Pot Luck that is! (Sorry. I couldn’t resist)
Some may argue that this post belongs over on my sister site, but I will make my case that this is as much about having ‘bama on the brain as it is about food in general. As many of you know, I grew up in Mobile, Alabama. Mobile is “big city” with a small community feel. A community rich in southern tradition and heritage. My parents, though, were transplants so I feel as though I lacked exposure to a great deal of southern tradition in my home–no debutante balls, no secret Mardi Gras societies, no enormous amoungs of fried food.
Food is a big part of southern tradition and, while food certainly had it’s place in my home, southern cooking was dangerously absent from my mother’s cooking repetoire. In fact, I have a very clear memory of going to my first shimp boil when I was 11 or so with my friend Lettie and her family. Lettie’s family was well versed in the ways of southern cooking and this was my first real experience with a huge pot of whole shrimp and crawfish boiled with corn and potatoes. There were lots of families gathered at this dinner feast with many kids much younger than I. They were all piling their plates high with shimp and crawfish, peeling furiously and much faster than I ever could. Lettie’s dear momma sat next to me and peeled shrimp and crawfish for me because she was afraid I wasn’t going to get any food otherwise! I’d never had to deal with heads AND legs before at the same time!
Pot Lucks are a big part of any american cooking culture and I do remember a few pot lucks from my very young childhood but I can’t remember for the life of me what kinds of dishes were there (with the exception of layered salad. I love layered salad) My current pot luck knowledge has come from my experience as an adult living in the midwest. Plenty of creamy casseroles, pasta dishes, etc. Kevin’s family, in particular, has some very distinct pot luck rituals. Someone always brings cheesy potatoes, broccoli casserole, brownies, and something with jello.
This weekend is a baby shower for my sister in law, Colleen. A few days ago, Kevin’s mom called to inquire if I would like to bring a green salad (why didn’t I think of the layered salad?) or “something jello”. At first, I was shocked to be asked such a thing. I love to cook and everybody knows it. Why would I be given two options that really didn’t involve any cooking?! I agreed, however, to bring the “something jello”. This “something jello” usually manifests itself in the form of a midwestern delicacy known as Strawberry Pretzel Jello.
I know. It sounds disgusting but I assure you it is delicious. And, I’ll have you know, I found the recipe I used this weekend in my “Best of Alabama” cookbook (I was looking for something southern AND jello to make).
Anyhow, my adventure began like this:
Then you mix these:
with some sugar and the melted butter to make a crust that you put in a pan like so:
You bake, and when the crust has cooled, you mix room temperature cream cheese, cool whip, and sugar together and spread it over the pretzel crust like this:
The key to keeping the pretzels from getting absolutely nasty and soggy is to “seal” the pretzels with the creamy mixture. You have to make sure it touches the edges of the pan and covers the crust completely and cool again (if you can) before adding what I refer to as phase 3, which is strawberry gelatin disolved in 2 cups of boiling water with frozen strawberries added. The final product will look something like this: