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Eunice McNeal’s Collard Greens

Fried chicken with collard greens and corn bread

By Barbara Beltrami

February is Black History Month and what better way to celebrate than with traditional, historic recipes for soul food, that wonderful collection of Southern-style dishes that boasts big delicious flavors. Here are some of my favorite must-try Southern foods, from fried chicken and cornbread to collard greens and black eyed peas. I’ve pestered friends for their heirloom recipes, and here they are.

Marjorie Grann’s Fried Chicken

YIELD: Makes 4 servings


One 3 to 4 pound chicken, cut up

1 cup buttermilk

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon cayenne

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Vegetable oil for frying


Wash chicken and pat dry with paper towel. Pour buttermilk into shallow dish and dip chicken into it to coat. Pour flour, cayenne, salt and pepper into a resealable plastic bag and shake to combine. Place chicken pieces, one at a time, in bag and shake to coat; remove pieces to platter, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until coating has a pasty consistency, about two hours. In large skillet heat 2 to 3 inches of oil over medium high heat until very hot and carefully place chicken pieces in oil. Fry, turning once, until both sides are golden; reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 30 minutes, then raise heat again to medium-high, remove cover and continue to cook until chicken is crispy; drain on paper towels. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature with potato salad or candied yams and collard greens.

Eunice McNeal’s Collard Greens

YIELD: Makes 6 servings


1 large onion, chopped

1 smoked ham hock

3 garlic cloves, chopped

7 cups chicken broth

1 pound collard greens, washed and trimmed

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

3 1/2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon cayenne

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


In a large pot combine onion, ham hock, garlic and chicken broth; cook over medium heat until meat pulls away from bone, about two hours; add collard greens, vinegar, sugar, cayenne and salt and pepper and cook until greens are tender, about two more hours. Drain extra liquid if desired. Serve hot or warm with barbecued ribs and black-eyed peas.

Doralee Petty’s Buttermilk Cornbread

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings


6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, cooled

3/4 cup flour

3/4 cup yellow cornmeal

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

2 eggs


Preheat oven to 425 F; place rack in middle of oven. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan with one tablespoon of the butter. In large bowl thoroughly combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In medium bowl vigorously whisk together the buttermilk and eggs; add the remaining 5 tablespoons of melted butter and the flour mixture. Stir only until completely blended; pour batter into prepared pan and bake until top is golden and cake tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature with butter, collard greens, black-eyed peas and fried chicken

Simon Birdsall’s Black-Eyed Peas

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings


1 pound black-eyed peas, soaked overnight, drained and rinsed

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

8 ounces pork shoulder, diced into one-inch cubes

4 strips bacon, cut into one-inch pieces

1 large onion, diced

4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2 teaspoon cayenne

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth

2 cups water

2 bay leaves

Apple cider vinegar to taste


Warm oil in a large pot over medium heat until shimmering; add pork cubes and brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. Add bacon, onion, garlic, salt and pepper and cayenne and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Add broth, water and bay leaves, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add peas to pot and simmer until they are soft but not mushy, about one to one and a half hours. Remove bay leaves, adjust seasonings, add vinegar and serve hot or warm with collard greens and fried chicken.