Kentucky's Regional Cuisines

Have y'all read your July issue of Southern Living yet?

I just loved the Letter from the Editor this month. Lindsay Bierman, who has done a great job with giving the magazine a hip and relevant edge, addresses the big issue of Southern food. It seems a small-town newspaper criticized the venerable publication for using "exotic" ingredients like fennel, and claimed they should get back to the basics by including more traditional Southern recipes like fried chicken, grits, and so on. Mr. Bierman does a lovely job of countering those complaints. He notes that Southern food is an inclusive cuisine, encompassing styles from Cajun to Lowcountry to Appalachian. I loved this manifesto so much that I mentioned it on Twitter. And, no big deal, the editor of Southern Living tweeted us back.

Now, if you write about Southern lifestyles, there are three gospels to which you adhere: Southern LivingGarden and Gun, and the Oxford American. Getting a tweet from the editor of one of these publications... Well, it's like one of those Belieber kids hearing back from The Biebs. It made my day: Lindsay Bierman liked what we had to say!

Mr. Bierman's manifesto also got me thinking about the foods that define Kentucky. There's Western Kentucky's mutton barbecue. There's Central Kentucky's beer cheese and burgoo. There are the Louisville foods I traditionally think of as "Derby Recipes" -- benedictine and hot browns. As the holy trinity of Southern lifestyle magazines are starting to tell us, there's the stack cakes and soup beans of my youth, now re-branded as Appalachian cuisine. There are country hams and tomatoes. And that doesn't even count all the ways we can cook with bourbon. There are so many tastes that are unique to the Commonwealth. As Mr. Bierman articulated in his "manifesto", there are new tastes and old tastes and room for inclusion. And they all taste pretty darn good.

We'd love to hear from y'all. What foods are your idea of "Kentucky Cuisine"?

Turkey Day - One Week Away

Thanksgiving Wreath

One week from now, most of us will be cooking, searching for our holiday sweatpants or eagerly anticipating Thanksgiving Day football. For me, I'll be staying as far away from the kitchen as possible - in my sweatpants, watching the Macy's Day Parade and ready to eat copious amounts of food.

No one wants me in the kitchen unless it's time to do dishes. Every year, I somehow magically disappear when it comes to dishes time! If my family is reading - I swear it's not intentional. Of course it isn't!

I listened to a fascinating NPR interview of chef Alton Brown yesterday and realized that people really get into Thanksgiving. Traditions are important to people, that much I know, but I guess I never realized that some people feel pasionately that there is a right and wrong way to cook a turkey. Who knew that stuffing preparation (inside the bird or out?) could be such a divisive holiday issue?

I pretty much just show up to eat and nap. I do remember the year someone forgot to make the mashed potatoes. That was terrible.

That's why I decided to consult my sister to bring you some tips for Thanksgiving that are actually useful. I'm pretty sure my tips on the best strategy to maintain your comfy couch seat in the face of would-be seat stealers aren't very helpful! I can attest that she knows her way around a kitchen.

Turkey Day is a week away. Here are my sister, Kate's, best tips to make it a day that your family AND you can enjoy. It sounds like she feels there is a right and wrong way to go about Thanksgiving, too.

  • Plan ahead of time and be organized.  This allows you to spend as much time with friends and family and out of the kitchen! 
  • Fresh turkey is the best, but frozen will do.  Just make sure to plan enough time to defrost! 
  • What is that saying, “Butter is better”?  Well, it’s the truth.  Fat equals flavor and there’s no better tasting fat than butter.  I usually have a pound (or two) of softened butter sitting on my counter top ready to go.  I use it on my turkey (flavors turkey and drippings used for gravy), in my mashed potatoes, in corn, on bread, in desserts, and anywhere else I can think of.  Last year, I even used it on my son’s arm when he got it stuck in between the chair rungs. 
  • Nothing makes better gravy than the turkey drippings.  Pour drippings into a large measuring cup.  The fat will rise to the top while the dripping settle to the bottom.  Skim off fat and use to make a roux.  Add strained drippings and chicken stock (if necessary) to make gravy.  Season to taste.  Nothing is better. 
  • Pumpkin pie screams Thanksgiving, but it’s nothing without whipped cream. 
  • Thanksgiving Pantry Must-HavesButter
    Kosher Salt
    Fresh Ground Black Pepper
    Chicken Stock
    Poultry Seasoning

Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving tip or a tradition you can't imagine not honoring next week?