One of the best Southern restaurants in America is in Plainfield, Vermont. The man behind the restaurant is from Brewer, Mississippi. Jimmy Kennedy met his wife, Maya, in New York City, but they didn’t find their true calling until they moved back to Maya’s hometown of Plainfield and moved into the Post Office.
Well, the Post Office was gone by then, actually they just moved into the building.
There they opened up River Run, served up a mean breakfast, gained a loyal following and wrote a cookbook: River Run Cookbook. River Run is a hard place to describe. It is tiny, filled with two dozen mismatched chairs and a few tables. The main meal is breakfast, Southern breakfasts including fried green tomatoes, jambalaya, fried potatoes, and even traditional granola and pancakes. My favorite is the fried catfish with grits, eggs and biscuits.
Many times after breakfast, Jimmy would turn the restaurant kitchen over to someone else who would keep cooking into the evening. I can’t recall ever going to Vermont with out going to River Run. It is a great hang out for writes, too. Lorrie Goldensohn, who wrote one of my favorite books about the poet, Elizabeth Bishop is a regular. Two other regulars contributed to the River Run Cookbook, David Manet wrote the foreword and Howard Norman wrote the afterward.
Southerners love their casseroles, a fact that surprised Maya Kennedy on her first Christmas in Mississippi. This is Jimmy’s mother’s casserole and a holiday favorite. My mother made a similar variation every Christmas.
Corn & Oyster Casserole
4 cups crushed saltines (about 90 crackers, or 1/2 box)
2 pounds canned creamed corn
1 pound fresh or canned oysters
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Set oven to 350 degrees.
In a 1 1/2 casserole dish that is abut 4 inches deep, sprinkle some crumbled saltines-just enough to cover the bottom. Then, ever so gently, spoon or pour some of the corn over the crackers, just enough to cover. Next, place the oysters an inch or so apart on top of the corn. (If the oysters are really big, cut them into chunks.) Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Repeat this layering process until you reach the top of the dish, making sure you finish with cracker crumbs. (You may have a bit of creamed corn left over.) Dot with butter.
Bake until the top is browned and the sides are bubbling a little, 35 to 45 minutes. (A glass dish will take the longer cooing time.)
Don’t even think of going to Vermont without going to River Run. If it going to be a while, you can order River Run Sauce online. And when you go, cross the street to visit Ben Koenig’s Country Bookshop.