Recipes and Stories

19 December 2017: Christmas Breakfast

December 19, 2017

Tags: Classic American Cooking, Christmas Breakfast, Christmas Cooking, Classic Southern Cooking, Strata, Ham, Mushrooms, Christmas Strata with Ham and Mushrooms, Holiday Cooking

Christmas Strata with Ham and Mushrooms
When I was growing up, Christmas day always began (well, after plundering a roomful of Santa loot) with a traditional Southern breakfast: grits, eggs, my granddaddy’s perfectly seasoned pork sausage, country ham with red-eye gravy, homemade biscuits, usually with fruitcake, ambrosia, and sometimes drinking custard added in.

Nowadays, unless we have friends drop by, there are just two of us here on Christmas morning: Our children and grandchildren live three states away; my parents and siblings are four hours away. And one of us is a church musician with a command performance at Christmas Day Mass. We rarely have the luxury of time and leisure for a breakfast like that.

And, to be completely honest, the last thing I want to do on Christmas morning is stand in the kitchen monitoring a grits pot, hot oven, and panful of sausage patties. (more…)

15 December 2017: Old-Fashioned Wine Jelly

December 15, 2017

Tags: Classic Southern Cooking, Historical Southern Cooking, Historical Cooking, Wine Jelly, Christmas Desserts, Christmas Cooking, Bourbon Custard, Creme Anglaise, Boiled Custard, Custard Sauce

An Old-Fashioned Christmas treat: Wine Jelly with Custard Sauce
The dessert in the Christmas dinner that was shared in my last column was a lovely, old-fashioned thing called wine jelly. It’s not jelly as in a spread for toast, but jelly as in the stuff invalids are often fed when they’ve been off a solid diet.

It was once a classic old holiday treat that was actually rare and special, a fact we can’t really appreciate today, since sweet, flavored gelatin has lost a lot of its luster, thanks in large part to that stuff we feed convalescents. It’s a shame, really, because it’s a lovely, light dessert that adds sparkle—both literally and figuratively—to a holiday meal, and deserves to be popular again. (more…)

8 December 2017: MaMa’s Coconut Cake

December 8, 2017

Tags: Classic Southern Cooking, Classic Southern Baking, Classical Southern Cooking, MaMa, MaMa's Coconut Cake, Coconut Cake, Christmas Cooking, Christmas Baking, 1 2 3 4 Cake, Seven Minute Frosting, Coconut

MaMa's Coconut Cake (from Essentials of Southern Cooking, Lyons Press 2013/Licensed by Shutterstock)
Coconut cake is a traditional Christmas cake in the part of Carolina where I grew up, and both my grandmother’s made it, using basically the same recipe. But my maternal grandmother, known to us as “MaMa” (we pronounced it Maw-Maw) had a special touch that no one else could match.

Hers was one the most extraordinarily moist cakes I’ve ever had. The great secret for its moistness is also the reason it tasted more intensely of coconut than any other. (more…)