My interest in cooking Lowcountry dinners began with Chef Sean Brock (as mentioned in an earlier post) and quickly migrated far afield (as also mentioned in that post) and led to tasty items loosely derived from the foods of coastal Georgia and South Carolina. Here are a few ideas to try, playing off of our Thursday dinner menu:
Creamed corn is not a new concept to the country, or to me, but having a big bowlful in the fridge and an inclination to dollop it on everything. . . it gave the genius of creamed corn new depth. Making it is simple. Take fresh ears of sweet corn. With the sharp side of the knife, cut off the kernels. With the back edge of the knife, scrape down the cob where the kernels once were and get the corn "milk" (technically I think I'm supposed to say use a spoon or butter knife for this step, for safety reasons). Cook up a little minced shallot or onion in butter with pinches of salt and pepper, add the corn pile, splash in heavy cream, pinch more of salt, simmer covered for about 10 minutes, re-season - and if you're me, add in fresh basil. The applications of creamed corn that I enjoyed most this week when experimenting:
- Over jasmine rice with pan fried chopped sausage and shrimp on top - all you need is a little meat, not a whole lot. Bacon would also likely work. It usually does.
- In little dollops on top of a larger dollops of diced honeydew melon floated into cold cucumber soup. I used this recipe for the base without the mango salsa part - this recipes will be in the new Food52 vegan cookbook. . . creamed corn removes the vegan aspect. Add a sprinkle of cayenne and/or curry powder on top.
I'm from New England, home of New England Boiled Suppers. They seemed boring until I heard about their corollaries in other places. My parents had tales of a trip in the Azores and "cozido" - like our boiled dinner, except boiled underground in volcanic springs and including blood sausage and pigs' ears (the Boston Globe had a lengthy profile of Azorean cuisine in 2013). And then my family went to a hearth baking workshop at Strawbery Banke and made a traditional (1700's style traditional) boiled dinner in a giant hearth full of cast iron cooking implements to boil, and bury in coals, and skewer, and whatnot - history museums are more fun than Williams Sonoma when it comes to playing with cooking implements. And now, we have the Lowcountry Boil.
A Lowcountry Boil is simply a boiled supper of potatoes, sausage, corn, and shrimp but somehow the knowledge that this is a preferred summer meal even in a region that is home to excellent BBQ elevates it. Here is the guide that I used, from 'Around the Southern Table'.
Evaporated Milk & Jell-O:
You take a very cold can of evaporated milk and whip it up in a mixer as if it were cream (it does whip up into stiff peaks). Take a not-fully-set batch of lemon Jell-o, whip that up. They both seem, if not gross, at least not tantalizing. Combined? Delicious. I first learned this recipe from my friend Christine for a Midwestern themed dinner. I really have no way to describe this to make it seem like a good idea, it's a trust me sort of statement. I served it as a cream on top of peaches and pecans, hence making it fit the theme. Because.
Peanut Butter & Cheese:
On a related note of things that sound gross but generations have loved them: peanut butter and cheese sandwiches. This stems from the Ploughman's Dinner written about here.
For a Georgian twist on hummus, I swapped out tahini for peanut butter (the just peanuts kind) and eliminated the garlic.
Then, pounded cheese - cheddar cheese, butter (3 parts cheese to 1 part butter), dijon mustard, a pinch of cayenne, a drizzle of apple-wine syrup (probably a spoonful of fruit jelly or sweet wine would work) all whipped up smooth in a food processor.
The two spreads on whole wheat bread is kind of irresistible. And pickles. I realize this brings us perilously close to a joke about what pregnant women eat, but if so, they're onto something.