A taste of the Deep South

Local chefs graciously reveal their cherished time-tested recipes. 

Story By Bailey Gilliam

In almost every great memory Southerners hold close, food was there, if not at the forefront. Every gathering, from holidays to weekend cookouts, features a table full of plates and platters. From Hoppin’ John to buttermilk biscuits, these Southern-inspired dishes deserve to be kept in the rotation for generations. All you need is a glass of sweet tea, and you’ll be in a Southern culinary heaven.

Pretty as a peach

No dessert says the South quite like a big bowl of steaming, fresh peach cobbler. Top it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and you’ve got a summertime heaven. This peach cobbler recipe with fresh sweet peaches and a homemade topping makes a delicious Southern-style dessert perfect for summer nights.

Ripe chinese flat peach fruit with leaf isolated on white background with clipping path and full depth of field

Sprout Momma – Southern Peach Cobbler


1 3⁄4 pounds fresh peaches

1⁄2 cup salted butter

1 cup self-rising flour

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup whole milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


[1] Heat oven to 350 degrees. [2] Gently rub the peaches under running water to remove the fuzz. Slice. You should have about 4 cups. [3] Place butter in an 11×7-inch baking dish; place the dish in the oven until the butter melts. [4] Stir flour, sugar, milk and vanilla in a bowl, and pour onto melted butter. Do not stir. Spoon peaches over the mixture. [5] Bake in oven until brown and bubbly, 45 to 50 minutes. 

Making biscuits 

We can’t think of anything more Southern than buttermilk biscuits. And as all Southerners know, they can be tough to perfect. Luckily this recipe from Hudson’s Seafood House on the Docks takes some guesswork out of it. Although the team cautions that “baking biscuits is very much a feel thing, try it a couple of times to perfect it.”  

Freshly baked buttermilk southern biscuits or scones from scratch over cutting board.

Hudson’s Seafood on the Docks – Buttermilk Biscuits


1 pound white Lilly self-rising flour, chilled in the fridge overnight 

1 stick very cold butter, cut into small chips

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar

1 cup buttermilk, plus more in case it is needed 


[1] If you have a food processor, put butter, flour, salt and sugar in the mixing bowl and blend until butter is well incorporated. Otherwise, use a metal bowl and the back of two forks (one in each hand) to incorporate the butter into the flour well. [2] Once the butter is well incorporated, slowly add the buttermilk to the flour mixture. When the flour mixture comes together into a wet but together consistency, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for twenty minutes. The mixture should swell to about double the size. [3] Take the mixture out and roll it onto a floured surface. Refrain from overworking the dough. Just fold it once in half, then fold it in half again, patting it down to make it about 1 1/2 inches thick. [4] Spray a metal biscuit cutter with Teflon spray or rub it with oil and begin cutting biscuits and placing them at least two inches apart on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. [5] Bake at 400 degrees until golden brown and risen. You can brush the tops with egg wash for a bit of color before sticking them in the oven. Serve with butter and honey or strawberry jam.

Southern drawl 

Chess pie was initially known as vinegar pie. Yes, this will shock people to hear the accurate tale of their beloved chess pie. In South Georgia it was historically an ordinary pie since sugar cane was grown and processed there and vinegar was a common pantry item. The name “chess” has a few different origins. One story is that it was called a “chest” pie since it was made from anything found in the chest or pantry, but the Southern accent changed it to “chess.” Another story is that a woman whipped up the recipe and called it “just pie” — again, the Southern accent turned it into “chess pie.” Another version of the story involves a pie described as a variation of cheesecake without the cheese curd called “cheese pie.” What happened to the name? Yes, the beloved Southern accent made it “chess” pie. Whatever the natural origin, there’s no arguing that the South inspires this pie. 

Traditional Southern US dessert of chess pie.

Palmetto Bay Sunrise Café – Chess Pie

(Makes two 9-inch pies)


1 cup butter, room temperature

2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

8 eggs, room temperature

1/2 cup evaporated milk

2 tablespoons cornmeal

2 tablespoons white vinegar

2 9-inch unbaked pie crusts


[1] Heat oven to 400 degrees. [2] Mix butter, sugar and vanilla until smooth. [3] Mix in eggs, evaporated milk, cornmeal and vinegar. [4] Pour into pie crusts. [5] Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 300 and continue baking for 30 to 40 minutes or until deep brown. The possibilities are endless to change or add flavor to the recipe; add orange or lemon zest, chocolate chips and nuts.

True grits

Shrimp and grits is undoubtedly a Southern recipe. Executive Chef Charles Pejeau’s take on shrimp and grits is honorable and mixes Creole and Southern flavors. “We try to honor this Southern staple by using beautiful local grits, shrimp, and a real nice sauce made from smoked pork, bell peppers and onions with creole and Southern influence,” he said.

Alexander’s Restaurant – Shrimp & Grits Sauce


4 ounces smoked bacon, sausage or Tasso ham

1 cup diced bell peppers

1/2 cup diced yellow onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon flour

2 tablespoons butter

1 lemon, juiced

1 quart whole milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 tablespoon cajun seasoning


[1] Render the bacon, sausage or ham in a sauce pot on medium heat until crispy. [2] Add the onion, peppers, garlic, and sauté for 5-7 minutes until translucent and soft. [3] Add 1 tbsp of butter – once the butter melts, add cajun seasoning and let simmer for 5 minutes. [4] Slowly add the milk while whisking to avoid lumps, then add heavy cream. [5] Simmer the sauce for 25-30 minutes (you want the raw flour taste completely gone). [6] Remove the sauce from the heat. Add the remaining tablespoon of butter, lemon juice and salt & pepper to taste. Use sauce immediately or refrigerate for up to four days. 

Hop to it

Oyster Mushrooms Hoppin’ John is a classic Deep South dish popular for its delicious taste and hearty nutrition. It is a traditional Southern dish with black-eyed peas and rice seasoned with bold spices and fresh vegetables. For an added layer of definitive Southern flavor, Octagon at Montage Palmetto Bluff prepares the dish with a smoked tomato broth. The dish is said to have originated in the Carolinas, and it has since become a staple in many Southern households. Adding oyster mushrooms to the dish has made it a great vegan option, as it adds a meaty texture and umami flavor that perfectly complements the beans and rice. Oyster Mushrooms Hoppin’ John is a delicious and nutritious dish perfect for family dinners or gatherings. It is also an excellent option for those looking for vegan or vegetarian dishes that are flavorful and easy to prepare.

Montage Palmetto Bluff – Oyster Mushrooms Hoppin’ John

Ingredients (Black-eyed pea gravy)

1 quart chicken stock

1 quart smoked tomato broth (see recipe below)

1 cup black-eyed peas

1 onion, quartered

1 small carrot, halved

1 small jalapeño, split

2 cloves garlic, crushed

10 sprigs thyme

1 bay leaf

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon butter

Kosher salt

Ingredients (Rice)

7 cups water

1 cup Carolina Gold Rice

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

4 tablespoons butter

Ingredients (To finish)

Oyster mushrooms, sliced in half and roasted in butter


Pickled shallots


[1] In a large pot, bring the chicken stock and smoked tomato broth to a boil and add the peas, onion, carrot, celery, jalapeno, garlic, thyme and bay leaf. Cook over medium heat, partially covered, until the peas are tender, about 1 hour. Season with salt. [2] Drain the peas, reserving the broth, and discard the vegetables, thyme and bay leaf. Transfer 1 1/2 cups of the peas to a blender, reserving the rest, and add the vinegar and butter. Puree until very smooth and adjust the seasoning. [3] Heat the oven to 300. Bring the 7 cups of water to a boil with the salt and cayenne. Add the rice and simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the rice is cooked but still has a bite. Drain and rinse the rice under cold water, drain again and spread the rice on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Dot the butter over the rice evenly and back again for another 10 minutes or until the rice is almost dry and separated. [4] Transfer the rice to a clean bowl and mix the remaining peas that were not pureed. [5] Spoon rice and pea mixture into a bowl and cover with the pea gravy. Top with roasted oyster mushrooms, pickled shallots and scallions. Serve hot. 

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