Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hoppin' John

Hoppin’ John is one of the dishes that Chef Lee exposed me to when I was at the Harrisburgher Hotel in Harrisburg, PA as a young cook in the mid 1960's. He had learn to make it from a black lady while he working in Charleston South Carolina. He said she was very clear that you should never uncover the pot once it started cooking until it was finish.

Hoppin' John is the Southern United States' version of the rice and beans dish traditional throughout the Caribbean and peas and rice in Jamaica. It consists of field peas (or black-eyed peas) and rice, with chopped onion and sliced bacon, seasoned with a bit of salt. Some people substitute ham hock or fatback for the conventional bacon; Smaller than black-eyed peas, red field peas are used in the Low Country of South Carolina and Georgia; black-eyed peas are the norm elsewhere. Hoppin’ John is “a pilaf made with beans and rice.” Typical of the one-pot cooking of the South Carolina and Georgia lowcountry, the Hoppin' John recipe is said to have come directly to America from West Africa. The first written appearance of the recipe in English was in Sarah Rutledge’s The Carolina Housewife, or House and Home by a Lady of Charleston, published anonymously in 1847. Whatever the origins, the dish, originally made with pigeon peas in West Africa, became a favorite of the rice plantation owners as well as the enslaved. As the recipe moved inland, it became the traditional dish for good luck on New Year’s Day throughout the South and a favority Gullah food.

The dish goes back at least as far as 1841, when, according to tradition, it was hawked in the streets of Charleston, South Carolina by a crippled black man who was know as Hoppin' John.

Hoppin` John (Red Field Peas and Rice)
Makes 8 Servings

1 cup dried red field peas presoaked overnight drained
3 1/2 cups water
3 ounces streak-of-lean streak-of-fat finely diced
1 small onion diced
2 cloves garlic minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 tablespoon butter
1 cup long grain white rice

Carefully pick over the red field peas and rinse them in a bowl. Add 3 cups of water. Soak for 6-8 hours, drain the peas, reserving water.

Heat a soup kettle or Dutch oven and saute the streak-a-lean 3-4 minutes. Saute the onion and garlic 1-2 mintues; do not brown. Add the water, red field peas and salt and bring to boil. Reduce heat and addpeppers and butter. Cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes, adding water, as needed. Stir in rice and simmer, covered for 20- 25 minutes.

This recipe developed by
Chef Joseph G. Randall
all rights reserved.
Copyright © 9/1/09

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Robert W. Lee A Legacy To Honor by Chef Joe Randall August 1. 1998

Chef Robert W. Lee
January 1, 1911 to November 24, 1999

Giving Honor to God and to the thousands of African-American chefs and cooks who came before me, establishing the very foundation for our great cuisine. Without their mastery and contribution, we would have had no basis to forge upon. Chef Robert W. Lee, is one of those worthy heirs to a great tradition of southern cooking we should honor. Chef Lee started his culinary journey in Atlanta, Georgia at the age of seven years old around 1918. An education was not a priority at the time, surviving was the task at hand to be able to work was to be able to eat. His father was deceased and he needed to help at home. While in the streets doing the best he could, he observed a man who went in and out of the Biltmore Hotel every day who appeared to be doing quite well. Young Robert discovered the man was Eugene Bruauier the French chef at the hotel and soon became his personal boy. Chef Lee worked and trained under Chef Bruauier for thirteen years. He then worked at the King and Prince Beach Club on Saint Simons Island, Georgia. Robert moved to Charleston, South Carolina He relocated to Atlanta in 1939 where he worked at the Hotel Henry Grady until he was lured to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania around 1939 by the chef he had worked for in Charleston. Chef Lee worked as a cook at the Harrisburger Hotel until 1942. He then joined the U.S. Army where he became a mess sergeant and instructor, returning to the Harrisburger Hotel as a cook in 1946, after being discharged from the army. Over the next year, the Hotel experienced a rapid turnover of executive chefs. Finally, Chef Lee was recommended for the position of executive chef which he excepted over the next twenty-seven years. Chef Lee managed the kitchens at the Harrisburger Hotel, with an entire African-American staff. He trained many young men and women for careers in the culinary field. Lecturing and demonstrating at Pennsylvania State University School of Hotel Management. Chef Lee built a clientele in several restaurants within the hotel and maintained a dedicated following throughout those years. In 1966 the owner of the Harrisburger Hotel died. Chef Lee excepted the position as executive chef at the Blue Ridge Country Club, where he worked until the fall of 1969. He took over as executive chef at the Sheraton Hotel Harrisburg for the Archris Hotel Corporation of Boston. His outstanding achievements in the Culinary Arts were recognized by naming him Chef of the Year from 1970 thru 1979. Chef Lee retired in 1979 and lived with his devoted wife Geneva in Harrisburg, PA until his death November 24, 1999.

Sea Island Smothered Shrimp and Creamy Stone Ground Grits

Shrimp Stock
Makes 1/2 Quart

1/8 cup peanut oil
3/4 pound shrimp shells
1 rib celery (coarsely chopped)
1 small carrot (coarsely chopped)
1 small onion (coarsely chopped)
2 cloves garlic (chopped)
1 quart water
1/8 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 sprig parsley
1 sprig thyme
2 each black peppercorns
1 each bay leaf

Heat oil in a stockpot over medium heat. Add shrimp shells and sauté 3 to 4 minutes, stirring until the shells look dry. Add celery, carrots, onions, and garlic, continue to sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Add water, wine, tomato paste, parsley, thyme, peppercorns, and bay leaf. Bring stock to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour. Strain the stock through a fine mesh strainer. Return to the heat and boil until reduced to 1/2 quart. Will keep 2 to 3 days refrigerated. Stock can be frozen up to 6 months.

Creamy Grits
Makes 8 Servings

3 1/2 cups water
1 cup stone-ground yellow grits
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup heavy cream

In a large saucepan bring water to a boil. Add salt and pepper, stir in grits gradually. Simmer 20 to 25 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and stir in the butter then the heavy cream, cover and set aside.

Sea Island Smothered Shrimp
Makes 8 Servings

4 slices slab bacon diced
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 medium vidalia onion diced
4 cloves garlic minced
1 tablespoon paprika
2 pounds shrimp (medium) peeled and deveined
3 cups shrimp stock
3 tablespoons fresh chives chopped
1/2 cup scallion thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Rinse the shrimp and pat dry. Dredge shrimp in flour, shaking off excess. In a large skillet fry the diced slab bacon until brown. Add the Vidalia onions and sauté 2 minutes. Add garlic and paprika; stir and add the shrimp then cook 3 minutes or until shrimp turn pink. Add the shrimp stock and chives; stir and reduce the heat and simmer 10 minutes. Add scallions and cayenne pepper; stir and season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon the grits into center of a warm soup plate then spoon the smothered shrimp over the grits. Serve immediately.

Recipes developed by
Chef Joseph G. Randall
All rights reserved.
Copyright © 9/1/09

Shrimp and Grits Competitions on Jekyll Island

Just returned from Jekyll Island for the Shrimp & Grits: The Wild Georgia Shrimp Festival. A weekend celebration of two of Georgia's most beloved foods - shrimp & grits. The festival featured cook-offs, shrimp boat tours, live entertainment and kid-friendly fun zone. I hosted a cooking demonstration and was a judge for the amateur and professional shrimp & grits cooking competitions.