Recipes: Southern traditions get a French twist in these Thanksgiving dishes

Chef Jennifer Hill Booker is shown in her Lilburn home with her Green Onion Hoecakes (left) and Sweet Peas with Tarragon and Creme Fraiche. Food styling by chef Jennifer Hill Booker / Chris Hunt for the AJC
Chef Jennifer Hill Booker is shown in her Lilburn home with her Green Onion Hoecakes (left) and Sweet Peas with Tarragon and Creme Fraiche. Food styling by chef Jennifer Hill Booker / Chris Hunt for the AJC

Even in this year when so much is different, chef Jennifer Hill Booker expects to spend Thanksgiving in Charleston, Mississippi, the place she considers “home.” There, at the farm of her grandparents Green and Bessie Scurlock, her family will gather in a safe way to celebrate Thanksgiving as they’ve done for dozens of years.

The crowd always included Booker’s immediate and extended family, and anyone who knew that Thanksgiving would be served at about 2 p.m. and dropped by around that time. The table would be covered with dishes: turkey and dressing, a ham, a mix of turnip and mustard greens with slices of turnips, field or crowder peas, macaroni and cheese, potato salad, fried cabbage, pig’s feet, candied sweet potatoes, tons of pickles and relishes and always a salad of cucumber, tomato and onion. Desserts would include a yellow cake with chocolate icing and a cobbler, often made with her grandmother’s own canned peaches.

”Although I’m sure other people helped, what I remember is that my grandmother did 90% of the cooking (for many years). Her dressing is still my favorite. She made biscuits religiously every morning until my grandfather passed away. That, along with a fresh pan of cornbread, were the base for the dressing. It had onions, bell pepper, garlic, lots of sage and broth from the turkey."

This will be the family’s first Thanksgiving without Bessie Scurlock. She passed away in January at the age of 97. “And in the past few years, she really hasn’t cooked. My mom and auntie and us grown girls took over the cooking, but dinner was always at Gram’s house.”

Booker expects this year’s menu to feature most of the standards. “There’ll be turkey and that same sage dressing, a ham, greens and beans and usually I do roasted sweet potatoes instead of candied. Definitely we’ll have that tomato, cucumber, onion salad, and there’ll be plenty of pickles and preserves on the table. But probably only two desserts instead of the three or four Gram would have served.”

Her family expects Booker to lead the meal prep since she’s the food professional in the family with two cookbooks, “Dinner Déjà Vu: Southern Tonight, French Tomorrow” (Pelican, $28.95) and “Field Peas to Foie Gras: Southern Recipes With a French Accent” (Arcadia Publishing, $26.95), a collection of cookbook journals and a brand-new line of spices, Your Resident Gourmet Cooks!, with five seasoning and sugar mixes ranging from chili seasoning to a poultry seasoning and rub.

“Dinner Déjà Vu: Southern Tonight, French Tomorrow” by Jennifer Hill Booker (Pelican, $28.95). Courtesy of Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn
“Dinner Déjà Vu: Southern Tonight, French Tomorrow” by Jennifer Hill Booker (Pelican, $28.95). Courtesy of Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

In going through her recipes, she selected four to share with us. Her Collard Green Salad is a variation on the traditional braised greens. “It’s raw and fresh and with the addition of red peppers, it’s a perfect holiday salad.”

During her time spent in Paris, she found that French and Southern dishes are easily married. “I make roasted sweet potatoes all the time, and when you have some left over, you can make a pretty high-brow French dish: sweet potato crepes. I love that it takes something we love and serves it in a different way.”

Hoecakes have always been a family tradition. “It’s really just cornbread cooked in a small round. You can dress it up or down. My grandmother would laugh at me because I would beg her to make them for me. I love them but I also like the connection they have to Black history.”

The last recipe, Sweet Peas with Tarragon and Creme Fraiche, is clearly a marriage of American tradition and French flavors. Booker remembers her mother serving English peas (from that famous silver can) cooked with carrots for special occasions. “It was a big deal and they were French! So I dressed it up with a little creme fraiche and some fresh tarragon.”

RECIPES

The ongoing pandemic has served as a reminder for chef Jennifer Hill Booker, as for many of us, of the importance of family and family gatherings. Until we can gather safely again, Booker offers four Thanksgiving recipes to make, and perhaps share, this holiday season.

Take your Thanksgiving side dishes to the next level with Sweet Peas with Tarragon and Creme Fraiche, adapted from a recipe by chef Jennifer Hill Booker. Food styling by chef Jennifer Hill Booker / Chris Hunt for the AJC
Take your Thanksgiving side dishes to the next level with Sweet Peas with Tarragon and Creme Fraiche, adapted from a recipe by chef Jennifer Hill Booker. Food styling by chef Jennifer Hill Booker / Chris Hunt for the AJC

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

Sweet Peas with Tarragon and Creme Fraiche

This combination of peas, scallions, celery and tarragon was a hit with everyone who tried it. The addition of cream puts it over the top. We were even inspired to use this same treatment for green beans and field peas.

Sweet Peas with Tarragon and Creme Fraiche
  • 8 cups water
  • 2 cups English peas (fresh or frozen)
  • 4 tablespoons salted butter
  • 4 scallions, tops and bottoms, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 3 ribs celery, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh tarragon, divided
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup creme fraiche
  • In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add peas and cook 3-5 minutes for fresh peas or 5-7 minutes for frozen. Remove from heat, drain and set aside.
  • In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Once the butter has stopped foaming, add the scallions and celery. Cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add cooked peas. Stir in the cream and 2 tablespoons tarragon and cook, uncovered, until heated through, about 5 minutes. Season to taste. Serve drizzled with creme fraiche and remaining teaspoon tarragon. Makes 2 cups.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per 1/2-cup serving: 325 calories (percent of calories from fat, 75), 6 grams protein, 14 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, 28 grams total fat (18 grams saturated), 81 milligrams cholesterol, 121 milligrams sodium.

Adapted from a recipe by Jennifer Hill Booker.

Don't wait until Thanksgiving morning if you're making Collard Greens Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette because the vinaigrette benefits from extra time to sit. This is adapted from a recipe in “Dinner Déjà Vu: Southern Tonight, French Tomorrow” by Jennifer Hill Booker (Pelican, $28.95). Courtesy of Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn
Don't wait until Thanksgiving morning if you're making Collard Greens Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette because the vinaigrette benefits from extra time to sit. This is adapted from a recipe in “Dinner Déjà Vu: Southern Tonight, French Tomorrow” by Jennifer Hill Booker (Pelican, $28.95). Courtesy of Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Credit: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Credit: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Collard Greens Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette

If you’ve never considered eating collard greens raw, this recipe will change your mind. And just as when you cook collard greens, that big bundle of slivered greens, when massaged, melts down to a fraction of its former volume and makes them tender enough to enjoy raw.

To get the full flavor of the Shallot and Black Peppercorn Champagne Vinegar, start that recipe right away. It takes two weeks to come to full strength, but can be used much sooner. And if you don’t have pecan oil, we found pure olive oil (not extra virgin) worked fine.

Collard Greens Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette
  • 2 bunches collard greens (1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1/2 cup pecan oil
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1/2 cup Shallot and Black Peppercorn Champagne Vinegar (see recipe)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 large red bell peppers, cored, seeded and cut into thin strips
  • Rinse collard greens and pat dry. Remove stem from each leaf, then stack leaves and roll like a cigar. Cut greens into 1/4-inch wide strips and put them in a large bowl. Add pecan oil and sprinkle with salt. Use your hands to massage the oil and salt into the greens for 5 to 7 minutes or until all the greens are well coated.
  • In a small bowl, whisk vinegar with garlic, red pepper flakes and black pepper. Pour over greens and refrigerate salad 4 hours or overnight.
  • When ready to serve, add onion and pepper strips and toss. Taste for seasoning and serve. Serves 6.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 229 calories (percent of calories from fat, 71), 4 grams protein, 13 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams fiber, 19 grams total fat (2 grams saturated), no cholesterol, 25 milligrams sodium.
Shallot and Black Peppercorn Champagne Vinegar
  • 1 cup Champagne vinegar
  • 2 small shallots, peeled and quartered
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 large clove garlic, smashed
  • In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, combine vinegar, shallots, peppercorns and garlic. Bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and pour vinegar, shallots, peppercorns and garlic into a sterilized pint jar. Store in a cool, dark place for 2 weeks. Strain vinegar into another sterilized pint jar. Discard shallots, peppercorns and garlic. May be stored for up to 1 year. Makes 1 cup.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per tablespoon: 5 calories (percent of calories from fat, 6), trace protein, 1 gram carbohydrates, trace fiber, trace total fat (no saturated fat), no cholesterol, 1 milligram sodium.

Adapted from a recipe in “Dinner Déjà Vu: Southern Tonight, French Tomorrow” by Jennifer Hill Booker (Pelican, $28.95).

You'll be glad you have Thanksgiving leftovers when you make Sweet Potato Crepes with Brown Sugar Butter. This is adapted from a recipe in “Dinner Déjà Vu: Southern Tonight, French Tomorrow” by Jennifer Hill Booker (Pelican, $28.95). Courtesy of Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn
You'll be glad you have Thanksgiving leftovers when you make Sweet Potato Crepes with Brown Sugar Butter. This is adapted from a recipe in “Dinner Déjà Vu: Southern Tonight, French Tomorrow” by Jennifer Hill Booker (Pelican, $28.95). Courtesy of Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Credit: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Credit: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Sweet Potato Crepes with Brown Sugar Butter

These crepes are a great way to use leftover roasted sweet potatoes, but not candied sweet potatoes. If you’ve got candied sweet potatoes on your Thanksgiving menu, save some of the roasted potatoes before they get sweetened to use in this batter. Resting the crepe batter allows any air bubbles to escape. The result is a crepe less likely to tear during cooking.

Depending on the consistency of your roasted sweet potato, you may need more liquid to make a batter that spreads easily. You can mix these up by hand or use your blender.

Since the crepes aren’t sweet, they’re delicious with the Brown Sugar Butter but would also be good filled with leftover turkey and dressing or leftover ham and a little Swiss cheese.

Sweet Potato Crepes with Brown Sugar Butter
  • 1 cup whole milk, more if needed
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup mashed leftover roasted sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 4 tablespoons melted unsalted butter, plus more for coating skillet
  • Pinch salt
  • Brown Sugar Butter (see recipe)
  • In a large bowl, whisk together 1 cup milk, the flour, mashed sweet potatoes, water, eggs, 4 tablespoons melted butter and salt. Keep whisking until mixture is smooth and free of lumps. Refrigerate batter at least 1 hour. Batter should be used with 2 days.
  • When ready to make crepes: Lay a piece of parchment paper on a wire rack. Heat an 8-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until the pan is hot, but not smoking. Brush pan with melted butter. Pour 1/4 cup batter in the center of the pan and swirl to spread the batter evenly. Cook 30 seconds. Remove pan from burner, use a rubber scraper to loosen the edge of the crepe from the pan and then use your hands to carefully flip the crepe. Place skillet back on burner and cook 30 seconds. Carefully remove crepe and place it on the prepared wire rack. Continue until all batter is used. Serve crepes with Brown Sugar Butter. Makes 24.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per crepe: 55 calories (percent of calories from fat, 46), 1 gram protein, 6 grams carbohydrates, trace fiber, 3 grams total fat (2 grams saturated), 22 milligrams cholesterol, 17 milligrams sodium.

Brown Sugar Butter

Leftover Brown Sugar Butter is delicious on pancakes or waffles. It can also be used to saute apples or pears for a hot side dish.

Brown Sugar Butter
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and brown sugar. Beat at low speed until just combined. Add cinnamon and vanilla and increase mixer speed to medium. Beat 5 minutes. Remove bowl from mixer and spoon butter into a log shape onto a piece of parchment or plastic wrap. Roll butter to make a smooth log, wrap tightly and refrigerate at least 1 hour before using. Makes 16 tablespoons seasoned butter.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per tablespoon: 118 calories (percent of calories from fat, 92), trace protein, 2 grams carbohydrates, trace fiber, 12 grams total fat (7 grams saturated), 31 milligrams cholesterol, 2 milligrams sodium.

Adapted from a recipe in “Dinner Déjà Vu: Southern Tonight, French Tomorrow” by Jennifer Hill Booker (Pelican, $28.95).

Green Onion Hoecakes are adapted from a recipe by Jennifer Hill Booker. Hoecakes have always been a family tradition for Booker. Styling by chef Jennifer Hill Booker / Chris Hunt for the AJC
Green Onion Hoecakes are adapted from a recipe by Jennifer Hill Booker. Hoecakes have always been a family tradition for Booker. Styling by chef Jennifer Hill Booker / Chris Hunt for the AJC

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

Green Onion Hoecakes
  • 1 cup self-rising flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon water, plus more if needed
  • 1/4 cup bacon grease, warmed, or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions, tops and bottoms, plus more for garnish
  • Bacon grease or oil, for frying
  • In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  • In another large bowl, whisk together buttermilk, eggs, water and bacon grease or oil. Stir the egg mixture into the dry ingredients, mixing until well incorporated, adding additional water if needed to make a batter that resembles a thick pancake batter. Scrape the sides and the bottom of the bowl. Stir in the green onions.
  • Coat a large cast-iron skillet or griddle with oil, about 2 tablespoons, and heat over medium-high heat.
  • Once the pan is very hot, lower the heat to medium and scoop the batter by 1/4 cups into the hot skillet. Do not crowd skillet. Fry each hoecake until edges are brown and small bubbles appear in its center, about 4 minutes. Turn hoecakes and brown the other side, about 3 minutes. If the hoecakes are browning too fast, lower the temperature. The outside should be golden brown and the interior cooked through. Remove hoecakes from skillet and keep warm while cooking remaining batter. Serve hot, garnished with extra green onions, if desired. Makes 16.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per cake: 117 calories (percent of calories from fat, 41), 3 grams protein, 15 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 5 grams total fat (2 grams saturated), 28 milligrams cholesterol, 309 milligrams sodium.

Adapted from a recipe by Jennifer Hill Booker.

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