Category Archives: Country

Cooking Pole Beans, New Southern Style

Ain’t nuttin’ finer than a pot of pole beans.

Well, ‘cept maybe a pan of stewed yellow summer squash sitting pretty next to our favorite skillet of fried summertime fresh corn. Dag nabitt, I done got myself all hungry again.

Now, if you have not prepped a mess of pole beans before, well, you are in for a treat. Getting ’em ready is as rewarding as eating ’em, I mean, the process helps our sanity, don’t you see. I know there are many of you who remember time spent a few years ago shelling peas and snapping beans, a time spent that has passed our hurriedly society just as quickly as time marches forward.

“Snapping beans” is term used by mothers, grandmothers and generations before our now youth who at first thought, might think the term represents a new logo, web site or even a up-and-coming music act . . . I am just guessing here.  But I do know that back in my youth, sitting around, shelling peas and snapping beans was our way of ‘networking’, from the front porches catching up on gossip, sitting ’round the TV watching Lucille Ball, Jack Benny or  even Red Skelton, or in the kitchen waiting for the pot to boil. It was our early form of social media, with the likes of Skelton’s antics taking center stage if only for the amount of time until the ‘mess of beans’ were finished.

The beans actually do make a snapping sound, almost like a homemade pop-gun. And, to do justice, there is an art in snapping pole beans, as taught by our older generation and passed down, now to us. Start with the stem end and break away or ‘pop’ off the top and strip the string down on one side. Turn it over and pot the end followed with removing the string on that side. Then, break or snap the beans into one-and-one half to two-inch sections. As told, if there is not a string on the first run or side, then go ahead and snap into sections. The younger the beans, the less strings.

Fresh Pole Beans

Fresh pole beans should make a healthy snapping sound. When you pop off the ends, if it has a string attached, just pull down both sides of the pod to remove it.
 

the ‘ends and strings’ from Pole Beans

This is how I now cook pole beans, I mean, no one in my family used olive oil when I was growing up. It was all bacon grease and lard to ‘grease the pot’

Pole Beans
like Momma used to cook, only a little better for us 
6 to 8 servings

2 pounds fresh pole beans
1 or 2 slices thick-cut smoked bacon
Olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 to 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
pinch of sugar
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper

Wash and prep the beans for cooking by ‘snapping’ off the ends, removing the strings and ‘snapping’ in about 1 1/2-inch sections. Drain well.

fresh ‘snapped’ Pole Beans

Cut the bacon in 1/2-inch slices and place in a stockpot over medium high heat. Cook the bacon until brown and crisp. Turn heat down and remove bacon with a slotted spoon to a small plate or bowl. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of bacon grease. Add olive oil (about 1 good tablespoon), the beans and increase heat back to medium high heat. Stir to coat all of the beans in the oil cooking about 2 minutes. Add onion, salt, pepper, sugar and stir to combine. Add enough chicken stock to just about cover the beans; cover with lid. At boil, reduce heat to medium low and cook between 25 minutes to an hour, depending on how firm you like them. Most southerners cook them about an hour until the beans are really soft.

Add the vinegar and red bell pepper and turn off heat. Keep covered until ready to serve.

Serve with a sprinkle of the crispy bacon.

Smothered Pork Chops over Collard Greens

Old southern foods are a lot like people – resilient!

There has been a lot on my mind lately that I just can’t seem to shake no matter how much I try to move on, certain thoughts still linger around, unsettled I suppose, now going on the second month. I’m talking about people, my southern brethren to be exact, folks who just don’t know how to act nor have learned the values of living. That’s it in a nutshell.

Now, I get all riled up when I see a chef go and do some dang fool thing with a southern recipe, meddling with it or doing something that I purely disagree with and then calling out to all that it’s the real deal. That’s one thing; it’s my opinion and I think I have the right to do so and I guess they have the right too. I have called out on such a thing a few times before and probably will again. Of course, the person that I’m talking about, well, I can say I have never thought of using the title ‘chef’ as reference. Why, that’s like calling me a chef and we all know I’m nothing more that a cook. A self-made entrepreneur for sure, this person climbed to TV stardom and is indeed a very shrewd business person. A ‘celebrity chef’ is perhaps more fitting, but I still think adding ‘chef’ is using the title loosely. Although she did entertain me for a short while before I became bored with the epitomized act of all things southern even though her southernism is a bit uncomfortable and embarrassing. The south was and is the main focus of this celebrity’s food, media and merchandising commodity, but really, do we southerners really tauk like that?

And, when I see such a person acting a fool on a matter that should have been answered and coped with and overhauled so long ago, it just tears me up. To sling slurs as a child or young teenager is one thing. We can blame it on peer pressure. But this is a grandmother. And we are not talking about targeting aspersions toward just one group. Why, no – she made sure she scooped everyone up in her sweet pot. I doubt her intentions missed any of her many pursued crowds. Well, it just goes to show that sooner or later, as grandmother used to say “even sweet honey brings out nasty flies.”

Oh well, I may not feel any better; my head might not be any clearer nor my heart any lighter and I might have offended a few but I do have a real, bonafide southern recipe to share. One that I am proud of and one that’s the real deal. This recipe or versions like it, been around for decades, resilient to disparateness long before anyone ever thought of becoming a ‘celebrity chef.’ Enjoy!

Smothered Thick Pork Chops
over Seasoned Collard Greens
4 servings

for the Smothered Chops:
Salt, pepper and seasoning blend
4 thick cut pork chops (about 1-inch thickness), diced
3 pieces thick cut hickory smoked bacon
2 tablespoon light olive oil
1 large sweet onion, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 sweet red bell pepper, sliced into ribbons
2 garlic toes, minced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 bay leaves or 1/2 teaspoon ground bay leaves
1 teaspoon fresh minced thyme
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley, optional

Dry chops completely with paper towels and season with salt, pepper and a seasoning blend. I used a no salt Creole spice mix but any Mrs. Dash or other blend would do just fine to add a bit of flavor to the meat. Set aside.

Pork Chops in Gravy covered with Onions and PeppersIn a large heavy skillet over medium high heat, cook bacon until lightly browned. Remove bacon with tongs to a plate to drain and remove all but 1 teaspoon of bacon grease to a large stockpot (for cooking the collards). Reduce heat to medium and add olive oil. Add chops and cook about 3 minutes for a good brown sear to form. Turn chops over and sear the other side cooking for 3 minutes. Remove chops with tongs to a clean plate.

Stir in the onion and bell pepper cooking for about 5 minutes until light brown. Remove onion and bell pepper with a slotted spoon to a bowl leaving as much oil as possible in skillet. Stir the garlic into the skillet and cook until fragrant. Add flour and stir to mix. Cook stirring the bottom for about 4 minutes or until mixture is light brown. Slowly add chicken stock and stir to blend. Add bay leaves, thyme and parsley. Add additional salt if needed to the gravy. Nestle in the chops and spoon gravy over the top of each. Sprinkle the onion mixture onto each chop. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook 15 minutes, test (pork should be 145 degrees F.), cover and turn off heat.

for the Collard Greens:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small hot pepper or 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 bunches fresh collards (or packaged if desired)
2 cups or more chicken stock
1 smoked ham or turkey meat
salt and pepper to taste
dash of cider vinegar

Rinse greens underwater in a deep sink if possible allowing grit to settle to bottom. Remove greens and drain water rinsing away the grit. Repeat until no trace of grit remains. Remove the thick stems and discard any blemished leaves. Rough chop collards and put aside.

Add olive oil to stockpot with bacon grease and heat over medium high heat. Add onion and hot pepper. Saute until onion is soft. Add a handful of collards at a time tossing all while cooking until all the greens are wilted. Add the chicken stock and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the ham hock and simmer covered on low until greens are tender, about 20 minutes. Remove cover, add the vinegar, stir and continue simmering out most of the liquid, about 30 minutes. Do not allow collards to scorch.

To serve:
Spoon with a slotted spoon a helping of collards on each dish. Top with a pork chop covered with onions. Divide the gravy among the chops as well as the bacon.

Note: Back in the day, for many households, the collards were cooked into the gravy mixture (which was thinned out) with the chops nestled in during the tenderizing stage of the last, long simmer.

Speckle Butter Beans, Country Style Recipe

Summer’s Enjoyment

Nothing says summer like fresh butter beans and around these parts, the speckled variety does rather well in our hot, humid climate. Now I know these are not available in all areas as I have for years had many of you write me asking where on earth could you find these wonderful gems. My answer many times depending on your locale, is either the farmer’s market when in season or in your grocers freezer. Yup, I have enjoyed many winter meals doing just that. There are many companies that package and distribute speckle butter beans so if your grocer does not carry it, tell them to get off their behiney and get to ordering. Once word gets out you better be the first in line, ’cause these will sell out faster than greased lighting.

Enjoy!

Country Style Speckle Butter Beans
about 6 servings

1 pound fresh, shelled speckled butter beans (use frozen during the winter)
1 piece smoked turkey or pork meat
1 small white onion, chopped
1/4 green bell pepper, chopped
1 garlic toe, minced
1 bay leaf or 1/4 teaspoon bay leaf powder
1 spring of fresh thyme or about 1/2 teaspoon
2 cups chicken stock
2 small vine-ripe tomatoes, chopped
4 green onions, sliced

In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, add the chicken stock along with 2 cups water. Add the smoked meat, chopped onion and bell pepper, garlic, bay leaf and thyme. Add desired salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a rolling boil and simmer on medium heat with lid partially covered for about 20 minutes. Make sure liquid does not evaporate adding more if needed.

Add the butter beans and add water or stock to cover well, at least by 1/2-inch. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for about an hour or until the bean is creamy on the inside but still intact; do not overcook to mush. As stated in another recipe, I like to turn off the heat and allow beans to set in the pot-licker while finishing other parts of the meal.

Right before serving, pour off most of the liquid and stir in the tomatoes and green onions. Serve using a slotted spoon along side fresh, hot cornbread or muffins.

Note: Like many fresh beans, speckled butter beans enjoy cooking in a good amount of liquid.