Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Southern Cooking

A commenter said that my menu made it sound like I was raised in the south. Actually, my father was a career Air Force officer, so I grew up sort of a gypsy. My mother’s family was from Louisiana though, and my father’s from Arkansas, so culturally I was very much raised “Southern” and certainly as to cuisine that would be the case.

Cooking has long been a serious interest of mine, which is fortunate since my wife’s cooking is, to say the least, a bit limited. She bakes quite well, makes wonderful pumpkin pie, and her potato salad is the best made West of the Mississippi River, but that’s pretty much it. She probably could cook just fine if she was interested in it, but she just doesn’t like to cook as much as I do.

I have retained quite a few methods and recipes from my mother’s side of the family, and my cooking leans toward Creole and Cajun. Those are by no means the same thing, but I will save that discussion for another time. I reap recipes from the paper and other sources, but I usually modify them to suit my own taste and procedures, often changing them to the point that the originator would not really recognize them. The changes that I make usually wind up imparting a somewhat Creole character to the dish.

I have gathered some great recipes from others’ blogs, and it seems fair that I share some of my favorite dishes in return. So here goes.

My Grandmother Lelia’s Grillards

This one is pure Lelia Schneidau – I would not dream of changing her masterpiece by one iota. It’s pronounced “gree-yards” by the way, and I have been eating this since I was weaned. I’m kind of guessing at quantities, because when I make it I sort of freelance the amounts (as did Grandma), but not the items.

½ lb round steak
1 med onion, diced
3 stalks celery diced
1 bell pepper diced
1 can 15oz diced tomatoes
1 tsp oregano
3 cloves garlic
½ tsp basil
1-2 bay leaves
½ tsp thyme
1 cup white wine (Sauterne, Pinot Grigio)
Worchester sauce

First you take and make a roux. (See "Making a Roux" below.) When it has reached medium, to maybe a little darker than medium, add the onion, celery and peppers all at once and cook until they just start to become limp, stirring frequently. Put that into a pot and add tomatoes and wine and bring to a simmer over low heat. Depending on your roux, this is likely to be very thick, so you may need to add some water. It should be a little thicker than a good thick pea soup.

Cut the meat into smallish pieces, flour it thoroughly (repeat thoroughly – flour it, let it sit and then flour it again) and then fry it in oil over medium heat until golden brown. Don’t worry about it cooking it through and through, and don’t burn it – just golden color, turning as needed. Add the meat to the pot.

Add the spices with a small shot of Worchester and just a touch of Tobasco. Simmer over low heat at least 3 hours and preferably 4 hours, adding water as needed. (Note, add boiling water, not tap, if the sauce becomes too thick. Think really thick pea soup.)

Serve over rice, cooked southern style.

Southern Style Rice

We had rice at every meal. We sometimes had potatoes as well, but we had rice on the table three meals every day. It was always fluffy, with every grain separate, because in the South they cook it to come out that way.

1 cup long grain white rice
1 tsp salt
1-3/4 cup water (not 2 cups as is usually stated)

Saut̩ the rice in the saucepan over medium-high heat, with just enough oil to moisten all of the grains, until about half the grains have become opaque. Add the water and salt and bring to a boil. When it has just started to boil, cover and reduce the heat to simmer. Simmer for about 20 minutes without removing the lid. This is important Рdo not remove the lid or stir the rice while it is cooking. After 20 minutes remove from heat and fluff with a fork.

Making a Roux

A great many Creole recipes start off with making a roux. If you don’t know how to do that the link above will get you started.

I make my roux in a cast iron skillet over high heat, and I use sunflower oil because it has the highest smoke point. Making roux, particularly dark roux, requires a certain amount of courage. My family saying is that you keep going until the second time you think it’s going to burn. Actually, for a really dark roux, you need to go until the third time you think that.

The link is absolutely right about a couple of things. One, forget the microwave. You cannot make a roux of any kind in the microwave. Two, do not stop stirring. If your husband has a heart attack, tell one of the kids to call 911 because you cannot stop stirring the roux.

This has been fun. I hope you enjoy the dinner.


  1. Anonymous12:22 PM

    Somehow I read this as "gizzards" and wasn't too interested until I read the ingredients. I am going to try it, and admit to a level of interest similar to your wife's, since I have never made rice that wasn't out of a box. So sad. I would like a shrimp recipe, but since I just got back from Mexico, nothing sounds too good at the moment.

  2. I love your recipe. I have really gotten into food and cooking since I quit smoking and can really taste the flavors of foods. I was born and raised in Pensacola, Fl. and have not left that area all my life. I am a true southerner and my cooking shows it. Thanks for your recipe. I just started my blog and I am learning the how to's. I will be publishing some of my old family recipes in the near future. (Grandma's corner).

  3. Yeah! I was hoping I would find that here today! Otherwise I was goingto be emailing you for it.

  4. Oh, and we will enjoy our dinner now!