My past articles have been about the role of family in Southern cooking, a little history of Southern Cuisine and the types of food and what ingredients were found in Southern cooking. A hodgepodge of different topics that were racing through my mind at the time. Also some Southern recipes for dishes that were and are still popular and some that aren't common in the everyday menus of people today.
There are several topics that I will keep focusing on; the need to use the freshest ingredients and reading labels to know what ingredients you are using, techniques that will save you time, stocking a pantry, and keeping it simple. All characteristics of Southern Cuisine.
I have thousands of recipes, and no I have not tried them all. Many are on paper; most are on my computer, my Ipad as recipe collections from different web sites, on zip drives or other back up discs. But when I started my culinary career as a banquet chef, the hotel kitchen only kept one recipe on paper. The recipes for the other menu items were told to you as a general description, such as vegetable stuffed chicken breasts, or a cream soup. It was up to you to use what ingredients were on hand and to make it appetizing.
The first thing I did on my next day off was to buy the book, "FOOD FOR FIFTY" by Shugart and Molt. It is described as "a compilation of basic standardized recipes with efficient procedures for their preparation." Once I learned that, I could experiment with different spices, change cooking procedures, and combine items that were not thought of being cooked together before. That is what I want you to do. I may give you a recipe that I want you to try. You can make the dish just as the recipe says or if you have enough competence in your kitchen skills and knowledge, change it. If the recipe calls for water, try stock instead. If it calls for olive oil to mix in a salad or other cold dish, try walnut or pecan oil instead. Change it to suit your skill and taste.
Now for some pantry talk. What type of oil should you use for cooking? It seems that every time that I go to the grocery store, the oil selection is getting larger and the prices are going up. One reason for the increase is because America is the third largest olive oil consumer and Spain is the world's largest olive oil producer, and the harvest in Spain last year was a bust and other olive oil producing areas in the world were having trouble with the weather. Must be that global warming! So supply and demand sets the price. To get the best results from the oil you want to use, follow this simply guide.
Don't think you need to use olive oil for everything.
Use olive oil for dressing up salads and cold dishes and use a good olive oil.
For cooking that uses high heat, use a vegetable oil. For high heat cooking, use peanut oil, grapeseed oil and canola oil. These oils have high smoke point and can withstand the higher temperatures. For salads and cold dishes, buy an unfiltered or fancy extra virgin olive oil. It's best to drizzle over a finished dish.
My favorite meal of the day is breakfast. When did you last have sweet potatoes, bacon, and greens for an early morning pick me up? What would be a better Southern breakfast to have next Saturday....