From the rolling hills and hollows in Appalachia to the flat salt marshes of South Carolina to an urban farm in metro-Atlanta, the South has a strong tradition of good food and generous hospitality. The region is well known for fried chicken, grits, and biscuits, but there are some Southern food-ways that many may find surprising: There have been Chinese Americans living in the Mississippi Delta since the 1800s; at one time more Italians lived in New Orleans than New York City, and an Atlanta suburb is known as the “Seoul of the South.” The South is rich in cultural diversity and the food of the modern global South reflects this.
Southerners adore their appetizers, and this collection of 60 recipes—served up with a healthy dose of Southern hospitality—shows why. Smoked pecans on the sideboard, cheese straws on the coffee table, an array of hot dips on the dining table, and pickled shrimp on the porch are just some of the myriad of dishes found in this volume that prove food is the life of the party. Tips on creating the ideal party flow, being a gracious host, arranging flowers, sending out invitations, and planning the perfect menu ensure any event will go off without a hitch. Both a lovely hostess gift and a party-planning idea book, Southern Appetizers is all anyone needs for a successful gathering with Southern style. (more…)
Nick Smith, left, and his father Matt, of Gator BBQ.
For over 30 years, Gator BBQ has been delivering mouth-watering chicken, pulled pork and ribs to the hungry crowds of Rib Fests all across North America. Touring Canada and the Northern United States, the Smith family of Port Dover continue to win countless awards and events with their signature southern BBQ cuisine. On the eve of Ottawa Ribfest, I caught up with Matt Smith to discuss his humble BBQ beginnings, his secret for achieving great tasting barbecue and if he ever gets tired of being around so much BBQ!
How did you get involved in the BBQ business?
By accident mostly. I used to be part of the carnival circuit for Conklin Shows and eventually crossed paths with a fella who ran these Ribfests. I started my own team and its grown from there—must be 20 years at least. We were there at the very start!
Tell me about the BBQ process. Boil or bake? Smoker? Hardwood or gas?
Always smoked. Ribs, pork and chicken are done in our smoker (Southern Pride) for various times depending on the meat. Although the fuel is propane, there’s a wood oven that heats the smoker and pumps the heated smoke throughout. (more…)
Chef Kevin Belton, a true Creole New Orleanian, dishes up the culinary history of his city with recipes that provide both down-home comfort and the big flavours. He teaches how to make a perfect roux and explains the background of that holiest trinity of Creole cooking—celery, onion, and bell pepper—while offering his spin on the Louisiana classics of gumbo, jambalaya, étouffée, po’boys, and grillades with grits.
Chef Belton’s signature dishes like Pecan-Crusted Redfish, Stuffed Mirlitons, Louisiana Boudin-Stuffed Quail, Creole Cottage Pie, and Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce are not to be missed and are well worth the time in the kitchen! (more…)
Dip your spoon into a Cajun-style gumbo; savour a layered muddle of snapper, potatoes, onions, and poached eggs; feast on okra soup coloured with red-ripe tomatoes; eat Hoppin’ John for luck on New Year’s Day.
Nancie McDermott’s Southern Soups & Stews serves up recipes seasoned with history—from Nathalie Dupree’s Lowcountry Okra and Shrimp Gumbo to Summer Squash Soup with Black Pepper and Thyme, to Collard Greens with Pot Likker and Dumplings—offering us a glimpse of how people farmed, cooked, and continue to celebrate life over time. Travel around the South and you will find folks still eating the dishes today because the meals are delicious, compelling, and certain to attract and please a big table of family and friends.
Recently, a lunch was had at Allium Restaurant to honour my birthday. It instead turned into an occasion to celebrate the birth of a most wondrous creation—a Fried Chicken Sandwich. Picture it. Crunchy and fantastically moist chicken topped with crispy bacon, a savoury cheddar spread, a slathering of hot honey, crunchy parmesan-kale salad, all held together by two warm and chewy waffles. Choruses of “Oohs,” “Aahs” and “Mmms” were heard, my birthday was almost forgotten and more napkins were requested.
After having left the restaurant and struggling to unlock the secrets to this delicious wonder, I reached out to the restaurant as well as to the Chef who produced this masterpiece. What I received in return was stone-cold silence. Rude? Annoying? Smart? It seems that Allium was hell-bent on keeping the secret to their mystical sandwich on the down-low. And, who can blame them? The sandwich is innovative, dramatic and tummy pleasing. And, it was the best thing I ate this month.
After Hurricane Katrina tore through New Orleans in 2005, Cooking Up a Storm was published to tell the story—recipe by recipe—of one of the great food cities of the world and the determination of its citizens to preserve and safeguard their culinary legacy.
In a town obsessed with food, that meant discovering years of collected recipes—many ripped from the newspaper and tucked into cookbooks—were gone. As residents started to rebuild their lives in the aftermath, The Times-Picayune of New Orleans became a post-hurricane swapping place for old recipes that were washed away in the storm.
Marcelle Bienvenu and Judy Walker have compiled 250 of these delicious, authentic recipes along with the stories of how they came to be and what they mean to those who have searched so hard to find them again. (more…)
I’ve long ago surrendered to the fact that I was just born with smothered chicken gravy running through my veins. And why should I fight it? There are worse fates than having an innate ability to cook fried chicken and shrimp & grits. When it comes down to it, I am drawn by Southern cuisine’s hallowed traditions and unique cooking styles, its use of fresh ingredients, but mostly of its ability to provide feel-good comfort.
It is for this reason that every year I play host to a group of friends who indulge me in my zeal to create a Southern tradition north of the border. And I’m more than happy to be their comfort food ambassador. Here are some pics from this year’s “Southern Dinner.”
Recipe: Lee Bros. Fried Green Tomatoes
Every Southern Dinner begins the same: with Lee Bros. Fried Green Tomatoes. Tomatoes are especially delectably sliced and deep fried; their tangy flesh is a perfect foil for a rich, toasty crust. The tartness of the tomatoes are amped by the Buttermilk-Lime Dressing. This creamy herb dressing is refreshing and green, and the small amount of honey rounds out the acidity in the lime and buttermilk.
As told in LaBelle Cuisine: Recipes to Sing About, back in the 60’s when Patti Labelle and the Bluebelles was touring London, the British band, Bluesology, played backup. Elton John or Reggie Dwight as he was known in those days, was the band’s piano player. Patti writes that she used to prepare a savoury, spicy, soul food feast for the band members while on the road. It was Ms. LaBelle’s macaroni and cheese that Reggie loved the most. As you’ll note from the recipe, it’s made with five different kinds of cheese, and as she tells it, that’s how many times Reggie went back for more. In my house, it’s a Southern Dinner staple and we always go back for more. God bless Patti Labelle and her Mac N’ Cheese!
What’s not to love about fried chicken? The crunchy crisp crust, the fantastically moist and juicy meat, the luscious flavours and textures. This recipe from Bon Appétit brings it all together in one easy to execute recipe. I can bring some down home Southern soul even way up North of the Mason-Dixon Line. As god is my witness, I will never use another fried chicken recipe again!
Recipe: Kil't Greens with Bacon Jam
In all the haste of getting the dinner on the table, I forgot to snap a solo pic of the most talked about dish of the night, Kil’t Greens with Bacon Jam. See below top-right for a small glimpse. Published in Garden & Gun, a magazine about the sporting, culture, food, music, art, and travel of the Southern United States, this recipe was simple as can be. When delicate greens meet a boiling-hot dressing of bacon, onion, and vinegar, they soften and wither immediately. The result? A savoury and syrupy deliciousness that made this dish the star of the night. Chef Ouita Michel serves a versatile version of this Appalachian classic at the Holly Hill Inn in Midway, Kentucky.
I received more than a few puzzled stares when I announced that I had just dined on chicken and waffles at Hooch Bourbon House restaurant. For hardcore obsessives of Southern cuisine, there is nothing more heroic than these two combinations. Where today, most chicken is served devoid of bones or skin, this Cornish hen is proudly dished-up bone-in, skin-on and artfully displayed on its cutting board canvas. A perfect tribute embodying the soul of the south in the dead of winter. The smokey-sweet chipotle maple emulsion provides a compelling counter to the soft, chewy buttermilk waffles and tender crispy chicken. This is a stunner of a dish. A simple, good thing elevated to symphonic heights. And it was the best thing I ate this month.
Hooch Bourbon House restaurant is located at 180 Rideau Street in Ottawa.
I feel as though I have been searching for this book my entire life. See, I’ve had a full-on obsession with Southern cuisine as far back as I can remember. It is my favourite food. I am drawn by the cuisine’s hallowed traditions and unique cooking styles. And in this book, I have discovered someone that shares my love of one of the greatest cuisines of the world.
James Beard Award-winning Chef Sean Brock is an emissary of Southern food and culture. He is best known for his work in Charleston, SC, where he is the executive chef and partner of restaurants McCrady’s and Husk.
Heritage is his very first cookbook and offers a mix of traditional and contemporary recipes in chapters such as “The Garden” and “The Pasture.” The recipes (e.g., butter-bean chowchow; pork belly with herb faro, pickled elderberries, chanterelles, and sumac; buttermilk pie with cornmeal crust) range from simple to sophisticated. Pork rinds, for example, are cooked sous-vide and dehydrated before being deep fried.