Our Southern Heritage May Be Clogged Arteries

This week’s culinary adventures take us south of the Mason-Dixon Line via a cookbook originally published in 1972 entitled The New York Times Southern Heritage Cookbook, by Jean Hewitt. The cookbook is heavy on the fish and shellfish (with good reason since a large part of the South is waterfront property) and pretty light on vegetables. In fact, the vegetable chapter is “Vegetables, Main Dish Accompaniments, and Salads.” The accompaniment part serves to include hominy, grits, puddings, and various cheese sauces.

Two items really disturbed me while I thumbed through the pages: The recipe for dolphin fillets and the complete madness of butter. Yes, you read that correctly. In a post-Flipper world, there is a recipe for dolphin drenched in butter.

I went with a decidedly less controversial menu (but still with plenty of butter). Because everything bakes at the same temperature, you can do this menu pretty easily after work. I started with the pie and roasted the sweet potatoes in the same oven. While that was cooking, I started the chicken and then did the crab dish. The pie was cooling on the counter as we sat down to eat.

Hold on to your hats, kids, this is going to be one wild cholesterol ride.

Deviled Crab Meat II

(Yes, there are two similar recipes, both from Maryland) Serves 4

  • 4 T butter
  • ½ C finely chopped onion
  • ½ C + 4 t soft breadcrumbs
  • 1 C heavy cream
  • ½ t dry mustard
  • ¼ t cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • Tabasco sauce, to taste
  • 2 egg yolks, beaten
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 lb lump crab meat, picked over to remove bits of shell and cartilage
  • Parsley for garnish

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Melt 2 T of the butter in a skillet and cook the onion until wilted. (Wilted? I just cooked until soft.) Add ½ C breadcrumbs, cream, mustard, cayenne, Tabasco, egg yolks, and salt. Gently mix with the crab meat.

Spoon the mixture into four individual ramekins, dot with the remaining butter and sprinkle with the remaining breadcrumbs. Bake until golden brown. Serve garnished with parsley. And, as always, I forgot the garnish (sigh).

Results

I like a bit more onion or scallion flavor to my crab. Also, you probably don’t need an entire teaspoon of breadcrumbs to top off each ramekin. The end result was a bit too bready for my taste. I will say, the leftovers made absolutely lovely crab cakes the next day.

Deviled Crab

Crab cake in a bowl

 

Poulet Floride

 

(From Florida) Serves 4

  • ¼ C ketchup
  • ¼ C cider vinegar
  • 2 T Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 T butter
  • 2 T light brown sugar
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t dry mustard
  • 1 t chili powder
  • ¼ t  cayenne pepper
  • Few dashes Tabasco sauce
  • 2 medium-sized onions, sliced
  • 1 3-lb chicken, cut into serving pieces

Mix all ingredients except the sliced onion and chicken in a large saucepan. Bring to boil and let cool.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Add the sliced onion and chicken to the sauce. (I actually found that it was easier to put the onion and chicken in a bowl and pour the sauce on top.)

Cut four pieces of aluminum foil 14”x18”. (As a note, modern foil comes in 12” length, and it works just fine.) Butter one side of each. Divide the chicken, onion, and sauce evenly on the buttered foil. Fold foil in half and close by folding open edges triply. Place packages on baking sheet and bake 1 hour. Serve in the foil.

Results

You’d think this would be spicy, but it’s not. It would probably taste spicier if the chicken and onions got to hang with the sauce a bit longer. If I were a camping girl (which I am not), this would be a good camp dish. Eating meat out of aluminum foil makes me nostalgic for my Girl Scout days. And, then I remember the outdoor toilets and I am no longer nostalgic. Having said that, make sure you do the packets in a pretty fashion as you will be serving the dish ala foil. Paul loved this dish so much, he actually got up from his chair and hugged me. Then said, “This is so good, I’m eating the onions.”

Chicken and Onions

Baked Bourbon Spiced Sweet Potatoes

(From Tennessee) Serves 4

  • 4 sweet potatoes
  • ⅓ C sugar
  • ½ C butter (yup, that’s a whole stick)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • ½ C heavy cream
  • ¼ t salt
  • ¼ t nutmeg
  • ½ t cinnamon
  • ⅓ C raisins
  • ¼ C bourbon

Preheat oven to 375°F. Scrub the potatoes and bake until tender, about 40 minutes. Peel and mash into a bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Turn into a greased casserole and bake until heated through, about 10 minutes.

Results

This is how sweet potatoes should be made—loads of butter and a nice amount of liquor. I am decidedly NOT a sweet potato person (baked or casseroled). In fact, when I was little my mom made me baked sweet potatoes and I couldn’t leave the table without eating a half of one. As she was doing dishes, I just tossed my portion behind my shoulder into the open garbage can. She turned around and I smiled sweetly, thinking I was very clever and said, “All done.”

I do enjoy sweet potato fries and now I can add bourboned to my list of sweet potato preparations that do not turn my stomach.

Chess Pie I

(Again, there are two from Kentucky) Serves 6 to 8

  • 1 C light brown sugar
  • ½ C granulated sugar
  • 1 t flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 2 T light cream (what is that really? I used half-and-half.)
  • ½ C melted butter
  • 1 unbaked 9” pie shell

Sweetened whipped cream (optional, and honestly you don’t really need it)

Preheat oven to 325°F. Combine the brown sugar, granulated sugar, and flour. Add the eggs and mix well. Add the vanilla and cream, and blend. Stir in the butter and pour the mixture into the pie shell.

Bake 30-45 minutes, or until the filling is slightly firm. (It took mine a bit longer. Perhaps, because I put the pie on a baking sheet before putting it in the oven or maybe it was the sweet potatoes roasting in the oven as well.) If desired, serve with whipped cream sweetened to taste.

Results

How can you go wrong when the pie is basically sugar and more sugar? This recipe is a bit non-traditional because it doesn’t contain cornmeal, just regular flour. Oh, and before you ask, the name doesn’t refer to the game of chess. It’s one of those terms that is steeped in historic mystery, with everyone having a different theory. This pie is pretty much pecan pie without the pecans. And, thus, overly sweet and the perfect dessert for me.

My version did not stand up well to cutting. Guess what? I didn’t care, it still tasted like heaven.

Chess Pie

Kind of crumbly, but still tasty.

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