Elevated & Elegant: Recipes for a Southern Brunch with NC Flair

Take a classic meal of biscuits, green beans, and quiche up a notch using food products made in North Carolina.
by Debbie Moose | photography by Taylor McDonald | Styling by Cameron Jones

Vintage silverware from Beau Dandy Goods. Vintage champagne bucket, coupes, plates and finger bowls from Curated and Company.

If there’s anything we’ve learned this past year, it’s that there’s much good to be found close to home. Raleigh and North Carolina generally boast all manner of food purveyors who create delicious products worth adding to the menu. Cookies, salsa, pickles, jellies, smoked fish, dairy products — there are so many ways to eat local!

For this menu, we shopped farmers markets, specialty stores, and the local aisles of the bigger grocers to find Carolina products that can offer creative ways to brighten a spring brunch. Whether you’re celebrating Mother’s Day, an anniversary, or just a spring day, consider updating your usual recipes to incorporate local ingredients.

Pickled Okra

Look for locally made pickled okra at farmers markets like Bruce Julian’s Sassy Okra or from brands like Carolina Country Store and Durham-based Stone Brothers & Byrd.

1 16-ounce jar pickled okra (hot or mild)
1/2 pound thinly sliced smoked turkey deli meat
1 8-ounce tub soft spreadable cream cheese, at room temperature

Drain the pickled okra and gently pat the pods dry with paper towels. Trim any long stems.

Lay a slice of turkey out on a cutting board (if the slice is large, trim it to about 5 inches long by the width of the okra pod). Gently spread a thin layer of cream cheese on the turkey, taking care not to tear it.

Place an okra pod at one end of the slice and roll it up inside the turkey, gently pressing as you go. Stop when the okra is covered and trim off any remaining meat. Slice the stem off the roll to display the layers.

Repeat with remaining ingredients. Refrig- erate, covered, until ready to serve. Makes about two dozen pieces.

Sweet Potato Biscuits with Ham & Pepper Jelly

Sweet, salty, and spicy — these biscuits have it all! Use hot pepper jelly such as Peggy Rose’s or Fair Game Flying Habanero Pepper Jelly for a kick. To go mild, consider a sweeter jelly like Duplin Winery’s Muscadine Pepper Jelly, which uses native muscadine grapes.

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder 1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg or mace
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 1/2 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes
1 cup buttermilk
1 10-ounce package country ham
Pepper jelly

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg or mace. Use a pastry blender to cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.

In a medium bowl, combine the sweet pota- toes and buttermilk. Stir the potato-buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture. Stir just until the dough comes together; don’t over-mix. Add a little buttermilk if the dough isn’t holding together; it should be very moist.

Lightly flour a clean work surface and your hands. Turn the dough out onto the surface and knead lightly to combine without adding too much flour. Press or roll out the dough to a 1/2-inch thickness. Cut out biscuits with a 2-inch or 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter or round cookie cutter. Place the biscuits on the baking sheet very close together but not touching. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly brown. Watch carefully near the end to avoid scorching. Remove the biscuits to a cooling rack.

While the biscuits are cooling, cook the ham according to the package directions. Drain well, then cut into biscuit-sized pieces. To serve, slice the biscuits in half, spread each half with a thin layer of pepper jelly, and place ham pieces inside. Makes about 15 biscuits.

Smoked Trout Quiche

North Carolina smoked trout, like the variety offered by Sunburst Farms, adds rich flavor to this quiche. Save time by making it a day ahead, then refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.

1 9-inch pie crust, unbaked
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup half-and-half 1 cup milk
3 – 4 eggs
1/2 tampon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup shredded smoked trout

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 9-inch pie or quiche pan with the crust. Set aside.

Place a sauté pan over medium heat and add the butter. When the butter is melted, add the green onions and mushrooms. Sauté for a few minutes until the vegetables are slightly brown. Remove from the heat.

In a large bowl, whisk together half-and- half, milk, eggs, salt, and pepper until well blended. Spread the smoked trout, green onions, and mushrooms evenly over the crust. Pour the egg mixture slowly into the crust, trying to keep the filling ingredients evenly distributed. Bake for 30 – 45 minutes, or until the filling is set. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes one quiche.

Roasted Green Beans with Sweet Salsa

The beans’ roasted flavor works well with a fruit-based salsa, such as Cape Fear Pirate Candy’s Pineapple Bacon Salsa. For a savory flavor, use a traditional salsa, like one from Yah’s Best.

2 strips bacon
1 1/2 pounds fresh green beans
1/2 a small onion, peeled and cut into chunks
1/4 cup olive oil
4 tablespoons salsa

Fry the bacon until very crispy and drain well. Crumble and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spread the green beans and onion chunks in a single layer on a baking pan with a rim. Pour on the olive oil and toss gently. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft and slightly brown. Stir if they’re cooking unevenly.

Using tongs, transfer the vegetables to a bowl or serving tray, letting excess oil drain off. Add the salsa and toss to coat the vegetables. Sprinkle on the bacon and serve. Makes 4 servings.

Buttermilk Pecan Dressing

The state is fortunate to have local dairies, including Homeland Creamery and Maple View Farm, and rich buttermilk makes a flavorful dressing for spring greens.

3 tablespoons chopped pecans
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons sorghum
1/4 cup olive oil

Toast the pecans for a couple of minutes in a small frying pan over medium-low heat, stirring frequently to prevent burning. When the nuts are fragrant, remove from the pan and let cool.

In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk, vinegar, salt, pepper, and sorghum together briskly until well combined. Slowly add the olive oil, whisking briskly, and whisk until all the ingredients are combined. Stir in the pecans. Makes about 1/2 cup. Use it to dress a salad with spring greens and vegetables.

Bourbon-Pecan Mini Cheesecakes

Cookies like Tonya’s Pecan Crisps provide sweetness for this crust so you don’t need a lot of sugar in the batter. Double the local vibe by using bourbon from a North Carolina distillery, such as Mystic Farm or Pinetop. And some crushed peanuts from Hampton Farms would go well on top too.

12 small cookies
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons bourbon
2 eggs
Chopped toasted pecans and powdered sugar, or additional crushed cookies, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Put paper liners in 12 muffin cups. Place one whole cookie in the bottom of each cup. Put the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the bowl. If using a hand-held electric mixer, use a large bowl.

Add the sugars and beat just until combined. On medium speed, beat in the vanilla and bourbon just until combined, then beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl between each addition. Do not overbeat. A few chunks of cream cheese in the batter is okay. (Overbeating the batter may cause the cheesecakes to sink in the center after refrigeration — but they’ll still taste good, and the garnish will cover any flaws!)

Fill the muffin cups with the batter. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until the centers barely jiggle when the pan is tapped and the edges are set. Let cool completely in the pan on a rack, then cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight.

Toast the pecans for a couple of minutes in a small frying pan over medium-low heat, stirring frequently to prevent burning. When the nuts are fragrant, remove from the pan and let cool.

To serve, carefully lift the cheesecakes from the pan and place on a platter. Do not remove the liners from the cakes. Top with pecans and dust with powdered sugar, or lightly sprinkle on additional crushed cookies for garnish. Makes about 12.