In History's Kitchen

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…)

5 May 2015: A Fool for Strawberries

May 5, 2015

Tags: Strawberries, Strawberry Fool, Fruit Fool, Classic Southern Cooking, English Cooking

A fruit fool is a simple but luscious way to take advantage of the season's berries
5 May 2015: A Fool for Strawberries

Strawberries, that fragrant, luscious herald of springtime, have always figured prominently on Southern tables—and earlier in the year than for most of the rest of the country. But by May, the season in Florida, which produces most of the country’s early fruit, is over, and while it will linger a few weeks longer in Northern Georgia, Carolina, and Virginia, it’s beginning to wind down across the South. (more…)

27 April 2015: Sunday Night Frittata

April 27, 2015

Tags: Sunday Supper, Frittate, Leeks, Bacon, Classic Italian Cooking

Bacon and Leek Frittata
Sundays are busy days in my house. We’re up and out to church early: Tim is the organist-choirmaster and I help with the food for coffee the hour after services. If I’m on the schedule at the store, I go there straight from church, which makes for a very long day. By evening, we’re both ready to be off our feet, preferably with a glass of wine in hand.

Sunday supper, then (especially on those work days), is usually a simple meal. (more…)

14 April 2015: Braised Artichokes with Onions

April 14, 2015

Tags: Artichokes, Burr Artichokes, Classical Southern Cooking, Beans Greens and Sweet Georgia Peaches, Classic Creole Cooking, Classic Southern Cooking

Braised Artichokes à la Creole
If most people were asked to make a list of typically Southern vegetables, artichokes would probably not even come to mind, let alone make it to the list. And yet, they’ve been growing in the South at least since the beginning of the eighteenth century, and recipes for them were given in a very off-hand way in all the early cookbooks from Mary Randolph through to Annabella Hill. Even Mrs. Dull included a recipe, with detailed directions for eating them, in her definitive 1928 book. (more…)

4 April 2015: Mastering the Make-Ahead Easter V

April 4, 2015

Tags: Easter Potato Gratin, Make-Ahead Easter, Dinner Party Planning, Classic French Cooking, Classic Southern Cooking

This Classic French Potato Gratin can not only be made ahead, it's even better warmed over, and can be dressed up with herbs or bits of country ham or prosciutto
This classic, easy-to-assemble French gratin has been the potato dish for my household’s Easter for years. The ingredients are simple, its preparation requires almost no real skill on the part of the cook, and yet nothing is elegant nor satisfying to eat.

Best of all, it can be made today, and reheats beautifully. (more…)