** Editor’s note: You’ve read about our favorites dishes of the year. Now it’s time to take a look at what some of the Little Rock top chefs enjoyed serving up in 2014. Special thanks to Matthew Bell of South on Main for sharing his Chef’s Best. Here it is in his own words.
Trotters are the first thing I really feel spoke to the identity of SOM. This is a classic example of how southerners do so much with so little. Pork feet and hocks are such a delicious part of the pig and this is our way of presenting them for everyone to enjoy. We have changed the way we serve them but the trotter remains the same. Tender chunks of pork feet and hock mixed with shallot, herbs, and dijon mustard.
Keeping with this theme of classic south our catfish hoppin’ john is one of my favorites. This is one of those classic dishes that has versions and variations as diverse as the south itself. We make ours slightly different by keeping the rice separate in the form of rice grits. We make tasso in house and use this to flavor the field peas. The other part that stands out is our use of pickled tomatoes. This acidic addition helps to cut the richness of the pork and peas.
Now we can talk a little about our take on the south. A dish that we have always loved is fried pickles. A good fried pickle is hard to beat. I love the burst of vinegar from behind the fried crust. This is one thing everyone can do. So then the question is how do you make it special. I think we have found a pretty good answer in pickled mushroom. This is one thing I am always surprised we don’t sell more of. If you like pickles and fried stuff this is your dish.
I think that the biggest challenge with a souther restaurant is to make a new or unique dish. Time will tell if this ever is a “thing”. Skillet bread makes me excited though. The toppings are ever changing but this idea is totally new south. With an ever growing Indian population I felt like a play on naan was in order. I hope to get this in front of more and more people until it catches on.
*Want to know how to make skillet bread? Check out our video.
Thank you for a chance to talk a little about what we do. I always love hearing about southern dishes I am not familiar with and taking a new approach to them. So if you ever see me and want to tell me about your family recipes and unique southern stories please stop and say hi.
*Photos via South on Main