At the Table: Southern Specialties

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Put a spin on Southern classics like pimento cheese, deviled eggs, and potato salad and bring a hit to upcoming Masters parties, Easter gatherings, and spring soirees.

Story by Alex Ugolini | Photography by Brandy Angel

Springtime in the South wouldn’t be complete without a few tried-and-true classics that can be found at almost any potluck, family gathering, or cocktail party. Upscale restaurants and local chefs have begun putting their own spin on common Southern specialties like potato salad, deviled eggs, and pimento cheese, affectionately known as “Caviar of the South.”

This endearing dish is easy to make and easy to love. I am a big fan of pimento cheese and I love how so many restaurants have managed to serve it in so many unique, wonderful ways. By switching out or adding different cheeses and spices, and with so many accoutrements, this dish can be easily elevated to fit any occasion. Pimento cheese is versatile. It is a condiment, yet it is strong enough to stand alone as a sandwich or cocktail party finger food. I love it with pickled vegetables and pepper jelly on toast.

You won’t find this poblano cheese on a sandwich in a green wrapper at The Masters, but this version’s rich, smoky flavor turns traditional pimento cheese on its head.

The poblano cheese is just one of the many fun ways anyone can personalize this dish. I like the smokier and spicier flavor that poblanos add, so I swapped those out for pimentos. Adding Parmesan or any other cheeses can give you deeper flavor.

My advice is to have fun with recipes like this and swap out certain ingredients for comparable ones and see where it takes you. Likewise for other Southern classics like deviled eggs and potato salad. Add in some avocado to update your deviled eggs or substitute sweet potatoes into your typical potato salad. Use the recipes on the following pages to launch your own spin on these Southern specialties. 

Poblano Cheese

Ingredients:

2 cups shredded white Cheddar

½ cup cottage cheese

½ cup Parmesan cheese, shaved

½ cup mayonnaise

1 green onion sprig

1 poblano pepper

1 tsp coarse ground pepper

1 tsp onion powder

Roast  the poblano pepper in 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. Let cool and cut into cubes. Shred white cheddar cheese. Shave parmesan. Slice green onion.

Combine all ingredients.

Serve with a pickled vegetable, favorite toasted bread (I used a dark German wheat), crackers, sliced veggies, and/or a spicy pepper jelly.

Avocado Deviled Egg with Bacon

Ingredients:

18 eggs

4 strips of bacon

3 avocados

1 lime

½ cup diced red onion

3 TBS fresh cilantro, chopped

2 Roma tomatoes

1 tsp minced garlic

1 pinch cayenne pepper or coarse ground pepper

Cook bacon and let it sit to the side. Cut into squares. Hard boil the eggs and let them cool in an ice water bath. Halve the eggs, reserving half of the yolks to add to the avocado mix. Make guacamole using remaining ingredients, or use your favorite guacamole recipe. Spoon avocado mix into the boiled eggs and garnish with bacon.

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad

Ingredients:

6 medium sweet potatoes

1 large red onion

1 large red bell pepper

5 green onions

6 strips of bacon

1 cup Feta cheese

1 cup rice vinegar

8 cloves roasted garlic (optional)

Dressing:

1/3 cup mayonnaise

¼ cup rice vinegar

1 TBS dijon

1 TBS honey

1 TBS grainy mustard

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp coarse ground pepper

Preparation:

“I definitely recommend preparing this recipe the day before. This dish gets tastier if all the ingredients get to know each other better.”

Cook bacon, let it cool, and chop into bits. Cut red onion into slivers and let it sit in a bowl with one cup of rice vinegar. Top off with water so onion slivers are completely submerged. Let sit for one hour or longer, and then strain.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel and cube sweet potatoes, soak in cool water for at least 30 minutes.  Drain and toss in olive oil, salt and pepper (add chopped garlic ). Roast in oven for  10-15  minutes. Potatoes should not get overcooked. Test one at 11 minutes into baking time. Let potatoes fully cool.

Chop red bell pepper into cubes and slice green onions.

Whisk together dressing ingredients.

Before combining, be sure to leave some bacon, onion slivers, red bell peppers, green onions, and feta to garnish the top of this dish.

Combine sweet potatoes and dressing first, folding in slowly with a rubber spatula. Add in and slowly fold remaining ingredients.

Transfer into serving dish and top with remaining ingredients.

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