Welcome to Blog Film Food! This is a collaboration of 8 bloggers having a monthly digital dinner and a movie. Each month we will have a new movie and each feature recipes inspired from it. I hope you join us in watching or making some of the recipes! We kicked off this month with Steel Magnolias—perfect for a bunch of Southern blogging women. I still remember my bridesmaid’s luncheon on my wedding day at the Commonwealth Club in Richmond, Virginia. I stood up to thank everyone (a small group of bridesmaids and family) and somehow this simple “thanks” turned into me giving a personal message to each guest. (I do NOT recommend giving impromptu speeches the day of your wedding, FYI.)
I saved my mother for last and gave what I thought was a special speech about how we fought constantly when I was growing up, but had turned into the greatest of friends. Apparently, I went into a little too much detail, sharing the time mom tried to help me with math and ended up calling me an unsavory name (well-deserved, I might add) before storming out. This resulted in some eyebrow-raising from my extended family (but much less than at the rehearsal dinner where Rob’s dad THE PASTOR told a story from Rob’s childhood about penises). Despite my good intentions, this remains one of those moments I think my mom would want to edit, if such a thing were possible.
I’m not sure if my mom and I fought because we are so alike or so different. Perhaps a little of both? No relationship is perfect, but I am so thankful we moved past the childhood days of fighting over curlers and clothing and boys and grades. Now we talk almost daily and if we don’t see each other for two days, it seems like a lifetime. With the addition of Cooper, there is a new mother-daughter story to be played out, and I hope we can skip past some of the conflict, pass go, collect $200, and have a great relationship.
But I fully expect that instead we may have the often-typical fiery relationship, not unlike the one M’Lynn and Shelby have in Steel Magnolias. It had been a long time since I watched this film and I loved it for its witty dialogue (and mostly, Dolly Parton). But watching now as a Mom, the relationship between Julia Roberts’ character Shelby and Sally Field’s character M’Lynn struck me the most. When M’Lynn isn’t thrilled about Shelby’s pregnancy, Shelby accuses her of being jealous now that she has lost control over her daughter. As a mother, I felt this accusation. Maybe because I know that one day, my children might mistake my fierce and loyal love for them as something else. Perhaps as I mistook my own mother’s love in the same way.
For now the days are peaceful as Mom, Cooper, and I enjoyed Southern Tea Sandwiches and a delightful lunch. Other than when Cooper started throwing pimento cheese. But hey—life is never perfect and what’s lunch without a little food-throwing?
For this first installment of Blog Film Food, I knew right off the bat that I wanted to do something related to the iconic armadillo groom’s cake. A cake was too big an undertaking, but I DO have an armadillo cookie cutter. I’ve already written extensively about sugar cookies and decorating them, so using the cookie cutter to make tea sandwiches seemed like the perfect fit.
I tried unsuccessfully at finding the history of how tea sandwiches moved from England to the South, where they seem to appear at baby showers, weddings, brunches, and any other affair involving “ladies.” The delicate fanciness of these types of sandwiches, historically served in England with hot tea, screams Old South with its love of tradition and pomp. I think of white gloves, ladies with manners, and a creaky ceiling fan on a screened-in porch. Southern history with its snobbery and all things mannerly seems a perfect fit for sandwiches so pretty that they cannot have crusts or heels. Parts of bread with such names are too undignified for a Southern lady!
While I love being from the South and knowing Southern history, I’m hardly a “lady of manners” and relate more to the single white bedazzled glove that Michael Jackson wore than to the white gloves we were made to wear at cotillion. (Cotillion: an exclusive club to which middle-school children are invited where they are forced to learn classic dances and proper manners much to their embarrassment and horror.) Making a tea sandwich in the shape of an armadillo seemed the perfect embracing of my Southern heritage with a little bit of sass—just like the main characters in Steel Magnolias.
I made three sandwiches: a classic cucumber, a pimento cheese, and a strawberry-basil with balsamic reduction. All were honestly fabulous, but my favorite was the strawberry-basil. I am not a vinegar fan (my first blog was entitled I Still Hate Pickles, if that tells you anything), so the smell of the balsamic reduction almost killed me. But the taste? OH MY WORD.
This sandwich was somewhere between sweet and savory. Some foods that mix the two give you a bite of one and then a bite of another, but this one somehow married both together. It was both rich and light, sweet and tangy. The first time I heard of the combination of strawberries and basil, I thought it sounded mad. My friend Jenna from the Gleeful Gourmand made them for her twin daughters’ baptism and I immediately changed my mind. I’m not sure where the thought to add the balsamic reduction came from, but it it popped into my head as the perfect balance. Boy, was it. I’m going to be making a long list of other things this reduction can top. I used this recipe from Mountain Mama as a starting point, but added sugar.
Pimento cheese is something that is only good when made fresh. And the hardest part, as I tweeted earlier, is sometimes opening the jar of pimentos. (I actually had a moment of panic when I didn’t think I could pry open the jar.) This recipe came from Marti at church and is simply fabulous. I added just a bit of fresh jalapeno, but the kick was slight. Even Cooper got in on the action, embracing her Southern roots. This sandwich most related to the movie, wherein the groom’s cake is shaped like an armadillo with red velvet cake inside so it looked like it was bleeding. This vibrant orange cheese came pretty close. (I did find a fun history of pimento cheese if you’re into that kind of thing.)
There are a million variations on the cucumber sandwich, but I didn’t use a recipe. Thinly sliced cucumbers (diced to better fit the armadillo shape) with a mix of mayonnaise and mascarpone fresca, an Italian cousin to cream cheese with a little less tang than cream cheese. To avoid loosing some of the insides of the sandwiches, I cut the bread first and then used the cutter almost as a mold to press the cucumbers onto the mascarpone-mayo mixture without losing a lot.
I even made sweet iced tea for the very first time ever—now I will for sure earn my Southern Girl badge of honor. I used a mix of two fruity Bigelow teas, let them steep, and added a few tablespoons of sugar while it was still hot. Ice and a little cool water in a crystal vase round this out. To give a nod to the British Tea Sandwich, we drank from tea cups.
- White bread (I used sourdough, sliced thinly with no crusts and no heels)
- 1/2 cucumber sliced thinly and diced
- 2-3 T mascarpone fresca
- 1-2 T mayonnaise
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1 16-oz block sharp cheddar cheese, grated
- 1 jar pimentos
- 2-3 T mayonnaise
- 1/4 fresh jalapeno, seeded and diced
- a few shakes Worcestershire sauce
- 5 large strawberries, sliced thin and diced
- 4-5 T mascarpone fresca
- 1 large sprig fresh basil (about 6-8 leaves)
- 1 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 T sugar
- Slice the cucumber thinly and then dice. In a small bowl, combine the mascarpone and the mayonnaise. Add salt and pepper to taste. If using a distinctly-shaped cookie cutter, cut the bread ahead of time, then spread one side with the mascarpone mixture, place the cookie cutter back around that slice and press the cucumbers into the mascarpone. Remove the cookie cutter. Spread the mascarpone on the corresponding slice of bread and close up the sandwich, pressing together, but not so hard as to squish everything out.
- In a food processor, combine half the cheese with the drained jar of pimentos and jalapenos. Blend until soupy. Transfer to a bowl. Add the rest of the cheese, mayonnaise until you get the consistency you like, and a few shakes of Worcestershire. You can either use the same method to fill as the cucumber if you like your mixture looser, but if it's firm, you can spread it on a slice of bread with a knife and it will hold and not spill even when you place the top on the sandwich.
- In a small pot, bring 1 cup balsamic to a simmer. Reduce heat and stir for 20-30 minutes until thickened and reduced. I added 1 tablespoon of sugar when it had been about 15 minutes and made sure to stir until incorporated. Slice and dice strawberries and chop the basil finely. Spread mascarpone generously on a slice of bread, then top with the strawberries and basil. Drizzle with the fully-reduced balsamic. Spread a little more mascarpone on the other slice of bread and press gently to close.
- -These are the kinds of sandwiches best made to the house's request. As in, there are not a lot of exact measurements. Use this as a guide and find your own best ratios to taste.
- -Freezing the bread ahead of time is supposedly very helpful for cutting.
- -You can either fill two normal slices with the filling and then cut out the shapes, or cut out the bread shapes and fill, using the cookie cutter as a mold to keep the insides from falling out until you are ready to assemble.
My mom and I thoroughly enjoyed our (iced) tea party and she reminded me of the time she got to meet and have dinner with Dolly Parton. (My mom grew up with a well-known Nashville producer who is fabulous and works with Dolly.) My Mom complimented her on her performance in Steel Magnolias to which Dolly said she was just playing herself. Knowing that I kept my nails short to play guitar, my Mom also marveled at Dolly’s long and perfect nails.
“How do you play guitar with such long nails?” my Mom asked.
Dolly smiled sweetly and replied, “Very well, thank you.”
Skillet Cornbread from Kathy at Penney Lane Kitchen
Fried Pickles from Jessica at Family Fun Journal
Not So Bleeding Armadillo Cookies from Julie at White Lights on Wednesday
Potato Salad from Miranda at The Involuntary Housewife
Poor Boy Chicken Fried Steak from Kristi at Moms Confession
Strawberry Cake with Lemon Buttercream Icing from Kelley at The Grant Life
Mint Juleps from Joanie at ZagLeft
Banana Pudding Poke Cake from Brenda at Meal Planning Magic