Edna Lewis — whose The Taste of Country Cooking has become an American classic — and Alabama-born chef Scott Peacock pool their unusual cooking talents to give us this unique cookbook. The book combines Lewis’s Virginia country cooking and Peacock’s inventive and sensitive blending of new tastes with the Alabama foods he grew up on, liberally seasoned with Native American, Caribbean, and African influences. Together, they have taken neglected traditional recipes unearthed in their years of research together on Southern food and worked out new versions that they have made their own.
Every page of this beguiling book bears the unmistakable mark of being written by real hands-on cooks. Lewis and Peacock share their secrets for such Southern basics as pan-fried chicken (soak in brine first, then buttermilk, before frying in good pork fat), creamy grits (cook slowly in milk), and genuine Southern biscuits, which depend on using soft flour, homemade baking powder, and fine, fresh lard (and on not twisting the biscuit cutter when you stamp out the dough).
Peacock describes how Lewis makes soup by coaxing the essence of flavor from vegetables (the She-Crab and Turtle soups taste so rich they can be served in small portions in demitasse cups), and he applies the same principle to his intensely flavored, scrumptious dish of Garlic Braised Shoulder Lamb Chops with Butter Beans and Tomatoes. You’ll find all these treasures and more before you even get to the superb cakes (potential “Cakewalk Winners” all), the hand-cranked ice creams, the flaky pies, and homey custards and puddings.
Above all, the Southern table stands for hospitality, and the authors demonstrate that the way everything is put together — with the condiments and relishes and preserves and wealth of vegetables all spread out on the table — is what makes the meal uniquely Southern.
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