‘Sunday Dinner’ a way to bring families together

Published 12:01 am Tuesday, September 8, 2015

By Deirdre Parker Smith


Are you ready for “Sunday Dinner”? It’s the latest in the Savor the South series from the University of North Carolina Press.

And now’s the time to start planning for your big weekend meal. Author Bridgette A. Lacy writes in her introduction, Sunday dinner “will be a reminder to carve out that sacred space in life to cherish family and friends and celebrate big and small moments. Sunday dinner helped shape me as a person.”

Especially in the South, she says, people feel a need to deliver a feast for their loved ones. Getting up early on Sunday to marinate meats or start yeast rolls was a tradition.

She has fond memories of her grandfather, James R. Moore, and how he made her feel special and created Sunday meals. She recalls, “His cantaloupes were so sweet, they tasted like he had poured sugar in the ground.”

Everyone pitched in, peeling potatoes, making rolls, chopping vegetables.

Later, when Lacy was in college, she brought friends home from Howard University to the Gospel chicken, the Sunday fried chicken and big pot of greens. Church attendance, followed by a chicken dinner, was a time-honored tradition.

But as time passes, tradition changes, or stops altogether. Sunday meals now could be a delivered pizza or separate frozen meals for each family member.

But recent studies show that family meal time is good for the brain, as well as the soul. It can lead to higher grades, resilience and self-esteem. Family meals can cut down on substance abuse, teen pregnancy, eating disorders and depression.

Lacy is almost poetic in her description of Sunday dinner, and how her own Sunday dinner evolved to one with coworkers, or one at the end of a three-hour drive to see her grandmother, who lived alone.

Today, Sunday dinner could include singles and small families gathering for a potluck, she says, or inviting friends to join you.

Another benefit of Sunday dinners? Leftovers for the week ahead.

Here area few of her tips:

• “Use real china and linen. What are you saving it for? Why not get the real stuff out of the cabinet for the people you love?”

• “Ask folks to bring one of their signature dishes to share.”

• “Serve dinner early in the afternoon between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.”

• “Invite folks to take an after-dinner walk. This is a great way to build memories.”

If you’re just embarking on the tradition, she also has a number of tips:

• “Make dishes you’ve cooked before for large gatherings. If you’re determined to impress guests with a new dish, give it a test run a few weeks in advance.”

• “Plan the menu strategically. I like serving one item that can be made ahead of time, one that goes in the oven, and one that I can cook on the stove top or reheat in the microwave.”

• “Have fun.”

Here’s a couple recipes to get you started.

Pork Chops with Onion Gravy

From Sunday Dinner: a Savor the South cookbook by Bridgette A. Lacy. Copyright  2015 by the University of North Carolina Press.  Used by permission of the publisher. www.uncpress.unc.edu

6 center-cut pork chops, 1 inch thick

Grill Mates Montreal Steak Seasoning (a course salt, black pepper, and spice blend) to taste

1  1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided

2 cups vegetable oil

1-2 cups hot water

1 cup chicken broth

1 large Vidalia onion, peeled and sliced thin

Kitchen Bouquet

Salt and black pepper, to taste

Wash the pork chops and season with the steak seasoning. Season 1 1/2 cups of the flour as well and dredge the pork chops in the flour mixture.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. In batches, fry the pork chops for 4-5 minutes per side. Drain the chops on a paper towel.

Discard most of the oil from the frying pan, leaving the dredges in the bottom. Slowly add the hot water to the pan; add the chicken broth and whisk in the remaining flour. Add the onions and a little bit of Kitchen Bouquet for color. Season with salt and pepper. The gravy will be thin at this point.

Return the chops to the pan and simmer on a low heat for 20 minutes. The gravy will thicken up. Serve hot.

Makes 6 servings.

Green Beans with Fingerling Potatoes

From Sunday Dinner: a Savor the South cookbook by Bridgette A. Lacy. Copyright 2015 by the University of North Carolina Press.  Used by permission of the publisher. www.uncpress.unc.edu

This Sunday supper staple is one of my favorites. I have fond memories of sitting at the red Formica table with my grandmother as we snapped the ends off the beans. Lots of conversation and laughter was exchanged between Grandma and me. My family normally cooked the green beans with white potatoes. Recently, during a visit to my mother’s house in Washington, D.C., she made this southern side with fingerling potatoes. My family loves this starch. My mother always says, “We are Virginians. We are potato people.” So she loads the dish with potatoes so the leftovers are not just the green beans. And don’t skimp on the butter, which really intensifies that good flavor of the green beans and potatoes.

Makes 6 servings

1 ½ pounds fresh green beans

10-11 fingerling potatoes

3 cups chicken broth

½ tablespoon Herbes de Provence

Salt and black pepper, to taste

2-3 pats salted butter

Rinse the green beans, snap off the ends, and break the beans into bite-sized pieces. Place the green beans and potatoes in a large pot and add the chicken broth. Cover the pot and cook the vegetables on medium-high heat for 30 minutes, periodically stirring them with a slotted spoon. Add the Herbes de Provence and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 10 more minutes or until the beans and potatoes are tender. Transfer to a serving dish and add the butter.

NOTE* Green beans and collards are sides you can build other meals around during the work week. This recipe pairs well with fried chicken on Sunday and fried fish on Monday.

Big Jimmy’s Coconut Pie

From Sunday Dinner: a Savor the South cookbook by Bridgette A. Lacy. Copyright 2015 by the University of North Carolina Press.  Used by permission of the publisher. www.uncpress.unc.edu

Papa liked his desserts sweet.  This coconut pie is no exception.  Enough said.

Makes 1 (9-inch) pie

2 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 ½ cups sweetened condensed milk

½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

4 ounces shredded unsweetened coconut

1 (9-inch) unbaked pie shell

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together. Add the cornstarch, milk, and butter and blend well. Add the coconut and stir until incorporated. Pour the filling into the pie shell. Bake until firm, about 45–50 minutes.

Cool and serve.

NOTE* Add a half teaspoon of vanilla extract to add a little bit more richness. Papa used Jiffy piecrust mix to make his piecrust.