Sleepy Corner

Sam, the Garbager, had carpet,
And some scraps of office jot,
Optomacy stooped to throw him,
As he passed from lot to lot,

And with these he decked his cabin
In a rather modern style;
But himself remained old-fashioned
Like–simple and true the while.

And the milk of human kindness
Seemed to bubble from his heart,
As he rolled about the city
In his two-wheeled garbage cart.

S.A. Beadle,
Lyrics of the Under-World (1912),
photo by R. H. Beadle

Psilocybin Popeye Quiche

Beat together very well six large eggs and 2 cups of heavy cream; you can use half-and-half in a pinch, but even whole milk, won’t give you the best meld. Season with salt and pepper; nutmeg is traditional, but I never seem to have any on hand.

Pour half of this mixture into an 8-in. crust, add mushrooms and spinach–about a half cup of each–and a sprinkling of grated cheese, then pour on the rest of the egg mixture. Shake the pan to settle.

Top with a little more cheese for dining room drama and bake at 375 for about 30 minutes or until the top is puffed and slightly browned. Cool on a counter rack and brush with melted butter before slicing and serving.

Salmon Patties

My father often cooked a big breakfast on Sunday mornings, and he always made salmon patties. He said his mother made them with jack mackerel, adding that we should be grateful he went to law school so we could afford salmon. For him, a child of the Depression, that was a step up in the world.

I’ll not lie to you; these taste best when fried in bacon grease. If that makes you clutch your chest, use Crisco. Olive oil just isn’t right, and butter won’t take the heat. Most people I know make salmon patties with flour, but cornmeal gives a crispier crust and a better inside texture (flour tends to make it a bit gummy).

One 16 oz. can of salmon makes 4-6 cakes. Drain fish, reserving a quarter cup of the liquid. If you’re a sissy, remove skin and bones. Mix well with one beaten egg, a little chopped onion, the can liquid, and enough corn meal to make a thick batter. Be careful with salt; I like plenty of black pepper. Brown in at least a quarter inch hot oil  on both sides and crisp in a very warm oven.

A Note on the Gentrification of Southern Food

We’ve seen black-eyed peas made into everything short of cupcakes with sweet potato icing (don’t you dare!), and if I run up on one more gourmet recipe for fried green tomatoes, I’m going to take a skillet out and start swinging at anybody with a fork.

In the restaurant business it’s not unusual for chefs of one ilk or another to turn a hayseed staple into a Broadway entrée.  Most basic recipes are open to elaboration, and every cook has a twist; a pinch here, a dash there, a pot for this, a pan for that.

If the cook’s intentions are honorable, meaning that his or her primary concern is with how a dish tastes, all the better. But if you’re putting a heap of crab ceviche over a batch of cold butter bean fritters just so you can charge six bucks more, that’s just wrong.

Tomato Gravy

Usually served over biscuits, rice, or grits, Bill Neale among others recommends it with fried chicken. I serve it with pork chops. Good summer tomatoes singed, peeled, and drained are best, but home-canned tomatoes run a (very) close second. Bacon drippings are traditional. Neale’s recipe uses chicken stock or water, while Robert St. John’s calls for stock and milk. If using canned tomatoes, always add a little juice.

2 cups chopped tomatoes
3 tablespoons drippings or oil
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/4 cups water or stock
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

Add salt, pepper, and sugar to chopped tomatoes, and mix well. Heat bacon drippings in a skillet, add flour to make a lightly browned roux. Pour in tomatoes with water/broth, reduce heat, and cook until thickened.

11 Different Herbs and Spices

I once knew a woman who claimed to know the Sanders Original Recipe of “11 herbs and spices” because she had worked in a franchise outlet in Grenada, Mississippi for three months while her husband was in the local lock-up for beating up a grease monkey.

She didn’t really know the recipe, of course; her fried chicken tasted nothing like it, though it may have to her after a bottle of vodka. But Harlan Sanders’ original recipe was finally made public in August, 2016, when the Chicago Tribune reported that a nephew by marriage–by marriage, mind you–of Harland Sanders claimed to have found a copy of the original KFC fried chicken recipe on a handwritten piece of paper in an envelope–an envelope, no less–in a scrapbook of an assuredly familial nature .

As journalists of fortitude, integrity, and no small degree of puckish abandon, Tribune staffers tested the recipe before publication, and after “some trial and error” they decided that with the addition of an unspecified amount of MSG, the following seasoning mixture produced fried chicken “indistinguishable” from the fried chicken from a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise.

By way of covering their ass, they recommended that the chicken should be soaked in buttermilk, coated once, then fried in oil at 350 degrees until golden brown.

Mix with 2 cups white flour:

2/3 Ts (tablespoons) Salt
1/2 Ts Thyme
1/2 Ts Basil
1/3 Ts Oregano
1 Ts Celery salt
1 Ts Black pepper
1 Ts Dried mustard
4 Ts Paprika
2 Ts Garlic salt
1 Ts Ground ginger
3 Ts White pepper

How to Fry Baloney

Cut slits in the slice, no less than four radiating from the middle, or else it’ll buckle, and you don’t want that to happen. You don’t want a lot of grease in the skillet, either. Blister to singing. If you don’t serve it with white bread, you’re going straight to hell.

Hurricane Punch

Mix a fifth of light rum with a fifth of dark rum, 2 cups lime juice, 2 cups orange juice, 1 quart passion fruit juice, and a cup of simple syrup. Serve over crushed ice.  Keep a pour spout bottle of grenadine near the ice bucket, and don’t even worry about garnishes unless you want to pick orange rinds and toothpicks out of the couch cushions.

Creole Jambalaya

This text and recipe is from Howard Mitcham’s magical Creole, Gumbo, and All That Jazz.

After gumbo, the most famous Creole-Cajun dish is jambalaya. The word is probably derived from “Jambon,” which means am in both Spanish and French. The “a la ya” is probably an African expletive which can be interpreted as either acclaim or derision. Jambalaya was a well-known dish even before Hank Williams’s Hit Parade song came along and made it nationally famous. Millions have sung the song without knowing anything about what the dish was like. The recipes herewith will give you a chance to really get on the bandwagon. Jambalaya started out as a poor man’s catch-all, utilizing any leftover meats, sausages, shrimp, or fish that might be lying around, and stretching them a long, long way with plenty of rice. If a poor Cajun family had five or six kids, it’s a safe bet they ate jambalaya several times a week. Like red beans and rice, it kept people from starving during depressions and recessions.

But the consummate artistry of Creole and Cajun cooks has lifted jambalaya above its humble beginnings to a higher plateau, and it is now served with pride and joy in the mansions of the wealthy and in high-toned restaurants. This dish is a close cousin of the Spanish paella, and it probably originated down around New Iberia, which, as its name suggests, was originally a Spanish settlement. However, there’s another town with a Spanish name, Gonzales, up near Baton Rouge, that calls itself the Jambalaya Capital of the World. Its citizens hold a jambalaya festival every year. They cook big black iron wash pots full of the stuff, and people come from all over to sample the rich and redolent fare. A real Gonzales jambalaya is so peppery hot, spicy, and rich that the uninitiated can barely cope with it, but an aficionado of the art can consume a half gallon of it and ask for more. The version of Creole Jambalaya here is lighter fare than the Gonzales product.

Melt a half stick butter in a thick-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, cook 1 pound andouille or smoked sausage (or both) until lightly browned. Stir in a heaping quarter cup of plain flour, add 3 medium white onions, chopped finely, 4 minced cloves of garlic, 6 whole scallions, chopped. Cook until onions soft and clear. Add a 16 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained, along with a bay leaf, and a teaspoon each thyme, cayenne, cumin, and black pepper. Add 4 cups broth (chicken or beef), a cup of cooked chicken, and a cup of diced ham. The liquid should cover the ingredients. Bring to a rolling boil and stir in 2 cups raw rice (let me recommend Zatarain’s long grain, jly). Cover, boil for about 5 minutes, then reduce heat and cook until rice is done. Remove lid to cook off excess liquid; “a jambalaya should be moist, but not soupy.” Salt to taste.

Daisy Duke Can’t Cook

Making quick breads is such a basic culinary skill that at one time those persistent legions of people who spend their time minding other people’s business sniffed their disapproval of a newly-wed husband’s bride by saying, “He married a woman who can’t even make biscuits.”

This specific example of cattiness carries with it a tacit understanding that mister didn’t marry his missus because she was a domestic diva, but for prurient reasons which were grounds for disapproval among matrons who could cook up a storm yet were inept or unwilling in arts which keep a man from taking up what was then referred to as “light housekeeping” with another woman.

Those were more genteel times. Nowadays, of course, those same people would just say he hooked up with a slut and be done with it, but there’s something to be said for polite prevarication: What it lacks in forthrightness is more than made up for in vicious subtlety.

Believe it or not, being able to cook was once a commodity on the marriage market, so much so that disgruntled husbands who settled for less than a buxom bimbo comforted themselves and others like them (honest, hardworking men, every one of them) by claiming that the cooking lasted longer than the loving. And while that might be true, there’s still something to be said for marrying a total tramp-in-training; after all, that’s what mothers-in-law are for.

Like many short bread recipes, the one for biscuits is more technique than ingredients. Getting the biscuits to rise well is key, and if you don’t follow a reasonable procedure, you’re going to end up throwing away a pan of hockey pucks. Biscuits shouldn’t be worked a lot; excess kneading makes the dough so dense that it won’t rise. Biscuits should also be cut out quickly while the dough is cool, and with a clean, sharp edge that will not pinch. Crowding the biscuits a bit also helps them to rise, but if you get them too close together the centers won’t bake through. Also make sure the oven is hot (450/475) before you put them on a rack in the upper third of the oven.

So, for all you floozies out there who need a bonus the morning after, here’s how to make biscuits. And if you don’t carry a skillet with you, well, you’re on your own.

Buttermilk Biscuits

Take two cups of self-rising flour and sift in dry a scant teaspoon of baking soda. Work thoroughly into this about 1/3 a cup of cold vegetable shortening. Mix with the fingers until it has an almost granular texture. Working quickly, stir in enough cold buttermilk (about a cup) to make a sticky dough. Throw dough on a generously-floured surface, sprinkle with a scant more flour and roll out very thick, almost half an inch, and cut into biscuits. Again, work quickly so that the dough stays cool(ish). Place biscuits just touching in a lightly greased skillet and pop them on the top rack of a hot oven for about a quarter an hour. You want them golden-brown and fragrant; brush lightly with butter while still hot and serve immediately.