Cooking with Lady Smokey: A New Turn in the South – Cookbook Parties!

It all began quite serendipitously really. Our friend Traci had been remodeling her kitchen and had been sharing many meals with Grant and me, in our kitchen, while hers was under construction. To thank us, we were her first dinner guests in her beautiful new kitchen! She had just returned from a visit to Athens, Georgia, where she picked up a copy of local chef Hugh Acheson’s new cookbook, A New Turn in The South, so all her recipes were from his book. Having gone to high school with him and his wife briefly in South Carolina and having spent four wonderful years living in Athens during college, I was super excited to check out the book. Our meal was delicious, by the way.

A few weeks later we ran into our friend Jacob at our new neighborhood butcher, Porter Road Butcher, who asked us to his house for dinner the next day. A small gathering ensued which included our friend Traci. Jacob and Molly had just gotten married and as a wedding present they received A New Turn in the South cookbook so to our delight, we sampled many more recipes from this beautiful cookbook.

Grant and I rarely follow recipes as we both are pretty intuitive as cooks and already have a collection of favorite books sitting in our bookcase but decided this was one we needed to invest in. And as we all sat out on Molly and Jacob’s back deck that warm summer night in Nashville, we decided to alternate houses each month to work our way through all the recipes in the cookbook. What fun!

We cooked together, we laughed together, we ate together.

One of our first favorites became this super easy appetizer, Country Ham with Chilied Mango. It is so simple yet a very interesting combination of fresh flavors. And it is so colorful!

We loved the delicious stacked Watermelon Salad with Feta, Arugula, & Serrano Chile Vinaigrette and the Deviled Eggs.

We realized all have an intense love of all things pickled and delicious homemade cocktails. We mostly stuck to recipes from the book but there were some rogue pickling contests between Grant and Jacob. And they both mastered several of the amazing cocktail recipes.

We tried a few pickling recipes from the book, as well. One favorite was the Pickled Shrimp!

Jacob added his own version of Pickled Red Onions to the Pimento Cheese Sandwiches we ate as a starter for one dinner party.

And then there were the Spicy Pickled Tomatoes. We ended up eating these several different ways but the favorite was served as a relish atop fresh chevre from Bonnie Blue Farm in Waynesboro, Tennessee.

So far, we’ve tried many of the sides and main dishes including, Braised Short Ribs with Hominy Stew…

There was Cane Vinegar Chicken with Pearl Onions, Oranges, and Spinach; Squash Casserole; and Leek Mashed Potatoes.

Then in September, we made the classic Southern dish, Frogmore Stew. His version is so nice with the addition of lemon slices, fresh tomatoes, and arugula! We also had Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette and Sorghum Sweet Potatoes (with grated orange zest and minced jalapeno peppers!).

And then… the DESSERTS! Oh my! We tried Lemon Chess Pies with Blackberry Compote. (I did follow the recipe entirely except, I used blueberries instead of blackberries as we had just picked them out at our friend Bernie’s organic farm.)

We also tried the Pear Pecan Flip Cake which is cooked in an iron skillet. It was delicious and super easy!

And these are only the recipes we chose for our summer parties! We have many more to work our way through and the Fall harvest has just begun! This cookbook is well worth your time. Other common denominators for all of us besides food and this amazing cookbook are dogs and music! There were always plenty of both at every dinner party.

I will close this post with some new Southern music from Patterson Hood which conveniently ties it all back to Athens as he is also a long time resident. Patterson is most famous for his work with the band, The Drive-By Truckers. He has a new solo album out titled, Heat Lightning Rumbles In The Distance.

And here’s a video he put together in protest of a Wal-Mart that was trying to move into downtown Athens. If you know Athens, you know that this would not be good idea.