Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Scott Peacock, Southern Corn Bread and Corn Bread-Pecan Dressing
From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...Just last week we explored the life of Edna Lewis, a woman many believe to be responsible for the revival and preservation of Southern cooking. Her story is a compelling piece of Americana but lurking in the background of that tale lies another that begs to be told. In the early 1990's, Miss Lewis met Scott Peacock, a troubled young chef who suffered from fierce bouts of clinical depression. Drawn by their shared love of the South and Southern cooking, this old woman and this young, gay white man forged an unusual friendship. Together they harnessed memories, techniques and recipes and combined them in the book, The Gift of Southern Cooking. They became known as the Odd Couple of Southern Cooking. There was nothing kinky here. She wished to pass on what she knew and he was an avid listener who was willing to soak up all she had to pass along. Over time they became family to each other. In the early days of their friendship she helped him through bouts of depression and kept him focused. As she aged and became fragile, he became her caretaker. She lived with him for years and died at the age of 89 in his home. Scott first met Edna when he was in his early 20's working as a chef for the governor of Georgia. They met at a food festival where he helped her make pies, and, in the course of conversation, shared with her his love of Southern cooking. She invited him to visit her in Brooklyn and there convinced him to shelve his plans for foreign study, urging him to stay in-country and document the food he already knew and loved. As corny as it sounds, he writes from the heart, and when they worked together he added balance to her memories and opinions and was able to combine her cooking instincts with his own. He was the heart, she was the soul of their collaboration. In 2007, Scott was named Best Chef in the Southeast by the James Beard Foundation. These days he is working on a memoir that will include his time with Edna and, in a separate project, documenting the food memories of other octogenarians in the South. If you have about 20 minutes you might want to link to this touching video. I've chosen a simple recipe for corn bread and corn bread-pecan dressing to highlight his cooking style. It made this damn Yankee smile. I think you'll like it, too
Corn Bread-Pecan Dressing...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of Scott Peacock via Chef Recipes Made Easy
Southern corn bread (see below)
3 cups pecan halves (11 ounces)
8 thick slices of slab bacon
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (5 ounces), 4 tablespoons melted
3 cups coarsely chopped onions
3 cups coarsely chopped celery
3 large shallots, minced
1-1/2 tablespoons rubbed sage
1 tablespoon dried thyme
6 large eggs, beaten
1-3/4 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1) Break corn bread into large pieces, scatter on a baking sheet and let dry overnight. 2) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. On a rimmed baking sheet, toast pecans for about 10 minutes, or until nicely browned and fragrant. Transfer to a plate to cool. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F.
3) In a large skillet, cook bacon in 6 tablespoons of butter until very crisp, about 10 minutes; reserve the bacon for another use (I recommend BLT's). Add onions, celery, shallots, sage and thyme to skillet and cook over low heat until vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes.
4) Tear corn bread into 1 1/2-inch pieces and place in a large bowl. Top with cooked vegetable mixture and pecans and toss well. Stir in melted butter, eggs and 1 cup of the chicken stock. Season with 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper and mix well.
5) Butter a large shallow baking dish and add corn bread dressing. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and baste dressing with 6 tablespoons of remaining stock. Bake for 10 minutes longer, then baste with remaining 6 tablespoons of stock. Bake for 20 minutes longer, or until golden brown on top and heated through. Yield: 12 servings.
Southern Corn Bread...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of Scott Peacock via Chef Recipes Made Easy
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cups white cornmeal, preferably stone ground
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups buttermilk
4 large eggs, beaten
1) Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Put butter in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet and melt the butter in oven.
2) Meanwhile, mix cornmeal with cream of tartar, salt and baking soda in a large bowl. Add buttermilk and eggs and stir to blend.
3) Remove skillet from oven and swirl to coat with butter. Pour melted butter into e batter and stir just until incorporated. Scrape batter into hot skillet and bake for about 35 minutes, or until crusty around edges and springy to touch. Invert corn bread onto a rack and let cool completely. Yield: 1 10-inch cake.