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Recipes and Stories

9 April 2014: Easter I, Classic Deviled Eggs

Classic, Old-Fashioned Deviled Eggs, here garnished with capers and a light dusting of paprika

A recent poll on my social media author’s page confirmed something that any Southerner already knew: it isn’t Easter dinner down South if it doesn’t begin with deviled eggs. But it also gave away something I’ve long suspected: that the affection for these morsels has no geographical limits. They may come in and out of “fashion,” but they’ve never lost their front and center place on Easter’s table all across the country. Read More 

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8 April 2014: Baked, Boiled, and Roasted

Baked Beets, cooked whole and simply split and buttered while still hot

“Beets have a finer flavor baked than boiled; it requires longer time to cook them this way.”

— Annabella Hill, Mrs. Hill’s New Cook Book, 1867

Here’s an odd and suggestive historical puzzle: many nineteenth century American cookbook authors agreed with Mrs. Hill, conceding that beets taste best when they are baked whole rather than boiled. And yet, not one of them, Mrs. Hill included, provided directions for doing it.  Read More 

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31 March 2014: More Spring Carrots

Butter-Braised Whole Spring Rainbow Carrots

Most of the nineteenth century cookbook authors treated all root vegetables the same way: scrubbed them well, trimmed, and sometimes “scraped them nicely” (that is, peeled them), boiled them in abundant salted water, and then dressed them with salt and butter. So long as the roots are not overcooked, it’s still a fine way to cook them. Read More 

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29 March 2014: Spring Carrot Soup

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Here on the coastal plain of Georgia, spring carrots have been turning up at the farmers’ market for a couple of months, but it is now that they’re really hitting their prime. Friend Relinda Walker, the proprietress of Walker Farms, grows both the usual orange and colorful rainbow varieties of sweet young carrots. Laid out with their bright, fresh greens still attached, they’re as beautiful to look at as any bouquet of flowers you can imagine. Read More 

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4 March 2014: Feeding Body and Soul—the Introspective Cooking of Lent

Baked Fish with Potatoes and Onions, an old Southern dish that bears striking resemblance to the cooking of Liguria, is just the thing to begin a Lenten discipline in your kitchen. Photograph by John Carrington Photography
Mae West, the sultry comic who made a career of poking fun at the straight-laced mores of her day, once approached a priest with her signature line, “So, Father, why don’cha come up sometime—and see me?” Thinking to get the better of her, he quipped, “Miss West, I’d love to, but it’s Lent.” Giving him a sidewise glance, she murmured, “oh, yeah? Well, when ya get it back, come on up!” Read More 
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26 February 2014: Cornbread and Corn Whiskey

Skillet Cornbread the way God meant it to be: naturally sugar-free.
I don’t know what you’re doing on this late February day, but it cannot be better than what I’ve been doing: sipping piping hot double-concentrated homemade beef broth while laughing and crying my way through Julia Reed’s new masterpiece, But Mama Always Put Vodka in Her Sangria!

This morning dawned cold, wet, and gray in Savannah and I’ve been taking advantage of a rare day on my own to put a batch of said beef broth through one last simmer while reading Julia’s delicious prose as background for a newspaper story. Read More 
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24 December 2013: Christmas Eve Oyster Stew

Buttery oyster stew is not particularly photogenic, but it's awfully good to eat. Don't neglect to use plenty of butter: this is celebration food, for goodness sakes!

Nostalgia is a funny thing. Nothing stirs memories of the Christmases of my childhood more lucidly than Doris Day singing “Silver Bells.” Yet the memories conjured have nothing to do with city sidewalks, but of the rolling, red-clay fields and pastures of Grassy Pond, the farm community where we lived until I was ten.

There wasn’t one single silver bell, red and green blinking street light, or rushing shopper for miles. Read More 

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5 November 2013: Chanterelles and Country Ham

Sautéed Chanterelles with Country Ham and Cream, spooned over old-fashioned sautéed grits cakes

Mushrooms in cream are surely one of the world’s great gastronomical inventions. And when a little dry-aged country ham and bit of fresh thyme is added to the mix, they lend a lovely autumnal fragrance and depth of flavor that enhances even the mildest of fungi. The combination is the perfect way to bid farewell to the all-too-brief season for chanterelles. Read More 

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26 September 2013: A French Apple Tart

A Free-Form Apple Tart is a simple pastry to master, but it never fails to impress.
For those on my Facebook author’s page who asked for the recipe, here’s the free-form apple tart that’s pictured there. This was the first apple pie I ever made after I was grown and had my own kitchen. It’s from the first Julia Child cookbook I owned, From Julia Child’s Kitchen (1975), and it has been my standard apple pie ever since. Read More 
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21 September 2013: Curried Rice Salad

Curried Rice Salad with Raisins, Pecans, and Green Onions
As summer slips into autumn, it would not do to let it pass without visiting a warm weather standard that straddles the bridge between the seasons: curried rice salad.
Unlike pasta, leftover rice is perfect for recycling in a salad: while pasta often turns gummy and flabby when cold, rice holds its shape, remains firm and yet tender, and because its surface starches “set,” the grains don’t clump together but remain distinct and separate. Read More 
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24 August 2013: Deviled Crab

Deviled Crab, a Carolina and Georgia Lowcountry Classic

Crab cakes have become standard fare on Southern restaurant menus from Maryland to Louisiana, and one of the signature dishes of modern Southern cooking. They’re so popular that it seems petty to quibble over them. But as delectable as it can be (when well made), molding cooked crabmeat into a regular, round cake presents a delicate balancing act for the cook: keeping the binding breading to a minimum without having the cake fall apart in the frying pan. Read More 

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4 August 2013: Pasta alla Diva

Pasta alla Norma

This past weekend The Savannah Voice Festival debuted, and for the next two weeks, the steamy Lowcountry air will seem a little less heavy as it is filled with the glorious sounds of Fifty-three promising young performers who have gathered in our little town to study with more than two dozen seasoned singers, coaches, and accompanists. Read More 

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30 July 2013: A Bowlful of Cherries and Cherry Pie

Bourbon Cherry Pie, from Essentials of Southern Cooking (fall 2013)

Cherries have been at their peak over the last couple of weeks and, this year, have been unusually sweet and juicy. Luckily, when they’re seasonal and at their best, their cost per pound is correspondingly at its lowest. And since they’re a favorite summer fruit in our house, there has almost always been a bowl of them on our kitchen table, ready for grabbing by the handful. Read More 

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17 July 2013: Suffering Succotash

Classic Succotash with fresh butterbeans, corn, tomatoes, and herbs
Succotash is a true American classic and arguably one of the greatest vegetable dishes in all of American cookery. Though what we know by the name today mostly likely bears very little resemblance to the original, this mélange of corn and beans originated in Pre-Colombian America, and still carries its Native American name.

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16 July 2013: Pasta with Chicken Livers and Mushrooms

Pasta with Sautéed Chicken Livers, Mushrooms, and Scallions
Two of my favorite luxury indulgences in cooler weather are chicken livers and mushrooms sautéed in copious quantities of butter. And when the two things are brought together in the same pan, why, it’s downright magical.

Unhappily, I’m the only person in my household who thinks of livers and mushrooms as a luxury—much less an indulgence— Read More 
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6 July 2013 French Potato Salad

Classic French Potato Salad
The perfect accompaniment for any grilled meat, poultry, or fish, an indispensable component of classic Salade Niçoise, and almost as simple to make as a tossed salad with oil and vinegar dressing, this French version of potato salad is one of the great dishes of French home cooking. It’s also one of the greatest of all summer salads. Read More 
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1 July 2013: Shrimp and Rice

Shrimp Pilau with Tomatoes is a Lowcountry summer classic. Photography by John Carrington
One of the great defining rice dishes of Carolina and Georgia Lowcountry cookery is the pilau, (pronounced PIH-low—or, at times, PER-low, PER-loo, or per-LOO). Descended from the rice-based cuisines of West Africa, from whence the Lowcountry’s rice culture and most of its rice-growing slaves had come, a pilau is less a recipe than a technique. Read More 
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2 May 2013: Asparagus Season

Newly gathered asparagus, kept fresh for the table in a vase of water.

A glance through cookbooks of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries might give the casual reader the impression that our ancestors played a one note theme when it came to asparagus. Read More 

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10 April 2013 Strawberries and Bourbon

Spring in a bowl: strawberries macerated in bourbon and lemon

It’s usually a mistake to assume that someone who looks back to history is somehow bound and gagged by the past. Yet, the prejudice is commonplace, and seems to be especially prominent in the culinary community, where so-called “cutting edge” trends whiz past at light speed, seemingly leaving us dusty old historians behind to stew in our own marmite. Read More 

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16 March 2013: Scallops Diane

Scallops with Mushrooms and Scallions, or "Scallops Diane"

If you follow this essay series at all, you will have noticed that I rarely venture into the justly famous cookery of Creole and Cajun Louisiana. That’s mainly because, first of all, these cuisines are not directly a part of my own heritage, and secondly, they have more than enough champions on their own, both true Louisianans and posturing Creole/Cajun wannabes, to need any help from the likes of this old Cracker. Read More 

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1 March 2013: Scallops and Capellini

Jumbo sea scallops, pan-seared in clarified butter and nestled up to capellini simply sauced with butter, lemon juice, and scallions

Everyone should have such a dilemma: there was a large cache of lovely jumbo dry-packed sea scallops leftover from a class and no one else could use them. It was up to us to use them, and we were going to be out until late. I was not, however, about to let a luxury go to waste.

Besides, the lovely thing about scallops like that is that they take no time at all to cook. I walked into the kitchen at 7:45 and a sumptuous yet simple supper was ready by 8:30. Read More 

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23 February 2013: Comfort me with Country Style Steak

Country Style Steak, served in the Lowcountry way on a fluffy bed of rice

When the weather turns cold and damp, as it has this week, or simply when we just need comforting, nothing answers in my household like this simple but deeply satisfying dish of tenderized round steak slow-simmered in an aromatic gravy. Originally called beef “collops” (the old English word for sliced meat), this dish goes back at least to the mid-eighteenth century, and as its contemporary name suggests, has long been a staple of farm kitchens all across the South. Read More 

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4 February 2013: Ilda’s Ham and Potato Gratin

Ilda's casseruola al forno, or ham and potato gratin: comfort food in any language.

It was my first night in Italy. Our class had spent the day sketching in the picturesque port towns of Portofino and San Frutuoso. Soaked with Riviera sunshine and salty Ligurian air, we came back to the school, a villa that commanded its own picturesque view of the Bay of Genoa over the red-tiled rooftops of the old city. We were exhilarated, exhausted, and very hungry, as only active young people can be. Read More 

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30 January 2013: Celebrating Simplicity—Thin Spaghetti with Butter and Scallions

Thin Spaghetti simply sauced with Butter, Cheese, and Scallions

Sometimes the very best cooking is barely cooking at all. That’s partly because the most important skill in any cook’s repertory is that of knowing when to stop.

For example, one of the best of all possible ways to sauce pasta, whether it is fresh egg noodles made at home or dried factory pasta, involves no cooking at all: it is simply tossed with just butter and freshly grated Parmigiano.  Read More 

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25 January 2013: The Elements of Style and Change

A little change can sometimes make a big difference: our "new" breakfast room coffee station

I don’t need a physicist to prove to me the law that objects at rest tend to remain at rest. All I have to do is look around my own house.

We really are creatures of habit, and once something comes to rest in a spot, that’s where we tend to leave it. That may not be a particularly Southern trait, but anyone who visits the South could certainly build a strong argument in its favor. We Southerners are masters at design by default,  Read More 

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23 January 2013: A Trilogy of White Bean Soups

White Bean Soup II, with Garlic and Rosemary. If you're feeling the need for pig, ramp it up with pancetta or bacon

A welcome nip in the air has conspired with a touch of homesickness to bring on a craving for hearty, old-fashioned bean soup. There are so many good ones—from my father’s simple mélange of copper-brown pintos with ham and onion (eaten with hot cornbread crumbled into the bowl) to the suave, sophisticated puree of black beans that once graced so many Savannah dinner tables. I love them all, but my favorite is a simple, hearty white bean soup.  Read More 

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4 January 2013: Black-eyed Peas Beyond New Year’s Day

Black-eyed peas, seasoned with ham, onion, garlic, herbs, and hot peppers, are too satisfying and delicious to limit them to one day at the beginning of the year
Though black-eyed peas have become to New Year’s Day what turkey is to Thanksgiving, the uniquely marked field pea with one of the most evocative names in the vegetable kingdom is a year round staple for Southerners. And while they’re commonly associated with humble tables (the superstition associated with having them at new year is that beginning the year with such “humble” fare will bring prosperity), they really know no social, ethnic, or economic boundaries. Read More 
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3 January 2013: Winter Greens

Collard greens, judiciously seasoned with lightly caramelized onion, garlic, and ham should not be limited solely to one day of the year.

One of the most satisfying, calming rituals of the new year in a Southern kitchen is the cleaning, prepping, and cooking of that obligatory mess of collard greens. For me, this ritual is almost as satisfying as eating them.  Read More 

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21 December 2012: Christmas Cheese Straws

An old-fashioned Christmas treat: classic cheese straws with a cup of tea

Of all the Christmas goodies that hosts and hostesses have traditionally laid by for drop-in guests during the holidays, cheese straws speak closest to my heart. Called cheese “biscuits” in nineteenth century manuscripts and community cookbooks, they’re not to be confused with the cheese-flecked baking powder bread popular today: back then “biscuit” was still being used (as it still is in Britain) in its older form to designate a crisp cookie. Read More 

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12 December 2012: Eggnog

Real eggnog, served up with its crown of froth and nutmeg in a festive holiday Tom-and-Jerry Cup, is something to celebrate all by itself.

One of the most enduring symbols of the American holiday table is eggnog, that lusciously creamy, frothy, deeply intoxicating concoction of eggs, milk, and some kind of alcoholic beverage. Like fruitcake, the season’s other great culinary symbol, this heady beverage is reviled almost as much as it is revered.

There may be something in the old saying about familiarity breeding contempt;  Read More 

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