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Southern Cookin'

To clarify my biases, let me first say that I am from Texas. However, I intend this more as a point of American pride than a south vs. north thing.

Now, onto my thesis. American Southern food is the best in the world for two "meals": breakfast and dessert.

I'll start with the obvious first. Nobody puts as much emphasis or effort into their breakfast as they do in the American South. Unless you prefer a baguette and some butter for breakfast (in which case what are you doing on chowhound), I can't see anyone disagreeing here. From the simplest (for the south) breakfast of eggs, grits, toast and bacon to the overly indulgent options of French Toast or Steak and Eggs or Salt Cured Ham or Biscuits and Gravy, the South has the best breakfast. I mean, come on, steak and eggs is a dish down there.

On to dessert which i think is a lot less clear cut. While French and Italians have pastries and chocolate, I still think the American South wins out. Any fruit cobbler or pie, bread pudding, bananas foster, pecan pie, red velvet cake and everything else using lots of butter swing my vote to the south.

I'm writing this for two reasons. First is that i'm bored at work. Secondly, i want to encourage disagreement or alternatively see if most people agree with me.

Thoughts?

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  1. You need to go to Vienna for dessert.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Karl S

      The brief drive I had into Austria years ago left me with three thoughts: schillings were cheap (just by quantity), it was steep and picturesque, and sheesh it was like being trapped in a giant cream puff... dessert everywhere - rich dessert.

    2. Ever heard of dim sum?

      1. dim sum changes the whole category. opening to "brunch" type meals allows all lunch options. i've heard of congee and i'll take my biscuits and gravy instead.

        31 Replies
        1. re: demigodh

          I've had both and congee is better then biscuits and gravy. The variations are limitless.

          1. re: KTinNYC

            But where were the B&G you had. That can be a really beautiful thing and it's often badly imitated. No slight against congee intended.

            1. re: Cinnamon

              I've had biscuits and gravy all over the south, Tennessee, Georgia, The Carolina's, Texas and while it can be very good it cannot match the variety and depth of congee. Plain with pickled vegetables, with pork, abalone, dried scallop, salted egg, fish, chicken, etc. etc.

              1. re: KTinNYC

                Having spent the first 28 years of my life in the South, I can say (from my standpoint) that (some) biscuits are good and (some) gravy is good. But I detest gravy on top of biscuits! Detest it, do you hear?!? Takes two perfectly good things and ruins them both. Blech.

                On the board subject, when I want a Southern breakfast I don't want dim sum when I want lox and bagels, I don't want croissant and cafe au lait, ad nauseum. To say one is the best makes no sense --- unless you're satisfied getting an egg McMuffin (or its ilk) every day. The best is the best at that moment.

                1. re: c oliver

                  Very well said, c. Now could you tell us how you really feel about biscuits and gravy?

                  1. re: KTinNYC

                    I've never understood the B&G fascination. It was never anything my family fixed. To me the perfect biscuit is not one of 2" thick cakey things but rather thin with both the bottom and the top having a true crust. So to put gravy on it ruins the very biscuit-ness of it. Yeah, you're right I DO have a hard time saying how I feel, don't I??? When we're in NYC next month maybe you can guide us to your fave breakfast - be in congee, chicken and waffles, whatever. I'm never happier than chowing down on some dim sum early in the morning, just hanging out with all the old Chinese men with their newspapers :)

                    1. re: c oliver

                      That would be lovely. Although, I can no longer go to dim sum due to the fact I have developed a shell fish allergy and I can't bear eating dim sum with all those lovely shrimp dishes passing me by and not being able to indulge.

                      1. re: KTinNYC

                        Oh, poor you :( I can't imagine dim sum without all the shrimp dishes. But a wealth of other opportunities, huh?

                      2. re: c oliver

                        My grandmother made "pie crust" biscuits. c oliver, You would have liked them. I think it is kind of an art, baking biscuits, and something accomplished most successfully without a recipe.

                        Although I love a traditional Southern breakfast I also enjoy a fresh bagel with lox and croissants with butter. I don't even know what congee is though.

                        1. re: Lewes17266

                          I would have loved your grandmother's biscuits! When cut in halff the following morning, buttered, cheese on top and put under the broiler, that was my main breakfast (with two strips of bacon or a sausage patty) for years as I didn't like eggs at that time.

                          Here's a basic congee recipe:

                          http://chinesefood.about.com/od/break...

                          I've never made it but it sure does taste good and, as the recipe says, the skys the limit for additions.

                          1. re: c oliver

                            c oliver, Thank you. Congee is definitely something I would like. I love risotto and rice pudding.
                            Just like congee, with grits the sky is the limit. Grits are a delicious vehicle too.

                            1. re: Lewes17266

                              The basic recipe is the humblest Here are links to some other recipes from chowhounds. Congee is also known as jook.

                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/279583
                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/2790...
                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/277225

                    2. re: c oliver

                      Well said, C.O., on the you-want-what-you-want-when-you-want-it aspect.

                      1. re: c oliver

                        CO, Well stated on your initial biscuit post. Growing up in Mississippi, I've never had biscuits as good as the likes of the way my grandmother made them. They were flakey, yet dense and moist at the same time; in other words, they did not fall apart when you pulled or cut them in half to load on the butter. They were the best as dessert - pushing my child-sized thumb into the side, then loading up the "hole" with pure cane (sorghum) syrup. Traditionally, those 2 items are the only thing that should accompany biscuits.

                        HOWEVER, now I live in Texas and unless I make it at home, bad, tasteless gravy (the packaged stuff) seems to be commonplace to serve over biscuits that come way oversized and fall apart. And as to the gravy, it should be made with bacon drippings --- not sausage.

                        Ironically, the first time I ate "milk" gravy (as a breakfast item over toast) was while visiting my "yankee" grandmother in Illinois.

                        1. re: CocoaNut

                          CocoaNut - I'm STILL from Mississippi and my grandmother made the same kind of biscuits, and I, too, never had milk gravy in my home state.
                          The few times we had gravy with the biscuits it was red-eye or tomato gravy. I never understood my gm's biscuit-making. She had a biscuit bowl put up and used daily. White Lily flour, buttermilk (back when it was the real thing) and Wesson oil - no shortening or butter or lard! And they were like you described, wonderful. If we were late for school, she'd put butter and sugar in them, or butter and hoop cheese, and off we went. When she made the biscuits she would put them into a hot cast-iron skillet with more oil in it - they were so so good.

                          1. re: bayoucook

                            Yep - just down 90 in LB - made the same way (except my gm DID use lard) also in a cast-iron skillet - lastly, before going into the oven, she'd push 2 knuckles into the tops of each biscuit. She made hers on the counter-top with a "well" in the center of the flour. Strangely, none of her 3 daughters (my aunts and mother) picked up the *knack* - which I'd love to now know.....

                            bc, I'm probably going to be down that way for a visit sometime this summer.... I'll post on the "south" board at that time and maybe we can meet up for some good seafood?

                            1. re: CocoaNut

                              That would be great - we have several (many?) new great places on the coast. I remember we've talked before about you being from LB; where are you living now? It's already getting hot as H--- here.....

                              1. re: bayoucook

                                Deal! I'm between Dallas and Ft. Worth and will always miss my good ole Gulf of Mexico seafood - so much of the "affordable" fresh seafood sold here is from Asia.

                        2. re: c oliver

                          I say the same thing about chicken fried steak. Gravy ruins it. Why take something with perfect, crisp, crust, and pour gravy on it turning it into a soggy mess. Gravy on the side, please.

                          1. re: James Cristinian

                            Speaking as a passionate fan of both biscuits-and-gravy and CFS (either Chicken FS or Country FS), one of the principal sources of pleasure to me is precisely the crunchy bite amid the warm richness of the gravy. The crust of a good short biscuit will NOT get soggy on my plate (partly I suppose because it won't have time to!), and if the CFS is cooked properly its crust will also be impervious to the gravy's caress. If either biscuit or CFS crust does go limp on you, it was of inferior quality to begin with.

                            1. re: Will Owen

                              Harf! Will, I agree...I was not understanding the biscuit/gravy/soggy argument, but I think you nailed it. It never sits around long enough to get soggy. Both of my grandmas made those thin, crispy, "bumpy", tangy buttermilk biscuits and I can NOT replicate them no matter how I try. I must say, though, I have got gravy DOWN and can make just about any variety. My faves are just plain milk gravy made with butter, flour, salt, pepper & milk...or tomato gravy made with bacon drippings. It's a simple, poor-folk food that I crave a lot in between all the trips to trendy restaurants. And my one grandma would just eat biscuit & gravy for dinner every night in her old age - and lived to her mid 90's!

                              1. re: terkalin

                                another tomato gravy fan here, terkalin! that reminds me, i've got some tomato puree in the fridge that was going to become pizza sauce. now i'm going to re-purpose that, make a roux with some bacon grease, and voilá (or rather, "come on, y'all, and eat! it's gettin' cold!)

                                1. re: alkapal

                                  i've typically had tomato gravy on white rice. i make sausage gravy for biscuits, but i eat biscuits every which way. butter. butter & jelly. maple syrup. toasted with strawberries for "shortcake." i also like mom's "center biscuit" cause it has all soft sides (made in a pie tin, all touching edges).

                                  1. re: alkapal

                                    Sausage gravy for biscuits, butter, jelly, honey, any way for me as well. I love biscuits with sausage gravy. Not a true southern girl, but god that is good.

                              2. re: Will Owen

                                I never have liked gravy on biscuits, and didn't say so. I just like them plain, with butter, my preference. I guess, to be honest, I'm just not that big of a gravy person. As for chicken fried steak, I live in Texas and there is plenty of properly cooked chicken fried steak to choose from. I usually only eat three or four bites with the gravy, with 'lots of pepper. I'm more a meat guy, but, I understand your point. When I make chicken fried steak, I usually don't make gravy unless my wife wants it, then she usually does it. Me, I'm too busy eating it hot out of the oil.

                    3. re: demigodh

                      I eat dim sum between 730 and 800 in the morning so breakfast not brunch for me. If you've heard of congee but haven't tasted it, why would you take B&G instead?

                      1. re: c oliver

                        I love congee in all its variations, and dim sum, too. But I'm probably going to choose that really excellent biscuit and the homemade tomato-bacon gravy over them for breakfast - maybe that is what comes of living over a half-century in the deep South, or maybe it hasn't nothing to do with it at all.

                        1. re: bayoucook

                          Tell me about tomato-bacon gravy. Yum! I can do the really good biscuit.

                          1. re: Plano Rose

                            There are many variations on it - but here is a basic recipe for it:
                            http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Tomato-B...

                            We add salt and freshly ground pepper and hot sauce, sometimes a touch of minced green pepper - it's fun to play with, and so so good over biscuits. You can use milk instead of water, as well. Let me know if you make it.

                            1. re: Plano Rose

                              forgot to add - it's even better with eggs on the side - fried or scambled -

                              1. re: bayoucook

                                Thanks, bayoucook. I'll have to try it. With scrambled eggs, of course.

                      2. Not sure I could declare it definitively the best (chocolate mousse, anyone?), but any cuisine featuring buttermilk biscuits, french toast, and peach pie definitely ranks pretty high up there on my list :-)

                        11 Replies
                        1. re: Emmmily

                          French toast is Southern? I never knew that.

                          1. re: c oliver

                            I'm taking the OP's word for it. Wikipedia lists its origins in an ancient Roman dish, so I guess it didn't originate in the south, even if it's now common there. Substitute grits on my list above and I stand by my point - maybe not the tastiest breakfast in the world, but up there.

                            1. re: c oliver

                              That's my question? Many of the dishes referenced by the OP could arguably be credited to Europe, Latin America, etc.

                              Not to mention, home fries (or potatoes O'Brien), next to eggs, make any breakfast extra special for me. :)

                              AND how is a baguette and butter not chowish???

                              1. re: lynnlato

                                "Many of the dishes referenced by the OP could arguably be credited to Europe, Latin America, etc."

                                Just not all together, deep-fried, served with a side of sweet tea.

                                1. re: Cinnamon

                                  And I gotta tell ya, 28 years in the South and I NEVER had sweet tea!

                                  1. re: c oliver

                                    I can't handle it, too sweet for me!

                                    It could even be regional within the South, which certainly is diverse, the size of a good chunk of Europe.
                                    http://whatscookingamerica.net/Histor...

                                    1. re: Cinnamon

                                      Have u tried Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka? Made in SC with tea grown in SC. Interesting stuff. Now, their muscadine vodka - not so much.

                                      1. re: lynnlato

                                        Hmm, no. That does sound interesting. Maybe if I found a minibottle. :D

                                      2. re: Cinnamon

                                        When we sweeten our tea at home, it's lightly sweetened. At a restaurant, order 1/2 sweet 1/2 regular.

                                    2. re: Cinnamon

                                      Have you had a Scottish breakfast? It may not include sweet tea, but it's all deep fried. Traditional English Breakfast would work too in terms of the morning fry up.

                                  2. re: c oliver

                                    pain perdu in NOLA maybe was the thought

                                2. Why do you want to encourage disagreement or see if people agree with you? I'm from the South originally (BTW, I don't consider Texas part of the South) but have eaten breakfast and dessert all over this country, a number of other countries and continents even in a different hemisphere. I think every place has great choices and honestly think that Southern breakfast is comforting but generally not *fine food*.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: c oliver

                                    The food in East Texas is more like that of the South than it is like the food of the rest of the State. It sort of starts blending gradually as you move West.
                                    The Gulf Coast East of Houston has a lot in common with South Louisiana which isn't exactly "Southern food" anyway...

                                    1. re: c oliver

                                      I agree it is different from, say, South Carolina, but it was part of the Confederacy and has a long Southern tradition. It is also geographically diverse, so I'd be inclined to agree that West Texas might not seem so "Southern". However, most Texans would disagree with you. It is the South, just not the deep South.