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Howdy, Y'all!

Posted Oct 03 2010 7:05pm
"So now that we have the competition thing out of the way you can get back to the goal of bringing joy and happy taste buds to the lives of your blog readers. You wouldn't disappoint them (or me) by not throwing an amazing dinner party would you?"
And so with Patrick's gentle nudging via e-mail, I decided to throw the dinner party anyway. Consider it Project Food Blog Challenge #3, except without the pressure of trying to craft the intensely elaborate posed photos and perfect lighting that I would have stressed about were I actually in competition.
I still stressed out, obviously....I always do when I cook for other people...but it was the "Oh, I hope my friends like the meal and I don't burn anything" kind of stress, rather than, "I hope the entire food blogging world thinks I'm funny."* :)

*Clearly, the already do. So I don't know why I would be worried.

If you've been with me for awhile, you know that I was born in Pennsylvania, and lived there until I went away to school in Virginia. And yet, I have always considered myself to be a Southerner, perhaps due to the eleven summers I spent at camp in the mountains of Virginia, the fact that my mom's southern upbringing led me to say "y'all" from an early age, or simply that my culinary inspiration comes from spending time in the kitchen with the queen of southern cooking (at least in my mind).

I so believe I am Southern that I will often slip into an extreme southern drawl in the middle of teaching; my first year of teaching, this feisty alter ego was dubbed "Southern Sally" by my class, and she has since reappeared at odd intervals throughout my teaching career, to "whip the little buggers into shape" with Scarlett O'Hara-like attitude. The kids love 'her' so much that one even told me, "Ms. Pember, no offense, but I like Sally better than you."
Right. We're the same person. [Oh, kids.]

Last night, Southern Sally hosted a dinner party, with a menu inspired by her culinary roots and her new Texan flavors. Think of it as a "Pearls & Cowboy Boots" dinner.

I mean, that's what "Sally" wore to do her cooking.
Turnin' Texan: Southeast Meets Southwest
Southern Sally Smartypants Cooks Dinner In Her Cowboy Boots
(And Not Actually Wearing Said "Smartypants")


Sweet Potato Hummus Jen's Guacamole Cream Cheese with Pepper Jelly
(aka "The Southern Woman's Salvation"*) *Never seen a cocktail party in the South without this insta-app.
1 block of cream cheese + 1 jar of hot pepper jelly + Carr's Water Crackers = DELICIOUS

First Course
Watermelon Gazpacho Cornmeal-Crusted Fried Green Tomatillos w/Pimiento Cheese [Not quite Bertha 's fried eggplant...but they'll do. ;)]
Main Course
"Texas Grits 'n Greens": Cheesy Jalapeno Cornbread Grits & Turnip Greens with Chorizo
"Are you sure those are grits? I usually hate grits!"--Josh
Bertha 's Coca-Cola Chicken
What's in your dish, Patrick? Must be...

Vanilla Ice Cream with Peach Julep Sauce and Toasted Pecans
Josh approves.
(Perhaps there was a little too much bourbon in that sauce?)
Some of these recipes deserve their own post entirely, and that is what I will give you. [I do so aim to please in most aspects of my life, you know.], but for now, I'll let you in on the main course dishes and dessert.

Cheesy Jalapeno Cornbread Grits
(Makes a whole lot of grits. Enough to feed everyone at dinner AND at breakfast the next day.)

1/2 gallon 1% milk
2 1/2 cups grits
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp. butter
1 can creamed corn
3 cups grated jalapeno cheddar or pepper jack cheese
salt & pepper to taste

1. Go ahead and grate your cheese, even a day or two early.
2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
3. Combine milk and grits into a large soup pot or Dutch oven, and bring to a boil. (Not a smart idea to turn the heat on and forget what you were doing and THEN pour the milk in once you remember. Just in case you were wondering.)
4. Once the grits have thickened up, add eggs, 2 cups of cheese, butter, and creamed corn. 5. Stir well until cheese and butter have melted. 6. Pour grits into a 9 x 13 baking pan that has been greased or cooking-sprayed. Top with the remaining 1 cup of cheese. 7. Bake for 35- 40 minutes.
8. Discuss how grits really stands for Girl Raised In the South.
9. Defend grits until you die!

Turnip Greens with Chorizo

3 bunches of turnip greens
1/2 sweet onion, diced
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 pound chorizo

1. Saute chorizo in olive oil in a large stew pot. 2. Remove from pot and set aside. 3. In same pot, saute onion until translucent.
4. Put cleaned greens into pot. Add chicken broth.
5. Cook until wilted.
6. Stir in chorizo and simmer until ready to serve, adding seasonings of your choice.*

*And that better include vinegar. Greens without vinegar is's just not right.

Cornmeal-Crusted Fried Green Tomatillos

There's really no recipe.
You need tomatillos. (Remove husks first.) You need cornmeal. You need a dipping agent. Like milk. (You can put some cayenne and black pepper and perhaps some salt in the cornmeal. But you know, whatever.)

Then you dip, dip, (pan) fry.
[This was not actually as easy as it looks. I failed miserably, proclaiming, "WE DON'T FRY THINGS IN THE SMART KITCHEN!!!!" Patrick took over. He did a better job. Except for that whole "smoke billowing throughout the house and windows needing to be opened" thing. But no smoke alarms went off. So I proclaim that a success.]
And top with pimiento cheese. (Y'all KNOW I can't throw a Southern party without that.) Peach Julep Sauce (for Ice Cream)

2 packages frozen sliced peaches
A whole lot of bourbon
Mint leaves
Toasted pecans, optional

1. Put peaches in saucepan over medium heat. 2. Cook until juicer-ific and broken down, mashing as necessary. 3. Add bourbon.
(I used about half of this flask-sized container. However, the boys said I "let it all cook off" and then added more.)

4. Pour over ice cream, either while warm or cold.
We are turning Texan, here, so you best used Blue Bell.
5. Top sundaes with mint leaves and toasted pecans.

Bertha 's Coca-Cola Chicken

Ha! Yeah right I'm giving that family secret away.

All I will tell you is it involves this homage to Atlanta...(duh)
(Ain't nothin' like the real thing, baby...ain't nothin' like the real thing.)*

*True. Diet Coke is better.

...and that it makes "the best chicken I've ever eaten." (Thanks, Dave!)
So, I invented some new deliciousness and managed to recreate a family classic without wreaking too much havoc on anyone involved. Success? I say, HECK YES, Y'ALL!
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