Riding the Wholesome Wave

The South’s most prestigious culinary talents gather for an evening of charity and community.

An open-air pavilion near the edge of a pond at Serenbe in Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia, is buzzing as tablecloths are snapped into place and ice buckets brimming with beverages are set down with a slosh. From fields filled with parked cars, a parade of folks carrying casserole dishes and bowls are heading toward the pavilion. What appear to be members of a large family gathering are actually Atlanta’s beloved chefs toting their favorite recipes—soon to be served on the groaning table at an event benefiting Wholesome Wave Georgia.

There are many great food events in Atlanta these days—perhaps too many—but the chefs and diners who participate in The Southern Chefs Potluck at Serenbe claim it as their favorite. It’s a day when chefs can serve their choice of vegetable sides, pickles and desserts potluck-style, and then sit down among their own families as well as ticket holders to enjoy the meal. It’s a time of fellowship in addition to being a fundraiser for a worthy cause.

Wholesome Wave Georgia works to provide all Georgians with access to fresh, nutritious, locally grown food. Community members who rely on SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits are now able to use their EBT cards (food stamps) at local farmers markets, where they have access to a wide selection of organic food. Each SNAP dollar spent at Wholesome Wave partner markets throughout Georgia is turned into $4: each dollar is turned into $2, doubling the buying power for the shopper. The 2014 event was a wild success, raising a record-breaking $118,000 for Wholesome Wave Georgia, which translates into $236,000 worth of local, sustainable food benefits that will help more families afford fresh, healthy produce from community farmers markets.

The Southern Chefs Potluck is more than simply another culinary-themed fundraiser; it has become a family reunion—a diverse family of food-loving folks gathered around one table to eat well and do good. The 6th Annual Southern Chefs Potluck will be held on September 13, 2015; visit wholesomewavegeorgia.org.


Potato Gratin with Mushroom Gravy

Recipe by Chef E. J. Hodgkinson of King + Duke
Serves 6

Potato Gratin

2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 pound russet potatoes
1 pound sweet potatoes
1 quart heavy cream
2 shallots, finely diced
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
½ cup grated Grana Padano cheese (or Parmesan)

Note: This dish can be made with just russet potatoes or just sweet potatoes. Any mixture of mushrooms can be used for the gravy, but it is important to have shiitake because of the meaty flavor and texture. The gravy can be made vegetarian with vegetable stock.

Preheat oven to 250°F. Butter a 9 x 11-inch baking dish. Peel and slice the potatoes 1/8 inch thick, placing them directly in the heavy cream, in another dish, as you slice them. Put a single layer of potatoes in the bottom of the baking dish, overlapping them slightly. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and some of the shallots. Combine the two cheeses, and sprinkle a layer of cheese over the shallots. Start overlapping another layer of potatoes, salt, pepper, shallots and cheese. Repeat with another layer of each until you run out of potatoes and cheese. You should have 3 layers, but if you use a different size dish, you may have more. Gently pour the cream over the gratin until the liquid comes about halfway up. Place the dish in the oven and bake for about 40 minutes or until you can easily pierce the potatoes with a knife. Turn the broiler on to brown the cheese, keeping a very close eye on it.  Remove from the oven and allow to rest for a few minutes before serving.

Mushroom Gravy

Makes about 2 quarts
1 pound shiitake and cremini mushrooms
½ cup butter (1 stick), kept cold
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock, chilled
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Thinly slice all of the mushrooms. Place the cold butter and mushrooms in a cold sauté pan, and place over low heat. When the butter is melted, turn the heat up to medium-high, add the flour and stir to create a bit of a paste, cooking until the flour mixture starts to turn a little brown and starts to emit a nutty aroma, 2 to 3 minutes. Pour in 1½ quarts of the cold stock, reserving about 2 cups in case you need more liquid to thin down the gravy. Stir vigorously to incorporate, turn down the heat to medium and add the thyme and parsley. Cook for another couple of minutes, and then remove from the heat and add the salt, pepper and lemon juice. Keep warm, and serve with the gratin.