Savannah, Georgia is haunted. The town boasts to be ‘America’s most haunted city.’ After wandering around historic downtown Savannah, John and I agree with Savannah’s claim. Old buildings everywhere. Giant oak trees with their gnarly stretched out limbs. Cemeteries not used since the 1800’s smack in the middle of downtown Savannah. Yup pretty haunted indeed. I bet Savannah is the only town that offers a “Hearse Ghost Tour” (where you ride around in a hearse) or a “Segway Cemetery Tour.” Sounds kinda fun?
John and I avoided the ghost tours and spent the afternoon walking around the charming downtown Savannah. The downtown is peppered with little parks all over the place, with plenty of nice restaurants, historical landmarks and shopping. We made our way through the downtown cemetery, had lunch on a lovely little patio overlooking the a square, and hit up the most amazing honey shop on the way home (Savannah Honey Co.) Our favourite was the Tupelo Honey, with pollen harvested from the local Tupelo trees.
John and I were also certain that our bed and breakfast was haunted. There was definitely a ghost hanging out there.
I really wanted to take a southern cooking class on our trip, and John struck gold when he found out about Joe Randall. Tired of running restaurants, Joe is a professional chef who runs creole/Cajun and southern cooking classes out of his house. After watching some YouTube videos of chef Joe Randall online, John and I booked the ‘Creole Feast’ class for the night we knew we would be in Savannah. This is something we were really looking forward to.
We pulled up to a very unassuming gray building. We parked and entered, and were very impressed with the set up that chef had. A well equipped kitchen surrounded by a long table where guests sit and eat. The chef stood at the front at his stove and prep area, with a mirror above him so you could watch him cook from above. John and I thumbed through the recipe booklet we received while we watched chef prepare us a four course meal while giving instructions.
The first two courses featured crab. One was a crab ravigote, and the other fired soft-shell crab served with a Charon sauce (Charon sauce is like a Hollandaise sauce but with tarragon and tomato puree.) The entree was a feast: Andouille sausage, candied yams, beans and rice and stewed okra and tomatoes. Dessert was a bread pudding with a bourbon custard sauce.
The whole meal was amazing. John and I had a wonderful time watching the chef cook, making jokes and of course eating the wonderful meal he served us. We learned a few tips and tricks along the way and even purchased his cookbook. And of course, we left inspired to try our own hand at some of his recipes.
If you happen to be visiting Savannah GA, I highly suggest you take part in Chef Joe Randall’s Cooking school. Click here to view his website.
Last week, the featured recipe was Cajun dirty rice. In that same meal, John and I also made blacked catfish and stewed okra in tomatoes. Today’s recipe is the stewed okra and tomatoes, and dish we enjoyed in chef Joe Randall’s creole feast.
Okra was brought over from Africa when the slaves came over, and has remained a southern favourite to this day. Okra is the ingredient that achieves the thick texture of gumbo, and the African (or Bannu) word for okra just happens to be “gumbo.” The problem with okra is it has the tendency to be slimy. Apparently if you grow up eating okra, the slime is not a problem, but to people who are not used to eating okra, the slimy texture can be quite offensive. The nice thing about this okra dish is that it is not slimy! I was pretty excited as I have been always looking for a good okra side dish. The recipe is very simple – cut up your okra and simmer in a pot with tomatoes and tomato paste. It’s quick and easy!
Ingredient I can’t live without:
After this trip it is a new favourite – in gumbo, fried, breaded and deep fired, and stewed with tomatoes are just a few variations.
So next time you need a side for your Cajun or southern feast, give okra a try! Stay tuned for next week, where John and I explore the glorious southern food scene in Charleston, SC.
Click here to view printable version of recipe: Stewed Okra and Tomatoes
Click here to view Deep South Part 1: Louisiana and Dirty Rice
Click here to view Deep South Part 3: Charleston, South Carolina and Grits
Click here to view Deep South Part 4: Natchez Mississippi and Fried Chicken with Biscuits
Stewed Okra and Tomatoes
By Chef Joe Randall
2 tsp oil
½ cup diced onion
1/3 cup diced green pepper
1 pound okra, cut into ½ inch rounds
1 cup diced tomatoes, keep liquid
1 tbsp tomato paste
6 tbsp water
1 tsp salt
In a large skillet at medium heat, heat oil and add onion. Sauté for about 5 minutes until onion is tender. Add garlic, okra, tomato paste, tomatoes with liquid and 6 tbsp water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until okra is tender, stiffing occasionally, about 6 minutes. Simmer until most of the liquid is mostly evaporated and mixture is thickened, about 2 more minutes. Serve on its own or over steamed rice.