Last night was one of those times when we throw a bunch of food around the kitchen, invite a bunch of people over, and drink several bottles of wine. As usual, it was a delicious affair that left me completely stuffed to the gills and passed out by 11:30. This week the theme was Southern food, so everyone thought of the most delicious, artery-clogging dish they could and made it.

Becca provided the featured item: a fantastic pile of pulled pork. It simmered away on the stove all afternoon and the smells were truly mouthwatering. It’s a miracle I didn’t eat it all before dinner. To accompany the pork, she made two different sauces: a fairly standard barbecue sauce and an Alabama white sauce. None of us had heard of this sauce before, but it was pretty tasty. It mostly reminded me of a honey mustard dressing.

To supplement the pork, I made creamed spinach and biscuits. I am very particular about biscuits because I grew up in North Carolina where there is this wonderful phenomenon known as Bojangles. Bojangles is a southern fast food chain whose most famous offerings are the chicken biscuit, the seasoned fries, and sweet tea (aka the nectar of life; the stuff is almost unbearably sweet but, my goodness, it’s delicious). There is something about a Bojangles biscuit (my guess would be about a stick of additional butter) that makes it better than any other biscuit I have tasted. So I hopped on the internet, searched for recipes, and came up with this. They turned out really well, though not quite as delicious as Bojangles’. I think I was a little too conservative with the “brush butter on biscuit” step. Next time I will douse a little more thoroughly.

The creamed spinach was also delicious, although I made a few slight changes to the recipe. Instead of peppercorns I used crushed red pepper and left out the chile, which turned out fine. I also didn’t feel like getting whole milk for the sole purpose of this dish, so I used the leftover buttermilk from the biscuit recipe. Otherwise I followed the recipe and came out with a truly rich, creamy plate of spinach. My eating strategy was to cut a biscuit in half, pile on pork, spinach, and one of the sauces. It was highly successful.

Our lovely guests also brought their Southern offerings. Alex and Jane brought collard greens and whipped them up with some pepper and garlic. Alex also made some of her sweet potato fries, which we have met before and absolutely loved. Jyoti baked a beautiful heart-shaped red velvet cake and cream cheese ice cream, rather than icing. The combination was amazing.

All of this resulted in one of those nights where you aren’t sure if you need to vomit or go back for more food or pass out or just lie in a heap on the floor moaning about how full you are. Obviously I settled for this last option which was so charming that all of our guests packed up and left. But nothing says “bonding” like getting indecently and embarrassingly full with a bunch of your friends, so all in all, I have to say that the Southern Extravaganza was a success.

As always, recipes after the jump and in the archive. May you all encounter a buttery biscuit in the near future!

Creamed Spinach Deluxe – adapted from Bon Appetit, March 2006, my changes marked in brackets

Yield: 6 servings

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 4 6-ounce bags baby spinach leaves [I used fresh spinach and weighed it in store]
  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion [I got two medium shallots and used those instead]
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 dried small red chile, such as Japones or de árbol [skipped]
  • 1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns [substituted red pepper flakes]
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk [substituted buttermilk]
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream

Bring 1/4 cup water to boil in large pot. Add half of spinach to pot; toss until wilted but still bright green, about 3 minutes. Add remaining spinach and toss until just wilted. Transfer spinach to strainer set over large bowl. Press on spinach to release all liquid. Transfer spinach to work surface; coarsely chop. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Melt butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, bay leaf, dried chile, and peppercorns; sauté until onion is soft but not brown, about 3 minutes. Whisk in flour and salt. Cook until mixture is pale gold and has nutty aroma, whisking constantly, about 3 minutes. Gradually whisk in milk. Boil until thick, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes. Strain béchamel sauce into medium bowl.

Heat cream in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until just simmering. Add béchamel; whisk until mixture is smooth and begins to simmer. Add spinach and stir until heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Bojangles Biscuit

Yield: 12

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups self rising flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • butter

Mix dry ingredients. Cut in shortening. Stir in buttermilk. Knead a few times, roll or pat out on a board and cut with a biscuit cutter. Bake in 450-degree oven for 12 minutes (or until golden). Brush with butter.

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