Last time we talked about breaking the rules, my rules at least, and stepping out to cook food from other places. I love French and Italian, German too, but those places are a long way away, and we simply cannot get the same ingredients and probably do not fully understand the technique either. So, as I am fond of saying, cook where you are. There are so many good things to eat from out of the Southern repertoire.
Southern foodways have become popular all over the USA and there is good reason for it. Southern food is simple, hearty, and delicious. But let me add one proviso: the ingredients you buy should always be the best and freshest. Some of the food you might find at the grocery store is not the freshest. Check out a certified local farmers’ market if you want the best. A certified market is one where the person selling you those collard greens grew them and most likely harvested them just before he or she came to the market. It makes a big difference. It even makes a big difference with things like grits. How long ago were those store-bought grits ground? If you go to the Ocean Springs Saturday morning fresh market, those grits were ground not more than a few weeks ago. Smell them and what do you smell? Corn.
What are my favorite Southern foods? I do love fried chicken and have been working on a recipe for many years. I think I am close to getting it right. But, you have to use the best chicken you can find. I always serve fried chicken with mashed potatoes and pan gravy. I also love cornbread that was made with Grit Girl cornmeal and baked in a cast-iron skillet well lubricated with smokey bacon drippings. It’s even better when topped with fresh peas or beans, that were simmered in a ham stock that took you an hour or two to get rich and delicious. Never use just a store-bought stock. Store-bought stock is ok if you add roasted chicken bones, a chopped onion, a bell pepper, maybe a jalapeño, and a carrot or two, then gently simmer for an hour before you strain it and cook beans or peans in it. I have told you before, and several times given you my family’s recipe for chow-chow (fancy places call it tomato chutney), and that always has to go on top of cornbread, with peas or beans.
One of my all-time favorites is hot biscuits served with lots of butter and fig preserves. Grit cakes served with collard greens and topped with chow-chow is also at the top of my list, as are deviled eggs. Shrimp, sausage, and rice is about as hearty a meal as can be had and so simple to make, and it’s just plain boiled shrimp, served in garlic butter just can’t be topped.
I could go on and on, but I think I have made my point. Cook local, cook fresh and Southern.