April 29, 2012

Battle Literary Food: Corn Pone and Fried Chicken

My inspiration came from The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. You've probably read the book and since this is a food blog I won't get into all the details.  Just in case you haven't read it, the most general overview of the setting is that it takes place in the deep South during the 1960's and is a story about the lives of the black maids who worked in the homes of the white women of Jackson, Mississippi.  
The friendship between Celia Foote and her maid Minny was one of the most memorable parts of the story, for me.  Celia grew up in Sugar Ditch, a poor area of low-country Mississippi, and had married into money.  Minny was hired by Miss Foote to clean her mansion and provide some sorely needed cooking lessons. Celia's skills upon Minny's arrival were zero; except of course for a simple corn pone.  
"Must be something you know.  What your mama teach you growing up?"  She looks down at the webby feet of her stockings, says, "I can cook corn pone."  I can't help but laugh. "What else you know how to do sides corn pone?"
Corn Pone is a very simple, flourless and eggless pan bread made with white cornmeal and water and is baked in a cast iron skillet coated in hot oil.

I used this recipe:
2 cups white corn meal
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups of cold water
4 tablespoons oil (I used coconut oil)

Heat the oil in the cast iron skillet in the oven while the temperature reaches 475 degrees.  Mix the white corn meal, salt and water until you have a mushy, pancake batter consistency.  Pour the batter into the heated pan and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until it starts to brown just a bit on top.   
I think I should have used a more fine, white corn meal for this recipe, or perhaps prepared the pone like pancakes instead of pouring all the batter into the bottom of the cast iron skillet. This is not a dish I would make again but we drizzled some honey on the finished product and the taste improved greatly!

After Celia discloses her non-existent cooking skills, Minny's first cooking lesson commences: fried chicken.
"Chicken's been soaking in the buttermilk," I say.  "Now mix up the dry."  I pour flour, salt, more salt, pepper, paprika and a pinch of cayenne into a doubled paper sack.  "Now.  Put the chicken parts in the bag and shake it." Miss Celia puts a raw chicken thigh in, bumps the bag around.  "Like this?  Just like Shake 'n Bake commercials on the tee-vee?"  Real careful I lay the dark meat in the pan.  It bubbles up like a song and we watch the thighs and legs turn brown.  I look over and Miss Celia's smiling at me."What? Somethin' on my face?" "No," she says, tears coming up in her eyes.  She touches my arm.  "I'm just real grateful you're here."
I have never made fried chicken, either.  I followed Minny's recipe for the most part; minus the cayenne and with the addition of a teaspoon of garlic powder.  I used coconut oil to fry the chicken (Minny used Crisco), it turned out well and my taste-testers complimented me on the finished product.  I recommend salting the chicken once it's almost done frying to give the crispy outer edges more flavor.  It was lacking in the salt department, for my tastes.
I apologize for putting this post up a little later than expected, my oven broke earlier this week :( and I had to take my smackdown recipe on the road.

Can't wait to be AMAZED at what everyone contributes to April's culinary smackdown!

5 comments:

  1. Yummm! That fried chicken likes tasty! Thanks so much for being this month's Smackdown host - and for being a trooper to get this post up, even if you had to take your dish on the road :)

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  2. Yay! I'm so excited: this is my first entry (I'm very new.). Here's my entry & thanks for letting me participate! http://www.keep-guessing.com/2012/04/three-shades-of-orange.html Your chicken looks terrific!

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  3. "The Help" is at my bedside, waiting on library books to be done. This reminds me of my mamma's fried chicken which was, of course, the best in the world AND cooked in a black iron skillet. Yum!

    Oh, I posted my link on your post announcing this month's theme, but here it is again if you missed it:

    http://grumpygranny.wordpress.com/2012/04/28/literary-smackdown-inspired-by-non-cook-books/

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  4. Hey Katie, I'm up with my smackdown post. Your corn pone looks delightful and so does your drumsticks! And it seems that you even took care not to burn the chicken because we all know that Minny "never, ever" burns her chicken.

    http://smallgirladventures.blogspot.com/2012/04/culinary-smackdown-harry-potters-ginger.html

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  5. And I'm up with my entry - true to form, just under the deadline :)

    http://eggplanttogo.blogspot.com/2012/04/culinary-smackdown-battle-literary-food.html

    xoxo, eggy

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