There are two words in the English language that will instantly fill you with comfort: Soul Food.
June is National Soul Food Month, and to honor and celebrate this delicious month, we have three easy and cost-effective recipes that bring you comfort and joy. If you want the scoop on all things soul food, keep reading for some great recipes.
We can only talk about Soul Food after going over some history first. Soul Food began in the Southern United States, originating with the food given to the enslaved Black/African people by plantation owners. The term “Soul Food” became popular in the 1960-1970s as part of the Black Power Movement. From these roots, Soul Food has become one of the most beloved cuisines in the United States and worldwide.
No soul food meal is complete without corn bread. According to Robert A. Gilmer, one of the contributing authors of Dethroning the Deceitful Pork Chop: Rethinking African American Foodways from Slavery to Obama, “Native people in the Americas first cultivated corn, it was introduced in West Africa by European traders shortly after contact through the Atlantic slave trade and quickly became a major staple in African cooking.”
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal, yellow
⅔ cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 ½ teaspoons baking powder
⅓ cup vegetable oil
1 egg, large
1 cup milk- recommend nothing lower than 2% milk
- Preheat your oven to 400F°
- Lightly grease a 9-inch round cake pan or 8×8-inch baking dish and dust with flour. Shake out the excess flour and set aside.
- Whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add milk, vegetable oil, and egg till the mixture is well combined. If the batter appears too thick, you can always add more milk, mixing a little at a time. You want your batter to be thick but pourable.
- Add batter to the prepared cake pan and bake on a center rack for 20-25 minutes.
- To check for doneness, insert a toothpick in the center of the cornbread; if it comes out clean, it’s ready to take out of the oven.
- Let cool in the pan and serve with butter, honey butter, or maple syrup.
The most iconic meal associated with Soul Food is Fried Chicken. Fried Chicken is so beloved it’s even a Christmas tradition in Japan! Now, this recipe is just one of the many ways you can make fried chicken. For the purposes of this blog, this is just a basic fried chicken recipe.
1 whole chicken cut up or 6-8 pieces of your favorite cut of chicken
2 ½ cups buttermilk
6-8 Quarts of vegetable oil, peanut oil, or neutral oil of your choice.
The Dredging Mixture
According to the internet, these are the “famous” 11 herbs and spices from a popular chicken restaurant. Take this with a grain of salt. Get it? Grain of salt? Because it’s a seasoning? Yeah, you get the joke; you’re smart.
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/3 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon celery salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dried mustard
4 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons garlic salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3 teaspoons white pepper
- Put your whole cut-up chicken or pieces in a large bowl or deep dish. Add the 2 cups of buttermilk; optionally, add hot sauce to taste or some salt to the chicken before adding the buttermilk. Mix everything, cover it with plastic wrap, and let it sit in the fridge to marinate for about 1-2 hours.
- Whisk together the all-purpose flour, herbs, and spices in a medium bowl and set aside.
- Fill your deep fryer, cast iron skillet, or Dutch oven with the oil of your choice and heat to 350F°
- Time to start the dredging process. Take your buttermilk and chicken mixture out of the fridge, pick up each piece of chicken, and let some of the excess buttermilk drips back into the bowl. Place your piece of chicken into the flour mixture, coat well, and place on a clean plate. Repeat the process until all your chicken is nicely coated.
- Carefully and we cannot stress this enough, very carefully start adding your chicken pieces to the hot oil. Do not overcrowd your fryer or pan; only cook 2-4 pieces at a time.
- Your chicken is done when golden brown and the internal temperature reaches 165F°. The size of the chicken pieces is a factor in your cooking time; dark meat can take about 12-14 minutes, and white meat takes 8-10 minutes. Always use a meat thermometer for accurate temperature readings.
- When your chicken is golden brown and has registered 165F° at its thickest point, place the pieces in a paper towel-lined baking sheet or large dish, and then repeat the process until all the chicken is done, and enjoy! Serve with your favorite side dishes.
- Remember to dispose of your cooking oil properly; link here.
Sweet Potato Pie
I know what you’re thinking; sweet potato pie is for Thanksgiving, but there is no rule saying you can’t eat it in June or all year round. And don’t let people tell you otherwise. You don’t need that negativity in your life.
1 pound of sweet potatoes with the skin
½ cup softened butter
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup whole milk-we recommend whole milk, but if you’re not a fan, nothing lower than 2%
2 eggs, large
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 -9-inch unbaked pie crust, make your own or store-bought
- Place sweet potatoes in a large pot and cover with water; bring to a boil. Boil until tender when pierced with a fork or knife, anywhere from 40 to 50 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350F°
- Carefully strain your sweet potatoes from the pot and run under cold water until safe to touch and discard the skin.
- Lightly mash sweet potato apart and place in a large bowl. Add butter and mix with an electric, hand, or stand mixer until well combined.
- Add sugar, milk, eggs, nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla; beat on medium speed until nice and smooth using your hand mixer or stand mixer.
- Pour your sweet potato filling into the unbaked pie crust.
- Bake for 55-60 minutes; check for doneness by inserting a knife in the center, and if it comes out clean, it’s ready to take out of the oven.
- Remove from oven, let cool completely, and enjoy!
Tip of the Iceberg
Soul Food has so much history with many different aspects. Did you know Chicken and Waffles are all thanks to the Harlem Renaissance? And I haven’t even touched on the iconic staples of Mac N Cheese, Collard Greens, Fried Catfish, Chitlins, Black-eyed peas, and so many others.
As always, we encourage you to try new foods and make some of the recipes we listed above.
“Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul.”- Dorothy Day
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