17 January 2010

Susan Mason’s Silver Service

I got another cookbook from Ann for Christmas. Susan Mason’s Silver Service. Mason is a legendary caterer in Savanna. It is not unusual for clients to fly Susan and her staff to New York or Los Angeles for a party.

I am kicking off a week of cookbooks from Alabama and while Susan Mason has been based in Savannah for years, she was raised in Dothan, Alabama, so she is slipping in on a technicality. Mason fondly remembers a sign at the local country club that read, “No Pea-Shelling By The Pool.” Amusing as it is prophetic. If you get peas from Susan mason you can rest assured they are shelled by hand – though not by the pool.

Mason learned to navigate a kitchen from her mother and grandmother. They practiced a long-standing Southern tradition of having a grand Sunday Dinner*. I learned from my mother and great-aunts. Our Sunday Dinners were required social events. As a teenager, I loathed them, now I long to re-create them.

It was interesting to flip through Mason’s book, as many of her recipes are old Southern classics. They are not what one might think of as “catering” foods and yet Mason makes them seem extraordinary. At sit-down events, Mason loves to serve this crab salad. The key is to use the finest lump crabmeat.

Jumbo Lump Crabmeat with Pink Sauce

Pink sauce

2 cups mayonnaise
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup brandy

8 to 10 ounces mesclun greens
1 pound jumbo lump crabmeat, drained
100 toast points

Make the pink sauce by combining the mayonnaise, ketchup, and brandy in a small bowl and mixing well.

Arrange a bed of greens on a platter. Mound the crab on the greens and pour the pink sauce on the top.

Serve with toast points.

What a gloriously simple yet sumptuous first course. Girls from Alabama know how to party.

* For the great-unwashed Yankees among you, “dinner” in the South is “lunch” and “supper” is dinner. In my family, dinner was at high noon, unless it was Sunday when dinner was moved back an hour so everyone could arrive from church. Supper was at 6 o’clock PM. There was never a variation. My Father (a great unwashed Yankee) once delivered my Mother and I to a grand dinner celebration in our honor, hours late. He was told to arrive for dinner and made sure we there hours early – for supper. Dinner was practically over by the time we arrived. It was the last time he made that mistake.

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