Celebrating Southern Drawls, Southern Food and Southern Susan

When I remember Susan Shaffer, her very southern accent is the first thing that comes to mind. It always makes me smile. Twangy drawls were one of the things that Susan and I had in common. After twenty-five years of living in the Lowcountry, I’ve been able to tone my eastern North Carolina articulation down a good bit. Susan’s cadence was a constant. Her words were always spoken slowly, softly and honestly. I miss my friend. With Susan on my mind, I’d like to share a few very southern recipes. This week’s offerings are from a food photo shoot taken at my home a couple of years ago. Susan’s husband, Mark, was the photographer, and Susan joined him at the shoot to assist. I remember lots of laughter, some experimental photography and a bunch of chit-chat about our cats. After the photos were taken, the three of us sat at the kitchen table and shared a meal together. It was a good day and a happy memory. I’m grateful to have known Susan. That makes me smile, too. (Photography by Mark Shaffer)

Pimento Cheese and Cornbread
For the pimento cheese:
16 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
½ to ¾ cup mayonnaise
1 (8-ounce) jar chopped pimentos, drained
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Dash tabasco sauce
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Stir with a fork until thoroughly mixed. Chill for at least 2 hours before serving.
For the cornbread:
¾ cup yellow cornmeal
1¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 eggs
1 cup milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, stir together cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together vegetable oil, melted butter, eggs and milk. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the wet ingredients. Stir just until mixture is moistened. Pour batter into a lightly greased 8×8-inch baking dish and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until top is golden and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Serves 6.

Buttermilk Chicken and Waffles with Maple Gravy
For the chicken:
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
2 cups buttermilk
2 cup corn flakes cereal, crushed
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon mustard powder
¼ teaspoon garlic salt
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 tablespoons butter, melted
Marinate chicken in buttermilk for a least 8 hours. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine cereal, cheese, mustard powder, garlic salt, and pepper in a shallow dish or pie plate. Shake excess buttermilk from chicken and dip each piece in the cereal mixture, coating well on both sides. Place chicken on a baking rack on a foil-lined baking sheet. Spay the rack with cooking spray. Drizzle chicken with melted butter. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until chicken is golden brown and cooked through.
For the waffles:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 eggs, separated
2 cups buttermilk
¼ cup butter, melted
Combine flour, soda and salt; set aside. Combine egg yolks, buttermilk and butter; add to flour mixture, stirring briskly until blended. Beat egg whites (at room temperature) until stiff peaks form; carefully fold into batter. Bake in preheated oiled waffle iron.
For the maple gravy:
1 (2.64-ounce) package country gravy mix
½ cup pure maple syrup
Prepare gravy mix according to package directions. When gravy is thickened, stir in syrup and heat through.
To assemble chicken and waffles:
Place of piece of chicken on top of a waffle and drizzle with generous amounts of maple gravy. Garnish with shredded cheddar cheese, crumbled bacon and/or hot sauce, if desired. Serves 4.

Southern-Style Broccoli Salad
1 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 large bunch broccoli, cut into florets
½ cup diced red onion
¾ cup raisins
8 to 10 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
½ cup chopped pecans
Stir together first 3 ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and chill the dressing for at least 3 hours. Mix broccoli, red onion, raisins, bacon and pecans. Toss gently with dressing to coat. Serve with a slotted spoon. Serves 4 to 6

Quick Peach Cobbler
2 tablespoons butter, melted
½ cup self-rising flour
½ cup sugar
½ cup milk
Dash ground nutmeg
1 (29-ounce) can sliced peaches
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour melted butter evenly into a one-quart baking dish. In a small bowl, mix together flour, sugar, milk and nutmeg. Slowly pour the flour mixture into the baking dish. Pour the can of peaches into the center of the flour mixture. Bake, uncovered, for 30 to 40 minutes or until cobbler is lightly browned. Serve warm. Serves 6 to 8.

The writer owns Catering by Debbi Covington and is the author of two cookbooks, Gold Medal Winner of the Benjamin Franklin Award, Celebrate Everything! and Dining Under the Carolina Moon. Debbi’s website address is www.cateringbydebbicovington.com. She may be reached at 525-0350 or by email at dbc@cateringbydebbicovington.com.