Dissolve one package quick-acting yeast in a half cup each of warm buttermilk and water with a tablespoon of sugar. When the yeast begins to work, add a quarter cup of vegetable oil and mix in alternately three cups white flour, half a cup of grated sharp cheddar and a quarter cup of fresh rosemary leaves. Knead until smooth, let rise for three hours, punch down and place in an oiled baking pan to rise until doubled. Bake in a moderate (350) oven until crisp and golden. Brush the top with butter just for the aroma.
Dishes similar to this are made throughout the West Indies as well as Bermuda, where it’s traditionally served on Guy Fawkes Night (Nov. 5) by evil heathen royalists as well as those noble democratic souls who simply like to set a good table. The texture is fudge-like, very dense and intensely flavorful. The toasted coconut flakes seen here as a topping can be added to the pudding mix as well, but do not use raw grated coconut or it will get gummy.
Mix 1 1/2 pounds cooked pureed sweet potato with 2 cups cream of coconut, 1 stick melted butter, juice of 1 lime and 1 cup brown sugar until smooth. Blend in by spoonfuls 1 cup flour; add 1 cup raisins (optional), a tablespoon of vanilla and a teaspoon each ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg spice. A generous slosh of dark rum is a nice touch. Pour batter into a well-oiled 8-inch cake pan and bake at 350 for about an hour until firm then cool. Best to serve chilled; this recipe easily provides a dozen servings.
French fried potatoes are fraught with misinformation. First off, they’re not French; they’re Belgian. Potatoes came to Europe via Spain (Pizarro), and Belgium was once part of the Spanish Netherlands (Charles V). Belgian—and French, for that matter—pommes frites are crisp outside, soft inside, sweetly browned and salty; in a word, perfect, because they are fried in two stages: once to cook the potato through, and again, at a higher temperature, to brown and crispen.
Use russets. Peel if you must, slice them on the thin side, rinse and drain thoroughly. Blanch in vegetable oil (peanut is better, tallow is best) at a simmering boil until soft, then drain and set aside. Turn up the heat under the oil. When the surface is shimmering, quickly add the potatoes in small batches; the oil will roil furiously and can easily boil over. When fries are buoyant and crisp, drain, salt, and serve.
Dear Mr. Yancy,
Thank you for submitting your work, The Existential Tomato, to the University Press of Missitucky.
Your book received a great deal of consideration. Our assistant senior editors, Mr. Pastel and Ms. Brawn, engaged in a lively debate on whether a vegetable can be considered “existential” with Mr. Pastel contending that it’s not the vegetable itself that is existential but rather the perception of the vegetable that is of an existential nature whereupon Ms. Brawn threatened to tear the rug off his head and shove it up his ass. Ms. Ergot, who manages most of our culinary titles, said that while The Existential Tomato does have many farm-to-table aspects, the recipes for the most part seem to be more in the grandmère à petit enfant vein, which while certainly a valid culinary movement, is very little known and even less understood in this country.
Our graphics editor, Mr. Waters, was quite enthusiastic, and prepared no less than nine prospective covers, none of which depicted anything even remotely resembling a tomato. The copy editor, Mr. Yawn, said that your writing, while crisp, clean, and incisive, not only had too many semi-colons and long dashes, but was also peppered with such unfamiliar words as “macerate”. Shortly afterwards, our senior editor, Mr. Morris, had to be wheeled out by our receptionist, Ms. Pritchard, for hygienic reasons.
While lucid, amusing, and informative of the state of mankind in the early 21st century, The Existential Tomato does not meet our criteria.
Graduate Editorial Assistant
Most other Americans seem to think that the quintessential Southern hot sauce is a Tabasco-type mash, but restaurants across the South usually offer pepper vinegar as well. Many people find pepper vinegar essential for flavoring greens, and some—like me—like it on peas and beans. Any hot pepper can be used, but long cayennes and sports are most common. Make it in jars, and serve it in a shaker bottle.
Prick the peppers; you don’t have to stem them. Pack the containers until the lid just mushes the fruit. Use white vinegar, full strength, salted, something like a tablespoon of salt per quart of liquid. Heat the vinegar until just simmering. Put a few drops of vegetable oil in with the peppers before adding the hot vinegar. This adds a little kick. Some people add sugar, but don’t. Pepper vinegar ages beautifully, and you can infuse the peppers with more vinegar (no heating required) to stretch the batch.
When I submitted a list of twelve kitchen essentials for a Southerner to my friends, it was like throwing a June bug down into a flock of ducks. The pot roast was devastated by a barrage of detractors who claimed that it’s just got Yankee written all over it, the red velvet cake was gunned down as a Waldorf recipe, and the pecan pie was mined by a sweet potato. I substituted a pound cake and sweet potato pie for the red velvet and pecan, stewed greens, which almost lost out to butter beans, for the roast, and achieved some degree of consensus.
Chicken and dumplings
Sweet potato pie