Killer Southern/Soul/Country recipe/ideas needed
Our Gourmet Club is having our first dinner of 2005 in a couple of weeks. I'm looking for a favorite crowd pleaser that's 'slap yo mamma' good!
BBQ'd, fried, smothered, roasted, pickled - I don't care. Long as it's from the South and gets lips a-smackin'. Any recommendations?
Thanks in advance.
This menu is one my GC did a few years ago. All of the recipes are at Epicurious. It was a winner. All of it was good and if you do the collards don't forget to have some pepper vinegar on hand. If you can find some watermelon pickle that would be good too.
With Benne Seed Wafers
Roasted Honey Glazed Spareribs
Candied Sweet Potato Puree
Collard Greens and Turnips with ham hocks
Pickled BlackEyed Peas
Buttermilk Scallion Cornbread Sticks
Lemon Molasses Chess Pie
Brown Sugar Praline Ice Cream
No decent Southerner would every slap his/her mama. :)
The element that makes a southern recipe work is fat. E.g., canned creamed corn and sour cream vastly improve cornbread (added to batter).
Make a homemade coleslaw dressing and put it on cut strips of cabbage (rather than shredded) with cherry tomatoes. Mayo, vinegar, milk, sugar, celery seeds.
Pan-fried chicken is a real crowd pleaser:
Soak chicken pieces in buttermilk--either overnight in the fridge or while preparing other things. Season flour with salt, pepper, Old Bay seasoning, dried ground thyme, oregano, rosemary--anything that sounds good. The flour should not be pure white--the seasonings should be visible. Heat oil (crisco, canola, or vegetable with a tablespoon or so of bacon grease) in an electric pan or heavy iron skillet or both (depending on how much you have to cook). Dip the chicken pieces in the flour and put in frying pan. Fry for ~20 minutes or until it is browned and you can really see that it's done. The larger pieces (breasts) will take longer than the small. Put them in the middle, and put them in first.
When frying vegetables (okra, zucchini, yellow crookneck squash) dip rounds in egg and then flour. No batter. Pan-fry, don't deep-fry. These are excellent. Also excellent is yellow squash with onions boiled with bacon pieces, salt and pepper, (within an inch of its life).
The creamy succotash recipe in Gourmet Feb. 2003 (link below) has a distinctly southern flavor and is excellent, although I prefer it without the bell pepper and sometimes subbing tomatoes.
You might check on eBay for old Jr. League cookbooks. Those are great.
My mom used Bisquick for biscuits and Jiffy Mix for cornbread--doctored up a bit, of course. If they seem too dry, add more butter and milk. The important thing is the butter, the ham, etc.
Drop biscuits (i.e., not rolled and cut out--just dropped like cookie batter on a baking sheet) stay fluffier and are better for things like biscuits and sausage gravy. Sausage gravy is basically loose pork sausage sauteed with black pepper, sage, and finely chopped onions. You make a roux when the sausage is cooked and SLOWLY pour in milk, stirring constantly until thick. Again, think fat. The higher the milk's fat content, the more quickly the gravy will thicken.
Cornbread baked in an iron skillet.
The aforementioned country ham and biscuits... though as john clark notes, beaten biscuits are one HELL of a lot of work; I usually make my biscuits according to the "Basic Rolled Biscuits" recipe from Joy of Cooking, buttermilk variation. They always turn out well.
As for the country ham, an excellent pointer to mail-order sources for authentic country ham is http://countryham.org/ - a trade association. I buy mine from Johnston County Hams - http://www.countrycuredhams.com/ - in Smithfield, NC.
(Urban redneck cooking tip: Thin-sliced country ham and good Italian prosciutto can be substituted for each other in many recipes.
Ideas for side dishes: blackeyed peas or greens (collard, turnip, or kale, in that order of preferences) cooked with a little fatback or salt pork.
Country Ham with Beaten Biscuits and butter.
I just tried this for the first time. I've cooked country hams before but I had never made the beaten biscuits. They are more like a cracker than a biscuit and OH MAN they are good with some soft butter and a slice of country ham. This would be a ton of work and you would need to be in a pretty big gourmet club to make much of a dent in the ham, as it is so salty that it really is more of an appettizer than a main dish.
I used the Joy of Cooking recipe for both, except that I put the biscuit dough through my meat grinder ten times instead of using a food processor. That is per the previous edition of JoC which also includes a rather demeaning hanky-head rhyme about beatin de biscuits. Plus ca change etc.
How about Pulled Pork? Folks on the EPI message board go crazy over one poster's recipe. (Spouse is not a big pork fan so I've not tried it yet, am ashamed to admit, but my goodness, that has to be the #1 recipe on that board.) Basically you slow-roast a pork butt (or is it shoulder?) for hours....then shred the meat and cook it with barbeque sauce and then serve it with rolls and cole slaw.
I do not know this EPI board but if they are cooking pulled pork without a barbecue smoker they are missing out. I cook a bone-in butt for about fourteen hours in smoke at around 200 degrees, then let it rest for a while before pulling (shredding) it. I use a carolina-style sauce of vinegar with salt, sugar, and pepper. Serve on cheapo white "sandwich" buns -- a little smaller than burger buns -- topped with a splash of Tabasco and then a blob of mayonnaisey slaw. Hoo boy.