cover image Meals, Music and Muses

Meals, Music and Muses

Alexander Smalls, with Veronica Chambers. Flatiron, $35 (240p) ISBN 978-1-250-09809-2

Chef Smalls, a Grammy-winning opera singer and New York City restaurateur, shares more than 75 Creole and Low Country recipes in this passionate and clever collection. With food writer Chambers, Smalls creates a “playlist” of “essential African-American dishes” in which each chapter is inspired by a different musical tradition. The chapter entitled “Spirituals” provides a bounty of comfort food, heavy on pasta and rice (Gullah rice; buttermilk mac and cheese), while the “Gospel” chapter is a garden harvest filled with okra, corn, and beans (fried okra, and a corn-catfish soup with bacon and mint). “Gravy is the ambassador of flavor for the taste buds,” Smalls proclaims, and indeed it is put on heavy rotation, as are a variety of sauces (many of which are spiked with bourbon) intended to intensify entrees like roast quail in bourbon cream sauce. Other standout fare includes prime rib roast with crawfish onion gravy in the “Diva” chapter, and a blackberry cobbler included in the concluding “Sweet Serenades” section. Home cooks are sure to give this excellent recipe collection a standing ovation. (Feb.)