Delta dining is the way to go

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 30, 2013

We recently went to the Delta for a conference sponsored by the National Trust’s Main Street Program. I went to visit Greenwood, the home of Viking Ranges and the Alluvian, a great old hotel that has been renovated across the street from Viking – “a cosmopolitan boutique hotel” as they describe it. I want to go back and do a session at the Viking Cooking School one of these days. The hotel was constructed in 1917 but closed in the 1980s. It was resurrected in 2003 by the Viking Range Corporation.

We had dinner at Giardino’s (pronounced Gardenia’s like the flower) in the Alluvian, which began in 1936. They still have the curtained alcoves dating from prohibition – a bit different and something I have never seen before. Another restaurant in Greenwood, Lusco’s, also has the curtained booths dating to 1933. There is no longer prohibition, so we had cocktails, then we shared oysters Giardino which were roasted with a slice of Benton’s bacon on top. Oysters and Benton’s – how can they go wrong? The main course for my husband was a catfish cake (apropos since Belzoni, the catfish capital is nearby) topped by comeback sauce, another Delta specialty although it may have begun in Jackson. I had a great pasta dish with a creamy basil pecan pesto, with Grana cheese and chicken.

Our finale meal was the next evening in Greenville, about 40 miles away. Doe’s Eat Place began in 1941. It’s a dive! One enters through the kitchen. There is no menu. We had been told to order tamales which we did; then their green salad, which is served with a fantastic lemon/oil dressing. The reason to go to Doe’s, however, is steak. We were told to share one, which we did. Out came this enormous T-bone – a couple of pounds– covering the whole plate. The side of fries had to come on another plate. No way I could eat one on my own, and even sharing we needed a doggie bag, and the dog had steak for three days.

So for something after the Thanksgiving leftovers try some catfish cakes with comeback sauce. A green salad dressed with olive oil and lemon juice would go just fine with the meal.



Makes 10 3oz. cakes

3 Tablespoons vegetable oil

2 lbs. boneless skinless catfish fillets, cut into 1-inch cubes

½ cup finely chopped red onion

1 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, and minced

¼ cup finely diced red bell pepper

2 teaspoons minced garlic

½ cup mayonnaise

½ cup finely sliced chives

½ cup cilantro leaf

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 ½ cups white bread crumbs (fresh or dried)

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon lime zest

Kosher salt

Fresh ground black pepper

1 ½ cups peanut oil

½ cup flour

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat.

Add the catfish, onion, jalapeño and garlic.

Sauté until the vegetables are wilted and the catfish is cooked through, about five minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the cooked fish and vegetables, mayonnaise, chives, cilantro, mustard, crumbs, eggs, zest, salt and pepper.

Form the mixture into 10 3-oz. patties; pack them fairly tight so it will stay together while cooking. Set these aside on a plate.

Heat the peanut oil in a pan until smoking slightly. Dust each cake with flour and gently slip into the hot oil.

Fry the cakes for approximately 2 minutes on each side, or until they are golden brown. Do not crowd the cakes but cook in batches.

Remove the cakes and drain on paper towels. Serve hot.


This in a basic recipe for Mississippi Comeback Sauce:




¼ cup of olive oil

¼ cup of chili sauce

¼ cup of ketchup

1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon of spice mustard

1 cup of mayonnaise

¼ teaspoon of freshly cracked black pepper

Couple dashes of hot sauce

¼ teaspoon of Cajun seasoning (like Slap Ya Mama), or to taste

½ teaspoon of onion powder

½ teaspoon of garlic powder

The juice of ½ of a lemon

Put all of the ingredients in a blender and process until well mixed. Taste and adjust for seasonings. Store in fridge. Use on everything!