‘Top Chef – The Quickfire Cookbook’
by Emily Miller with foreword by Padma Lakshmi
Chronicle Books — 2009
It’s Padma’s world. The rest of us just cook in it — just mostly without a gigantic LED countdown clock, a dozen cleaver-wielding competitors jockeying for prep space and a mandate to make haute nibbles from the contents of a 7-Eleven’s snack aisle. But if that’s what cremes your brulee and you haven’t the tats, ‘tude and temerity to audition for competitive reality TV, you can live vicariously through this book.
Or you can just go online and save the $29.95.
‘My New Orleans – The Cookbook: 200 of My Favorite Recipes from My Hometown’
By John Besh
Photographs by Ditte Isager
Andrews McMeel — 2009
Chef John Besh’s magnum opus on the food of his hometown could easily be mistaken for a coffee table-style photography book edited by someone with one heck of a food fetish. That’d be only partially correct.
Besh celebrates and contextualizes New Orleans cuisine within a reverent, passionate travelogue and memoir based around the ingredients and food rituals of a full year in the Big Easy. In this 374-page volume, the chef, restaurateur (including August, Lüke, Besh Steak, Domenica, La Provence and the upcoming the American Sector at the National WWII Museum), “Next Iron Chef” contender, former Marine and father of four weaves an intimate, illustrated narrative of a life lived deliciously in one of the world’s most important food cities.
‘Putting Up: A Seasonal Guide to Canning in the Southern Tradition’
by Stephen Palmer Dowdney
Gibbs Smith — 2008
You know how your friend’s cousin’s boyfriend’s grandma, like, totally killed a neighbor by innocently giving her a batch of her home-canned beans that oops, turned out to have a touch of the botulism? That’s never going to happen to you. Not on Steve Dowdney’s watch.
This can-vangelist has culled years of his own know-how, as well as the collective wisdom of generations of Southern cooks, into a rigorous, nigh-on religious canning primer. The recipes are solid — almost a shade clinical — but the opening chapter, packed with equipment tips, altitude and pH charts, preparation terms and step-by-step best practices, could be a stand-alone manual, not to mention the only one you’d ever need to buy.
Paula Deen may be television royalty, but the queen of Southern cuisine wasn’t born with a slew of books, a suite of restaurants, a trio of TV shows or a line of gourmet goodies to her name. In fact, at age 40, the Emmy-winning cook was a struggling, single mother who not only hadn’t yet started down her career path — she was afraid to even walk out her front door. She and her husband Michael Groover sat down for a video interview with me to share the story of her remarkable journey and his delicious life with Paula Deen.
AOL Food: Who taught you how to love food?
Paula Deen: I don’t know if I can say one person that taught me the love of food. My Daddy certainly loved food. My grandmother certainly loved food. She loved food so much that that was she and my grandfather’s business. They were in the food and lodging business, so food was going on all the time. My mother was a fabulous cook and my daddy over-served himself many, many, many times on my mother’s cooking. My brother loves to eat so I’d almost say it’s a family affair.
I’m stingy with my smoke.
Not in a "don’t bogart that can, man" way. Just that if I’m going to go to all the trouble of stoking a hardwood lump charcoal fire, obsessively monitoring its low-‘n-slow-ness for a goodly chunk of the day, feeding its greedy gut with beer-soaked mesquite and hickory chunks at half-hour intervals all for the sake of an albeit fabulous brisket or pork shoulder, I’m gonna want a bit more return on the investment.
Here’s where foil pans of salt, cherries and lemons come in. Since lid-lifting is anathema to efficient meat smoking, I use natural intervals — when I’m replenishing coals or chips — to slip trays of salt, halved lemons, limes or de-stemmed cherries onto the top rack of my Char-Griller barrel smoker. As I’m almost comically obsessive about not letting the temperature crest 225 degrees, there’s not much fret about losing juice to evaporation and the flesh and rinds pick up the deep, mellow flavors of woody smoke.
Sweet, smoked cherries lend a low, charred note to a perfect Manhattan and long-smoked Kosher salt on the rim of a Margarita glass creates a luscious, briny wash with every sip.
But when life hands you smoked lemons, there’s really just one thing to do.
Ever whip up a dish that’s so madly yummy you wanna feed it to everyone you’ve ever met? This is one of those.
Yup, Easter’s already hopped on by, but who says that’s the only ham-appropriate occasion? We’d unexpectedly received a smoked, bone-in ten-pounder as lagniappe for being loyal grocery store shoppers, and while we were old hands at prepping its hard, salty country cousin, we’d never actually baked and glazed a city ham. We’ve long been inspired by Aretha Franklin’s ginger ale doused Queen of Soul Ham and have heard tell of a Coca-Cola ham or two, though have never had the pleasure of sampling one.
A tad loath to leave the house and brave the holiday supermarket fray, we took stock of what was on hand. Diet drinks weren’t gonna cut the mustard, husband would flip if we drained his precious Pepsi stash, tonic was a tad depressing, then lo and behold — Cheerwine! We’d hauled back cases of the distinctive cherry soda when last we hit the Tarheel State, and had been holding out for a special occasion to dip into the stash.
I’m not gonna lie — I’m rough on my books. There’s a school of thought treating the physical manifestation of the written word as a sacred object, and I fully respect that. However I, for one, shove an old copy of “How to Cook a Wolf” into the bottom of my bag with the notion that at some point it’ll sustain me on an overextended subway ride. I read “The Devil in the Kitchen” in the bathtub, A.J. Liebling over a lunchtime reuben, and good gosh a-mighty are my cookbooks covered in shmutz.
But hey, it’s thematic goo; “Molto Italiano” is spattered in tomato sauce, “Pie” — seen here — is all a-smear in lard, “Charleston Receipts” in Otranto Club Punch and “Staff Meals from Chanterelle” slicked with a fine mist of rendered rind bacon. To my mind, these books are being honored, used, proven. Should these books at some point have a subsequent owner, they’ll know what’s been tested, made and made again.
Still, am I dishonoring the object or the authors when I’m getting the books all mucky? I posed the question to Matthew Lee (whose book “The Lee Bros. Southern Cooking” I’ve doused in all manner of pickling brine), and he noted that he and his co-author, his brother Ted have debated pre-mucking-up copies of their book to nix the blank canvas factor. The recipes therein are warm of heart and humble of origin, so it’s not out of character, but would, say, a gellan-gumming of Grant Achatz’s “Alinea” be a crime against the rather expensive and exceptionally lovely object?
Do you keep your cookbooks in pristine condition, or do you just accept page stains as collateral damage?
Originally published on Slashfood
Happy New Year, all! Hope everyone had a warm, festive Eve and is relatively headache-free and rested post-revelry. Now, there are as many ways to prepare the cowpea and rice concoction of Hoppin’ John as there are squares on a calendar, but in many parts of the American South, the definitive date to simmer up a big ol’ pot of it is New Year’s Day. While the name’s origin is still the subject of some debate — some scholars asserting that it’s a corruption of “pois a pigeon,” a Carribean dish enjoyed by Southern slaves while still in their native land, and others claiming it’s derived from a 13th century Iraqi dish called “bhat kachang” — the dish’s fans maintain that eating it ensures good luck for the coming year. This may well be superstition, but I’m inclined toward any angle that’s gonna get a bowlful of it in front of me on a chilly January 1st.
My grand revelation of the day (though likely hardly news to many of you) is that cowpeas are the genus for the group that contains blackeye peas (most commonly used in Hoppin’ John), catjang, and yardlong beans. They’re also called crowder peas.
Some recipes for Hoppin’ John contain tomatoes or okra, and the swap in of okra for the beans makes it a Limpin’ Susie.
Got a favorite variation? Share it below, and peruse my favorite recipe after the jump.