Long before Americans began buying semolina and pasta machines, we made egg noodles for soups, stews, and sides. You need to know how to make them. It’s important to dry the rolled-out dough before cutting and again before cooking.
Stir a scant teaspoon of salt into two and a half cups of plain flour. Add two beaten eggs, and enough milk—a half cup or so—to make a stiff dough. Knead until smooth; some people work in a pat or two of butter. Let the dough rest for a while in a covered bowl, then roll out on the thin side, and let it dry until the surface is crusty. I usually cut mine into strips about a half an inch wide, but you can make them as thick or thin as you like, or cut it into different shapes; rounds are fun. Let rest and dry until stiff (not brittle). Use plenty of salt in the cooking water. These cook quickly.
We need no further proof that the food columnists of The New York Times consider Mississippi a culinary backwater than the January 26, 2016 article about the “improbable rise” of “Mississippi Roast.”
Credited to Robin Chapman from Ripley, Mississippi, this ranch-riddled beef became a web phenomenon, “a favorite of the mom-blog set”. Chapman–who was interviewed by Times writer Sam Sifton for the article,–simply called it “roast” (and still does). The recipe involves beef chuck topped with a packet of dry ranch dressing mix, a packet of dry “au jus” gravy, a stick of butter, and a few pepperoncini.
Chapman claims it’s riff off a recipe she received from an aunt who used packaged Italian dressing. But Robin wanted something “milder” (the word is in quotes in the Times article), so she used ranch instead. “Over time,” Sifton writes, “the recipe has slowly taken on a life of its own.” This is of course disturbing news to “food writers and scholars”, but not to those of us who actually cook.
To his credit, Sifton has done a considerable amount of footwork delineating the “rise” of this recipe, moving from Chapman’s kitchen to a cookbook put out by the Beech Hill Church of Christ in Ripley, then over to nearby Hickory Flat, where it was sampled by visiting food blogger Laurie Ormond, of Bentonville, Arkansas. Ormond published the recipe, which was picked up by Candis Berge on her blog in 2011. Berge claimed it passed what she called “the hubby test;” the Times italicizes this phrase to emphasize its importance as a key factor in the recipe’s “mom-blog set” popularity. Soon afterwards, “Mississippi Roast” became popular on such platforms as Twitter, Reddit, and Pinterest.
Sifton actually goes to the trouble to make “Mississippi Roast”, though predictably he is not faithful to the original recipe. He uses less butter (not saying how much less), reasoning that “there is plenty of fat in chuck roast”, uses five times as many pepperoncini, sears the roast before placing it in the cooker, “browning it aggressively beneath a shower of salt and pepper” (do I hear a faint echo of Craig Claiborne in that sentence?) and coating it with flour to create a “base of flavor” to replace the gravy mix. He even makes ranch dressing seasoning and “dumped that” into the pot.
“Eight hours later,” Sifton writes, “My family dived into their meal with glee. It was exactly the same as the original effort (my italics), and took about the same amount of time to make.”
Sifton’s slick little article ends with wine pairings compiled by one Eric Asimov (nephew of Isaac), who states, “This soft, beefy roast calls for a robust, structured red that will both complement the flavor of the meat and accommodate the bite of the peppers,” and recommends among others “a Brunello di Montalcino or its more modest sibling, Rosso di Montalcino” from Italy, “a garnacha-based wine from Montsant or its grander neighbor, Priorat” from Spain, a “southern Rhône, like a Gigondas or a Châteauneuf-du-Pape” or “if you are a fan of Argentine malbec, try one”. Anyone who can write such frivolous drivel about what wine to serve with a “Mississippi Roast” must have a background in science fiction. We can safely assume that (most) everyone at the Beech Hill Church of Christ will assiduously ignore Asimov’s alcoholic promptings.
The compelling theme behind this prolonged sneer against Mississippi–indeed against the “mom-blog set” across the nation–is a sort of exasperated incredulity that such an atrocious recipe could actually find any sort of popular appeal.
Oxford is distinguished among Mississippi cities as a center of government and education. Long before Oxford became a locus of Southern foodie hype, the busy little city fostered a vibrant variety of restaurants. This list was hammered out by a squadron of Oxford residents both current and former. The dishes, the places, the times themselves are loved by thousands of people from Oxford, Lafayette County, and Mississippi, as well as millions of Ole Miss alumni and drop-outs from around the globe.
The Beacon: Big Bubba burger, “meat and three” Busy Bee Cafe: oven-fried pork chop Café Olé: cheese dip, chimichanga Dino’s: salad dressing, pizza Downtown Grill: Eli’s praline pecan ice cream pie The Gin: fried mushrooms, Bernice burger The Harvest: black bean chili, vegetable lasagna The Hoka: hot fudge pie and cheesecake, Love at First Bite Holiday Inn: grasshopper pie, hot fudge pie Hurricane Landing: fried catfish, hushpuppies and fries Jitney Jungle/James’ Food: chicken salad Kream Kup: grilled chili cheeseburger Marie’s Lebanese: Marie Husni’s Lebanese casserole, baklava Mistilis: hamburger steak smothered in cheese and onions Ruby Chinese: hot and sour soup, twice cooked pork Sizzler Steak House: steaks Smitty’s: tuna melt, breakfasts Starnes Catfish: fried catfish, hushpuppies and fries Ruth & Jimmies: Southern “meat and three” Pizza Den: muffuletta, sub sandwich, stromboli Warehouse: snapper en Mornay, salad bar Winter’s Store: hamburgers Yerk’s: Philly cheese steak
Snapper en Mornay was one of the most popular dishes at the Warehouse in Oxford because it was distinguished by a great in-house sauce. Jean Tatum Thomas once told me that she’s eat a Turkish towel with our Mornay on it, and don’t put it past me to try her. Our beautiful filets came from Tarpon Springs, Florida
Make a thick Béchamel; add grated Swiss or Provolone cheese, chopped green onions, picked lump crab meat, and a splash of sherry (NOT “cooking sherry”). Season with Lowrey’s, mix well and chill. You’ll need about a cup of sauce for eight ounces of fish; if not snapper, use flounder, or another lean white fish. Skin filets if needed, score lightly on both sides, and place on a shallow lightly buttered oven dish. Spoon the cooled sauce over the fillets and bake at a very high heat until sauce is bubbling. Serve with a dusting of paprika, a sprinkling of sliced almonds, a lemon garnish, fresh bread, and a wine of your choosing.
People had been making a criss-cross impression on balls of cookie dough with a fork long before 1925, when George Washington Carver issued an agricultural bulletin with 105 recipes using peanuts, including three for cookies. Some people might tell you the imprint helps cookies bake evenly, but more likely a fork is nine times out of ten more at hand than a cookie press. How the criss-cross became a traditional hash tag for peanut butter cookies is material for a Beard Award. Here’s a good one-bowl recipe for this all-time American favorite.
Combine 1 cup packed light brown sugar with a half cup each of softened butter and peanut butter. Mix until smooth; add a beaten egg and a teaspoon of vanilla. Mix very well. Sift in a half teaspoon each baking soda and baking powder into a cup and a half of AP flour, add to peanut butter mix, and stir thoroughly until it forms a smooth dough. Shape into balls a little smaller than a ping-pong, roll in sugar (optional), and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten the balls with a fork that has been dipped in sugar so it won’t stick. Make a criss-cross pattern, and bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes.
Oven-fried anything will always be far inferior to something flat-out fried, but these are awfully good on the fly when you don’t want to deal with a lot of hot oil. Mix a cup of corn meal with a half cup of flour along with about a tablespoon of salt, black, and red pepper. Dip drained oysters in a wash made with one large egg whipped with a cup of water—you want it a little frothy. Dredge in meal/flour mixture, and bake in a very hot oven (400, at least) in a very well-oiled pan on an upper rack Flip five minutes after they begin sizzling. These are actually pretty good cold.
Sarepta was originally called Zarephath, meaning “a workshop for the refining and smelting of metals.” It was a small Phoenician town, near present-day Surafend (or Sarafend), about a mile from the Mediterranean coast, almost midway on the road between Tyre and Sidon. It is mentioned for the first time in the voyage of an Egyptian in the fourteenth century B.C. Sennacherib captured it in 701 B.C. (Schrader, “Die Keilinschriften und das Alte Testament”, 1883, pp. 200 and 288). Sarepta, despite its inconsiderance, has the high distinction of being named in both the Old Testament and the New. We learn from I Kings, 7:8-24, that it was subject to Sidon in the time of Achab and that the Prophet Elias, after having multiplied the meal and oil of a poor woman, raised her son from the dead. The charity of this widow was recalled by Christ (Luke 4:26). It was probably near this place that Christ cured the daughter of the Chanaanite or Syro-Phoenician woman whose faith He praised (Mark 7:24-30).
Sarepta is mentioned also by Josephus (“Ant. jud.”, VIII, xiii, 2); Pliny (Hist. natur., V, 17); the “Itinerarium Burdigalense; the “Onomasticon” of Eusebius and St. Jerome; by Theodosius and Pseudo-Antoninus who, in the sixth century calls it a small town, but very Christian (Geyer, “Intinera hierosolymitana”, Vienna, 1898, 18, 147, 150). It contained at that time a church dedicated to St. Elias. The “Notitia episcopatuum” of Antioch in the sixth century speaks of Sarepta as a suffragan see of Tyre (Echos d’Orient, X, 145); none of its bishops are known. Some Latin bishops, but merely titulars, are mentioned after 1346 (Eubel, “Hierarchia catholica medii aevi”, I, 457; II, 253; III, 310; “Revue benedictine”, XXI, 281, 345-53, 353-65; XXIV, 72). In 1185, the “Green Monk” Phocas (De locis sanctis, 7) found the town almost in its ancient condition; a century later, according to Burchard, it was in ruins and contained only seven or eight houses (Descriptio Terrae sanctae, II, 9). Sarepta was erected into a bishopric by the Crusaders, who raised a chapel over the reputed spot where Elijah restored the widow’s child. In the twelfth century it seems to have been a fortified city with a port and some stately buildings. Today, Sarepta is known as Khirbet Sarfend, between Tyre and Sidon, on the seashore; the ruins show that the town extended 1800 metres north and south, but that it was not very wide.