Smothered—or choked—chicken is made using the age-old technique of slow cooking. The latter name comes from the actual act of wringing a bird’s neck and the former from smothering the bird slowly in a heavy-bottomed pot with onions, celery, and bell pepper. You can add garlic, if you like, or if you want heat, add fresh or dried hot peppers. Add fresh or dried savory, marjoram, thyme, or any herbs you like to enhance the flavor, or try it with rosemary and potatoes. Throw in one or two tomatoes. The options are endless. Have patience with this meal—it will take nearly two hours to make, but it’s worth the wait.
Shrimp boulettes, or fried shrimp balls, might remind you of Thai fish cakes or Vietnamese shrimp on sugarcane. The shrimp is ground up and fried without any flour or cornmeal (shrimp is sticky enough to bind the vegetables together, so you don’t need to add any filler). Eat the boulettes as a snack with hot sauce, or put some on a roll with bitter greens, cocktail sauce, or spicy mayo to turn them into a sandwich. Either way, they are a great way to eat small fresh shrimp.
Shrimp spaghetti is to bayou kids what spaghetti and meatballs is to kids in the rest of the United States. This was my son Lucien’s favorite meal, which he would eat for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It’s a near perfect meal—simple, sweet, perfectly balanced—and it’ll feed a big family or a crowd of friends. The recipe draws from the Creole cooking technique of smothering tomatoes long and slow. This version is made with store-bought sauce, but you can certainly make your own tomato sauce and cook it down in the same manner. Homemade tomato sauce tends to be thinner, so you might have to thicken it a bit with tomato paste to get the right consistency.
To many descendants of America’s servant class, who at hog killing time helped smoke the very best parts of the pig or prepared those cuts for the planter’s table, a succulent, golden-brown ham is more than sustenance; it is the centerpiece whenever special occasions are celebrated.
Cornbread is very simple and quick to make. But, like so many “simple” things, it takes a lot of practice to master. When you examine what makes a good cornbread, you realize right away that it’s a very personal preference from one cook to the next. For me, the best cornbread has to tick a few boxes. First, it has to be cooked in a cast-iron skillet, started on the stove and finished in the oven. The crispy, deep brown, caramelized crust achieved when you cook cornbread this way is unbeatable. Then, when you bite into the soft crumb inside, you want to taste a tangy sourness that only buttermilk can give. The corn and buttermilk are the two ingredients that make or break a skillet of cornbread. Even if you’re still searching for your ideal skillet of cornbread, if you start with great full-fat buttermilk and high-quality cornmeal, the result will be memorable. But “high quality” doesn’t have to mean “the most expensive.” High quality means a flavorful variety of corn, organically grown, dried in the field, harvested, and ground, all with care. That means when it gets to you, all you have to do is cook it with the same care to enjoy something truly special.
Fried chicken is something I’ll never stop trying to perfect. This version is the latest in my quest for the ideal. Fried chicken is difficult to make well, and especially tough to make for a crowd. Trying to achieve a perfectly cooked, moist interior while getting that crunchy skin with a breading that stays put is one of the things that can keep any good Southern cook up at night. This recipe is one I couldn’t be happier with. That said, since writing it down, I’ve already thought of a few new ideas!
Recipe provided by chef Kwame Onwuachi of Kith and Kin in Washington, D.C. Francis Lam talks with Onwuachi about the dish and many more topics in their inteview from our episode "Kwame Onwuachi - Notes from a Young Black Chef."
A little sweet potato kneaded into yeasted dough makes rolls extra soft and sweet. Down South, we like our bread so tender that it’s sometimes on the edge of underbaked. I affectionately call thoses quishy rolls. These orange-tinted rounds can—and should—be baked all the way through. They’ll end up as supple as any squishy ones.
We rolled up to Sugar’s Place in the middle of theday in the middle of July. Across the street from the Mississippi College School of Law in Jackson, this little restaurant has some of the best soul food I’ve ever eaten. I walked in with no appetite and left wishing I had eaten more. And I couldn’t stop thinking about its baked chicken. Chef-owner mother-son team Glenda Cage Barner and Donovan Barner worked some magic with those chicken legs. The meat pulled right off the bone but still had a nice chew. You could taste the seasonings all the way through the meat. Onions melted into the jus shimmering around the chicken. It felt as warming as a beloved family meal but like the fantasy version — where your family makes the best chicken in the world.
Oh. My. God. Did I just create the best Thanksgiving dressing ever? Why yes, yes I did. You’re welcome. I got all the flavors of classic dressing (that’s stuffing to you Northerners)—onion, celery, sage—and suspended them in a creamy one-pan cornbread. With this recipe, I’ve saved you the step of baking a whole loaf of cornbread just to crumble into a side dish. Anything I can do to make your home cooking easier and tastier, I’ll do. This just saved you a whole lotta time on Thanksgiving and it’s gonna get you a whole lotta praise.