Banana pudding sits high in the royal court of Southern desserts, and it doesn’t get much better than the classic recipe on the back of the Nilla wafer box. But sometimes it can’t hurt to experiment, and it’s not often difficult to find a line of folks ready and willing to try my latest spin. Two of my greatest hits are MoonPie Banana Pudding and Banana Pudding Ice Cream Pie. Seriously, how bad can those be?
Not being able to leave well enough alone, I decided to give the recipe another go. This time I added brown sugar and bourbon to my vanilla pudding base, giving it a hint of butterscotch and a bit more grown-up appeal. And to further the recipe’s cocktail-lovin’ flare, I substituted in sweet and spicy gingersnaps for the usual plain wafers—my nod to the old Southern standby “Jack & Ginger.”
While most recipes for banana pudding call for a big trifle dish, I thought these would be best piled into my favorite cocktail glasses; the individual servings are perfect for your next adults-only dinner party, no I.D. required. Now the only thing left is to figure out how to get these down with a straw.
Continue Reading Bourbon Banana Puddings
Brunswick Stew is a Southern staple, great for cool fall evenings and family get-togethers. Photograph by Helene Dujardin (c) 2011
Virginia Willis gives Southern food a brilliant makeover in her new cookbook, Basic to Brilliant, Y’all: 150 Refined Southern Recipes and Ways to Dress Them Up for Company. I caught up with Virginia via email to chat about her new cookbook.
What was your inspiration for writing this cookbook?
First, I’ve always loved to cook. There are photos of me at 3 years old standing on a chair making biscuits with my grandmother. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel all over the world. I’ve also lived and worked in NYC, D.C. and France, and worked with or dined at the restaurants of some of the finest chefs in the world. My work experiences with Bobby Flay, Michael Lomonaco and Martha Stewart were incredibly educational. Everything I eat seems to be inspiration for my cooking and food writing. In that time away from the South, I also grew to actually appreciate the South even more. Like many expatriates, I returned home with a better sense of place than I would have had if I had never left. In my travels, I built upon what my grandmother and mother had taught me, a solid repertoire of basic fundamental techniques. My eyes had been wondrously opened to just how brilliant the world of food — and home — could be.
How do you fuse your Southern background with French cooking techniques?
It wasn’t really a choice or a decision, it’s just the way I cook. I am Southern and love the food and culture of the South. However, I am French-trained and understand the techniques and tricks of the trade in the kitchen. I call my style of food and cooking “Refined Southern Cuisine.” I want to share with the world that Southern food is more than fried chicken and cornbread. We have a 10 month growing season – we’ve been eating seasonal and local for generations. And, Southern food doesn’t have to be trapped in the past – it’s a vibrant, dynamic cuisine. I don’t forget the past, but I also don’t ignore the future. The bottom line is that my Southern heritage and French training make for really good food.
Continue Reading Cookbook Giveaway: Basic to Brilliant, Y’all
Flaky Appetizer Cream Cheese Biscuits are made with three ingredients, cream cheese, butter and flour, and come together easily in the food processor. Photograph by Rick McKee
Light and flaky, rich and moist, crumbly, silky, buttery, savory: Yes, there are a lot of biscuits out there, and I can’t think of a more fun summer project than exploring them all, baking up batch after batch for picnics, potlucks, grill-outs and backyard barbecues. With Southern Biscuits, by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart, perfect recipes and techniques for a whole slew of biscuits are delivered in one beautiful cookbook.
They begin with an invaluable “Biscuit Basics” chapter – my biscuits will never be the same now that I know the importance of low-gluten flour, the difference between fats, eight different methods for shaping biscuit dough and more. The recipes start with easy biscuits, requiring only a few ingredients and simple steps, and then dive into traditional biscuits, requiring more ingredients (butter, lard, oh my!) and a little more love. But the truth is, even though baking biscuits is an old-time tradition, they’re surprisingly quick and easy to make and deserve a place in everyone’s modern, busy lifestyle.
Continue Reading Cookbook Giveaway: Southern Biscuits
Heavenly Strawberry Layer Cake, Sugaree's Bakery - New Albany, MS
The first annual Atlanta Food and Wine Festival has now wrapped, and the inaugural weekend for food and wine lovers was delicious and fun down to the last slice…
Continue Reading Atlanta Food and Wine Festival: Southern Food Celebration
The FourCoursemen -- Credit: Marisu Wehrenberg, Zoom-works.com
Six Friends. Five Courses. Good at food. Bad at math. They are The FourCoursemen. A mix of self-taught gourmets and rising young stars with a commitment to using local and sustainable ingredients. For those lucky enough to experience their unexpected creations, it’s a magical menu served up in seclusion on a side street in Athens, Georgia. Here’s the deal…
Continue Reading FourCoursemen Special: RSVP Now