Honey’s Sit’ N’ Eat: Texan-Jewish Fusion Brunch

It was a sunny fall Saturday, we’d slept in late after an exhausting week, and we’d heard great things about the newly reopened Silk City Diner in Northern Liberties, so Joe and I waited for the number 5 bus and schlepped over to Spring Garden St. We arrived at Silk City at 3:50 pm, salivating with anticipation, only to be told that they were closed already and would reopen at 5. There was no sign to tell hungry potential diners they were out of luck, of course.

I’m generally a friendly, easygoing person, but don’t get between me and food. It’s just a bad idea. We made our unhappy way up the street to Honey’s Sit’N’Eat and arrived at the stroke of four, just at closing time. We weren’t expecting to get anything to eat, but popped our heads in anyway, and a friendly, bearded server told us that if we ordered quickly we could still eat.

We both ordered chicken-fried steak, which came with gravy, two eggs, a potato latke and a buttermilk biscuit. Yes, a potato latke. Honey’s is run by Jewish foodies from Texas, and the cultural combination makes for a fascinating and eclectic menu— beef brisket and biscuits and gravy share space with Mexican breakfast dishes and matzo ball soup. Our latkes tasted and looked more like spicy hash browns, but they blended well with the slightly spicy gravy and savory buttermilk biscuit. And oh, the chicken-fried steak…

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Carolina Fried Corn Cakes

This is a classic recipe from the Horne side of the family in Backswamp, North Carolina.  These corn cakes were always my absolute favorite growing up.  Grammy made them all the time, and when her sister, Aunt Reba, would visit I’d always beg her to make them– she’s the one who taught Grammy.  They’re really simple and cheap– this is what gastronomes call ‘peasant food’.  If corn and pigs are what you have, this is a lot cheaper and easier than baking bread!  They go with just about anything– and, added bonus, they’re gluten free and dairy free!

Ingredients:

Water

1 cup or so cornmeal (regular or roasted.  Grammy brings ‘real cornmeal’ back with her every time she and Grandpa visit the kinfolk in NC.)

You can increase/decrease the amount of cornmeal depending on how much you want.  Slowly add water, stirring, until you have a thin, soupy batter.   If you think it’s too thin, it’s probably just right. 

Heat oil in a pan.  (Bacon fat in there wouldn’t hurt the flavor, either, especially if you’re having these with breakfast.  I’m pretty sure that when Grammy was a kid these were cooked in lard.)  The cast iron pan is good for this.  When it’s nice and hot, spoon batter into the pan.  One spoonful should give you a nice little 3-inch cake– you don’t want to go too big.  The batter will spread out and the oil will bubble up through it, creating a very thin, lacy pancake.  You can probably fit three in the pan at a time.  Cook until golden brown.  Keep an eye on these, since they cook very quickly.  What you’re after here is a thin, delicate pancake that’s crispy and brown on the edges and spongy and golden in the middle.  (If you use roasted cornmeal, it will be darker in color.)  When crispy, lift out with a slotted spatula and move to a plate with a folded paper towel on it, to soak up the oil.  Sprinkle kosher salt over them immediately– it will be soaked up quickly.

In my family we traditionally eat these as a side dish with dinner, along with meat and a vegetable.  They’re also really good in the morning with eggs and bacon (and if you want to be unorthodox, some chipotle sauce, for which I will give you the recipe sometime this weekend).  They’re easy and quick and quite adaptable, so you can get creative and serve them however you want– with beans and rice, with ceviche, as tostadas…. the possibilities are endless.

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