Things I learned in class

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“What did we know from scallions?”

She may not have known a whole lot about scallions, but Nathalie Dupree is a walking encyclopedia of culinary knowledge and history.

Friday night I went over to the Southern Season in Chapel Hill, and attended a cooking class given by the Grande Dame of Southern Cuisine; Nathalie Dupree.  And boy, was I taken to school.  Below is just a few of the many, many things I learned.

1.)Nathalie is kind, and very funny.  And she absolutely does not believe in giving yourself a migraine by stressing in the kitchen.  The history of Southern cooking is not fancy and fussy, it’s making do with what you have on hand.

2.)When you’re cooking a large meal, write a list of everything you need to do, so you’re not sitting down to dinner and realize you forgot the rolls.  Order the list by cooking time.

3.)Okra.  Cut it lengthwise, and toss in olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until colored and crispy.

To dice okra, treat it just like an onion.  Leave on stem, cut width and length-wise.  Then slice it into a dice.

4.)Thomas Jefferson, who was an accomplished and curious farmer, is the reason why there are so many varieties of peas and beans available to us.  Using a couple types, our first course was this delicious salad.

Corn and butter bean salad

corn and bean salad

1 pound shelled butter beans, butter peas, speckled peas or any combination, fresh or frozen

6 ears corn on the cob, preferably Silver Queen, kernels and juice scraped from cob

1 green onion or scallion, sliced, white and green parts

8 slices bacon, cooked crispy and crumbled

¾ cup mayonnaise (Good Southern girl Nathalie has a strong preference for Dukes)

4 tablespoons white wine vinegar

3-4 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme

Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Add the beans to boiling salted water, reduce heat and cook about 3 minutes.  Add the corn and cook 1 minute more.  Drain the beans and corn and run under cold water to stop the cooking and refresh them.  Drain again.

Gently toss together the beans, corn, onion, bacon, mayo, vinegar, and thyme.  Taste, then season.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour before serving for the best marriage of flavors.

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*Variation: Substitute one pound package frozen white shoe peg corn or other whole kernel corn (see, I told you she doesn’t believe in getting all crazy in the kitchen about ingredients or technique).

5.)This is absolutely genius: Because it’s a summer crop in the north, and a winter crop in the south, flour grown in Northern climes are harder, ie; contain more gluten, which makes for stretchier bread dough (a good thing).  Southern flour is softer, which is much better for flaky pie crusts and biscuits with crispy crusts, and tender insides.

WhieLilly, Martha White, and Southern Biscuit are all from the south and therefore better for cake, pastry, and biscuits.

King Arthur flour is from Vermont, and thus is a much harder wheat, and really good for bread making.

Gluten is protein.  So, if you’re not sure how much gluten is in a particular brand of flour, check the nutritional label.  Flour with higher protein content per serving has more gluten.

Nathalie Dupree is my kitchen hero.  To illustrate her laid back cooking philosophy, I will leave you with one of her best lines from class.

“If it turns out great, serve it.  If it doesn’t; make a trifle.”

It doesn’t matter what the original plan was…anything can be a trifle.

Thanks for your time.

 

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