The people's voice of reason

Southern Cuisine for June

If you are a retired chef, there is a good chance for your birthday you will receive a cookbook. If the gift giver knows that you write an article for the Alabama Gazette called Southern Cuisine, it is a better chance the cookbook will have recipes from the South. Moreover, if the book is from your sister, it will not be the run of the mill cookbook. It will be “The Southern Sympathy Cookbook, Funeral Food with a Twist”, by Perre Coleman Magness.

This cookbook will compliment a funeral food cookbook I already have, “Being Dead is no Excuse, The official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral”, by Metcalfe and Hays. It is from books like these that you will expand your knowledge of everything Southern, such as learning what is a “bosom casserole”? And in case you do not know a “bosom casserole” is an enticing dish a widow brings to the home of the new widower in an effort to catch his eye. These two books are about the role tradition plays in the South. How we look out for each other in times of need and whatever the situation is in life. A good meal made by caring hands, will comfort the sad, the lost and the troubled.

A side observation is that I noticed a common thread in the recipes in the books was bourbon. Add three tablespoons to a 3-cup recipe of Pimento Cheese, add some to your roasted pecans, and add to the ham in the slow cooker. Do not forget to add it to the mustard made for the ham. Jack and Coke sheet cake did not get its name just from the soda from Atlanta! Finally, do not forget your pecan pie. It was ironic that I got the book right before I took a trip to Kentucky.

Back to the food! Being prepared to bring comfort to a family or participating in a dinner on the grounds or being prepared for a visit from friends and family can easily be accomplished. Pick a weekend when you can spend time in the kitchen prepping and preparing "make ahead meals”. There is no loss of recipes from books, magazines, and from friends and family. Type in the search panel on PINTEREST for Funeral food and the choices are plentiful. All the recipes can be labeled and referenced as "make ahead meals". In addition, the nine by twelve casserole dish is the perfect vessel for these meals.

The recipes are usually in the vein of mix the ingredients together, place in dish, and bake. If you want to produce mediocre casseroles, follow those instructions. Your goal should be to prepare a dish that is not your ordinary dish, something with a slight twist that will make my dish stand out and be noticed. The ingredients can be no different from anyone else's, however something as subtle as changing the shape can set one dish ahead of another.

An example that I like to prepare is a version of classic comfort food, chicken potpie. To me, a potpie should be shaped like a pie! Not nine by twelve rectangles but round! In addition, I want a "make ahead meal" that is freezable and easily transportable. Also, is there a point when you can freeze part of the prep for a later day? The other criteria; being concerned with servings. Do you have to cook the one dish all at once or is it sized into smaller portions to cut down on leftovers that are usually thrown away.

This recipe is adapted from

Chicken Pot Pie

Makes 2 whole pies

(Pie plates are from Dollar Tree, with a cardboard lid. They may be called round 8-inch foil cake pan. Deeper than regular pie plates with straight sides, the lids are for freezing and transporting only. Do not cook with lid on. Use foil to cover when baking)


1 cup chopped onion

1 cup sliced mushrooms

1 cup 1/4inch slices of peeled carrots

1 cup potatoes 1/2 inch diced peeled

1/3 cup butter

1/2 cup all-purpose flour, sifted

2 cups chicken broth

1 cup milk

2 cups rotisserie chicken, cooked, chopped

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 tsp. salt

4 unbaked pie crusts (homemade or store-bought)


1. To make filling: Sauté the first 4 ingredients in butter in a big skillet over medium heat until tender. Add flour; stir until smooth. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add chicken broth, thyme and milk; cook, stirring constantly until thickened and bubbly.

2. Stir in chicken, peas, salt, and pepper. Stir to thaw peas.

3. Cool, VERY important!

Freezing instructions:

Prepare crusts.

Roll them out, place the bottom crusts in the pie plates, and set aside the top crusts until ready to cover.

Pour filling mixture into bottom crusts and cover with top crusts.

Fold edges under and crimp. Poke slits in the top

Cover with foil, label, and freeze.


Bake the whole pie from frozen.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes, then cover with foil and bake 30 more minutes. Crust should be a golden brown. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes before cutting. Serves 16 (from two pies).

Our home freezer is full of frozen made ahead meals sealed in mason jars. We have chili, beans, vegetables, soups, and desserts all waiting for someone in need or just hungry. Wide mouth pint mason jars are perfect to store servings to be defrosted and then heated in the jar. Each is a perfect serving or even a serving for two. They are great for meals on the go also. When you are finished, screw the lid back on, and take it home to wash and fill again.

Imagine the whiff of cornbread batter and listen to the sizzle as it is poured into a hot cast iron pan that has been liberally drenched with bacon drippings. As it bakes in the oven, you stare through the oven door window, anxiously waiting to drench a slice of the fresh hot cornbread with soft butter. In addition, you taste the mix-ins that you put in the batter. What, you did not add anything to the batter? Cornbread is great by itself, but so much better with some flavor enhancers, aka, mix-ins. I like yellow corn, chopped jalapenos, and shredded cheddar cheese added to my cornbread batter. However, I have added bacon, bell peppers, sausage, and onion in the past.

I found this recipe on the Food Network website and it is a good reference for add in’s with the amounts needed to fill a 9 by 12 casserole dish. You are going to bake yours in a cast iron skillet, aren’t you? You can start your own list and pretend it is a menu for a Chinese restaurant, and pick from the different columns.

Mix-and-Match Cornbread


Prep Your Mix-Ins

Choose up to 3 of the following ingredients (1/2 cup each).

Scallions, chopped

Carrots, grated, then sprinkled with salt, set aside for 15 minutes and

squeezed dry

Tomato, chopped

Zucchini, grated, sprinkled with salt, set aside for 15 minutes and squeezed dry

Roasted or pickled peppers, drained and chopped

Broccoli florets, chopped and blanched

Onion, chopped and sautéed

Corn kernels, cooked or raw

Kale, chopped and sautéed

Bell pepper, chopped

Dried fruit, chopped if large

Canned hominy, drained

Bacon or pancetta, cooked and crumbled

Sausage, cooked and crumbled

Unsalted nuts, chopped

Choose a Cheese

Grate or crumble 1/2 cup cheese (optional).



Pepper jack









1. Make the Batter or use your favorite mix.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Coat a 9-inch-square baking dish with cooking spray or a 9-inch cast-iron skillet with bacon drippings. Whisk 1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal, 1/4 cup flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1-teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk 1 egg, 1 cup milk, 1 cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt, and 2 tablespoons melted butter; whisk into the dry ingredients until combined. Fold in the prepared mix-ins and cheese.

Add Seasonings

Stir in 1 of the following (optional).

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, parsley, chives, cilantro, or a combination

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, sage, or rosemary

1 minced chipotle chile in adobo sauce

1 minced jalapeño pepper

Bake the bread

Pour the batter into the prepared dish or skillet. Bake until the cornbread springs back when pressed in the center, 25 to 35 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes in the dish, then loosen the edges and slice. Alternatively, carefully flip the cornbread out of the hot skillet onto your serving dish.

Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like.”

Mark Twain

“The only time to eat diet food is while you are waiting the

steak to cook.” Julia Child


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