Categorized | Career Development

The New Black Cooking in America Soul Food – A Global Cuisine by Chef Kenneth Bunns

The history of American soul food can be traced all the way back to the days of slavery. More often times than not, the slaves were given the most undesirable part of the meal, the leftovers from the house. Pairing this with their own homegrown vegetables, the first soul food dishes were invented.

After the slaves were freed, most of them were so poor that they could only afford the most undesirable, inexpensive cuts of meat (the leftover unwanted parts of a pig such as tripe, tongue, ears, and knuckles) available to them.  As in the days of slavery, African-Americans some years ago used their own home-grown vegetables and things they could catch or kill to complete their meals. This is the classic African-American cuisine.

In the modern United States, soul food has truly evolved and has become part of the African-American culture, bringing family members together on all occasions from birthdays to funerals. With the explosion of new African-American Chefs the old classic African-American cuisine has evolved into wonderful offerings of great importance in the “New American Cuisine.” Now, with the interest rising worldwide we have other groups incorporating their cookery with the new African-American Chefs.  This blends in a more global level by infusing African American into other cultural cuisines.

Fusion Cuisine-while fusion cuisine is a general term for the combination of various forms of cookery, the concept can take several forms. One approach is regional fusion that combines the cuisine of a region or sub-region into a single eating experience.  As an example, Asian fusion restaurants have become popular in many parts of the United States by featuring Indian, East Asian, or South-East Asian dishes with their own dishes.  This creates an inspired combination of regional fusion cuisine. The new African-American Cuisine is beginning to be a strong force in America.

Another incarnation of fusion cuisine is the more eclectic approach, featuring original dishes using varieties of ingredients from various cuisines and regions and combining them. Such restaurants are often trendy and have no singular thematic cohesion other than innovative eclecticism in their menus. Such a restaurant might feature a wide variety of dishes inspired by combinations of various regional cuisines with new ideas; this is known as The New American Cuisine. This idea incorporates all types of American and culture concepts under one umbrella. This new American Cuisine has also become part of the international evolution.

African American chefs, have been working closely with the hospitality industry to create some of the hottest dining spots for business travelers, tourists, local residents and celebrities nationwide. The flow of this cooking trend has started to spill over into global regions worldwide and is expected to continue to develop new ideas of fusion cuisine with international acceptance for many years to come. While this development is occurring, the testing of innovated, creative and healthier food preparation is becoming a big part of the new African-American Cuisine wellness programs.

Atlantic Salmon with Spinach & Coconut Citrus Vinaigrette

1/4 – cup water

1/4 – cup unsalted butter

5 tablespoons virgin olive oil

1-1/4 lb fresh spinach  (clean, trimmed)

Salt and Pepper

4 – 5 oz. Salmon filets

Juice of 1/2 fresh orange

Juice of 1/2 fresh lemon

Juice of1/4 fresh coconut

1/4 cup clear fish or chicken stock

In a large saucepan over high heat, combine the water, butter and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Once the butter has melted completely, add the spinach leaves and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook, stirring ever 20-30 seconds, until wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside, covered.

In a large sauté pan over high heat, warm 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Sprinkle both sides filets with salt and pepper to taste. Place the salmon filets in the hot pan and cook, turning once, until done to your liking, 1-2 minutes on each side for medium-rare. Transfer the fish steak to a plate and cover to keep warm.

In a small bowl, stir together the orange, lemon and coconut juice. Pour off any oil remaining in the sauté pan and place over high heat. When pan is hot, pour in the citrus juices and deglaze by stirring to dislodge any browned bits from the pan bottom. Boil until the liquid is reduce by half, then add the fish stock or chicken stock and salt and pepper to taste. Return to boil and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Remove from the heat.

Drain the spinach in a sieve and divide equally among warned individual plates. Place the salmon filets on top of the spinach and spoon the citrus mixture evenly over the filets. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

California Shrimp and Asparagus Gumbo

1/4 C vegetable oil

2 scallions, chopped

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch cubes

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp. dried thyme

1 bay leaf

1 tsp. Gumbo filé

2 C chicken or fish stock

1/2 C Cajun style sausage cut into 1/4-inch cubes

8 Med Asparagus cut in thirds

12 medium Shrimp

1/2 C minced parsley

Cayenne pepper to taste

In large pot combine oil, sausage and flour. Cook over medium heat stirring constantly until roux taste has cooked out. Add bell pepper, onion, and garlic. Sauté for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Slowly add stock, stirring continously. Add bay leaves, thyme and filé powder seasoning. Add Shrimp and Asparagus cook for 2 minutes, top with parsley and serve with rice.

Yield: 4 servings

Chef Bunns Southern Mixed Greens

2 qt. smoked Turkey Bone stock (see recipe)

2 bunches collard greens, stems removed

2 bunches mustard greens, stems removed

2 bunches turnip greens, stems removed

1/2 C chopped onion

1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 tsp. salt (optional)

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Bring stock to boil, add greens, onion and red pepper flakes and cook 20- 30 minutes or until greens are tender but crisp. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Makes 8 Servings

Turkey Bone Stock
2 pounds smoked turkey neck split

2 qt. water

1 rib celery coarsely chopped

1 med. carrot coarsely chopped

1 med. onion coarsely chopped

1 sprig fresh thyme

3 peppercorns

1 T season salt to taste (optional)

In a large stockpot, combine the turkey necks, water, celery, carrot, onion, thyme, peppercorns, and seasoned salt. Cover and simmer for 1/2 to 1 hours. Strain the stock, remove the turkey bones and discard the bones. Dice the meat and reserve it to add to greens, vegetables or soup. Cool and refrigerate. Will keep 3 days if refrigerated, can be frozen.

Makes 2 quarts.