The Glory of Southern Cooking: Recipes for the Best Beer-Battered Fried Chicken, Cracklin' Biscuits, Carolina Pulled Pork, Fried Okra, Kentucky Cheese Pudding, Hummingbird Cake, and Almost 400 Other Delectable Dishes Paperback – Aug 24 2012
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From Publishers Weekly
Villas, the former food and wine editor of Town & Country and the author of 12 cookbooks, explores the distinctive cuisine of Southern cooking. Villas sees Southern cookery as the only legitimate cuisine in this county, being on the same level with French and Italian home cooking. His collection spans the entirety of the Southern states, including recipes for such classics as fried chicken, pork barbecue, and grits and greens, and lesser known dishes such as Baked Oysters with Mustard Greens and Bacon, Nashville Turnip Greens with Ham Hock, and Memphis Casserole Cheese Bread. Recipes highlight the abundance of natural food ingredients found in the South as well as the multitude of ethnic influences that contributed to the cuisine's evolution. Chapters include Cocktail and Tea Foods; Soups, Chowders, and Gumbos; Rice and Grits; and Cornbread, Biscuits, Hush Puppies, and Other Breads. Villas also provides helpful sections on equipment, ingredients, special cooking techniques, and a glossary of terms for those unfamiliar with the cuisine. This is a solid primer for those who like comfort food or have an interest in Southern cooking. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Already well established as one of America's leading proponents of southern cooking, Villas has produced one of the great definitive volumes on a subject near and dear to the hearts and stomachs of a huge number of Americans. For Villas, southern cooking includes everything from Key West specialties to Cajun and Creole casserole, through Carolina low-country seafood and on up as far as Maryland. To Villas' great credit, he avoids using canned products except for in a very few recipes, such as a North Carolina eggplant casserole. Multiple fried chicken recipes reflect different geographic traditions and so do varieties of biscuits. Cakes, pastries, candies, and other sweets abound. Serious cooks will appreciate the host of pickles and other relishes for canning. A glossary helps the uninitiated rapidly find apt distinctions between angel biscuits and beaten biscuits, between Cajun and Creole cooking, and between a bog and a burgoo. Villas also provides mail-order sources for specialized southern foodstuffs. Mark Knoblauch
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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For those who don't know Villas, he is the author of thirteen (13) earlier books, the best of which are collections of his columns from `Town and Country' and other culinary and lifestyle magazines. As such, Villas has been researching the far corners of `Southern Cooking' for the better part of 40 years, largely from the same insider's point of view as his friend, Craig Claiborne. After all this time, Villas' great hypothesis, for which he offers this book as a verification, is that the cuisine of the American South is as rich, diverse, and as involved as those of France, Italy, or China.
Many writers have approached `Southern Cuisine' from the bottom up, such as Edna Lewis in her `The Taste of Country Cooking', Justin Wilson's several cookbooks, or Sallie Ann Robinson's `Gullah Home Cooking the Daufuskie Way'. Even more, it seems, have approached things from the top down, from the point of view of high-end restaurants specializing in Southern cuisine. Prime examples are celebrity chefs such as Paul Prudhomme, Emeril Lagasse and Frank Stitt. Books which seem to combine these two approaches are the many cookbooks from Paula Deen, based on her `The Lady and Sons' Savannah restaurant, the `Mrs. Wilkes Boardinghouse Cookbook' and the recent `The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook'. Of all these books, Villas seems to have three distinct advantages. First, his broad and long experience has enabled him to cover the cuisine(s) of the entire south (from which he excludes Texas, which he considers something of a land unto itself). Unlike, the Lees, the Deens, Wilson, Stitt, and Lagasse, he is not bound to the Tidewater, Cajun, Creole, or `soul' food styles. Second, his point of view has an element of the scholarly about it. Thus, while he may not be giving us the very best or most elaborate recipe for pimento cheese spread (he does that in `Stalking the Green Fairy'), we are assured of getting the recipe most familiar to the greatest number of `Southern Cooking' practitioners. Third, Villas explores that great middle ground of genteel home cooking and entertaining, below the great New Orleans restaurant practitioners but above the raw roots. A fourth virtue of Villas' presentation is that while many of his headnotes include personal information like the Lee Bros. chitchat, he goes into greater depth regarding the cachet surrounding various dishes and their role in Southern cuisine at large.
These four points are interesting and make good reading; however, the best feature of the book for the student of Southern Cooking is the Introduction which covers more than 35 pages of material on `Equipment', `Ingredients', `Special Cooking Techniques', and `A Southern Glossary'. This is stuff that appears in no other book I have read on Southern cooking. It is by far the best argument Villas has for both the distinctiveness and richness of Southern Cooking. The high point is Villas' description of how to make a classic Cajun roux, which involves far more than the simple French white roux. Villas claims that he spoiled ten (10) attempts at the task before getting it right, in spite of being tutored by none other than Paul Prudhomme.
And, the best feature of the book for the average cook is the fact that the book may be the very best source of recipes for virtually every classic Southern dish you can think of (as long as you don't want any Texas recipes). `James Beard's American Cookery' may just be a bit more complete and a bit more authoritative, but Villas is far more fun to read and his recipes are much easier to follow.
A fine sample of Villas' range and emphasis is his chapter on barbecue. The 20 recipes cover Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Creole, Florida, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Virginia styles, covering pork, veal, chicken, shrimp, fish, quail, duck, and rabbit, but no Texas or Kansas beef styles! Of course, Villas lets his personal preferences shine through now and again, when he considers Carolina pulled pork to be the king of all barbecue recipes. Of course, he doesn't weigh in on the theological arguments over the superiority of Lexington (western) versus Tidewater (eastern) recipes.
While I can't guarantee Villas will have every single Southern recipe you may want or need, I can't find any of the classics I'm familiar with among the missing. I thought for a moment he may not have the fried pickle chips I had for the first time last year on a trip to Myrtle Beach, but there they were, on Page 22.
It's easy to say that a cookbook is a good read or scholarly or well-written, but that doesn't address whether this is a good book from which to cook. Well, this is a good book for cooking, as well as all these other virtues. The recipes are written well, they are easy to read, the pages will photocopy well, and the tips and techniques are well presented, without being preachy. My happiest discovery was the recipe for shrimp remoulade, which tastes good simply by reading the ingredients.
If you are put off by the extensive use of deep-frying, my best suggestion is to read Shirley Corriher's exposition on deep-frying in `Cookwise' to appreciate that the method actually doesn't add that many fat calories.
I hope Villas keeps writing for us for a long time, but I suspect he has now given us the most important book of his career.
This latest book is somewhat "fancier" Southern cooking, and no less desireable to have, especially for one who already enjoys Southen Style cookery. "Southern cooking" takes in many different styles, be it Cajun, Creole, Kentuckian, Low Country, South Georgia, etc. With over a dozen books behind him, he has clearly tasted many of the "Southern" styles, and presents a very broad sample for you to try.
There's many of the "old standards" like Mama Dip's Eggplant casserole, Mrs. Wilkes' Savannah red rice, BBQ shredded pork or spareribs, she crab soup (correctly with the roe),and 12 grits recipes, including Gullah, Tennessee, and Capt. Jules versions of shrimp and grits, and Creole grits and grillades.
For less well known recipes, try Arkansas BBQ duck with a vinegar-orange juice marinade, BBQ rabbit with raisin-whisky sauce, Braised Duck with leeks and onions, veal sweetbreads in mushroom cream sauce, meat loaf deluxe, smoky oysters, mango chutney, and even an onion and almond pie.
Got a sweet tooth? There's Florida papaya cobbler, persimmon pudding with hard sauce, creole bread pudding with whisky sauce, Corn custard ice cream or Kentucky fried peaches, to name a few.
This, with it's well written and tasty recipes, is on a par with other fine "newer" Southern cookbooks, such as "The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook", Damon Lee Fowler's New Southern Kitchen", and Frank Stitt's Southern Table", to give you an idea of it's style and standing.
While I usually write more in depth on a treasured book's individual recipes, my copy has been loaned out (read snatched out of my hands) by a well-respected local Southern Cook to cook these recipes for her family, briefly returned, and loaned out again!