Sweet Potato Pecan Pie…

680035E3-8099-4889-9B75-6F27484528E7Yes, you read that right! Two iconic Southern Pies in one glorious crust! The first time I tasted Sweet Potato Pecan Pie coincided with the first time I visited New Orleans… Paul Prudhomme was an up and coming chef whose Blackened Redfish was becoming all the rage. Spicy and delicious- Prudhomme put New Orleans on the top places to visit for the food alone! He was invited to the White House as chef for an international summit and became a household name. Lines formed early at his restaurant – K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen. Out of his kitchen came not only wonderful food, there were also chefs who would become famous in their own right.

I stood in that line more than three decades ago- the food was amazing, the experience delightful- made so because Chef Paul was sitting in a huge chair like a throne- with a tasting spoon. We sat mesmerized as he stopped waiters to inspect the presentation and even taste the food. We were rewarded by seeing him actually send back a dish or two! K-Paul’s Kitchen is still a wonderful restaurant, updated it seems to have lost something in rustic charm but the food…ah yes, the food. It is a must stop on my restaurant list in New Orleans!48CA3121-ED56-4810-835E-3DB77FB4767A

Now, about that Sweet Potato Pecan Pie… Without the crust, Southerners add sugar, nuts and butter to an humble Sweet Potato Casserole and with a straight face call it a Vegetable! Our renowned Southern Sweet Tooth created the Sweet Potato Casserole in two forms…one topped with Marshmallows and the other iconic Thanksgiving side dish topped with a Crunchy Topping of Butter, Brown Sugar and Pecans…oh my! Chef Prudhomme had the genius to combine it all into a dessert.  His Sweet Potato Pecan Pie was served plopped on top of a white mass of Chantilly Cream, whipped cream with Cointreau, an orange flavored liqueur… On top of the intoxicating Chantilly Cream that Tall Slim slice of Sweet Potato Pecan Pie made me swoon…

Let me stop right here…my grandmother often scooped out orange shells, filled them with spiced, sugared and mashed sweet potatoes warmed in the oven with tiny marshmallows on top-so to me, Chef Paul’s blend of Orange, Pecans and Brown Sugar are a match made in culinary heaven. One of my favorite Praline recipes calls for these same flavors!  Over all of these years, decades really- I have never forgotten my first slice of K-Paul’s Sweet Potato Pecan Pie. Here’s how you make my adapted version-

Camellia’s Cottage Sweet Potato Pecan Pie

  • You must have an 8 inch cake pan, this is a deep dish pie!
  • Line the cake pan with a prepared pie crust at least 14 inches in diameter.
  • Bake a couple of nice plump sweet potatoes.
  • For the Sweet Potato Filling– Scoop out one cup of pulp and mash sweet potato while it’s hot with one tablespoon of salted butter..
  • Preheat oven to 300º
  • In a medium size mixing bowl, combine mashed sweet potato, 1 Tbs. Pure Vanilla, 1/4 cup of packed Light Brown Sugar, 1/4 teas. Ground Cinnamon, 1/4 teas. of fresh Grated Nutmeg, 1-2 teaspoons of fresh grated Orange Zest and a pinch of Ground Cloves, 2 Tbs. Granulated Sugar, 1 Tbs of Heavy Cream and 1/2 of a Beaten Egg
  • (Yes, you read that right-one half of a beaten egg! Chef Paul decreed it- his recipe doesn’t have orange zest- mine includes it because I’ve never had the pie sit still long enough to get the Chantilly Cream made!)
  • Whisk until Sweet Potato Mixture is well blended and smooth.
  • Spread into the bottom of uncooked pie crust.
  • Sprinkle evenly with 1/2 cup of rough chopped Pecans.
  • Top with Pecan Filling. In a small mixing bowl combine 3/4 cup sugar, 2 beaten eggs, 1 1/2 Tbs. melted Salted Butter,  3/4 cup of Dark Brown Corn Syrup, a pinch of Ground Cinnamon and 2 teas. pure Vanilla Extract.
  • Mix well and pour over chopped Pecans/ Sweet Potato filling.
  • Bake Sweet Potato Pecan Pie in 300 degree oven for 1 1/2 hours until set. Cool.62519FAE-8F04-48CC-B050-E5C069974B9C

*It will cut better if chilled, but you may not be able to wait that long! *Chantilly Cream is heavy cream whipped with the addition of 2 Tbs of sugar and 1 Tbs. Cointreau or Cognac- my adaptation can be eaten without Chantilly Cream. You may add whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream is fine. Eaten plain? Just as delicious. Sweet Potato Pecan Pie deserves a place  on your holiday dessert table- but why wait? Practice makes perfect!

If you are in New Orleans, stop by K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen, buy Chef Prudhomme’s Cookbook and don’t forget to buy a jar of his famous Spice Mix to make Blackened Fish, Shrimp, Chicken or even Beef! There’s nothin’ like N’Awlin’s Cooking!

Love y’all, Camellia

* A short list of my favorite places to eat in the Big Easy also include Commander’s Palace for fine dining, Ye Old Coffee Pot for Callas and Lost Bread, Café du Monde on one corner and Café Beignet for Beignets. Casamente’s anytime except summer for Po’ Boy’s, Corner Grocery for real Muffaletas, the Brennan group of restaurants- think Breakfast at Brennan’s,  Red Slipper for breakfast anytime, Galatoires for steaks and seafood, Drago’s for chargrilled oysters and replacing our favorite hamburger at Yo’ Mommas which closed, is St. Peter’s Port, with French Market Seafood Restaurant for seafood of all kinds at reasonable prices. If you want to chase down a real hurricane- skip Pat O’Brien’s fake red juice and like a whirlwind- move all the way down to the quiet end of Bourbon Street to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar- where reputedly the Hurricane was first served- reputation has it that four real fruit juices like grapefruit, orange and lime juice (maybe passion fruit?) is freshly squeezed over crushed ice, a bit of grenadine, then it’s all topped with an orange wedge and maraschino cherries- with or without a generous amount of Rum…it’s the real deal! I haven’t included the website information because this isn’t a paid list of recommendations and certainly not complete! *All photographs are obviously mine. My recipe is an adaptation of Chef Paul’s – his version is currently found on http://www.cooking.nytimes.com

*We continue to be concerned for Americans caught in the devastation in Puerto Rico and wildfires in California

Vibrant New Orleans…

4787A1F8-9129-49B8-BF47-624D03E2E22FA mere half day’s drive from my sweet home in Alabama…takes me to a different world- Vibrant New Orleans. A distinctly Southern City yet…unlike so many which are sleepily content under bearded Live Oak Trees… New Orleans pulses with life every hour of the day with:

  • Pots of Hot Oil turning out sugared Beignets served with full bodied Chicory Coffee,
  • Po’ Boys are filled to the brim with fried shrimp and more…
  • Copper Pots turn out sumptuous Pralines,
  • The clink of Silver rings in a Palace called Commander’s, where the elegant meets for slow walked cuisine.

Food on New Orleans menus isn’t like other cities- there’s Lost Bread and Callas, Angus Roulades, Etouffee, Remaloude, Chargrilled Oysters, Muffelatas and Barbeque Shrimp which isn’t barbequed at all. You may think you’ve eaten food like this- unless you’re in Vibrant New Orleans, believe me it’s a cheap imitation. EA4FCD3A-8BDC-4C48-AAC9-D1E6A2E396A2

On Jackson Square, why- there’s art hanging out like so many sheets on the line to dry… Antiques, Galleries and Fashion prance up and down long streets, Lacy Cast or Wrought Iron graces fine mansions, boutique hotels, graveyards, parks and genteel poverty…all with the backdrop of lively street music. I hate to admit it, since I’m reasonably respectable-yet honestly, the vibrant New Orleans street sounds make me just want to move with a walking rhythm that’s distinct to the Crescent City. No matter what I show or tell you, there’s no adequate way to describe Vibrant New Orleans…

  • My drawl gets more drawn out,
  • My mouth waters,
  • My state of mind shifts,
  • My heart pulses to a different beat- and no one really cares how I walk or talk at all. There’ll be time later to regain my composure. D4BE42E0-A86C-47B2-B085-6A85CE82217D

When I think of Vibrant New Orleans-it’s a Collage of the well worn beauty, the bizarre and bazaar of senses that always fills my heart. I couldn’t resist sharing these impressions of my last minute trip first.

Stay tuned for more details about Vibrant New Orleans.

Love y’all, Camellia

*We are so thankful Hurricane Nate calmed down a bit before reaching our southern shores, but are heartbroken with the damage to our neighboring countries. This continues to be a year of turbulence.

*All photographs are mine, obviously. The last photograph, the scene in a Florist’s window seemed to be a throw away but somehow when I looked again- the picture captured a distinct piece of New Orleans. I hope you like it. The unknown violinist plays like an angel right in front of St. Louis Cathedral  and among other street performers, but y’all, the art, music, food and scenery puts me in a different state of mind!

Sea Soaked Cities of the South…

IMG_2766When you live in a Southern Coastal state- the Spring rising of Sap in Southern Pines, the Budding of Magnolias and the Pull of Tide draws us to our Sea Soaked Cities….circling down the powerful Atlantic Ocean- around the Gulf of Mexico, the migration begins.  Cultured beauties give way to ocean drenched dives- dress shoes yield to boat shoes, silk slippers litter closet floors in favor of flip flops- Fishing Vessels pull out of winter storage and Sailboats slip away from docks, soft melodies shift to beach music or jazz.

Mobile Bay


The Sea Soaked Cities of the South draw us like moths to a porch light. We ignore the heat and humidity in favor of a cobbled street crawl,relish the comfort food, sip tall frosted glasses and speak with slow southern drawls.

  • Charleston’s culture and sophistication with her bubbling fountains, South of Broad mansions where no woman would be caught dead sitting on the front porch in housecoat and curlers to magnificent church spires of the Holy City, folks are drawn in carriages or mesmerized by soft sea grass baskets, lured by creamy brown pralines or shrimp and grits- but it is the Battery or harbor with it’s sea-going vessels that tug at our hearts.
  • Savannah’s Squares, wonderful Historic Town Homes with lush gardens, the whispers of posh garden parties or Midnight’s Good or Evil enchants us- the sight of the water  ultimately pulls sea searching souls to haunts on the wharf and huge cargo ships which still the hearts of mere mortals. The Atlantic pulls folks to barrier islands, marshes and beaches.
  • Key West’s Sherbet Painted Ladies and Ocean Drinking Dives, Street Performes, Tall Ships and gasp worthy Sunsets soothe the soul.
  • Mobile has her own sophistication amidst azaleas, southern genteel ladies and gentlemen with unfailing civility; across Mobile Bay- beautiful Bay Houses with names like Restoration overhung with massive live oaks sporting long gray beards; small towns with quaint cottages in Daphne, Fairhope, Point Clear and Magnolia Springs.
  • White Sugar Sand Beaches on the Gulf of Mexico pull us out of our winter doldrums from spring to fall. Ocean Drenched Dives, the promise of warm sunshine draw us to Gulf Shores, Perdido or Orange Beach.
  •  New Orleans’ Garden District is genteel, yet it’s the black lace balconies in the French Quarter, the smell of chicory coffee and fluffy beignets near the Waterfront that draws folks into a different state of mind.

What is it about the presence of a large body of water that heals and renews? There is a powerful spiritual energy at work in the Sea Soaked Cities of the South.  Is it the presence of long lost spirits or the tidal magnetism? More than a dozen years ago, in the pointed boot of Texas’ own Sea Soaked City- Galveston- I found these Old Men of the Sea tossed like conch shells on a dusty shelf in a Nautical Repair Shop near the ocean- with no idea what I would do with them I had to have them- Dried Bamboo Roots with Carved Bearded Faces. I mounted them inside the round frame like a porthole to remind me of my own love of the seashore. IMG_2770

I rarely remember a summer of my life without at least one trip to the Beach- building sandcastles, stooping for shells or tiptoeing in the edge of the ocean- ever aware of undertow warnings or the way it felt to have sun tipped shoulders or new freckles on my nose.  The salt air settles into our minds; like mystical memories there remains the longing to go back and back- to the gulf’s bounty of fish, oysters, blue crab and pink shrimp made a hundred delectable ways, swimsuits damp with sea water- bright umbrella-ed beach chairs with her giggles shared or beach books read; the glimpse of a glimmering dolphin, the tiny translucent sidewalking sand crabs or a long leg-ged white egret standing silent on a dock ; the soft  pungent smell of salt water, the life restoring sea air, the feel of sand between my toes. Ocean Drenched Dives and Sea Soaked Cities of the South with her bayous, bays and beaches seem as

  • Confessionals and Cathedrals
  • Altars and Alcoves-
  • Shell Crusted Grottoes with Screeching Sea Gull Pipe Organs

We slow down, contemplate, let our minds go blank for a spell. Just let me start getting out summer beach bags and there will be errant grains of sand and an inevitable seashell- rubbed between my fingers, mindlessly looking for the sharp broken hinge. Ridiculously, I let myself think that the other half of the seashell or an errant piece of myself might be found if I return to the shore. Always convinced- it’s that pull of the tides, the magnetism of foamy waves ever running toward to the beach and back out  toward the shimmering horizon that gives me a longing for the Sea Soaked Cities of the South. I’m heading there soon…

Love y’all, Camellia

*Old Men of the Sea Photographs are mine- Jeremy Miniard’s Mobile Bay photograph is wonderful! And the phrase ‘sea soaked cities’ and ‘ocean drenched dives’ was inspired by Charleston’s own Josephine Pinckney who wrote a book called ‘Sea Drinking Cities’, slightly scandalous in her day- I look forward to reading her books.