Food & Drink

Southern-inspired side dishes for the holidays

by

rhailey@star-telegram.com

Satisfy the soul this holiday season with some good old Southern comfort — rich, mouth-watering side dishes that will have kinfolk exclaiming, “I declare!” while they heap on second helpings. We asked local chefs who cook with Southern influence for their favorite side-dish recipes, and not one held back on the heavy cream and butter. Creamy corn chowder, cheesy potatoes gratin, decadent greens casserole and pimento cheese grits — almost guaranteed to make dinner guests forget about the main course. Grab a spoon, pass the biscuits and dig in. Save the calorie-counting for next month.

 

Molly McCook

Executive Chef and Co-Owner, Ellerbe Fine Foods

Combining two iconic Southern staples, Molly McCook — known for her elevated takes on Southern favorites — wins Christmas dinner with her heavenly Pimento Cheese Grits. Providing the ultimate in comfort and joy, the piping hot, savory side is made up of tangy pimento cheese layered between two kinds of grits — one folded with green onions and the other with roasted red peppers, keeping with the colors of the holiday season. While the recipe serves six to eight, making a double batch is not a bad idea.

Stefon Rishel

Executive Chef and General Manager, Texas Bleu Steakhouse

After leaving Max’s Wine Dive in Fort Worth for a brief stint in Houston at an upscale Sak’s Fifth Avenue restaurant, Stefon Rishel is back in North Texas at Texas Bleu Steakhouse in Keller, colorful mohawk and all. Rishel was known for his decadent dishes at Max’s, and the Keller High School alum follows suit with his cheesy Potatoes Gratin. In fact, 1 pound of sliced cheese is required, not to mention 2 cups each of heavy cream and Parmesan, just for good measure. The result is gooey, layered, scalloped potato goodness that might be gone before the entree is served.

Keith Hicks

Executive Chef, Buttons Restaurant

Always cooking with a lot of flavor, love and soul, Keith “Buttons” Hicks keeps things zesty with his creamy corn chowder, which features three kinds of peppers, smoked bacon and fresh herbs. Aside from a bit of chopping, the straightforward recipe is relatively simple and requires only one pot. Serve as a side dish or pair with buttered cornbread for a hearty holiday meal that can easily feed a crowd.

Beth Newman

Owner and Chef, Mason & Dixie

Beth Newman opened her Southern-inspired cafe, Mason & Dixie, inside the Grapevine Antique Market three years ago, serving everything from pimento cheese sandwiches to andouille sausage gumbo on her rotating menu. Her Creamed Greens Casserole is especially extravagant, made with whole milk, heavy cream, butter and rich, smoky Gruyere cheese. Crispy pancetta adds texture as a salty, savory garnish, while four kinds of greens — kale, collard, Swiss chard and baby spinach — ensure guests get their veggies.

Pimento Cheese Grits

Serves 6-8

• 3 cups water

• 1 cup buttermilk

• 2 teaspoons kosher salt

• 1 cup stone-ground grits

• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

• 4 green onions, tops cut into rings

• 1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled and julienned

• 2 cups cheddar cheese, grated (works best if grated by hand)

 1/4 cup grated yellow onion

• 1/4 cup aioli or mayonnaise

• 1/8 teaspoon paprika

• Pinch of cayenne pepper

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium-sized pot, bring water, buttermilk and salt to a boil. Pour in the grits while continually whisking and bring heat back to a soft boil. Continue to cook, whisking often until the grits form large bubbles and are thick.

2. Whisk in the butter. Divide the grits in half. Fold the green onions into one half of the grits and the red bell pepper into the other half. Set aside.

3. Place the remaining ingredients in a bowl and beat with a mixer until it comes together and forms a thick spread.

4. Place the green onion grits in the bottom of baking dish and spread to cover. Next, layer the pimento cheese mixture over the grits and finally top with the roasted red pepper grits.

5. Place in oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until hot throughout. Let sit for five minutes before serving.

 

— 1501 W. Magnolia Ave., Fort Worth, 817-926-3663, www.ellerbefinefoods.com

Potatoes Gratin

Serves 6-10

• 2 cups heavy cream

• 1 medium yellow onion, peeled

and sliced paper thin with a

Japanese mandolin

• 6-8 medium russet potatoes,

sliced paper thin with a

Japanese mandolin

• Salt and fresh cracked

black pepper, to taste

• 1 pound sliced Swiss or Gruyere

cheese

 1/2 cup fresh-picked thyme

leaves

• 2 cups grated Parmesan

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9-by-12-inch shallow baking dish.

2. Pour about  1/4 to 1/3 of the heavy cream in the bottom of the dish. Layer with 1/4 to 1/3 each of the onions, potatoes, sliced cheese, thyme and Parmesan. Repeat layers, finishing with cheeses.

3. Cover dish with plastic wrap, then foil. (The plastic wrap will not melt into the dish.) Bake for one hour then remove cover. Bake for another 30 minutes until bubbling and golden brown. Check that potatoes are cooked through by inserting a knife in the center. Let rest for 20 minutes before serving.

 

— 124 S. Main St., Keller, 817-431-5188, http://texasbleu.com

Corn Chowder

Serves 6-8

• 6 ounces applewood smoked

bacon, roughly chopped

 1/4 stick butter

• 4 ounces smoked ham, roughly

chopped

• 1 red onion, peeled and roughly

chopped

• 2 green onions, sliced

• 1/4 cup chopped poblano peppers

• 2 jalapeños, chopped with seeds

• 1/8 cup chopped red bell pepper

• 2 stalks celery, diced

• 2 pounds corn kernels, fresh

or frozen

• 1/8 cup flour

• 1/2 cup sugar

• 8 ounces chicken stock or broth

• 3 cups heavy cream

• 1/2 bunch parsley, roughly chopped

• 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme and

oregano leaves

• 1 tablespoon fresh ground pepper

• Salt to taste

1. Heat a large pot over medium heat. Saute bacon until fat is rendered then add butter, ham, onions, peppers and celery. Cook until onions are translucent.

2. Add corn and cook for about 10 to 15 minutes.

3. Stir in flour and sugar, making sure chowder isn’t lumpy. Slowly add chicken stock. Turn up the heat and let liquid reduce a bit before heavy cream is added.

4. Add parsley, reduce heat to low, and add thyme, oregano, pepper and salt.

 

— 4701 West Freeway, Fort Worth, 817-735-4900, www.buttonsrestaurant.com

Creamed Greens Casserole

Serves 8-10

• 2 tablespoons olive oil

• 1 shallot, peeled and finely diced

• 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

• 2 cups kale, stems removed, thinly sliced

• 2 cups collard greens, stems removed, thinly

sliced

• 2 cups Swiss chard, thinly sliced

• 2 cups baby spinach

• 4 tablespoons butter

• 6 tablespoons flour

• 2 cups whole milk

• 2 cups heavy cream

 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated

• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper,

to taste

• 1 cup panko breadcrumbs

• 1/2 cup Gruyere, shredded

• 1/2 cup Parmesan, grated

• 2 tablespoons fresh thyme

• 8 ounces pancetta, diced, cooked and drained

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat and add olive oil. Add shallots and garlic, stirring occasionally and cooking until the shallots have softened and the garlic is fragrant, about five minutes. Add the kale, collard greens, Swiss chard, and spinach, and stir to coat with the olive oil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the greens have wilted and become tender. Remove from heat and set aside.

2. Heat a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat and add butter. When butter has melted, whisk in flour. Cook until the butter is absorbed by the flour and the mixture resembles wet sand. Add milk, cream and nutmeg and whisk to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce starts to bubble and thicken. Reduce the heat to low and cook for an additional 20 minutes, allowing the flour to cook out of the sauce.

3. In a small bowl add the breadcrumbs, Gruyere, Parmesan, thyme and pancetta and mix to combine. Set aside.

4. Pour  3/4 cup of the bechamel cream sauce into the greens and stir to coat. Pour into a baking dish. Add the rest of the bechamel sauce over the top and top with an even layer of the breadcrumb mixture. Bake uncovered until warm and bubbly, about 10 to 15 minutes. Finish under the broiler until the top is golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Chef’s note: The casserole can be assembled a day in advance. When ready to serve, let it come to room temperature and bake until warmed through. Brown lightly under the broiler until top is crisp before serving.

 

— 1641 W. Northwest Highway, Grapevine, 817-707-2111

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