Amanda Stone's Tasty States

The United States got lucky with Tennessee. Not only is it home to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Grand Ole Opry, Memphis blues and Dolly Parton, the food is pretty good too.

Around Nashville, there are chicken joints serving up seriously spicy eats known as “hot chicken.” It has roots in Jamaica and the Philippines and has been the cause of enough tears in Nashville to be considered from there as well.

Before the chicken is fried, it’s marinated in hot sauce and cayenne, then dunked in buttermilk, hot sauce and cayenne, and finally dredged in flour and, you guessed it: cayenne. I love some spice, but I’m sweating just thinking about this.

Nothing cools off a burning mouth like pudding, so perhaps it’s no coincidence that Tennessee is famous for banana pudding. You know the one.

Vanilla wafers are layered with bananas and vanilla pudding, maybe whipped cream, Cool Whip or meringue, and eaten after the cookies have turned to mushy perfection. Instant pudding made this delightful buffet and potluck dish a cinch to throw together, but try the recipe below for the classic homemade version.

We can all thank Tennessee for the concept of “meat and three,” which is when a diner offers a choice of a main course meat and three side dishes. In Tennessee, the meat choices will definitely include country ham, fried catfish and meatloaf.

The three could be any number of sides we’re familiar with but surely including cornbread, potatoes in all forms and a vegetable or two. You might even find banana pudding as an option because pudding gets to be a side dish or a dessert for some inexplicable reason. I don’t understand it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like it.

Try these recipes for a taste of Tennessee.

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Homemade banana pudding

  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 box vanilla wafers
  • 4 to 6 ripe bananas
  • Whipped cream

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Whisk in the egg yolks and milk. On medium heat, constantly whisk the mixture until it comes to a low boil, just until it starts to bubble. You want it thick. Remove from the heat. Stir in the vanilla.

In a large dish, layer the vanilla wafers on the bottom till covered, then add a layer of sliced bananas followed by a layer of pudding. Continue for two more layers or until you run out of pudding. Crush some vanilla wafers and sprinkle on top of the pudding.

Chill for a minimum of two hours before serving. Top with whipped cream.

Recipe adapted from www.throughmyfrontporch.com.

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Red eye gravy, country ham and biscuits

  • 2 to 3 large slices country ham
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup cold coffee

Fry the ham in a skillet. Remove ham from pan, add water and coffee and bring to a boil for about 2 minutes. Serve over ham slices or biscuits.

Note: If the ham does not have much fat on it and is not making any drippings in the pan, add the water before removing the ham and let simmer for about 3 minutes, remove ham and add coffee to water so that the gravy will have a ham flavor.

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Buttermilk biscuits

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 heaping teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk

In a bowl, cut the shortening into the flour. Add the rest of the ingredients and enough buttermilk until dough sticks together.

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, adding more flour if dough is too moist, and roll out to about 1/4- to 1/2-inch thickness. Cut out biscuits with cutter or glass and place on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 450 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes until golden brown.

Recipe adapted from www.thesouthernladycooks.com.

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Amanda Stone is a food and gardening columnist for The Joplin Globe. Email questions to astone@joplinglobe.com or mail her c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.