Eat This While You Read That: Kelly Grayson

I’m back, folks, with more food, more books, and more pretty pictures for you to drool over. The new house has a great kitchen, good natural light for the photos, and best of all… I have the time to help promote my friends and fellow authors. 

Kelly Grayson is a very good writer, and a superb raconteur. If you ever get a chance to catch him telling tales at a con, do so, (now that he’s also writing fiction) but don’t be drinking anything because rum & coke through the sinuses is not good. The book he and I recommend with this meal is fiction, but heavily based in reality. You’ll see why the Southern comfort food when you look at the blurb of Perspectives Volume 1: An Emergency Medicine and Public Safety Anthology. It’s a weighty topic, but written in a very approachable way.

I met Kelly in person at TulKon this spring, and shortly thereafter asked him my usual question: the name of a dish he enjoys, and the title of the book he would like to promote. I expected Perspectives as it was recently released and could use more exposure. I had to laugh when I got: 

Smothered Pork Chops

Mashed Potatoes

Purple Hull Peas

Cornbread

Pecan Pie 

A complete meal! And furthermore, that calls out for Sunday Dinner. Only thing I had to do was research Purple Hull Peas, since this northern girl had never heard of them before. Turns out they are the milder, creamier version of Black-eyed peas. A little harder to find, but worth the effort. I secured a bag of them frozen, as they were out of season.

Smothered Pork Chops

  • However many pork chops you need for the family – I had six, so scale the sauce recipe accordingly. 
  • 1 1/2 large onions, sliced lengthwise into slivers
  • 1 c heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp whole-grain mustard
  • Bacon grease

In a large cast iron skillet, heat the bacon grease at a medium heat. When hot, add in the sliced onions, and allow to cook low and slow for about twenty minutes, stirring occasionally.

While this is starting, go ahead with the peas. I used my instantpot here, to keep the meal’s prep time under an hour. Also, preheat your oven to 425F and put a small cast iron pan in, with a couple tablespoons of bacon grease in it. 

Purple Hull Peas

  • 1 bag (1 lb 12 oz) frozen purple Hull Peas
  • 4 slices bacon, snipped finely
  • 1/2 onion, diced finely 
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • salt to taste (my homemade stock is unsalted, but with boullion or a commercial broth you may want to omit this)

Set the InstantPot to saute, and fry the bacon until crispy. Add in the onion and saute until this is translucent. Stir in broth, being sure to loosen all the good crispy bits from the bottom of the pan, then add in frozen peas, with stirring. 

Set this to high pressure for 30 min. When the cycle is done, allow to naturally release for 10 min, then manually release the remaining pressure. Stir, taste, adjust salt, and serve. 

Mashed Potatoes

  • As many potatoes as you need (I made up enough to feed 4-6, or two adults and a teenager)
  • Sour cream (about 4 oz) 
  • 4 oz butter
  • 2 tsp horseradish
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Milk to preferred consistency
  • optional: snipped chives to top

Peel, roughly cut up potatoes, and place in a big pot. Cover with water, then put on the stove, turning the burner to high. Salt the water just a little. 

Cornbread

  • 1 c self-rising cornmeal 
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Enough Milk to make the batter (thicker than pancakes, not so thick as biscuits)

In a bowl, mix up ingredients. Carefully remove cast iron pan (we use a small skillet that is about 8 in diameter, it’s too old to have any markings other than the sand cast. In our house, it’s simply the cornbread pan) from oven and pour hot grease into the batter. Stir well, then pour batter into hot pan. Return to oven to bake for about 20 minutes (until toothpick comes out cleanly). 

Meanwhile, when the onions are done, remove them from the pan, leaving as much grease as possible, turn up the heat to med-high, and start the pork chops (note: I tend to use boneless chops cut from the loin, and they are usually as thick as to the first joint of my index finger, so about 3/4″, for thin-cut chops you’d want to time your cook a little later than this stage). 

When potatoes are ready to be mashed (the pieces will allow you to break them up with a wooden spoon), drain, and mash with remaining above ingredients. Every family seems to like a different consistency, so the milk can be upped, or reduced, according to your preference. The First Reader likes his whipped, but when I make them I just mash with an old-school wavy masher. 

I season the pork chops very lightly while they are cooking, as they’ll be served with the sauce. Once they are done, remove them to a plate to rest while you make the sauce. Starting with the pan drippings (you’ll waste nothing in this meal. Nothing! LOL and there will be bacon throughout) whisk in the cream, mustard, and keep whisking as the cream bubbles up. When the sauce is thickened, season to taste and fold the caramelized onions back in. 

Serve it all with butter for the cornbread, sliced fresh tomatoes, and an RC cola. Ok, that last if you’re the First Reader. This whole meal takes about an hour to bring from start to table, and it’s a rather choreographed production, but eminently doable even as a one-woman show. 

Comfort food, while  you read about the comfort of the men and women who care for us in our darkest hours. Food is love, and food is the one thing that you can do, sometimes. It’s all gone to pot, and in that pot are peas. 

If you have room after all of that, there’s pecan pie! 

Black-Bottom Pecan Pie

So, if you aren’t a fan of molasses, you’ll want to give this one a miss. However, it is a bit of a hybrid between the Shoo-Fly Pie of my adolescence, and the familiar buttery pecan pie. I have a feeling it will strike some of you as a new and interesting take on the classic. 

  • Single Pie Crust 
  • 1/2 c Dark Corn Syrup
  • 1/4 c molasses
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 tbsp melted butter
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • pinch lemon zest
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 c pecan halves

Preheat oven to 425F

Put your piecrust in a 9″ pan and flute the edges

Mix together everything else but the pecans, stirring briskly without beating your eggs frothy. Place your pecans in the pie crust, then pour over the batter. 

Bake at 425F for 10 minutes, then reduce to 350F for another 30 minutes, until there is no jiggle in the center when the pan is moved. Allow to cool to room temperature (takes longer than you think, especially in summer) cut into thin wedges and serve. Very good with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

And a good thing to keep you remembering the warmth and sweetness in life as you read Perspectives. 

You can find the rest of the Eat This While You Read That recipes and books here, in chronological and no other order.