The people's voice of reason

Southern Cuisine - October

Remember that this is the ending of summer and the starting of Fall. One of the joys of Fall is enjoying the delicious and comforting meals that are typical of the season. In the South, there are many dishes that celebrate the bounty and flavor of autumn, such as fried okra, sweet potato casserole, collard greens, apple pie, tomato pie, and pecan pie. These are some of the most popular meals in the South and they can be made with fresh, local ingredients that are harvested this time of year.

A hearty, endlessly customizable stew, traditional burgoo often contains game meat, pork, root vegetables like potatoes and cabbage, and beans. Give yourself an afternoon to let this dish simmer on the stove (or in the slow cooker) to allow the flavors to develop. Often made in large quantities, the original was said to serve Frankfort’s Buffalo Trace distillery, so be ready to freeze extras or bring this main dish over to your next church function.

"It's the Kentucky version of gumbo," Landry said. "It has been made with all kinds of meats over the years but was often a communal endeavor where the bounty from the hunt was shared. Many suggest it is from the French ragout (pronounced ra-GOO), meaning stew."

Gumbo

While slimy okra gives many modern eaters the yuck, the veggie serves an essential purpose in this Louisiana stew: as a thickener. “The name gumbo comes from a West African word for okra, Ki Negombo, as okra was often used in the stew as a thickening agent. This demonstrates how African culinary practices were incorporated into the New World."

While there are two schools of thought when preparing gumbo, the well-spiced stew typically contains a protein, the Holy Trinity of vegetables (onions, bell peppers, and celery), a roux to thicken, and is served over rice.

Whether you prefer a Creole version with shellfish or a Cajun version with andouille and chicken, there’s no wrong answer when it comes to gumbo. With influences and ingredients from many cultures, including African, French, Spanish, German, and Indigenous peoples, gumbo reflects the many people who made Louisiana their home.

This tuna noodle casserole is the best with a classic creamy taste from my childhood. The sauce is rich and creamy but not overwhelmingly heavy. The crunch from the topping and fresh bite from the parsley create the perfect balance. Let's not forget that this is a great budget-friendly meal to feed a crowd!

TUNA NOODLE CASSEROLE

Ingredients

1 (12 ounce) package egg noodles

2 (10.5 ounce) cans condensed cream of mushroom soup

2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese, divided

2 (5 ounce) cans tuna, drained

1 cup frozen green peas

½ (4.5 ounce) can sliced mushrooms

¼ cup chopped onion

1 cup crushed potato chips or panko

Directions

The panko gives the casserole a crunchy crust.

Step 1

Gather all ingredients. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Add egg noodles and 3 teaspoons salt to the boiling water; cook until tender yet firm to the bite, about 6 minutes.

Drain noodles. Return to pot and set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and onion and cook until mushrooms are softened, and onions are translucent, about 4 minutes.

Add remaining butter; stir constantly until melted. Sprinkle flour over vegetable mixture and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.

Stir in milk and stock and bring to a simmer, stirring often.

Simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in lemon juice, Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Add sauce mixture to reserved noodles. Stir in 1 cup Cheddar cheese, peas, and tuna. Pour mixture into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle remaining Cheddar cheese over the top.

Stir together panko, remaining 2 teaspoons oil, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and paprika in a small bowl. Sprinkle bread crumb mixture evenly over the casserole. Bake in the preheated oven until golden and bubbly, 25 to 30 minutes.

Sprinkle with parsley and serve

Chow Chow

Also known as Piccalilli and Indian Pickle, the sweet a nd briny relish is made of the summer’s bounty of veggies, often including green tomatoes, cabbage, onions, bell peppers, and spices like mustard and celery seeds. Open a Southern Grandma's pantry, and you’ll likely find a few jars of the condiment put up and ready to be served with barbecue, hot dogs, or more traditionally, soup beans.

The origin of the name likely comes from one of the main ingredients, cabbage. In Louisiana, many of our recipes come from the Acadian people from Nova Scotia who were expelled from Canada and later settled in Louisiana. While the origin of the word is debated, we believe in Louisiana that the term came from the French word for cabbage, “chou”.

Unusual names are common place in Southern cooking as much as uncommon combination of ingredients. One good example of uncommon combinations of ingredients in this next cake. Tomato soup is not something that you will commonly find in a spice cake.

But it is in this cake.

Tomato Soup Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients for cake

2 cups all-purpose flour

11/3 cups sugar

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1 (10 3/4 oz) can condensed

tomato soup

1/2 cup unsalted butter melted

2 eggs

1/4 cup water

1 cup raisins

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, allspice, cinnamon and cloves. Add the soup, butter, eggs, and water and, using an electric mixer, beat until smooth.

Fold in the raisins. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake the cake until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 30-35 minutes. Let the cake cool completely.

To make the frosting, beat the cream cheese until smooth and light. Add the butter and beat into the cream cheese. Add 2 cups of the confectioners’ sugar and beat until combined. Continue to add confectioners’ sugar until you have your desired consistency. Beat in the cinnamon. Spread the frosting on top of the cooled cake. Cut into slices to serve.

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

8 oz cream cheese,

at room temperature

1/2 cup unsalted butter,

at room temperature

2 to 3 cups sifted

confectioners’ sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Hush Puppies

Deep-fried spoonfuls of a cornmeal-based batter, hush puppies are golden brown fritters often served as a side dish. Crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, you’ll see both sweet (made with a bit of sugar) and savory (with some grated onion) versions of this dish.

Enjoyed as a starter, sometimes for free at seafood places and barbecue joints, don’t hesitate to order a few if you see them on a menu.

While we savor the snack today, a century ago, this dish might have been table scraps to keep the pups quiet. "They were the little morsels that were fed to begging pups to keep them quiet. We say that hush puppy got used because shut the #$%@ up was too crass."

A food historian Robin Caldwell argues that the dish can be traced to Indigenous cuisine. She said, "The recipe itself is really old, and the derivations of the recipe can go back to Native people cooking balls of ground maize in Texas and Mexico."

 

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