First we eat, then we play!
My husband and I were born and lived the first 21 years of our lives in the “bootheel” of Missouri. We were just across the Mississippi River from Tennessee and on the border of Arkansas so we feel like we have always been “southern”; maybe not deep south but we definitely claim southern roots.
Southern cooking runs in our blood, bacon wrapped everything, cornmeal battered, deep-fried, fresh from the local farmers market or your own garden. Some of our southern favorites growing up were fried chicken, black-eyed peas (any kind of pea), gravy (mostly milk gravy), fresh-side pork (pork belly), smothered everything. Talking about food always brings up memories of “my mother made this, or my grandmother made that”.
Since everyone, even if not from south of the Mason Dixon line, seems to have a love affair with comfort foods, we decided to do a modern take on some down home favorites for our annual Friday night Feast meal after Thanksgiving. Most of our meal was inspired by things we all remember whether you are from Missouri, Alabama, Louisiana or anywhere in between.
So, our meal started off with an amuse bouche (my dish) of buttermilk soup with cornbread. For me, that brought back memories of my grandfather drinking (or eating) buttermilk with cornbread crumbled up in his big goblet glass.
Our feast day started many years ago when we were looking for ways to use all that oil left over from frying turkeys. (We fried fish and frog legs the first time.) After that we experimented with many different “feast” ideas. We had sushi night, all oysters (fried, grilled, baked, rockefeller), Italian, French Country, Hawaiian (we smoked whole hog), Spanish, and New Orleans.
I knew we were going to have to use grits some way this year since grits is a dish we ate several ways over the years and our gravy for the grit cake for our Southern meal was made with crawfish. Our Hoppin John represented all the peas we use to eat growing up. My dad would plant black-eyed, purple hull, and field peas, then mix them all together to cook. We left the rice out of this dish and put big squares of crispy pork belly on top (My dad smoked more pork than I can remember .
Fried chicken had to be on the menu; but not ordinary fried chicken. My son, Paul, deboned the whole chicken leaving all the meat and skin intact and in one piece then he stuffed it, rolled it up, (chicken ballotine) poached it, then sliced it, breaded and deep-fried. The “Crispy” chicken went on the plate with the dandelion greens and some homemade fried garlic potato tots we made from leftover Thanksgiving mashed potatoes.
All the little 5 grandsons sat at two “kids” tables and had their kid friendly foods. After they were all in bed, the evening proceeded with lots of wine, laughter and some sing alongs to some oldie but goodies.
Friday was a very hectic cooking day for a couple of us but it was well worth it. By the time things wound down and we were sitting outside eating and drinking, laughing and playing some old music — it was one of my best days.
BLAST FROM THE PAST: I’m making these “Santa Kisses” for dinner with friends Monday night. I plan on using my little cordial glasses that are bright as ornaments with some liqueurs and these little kisses. Light dessert to go with beef stew, jalapeño cornbread etc.
Buttermilk Soup with Cornbread Batons (recipe coming soon)
Oysters Three Ways (Raw with Frozen Granite, Fried with Mustard Seed Sauce and Grilled with jalapeño butter)
Grit Cake topped with Grilled Shrimp with Crawfish Gravy
Hoppin John with Crispy Braised Pork Belly Squares
Chicken Ballotine — Deep Fried
Greens of Dandelion, Kale and Chard with Candied Walnuts and Malt Vinegar
No room for dessert!
I hope you enjoy looking at some of our pictures from the night. And here’s the recipe for the Buttermilk Soup. Everything else we made up as we went along.
My course of the Buttermilk Soup with Cornbread was served in espresso cups. That’s was just in case no one liked it; but they did or they said they did anyway. Cornbread is pureed in the soup and I used a cornbread baton for garnish.
This wasn’t my plate for sure because I don’t like raw oysters. The fried oysters here are missing the mustard seed sauce but I’m sure someone got it before eating this course. The oyster with the crumbs is the jalapeño butter oyster and that was really nice.
Three of the grandsons in their little karate kid outfits.
Son, Paul, giving the chicken ballotine some TLC while poaching.
Scott, giving a hand with the shrimp.
This was a great course, it could have been a main course from the size of it. Grit cake topped with grilled shrimp, crawfish gravy with roasted tomatoes and fried shallots for garnish.
Did we ever enjoy the new outdoor kitchen.
This was the Hoppin John course. No rice but with a big piece of braised then fried pork belly.
The warming drawer really came in handy to keep things warm between courses.
Our last course was the “fried chicken” ballotine, potato tots and the dandelion greens with candied walnuts.
Here’s baby Thomas as he is called by some of his cousins. He loved getting to know the older cousins and it was so cute watching them play and interact with each other.