Thursday, June 25, 2009

chess squares **AWESOME GUEST BLOGGER!!!**

Laziness is when you have an amazingly perfect and charming blog post written by someone else and you don't get around to posting it. In my defense, I've been pretty busy. But still. This is inexcusable.  Also, I was incredibly unlucky totally blessed that my computer bit the dust and wouldn't even turn on, but was magically resuscitated by a Genius at the Genius Bar.  It now has a new battery and a new lease on life.  So now that things have calmed down a bit and my computer is functioning once more, I am back on track.

A little over a week ago, I used my friend's recipe to make chess squares for a housewarming party.  As I anticipated, they were a huge hit.  So I asked my friend to share the recipe with you.  
Clay is a dear friend, and his blog post warmed my heart and brought a huge smile to my face. The things he writes below are Gospel truth, and remind me very much of the small West Florida (bordering Alabama and Georgia) town where my parents grew up and where some of my extended family still resides.  In fact, my dad often talks about the chess pie my great-grandmother used to make.  Clay's chess squares make the tastebuds dance and soothe the soul (and broaden the hips, but let's not think about that). Enjoy!

First of all, let me express my thanks to Lauren for the opportunity to write on this blog. I appreciate any opportunity I get to write or talk about my southern roots, which weren’t fully appreciated until I had reflected on them from a strange and foreign land – a land not flowing with pimento cheese and banana croquettes; a land often called The Big Apple. Well just reading that nickname you know it has to be the north…if that apple were below the Mason-Dixon line, it would be quickly baked into a cake with a nice glaze or at the very least dipped into some caramel sauce. This is a clear demonstration of the southern culinary ideology that I love so dearly and cling to in spite of the health stores I walk past in New York City. Southern “comfort food” is just that…comforting.

One thing that you need to understand about southern comfort cuisine is that it perhaps reaches its pinnacle under any given church steeple in the south on a Sunday at 12:15 (the invitation went long, in spite of the smell of homemade rolls wafting into the sanctuary) when a congregation gathers to share the most beautiful of occasions – a pot-luck meal. This is the moment that all of the older church ladies have their chance to shine. They’ve been waiting and planning for this all week. Correction: they’ve been preparing for this since they opened their first block of cream cheese! The time has finally arrived for them to put on display their full culinary prowess! This is not just a gathering for food, it’s an all-out competition. You see, as soon as the last pot-luck ended, preparations began for the next event. When someone goes through the food line and asks, “Who made this dish, it looks fantastic,” then the cook has just made it to the semi-finals; when the dish goes home empty, the cook has made the medal stand; and when someone asks the cook for the recipe, it’s cooking gold…

These ladies have been searching for and creating new recipes for months now. Testing, trying, tweaking until that casserole comes out of the oven in a perfect blend of cheese, butter, and substance (such as broccoli or pineapple). Their dish must be divine – cooking is their spiritual gift you know…

All kidding aside, it is important, however, to note that the traditional pot-luck (a full-out display of excess) does not simply fall into categories of competition or meeting physical needs, but instead represents needs that run much deeper – needs that reach into the realms of the emotional and social variety. When a pot-luck is shared, there is laughter, there are stories told, there is advice given, there are experiences that are shared, and ultimately, there are friendships that are deepened. This is camaraderie and fellowship in their purest and most decadent forms.

So with these words I offer a couple of recipes in the southern tradition, laden with butter and love. If you happen to use one of these recipes and have the great fortune to go home from your first pot-luck with an empty dish, by all means, don’t rest on your laurels! One of the church-ladies is already pulling a new rhubarb pie out of the oven!

Chess Squares
1 box yellow cake mix (lemon cake mix is also quite good)
1 stick of melted butter (oh yeaaaah!)
4 eggs
8 oz. cream cheese
1 lb. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix the cake mix, melted butter, and 1 egg (a soft dough will form). Press this mixture into a greased 9x13 inch pan. In a separate bowl, cream until fluffy the cream cheese and remaining 3 eggs. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla. Pour this mixture over the crust already in the pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes or until golden brown.

Pineapple Casserole
2 cans chunk pineapple, drained
1 c. sugar
6 Tbsp. flour
1 c. grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 tube Town House crackers, crumbled
1 stick margarine, melted

Mix sugar and flour and then add pineapple and cheese. Pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Spread crumbled crackers over top. Pour melted margarine over the crumbs. Cook at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.


Megan said...

So, the first time I read through this, I thought you were writing "Cheese squares" and I was like, really? You need a recipe for cheese squares? Even I can do that. Haha.

Lauren said...

that's hilarious, megs!

C. GeeRoo said...

As someone who has been lucky enough to taste Clay's chess squares, I can say that this post made my mouth water! Love the guest blogging!