New cookbooks celebrate Southern cuisine in old and new ways
Southern food is getting its due. Journalists and chefs extol the region’s home cooking. James Beard Foundation Awards, the culinary Nobel Prizes, bestowed on Southern chefs and writers have further elevated its status. The following cookbooks celebrate it. Dig in.
“Pickles, Pigs, and Whiskey: Recipes from My Three Favorite Food Groups (and then some).” A delightful guy with a robust personality, the Twitter handle @Bigbadchef, and the nickname “Johnny Snack,” John Currence hails from New Orleans, cooked in top-tier kitchens but made Oxford, Miss., his home.
Currence’s James Beard Best Chef South award didn’t surprise anyone who knows the Southern Foodways Alliance devotee. He has been instrumental in turning Oxford into a food mecca, creating five very popular dining and drinking establishments there: City Grocery, Boure, Big Bad Breakfast, Snackbar and The Main Event.
The recipes in “Pickles, Pigs, and Whiskey,” says Currence, “reference points all over the globe, but they all reflect influences that have formed the food of the South. Complex, intelligent, and at times altogether healthy, that food is far from what some people would have you believe. This is my interpretation of it.”
Currence organizes the 130 recipes by 10 different techniques. They begin — and why not! — with libations in Stirring, Shaking, & Muddling; move through stocks and soups in Boiling & Simmering; and putting-up in Pickling & Canning; to spreads and sauces in Slathering, Squirting & Smearing; pork, fowl, and meat pies in Curing, Preserving & Stuffing; and almost everything in Frying, Sauteing & Searing, Roasting & Braising, and Brining & Smoking. Desserts come last, but far from least, in Baking & Spinning (ice cream).
Currence is quoted as saying “I’d rather punch you in the mouth with fantastic flavors than poke you in the eye with fancy presentation,” no slight meant to Angie Mosier’s exceptional photography. And flavor you will get, from Chicken-Fried Duck With Caramelized Onion Gravy to Lemon-Pickled Honey Crisp Apples to Spicy Hill Country Meat Pies With Sriracha Mayo.
Still, Currence’s book signals that it was written by a born-and-bred Southerner, hence the inclusion of down-home favorite flavors found in Bourbon Milk Punch, Homemade “Duke’s” Mayonnaise, Confit of Chicken Gizzards with Herbed Buttermilk Biscuits and Grainy Mustard, Pimiento Cheese Fritters, and Grillades and Grits Casserole, to name a few.
With this column you will find how to get a taste for yourself when Currence comes to Charleston next week. Hardcover. Andrews McMeel Publishing. $40.
“Summerland: Recipes for Celebrating With Southern Hospitality.” No less Southern culinary royalty is Atlanta chef and restaurateur Anne Stiles Quatrano. With husband Clifford Harrison, she founded and operates the acclaimed Bacchanalia, Floataway Cafe, Quinones and Abattoir restaurants, as well as the fabulous cooking-central marketplace, Star Provisions.
In Quatrano’s family for five generations, Summerland Farm serves as their home, the source of much of the produce for their restaurants, and the setting for many of the outdoor events in the book. It makes sense, then, that the focus of the book is on the seasons with entertaining menus for each month and photography to suggest ways to stage them.
“Summerland” begins its year in September with the chapter From Pasture to Plate: A Celebration of the Pig, dedicated “to the process of butchering, curing, and serving the whole animal.”
October finds us in The Old Red Barn for An Autumn Repast of quail and fall vegetables. Thanksgiving is the star of the November chapter, replete with a bountiful feast.
And so the calendar moves, ending in August with The Dog Days of Summer: A Fig Feed. This menu typifies Quatrano’s delicate, detailed way with food. It begins with Sauternes to accompany a Crostini of Fig, Caramelized Onions, and Lonzino and Wood Oven-Roasted Whole Foie Gras.
The Poached Shrimp, Melon, and Chile Soups calls for a Viognier. A dry Riesling pairs with the Chicken Roulades With Fig Stuffing and the Summer Vegetable Succotash. The finale is fantastic: Crottin de Chavignol Cheese with Tupelo Honey and Celeste Figs, Yogurt Parfait With Fig Gelee and Peanut Brittle, and Fig Clafoutis. A true Southern summer feast. Hardcover. Rizzoli. $39.95.
“Bourbon” and “Biscuits” are two more members of the Savor the South series from the University of North Carolina Press. Charlotte Observer food editor Kathleen Purvis penned “Bourbon,” beginning with a walk through the history and how-to of this quintessential Southern whiskey.
Naturally, the recipes include cocktails and desserts, but Purvis also has developed tasty savory uses for bourbon, ranging from appetizers to main dishes and sides.
“Biscuits” author and expert Belinda Ellis delivers the perfect accompaniment, offering a parade of these classic Southern quick breads.
Additionally, Ellis serves up stuffed biscuits and bakes up biscuit dough into a pie crust, breakfast casserole, shortcake, scone, cinnamon roll, cobbler and bread pudding. Hardcovers. $18. Each. University of North Carolina Press.
Reach Marion Sullivan at email@example.com.