Friday, September 4, 2015

Real Southern Cooking

Southern cooking is one of the greatest  gifts thanks to amazing chefs and time honored recipes.Famed chef Dora Charles is one of the first and has created  a cookbook A Real Southern Cook In Her Savannah Cooking (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt),celebrating the flavorful dishes of Georgian cooking.. It is a must have, honoring generations of the ingenuity and talent that went in creating this uniquely American cuisine.

Kim Severson  interviewed Chef Charles for Wednesday's New York Times Food section and came away with some interesting recipes such as Cheater's Pickles and Next Day Fried Greens , complete wit her special seasoning  which can be used on other dishes as well. Chef Charles is also known for being the second in charge to the controversial Paula Deen. Unfortunately it was not an equal relationship as it always seems to be .It reflected  the uneasy relationship African Americans have with white employers, that was a carry over from the country's enslavement period. Not only did she witness racism, she was paid only ten dollars  an hour despite her large contributions to Ms. Deen's Savannah restaurant the Lady and Sons. Luckily she had the support of another former Deen employee ,Lisa T. Jackson who went out on her own to become general manager of  Uncle Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House. Ms. Jackson's lawyer  helped chef Charles with her own settlement as well as her book contract. There are stories of Ms. Deen, and they are both warm and painful, making up only six pages in a large cookbook.(in all fairness Chef Charles does acknowledge the other's contribution)Readers should skim over this , and focus instead on Chef Charles' family and black life in Georgia' Low country.

Home chefs should also hone in on the rich variety of traditional recipes. This is true American cooking at its' best. There is also advice with two pages devoted to teaching how to properly fry as well as how to sooth burns with yellow mustard. Black Southern cooks always make their own special seasoning mix to add to their dishes, chef Charles is an easy one  to replicate.It's a blend of Lawry's special seasoning, granulated or powdered garlic , black pepper and table salt.This mix is dusted over ribs and pork chops along with baked spaghetti. She stresses how important it is to choose good raw ingredients and urges building flavor at every step. Some recipes rely on Southern pantry staples like margarine and Miracle Whip, Her biscuits are made with classic ingredients like buttermilk and Bisquick but sweetened with Sprite(!). The book is co-written with cookbook writer, Fran McCullough, who introduced her to  the famed Kerrygold butter and paprika which both found their way into some recipes. There are also contributions from Chef Charles . eight three year old aunt Laura Daniels as well . readers will enjoy Gone To Glory Potato Salad and Savannah Red Rice.

Chef Charles is giving us a legacy of the best of Southern cuisine in A Real Southern Cook In Her Savannah Kitchen. It reflects a cooking tradition born out of tears and hard labor, but also of joy and family.It is a true gem.

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