Growing up in Greensboro, one chef and writer found that winter nights didn’t seem so long when her family sat down to pancakes, liver pudding, and grits for supper. Decades later, she finds inspiration in those simple comforts.
As far back as I can remember, I’ve always correlated certain foods with the temperature outside. I think most people put on a pot of chili at the first frost, but when it’s dark outside at 5 p.m. and the weather dips down into the 30s and 40s, my favorite supper is a Southern breakfast spread. Growing up in Greensboro, I watched my mom fix breakfast for supper often. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized this was because she had used up most of the grocery budget for the month.
I don’t recall ever seeing my mom make from-scratch biscuits, but we always had the “whomp ’em” biscuits that still startle me to this day. I “whomp” the biscuit tube with one eye closed, my body tense as I anticipate the explosion of dough.
We always had grits in the pantry — a far cry from the stone-ground version we know and love today. These were instant grits, either “butter-flavored” or with “bacon” — aka some freeze-dried bits that had a hint of imitation smoked bacon flavor. If you put enough butter or redeye gravy on them, they were delicious!
My favorite combination was scrambled eggs, liver pudding with edges grilled to crispy perfection in the cast-iron skillet, a bowl of grits with shredded Cheddar cheese stirred in, and a tall glass or two of ice-cold milk. Following close behind in second place were my dad’s hot skillet pancakes with a side of my granddaddy’s ground country sausage, which he made from his hogs in Gaston County.
Breakfast made for a simple supper, but in my opinion, the combination of the hot pancakes with their crispy, buttered edges, the sweetness of the maple syrup or grape jelly, and the hot red pepper in the sausage would merit a Michelin star today.
2 cups all-purpose flour 2 teaspoons baking powder ½ teaspoon baking soda ½ teaspoon salt ¼ cup granulated sugar 2 cups whole buttermilk 2 large eggs, at room temperature 3 tablespoons butter, melted, plus more for frying Fresh fruit and maple syrup (optional)
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar.
In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, eggs, and butter. Add to the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Don’t overmix.
Heat a skillet (preferably cast iron) or griddle over medium-high heat. Add a generous pat of butter to the hot skillet.
Drop ¼ cup of batter into the skillet, then reduce heat to medium. Cook until bubbles form across the top of the pancake, then flip and continue to cook until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Repeat with remaining batter.
Serve with fresh fruit and warm maple syrup, if desired.
4 cups water 1 cup whole milk 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste 2 cups uncooked stone-ground grits 3 tablespoons unsalted butter 2 to 3 large slices country ham 1 cup hot water
For the grits: In a large stockpot, combine water, milk, and salt, and bring to a rolling boil on medium-high heat. Gradually whisk in grits; return to a boil. Continue stirring and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until creamy and thickened, 25 to 30 minutes.
Remove pot from heat and stir in butter. Salt to taste. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve.
For the ham: Heat a cast-iron skillet on medium-high heat. Once skillet is hot, add ham and cook for 2 to 3 minutes per side. This may need to be done in batches. When ham is slightly browned on each side, remove from skillet and set aside.
Chop cooked ham into small pieces and mix into grits or add as a topping.
Using the same skillet, add 1 cup of hot water to skillet and stir up any ham bits from the pan. Spoon over grits when ready to serve.
2 cups all-purpose flour 2 teaspoons baking powder 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon sugar 1 teaspoon salt 1 cup whole buttermilk, chilled 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled, plus more for brushing
Preheat oven to 425°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly grease with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt. In a small bowl, stir together chilled buttermilk and melted butter. The mixture will look curdled. Use a rubber spatula to stir the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture just until the ingredients are incorporated and the mixture slightly pulls away from the edges of the bowl.
Using a greased ¼-cup measure, portion the dough and drop biscuits onto the prepared baking sheet, spacing each about 1½ inches apart.
Bake biscuits until tops are golden brown, 13 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven and brush with additional melted butter. Serve warm.
4 tablespoons olive oil 1 yellow onion, halved and sliced 1 teaspoon smoked paprika ½ teaspoon garlic powder 1 teaspoon seasoned salt ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 4 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
Preheat oven to 425°. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and grease with cooking spray.
Coat the bottom of a heavy-duty sauté pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium-high heat. Add sliced onion. Cook over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring frequently.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together paprika, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Add potatoes to the seasoning mixture, tossing until evenly coated.
Spread the potatoes on the prepared baking sheet in a single layer and bake until golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes. In a large bowl, combine home fries with onions and serve.
Sweet & Spicy Ketchup
Yield: 1 cup.
1 cup ketchup 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar ½ teaspoon chili powder 1 teaspoon sugar 1 teaspoon Sriracha or hot sauce 1 teaspoon soy sauce
In a small mixing bowl, combine all ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
To commemorate our 90th anniversary, we’ve compiled a time line that highlights the stories, contributors, and themes that have shaped this magazine — and your view of the Old North State — using nine decades of our own words.