Kraft on Craft:
"Mash-ups" with a Southern accent—Chef Bowen Ricketts does it right
Biscuits, fried chicken, popovers, grits: What's not to love about Southern food? This homey cuisine is taking centre stage on mainstream menus, with show-stopping "mash-ups" of traditional dishes updated with well-placed global accents.
No one expresses this trend better than Taylor Bowen Ricketts, chef-owner of Delta Bistro in Greenwood, Mississippi. With a motto of "homegrown food, better than yo mama's," this eclectic eatery delivers classic Cajun and Creole recipes influenced by flavours from all over the world. From a banh-mi-meets-po'-boy of fried oysters, country ham, radish and mint to a saffron-scented angel hair pasta with crawfish and edible flowers, the delicious mash-ups at Delta Bistro help explain the rising popularity of Southern comfort with a global spin.
"More than 60% of consumers say they enjoy dishes that feature a fusion of flavours from more than one type of cuisine."
—2013 Technomic Canadian Flavour Consumer Trend Report
We asked Chef Bowen Ricketts to create a Southern-inspired dish with universal appeal. She came back to us with so many fantastic ideas, we couldn't pick just one. After much deliberation, we settled on two: Dijon Grilled Chicken & Pimento Cheese Quesadillas and Bourbon & Cola Chicken Sliders.
Perfect as a sharable appetizer, bar snack or entrée, Bowen Ricketts' recipe adds Southern flair to a menu standard. She first creates a white barbecue-like marinade with Dijon mustard, Kraft Mayo Calorie-Wise Real Mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, sugar, garlic and seasoning.
Next comes a twist on a true Southern staple. Bowen Ricketts' homemade pimento cheese features a special secret ingredient: Velveeta Loaf. "The Velveeta Pimento adds this amazing creaminess to the quesadilla," she says. "It takes it to a whole other level."
Caviar of the South
Pimento cheese traces its roots to fun party food. "It says 'community' down here," says Bowen Ricketts. "Everyone loves it." At Delta Bistro, you'll find this must-have spread baked into hashbrowns, stuffed in poblanos and stirred into cornbread batter.
For her Kraft challenge, Bowen Ricketts created a flavourful version with Velveeta Loaf.
"The texture of Velveeta is really smooth. It's customer-friendly because of its wonderful consistency and mild flavour," she says.
Delta Bistro Velveeta Pimento Cheese
- 1 lb. Velveeta Loaf, finely diced
- 1 cup diced pimentos
- ¼ cup Kraft Mayo Calorie-Wise Real Mayonnaise
- 2 Tbsp. scallions, sliced
- 2¼ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1½ tsp. Dijon mustard
- ½ tsp. cider vinegar
- ½ tsp. hot sauce
- ½ tsp. celery seed
Combine all ingredients. Makes about 2 cups.
Bourbon & Cola Chicken Sliders
For her second dish, Bowen Ricketts used Kraft products to up the flavour ante of a signature Delta Bistro menu item. Her sliders start with chicken breast, bathed in bourbon and cola, then battered, fried and layered on a buttered sweet roll with fried celery leaf. It's not easy to improve on a masterpiece but she did, switching out the butter for a spread of Kraft Mayo Calorie-Wise Real Mayonnaise with fried garlic chips, green onion, pimento and hot sauce. The result? Pure deliciousness.
If you were sent to a desert island, what three ingredients would you take with you?
Fresh garlic, a live chicken and a dairy cow.
What's the biggest seller on your menu?
They're all good sellers—if it's on the regular menu, it's selling well.
What dish carries the best profit margin?
I have two: Fried Green Tomatoes with Comeback Sauce and the Black-Eyed Pea Cakes with Rémoulade.