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The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook: Stories and Recipes for Southerners and Would-be Southerners Hardcover – October 17, 2006
Best Books of the Year So Far in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.
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From Matt Lee and Ted Lee, the New York Times food writers who defended lard and demystified gumbo comes a collection of exceptional southern recipes for everyday cooks. The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook tells the story of the brothers' culinary coming-of-age in Charleston--how they triumphed over their northern roots and learned to cook southern without a southern grandmother. Here are recipes for classics like Fried Chicken, Crab Cakes, and Pecan Pie, as well as little-known preparations such as St. Cecilia Punch, Pickled Peaches, and Shrimp Burgers. Others bear the hallmark of the brothers' resourceful cooking style—simple, sophisticated dishes like Blackened Potato Salad, Saigon Hoppin' John, and Buttermilk-Sweet Potato Pie that usher southern cooking into the twenty-first century without losing sight of its roots. With helpful sourcing and substitution tips, this is a practical and personal guide that will have readers cooking southern tonight, wherever they live.
Amazon.com Exclusive: "A Night in Louisville" by Matt Lee and Ted Lee
On a clear, brisk February afternoon in Louisville, Kentucky, in the asphalt parking lot of Lynn's Paradise Cafe, we started a fire. All it took to get going was some wadded-up newspaper, a small pyramid of charcoal, and a match. To keep the flame alive, we put our cheeks to the chilly pavement and blew on the bottom layer of coals. Diners leaving the cafe from early dinners glanced at us, chuckled nervously, and hurried along to their cars. When the pile was glowing, we added some split logs and the plume of smoke rising from the pavement became woodsy and fragrant. By the time the sun went down, the flames were hotter and brighter, so we added more oak. Once the fire was roaring, customers in the restaurant became concerned, and the chef, Sarah, in clogs and a kerchief, shuffled out with the buttoned-up manager, Lori, to check on us.
Recipe Excerpts from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook
Texas Red-Braised Beef Short Ribs
Red Velvet Cake
Praise for The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook
"The Lee Bros. have written the classic Southern cookbook. They write with flair, brilliance, and hilarious commentary on the recipes, customs, and eccentricities of the South they celebrate with such passion. Their recipes are so good that I believe cookbook writers like the Lee Bros. may turn Southern cooking into an actual cuisine." --Pat Conroy, author of The Prince of Tides
"I'm a bag fan of that particular brand of Southern poetry and smarts that make up the Lee Bros.' contributions--the best food pieces I read in the Wednesday New York Times each week--so I attacked Matt and Ted's new book like a hungry wolf. I found the same genius and eye for a good story, as well as simple-to-make recipes of the new exotic cooking of the American South. These recipes make my mouth water, and the prose makes my eyes well up for its beauty, simplicity, and truth." --Mario Batali, chef/owner, Babbo restaurant
"These guys can cook! Just reading the recipes makes me ravenous for scintillating Southern dishes. Sign me up for Tuesday Fried Chicken and Sweet Potato Buttermilk Pie!" --Bobby Flay, chef/owner, Mesa Grill, BOLO, and Bar Americain
"The brothers Lee chronicle a South unbound by geography. They celebrate a people loosed from the burden of history but still mindful of the ties that bind. In the Lee South, boiled peanuts and edamame play well together. So do black and white, young and old, native and outlander. You'll feel welcome here." --John T. Edge, author of Southern Belly: the Ultimate Food Lover's Companion to the South
"The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook makes me daydream of a long ago summer on a Pawleys Island back porch, the aroma of the marsh and the dinner table mingling with laughter of many generations of families and a few too many glasses of wine. Oh to the magic of being at table together in the South." --Frank Stitt, author of Frank Stitt's Southern Table
"The wit and enthusiasm of the Lee Bros. is irresistible, as are the recipes--a mix of traditional Southern classics and unique, highly individual creations--which will have you reaching for your cast- iron (or stainless steel) skillet." --Scott Peacock, author of The Gift of Southern Cooking
From Publishers Weekly
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Top Customer Reviews
And something else that is great about this book--and really rare in a cookbook--is that it is a pleasure to read (don't worry--there are also plenty of lovely pictures). I found myself curling up in bed with it in the evening to read all the text. The stories in the book are both historical--contextualizing the amazing variety of Southern food and the origins of regional favorites--as well as personal, quirky recollections about the connections between place, food, people and memory. This book has lots of unabashed red-hot food-love and heaps of heart and soul.
All in all, the book seems more for would-be-southerners than the genuine article. I might suggest Bon Appetit, Y'all by Virginia Willis, Screen Doors and Sweet Tea by Martha Hall Foose, anything with Edna Lewis' name on it, and A Love Affair with Southern Cooking by Jean Anderson (not a born and bred southerner, but she gets it right).
One may guess from the number of restaurateur's endorsing blurbs on the back jacket that our two Southern gentlemen are not themselves restrauranteurs, and in direct competition with Bobby Flay, Mario Batali, and especially fellow southerner, Frank Stitt. The brothers Lee are actually the L. L. Bean for purveying southern cuisine staples, beginning with their dear boiled peanuts. Their `day job' also happens to be culinary travel writers for many of the bigger names in New York culinary journalism such as `The New York Times', `Travel + Leisure', `Martha Stewart Living', and `Food and Wine'. They also have an hour show on Martha Stewart's Sirius Radio channel. Which is surprising, as there is no evidence of any reference to Ms. Martha in the acknowledgments, introduction, or index.
Since these gentlemen are neither restaurateurs nor professional chefs in any capacity, and learned how to cook out of personal necessity, the title of the book reflecting a `personal' cookbook is probably as accurate as one may hope. The book is composed exclusively of recipes the boys have cooked themselves, or cribbed from friends or relatives' cooking. This source is broadened and made more professional by the fact that the recipes have been collected and edited for the last ten (10) to twelve (12) years with an eye to professional publication in these very same august publications.
My overall impression of the book is that while our lads range pretty widely across `the old south', from Virginia to southern Florida to Cajun country to the Ozarks, they stay true to traditions of those sources while still making all recipes doable in a modern American kitchen. This means that the very traditional Carolina barbecue will rival those done in a smoker, but no smoke is needed to cook their recipe. Of course, their center of gravity is in the Carolina low country, so most recipes are very similar to those from the same region, such as Paula Deen and Mrs. Wilkes of Savannah and James Villas (and mother). And, their book is a superior reference for practical Southern cooking than either of these three, due to a combination of authenticity, range, and variety of approaches to the same dish. I am surprised, however, at the appearance of some dishes such as chow-chow and hot bacon dressing which I have always associated with the Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine. But there they are! I guess pickled vegetables and bacon fat are pretty universal in American cookery.
This last comment needs exegesis. For several recipes, the boys give us two different versions of a basic, important recipe, such as gumbo or braised collard greens. The first and more traditional recipe is the `Sunday' version, requiring several hours to cook to a tee. The second version is the `Tuesday' version which is much faster, but with a result which comes close to the longer result. I think it's a minor point, but I find it interesting that the boys' local farmers market opens on Tuesday, thus creating the best weekday to do recipes requiring fresh, traditional ingredients.
Aside from range and `options', the Lees also give us more elaborate recipes than Deen or Wilkes. They also give us a lot more `local color' in sidebars on locations, ingredients, and the provenance of recipes. This is the basis of their subtitle that declares that the book has `Stories and Recipes for Southerners and would-be Southerners'. I must point out, however, that for in depth research on important southern dishes, the august Jim Villas' articles on classic Southern dishes, especially in `Stalking the Green Fairy' are superior essays on the issues regarding a certain basic dishes such as the pimento cheese spread and Brunswick stew.
The thing which had me fall in love with this book is the emphasis the authors gave to auxiliary dishes and preparations such as beverages, relishes, spreads and dips, and appetizers. Just as in computer system design and virtually every other major human endeavor, the secret to great productivity is `modularity', the ability to make preparations that will store well and serve in many different roles. One of the more useful aspects of the book are the little asides showing one how to make good use of various leftovers. One of my favorite discoveries in this book was a recipe for (country) ham pate, something my mother made for me when I was in grade school, and mysteriously stopped making when I got to college. One minor point on which someone more expert than I should take issue is the lumping together of American country hams and European cured hams such as Proscuitto. My hunch is that while there is some family resemblence between them, the differences are important as well. I believe they are not interchangeable in many recipes, certainly not in classic Italian recipes.
Another valuable aside is the `What to Drink' recommendation associated with all the `entrée' recipes. This is not limited to wine, and it is certainly not limited to either European or California wines. It covers the entire range of potables from sweet iced tea to beer to sour mash whiskey.
My favorite discovery is the recipe for the buttery bread, `Sally Lunn', where the name is believed to be a corruption of the French `soleil et lune'. The bread is similar to brioche, but does not require the overnight rising of classic brioche. This means one can make a traditional buttery bread from start to finish in one day.
In spite of the book's heft, it should be equally at home by the armchair and in the kitchen.