Southern Cuisine - February
February 1, 2022 | View PDF
With the weather being cold and wet, I have been spending more time at home. So, every day the same question comes to my mind. What is a good meal to eat on a winter’s day? I have watched my share of cooking videos on my computer, my T.V., and my iPad. This makes a long list of meals to choose from. It is a long list, but not much in way of variety. Every article I read or video I watched has a soup or stew, or a dish that you serve in a 9 by 13 baking dish, or a list of things you can serve between two slices of bread. You need to come up with meals that will satisfy your foodies in your household.
From your pantry, you should be able to prepare a fusion cuisine of Tex-Mex/Jamaican or Asian/Greek. The other limiting feature of the dishes I have found is COVID-19. The limiting feature is that there is a shortage of some food items in the stores and you do not want to spend too much time in a crowded store. Some of us enjoy a self-cooked meal but you need a well-stocked pantry to prepare a meal without worrying about social distancing at the store. Have you heard me praising the benefit of a well-stocked pantry any time in my articles? You do not want to spend your time at home snacking on empty calories. You need to maintain healthy eating habits and minimize mindless snacking – even if you cannot socially distance from your kitchen cabinets. Another reason to prepare regular family meals is because they are linked to higher grades, getting along with others and reduced risky behaviors in adolescents. Family meals are associated with lower rates of obesity and eating disorders.
If you wanted a diet plan for the fifth year in a row that has been labeled the best diet overall, the Mediterranean Diet has always topped the chart. I will start featuring my best picks from this diet, in later articles. I have listed entrees, sides, desserts and snacks in many of my articles. Today, I am listing a breakfast item you can eat for dinner, a cake that is not usually served as a pound cake and a tried and true Southern dish that is an all-time favorite.
The first recipe is one of my favorites. A dish that looks like breakfast but tastes like dinner. I liked it when I was able to stay at my grandparents’ house during the summer. My grandfather believed in four meals a day. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and supper five days a week. The first three meals for the day were typical fare. Breakfast was always a typical all-American breakfast: Bacon, eggs, French toast, grits or oatmeal, waffles or cereal. Lunch was normal also. Sandwiches, soups, salads, or chicken fried steaks depending if Granddaddy was busy at the HUMBLE gas station he owned. Grandmother would deliver lunch to the station. The meal we had for lunch would always give me a clue on what was for supper that night. If we had bacon for breakfast and corn for lunch, we would have breakfast for dinner.
Bacon Corn Pancakes
Yield 18 pancakes: cooking 18 pancakes guaranteed that I would have plenty of pancakes to snack on the next day.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
2 large eggs, room temp
1½ to 1¾ cups milk
2½ cups leftover cooked corn from lunch (you can use fresh or frozen corn)
1 cup crumbled cooked bacon
1/3 cup chopped onion
Breakfast syrup, dark corn syrup or molasses
1. Preheat griddle.
2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and pepper.
3. Whisk together the eggs and milk and stir that into the dry ingredients.
4. Stir in the bacon, corn and onion.
5. Lightly grease the griddle.
6. Pour batter by ¼ cupful’s into the griddle. Cook until bottom is golden brown, turn and cook until done.
7. Serve with butter and syrup.
The next recipe was a favorite lunch meal while I was working at the Renaissance Hotel in Montgomery. Hoppin’ John is a New Year’s tradition in the South but is eaten all year long. It was offered as a side dish but adding sausage to the recipe would make it an entrée. This recipe uses canned black-eyed peas, which cuts the cooking time down to about 30 minutes.
It is uncertain why the dish became associated with New Year’s and good luck. The most likely story is that enslaved people would often have the period between Christmas and New Year’s off, since no crops were growing at that time. Hoppin’ John was, and still is, often eaten with collard greens, which can resemble paper money, and “golden” cornbread. The peas themselves represent coins. Some families boost the potential of their Hoppin’ John by placing a penny underneath the dishes—or adding extra pork, which is thought to bring more luck. Ask anyone that grew up in the South, and they will all give you a colorful but different story about the origins of this dish.
Southern Hoppin’ John
From Taste of Home
½-lb sliced bacon cut into 1-in pieces
1 small green or sweet red pepper, chopped
2 celery ribs chopped
6 green onions sliced
1 cup uncooked long-grain rice
2 cups water
¼ tsp salt
½ to 1 tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp dried basil
¼ tsp dried thyme
¼ tsp dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1 can (15 oz) black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1. In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Drain on paper towels; discard all but 2 tablespoons drippings.
2. Sauté pepper, celery and onions in drippings until almost tender. Add rice, water and seasonings.
3. Cover and simmer 10 minutes. Add peas and bacon; simmer 10 minutes longer. Discard bay leaf.
4. Alternative addition would be link sausage (Conecuh or Kelley’s) cut in one-inch lengths. Add to pan when you cook the bacon and cook sausage as per instructions on package.
Hundreds of years ago, cakes were a sweet type of bread. Many times, people would put dried fruits and nuts in their cake recipes. As a result, the desserts were rough and had an abrasive texture. It wasn’t until 500 years later that bakers began to make dessert more appealing. They were able to find ways to break down the flour in the recipes, so cakes could be softer and tastier. To understand the traditional red velvet cake, you must go back in time.
Velvet cakes first came into existence during the Victorian Era. It was during the 1800s that recipes would frequently call for the use of cocoa for luxury cakes. The ingredient of cocoa would help break down the coarse flour. As a result, the flour was softer, and the cake was velvety. They would call the cakes “velvet” cakes and serve them at fancy dessert parties. The word velvet lets guests know the cake will have a smooth and soft texture.
Some people argue that the red color in this cake comes from a chemical reaction between the cocoa and acid. Natural cocoa has a lot of acidities and works well with the baking soda and buttermilk. It also adds a delicious chocolate flavor; the cocoa makes the cake nice and soft.
Around the 1900s, cake recipes with cocoa as the main ingredient began to surface. Devil’s food cake is another recipe that requires cocoa as an ingredient.
People were finding recipes for cocoa velvet cakes, red cocoa cakes and other “cocoa” types of cakes. Finally, around 1943, a popular cookbook, “The Joy of Cooking” debuted a red velvet cake. The recipe from “The Joy of Cooking” was the cake’s first national mention.
During WWII, soldiers and civilians had to ration off food and supplies. Baking products like sugar and butter were a part of the rations. As a result, some bakers chose to use beet juice in their cakes. You can still find red velvet cake recipes today that call for beet juice. The red color of the beets makes the cake have a more delicious appeal. However, not only do the beets make the cake pretty, but they also make the cake soft. Beets work as a filler that keeps the cake from being dry. People were happy to buy a red cake because it felt more special. The red color of the dessert isn’t very important to the flavor of the cake; however, red beet juice will impart a flavor.
Red Velvet Pound Cake
YIELD: 16 servings.
1 cup butter, softened
3 cups sugar
6 large eggs, room temperature
2 bottles (1 oz each) red food coloring
1 tsp lemon extract
1 tap vanilla extract
3¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking cocoa
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
¾ cup 2% milk
1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
¼ cup butter softened
½ tsp vanilla extract
3¾ cups confectioners’ sugar
½ cup chopped pecans, toasted
1. Preheat oven to 325°. Grease and flour a 10-in. fluted tube pan.
2. In a large bowl, cream butter, shortening and sugar until light and fluffy, 5-7 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in food coloring and extracts (mixture may appear curdled).
3. In another bowl, whisk flour, baking cocoa, baking powder and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with milk, beating after each addition just until combined
4. Transfer to prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 70-75 minutes. Cool in pan 15 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
5. For icing, in a large bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until creamy. Beat in vanilla. Gradually beat in confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Spread over cake; sprinkle with pecans