Cookbook cover for THE SOUTHERN SYMPATHY COOKBOOK: Funeral Food with a Twist


Perre Coleman Magness

Countryman Press
January 16, 2018
ISBN-13: 978-1682680384

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Perre Coleman Magness is an event planner and food writer. She is the author of Pimento Cheese: The Cookbook and blogs at The Runaway Spoon. She has studied food and cooking around the world and lives in Memphis, TN

Comforting casseroles; jugs of sweet tea; creamy, cheesy potatoes—all these foods provide sympathy and sustenance for the bereaved. There are times when your instinct, your heart’s reaction, is to prepare food. To comfort a grieving family and remove at least one mundane worry from their day. To help out a friend in need who would do, or has done, the same for you. To feel useful in a fearful time.

The problem is, what exactly should you make to provide comfort, show kindness, and hopefully bring some joy? The recipes in this book are meant to do just that—be the perfect dish for the funeral gathering, or for a family in mourning at home. In THE SOUTHERN SYMPATHY COOKBOOK, author and event planner Perre Coleman Magness covers all the bases, from full-on casseroles and sheet cakes to salads, breakfasts, and snacks.

Sweet Tea Bread

Makes 1 loaf

Sweet Tea is so ubiquitous and all encompassing in the South, we use it in just about any way we can. This light, delicately flavored quick bread is perfect for breakfast or an afternoon gathering, packaged up nicely with a ribbon or sliced on a silver platter.

  • 1 family-sized tea bag
  • 2 sprigs mint, plus 1 tablespoon finely chopped mint
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • Zest of one medium lemon
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup confectioners’ sugar

Put the tea bag and 2 sprigs of mint in a measuring cup. Add 1 cup boiling water. Steep for 30 minutes, then remove the tea bag and mint. Cool to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Spray a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with baking spray.

Beat the butter and sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Beat in the lemon zest and 1 tablespoon of finely chopped fresh mint. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl.

Measure out ½ cup of the tea, reserving the rest for the glaze. Add the flour, baking powder and salt to the butter in the bowl in three additions, alternating with the tea and scraping down the sides of the bowl. When everything is well combined, beat on high for 5 seconds, then scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth into an even layer.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Meanwhile, prepare the glaze.

Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a small bowl. Whisk in the remaining tea slowly, until you have a pourable glaze about the consistency of heavy cream. Drizzle the glaze over the cake with a spoon, spreading to cover the top with a few attractive drips down the sides. Let the glaze set for about an hour.

The loaf will keep in an airtight container for a day.

The Visitation

Many Southern funerals include the visitation. That may sound like the spectral appearance of our departed loved one, but no. The visitation is the reception, frequently the day before or immediately after the funeral. It’s a chance for everyone to talk to the bereaved, share memories of the deceased, and really get their feed on. And, equally important, for the ladies in the equation to show off their skills in the kitchen. Friends and family of the recently departed are in the kitchen, bustling around in their funeral best, maybe with an apron thrown on top, looking for serving pieces and Saran Wrap, deciding what goes on the table and what goes in the fridge for later. In many small towns, the visitation is held in a church hall, with the ladies of the church supplying much of the food. In other places, the visitation takes place at the funeral home or the home of the deceased, with friends supplying the buffet.

Jambalaya Casserole

Serves 8

This Louisiana inspired chicken and rice casserole adds a little jazz to the standard casserole list. I love having the flavors of jambalaya in a make-ahead, buffet-friendly version.


For the Creole Seasoning:

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1½ teaspoons ground thyme
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • ¾ teaspoon ground oregano

For the Casserole:

  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 12 ounces bacon
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 pound andouille sausage
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 (14½-ounce) can petite cut diced tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1½ cups white wine
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup long grain white rice
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans red beans, rinsed and drained
  • ½ cup dry breadcrumbs

For the Creole Seasoning:

Place all the ingredients in a small jar and shake well to combine.


For the Casserole:

Cut the chicken breasts into small bite-sized pieces (I like to use scissors), place them on a plate and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the creole seasoning. Leave chicken to sit while you get on with things.

Cut the bacon into small pieces (again, scissors are handy) and place in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook until the bacon is crispy, then remove it to a plate or bowl lined with paper towels to drain. While the bacon is cooking, finely dice the onion, bell pepper, and celery. Cut the sausage in half lengthwise, then into pieces about as thick as a nickel.

When you remove the bacon from the pot, drop in the chicken pieces and cook for a few minutes until just sealed and lightly browned. Remove the chicken back to the plate with a slotted spoon. Drop the sausage into the pan and cook until it is browning, getting crispy, and beginning to curl up. Remove with a slotted spoon to paper towels.

Drain away all but ¼ cup of the fat. Add the diced onion, pepper, and celery to the remaining fat, sprinkle over another tablespoon of creole seasoning, then sauté over medium heat until the onion is soft and translucent, about 10 minutes.

Add the tomato paste, tomatoes, and bay leaves and continue cooking for another 2 minutes. Pour in the wine and broth and stir, scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring the sauce to simmer, then return the chicken to the  pot.

Stir in the sausage and rice to combine well and bring back to a low bubble. Cover the pot and cook for 15 minutes, stirring, until the rice is tender and some of the liquid has been absorbed. Bring back to a simmer and drop in the beans and the cooked bacon and stir.

Remove the bay leaves and simmer for 10 minutes. Leave to cool. At this point, the mixture will be a little soupy, but the liquid will be absorbed as it rests. Spoon the casserole into a 9-by-13-inch pan. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly over the casserole.

The casserole will keep wrapped tightly up to 2 days in the fridge.

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350ºF. Place the dish on a baking sheet and cook for 15 minutes until heated through.

These recipes may be reproduced with the following credit:

Recipes from THE SOUTHERN SYMPATHY COOKBOOK: Funeral Food with a Twist by Perre Coleman Magness. (Countryman Press; January 16, 2018; $22.95/Paperback, ISBN: 978-1682680384).

Contact: Michael Tizzano