Tag Archives: Y’all

These Cookbooks Make Great Holiday Gifts

9 Dec

From Publishers Weekly

The playful title of this Southern-French cookbook belies its studious attitude to cookery. Virginia Mollie Cox Willis, a chef who has cooked for the White House and stars like Aretha Franklin and Jane Fonda, grew up in Georgia and Louisiana, absorbing her mother’s and grandmother’s repertoire of grits, casseroles and gumbos before developing her professional skills at French cooking academies. The result is a hybrid cuisine she calls refined Southern, which applies traditional French technique and lighter ingredients to produce new versions of Southern staples. Her collard greens are cooked up with smoked salt instead of hog jowl; her cornbread is dressed with panko. Sprinkled liberally throughout are the Southern ingredients that Willis was raised on: Vidalia onions, okra, Georgia pecans and peaches. Willis’s approach is faithful, yet she’s unafraid to reinvent culinary clichés when necessary—like making pimiento cheese from scratch. Some of her creations—like a tipsy salad, riffing on the frat boy combo of watermelon and vodka; Yukon Gold and Edamame Mash; and Coca-Cola Glazed Baby Back Ribs—elevate mundane flavors with sheer ingenuity. Magnificent color photos; detailed, helpful tips; and Willis’s cheerful, trustworthy guidance make this an original and welcome newcomer to a classic cookbook library.

From Publishers Weekly

Writer and poet Bryan follows up 2006’s Mrs. Rowe’s Restaurant Cookbook by zeroing in on the Virginia establishment’s highly lauded desserts. Bryan’s compilation of 65 recipes hits all the sweet spots, offering reliable standards like peach, blueberry, coconut cream and sweet potato pies, as well as caramel coconut, german chocolate and watermelon variations. Though most of the recipes are basic, achieving the perfect crust isn’t; Bryan offers patient tutelage and step-by-step photos, but acknowledges that Mrs. Rowe’s technique took years to master. Even experienced pie makers should pick up a trick or two; Virginia’s Almost Impossible Coconut Pie, for instance, has no crust-the custard filling creates a firm outer layer when baked. Those looking to tweak their crust might want to consider cream cheese, which makes a tangier product than butter and flour alone. Bakers stymied by weeping meringues, meanwhile, will be comforted by the restaurant’s “weepless” version, bolstered with salt and cornstarch. Seasoned pie pros and newbies will both find this ode to southern desserts a helpful and lasting resource.
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