'Martha Moments': Embracing Spontaneity in the Kitchen


Regina Charboneau

To try Regina's recipe for Creole cream cheese ice cream, click here.

I have a running joke with a few friends about having a "Martha moment." That is when I am suddenly more driven than Martha Stewart to take on a spontaneous project in the kitchen. Every now and then something just comes over me and I am catapulted into an obscure project, making something I could just as easily buy. An example was one very cold and lonely February when, while on my husband's home turf, Minneapolis, I was compelled to make chocolate truffles to mail to friends in California for Valentine's Day.

In retrospect it seems a bit silly, as there were so many superior candy makers, especially Joseph Schmidt in San Francisco, that make a great product, but I had convinced myself that the difference was that these were from the heart. I had brandied clementines earlier in the fall and I decided to make a chocolate ganache with a puree of them. I had to buy the perfect candy molds and of course find the best chocolate. To finish my molded truffle project took a lot of work and patience (and patience equals work to me).

I find canning and preserving not only a perfect "Martha moment" but also
quite simple.

I had to temper my chocolate to keep my chocolates glossy and pay very close attention to get it all right. I did it and loved every minute of it, and I have never made them again. I figured that if I sold these truffles, each truffle would have to sell for $18. And then I came to the quick realization that it still was not worth me ever going into that business, and the more profound realization was that all artisan chocolate makers have a lot of heart and I admire them for it. I have tackled just about everything about chocolate except apprenticing with a bean-to-bar artisan in Europe. Maybe I can do that when I take that time off to live in France long enough to really speak the language.

I missed my opportunity for making pickles this year, but when I make pickles, I like to add pickled baby carrots and baby beets and sprigs of dill to make the jars more worthy of being on display. I find canning and preserving not only a perfect "Martha moment" but also quite simple. I just like the way those colorful concoctions make my kitchen shelves look cozy. I have a bad (maybe good) habit of giving most of what I make away. I just cannot help myself. It must be a gene from my father, and if someone is leaving my kitchen I feel I have to put something in my guest's hands to take away.

Unfortunately I have seen the dwindling selection at our local farmers' market, as it is the end of our summer growing season. This time of year there is little to no inspiration for a canning project. So for my recent "Martha moment" I began thinking about taking on a cheese-making project. I have looked into ordering rennet on different websites to make Creole cream cheese. I have been more interested in researching vegetable rennet because I have several friends who are vegetarian or have food allergies—one in particular to beef rennet. I think she read how rennet is made using calf's stomach. That might alone create an allergic reaction.

Vegetable rennet has been used for hundreds of years in many Mediterranean cheeses. I read that Homer says in the Iliad that the Greeks used fig juice to coagulate milk. Many plants have coagulating properties. Enzymes from thistle or cynara are used in some traditional Mediterranean cheese production, and phytic acid, derived from unfermented soybeans, or GM soy rennet may also be used.

As luck would have it, last Tuesday there was a knock at my kitchen door. Truly, there stood Jamie Mauthe from Progress Dairy Farm of McComb, Mississippi, with samples of fresh whole milk, fresh yogurt, her homemade cheese cakes, and yes, Creole cream cheese. The ladies that work at our Natchez farmers' market had sent her to me, knowing she would find an instant customer and fan. I am thrilled it is available to me at our local farmers' market. McComb is an equal distance from New Orleans and Natchez. New Orleans had been Kenny and Jamie Mauthe's main market until Katrina. They are not getting re-established in that market, and I am delighted they have decided to come this way as well. I enjoy those "Martha moments," but I also like knowing there are great products like their Creole cream cheese at my fingertips. I am sure I will make the following recipe, Creole Cream Cheese Ice Cream, more often.

I have very fond childhood memories of my great Aunt Corrine's Creole cream cheese, which she would sweeten and top with fresh sugared figs or strawberries during my summer visits to Opelousas, Louisiana. Her homemade fig ice cream still remains my fondest food memory from those days and I am wondering if her secret ingredient was not Creole cream cheese. I have tried to make fig ice cream with buttermilk, but I am re-thinking it.

Here is my recipe for Creole Cream Cheese Ice Cream. There are many good recipes online for Creole cream cheese; I prefer the recipe from Emeril Lagasse. It is the closest to what I remember. I would trust John Besh as well.

Recipe: Creole Cream Cheese Ice Cream