Originally posted at Edible TV (edibletv.net) on July 2, 2008
This past Saturday I sat down to watch an episode of the Rescue Chef with Danny Boome. In this episode Jennifer, a genuine Georgia peach from Atlanta, called on the hockey player turned chef to help her with the cooking contest that she and her boyfriend regularly engaged in with one another. Apparently, Jennifer had made it out of the South without ever learning to cook a proper Southern meal.
Danny showed up and took Jennifer through his menu: deep fried chipotle-buttermilk marinated chicken in a flour-cornmeal batter, mango salsa, lemon-sour cream corn muffins, black beans, and a raspberry tea cocktail. A very inventive spread to be sure but the elephant in the room is that it was not a Southern meal, unless of course Jamaica is now part of Alabama.
Deep fried chicken (completely submerged in heated oil) is not the same as Southern fried chicken. For Southern or pan fried chicken the pieces are cooked only slightly immersed in oil, usually less than half an inch and cooks for 25 – 30 minutes as opposed to 10 – 15 for deep frying. Southern fried chicken also features a light coating of seasoned flour rather than the batter with both flour and cornmeal that Boome used. Though a buttermilk marinade is commonplace, especially in Northern Mississippi and Tennessee, the choptle peppers are straight out of Latin America.
The sides were way off as well. Southern cornbread should never be sweet. The lemon/sour cream corn muffins contained honey which sounds like a nice dessert not a Southern staple, the same with mango salsa. When Boome produced the black beans he said, “What’s more Southern than black beans?” The answer, Chef, is pintos, red beans, black-eyed peas, Crowder peas, butter beans, and snap peas but never black beans. In fact the closest that Boome came to a true Southern recipe was the raspberry tea cocktail.
Tea first came to America in the 1790’s when French botanist Andre Michaux imported the leaves to South Carolina. The first iced tea recipes, like Boome’s, always included alcohol. Unlike the Rescue Chef’s punch which contained Italian Prosecco, those first tea concoctions like Charleston’s St. Cecilia Punch were made with whiskey.
As stated before, Boome’s menu sounds delicious and is quite innovative teeming with the flavors of the Caribbean but it is far from Southern cuisine. This kind of faux pas would be understandable on a local cooking show or on a channel that is not as authoritative, but the Food Network has set the bar on food knowledge. It seems the writers of this episode would have benefited greatly from consulting an honest-to-goodness Southern cook. If only they had someone like that at TFN.