I tasted my first hushpuppy at a seafood shack in Georgia, a divey little place we took my grandparents to after church every couple of Sundays. I was just a gangly little thing with a voracious appetite, and my parents — my father in particular — were schooling me in the glories of all things Southern and fried. While the grownups exclusively ordered the catfish and shrimp, I went straight for my go-to: kid-friendly chicken fingers. (Catfish brought up thoughts of my beloved feline, Munchkin, and I couldn’t bear the thought of eating anything related to her.)
I had no problem, however, stealing the sides of hushpuppies right off my parents’ plates. (Funny that I didn’t seem to mind eating anything that sounded as if it had something to do with the family dog.) I’d snatch those little balls of fried dough faster than anyone could wave a hand to stop me. Eventually my dad had to start getting an extra order for the table. I was utterly hooked on hushpuppies.
Continue Reading Creamy Corn Hushpuppies
Every cook believes he personally makes “the best” chili. That same cook may spend years perfecting a complex spice mixture or uncovering the ultimate secret ingredient. I applaud him for his efforts. And I will eat his chili with much enthusiasm and great satisfaction.
But let me tell you a little secret: I’ve never met a chili I didn’t like. From my mom’s ground beef version (seasoned with a store-bought spice pouch) to the famous “bowl o’ red” I enjoyed in Texas, I’ll take them all. Heck, I’ll even take the chili from Wendy’s, as long as it smothers a warm baked potato. Honestly I’ve never understood the snobbery this simple dish seems to carry. I mean, come on, it’s just a hearty bowl of comfort food meant to warm your bones on a brisk day. Even better if it’s made with love!
When it comes to my own “perfect” chili, however, I do have some personal preferences I seem to adhere to.
Continue Reading Beef and Andouille Chili
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!
Continue Reading Pulled Pork Nachos
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?
Continue Reading Fried Green Tomato BLT
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.
Continue Reading Georgia Peach ‘n’ Honey Cobbler
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.
Continue Reading Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding Recipe