Recipes and Stories

9 October 2017: Broccoli, Bacon, and Potato Soup

October 9, 2017

Tags: Soup, Broccoli, Bacon, Classic Southern Cooking, Classic American Cooking, Autumn Cooking

Broccoli, Bacon, and Potato Soup
This morning, my office window looks out on an autumnal scene that seems like the beginning of perfect day for soup. Through the dwindling leaf canopy of the old pecan tree that dominates the view, the early sun occasionally peeks weakly through clouds that promise rain. There’s even a bit of frost on the window panes.

Unhappily, appearances, as they so often are here in Savannah, are deceiving: (more…)

3 October 2017: Pork Chops for Fall

October 3, 2017

Tags: Classic American Cooking, Pork, Pork Chops, Sauerkraut, Apples, Oven-Braising

Oven-Braised Pork Chops with Apples and Sauerkraut
It was a crisp fall evening in the early days of my graduate school work at Clemson University, and we actually had something that architecture students rarely see: an evening free of deadlines.

I’d just moved off campus into my first apartment on my own, a cozy four room half-basement affair tucked into the side of a hill, with a kitchen that, at long last, was completely mine. Every free moment back then was spent in that kitchen, experimenting, puttering, nibbling. (more…)

29 September 2017: Cornsticks and Memories of Marcella Hazan

September 29, 2017

Tags: Classic Southern Cooking, Cornbread, Cornsticks, Marcella Hazan, Classic Southern Baking, Taste

Freshly baked cornsticks: Hot, crunchy, and irresistible
“Taste.”

When I once asked the late Italian cooking doyenne Marcella Hazan what she felt was the most important thing in cooking, that was her immediate and emphatic answer.

Marcella died four years ago today, just a few months shy of her ninetieth birthday. When I reflect on her life as a teacher and sum what she taught us, it all comes down to that: Taste.

It may seem obvious and simplistic, but it’s all too often overlooked in our age of so-called culinary cleverness. It’s far too easy to get carried away with being “creative,” or with taking too much to heart the notion that we “eat first with our eyes,” and lose sight of the single most important thing: that moment when we lift our forks and the food meets with our tongues. (more…)

22 September 2017: Savoring Old New Orleans

September 22, 2017

Tags: New Orleans, Classic Southern Cooking, Classic Creole Cooking, Oysters Rockefeller, Galatoire's Restaurant, Arnaud's Restaurant, Dickie Brennan's Steak House, French Seventy-Five

Oysters Rockefeller at Galatoire's
Last weekend, it was my privilege to celebrate the publication of my latest book, Ham: A SAVOR THE SOUTH® Cookbook, at the Southeastern Independent Booksellers Association’s annual conference and trade show in New Orleans. The big event was sharing a panel moderated by Ashley Warlick with James Beard Award-winning author and dear friend Cynthia Graubart and new friends Melinda Risch Winans and Cynthia Lejeune Nobles (authors of The Fonville Winans Cookbook: Recipes and Photographs from a Louisiana Artist).

But the joy in the trip was a chance to savor some of old New Orleans and it’s legendary food in the company of lovely friends. (more…)

5 September 2017: Peanut Soup

September 5, 2017

Tags: Classic Southern Cooking, Virginia Cookery, Peanuts, Peanut Soup, Ground Nuts, Ground Nut Soup, Sarah Rutledge, The Carolina Housewife, The Williamsburg Cookbook, Colonial Williamsburg, Soup

Old-Fashioned Peanut Soup, still served in Colonial Williamsburg's King's Arms Tavern.
An old New Yorker friend tells me that, until recently, on Tuesday morning after Labor Day the subways smelled heavily of mothballs, regardless of what the weather was like. Since the holiday marked the symbolic if not actual end of summer, summer whites were dutifully put away and fall woolens came out of storage.

Well, it may be the symbolic end of the season, but here in the Deep South, we’re facing another full month or more of summer heat and humidity. Those white shoes may be ceremonially moved to the back of the closet, but other wardrobe changes will have to wait.

All the same, there’s a distinct shortening of the daylight hours and the lengthening of the shadows, bringing subtle changes in the light that inevitably turn our imagination toward fall. At the table, we may not be ready for heavy cold weather fare, but we’re weary of a steady litany of salads and chilled soup and are ready for the mellow flavors of autumn. (more…)

2 September 2017: Ham-Stuffed Buttermilk Biscuits

September 2, 2017

Tags: Classic Southern Cooking, Historical Southern Cooking, Buttermilk Biscuits, Biscuits, Ham, Ham Biscuits

Classic Southern Ham Biscuits
We’re finally at Labor Day weekend and, at least where our somewhat quixotic late-summer weather is cooperating, many of us will be marking summer’s last official hurrah by packing a picnic hamper and blanket and heading for the beach, local park, some picturesque country landscape, or at the very least the back yard. Mind, here in the South, we’ll be able to picnic until well into October, but there’s just something about marking the end of summer by symbolically eating outdoors “one the last time.”

Magazines, newspapers, food web sites, and the air waves are full of helpful ideas for crowd-pleasing picnic and cookout fare, which is all very nice. But every good Southern cook already knows the real way please the crowd, and that’s to make sure that the picnic hamper contains an ample supply of three things: fried chicken, old-fashioned potato salad, and ham biscuits. (more…)

30 August 2017: Old-Fashioned Squash Casserole

August 30, 2017

Tags: Classic Southern Cooking, Historical southern Cooking, Classic American Cooking, Yellow squash, Squash Casserole, Squash, Summer Squash

A Southern Classic: Old-Fashioned Squash Casserole
Before summer passes, some thoughts on an old seasonal classic.

One of the loveliest standard dishes for those great old Southern institutions—church covered-dish suppers, dinners-on-the-grounds, and buffet spreads for family reunions and funerals—is squash casserole. Variously known as a casserole, pudding, and soufflé (those last mainly when it has eggs in it), it’s popularity as a covered-dish offering probably owes a lot to the fact that it was cheap (the main ingredient came right out of the back garden), easy to make (especially on short notice), and delicious with just about anything. (more…)

28 August 2017: Sherry Cobbler

August 28, 2017

Tags: Classic Southern Cooking, Historical Southern Cooking, Classic American Cooking, Historical American cooking, Sherry, Lemonade, Sherry Cobbler

An Old-Fashioned Sherry Cobbler. Photograph by John Carrington Photography, from The Savannah Cookbook (Gibbs-Smith, 2008).
Today, in part because of the horrendous weather that’s wreaking havoc elsewhere in the South, we’re having an unusual and welcome break from the long, unrelenting swelter that’s August in the lowcountry. With almost daily showers and high temperatures hovering at three digits, the outdoors has been a giant steam bath since July. Every year we complain that it seems worse than the last, but if we’re honest, we’ll admit it’s pretty normal for summer down here. Still, it often leads us to ponder how our ancestors got through it without air-conditioning.

The answers to that puzzle are: mountain cabins, beach cottages, and sherry cobbler. (more…)

21 August 2017: More Simple Summer Cooking—Fresh Peach and Blueberry Compote

August 21, 2017

Tags: Classic Southern Cooking, Summer Cooking, Fruit, Blueberries, Peaches, Sourwood Honey, Fruit Compote

Fresh Peach and Blueberry Compote with Sourwood Honey
Toward the end of the summer of 1979, while I was in graduate school at Clemson University, my mother came for a short visit. As usual, she left me with a cache of produce from her garden, supplemented by baskets of fragrant late peaches and blueberries from local orchards.

It was my first apartment, and therefore the first kitchen that was wholly my own: usually, such gifts led to a day of curious cooking, but a project deadline loomed and my un-airconditioned apartment was too hot to consider turning on the monstrous avocado-green electric stove that dominated my little kitchen. (more…)

29 July 2017: Classic Shrimp Salad

July 29, 2017

Tags: Classic Southern Cooking, Savannah Cooking, Shrimp, Shrimp Salad, Coastal Southern Cooking, Historical Southern Cooking

Classic, Old-Fashioned Shrimp Salad, a simple quartet of fresh local shrimp, homemade mayonnaise, diced celery, and thinly-sliced scallions. It's comfort food for a steamy Lowcountry summer evening.
One of the great seaside dishes of summer in the Coastal South, whether that coast abuts the Atlantic or the Gulf of Mexico, is shrimp salad. It’s been commonplace in the South since the beginning of the twentieth century, but I’ve not found printed recipes for it that date back much further than the latter part of the nineteenth century. That said, the same basic recipe was used for fish and lobster salads as early as the 1830s and 40s, and along the coast, shrimp would almost certainly have been made into salad in the same way.

Those historical recipes were a simple triad of cooked shrimp, chopped celery, and homemade mayonnaise. That was it. And the basic recipe has changed very little: The most that sensible modern cooks add is a little onion. (more…)