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Late Winter at Anson Mills

March 2009

Decades in the South have persuaded my husband, Glenn, that March is a child of spring, fuzzy with soft greens and scented with flowers, a month whose air is silky and whose earth is warm.

But for me, March is a winter child, restless and temperamental, with yawning gusts and snowflakes that vanish midair. It is a month where clouds are pierced with sunlight and driven off by sharp winds, a month where a hearth in the evening beckons, and cozy dishes like the ones below let us relish winter’s waning days.

I’m Kay, and I develop the recipes for Anson Mills. My husband, Glenn, is the company’s founder.

Collard Greens and Cornmeal Dumplings

Collard greens and cornmeal dumplings is a dish I had nostalgia for before I ever tasted it. I cooked some one Thanksgiving when I was eighteen. The nostalgia came in handy because the dish was awful: every last drop of grace had been wrung from the greens, and the dumplings stung from old, store-bought cornmeal and exuberant leavening.

You’ll be pleased to hear that this recent experiment produced more favorable results. For one thing, I now have a couple of years of cooking under my belt. I also have access to the best grains on the planet. Besides great ingredients, this recipe boasts one or two little tricks that were revelations to me—like many cooking solutions, they sprang from sheer desperation—but the little tricks make the dumplings irresistible. (No disclosures here, but I know where you can get the recipe.) This is the dish I have been waiting for since I was a girl—proving it’s never too late to fall in love.

Spätzle and Cheese

This recipe didn’t start as spätzle. It started as mac and cheese. Let me explain. Apparently, there is a hard-and-fast rule about Christmas dinner in many parts of the South—one that I was not aware of—and it is this: in addition to broadly traditional fare, the menu must feature mac and cheese. Wow. Think about it: Turkey, stuffing, mac and cheese. Prime rib, Yorkshire pudding, mac and cheese. Ham, scalloped potatoes, mac and cheese.

This past holiday, I made several side dishes for a flock of Southerners who were expecting mac and cheese to show up for dinner. Because I wanted the mac and cheese to be special, that is, pleasantly textured and supremely cheesy, I decided to make the “mac” spätzle. For those of you who’ve not had the pleasure, spätzle are German drop noodles, as easy as pie to make, which have the virtue of keeping their wits about them no matter what form of gravy they encounter, even if it happens to be cheese sauce. I threw the dish together on the fly—and, as luck occasionally has it, it came out just so! (The Southerners at the table seemed to think so, too—and since one of them was my stepdaughter, Ansley, who loves mac and cheese over all forms of food, I was pretty thrilled.) The combination pleased me so much, in fact, that I went back in the kitchen after the holidays to put together a solid recipe. It took some effort to get the elements to perform together perfectly, but we got there—eventually. I owe the sweet springiness of the spätzle to Anson Mills Trigo Fuerte Flatbread Flour (a superb heirloom blend), the sparkling water technique to German chefs I worked with for years in Berlin, and the magical combination to Christmas in the South.

While you’re at it, serve the spätzle butter-fried and brimming with flavor as an accompaniment to any stew or braise. And don’t wait for the holidays to make the spätzle and cheese!

Happy March, y’all—and good food!