Cooking with Susie: Collards, Corn, Fried Chicken, Nana Puddin’

Back in Montgomery, AL, David and I had the joy of cooking with Susie, a very special woman who helped raise David’s father as well as David himself.  Susie is a cooking machine- constantly making food for her church and friends.  Yams, mac and cheese, potato salad, meatloaf, cornbread, turkey, turnips, cole slaw, black-eyed peas, fish, collards, pork chops, ham, okra, rutabagas, lima beans, roast beef, cornish hens, stuffed eggs, fried chicken, cake, pies, cobbler, bread pudding- you name it, and she’ll make it for you.  She knows all her recipes by heart and measuring cups and spoons are not in her vocabulary.  We managed to record some of her recipes in the hope that we can duplicate them at home. The simplicity of her food really lets the pure flavors of the south shine through. Nothing here is gussied up into things it shouldn’t be- just plain old good southern comfort food.

Collard Greens
Serves about 15
Total Time: 3 hours

• 2-3 bunches of collard greens. ribs and stems removed
• 1-2 turkey tails, feathers removed
• water
• salt and pepper, to taste

Remove large stems and ribs from the collards and cut or tear into bite sized pieces. Add them to a large pot with 1 or 2 turkey tails and cook them down for 2-3 hours with enough water to cover the top of the greens.  Once the collards are tender and cooked down, remove all meat from the turkey tail and discard the bone.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste and serve with hot sauce.

Silver Queen Sweet Corn
Serves about 15
Total time: 1 hour 15 min

• 12 ears of Silver Queen corn
• 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
• salt and pepper, to taste
• 2 tablespoons of all purpose flour

Remove the kernels from the cob into a large pot. Scrape all the milk from the cob using the top dull end of the knife into the pot (it’s the good stuff).  Add 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter along with a pinch of salt and pepper to the pot. Bring to a simmer and add 2 tablespoons of all purpose flour. Simmer uncovered for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Fried Chicken
Serves about 15
Total Time: 45 minutes

• 30 pieces of chicken (thigh, breast, wing, back)
• brine solution (about 1 gallon water and 1/2-1 cup kosher salt)
• enough buttermilk to soak chicken in (optional)
• enough all purpose flour, seasoned with salt to dredge in
• enough crisco or vegetable oil to fry in
• salt and pepper, to taste

Refrigerate your chicken overnight in a brine solution. Start heating your crisco or oil over medium high heat, enough to fill a large cast iron pan.  Pour off the brine and add a little milk to coat the chicken, if desired. Dredge the chicken in flour that’s been seasoned with salt and pepper and add the chicken to the hot crisco.  Test the frying oil by placing a coin size piece of chicken or skin in the tub- it should sizzle and start cooking immediately.  Line a foil pan with 3 layers of paper towels to drain the fat off the finished chicken.

The chicken should take about 15-20 minutes to fry depending on the size, but once the pieces start floating in the crisco, let them fry a minute longer then remove them from the fat.  Season the hot chicken with a sprinkle of kosher salt.

Cornbread Hot Cakes
Serves about 15
Total Time: 30 minutes

• 4 cups White Lily cornmeal
• 1/2 cup Jiffy corn muffin mix
• 2 large eggs
• 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
• 1-2 cups buttermilk
• reserved bacon drippings (sub butter or oil)

Add 4 cups of White Lily cornmeal and 1/2 cup Jiffy corn muffin mix into a large bowl. Add the 2 eggs, a heaping spoonful of mayonnaise to the mix and enough buttermilk to achieve the consistency of pancake batter. Add enough reserved bacon drippings to coat a large pan. Dollop the batter into the hot pan and cook each side until golden brown like a hotcake.  Continue with the rest of the batches.

To make Susie’s dressing: Add sauteed white onion, chopped green onion and turkey stock (necks & water) to crumbled cornbread and bake until hot.

Banana Pudding
Serves about 15
Total time: 45 minutes

• 5 ripe bananas
• about 90 vanilla wafer cookies
• 2 quarts whole milk, plus 2 cups
• 4 cups granulated sugar, plus 6 tablespoons
• 12 large eggs, separated
• 3/4 cup corn starch
• 1/2 cup water
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Start layering a large pan with vanilla wafer cookies. Add 2 sliced bananas on top of that to create a second layer. Add a layer of cookies to create a third layer. Add 3 sliced bananas on top to create a fourth layer. Add a final layer of cookies to create the final and fifth layer. Add 2 quarts of whole milk along with 4 cups of granulated sugar to a sauce pan and simmer for 20 minutes making sure not to boil the milk. Separate 12 large eggs and whisk the yolks with 3/4 cup corn starch and 1/2 cup water.

Add the yolk mixture to the milk mixture, whisking constantly until thickened. Add 2 more cups of milk and a teaspoon of vanilla extract to thin the batter out. Pour it over the banana and wafer layers and save the extra as the cookies absorb some of the liquid. Using a spoon, gently lift the layers to allow the custard to distribute evenly. Using an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites with 6 tablespoons of granulated sugar until firm peaks form. Spread the meringue over the banana pudding and bake at 375F for 10 minutes until the meringue is golden brown.

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