Be the Southern hostess with the “mostess”! We asked some our favorite Southern chefs and restaurateurs to share the beloved classic Southern dishes they serve when entertaining with friends and family. They were even generous enough to share their restaurant and family recipes with us. Some chefs serve them the tried-and-true traditional way, and others have given the recipes a unique and modern spin. All are guaranteed to impress your guests! Enjoy!
11 Quintessential Recipes for Entertaining Like a True Southerner
STARTERS & SNACKS
Fried Shrimp Deviled Eggs
Chef Murphy Vaughn at Silo in Nashville, TN
Deviled eggs are the classic Southern party snack. They are a requisite for a myriad of events ranging from cocktail parties to summer picnic potlucks. Chef Murphy Vaughn at Silo in Nashville, TN, takes his deviled eggs up a notch by topping them with bite-size pieces of fried shrimp. Silo owner Clay Greenberg says he loves to serve them at parties, because “they’re inexpensive, simple to make and there’s no limit to what you can put in them.” Click here for the full recipe.
Homemade Boiled Peanuts
Chef George McMillan of FoodBar in Birmingham, AL
Boiled peanuts are one the South’s most favorite snack foods. This salty treat is perfect for backyard entertaining and game-day snacking. “They work great with football and beer, that’s for sure,” says Chef George McMillan of FoodBar in Birmingham, AL. Chef George has a tip for what type of peanuts to look for when making boiled peanuts: “Green peanuts are a fresh peanut and a little bit larger than the dried ones that you typically see.” In Birmingham, he recommends getting them at the Finley Avenue Farmers’ Market. Click here for the full recipe.
This light-green cucumber spread is a Kentucky tradition, named for Jennie Benedict, who ran a tearoom in Louisville, KY, in the early 1900s. “Nothing says Southern like traditional Benedictine Spread,” says Melissa Eads, spokesperson for Kroger. “Try it on thin cocktail bread for the perfect tea or finger sandwich. Add a thin round slice of cucumber on top the spread for even more of that cucumber taste, and to reduce calories, forego the mayonnaise.” As an added bonus, Benedictine spread can also be used as a dip for vegetables. Just stir in a little heavy cream or sour cream to thin slightly for a better dip consistency. Click here for the full recipe.
Strawberry Jam Cheese Ring
Chef Ashley McMakin, Ashley Mac’s in Birmingham, AL
“The Strawberry Jam Cheese Ring is one of my all time favorite appetizers to make — and eat,” says Chef Ashley McMakin of Ashley Mac’s in Birmingham, AL. “I love the sweet and savory combination, not to mention the beautiful presentation. It’s always a crowd pleaser!” Her version of this Southern classic is made with sharp cheddar cheese and includes toasted pecans. We love it because it’s both delicious and easy to prepare. Click here for the full recipe.
Pickled Green Beans (or Okra)
Chef Ryan Trimm, Sweet Grass in Memphis, TN
Pickling summer vegetables is a Southern tradition. Pickled green beans and okra are our favorites. These tangy and crunchy pickled veggies can be used in so many ways. Chef Ryan Trimm of Sweet Grass in Memphis, TN serves pickled vegetables as garnishes for his restaurant’s charcuterie and cheese platters. “Forget the celery when garnishing your Bloody Mary — pickled green beans are a much better match,” says Chef Ryan. His recipe calls for lots of dill and has a little heat from the addition of dried peppers. Click here for the full recipe.
Coopers’ Craft Catch Oak Cocktail
No Southern soirée is complete without a proper libation, and the Coopers’ Craft Catch Oak cocktail is a twist on three of the South’s favorite beverages: sweet tea, lemonade and bourbon! Served over ice, this refreshing cocktail is the perfect beverage for all your summer entertaining. We recommend making a pitcher of it and serving it with lemon slices and fresh mint sprigs. Click here for the full recipe.
Shrimp & Grits
Chef Chip Dunham, The Grove Grill in Memphis, TN
“Why is it important for a Southern host or hostess to know how to prepare shrimp and grits? First of all, the dish is easy to prepare,” explains Chef Chip Dunham of The Grove Grill in Memphis, TN, of one of his most popular menu items. “It’s also versatile. Shrimp and grits can be served for brunch, lunch and dinner parties! It is trendy without being pretentious and is becoming a staple Southern comfort food.” We love it for entertaining, because it’s an elegant dish that works well for both a small dinner party and on a buffet for a large group. Click here for the full recipe.
The Brown Hotel in Louisville, KY
“The Hot Brown is the quintessential sandwich for Southern cooks when it comes to entertaining,” says Dustin Willett, Chef de Cuisine at the Brown Hotel, where this iconic Louisville dish was born. “It was invented in the South, it is great drinking food, and you can serve it as a full meal, an appetizer or just a canapé. You can also add an egg on top for a savory and hearty breakfast. There is a reason the Hot Brown has stood the test of time — this sandwich is truly something special!” In case you haven’t had been lucky enough to try a Hot Brown, it’s a turkey sandwich like no other. Served open-faced, it’s topped with bacon and a delicate Mornay sauce and broiled until bubbly just before serving. Click here for the full recipe.
Chef Alyssa Holliday of Le Jardin Gourmet-to-Go in Memphis, TN
Hoppin’ John is a classic Southern dish made from black-eyed peas and rice that is most famous for its place at the dinner table on the first day of the year, but we like to serve it year round. “Hoppin’ John is a crowd pleaser for so many reasons,” says Chef Alyssa Holliday of Le Jardin Gourmet-to-Go in Memphis, TN. “The savory flavor of bacon and the crisp earthiness of fresh vegetables and herbs straight from our garden make this delightful dish a healthy side accompaniment to your favorite meal. No one can resist!” If you aren’t a bacon fan, Hoppin’ John is great on its own! Alyssa also recommends leaving out the rice and serving the bean mixture as a dip with your favorite chips. Click here for the full recipe.
Fried Green Tomatoes with Southern Comeback Sauce
Author Jennifer Chandler, The Southern Pantry Cookbook
There are not many dishes that say “The South” more than fried green tomatoes. “I think as Southerners, we use this tangy, tart fruit more than any other part of the country does,” says Jennifer Chandler, author of The Southern Pantry Cookbook. Fried green tomatoes can be used as a side dish, an appetizer or even in sandwiches. Jennifer recommends serving them with a Southern Comeback Sauce. “As for the sauce, this cross between remoulade sauce and thousand island dressing is a Mississippi original,” she says. “It’s so good, you’ll be ‘coming back’ for more!” Click here for the full recipe.
Chef Kat Gordon of Muddy’s Bake Shop in Memphis, TN
“Pecan pie is such a staple of Southern baking! It’s so flavorful — the toasted nuts, buttery pie crust, gooey brown butter and brown sugar filling — YUM,” says Chef Kat Gordon of Muddy’s Bake Shop in Memphis, TN. The recipe she shared with us is the one she makes at home for her dad. “It’s based on the one we make at Muddy’s but with a twist,” she explains of this at-home version of her popular Shady Wake Pecan Pie. For the best pecan pie, Kat recommends using a really good buttery crust and toasting the pecans before adding them to the filling. To make it an extra special treat for your guests, serve it with bourbon-spiked whipped cream. Click here for the full recipe.
Now, go throw a sensational Southern soirée!
We think this should be enough to arm you for a successful Southern soiree, but if you need more dish ideas, click here!