BRESS ‘N’ NYAM: Gullah Geechee Recipes from a Sixth-Generation Farmer
Matthew Raiford with Amy Paige Condon
May 11, 2021
Matthew Raiford with Amy Paige Condon
May 11, 2021
Matthew Raiford grew up breaking the dirt and trading crookneck squash for sweet potatoes, raising hogs and chickens, and only going to the grocery store for sundries. A chef, certified ecological horticulturalist, veteran, and owner of Gilliard Farms, Raiford was named a 2018 James Beard Award semifinalist, and has been featured in the New York Times, Southern Living, and more.
More than 100 heirloom recipes from a dynamic chef and farmer working the lands of his great-great-great grandfather. From Hot Buttermilk Biscuits and Sweet Potato Pie to Salmon Cakes on Pepper Rice and Gullah Fish Stew, Gullah Geechee food is an essential cuisine of American history. It is the culinary representation of the ocean, rivers, and rich fertile loam in and around the coastal South. From the Carolinas to Georgia and Florida, this is where descendants of enslaved Africans came together to make extraordinary food, speaking the African Creole language called Gullah Geechee. In this groundbreaking and beautiful cookbook, Matthew Raiford pays homage to this cuisine that nurtured his family for seven generations. In 2010, Raiford’s Nana handed over the deed to the family farm to him and his sister, and Raiford rose to the occasion, nurturing the farm that his great-great-great grandfather, a freed slave, purchased in 1874. In this collection of heritage and updated recipes, he traces a history of community and family brought together by food.
When folks think of coastal Georgia food, they think of shrimp and grits. That dish is definitely indicative of the Saltwater Gullah and Geechee who lived on the Sea Islands. They most often made the dish with a rich brown gravy or roux, much more akin to a gumbo. Freshwater—or mainland—Geechee, like my family, made something closer to a jambalaya, no okra but richly flavored with tomatoes and red pepper. The rice, of course, stretches it. For me, my mom’s shrimp creole, a recipe handed down through the family, is a comfort food.
In a large cast-iron skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the onions and garlic, and sauté until golden brown, about 5 minutes.
Add the peppers, tomato puree, red pepper flakes, and rice, stirring until well combined. Pour the stock in slowly to prevent splattering, as the pan will be hot, then bring the creole to a boil. Once boiling, stir, cover, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.
Remove the cover, add the shrimp, and give the rice a good stir. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes more, until all the liquid is absorbed and the shrimp have pinked and curled. Before serving, taste and add salt and pepper to your liking. Serve and enjoy.
Makes 2 quarts
Pour the water in a large stockpot and set aside.
Rinse and drain the shrimp shells. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat and toss the shrimp shells for 2 minutes. Add the onions, carrots, and celery and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes more.
Add the shrimp shells and vegetables to the stockpot, then toss in the lemon, bay leaves, thyme, salt, and pepper. Bring the stock to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 40 minutes. Remove from the heat, then strain the stock through a cheesecloth-lined sieve into quart- or pint-sized containers. Cool the stock completely, then refrigerate for up to 2 weeks or freeze for later use.
Makes 12 cakes
When the fish weren’t biting, my great-grandmother Florine would have canned salmon on hand. She’d mix it with bread crumbs and finely diced onions and peppers to make these little croquettes. My Nana and my mom did likewise. They would serve them with a healthy side of tartar sauce for an inexpensive seafood dinner. Later on, when I made staff meals, I would save the sweet-savory meat from the tail pieces of salmon and make these hearty cakes that were inspired by my family’s recipe, and I’d serve them with chili-powder-infused rice. Full of protein and carbs, they helped us power through the night’s service.
Heat the oil in a deep cast-iron skillet or pan on high heat until it reaches 375°F.
If using fresh salmon, grind it and the salt in a food processor until it is a fine, flaky meat.
In a bowl, combine the salmon, pepper, egg, flour, and scallions. With a small ice cream scoop or tablespoon, take 4 ounces of the salmon mixture and shape it into a cake. Repeat until all cakes are made.
Place the cakes into the oil and cook until golden brown on each side. For canned salmon, approximately 2 minutes per side; for fresh salmon, 4 minutes per side. Drain the cakes on paper towels, then serve on a bed of pepper rice.
Serves 4 to 6
In a medium saucepan with a lid, add the water and salt, then bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Add the rice and peppers, turn the heat down to a simmer, cover, and cook the rice without stirring. Once the water is fully absorbed and the rice is tender, approximately 18 to 20 minutes, remove from the heat and fluff with a fork.
Excerpted from Bress ‘n’ Nyam: Gullah Geechee Recipes from a Sixth-Generation Farmer. Copyright © 2021 CheFarmer Matthew Raiford and Amy Paige Condon. Photography © 2021 by Siobhán Egan. Reproduced by permission of The Countryman Press, a Division of W.W. Norton & Company. All rights reserved.
Contact: Nicholas Teodoro