The Buttermilk Bunny

Stir 2 packages unflavored gelatin with 2 tablespoons cornstarch and dissolve in 1/4 cup or so of warm water. Add this mixture to 3 cups warm buttermilk. Stir in a tablespoon or two of raspberry or strawberry jam, a little lemon zest, a teaspoon of vanilla, and a half cup sugar. Whisk to a smooth consistency; it should thicken slightly. Cool and refrigerate. When semi-firm, spoon into a lightly oiled bunny mold and refrigerate for at least three hours. Garnish with chopped lime jello.

Stewed Greens

Cut, strip, and tear three bunches of turnip and two of mustard. Peel and cube roots to cook or not.

Put greens in a clean stoppered sink, sprinkle generously with salt, cover with water, and agitate to knock off sand and other debris. Repeat until thoroughly clean; there’s NOTHING worse than gritty greens.

Drain thoroughly and load into a pot on medium heat. Add about two cups of light stock, a chopped white onion, and a pound of sliced bone-in ham or smoked turkey tail.

Reduce heat and cover. Stew, stirring occasionally, for at least two hours. Adjust salt, add a little pepper, and let sit before serving.

The Masters Pimento Cheese

“The Masters pimento cheese must be the most famous sandwich in all of sport,” wrote journalist Andy Bull, and it was Nick Rango’s recipe for “the pȃte of the South” that made the Masters gallery snack iconic.

The pimento cheese Nick Rango sold from his store, Woodruff Drug in Aiken, South Carolina, was so famous that in the 1960s, Masters organizers dropped the husband-and-wife catering team they’d hired since the 1940s to make way for Rango’s. For 45 years, Rango and his two children, Billy and Stella, whipped up massive quantities of pimento cheese by hand to take to in Augusta every April.

More than 20 years ago, the Masters chose not to renew Rango’s contract; afterward he refused to share the recipe, taking its secret to his grave in 2015. Ted Godfrey, Rango’s replacement, claims that the missing ingredient in Rango’s pimento and cheese came to him in his sleep, as missing things tend to do.

By the next year’s tournament, Godfrey had filled Rango’s shoes, and patrons were none the wiser. But Godfrey also withheld his recipe after the Masters replaced him with in-house catering in 2013.

When Rango lost the contract, the change of hands hardly registered with patrons, but when Godfrey lost the contract, patrons noticed—and so did the press. Wright Thompson, a writer for ESPN noticed, and he was directed to Godfrey, who spilled the beans. Thompson’s 2013 exposé—later known as “Pimento-Gate”—revealed a Masters’ operation that tournament organizers would’ve preferred stay shut.

The episode, Thompson wrote, “left the Masters concessions staff trying—and failing, in a rare moment of fallibility—to recreate the same recipe that generations of golf fans have enjoyed.”

Admittedly, until the unlikely event that a Rango relative shares the original recipe, the best we have is an imitation of an approximation created by lifelong Masters patron and Augusta food blogger, Gina Dickson. Since her family moved to Augusta in the 1970s, Dickson estimates she’s been to no fewer than 25 Masters tournaments.

A deft cook who’d eaten countless pimento cheese sandwiches dating back to the Rango era, Dickson says it took her several hours to reverse-engineer the ingredients and consistency. I recommend you add a grain of salt.

Masters Pimento Cheese Sandwich

2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
4 ounces cream cheese
½ cup mayonnaise (“just don’t use Miracle Whip—that’s a Northern thing”)
4-ounce jar pimento peppers, drained and diced
1 tablespoon onion, very finely minced
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl and mix until smooth and creamy. Refrigerate the mixture for at least an hour to allow it to become firm. Serve on white bread.

The Naked Quiche

At the old Bean Blossom in Oxford, we worked with a limited inventory and a short menu, but this was no ball-and-chain for our spontaneity. One morning we decided on quiches for lunch, and with no time to make crusts, we made beautiful naked quiches.

These are called frittatas. Most frittatas are just fried potatoes and eggs, the most basic dish imaginable. It’s also heavy; a little goes a long way. I always add cheese, usually that Italian blend, but anything will do in a pinch. This recipe is best made in a 9-in. skillet.

Peel and dice two waxy potatoes; you want about two cups. You can either pan fry these in hot olive oil with a minced clove of garlic or parboil, drain, and then fry. Either way, you want potato chunks that are cooked through and a bit crusty.

Beat four eggs quite well, add to oiled skillet, and when eggs begin to bubble, sprinkle in the potatoes, stirring gently. At this point, add the cheese. Keep fiddling about until everything is well mixed, then pop in a hot oven until browned.

Hangtown Fry

Crisp three slices thick bacon in a 8-in. skillet. Remove, drain and crumble. Beat four eggs very well, add a half dozen shucked, drained oysters with chopped onions and mild peppers. Helps to stir it a bit. Reheat skillet, and add another tablespoon or two of oil. When sizzling, add egg/oyster mix, and pop into a hot oven until lightly browned. Top with bacon, chopped scallions, and/or grated hard cheese. Serve with sourdough toast.

Hot Dip from Café Olé

Café Olé on University Avenue in Oxford was a popular eatery in the 1990s. I worked there briefly when I returned to Oxford after several years in Florida, and boy, was I a mess.

The dip, served as a complimentary side with a basket of warm tortilla chips, is typical of most good Mexican restaurants. We made gallons and gallons of it.

Converting a restaurant recipe to one easily made at home presents problems both with the scaling-down process and the ingredients. Bear in  mind also that this recipe is my adaptation of the one I copied down some twenty years ago.

So make a batch according to these directions and then modify it as you see fit. I have scaled down the more distinctive ingredients (lime juice, vinegar, jalapeno “juice”, onion, garlic, and cilantro) in this version, because once these are added, you can’t very well remove them. If you want more, you can add it later.

The dip should be on the thin side, very sharp, redolent of garlic, cilantro, and lime.

1 12-oz. can tomato puree
1 cup water
1 12-oz. can whole tomatoes (with juice)
1/2 cup lime juice
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup canned jalapeno juice (or any hot pepper vinegar)
1 cup jalapenos (half that if you’re using fresh)
1 large white onion, chopped
1/4 cup granulated garlic (I recommend dried/minced as a substitute)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Process until smooth