Since my Irish friend, Frank, reads my blog from the other side of the world, I thought it might be fun to share a little bit about what it means to be a Southerner in the United States. Some might argue that an Oklahoman is not a Southerner, but those folks have never been to Oklahoma. In my opinion, you can define a Southerner in one of two ways:

  1. He or she lives in a state that is south of the Mason Dixon line, or
  2. He or she knows how to cook and/or eat Southern cooking.

Oklahomans qualify on both counts, so considering it might be boring discussing the significance of the Mason Dixon line, I thought I’d talk a little bit about Southern cooking.

Southern cooking is significantly different than food you’ll find anywhere else in the country, or, really, anywhere else in the world. For a food to qualify as Southern, it must have a high fat content, involve frying, gravy and bacon grease, not in any particular order. My favorite Southern meal contains all four.

Chicken fried steak and gravy , mashed potatoes or home fries, and a mess o’ greens is pure heaven as far as I’m concerned. It’s my favorite meal to cook and my favorite to eat, and I’ve been told I make it better than just about anybody.

Here’s how I do it:

Chicken Fried Steak

  • 2 Cube Steaks (These are thin round steaks, pounded until the meat is tenderized to the point where it’s almost falling apart.)
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons (or more, to taste) garlic salt
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 inch oil in a frying pan

Mix the egg and milk together in a bowl. Mix the garlic salt and flour together in a shallow pan or paper sack. Salt and pepper the steak and then dip in the egg/milk mixture, then coat the meat with flour. (You can do this by putting it in the shallow pan and then turning it over, or you can put it in the bag, close up the top and shake the bag.) I like to return it to the egg/milk mixture and then cover with flour again; this just makes a thicker crust.

Heat the oil over medium heat. When a small amount of batter begins to sizzle when dropped in the oil, put the steaks in. (Don’t worry if you get batter in the oil - that just adds good stuff to the gravy.) Fry about three minutes (or until the coating begins to brown) and then turn over. (Watch the heat - don’t let the oil start smoking.) Poke the crispy top with a fork; this allows the meat to cook more evenly. Cook the other side about three minutes and turn again. Poke the other side of the meat with the fork. Repeat this process (except for the poking - you only do that once per side) until both sides are crisp and brown. Remove from the pan and place on paper towels to drain. Do not toss the oil; you’ll use this and the remaining flour for the gravy.


  • leftover, used cooking oil
  • 1/4 cup flour/garlic salt mixture
  • equal parts milk and water, about 3 cups combined

Pour off about half of the oil and return the pan to the stove, which should be turned down to low heat. Scrape the good stuff off the bottom of the pan and add the flour/garlic salt mixture. Stir to form a roux (a smooth mixture of flour and cooking oil). Continue stirring for up to two or three minutes to remove the raw flour taste. Add the water/milk mixture about a cup at a time, stirring constantly. (You want to add it slowly, because you don’t want it too thin.) Keep adding the water/milk mixture until the gravy starts bubbling up and is a nice, thick consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Next, I make either mashed potatoes or home fries, depending on the family’s mood.

Mashed Potatoes

  • 4-6 potatoes, depending on how big they are
  • 1/2 stick of salted butter
  • 1/3 cup milk or cream

Peel potatoes and cut into 1-2 inch pieces. Put cut potatoes in a pot of cold water. (It’s important that it’s cold, so the outside and inside of the potatoes gets done at the same time.) Boil, checking often to ensure you don’t overcook. When potatoes are done, drain them and put them in a mixing bowl. Add the milk and butter and whip until the lumps are gone. (Do not overwhip. Overwhipping releases glutens and makes the potatoes rubbery.)

*Sometimes, to make the mashed potatoes a little fancier, I use the butter to saute some onion slices (usually about half an onion, sliced into bite-sized pieces). When the onions are translucent and soft, I add the entire pan of butter and onions to the potatoes before I start the whipping process. You can add garlic to the onions while they’re sauteing and have onion garlic mashed potatoes. Some people add cheese or sour cream. My mom always added a raw egg when the potatoes were being whipped. The heat of the potatoes cooks the egg as it mixes in, and the potatoes are very rich. So add what you like! It’s up to you!

Home Fries

These are my family’s favorite. They’re much more trouble than mashed potatoes but it’s worth the trouble.

  • 6 potatoes, peeled or unpeeled or a little of both, and sliced about 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick
  • 2 large onions, sliced thick
  • 1/4 cup chopped red and/or green bell pepper (optional)
  • 1/2 inch oil in a frying pan

Heat the oil over high heat. Put the potatoes and onions in when a piece of potato in the oil just begins to sizzle. (I know this seems like a lot of potatoes, but they cook way down.) Cover the pan and let potatoes fry for about 5 minutes. Take the lid off and turn the potatoes. Leave the lid off and continue to turn potatoes until all of them are golden brown and onions are cooked through, crispy and/or brown.* This usually takes 30-40 minutes. Drain on paper towels and salt immediately, so the salt sticks.

*The trick with home fries (also known as country fries, by the way) is not to overcook. The inside of the potatoes has to be soft like the inside of a French fry. The outside isn’t the same for all the potatoes. Some will be soft, some will be very brown, some will be light brown but crispy. To get it right, you want 80-90% to be light brown and crispy with the rest split between soft and very brown.


These can be collard greens, mustard greens, dandelion greens, turnip greens, spinach or kale.

  • 3-4 lbs of greens
  • 1/2 lb raw bacon, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups julienned onions
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste

Rinse the greens thoroughly to remove all the dirt or sand. Put the greens in a large pot, and just cover them with water. (Again, it seems like a lot of greens, but they cook way down.) Turn heat to medium. In a frying pan, fry the bacon and onion. When bacon and onion are almost done, add the garlic and continue frying for a few more seconds. Add the entire pan, including grease, to the greens. Cover the greens, reduce heat to low and cook for about 2 hours or until the greens are soft. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Of course, the trick to all this is timing. You have to know when to start the various dishes in order to have them all come together at the same time. After you’ve done this a few times, it’s almost as if your body can feel the right time to put things on. I rarely get the timing wrong anymore.

When it’s all done, I like to serve the greens and the gravy in bowls. This keeps the meat from getting soggy from the greens and allows for greater gravy coverage when the meat bites are dipped in the gravy bowl one at a time.

Put it all together and it looks like this. Trust me when I tell you that if you cook this right, you’ll get addicted pretty fast. It’s just that good. And, leftover greens are great with hot, buttered cornbread the next day. Yummy!

So try it for yourself. Sit down and open the top button of your pants, because once you start, you won’t stop until your plate is clean. Be sure to try the gravy on both the meat and the potatoes!

Enjoy! :D