Last summer, you couldn’t have moved in on a platter of deviled eggs.
You couldn’t have blown out candles on a cake, sung harmony in a vestibule, booed at a bad call, or hailed a taxi with a two-fingered whistle. Last summer was a muted affair.
That’s why everyone should enjoy this summer with wide mouths and smiles.
Welcome to our mid-summer gathering, be it picnic, first-cousins family reunion, neighborhood potluck, seniors book club, or whatever you fancy in the six- to eight-guest-count range. By now you know that for us, a casual meal does not by definition suggest easy prep. Though we consider this suite of recipes to have a near lock on the perfect summer meal, each individual dish stands on its own. None of them requires à la minute attention and no one has to stand at a grill.
Benne wafers are a thing. But these benne wafers aren’t like those things. These benne wafers are dainty, almost fragile, with crisp fractured benne seeds, flour, and butter. The flour is our gluten-free blend—not chosen for gluten avoidance, but for flavor and performance. When we considered bringing back pimento cheese for a summer outing, the idea of creating just such a cracker was irresistible.
The one Mom used to buy had a “ring on deli” sticker. We don’t crave pimento cheese to that degree, but when this version is in the house, broad applications apply. One of us ate hers off a fork with walnut halves. The other added his to salad greens dressed in a sharp vinaigrette. Most luxurious with the Benne Wafers, above, this recipe may require an extra step or two, but the results? Well, they’re unparalleled as far as we’re concerned.
Southern Fried Chicken
We developed this recipe before the renaissance of Southern food gripped the country. Now, fried chicken is everywhere. When we made it again recently, disengaged from the waffles and gravy in the original presentation, it was still some of the best fried chicken we’ve ever eaten. The malted rice waffle flour used for the dredge creates a golden crust and mild sweetness. Fantastic hot or cold.
Boston Baked Sea Island Peas
We love Boston baked beans, but we grow Southern field peas. Is there a problem? No, not when the field peas can play dress up in these deep rich flavors. To make the dish especially memorable, we’ve developed a recipe for salt pork as part of the formula. The difference in flavor with house-made cured pork belly blew our minds.
When crisp young cabbages, little carrots, and sweet onions line the tables at the farmers’ market, it’s time to press summer’s faithful salad, coleslaw, into service. Nothing refreshes or satisfies more than coleslaw, and its juices are welcome by any other food they encounter on the plate. This recipe isn’t the fastest slaw to prepare, but it’s what we make and love. Omit the ice brine if you must.
Chewy corners and little chocolate puddle centers surrounded by a moist, well-baked crumb make us love this hard-won recipe like no other. It has converted more than one individual who claimed not to be a “brownie person.”