Big Jones offers Southern dishes, dose of history

March 2, 2012 8:51:43 PM PST
They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but Big Jones is banking on lunch.

Most chefs worry about keeping up with trends. But Paul Fehribach is content to look back.

His Andersonville restaurant that's loaded with Southern regional dishes, and a dose of history, he's currently looking at what lunch might have been like 80 years ago.

"Really what we tried to do was create a lunch that represented the sort of comfort, the sort of value that you would have experienced on the road staying at a boarding house," Fehribach said.

"It was always served family style; plated lunches didn't exist."

Lunch starts off with cornbread and biscuits. The latter are made with buttermilk, and just barely kneaded and cut out by hand. Baked until slightly brown, they're outstanding with a pat of butter.

Fried chicken is, of course, the centerpiece. Using Amish chickens from Indiana, he brines them overnight in dried onion, sage, salt, crushed red pepper and a bit of vinegar. When an order comes in, he dredges the pieces in seasoned flour, and then fries them in lard, a nod to the legendary Edna Lewis recipe.

"When I grew up we fried chicken in lard," Fehribach said. "But she would use lard, and then you throw a ham bone in there to season it and a stick of butter."

After about 15 to 20 minutes, the chicken is removed, drained and the sides are assembled. Mashed potatoes are heated in a skillet, plated, and then given a giant crater which is filled with a deep, dark gumbo gravy; next comes white rice, buried beneath a mound of black-eyed peas.

"The black-eyed peas, Hoppin' John, is an iconic dish of the Carolina Low Country," said Fehribach. "But you really wouldn't think of having a Southern meal without peas and rice."

If that wasn't enough, stewed collard greens with mushrooms and smoked onions complete the feast. Then there's dessert: vanilla ice cream and pound cake, infused with the slightest hint of citron and drizzled with chocolate, although toppings will change depending on the season.

"A couple hundred years ago, certainly during the antebellum period, almost every Southern plantation would have had a citron tree they would use to flavor things."

Here's the kicker, the Boarding House lunch costs $16 per person; kids under 12 pay just a dollar per year, and after a lunch this massive you're going to need a nap.