Monday, February 21, 2011

Putting the Soul in Soul Food

My parents are both Southern--Mom's from North Carolina, and Dad's from Arkansas. I go to a Southern Baptist church, which is filled with women who look like my mom and hail from Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas. Many of them, including my aunt, are amazing cooks when it comes to food from the South. Even my pastor is good at it--his collard greens put the ladies' versions to shame.

I, on the other hand, suck at cooking that stuff. My fried chicken is either burned or underdone, and the first two times I tried to make collards, I nearly killed my then roommate with salt overload (I'd forgotten that flavors get more concentrated as water boils off). So I decided to fix it.

After a chat with my mom and my aunt, I decided to attempt chicken and dumplings, candied yams, collard greens (my nemesis!), red beans and rice, and banana pudding. Everything turned out really, really well, except for maybe the red beans and rice (too much water, not enough time).

My mom was very proud of me when I told her how dinner came out. She was glad I'd finally learned how to cook this stuff for myself. So I guess, in general, I've managed to get over my fear of soul food.

Except for fried chicken. I'm coming for you, ya clucker...

Collard Greens

2 bunches collards
1 chicken boullion cube
2 tablespoons pepper
2 cloves garlic
1/2 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon tumeric
1 tablespoon vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

2 slices bacon

Wash leaves and place them on top of each other in a stack. Fold the leaves in half, and slice into 1 inch strips. Fill pot halfway with water and add strips. Add all spices. Cook leaves on medium heat until tender and water has evaporated, roughly 1-2 hours or longer.

Brown bacon in small pan. Just before serving, add bacon and bacon fat to collards. Toss until covered and serve. Serves four.

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