cover image The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen

The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen

Matt Lee & Ted Lee. Clarkson Potter, $40 (240p) ISBN 978-0-307-88973-7

The Lee brothers, who write this book in the collective “we,” grew up in Charleston, S.C., and were educated in the Northeast. It is the latter influence that is more pronounced here with writing that is cerebral, free of any stereotypical down South mannerisms, clear and sharp, but missing the passion one would expect from a collection of Southern cooking anecdotes and Lowcountry favorite recipes. For example, their introduction to Hoppin’ John dwells on pea preference and instructs that “the combination of legume, rice, and animal fat is an ancient one.” The 100 offerings represent a mix of the classic and the newfangled. There’s peach leather, a Charleston chew dating back to the 19th century, which requires two days of sun-drying. And then there’s a totally nontraditional tomato and watermelon gazpacho with shrimp. This dichotomy is on display throughout seven chapters that cover drinks, snacks, soups, vegetables, fish, meat, and desserts. There are rewarding, complex entrées such as wild duck, opera style, a three-act process of parboiling, frying, and braising, and simpler, yet still satisfying, options such as fried chicken done with cornmeal and buttermilk. The brothers also provide two excellent addendums: a comprehensive bibliography of Charleston cookbooks dating back to 1756 and directions for a walking or driving tour featuring eateries from which many of their recipes were derived. (Feb.)