Recipes and Stories

16 June 2018: Summer Comfort Food and Ham Salad

June 16, 2018

Tags: Classic Southern Cooking, Summer Cooking, Summer Comfort Food, Ham Salad, Old-fashioned Ham Salad, Aging Palates, American Cooking

Old-Fashioned Ham Salad slathered thickly onto hearty bread
I’ve never been very interested in clever cooking. And the older I get, the less interested in it I become. I’m not talking about being genuinely and intelligently creative or inventive in the kitchen, but about the kind of cooking that’s more about being clever for the sake of novelty, and all too often at the expense of flavor.

If, when one sits down at the table, one is obliged to be cerebral and analytical about what’s in one’s mouth, or wade through a thicket of startling and even conflicting aromas and flavors that crowd one another out, quite frankly it gets completely in the way of any real pleasure.

In short, if I have to think over what’s in my mouth before I can decide whether I like it, in my opinion, the cook has failed at his job. (more…)

8 June 2018: Old-Fashioned Chicken Salad

June 8, 2018

Tags: Classic Southern Cooking, Chicken Salad, Old-Fashioned Chicken Salad, Historical Southern Cooking

Old Fashioned Southern-Style Chicken Salad, yes, with saltine crackers
We were just home from a quick trip to Charleston to catch up with my friend and mentor Nathalie Dupree and get in a couple of Spoleto concerts. It was midafternoon and we were tired and hungry. The refrigerator gave up a bit of leftover poached chicken and, because I’m Southern, there’s always mayonnaise and what the old cooks called “made mustard.” A quick survey turned up a nearly empty jar of bread-and-butter pickles that needed to be finished off, and while the celery was old and not very promising, there’s always onions in the pantry.

Sometimes, knowing when to leave well enough alone is a cook’s best asset. (more…)

21 May 2018: The Case of the Corrupted Collop

May 21, 2018

Tags: Historical Cooking, Classic Southern Cooking, Historical Southern Cooking, Historical English Cooking, Collops, Scotch Collops, Minced Scotch Collops, Mary Randolph, Harriott Pinckney Horry, Eliza Acton, Beeton's Book of Household Management, The Savannah Cook Book, Harriet Ross Colquitt

Classic Scotch Collops, here made with pork tenderloin.
Oh, the convolutions of an historian’s mind. While researching a story for my regular newspaper column, I was reminded of a curious old recipe from Harriet Ross Colquitt’s timeless classic, The Savannah Cook Book, published in 1932. The recipe was for Scotch Collops.

Now, collop is an old English word for a thin slice of meat. It could be used for anything from veal to bacon, though it most commonly described thin slices of veal or beef round. They were usually fried in butter or lard and sauced with a rich gravy made from the deglazed pan juices—essentially the same as Italian scaloppine. (more…)

26 April 2018: Asparagus, Leeks, and New Potatoes

April 26, 2018

Tags: Asparagus, Stir-fried Asparagus, Classic Southern Cooking, Stir-frying, New Potatoes, Spring Leeks, Spring Cooking

Stir-Fried Asparagus with Leeks and New Potatoes
Before the season for asparagus passes completely, here’s another great stir-fry that brings it together with two other favorite spring flavors, young leeks and little red new potatoes.

This is the kind of thing my mother would make when I was growing up, since Stir-frying is one of her favorite cooking techniques. Not only is the technique quick, it does wonderful things for the fresh produce that is no further than her back yard. (more…)

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…)