grocery store and loaded the Yeti with my meal.  The menu would consist of : Pan seared duck breast with an apple cider & Bourbon sauce, heirloom tomato salad and cabbage with applewood smoked bacon and sweet onion.

After a few toddies, the gentleman assembly was telling true and untrue - no harm done either way.  David delivered a great blessing before supper and we broke bread, drank some wonderful red wine that paired nicely with the duck. 

We laughed a lot which was great for the soul and ease the pain of having to leave Pack's to go back to work the next morning.

There is something about being in the swamp and eating duck.  Try and keep your sauces seasonal and don't be afraid to try making up your sides by what's in season.  Enjoy the pictures of the swamp.

Eat good and dress well!
Chip Bracalente - T.P.H.E.

Pan Seared Duck Breasts with Apple Cider & Bourbon Sauce

6-8 large duck breast halves, skin on or off
3 Tbsp. grape seed oil
1 Tsp. Kosher Salt
1 Tsp. Garlic powder
1/2 Tsp. black pepper (course)
2 cups apple cider
1/4 cup - 1/2 cup Bourbon
1 Tbsp. Lemon juice
3 - 4 Tbsp. chilled butter
1/4 cup green onions, shredded
1 firm apple, cut into matchsticks
Score duck breasts without touching the meat.
Heat oil in a large cast iron skillet to medium high.  Season duck with salt, pepper, garlic powder.  Add duck to pan skin side down for 4 - 6 minutes or until skin is crispy and browned.

 Flip and cook to rare to medium rare.  Remove and place on a cutting board to rest.

Add cider, Bourbon and lemon juice and reduce liquid to 1/4 cup.  Remove pan from heat and whisk in butter until emulsified.
Slice duck, arrange on top of the cabbage mixture on plate, spoon sauce over and top with onions and apple match sticks.

Tomato Salad

This salad is good with duck, but also makes a great side to chicken dishes.  It's the simplest ingredients but the flavor is phenomenal.  One of my favorites.
4 - 6 Heirloom or other ripe tomatoes cut into 1/4" squares
10 basil leaves fresh, diced
1/2 cup Feta cheese (optional)
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar or cider vinegar
Pinch Kosher salt
Incorporate all ingredients and add a pinch of salt.  Serve room temperature.

Cabbage & Carrots with Applewood Smoked Bacon & Sweet Onions
This is a great side dish for duck and pork.  In the swamp or camping it's easy to grab Cole Slaw mixture and throw it in the cooler.
3 bags Cole Slaw mixture (cabbage, carrots, purple cabbage)
1/2 lb. of Applewood Smoked Bacon (Wright's thick cut) diced into 1/4" cubes
2 sweet onions diced
1/8 cup Apple Cider or white wine
Cook bacon over medium to low heat until almost crispy.  Remove and place to the side on paper towels.
Place diced onions in bacon grease and sauté.  Place Cole Slaw mixture in bacon grease with the onions and sauté for 2 minutes - add bacon pieces back to pan and add Apple Cider or white wine and let liquid reduce.  Can cover with lid to keep warm.


Eat good and dress well!
Chip Bracalente - T.P.H.E.

More Pictures - Enjoy




Thursday, October 24, 2013

Baltimore, Maryland - May 2013

The youngest child of my sister Jan, Andrew, graduated high school this past May.  To celebrate The Bracalente & Carlson families reunited for a graduation party or an excuse to get together to cook.

Our weekend of cooking started with a trip down to Highlandtown in Baltimore with a visit to DiPasquale's Deli - your place for everything Italian.  If you're within 100 miles of  Baltimore stop and Eat here!  Eggplant parm, oven-fired pizzas, pasta fagioli, Tuscan chili, bruschetta, and their specialty sandwiches to name a few.  I settled on The Real Italian - salami, pepper ham, mortadella, capicola & provolone with all the toppings between a whole loaf of crusty Italian bread fresh from the oven.  I mean this - it was the best I've ever tasted to this day.  The combination of the meats and cheeses with their blend of grated cheeses and spices, lettuce, onions and mild hot's with the crunch of some of the best bread anywhere will remain in my memory, until I run into something better.  Inspiration #1 for our party - a deli tray from DiPasquale's.  The owner sliced us two types of salami, sharp provolone, pepper ham, paper thin prosciutto, a medley of olives and stuffed red peppers and mortadella wrapped up to be
assembled later.  Oh yea - while the meat was being assembled we tried a pastachio and a chocolate chip cannoli - can't wait to go back to DiPasquale's.  Homerun!
After a visit to an Asia market for some ingredients, the wine store for some Italian Reds & we were ready to get serious about our menu.

My uncles, Bob and Mepe Bracalente were in for the occasion and we love to listen to their stories of my late Dad and growing up in Atlantic City. We can sit for hours drinking red wine listening to them reminisce.  My wife, Zan, my sister, Jan, my Mom, Bea and I put our heads together on the menu.  We were cooking for 25.  We settled on the following recipes and went to work:


      Aunt Sue's Oven Fried Chicken

      Bea's Potato Salad

      Cannellini Bean Salad

      Jan's Orzo Salad

      Feta Salsa

      Watermelon Cucumber Salad

      Insalata Caprese

      DiPasquale's Meats, Cheeses & Olives

What a Line up

What a line up.   Needless to say, it got real quiet when everyone started eating.  It was a success and Andrew graduated and went on to Mary Washington College - we're proud of him.

Enjoy these recipes as we have and share them with friends.  These are great sides individually or do them all together for a big party.  They are simple to prepare and fun to prepare with your cooking partners.

Happy Eating and Dress well - Cheers!

Chip Bracalente - T.P.H.E.


Aunt Sue's Oven Fried Chicken

Serves 8


2 whole chickens cut up; chicken breast split
All purpose flour
10 eggs beaten
2 bags Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix


My Great Aunt Sue would "slow cook" this chicken for 4 hours and nobody has been able to figure out how she did it, but it rates at the top in our family.  I think most of us cook it at 300 - 350 degrees until the top is brown - cooking times will vary depending on your oven.  Start checking at 40 minutes and adjust accordingly.  Cook your wings in a separate pan because they will cook quicker.

Line up your ingredients in separate pans.  Dip chicken in flour with salt & pepper mixed in, egg wash second and then roll in Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix.  Spray your pans with non-stick spray and cook breasts, thighs and wings & drumsticks in separate pans.  The breasts and wings will cook a little quicker than the thighs and drumsticks.  Place a pat of butter (not margarine) on each piece of chicken before going into a 300 degree oven.  The cooking time varies but normally around 1 hour everything will be finished.  Place chicken pieces on a wire rack when finished.  Eat hot or cold and refrigerates well for a couple days.  I try not to eat a lot of salt, but this chicken is great with a "pinch" of Kosher salt on top.

Bea's Potato Salad

Serves 8
16 red potatoes skin on
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1-4 scallions sliced thin
1 grated carrot
2 Tbsps. fresh dill
1Tbsp. Kosher salt
2 tsps. pepper
Boil red potatoes until tender, strain and let cool.  After cooled, quarter and place in a large bowl to mix.
Incorporate the sour cream, mayo, scallions, carrot, dill and salt and pepper into the potatoes.  May have to adjust your mayo and sour cream to taste.  Refrigerate for 2 hours.

Jan's Cannellini Bean Salad

Serves 8
3 cans Cannellini Beans
2-4 Tbsps. Balsamic vinegar
2-4 Tbsps. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 garlic clove diced
1 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/3 cup fresh basil chopped thin


Drain beans and place in a bowl.  Add the balsamic vinegar, EVOO, garlic clove, red pepper and basil.  Can cover and leave out or refrigerate.  Good for a few days in refrigeration.

Jan's Feta Salsa

1/2 lb. feta crumbled
2/3 cup sundried tomatoes in oil
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata Olives
2 Tbsps. fresh dill
3 Tbsps. parsley
2 Scallions
1/2 cup good olive oil
Mix ingredients together and serve with crackers.

Jan's Orzo Salad

1 Box of Orzo
1 cup of feta cheese
1 cup Olives - preferably Greek
3-4 tomatoes cut in 1/4 in. pieces
2-3 scallions diced
fresh dill
Orzo is a rice shaped pasta also know as risoni.  It's in most supermarkets, yet not many use this small pasta. I think it's because it looks too much like rice.  It boils quickly - within 2 minutes its done.

Boil orzo, strain and add a splash of olive oil and mix with the orzo to keep it from sticking together and let cool.  Place orzo in a large mixing bowl and add the feta, olives, tomatoes, scallions and fresh dill.  I like to refrigerate for a couple hours to let the ingredients meet each other.

Andrea's Watermelon - Cucumber Salad

Jan's great friends Andrea and Charlie are always a welcome site when we visit Baltimore.  Andrea is Greek and threw this great Greek inspired salad together for the party.
2 cups cucumber in 1 in. chunks
1 thick slice of stale country bread
1 med. red onion thinly sliced
3 cups cold watermelon cut into 1 in. cubes
1 cup feta cheese
1 tsp. sherry or raspberry vinegar
ground pepper
fresh mint leaves for garnish 
Place chunks of the bread in bottom of bowl.  This will absorb the watermelon juice.  Layer all ingredients.  Let stand for 30 minutes.  Serve cold.

Insalata Caprese

In Italy, unlike most salads, it is usually served as an antipasto (starter), not a contorno (side dish).  We used it as a side dish with our chicken.  Because this salad is so simple, fresh ingredients are important. 
Fresh sliced mozzarella cheese sliced 1/4 in. thick
4 lg. Tomatoes sliced 1/4 in. thick
1/2 cup Fresh Basil leaves
3 Tbsps. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher - salt to taste
Pepper - fresh ground - to taste
Balsamic vinegar (optional)

On a large platter, alternate and overlap the tomato slices, mozzarella cheese slices, and basil leaves.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Season with sea salt and pepper.  We like to add a drizzle of aged balsamic on our Caprese.

 DiPasquale's Deli Meats and Cheeses

Large Deli Tray:
1/4 lb. Salami
1/4 lb. Sopressata 
1/4 lb. Mortadella
1/4 lb. Prosciutto
1/8 lb. each of Sharp Provolone, Blue Cheese, Fontina
1/2 cup mixed olives
4 stuffed red cherry peppers
marinated eggplant
marinated asparagus
This is always my favorite dish, not only to shop for, but because there is no wrong way to buy the ingredients for this dish.  Assemble and get creative and watch your company be amazed.

Happy Eating and Dress well - Cheers!

Chip Bracalente - T.P.H.E.