Regional ingredients make these Southern recipes tasty favorites.
Cooking on the Go
By Janet Groene, F47166
Interstate 285 is a loop expressway that allows travelers to avoid downtown Atlanta’s notorious traffic headaches, but it is much more than a bypass. It’s a necklace strung with tourism jewels. And it’s in the city’s outskirts where you will find the antebellum mansions, colorful gardens, historic cemeteries, and a world of unexpected sight-seeing, camping, and dining treasures.
These recipes are easy for the motorhome cook to prepare, good to eat, and faithful to the flavors of the old South.
Redneck Gourmet Caviar
Black-eyed peas have been a Southern staple since Scarlett O’Hara’s time. Many variations of this recipe exist. This is my version of the “RG Caviar” served at Redneck Gourmet restaurants in Newnan and Senoia, Georgia. Spoon it on crackers for a snack, over a bed of lettuce for lunch, or serve it in a small ramekin as a side dish.
Cile Smith, a member of the restaurant’s founding family, makes it by the gallon, so these quantities are mine. You’ll need two packets of Good Seasons Italian salad dressing mix. Make up one packet according to package directions, using virgin olive oil. Cile says that’s the only oil she uses in recipes such as this one.
2 cans black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 small can diced chiles, drained
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1 packet dry Good Seasons Italian salad dressing mix
Prepared Good Seasons Italian dressing
Mix the black-eyed peas, chiles, tomatoes, and corn, and fold in a light sprinkling of some of the dry Italian dressing mix. Save the remaining dry mix for another use. Fold in the prepared dressing to taste. Chill.
Young Chefs Peachy Pecan Rolls
At Young Chefs Academy locations around Atlanta, cooking classes are held for children ages 3 and older. Fresh Georgia peaches add a gourmet touch to these rolls. They can be made quickly in the RV galley, but it does take some time to peel fresh peaches. So here’s a tip for removing those peels in short order.
Bring a bowl of water to a boil (I use the microwave oven) and dunk each peach into the hot water for a few seconds. After being blanched, the peels slip right off. Canned peaches just aren’t the same for this recipe, but use them if that’s all you have.
10 pats butter
3 or 4 fresh peaches, blanched and peeled
30 toasted pecans
1 tube Pillsbury Grands refrigerated biscuits
Preheat oven according to the directions on the Grands biscuits package. Spray 10 cups in a cupcake pan with nonstick spray. In each hole place a pat of butter, a packed teaspoon of brown sugar, a heaping tablespoon (or so) of cut-up peaches, and three pecans. Separate the uncooked biscuit dough; dip each piece in the cinnamon sugar; and divide the dough pieces among the cupcake holes. Bake the rolls for approximately 10 to 12 minutes, or until the biscuits are golden brown. Let the pan stand a few minutes, then carefully turn it over and serve the rolls peach side up. The brown sugar and butter form a caramel sauce that drips deliciously down the sides.
Sweet Tea Concentrate
Georgia cooks are uncompromising about sweet tea. It’s the standard meal accompaniment and a cooling drink to sip during hot afternoons. Make your own concentrate to save time and money.
6 cups water
1/4 pound (4 ounces) loose tea
4 cups sugar
Bring the water to a boil and add the tea. Turn off the heat and let the tea steep for 10 minutes. Put the sugar in another pan and pour half the hot tea into the sugar through a tea strainer. Stir to dissolve the sugar; then add the remaining hot tea. Pour the syrup into a 2-quart container and add water, if necessary, to fill to the top. Cap and refrigerate. To serve, put a quart of water in a pitcher; add a cup of tea syrup; stir; and serve over ice. This concentrate will keep for a month or more in the refrigerator. This recipe makes eight pitchers of tea.
In the old South, buttermilk was an everyday ingredient. It’s brought into modern times in this refrigerator pie. See whether your guests can guess the secret ingredient.
1 16-ounce can crushed pineapple
1 large (8-serving) package strawberry gelatin dessert
2 cups buttermilk
1 8-ounce tub whipped topping, thawed
1 9-inch pie shell, chilled
Drain the crushed pineapple, saving the juice. Add enough water to the pineapple juice to make 1 cup of liquid. Bring the pineapple juice to a boil and stir in the gelatin until it dissolves. Cool; stir in the buttermilk; and refrigerate until it thickens to the consistency of egg whites, and then fold in the whipped topping. Turn the filling into the cold pie shell and chill until set. This recipe makes eight servings.
Wilted Lettuce Salad
This is an easy, refreshing summer salad that makes its own dressing. It’s the perfect lunch for two.
3 strips bacon, cooked and chopped
1 bunch leaf lettuce
2 hard-cooked eggs, cut up
3 tablespoons vinegar
3 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon water
Freshly ground pepper
Fry the bacon and drain it on paper towels, reserving the pan drippings. Tear the lettuce into bite-size pieces in a bowl. Add the bacon and eggs. Stir the vinegar, sugar, and water into the bacon drippings and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Toss the hot dressing with the lettuce, shower with freshly ground pepper, and serve at once.
Flour-Free Peanut Butter Cookies
Peanuts were called “goober peas” in the old South, but it wasn’t until after the Civil War that George Washington Carver developed the many uses for this versatile legume we know today. This recipe makes only about six cookies, so it’s ideal for your toaster oven.
1 cup peanut butter, creamy or chunky
1 cup sugar
Stir the ingredients together while the oven preheats to 350 degrees. Drop the batter by teaspoons onto a sprayed baking sheet; bake for eight minutes; and allow the cookies to cool before removing them from the sheet.
Sweet Potato Croquettes
Sweet potatoes are another must-have in the Georgia kitchen, and this recipe is one of the wackiest. It’s from a hilarious book titled Cooking With Lard by Mike Smith and Mike Steed, published in Atlanta by Longstreet Press, which is no longer in business. The illustrations were done by David Boyd, a mad genius cartoonist who illustrates calendars and books for Jeff Foxworthy.
4 cups mashed sweet potatoes
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Dash allspice and ground cloves
1 bag marshmallows
1 cup lard
Mix the sweet potatoes with the spices and form a ball around each marshmallow. Roll the balls in the cornflakes and fry them in the hot lard until they are golden brown. (The authors say you can use other shortening also.) The secret to any deep-frying is to get the fat hot enough to sear and seal the food without penetrating it.
About cooking with lard: don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it. My great-grandmother believed pure lard was far healthier for making piecrust than shortening, which we know now to be loaded with trans-fats.
My introduction to cooking with lard came while in the Thousand Islands of the St. Lawrence River, where a traditional shore dinner is served by fishing guides. They fill an iron skillet with lard over a crackling fire. When the lard boils, they drop in cleaned, freshly caught perch. The lard immediately seals and cooks, creating a crusty fish with no hint of greasiness or fat flavor. After the meal they bring the lard to a boil again and drop in French toast.
Rye Bread Dressin’
Dressing made with stale bread or cornbread is a Southern classic. This is a very unusual dressing you can assemble in the morning and refrigerate to bake later. It goes well with ham or chicken.
10 slices rye bread
1 12-ounce package grated cheddar cheese
3 cups milk
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Butter the rye bread, dice it into a bowl, and fold in the cheese. Put the bread pieces in a sprayed 9-inch-by-13-inch baking dish. In the same bowl whisk together the eggs, milk, and Worcestershire sauce and pour over the bread. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours. Bake the dressing for 40 minutes at 375 degrees, or until the custard is set.
Congealed Peach Tea
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
4 peach tea bags
2 cups boiling water
1/3 cup sugar (or equivalent)
1 teaspoon peach or vanilla extract
Soften the gelatin in cold water while the tea bags steep in boiling water for five minutes. Remove the tea bags. The tea should be very hot. Stir the tea into the gelatin to dissolve it; stir in the sugar and extract; and pour into four dessert dishes or custard cups. Chill. Serve plain or with whipped topping.
More Ways To Put The South In Yo’ Mouth
Top a brick of cream cheese with hot sauce or pepper jelly and your snack is ready. When spread on crackers, this Southern favorite contrasts the scorching heat of hot sauce or jelly with the soothing cream cheese. Try it with Atlanta Burning Super Hot Sauce from http://www.mohotta.com/.
Rediscover easy, refreshing gelled salads, called “congealed” salads in the South.
Make a rainy day fun by cooking up a batch of peanut brittle or pecan brittle. Both nuts are abundant in Georgia.
When scuppernong and muscadine grapes are in season, try them. They’re seedy, sweet, and very Southern.