Southern Staples For Your Farmhouse Table
There’s nothing like good, old Southern cookin’ to make a body feel satisfied – physically and mentally. You just want to kick back and put your feet up for a while.
Some of it is the raw ingredients that say stability and love – chicken, green beans, sweet potatoes and okra, for instance.
But even great food can get old. Falling-off-the-bone baked chicken that makes your lips stick together is a super southern supper that needs a little pepping up after a while.
Check your spice rack. Same ol’ same ol’? Make a point of watching ads for deals on spices and herbs. Ethnic stores have racks of inexpensive bagged spices.
Though the long-cooked chicken is great- it needs a variation after a while. You can use a whole chicken cut up or grab a package of thighs for a supper of Country Captain. The recipe comes from Savannah or Charleston or many other places, depending on your source. One story credits a ship’s captain who had the dish in India, hence the curry powder.
Country Captain variation of a recipe published in The New York Times in 2009
¼ cup flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons butter
8 chicken thighs
4 slices bacon
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 medium green pepper, seeded and diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons curry powder
3 tablespoons currants or dark raisins
1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes, with juice
3 tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted
Cooked white rice.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Combine flour, salt, pepper, and thyme in a bowl. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat until it foams. Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture, shaking off excess, and fry until browned- about 8 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate. Drain fat from pan.
Fry the bacon until crisp. Cool then crumble.
Add the onion, pepper, celery, garlic, curry powder and 1 tablespoon of currants or raisins to the skillet and cook over medium-high heat until soft and fragrant- about 7 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and juice, simmer over medium-low heat for 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Spread 1 cup tomato sauce in a casserole dish. Arrange the chicken on top in one layer. Top with the rest of the sauce. Cover tightly with foil and bake 35 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for an additional 15 minutes.
Top with the crumbled bacon, remaining currants or raisins and slivered almonds. Serve with cooked rice and chutney, chopped fruit, and nuts.
Green beans are another southern staple. It’s hard to find them in a restaurant without a good chunk of ham hock or bacon, and, sadly, they have often lost most of their texture from being in hot water too long.
A new twist on an old favorite vegetable is as close as your jar of spaghetti sauce. Fresh oregano and basil pump up the flavor while grated parmesan cheese tops it off.
Simmer in water as many green beans as you want to serve. Drain when tender-crisp. Return them to the pot and add enough of your favorite spaghetti sauce to almost cover. Toss in some fresh basil and oregano . . . or just basil if that’s what you have . . . or dried Italian herbs. Simmer until the beans are tender and the sauce is hot.
Top each serving with a good shake of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
For a quick green bean side dish to go with your Country Captain, boil your beans. Drain when they are done and toss with a little minced onion and Italian salad dressing from a bottle.
If you have a tablespoon or two of pesto lurking in the bottom of a jar in the fridge that can bring new life to green beans, too.
Sweet potatoes say south, even when they are served up North. As if sweet potatoes are not sweet enough, we like to doll them up with sugar, maple syrup, molasses or marshmallows.
For a change, give a simple filling a try. Chop a tomato or two with a bit of onion. Season with chopped cilantro and a splash of hot sauce. Stir in plain yogurt, just enough to moisten, and spoon that down the middle of a baked sweet potato.
Rice and beans in a sweet potato can be a light meal. Sprinkle sesame seeds or chopped nuts on top for more good-for-you flavor.
Okra is a love-it or hate-it southern vegetable. Just mention the word and the world is divided into EEEEW or OOOH sides.
Even okra-haters will change their minds after a taste of this dish adapted from Southern Living.
Pecan Crusted Okra
1 cup toasted pecans
1 ½ cups all-purpose baking mix
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
2 (10-ounce) packages frozen whole okra, thawed
Process pecans, baking mix, salt and pepper until pecans are finely ground. Toss okra in mix to coat, pressing in to okra.
Heat 2 inches of cooking oil to 350 degrees. Fry okra 5 to 6 minutes or until golden. Drain on paper towels.
There you have it, easy ways to spice up four of your southern supper staples, and right in time to start preparing for your Thanksgiving meal. Enjoy!