Eating It Up 

How to prepare a feast fit for the King.

If there's one thing we all know about Elvis, it's that he loved to eat. Greasy, gooey cheeseburgers. Crispy, deep-fried okra. Buttery biscuits with red-eye gravy. And those famous fried peanut-butter-and-'nanner sandwiches.

So what better way to honor the King during tribute week than to host an Elvis-themed dinner party? Invite all your closest friends, then stuff their faces with a feast fit for the King himself.

For starters, you have to create the right ambience. Entertain your guests with some Elvis tunes (on vinyl, if you've got it) or pop in some classic Elvis films for guests to watch as they await their meal. Encourage guests to come dressed as their favorite Elvis-era personality, such as Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, or Priscilla. At my Elvis party, dressing up was optional, so, of course, no one came in costume. Take away that option by offering a cash prize for the best-dressed. You'll find that money can inspire creativity.

Decor is also important. Place an eye-catching centerpiece like a giant ceramic peacock on your dining table. I chose to serve guests on gold plates for that Graceland feel.

Now, the fun part: food. For planning the menu, there are a number of Elvis cookbooks to check out as well as several Web sites devoted to Elvis' favorite recipes. Or, since Elvis liked basic Southern down-home cooking, anything your grandma made will probably work.

I chose a four-course menu made up of my adapted versions of recipes I found in my mother's collection of Elvis cookbooks and a few recipes from the Jalapeño Chicks' Elvis Style Seasonings Web site, Elvisstyleseasonings.com. A set of very original spice mixes created by two Memphis women, Cindy Hazen and Betty Harper, can be purchased on the site.

For starters, I fed my guests Elvis-style potato chips and Jailhouse Rock dip, a heavy-on-the-barbecue pair made with the Jalapeño Chicks' Jailhouse Rock BBQ seasoning, and classic fried peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches, a must-have at any Elvis party. Next was a hearty potato-cheese soup. The main course consisted of Jailhouse skillet supper (kind of like Hamburger Helper), baked macaroni-and-cheese, Beale Street Blues baked beans, and cornbread based on a recipe that supposedly came from Mary Jenkins, Elvis' personal cook. For dessert, I made fried apple pies.

By dessert, though, my guests all claimed to be too full to eat another bite. Considering the King's love for sweets, he probably turned over in his grave. So this is the last tip: Always invite people who will come prepared to eat and eat a lot. In fact, fasting before an Elvis dinner party is not a bad idea. If you're going to honor the King, you should come prepared to eat like one. n

Recipes

There are a million possibilities for an Elvis-themed dinner-party menu, but here are a few recipes I've test-driven that have proven to be crowd-pleasers. Note: These dishes can be made vegetarian-friendly with meat substitutes.

APPETIZERS

Elvis-style Potato Chips

(courtesy of the Jalapeño Chicks)

Serves 4-6

1 bag unsalted potato chips

Elvis Style Jailhouse Rock BBQ seasoning to taste

Place potato chips in a large bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds or until warm so the oil will rise to the surface. Place chips in a large plastic bag and sprinkle with Elvis Style Jailhouse Rock BBQ seasoning to taste. Shake well. Serve.

Jailhouse Rock Dip

(courtesy of the Jalapeño Chicks)

Serves 4-6

8 oz. sour cream

2 Tbsp. Elvis Style Jailhouse Rock BBQ seasoning

Stir Elvis Style Jailhouse Rock BBQ seasoning into sour cream. Chill several hours before serving with potato chips, raw vegetables, or crackers.

Fried Peanut-Butter-and-Banana

Sandwiches

Serves 6

3 ripe bananas

6 slices white bread

9 Tbsp. peanut butter

6 Tbsp. butter

1 tsp. brown sugar

In a small bowl, mash bananas with a fork. Mix bananas with peanut butter and brown sugar and mix well. Lightly toast bread in a toaster then spread peanut butter mixture on one side and butter on the other. Fry the sandwiches in a nonstick skillet. Cut into quarters and serve.

SOUP

Cheesy Potato Soup

Serves 4-6

2 Tbsp. butter

1/3 cup thinly chopped celery

1/3 cup thinly chopped onion

4 cups peeled russet potatoes, cubed

2 cans vegetable broth

2 cups milk

salt and pepper to taste

dash paprika

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1 can french-fried onions

Melt butter in a large pot, add celery and onion, cooking over medium heat until tender. Add potato cubes and vegetable broth and simmer about 10 minutes. Pour soup mixture into a blender and blend until smooth. Return the mixture to the pot and stir in milk, salt, pepper, and paprika. Heat 10 minutes and slowly add cheese, stirring until melted. Garnish with french-fried onions. Serve.

ENTREE

Jailhouse Skillet Supper

(courtesy of the Jalapeño Chicks)

Serves 4-6

1 lb. ground beef or 1 pkg. frozen vegetarian burger crumbles

8 oz. wagon-wheel pasta

1 cup sour cream

1 can cream of mushroom soup

3 Tbsp. Elvis Style Jailhouse Rock BBQ

seasoning

Cook pasta. Brown ground beef or vegetarian crumbles in a large skillet. When beef or crumbles brown, add drained pasta, sour cream, cream of mushroom soup, and Elvis Style Jailhouse Rock BBQ seasoning. Heat thoroughly and serve.

SIDE DISHES

Baked Macaroni-and-Cheese

Serves 4-6

8 oz. elbow macaroni

2 cups cubed Velveeta

1 Tbsp. flour

2 Tbsp. finely chopped onion

1/4 tsp. dry mustard

salt and pepper to taste

1 cup milk

1 1/2 Tbsp. butter

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook macaroni. In a mixing bowl, combine Velveeta cubes with flour, onion, mustard, salt, and pepper. Drain cooked macaroni and pour over cheese mixture. Transfer to a buttered casserole dish and add milk. Top with shredded cheese and dot with butter. Bake 45 minutes or until cheese is golden-brown. Serve.

Beale Street Blues Baked Beans

Serves 4-6

3 strips bacon or 3 strips vegetarian bacon cut into long, thin strips

1/2 medium onion, chopped

1 32-oz. can pork and beans

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup ketchup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a skillet, sauté onions and bacon in a little oil. In a mixing bowl, combine bacon and onions with beans, brown sugar, and ketchup and mix well. Pour the mixture into a medium-sized baking dish and bake for 30 minutes. Serve.

Elvis' Favorite Cornbread

(from The Presley Family & Friends Cookbook)

Serves 4-6

1 tsp. oil

2 cups cornmeal

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 Tbsp. baking powder

1 1/2 Tbsp. sugar

2 1/2 cups buttermilk

3 eggs

1/4 cup oil

In a skillet, heat teaspoon of oil and a little cornmeal. Mix remaining ingredients and pour into skillet. Cook until golden-brown and serve.

DESSERT

Fried Apple Pies

Serves 6

1 12-oz. can biscuits

12 Tbsp. apple-pie filling

2 Tbsp. oil

Roll out individual canned biscuits very thin and try to keep the circle shape. Spoon two tablespoons apple-pie filling on half of the circle. Fold and crimp edges. Poke holes in pies to allow steam to escape. Fry in oil over medium heat until both sides are golden-brown. Serve with vanilla ice cream, if you like.

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