Posts Tagged southern

Caramel Cake, courtesy of The Help

A couple of months ago, the bookclub to which I belong read The Help. It is an excellent book by Kathryn Stockett set in the 1960s about Mississippi maids. It’s told from their perspective and has some wonderful characters which are easily loved, hated and pitied. The month we read this book, it was my turn to host. Now when people are invited into my home, my first goal is to ensure they are comfortable. The second is to make sure they are fed and the third, well, is that they leave happy and eager to come to back.

With those goals in mind, I chose foods that were mentioned in the book. I also asked the ladies coming to the meeting to bring Southern-inspired dishes. It was a great spread of bourbon brownies, pimento cheese on celery sticks, caramel cake and more. To wash it all down, we enjoyed some sweet tea–not flavored with Splenda or any other alternative, as any Southern girl will vouch, real sweet tea is only made with plenty of sugar.

My friend Mel happened to miss this meeting and therefore, missed out on the goods. Sorry for her! She asked me to post the recipe for the caramel cake, which I am more than happy to do. So Theresa and Mel, here’s to you girls! Enjoy!

Caramel Cake

  • 2 sticks butter
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 8 oz. sour cream, full fat
  •  2 -2/3 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, cream butter, sugar and vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, and then add sour cream. Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Butter and flour three cake pans. Add batter evenly to the three pans and bake for 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely before icing. See recipe below.

Caramel Icing

  • 2 sticks butter
  • 2 cups light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 cups confectioner’s sugar

Melt butter and brown sugar in a saucepan. Add evaporated milk. Cook over medium for two minutes. Add vanilla and remove from heat. Add powdered sugar and mix until smooth.

Melissa’s Note:

I usually dip my knife in water each time I spread this icing as it can be sticky and this makes it easier. 

I used two deep, 8-inch cake pans for this recipe. When they came out of the oven, I let them cool and froze one of the cakes. I took the other cake from its pan and sliced it in two, spreading iciing between the layers. It’s nice to have the frozen cake ready when I have unexpected guests or just want something sweet on a day when I don’t feel like baking!

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Southern Fried Catfish, delish!

When I think of Southern things, fried food is usually at the top of the list. Fried chicken, fried okra, and my personal favorite fried catfish. It’s been a while since I’ve fried anything, so when I spied some catfish filets at the fish counter of my grocery, I was inspired.

I was excited about cutting them up into “nuggets” when I got home. Oh heck, I was almost giddy. You see I’ve been in workout mode for past few weeks and diet mode for much longer than that. So, anything fried feels like a luxury I’ve not been able to afford. There I am giddy at the fish counter when I decided to add some fried chicken to my menu too. I mean, really, if I’m going for it, why not go big?

At home, ready to whip up dinner, I’m reminded of all the many church potlucks and fish frys of my youth. I’m sure it had something to do with my inspecting my cast iron skillets to decide on just the right one. The women in my family cook with cast iron and if you’re lucky you’ll get a skillet as a wedding gift. It might even be one handed down from someone else in the family. Those are the best because they are already seasoned. I believe cast iron is the only way to go when frying, simply because it sustains high temperatures and cooks evenly.

So if I’m frying catfish and chicken, why not add some green beans cooked in pork fat, freezer corn and mashed potatoes? If I had one last meal, this would have to be it. Simple, yet delicious and soul satisfying.

Fried Catfish

  • 2 filets fresh catfish
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • Oil to coat about an inch of the pan

Rinse the fish and pat it dry. Cut the castfish into 3-inch pieces. Add them to the buttermilk in a large bowl with lid. Place in refrigerator for at least an hour. In a large bowl, mix the flour, cornmeal, salt, peppers and paprika. Take out the catfish and dredge the pieces in the flour mixture. Pour the oil in a cast iron skillet and bring it up to a medium heat. Once warm, add the fish pieces in and be prepared for the sizzle. When one side is browned, flip the fish over only once. It should be white and flaky inside.

Melissa’s Notes:

I use buttermilk because it makes the fish moist and gives it a tangy flavor. I fry chicken the same way, with the same seasonings but exclude the cornmeal.

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