Cookbook Review: Heritage

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Experience level: Intermediate

Type of food: Elevated Southern Cuisine

Occasion:   Dinner Party or any other time you’re trying to impress

Best suited for: The home chef that likes to cook professional meals

Recipes to try: Cornmeal Fried Pork Chops with Goat Cheese-smashed potatoes and Cucumber and Pickled Green Tomato, Fried Chicken and Gravy

Easy to use techniques and methods: No, most recipes requires in-depth attention to detail and several days to prep.

Ingredient availability: Mostly southern ingredients, most are available online

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My interpretation of Sean Brock’s Stone crab hush puppies with green goddess dressing.

If you love southern food like I do, then at some point you have heard of Sean Brock, essentially the man elevating this comfort food cuisine to new heights. This book was more of a history lesson rather than a cookbook. That’s why it’s appropriately named Heritage because he’s telling the story of southern cooking and why it taste so damn good. He explains that the flavors comes from years of traditions, passed down from grandmothers to grandchildren, from slaves to slave owners, across the ocean to our homes.

Southern cuisine is not normally considered on the same culinary level as French cuisine, but it’s been Brock’s mission to change people’s perspectives.  The pictures alone are so beautiful that it’s hard to think of southern food as anything other than high end cuisine. He is reinventing what it means to cook in the South.

The techniques in his cookbook  are not for the faint of heart, with techniques requiring you to pickle, smoke and, sous-vide the novice home cook can easily be intimidated from even trying any of these recipes. However, when you do buckle down, get all your ingredients together and actually cook the dish – it turns out to be some of the most incredible food that will ever come out of your kitchen. In my humble opinion, I feel like he shares all these recipes just so you (the restaurant patron) knows how much thought and effort goes into every dish. From the main component to the garnish, every single details adds something special to the dish.

However, he’s not blind to the fact that his recipes are quite involved and that you may not be able to get every single ingredient. In fact, he encourages you to make the recipes your own and use what’s available to you and thank goodness he makes that clear, because things like benne, wrecker fish, and einkorn aren’t things that are readily available in places other than the south. This is where the experienced home cook will need to use their knowledge of when to replace ingredients and when to skip steps altogether. Someone who is new to being in the kitchen will quickly get discouraged by the amount effort it takes to get and prepare all the ingredients. But just as Brock states in the beginning of book, “At the end of the day, it’s not about becoming an expert, it’s about the lessons learned along the way,” and that is definitely the truest statement ever uttered about cooking.

Though you won’t always be able to replicate his dishes down to the last detail, there’s still a lot of wisdom in between the pages of his book. I’m not only talking about cooking techniques ( although there are quite a few) but just about living life and really enjoying cooking. He shows you the importance of respect, for the ingredients, for where they came from, and for the people who provide them. It’s important to respect and to preserve these ways because ultimately they make your food taste better and it makes your soul feel better and that’s what cooking is all about.

*If you are interested in purchasing this book, you can purchase it here.

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Cookbook Review: Milk Street

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Experience level: Novice

Type of food: International

Occasion:  Weeknight dinners, informal get togethers

Best suited for: Busy, adventurous eaters.

Recipes to try: Brown Sugar Tart, Ginger Miso Dressing,

Easy to use techniques and methods: Yes

Ingredient Availablilty: Most ingredients available at local grocer.

I love Chris Kimball, he’s the person who made me realize that cooking isn’t some mystery.  He made me understand that with a little bit of know how, you can create any dish you want. That’s why when he created Milk Street, his new cooking show on PBS, I had to give it a chance. This new show was taking on more worldly dishes that had new flavors and easier techniques. I have to admit after watching the new show and seeing some of the flavor combinations, I was a little skeptical, but I’m never the one to shy away from new flavors and new food.

Now before I was able to get my hands on the book, I tried some of the recipes off of the show. I hate to say this, but it left me and my family unimpressed. Sure the recipes were easy enough to follow, but we found them unsatisfing. They tasted good, but we have definitely had better. But since the dishes were so easy I didn’t really mind that it wasn’t as mind blowing  as they promised on the show. Now just based off of this experience alone I wasn’t rushing out to get the cookbook.  However, one day I was at the library and saw that they had a copy available to borrow, so I figured what the heck, I’ll check it out.

Once I got it home and started flipping through it, I saw some pretty interesting recipes and true to their word, all the recipes were easy. The hardest part about some of their recipes is finding the ingredients, you’ll have to do some digging in the international aisle to get a lot of them. Besides that all the recipes were straight forward.

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After some consideration I decided to try the brown sugar tart recipe. OMG, can I just tell you this was delicious. The best way I could describe it was like having a really good vanilla ice cream, simple but yet so luxurious. After that I tried the Ginger-Miso dressing, I poached salmon and aspargus and put this over it and it was amazing! I hate to admit it, but I hate salmon and I had two helpings of this because the sauce was so amazing. You guys will now see this sauce pop up on some other recipes I’m working on because it was just that good.

The one down side to this cookbook though is that if you’ve got picky eaters in your family, they’re not really going to like a lot of these recipes. My kids are notoriously picky eaters and they didn’t personally care for these dishes. This cookbook is great if you’re a young couple who loves to try new things, or if you’re family is filled with adventurous eaters. (You could also do what me and my husband did and just make the kids grilled cheese while you enjoy some of these recipes.)

This cookbook is also great if you want to throw a sophisticated, intimate, and informal dinner party. There’s a lot of great recipes for those kind of occasions. The recipes in this book will impress your friends, without leaving you stuck in the kitchen the whole time. So if you like to taste foods from different cultures but don’t have the time or money, pick up this book, it’s the next best thing.

*If you are interested in purchasing this book, you can purchase it here.