Seasoning Your Cast-Iron Pan

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Both of my grandmothers, from either end of Tennessee—McNairy County on the Tennessee River and Sevier County in Appalachia—cooked every day in cast iron. Mind you, these women could not have been more different. The South is a big place, and there are hundreds of miles and hundreds of years of diverging histories between folks in the Mississippi Delta and those in the Smokies. Tennessee is long, but cast iron is one common denominator.”

“The only tried-and-true way to season a cast-iron skillet is with lard.”
~ John Martin Taylor, Southern-Food Historian

Buy a Lodge cast-iron Pan they make the best in the world. They come pre-seasoned nowadays, but if you have your Great-Gramma’s pan that has been neglected or you just need to know how to season your pan here is an easy guide:

  • Wash a new skillet with warm soapy water once to remove the thin coating of wax applied at the factory. That’s the last time you should ever wash it with soap.
  • Have the butcher grind enough fresh pork fat to nearly fill the skillet. Place a thin layer of water (about ⅛ inch) in the bottom, and then add the fat. Put the skillet in the oven set to 225 degrees or on top of the stove over very low heat.
  • Melt the fat slowly; it can take an hour or more. When the solid matter (called cracklings) turns brown and sinks to the bottom, strain the fat into a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid and wipe out the skillet. After the fat has cooled, cover it and store in the refrigerator. You now have rendered lard for biscuits and piecrusts—and a seasoned skillet.
  • After each use, rub the inside of the skillet with bacon grease and wipe out the excess. The salt in the bacon grease will help preserve the skillet and keep food from sticking to the surface. If you must wash it to remove any dust or bits of burned food, don’t even think about putting it in the dishwasher. Use only cold water and a natural-bristle brush, then dry it thoroughly and wipe down with bacon grease.

Source: “The Southener’s Handbook,” by Garden & Gun

Cajun Spice

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2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon ground white pepper
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
4 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder

Combine spices and store in a cool, dark place in a tightly sealed container.

Edna Lewis on Coffee

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“The smell of coffee cooking was a reason for growing up, because children were never allowed to have it and nothing haunted the nostrils all the way out to the barn as did the aroma of boiling coffee. The decision about coffee was clear and definite and a cook’s ability to make good coffee was one of her highest accomplishments. Mother made real good coffee but some mornings my father would saddle the horse and ride more than a mile up the road to have his second cup with his cousin Sally, who made the best coffee ever.”

~ Edna Lewis (1916-2006),  Renowned African-American chef, teacher, and author who helped refine the American view of Southern cooking. From “The Taste Of Country Cooking”

#FavoriteQuotes #CulinaryHero #EdnaLewis

Easy Delicious Hushpuppies

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When I’m not in the South I miss these golden nuggets of deliciousness.  I’ve had elegant crab stuffed hushpuppies, but these are a delicious basic version made easy by using self-rising cornmeal.

  • 2 cups white lily self-rising cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons self-rising flour
  • ½ medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • Vegetable oil for pan or deep-frying

In a large bowl combine the cornmeal, flour, and onion. Add the buttermilk and egg and mix well. Let the mixture stand for 5-6 minutes.

In a deep skillet heat about 3 inches of oil over medium heat. Drop the batter by tablespoons into the hot oil. Fry until golden brown, turning several times. Remove from the oil, drain before serving.

 

Basic Pimento Cheese

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The so called pâté of the South isn’t really very Southern at all. No, pimento cheese got its start up North—in New York, in fact—as a product of industrial food manufacturing and mass marketing.  Like other food items though it was perfected in the South.  There’s a multitude of pimento cheese recipes out there, but we’ll start with this basic one and introduce fancied up one’s later.

½ cup mayonnaise
1 (4-ounce) jar diced pimentos, drained
1 tablespoon grated onion with juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1½ cups lightly packed shredded sharp yellow cheddar cheese
1½ cups lightly packed coarsely shredded sharp white cheddar cheese

In a medium bowl add the mayo, pimentos, onion, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, and cayenne together. Fold in the cheeses to thoroughly combine. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours before serving to allow the flavors to meld.

Chicken Matzah Ball Pho Fusion

 

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Two amazing soups that were begging to be mashed together.

Pho was created in Viet Nam in the 1880’s under French occupation, influenced by the French taste for beef based dishes. Some even speculate the name comes from the French Feu (fire, as in pot au feu), though others believe that the dish may have inspired by Chinese occupiers from the previous thousand years.

Matzah Ball Soup was likely invented thousands of years ago, from leftover Matzah meal and an egg. Matzah is a flat cracker that is the “bread of affliction” during the Passover Holiday, symbolizing the Israelites hasty escape from Egypt. But the soup we think of as Matzah Ball Soup came to particular prominence in Eastern European Shtetl’s with קניידלעך kneydlach dumplings.

Ingredients

For the broth:

  • 2 medium unpeeled yellow onions, halved
  • 1 large 4”-5” piece of ginger, cut lengthwise in half
  • 5 quarts cold water
  • 1 4-5 lb. chicken, cut up
  • ½ lb. chicken wings
  • 2 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1 Tbsp rock sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 tsp whole coriander seeds
  • 2 Tbsp fish sauce, or to taste
  • 1 small white onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced

For the matzah balls:

  • 1 cup matzah meal
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • ¼ cup oil
  • ¼ cup minced scallion

For the toppings:

  • 1 large bunch of fresh Thai basil
  • limes cut into wedges
  • 3 cups mung bean sprouts
  • 2 jalapeños, sliced thin
  • Hoisin sauce if desired
  • Garlic chili sauce if desired
  • Sriracha if desired

Directions

To make the broth:

  1. Char your onions and ginger.  The onions and ginger should be nicely charred but still firm, this step will deepen the broth’s flavor. Once the onions and ginger are charred, remove the skin from the onions. Rinse the onion and ginger, and use a small knife to scrape off excess charred bits to prevent your broth from getting bitter.
  2. Cut your chicken into parts, separating the breasts, legs, wings and backbone. This will ensure that your chicken cooks evenly.
  3. In a small skillet over medium heat, toast the cinnamon, anise and coriander until lightly browned and fragrant 2-3 minutes. Don’t burn the spices. Add onion, ginger and chicken to a large pot. Fill the pot with 5 quarts of water. Bring the water to a simmer; continuously skim the impurities as they rise to the top.
  4. After about 20 minutes of simmering, or once they’re cooked through, remove the chicken breasts and allow them to cool. Add the toasted spices, salt and sugar to the pot. Continue to gently simmer the mixture for at least 1 hour for flavors to develop.
  5. Remove the remaining chicken parts and strain the liquid through a fine meshed sieve. Bring the liquid back to a simmer until the liquid has reduced by about a quarter. This will deepen the broth’s flavor.
  6. While simmering, shred the chicken meat and reserve for serving. Once reduced, turn off the heat and add the fish sauce to the broth. Taste, and add additional seasoning if desired.

To make the matzah balls: 

  1. While the soup is simmering, in a large bowl whisk together the matzah meal, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Add the beaten egg and oil (schmaltz would be a lovely replacement for the oil.  Schmaltz is rendered chicken fat). Add the scallions. Mix everything together until just combined.
  2. Refrigerate the mixture for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Form the matzah ball mixture into even-sized balls. You can determine the size based on your preference, but they will double when cooked.
  4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Lower to a simmer and gently drop the matzah balls into simmering water. Place the lid on the pot and continue to simmer for 30 minutes. Once cooked store in their cooking liquid.

To serve:

  1. Add the shredded chicken, raw sliced onion and scallions to a bowl. Ladle hot broth into the bowl. Add the matzah balls to the soup.
  2. Serve with Thai basil, bean sprouts, lime wedges, hoisin and hot sauces. Allow people to garnish and customize their pho to their liking.

Simple Fresh Butterbeans

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Alright I have a confession to make I love butterbeans and it’s not a healthy normal relationship I’m a bit obsessed.  Butterbeans are baby Lima beans – there I said it.  There is a world of difference between the two though.  I am a card carrying member of the Butterbeans cult.  A number of recipes for Butterbeans will pop up here from time to time with most of them using a pork product, but not today.  This is a simple and delicious recipe for fresh baby limas or shall I say fresh Butterbeans. Enjoy.

3 cups beans, fresh not frozen or canned
6 cups water
1-2 bay leaves
⅛ teaspoon black pepper or to taste
1 tablespoon salt or to taste

Rinse Butterbeans well under cool water. In a 4-quart saucepan combine the beans, water, bay leaves, and pepper. Bring it up to a boil and skim off the impurities  that rises to the top during the first 10 minutes.

Cover the pot and reduce the heat slightly. Let it cook for 15 to 20 minutes more, or until the beans are tender. Turn off the heat and add the salt. Let the beans sit in the cooking liquid for 20 minutes before serving.

If you’re serving them on their own as a side which I would highly recommend, I’d stir in a pat of butter serving.

Southern Food Profile: Corn Grist

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CORN GRIST

Grist is grain that has been separated from its chaff in preparation for grinding. It can also mean grain that has been ground at a gristmill. Its etymology derives from the verb grind.

Grist can be ground into meal or flour, depending on how coarsely it is ground. Maize made into grist is called grits when it is coarse, and corn meal when it is finely ground. Wheat, oats, barley, and buckwheat are also ground and sifted into flour and farina. Grist is also used in brewing and distillation to make a mash.

CORNMEAL

Cornmeal is ground dried corn. You can find it at any chain grocery store, but the best cornmeal is stone ground and you may need to source that at a mill or through mail order. Unlike more modern methods of milling, the stones don’t substantially heat up the grains, resulting in a superior flavor and texture. Find a miller who grinds corn to order or purchase a small home grinder that will allow you to vary the size of the grind. Many millers ship grains via mail order, and a home mill can be easily purchased on the Internet.

HOMINY

If you take dried flint corn and cook it in lye until the outer hull of the kernel separates, you’ll leave the germ of the kernel behind—and get hominy. This process, called nixtamalization, originated with Mesoamerican Indians and has a very specific effect: it unlocks the nutritional power of corn, making it much more digestible, especially when combined with rice or beans. Unlike Native Americans, Southerners and Europeans didn’t fully adopt this practice and thus they often lacked the complete nutritional protein that it creates, leaving their populations who subsisted on cornmeal and preserved meat susceptible to a vitamin deficiency disease called pellagra.

HOMINY GRITS

Old-timers call it “little hominy,” but modern commercial grits bear little resemblance to the staple grist of yesteryear. Industrial milling and commercial corn production mean that most of the grits you find are simply coarsely ground cornmeal, but hominy grits are nixtamalized dried kernels ground to a coarse consistency.

MASA

Latin Americans take fresh hominy and grind it while still wet, producing a soft corn flour that constitutes the basis for everything from tortillas to tamales. The commercial kind is called masa harina and comes dried in bags, like cornmeal or flour.

POLENTA

Corn traveled quickly to Italy after its “discovery” in the Americas, and it soon replaced buckwheat and farro as the grain of choice for polenta. Very similar to the South’s grits and African ugali, polenta is a cornmeal mush originally eaten by peasants, a staple of the cuisine Italians call la cucina povera, but it is often made from flint corn, a very hard variety that has a lower starch content.

SAMP

Early colonists used the terms “grits” and “samp” interchangeably, but when we talk about samp today, we are referring to cracked hard flint corn. It’s hard to make, since the best samp is cracked by hand, but the kernels of good samp can be shattered, producing very little corn flour in the process. This type of rough corn cooks up like rice, tender and fluffy.”

~ Sean Brock from “Heritage”

Ancient Egyptian Bread

 

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Ancient Egyptian bread was made of barley, millet, and once available, wheat. Though not always combined, sometimes two or all three of these were used in a single recipe. Bread was a very simplistic form. Yeast did not exist in Egypt until well into the Middle Kingdom and was not particularly popular until the New Kingdom era, so loaves were what we would consider today “flat” breads.

Bread consisted of only three simple ingredients:

  • Flour made from barley, millet or wheat.
  • Water
  • Leavening: leavening nowadays means yeast, but Egypt used sourdough starters or spent brewery grains which, unknown to them, had yeast in it.

To this basic recipe, flavorings were often added prior to baking: sesame seeds, honey, herbs, oil, egg washes, fruits and even sometimes bits of leftover chopped meat were added to help spice up these supplementary loaves.

 

Ancient Egyptian Bread Recipe:

  • Mix three parts flour to one part water. Mix with your hands until it forms a sticky dough. If needed, add more water. You’re looking for the dough to pull away from the side of the bowl, as in normal bread.
  • Use a sourdough starter or ground brewery grain if available. You can grind brewery grain in a food processor.
  • Let rise for thirty minutes, separate into rounds, place on a baking sheet and insert into a 300 degree oven. If you have an outdoor fireplace that is food safe or barbecue grill these work wonderfully to recreate the same sorts of cooking environments these recipes originally came from.
  • Cook for around 45 minutes. Check halfway through with a knife, when it comes out clean, pull your bread from the oven and let it cool.
  • Slice like a pizza and serve with the accompaniments of your choice.

Noodle Kugel

 

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Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1-12 ounce package of wide or extra wide egg noodles
  • 2 Tbsp jarred garlic
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 6 eggs
  • paprika

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Add 3 heaping Tbsp of olive oil to baking dish and place pan in oven for the oil to heat. This will make for a crispier kugel.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook noodles as directed on package, around 7-8 minutes. Drain and set aside.

While noodles are cooking, whisk together eggs, garlic, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

Add cooked noodles to egg mixture and mix gently until completely coated. Remove baking dish with hot oil from the oven and add noodles to the dish. It will sizzle slightly.

Sprinkle top with paprika. Bake for 40 minutes uncovered or until noodles are desired crispiness. Serve warm or room temperature. Enjoy!