It’s just about prime porch season in Savannah, so it’s time to whip up some Southern classics to share for a family supper or lazy lunch. Southern comfort food is a great way to showcase some of our oldest culinary traditions as we pack big flavor into hearty meals. So, whether you can’t find your family recipe, want to experiment with a new version, or you simply want to know more about it, we will introduce you to three test kitchen favorites…
First up, hoecakes with thinly sliced okra inside – it doesn’t get much more southern than these two quintessentially Southern gems combined in one recipe! Similar to a pancake in appearance, but made from ground cornmeal, salt, and water, hoecakes get their name from their agricultural lineage; farmhands typically cooked them over an open flame on the face of a hoe. But lace hoecakes like this recipe incorporate much more water into the batter so that a thin, crispy hoecake is fried on the griddle. Watch Paula fry hoecakes in her kitchen!
The Lady and Son’s Restaurant has transformed hoecakes into one of Savannah’s specialties, though similar versions of these patties served with maple syrup and butter are popular all over the South and beyond, where they will likely be prepared differently and known as Johnnycakes. The addition of okra to the hoecake batter is great way to consume your greens without deep-frying them; okra (which probably came to French colonial America via Ethiopia) lends the perfect vitamin-rich, heritage-steeped twist to this indulgence…
Country fried steak refers to cubed or simply tenderized beef steaks, dredged in flour, fried in hot fat in a heavy skillet, and simmered in seasoned liquid until a gravy forms. The preparation probably derives from 19th-century German immigrants bringing wienerschnitzel to America. Country fried steak is a favorite all across the South, but Texans are known for (and some claim to have invented) their own incarnation, chicken fried steak. (Check out Paula’s version of a basic chicken fried steak!)
Paula’s country fried steak offers the best of the South, using her own House blend to season the standard cubed round steak and a white, buttermilk-based, sauce for the gravy. Steaks are dipped in buttermilk (often preferred due its tenderizing effects) that is later combined with a roux to create the simmering liquid, which eventually becomes your smooth, rich buttermilk gravy – perfect to soak up with Paula’s signature buttermilk biscuits! And if that’s not enough to make you hungry, we love to bake our biscuits buttered top, on a buttered cast-iron skillet for that extra-crispy crust. Bake them while your steak simmers so you can serve them fresh and hot out of the oven together!
We have to include meatloaf, a consistent American comfort food, with one quick loaf offering ample portions for a family dinner and a couple of sandwiches for the week. While meatloaf’s predecessors date back to the Roman Empire, with delicious ancestral variants evolving across Europe, today’s American meatloaf is generally a combination of ground beef, veal, and/or pork, green pepper and onion, egg, breadcrumbs, seasoning, tomato product, and sauce baked in a loaf pan or formed into a loaf on a baking sheet.
Aunt Peggy’s use of oats instead of today’s more typical breadcrumbs harkens back to the Great Depression, when cereal grains made for a cheap filler in ground meat dishes. Calling for lean ground beef and oats makes this a relatively low fat and nutritious meatloaf, too! Some southerners prefer theirs smoked with barbecue sauce, include some bacon, spice it up, or sweeten it with cola. Aunt Peggy’s meatloaf is mostly traditional, slathered with a ketchup, brown sugar, and mustard glaze, and of course, we like a Vidalia onion for regional flair and a little extra southern sweetness!
And there’s three of our favorites, from our family to yours, y’all!