A Tale of Pimento Cheese and Biscuits….
April 28, 2010

Hands in motion, mixing a huge batch of pimento cheese...yummy...

There are as many ways to make a batch of pimento cheese as there are crackers to spread it on….but there are some rules that should be obeyed….using sharp cheddar cheese, using a good mayonnaise like Hellman’s, add a touch of Tabasco….but there are also some rules that can be broken….such as, never buying pimento cheese at the grocery store. As I’ve stated before, grocery store pimento cheese is just awful. So let me qualify that. If you’re a store that carries Callie’s Biscuits  pimento cheese, then by all means, grab hold and don’t let go.

Callie's employee mixing butter into the flour for biscuits...

Pimento cheese is a new product for Callie’s…a Southern Staple, as they call it. And I guess that’s true…growing up in Alabama there was often a pie plate of pimento cheese in the frig that would make its way into lunchtime sandwiches. A Pyrex pie dish because my Father, who often made it, found it easier to mash the pimentos that way…now you can buy pimentos already chopped. He always let my Mother add the mayo though…he was afraid she’d complain he put in too much.

Anyway, there probably lots of people now, who simply don’t want to take the time to grate the cheese, and add pimentos, Worcestershire, Tobasco, and Helman’s mayo…so maybe many of you have never tasted real pimento cheese….and Callie’s is like homemade…ok, better. When I was in Charleston last week, I called and asked if I could stop by where the magic happens, on famous Meeting Street….the dodgy end says Callie’s daughter Carrie, and they said sure..come on by.

Carrie filling biscuit bags with luscious biscuits.....

It’s a lovely little bakery, with hardwood floors and a big freezer to stock all the different flavors of biscuits. Carrie was up to her neck in alligators as they say, because Piggly Wiggly(love the Pig) had called and said,”It’s Friday and we need more biscuits pronto!” So Carrie was loading packs of Callie’s cinnamon biscuits, ham biscuits, cheese-chive biscuits and buttermilk of course, into bags as fast as she could while we talked. Carrie’s Mother Callie was the originator of the biscuit, and Callie is pretty much retired, though still doing a little catering here and there. And this is her biscuit recipe, that her business minded daughter made into a product…she told her Mom that people all over would want to buy them, and Callie never thought it would amount to much. “Oh, who would want to buy my biscuits?”  But lots of people do, because they are so luscious….as far away as Dean and DeLuca in St. Helena, California. These women know their biscuits.

Callie's...made from White Lily flour, of course....

And the rest is history…Carrie is still growing the business and getting them into more stores…the only place I can find them in Maryland right now, is Graul’s Market in St. Michaels and Annapolis. But I’m hoping that Graul’s here in Baltimore, or maybe Eddie’s in Roland Park would stock them. And the pimento cheese, of course. No shipping fees!  And while I carted down a couple of blocks of cheddar to Charleston with big plans to make pimento cheese….did I? Not once I spotted Callie’s in the Piggly-Wiggly. I’m gonna go spread some on a cracker right now.

Sound-off on dressing/stuffing/filling…or whatever you call it.
November 12, 2009

I wrote last week about an “interesting” recipe my Mom sent from the Birmingham News, for  grits dressing/stuffing for the turkey. I know…it sounds decidedly odd…but the writers of the Glorious Grits cookbook say it’s fabb. We’ll see.  Here’s what readers thought….

From Sue….”My husband would eat grits 24 hours a day. I will have to ask him if he would like his turkey stuffed with grits.” (We have not heard back from Sue about her husbands feelings on a grits dressing.)

Paul(who’s a fancy chef), said, ……”I love grits and used them in many ways but in the turkey?? I just don’t know..It could be one of those things that is possible and palatable but is it better than real dressing. Kind of like a veggie burger being substituted for a real beef burger, while it is tasty it not the same.”  (I couldn’t agree more.)

This was from my grits loving sister in Gulf Shores, Alabama( she had water under her house from Ida)….who wrote me about the recipe for pimento cheese …….” Hi little sister—lots of us still in the deep south add a little Worcestershire sauce–and i also have a friend who adds little green onion–which is very pretty and tasty ! I cannot imagine velveeta –sounds gross!i also want to try the grits dressing–but maybe not for thanksgiving! love u—audie”  And I want to point out that the velveeta and Worcestershire go in the pimento cheese…NOT the dressing. Though on second thought, it might not be half bad.

And from Kathy, a new word for dressing/stuffing…”I learned that grits were delicious when my husband was stationed in the Atlanta area about 25 years ago. I also learned how to make sweet tea and to order un-sweet. Those three years in the South taught me to love much about the South. Don’t know if I want to try grits in my turkey, though. My son-in-law from Philadelphia calls stuffing “filling”–he says that it fills the turkey and that is what they call it.”  OK, that is just odd. I mean I’ve heard of pie filling but turkey filling??  Those Phillies fans….

From Ed…”When this ole Pennsylvania boy went to Tenn for college in the ’70’s I discovered grits. To this day I can’t resist a hot bowl of grits at anytime of the day. Odd thing though, my wife is from Tenn and can’t stand ‘em, go figure. Ever put them in the fridge overnight and then the next day, slice and fry them and put maple syrup on them. Very good!!” Ummmm…Ed, you have committed the cardinal sin in my book about grits…putting sweet stuff on them. It’s just so wrong.

And this one from Jessica has me really intrigued.…” My mother-in-law makes a dressing with grits and saltines that is to die for. She tried to teach me, and after years I think I have it down!”  Well, Jessica, what are you waiting for? Send the recipe so we can give it a try! I do love saltines…maybe that is like an addition of bread to the dressing??

Pimiento Cheese and Flannel-lined jeans….
November 3, 2009

Wow, things really never change.....

It’s odd how seeing certain things take you right back to your childhood. Or maybe it’s that everything that goes around, comes around. Take for example, flannel-lined jeans. When I was a child, I had a pair in the back of my drawer that I absolutely despised. In ‘bama, there was little call for such an item as you might imagine, but every once in a while there would be a “cold snap”, and girls were “allowed” to wear pants to school(I know, I know…how archaic is that?). But rather than simply wear pants, my Mom shoe-horned me into the most awful  flannel-lined jeans… under a dress. Imagine if you will, a stiff, bulky, little worn pair of flannel lined jeans…under a dress. The horror of one of those days remains with me still.  I was quite the fashion statement, but as I saw today on L.L. Bean….flannel lined jeans are still around…hopefully, (dear Lord, think of the children)prewashed.

classic pimento cheese sammich

The Today Show this morning, had a 2009 version of one of my childhood favorites…. pimento cheese(pronounced puh-men-ta cheese)… took me way back. As I’ve mentioned before, people who’ve never eaten anything but sticky, gross, sweet, store-bought pimento cheese, have never eaten pimento cheese. No…don’t tell me you know one that tastes good….that’s just crazy talk. You have to make your own, to get the finesse of pimento cheese. And it just ain’t that hard…grate some sharp cheddar cheese, add some jarred pimentoes(which are basically roasted red peppers), some mayo….and you’re golden. I’ve read some recipes that use Velveeta…I’m skeptical.  I like the real cheese. I’ve provided a link here to Paula Deen’s recipe….she uses sharp white and yellow cheddar…sounds good…and I like a few dashes of  Tabasco for a little extra zip.

Layered pimento cheese potato gratin....why didn't I think of that?

But on the Today Show, the Lee brothers…authors of a new cookbook called Simple Fresh Southern…put a new spin on pimento cheese…in a potato gratin! The recipe which I’ve linked here….looks pretty simple….really more like a deconstruction of pimento cheese, with potatoes. How can you go wrong? I will definitely give it a try this weekend. pimento cheese and flannel jeans….one out of two isn’t bad.

A Grits Thanksgiving??
October 28, 2009

Glorious Grits yes...but dressing??OK, I told you yesterday about how my Mom had saved two things from the Birmingham News….the first was about my childhood pediatrician having hosted the illustrious Julia Child for a week…and the second was all about grits.

It/s true, you know....

Glorious, glorious grits…I always feel sorry for people who say they don’t like grits…and always feel that if they had good grits, prepared and served the right way(mainly with butter, salt and pepper and never with sugar)…they would understand this basic, economical food of the south. Just think polenta. And I’ve carried grits way beyond the breakfast table, as most of you know. Grits cooked with chicken broth and finished with a little heavy cream and parmesan cheese are  worthy of any dinner table. My sister in Gulf Shores got a tip from a chef about the cream part…he suggests pouring cream over the top of grits after they cook, and let it sit there while you finish everything else, and then just stir it in when you’re ready to serve. It works.

But grits dressing for Thanksgiving?? (And for those of you who call it stuffing, let me tell you, in the south, it’s called dressing) This I have never heard of, but a new cookbook called…..that’s right…”Glorious Grits” says it’s not only possible but desirable. Yes,  all the recipes are about grits, including one for Sausage and Grits Dressing-here’s a link to the recipe.  My first thought…how can you take some gloppy grits and turn it into dressing? How?

The answer: cook grits and chill them. If you’ve ever put leftover grits in the frig, you know they turn into something akin to rubbery hockey pucks. Very firm. In this recipe you cut chilled grits into cubes and then roast those cubes until they are crisp and browned. So I’m thinking it’s kind of like a cornbread dressing? I may try it.

Nothin' better than hot grits

And there some other good recipes to try on the link…Shrimp and Grits with Succotash, Coconut-Crusted Polenta Cakes with Triple Berry Sauce, and Grits Bruschetta with Tomato Salsa. So get your grits on this weekend…and do yourself a favor one morning.  Cook a bowl of grits…NOT INSTANT…although quick grits are ok…add salt and pepper, and plop a pat of yellow butter on top. Sigh as it melts into golden rivulets. Enjoy.

A pulled pork weekend….
June 29, 2009

All you need is a bun or a piece of cornbread!

All you need is a bun or a piece of cornbread!

OK, here’s something I’ve made for the past two weekends in a row….it’s that good(and that easy).  You may remember that I had the caterer make pulled pork barbecue for the Friday night party in New York at my son’s wedding. It was just lovely, and got me to thinking….hey, why can’t I do that? So I looked over a few recipes, and kind of put together several,  for a slow-cooker-weekend-surefire-hit. Oh, and did I mention it’s easy on the budget? Well it is, baby, it is.

First, get a pork shoulder….my slow cooker will take about a 4 pounder, and you can find them at the supermarket for $1.99 a pound or less if they’re on sale.  I cut off any excess fat…though a little is good, let’s be honest. Dice an onion, put half in the bottom of your oiled cooker, plop the pork on top, salt and pepper, the rest of the onion…and maybe a cup or so of your favorite barbeque sauce( I like Baby Ray’s)…and a tiny bit (may a quarter cup) of water. Cook on low for 8 hours or until tender, OR on the high setting for about 5 hours. When the pork is tender, use two forks to pull it into shreds, drain some of the liquid, add more barbeque sauce. Dig in.

Simple, fabulous, thanks Callie...

Simple, fabulous, thanks Callie...

And for dessert, I made a super-easy cobbler recipe that I found on Callie’s Biscuits website….it’s called  A Cup, A Cup, A Cobbler.  And the title fits…it is pretty much a cup of this and a cup of that, extremely quick to throw together, and in this, the fresh fruit season where my beloved blueberries are yes, cheap, you can even make several and freeze them. And for those of you who who’ve never heard of Callie’s biscuits…I discovered them when I first went to Charleston a few  years back. These pricey, pretty delicacies are soooooo good. They only retailer that carries them in Maryland is Graul’s in Annapolis and St. Michaels. The benefit of not getting them mail order is avoiding the high shipping charges….and the price is high anyway…around $20 a dozen(little)biscuits…yikes….so I put this in the special treat category….that said, they are fabulous. 

Bonus recipe: this recipe from Apartment Therapy for slow cooked pork cooked on top of the stove also looks great…you might want to try it.

May 7, 2009

Ok, we’re two and a half weeks and counting folks….a little less, actually. But I’m good, I’m breezy, I’m cool.  But it is, ummmm,  getting down to it time, if you know what I mean. I finally got an email back from the caterer, who had some suggestions on food….which sounded a little complicated and would take up waaaay too much space for so many….dishes. Simplify, simplify. When I went over the suggestions to my husband, he replied, “Chick menu“…..I protested that no way was that a chick menu, he said, “There’s no hunk of meat there “.  I gently explained that a hunk of meat really wouldn’t do, because this not a sit down dinner where people can carve said hunk of meat at a table, with a knife and fork. Things need to be fingerable and forkable. Period.  And really, chicken pot pie is not chick food…comfort food yes, but not girlie. Is it? Anyway, we agreed on adding some pulled pork barbecue, since this kind of a Southern soiree….there will be cornbread, and Smith Island cake, and stuff like that, so barbecue will be fine. And I woke up in the middle of  the night, thinking about it….again. Oh, and if that’s not enough, my Mom, who turns 89 tomorrow, is in the hospital again….I may have to fly down.

Anyway, on a lighter note, I offer to you one of the funniest wedding commercials I’ve ever seen…every time I watch it I laugh out loud. And it’s not even nervous laughter! I don’t think….Enjoy.


Hanna’s coming over…want to join us for chicken and dumplings?
September 5, 2008

Simple, delish chicken and dumplings!

Simple, delishchicken and dumplings!

Sure, it may be a little muggy this weekend for good ole Southern chicken an dumplings, but for a simple comfort dish when a big storm named Hanna is headed in for Saturday night dinner….you can’t beat it. And if you’ve never had homemade C&D, you ain’t had the full experience. My Grandmother Clifford….yes, Clifford, used to make them quite often, and passed the tradition on to my Mom, who passed it on to me and my sisters. And really, the recipe couldn’t be simpler. And there are a couple of variations to make it even shorter.

First, you take a whole chicken and poach it in just enough water to cover, in a Dutch Oven or big stew pot with salt and pepper to taste. When the chicken is done, in about an hour or so, remove the chicken from the chicken broth (you just made broth!)…no onion or  carrots or celery or other frippery…though I suppose you could add some…but then you wouldn’t be making my recipe, would you?  As the chicken cools, make your dumplings.

Easiest variation: Buy a can of biscuits, roll in flour and snip each biscuit into the gently simmering broth, about three to a biscuit.

Next easiest (and better) variation:Get biscuit mix…like Bisquick…and stir up a batch. Roll out the dough on a floured board or counter and cut it into strips. Let the strips cure for a half hour or so…don’t shake the flour off..drop into broth.

Hardest variation (and the one I never do): Make biscuit dough from scratch, then as variation 2 above.

Now they will look a little funny as they cook, and for Pete’s sake don’t stir them a lot…just occasionally push them under the surface of the broth. For more tips and better pictures  of what to expect, go to Southern Plate….They have a lot of pictures and do some things I don’t do, like adding cream of chicken soup, thought I may try it. If, at the end your C&D are too soupy, you may need to make a little roux of flour and butter and stir it in, but the flour on the dumplings usually take care of this problem. One more tip. I did everything as asked on my first dumpling outing, and they just weren’t quite right, so I called my Mom. She said, “Add a little sugar.” So, I did, and she was right, which I’ve learned it’s an ingredient that can make quite a few dishes perfect, just a smidge of sugar.

I hope your basement and mine stay dry this weekend, and your gutters and mine don’t clog….and Sunday brings some much needed sunshine, to all of us. Have a great weekend, be nice and come home safe….’cause we miss you.