icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

Recipes and Stories

29 November 2021: The Remains of the Feast Turkey Soup

Turkey, Ham, and Orzo Soup

 

Since we had Thanksgiving dinner away from home, to give us "leftovers" other than my contributions to the feast, I'd not only made broth but later roasted a turkey breast on a bed of diced carrot, celery, and onion and baked a small pan of sage and onion cornbread dressing.

 

The weather here has turned brisk, with temperatures dropping below freezing at night, so the obvious end for those leftovers was a nice, thick soup. Read More 

2 Comments
Post a comment

24 November 2021: Turkey Broth and the Smells of Thanksgiving

The aroma of Homemade Turkey Broth is the very essence of Thanksgiving

 

Y'all, I cannot seem to help myself.

 

For our first Virginia Thanksgiving, we're not hosting but are going to another family member's home. My part of the meal is my grandfather's macaroni pie, cranberry relish with apples and oranges, and a sweet potato souffle from a fondly remembered Savannah friend.

 

So I'm not cooking the turkey, gravy, or dressing. And yet: There's a big pot of turkey broth simmering away in my sunny yellow kitchen as I write this, and I'll roast a turkey breast later on for sandwiches, creamed turkey over dressing, and turkey soup.

 

The thing is, it's just not Thanksgiving if my house doesn't smell like roasted turkey and broth,  Read More 

2 Comments
Post a comment

22 November 2021: The Simple, Homey Comforts of Hoe Cakes

Hoecakes, or Corn Griddlecakes

 

Most of us have heard that old saw about how moving is as stressful as the loss of a job, the death of a spouse or close family member, a divorce, or a debilitating illness. Well, having been through all of those things, I can't say it's quite up to their level, but what I can tell you is that it gets more difficult with age.

 

Two months into our new life in Virginia, people ask if we're unpacked and settled; we look at one another, let out a sigh, and then laugh. On the surface, the house is beginning to look as if we've lived here for a long time. The boxes are all unpacked, a lot of the pictures are hanging, and shelves are filled with books.

 

But unpacked isn't settled Read More 

2 Comments
Post a comment

28 October 2021: Old Fashioned Chicken and Rice

Old Fashioned Chicken and Rice, or Chicken Pilau

 

As we settle in to our home in the foothills of Virginia, one thing that has become apparent over the last month is that we may have left the marsh-laced lowcountry, but my cooking hasn't. After four decades (almost my entire adult life) in a Savannah kitchen, the patterns and flavors of that unique coastal cuisine have become an indelible part of my cooking.

 

No matter how one looks at it, moving and resettling in another place, even a beloved one, is daunting and stressful. So it's no surprise that, once the kitchen was settled, our meals have been a steady stream of comfort food favorites. It was also no surprise that many of those comforting dishes go back to our childhood—steaming bowls of cheese grits, country-style steak, macaroni pie, my mother's baked chicken.

 

What did surprise me—and shouldn't have—is how many of them came from those four decades in the lowcountry.  Read More 

Be the first to comment

20 October 2021: Making a Vacation Kitchen Home and an Autumnal Salad

Autumn Salad with Apples, Bacon, and Pecans before adding the Buttermilk Ranch Dressing.

20 October 2021: Making a Vacation Kitchen Home and an Autumnal Salad

 

This weekend we will have been gone from Savannah for a month. We're settling in at our house in Virginia and it's finally beginning to sink in that we're not on a vacation that will soon end: We're really and truly here to stay.

 

The most challenging and yet welcome transition for me has been the kitchen. Bright, sunny, and more inviting than any of my many kitchens have been, it's also been better equipped than those of most vacation houses. But while perfect for the on holiday cooking I've done in it, there's still been a lot of making-do.

 

Now that all the equipment has been reunited in one place, you'd think it would've been perfect.  Read More 

Be the first to comment

6 July 2021: Summer Squash

Chicken Cutlets with Summer Squash

 

Among the best things of all the wonderful summer produce that used to come from my mother's now dormant vegetable garden were delicate, sweet summer squash. It yielded our familiar Southern yellow crooknecks by the bushel, but also produced slim little green zucchini in equal quantity, because our whole family loved both.

 

They're what I miss most from her garden. We cooked them in all the usual ways and never tired of any of them:  Read More 

Be the first to comment

30 June 2021: Summer Squash and Pasta

Thin Spaghetti with Yellow Summer Squash, Bacon, and Scallions

30 June 2021: Summer Squash and Pasta

 

Last week I was finally able to visit my parents, whom I had not seen since December of 2019. It was bittersweet: Finally seeing and actually touching them was undiluted joy; witnessing the toll that age and pandemic isolation have taken was heartbreaking. Hearing it in their voices on the telephone, and in regular reports from my brother, was one thing, but experiencing it in person was something else altogether.

 

One of the single saddest things of all was that my mother is no longer able to do the thing she loves best: garden. Her large vegetable garden plot is now indistinguishable from the rest of the yard. And there was not one single green vegetable to be found in that house.

 

Still, it was good to actually see them and, if only for a few days, take some of the burden off my brother, and do things Read More 

Be the first to comment

16 June 2021: Chilled Avocado Soup

Chilled Avocado Soup, here garnished simply with thinly sliced scallion, sour cream, and oregano.

 

People often ask why I never considered opening my own restaurant. My ready answer is that I'd as soon climb onto a chair, put a noose around my neck, and jump. I like cooking and want to keep it that way. But it's actually deeper than that: the truth is I've cooked professionally—only a little, but just enough for me to promise myself I'd never do it again.

 

While awaiting the publication of my first cookbook back in the early nineties, in what can only have been a moment of complete insanity, I let myself get talked into running the kitchen of a lunch café in downtown Savannah. The owner, who I suspect was a few bricks shy of a load (for goodness' sake, she'd hired an ex-architect who'd never cooked professionally to run her kitchen), had decorated the place without any idea of what kind of food it would offer.

 

Nor had any thought been given to how that food would be prepared.  Read More 

Be the first to comment

3 June 2021: Of Fish Tacos and Mrs. H

My Fish Tacos: Be Kind. The name is Fowler and they happen to be really tasty.

 

One of my early mentors and friends in food writing was the late Marie Rudisill, whom you may have known as the outrageously frank Fruitcake Lady on The Tonight Show. Her first and best advice was, "Don't change your phone number, sugar: Half the fun you're gonna have from this thing is the phone calls you'll get."

 

The trouble was—and is—that I chose a profession that imposes solitude for a reason. I'm not outgoing by nature. But she was right; the best compensation for being reluctantly pushed into the public eye is that rare, unexpected call or letter that comes out of nowhere and lifts the spirit just when you need it most.

 

Over the years, they've sparked many treasured friendships, but none has meant more than the one that bloomed over a duck.  Read More 

6 Comments
Post a comment

22 May 2021: Lillie's Little Lemon Puddings

Lillie's Lemon Puddings

 

The people who complain about long-winded recipe introductions will be happy with this one. I'll be short and sweet. Lillie Castleberry King was a lovely dowager from Talladega, Alabama. A true Southern lady in every sense of the title, she was noted for her baking, and these simple puddings were an after-school treat for her children when they were growing up in the 1940s.

 

She shared the recipe with me almost forty years ago.  Read More 

Be the first to comment

30 April 2021: Bay Scallops Gratinée and Lessons in Restraint

Bay Scallops Gratinée with Garlic and Scallions

 

Dropping by Charles J. Russo's, my neighborhood fish market, for the shrimp that went into that sauté with new potatoes a couple of days back, some lovely fresh bay scallops caught my imagination and, like a child in the grocery, it started begging me to take some home.

 

A nice, simple gratin seemed like just the thing for them, with a touch of garlic, scallions, and a little hot pepper to season them, a few soft crumbs to soak up the juice they inevitably shed, and a few buttered dry crumbs to finish their top.

 

What could possibly go wrong? Well. It wasn't exactly wrong, but the garlic turned out to be way more than "a touch." Read More 

Be the first to comment

28 April 2021: Shrimp and New Potatoes

Shrimp with New Potatoes, Scallions, and Herbs

 

Over the course of my newspaper column's twenty year run, I but rarely developed original recipes for it. It wasn't laziness; it just wasn't cost effective. To fully develop a recipe from scratch requires a great deal of time and a lot more money than the column earned.

 

Still, every now and again, a column would inspire an idea for a dish that just wouldn't leave my imagination alone. And when, on those rare occasions, I gave in to the call and the recipe turned out well enough to make it into the column, it was always met with a hollow promise that I'd repeat it until it was perfected.

 

All too often, though, it got filed away and never made again.

 

Last year when panic hoarding created so many shortages of basic staples, just such an idea reared its little head and demanded to be noticed. Read More 

2 Comments
Post a comment

2 April 2021: An Intimate Easter Dinner V—Strawberry Semifreddo

Strawberry Semifreddo

 

To round out an intimate Easter dinner with elegant simplicity, one can do no better than the classic Italian semifreddo. At first glance, the name seems contradictory, since it means "partly cold (frozen)" and yet the thing is actually completely frozen.

 

The usual explanation is that the light, mousse-like texture remains soft even when frozen solid, and doesn't feel quite as cold in the mouth as gelato, sorbet, or ice cream.  Read More 

Be the first to comment

1 April 2021: An Intimate Easter Dinner IV—Asparagus Tips in Butter

Asparagus Tips in Butter

 

Arguably the easiest and best way to prepare asparagus is to cook it whole in a large pan of boiling salted water until it's just crisp-tender—as little as two and no more than four minutes if the spears are nice and fat, then carefully drain, drizzle it with melted butter, and serve it forth. Second to that is to spread it on a baking pan, sprinkle it with olive oil and salt, and roast it in a very hot oven.

 

The drawback to both those methods is that they're best done just before serving and require the cook's almost undivided attention. When I know my attention is likely to be spread out over several things at the last minute, this sauté is what I turn to.

 

The asparagus is already mostly cooked, so it's really just a matter of warming it up in the pan,  Read More 

Be the first to comment

31 March 2021: An Intimate Easter Dinner III—Gratin of Potatoes with Herbs and Scallions

Classic Gratin of Potatoes with Herbs and Scallions

 

For those who prefer potatoes as the starchy side at Easter, an alternative to the pasta suggested earlier is this luxurious but simple potato gratin. Based on a classic French one, it's usually made with caramelized onions, but here thinly sliced scallions and a few spring herbs give it a fresh lift and make it a fine accompaniment for either lamb or ham.

 

Actually, it's pretty compatible with just about anything, and is also lovely with poultry (especially roasted), fish, pork, and venison.

 

The only real work is grating cheese and scrubbing, peeling, and slicing potatoes. And, actually, those probably don't even have to be peeled if you like the skins. Once those chores are done, it's just a matter of tossing it together and popping it into the oven. Read More 

Be the first to comment

30 March 2021: An Intimate Easter Dinner II—Thin Spaghetti with Scallions and Thyme

Thin Spaghetti with Scallions and Thyme

 

Thin spaghetti simply dressed with butter, freshly-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and thinly sliced young scallions has long been a spring standard at my table. I start making it when the first beautiful, slender little scallions appear in the market in late winter, and have it at least once a week throughout the season.

 

It's the very essence of spring and so perfectly balanced that even thinking of adding a thing risks falling into an exercise in gilding lilies.

 

But whenever I happen to have fresh thyme on hand, a few of its leaves inevitably find their way into the bowl.  Read More 

Be the first to comment

29 March 2021: An Intimate Easter Dinner I—Roast Lamb with Bourbon and Mint

Roast Lamb with Bourbon and Mint

 

All my life, the way holidays were celebrated has been determined by family obligations. Easter was the lone exception. It was the one holiday with no prior claims on it, the one where we could create our own traditions.

 

For most of my time in Savannah, I've hosted Easter dinner in my own home or at the very least have planned and executed it from the kitchen of a friend.

 

Last year laid waste to that tradition.  Read More 

Be the first to comment

5 February 2021: An Old Favorite Revisited

Broccoli, Bacon, and Potato Soup

 

The older I get, the simpler my cooking seems to become. Whether it's because our aging palates develop at taste for simpler flavors or we just get lazy is a toss up, but the change has been so gradual that it might've gone unnoticed had it not been for the pandemic.

 

Through this time of isolation, our comfort favorites have been repeated over and over, and I've begun to notice how they've gotten simpler, both in their composition and execution. And it's had its merits. Stripping away extraneous layers, steps, and ingredients has made for cleaner, more direct flavors, not to mention a whole lot less fuss. Read More 

Be the first to comment

31 January 2021: Hearty Winter Vegetable Stew

Winter Vegetable Stew

 

It's been one of those cold, wet Sunday afternoons in Savannah, the kind that's perfect for having a hearty, comforting stew simmering in the kitchen.

 

"Stew" for most of us brings to mind chunks of red meat or poultry simmering for hours in rich brown gravy. But there was no meat in the house nor time for an endless simmer. Happily, "stew" is a technique that isn't just for meat; it can be applied to just about anything. And the time it takes depends on what's in it. Read More 

Be the first to comment

26 January 2021: A Fresh Start, Winter Comfort, and Mastering My Grandmother's Sweet Potato Pie

MaMa's Sweet Potato Custard with Bourbon Whipped Cream

 

That hackneyed saw about old dogs and new tricks has never felt more depressingly true than it has in my kitchen over the last few months.

 

The pandemic lockdown might, for some, have been a challenging adventure into previously unexplored culinary avenues. But let's face it, most of us are really not all that adventurous. For every undauntable wanderer there are probably a dozen or more of us who'd just as soon stay in with a good book and cup of tea.

 

This tired old dog is one of the latter. I settled into a nest lined with an endless cycle of repeated comfort food favorites, emerging only when forced into dipping my toes into new territory out of necessity to keep my newspaper column interesting.

 

The end of the column brought with it an end to any motivation to go exploring. Read More 

Be the first to comment

7 January 2021: The Gentle Art of Braising

Oven-Braised Chicken

 

Braising may well be my favorite way of cooking. Not only does it concentrate flavors and tenderize tough foods, it actually keeps delicate foods moist and succulent.

 

While it's ideal for winter and for the hearty but tough cuts of meat that we favor in cold weather, this versatile method really knows no season. I turn to it year round. It's really ideal for this strange time in our lives, too, since any quantity of food, large or small, can be braised.

 

But probably the best thing about braising is that it's easy on the cook:  Read More 

Be the first to comment

10 November 2020: My Grandmother's Chicken and Dumplings, Revisited

My Grandmother's ("MaMa's") Chicken and Dumplings

The lingering isolation and economic uncertainty of the pandemic have been difficult enough for all of us. But add in a contentious national election and our need for Comfort with a capital C has hit an all-time high.

 

And when we're craving that comfort, nothing quite satisfies like those things that comforted us as children. For me, the ultimate such comfort is my grandmother's dumplings, not just eating them, but the process of making them as well.

 

Throughout my childhood, MaMa was my best friend.  Read More 

4 Comments
Post a comment

3 November 2020: Election Day and Autumn Stew

Slow Cooker Chicken and Vegetable Stew

3 November 2020: Election Day and Autumn Stew

 

Savannah is meeting this election day bathed in crisp autumnal sunlight and, at long last, brisk, seasonal temperatures. It's perfect weather for getting out to do our civic duty.

 

It's also a perfect day for making a hearty stew. Once they're assembled, they need very little attention, especially if you have a slow-cooker, and are perfect for election day, since they're very forgiving of being left to simmer should your polling place be extra busy and/or the social-distancing precautions make the process last a bit longer than expected.

 

For most of us, "hearty stew" conjures images of red meat and rich gravy, but it doesn't have to be.  Read More 

Be the first to comment

15 October 2020: Orecchiette with Broccoli and Anchovies

Orecchiette with Broccoli and Anchovies

15 October 2020: Orecchiette with Broccoli and Anchovies

 

One of the things that quarantining during the pandemic has done for some of us is to make us less careless while shopping for food and more conscious of using every scrap without wasting it. As grocery bills have soared in the last few months, straining budgets that were already being challenged, it's a sharp reminder that all food is precious and ought never to be taken for granted.

 

Still, with only two of us in the house, unless I've made a large batch of soup, stew, or something like country-style steak (which is usually better the second day anyway), our leftovers tend to be a dab of this and a dribble of that—barely enough for a single serving, let alone two. Read More 

Be the first to comment

1 October 2020: Bourbon Pecan Squares

Bourbon Pecan Squares

 

Autumn has always been my favorite time of year. While it's often depicted as an ending—as the quickening of summer fades and winter's long nap looms—for me, it feels more like a beginning, a time of hope and fresh starts. And this year, we need that sense of hope, of new beginnings more than ever before.

 

But aside from that, one of the things I love best about the season is that it's such a perfect time for cooking. The warmth of the kitchen not only becomes bearable, but welcome, and the raw materials we have to work with is at its most varied and best. Everything has fattened itself up for the dormant cold season ahead—and I don't mean just animals like us. Even the fruits and vegetables of fall have a density and richness that spring and summer produce often lacks.

 

This is also the time of year that I bake more. Read More 

Be the first to comment

8 September 2020: Roast Chicken, Leftovers, and Biscuits

Creamed Chicken with vegetables on Cream Biscuits has the hearty comfort of a pot pie without the fuss of pastry and a prolonged stay in the oven.

8 September 2020: Roast Chicken, Leftovers, and Biscuits

 

One of the most comforting things that I do in my kitchen is roast a chicken. There's something about the process that soothes and reassures like nothing else. Until recently, however, it was a comfort that had its limits.

 

While the process and the first perfect slices with their sliver of crispy skin and dribble of silky gravy are indeed an unparalleled comfort, even a small bird is more than my two-person household can consume in two meals. After the second day, what's left rapidly starts losing its appeal.

 

And as its allure dwindled, finding ways to rejuvenate it so that not even a scrap was wasted was a challenge. Even sharply reminding myself that there were hungry people who'd welcome stale leftovers didn't help. The prolonged pandemic quarantine changed all that. Read More 

Be the first to comment

27 August 2020: Late Summer Cooking—Pan-Seared Fish Fillets

Pan-Seared Flounder with White Wine, Lemon, and Capers

 

Probably no one will disagree that this has been the oddest of summers. It almost feels as if it passed us by without really happening. Yes, we've had the fresh produce, the heat and humidity, long hours of sunshine, and crashing thunderstorms that mark the season.

 

And to get out of the apartment and see something other than one another and the same four walls, we've enjoyed long walks in the lovely summer-green parks that make Savannah unique and have even walked on the warm surf-washed sand of Tybee Beach. But for us, at least, it's been with a kind of odd detachment, as if time suspended in March and hasn't really caught up.

 

My cooking this summer has been reflective of that: Read More 

2 Comments
Post a comment

30 July 2020: A Summer Tradition with an Old Favorite

My Shrimp Creole, a dish I've made every summer for at least half a century.

 

Tradition has been defined as "how it was done when you were a child." Whether that's a general truth or just a jaded observation of how lifelong behavior patterns form at a very early age, we do tend to hold onto things, both good and bad, from our childhoods.

 

Regardless of when and how they begin, as so many personal and family traditions have been laid waste in this time of pandemic isolation, never have the ones that we can still keep seemed more important.

 

One of mine, which began when I was about ten, is making shrimp creole every summer. Even at that age, cooking and cookbooks were already a source of endless fascination. Read More 

4 Comments
Post a comment

24 July 2020: Tomato Sandwiches

English-style tomato sandwiches for afternoon tea, the kind one can enjoy without straining ones social graces or staining one's good clothes.

 

This time of year, there's an awful lot of deeply opinionated nonsense written about one of summer's simplest and greatest pleasures: tomato sandwiches.

 

Among the silliest are the "we're just plain folks" types who claim that it must be made with gummy white loaf bread that sticks to the roof of one's mouth and is so insubstantial that a slice of it will compress to a peanut-sized nugget, and that it must squirt and run all over one's arms and shirt.

 

That's just about all that they seem to agree upon: Some authoritatively insist that the crust may never be trimmed off, others that it must always be removed, some that the tomato must be the size of a rib-steak and hang out the edges while others allow nothing thicker or larger than the bread itself. There are proponents of the dictum that the tomato must be peeled, others that it should never, ever be peeled.

 

And then there's the mayonnaise (which is taken for granted): Read More 

Be the first to comment

2 July 2020: Old Home Week and Pimiento Cheese

The Arts and Crafts Cottage where my maternal grandparents lived, which we all knew as "Ma-Ma's House."

 

Last week I went back to Anderson, South Carolina, my parents' home town and the site for some of my best childhood memories and earliest cooking experiences. It was the first time I'd been back in at least twenty-three years, and was bittersweet.

 

It was surprising how much was just was it had been when I last drove away from it, as if the ensuing decades had passed without touching it. But so much had changed—and a good bit of it for the better. By the time I was in college, the old downtown was rapidly going to seed. But it has since experienced a Renaissance. The courthouse square, which had been paved over as a parking lot in the fifties, has been reclaimed as a small park and the site of a new courthouse annex. Trees lined the center median of Main Street, and new shops, restaurants, and hopping night spots have filled the old storefronts that line its edges.

 

But. While all the places that had meant a lot to me were still standing, many of them were in peril. Read More 

3 Comments
Post a comment