Friday, April 4, 2008

Mississippi Hill Country Comfort Food: Potatoes and Cornbread

Potatoes and cornbread have been a staple on many Itawamba County farm tables for generations and the cooking of potatoes has been elevated to a regional culinary art form over the years. Two customary potato dishes popular in the hills for years have been thickened potatoes and country-fried potatoes.

County fried potatoes are simply Irish potatoes irregularly cut up with some diced onion, salt and black pepper added. The concoction is then dusted with corn meal and fried in an iron skillet to a light golden brown. There is nothing better with garden-fresh purple hull peas, okra and a tall glass of sweet iced tea on a hot Mississippi summer day.

Then there are thickened potatoes - another favorite companion for fresh garden peas and corn bread. Thickened potatoes are merely boiled Irish potatoes, diced into generous portions. When the potatoes are fully cooked, flour is added to the hot potatoes and stock to create a rich creamy culinary concoction. Seasoned with a charitable dusting of milled black pepper and salt, there is nothing better with hot skillet cornbread.

Recently on a chilly and rainy spring evening I had a craving for some thickened Irish potatoes and cornbread - but with a twist. I added some diced onion to the pot with the boiling potato pieces, along with some milled black pepper, salt and a little butter. After thickening the potatoes with some flour I added a little parmesan and garlic seasoning along with some grated cheese. This made the most delectable rich and savory potato soup to go with the little pone of fried stove-top southern cornbread. The end result was the above-photographed deliciously perfect twist for an old fashioned Itawamba County, Mississippi hill country comfort food.

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