Southern Comfort food

“Ginger and  Gentlemen”, the third story in the Recipe for Romance series, is coming out from Torquere Press tomorrow, so I thought I’d talk a bit about cooking and recipes since those are central themes to the series.

The series is set in South Carolina, which both Ari and I are familiar with; we aren’t South Carolinians, but we are Southerners, and we both like Southern comfort food. Okay, I admit it: I don’t like collards, a fact that has gotten me threatened with expulsion from my family more than once. But that’s my biggest “do not want” when it comes to Southern cuisine.

Stephen’s kitchen produces more upscale dishes, but Ian Pierce’s diner is strictly food like Mama and Grandmama used to make. I can see his menu featuring collards, fried chicken, cornbread, hushpuppies, corn (on the cob and creamed), sweet potato casserole, fried green tomatoes, okra (fried and stewed), and seafood. Lots and lots of fresh seafood!

Two dishes in particular feature predominately in the story, so I thought I’d share recipes for both of them. I’ve never made a seafood boil myself, so I combed through regional cookbooks when we were writing the story to find something that sounded like Ian might make it. The recipe for Ian’s gingersnaps is actually my recipe. I’ve been making them for years during the winter and tinkered with the recipe until I got the level of “snap” I wanted.

Seafood Boil:

Seafood seasoning (such as Old Bay or Zatarain’s) to taste
5 lbs new potatoes, cut up
3 (16 oz) packages of cooked smoked sausage
8 ears of fresh corn, halved (husks and silk removed)
5 lbs whole crab, broken into pieces
4 lbs fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined

Heat a large pot of water over medium-high heat. Add the seasoning and bring to a boil. Add potatoes and sausage and cook for about 10 minutes. Add corn and crab and cook for 5 minutes. Add the shrimp when everything else is done and cook for about 4 minutes.

Drain off the water and serve everything on a large table covered with newspaper. Dig in!

This is a basic template; the beauty of the seafood boil is that you can customize it however you want. I’ve seen variations that include onions, beer, hot sauce, peppers, and other types of shellfish.

Ian’s Gingersnaps:
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp red pepper

Beat sugar, margarine. molasses and egg. Stir in flour, soda and spices. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Bake 8-12 minutes at 350 degrees on an ungreased cookie sheet.