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Looking to the South

Martha Stewart Living, August 2008

Text by Lucinda Scala Quinn, Editorial Director of Food and Entertaining

Menu: Oven-Fried Chicken with Chilled Sweet Potato Salad and Tender Buttermilk Biscuits
Spearmint Juleps
Tender Buttermilk Biscuits
Pimento Cheese and Crackers
Oven-Fried Chicken
Chilled Sweet Potato Salad
Tangy Sweet Coleslaw
Watermelon and Wafers

This Northern girl's picture of a Southern garden party is a gathering imagined from old movies and favorite novels. In a lush garden on a hot summer day, iced tea and mint juleps quench thirst, and humble offerings of fried chicken and biscuits, served on platters, extend that taste of the South. China, flowers, and linens in romantic colors decorate the table.

To pull off this party with the grace and aplomb of a Southern hostess, the chicken is fried in the oven, avoiding stove-top mess in a steamy August kitchen. Chilled sides -- made from cabbage and sweet potatoes -- offer contrasting colors, textures, and flavors. Both dishes are made ahead, and better for it. Tender buttermilk biscuits round out the menu.

Succulent, sweet scoops of watermelon are served with nutty sesame wafers -- an authentic treat that might grace a true Southern table.

Cook's Countdown
Up to a Week Ahead
Make and freeze biscuit dough. Steep mint in bourbon; strain, cover, and refrigerate.

One Day to One and a Half Hours Ahead
Marinate chicken. Make pimento cheese, sweet potato salad, and coleslaw. Bake chicken. Chill wine and other beverages.

30 Minutes Ahead
Bake biscuits. Reheat chicken at 300 degrees until warmed through if desired. Assemble juleps. Cut flowers. Set table.

Shopping List
1 medium onion
1 head garlic
4 medium sweet potatoes (3 pounds)
1 bunch scallions
1 small green cabbage
1 small carrot
1 small tomato
1 cucumber
2 bunches spearmint (1 cup)
1 orange
1 small seedless watermelon
1 container (12 ounces) whipped cream cheese
4 ounces cheddar cheese
2 jars (2 ounces each) pimentos
4 large eggs
Plain yogurt
1 whole chicken (3 to 4 pounds)
Pepper jelly
Benne wafers or shortbread cookies
Bourbon, preferably Maker's Mark
Ice cubes

Pantry Items
Superfine and granulated sugars
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
Sweet paprika
Cayenne pepper
Tabasco sauce
Wondra and all-purpose flours
Baking powder
Fine yellow cornmeal
Rice-wine and apple-cider vinegars
Extra-virgin olive oil and safflower or grapeseed oil
Unsalted butter

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