Charleston, S.C. native Carrie Morey knows a thing or two about entertaining. Her mother, Callie White, is one of Charleston’s most celebrated caterers, and Carrie is also known for her own cooking and entertaining style. As the owner of Callie’s Charleston Biscuits and two Hot little Biscuit restaurants in Charleston and Atlanta, she shares her buttermilk biscuit and plenty of other delicious recipes and entertaining tips and stories in her cookbook, Callie’s Biscuits and Southern Traditions: Heirloom Recipes from Our Family Kitchen.
In short, baking all those biscuits mean Morey knows a thing or two about a hot kitchen. But how does she keep her cool and keep the party going in the late summer heat and humidity? We asked just that, and she was happy to share her secrets.
- Turn on the stove or oven early in the day.
This time of year, Morey cooks hot meals before lunch and then serves them at room temperature in the evening. “For anything that doesn’t come off the grill, I look for cold sides, salads and things such as greens and cheeses that taste good at room temp,” she says. Besides keeping you cool, cooking in early in the morning will also save energy, since your home’s cooling system won’t have to battle the heat of the day and the heat in the kitchen.
- Freeze some fruit.
This sounds simple, but Morey puts a very fun spin on it that’s great for entertaining the kids. This mom of three adds fresh fruit to skewers, wraps them in plastic wrap and freezes them. The result is a cold, portable dessert the children can enjoy.
- Keep kitchen design in mind.
For her kitchen, Morey chose marble countertops and high-gloss stain on the floor. It might seem far away from a cooking tip, but since Morey lives in Charleston, which is hot and humid for much of the year, she planned for a cool kitchen in her recent home renovation. Marble countertops stay cool to the touch even on sweltering days, and since she has a backyard pool, she wanted high-gloss wood floors that are easy cleanup for wet footprints and cool on bare feet as well. Other additions, such as a ceiling fan in the kitchen and dining room and insulated curtains to keep the sun out, will also help you stay cool in the heat.
- Eat inside, then play outside after dusk.
“It’s just way too hot to eat outside before dark this time of year, and my family eats around 7 p.m. each night,” she says. “So we always eat inside, and always at the dining room table.” After dinner, porch lights and comfortable patio furniture can extend the evening a bit and create a place for great conversation before the children are off to bed.
- Choose in-season classics.
In summer, when the farmer’s market bounty is high, it doesn’t take much to bring something delicious to the table. Pickled cucumbers, onions and tomatoes often have a place at Morey’s parties. A fresh bean salad (Charleston has a bounty of field pea varieties grown in the area) tossed with arugula, herbs and soft cheese is another go-to dish. It’s just as easy to take on a boat picnic as it is to serve for a dinner party or weeknight supper, and it’s seasonal, cool and easy.
- Always use your “good” things.
When it’s steamy, candles, intricate centerpieces and party decor can seem fussy and hot. Instead, keep it cool and classy by keeping it simple. “Always use your good china and linens. That automatically dresses up a table, and I love seeing a table dressed simply with just a burlap runner and my family china. We never, ever use paper.”
Staying cool while cooking in the summer is no easy task, but these tips will help keep you and your guests happy and out of the heat.
About the Author:
Stephanie Burt is a native North Carolinian and the host of The Southern Fork, a weekly podcast where she travels with a fork and shares stories on the culinary South. Stephanie writes on kitchens, food and all things culinary for The Home Depot. If you’re researching patio furniture to help you entertain during the summer, you can find a selection on Home Depot’s website.