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My Mother's Southern Entertaining Hardcover – April 25, 2000

4.5 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

James Villas was the food and wine editor of Town & Country magazine for twenty-seven years. He is the author of nine books on food and the good life, and his work has appeared in such national and international publications as Gourmet, Bon Appétit, the New York Times, and Esquire. He was born and bred in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he learned cooking at his mama's knee. He splits his time between New York City and East Hampton, Long Island, where he uses Yankee flour, much to his mother's dismay.

Martha Pearl Villas has always been actively involved in church work, various bridge and book clubs, and charity leagues. She is a needlepoint expert, but her true lifelong passion has been cooking for family, friends, and neighbors, numerous local organizations, and even a few professional chefs of world renown. Martha Pearl has cooked her Southern specialties on Good Morning America, the Food Network, and other national TV programs. She is one of the few cooks to be invited to conduct courses at the prestigious Cipriani Hotel Cooking School in Venice. Martha Pearl has two grandchildren and four greatgrandchildren and travels extensively with her son, Jimmy. She lives in Charlotte.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Shrimp and Grits

6 Servings

Mother first tasted shrimp and grits (or, as they're often called in the Carolina Low Country, "breakfast grits") when we were staying at the old Francis Marion hotel in Charleston, South Carolina, many years ago, and she was so taken with the luscious dish that it soon became the highlight of our Resurrection breakfast. Although she's since been impressed with versions at both the Pinckney Cafe in Charleston and Atherton Mill in Charlotte that have tomatoes in the sauce, she still thinks there's nothing like this age-old classic made with the smallest shrimp possible and a little bacon grease. As far as I'm concerned, shrimp and grits is one of the most distinctive hallmarks of authentic Southern cookery--and not just for breakfast.

For the Grits

5 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup regular hominy grits
2 tablespoons butter

For the Shrimp

2 pounds small shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons bacon grease
2 small onions, finely chopped
1/2 small green bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Salt and black pepper to taste

To cook the grits, combine the water and salt in a large, heavy saucepan, bring to a brisk boil, and slowly sift the grits through the fingers of one hand into the water while stirring with the other. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and continue cooking till the grits are thick, about 30 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. Add the butter, stir till well blended, cover, and keep warm in a bowl till ready to serve.

To prepare the shrimp, place them in a large saucepan with enough water to just cover. Bring to a boil, remove the pan from the heat, let stand for 1 minute, and drain, reserving the cooking liquid in a bowl.

In a large, heavy skillet, heat the butter and bacon grease together over moderate heat, then add the onions and green pepper and stir for 8 minutes. Sprinkle the flour on top and continue to stir till the mixture begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Gradually add about 2 cups of the reserved shrimp cooking liquid and whisk briskly till the gravy is smooth. Add the shrimp, season with salt and pepper, and stir for 2 minutes, adding a little more cooking liquid if the gravy seems too thick.

Serve the shrimp and gravy over large spoonfuls of grits.

Kentucky Beer Cheese

About 5 cups

Supposedly created around the turn of the century in a Louisville, Kentucky, saloon and served with crackers at bars to any customer ordering a 5-cent lager, beer cheese is one of the South's greatest appetizer spreads. Over the years, Mother has added and subtracted all sorts of ingredients (onion, hot peppers, celery, chives, different mustards, a little Parmesan), so feel free to experiment--sensibly. And to transform the spread into a simple dip, just add a little more beer. Either way, the concoction is delectable and also ideal as a snack.

2 pounds extra-sharp aged cheddar cheese, at room temperature
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
1 teaspoon dry mustard
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Tabasco Sauce to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups lager beer

Shred the cheese finely into a large mixing bowl. Add the garlic, chives, mustard, Worcestershire, Tabasco, and salt and beat with an electric mixer till well blended. Gradually add the beer, beating till the spread is smooth. (To transform the spread into a dip, beat in about 1/4 cup more beer.) Scrape into a crock, cover tightly, and chill overnight.

Serve the spread with toast points, crackers, or rye bread rounds (or, as a dip, with raw vegetables).

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Cookbooks; 1 edition (April 26, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688171842
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688171841
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,255,407 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I have all three of Martha Pearl's cookbooks, including this latest, and I love them all. She's witty, she's opinionated, and she's sometimes hilariously dictatorial ("Don't be uppity about using canned salmon if you don't have fresh .... You really can't tell the difference" in this molded salad.) Martha Pearl's got some seventy years of experience giving parties, and y'all can tell she knows how to throw a party, southern-style! The recipes are very practically organized into complete (and I mean complete!) menus, each comprising seven or eight items, from the pre-dinner drinks and punches all the way to the desserts. Each menu makes for a lavish spread of elegantly simple foods that are just delicious. I have never tried a Martha Pearl recipe that wasn't utterly delectable. In addition to the customary holiday celebrations throughout the year, for which this book offers a wealth of good recipes and fresh ideas for entertaining, this book inspires me to want to give parties I never thought of before, like a Spend-the-Day Fruitcake Party (y'all bring your own dried and candied fruits to snip and soak, and luncheon will be served while y'all take a break at some point); a Gumbo Night; an After-Shopping Brunch (any excuse to throw a party!); a Tots' Jingle-Bell Party; etc. Martha Pearl's evident love for giving a good party is contagious. Having her recipes and party-planning tips is like having her in the kitchen with me, and she's like everyone's favorite grandmother: inspiring, dependable, and just delightful. If Martha Pearl comes out with a fourth cookbook, I'll have to have it!
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Format: Hardcover
Since my mother was from Connecticut and my father from Mississippi, they wisely decided to settle in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, as a cultural compromise with which both could live. Mother's New England basic cooking was good, but she often wished to be able to cook like her Southern sisters-in-law (until she would return from a visit South and discover a slightly wider waistline).
Regardless of whether you live in the North, South, East, or West, however, these are wonderful recipes that produce delicious food without the host having to hunt for exotic and expensive ingrediants.
More importantly, however, this book shows how good home-style cooking can re-connect neighbors in a community, something that modern culture sadly lacks. The format of the menu ideas for reaching out to others is inspirational, and could do a lot to bring folks together who have let frenetic life-styles erode relationships with family and friends.
Not only a GREAT cookbook, but one that demonstrates Christian love in action (Episcopal style). My warmest compliments to the Villas; I hope they read all these great reviews. (And don't worry about your waist-line--just take smaller portions and savor every bite.)
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have the other books she wrote and love her southern recipes and the great stories that are told about each one. Being a Southern gal myself, I so enjoy the recipes of my childhood. I have recommonded this book to many of my friends. Her books I go back to time and time again. And so far nothing I have made hasn't just melted in my families mouth.
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