Few Southern food traditions are as tried-and-true as a good, old-fashioned potluck dinner. Here, sister publication Mobile Bay's staff shares a smorgasbord of favorite family recipes, all perfect picks for a fall gathering.
Rosey's Mac and Cheese
photos and styling by Summer Ennis
Rosey's Mac and Cheese
The best recipes are passed down so many times that the origin becomes unknown. Such is the case for this creamy side dish. Jessica Hathorn, Mobile Bay advertising account executive, received the recipe from her sister, who copied it from her mother-in-law, who got it from her cousin’s best friend’s preacher’s dental hygienist — or something along those lines. We don’t know who Rosey is, but she sure makes a mean mac and cheese.
1 pound small pasta (macaroni or small shells)
1/4 cup butter
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 cup flour
4 cups milk
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper, to taste
4 cups shredded cheddar
paprika, for garnish
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Boil pasta according to package directions. Drain and pour into greased 9-by-13-inch or 2-quart casserole dish.
2. Sauté onion in butter for 3 - 5 minutes. Add flour, whisking until well blended. Slowly whisk in milk, about 1 cup at a time. Add Worcestershire sauce. Add salt and pepper. Add cheddar.
3. Pour mixture over cooked pasta. Sprinkle top with paprika and extra cheese if desired. Bake covered for 30 minutes, until bubbly.
Jennifer's Seafood Gumbo
Mallory Boykin, MB editorial assistant, says this is a holiday must-have around the Boykin house. Her mother, Jennifer, makes up a batch in advance and freezes it so that it’s always on hand for special occasions. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth every minute in the kitchen,” says Mallory. The Mobile Bay staff agrees that this version even gives Wintzell’s Oyster House’s classic seafood dish a run for its money!
2 large cans (1-quart-sized) of tomatoes
2 quarts chicken broth
1 or 2 small ham hocks
2 boxes of okra
4 bay leaves
1 tablespoon Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt and pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon gumbo file
2 chicken breasts, boiled and chopped, if desired
1 (10-ounce) box Tony Chachere’s Instant Roux Mix
2 medium-sized onions, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
6 celery stalks, chopped
1/2 stick of butter
5 - 6 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 pound lump crabmeat
1. In a large gumbo pot, combine the tomatoes, broth, ham hocks, okra, bay leaves, Tony Chachere’s seasoning, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper, and gumbo file. Add boiled, chopped chicken breast, if desired.
2. In a separate bowl, combine the roux mix with just enough water to dissolve. Add mixture to the gumbo pot.
3. Heat pot to a boil, then to a simmer, stirring often.
4. While the pot is coming to a boil, sauté the onions, green pepper and celery in butter. Add to pot.
5. Simmer for 2 - 3 hours.
6. Add shrimp and crabmeat 15 minutes before serving. Serve over white rice. Makes 24 - 28 servings.
Grannie's Sweet Pickles
As a child, I’d always sneak a few of these perfectly crispy sweet pickles from Grannie’s fridge. They were definitely a mainstay. And, what we didn’t eat, she’d divvy out to friends and neighbors. Don’t let the sugar scare you; it’s just the right amount to balance out the sour. Try them on sandwiches or alone as an appetizer. They’re also especially delicious when diced and added to deviled eggs. – Lawren Largue, Mobile Bay executive editor
1 gallon whole sour or dill pickles
3 cloves garlic
9 - 12 cinnamon sticks
1 (5-pound) bag sugar
1. Drain off pickle juice.
2. Slice pickles into discs and put back in jar, layering with a half clove of garlic, a cinnamon stick and a cup of sugar. Repeat until all pickles and ingredients fit into jar.
3. Let set for 3 days, stirring or shaking once per day. Once reopened, store in refrigerator. For serving ease, or to give as gifts, transfer to smaller Ball canning jars. Makes 1 gallon of sweet pickles.
This easy, pleasing starter dish “is a cinch to prepare in a crunch,” says advertising account executive Kendrick Russ. “My mom, Glenn Burton, always makes these quick bites for impromptu get-togethers with the girls. She got the recipe from her friend Terry Arras.”
1 (4.5-ounce) package bacon bits (Terry uses Oscar Mayer.)
1 (8-ounce) package shredded mozzarella cheese
1 (14-ounce) can Italian diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons mayonnaise (Russ uses olive oil mayonnaise.)
2 (15-count) packages frozen phyllo pastry tarts
1. Preheat oven to 350 dregrees. In a large bowl, mix together the first 4 ingredients.
2. Fill pastry tarts with mixture. Bake on a cookie sheet for 5 - 6 minutes, until cheese is melted. Makes 25 - 30 tartlets.
Mama Nolen's Cornbread Dressing
This holiday staple comes from publisher Jocko Potts. His mother, Charlene, always prepared this recipe, and now, his wife, Jane, marketing director, has taken on the role of dressing maker. “It might as well have been part of our wedding vows,” Jane says of the longtime family tradition. “Do you promise to learn how to cook Mama Nolen’s Dressing? ‘I do.’” It always feeds (and impresses) a crowd. See “Second Helpings,” for new ways to reinvent leftovers during the weekend following Turkey Day.
1 (16-ounce) large box of yellow cornbread mix (Jane prefers Old Tyme Mix. If you can’t get a large 16-ounce box, or 2 small 8-ounce boxes, use 3 smaller 6-ounce boxes.)
2 French rolls and 6 biscuits (Or, you can use allbiscuits – 8 or 10.)
1 (8-ounce) package Pepperidge Farmbread crumbs with herbed seasoning
3 cups yellow onion, chopped
2 cups celery, chopped
1 small bell pepper, chopped
5 small green onions, chopped
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
4 (14-ounce) cans Swanson’s chicken broth
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
1. Make the cornbread and biscuits in accordance with directions on package a day ahead of assembling dressing.
2. Crumble cornbread and other breads as small as possible. (You do not want any large pieces of bread in dressing.) Add Pepperidge Farm bread crumbs.
3. Sauté onions, celery and bell pepper in butter, but do not brown. Add to the bread mixture.
4. Add eggs and stir well. Add in the green onions and parsley.
5. Add 3 or more cans chicken broth. Salt and pepper to taste. Mix well. Dressing should be very moist. (You can always add more broth.)
6. To evenly distribute flavors, dressing can be prepared and put in the refrigerator the day before it is to be cooked. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake in oven for about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
7. As dressing cooks, keep stirring so that it will cook throughout. It should begin to brown. If it begins to get too dry, add more broth. Let top brown lightly. Serves at least 16. (For small groups, recipe can be cut in half. Freezes well uncooked or cooked. After it has been frozen, it may be necessary to add broth.)
Charlenes's Giblet Gravy*
This sidecar is lip-smacking good, especially when doused over Mama Nolen’s Cornbread Dressing. *Be sure to print this recipe! The web exclusive isn't in our magazine. Happy cooking!
turkey neck, liver and kidneys
3 - 4 packages of French’s Chicken or Turkey gravy mix
3 - 4 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
a few broken spaghetti noodles
stalk of celery (optional)
1. Boil turkey neck, liver and kidneys in water with salt and pepper until completely cooked. Let cool. Pull or cut meat off neck, and chop liver and pieces of the gizzard, removing the membrane on the outside of the gizzard. Set aside.
2. In a saucepan, mix 3 - 4 packages of French’s Chicken or Turkey gravy mix with water per instructions on package.
3. Add hard-boiled eggs, salt and pepper, some drippings from the roasted turkey and a few pieces of broken spaghetti noodles. (Be careful not to add too many, or they will absorb too much liquid).
4. Add meat. As it cooks down, more broth or drippings may be added. Cook until noodles are done. A stalk of celery may be added for flavor, but remove before serving.
5. As it cooks down, you can continue to add turkey drippings or broth. If it gets too thin, add another package of gravy mix to the liquid. Makes about 3 cups of gravy.
Grace's Fried Chicken
The Beckham family used to raise chickens in their backyard off Florida and Dauphin streets. In preparation for Sunday dinner, Grace and her siblings would gang up and chase after the fowl. As soon as they would catch a bird, their mother would decide it was her favorite. Others then would be captured and released until, finally, Mee Mee closed her eyes and went “eenie, meenie, minnie, mo.” Over the years, Grace Culbreth Webb perfected the frying part of chicken dinner. It’s the favorite dish of her large extended family. Her daughter, Mobile Bay editorial director Judy Culbreth, sat down with her recently to preserve the best fried chicken ever for posterity. See sidebar, for Grace’s chicken frying tips.
1 large whole fryer, skin removed (optional)
salt and pepper, to taste
1 to 2 cups all-purpose flour
1. Cut legs and wings off fryer. Cut rest of chicken in pieces. (See “Family Secrets Revealed.”) Wash it all.
2. Salt and pepper each part, including the liver and gizzards, on both sides.
3. Place poultry in large, wide-mouth bowl. Add enough water to cover one side of chicken. Refrigerate a few hours, or even overnight. Turn occasionally.
4. Drain off water.
5. Fill a brown or plastic bag with flour. Add salt and pepper to taste and shake. Add a few chicken pieces at a time and shake. Do not over-flour the chicken. It should look a little sticky.
6. Set the coated pieces on top of each other in a bowl. Let them absorb moisture from each other. (This is how you get the crispness when frying.)
7. Add enough oil to skillet so that it would cover chicken about halfway up. Heat on high. Reduce heat when oil starts to bubble. Keep it at a bubble.
8. Fill skillet with chicken pieces. Cook each side until golden brown. “Don’t turn pieces over and over every minute! You can see when an underside is golden brown.” Serves 5 - 6. (Or three sons-in-law, or two hungry grandsons.)
Fresh Green Beans
Jane often prepares these simple yet delicious veggies, because the flavor complements a variety of different dishes. Plus, the fresh-from-the-garden color livens up any plate. “This is my friend Lynne Davis’ recipe,” Jane says. “Everyone loves it and requests it every year, which is great because it’s so easy to fix. But don’t tell them that.”
1- 2 pounds fresh green beans (I usually find the prettiest ones at Jimmy Lowe’s Fruit Stand.)
1. Snap or cut the stem end off and rinse all in a colander. Drain well.
2. Drop beans in a deep saucepan or pot. Drizzle olive oil around the pot a few turns.
3. Add salt and pepper and pour in enough chicken broth to come up about two-thirds the height of the beans.
4. Cover, bring to a boil and cook about an hour, until done. Taste halfway through to check seasoning amounts. Serves 4 - 8.
Hash Brown Casserole
A good and hearty potato casserole can make it on the menu any time of day. Ellis Metz, editorial assistant, shares this favorite from his mother’s Tennessee kitchen. He says, “Mom always seemed to know just the right occasion to surprise me with this comfort food, whether it was a weeknight dinner or a weekend breakfast. And the leftovers were good anytime, too.”
non-stick cooking spray
1/2 cup onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 (2-pound) package frozen hash brown potatoes, thawed (Southern-style, not shredded)
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 (10.75-ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-by-13-inch pan with non-stick cooking spray.
2. Sauté onions in 2 tablespoons butter.
3. In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, butter, salt, pepper, sautéed onions, soup and cheese.
4. Gently mix and pour into prepared pan or dish. Bake uncovered for 35 minutes. Serves 4 - 6.
Jalapeño Cheddar Cornbread
Account executive Annie Sanders is crazy about her mama’s cornbread. It packs a spicy punch with sweetness of cream-style corn.
2 (8.5-ounce) packages cornbread/muffin mix
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 (14.75-ounce) can cream-style corn
1 1/2 cups sour cream
4 eggs, beaten
1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chilies
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon jalapeño pepper, finely chopped
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, combine cornbread mix and onion.
2. Combine the remaining ingredients; add to the cornbread mixture just until moistened. Pour into a greased 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking dish or skillet. Bake for 50 - 55 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve warm. Refrigerate leftovers. Serves 18.
Sweet Potato Casserole
A couple Christmases ago, my cousin, Tommy Russell, gave a priceless gift. He compiled all of the McCool family recipes into one grand cookbook, and each of us got our own printed copy. I love having all the flavors of my childhood at-the-ready. My grandmother and all her sisters whipped up this sweet side dish for most every family get-together, including Sunday lunches. – Lawren Largue
5 - 6 sweet potatoes
sugar, to taste
cinnamon, to taste
3/4 stick margarine
1/2 pint whipping cream
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/3 stick margarine
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
mini marshmallows, to top if desired
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel and dice sweet potatoes. Boil until tender. Beat with mixer.
2. Add sugar and cinnamon. Add 3/4 stick margarine and whipping cream and beat until smooth. Scoop mixture into casserole dish.
3. In a bowl, mix brown sugar, flour, 1/3 stick of margarine and pecans. Spread mixture over top of potatoes. Sprinkle mini marshmallows on top, if desired. Bake until hot. Serves 10 - 12.
Carolyn's Famous Pecan Pie
For decades, Carolyn H. Jones, PMT Publishing’s accountant, religiously whipped up two decadent pecan pies for every church social function. She soon became known for the ooey, gooey indulgence. Now, the rest of the world is in on Spring Hill Avenue United Methodist Church’s sweet secret.
2 small (9-inch) pie shells (or 1 deep-dish shell)
1 cup white Karo syrup
4 tablespoons butter (or margarine)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 tablespoons brown self-rising flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup pecans, chopped
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Bake pie shells in oven 5 minutes to make crisp.
2. In a large bowl, combine rest of ingredients. Fill pie shells. Bake pies for 1 hour. (Pie will not look done, but it is.) Let rest to set. Makes 2 small pies or 1 large one.
Walton’s Peach Cobbler
Our family friend, Walton Russell, is known for her quick wit and superior cooking. This is an adaptation of a recipe she shared for the McCool cookbook. When I see her name beside a recipe, I know it’s got to be good. – Lawren Largue
1 stick butter
1 (29-ounce) can peaches
8 - 10 slices white bread, crusts removed
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In the microwave, melt butter in 9-by-9-inch baking dish. Pour butter in separate bowl, but leave bottom coating in baking dish.
2. Cut each slice of bread into 3 pieces. Layer half of bread slices in bottom of dish. Open and drain peaches, reserving liquid. Drizzle a tablespoon or 2 of reserved peach liquid over bread in dish.
3. Cut up peaches, and layer pieces on top of bread slices in the baking dish. Layer the rest of the bread slices over peaches.
4. In a small bowl, mix sugar, egg and cinnamon. Pour over peaches and bread.
5. Pour melted butter over top. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. Serves 6 - 8.
Granny's Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream and Sauces
Mobile Bay art director Kelley Beville Ogburn and her mother, Karen, could feed an army with Granny Beville’s homemade ice cream. Even so, it isn’t long before you’re scraping the bottom of the Tupperware! Serve it over warm pies or cobblers. Or, sample it with divine praline, chocolate or caramel sauce — or a combination of all three.
2 1/2 cups sugar
6 tablespoons flour
2 quarts plus 1 cup whole milk
3 (12-ounce) cans evaporated milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
1. Whisk together sugar, flour and eggs.
2. In a double boiler over medium heat, warm all of the milk. Slowly add egg mixture and stir until thickened enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from heat.
3. Add evaporated milk and vanilla and stir well. Refrigerate until cool for a faster freeze time. Pour mixture into ice cream maker. Follow ice cream maker instructions to freeze. Makes 1 1/2 - 2 gallons of ice cream.
1 (1-pound) package caramels
1 cup (or so) mini marshmallows
1. Pour caramels and marshmallows into double boiler. Add enough half-and-half to halfway cover other ingredients.
2. Cook until melted together. (This may take 10 to 15 minutes.) Add more half-and-half, if needed to thin consistency. Yields about 1 1/2 cups.
1 (6-ounce) package semi-sweet chocolate drops
1/2 cup light Karo syrup
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1/4 cup half-and-half or milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1. Pour chocolate drops and Karo into a microwave safe container. Cook in microwave for 1 minute or so, until melted.
2. Add rest of ingredients. Microwave for 1 more minute. Remove and stir. Yields 3/4 cup.
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup light Karo syrup
1/2 cup half-and-half
2 tablespoons butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans
1. In a saucepan over medium heat, cook brown sugar, Karo, half-and-half, butter or margarine and salt, stirring constantly for 5 minutes until smooth.
2. Add vanilla and pecans, and cook for another 3 minutes. If not serving immediately, reheat to serve. Yields about 1 1/2 cups.