Entertaining has inspired me since childhood. Through experiences at my grandmother’s house and growing up in a home where occasions were always over-the-top, I learned that presentation was key. As a new wife and mother in Cartersville, Ga., and then Madison, Ga., I used the roots of my family to guide me through the steps of making entertaining a special part of my life. Recipes that were handed down from family members and friends in those areas continue to provide inspiration as I create menus for special occasions.
As we enter the wedding season, what could be more appropriate and relevant than a bridal brunch? Hosting this at home certainly gives the hostess an opportunity to personalize the event and take advantage of family heirlooms that could be in the spotlight for the celebration. For me, pulling out these antique pieces and recipes is like being with those special people once again.
For this bridal brunch, it could be a shower, a day-of event for the family or the bridesmaids luncheon. The menu contains foods that can be eaten with a fork, so if seating is limited, this meal could easily be eaten on a lap tray. Logistically, this menu is manageable, starting with a few things that can be made weeks in advance and frozen: biscuits, pound cake and baked French toast. Make the egg salad about two days in advance so that the flavors meld, poach the pears the day before, and make the reduction sauce the morning of to allow that aroma to welcome guests as they arrive. The shrimp-and-grits soufflé also is a day-ahead item, and you can quickly pan-sauté a few extra shrimp the morning of for the garnish. This leaves the night before or early the morning of to set your table with flowers, place cards, menu cards and possibly a keepsake for each guest.
The welcome can be easily accomplished with beautiful stemware filled with champagne mimosas and bite-sized cheese straws for arriving guests.
Spinach, Shrimp and Grits Soufflé
Prep Time: 1h | Cook Time: 40m | Total Time: 1h 40m | Serves: 16
2 lb of 70-90 shrimp (cooked and chopped)
salt and pepper to taste
6 large eggs
1 tsp. minced garlic
5 tbsp. butter
8 cups water
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 cup shredded white cheddar
1 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 (10 ounce) box of chopped frozen spinach
3 cups old fashioned grits or instant
1 tbsp. melted butter
4-6 jumbo shrimp, raw (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Butter one 9” x 13” casserole dish or coat with vegetable spray.
3. In a medium saucepot, bring water to a boil with a large pinch of salt or chicken bullion. Whisk in the grits.
4. Cover and simmer over low heat, whisking often, for 15-20 minutes for old fashioned grits, and 4-5 for instant grits. Transfer the grits to a large mixing bowl.
5. In a large skillet, elt butter over medium heat.
6. Add spinach, garlic, and sauté for 3-5 minutes.
7. Then add in the shrimp and cook until they begin to curl and turn pink.
8. Blend Monterey Jack, white cheddar, spinach and shrimp mixture all into the grits. Season with salt and pepper, add eggs and blend well.
9. Pour the mixture into your prepared dish.
10. Sprinkle the soufflé with Parmesan cheese and melted butter.
11. Bake for 40 minutes or until golden brown. While the soufflé bakes, pan-saute jumbo shrimp until pink for garnish (optional).
12. Let cool in the dish for 15 minutes before serving.
Mama’s Egg Salad
Serves: 4 | Prep Time: 45 minutes
8 large eggs
¼ cup Hellmann’s® mayonnaise (or more if you like your egg salad looser)
1 heaping tablespoon Durkee® Famous Sauce
1/3 cup sweet pickle relish, drained of juice
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1. In a medium saucepan, cover the eggs completely with water and cover with the lid. Cook over high heat until the water comes to a complete boil and you can hear the eggs “dancing.”
2. Turn off the heat and let the eggs sit for 20 minutes. At the end of the that time, take off the lid and run cold water over the eggs until they are cool to the touch. Peel immediately.
3. Roughly chop the eggs. They should still be chunky.
4. Mix the remaining ingredients together in a large bowl.
5. Add the chopped eggs and gently mix until incorporated evenly.
6. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to six days.
For ribbon sandwich presentation, spread egg salad between 3 slices of white and wheat bread, alternating for color variance. Slice crusts off the sides and cut into 1 1/2 inch tea sandwiches.
Cheddar Cheese and Chive Biscuits
Prep Time: 25m Bake Time: 7 to 8m Total Time: 33m | Makes 24 Biscuits
½ cup lard, cut into small cubes and chilled
4 cups self-rising flour
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, hand-shredded
½ cup green onions, chopped
1½ cups buttermilk, chilled
Self-rising flour, for dusting
2 tablespoons salted butter, melted
4 thick-cut slices of ham (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 500°F and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, cut the lard into the flour with a pastry blender or two forks until the mixture is crumbly. The crumbles should be pea-sized and the flour should start to look like wet sand.
3. Add the cheddar cheese and green onions, stirring just until the ingredients are coated with flour. Add the buttermilk and stir just until the dry ingredients are moistened.
4. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and sprinkle with the self-rising flour.
5. Knead the dough 2 to 3 times or until it is smooth.
6. Pat the dough into a ¾-inch-thick rectangle.
7. Cut out biscuits with a floured 2-inch round cutter, being careful not to twist the cutter. Twisting the cutter can seal the edges of the biscuit, which could prevent the biscuits from rising. Reshape the scraps as needed to finish cutting.
8. Place the biscuits with sides touching on the prepared baking sheet.
9. Bake for 7 to 8 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and brush the tops of the baked biscuits with melted salted butter.
10. Let cool completely on the baking sheet. Serve warm or store in an airtight container.
11. Cut ham slices into 1-inch to 1 1/2-inch pieces and insert into open biscuits (optional).
Note: These biscuits freeze beautifully. Wrap the frozen biscuits in foil and place in a 350°F oven for 20 minutes to heat.
LOU’S POPPY SEED CAKE
Serves: 24 | Prep Time: 30 to 35 minutes | Bake Time: 1 hour and 20 minutes
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
3 cups cake flour
¼ teaspoon baking soda
6 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons lemon extract
2 teaspoons butter flavor
1 teaspoon coconut flavor
1 teaspoon orange flavor
1 teaspoon almond flavor
¼ cup poppy seeds
Floured baking spray
- Preheat the oven to 325°
- Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed for 20 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.
- While the butter and sugar are creaming, measure out the remaining ingredients for the pound cake.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the cake flour and baking soda.
- With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs one at a time, alternating with the dry ingredients.
- Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl again.
- Let the mixer beat on low speed for 5 minutes.
- Add the sour cream and flavorings. Beat until incorporated.
- Add the poppy seeds and beat until just incorporated.
- Scrape the sides of the bowl and incorporate any unmixed batter if necessary.
- Prepare a large 12-cup Bundt pan with floured baking spray.
- Pour the batter into the prepared Bundt pan until it is about 1 to 1½ inches from the top. Tap the pan on the counter to ensure there are no air bubbles. (If there is remaining batter, use it to make muffins.)
- Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes. Insert a wooden skewer into the cake, and if there is no cake on the skewer, it is done.
- Remove the cake from the oven. Allow the cake to cool in the pan, on a wire rack, for 15 minutes or until cool enough to handle with pot holders. Place the wire rack on top of the cake pan and flip the pan over. Gently lift the pan, being careful not to remove any of the outside crust.
- Allow the cake to cool completely before wrapping.
BAKED FRENCH TOAST
Serves: 4 | Prep Time: 20 minutes | Cook Time: 25 minutes
1 cup heavy cream
⅔ cup whole milk
4 large eggs
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
⅛ teaspoon salt
8 slices French bread, sliced ¾ inch thick
1 cup dark brown sugar
⅓ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¼ cup maple syrup, plus additional for topping
¾ cup pecans, chopped
Confectioners’ sugar for topping
- Preheat the oven to 325°
- In a large bowl, mix together the heavy cream, milk, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and salt.
- Grease a 9 x 13-inch pan with cooking spray.
- Pour ½ cup of the egg mixture in the bottom of the pan.
- Soak the bread in egg mixture for 2 minutes, pressing down on the bread to absorb the liquid.
- While the bread is soaking, mix the brown sugar, granulated sugar, and flour in a separate bowl.
- Transfer the soaked bread to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Sprinkle the soaked bread slices generously with the sugar mixture, flip over, and repeat.
- Stack the slices at a slant across the 9 x 13-inch pan and push them together so they all fit in the pan.
- Pour the remaining egg mixture over the bread slices.
- Drizzle the bread slices with the maple syrup and sprinkle with the pecans.
- Bake for 25 minutes, uncovered.
- Serve warm and garnish with confectioners’ sugar and additional maple syrup, if you like.
1 cup sugar
1 bottle champagne
2 cups water
1 cinnamon stick, halved
1 lemon, zested
1 orange, zested
1. Peel the pears, keeping the stems intact if possible. Squeeze a little lemon juice over them to stop them from browning.
2. Place the sugar, champagne, water, cinnamon, lemon and orange zest in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar has fully dissolved then increase heat and bring to the boil.
3. Once the poaching liquid has come to the boil, reduce the heat again and add the pears. Cover the pears completely with a piece of baking paper. Cook for 20 minutes or until tender. Remove from poaching liquid and allow to cool completely.
4. Bring poaching liquid to a light boil and stir occasionally until reduced to a thick syrup.
5. Serve pears warm with ice cream or a drizzle of poaching liquid.
Makes: 10 dozen straws | Prep Time: 45 minutes | Cook Time: 10 to 12 minutes
1 pound (4 cups) Cracker Barrel® sharp cheddar cheese
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup shortening, at room temperature
2½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Preheat the oven to 350°
- Grate the cheese using a rotary grater or the finest setting on a box grater.
- With a mixer on medium to high speed, cream the butter and shortening until soft.
- Add the cheese and mix well.
- Sift the flour, salt, mustard, and cayenne pepper together in a separate bowl. Add to the cheese mixture in three additions, mixing well after each addition.
- Fill a cookie press with the cheese dough.
- Using the saw-toothed disk, dispense onto a cookie sheet. Each cheese straw should be about 1 inch in length.
- Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the cheese straws are just starting to turn golden brown at the edges.
- Carefully transfer the cheese straws to a wire rack for cooling.
- Store in an airtight container for up to 1 month.
Half & Half
Our bite-sized treats, Cheese Straws and Pecan Sandies (Page 139), were always so popular that we eventually put them together in one tin as the perfect food gift. Local and mail-order customers alike absolutely loved the combination of salty and sweet that we sold under the name “Half & Half”.
Appears in the February/March 2020 issue of Augusta Magazine.