Recipes and Stories

29 August 2015: Mary Randolph’s French Beans

August 29, 2015

Tags: Classic Southern Cooking, Mary Randolph, French Beans, Haricots Verts, Green Beans, Classic French Cooking, Monticello

Mary Randolph's French Beans, here finished with a little of her Melted Butter.
A couple of weeks ago, I revisited one of the loveliest and most misunderstood dishes in all of Southern cooking: pole beans slow-simmered with salt pork. With small new potatoes laid on top to steam during the last part of the simmer, it remains one of my all-time favorite ways of cooking these sturdy beans.

But pole beans are not the only ones that I, and many other Southern cooks, bring to the table. While researching for a lecture on the indomitable Mary Randolph, whose 1824 cookbook was one of the earliest printed records of Southern cooking, I was once again taken by her lucid and careful directions for French beans. (more…)

11 August 2015: Southern Slow-Cooked Pole Beans

August 11, 2015

Tags: Classic Southern Cooking, Green Beans, Pole Beans, Slow-Cooked Green Beans, Historical Southern Cooking

One of the most misunderstood and unjustly maligned dishes in all of Southern cooking: slow-simmered green beans, here with new potatoes that have been halved and laid on top of the beans to steam during the last few minutes of cooking
One of the most misunderstood dishes in all of Southern cooking is green beans slow-simmered with salt pork or ham until they’re tender and deeply infused with the salt-pork flavor. It’s easy to understand why it has been misunderstood when one sees the misguided mess that all too often passes for this dish in “Southern” style diners and cafeterias: canned beans or the generic hybrid green beans that inhabit most supermarket produce bins, indifferently boiled to Hell and back with a chunk of artificially smoke-flavored ham or half a dozen slices of smoked bacon until they’re the color of army fatigues and have surrendered what little flavor they had left in them.

There’s nothing wrong with the idea. When properly done, it’s one of the loveliest vegetable dishes in all of Southern cooking. The problem lies not in the concept, but in its misguided application. (more…)

10 August 2015: Pepper Vinegar

August 10, 2015

Tags: Classic Southern Cooking, Pepper Vinegar, Pickled Peppers, Hot Peppers

In the foreground, traditional Pepper Vinegar (Pickled Peppers), made with cayenne and cider vinegar, in the center, Pepper Vinegar made with Bird Peppers and wine vinegar, and at the back in the stately cruet is Pepper Sherry. Photography by John Carrington from my Savannah Cookbook
Pickled peppers and the vinegar in which they are cured are important fixtures in a Southern kitchen, both in cooking, where they are used as a flavoring in countless vegetable and meat dishes, and at the table, where they are a condiment that accompanies everything from turnip greens to baked chicken. When a recipe calls for pepper vinegar, it means the vinegar from this, and not hot sauce, so don’t substitute the latter for it, but use a few drops of hot sauce diluted in cider or wine vinegar. (more…)

10 August 2015: Bird Peppers and Pepper Sherry

August 10, 2015

Tags: Classic Southern Cooking, Savannah Cooking, Savannah, Pepper Sherry, Bird Peppers

Pepper sherry and a crystal bowl of the fresh peppers, both of which were once essential condiments on Savannah tables. Photography by John Carrington, from my Savannah Cookbook, published in 2008
Once upon a time, a pot containing a pepper plant that produced tiny, innocent-looking peppers no bigger than small peas could be found in almost every Savannah courtyard. Known as “bird peppers,” they only looked innocent: they’re among the fieriest of all the hot pepper clan. Everyone grew them because they were a fixture in Savannah dining rooms. The fresh peppers were passed in a small bowl to be used as a condiment for soup.

But they were also used in an infusion with sherry to create a lovely condiment known simply as Pepper Sherry. Whether it was in an elegant crystal cruet or just a re-used soda or condiment bottle, this fiery, amber liquid graced almost every sideboard in town, from the humblest creek-side dwellings to the most elegant of townhouses downtown. (more…)

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…)