5/10/2013 05:09:00 PM

Best Thing We Ate: Carla Hall’s Southern Supper

Photo: courtesy Carla Hall
Chef, media star (ABC’s The Chew) and cookbook author Carla Hall co-hosted a dinner at Social Reform Kitchen and Bar in the Penn Quarter showcasing the food she grew up eating in the South.The recipes, along with their heartwarming, personal back stories, are in her recently released “Cooking With Love.” While the guests sipped on her sweet tea cocktail (spiked with bourbon, orange juice and mint), she told us about the Sunday after-church gatherings at her grandmother’s where the food we would eat was served. Carla’s mouth would water while she waited impatiently for the cornbread to come out of the oven.

Happily our bread basket arrived as she was telling this tale. It was brimming with yeasty rolls and crusty cornbread that had little kernels of corn to give it “pop.” The tomato and sweet potato bisque served as the first course, was designed, she told us, so that the sweet starchiness of the root vegetable would offset the tomato’s acidity. Everyone at our table was scraping the bowl with their spoons.

Next, a traditional fried chicken supper was served family-style.We dug into the crisp-skinned, succulent yard birds and potato salad made with both white and sweet spuds. Her “granny’s” macaroni and cheese was rich and creamy. But our favorite side was the country collard greens.  Carla’s recipe calls for smoked turkey, instead of ham. We loved the deep, hearty flavor it gives to the greens that retained just a little 'bite.'

For dessert, a Dixie favorite - lemon cheese (chess) pie. It was delicious, but we would have been just as happy with another serving of the cornbread and greens. When we got home, we started reading her cookbook to learn more about what we had eaten, and got so intrigued with her stories and recipes that we stayed up way too late.

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