Cornbread Nation 7 by Kevin Young [kindle online]


  • Full Title : Cornbread Nation 7: The Best of Southern Food Writing (Cornbread Nation Ser.)
  • Autor: Kevin Young
  • Print Length: 288 pages
  • Publisher: University of Georgia Press
  • Publication Date: May 15, 2014
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0820346667
  • ISBN-13: 978-0820346663
  • Download File Format: epub

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How does Southern food look from the outside? The form is caught in constantly dueling stereotypes: It’s so often imagined as either the touchingly down-home feast or the heartstopping health scourge of a nation. But as any Southern transplant will tell you once they’ve spent time in the region, Southerners share their lives in food, with a complex mix of stories of belonging and not belonging and of traditions that form identities of many kinds.

Cornbread Nation 7, edited by Francis Lam, brings together the best Southern food writing from recent years, including well-known food writers such as Sara Roahen and Brett Anderson, a couple of classic writers such as Langston Hughes, and some newcomers. The collection, divided into five sections (“Come In and Stay Awhile,” “Provisions and Providers,” “Five Ways of Looking at Southern Food,” “The South, Stepping Out,” and “Southerners Going Home”), tells the stories both of Southerners as they move through the world and of those who ended up in the South. It explores from where and from whom food comes, and it looks at what food means to culture and how it relates to home.

 

Review

Cornbread Nation 7 is American regionalism at its finest. It’s a splendid collection of tales of Southerners traveling abroad, immigrants journeying to the South, and children of immigrants living in the South and then reflecting on their heritage. Through the meticulous efforts of guest editor Francis Lam, on behalf of the Southern Foodways Alliance and general editor John T. Edge, we have been bestowed with this gem. (Shyam K. Sriram PopMatters)

‘Love’ and ‘home’ (including homes far from the South) show up more than once in this book, but please don’t fear Crock-Pots of sentimentality. The subject―this great complicated subject of Southern food, Southern food history and chefs, the habits and humor and rules that go in and around and behind our food―is here described and analyzed and eulogized by some of the South’s finest writers. (Clyde Edgerton Garden & Gun)

The writings in Cornbread Nation 7 are as varied as the South itself. Some of the authors were born Southern, some come from away, but their love for and connection with the South and its food bring them all together. . . . Their works show how the South is changing with outside influences, while keeping its own identity. Even if you’re not a die-hard ‘foodie’, anyone with an interest in food or Southern culture can enjoy this book. (Zinia Randles Tennessee Libraries)

About the Author

FRANCIS LAM is editor-at-large at Clarkson Potter. He appears at the Critics’ Table in the fifth season of Top Chef Masters (Bravo). He was features editor at Gilt Taste, which was awarded six IACP awards and four James Beard award nominations in its first two years. His own writing has been nominated for a James Beard award and three IACP awards, winning one. He has served as senior writer at Salon.com and a contributing editor at Gourmet, and his work has appeared in the 2006–13 editions of Best Food Writing.

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Keywords

soup, lion’s head meatballs, dinosaur birthday cake, bread band songs, spiderman birthday cake, easter dessert recipes, cookies definition computer, coffee club, thai diner, chicken afritada, whats the tea, grapefruit juice, coffee nutrition, salisbury steak recipe, cooks country cookbook, gong bao chicken, mixed drinks list, thank you chocolates, salmon pasta dishes, patio grill,
ice cream or crème fraîche. Savoury – well, a generous sprinkle of herbs, or grated Parmesan, or a jaunty fried egg garnish will hide a multitude of sins. And if all else fails, check out the quick fixes on page xxiii.

LAYOUT AND EQUIPMENT

You really need very little to be a decent cook: an oven or a hob (although some people swear by microwaves for melting butter, steaming vegetables and so on, they’re really not essential; I use mine more as an extra surface than a cooking tool), and a few basics, so it’s better to spend money on good-quality items like knives, pans, et cetera, rather than buying a lot of stuff you’ll use once in a blue moon.

Think practically: I’m not one of those food writers who gets sniffy about garlic presses, but if you’ve got a knife, you don’t need one. The same, strictly speaking, goes for a colander: a large sieve will do the job just as well.

Always go for sturdy-looking cookware, the duller the better, rather than flashy celebrity-chef endorsed ranges – professional catering suppliers are an excellent place to start, because their stuff is designed to work, and work hard, rather than looking pretty on a shelf. Rarely cheap, it is usually good value.

If you’re building up a kitchen from scratch (lucky you!), here are the basics that’ll come in useful; you can acquire everything else as you go along. The list is much the same as in Perfect, but I’ve made a few re-evaluations over the last couple of years:

BASIC Heavy-duty chef’s knife and sharpener: sharp knifes will not only make your life easier, but are actually safer because they’re less likely to slip

Also Useful Smaller paring knife, kitchen scissors, bread knife, cleaver (a recent discovery on my part, but already indispensable for stuff like pumpkins and squashes, as well as for jointing meat), knife roll or block (keeping them in drawers is both dangerous and counterproductive, because they’ll blunt)

BASIC Wooden chopping board (kinder on knives), and scourer to clean

Also Useful More chopping boards, so you can keep onions away from strawberries. A couple of smart ones (i.e. not pock-marked by use, or charred by carelessness) are handy for serving stuff like cheese and bread on

BASIC Silicone spatula: a great multi-tasker, will stir, flip and scrape out the pan or bowl

Also Useful Wooden spoon, fish slice, tongs (my favourite), slotted spoon, ladle, palette knife, metal skewer for testing doneness

BASIC Grater (preferably a super-sharp Microplane or similar box grater with multiple sides for zesting citrus, finely grating Parmesan, etc.), vegetable peeler

Also Useful Mandoline for thinly slicing vegetables for dauphinoise, salads and the like, apple corer

BASIC Balloon whisk

Also Useful Hand-held electric beaters, stand mixer, pan whisk

BASIC Pestle and mortar and potato masher

Also Useful Stick blender, food processor

BASIC Large, heavy-based frying pan, with lid

Also Useful Griddle pan, omelette pan (small frying pan), wok

BASIC Heavy-based small, medium and large saucepans, with lids

Also Useful Stockpot for cooking stocks, jams, and stuff in quantity

BASIC Ovenproof casserole dish, roasting tin

Also Useful Cast-iron dishes to go from hob to oven, baking dishes smart enough to go straight on to the table (Falcon Enamelware is sturdy and good value for money)

BASIC Baking tray

Also Useful Grill pan, cake tins (a 23cm round springform tin, plus two 20cm sandwich tins, would be a good start), muffin and fairy cake tins, tart tin, loaf tin, cooling rack

BASIC Scales, preferably electronic, measuring jug, reliable timer (your phone will do)

Also Useful Measuring spoons, food thermometer, oven thermometer, ruler

BASIC Fine sieve

Also Useful Colander, coarse sieve, steamer

BASIC Large mixing bowl (Pyrex, stainless steel or ceramic rather than plastic, which tends to scratch), smaller heatproof bowl to fit over a saucepan and act as a bain-marie, ramekins

Also Useful More bowls of various sizes! One is never enough

BASIC Tin opener, corkscrew, pastry brush, greaseproof paper

Also Useful Baking beans (you can use dry rice or pulses otherwise), rolling pin (a clean, empty wine bottle is an acceptable substitute at a pinch), biscuit cutters, clingfilm and foil, freezer bags

BASIC Dark-coloured apron (unless you want to wash it every day), kitchen roll for blotting fried food and mopping up spills, thick tea towels to do everything from drying your hands to getting hot things out of the oven (hang a clean one from your apron when you start cooking, so it’s always handy)

Also Useful Sturdy oven gloves and more tea towels (like the bowls, they’re endlessly useful)

A word on non-stick

For some people, non-stick technology is the enemy: although it’s safe when used properly, if over-heated, that magic coating emits what Bee Wilson describes in her fascinating history of culinary technology, Consider the Fork, as ‘several gaseous by-products’, which can be harmful if ingested. Also, because food doesn’t stick if your pan is working efficiently, you never get the lovely little crusty brown bits which make things like fry-ups so tasty.

You can achieve a non-stick effect without chemicals by seasoning a cast-iron pan, but it takes dedication: wash the pan in hot soapy water, then rub it with fat or oil, and heat it very gently for several hours. Eventually it will develop a coating as slick as the newest Teflon number, which every meal cooked in it thereafter will add to. Don’t scour it, and avoid anything too acidic, and you won’t even need to re-season it as often as you ought to replace a non-stick pan.

That said, I still own non-stick cookware too. It’s useful for scrambled eggs and the like, and I’m a short-termist.

GETTING THE MOST FROM YOUR OVEN

Beyond occasionally sweeping out the crumbs from the bottom, most of us pay very little attention to this workhorse of the kitchen, but a little meditation on how limited cooks were before the advent of the domestic oven should set you straight. Anyone can turn an oven on, but to get the best from yours, you need to get to know it.

For a start, is it conventional or fan-assisted? In other words, does it have a great big fan in it? My oven does, but if yours doesn’t, then you should use the higher temperatures indicated in the recipes that follow (though, to be honest, after a spell in a professional kitchen recently, I realized that unless you’re baking, the oven temperature makes surprisingly little difference, save for time: when food looks done and feels done, it generally is).

Unless you want to spend your evening staring through the glass to check whether your cake is cooked, however, invest in an oven thermometer: many older ovens run either hotter or colder than their temperature gauge suggests, so this will help you adjust the timing accordingly. Make sure too that you can actually see into the oven: opening the door unnecessarily will cool it down so the food takes longer to cook, and will be the death of things like soufflés or Yorkshire puddings. If you have to peep in, do so quickly but gently.

As even the most basic qualifications in science will have informed you, heat rises, so it makes sense that the higher you place food in the oven, the quicker it will cook. Most food should go in the middle, but if, for example, you’re preparing a roast, it’s better to put potatoes above the joint so they brown, while the meat cooks more gently beneath. Decide how to arrange the shelves before you switch the oven on: fiddling around with hot metal is the kind of fraught activity you don’t need when you’re trying to enjoy yourself in the kitchen.

Most ovens have a grill as well – I prefer a griddle pan, but if you do use it, remember that grilling has a tendency to dry food out. Make sure it’s well basted with oil before cooking (and don’t put it too close to the element: grill fires are scary).

USING THE FRIDGE AND FREEZER

Again, not an appliance that really requires an instruction manual, but still, one that can benefit from a few pointers.

Don’t overfill your fridge if possible: it interferes with the ventilation, so it won’t work efficiently – and cool things to room temperature before chilling to avoid bringing the temperature up inside.

Conduct regular audits to remind yourself what needs using up and ensure nothing’s mouldering at the back, and wipe the whole thing out with hot soapy water once every couple of months. (Ensuring that you cover everything well should help keep it clean in the interim, as well as preventing that Thai shrimp paste from tainting the gooseberry fool.)

The door will be slightly warmer than other parts, so if you’re chilling wine fast, put it in the main body of the fridge. Ditto the salad drawers, which have a lower humidity, and so are also ideal for storing hard cheese if it’s too warm to leave it out somewhere dry and cool, like a garage.

Always get meat out of the fridge a good half hour or so before you want to use it, to take the fridge chill off it so it cooks more evenly – the same goes for things like cheeses and many dairy products, which come alive as they warm up.

If you’ve got anything more than a tiny freezer drawer, make the most of it: as well as storing stuff like frozen peas (double bagged, to prevent escapees), you can use it to thriftily squirrel away breadcrumbs from that old loaf that’s too stale to eat, excess stock, leftover portions of lasagne, emergency rations like prawns, berries, mince and so on, ready for a rainy day when you can’t face a trip to the shops. (NB: Never refreeze something that’s already been frozen and defrosted.)

Wrap food well (if you can run to it, a vacuum-packing machine, available online, is an amazing boon for this) so it doesn’t dry out, and label it clearly with a description of what’s inside and the date, so you can eat up older things first. I find it useful to divide stuff like packs of bacon or loaves of bread up – that way you can just defrost what you need for breakfast.

Lastly, defrost raw food in the fridge, on a plate, overnight; pre-cooked food can be reheated from frozen if necessary, though I think you get better results if you have time to defrost that first too.

FOODS YOU NEED

These are the ingredients you’ll find it prudent to keep close to hand – not only because you’ll probably find yourself reaching for them a lot, but because, with them in the house, you’re never far away from a decent meal. Try to build up as well stocked a larder as possible, so you’re good for a pretty long bout of flu, a flurry of unexpected guests or, indeed, an unexpected siege.

Storage-wise, remember to keep everything clearly labelled; buying spices in bags from the ‘foreign foods’ section of the supermarket, or the appropriate grocers, has its benefits in terms of price, but it’s easy to decant them into jars and then forget what they are, and ditto, tubs of different flours have the tendency to look pretty similar. (From bitter experience I’d advise storing anything that might be vulnerable to rodent attack in sturdy containers – you’d be surprised at the eclectic tastes of the common house mouse.)

On the subject of spices, deep drawers are ideal, so you can see at a glance what you’ve got, but in the absence of such luxuries, I keep mine in boxes, vaguely ordered by sweet, Oriental, etc.: so much easier to slide these off the shelf than it is to ferret around in a forest of jars in a dark cupboard. (If you’re the kind of person who alphabetizes their record collection or library, then spices are another worthy candidate; I’ve tried, but I’m inherently too messy to sustain the order for more than a few weeks.)

Indeed, if your kitchen layout allows it, organize all your ingredients into broad categories: baking stuff in one cupboard, condiments in another, basics (oil, salt, pepper, garlic, etc.) within easy reach of the hob and so on. Eliminating time wasted searching for risotto rice or soy sauce will speed up the cooking process considerably.

Pantry

Plain flour, cornflour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, dried yeast

Caster sugar, soft brown sugar, golden syrup, honey

Cocoa powder and plain chocolate

English mustard powder, Dijon and wholegrain mustards

Red and white wine vinegar, cider vinegar, rice vinegar, balsamic vinegar

Decent chicken, vegetable and beef stocks (liquid concentrates and organic stock cubes are more to my taste than those oversalted jelly pots)

Soy sauce, Thai fish sauce, Tabasco

Olive oil, extra virgin olive oil and a neutral oil such as vegetable or groundnut

Anchovies, capers, olives, Marmite, Worcestershire sauce

Tomato purée, good-quality tinned tomatoes, tomato ketchup

Black pepper, sea salt (both fine and flaked), chilli flakes, bay leaves

Basmati and risotto rice

Long and shaped pasta

Couscous, Oriental rice or egg noodles

Dried or tinned chickpeas, lentils and split peas

Dried fruit – raisins, currants, mixed peel, fancy jar of fruit in alcohol or syrup for emergencies

Nuts – flaked almonds, pine nuts, peanut butter

Breadcrumbs, preferably panko

Onions, garlic, potatoes

Eggs

Freezer

Peas and whole leaf spinach

Berries

Puff and shortcrust pastry

Vanilla or plain ice cream

Fridge

Parmesan cheese (or vegetarian alternative)

Butter

Milk

HELP!

My melting chocolate has become a thick, grainy mass!

Chocolate ‘seizes’ when it comes into contact with water (steam from the bain-marie is usually the culprit). Strangely, however, adding liquid in larger amounts, such as hot cream or hot water, should rescue the situation, leaving you with a tasty chocolate sauce if nothing else.

My pastry won’t roll out!

If your pastry is sticky and hard to roll, it may well be too warm, or too wet. Wrap it in clingfilm and chill for 20 minutes, then try again on a floured surface. If it seems dry and cracked when rolled out after chilling, then it may well be too cold. Gather it together into a ball and knead to warm it up slightly.

My cream won’t whip!

Place the mixing bowl, cream and whisk in the fridge for 15 minutes to chill – it’s easier to whip cream cold from the fridge.

My egg whites won’t form stiff peaks!

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but either there’s some yolk in there, or your bowl or whisk were dirty. In either case, unfortunately you’ll have to start again with thoroughly scrubbed and dried equipment and meticulously separated eggs.

My mayonnaise has curdled!

Pour it into a food processor, or use a hand mixer to whiz it and see if it comes back together. If that doesn’t work, start afresh with a new egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon of water, and very gradually whisk the broken mayonnaise into it.

My flour-thickened gravy/sauce is lumpy!

If it’s already thick enough to use, simply strain it through a fine sieve. If not, mix 1 teaspoon of warm butter with 2 teaspoons of flour, then beat this into the hot sauce. Simmer for a couple of minutes until thickened, then strain before serving.

My gravy is bitter!

Sounds like those lovely browned bits on the bottom of the roasting tin may in fact have been burnt. You can try to rescue the situation by stirring in something sweet, like port, or redcurrant jelly, or brown sugar, but you may still have to throw it away and reach for the Bisto.

My sauce is too salty!

People suggest adding potatoes or rice to soak up the salt, but in fact, the best thing to do is to dilute the sauce with water, wine, cream or any other non-salted liquid (stock is usually not a good idea) and then thicken it again with a roux or cornflour.

Dinner gone wrong?

Don’t panic if things don’t quite go to plan: a carefully stocked pantry has always got your back. To whip up a quick spaghetti aglio e olio, cook 100g of spaghetti per person in well-salted water until al dente, and meanwhile fry a finely chopped clove of garlic and a generous pinch of chilli flakes per person in 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Toss the drained pasta in the oil with a little of its cooking water, scatter with some chopped parsley if you happen to have it, and ta-da, dinner. Also nice with other pantry stalwarts like olives, anchovies, breadcrumbs, lemon zest, capers, sun-dried tomatoes, Parmesan and so on.

For pudding, keep good ice cream in the freezer, and a jar of fruit in booze on the shelf. They last for ages, and the two just need a scattering of chopped nuts to turn them into a sundae. And everyone loves sundaes.

CHAPTER 1

Breakfast

Let’s face it, most breakfasts in life will be nothing to write home about – a quick bowl of muesli, an apple on the train, a sad little yoghurt at our desk – if it really is the most important meal of the day, then frankly we’re in trouble.

All the more reason, then, to make the most of the ones you can do justice to: the leisurely weekend brunches, the holiday feasts – the day you’re snowed in and ‘working from home’. Make a pot of tea, rather than the usual tannic mug, stick the radio on, and indulge yourself with a crispy, buttery hash brown, a stack of pancakes, or a proper bacon sandwich (or, in this case, roll). Basics like scrambled eggs, and bread, are dealt with in Perfect – though how I waited so long to discover how to make perfect porridge is quite beyond me.

Indeed, such a breakfast is eminently achievable before work, and well worth getting up ten minutes earlier for; after all, even so-called instant oats actually take 3 minutes to cook, plus 5 wiping them off the inside of the microwave.

A canny cook always thinks ahead: if you devote a Sunday to making your own marmalade or jam, then you’ll always have the ingredients of a good day in the cupboard, ready for those mornings that need a little extra help. Happy is the man who gets up to find a stash of homemade hot cross buns waiting to be toasted.

Lastly, any breakfast is made better by freshly squeezed orange juice (of the kind you squeeze out of oranges yourself, rather than the stuff from Florida sold in bottles under that name), good tea or coffee, and a newspaper. Conversation, however, is entirely optional.

Perfect

Porridge

Simple to prepare, high in fibre and protein, and proven to lower cholesterol, porridge is the trendy modern face of the classic British breakfast – it’s even (sound the bells!) low GI, which means the oats release their energy slowly, propelling you painlessly towards lunchtime. Or, at least, to the 11 a.m. tea break.

But, though it’s simple to prepare, that doesn’t mean it’s easy – porridge making is an art. Apparently it is possible to produce a decent bowl from the microwave (although I’ve never managed it), but to even approach the foo

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