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
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.