Recipes and Stories

21 April 2018: Spring Peas and Onions

April 21, 2018

Tags: Classic Southern Cooking, My Father's Rare Cooking, Sweet Peas, Green Peas, English Peas, Spring Peas and Onions

My Father's Sweet Spring Peas with Spring Onions
While we’re on sweet peas, a favorite way to dress them in my kitchen is with bright, herby spring scallions and butter (and lots of it). It’s not only delicious, the mere aroma of it always brings with it warm memories of my father.

Contrary to the notion that ministers do nothing from Sunday to Sunday but write long, tedious sermons, my father was a very busy man. Aside from three services a week (more, if someone got married or died), Bible study groups, and not one, but three sermons to compose, there were visits to the sick, shut-in, worried, and grief-stricken, counseling sessions for troubled marriages and spirits, and patience to be found for irritating parishioners who were ever eager to find fault with him, his family (that would be my brothers and me), and the church in general. (more…)

21 April 2018: Of Spring Peas and Thyme

April 21, 2018

Tags: Classic Southern Cooking, Classic French Cooking, Green Peas, Spring Peas, Puree, Soup, Pea Soup, Chilled Soup, Thyme

Fresh Spring Pea Soup with Spring Onions and Thyme
Whether you call them garden, green, sweet, or, as we often do in the South, “English” peas, you probably take the plump, round seeds of the trailing plant pisum sativum for granted. You may even think of them as ordinary and a bit boring. Yet, once upon a time, these little orbs were celebrated as a precious commodity and a rare harbinger of spring.

Thomas Jefferson even carried on a friendly competition with one of his neighbors for the first pea harvest of the season. (more…)

6 April 2018: Stir-Frying Asparagus

April 6, 2018

Tags: Asparagus, Stir-fried Asparagus, Country Ham, Classic Southern Cooking, Stir-frying

Southern-style Stir-Fried Asparagus with Country Ham and Scallions
The lovely thing about the tender new produce of spring is that it doesn’t ask for much in the kitchen, but practically begs for quick, light treatment. And nothing is quicker and lighter than stir-frying.

Most of us automatically associate stir-frying with the ancient cuisines of China and South-East Asia. But it’s actually a basic, almost universal technique (essentially the same as sautéing) that’s found in most of the world’s cuisines well beyond Asia, including France, Italy, and the Middle-East. (more…)

30 March 2018: Fresh for Easter V

March 30, 2018

Tags: Easter Dinner, Easter Lamb, Irish-Style Butterflied Leg of Lamb, Lamb, Easter, Traditional Irish cooking

Irish Butterflied Leg of Lamb Roasted to Medium, the temperature I prefer for lamb
I always have lamb at Easter, following the older tradition even though most Southerners have ham of some kind, and now my household is divided between the ham and lamb camps, so I usually have both. This year, someone else is bringing the ham, so I’m doing a simple butterflied leg of lamb Irish-style, in honor of our Irish priest associate who’ll be joining us for dinner. (more…)

30 March 2018: Fresh for Easter IV

March 30, 2018

Tags: Easter Dinner, Easter Side Dish, Old-Fashioned Macaroni Pie, Macaroni Pie, Macaroni, Easter

Old-Fashioned Southern Baked Macaroni or Macaroni Pie – Photography by John Carrington
My maternal grandfather, Levis Holmes, first made his way in the world as a farmer, but I knew him as a grocer and butcher. He was also a fine cook. Though entirely self-taught, his instincts were solid.

His version of the old American standard was a fixture on our table for any holiday meal, and we’ll be having a variation of it for our Easter Dinner this Sunday. (more…)

30 March 2018: Fresh for Easter III

March 30, 2018

Tags: Easter Dinner, Easter Appetizers, Potted Whiskey Cheese, Potted Irish Whiskey Cheese, Spring, Easter

Potted Whiskey Cheese
For most of us Southerners (I suspect, Americans in general) it would not be Easter without deviled eggs, but it’s always nice to have an extra nibble or two in case dinner is delayed by the roast or by a long-winded Easter sermon.

This lovely potted cheese is from one of my newspaper columns on traditional Irish fare for Savannah’s notorious St. Patrick’s Day celebration, but potted whiskey cheese is also found in England and Scotland and here in the South, where it’s usually made with bourbon. (more…)

30 March 2018: Fresh for Easter II

March 30, 2018

Tags: Easter Dinner, Carrot Gratin, Skillet Carrot Gratin, Easter, Easter Side Dish, Spring

Skillet Carrot Gratin is a fine side dish for either lamb or ham
While we’re on gratins, carrots just seem to go with Easter, and this goes equally well with lamb or ham (or poultry, for that matter). It can be doubled easily: If you’re making it for a crowd and don’t have a skillet big enough to do it all in one, make it in two pans or do the initial cooking in batches and transfer it to one large gratin for the final baking. (more…)

30 March 2018: Fresh for Easter I

March 30, 2018

Tags: Easter Dinner, Potato Gratin, New Potato Gratin with Spring Onions, Easter

Spring-Fresh Gratin of New Potatoes and Spring Onions
This year, my own Easter table is being shared with a family that has its own long-standing traditions and so rather than imposing one or the other, we’re blending our menus together. In that same spirit of sharing and blending, instead of my usual make-ahead Easter dinner menu and recipes, I thought I’d offer some fresh ideas for changing up the menu.

To begin, here’s a simple potato gratin, developed for my newspaper column on fresh spring gratins, that’s lighter than the usual cream-based concoction. It’s an ideal Easter side dish whether you have ham, lamb, turkey, or fried chicken . . . or all of the above. (more…)

27 March 2018: Shrimp Bonnie

March 27, 2018

Tags: Classic Southern Cooking, Savannah Cooking, Tybee Island, Shrimp, Shrimp Bonnie, Bonnie Gaster, Hoecakes

Shrimp Bonnie is equally good served over hoecakes or pasta or even a bed of hot grits.
One of the real joys of teaching is the sharing. It’s more than just showing someone the basics of cooking, but also sharing the subtleties that make a cook into a good one, trading culinary secrets with other teachers and students, and revisiting memories of the people who’ve shaped me into the cook I’ve become.

Unhappily, it’s been a year since my last class. So, a recent class for a group of feisty Southern ladies who gather under the singularly appropriate appellation “Southern Comfort” marked a welcome return of the sharing, trading secrets, and revisiting of memories.

The best memories it brought to fore were of my lovely friend Bonnie Gaster, the fabulous cook who helped me create the appetizer that opened the class. (more…)

14 March 2018: A Gratin of Spring Leeks

March 14, 2018

Tags: Leeks, Leeks Au Gratin, Spring Leeks, Classic French Cooking, Classic Southern Cooking, Au Gratin

A Classic Gratin of Spring Leeks
We rarely think of giving leeks in a starring role in cooking. More often than not, this kitchen workhorse is expected to retire into the background, lending its subtle, fresh flavor to the more showy main ingredients of a soup, stew, sauté or occasional casserole.

But leeks are a lovely vegetable and when they’re given the center of the stage (or plate or pan if you will) they really do shine, especially in the spring. (more…)