by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez / Friday, February 24, 2012
50 Women Game-Changers (in Food): #36 Edna Lewis - Braised Beef Short Ribs w/ Whipped Rutabaga
In 1948, she opened a restaurant with John Nicholson in Manhattan on East 57th Street called Café Nicholson. Her simple, delicious Southern food (she was the chef) attracted regular famous faces such as Truman Capote, Gloria Vanderbilt, Tennessee Williams, Marlene Dietrich, and Richard Avedon (husband of Dorcas Avedon whom she had worked for when she was a seamstress and created a couple of dresses for Marilyn Monroe). Edna stayed with Café Nicholson until 1954.
When she broke her leg in the late 1960's, she had to take a break from restaurants and in this time began writing down her recipes, which resulted in the Edna Lewis Cookbook (praised by both James Beard and M.F.K. Fisher). She followed up with The Taste of Country Cooking, In Pursuit of Flavor, and finally The Gift of Southern Cooking which she wrote with Scott Peacock, another great Southern cook. The Gift of Southern Cooking was actually my first introduction to Lewis when I was fortunate enough to win a copy from Bo almost two years ago...I've been enamored ever since. Lewis was the first African American woman to reach a nationwide audience and is often credited for started a genuine spark of interest in Southern cooking. This is probably due to the fact that along with her good food, she includes personal history, reflections, and memoirs of her own life growing up and now. Lewis continued cooking in restaurants until she retired in 1992. She also taught cooking classes throughout her adult life and started the Society for the Revival and Preservation of Southern Food in the mid-90's with a group of friends.
- 8 beef short ribs (~4-4½ lb.)
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tsp. dried thyme
- ~¼ c. lard or vegetable oil
- 3 yellow onions (~4 c.), peeled & cut into wedges
- 3 bay leaves
- 20 whole cloves garlic, peeled
- 28 oz. canned whole tomatoes
- 1 c. beef stock
- ½ c. white wine
- ~2½ lb. rutabaga, peeled & cut into large chunks
- ~3 oz. butter, at room temperature
- 2-4 Tbs. heavy cream
- ground white pepper
- freshly ground nutmeg
sources: The Gift of Southern Cooking, Edna Lewis Biography, Wikipedia
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Michiana-based food, drink, and travel writer with a fondness for garlic, freshly baked bread, stinky cheese, single malt Scotch, and Mexican food—who believes that immersing herself in different cultures one bite at a time is the best path to enlightenment.