Learn to Cook 25 South­ern Clas­sics 3 Ways: Tra­di­tional, Con­tem­po­rary, In­ter­na­tional

Jen­nifer Brulé The Uni­ver­sity of North Carolina Press Hard­cover $30 (248pp) 978-1-4696-2912-4

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews - KAREN RIGBY

A ca­sual tone and se­ri­ous pas­sion bring a sto­ried her­itage to the fam­ily ta­ble.

Chef and tele­vi­sion per­son­al­ity Jen­nifer Brulé ap­peals to home cooks with a com­fort-food theme and cre­ative vari­a­tions, with Learn to Cook 25 South­ern Clas­sics 3 Ways. Re­gional fare be­comes a fla­vor­ful palette for ex­per­i­men­ta­tion.

Brulé, who is also a recipe de­vel­oper for mag­a­zines, shows a gen­uine un­der­stand­ing of the way real cooks learn. Her book in­tro­duces an orig­i­nal recipe, then demon­strates ways to adapt it through lower fat in­gre­di­ents, dif­fer­ent prepa­ra­tion meth­ods, and sa­vory sea­son­ings. This proves to be a sim­ple, clever way to or­ga­nize the work, al­low­ing be­gin­ners to see how an ex­pert takes an idea and runs with it.

Clas­sic Cheese Grits are slimmed down in a mod­ern ver­sion that uses broth in place of milk and cream, which leads to a North­ern Ital­ian Po­lenta. Clas­sic Golden Fried Fish in­spires a baked ver­sion us­ing a quinoa crust, and later, Thai Fish Cakes. With­out wor­ry­ing over be­ing au­then­tic, in­ter­na­tional dishes, in­clud­ing a Swiss Älpler­ma­gro­nen (Alpine mac­a­roni), lend global panache to some of the chef’s fa­vorites.

Each recipe in­cludes a closeup of the food, spir­ited com­ments that re­veal a per­sonal con­nec­tion to the dish, prac­ti­cal tips—such as how to make okra less slimy—and flour­ishes that en­hance the fi­nal re­sult. From sta­ples of the potluck ta­ble (dev­iled eggs) to din­ner party main cour­ses (pork ten­der­loin topped with chimichurri), the ma­jor­ity of th­ese recipes are hearty with­out be­ing too deca­dent.

An egal­i­tar­ian view of the kitchen makes this an es­pe­cially wel­com­ing ti­tle. But­ter and trendier, health-con­scious co­conut oil both have a place. If Asian fish sauce adds punch to oven-fried green toma­toes, why not? If paprika adds depth and not only color, in it goes. Brulé takes the fear out of play­ing with food, freely ad­mit­ting that it’s fine when cer­tain baked items turn out paler than their fried coun­ter­parts. Per­fec­tion takes a back­seat to taste.

Packed with only seventy-five recipes, this lively in­tro­duc­tion to South­ern cook­ery en­cour­ages mak­ing con­nec­tions across place and cul­ture. A ca­sual tone and se­ri­ous pas­sion bring a sto­ried her­itage to the fam­ily ta­ble.

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