Recipes and Stories

7 December 2018: Baked Potatoes

December 7, 2018

Tags: Classical Southern Cooking, Classic Southern Cooking, Baked Potatoes, Mashed Potatoes, Baked Mashed Potatoes, Potatoes, Historical Southern Cooking

Old Fashioned Baked Potatoes: boiled and mashed potatoes mixed with butter, milk and salt, then spread in a casserole, topped with a sprinkling of black pepper, and baked until golden brown on the top.
When we nowadays hear “baked potato,” what automatically comes to mind is a fat russet potato baked whole in, as the old cooks would have put it, “its jacket,” until the outside is crispy and and the inside is fluffy and dry.

But before wood burning iron cookstoves and later, gas and electric ranges replaced the open hearth in the kitchen, that was called a “roasted potato,” which for us today usually means potatoes that are cut up, tossed with oil, and baked at a high temperature. (more…)

30 November 2018: The Writing Life and Chicken and Dumplings

November 30, 2018

Tags: Classic Southern Cooking, Chicken and Dumplings, Slipperies, Winter Comfort Food, Comfort Food

Old-Fashioned Southern Chicken and Dumplings
This page has been a bit quiet the last few months and I’m sorry about that. But I did promise at the beginning that it wouldn’t be filled with drivel just to keep myself in front of you all.

In the meantime, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what I do.

In many ways, it’s a small thing. It’s just stringing words together on a page—and not about the monumental, earth-shaking problems that are facing humankind. I don’t probe the depths of the human intellect or heart, nor contemplate the vast mysteries of the universe. I don’t attack injustice, blind hatred, suffering, or destructive greed.

All I do is write about how to cook and do it well. It’s never about being clever or inventive, and rarely tries to shake anyone up. It’s about ordinary stuff. And comfort.
(more…)

20 November 2018: Mastering Thanksgiving Again

November 20, 2018

Tags: Thanksgiving 2018, Thanksgiving Dinner, Mastering Thanksgiving Dinner

My Thanksgiving Dinner from a couple of years ago.


This year, for the first time in at least thirty-eight years, I’m probably not going to be cooking Thanksgiving dinner. Or if I do, it will be in a strange inadequately equipped kitchen, sharing the job with someone else, and keeping mostly with their traditions. My sister-in-law is gathering the clan at a beach house in North Carolina and the meal is likely to be a communal effort.

It feels strange not to be making the final tweaks to my menu, planning and executing my shopping forays, and cleaning out the refrigerator to make room for everything. (more…)

5 November 2018: Autumn Breakfast Biscuits Stuffed with Pan-Fried Pork Tenderloin

November 5, 2018

Tags: Classic Southern Cooking, Classical Southern Cooking, Pork, Pork Tenderloins, Pan-Fried Pork Tenderloin Medallions, Pork Tenderloin-Stuffed Buttermilk Biscuits

Hot, freshly-baked buttermilk biscuits stuffed with pan-fried pork tenderloin, an old time "hog killing day" breakfast treat.
Some of my very best childhood memories are tied to the cool, crisp days of autumn—and not merely because it happens to be the time of year when I was born. There’s something about the cool, clear air, golden light, and rituals of the season that are always renewing and reassuring.

One ritual of autumn that has been nearly lost to us all is the annual hog killing day. I confess to having only a vague memory of those days from when we lived in Grassy Pond, a little farming community outside Gaffney, South Carolina. But the memories that have been passed down by my mother and her parents have been told and retold until they’re almost as vivid as if I’d been right there beside them, (more…)

19 October 2018: Grilled Ham and Pimiento Cheese

October 19, 2018

Tags: Classic Southern Cooking, Classic American Cooking, Pimiento Cheese, Ham, Grilled Ham and Pimiento Cheese

Grilled Ham and Pimiento Cheese.
When griddle-toasted sandwiches became popular in the last century, it raised one of the oldest sandwiches known, thin-sliced ham and cheese tucked between thin slices of buttered bread, from classic to perfection. There’s nothing in all of cooking that can surpass that exquisite balance of crisp butter-toasted bread, warmed salty-sweet ham, and irresistibly (more…)

3 October 2018: Linguine with Crab

October 3, 2018

Tags: Historical Cooking, Classic Italian Cooking, Traditional Cooking, Crab, Linguine, Pasta

Linguine with Crab
There are far too many cooks who believe that a knowledge of culinary history and of the traditions of a given cuisine is a culinary straight jacket, that to be truly creative is to abandon the past and its structure, throw caution to the wind, and let your creative juices flow. But actually the opposite is true. In cooking, when there’s no grounding structure, the results are rarely memorable and all too often look less like a burst of creative magic than a train wreck.

Contrary to this notion, a firm grasp of basic the culinary principles and flavor profiles of a tradition actually lends more freedom than less to be creative in a meaningful and lasting way. (more…)

29 September 2018: Michaelmas and Mushrooms

September 29, 2018

Tags: Classic Southern Cooking, Mushrooms, Stewed Mushrooms, Mary Randolph, Lettice Bryan, Annabella Hill, The Virginia House-wife, The Kentucky Housewife, Mrs. Hill's New Cook Book

Mary Randolph's Stewed Mushrooms
Though autumn officially began a week ago and won’t really be felt here in Savannah for weeks to come, for me September 29, the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels (commonly called Michaelmas) is the real beginning of the season, which happens to be of my favorite of the entire year.

Aside from roasted goose in parts of England, there’s not a lot of food that’s connected with Michaelmas. But among the flavors that speak of autumn for me are mushrooms: in soup, sauce, over pasta, rolled in an omelette, or just on their own, sautéed in butter or, as the early nineteenth century doyenne of Southern cooking, Mary Randolph, directed, stewed in their own juices: (more…)

27 September 2018: Ham and Coca-Cola

September 27, 2018

Tags: Classic Southern Cooking, Ham, Ham in Coca-Cola, Coca-Cola, Ham: A Savor the South Cookbook

Ham Steak Baked in Coca-Cola, a modern Southern classic
Old, in the context of culinary history, is relative. The cuisines that collectively make up the thing we loosely refer to as “Southern cooking” aren’t exactly ancient when compared with their root cuisines in Europe, Africa, Native America, and Asia, but they’re actually a good deal older than we often suppose.

As early as the mid-seventeenth century, for example, the cookery of the Virginia Tidewater had already solidified into a cuisine that was unique to the region and would be easily recognized by modern Virginians. And by the middle of the eighteenth century, the rice cuisine of the Carolina Lowcountry, the Creole cookery of New Orleans, and, many believe, the still largely undocumented cookery of Appalachia had taken on the basic form that they have today. In short, most Southerners could go back two centuries and feel right at home at the table.

That said, many of our most iconic, argument-provoking dishes are really not much older than my generation (more…)

14 September 2018: Old Friends, Mentors, and Sautéed Apples in Bourbon Caramel

September 14, 2018

Tags: Classic Southern Cooking, Apples, Caramel, Caramel Apples, Nathalie Dupree, Autumnal Cooking

Sautéed Apples in Bourbon Caramel Sauce
One blustery late autumn evening, Timothy and I had gone up to Charleston to sing in a choir for a special evensong and were staying, as we do whenever we can, with my lovely friend, mentor, and adopted big sister, Nathalie Dupree and her husband Jack Bass.

Our “pay” for singing was a dinner that, to Timothy’s disappointment, did not include dessert. When we got back to the house and had settled in at the kitchen table, Nathalie, who is a text book example of the maxim that Southerners are always talking about food, wanted to know all about where we’d eaten and what we’d had. (more…)

19 August 2018: MaMa’s Vegetable Soup

August 18, 2018

Tags: Classic Southern Cooking, Classical Southern Cooking, Vegetable Soup, Southern Vegetable Soup, MaMa, MaMa's Vegetable Soup, Classic Italian Cooking, Minestrone alla Romana

MaMa's Vegetable Soup, photographed for my first book, Classical Southern Cooking, by the incomparable John Carrington.
If my entire life as a cook could be summed in one thing, it would be a lifelong—and so far—failed quest to reproduce my maternal grandmother’s summer vegetable soup. Her kitchen was where I first cooked, and we made many a pot of vegetable soup together during my summer visits. The memory of its taste remains vivid more than half a century later. But somehow, I’ve never been able to get my own to taste and look exactly like hers.

When I was trying to construct a recipe for my first cookbook, in her typical way, MaMa said, “I never measured anything for soup, so just guess.” Well, of course, she measured— (more…)