Steaming out of Savannah

2009.May.28 Thursday · 3 comments

in Casa SaltShaker, Food & Recipes

“Since the S. S. Savannah first ploughed her way across the North Atlantic in 26 days in 1819, leading maritime nations have fought steadily for the speed honors of the Western Ocean.”

Time, Il Duce’s Ships, May 19, 1932

Buenos Aires – On May 22, 1819, 190 years ago, this last weekend, the SS Savannah did indeed set out as the first steam powered ship to make the trans-Atlantic voyage. It departed from the port of Savannah, Georgia, which made a bit of southern cuisine in order for Casa S’s menu. Besides, I’ve been getting all these notes and seeing posts on local fora from local expats complaining about not being able to get good ole home cooking. Did any of them come? Of course not, then they couldn’t complain anymore – but at least the opportunity was there. This also gave me a chance to play around with some of the recipes in the book Savannah Seasons, by Elizabeth Terry, that someone brought me a few months back.

Cruciferous Vegetable Salad

I happen to love cruciferous vegetables, and after all, they’re really good for you, right? It’s not something I normally associate with Georgian cooking as an identifying dish, but they do eat vegetables there and not just stewed tomatoes, peppers, celery and onion. I blanched and shocked some cauliflower, broccoli, and brussels sprouts, and then arrayed them on a leaf of napa cabbage and arched some watercress and arugula over them. The dressing, a simple goat cheese one of cider vinegar, olive oil, goat cheese, mayo, cream, green onion, chives, mint, salt and pepper. Really great combination!

Corn and Crab Chowder

Chowders are among my favorite types of soup and although I usually associate them with New England, they’re actually quite popular in the south. This one, a crab and corn chowder, is relatively simple to make – Finely diced bacon cooked over low heat until it renders its fat, then diced celery and onion, minced garlic, and fresh corn off the cob into the pot and cooked over low heat, covered, stirring occasionally, for about an hour. Then I added some fresh chicken stock and diced potatoes and cooked until the potatoes were done, added chopped king crab meat, parsley, and topped it up with milk (roughly half the amount of the stock that I’d added), heated it up to serving temperature and voila.

Red Snapper, Sweet Potato and Mushroom Hash Empanadas

While empanadas aren’t traditional Georgian fare, the filling is based on a classic dish – red snapper with sweet potato and mushroom hash. I parboiled diced sweet potato. Sauteed a mix of oyster and porcini mushrooms with some garlic, shallots, chilies and lemon zest. Added the sweet potato and cooked to lightly brown them, deglazed with sherry, added chopped red snapper and took it off the heat, letting the fish just lightly cook from the heat of the hash. Let it cool, filled empanada dough rounds, and then baked them off until nice and golden brown.

Jambalaya

The star of the evening, both my opinion and that of those I’ve heard from so far, jambalaya. As close to the way I learned to make it back in my days at the Sazerac House – in a deep pot I put a lot of chopped celery, green pepper and onion, and minced garlic, along with sliced spicy longaniza sausage (no andouille here) and diced ham (no tasso), and cooked until the vegetables were starting to soften. To make up for the lack of spicing and smoke on the two meats I added a little splash of good quality smoke flavoring (not the usual supermarket bottled stuff, this is actual “smoked water” rather than chemically flavored, not easy to find here) and several finely chopped hot peppers. Then added a lot of chopped up plum tomatoes, a good amount of oregano and thyme leaves, and a couple of bay leaves. I’d also, meanwhile, put a dozen chicken thighs into the oven and roasted them until cooked through, then skinned them and shredded the meat – into the pot it went, topped it up with chicken stock, and put it over low heat to bubble away for about four hours. About half an hour before serving I tossed in a good amount of small shrimp. Served it over garlic rice.

Chocolate and Nut Pie

I’d wanted to make a fairly classic pecan pie, but couldn’t find any pecans this last week – there aren’t a lot of them here and I’m guessing they may just be out of season. Instead I decided on a mixed chocolate and nut pie – a basic cocoa crust, a filling of walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts mixed with caramel, honey and cream, all baked until done, then when cooled, topped with bittersweet chocolate ganache. What’s not to like?

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Les May 29, 2009 at 01:08

Love the Savannah reference Dan. Your right we do eat vegetables occasionally here in Georgia, the salad looked delicious. The chowder on the other hand would typically be replaced by a bisque, especially in Savannah. Actually one of the best crawfish bisque’s I ever ate was in Savannah. And though Jambalaya is big in Louisiana, in Georgia and especially along the coast we make what is known as a “Low Country Boil”. Consisting of sausage, potatoes, corn on the cob, boiled in a large pot over an open flame and then shrimp added towards the end. And pecan pie? Well if you were in Savannah it’d surely contain bourbon…hasta luego

Les
Atlanta

dan May 29, 2009 at 01:12

Glad you’re still out there and reading Les! I thought the same on Jambalaya, though the book I mentioned had a “Savannah Jambalaya” recipe – didn’t use it, but it wasn’t that different, other than just using different kinds of sausage/ham. The chowder recipe was pretty close to one that was in the book as well. What do I know? Then again, the book is written by the chef at a particular inn in Savannah, so it may just be her personal style. And bourbon? That’s Kentucky! 😉

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