The people's voice of reason

Southern Cuisine

It was August and I was hot, so I decided to do something about it. I couldn’t change the humidity, the temperature or the dew point here in Alabama, so I decided to change my location.

I wanted to go somewhere dry, cooler and where I could try new menu items at some new restaurants. Since I am writing about food, I have to keep up my research. Tough job!

So I am in Ruidoso, New Mexico. Cooler, with the mornings in the 50’s, and drier days with the dew point below 60 most days.

New Mexico is not considered the bastion of Southern Cuisine. Some food writers say that New Mexico Cuisine is similar to Southwestern Cuisine. The basic ingredients of New Mexico cooking are chilies, beans and corn but they don’t use sour cream or avocadoes. New Mexican cuisine does have corn and pork like Southern cuisine.

Trying to describe Southwestern cuisine is like trying to describe Southern Cuisine, which has to broken down to regions like the Gulf Coast, Cajun, and the Low Country. And part of the make up of Southwestern Cuisine is New Mexican cuisine. New Mexico is the home of the hatch pepper, and as we in the South ask, “Sweet or Unsweet Tea?” here in New Mexico, they ask “Red or Green Pepper? But don’t ask for sweet tea.

I told you I was here doing “food research”, so the first place I went when I got off the plane in Roswell, N.M. was to a food truck that I knew was going to be downtown for lunch. Chef Toddzilla, famous from the Cooking Channel, was at the town square. Having looked up his menu on the Internet, there was no hesitation when I was asked for my order, “Chorizo Burger with fries, please.” The patty was made with beef, ground pork tenderloin and bacon mixed with red chile. There was lettuce, Pico de Gallo, roasted garlic mayo, topped with a fried egg. How could you go wrong?

When I get home, I’m going to make his Grizilla Cheese sandwich, with flat fried chile rellenos, Muenster cheese on sour dough bread, yum! No wonder McDonalds is having such a hard time.

We later ate at a Mexican restaurant and pork was an ingredient in many of the menu items and pulled pork was listed in 3 or 4 items. A non-pork entrée on the menu could be served at the Blue Moon Café in Montgomery as a substitute for Chicken Pot Pie. Instead of a dough piecrust, they used puffed pastry shaped as a square container with a lid. Filled with chicken, green chilies and vegetables in a cream sauce and topped with a green chili sauce. It is somewhat spicier than the normal chicken potpie, but it is just a different recipe for basically a standard in Southern cooking.

There are not many national fast food franchises in Ruidoso but there are restaurants that are family owned or locally owned. That means they can change their menus with the change of seasons and the abundance of local ingredients.

But is it really any different from other places. We ate mostly what was abundant in our location. But now we have to ability to transport products over great distances and the population is more mobile, meaning when we move or visit other places we tend to prefer to eat something with familiar ingredients. Besides the locals, there are more people from Texas here than anywhere else.

So Tex-Mex is blended in with the local favorite fare.

So there is a fusion of foods from different cultures here and across the country and Southern Cuisine is in the mix. Bobby Flay has a recipe for Indonesian Fried chicken and Nuevo Latino Shrimp and Grits. Paula Deen has Mexican Shrimp and Grits. I am in favor of adding different flavors from around the world but you can “fix” dishes with different flavors from different regions of the South.

Case in point. Here is a recipe that has ingredients from the Gulf Coast, South Carolina, Alabama and Texas. This is an adaption of a recipe from the restaurant Slightly North of Broad, in Charleston.

I call it: Southern Fusion Shripm and Grits

I think that there are under-used foodstuffs sitting in your pantry. Items that you can incorporate into your favorite recipes. Peanut butter is a good example. Most people use peanut butter to make sandwiches (like my favorite, Peanut Butter and Mayonnaise) or to add to some sickening sweet gooey dessert. My favorite way to use peanut butter is to use it in savory dishes instead of sweet. I have a board on Pinterest called Peanut Butter with several tasty recipes. Most peanut butter boards on Pinterest are full of cookie, cupcake and pie recipes for peanut butter.

If you want to spice up your pork or chicken, use a peanut sauce instead of cream or stock based gravy. This recipe can also be used as a sauce for green beans, and take the boring out of the usual steamed or boiled beans. I also like using crunchy peanut butter just to add a new texture to the dishes. Also I do not use sugar loaded goo and any peanut butter that has more then 3 ingredients: peanuts, oil and salt.

Southerners have a strong since of regional heritage. We are proud of our turnip greens cornbread, sweet tea, rural pasts and Southern drawls. We are card-carrying Southerners.

Southerners know you don’t cook meals, you “fix” them.



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