Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Thanks For Giving, A Slow Southern Kitchen ~ Nik Snacks

Bite it and write it. That's what I do.


On 10:48 PM by Nikki @ NikSnacks in , , , , ,    19 comments

I could not have been happier when my proposal for Foodbuzz November 24, 24, 24 was selected by Foodbuzz. This is a great opportunity that I never thought would be possible. The editorial staff of Foodbuzz doesn't know this, but they've single-handedly helped me get me back in the kitchen. Nik hasn't been snacking (or nibbling, munching, cooking, drinking, or smoking) much over here lately. Today this has changed...

We Southerners have always been characterized as having a simple, slow way of life.

We drive slow
We talk slow
We drink slow
We love slow
We eat slow, too.

Well, at least in my house, we eat slow. I don't mean lacking in life, animation, gaiety or proceeding without speed. I mean...slow.

Every southern town has a farmer's market, or at least a few old men who set up shop alongside the road and sell home-grown vegetables out of the back of a truck. Every southern child has at some point snapped beans or shelled peas. Every adult woman knows exactly how much makes up a mess of greens. Southern cuisine is the epitome of slow food.

What is slow food? Slow food promotes the pleasure of good food and the local cultures that grow it. Committed to eating good food and supporting the local food community, local slow food enthusiasts and chapters focus on the preservation, marketing, cooking, & eating of seasonal local foods. Traditionally, local food is anything within a 150-mile radius of your home. I've seen it stretched out to 200 miles, too.

Preparing, sharing, and tasting food is one of life's greatest joys. It's the reason why I wake up in the morning. It's the reason why you're reading this blog right now.

So... all of this brings us to Thanksgiving. The most important meal of the year (other than daily breakfast) has got to be Thanksgiving. This year, I took it upon myself to make this year's feast as slow as I could.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday next to Easter. Y'all can have Christmas. Y'all can have Presidents' Day, Fourth of July, and even Halloween. Give me Turkey Day.

This year, I was blessed by the grace of God to be able to prepare a feast for friends & family.
Thanksgiving is a time for gathering with friends, family, loved ones and sharing a meal...or even a drink.

The past two months, I've gone outside the boundaries of my local farmer's markets to find untapped resources and gems to get the freshest, most local food I could find. Not only saving myself money, but truly digging deep to include everyone I know in this yearly event.

I was fortunate enough to cook for a group of 30 people this Thanksgiving. Friends & family from a local Meetup group came together to meet, greet, & eat. The original plan was to make the fete a potluck gathering, to share food and each others' company.

A big thank you goes out to my friend, Laine, who opened her heart & her home to all of us (and let me warm up everything in the oven...making everyone wait with bated breath LOL)

Thanksgiving 2008 Menu

jalapeño pimiento cheese & portabella mushroom tart

andouille stuffed turkey breast

onion & giblet gravy

braised collard greens with cornbread croutons

sautéed okra with sage & tomato-basil brown butter

baked macaroni & cheese with spicy Creole remoulade

dirty rice with black eyed pea vinaigrette

herbed buttermilk biscuits

2-layer ginger sweet potato pie

All of the produce was either given to me by friends and neighbors, or purchased locally.

Rural Farm Productions: collards, sweet potatoes, eggs
Homeland Creamery & Dairy: buttermilk, milk, heavy cream
The Fresh Market: pimiento cheese, Carolina rice, chicken, turkey & vegetable stocks
Various local farmer's markets: other vegetables, pork, seasonings

Click on each picture to see full-sized version

My (third) Thanksgiving plate (clockwise): dirty rice with black eyed pea vinaigrette, baked macaroni & cheese, cornbread croutons, braised collard greens, andouille stuffed turkey breast

Sauteed okra with tomato-basil brown butter

Two layer ginger-sweet potato pie, hot & fresh out of the oven...

Gettin' our grub on! That lady in the red hat, that's my mom!!

Poor puppy... "Where's mine?" she asks. Don't worry, darlin' there are leftovers for you in the fridge :)


Jalapeño pimiento cheese mushrooms

12 Portobella mushrooms, whole

¼ cup Vidalia onion, minced
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

16 oz Fresh Market jalapeno pimiento cheese
1 tbsp. chopped parsley

½ cup panko breadcrumbs

2-3 Tbsp melted butter

Rinse mushrooms and cut off stems. Carefully remove stem from crown and mince fine. Remove mushroom gills with a spoon. & discard. Heat 1 tsp oil in small skillet and cook the mushroom stems and onion for 15 minutes over low heat. Stir in salt, pepper, and parsley. Remove from heat & scrape contents into a small bowl. Add 16 oz of Fresh Market jalapeno pimiento cheese. Stuff the mushrooms and sprinkle panko breadcrumbs over each mushroom evenly. Pour melted butter over the breadcrumbs. Place in oiled baking dish. Bake at 375 degrees for 12 minutes.

Andouille stuffed turkey breast

4-6 lb boneless turkey breast

Olive oil for drizzling


2 ½ pounds Boston pork butt

4 oz pork fat

1/2 cup chopped garlic

2 Tbsp cracked black pepper

2 Tbsp cayenne pepper

2 Tbsp rubbed sage

2 Tbsp paprika

1/2 Tbsp dry thyme

2 Tbsp salt

pecan chips for smoking

Cut the meat and fat into 1/2-inch wide chunks. Pass them once through the coarse blade of a meat grinder or pulse in a food processor. In a large bowl, mix together the ground pork and fat with the garlic, salt, pepper, cayenne, thyme, paprika, bay leaf, and sage. Form into 4 to 5-inch logs or 2 oz. patties. Wrap each log or patty in plastic wrap to freeze.

When ready to cook, use stovetop smoker & pecan chips.

Place the turkey breast on the cutting board with skin side down. Flatten with your hands, season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil to moisten. Wrap kitchen twine around breast and tie tightly. Place turkey in a roasting pan, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast until internal temperature of the turkey breast is 165 degrees F, about 1 hour or 12 to 15 minutes per pound. Let rest 10 minutes. Slice the turkey thinly. Spread stuffing on top and roll the turkey around the stuffing. Arrange roll-ups in a greased baking dish. Pour onion & giblet gravy over each roll & bake until heated through. Serve.

Onion & giblet gravy

1 onion, sliced

2 Tbsp butter

1 tsp sugar

Giblets (liver, heart, gizzard, and neck), cooked

4 cups broth (chicken, turkey, or vegetable)

2 teaspoons poultry seasoning

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1/3 cup cold water

Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a small sauté pan, cook onions in butter just until translucent. Sprinkle sugar over onions. Stir to incorporate. Cook until caramelized. Set aside. Using a saucepot, bring the stock to a boil. Chop the giblets and the meat that has been removed from the neck. Add the giblets and poultry seasoning, and breadcrumbs to the mixture.

In a separate bowl, mix the cornstarch and water, and add this and the caramelized onions and to the boiling stock , stirring constantly. Reduce the heat and continue to cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the salt and pepper, to taste.

Braised collard greens with cornbread croutons

2 1/2 pounds collard greens - rinsed, stemmed and thinly sliced

1 lb turkey bacon, sliced into thin strips

48 oz unsalted chicken stock

1 1/4 cups chopped onion

3 bay leaves, ripped

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons and 1-1/2 teaspoons white sugar

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

3 teaspoons white or apple cider vinegar

Place turkey bacon, onion, bay leaves, red pepper flakes, and sugar in a large pot. Saute contents until fragrant & onions become translucent. Add chicken stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and cook for 10 minutes. Stir collard greens into the pot, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, and cook for 50 minutes to an hour, or until greens are tender. Season with vinegar to taste.

Cornbread Croutons


2 Tbsp butter
2 cups cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp baking powder
2 eggs
3 Tbsp honey
1 1/2 cups milk
2 Tbsp oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Put the butter in your baking vessel of choice (preferably cast iron skillet) and place it in the oven while it's warming up. Sift meal, flour, salt and baking powder in a medium mixing bowl. Make a well in the center of the bowl. Beat eggs, milk and oil in the well. Alternatively, beat the eggs, milk and oil in a separate bowl and add to dry ingredients. Stir until thoroughly mixed. Pour into heated pan. Bake 15 to 20 minutes.


2 cups left over (dry) cornbread, cut into cubes

1 stick butter, salted
1 Tbsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
F. Place cornbread cubes in a bowl. Add butter and seasonings to a sauce pan over medium-low heat. Melt butter in the saucepan and stir occasionally, until all butter has melted and foam subsides. Pour butter over evenly cubes in bowl and toss to coat. Pour the contents on a baking sheet and bake until cubes are lightly brown and crisped, around 15 minutes.

Sautéed okra with sage & tomato-basil brown butter

2 lbs okra, sliced

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 pint tomatoes, chopped

1 cup white wine or vermouth

8 Tbsp butter

12-14 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade

salt & pepper to taste

Steam okra for 3-4 minutes, set aside. Heat large skillet over medium heat with ½ tsp olive oil. Cook tomatoes and garlic until tomatoes are blistered & garlic is browned. Deglaze pan with white wine or vermouth. Saute okra in butter about 5 minutes over high heat. Season to to taste. Lower heat. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

In a large saute pan, melt the remaining butter by stabbing stick of butter with a whisk and slowly stirring butter to make an emulsion. Add the basil to the butter and continue to cook until the butter starts to brown. Remove from the heat. Add okra to browned butter. Serve.

Baked macaroni & cheese with spicy Creole remoulade

32oz elbow macaroni
3 cup half and half or heavy cream
1 Tbsp each, prepared mustard, Cayenne pepper
6 eggs

1. Bring 2 1/2 quarts water to boil in a large saucepan. Stir in the macaroni; cook until the pasta is al dente, firm to the bite;
2. Drain the pasta, spray with non-stick spray to keep noodles from sticking together as they dry out and leave it in the colander; set aside.
3. Whisk together the milk, mustard, cayenne, eggs in a medium bowl. Place macaroni in baking dish or casserole pan. Stir wet ingredients into the macaroni. Fold in the cheese. Layer the top of the macaroni with cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Creole remoulade

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1/4 cup prepared mustard

1/4 cup prepared horseradish

2 teaspoons paprika

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

¼ tsp cayenne

Dash cayenne

2 tablespoons ketchup

1 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup finely chopped celery

1/2 cup finely chopped green onions

Whisk together first 8 ingredients, gradually whisk in oil until thickened. Stir in celery and onions. Cover and chill at least 1 hour.

Dirty rice salad with black eyed pea vinaigrette

1 medium onion, small dice

1 celery rib, small dice

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 red bell pepper, small dice

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 pound chicken livers & 1/4 pound chicken gizzards, chopped

1 (16 oz) package Neese’s spicy sausage

4 cups rice

1 cup chicken stock

Heat a medium saucepan with 1 tsp of vegetable oil, brown the gizzards, livers, & sausage over medium heat, turning occasionally to evenly brown. As soon as the meat isn’t red or pink anymore, add the onion, celery & bell pepper to the pan. Cook for 3 minutes more. Next, add the cooked rice to the pan and stir to incorporate all the ingredients. pour in the chicken stock and season with the ground black pepper. Add salt to your taste. Allow the mixture to heat through. Meanwhile, make vinaigrette.

Black-eyed pea vinaigrette

1 can (15.5 oz) Margaret Holmes black eyed peas, drained

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons or more white vinegar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and turn the machine on; a creamy emulsion will form within 30 seconds. Taste and add more vinegar a teaspoon or two at a time, until the balance tastes right. Add the black eyed peas, and turn the machine on and off a few times until the peas are mixed within the dressing. Taste, adjust seasoning and serve. This is best made fresh but will keep a few days refrigerated; bring back to room temperature and whisk briefly before using.

herbed buttermilk biscuits

2-layer ginger sweet potato pie

4 pounds sweet potatoes (about 8 medium)

3/4 cup milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 large eggs

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

a pinch of ground cloves

1/4 cup fresh ginger* (about 2 ounces)

1 8 oz pkg Neufchatel cheese

2 pie shells

Preheat oven to 400°F. and line a baking sheet with foil.

Prick sweet potatoes in several places with a fork and on baking sheet bake in middle of oven until very soft, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. When potatoes are cool enough to handle, scoop out enough flesh to measure 4 cups, reserving remainder for another use. In a food processor purée flesh with all remaining filling ingredients except ginger until smooth. Finely chop ginger and stir into filling. Filling may be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Bring filling to room temperature before proceeding.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Bake shell in middle of oven for 30 minutes or until knife comes out clean


Anonymous said...

Congrats to you for this amazing spread. I don't even know where to begin with how my tastebuds are reacting. My mother used to make okra, but it was fried and I like it with tomatoes -- just like this. And the collards...and the mac-a-cheese, and honestly, I'm loving the idea of it all. Going local is amazing -- I need to work harder at it.

MrOrph said...

Wow Nik!

Congrats on Foodbuzz; being selected.

This is quite the spread. I love that okra dish and the dirty rice.

Good to see you back in the kitchen!

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

What a memorable meal surrounded by family and friends:D

kat said...

It certainly sounds & looks like you had a great time!

Patsyk said...

Looks like an amazing feast! We all really should slow down, enjoy what we are eating... and find out where it's coming from!

Southern Plate said...

I don't know what I am more excited about, you being one of the 24 of seeing all of that AMAZING FOOD in one place!!!!
Love ya gal!!

Vicci said...

Nikki, you ROCK! What a stupendous-looking (and sounding) feast!!! Congratulations on completing it all and staying sane (you still are, aren't you???) and on the Foodbuzz assignment. :D

glamah16 said...

Oh wow! What a great opportunitiy. I was I was there to partake of your feast. What a wonderful Thanksgiving you had.

Ivy said...

I am so happy that you were selected from Foodbuzz, you did a great job and it seems that you enjoyed it as well.

mermaidgir said...

Nikki, The presentation is awesome as was the meal...I was one of the lucky ones that was blessed to partake! Thanks so much for making our Thanksgiving so wonderful. Everyone was impressed with the food as well as the Chef! You and your food are the best!
love ya

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

It's great to see you in the kitchen again and what a beautiful spread! There is a lot of love in that feast. 30 people?? I'm impressed.

Although I'm not planning a move any time soon, I do envy those of you who live in places where the winters aren't quite so long and cold so that you always have access to fresh, local produce. The stands and markets are gone for the season in my neck of the woods.

Mike of Mike's Table said...

That's a great looking spread that got my mouth watering (and congrats on the FB/24!). I was definitely curious to see your take on turkey day given the southern influence and I'll have to try out the ideas you've given me--too bad I have to wait a whole year for another Thanksgiving, lol!

Lys said...

Nik - Foodbuzz definitely picked the right gal for the job on this. You are an amazing chef and have such a great heart. Congrats on everything!!!

Teresa Cordero Cordell said...

Nikki, what a glorious meal. Wish I'd of been there. You bounced back sweetie, good for you. And your cooking is fantastic , as always.

Anonymous said...

All looks tasty! I love me some okra! Welcome to the 24 club.

Rachel said...

Man, that is some Thanksgiving spread. Congratulations on pulling it off and for getting the 24,24,24 honor!

Reeni said...

You got back in the kitchen and cooked up a storm. What a beautiful spread of food.

Alicia Foodycat said...

I just cannot decide what looks the best! I would need to have a taste of everything just to be sure.

Jill said...

This just looks amazing. I'm saving it all for next year...really makes me miss home!