Sunday, October 30, 2011

Snacking State-by-State: Mississippi III - The War Between the States, Installment I (or "Oysters! Bacon! Oysters and Bacon!!!")

As most US history buffs know by now, we are in the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.  On a very related tangent to this State-by-State project, I will save two recipes in this series to recipes from the Civil War.  The latter, Yankified one will come when we cross back over the Potomac and traverse the Mason-Dixon.  The first is more of the Secesh variety.

Official Name: State of Mississippi
State Nicknames: The Magnolia State; The Hospitality State
Admission to the US: December 10, 1817 (#20)
Capital: Jackson (largest)
Other Important Cities: Gulfport (2nd largest); Biloxi (5th largest), Tupelo (7th largest)
 South, Deep South, Gulf Coast; East South Central (US Census)
RAFT NationsCorn Bread & BBQGumbo
Bordered by:
 Tennessee (north); Alabama (east); Gulf Coast (south); Louisiana (southwest); Arkansas (northwest); the Mississippi River (west)
Official State Foods and Edible Things: white-tailed deer (land mammal); wood duck (waterfowl); largemouth/black bass (fish); honeybee (insect - the honey is what you eat, of course); oyster (shell - again, you eat what lives inside it)
Some Famous and Typical Foods: typical Southern foods, with Cajun foods (gumbo, étouffée, etc) in the southern part of the state; seafood along the Mississippi River and the Gulf Coast (especially crawfish, shrimp, oyster and blue crab)

There are so many websites with Civil War era recipes, from hoe cakes to hard tack and so much more (check out the Civil War Interactive website for more recipes from the War and the era).  In his cookbook A Gracious Plenty, John T. Edge lists among the first recipes an easy dish that works today as a Civil War-era hors d'oeuvre.  Edge quotes Bethany Ewald Bultman, who provided the recipe to the recipe collection Cook with a Natchez Native, who says that she found the recipe in an 1873 Natchez, MS, cookbook:
"...handwritten in the margin [next to the recipe] was 'It got us through the WAR'.  it didn't say which war." [Edge 1999: 13]
The recipe: Confederates on Horseback

* oysters (pre-shucked or not - it's cheaper for me to buy them unshucked.  All of the local oysters at Wegman's were from the Chesapeake - yay!  I got some Chincoteague oysters: briny and strong but still delicious, each for 99¢.  One died on the way home so I had three to shuck.)
* slices of bread (one for each oyster)
* slices of bacon (again, one for each oyster.  I was out of bacon but instead of buying a whole package, I went ahead and had them slice some bacon at the deli counter.  Yes, Wegman's has its very own charcuterie section.  I got a 1/5 pound for about $1.50, which wound up being much cheaper than buying a whole pound)
* butter (unsalted, to spread on the bread)
* horseradish (to spread on the bacon.  The recipe as reprinted by John T Edge calls for anchovy paste, though other, perhaps more modernized versions call for either anchovy paste or horseradish.  I only had one of those on hand.)

Preheat your oven to 400°F and proceed with the recipe below.

Cut each slice of bread into rounds - a cookie cutter or glass will work wonders with this step.

Lightly toast the rounds of bread.

Next, shuck those oysters.  The guy at the fish counter wasn't kidding: these Chincoteagues are strong.  I mean that in two ways: by the briny smell, and by the way they simply refused to let me pry them open.  That last part is strange, considering that it was relatively easy to find an opening into these oysters to shuck them, but once I did, they hung the hell on.

Butter each toasted round of bread and set aside.

Next, take each slice of bacon - raw - and spread it with the horseradish or anchovy paste.  Note: I liked this ready sliced bacon.  It was not stringy or extra slippery like the bacon I usually get from the sealed packages. Since I don't eat a whole lot of bacon all at once, I think I may buy bacon like this more often: a few slices here or there as needed, unless I'm in need for a whole bunch of bacon grease all at once.

Wrap each oyster up in a slice of bacon.

Secure each oyster with a toothpick, unless you're like me and only have multicolored plastic toothpicks, that will melt in the oven and make your oysters taste funny, on hand.

Bake for five to eight minutes in your 400° oven, and then place each oyster-bacon-horseradish thing on its own round of buttered toast.

This is such a ridiculously easy thing to make, and certainly Chesapeake cooks have thought of this at some point (maybe even called it "Confederates on Horseback" for all I know).  It's best to bite enough of the bread so that you get the entire oyster in your mouth, otherwise it will squish all over.  Next time, maybe I will try it with anchovy paste?

- - - - -

Why do so many states along the Mississippi River follow each other in alphabetical order?  Minnesota.  Mississippi.  Missouri.  Hold up!  That's where the next few State posts take us: to the land of Kansas City BBQ, St. Louis' own gooey butter cakes, and more strange sandwiches.


Civil War Interactive & Blue Gray Daily.  "Welcome to the Civil War Interactive Cookbook: Articles and Recipes for your 19th Century Cooking", date of publication unknown.  Copyright 2011 Civil War Interactive.

Edge, John T. A Gracious Plenty: Recipes and Recollections from the American South. An Ellen Rolfes Book. For the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi. G. P. Putnam's Sons: New York, 1999.

Jackson, Irvin.  "Biloxi Bay Potato Salad".  Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (recipe card) copyright Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, 2011.  Also published in Mississippi Seafood Recipes by the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, copyright Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, 2003.

Wilson, Charles Reagan. "Introduction: The South: Who, Where, and What's for Dinner".  In A Gracious Plenty: Recipes and Recollections from the American South by John T. Edge. An Ellen Rolfes Book. For the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi. G. P. Putnam's Sons: New York, 1999.

Some information also obtained from Wikipedia's "Mississippi" page and other pages, and the Food Timeline State Foods link to "Mississippi".