Southern Hospitality

Brutus’ 5th birthday party is this weekend. As usual, we’re having a pool party (because it’s FREE). The kids will have a blast swimming and frolicking in the water. The parents will not. The parents will huddle around the one umbrella on the patio seeking out some sort of reprieve from the relentless South Carolina heat while their faces melt off. They will hate me for doing this to them while sneaking glances at their watches counting down the minutes until they can collect their drowned rats and escape back to the air conditioning.

The Birthday Boy

There’s not much I can do for those parents other than pledge an oath to drag my behind to their kids’ birthday parties in return. What I can do, though, is plan an after-party for the grown folk in my family. And that’s what I’m doing. The kid party is from 2-4PM (yes, I know that’s the hottest part of the day) then later in the afternoon, when all the streamers, cake icing and screaming 5-year olds have been expunged from the premises, I’m having dinner for the family. Inside. Where it’s cool.

Brutus thinks this is a marvelous idea because, in his mind, he’s having two separate birthday parties.  And I guess he is.


Salmon Mousse with Cucumber Rounds
Cheese Board

Main Course:

Fresh Ham with Sherry Reduction
Sliced Cucumbers & Tomatoes
Browned Rice
Zucchini Pie
Skillet Cornbread


Mama’s Blue Ribbon Kahlua Cake

Salmon Mousse with Cucumber Rounds

  • 1 can red salmon
  • 1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 small onion, minced fine
  • 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • ¼ teaspoon Liquid Smoke
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 English cucumbers

Drain salmon well, remove any bones and skin; add salmon to a mixing bowl. Add cream cheese and next four ingredients and mix well. Add mixture to a large zip-top or piping bag and refrigerate. Wash and slice cucumbers into ¼ inch thick rounds. Assemble on and cover with dry paper towels for a few hours to absorb excess moisture. (Don’t skip this step or you’ll be chasing salmon spread all over your kitchen when you start to assemble these). Once the cucumbers have given up a little of their moisture, pipe the salmon spread atop
each slice (if using a zip-top bag, snip a small hole in one corner to pipe). Garnish with capers if desired. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Fresh Ham with Sherry Reduction

  • 1 fresh pork ham shank (6-7 lbs.)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 whole garlic bulb, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1½ teaspoons oregano
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 onions, peeled and quartered
  • 2 cups chicken broth, divided
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup sherry

Remove outer rind (skin) and excess fat from ham if still intact. Mix garlic and next four ingredients, set aside. Rub pork with olive oil then spice mixture. Place pork in a large roasting pan and bake, uncovered at 475 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove pan from oven. Decrease temperature of oven to 250 degrees. Pour chicken broth into pan; add onion pieces and red pepper. Cover pan tightly and return to oven. Bake 8 hours. Remove pan from oven. Remove pork from pan and cover tightly with aluminum foil; set aside. Set pan on stove, add sherry and cook over medium-high heat until liquid is reduced by half. Salt to taste. Pour broth mixture through a strainer and set aside. When ready to serve, slice pork and arrange in a deep serving platter. Cover pork with broth reduction and serve.

Browned Rice

  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 2 cans beef consommé
  • 1 can uncooked white rice (Use one of the empty cans to measure. Nope, this ain’t rocket science.)

Sauté onion and rice in butter until rice starts to brown and gives off a “nutty” smell. Add rice mixture and beef consommé to a baking dish, cover and bake at 375 degrees for 50 minutes to 1 hour.

Zucchini Pie

  • 1 can refrigerated crescent rolls
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 4 cups thinly sliced zucchini
  • 1 tablespoon parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Unroll crescent rolls; press dough on bottom and up sides of a 10-inch tart or pie pan, pressing to seal perforations. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add zucchini and onion; sauté 4 minutes. Add garlic; sauté 3 additional minutes (drain off any excess liquid if necessary). Remove from heat; stir in parsley and next 5 ingredients. Whisk together eggs, milk and mustard in a large bowl; stir in cheese and vegetable mixture. Pour over crust. Bake at 375° for 20 to 25 minutes or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Skillet Cornbread

  • 2 cups self-rising cornmeal
  • 1 ¼ cups milk
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons bacon grease

Preheat oven to 400. Add bacon grease to a 9-inch cast iron skillet (or cake pan) and heat in oven 10 minutes. Mix milk, egg and vegetable oil with fork until egg is blended. Add cornmeal and mix 20-20 strokes. Do not over-mix batter. Remove skillet from oven. Add batter to skillet and return to oven. Cook 12-17 minutes or until edges just starts to brown.

Mama’s Blue Ribbon Kahlua Cake

  • 1 devil’s food chocolate cake mix
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • ¾ cup water
  • ¼ cup bourbon
  • ½ cup kahlua
  • ¾ cup very strong black coffee
  • 2 teaspoons cocoa

Add all ingredients to a large mixing bowl or stand mixer and beat on medium speed until well incorporated. Reduce speed to low and beat for 2 minutes. Bake in a greased and floured bundt pan at 350 degrees for 50 minutes. Cool completely.

Fudge Icing

  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 ½ cups chocolate chips

Cook butter, sugar and milk over medium low heat until sugar is completely dissolved (about 2 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in chocolate chips until chips are melted and icing is velvety smooth. Cool 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Pour over cake.

As I’m typing this recipe I’m dying to change up some things but I would not ever because this cake is divine AND won Columbia Metropolitan Magazine’s 2011 Top Five Cakes of Columbia so who am I to go mucking around with it. BUT… if my imaginary self wanted to play around a bit, I would consider omitting the water and substituting with kahlua or coffee. And since you usually get about 2 cups of chocolate chips in a bag, I’d probably have to throw the extra into the cake batter!


Mandy Richburg Rivers

Mandy Richburg Rivers

Mandy lives in Lexington, South Carolina, is a contributing writer for the Food & Drink section and is currently working on her first cookbook. Mandy is an award winning recipe writer and judges regional cook-offs and other culinary contests.

“I'm just a gal that likes food. Of course I like to eat, but what I've discovered about myself over the years is that there are more ways for me to enjoy food than just eating it. I like to shop for it, read about it, cook it, entertain with it and write about it. And when it's really good, sometimes I'm tempted to throw it on the floor and roll in it."