Southern for a day
I don’t know when my love affair with down-home Southern food began, but I’m pretty hooked right now. Maybe it’s the cultural obsession with greens and bacon. Maybe it’s the fluffy biscuits and dense cornbread. Maybe it’s the way Southerners dress up their veggies with so much butter and cheese and cream that you can’t help but crave them. Did I mention pecan pie, peaches, oranges, collard greens, slow-cooked beans, and barbecue sauces of all stripes? Yeah, Southern food is kind of awesome. It’s the one place left in the U.S. where cooking food slow is not really fashionable, but is definitely in the blood.
Tonight I’m making collard greens, sweet potato and pecan casserole, and barbecue chicken breasts for dinner. If I were really ambitious, I’d make corn bread, too, but I’m not. So maybe I’ll just make some cheating drop biscuits.
The past few days have been full of cooking triumphs and failures. I made a grapefruit curd the other day that not only didn’t really taste all that great (too sweet with a bitter edge – not nearly enough tartness!), it ended up breaking (as in curdling) because I cooked it for too long. I made soft orange vanilla cookies that were a triumph, though the orange glaze gave me trouble to begin with (mainly, I made WAY too much of it!), it turned out pretty good in the end. I made a stir-fry with sausage, sugar snap peas, broccoli, carrots, and oranges in a sesame/soy/orange/brown sugar/garlic sauce that was actually really delicious over fluffy brown rice. The other night I made rice pudding out of arborio (a.k.a. risotto) rice, golden raisins, dried currants, chopped dried apricots, finely chopped almonds, and a helluva lot of milk. It was amazing. Last night I made split pea soup that I thought was going to be awful, but was actually quite delicious. No salt needed, due to the smoked ham hock I used in it. I even made a spice packet (cinnamon sticks, clementine orange peel, whole cloves, brown sugar, and ground nutmeg) for hot cider at a historic site event this weekend. It made amazing hot cider that is even more amazing (if possible) leftover and cold and thick from the fridge.
What I haven’t been doing lately is much baking. Just the orange cookies. I want to try my hand at so many others, but can’t bring myself to. I have no idea why.
But back to cooking. My favorite cuisines are possibly Italian and Southern. I love Mexican and Asian foods (mainly fake, takeout Chinese and mild Thai), but I don’t particularly enjoy seafood or a good deal of hot spices. Italian is perhaps the easiest for me, particularly cucina povera, because of the emphasis on vegetables, beans, and pasta. Southern food also places a pretty large emphasis on the importance of vegetables. And pork. Who doesn’t love pork? Well, some people, I guess, but come on! It’s delicious! Alas, the boy doesn’t often share the sentiment, but I don’t go for pork chops, per se. Not only are they ridiculously easy to overcook, they are almost always tough and dry (a.k.a. overcooked). I’ve never tried my hand at them, but ham, pork loin, and bacon are so good, why would you even want to? I think it’s the salty juiciness and the melting fat. Beef doesn’t have that. Chicken does, but it’s easy to get sick of chicken.
Again, I digress. I don’t know what the point of this update was, except to profess my love of down-home Southern food. So, I’m off to attempt to whip up some drop biscuits and start the chicken. Happy almost-holidays!