A few summers ago we went to Hilton Head (a bit disastrous due to jellyfish stings and the seemingly unavailability of fresh local seafood in stores – unless you buy it out of the back of a pickup truck). While we were there, we spent some time in Savannah, which is a beautiful city filled with graceful homes and garden squares that take your breath away. It’s also home to Paula Deen’s The Lady and Sons. This may not be Martha’s type of restaurant since it has a buffet and is filled with tourists, but it was a memorable meal for us and I think Martha would approve of the excellent authentic Southern food. Once a year or so, I make a Paula meal, based on the terrific food we enjoyed there. I usually come back from our vacations with a few signature dishes of the area we visited that I experiment with, trying to replicate them. For Cape Cod, it was clam chowder. For Hawaii it was passion fruit sauces to go on fish. I have yet to attempt scones based on our trip to England, but that’s on my list.
So let’s get to the dinner. I started with Paula’s lemonade. The secret is to make a sugar syrup. Most people just dump water, sugar and lemon juice in a pitcher and stir. You need to mix all of the sugar with some hot water to dissolve it completely, then add the lemon juice and water. Here are the amounts: 3 c sugar, 2 c fresh squeezed lemon juice and water to fill a gallon jug – use about a cup or two of hot water to dissolve the sugar, then add cold water and ice. Paula’s lemonade is very sweet, but my family likes it that way. You can cut back the sugar if you like yours tarter.
Next up is the fried chicken – who can have a Southern meal without fried chicken? The summer we went to Paula’s restaurant, I made fried chicken over and over until I finally figured out how to do it. My recipe is based on Paula’s recipe, but is slightly different. I only use split chicken breasts since my family prefers white meat. I soak them in buttermilk, salt and pepper for 2-4 hours.
Next I mix three 3 eggs with 1/3 cup water. I mix 2 cups self-rising flour with salt, pepper, paprika and garlic powder.
I use peanut oil in my fryer and get it to 360 degrees. I pat the chicken dry, dredge in egg, then flour, then egg, then flour again. I found that once was not enough and it needed to be double dipped. I fry one breast at a time (that’s all that fits in my fryer) and it takes about 15-20 minutes for it to cook. When done, I set the breasts on a rack and stick them in the oven on warm. I find the chicken tastes best if it is allowed to sit for a while after being fried. This chicken is also excellent cold for the next several days.
The last piece of our Southern meal is hoecakes. We had them for the first time at Paula’s restaurant and loved them. The key to these is self-rising flour and self-rising cornmeal. I use 1/2 cup of each, 1 egg, 1/2 tbsp sugar, 1/2 plus 1/8 cup buttermilk, 1/8 cup vegetable oil, and half of a 1/3 of a cup of water. I fry them on a griddle with butter. The batch in the photo is not up to my standards – I find the griddle needs to get nice and hot and then the hoecakes turn a lovely golden brown and get crunchy around the edges. Our dinner was thrown together around a hastily arranged urgent care visit (everyone’s ok) so I wasn’t able to fry these myself and had some help.
A few summers ago we went to Hilton Head (a bit disastrous due to jellyfish stings and the seemingly unavailability of fresh local seafood in stores – unless you buy it out of the back of a pickup truck). While we were there, we spent some time in Savannah, which is a beautiful city filled … Read more