Cooking With Myra: Enjoying the comfort food of the South
By Myra Starkey
Sept. 10, 2013 at 4:10 a.m.
My mother was a gourmet cook before the word had even been invented. She valued eating vegetables during their season before sustainable eating grew popular. She was ahead of her time.
My sisters and I dreamed of sitting in front of the television eating greasy hamburgers and crispy french fries, but Mom usually had some other creative vegetable dish to try out on her three young charges. And she rarely let us eat in front of the TV.
There are likely to be occasions in a busy mother's life when she opens her pantry and her refrigerator and finds nothing green to boil, stew or saute. She might resort to a dish that southern dames for decades have fed their families - fried chicken and waffles.
Growing up in the south, I had my share of shrimp and grits, collard greens laden with bacon and ham, fried pork rinds and all things// that swam, crawled or walked that could be caught, shot or trapped. Sometimes, meat other than bacon is served with waffles.
My palate was developed over an 18-year period of eating the best Louisiana had to offer, and I dared not turn my nose up at anything my mom put on our table.
Last week, I drove to Louisiana to be with Dad for a few days. We always have a lot to do. He is 80, so there are chores that my sisters or I can help him catch up on. I talk with him daily, and so when he says, "Walt is doing much better," I already know the story. He updates me about Walt or his other elderly friends. One's health is not taken for granted at that age.
It doesn't seem that much has changed in Lake Charles since I left. My dad still hangs out at the church with some of the same people I knew as a kid. Sure, there are new shopping centers, neighborhoods and even a Starbucks, but for the most part, it is much the same.
Since Dad and I were together "running the roads," as he calls it, we needed a place to eat lunch. We had been so busy visiting folks that it was about 2 p.m. when we finally felt the hunger pangs and decided to stop.
We headed downtown to a place called The Kitchen. It is a restaurant tucked into a residential neighborhood that has seen better years. The structure is simple with a small porch that enters into a large dining room. The owners are both present with the wife occasionally sitting behind the cash register when she is taking a break from the stove and the husband toiling as the main cook.
Dad and I took a seat, and immediately, a smiling waiter brought me sweet tea. The restaurant is open for lunch only from Monday-Friday. Each day has a choice of at least five meats that are accompanied by sides.
The waiter had already dropped off fresh, hot cornbread, two bundt cake slices and a wedge of bread pudding, and that was before we made our main entree choice. Dad ordered fried catfish, mashed potatoes, green salad and small green peas. I ordered a main plate of crawfish etouffee with rice.
By the time the waiter brought my meal, I had polished off both the cornbread and a piece of the bundt cake. The etouffee was as good as any I have ever had. I admit I was surprised at how delicious it was. After all, I have had a lot of etouffee in my 52 years. Pleasantly stuffed and vowing to never eat again, we went back to the house.
I left Lake Charles that Friday evening to drive to Houston. I wanted to spend the night with my daughter, Hannah, and her husband, Ben. He had just finished his first week as a lawyer, and I wanted to celebrate the new job.
The next morning, we decided to go to the Breakfast Klub in downtown Houston. Marcus Davis opened the restaurant 12 years ago, and it is run by him and his brothers, Tony and Jerry. We waited outside for about 30 minutes, which apparently is about usual for this popular place.
Ben had been there several times and was impressed. I ordered the French toast with bacon, and Ben ordered the signature dish of waffles and fried chicken wings, which is lightly dusted with powdered sugar and served with piping hot maple syrup. Both were delicious.
I wanted to try my hand at imitating their fried chicken recipe and because I purchased the signature seasoning at the restaurant, it was not terribly difficult.
The waffles were my usual recipe, which is listed below. I suppose if you are short on time, you can buy fried chicken, but it is always best made at home. Enjoy.
Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.