Lordy, Southern food has been in the news a lot lately. From Paula Deen to Trisha Yearwood to Hugh Acheson, there’s been a lot of talk about what southern cooking really is. I know I’ve written about it before, but I thought it warranted a bit more discussion. I mean, I’m a southerner, and I cook, so I guess you could say I’m a southern cook. I grew up watching other southerners cook, both men and women, and I’ve learned a thing or two from each of them. Mostly what I know is that, for the most part, southern food is simple. It’s based on seasonal foods that come from the land, and it’s highly flavorful.
I love the tradition of southern food. I love that it’s based on an agrarian lifestyle, one where food is grown within a community and consumed within that same community. And while the fats of choice in southern cooking have traditionally been animal fats in the form of lard, butter and tallow, I’m okay with that too. There are more and more studies every day that show that fats from pastured animals are actually good for us in moderation.
Moderation is also a common thread in southern cooking (and eating). I can remember being at my grandparents’ house in Mississippi when I was young. Supper was often a simple bowl of white beans spooned over cornbread. Or a plate of garden vegetables to accompany a few fried fish that had come from the lake earlier that day. And yes, the fish were fried (probably in Crisco, because that was all the rage those days), but they were small and the majority of the meal was made up of vegetables in the form of green beans, tomatoes, green onions and peppers.
Even when those seasonal vegetables might not be my favorite, I’m making an effort to learn to like them. I wrote a couple of weeks ago about a rutabaga hash that I’d made for breakfast one morning. In that post, I mentioned that I’ve never really been a fan of rutabagas (also known as turnips) because of their bitter, earthy flavor. The problem is that they are in my CSA bag every week. And I am beyond grateful to have the resource of a local farm that brings me farm fresh vegetables on a weekly basis, so I’m not about to complain. So I just have to make every effort to embrace the rutabaga.
This time, I shredded them using the large shredding blade on my food processor. Then I salted them and let them sit for five minutes or so. The salt drew out a lot of the liquid, which also removed much of the bitterness. I placed them in a clean kitchen towel and twisted it tightly to squeeze out as much of the liquid as I could.
Then I sauteed them in some clarified butter with some kale and pulled pork. The earlier version of rutabaga hash was good, but it wasn’t great. The cubes never got good and crispy the way I like, they just kind of got soft and mushy and wet. They tasted alright, but I felt like they needed a little tweaking. The shredded version? Crispy, brown, tender, flavorful – really great.
I served it over some heirloom pencil-cob grits and topped it all with a couple of poached eggs. It was a quintessential southern dinner – local, seasonal and fresh.
Pork, Rutabaga and Kale Hash
prep time: 10 minutes
cook time: 15 minutes
- 3 small rutabagas, shredded
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup kale, shredded
- 1/2 cup pulled pork (could also use pot roast, corned beef, or leave out meat altogether)
- 2 teaspoons clarified butter
- Place shredded rutabagas in a stainless steel bowl, and toss with 1 teaspoon salt. Let sit for five minutes to draw out the water.
- Place on a clean kitchen towel, pull ends of towel up to create a little pouch. Twist tightly to squeeze out as much water as you can.
- Heat an iron skillet over medium heat.
- Add clarified butter to pan and melt.
- Add the kale, pork and rutabagas. Cook over medium heat, stirring periodically until crispy and brown.
- Taste for seasoning – add salt and pepper as necessary.
If you, like me, are not a fan of the humble turnip, give this method a try. The salting and draining really mellows out the flavor, and it helps in the crisping process.
And finally, for the announcement you’ve all been waiting for, the Whole Foods gift card giveaway winner.
Congratulations, Natalie! Email me your address at lifeinrecipes[at]gmail[dot]com and I’ll arrange to have the gift card mailed to you. You’ll be making over your pantry in no time.
Thank you to Harry’s Farmers Market Alpharetta for partnering with me on this generous giveaway!