Southern Staples to Make in Your Kitchen

There are some dishes that every Lowcountry resident should know about. From Lowcountry boil to biscuits and gravy, these foods are staples on our dinner tables.

Story by Abigail Fellin

Fried Okra

10 pods okra, sliced in . inch pieces
1 egg, beaten
1 cup cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup vegetable oil

[1] In one bowl soak okra pieces in egg for 5 to 10 minutes. [2] While soaking, in a second bowl combine the cornmeal, salt and pepper. [3] Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. [4] Evenly cover okra in cornmeal mixture. [5] Place okra in hot oil and stir continuously. Reduce heat to medium when okra starts to brown and cook until golden. Drain on paper towels.

Fun Facts

• The first recipes of fried okra can be traced back to Southern kitchens in the mid 1800s.

• Enslaved African Americans would parch okra seeds to make an off version of coffee, and, during the Civil War, sold it to soldiers.

Lowcountry Boil

4 pounds small red potatoes
5 quarts of water
1 (3 ounce) bag of crab boil seasoning
4 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
2 pounds kielbasa or hot smoked link sausage, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
6 ears of corn, halved
4 pounds large fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
Cocktail sauce

[1] Add potatoes, water and seasoning to a large pot. Cover pot and heat to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes. [2] Add sausage and corn; return to a boil. [3] Cook until potatoes are tender. [4] Add shrimp to the pot and cook until shrimp turn pink (3-4 minutes). Drain. [5] Serve with cocktail sauce.

Fun Fact

This dish is also called Frogmore Stew, named after the hometown of the national guardsman who made the dish for 100 soldiers. The name was changed to Lowcountry boil when the town name was changed.

Biscuits and Gravy

Ingredients (biscuits)
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick frozen butter, sliced thin or grated
3/4 cup ice cold buttermilk

[1] Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. [2] Whisk dry ingredients together. Cut butter into the flour mixture and blend until it resembles coarse crumbs. [3] Add buttermilk and stir until moist. [4] Put dough on a floured surface and lightly fold the dough over multiple times to form the flaky layers. Lightly roll the dough to about 5/8 inch thick. Cut biscuits into 3 inch rounds. Make sure not to twist the cutter; this will ruin the layers. [5] Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown.

Ingredients (gravy)
3 tablespoons butter
1 pound tube breakfast sausage
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt, to taste
2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
3 1/2 -4 cups whole milk, warmed

[1] Heat the butter in large saucepan over medium-high heat until foaming. Add sausage and brown it. Reduce heat to medium. [2] Sprinkle flour over the sausage and mix it well. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for another minute, stirring often. [3] Gradually add in milk, stirring it in. Bring to a simmer and stir occasionally until thickened. If too thick, add more milk. [4] Serve gravy on top of halved freshly baked biscuits.

Fun Facts

• This Southern classic, created out of necessity, has been around since the Revolutionary War, being the breakfast of choice for soldiers.

February 21st and December 2nd are both considered National Biscuits and Gravy day.

Shrimp Burgers

1 pound shrimp
2 tablespoons chopped scallions
3 tablespoons diced celery
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 cup cornbread crumbs
1 egg, beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
Tabasco sauce to taste
1 tablespoon peanut oil

[1] Boil shrimp for 2 minutes. Drain in a colander, and place ice on top until cool enough to handle. Peel and devein shrimp, and chop into small dice. [2] In a large bowl, mix shrimp with scallions, celery, parsley and lemon zest. Stir in mayonnaise, cornbread crumbs and the egg. Beat with a whisk or wooden spoon until evenly distributed. Season with salt, pepper and Tabasco to taste. [3] With your hands, form 6 patties about 3 inches in diameter. Sauté, 3 at a time, in peanut oil until both sides are nicely browned. Drain on paper towels. [4] Serve on hamburger buns with lettuce, tomato and tartar sauce.

Fun Facts

Beaufort is considered the heart of shrimp burger country.

• Shrimp burger recipes can be traced back to the 1930s in a cookbook titled “200 Years of Charleston Cooking.”

• The term burger was added to the shrimp patties during the expansion of McDonalds.

Southern Pecan Pie

3 eggs
1 cup white sugar
1 cup corn syrup
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups pecan halves
1 9-inch single crust pie

[1] Preheat oven to 400 degrees. [2] Beat eggs slightly in medium bowl. Beat in sugar, and then blend in syrup, butter or margarine, vanilla, salt, and pecans. [3] Pour filling into unbaked pie shell. [4] Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees, and continue baking 35 to 40 minutes; the pie will be brown and slightly puffed.

Fun Facts

Georgia is the main commercial grower of pecans in the US.

• The earliest printed recipes for pecan pie are from the 1870s.

• Pecan pie became popular in the 1920s when Karo syrup started printing a recipe on the cans.

Banana Pudding

4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
pinch salt
3 large egg yolks
3 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 box vanilla wafers
5-6 bananas

[1] Combine flour, sugar and salt in a large saucepan. [2] Lightly beat egg yolks and combine with milk in a large bowl or measuring cup. Pour the egg and milk mixture into dry ingredients in heavy saucepan. [3] Cook over low to medium heat, stirring constantly, until ingredients are thickened and smooth. Remove saucepan from heat and stir in vanilla. [4] To layer your banana pudding, begin by placing wafers in a dish of your choice, a 3 quart bowl or pan or individual sized containers. Slice bananas and place on top of wafers. Pour custard over wafers and bananas. [5] Repeat layering process until all wafers, bananas, and custard have been used. Ending with a final layer of wafers for decorative purposes.

Fun Facts

• Bananas weren’t widely available in the US until after the Civil War.

Early recipes of banana pudding range from including sponge cake to being a frozen mold using tapioca instead of a custard.

• The 1920s was when the recipe first included vanilla wafers.

Pimento Cheese

16 ounces aged sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded
1 8 ounce jar diced pimento, drained
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons shredded or finely chopped sweet onion
2 bottled mild or hot banana peppers, drained and finely chopped
Pinch cayenne pepper

[1] In a large bowl stir together cheese, pimento, mayonnaise, onion, banana peppers, and cayenne pepper. (For a smoother consistency, beat mixture with an electric mixer.) [2] Transfer to a storage container; cover and chill for 4 hours up to 3 days. Serve on toast or crackers.

Fun Facts

• This Southern dish was originally created in New York during the early 1900s.

• This dish became Southern in 1911 when Spanish pimentos were in high demand, but were overly expensive. So, a company in Georgia began growing their own domestic pimentos.

Fried Chicken

1 3-pound whole chicken, cut into pieces
1 cup all-purpose flour
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon paprika
1 quart vegetable oil, for frying

[1] Season chicken with salt, pepper and paprika. Cover evenly with flour. [2] Add 1/2 to 3/4 inch oil to a large, heavy skillet. Heat to approximately 365 degrees F. [3] Place chicken pieces in hot oil. Cover, and fry until golden, turning once, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

Fun Fact

The origin of this dish is murky and it is unsure if European settlers or African American slaves were the first to try breading and frying up some chicken.

Hush Puppies

1 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk or sour milk
1/4 cup sliced green onions

[1] In a medium bowl stir together cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Make a well in center of flour mixture; set aside. [2] In another bowl combine egg, buttermilk, and green onions. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy). [3] Drop batter by tablespoons into deep, hot fat (375 degrees F). Fry about 3 minutes or until golden, turning once. Drain on paper towels. Serve warm. Makes 14 to 18 hush puppies.

Fried Green Tomatoes

4 green tomatoes, cut into 1/4 inch rings
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon garlic powder
4 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
Pinch cayenne pepper
Pinch paprika

[1] Preheat oil to 350 degrees Fahrenheit in deep-fryer. [2] Season tomatoes on both sides with salt and pepper. Place flour and garlic powder in a shallow dish. In another shallow dish, beat eggs with the milk. In another dish, mix bread crumbs with cayenne and paprika. [3] Dredge tomatoes through the flour, then the eggs, and then through the bread crumbs. [4] Add only a few pieces to the fryer at a time, so they can cook evenly, about 2 to 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

Fun Fact

While this dish is known as a Southern food staple, it actually originated in the Midwest back in the 19th century. It only became a Southern food after the movie “Fried Green Tomatoes” which was based in the South.

Shrimp Po’ Boy Sandwich

1 pound medium shrimp, shelled, deveined and tails removed
3/4 cup fine cornmeal
3/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
Peanut oil, for frying
1/2 head iceberg lettuce, shredded
2-3 tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
4 small French sandwich rolls

Ingredients (remoulade)
1/4 cup mustard
1 1/4 cups mayo
2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon pickle juice or vinegar
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1 large garlic clove, minced and smashed
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1-2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning

Remoulade: If you are making your own remoulade, mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and set aside for 30 minutes.

Sandwich: [1] Pour enough peanut oil in a large frying pan to come up about 1/4 inch, and set the pan over medium-high heat until a small amount of flour sizzles immediately when you drop some in. [2] Mix the cornmeal, flour, Cajun seasoning and salt in a large bowl. [3] Working with a few at a time, dredge the shrimp in the egg, then in the cornmeal-flour mixture. Shake off any excess breading and fry the shrimp until golden on both sides. Set the fried shrimp aside on paper towels to drain. [4] To assemble the sandwiches, slice the sandwich loaves almost all the way through and smear remoulade on both the top and bottom. Lay down a layer of shredded lettuce on the bottom of the sandwich, then arrange the shrimp on top. Lay 3-4 slices of tomato on the shrimp and press the top of the bread down on the bottom, compressing the sandwich a little. Serve immediately.

Fun Fact

It was invented in 1929 by a pair of brothers supporting street car conductors holding a strike and offering them a free sandwich. This called for the brothers to think of a meal for when the “poor boys” came along.

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