Deep South Staples: Or How to Survive in a Southern Kitchen Without a Can of Cream of Mushroom Soup
Southern author and restaurateur St. John (My South: A People, A Place, A World All Its Own) offers up his relatively faithful take on southern cuisine in this collection of traditional recipes. His approach is to take a traditional dish such as macaroni and cheese or deviled eggs and prepare it as a chef would, so deviled eggs benefit from a pinch of white pepper and white balsamic vinegar, while macaroni and cheese is jazzed up with white pepper, onions and a can of sweetened condensed milk. (St. John even offers up a bechamel version of cream of mushroom soup.) There are still plenty of recipes for purists: fried chicken, greens and chicken pot pie are all prepared with just a handful of ingredients, and there isn't a truffle or slice of foie gras to be found. Even the most complicated recipes are well within the range of the average cook, since the book's emphasis is on taste rather than technique or exotic ingredients. In addition to the recipes, the book is peppered with handy tips such as how to handle raw chicken to avoid contamination (use a metal colander) and preserve overripe bananas (freeze, then thaw when ready to use). St. John also includes meditations on such uniquely southern topics as sweet tea and chitlins. While there is little new culinary ground covered here, those looking for an overview of southern cooking could do worse.