Recipes and Stories

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…)

11 August 2018: Stuffed Eggplant

August 11, 2018

Tags: Classic Southern Cooking, Seafood, Shrimp, Crab, Eggplant, Stuffed Eggplant, Seafood Stuffed Eggplant

Classic Seafood-Stuffed Eggplant
Eggplant, one of the great defining elements of the cuisines of the Mediterranean basin, has also been a staple in Southern kitchens at least since the late eighteenth century. Believed to be native to the Far East, this exotic vegetable with the odd-sounding name found its way to the Mediterranean and Africa long before the Americas were colonized, but its exact migration has been lost to time. Likewise, no one is sure how it found its way into the South.

In some parts of our region, it used to be known as “Guinea melons” or “Guinea squash,” after the West African nation, which, while by no means proof of the route it took getting to our shores, is certainly suggestive.

At any rate, for at least a generation before Mary Randolph’s landmark work The Virginia House-Wife was published in 1824, Southerners have been loving eggplant. (more…)

1 August 2018: The Joys of Summer Minestrone

August 1, 2018

Tags: Classic Southern Cooking, Classic Italian Cooking, Minestrone, Summer Vegetable Soup, Minestrone alla Romana

Classic Minestrone alla Romana. Summer in a bowl.
In all of cooking, nothing satisfies me in the summer, both in the making and the eating of it, quite the way that a pot of vegetable soup always does. Whether it’s my best shot at reproducing my grandmother’s soup (something I have never quite succeeded in doing) or a classic minestrone alla romana, it’s my idea of the ultimate summer comfort food.

Whenever I manage to get home for a visit, it’s the first thing Mama and I make together. It’s never exactly the same: The base is always tomatoes, onions, and okra, but while she was still gardening, we’d add whatever was ready to be harvested supplemented by the stash from two enormous chest freezers in the garage. (more…)

28 July 2018: Old-Fashioned Shrimp Salad

July 28, 2018

Tags: Classic Southern Cooking, Savannah Cooking, Lowcountry Cooking, Shrimp Salad, Shrimp, Old-Fashioned Shrimp Salad, Shrimp Salad Sandwiches, Summer Cooking

Old-Fashioned Shrimp Salad, here tucked into Parker House rolls and enjoyed with tea.

Before July slips completely away, here’s one last word on those old-fashioned chopped meat salads, specifically, one that’s quintessential to a Lowcountry summer: shrimp salad.

No one would argue that tomato sandwiches are the primary hallmark of summer for most of us. We eagerly anticipate that first really vine-ripened tomato so we can thickly slice it, tuck it into soft white bread slathered with mayonnaise, and relish it wearing an old shirt (or no shirt) while standing over the sink, because it’s going to drip all over us when we bite into it.

But here in the Lowcountry, the hallmark sandwich of summer is shrimp salad. (more…)

8 July 2018: Summer Comfort and Blueberry Crumble

July 8, 2018

Tags: Classic Southern Cooking, Classic American Cooking, Summer Cooking, Summer Comfort Food, Blueberry Crumble, Fruit Crumble

Blueberry Crumble is summer comfort food at its very best.
It’s funny how, when we talk about “comfort food,” we almost always mean something that will provide comfort in the cold season, that keeps us warm and cozy inside when it’s cold and bleak outside: a hearty stew, a big bowl of chili or chicken and dumplings, a savory pot pie or pot roast.

But in the heat of summer, we often need comfort just as much as we do in cold weather, and while we may welcome a warm dish in the midst of a steady string of salads, cold soups, and sandwiches, the things that are so comfortable in the cold season are usually not all that appealing when the heat index soars. (more…)