At Southern Living, we think sides can be the best part of the meal, so we’re happy to see Fred Thompson’s Southern Sides: 250 Dishes That Really Make the Plate published this week. Cooler weather makes us want to get in the kitchen again, and this book will make a fine companion.
The recipes aren’t fussy–most have have few ingredients and straightforward procedures. From church-supper favorites such as congealed Sawdust Salad with mini-marshmallows, to gussied-up Turnip, Collard, and Leek Gratin with Blue Cheese Topping, all are distinctly Southern and written in an unintimidating style.
Fred’s head notes, full of tales and traditions, and his intriguing titles (“Mama’s Collards with One of My Twists”) draw you right into the recipes and the good food keeps you there. Here’s an excerpt:
Flaky Butter Biscuits
“When I was a kid and we would visit Dad’s family in rural Johnston County, North Carolina, I just loved the biscuits my Aunt Myra Jean would make. They were so flaky, you could peel the layers off. I guess I was about ten when I finally asked if they were homemade. She laughed and said, “Of course!” Well, I found out later that they were those flaky biscuits that came in the tube. Yes, she made them at home, but not from scratch.
I always wanted to do a flaky, from- scratch biscuit. Most of my attempts failed. And then Charlotte chef and pastry instructor Peter Reinhart showed me the way. Not your grandmother’s biscuits, but they are awesome.”
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
- 1 3⁄4 cup self-rising soft wheat flour
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 8 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter
1. Preheat your oven to 500 degrees.
2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
3. Mix the cream with the vinegar in a bowl. Set aside for about 10 minutes. It’s normal for the cream to curdle a bit.
4. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour and sugar. Using a cheese grater, grate the butter over the flour. Toss the butter throughout the flour using a wooden spoon. Add the cream mixture and stir until all of the flour is moist. The dough should come together in a ball but not be wet. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured cutting board or countertop. Flour your hands or a rolling pin and pat or roll the dough to about 1⁄8 inch thick. Fold the dough into thirds like you’re folding a letter to put it in an envelope. Turn the dough and again roll or pat to 1⁄8 inch thick. Repeat the fold, each time turning the dough, a total of four times. After the last turn, roll the dough into a square 1⁄8–1⁄4 inch thick. Cut the dough into 2- inch squares. (A pizza cutter is perfect for this.) Place the squares, edges touching, on the baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Serve hot. Makes 12
From Fred Thompson’s Southern Sides: 250 Dishes That Really Make the Plate. Copyright © 2012 by Fred Thompson. Used by permission of the University of North Carolina Press. www.uncpress.unc.edu