Recipes and Stories

22 October 2012: Roast Chicken

October 23, 2012

Tags: Roast Chicken, High Temperature Roasting, Classical Southern Cooking, Historical Southern Cooking, Mary Randolph, Lettice Bryan, Annabella Hill

A simple roasted chicken is the very essence of autumn's kitchen
For the last two centuries, fried chicken has taken all the attention as the ultimate symbol of Southern cooking. Nothing else, except possibly barbecue, has hogged the limelight nearly so completely—and not without reason. When properly done, it’s one of the loveliest things in any cuisine’s repertory.

But fried chicken is—or, rather, should be—special occasion fare. For me, the simplest, and most satisfying, way of cooking a chicken is roasting, especially at this time of year: the aroma is the very essence of autumn’s kitchen. (more…)

28 July 2012: Okra and Tomatoes

July 28, 2012

Tags: Okra, Tomatoes, Okra and Tomatoes, Historical Southern Cooking, Classical Southern Cooking, Mary Randolph, Annabella Hill, Lettice Bryan, Sarah Rutledge

Classical Southern Okra and Tomatoes, with small, whole okra and fresh tomatoes
One of the great flavor combinations of a Southern summer is the masterful pairing of okra and tomatoes. This near perfect mating was not discovered down here, nor is it limited to our corner of the globe, but we’ve certainly laid claim to it and made it peculiarly our own. (more…)

20 July 2012: Yellow Crooknecks

July 20, 2012

Tags: Summer Squash, Classical Southern Cooking, Historical Southern Cooking, Mary Randolph, Lettice Bryan, Annabella Hill, Nancy Carter Crump, Cymling Squash, Yellow Crookneck Squash

A still life of yellow crookneck squash, being made ready for the pan. Photography by John Carrington
Summer squash is in the air (and, where the drought hasn’t struck, overflowing in the garden). When fellow culinary historian Nancy Carter Crump mentioned them in a recent short essay, it inspired a look back to the four doyennes of Southern cookery, and turned up three different ways of getting the similar results from Mary Randolph, Lettice Bryan, and Annabella Hill: (more…)

2 April 2012: Poke Sallet

April 2, 2012

Tags: Poke Sallet, Pokeweed, Poke, Historical Southern Cooking, Historical Cooking, Lettice Bryan, Emma Holmes, Early American Cooking, Spring Cooking, Spring Greens

Poke Sallet sauteed with Spring Onions and Bacon Lardons, served here as Mrs. Bryan would have done, with poached eggs
Under the deep-green shade of the old camellias in my back yard, one of the quiet miracles of spring is unfolding: a thick, luxurious stand of new-green poke shoots. This lovely wild green, once a defining element of spring’s table for country folk all across the South, is a real piece of Southern lore, and has been turned by popular culture into an object of derision, a symbol of ignorance and raw poverty.

It is none of those things to me. (more…)

6 March 2012: Spring Onions in Cream

March 6, 2012

Tags: Spring Onions, Spring Shallots, Classical Southern Cooking, The Kentucky Housewife, Lettice Bryan

Spring Onions in Cream
Among the loveliest and yet most neglected flavors of spring are true spring onions, the first slender, bright sprouts of the new growing season. Loosely — and misleadingly — labeled “green” onions, and today available year round, immature onion sprouts, like asparagus, were once strictly seasonal, available for only a few precious weeks. (more…)

9 February 2012: Calamondin Orange Marmalade

February 9, 2012

Tags: Classical Southern Cooking, Orange Marmalade, Calamondin Orange Marmalade, Lettice Bryan, The Kentucky Housewife

Old Fashioned Orange Marmalade, with made with Calamondin Oranges
The gift of a quart of Calamondin oranges last weekend was so lovely that they went straight into a blue and white china bowl as a table ornament. After a few days of admiring them, however, it became obvious that they weren’t going to last much longer. As they were entirely too lovely to waste, I started looking for something to do with them other than the obvious marmalade.

If you aren’t familiar with Calamondins, they look like a miniature tangerine or Clementine, and have the same thin, pliable skin that easily detaches from the fruit. But unlike Clementines, the pulp of a Calamondin is tart, with a bitter edge, which is of course why they’re so perfect for marmalade.

Several friends suggested that the juice would be a perfect substitute for that of bitter oranges in marinades for such things as Cuban style pork roast, or hearty roasted fish such as grouper or snapper. But using only the juice meant wasting those beautiful, vibrant skins, and since the day was cool and clear—ideal for making preserves—why quibble with marmalade just because it’s obvious?

When it comes to marmalade, the old-fashioned kind, with a nice bitter bite to cut the sweetness, is best. And for that, we need look no further than Lettice Bryan’s 1839 masterpiece, The Kentucky Housewife:

“Orange Marmalade.

Grate fine the yellow peel from some ripe deep colored oranges, cut up all that are decorticated, saving the juice and removing the seeds and cores; mix with the pulp the grated peel, add an equal weight of powdered loaf sugar and a very little water, simmer the whole together till it becomes thick and quite transparent. When cold put it up in small glass jars, and cover them with brandy papers.”

The delicate skins of Calamondins would not have taken to grating, but Mrs. Bryan’s formula otherwise made better sense than the things that had turned up on the Internet. The pitted fruit was sliced and tossed into the pot without separating the skins. The only addition to her sensible recipe was a tiny pinch of salt to brighten the flavor.

Calamondin Orange Marmalade

Wash the oranges and carefully twist off the stems (don’t pull or their delicate skins will tear). Weigh the fruit, then halve, seed, and thinly slice it, conserving all the juices. Toss the fruit and its juices into a heavy-bottomed stainless steel or enameled pot as it is cut.

Add an equal weight of sugar, a scant cup of water for each pound, and a small pinch of kosher or pickling salt. Stir until the sugar is mostly dissolved, then bring it to a boil over medium heat, stirring often. Maintain a steady boil and cook until the skins are transparent and tender and the syrup is thickened and jellies when dropped from the spoon onto a saucer (210-220 degrees F. on a candy thermometer). It will take about half an hour or a little more.

Let the marmalade cool slightly, then using a perfectly clean stainless or silver ladle and wide-mouthed funnel, transfer it to sterilized half-pint jars. Cover with new canning lids, cool, and refrigerate or, for prolonged storage, process in a water bath for 5 minutes.