In History's Kitchen

2 August 2015: Fresh Okra and Tomato Salad

August 2, 2015

Tags: Okra, Tomatoes, Okra and Tomatoes, Raw Okra, Salad, Classic Southern Cooking

Southern cooking that you may not know about: raw okra and tomatoes weaving their combined magic in the salad bowl.
The union of okra and tomatoes in the pot is an inspired marriages that happens to be one of the great foundations of Southern cooking. From vegetable soup and gumbo to that soul-comforting triad of okra, onion, and tomato simmered together into a thick stew that can be served forth as a side dish, or over rice as a vegetarian main dish, or as the base for heartier main dishes with meat, poultry, and fish or shellfish stirred into the pot. (more…)

30 July 2015: Tomato Aspic

July 30, 2015

Tags: Classic Southern Cooking, Tomato Aspic, Beans Greens & Sweet Georgia Peaches, Marcie Ferris, Tomatoes

Tomato Aspic is a perfect beginning for summer luncheons and formal dinners
One of the half-forgotten and much misunderstood delights of summer’s table in the South is tomato aspic, a cooling, velvety concoction usually made with canned tomatoes or tomato juice, even at the height of tomato season. In my youth, it was considered the quintessential first course for formal summer luncheons and company dinners, especially when that dinner, following a long-gone Southern custom, was served early in the afternoon.

Yet, as little as twenty years ago, when my first cookbook Classical Southern Cooking was published, tomato aspic was a long way from being forgotten. (more…)

24 July 2015: Chicken and Corn Chowder

July 24, 2015

Tags: Corn, Corn Chowder, Chicken and Corn Chowder, Seafood Chowder, Classic Southern Cooking, Savannah Cookery, The Savannah Cookbook

Savannah Chicken and Corn Chowder, photographed in the dining room of the Historic Green-Meldrim House by John Carrington Photography
25 July 2015 Chicken and Corn Chowder

A lovely compensations for the intense, wet heat that settles over Savannah each summer like a warm wet blanket, is fresh sweet corn. And a popular, if a bit ironic, way of having that corn is in chowder, a rich yet simple soup that has been a fixture in Savannah for at least a century.

Recipes for it have been turning up in community cookbooks since the end of the nineteenth century, (more…)

13 July 2015: Vidalia Sweet Onion Season

July 13, 2015

Tags: Onions, Stuffed Onions, Vidalia Sweet Onions, Classic Southern Cooking, The Savannah Cookbook, Elizabeth Terry

Vidalia Sweet Onion stuffed with sausage and pecans. Photography by John Carrington Photography
No one who has spent more than five minutes in an American kitchen needs to be retold the story of Vidalia Sweet Onions. Most of us know how a low sulfur content in the soil and warm, damp growing season conspired to produce an unusually sweet, moisture-rich bulb that became one of the earliest regional American food products to be protected by law.

What you may not know is that because they’re so juicy, they mold and rot more easily than other onions and therefore don’t keep as well. (more…)

21 June 2015: My Father’s Palate

June 21, 2015

Tags: Classic Southern Cooking, Chili Dogs, My Father's Palate, Meat-and-Three Diners, The Dixie Restaurant

My father's favorite meal, a "good hotdog" and sweet tea, at The Dixie in Petersburg, VA, the kind of Mom-and-Pop joint that he taught me to love.
On this Father’s Day, it occurs to me that while I frequently write about my mother, grandmother, and occasionally my maternal grandfather and their influence on my career as a writing cook, I rarely mention my father. And yet, his integrity, his strong ethics, his wry sense of humor, and his unique way with words are all an indelible part of my own voice as a writer and teacher.

But lately I’ve begun to realize that his influence hasn’t stopped at words. (more…)

15 June 2015: Soft Shell Crabs

June 15, 2015

Tags: Soft-shell Crab, Crab, Lowcountry Cooking, Classic Southern Cooking, Savannah

Fried Soft-Shell Crabs, with lemon and Herb Mayonnaise, from The Savannah Cookbook (2008). Photography by the talented John Carrington
One of the lovely things about early summer on the coast in the South is the brief window when soft-shell crabs are in season.

Like most crustaceans, as blue crabs outgrow their hard outer shells, they shed them and begin growing a new one. For a few fleeting hours before it hardens, the new shell is soft, delicate, and completely edible. They’re a much-anticipated seasonal delicacy here in the Lowcountry. That season is already waning here, but we still have a little bit longer to enjoy them. (more…)

29 May 2015: Smothered Pork Chops at The Dixie

May 29, 2015

Tags: The Dixie Restaurant Petersburg VA, Classic Southern Cooking, Smothered Pork Chops, Meat-and-Three Diners

The Dixie’s Smothered Pork Chops, with sides of spoonbread and slow-cooked string beans.
29 May 2015: Smothered Pork Chops at The Dixie

When we’re visiting family in Petersburg, Virginia, we always pay at least one visit to the Dixie Restaurant on Sycamore Street. Known to locals simply as The Dixie, it’s been around since the 1940s. Though over the course of those years this family-owned institution has known several incarnations, today it has returned to its roots as an old-fashioned neighborhood diner. (more…)

21 May 2015: Mama’s Hushpuppies

May 21, 2015

Tags: Hushpuppies, Classic Southern Cooking, New Southern Baking, King's Barbecue

Hushpuppies at King's Barbecue in Petersburg, Virginia: not as light and delicate as my mother's, but does anything measure up to a Southerner's memories of Mama's cooking?
You know you’re south of the Mason Dixon line when there are hushpuppies in the bread basket—even when that basket is on the table of a barbecue joint.

Not that hushpuppies are common fare in barbecue joints: These addictive little morsels of fried cornbread are more usually paired with fried fish. But at King’s Barbecue in Petersburg, Virginia, hushpuppies are served right along with the biscuits. (more…)

8 May 2015: The Glory of Pan Gravy II – Pan Gravy for Pan-Fried or Sautéed Meat and Poultry

May 8, 2015

Tags: Pan Gravy, Classic Southern Cooking, Classic French Cooking, Classical Southern Cooking

Pan-fried Quail with Onion Pan Gravy as photographed by the great John Carrington for The Savannah Cookbook
When “la nouvelle cuisine” swept the culinary world in the latter part of the last century, roux-thickened pan gravy got shoved aside for sauces whose body was derived from reductions, purees, and butter liaisons. (They were really, by the way, nothing more than “la cuisine ancienne” rediscovered, but never mind.)

There was nothing wrong with those sauces—when we have the time to properly execute them and can serve them immediately, but there’s also nothing wrong with well-made pan gravy, especially for home cooks. (more…)

6 May 2015: The Glory of Pan Gravy, Part I

May 6, 2015

Tags: Pan Gravy, Cream Gravy, Classic Southern Cooking, Classical Southern Cooking, Classic French Cooking

Cream Pan Gravy, the quintessential accompaniment for Southern fried chicken. Photography by John Carrington Photography.
The acquisition of a handsome antique gravy ladle has made my mind wander to one of the world’s oldest and greatest culinary inventions: pan gravy.

One of the most under-appreciated elements of any cuisine, but of Southern cooking especially, when well-made and carefully seasoned, pan gravy is also the best sauce imaginable. Rich with the browned essence of the food it will accompany, it enhances without smothering, and can partly redeem indifferent or accidentally over-done food. (more…)