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Small dinner party | Southern style menu | Need app & sert & drink ideas???

I am too overwhelmed and could use some help.

Here is the main course:
A slow-cooked pork shoulder
A creamy potato gratin
Braised greens

What I need are some great ideas for:

Sorry, I am just not so good when it comes to parings with a theme...unless it's the main course only.

Can you help?


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  1. mmm... i'm doing a slow-cooked pork shoulder this weekend too, but with cuban spices. as for your request, not sure how fancy or involved you're trying to get, but how about:

    non-alcoholic beverage - sunset - fill 1/2 a tall glass with fresh squeezed oj and ice, then float fruit punch on the top half. fun and what i usually get when i go to roscoe's ;)

    appetizer - i'm inclined to say a fresh salad since your main and sides are so heavy and rich. or maybe something with roasted beets and watercress or a bean salad.

    dave lieberman's young & hungry cookbook has a very interesting salad of watermelon and baby tomatoes with balsamic, basil and mint.

    dessert - sweet potato pie... =) or pecan pie!

    report back what you did and how it went if you can!

    1. Drinks: Sweet tea or mint juleps
      Apps: Are figs in season? If so, figs stuffed with a bit of manchego cheese, wrapped in prosciutto, and baked in a hot oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Not particularly Southern, but delicious.
      Desserts: Caramelized apples with mint

      I'd sub the potato gratin for a light spoonbread with beaten eggwhites, but either one would be great.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Euonymous

        Was also thinking of sweet tea and mint juleps! Serve the tea in VERY large glasses!

        Apps: hush puppies

        For dessert, red velvet cake.

        1. re: Foodrat

          I third the vote for sweet tea and mint juleps! Your menu looks hearty and comforting, and I think too fancy a cocktail might not fit the style as well.

      2. Mint mojitos and the beet, goat cheese and pistachio salad from Epicurious:

        Or you could do Appletinis (apple martinis) as an ode to pork (done so often with apple).

        Apple fritters would be a tasty Southernesque dessert, perhaps with vanilla ice cream and cinnamon. <--- and by that I mean you should invite me! :


        (Here's a link to Southern Living magazine's apple fritters recipe - their recipe area also wouldn't be bad to browse for random Southern cuisine ideas): http://food.southernliving.com/southe...

        1. Bread pudding for dessert!

          1. Drink: If you mean a cocktail, then I would say something sweet and fruity says "southern". Like a rum punch. Otherwise, the answer is strong, sweet tea. But you knew that.

            App: A tomato tart, if you can still get good tomatoes. i like to make a tart w/ a biscuit crust, spread a little goat cheese and a hint of Duke's mayo, then layer with pretty tomatos. Be sure to serve at room temp. Frou-frou tomato sandwich.

            Or a green salad with a tiny ham biscuit along side. Or a crostini with goat cheese & fig preserves.

            Dessert: Pecan pie, coconut cake (but don't use that Paula Dean recipe, use martha stewart's recipe), german chocolate cake, pound cake w/ whatever fruit is seasonal, seasonal fruit pie (or cobbler).

            If you think your gratin recipe would work w/ sweet potatoes, that would be very southern, and I think the combo of pork, sweet pot., and greens is classic.

            1. if you're already feeling overwhelmed, then you need to keep it very simple (always the best strategy even if you're not overwhelmed!) do a gazpacho for the app, can be made in advance and is fresh and will go nicely with your hearty main. dessert, well i would either ask your guests to bring something (assuming they've offered) or buy something that looks yummy and "improve" it slightly, i.e. a premade pie, reheated in the oven served with nice ice cream, or premade brownies done the same way. drinks, sangria in one big pitcher. super easy and very yummy.

              don't forget to have fun at your own party!

              1. Beverage: manhattans (bourbon, vermouth, orange peel, cherry)
                Appetizer: baby greens with chopped green apple, mild goat cheese, vinagrette made with a little cane syrup & white wine vinegar
                Dessert: individual chocolate pecan tarts (easy to make ahead) or butter pecan ice cream (if you have an ice cream freezer) with homemade caramel sauce

                1. Beverage: Manhattan
                  Appetizer: Shrimp w/ pan-fried grits triangles
                  Dessert: Pralines w/ Vanilla Ice Cream

                  1. If you want to keep it "Southern"

                    For beverages, Mint Juleps, anything with bourbon or Jack Daniels. My wife went to Ole Miss and said that the stadium on game day smelt like Jack.

                    Appetizers, Rotel dip, deviled eggs

                    Desert, Banana or bread pudding.


                    1. Drinks: sweet tea, hard lemonade

                      Appetizers: Pepper jelly over cream cheese served with Ritz
                      crackers. The Ro-tel dip idea is good also.

                      Dessert: Banana Pudding or Pecan Pie

                      For a southern style party, I would ditch the potatoes and have mac and cheese and cole slaw with the pork and braised greens.

                      Also serve some spoonbread or cornbread (NOT sweet cornbread).

                      1. Drink: Whisky Sours & Half & Halfs (50% Sweet mixed w/ 50% sweet lemonade); or a Strawberry Lemonade

                        App: Carrot Salad; or Cole Slaw (thick cut, mayo, or vinegar based is good too); or Low Country She-Crab Soup (can order from Market Inn DC website)

                        Dessert: Coconut Cake or Red Velvet Cake

                        All of the above is classic southern.

                        1. I would go with apple pie a la mode for dessert. It's seasonal, which is tantamount to Southern cooking, and it's perfect after a pork entree. If you don't want to make your own ice cream the day before, buy a good brand like Breyers, soften it and mix in some vietnamese or other strong cinnamon the day before, then let it sit before tasting and adjusting the spice. You and your guests will be glad you did!

                          The cakes mentioned are nice, but I'd save them for a chicken or beef menu, myself. My grandmother always served fruit desserts with ham or pork chops.

                          If you can get tasty root veggies, you might offer a crudite platter with pickles and olives before drinks. I like the idea of manhattans before dinner, with a good bourbon from Kentucky or Tennessee, but you might also offer something a bit more "straight" for your diners not inclined to sweet.

                          For your appetizer, it's got to be something vinegary or piquant, whatever it is. I'm sorry not have specific suggestions. To be honest, the first thing that popped into my mind was country ham, but that's really best with drinks, 'cause it's sooo salty. Where I grew up, in KY, you HAD to have country ham at any large social event. It was REQUIRED.

                          1. How about a poached egg salad with bacon and sherry vinegar then maybe an oyster stew next..

                            1. I did a Southern theme picnic party this summer.

                              The biggest hits:
                              Fried Chicken with Dooky Chase recipe
                              Pickled Vegetables - Recipe in August Gourmet
                              Hot Biscuits - Robin Hood Cookbook
                              Vanilla ice cream with pralines served with Peach pie

                              1. For appetizer: mini ham biscuits, cheese straws (or cheese biscuits with a pecan half in the middle), pickled shrimp, deviled eggs, pimento cheese, or the cream cheese and hot pepper jelly idea. Or how about fried okra with garlic aioli?

                                No self-respecting southern party would serve a drink called a 'Manhattan.' Mint juleps are southern but not widely liked. I'd try lynchburg lemonade - just google it for the recipe.

                                I second the sweet potato or pecan pie ideas for dessert. Or you could make a cobbler.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Grits

                                  [QUOTE]No self-respecting southern party would serve a drink called a 'Manhattan.'[/QUOTE]

                                  Oh, yes we would, Grits! We'd just rename it. We like sweet, whether or not it's yankee. ;)

                                  1. re: Grits

                                    I've had quite a few manhattans at parties in the south...sweet drinks are always a hit here. And I have to say that I object strenuously to the suggestions by another poster to serve rotel dip...it's a dinner party, not a picnic or a tailgate or kids' birthday party.

                                  2. I would trade the potatoes for corn pudding.Sweet tea or Lake Tea (half tea/half lemonade) for the drinkers jack and coke. Banana Pudding or Pecan Pie are a must...actually do both!

                                    I like the pepper jelly or pimento cheese starters

                                    1. Cobbler for dessert for sure. The cornmeal-biscuit topping on this recipe is great (even if you change the fruit):

                                      And how about benedictine for an appetizer (to go with ham biscuits, which I also recommend)? It's a Kentucky dish most people don't know about (in my experience).
                                      Grate an onion and a cucumber and squeeze out the juice
                                      mix with cream cheese and maybe a bit of mayo for texture
                                      add a dash of tabasco
                                      and if you want to be official, you add just a drop of green foodcoloring so that it becomes a nice light green
                                      Serve with veggies or crackers or, more properly, as little tea sandwiches (or I sometimes use it on a BLT--a BBLT)-- definitely southern!! Another sort of southern drink is a dark and stormy (I think it's more coastal...): ginger beer (as spicey as possible-- Goya brand is good), dark rum (Gosling's brand) and lime. Yum! Let us know what you fix...

                                      1. Hi everyone.
                                        Thank you oh so much for all your help and advice.
                                        You really helped me out even if I didn't use what you suggested.
                                        Since some of you asked, here is what I ended up making—

                                        Mint Juleps
                                        Iced Tea

                                        Cream cheese with blueberry-peppered jelly
                                        Cheddar cheese sticks

                                        Slow roasted pork (recipe from Nigella)
                                        Corn pudding (so yum, never made before!0
                                        Sauteed cabbage (so yum pt 2, from Barefoot C.)
                                        homemade Buttermilk and chive biscuits

                                        Banana pudding
                                        (this was awesome. found a recipe off cooking light and used real vanilla beans for the custard. was more like a banana cream pie. so yummy)

                                        Dinner was a real success.
                                        I did so much prep on Saturday that I totally got to chill on Sunday...dinner party day.
                                        Was awesome for me to make an entire meal from scratch.
                                        Thank you all for you support and ideas.


                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: Jambon_It

                                          Sounds perfect. Thanks for the report.

                                            1. re: Jambon_It

                                              yum! glad it worked out. i made a slow-braised pork this weekend too and it turned out fabulous. =)

                                            2. Gosh, J! After all that jabbery advice, you developed a fab menu! And do you just love that Nigella, whose ancestors prob populated the South, inspired your main dish?? (i do!)

                                              1. Sounds delish and rich, J! Thanks for the report back.