Cast Iron

Skillet Scallions From Edna Lewis

June 23, 2020
Photo by Kristen Miglore
Author Notes

This recipe, for once, doesn’t end with “salt to taste.” In fact, you’ll see the last line specifically says, “No salt or pepper will be needed,” the graceful words of the late Southern cooking champion Edna Lewis. She was of course right, and this simple, immediate Southern side dish needs nothing more than two ingredients: scallions and butter.

In The Taste of Country Cooking, Edna Lewis writes, “Scallions, like asparagus, are a wonderful spring vegetable and they are a good change. They are tempting to look at, have a mild and interesting flavor, and they go particularly well with veal kidneys, as well as with mutton, steak, and chops.” In the book, she served them on a menu called “An Early Summer Dinner” alongside sautéed veal kidney, spoon bread, a salad of Simpson lettuce and young beet tops, strawberries and cream, and sponge cake.

A few tips: This technique will work well with whatever amount of scallions you have or would like to eat. Though the original recipe calls for four bunches, in Edna Lewis’s following cookbook In Pursuit of Flavor, she describes the scallions she likes to buy as smaller than the average grocery store scallion today: “In my opinion, they are an underused vegetable and taste almost as good today as they did years ago. I buy scallions that are about the size of a pencil but if they are a little thicker they still taste good.” If yours are larger, feel free to use fewer bunches, and you may want to cook them an extra minute or two. If your skillet does not have a lid, feel free to improvise with a baking sheet or another larger skillet to cover and steam the scallions.

Recipe adapted from The Taste of Country Cooking (Knopf, May 1976).

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Skillet Scallions From Edna Lewis
  • Prep time 5 minutes
  • Cook time 5 minutes
  • Serves 5 as a side dish
  • 4 bunches scallions (or as many as you’d like to cook, see Author’s Note above)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
In This Recipe
  1. Prepare the scallions by picking off any yellow stems. Cut away the fibrous roots from the bottom. Wash in cold water under tap, then cut the tops down to fit the skillet. Heat the skillet and add the butter. When the foaming stage is reached, put in the scallions. The few drops of water left on the scallions from washing are enough for steaming. Cover the skillet and cook over medium heat. Turn them over after about 3 minutes. Total cooking time is 4 to 5 minutes. Be careful not to overcook; the white part should be a bit crisp, the tops tender, shiny, and green. No salt or pepper will be needed.

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