Gulf Coast Cooking

Some people consider these food combinations odd - until they try them

In Memphis, they top their barbecue with coleslaw. JULIAN BRUNT/SPECIAL TO THE SUN HERALD
In Memphis, they top their barbecue with coleslaw. JULIAN BRUNT/SPECIAL TO THE SUN HERALD

Southerners are well known for concocting quirky food combinations.

Think of Elvis' sandwich of peanut butter, banana and fried bacon.

Odd toppings and combinations are not only a product of creative minds, but also are sometimes the result of a hungry stomach.

There is no motivation stronger than hunger. Never get in the way of a hungry man or beast of any sort if you value your life.

One of my favorite toppings, one that I do not find strange at all, is to add coleslaw to the top of a pulled pork sandwich. That practice seems to have been invented in Memphis, the barbecue capital of the Deep South. There is just something divine about the combination of spicy barbecue and creamy coleslaw.

Another combination you might find odd, at least until you try it, is to add a big scoop of potato salad to a bowl of Creole gumbo.

The list of odd toppings is a long one, much to our amusement and culinary joy.

Here are a few to consider: deep-fried sour pickles; fried green tomatoes on top of a cheeseburger; or a fried egg on top of a sandwich or burger.

The one most dear to the hearts of Biloxi, Miss., folks is a po-boy made with the makings of a crab cake and melted cheese. It was invented at Rosetti's Café, and was called the Vancleave Special.

POTATO SALAD FOR GUMBO

This is a recipe I borrowed from Deep South Magazine's editor, Erin Bass, but with a few changes.

4 cups, quartered and peeled potatoes

2 eggs

2/3 cups chopped red onion

1/2 cup chopped dill pickles

3-4 chopped green onions

1 1/2 cups best quality mayonnaise

1/2 cup Creole mustard

Pickle juice to taste

Lemon juice to taste

Salt and pepper to taste

Fill a large pot with salted water and bring to a boil. Add to potatoes and simmer for 2 minutes, now add the eggs and continue to simmer for 10 more minutes. Remove the eggs to cool, but continue to cook the potatoes until they are done, about 5 minutes more. The eggs should be hard boiled and the potatoes tender.

Now combine the mayonnaise, mustard, pickle juice and lemon. Chop the eggs and add them in as well. Add 2/3 of the chopped green onion, mix well. Now taste and season as you see fit. Garnish with the remaining green onions.

Add a bit more mayonnaise if the mixture is too dry. Keep in the refrigerator, but if you are going to serve it on top of the gumbo, make sure it sat room temperature.

CRAB AND CHEESE PO-BOY

1 pound crab meat

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped bell pepper

1/3 cup chopped celery

1/4 cup chopped green onion

3-4 cloves chopped garlic

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Red pepper flakes

Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning

1 cup Panko bread crumbs

1/2 cup milk

1 egg

Mayonnaise

American or Velveeta cheese

Lettuce

Sliced tomatoes

Optional sour pickles

Olive oil

Butter

Po-boy bread

Sauté the onions, bell pepper, and celery in a little oil for 5 minutes, season aggressively. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes more. Combine the Panko and milk, let soak for a few minutes, then drain and discard the milk. In a large bowl combine the vegetables, including the green onions, and the Panko and mix well. Add the crab meat and mix again, but do not overwork or you will destroy the lumps of crab.

Form into cakes, approximately the size of the po-boy bread, and cook in melted butter until just brown on each side. Toast the bread in the same pan, so all that seasoned butter does not go to waste.

Place a crab cake on each piece of bread, top with lots of cheese, and toast until melted. Dress the po-boys and serve at once.

FRIED PICKLES

Oil for frying

1 cup flour

2-3 eggs, beaten

1 cup corn meal

Salt and pepper

1 jar bread and butter pickles

Place the beaten eggs in a large bowl, and the corn meal in another. Drain the pickles. Season the corn meal. Heat the oil to 350 degrees, being sure not to fill the pot more than half way. Place a small portion of pickles in the egg, shake off excess, then toss in the corn meal. Again shake off excess. Fry until golden brown, drain on paper towels, and serve at once.

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