fbpx ;

Southern Fare: It Ain’t What It Used To Be

southern-fare-585Southern food has a dual personality. On one side you’ve got heavy, fattening comfort food — pan-fried chicken and a buttermilk biscuit or chicken-fried steak with country gravy — just thinking about it makes my stomach growl and my arteries harden. But its flip side is full of highly nutritious choices — lima beans; collard, mustard and turnip greens; sweet potatoes; and kale.

One of our local chefs here in Kansas City understands the nostalgia one feels for a good platter of steaming hot chicken; she grew up with it, but has deliberately left it off of her menu at Magnolia’s, a contemporary Southern bistro. She has opted instead to incorporate traditional Southern ingredients in an interesting yet healthful menu. Your favorites are all still there — corn bread, mashed potatoes, even gumbo — just slightly tweaked so that you leave feeling full, not fattened.
Her menu honors the Southern tradition by featuring such dishes as collard greens but made with smoked turkey instead of the usual ham hocks and sweet potato ravioli made with chicken and sautéed mustard greens. She even gives a nod to that Southern paradigm of desserts, the red velvet cake, in the form of a waffle served with fresh berries.
On a recent visit, dinner started with an enormous fresh spinach salad topped with dried cranberries, sliced onion, goat cheese and the darling of the South, spiced pecans. Next, I ordered me up the Blue Plate Special — a lean meatloaf, purple mashed potatoes with a side of roasted garlic Brussels sprouts. It felt down-home for sure but without a drop of hog fat in sight. Talk about comfort food; I left completely satisfied. Proof positive that good Southern cooking does not have to be heavy and detrimental to your health.
Don’t make the mistake of stereotyping regional foods. Today’s top-notch chefs make it their business to be very much in tune with health and nutrition needs. Challenge yourself to experience time-honored culinary treasures in a different way. It’s time we reinvent the definition of comfort food. Welcome to the New South!
What’s your favorite and healthy comfort food? —Karen

FTC disclosure: We often receive products from companies to review. All thoughts and opinions are always entirely our own. Unless otherwise stated, we have received no compensation for our review and the content is purely editorial. Affiliate links may be included. If you purchase something through one of those links we may receive a small commission. Thanks for your support!