Cooking has always been one of my favorite hobbies. I’m not exceptionally amazing at cooking, but I think I’m pretty great. Many moons ago I had a cooking blog where I posted terrible quality photos of delicious recipes I made in my tiny apartment. Did you know I spent a few months in 2010 being challenged to cook traditional Southern dishes? I thought it would be fun to share a piece of my past – here are all of my Southern Cooking Challenges.
In 2010 when my friend’s husband started “The Hungry Southerner,” he asked if I wanted to contribute to his content. The series was called “The Yankee Challenge” and once a month he gave me a Southern cooking assignment. From a good ole Southern breakfast to Homemade Red Velvet Cake to Chicken and Dumplings, I cooked a lot of Southern dishes from scratch. Some were big failures, while the others I still think about today.
If you’ve ever had the privilege of eating a big Southern breakfast, you know it’s enough food to carry you until dinner time. My husband’s MawMaw and PawPaw used to cook breakfast for us every time we visited their home in Tennessee and I wouldn’t eat again until the next day. They made fried potatoes, biscuits and gravy, pork chops, bacon, and eggs. So freakin’ good, so filling.
For awhile this was one of Brandon and my favorite cakes. We ate Red Velvet cake for every anniversary/birthday/holiday. It’s so rich, creamy, and delicious!
Everyone loves crispy fried chicken – but with a buttermilk bath beforehand? It makes the chicken so juicy. I think I need to make some soon!
I remember this dish was AMAZING… but required shrimp from the U.S. Did you know most shrimp sold at the seafood counter in grocery stories is NOT from our country? You’ll need to venture to a real fish store to make traditional Shrimp Étouffée & Beignets . Beignets are sweet and delicious, not really a side dish for the spicy Shrimp Étouffée, but a tasty dessert.
Southern Vegetable Plate – Fried okra, Collard Greens, Fried Green Tomatoes, Black Eyed Peas, Macaroni & Cheese
There would be five vegetables: fried okra, collard greens, fried green tomatoes, black eyed peas, and macaroni and cheese (yes this is a veggie), plus a side of cornbread. There were some rules like the last challenge, that involved making the cornbread and mac-n-cheese from scratch, frying everything in the cast iron skillet, using dried black eyed peas, and the collard greens needed to be cooked with a ham hock or salt pork. Um, what the heck is a ham hock?!
Chicken and Dumplings will always be one of my favorite dishes, but it is a labor of love! There are many shortcuts to making Chicken and Dumplings, but the REAL Southern dish requires homemade dumplings. I published an easy Chicken and Dumplings recipe in 2013 that’s much easier than the original I followed for this challenge.
Caitlin Houston is a Connecticut based life and style blogger.