Southern food recipes

Book Review: Southern Appetizers

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…)

Book Review: Southern Soups and Stews

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.

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Book Review: Cooking Up a Storm 10TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Cooking up a storm cover

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…)

Southern Dinner 2015

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.

Recipe: Patti LaBelle's "Over the Rainbow" Mac & Cheese

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!

Recipe: Bon Appétit Skillet-Fried Chicken

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.

The best thing I ate this month – January 2015

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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.

Hooch Bourbon House on Urbanspoon

Book review: Heritage

COVER.Heritage - HIGH RES

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.

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Book review: Jack Allen’s Kitchen

jack allen's kitchen book cover

Right from the start of the book, the author sets a clear intention. He has a shared respect those, like himself, who make their living off of the land. He is keenly aware of the importance of creating meaningful connections with local farmers and purveyors. ‘On Saturday mornings, you’ll find me at the farmers market …I know the farmers and they know me …they take care of us and we take care of them.’  

Jack Allen’s Kitchen: Celebrating the Tastes of Texas includes 150 well-tested recipes using the produce and bounty of Central Texas. Coming in at just over 4.5lbs, this tome of a book pays homage to all four seasons with each section listing cocktails, appetizers, sides, dressings, entrees and desserts that make the most of that season’s harvest. The ingredients, measurements, cuts and preparations for each recipe are spelled out in an easy-to-follow fashion.

Mr. Allen’s book offers several familiar southern dishes as well as new takes on old southern classics. The Grilled Gulf Shrimp Salad with Greens, Strawberries and Watermelon plays with putting spicy and sweet components together to see how they complement each other. The Crunchy Fried Shrimp omits the tartar sauce and instead uses blackberries as a sweet and tart accent.

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Southern Dinner 2014

The nature/nurture debate ends right here. I’ve had a full-on obsession with Southern cuisine as far back as I can remember. It is my favourite food. If I ever have the misfortune of being on death row, my last meal request will be Leah Chase’s Fried Chicken, Patti LaBelle’s Over-The-Rainbow Mac ‘N Cheese, Lee Bros. Fried Green Tomatoes, James Villas’ Candied Sweet Potatoes, Mrs. Wilkes’ Boardinghouse-style Biscuits and some sweet tea with bourbon. I could then die in peace.

But where did I develop my admiration for Southern food? I mean, it’s a reasonable question and one that’s often asked. I’m a French-Canadian dude who lives far north of the Mason-Dixon line. I didn’t grow up under a cypress tree in Charleston nor did I visit any relatives in Augusta during summer break. I was raised squarely on escargots, soupe à l’oignon and Coquilles St-Jacques. Not a biscuit to be found for kilometers. So really, there is no explanation other than I’ve coveted fried okra and peach cobbler since my beginnings. 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 the cuisine’s hallowed traditions and unique cooking styles, its use of fresh ingredients, but mostly to its ability to provide feel-good old-fashioned 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.”

Bon Appétit Skillet-Fried Chicken
Light, crispy, juicy, tender and delicious. This best describes Bon Appétit Skillet-Fried Chicken or as the magazine describes it, “the only fried chicken recipe you’ll ever need.”

Tart and brimming with brisk flavour and apple-like crunch, these fried tomatoes are topped with a refreshingly creamy butter-milk lime herb dressing. This dish is unusual and one that my friends clamor for every year.

Lee Bros. Cherry Tomato and Soybean Salad 
Soybeans are married with sweet cherry tomatoes and tossed with a buttermilk-basil dressing. A good, fresh-tasting complement to any Southern meal.

Lemon Meringue Pots de Crème
Light, airy and tangy with a delicate lemony flavour, these pots de crèmes were the perfect ending to the feast.

Going Down South at Union Local 613

I have much reverence for the culinary contributions of the people and traditions that are at the root of Southern cuisine. Southern food is a wonderful mélange of many cultures. Native American, African, European and West Indies. Domestic workers who cooked for their own families and for their white employers developed many of the recipes that the world now identifies as Southern.

It is also a cuisine that is forever evolving. If you travel to the South, you’ll discover just how different Southern cuisine is in each locale. North Carolina, Kentucky, Florida and Georgia have varying interpretations on Southern classics. The culinary influence of the South has extended far north of the Mason-Dixon line in an Ottawa restaurant called Union Local 613.

Union Local 613 bills itself as a brotherhood of growers, cookers and eaters, providing a Canadian take on Southern hospitality. It’s clear that they have a vision and they are sticking to it. The chefs at Union Local 613 are true nonconformists. While they pay homage to traditional Southern cuisine, they are unafraid to exploit combinations that are less obvious of the region. To a purist, it may seem like culinary radicalism.

Hickory smoked hog jowl, Granny Smith apples, celery, toasted walnuts and horseradish dressing. BBQ foie gras torchon, black pepper biscuits and strawberry ketchup. Roasted carrot and parsley salad, Feta, cashews, cumin vinaigrette. This restaurant is courageous with ingredients, and their dishes are more artfully executed and more technically masterful than anywhere else in the city, in my opinion.

Eating there is also a hell of a lot of fun. This, as far as I can tell, is the only place in town where one might find cat head biscuits and gravy, a spicy catfish po’boy and fried pickle spears. Though the menu is always changing, I would expect that classics like shrimp and grits, mac n’ cheese, collards, red velvet cake, fried chicken and cornbread will persist as maintains.

The seating is predominantly communal. Sharing a dinning space is not every one’s preference, but in this restaurant, it works. A nod to Southern neighbourliness. The service is friendly without being overzealous. They seem to love what they do and are proud of the restaurant’s offerings. They care about food and go to great lengths to make sure that you have a good dining experience. When I expressed an interest in the boiled peanuts, the server brought out the cookbook to show me the recipe. When I assaulted them with questions about the restaurant, they invited me to the kitchen and introduced me to the chef. Although the rest of my dinner party raved about the mac n’ cheese, I was less enthused about the flavour combo of macaroni with cauliflower and remained mute. But when the server observed that I had not consumed my serving, she excised the offending dish off my bill. “Why pay for something you didn’t enjoy?” she surmised. I was flabbergasted. Their commitment to hospitality and passion for preserving the culinary traditions of the Southern food that I revere has made me a patron for life.

Union Local 613, 315 Somerset St. W., Ottawa, ON
Sweet Tea

Buttermilk fried yard bird and pepper vinegar, fried green tomatoes and mac’n cheese
Cracker crusted Louisiana catfish, pecan puree, wilted frisée and lemon, and cheddar and roasted garlic hominy grits
A closer look at the cheddar & roasted garlic hominy grits.Yummm!

Union Local 613 on Urbanspoon

Baby back ribs hover between tender and taut; thinly sliced brisket retains its juiciness; crisp chicken skin yields to plump, smoky meat; and pulled pork is consistently moist. – See more at: http://www.atlantamagazine.com/50bestrestaurants/story.aspx?ID=15341 Baby back ribs hover between tender and taut; thinly sliced brisket retains its juiciness; crisp chicken skin yields to plump, smoky meat; and pulled pork is consistently moist.
Baby back ribs hover between tender and taut; thinly sliced brisket retains its juiciness; crisp chicken skin yields to plump, smoky meat; and pulled pork is consistently moist. – See more at: http://www.atlantamagazine.com/50bestrestaurants/story.aspx?ID=1534193#sthash.uSy8JKLF.dpuf

Southern Dinner 2013

This blog entry is as much about friendship as it is about food.  I have been blessed with some of the most supportive and lovesome friends. Forever there to help, to lean on and to let me be me.  Elbert Hubbard once said, “The friend is the person who knows all about you, and still likes you.” And for that I am ever so grateful. And tis no better way to give thanks to my inner circle of most beloved than with the annual Southern Dinner.

For me, life without fried chicken would be an unworthy existence. I’m confident that I was raised as a southern boy in a previous life. And I find solace in the fact that this type of food provides the ultimate comfort, to me and to my pals.

Behold this year’s feast which consisted of fried green tomatoes, followed by fried chicken, mac n’ cheese, salad, whipped sweet potatoes with pecan topping and for desert, a lemon layer cake.