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Southern Style Christmas Dinner

Hi All,
I'm trying something different for my Italian in-laws this Christmas, and I was thinking of doing a southern style Christmas dinner. So far, my menu includes:

Spiral sliced ham with some kind of brown sugar glaze
Scalloped potatoes
Green beens with bacon

We need some kind of salad, sweet potato, and of course dessert recommendations! (Caramel Cake?)

Also, we'll have a relish tray with pimento cheese or deviled eggs. Please help me! I'm from California and my husband is from New York, so we're flying a little blind. Thanks!!

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  1. Check out anything from Paula Deen, esp. her desserts. I'd say a red velvet cake would be a great finish, though.

    For the sweet potatoes, roast, peel, mash and mix with egg, some grated ginger and orange peel, maybe a touch of nutmeg, and bake until hot thru (very pretty baked in individual servings in hollowed out oranges). Bonus is that you can make this up the day before and hold, and if oven space is a problem, you can serve family-style and heat in a microwave.

    1. My Southern grandmother used to make a carrot dish that could be considered a salad ... cooked carrot coins in a heavy, sweet vinaigrette with minced onion and green pepper, served cold. I don't have the recipe, but I reckon I could lay my hands on it ... that would be colorful & festive.

      Hummingbird cake is another Southern favorite.

      3 Replies
      1. re: foiegras

        I know that recipe. Most cookbooks refer to the recipe name as "copper pennies"

        1. re: weezycom

          Thanks, weezy ... now I can look it up. I don't know any names for the things she made except "Grandmother's chicken, Grandmother's carrots ..." For some strange reason I've been thinking about them lately ...

          You can get black walnuts mail order, I believe the name of the catalog is American Spoon. They also have hickory nuts (which in reality are pretty indistinguishable from pecans) ...

          1. re: foiegras

            you're welcome. My mom is in the habit of just buying the baby carrots and cooking them up for this recipe instead of getting the full size and doing carrot coins. Just as good & even easier.

      2. No offense because I like Paula Deen, but unless you want your arteries clogged, I'd alter the fat (which means butter, in this case) content in her recipes...My family on both sides is from NC...So I can say that you do have the makings of a country dinner..

        Can I suggest you make sweet potato biscuits with toasted walnut butter? My grandma would make the butter with black walnuts from the tree outside her kitchen, if you could find those you should use them....Or serve your plain biscuits with apple butter or better yet, saute some peeled, cored and sliced apples with some apple nectar, cinnamon & a little brown sugar until almost falling apart and you'll have the perfect complement to a home made biscuit and the ham.. For a simple glaze, you can take some real maple syrup and reduce it until thick and brush over the ham then bake until caramelized...

        Coconut cake, Blackberry & Dumplings (with fresh whipped cream), Bourbon Pecan Pie and bread pudding are some traditional desserts

        7 Replies
        1. re: Cherylptw

          Wow! Thanks everyone. My mouth is watering already!! I love the idea of the apple butter. Since I'm not a seasoned biscuit maker, I'll stay away from the sweet potato biscuits for this occassion, but will definitely add that to my "Must Make" list. Thanks again for the input!

          1. re: jenhen2

            Can I just tell you that you can buy biscuit mix in the store (near the flour) that all you have to do is add milk? Buttermilk is best, but it contains everything in it: flour, salt, baking powder, butter flakes...all you have to do is measure it out and add your milk...and to add sweet potato, just bake or boil one (or however much you want to add) or used drained canned & mashed and add with a touch of brown sugar and some cinnamon....It's very easy and your guests will so compliment you on them....

            One last thing...southerners love pickled vegetables much like Italians...so try pickled okra, tomatoes, green beans and squash (if you can find it) on your relish tray....

            1. re: Cherylptw

              I love pickled green beans. Mmm. Zucchini is good, too.

            2. re: jenhen2

              apples are not really that big in the south. apple butter is not traditional that i know of.
              now, maybe use some peach preserves!

              1. re: alkapal

                Completely not true...apples are very popular in the south..apple butter, fried apples, for that matter, anything apple has been common in the south for as long as there has been a south...peach, of course tops the list

                1. re: Cherylptw

                  Apples are very big in the Appalachian South....apple butter, stewed apples and apple stack cake are my favorites.

                  1. re: LaLa

                    right, i stand corrected. apples in the mountains!

          2. A few things that may interest you.........

            Oyster Stew, Oysters Raw, Gumbo, Shrimp Cocktail (Remoulade)
            Ambrosia, Cranberry Sauce, (Frozen) Cranberry Salad
            Ham...Brown Sugar & Pineapple Glaze, Orange Glaze
            Roast Pork, Roast Beef, Venison Roast, Duck, (Wild) Turkey
            Sweet Potato Casserole with Brown Sugar/Pecans
            Candied Sweet Potatoes...Orange Glazed Sweet Potatoes
            Cornbread Dressing...Oyster Dressing...Rice Dressing
            Green Beans (Casserole), Mustard/Turnip/Collard Greens, Asparagus (Casserole)
            Squash (Casserole), Broccoli (Casserole) Corn Pudding...
            Pecan Pie, Carrot Cake, Red Velvet Cake, German’s Chocolate Cake
            Sweet Potato Pie, Chocolate Pie, Lemon Meringue Pie, Fruit Cake, Coconut Pie/Cake
            Buttermilk Pie....Pecan Pie!!!

            Have Fun & Enjoy!!

            2 Replies
            1. re: Uncle Bob

              You're right Uncle Bob; corn pudding would go perfect with the saltiness of the baked ham....and some greens..ummm, now I'M getting hungry...

              1. re: Uncle Bob

                Tsk, tsk, Uncle Bob. Have they figured out how to grow those cranberries in the South? Or is that those Ocean Spray things from MN or something??

                Every good Southerner would have lots of relishes, chutneys, pickled and spiced fruits put by for holiday meals. Spiced peaches are great with game, ham, smoked meats. Pears, grapes, cherries, mangoes, plums, watermelon rind, green tomatoes, and other things.....
                Don't forget pickled okra, chow chow, dilly beans, pickled shrimp, pickled oysters, homemade saurkraut, corn relish, pepper jelly, ......

              2. You can't go wrong with Chocolate Chess Pie.

                (Just google "Angus Barn Chocolate Chess Pie.")

                1. Oh, there's also lemon chess pie and lemon meringue pie (a specialty of some of the women in my family).

                  You could do the Coca-Cola glaze for your ham (or I think there's a Dr Pepper glaze too) ... hey, Christmas comes but once a year. (And while Paula Deen cooks with that much fat every day, you're just doing it once ;)

                  1. Bon Appetit Y'All has a nifty sweet potato recipe: Bourbon Sweet Potatoes!
                    I made it at the beginning of April when I was just starting to cook through this book. It is a perfect dish for the holidays... and oh so delicious too. Just ask my husband.
                    Here's the link to my report..i think you can put the dish together just from my jottings:


                    You might even find "some kind of salad" in that thread as well. As you will see there are many recipes that would go well for Christmas.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Gio

                      Bourbon & Sweet Potatoes...Candied Sweet Potatoes with Bourbon!! Gotta be good!!!.....I would use Dark Brown Sugar and Cane Syrup in her recipe for a good punch of flavor!!!

                    2. Are your in-laws from the South, or are you just working a theme here?

                      If they are traditional Italian, they will appreciate a "relish tray" that is more antipasto than something with deviled eggs. Try chucks of provolone cheese, dried sausage or salami, and giardiniere -- pickled vegetables and olives. Those will compliment the ham. Go light on the meats here, and stay more with veggies and cheeses. Deviled eggs are almost never seen in an Italian home, but if the like them, it is a good choice.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: RGC1982

                        I think she is meaning to do the American South, not South Italy... Just to introduce them to something new and delicious, I suppose.

                        1. re: Becca Porter

                          Yes, Becca. That's exactly right. The in-laws are hosting the feast of 7 fishes on x-mas eve, so I think we'll be well-covered for the Italian traditions. I'm trying something a little new here. Hopefully, they will like it. Everyone's given me such great ideas, I really can't imagine they won't! Thanks everyone!!

                      2. I just wanted to say that the very best green beans with bacon recipe that I have ever had is in Emeril's Real and Rustic Cookbook. They are smothered green beans and potatoes. Awesomely delicious.

                        Oh and my absolute favorite sweet potato casserole recipe is actually from Cooking Light: http://find.myrecipes.com/recipes/rec...

                        I bake the sweet potatoes though instead of boiling them, then I scrape out the flesh.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Becca Porter

                          I was curious what Emeril's recipe was like and found this online:


                        2. Hey dear! What a lovely idea. As a native North Carolinian, I think you can get some terrific idea on recipes and menu-combinations at Southern Living's website: http://www.southernliving.com/food/ (and link directly to just recipes at: http://www.myrecipes.com/recipes


                          My absolute favorite, no-fail sweet potato casserole is: http://find.myrecipes.com/recipes/rec...

                          and for mouthwatering-deliciousness, try the double-cranberry-applesauce: http://find.myrecipes.com/recipes/rec...

                          You will do great! I'd love to hear what you decide to prepare!

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: Tehama

                            Southern LIving has a sinfully wonderful onion pudding recipe too ... it's probably great with everything, but maybe better with a beef than ham dinner ...

                            Deviled eggs are wonderful, and in these parts anyway every antique mall has a generous selection of egg plates with indentations for the eggs ... that would be cute. My mother always sprinkled them with paprika.

                              1. re: Tehama

                                I don't remember the parmesan, but that's probably it. I had it at a dinner, asked for the recipe, got it ... saw all the cream and eggs and butter ... and never made it myself!! But in my mind, this is exactly the kind of dish that belongs on the holiday table.

                          2. lane cake is traditional southern christmas fare. it is better a little "aged," but you can still do it. it is delicious. http://www.oprah.com/recipe/omagazine... double the frosting/filling recipe, and split each of the three cake layers for a really beautiful, luscious cake.

                            i second (or third..) pecan pie. i use the karo recipe, but use a little more pecans. chop some finer than other pieces.

                            for the relish tray, there were a couple of great threads.

                            i like spinach salad as an opener. i add some dried or prepared mustard to this dressing recipe, and a touch of toasted sesame oil and garlic powder. http://www.recipezaar.com/Korean-Spin...

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: alkapal

                              For pecan pie, you really want a sweet tooth. I find it far too sweet, but I think it would be perfect if it had another layer to cut the sweetness ...

                              1. re: foiegras

                                Perhaps a scoop of vanilla ice cream? ;)

                                1. re: Uncle Bob

                                  homemade vanilla custard ice cream, preferably.

                                  and if you put more pecans, the sweet goo to pecan ratio is altered, and it is less sweet overall, albeit a bit less cohesive (due to the increased nuts). that's why the extra nuts should be chopped a little more finely.

                            2. <We need some kind of salad, sweet potato, and of course dessert>

                              You can kill two birds with one stone: serve S Potato Pie (a traditional Southern dessert) for dessert. ;)

                              1. Ham and biscuits are a good start. If you've never made biscuits before, you might want to practice a bit. I recommend the kind that have self rising flour, buttermilk, and (oh, God...close your eyes) Crisco. Yes, I know, but it's just this once. If you have trouble with your first try, look up Shirley Corriher's recipe which i modified for people not in the South who can't get low-protein flour. (White Lily)

                                Personnally, I've never seen scalloped potatoes served at a holiday meal, but as others have said, the south is a big place. I would do a sweet potato casserole (pecan struesel topping, no marshmallows please).

                                Ambrosia is a classic, and would work for your salad. It has many forms, some include sour cream and marshmallows (gak!) but I would recommend citrus segments, pineapple, various other fruit like halved grapes, diced apples, out-of-season strawberries, kiwi, whatever you wish...and then add coconut. make sure you include the juices from the fruit, it should be sort-of soupy so the coconut is moist. This would be served in little glass sherbet bowls (or little clear plastic cups).

                                My Mom does a relish tray w/ homemade pickles( watermelon rind, cucumber) and chow chow as well as multiple types of cranberry sauce (of course that's because we always have turkey at xmas in addition to ham.)

                                Layer cake is a must. Coconut, German Chocolate, Carmel, Lane, Italian Cream, are ideas.

                                Good luck!

                                9 Replies
                                1. re: danna

                                  I just made the NY Time's Caramel Cake today that was adapted from their Southern Christmas Dinner! The whole house smelled divine, and I can tell you - the caramel was FAB!


                                  Adapted from Virginia Willis and Scott Peacock

                                  Festiveness, Stacked Up Southern Style (December 16, 2009)

                                  1. re: Tehama

                                    Strangly, I've never made caramel cake. My grandmother's specialty was pound cake w/ caramel icing, but since she's gone, one of my cousins has taken that cake as her own...so I dare not! Yours sound wonderful.

                                    1. re: danna

                                      A year or two ago I made Paula Deen's caramel cake, and while it was delicious, it was among the ugliest cake I had ever made. The caramel was very gloppy and it just did not look appetizing at all.

                                      This recipe, adapted from a Southern cooking cookbook I hadn't heard of (not that means anything) and appearing in the NY Times was the bomb diggity dog. The cake itself was firm, moist, and richly flavorful all at the same time, while the caramel icing was thick, stayed in place, and luscious.

                                      I will note that the caramel didn't sink into the cake itself. Next time I make the cake (and I definitely will!), I will probably perforate the cakes so that a little bit of the caramel can sink into the cake.

                                      But --- by all means, please try this cake; you will not be disappointed!

                                  2. re: danna

                                    I am not a fan of weird sweet salads (much to the chagrin of my mother), but she mentioned wanting some Ambrosia Salad this Christmas, so what was I to do? I promptly Googled Ambrosia recipes, and I found Alton Brown's. No fruit cocktail here. I didn't make my marshmallows from scratch, but the rest of it was pretty true to his recipe. It was an incredibly rich, sweet, but tasty dish. It reminds me of what I use to frost my Mandarin orange cake. In fact, i might start using this to frost my Mandarin orange cake.

                                    1. re: jeneats

                                      I have made that before with the homemade mini marshmallows. It is great, except for the cherries...

                                      1. re: jeneats

                                        I usually like Alton Brown's recipes but that "Ambrosia" just makes me sad. Not at all like the classic Southern Ambrosia which is simply fresh seasonal fruit. No dairy, and never, ever marshmallows.

                                        1. re: MakingSense

                                          agree that ambrosia should be sans baby marshmallows *shudder* (especially if they are colored different pastel shades). it should have several types of fresh citrus segments (orange, grapefruit), and can be enriched with coconut. james villas' recipe is a very good go-to recipe.

                                          1. re: soupkitten

                                            I don't know, Alton's was pretty good with homemade minis...

                                            1. re: soupkitten

                                              Yep. Villas is right there. Keep it simple.
                                              The traditional version I grew up with had pineapple, probably because we could get fresh ones from the Caribbean in New Orleans. The Port. And we had fresh coconuts too, although I now use the prepared stuff.
                                              We all waited for the arrival of the new citrus crop in late Fall from the area South of New Orleans. Satsumas, oranges, kumquats, grapefruits, tangerines. If there hadn't been a late frost the year before or a bad hurricane to knock everything from the trees.
                                              The combo of fresh pineapple, oranges, and coconut is truly Ambrosia - Food for the Gods! It needs nothing else. I throw in a blood orange or two for color, but that's it. My kids adore it. My tiny grandchildren eat it with their little fingers and the juice runs down their arms and faces.
                                              We serve it at company meals and just for family and nobody ever tires of it.

                                      2. Thanks everyone! We had a wonderful dinner of deviled eggs, ham with cranberry glaze, scalloped potatoes with mushrooms, string beans with bacon, roasted mashed sweet potatoes and onions with bourbon, fresh buttermilk biscuits, and coconut cake for dessert. It was spectacular!

                                        As several of you pointed out, it may not have been the most hands down authentic southern meal, but my in laws and all our guests really enjoyed it! Hope everyone had a merry Christmas and thanks again for all your help!!

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: jenhen2

                                          Good job! Extra points for not doing sweet potatoes with gloppy sugar topping!!

                                          1. re: jenhen2

                                            this southern girl thinks it sounds fantastic