In a congenial style that makes her sound like your next-door neighbor, author Perre Coleman Magness sets forth the premise that Southerners love their small bites.
“We often call it pick-up food,” she writes. “Food for tailgating or watching the game on TV. Food for baby showers and sip-and-sees. Derby-watching days or cocktail parties. Holiday buffets and funeral spreads. Garden clubs, book clubs, Bible study, and bridge parties. When Southerners congregate to celebrate and bloviate, we like lots of choices, small bites that keep us mobile, mixing, and mingling.”
If your go-to selection of snacks needs refreshing, here’s help. “Southern Snacks” serves up new twists on old favorites, like the creamy collard dip, and clever riffs on classics, like transforming melon-and-prosciutto to watermelon with country ham. Short, different and delicious. University of North Carolina Press. $30.
Creamy Collard Dip, Pimento Cheese-Style
Hot spinach dip was all the rage during my youth, served warm with lots of cheese. But I think we can go more Southern than that by combining collard greens with the fabulous flavor of pimento cheese. You still get warm and melty and gooey, but with a twist.
5 strips of bacon, chopped
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
1/4 cup water
1 (4-ounce) jar diced pimentos, rinsed and drained
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 (16-ounce) bag frozen chopped collard greens, thawed and well-drained
8 ounces cream cheese, softened and cut into cubes
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise, preferably Duke’s
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Hot sauce (such as Crystal), to taste (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cook the bacon in a large skillet until crispy and move to paper towels to drain. Pour the bacon grease into a measuring cup and let cool briefly. Add 2 tablespoons of grease back to the skillet. Cook the onions over medium-high heat until they are soft and translucent and just beginning to brown, then add the water and cook until it has evaporated and the onions are a light toffee color, stirring frequently. Add the pimentos and stir. Cook for about 3 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for a minute more.
Stir in the collard greens, separating them and distributing the onions and pimentos evenly. Cook until the collards are heated through and soft. Add the cubed cream cheese and stir until melted. Add the grated cheddar and stir until melted. Stir in the sour cream and mayonnaise until the dip is smooth and creamy. Add the crumbled bacon and stir until all the ingredients are well distributed. Scrape the dip into a 2-quart baking dish. (The dip can be cooled, covered and refrigerated at this point for up to a day).
Bake the dip until it is warm through and bubbling, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately with corn chips or toasted baguette pieces.
From "Southern Snacks: 77 Recipes for Small Bites With Big Flavors" by Perre Coleman Magness.