Today is National Mississippi Day. The 20th state to join the union, Mississippi is home to the Delta Blues. Mississippi is one of the first states children learn how to spell with a simple crooked-letter humpback rhyme. It’s also how many of us count seconds – one Mississippi, two Mississippi.
The mighty Mississippi River flows into the Golf of Mexico along her western boundary. The name Mississippi is derived from the Ojibwa word, misi-ziibi. It means Great River.
At the end of the American Civil War, enslaved people were freed. For Mississippi, that meant over half of the population was freed slaves with no money and no way of earning much. Mississippi was in economic ruin. Nearly 100 years later, life in Mississippi had not improved much when Rosa Parks ignited a movement that would bring voices and faces to the people of Mississippi.
When I think of the Delta Blues, I think Billie Holiday. I think George Gershwin’s 1935 opera Porgy and Bess. One of my favorite songs has to be Summertime.
And the livin’ is easy
Fish are a jumpin’
And the cotton is high
Maybe it’s because of that song that when I think of the south, I think catfish. I know, catfish are bottom-dwellers and aren’t about to jump no matter the time of year. Yet that’s what I think of.
Purely Southern Supper
Peppered Collard Green
Baked Macaroni and Cheese
4 (6 oz) Catfish Fillets
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
2 large Eggs
1/3 cup Spicy Brown Mustard
2 tablespoons Milk
4 cups Miniature Pretzels
1/2 cup Flour
Oil for frying
Lemon slices, optional
Sprinkle catfish with salt and pepper. Set aside.
In a shallow bowl or pie tin, whisk the eggs, mustard and milk. Set aside.
Place pretzels in a gallon-side zip-lock bag. Coarsely crush the pretzels with a rolling pin. Empty the pretzels into a shallow bowl or pie tin. Place the flour into a third shallow bowl or pie tin Set up an assembly line of flour, egg mixture, crushed pretzels along with wire rack set in a shallow baking pan. Coat fillets with flour, then dip in egg mixture, then finely coat with pretzels. Lay the fist on the wire rack and let rest for the coating to adhere to the fish.
Meanwhile heat 1/4-inch of oil to 375 degrees in an electric skillet. Once the oil is hot, fry fillets, two at a time, until fish flakes easily with a fork, 3-4 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. Serve with lemon slices if desired.
Peppered Collard Greens
1 bunch of Collard Greens
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
2 teaspoons minced Garlic (see note)
1/2 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
Note: This recipe works well with either fresh minced garlic or minced garlic from a jar.
Wash the greens well, rinse several times to remove any dirt. Shake off any excess moisture.
Remove the bottom inch or so of the stems. Holding the bunch together with one hand, slice the whole thing into about 1″ slices, perpendicular to the stem.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the garlic; cook it for about 10 seconds.
Add the greens, stemmed pieces on the bottom and the leafy pieces on top. Sprinkle with the red pepper and salt.
After about 30 seconds, toss the greens to mix blend. Continue to toss and cook until the greens have wilted slightly and are bright green.
Remove from heat and add the vinegar. Serve hot.
Baked Macaroni and Cheese
2 cups Elbow Macaroni, cooked
12 oz Velveeta
1/3 cup Milk
Fresh Black Pepper to taste
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 1-quart casserole dish with cooking spray and set aside.
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add Elbow Macaroni and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Stir the macaroni as it cooks to prevent pasta from clumping together.
While the pasta cooks, cut Velveeta into small cubes, about 1/2-inch square. Set aside.
Warm milk in a medium saucepan over low heat. Once the milk is no longer chilled, add the cheese. Stir frequently, continue to cook until the cheese is completely melted and the mixture is smooth.
Remove from heat. Stir in macaroni and season with a little fresh pepper to taste. Spoon the macaroni and cheese into the prepared casserole dish.
Bake 20 minutes or until heated through.
If desired, garnish with a little more fresh black pepper just before serving.