I’ve read my new prized possession Classical Southern Cooking cover-to-cover. I confess, I’ve read it three times. Damon Lee Fowler’s anthology of southern cooking is as much of a lesson in early American history as it is a cookbook. Fowler brings to life the earliest recipes from the South which are steeped with the flavors of their rich European and African heritage.
Tonight I felt honored as I joined the ranks of women throughout the South by cooking a meal passed down through countless generations.
Trout Steaks with Wine and Rosemary is a recipe from Martha Custis Washington. It first appears in writing around 1749 when she was still married to her first husband Daniel Custis. However, Fowler notes that the recipe, which originated in England, was probably much older than the mid-seventeenth century manuscripts from which it can be traced. You can imagine my trepidation as I embarked upon cooking a 300 + year old recipe that traveled from England with the first settlers to America and was made popular by Martha Washington. I dove in head first and savored every moment of my humble attempt to ‘make dinner’.
No pressure, really.
Trout Steaks with Wine and Rosemary
4 trout steaks, cut 1 inch thick
Dry white wine
4 T butter
2 sprigs rosemary, plus additional for garnish
2 thin quarter-sized slices fresh ginger
Lemon juice to taste (optional)
1 lemon cut lengthwise into 8 wedges
Parsley sprigs for garnish
Place the steaks in a deep, lidded skillet that will just hold them in one close-fitting layer. Pour in enough wine to completely cover them. Take out the steaks and set them aside on a plate.
Add 3 T butter, the rosemary, and the ginger slices to the wine. Turn on the heat to med-high, bring the wine to a good boil for 3-4 minutes to mingle the aromatics with the wine, but not long enough for any to evaporate.
Add the fish, reduce the heat, simmer and cover the pan. Simmer until the steaks are cooked through, about 4 minutes. Remove the steaks to a heated serving plate.
Turn up the heat and reduce the liquid to a nice glaze, about ½ cup. Remove and discard the ginger and rosemary. Freshen the sauce with lemon juice if desired and swirl in the remaining tablespoon of butter. Pour the sauce over the fish, garnish with lemons, rosemary and parsley.
Okra & Tomatoes
4 or 5 fresh tomatoes, scalded, peeled and seeded and coarsely chopped
Or 2 cups canned Italian plum tomatoes, with juices
2 cups sliced tender okra pods
¼ C chopped yellow onion
2 T butter
S & P to taste
Put the tomatoes and their juices, okra onions and butter in a deep stewing pan and turn on the heat to med-high. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to prevent ticking and scorching, then reduce the heat to a slow simmer.
Season with a healthy pinch on salt and a few liberal grindings of black pepper. Stir well and let the mixture simmer, uncovered until thick, about an hour. Check the pot and stir it occasionally to be sure that the vegetables have not become too dry. Just before serving taste and correct the seasonings.