Simply Southern: Hacks to Take Your Cooking to the Next Level
Lisé Badeaux | Writing Contributor
College life often comes with a hectic schedule, leaving little time for elaborate meal preparation. That doesn’t mean the rich and hearty flavors defining classic Southern cuisine have to be sacrificed! Whether you’re a homesick student craving a taste of home or simply looking to explore the world of Southern cuisine, we’ve got you covered. Our hacks for Southern food in a college student’s schedule will show you how to whip up mouthwatering meals in a flash. From mastering the art of slow-cooked comfort food in a pressure cooker to creating shortcuts for traditional sides like collard greens and cornbread, we’ll help you create Southern dishes that are as delicious as they are convenient. So, roll up your sleeves, grab your apron and get ready to bring a taste of the South to your college kitchen!
Appliances: Friends Not Foes
When it comes to speeding up Southern cooking amid a busy college schedule, having the right tools at your disposal can make all the difference. Sue Rainer, an 81-year-old classic Southern “glam-ma,” shares her wisdom on how kitchen supplies help her speed up recipes she grew up with herself while living alone: “Appliances are your friends, not your enemies. Investing in quality kitchen appliances in college will stay with you well into your first real job. They are your biggest help with Southern classics.”
First and foremost, investing in a high-quality pressure cooker can be a game-changer. It significantly reduces cooking times for dishes that traditionally require long simmering, such as gumbo, jambalaya or collard greens. A rice cooker with a “quick cook” setting, an electric deep fryer, a mandolin and a food processor or are all great tools to have when cooking classic Southern recipes in a flash.
For those who enjoy baking Southern treats, a stand mixer with various attachments can help automate tasks like kneading dough for biscuits, mixing cake batter or whipping up fluffy meringue for pies.
With these essential tools in your arsenal, you’ll be well-equipped to streamline your Southern cooking adventures, even in the midst of a hectic college routine. If you’re debating whether or not these appliances are needed, just listen to Rainer: “Spend the extra dollar on those good appliances. It’s worth it!”
Real Ingredients, Better Results
Paula Deen, one of the most iconic Food Network chefs representing good Southern cooking says, “I will never use a substitute for butter. Margarine is one molecule away from eating plastic. If I’m going to eat that type of food, it’s going to be the real deal.” Just because you’re trying to save time doesn’t mean you should compromise classic ingredients as they can be a real time-saver.
Canned goods such as diced tomatoes, okra and black-eyed peas are invaluable for quickly assembling a variety of dishes like stewed greens or Southern-style succotash. Pre-chopped and frozen vegetables are another time-saving option, perfect for adding to dishes like jambalaya or cornbread stuffing without the need for extensive chopping. Instant grits or quick-cooking rice are indispensable for achieving Southern sides like grits or red beans and rice in a fraction of the time. Additionally, consider keeping a bottle of hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce and a jar of Cajun seasoning in your pantry, too for adding a Southern kick to your dishes.
For dessert lovers, having shortcut ingredients like pre-made pie crusts, canned pie fillings or cake mixes can be a lifesaver when craving Southern sweets like pecan pie or peach cobbler. These allow you to whip up delicious sweets with minimal effort.
When it comes to pantry necessities, you can stock up on essentials like buttermilk powder, canned goods like chicken broth, and even pre-seasoned marinated meats for classic dishes like jambalaya.
These strategic choices in your kitchen can significantly expedite your Southern cooking endeavors. By having a selection of pre-seasoned meats, canned goods and shortcut ingredients, you can create authentic Southern dishes quickly and easily, making it manageable to enjoy the comforting and flavorful cuisine even on a tight college student schedule.
Go By the Book
Recipes serve as invaluable guides when it comes to speeding up classic Southern dishes. They provide a roadmap, outlining each step of the cooking process, the necessary ingredients, and the required cooking times. Some popular Southern cooking websites you can use range from big names such as Food Network to Simply Recipes to small sites like Southern Eats & Goodies and Sweet Tea + Thyme.
By carefully reviewing a recipe, you can identify opportunities to streamline your cooking approach. For instance, recipes offer insights into which steps can be combined or overlapped, allowing for more efficient multitasking in the kitchen. Recipes also provide a framework for portion control and adaptability. College students often need to cook for one or a small group of friends, and recipes can help you scale down the quantities to avoid unnecessary leftovers. They also offer guidance on ingredient substitutions, allowing you to work with what you have on hand, reducing the need for additional grocery runs, and help you find dietary options if you need them. For example, Allrecipes allows you to copy and automatically add the ingredients for their recipes to your Target cart, making shopping a breeze.
Moreover, online communities and forums related to Southern cooking often share time-saving tips and hacks specific to particular recipes, enabling you to benefit from the collective wisdom of experienced cooks. This allows recipes to be viewed as not just static instructions but dynamic tools that can empower you to adapt and accelerate classic Southern recipes to suit your schedule and preferences.
Recipes act as a culinary compass, helping you navigate the intricacies of Southern cuisine while finding ways to expedite the cooking process and make it more manageable within the constraints of a busy schedule.
Even if you’re a busy college student, you can still enjoy delicious Southern dishes. You just need these helpful tricks. From using the right kitchen tools and ingredients, following recipes and being smart about your cooking choices, you can make Southern food quickly and easily, without stress. It’s a great way to enjoy tasty meals while managing your busy schedule. But the best part is, as you practice these hacks, you’ll not only get to enjoy delicious Southern cuisine but also become a more confident cook, setting you up for success in the kitchen, even beyond your college years.
Lisé Badeaux is currently a sophomore studying public relations in the CREATE Path to the MBA at the Capstone as an active member of Chi Omega. In her free time, she enjoys reading, yoga, and spending time with her friends.