Often found in the waters of the Southeastern United States, catfish became a crucial staple for impoverished Southerners, as it was relatively cheap and easy to find. It was often looked down upon by others, who saw it as a poor substitute for more valued fish, yet Southerners came to love it, serving it dusted with cornmeal and deep-fried alongside hush puppies and coleslaw. However, with the current rise of farm-raised catfish, it is now a popular choice and has become the basis for a wide array of flavorful new dishes that build and expand upon its Southern heritage. Chef Edward Lee of MilkWood in Louisville, Ky., shares his take on the traditional Southern dish, creating a unique recipe for pan-fried catfish in bacon vinaigrette.
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Scottish immigrants coming to the Americas brought with them their tradition of deep-frying chicken in fat, in contrast to their English counter parts, who often boiled or baked their meats. With the introduction of the cast-iron skillet in the 1800s, chicken, lard, and flour began to be combined in the Southern kitchen and developed into what we today call fried chicken. Chef Ashley Christensen shows us how to fry some real, Carolina chicken and shares her celebrated fried chicken recipe from her Raleigh, N.C., restaurant Beasley's Chicken + Honey.
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Shrimp and Grits
Originally a breakfast staple of South Carolina fishermen in the Lowcountry, shrimp and grits has become an iconic Southern dish. The warm, buttery grits blend perfectly with seasoned shrimp to create a meal that is simple yet delicious. Chef Art Smith, previously the personal chef to Oprah Winfrey and a favorite from Top Chef Masters, shared with us his shrimp and grits recipe from his Atlanta restaurant Southern Art. Smith serves his grits with Cheddar cheese, Andouille sausage, and garlic, creating a meal that is both savory and filling.
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Crabcakes are a signature dish of the Chesapeake Bay area, where the blue crab thrives. This type of crab is considered one of the best for making crabcakes and was introduced to settlers in the Chesapeake by the Native Americans who originally lived there. Often breaded with seasonings and deep-fried, crabcakes are served on everything from sandwiches to salads. Slightly North of Broad in Charleston, S.C., sent us their recipe for a Lowcountry crabcake, complete with a crispy coating of panko breadcrumbs and seasoned with parsley and nutmeg.
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Percy Street Barbecue Cornbread Recipe (pictured)
When English colonists settled in what is now the Southeast United States, they were introduced to the Native American staple of corn and began to use it in their own recipes. In an attempt to replicate the grain-based bread from their native Europe, the colonists started to bake their own bread out of cornmeal and the cornbread dish was born. Typically cooked in a skillet, cornbread is a Southern side served hot in baskets on the dinner table or next to a plate of green beans and barbecue. Chef Erin O'Shea hails from Richmond, Va., and is one of the owners of Percy Street Barbecue in Philadelphia, lauded for its smoked meats. Here, she shares her Texas-inspired cornbread recipe with us.
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Fried Green Tomatoes Recipe
Fried green tomatoes are a classic, but few people outside of the South attempt to make them. However, it's a versatile dish that is incredibly easy to make - they're great as a side dish, on top of a burger or sandwich, or as an appetizer. And kids tend to love them, too, so they are an easy addition to any family meal.
The key to this dish is that the green tomatoes are more solid than riper tomatoes, and they hold up better to frying. Make sure to serve them piping hot and try to stick to Southern tradition by having a bit of pimento cheese on the side.
1 cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup canola oil
2 green tomatoes, sliced, top and bottom pieces discarded
1/2 cup pimento cheese, for serving (optional)
Combine all of the dry ingredients in a bowl and stir together. Place the eggs in a separate bowl and whisk until combined. Heat ½ of the canola oil in a pan over high heat. When hot, take an individual tomato slice and dunk it in the egg mixture, making sure it is fully coated. Remove the tomato and cover it on both sides with the dry ingredients. Immediately place the tomato in the oil.
Repeat for all of the tomatoes until the pan is full (depending on the size of your pan, you may need to do this in batches). Cook the tomatoes until the coating is browned, about 2-3 minutes on each side. Add more oil as needed. Remove from the heat and serve immediately, preferably with a side of pimento cheese.
Total time: 20 minutes
Special Designations: Vegetarian, Kid-friendly, Low-sugar
Notes and Substitutions:
Note: The canola oil can be replaced with any flavorless oil suitable for high-temperature cooking. If you want to add a bit of smoky flavor, you can also replace the oil with bacon fat.
Click here to see more Iconic Southern Dishes Everyone Should Know How to Make
-Mimi Montgomery, The Daily Meal