Looking back, I now realize what a creative cook my mother was. Not because she added a lot of exotic ingredients to the recipes she cooked, but because of the variety of recipes she prepared. She accomplished this by combining seasonal ingredients or produce that she canned in the summer and meats like chicken, beef and pork.
Although traditional, our holiday and Sunday meals evolved over the years. My mother’s vegetables were abundant and varied, but usually simply prepared. One of my nieces, who inherited a love for cooking from my sister and mother, added her touch to our menus with several vegetable casseroles – like corn and squash casseroles.
In recent years, many Southern cooks and chefs have started paying tribute to traditional comfort foods by enlivening them with bolder flavors. Macaroni and cheese, grits (or polenta) and potatoes, are all delicious in their simplicity. However, their simplicity is what makes them the perfect backdrop for the addition of assertive cheeses, herbs, spicy peppers and other ingredients. These additions provide the transformation into more contemporary styles.
Rich and creamy corn pudding is one of our traditional favorites, but Three Cheese and Chive Corn Pudding takes on a more dramatic personality with the addition of assertive cheeses and chives. Cajun Corn Pudding can easily be enhanced by adding ground red pepper, onion, green pepper and ham. Here I’ve provided two great side dishes to help with your holiday menu planning.