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Southern Style Recipes

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 
Hello Friends,

I am throwing an engagement party for a couple of my friends. They met in the South, but live in California now so I would love to dedicate the menu to where they began. I was thinking a Fried Chicken Salad, a Cornbread and a Mac&Cheese but I do not specialize in this type of cooking and would love some recipe suggestions.

Anything is appreciated!

post #2 of 3
If you want to just perpetrate stereotypes that menu would be fine. Although there are notable exceptions, Southern mac & cheese is merely a bechemal sauce with lots of cheddar (or Velveta) melted in, mixed with cooked elbow noodles, and baked. Duals have been fought over cornbread recipes, so I hesitate to offer one. And see my notes below.

The table drink in the South is sweet tea. Which might not be suitable for a California party, particularly if the guests are not used to it. If you're not serving alcohol, lemonade would be the second choice.

For an engagement party, I'd prefer going a little more upscale.

What about something like shrimp & grits, the quintessential dish of the coastal south?

Quail is ubiquitous to the South, in recipes from rustic to regal.

Spoonbread, in lieu of the cornbread per se (and, either way, don't forget that in the South, if you put sugar in the corn batter, we call it "cake.") But any kind of cornbread can be fall-apart messy, and maybe not the best choice; biscuits might be better. Indeed, as a small plate, or even main offering, perhaps mini-ham biscuits?

Peanut Soup makes an elegant starter

I could go on. But the thing to remember is that "Southern" doesn't really mean much, as there are so many regional differences. Plus, of course, in the "new" South, upscale restaurants are as common as anywhere else, and the chefs there are updating and adapting traditional dishes. Is Nick Apostle's Spicy Scallops with Chile Sauce any less Southern than fried chicken? How about Frank Stitt's Grilled & Braised Rabbit with Molasses, Bourbon, Slab bacon & Stoneground Grits?

I would want to know more about where, in the South, they met, and what their idea of southern food is before casting a menu in concrete.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
post #3 of 3
I can supply you with recipes and a discussion of techniques. But I'm wondering if it's a good idea to blaze a new trail for friends' engagement party, rather than preparing the kinds of food you've mastered. It's a good idea to perfect your stuff before trotting it out in a "this is for money" sitaution.

None of the stuff you've suggested is very difficult. As a "personal chef," I'm surprised you haven't mastered them. You've really never made cornbread? Or fried chicken? Or mac and cheese? If you've attempted these things and are unhappy with your results so far, what is it you don't like about what you've done?

How many people? What location? What equipment is available? What's your budget? Will you be able to cook outdoors? Will there be a grill available? Can you get your hands on a smoker of adequate size?

Sit down? If sit down, will service be family style or buffet? (I assume you won't have a wait-staff.) Walk around buffet? Indoors or out? Will alcohol be an important part of service?

What's the overall timetable? As in do most cooking the night before? Or, on site? Or...?

Will you have help?

What area of the south? Texas isn't South Carolina -- the foods are different. Gulf coast has its own mojo going on -- lots of fish. White south? Black south? Tex-Mex? And so on. I get a sort of soul food vibe from the three menu items you've given, am I reading too much into it?

A lot of what we now think of as "southern" might be as accurately described as "country," or "farm country," or just "old fashioned." There's nothing particularly southern about any of the dishes you mentioned. And "fried chicken salad" isn't really traditional at all. It's more chain-restaurant than anything else, which isn't a way of saying you shouldn't cook it if that's what you and they want. Just trying to narrow down the universe a little.

Are you open to other menu items than those you've mentioned? For instance, what would you thinking about smoking the chicken before frying it. Smoking it in a smoker, not rolling it up in a spliff.

You said California. Are you in the greater Los Angeles area? (I know lots of resources)

One of the details that goes toward good cornbread is cooking in cast iron. Can you procure enough cast iron skillets or corn bread molds? Or are we working with baking pans and/or muffin tins.




How upscale do you want to push this? I can give you a killer recipe for truffled grits with lobster if you want. It is an engagement party, afterall.

The more specfic you are with your questions, the more we can help. That's true even if you're at the "I'm just starting to think about it and am looking for general ideas" stage.

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