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Pulled Pork Nachos

Pulled Pork Nachos

Three ingredients were the key to my survival in college: tortilla chips, shredded cheddar and chunky salsa. Armed with a Chevron card borrowed from my father, I would charge anything and everything under the sun, except actual gasoline. My starving-student diet consisted of Dr. Pepper, chocolate milk, hot dogs, bologna and, yes, even “homemade” nachos. Hey, beggars can’t be choosers.

I’ve come a long way since those junk-food days (well, depending on who you ask), yet those trashy nachos still remain firmly rooted in my culinary arsenal. It often humors my boyfriend when I return home ravenous from a late night at work and immediately pull the chips from the cabinet. Even with a fridge full of more civilized ingredients, sometimes all a girl wants is something fattening and familiar. But before you judge, just think about your favorite nostalgic treats. Come on, I know there has to be a dirty secret lurking somewhere in your refrigerator.

Fortunately, I’ll spare you the “recipe” for that ol’ heat-and-eat mess. I’ve decided to give nachos the old college try, and I think even the haters out there will approve of this Southern-style update. Imagine slow-cooked pulled pork drizzled with sweet-and-tangy barbecue sauce and ladled with creamy cheddar. It’s finished off with cilantro-sour cream, pickled jalapenos and a sprinkling of queso fresco. Each of the components is delicious in its own right, but paired together you get something truly sublime. The only way these nachos could get any better is if they’re washed down with an ice-cold beer. And that, my friends, is how to earn a culinary diploma!

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Find a New Tailgating Favorite: Jalapeno Poppers

Jalapeno Popper Recipe

Down South, college football is more than just a way of life. To some, it’s a religion. Which means Saturdays are sacred and meant to be taken seriously. In fact, tailgating is done just a little bit different around here. So if you’ve never attended a game in the SEC, here are a few things to expect.

Southerners dress the part.
There’s an unspoken dress code at stadiums in the South, and it doesn’t include ripped jeans and a school t-shirt. Ladies proudly don designer dresses (in their team colors, of course), sky-high heels, and the mandatory strand of grandmother’s pearls. Gentleman usually sport seersucker pants and a crisp button-down shirt. You may even see a bow tie or two.

Southerners arrive early.
I’m not talking 8 AM early, either. True professionals pull their campers and luxury buses into campus parking lots on the Thursday before a big Saturday game. It would be earlier, too, but where would students park for class? Even for the less avid enthusiasts, pre-gaming always begins with breakfast. And if you need a little boost from the late-night before, it shouldn’t be hard to find the ol’ hair of the dog. Just ask the friendly folks parked next to you.

Southerners keep it classy.
While there is always a bad seed in the bunch, for the most part, fans respect their fellow fans. Team rivalries may run deep, but at the end of the day, it’s not about the final score but the one-of-a-kind experience. Bragging rights are just a bonus. And hey, there’s always next year.

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Fried Green Tomato BLT

Fried Green Tomato BLT

We all know the movie that made them famous, but there’s more to fried green tomatoes than being on the menu at The Whistle Stop Café. It’s pretty clear that us Southerners can fry just about anything, and we always seem to know how to cook up the “unwanted bits.” So why not take a lowly, unripe tomato and make it useful?

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Georgia Peach ‘n’ Honey Cobbler

Southern Peach Cobbler Recipe

During my hot childhood summers in Alabama, my dad would drive dusty county roads to get freshly picked produce from a farmer living out in the sticks. He sold his veggies straight out of the back of a beat up Chevy pickup, and he even wore dirty overalls and a wide-brimmed hat. His baskets were piled high with summer squash, heirloom tomatoes, okra, watermelons, peaches and plums. We’d ravage a giant bag of salty boiled peanuts on the ride home and then get straight to work on a batch of homemade peach ice cream. Not a bad way to spend those dog days.

But my crazy peach obsession didn’t actually reach its peak until I moved to sunny California. My former boss was the proud mom of an adopted peach tree outside of Fresno, and the last month of August turned into what one might call a peach free-for-all. My work duties for about a week or two entailed peeling, canning, pickling, baking and snacking on all of those delicious Elbertas. (Tough job, right?) During that time I mastered a fiery peach chutney recipe that still makes an annual appearance in my holiday gift baskets.

Now that I’m back in Georgia – a.k.a. the Peach State – I’m taking full advantage of this famous summer bounty. My current favorite way to enjoy peaches is sliced and served with a dollop of tangy goat cheese and salty prosciutto, piled high onto grilled sourdough and sprinkled with a rich, fruity olive oil. Oh my, my. But there’s only so many tasty ways to eat raw peaches before the pile on your counter starts to get a little too ripe. And then it’s time to make peach cobbler.

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Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding Recipe

Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding

It was my mother who first introduced me to the wonders of old-fashioned bread pudding. I remember the night well. We were in a hip little college-town restaurant that served pub food with a Southern twist. At the time, my middle school diet consisted of chicken fingers and cheese sticks, and only chicken fingers and cheese sticks, so it’s a shock that I was even willing to try a bite. In fact, I was probably the only child ever forced to sample a dessert against my will. (Like I said, if it wasn’t deep-fried, I didn’t want it.)

She ordered the bread pudding before she even ordered her entree, telling the server she wanted it piping hot and swimming in extra sauce. The secret, she explained to me, is always in the sauce. I took one bite of that steamy, drippy dessert and my life was changed forever. Am I being a little dramatic here? Nope; it’s bread pudding we’re talking about.

I think we even ordered another.

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How to Host a Crawfish Boil

Crawfish Boil

It seems every part of the country has its own unique type of seafood extravaganza, whether it’s a Low Country boil in Charleston, a clambake in Maine, or a crawfish boil down in New Orleans.  I’ve been to quite a few in my day, but this year it was high time I hosted my own.

Crawfish season, which usually runs from late April through June and sometimes into July, just so happened to coincide with my boyfriend’s birthday. As if I needed another excuse to celebrate!

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Roast Beef Po’ Boys

Roast Beef Po' Boy

I hopped in a car last year with my boyfriend for a cross-country drive from Los Angeles to Atlanta. If you know me, you know the only reason I could ever last in a car that long is the promise of food.

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Buttermilk Pie

Buttermilk Pie

My boyfriend’s mother is a one-woman Southern show. Seriously, she does it all – and has three well-rounded sons to prove it. Feeding those growing boys (and a loving husband) couldn’t have been easy, but she makes it look like a piece of cake. I’ve got a lot to learn. Fortunately, she’s given me a good start: I’ve inherited her tattered purple recipe folder with all the secrets of her Southern kitchen.

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Southern-Style Tea Sandwiches

Southern-Style Tea Sandwiches

Blue Cheese and Walnut Tea Sandwiches

“April showers bring May flowers.” At least that’s how the saying goes. Well down South, April brings more than just inclement weather. With it arrives a storm of baby showers, bridal parties and weddings. And because southerners have never needed an excuse to throw a party, you can guarantee plenty of invitations to arrive at your door.

I usually need a little culinary incentive to attend all of these soirées. The exchanges are quite often familiar ones — a little juicy gossip, the latest news and weather, maybe a game or two.  Talk about thrilling! But there is always a pot-of-gold at the end of the “small-talk” rainbow, and that’s good food, and lots of it.

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Country Ham Antipasto

Country Ham Antipasto

Oh, the lowly country ham. The salty southern staple has faded in popularity over the past few years, but get ready people, because it’s making a comeback. With “local” and “artisanal” being all the rage, some of the South’s most respected ham curers have finally caught on to the trend.

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