Fried ChickenMister Johnny loved Minny’s fried chicken and so do we, even if she did spill the South’s greatest fried chicken secret: Soak the chicken in buttermilk for at least two viewings of daytime tv, preferably As The World Turns. Once your programs are over, fry up the chicken and save some in the fridge for later; the best fried chicken is just as delicious cold as it is piping hot.
Buttermilk BiscuitsMaybe if Celia had taken Minny up on her offer to make biscuits before the League Benefit, things would’ve gone a little smoother. As it is, we won’t pass up a chance to indulge in the South’s signature bread. Sorry cornbread, these fluffy buttermilk biscuits have the top spot on our dance card.
Chocolate Icebox PieLaw mercy. Even Minny’s Terrible Awful Thing couldn’t keep us from trying this ultra-decadent pie made with homemade chocolate filling. It’s topped with whipped cream and chopped chocolate candy bar pieces; what more could you ask for?
Southern-Style Collard GreensNothing welcomes a family to the table like slow-cooked collard greens. Loaded with rich bacon flavor, this is one green vegetable that will have the whole family asking for seconds. Serve with cornbread and call it a one-dish meal tonight.
Spicy Southwestern Deviled EggsWon’t Hilly be surprised when her bridge club favorite—deviled eggs—packs an extra punch. Adding cumin and pickled jalapenos ups the ante on the standard appetizer’s heat, giving it a signature flavor that’s sure to satisfy. We think Abileen would approve.
Creamy Grits CasseroleCelia never met a pork chop she couldn’t burn, but she could do up grits like the queen of Sugar Ditch. If grits are a regular on your breakfast or brunch menu, try this decadent twist: Grits Casserole. Flavored with Gouda, Cheddar, and a dash of red pepper, these grits are no sides dish—they’re the star of the show. As Abilene says, “That’s all grits is, a vehicle. For whatever it is you rather be eating.” Melty cheese, anyone?
Old-Fashioned Caramel Layer CakeNot sure if this can beat Minny’s caramel cake, but it may be a close second. The key really is making the caramel icing. Take Minny’s advice and pay attention while you boil the brown sugar mixture; the gossip can wait, but this icing won’t. Our advice? Don’t become too good at making this cake or, like Minny, you’ll be called upon to make ten for every League Benefit that comes along.
Double-Crust Chicken Pot PieIf you close your eyes and wish really hard, Minny might just show up at your bedside with a heapin’ helping of this flaky, delicious chicken pot pie. Celia may have turned her nose up, but anyone else would dive right in.
Cornbread DressingThe secret is out. Abileen makes her cornbread dressing, a Thanksgiving staple, ahead of time to let them stale on the counter so that her finished dish has the appropriate crunch. We’d love to blow Abileen’s mind with this version of cornbread dressing, which starts with cooked cornbread and cooks in a slow cooker, leaving your hands free for other labor-intensive Thanksgiving dishes and maybe even a little iced tea stirring.
Curried Chicken Tea SandwichesEveryone knows that chicken salad is best when made the night before so that the flavors can meld together, so when Elizabeth asks Abileen if she’s got the salad ready 20 minutes before bridge club, it’s a wonder Abileen doesn’t faint on the spot. Next time, she should try this chicken salad recipe; the hit of curry will serve as smelling salts, should the need arise again.
Hamburger Steak With GravyThe next time Mae Mobley wanders into the backyard looking for lunchtime company, save her from that hamburger-stealing old bird dog and make her a mid-day feast to bait her back into the kitchen instead. This hamburger steak is too good to wander away from and, topped with Sweet Onion-Mushroom Gravy, it’s worth a few minutes in the high chair.
Bridesmaid Baby CakesDeena—famous with Hilly for her petit fours—should consider adding these (almost) too-cute-to-eat cakes to her dessert portfolio. They’re worthy of serving as centerpieces for a Junior League-style event.
Green Beans and Red PotatoesMinny started Celia easy with beans, and, in doing so, nailed the key ingredient of Southern sides on the head: Ham hocks. Cook them with beans, collards, or just about anything else to infuse flavor and make the most of that bone-in ham you picked up at the market.
Smoky "Pimiento" Cheese SandwichesYou are not Southern until you experience neon orange cheese sandwiches. Pimiento cheese, typically made from red bell peppers, gets a makeover in this smoky recipe which features sun-dried tomatoes and two types of cheese. It’s hearty, delicious, and, well, a shade of sunset orange that will melt any churchgoing lady’s casserole-toting heart.
Southern Sweet TeaIn the South, the way a person handles a beverage can be telling. Stirring the sugar into the tea a little too long? We’re deep in thought. Tinkling the ice around in the glass? We may not like your outfit. Holding the ice-cold glass of tea against our wrist? We’re just plain hot! Cool off with a tall glass of the South’s signature drink.
Bacon-Olive Party SandwichesHosting bridge club or simply looking for an easy pre-benefit appetizer? Serve crowd-pleasing tea sandwiches loaded with a savory bacon-and-olive spread. The spread takes minutes to make and lasts up to three days, so if the August heat moves your book club a time or two, it’ll keep just fine. We can’t make the same promise for your hairdo.
Chicken Salad With Grapes and PecansWho cares if you can’t tell a Joker from a Spade? Every lady worth her white gloves knows that bridge club day is all about the gossip. Make a batch of chicken salad to serve your friends during a mid-afternoon gathering. Make having lunch in the new dinner out.
Fried Pork Chops with Cream GravyMister Johnny soothed Minny’s nerves by complimenting her cooking, particularly her pork chops. We’ll say one thing about Mister Johnny—he knows his way to a Southern cook’s heart! We’ll make pork chops for him any day.
Lucky Black-eyed Pea SaladConstantine used to make Skeeter’s family black-eyed peas every New Year’s Day, and even made each family member eat one in front of her, just to ensure good luck would find its way to the once-plantation. Don’t wait for New Year’s to make this delicious side dish; like the heroines of The Help, we all know we could use a little luck year-round.
Home-Style ButterbeansMinny almost gave up when Celia couldn’t step in the kitchen without burning the beans, but she kept on and made her point: If you can master butterbeans (a simple, but crucial Southern recipe), then you’ll be ready for anything. A little seasoning, a lot of time, and, of course, a few slices of bacon and you’re ready to eat.
Honey-Bourbon Glazed HamWhether it’s fried in a skillet, layered on a biscuit, or served up in slices for a holiday feast, ham is a signature staple for family dinners in the South. It’s passed to babies in high chairs, served hot for dinners, offered cold on sandwiches, and even makes a guest appearance in vegetable dishes. And, second to casseroles, they’re the only logical delivery for an invalid mama, new baby, or welcome wagon.
Chocolate-Bourbon Pecan PieBourbon is the drink of the masses, at least among the men in the 1960s, so we don’t think they’d mind one bit if we snuck a nip into tonight’s dessert. The pecans add a nice twist to the memory of Minny’s Terrible Awful Thing, and the bourbon takes away a bit of the sting. At least that’s what we’ll tell Two-Slice Hilly.
Hot Roast Beef Party SandwichesMister Johnny had Minny’s number. He raved about her pork chops and they appeared in the ice box. He sang about her catfish and it was on the menu the next week. And when he moaned about buying lunch in town, she sat him down for a roast beef sandwich. Thinly shaved beef, whether on toast or sweet dinner rolls, makes a flavorful lunch on the go.
Cranberry Congealed SaladHot Southern summers call for cold salads. Plate with flavorful ham sandwiches for a meal that’s sure to satisfy your luncheon guests and keep you from pulling out your funeral home fan at the table. For shame!
Tuna Salad With Lemon AïoliMae Mobley’s Mama worried about her chunky thighs and, once she hit school age, Miss Leefolt instructed Abileen to supply only healthy snacks, like tuna salad. It warms our hearts to know that tuna salad, while packed with protein and good-for-you ingredients, is also delicious! Lucky Mae Mobley; may all our diets be so terrible.
Fresh Strawberry CakeFor Mae Mobley’s birthday, Abileen went to bat for the girl’s favorite, strawberry cake, while Miss Leefolt held her ground for chocolate. We agree that nothing beats a true-pink cake for a little girl’s birthday, but if you have to make both to please everyone, just bake them and sing Happy Birthday twice.