It’s June, National Soul Food Month!
“Soul Food is a cuisine,” says Chef Todd Richards author of Soul. Soul Food is flexible, it is vegan and omnivorous. It has a particular and powerful history and an extraordinary future. It is transregional and ultimately personal. Soul is not fast food plus junk food plus Southern black-cooked unhealthy comfort/celebratory food. Soul Food is a tradition and a narrative that is ennobling. It is not nor has it ever been a pathology.
We begin National Soul Food Month by celebrating all of the possibilities of Soul cuisine. We celebrate the survival, the creativity and improvisation, the layered coding and the transcendental spirit of our cuisine. We celebrate the conversation it has with other cuisines. We honor its Ancestors and bless the hands of those who carry it forward.
We respect that Soul Food is not a stereotype, it is a language. Soul Food is a response to a call. Soul Food is a love letter to the spirit and stomach. Soul Food is cultural power and capital. Soul Food is a crown.
Let’s get into this with a traditional soul answer to beef stew. What inspired me were two Gullah-Geechee
recipes gleaned from Mrs. Daisy Redman, from Four Great Southern Cooks (DuBose Publishing 1980) and Ms. Sallie Ann Robinson, Gullah Home Cooking, the Daufuskie Way (The University of North Carolina Press, 2003)
. They draw their flavor from green pepper and sweet potatoes and echo stews described by Charles Ball who lived enslaved in early 19th century South Carolina. It is of course, eaten with rice and speaks to a fusion of West and Central African, Northern European and Southeastern Native American culinary roots. Enjoy!
Gullah-Geechee Beef Stew
3 pounds of beef short ribs
tchen pepper and sweet paprika to taste
1/2 cup of flour
1/4 cup of bacon drippings or vegetable oil or coconut oil
1 cup of quarter diced red onions
1 cup of quarter diced green pepper
2 stalks of celery cut into thin slices
1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper
4 cups of a tomato enhanced beef broth (low sodium)
2 fresh bay leaves
4-5 sweet potatoes, peeled, halved and cut into chunks
(white or yellow fleshed preferred)
3 carrots peeled and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
green onion/scallion slices and minced fresh flat leaf parsley for garnish (optional)
properly cooked rice ready to serve when done–with every grain separate
Season the short ribs with the seasoned salt of your choice, kitchen pepper, and sweet paprika. (Don’t get cute and use smoked or hot paprika–it’s not going to taste right!)
In a large Dutch oven take your oil/fat of choice listed above and heat it until a cube of bread gently toasts and browns. Discard and brown short ribs on all sides being careful to not let them burn. Remove the short ribs from the oil and discard a third of the remaining fat in the pan (the surface stuff only!), then add the onion, bell pepper and celery. Scrape up all that browning goodness at the bottom of the pan and gently sauté for about 5-7 minutes. Add the four cups of stock and cook on a medium bubbling heat for about 5 minutes, cover off. Put the short ribs in and boil steadily for about 15 minutes. Skim off any scum that rises to the top. Drop in the two fresh bay leaves at this point. Then reduce heat and simmer gently for about 2 1/2 hours until the short ribs are super tender.
Fish out the bay leaves and discard and add the sweet potatoes and the carrots. Simmer another 35 minutes until both are tender and infused with the flavor of the resultant stock.
Adjust seasoning accordingly and serve over rice. Serves 4-6.
Be sure to get your #NationalSoulFoodMonth reading on with my book, two time James Beard Award winner, #TheCookingGene. Buying my book supports this blog and my ability to research and tell our story. Thank you! If you like this post, please share!
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