Southern Voices on Pecans: Robert Stehling, Hominy Grill

Southern Voices on Pecans: Robert Stehling, Hominy Grill

Southern Voices: Robert Stehling, Hominy Grill
By Stephanie Burt of The Southern Fork












Piedmont North Carolina bleeds into coastal plains on one side and climbs up into the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains on the other, and in the middle, the green rolling hills of the region are dotted with towns and cities along the transportation corridors, stretches of farmland and piney woods in between. One of those towns is Kernersville, and it’s the childhood home of chef Robert Stehling, who has since helped another region -- the South Carolina Lowcountry -- become famous through his cooking at Hominy Grill in Charleston, SC.

Still, it was in Kernersville that he learned how essential pecans are to the Southern pantry, and it’s a knowledge that has never left him. “Pecans are one of the first things my brother and I learned to collect,” he recalls, “and we’d ramble around in the woods and through the neighborhood collecting them, then sit in front of the TV and have competitions on who could pile up the most perfect halves. In a real sense, it made us aware of the food that was growing around us.”

Years later, when he began to develop the menu for Hominy Grill (and way before his cooking won him a James Beard award for Best Chef: Southeast), he very purposefully made sure to include pecans in various items on the menu. For him, it’s simple: “Pecans are a natural part of the grains of Southern cooking,” he explains. “They’re woven very deeply into the cuisine, and the point [of Hominy Grill] was to cook a Southern identity. Pecans are in our DNA.”

And the following recipe might become part of your family’s holiday DNA as well. It’s easy and filled with festive flavors.

Pumpkin Gingerbread
2 c. all purpose flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp.  baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. mustard powder
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 c. canned pumpkin
1/2 c. chopped pecans
1/3 c. strongly brewed coffee, room temperature

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spray and flour a 9x5 loaf pan.
  3. Sift dry ingredients, set aside.
  4. With the paddle attachment of your mixer, cream butter and sugar for 5-7 minutes until light in color.
  5. Slowly add eggs, one at a time. Scrape down sides of bowl.
  6. Add pumpkin and pecans, incorporate well.
  7. With mixer on low, alternately add dry ingredients and coffee until fully incorporated.
  8. Bake at 350 for about an hour and ten minutes. Allow to cool in pan for 10 minutes before turning out.


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