Recipes from the Bayou

April 24, 2017

Another gem from my bookshelf, more rich southern cuisine, in this case from the Mississippi bayou. Like so many old spiral bound recipe books (this one was published in 1975), Bayou Cuisine was the work of a church group – in this case, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Indianola, Mississippi. Refreshingly, whoever put this cookbook together was conscious of the diverse peoples who contributed to Southern cuisine, and the recipes reflect that. It’s chock full of really interesting entries.

Here’s a trusty looking recipe for one of my favorite southern desserts, chess pie, from Mrs. Charles Graeber. It’s one of those desserts you could almost make a meal of. 

And then here’s a classic bourbon ball recipe. (Let these sit a few days before serving so the flavor have a chance to mingle.) 

And this slightly insane recipe; I wish I knew what inspired it!

And last, some fascinating (and psychedelic) sauces to slather on roasted meats. I’m guessing they’re vaguely Chinese inspired:

 

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Four Great Low Country Recipes

April 23, 2017

Been looking through old cookbooks – I have thousands – and happened upon a few I really love. Like this lovely little book of recipes from one of my favorite Charleston chefs, Robert Stehling.  I’ve never had a single dish at Hominy Grill that wasn’t absolutely wonderful.  Consider, for example, Robert’s

If you’re looking for a great appetizer, you can’t do better than this:

and I’m about to make this right this minute:

Dessert tonight?  How about the perfect chocolate pudding?  (Note that you should make it soon if you want to eat this rich wonderful pudding tonight: it needs to chill before you eat it.)

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Meet Your Aunt Sammy

April 19, 2017

I would love to hear a recording of Aunt Sammy’s voice, which was broadcast into kitchens across the country from 1926 through the great depression.  The brainchild of the USDA Bureau of Home Economics and the Radio Service, Aunt Sammy’s “Housekeeper’s Chat” was one of the most popular radio programs of its day; by 1932, it could be heard five days a week on 194 stations across the United States.

The obvious precursor of food television, Aunt Sammy offered political talk and housekeeping tips, but mostly she shared her favorite recipes.

The USDA received so many recipe requests from folks who had just missed that one last ingredient, that they printed a pamphlet of Aunt Sammy’s best hits. Within a month, they were back at the printers. 

Here are a few of her recipes.  (Note that the “hard sauce” is actually soft; Aunt Sammy left out the booze.

And these look pretty good!

 

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Arcane Cuisine

April 17, 2017

I can’t get enough of  Chinese Imperial Cuisines and Eating Secrets , which chronicles a cuisine that is almost unimaginably luxurious. The book not only tells you about the vast range of exotic ingredients consumed by the emperors of yore, it also tells you how to cook them.  Should you be seeking suggestions for ways to use your rhinoceros meat, this cookbook has you covered. Or perhaps you need a recipe for those camel paws you found in the supermarket the other day? This recipe calls for four.

Here’s something relatively simple; it’s one of my favorite Chinese dishes, but I had no idea its roots were so regal.

“Streaky pork” must refer to pork belly. And “potherb mustard” is also called mizuna. Many recipes insist on using preserved greens instead of fresh ones. (If you can’t find preserved mizuna, I’d venture that any kind of pickled mustard would work well; try to get the kind that includes the leaves along with the root.)

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The Most Luxurious Cuisine Ever

April 13, 2017

Imperial cuisine, the ne plus ultra of the Chinese canon, was exclusively reserved for emperors.  There has never been a more luxurious kind of cooking. It was meant to showcase the prime offerings of a vast and varied country, including staples like shark lips, rhinoceros, deer penis and dehydrated and fried beaver skin. In some cases, an emperor wouldn’t taste the same dish twice in his (or her, more rarely) entire lifetime.

The remarkable creativity of the imperial kitchens, and their sprawling structure, owed much to the fact that emperors commonly recruited chefs from around the country. This meant that the finest Sichuan cooks worked alongside the finest chefs from Guangdong, Shanghai, Hunan….. Through several dynasties of massive societal change, these cooks helped create one of the most impressive catalogs of food the world has ever seen.

As China has become more prosperous there’s been renewed interest in this once-hidden cuisine. If you’re as fascinated by this food as I am,  Chinese Imperial Cuisines and Eating Secrets is a good starting place. It begins with this incredible interview with relatives of Puyi, the last emperor of China; although the Qing Dynasty fell in 1911, he continued to be royally served throughout the 1920s. This will give you a sense of the sheer grandeur of these meals: 

The brothers describe Empress Dowager Cixi’s meals:

(Here’s Cixi) 

And here’s a taste of the whimsy of this food. 

No doubt simplified for the home cook.

Tomorrow, something I’ll actually try at home. Along with something I definitely won’t.

 

 

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