From Publishers Weekly
The Southern delicacies of Crook's Corner restaurant are well known to the students and residents of Chapel Hill, N.C. Now Smith, the chef there for 15 years, has assembled a quirky and compact selection of his favorite dishes for the rest of the world to ponder. Perhaps because Chapel Hill is a college town, the book is broken into four seasons starting with fall (though it's puzzling to find Scalloped Potatoes in autumn, Mashed Potatoes in spring and not a single spud in winter). Smith previously worked at another North Carolina spot, La Residence, and there exists an undercurrent of fine French cuisine that gives his recipes some sophistication. The cultural mix is readily apparent and exciting in his Two- (or Three-) Bird Pâté: in one of the few instances where liquor benefits a liver, duck and chicken organs are flavored with a jigger of Wild Turkey. The French influence is subtler in Turtle Soup, based on a dish from Babette's Feast
and requiring two pounds of ground turtle meat. Of course, such pomp and circumstance can carry one only so far. Smith's summer ends with a blissfully redneck Really Good Banana Pudding, laden with half-and-half and vanilla wafers. (Oct. 7)
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Smith's Crook's Corner restaurant in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, has won raves from critics and the public alike. Smith champions a new version of southern cooking that owes a great deal to classic French cuisine. For example, Smith concocts a rich, savory chicken-liver pate, but he substitutes the customary cognac with some bourbon whiskey. Fried oysters pair with a cumin-spiked version of aioli, a garlic-scented mayonnaise. Fried green tomatoes are topped with lemon beurre blanc. Pork cutlets fry in cheese and breadcrumbs before being crowned with Madeira sauce. More specific use of indigenous southern ingredients shows up in honeysuckle and mayhaw sorbets. Smith's version of fried chicken follows the usual regimen of buttermilk soaking and peppered-flour coating, but he prefers it served cold. Both catfish and soft-shelled crabs contribute to the seafood offerings. An elaborate, elegant version of turtle soup calls for a profusion of spices and herbs to season hard-to-find turtle meat. In an audacious move, Smith stipulates decidedly Yankee maple syrup for his spectacular cashew cake with maple frosting. Mark KnoblauchCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved