Sunday, August 9, 2015

Dining-In: A Culinary Tour of America-Greeneville, Tennessee

The Location: Greeneville, Tennessee

2013 population: 15,020; 83.7% white, 7.8% Hispanic. Per capita income: $18,693

Greeneville was named after Nathanael Greene, a Revolutionary War hero. It was also the home and is the final resting place of President Andrew Johnson.

Archaeology places humans inhabiting the region as far back as 10,000BCE. The Cherokee tribe were living there prior to the European invasion. European settlers began taking over the area in 1772. Greeneville was officially made a town in 1786.

The state of Tennessee has a unique place within the history of the American Civil War. Part of the state supported the Union and part of the state supported the Confederacy. The eastern half of the state, the half that Greeneville is part of, supported the Union and had a long history of participating in the Abolitionist movement prior to the war's outbreak. The eastern half of the state went so far as to fight to become its own state in order to side with the Union, but they were denied, and the entire state of Tennessee would side with the Confederacy. Greeneville and the rest of the eastern side of the state participated in acts of civil disobedience in order to continue their fight for the Union, even though they were occupied by the Confederacy. Railroads were destroyed and bridges were blown up. At least two people were executed for their acts of rebellion against the Confederacy. Today, Greeneville's county courthouse has monuments to both the Confederacy and the Union and is thought to be the only city in the United States with tributes to both sides of the Civil War.

The Food: Fried Green Tomatoes and Peach Hand Pies

Tennessee is known for their barbecue, but because I have featured that already and am reserving the right to do so again, I didn't want to overdue barbecue. This led to researching other popular dishes of the region. I have never had fried green tomatoes before but it is such an iconic Southern dish, I knew it would be the perfect time to try it. I had originally planned a different city with a different menu, but when my parents went to the Edmonds Farmer's Market yesterday and ran across a couple of green tomatoes for me, I made a last minute switch to try them out. I'm really glad I did because they were soooo good!

Fried green tomatoes were not necessarily a Southern delicacy. They were an American delicacy. They showed up in menus throughout the country over the years. They had a popularity that waxed and waned. They were waning and possibly poised to fade into obscurity when a little movie, based on a book, came out in 1991. Fried Green Tomatoes, starring Jessica Tandy, Kathy Bates, and Mary Stuart Masterson, made a hit out of the dish, which began showing up everywhere in the Southern states. I suppose you could call the dish, a neo-classic. The movie is fantastic, and I highly recommend it. I have not read the book, but I hear it is also quite excellent.

I had a recipe card that I intended to follow, but I was missing eggs and didn't want to run to the store, so I had to completely revamp the recipe. I decided to really revamp it, so the recipe is entirely mine. I will write it out here.

Fried Green Tomatoes:
2 green(unripe red) tomatoes(Or however much you want depending on how many people you're making it for.)
Equal parts unseasoned breadcrumbs and cornmeal(Sorry, I didn't measure anything. Just use enough so that it looks like it'll coat all the tomatoes you have.)
Salt/Black pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp. each chili powder, garlic powder, oregano, and onion powder
1 cup buttermilk(I made mine homemade by pouring 1 Tbsp. white vinegar into a 1 cup measure and filling the rest of the cup with milk. Let it sit about five minutes before using.)
Tabasco, to taste
Butter/Canola oil/Bacon grease(You can use any of these or a combination of them. I made a batch for my parents with butter and canola oil, but mine I made with bacon grease and canola oil.)

Slice the tomatoes crosswise into 1/2" slices. On a plate large enough for dredging the tomatoes, combine the flour, cornmeal, and dried seasonings. Mix well. Pour the buttermilk into a bowl large enough to hold the tomato slices; you can do this in rounds if you need to. Add the Tabasco to the buttermilk and mix well. Soak the tomato slices for a few minutes in the buttermilk before dredging in the cornmeal mixture. Set the coated slices onto another plate and let sit for five minutes or so to let the coating adhere firmly to the tomatoes.

Heat the oil of your choice in a large frying pan over medium heat. When hot, add the tomato slices. You will have to be very gentle with these when they fry because the tomatoes are delicate and the coating is even more delicate. It will fall off very easily if you are not careful. When they are deep brown, remove them from heat and gently dab at them with a paper towel to absorb the excess oil.

You can eat these plain or with a sauce of your choice, but I made mine into a BLT. Well, a BT, because I didn't use lettuce. I bought some lovely poppyseed kaiser rolls, sliced one in half, and toasted it in the oven. I fried up thick-cut bacon and used some of the leftover grease from it to fry the tomatoes while the bacon rested and the roll toasted. Mayonnaise on the roll, then tomato slices, then the bacon, and it was fantastic!! It was just out of this world! I also tried a couple of the tomato slices plain to know what the texture and flavor of it was just on its own. I can see why this has become such a popular dish because it was just ridiculously delicious.

Peach Hand Pies:
Peach pie is another dish synonymous with the South and I felt they paired well with tomatoes. Both are in the height of their season this time of year. It's the perfect summertime dessert. I have done peach pie for this blog before, but this was different because they were individual-sized. I had a recipe card for it and I based mine off of it. I made a few changes based on my tastes. The recipe was for 16 servings, but I only bought enough dough for half, so I only made half. Now I have too much peach filling leftover and I'm not sure what to use it for. I will write out the recipe based on eight servings so you don't accidentally buy too many ingredients.

1/2 Tbsp. butter
2 tsp. cornstarch
3 Tbsp. sugar(I substituted unsweetened applesauce and it worked just fine.) + 1/2 Tbsp sugar(I actually did use this.)
1 lb. ripe peaches, unpeeled, pitted, and cut into 3/4" pieces
Pinch salt
1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 pkg.(15oz) refrigerated unbaked pie crusts (The kind you unroll yourself, not the ones in a pie tin)
1/2 Tbsp. milk

1.) In nonstick 12" skillet, melt butter over medium heat. In cup, mix cornstarch with 3 Tbsp. sugar. Stir peaches, sugar mixture, and salt into butter in skillet. (If you use applesauce like I did, don't mix that with the cornstarch first, just add all of the ingredients to the skillet and stir well to mix.) Cook 25 minutes or until peaches are very soft and mixture thickens and boils, stirring frequently. Boil 1 minute. Remove skillet from heat; stir in lemon juice. Cool completely. (Mixture can be made up to 1 day ahead and refrigerated until ready to use.)

2.) Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Let pie crusts stand as label directs.
3.) On work surface, unfold 1 dough round; cut into quarters. Spoon 2 Tablespoons of filling in strip down center of each quarter, leaving about 3/4" dough uncovered at each end. Fold dough over filling. With fork, press edges together to seal. Transfer pies to ungreased cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. (You will need two cookie sheets for them.)
4.) Brush tops of pies with milk; sprinkle with remaining sugar. With knife, cut 1" slit in top of each pie to allow steam to escape during baking.
5.) Place cookie sheets on two oven racks. Bake 18-20 minutes or until golden brown, rotating cookie sheets between upper and lower oven racks halfway through baking. Transfer pies to wire racks to cool.
Makes 8 pies

This was one of the best meals I've had in a while. Tomatoes and peaches really do go well together. Both are fruits, and sweet. They evoke images of the South and summertime. I highly recommend both of these. You will not be disappointed. I promise!

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City History

Fried Green Tomatoes History

1 comment:

  1. I tried the fried green tomatoes - they were great!