The Lovely Details: Bourbon and Sweet Tea Punch


Last weekend we hosted the First Annual WeHaveAnOldHouse Dinner Party to thank our contributors, early supporters and family in addition to celebrating the first six months of the blog.

It was such a treat to see everyone together and to enjoy some outrageously good Southern food including Cecelia’s homemade French dressing served with a tomato, avocado and red onion salad AND used as a dipping sauce for fried chicken.

Since no proper dinner party is complete without a welcome cocktail, we thought we’d polish up the silver punch bowl and cups and create a signature drink that combines our Aunt Jen’s Sweet Tea recipe and our love of bourbon. Our guests definitely enjoyed it.

We hope you do too.

The WeHaveAnOldHouse Bourbon and Sweet Tea Punch

Two cups sweet ice tea (recipe follows)
One 12 oz can frozen OJ
One 12 oz can frozen limeade
Add bourbon to taste (we use about 2/3 of a 750 ml bottle of Buffalo Trace bourbon)
7 cups water
Mix all ingredients and chill.

Aunt Jen’s Sweet Tea
(What Southerners Talk About When We Talk About Y’all), published in October, 2014

8 cups of water
3/4 cup sugar
6 regular tea bags
Lots of ice

Bring 8 cups of water to a boil in a large pot. Once the water is rolling, add in the sugar and bring back to a boil for about a minute. Turn the heat off and add the tea bags. Then just let it sit until the tea is thoroughly steeped and cooled down. Pour some into a glass with ice—preferably crushed—and enjoy!

Cecelia’s Homemade French Dressing
(The Nectar of the Gods) published in September, 2014

1 can of Campbell’s tomato soup
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1/3 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1 Tbsp Worcestershire
1 Tbsp dry mustard
Dash of garlic powder

Pour all ingredients into blender and pulse until fully combined.

Divide into three small jam jars or other containers. Refrigerate for up to three weeks.

Cooking for Eudora


“…like all good visits snatched from the jaws of time…” – Eudora Welty, letter to William and Emily Maxwell, June 10, 1970.

This is how I feel when my friend Cecelia and I meet for lunch—whether it’s a long overdue catch-up like the one we enjoyed today or a brief conversation over a sandwich.

Cecelia is also a world class cook with intuition: the friend who somehow senses that you didn’t quite make it to the grocery or that while the husband is travelling you will probably settle into a giant bowl of cereal for dinner. Without having to say a word, she will appear on the doorstep with a perfect Flow Blue Platter full of her famous “Macho Salad” or pork tenderloin with apples saying “I just made way too much and we’ll never finish it all.”

Cecelia is a gracious Southerner in the tradition of Eudora Welty’s neighbor and the Southern Living cookbook author Winifred Green Cheney, who kept the great writer as well as many other friends and neighbors sustained.

“She cooks to honor the visitor, and also she cooks for a varying but ever-present list of neighbors or friends who are convalescing from illness, who are in trouble of some kind, who are alone or confined to their homes,” Welty wrote in the preface to Cheney’s 1976 cookbook The Southern Hospitality Cookbook.

“The original Lady Bountiful was the invention of an Irish dramatist in 1707,” Welty wrote. “Winifred exists as her own version. She makes her rounds with baskets and trays as a simple extension of her natural hospitality. In good weather but especially in bad, splashing forth in raincoat and tennis shoes, carrying a warm cake straight from her oven, she sympathizes with you or celebrates with you by sharing her table with you.”

In addition to being a world-class neighbor, Cheney was a food columnist for The National Observer and also wrote the Southern Living Cooking for Company as well as the books Singing Heart and Singing His Song. Although her recipes are definitely from the 1970s sour cream loving era, I take some comfort in the fact that Cheney died at the age of 87 in 2000; Welty died the following year at age 91.

My favorite recipe from Cheney’s Southern Hospitality is the Sour Cream Pound Cake which she introduces with little fanfare other than “With no exceptions, this is the best pound cake I have ever tasted.”


Sour Cream Pound Cake

“Let me be confined to my typewriter with a deadline, and, as though it were a fate I didn’t deserve, Winifred appears with something on a tray to sustain me,” Eudora Welty.

Preheat oven to 325

1 ½ cups butter, room temperature
3 cups sugar
6 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup sour cream
3 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon flavoring (vanilla, lemon or ½ teaspoon vanilla and ½ teaspoon almond)

Cream butter until it has reached the consistency of whipped cream. When you think you have creamed it enough, cream it some more. Slowly dribble in sugar a tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in sour cream. Put measured flour into sifter with soda and salt, and resift three times. Add flour ½ cup at a time to creamed butter, blending well with mixer on lowest speed. Add flavoring.(Cheney used vanilla and almond along with two tablespoons brandy. I use orange blossom honey moonshine).

Pour batter into one tube pan, greased and lined with parchment paper. Bake for 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hours or until cake tests done. Cool on rack 15 minutes and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Remove from pan and continue to cool.


New Year’s, Collards and Potlikker


“Greasy grit gravy and gizzard greens
Big fat pie and mobo beans
Make you wanna split your jeans
Eatin’ greasy grit gravy and gizzard greens.”                        From the song Greasy Grit Gravy, lyrics by Shel Silverstein

In the South, legend has it that if you eat a serving or two of collard greens on New Year’s Day you’ll have riches in the New Year. Each bite symbolizes $1,000.

We eat so many collards throughout the year you would think our last name would be Gates or Rockefeller by now. Without any financial incentives we do collards as a side dish, at brunch topped with fried eggs, or as a main dish spooned over spaghetti squash with bacon.

Collards are the original kale; but better. They can be cooked any way you see fit and are also full of great anti-oxidants even when boiled with a ham hock.

Every Southern cook I know has their own “special” collard recipe: Leslie adds cabbage to her collards, Tristan throws onions and garlic into his pot, but I prefer the smoky potlikker-style collard recipes.

Potlikker is the best part about any kind of green. (Pookie loves it so much that she has a hat from the Southern Foodways Alliance that says “Potlikker, it’s a SFA thing”). That delicious pork seasoned broth can be saved and turned into soup, reduced into sauces or as Craig Claiborne suggested in his book Southern Cooking, “If you want to be fancy, you can always make cornmeal dumplings to float on top of the cooking liquid.”

In our house, potlikker doesn’t last long enough to make it to the fancy dumpling stage, and only rarely to the soup stage. We usually take what’s left and pour it over some corn bread and eat the dripping goodness with no shame, although sometimes over the sink.

Here are a few of our varieties of collard greens recipes.

Happy New Year!

Tristan’s Big Batch of Greens
1 onion
6 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Smoked ham trimming and bone
6 heads of collard greens, cleaned and chopped (no stems)
In very large pot, bring 1 and a half gallons of water to a boil. Add onion, garlic, salt, ham trimmings and bone. Simmer for 30 minutes. Add greens and cook for 1-2 hours until tender.

Sunday Collards, The Lee Bro.’s
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 smoked ham hock or ¼ pound slab of bacon, diced
8 cups of water
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3 ¾ pounds of collard greens, ribbed, washed, and cut into 1 inch wide strips (confession: I use the pre-washed and pre-chopped collards and they work just fine in lieu of a direct garden connection)

Pour oil into an 8-quart pot over medium-high heat and swirl until it covers the bottom. Once the oil is hot and shimmering, put the ham hock or bacon in to sear and let the fat render. Takes about 5-6 minutes.

Pour the water into the hot pot. Then add the red pepper flakes and salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer the cooking liquid for 30 minutes.

Then add in the collards by the handful. They will try to float so stir them often, fully submerging them, until they’re a bright green. They’ll become floppier and more compact, so you can add more handfuls. Continue adding handfuls of collards, stirring and submerging them, until all greens are in the pot (6-10 minutes). Turn the heat to low and simmer very gently for 1 hour. The greens will be a very dark matte green and completely tender.

From The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook, Stories and Recipes for Southerners and Would-Be Southerners, Matt Lee and Ted Lee, 2006.

And check out the great work going on at the Southern Foodways Alliance at


Work Night Arroz Con Pollo


I remember the smell of the sofrito coming from the stove as I played with my two great childhood friends in their house located just a few feet from mine. Because I was a child I never fully understood that just a few years before this family lived a very different life in their native Cuba…before they were forced to make a dangerous escape to the United States as a young couple with two small girls and leave everything behind except the clothes they were wearing.

This extended family became a loving window to a larger world for me. One grandmother was a painter who patiently sat with us at the small dining room table as we drew and colored pictures trying to impress her. A grandfather was convinced that he could teach me to speak Spanish but gave up after a few days declaring with a smile and a wink that it was an impossible task due to my Southern accent.

The food that came out of that small kitchen was unlike anything I had ever imagined. Golden fried plantains, heaping bowls of black beans over white rice and for New Year’s, a whole pig roasted in a pit dug in their back yard and served on a giant platter complete with an apple in its mouth.

Arroz Con Pollo, or chicken and yellow rice, was always my favorite and one of the thousands of versions of it is still served at every church dinner, local festival or fundraising event around Florida.

“If the mockingbird is the Florida state bird and the orange blossom the state flower, then chicken and yellow rice may well have become the state dish,” Jane Nickerson wrote in her 1973 Florida Cookbook.

And while I have tried many “reinventions” of the recipe, the old Spanish-based one from Tampa’s Columbia restaurant remains the best. Unfortunately, work nights call for some short cuts but this is a delicious standby using a store bought rotisserie chicken and some items already in your pantry (especially the packaged rice when you don’t happen to have saffron on hand.)

But even in this short-cut version, the smell of that sofrito still carries me right back to those days on Crystal Terrace…

Work Night Arroz Con Pollo

1 store bought rotisserie chicken (I use either a no flavor or a mojo flavored chicken if you can find it)
1 small white onion sliced
Two cloves garlic minced
1 small can chopped tomatoes drained
1 small green pepper chopped
A 16 ounce bag of yellow rice mix (I use Vigo)
Frozen small peas cooked to package instructions
1 jar of sliced pimentos

Preheat the oven to 350

Quarter the chicken and set aside. Prepare the rice to package instructions preferably in a large covered oven proof pot. Sauté sliced onions and garlic until tender, and then add tomatoes and green pepper to heat through. When the rice is done, add the onion mixture to the pot and give a big stir. Add the chicken to the top, cover and place in the oven until heated through, usually about 15-20 minutes. Add heated peas and sliced pimentos to taste.

Serve with a warm loaf of Cuban bread (or any crusty bread) and ENJOY!