May 27, 2009


Not just a word used to describe the oppressive Southern summer heat. Smothering is also something that can be done to food.

Last week's entry was about Crawfish Etouffee, or smothered crawfish--a definitely Cajun dish. But Cajuns don't hold the deed to smothering. Smothered foods can be found all over the South. Vegetables like cabbage, potatoes, green beans (which are really fruit), okra (also fruit), and squash (again, fruit) can be smothered. Meats and poultry can be smothered too.

As I'm typing this, I'm (as one of my uncles would say)
fat, dumb, and happy after eating a lunch of smothered sausage over rice from
Ruby's Cafe in downtown Eunice.

Smothered dishes may just be the epitome of Southern country cookin' know...the "low & slow," hearty, soul-pleasin' kinda thing that comes straight outta Mawmaw's kitchen. No fancy or hard to find ingredients. Just simple, straight-forward, stripped bare food that you'd swear has a little magic thrown in. The type of thing Marcel Proust made a name for himself taste and you are sucked back into childhood, remembering all of those good, solid, comforting things.

I checked a few books devoted to culinary terms and was shocked (annoyed) to find the term "smother" neglected. But then the simple backwater ways of Southern folk are often dismissed. So, here's the best definition (I use the term loosely) I can come up with. When food is smothered it is usually first browned in a small amount of oil (or other fat source). This is especially true of meat and poultry. Onions are usually added. Sometimes bell pepper, celery and garlic, depending on the cook. A small amount of water is added to the pot after browning and the contents are simmered over a low heat for a somewhat lengthy amount of time. Especially by the watches of today's 30 minute meal crowd. At least an hour for smothered meats, preferably more.

This ain't fast and it sure ain't pretty when it's done. What matters is that it's tasty. And why wouldn't it be? First you caramelize the natural sugars in the food. Simply reading the word "caramelize" makes me start to drool. Then, you cook the hell out of it in its own juices along with onions, etc. until it is so tender you could feed it to a baby. Then, you either shake your head in disbelief over how good it is or cry over the amount of care and time put into it. Depends on how emotional you are. I'm a head shaker.

Smothered potatoes are a great side dish. But my husband came across a version of smothered potatoes--in some obscure email--that I like even more and use as an entree. Originally, this was supposed to be cooked in a rice cooker. But my thinking was that if I have to dirty a pot to brown everything in anyway, I may as well just continue using said pot to smother everything in too. I'm smart like that. Plus, I'm much too handsy with my food.

One note: tasso (tah-so) is used in this recipe. It's an ingredient common to S LA and may be difficult to locate in other places. It can be omitted...just add a bit more sausage. Tasso is a cured, seasoned, and highly smoked meat--traditionally pork, but can also be made from beef. Some people equate it to beef jerky, but that's not accurate at all. Some people think of it as a smokey sausage, but it isn't a sausage at all either. It gives an intense smoky flavor to jambalaya, red beans & rice, some seafood dishes, and sauces. It is used as a flavoring rather than eaten alone.

Smothered Potatoes with Andouille and Tasso
from Ms. enPlace

1 lb andouille sausage (or smoked pork sausage), diced into bite size pieces
1/2 lb tasso, diced into bite size pieces
2 lbs white or red potatoes, peeled and diced
7 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 tsp Cajun/Creole Seasoning, or to taste
3/4-1/2 stick of butter, cut into pieces
1 envelope of onion soup mix
2 cups water

Brown the andouille and tasso in a heavy pot. Add the onion and garlic and saute for a few minutes to soften. Add the potatoes and cook, stirring often, until browned. Add the remaining ingredients and stir well. Simmer for 45-50 minutes, or until potatoes are done.

The mise en place for Smothered Potatoes with Andouille and Tasso. I'm considering cutting back on the butter.

Brown the andouille (or smoked sausage) and tasso.

Add the onions and garlic and saute until soft. I don't know why, but for some dishes I prefer to slice the onions rather than chop. It really doesn't matter here, though.

Add the potatoes and cook, stirring often, until they get some color on 'em.

Add the rest of onion soup mix, Cajun seasoning, butter, and water. Stir together and simmer.

Keep simmering for about 45-50 minutes, or until potatoes are done. growing up, I always thought smothering referred to the food being "smothered" in an abundance of onions because my mom uses a ton of 'em. Someone recently told me that the term "smother" refers to smothering the whole dish by covering it. I don't cover this, but you're sure welcome to give it a shot.

Not so pretty. Especially if your potatoes get a little overdone. But it'll taste good. Head shakin' good.


  1. This looks like a terrific dish! Just stumbled upon your blog, it is lovely!Nice to meet you.

  2. Thanks, Donna! Nice to meet you too.

  3. I LOVE SMOTHERED anything! We had smothered potatoes every Friday in lent, with homemade biscuts and scrambled eggs. It was just potatoes/onions no meat. I have never had it with the sausage and tasso. I will definitely try this!


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