- Hardcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (May 1, 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0544932544
- ISBN-13: 978-0544932548
- Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 1 x 10 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 31 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #61,020 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Secrets of the Southern Table: A Food Lover's Tour of the Global South Hardcover – May 1, 2018
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From the Publisher
Asian Cajun BBQ Shrimp with Grilled Baguette from Secrets of the Southern Table
Barbecue shrimp in New Orleans has nothing to do with a grill, a pit, or even barbecue sauce. Barbecue shrimp in New Orleans is a dish of butter-poached shrimp flavored with dried spices and herbs. It’s what happened to shrimp scampi as it traversed the Atlantic and crossed the levies of the mighty Mississippi. In the nineteenth century, trade routes opened between Sicily and New Orleans and thousands of Italians migrated to New Orleans. By 1870, New Orleans claimed the largest Italian-born population in the United States—even greater than the New York City area! A more recent immigration trend in the region has been the Vietnamese, leading to the introduction of new flavors into this Southern dish.
1. Heat a grill pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Working with a few pieces at a time, cook the bread until browned and toasted, 2 to 3 minutes. (Alternatively, heat the oven to broil and broil the bread until toasted, about 2 minutes, depending on the strength of your broiler.) Set aside and keep warm.
2. Place the shrimp in a bowl. Add the Creole seasoning and toss to coat. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the garlic, jalapeño, ginger, and lemongrass. Cook until fragrant, 45 to 60 seconds. Add the shrimp and increase the heat to medium-high. Add the lemon juice, hot sauce, and fish sauce. Cook, turning once or twice, until the shrimp are firm and pink, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper.
3. Spoon the shrimp and juices atop the grilled bread. Serve immediately, with lots of napkins.
- 1 baguette, cut into thirds and halved lengthwise
- 1½ pounds extra-large (16/20-count) shrimp
- 1 tablespoon homemade or store-bought Creole seasoning, or to taste
- 8 tablespoons (½ cup) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- ½ jalapeño, or to taste, seeded and chopped
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped lemongrass
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon hot sauce, or to taste
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce
- Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
—From the Foreword by Sean Brock, executive chef and partner, Husk, McCrady’s, and Minero
“Secrets of the Southern Table is an ode to a regional cuisine rich in culture and soul. Virginia writes in a rhythmic cadence and lilting musicality that makes me want to read each word out loud. She takes us along on culinary field trips and proves that her beloved South is composed of a multiplicity of good people. Together at the table, they build a framework out of vibrant patches that, once united, result in a culinary quilt filled with reverence for the past, marvel of the present, and excitement for the future of Southern foodways.”
—Sandra A. Gutierrez, award-winning author of The New Southern-Latino Table
“Arepas inspired by a Venezuelan stand in an Atlanta market where Martin Luther King Jr.’s family shopped; lemon-herb potatoes born of the Greek fishing village of Tarpon Springs, Florida: to hell with that old moonlight and corn pone schtick. Virginia Willis showcases a contemporary South that is dizzily and honestly diverse.”
—John T. Edge, author, The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South
“Secrets of the Southern Table is a masterpiece of discovery and sings with the stories of the diverse South. As always, Virginia’s recipes are useful for every home cook, and offer a plateful of Southern comfort with a heaping side of social justice. All this makes for good cooking and reading.”
—Nathalie Dupree, author, TV personality, and James Beard Award winner of Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America
“Virginia Willis’s Secrets of the Southern Table reminds me of a global potluck where everyone brings something and we all feel right at home. In her capable hands, hearts and minds are opened to the people, places, and variegated dishes of a diverse South—a land of classic Southern dishes and regionally sourced ingredients transformed by heady Latin spices, sultry Italian and Greek home cooking, fragrant Southeast Asian street food, and generations-old African American agricultural wisdom.”
—Toni Tipton-Martin, activist and author of James Beard Award–winning The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks
“The South is now and always has been a far more diverse and complex place than any of the stories told about the region acknowledge. If you doubt this, you need only look at what is in our kitchens, both in our homes and restaurants. And what better place to initiate the conversation about what this diversity can mean than at the table. Virginia Willis is a deft and accomplished chef and a remarkable teacher. She’s also an observer with a keen eye and open heart. She brings all of this to bear in her deeply researched and beautifully written Secrets of the Southern Table, and we are nourished by it.”
—Ronni Lundy, James Beard Award–winning author of Victuals: An Appalachian Journey, with Recipes
About the Author
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So far, VW has allowed me to check off "perfect Southern biscuits" from my bucket list - after a good 40 years of trying every "best biscuit ever" recipes that completely failed. That morning of success was a highlight of my life. Not exaggerating.
Recently had the pleasure of attending the interview of VW at the Atlanta History Center, conducted by the photographer of this recent book. I'm telling you, this lady is the real deal. You get no fluff. I might put "meet VW in person for a minute or two" on my bucket list.
She is that wonderful...as a person, in addition to her culinary gifts!
Chef Willis, rightly, describes The South as it is now, not the romanticized past of fried chicken and black-eyed peas. In this, many of her recipes are more of a Southern take on world foods, such as Chicken and Butterbean Paella, Cuban Pork Chops with Mojo, and Greek-Style Beef Tenderloin Medallions with Oregano Butter. There are also some modern takes on classics like Nashville Hot Grilled Chicken, Meme’s Cornbread and Oyster Dressing, and a great Thanksgiving recipe for Herb Roast Turkey with Apple and Onion Gravy. There are even some recipes that feel familiar, but offer a healthier take on tasty dishes, like Baked Farro and Mushrooms, Smashed Fried Okra with Spicy Yogurt Dipping Sauce.
I love the inclusiveness of this work. It includes recipes that represent the mix of all of The South, from whites and African-Americans, but also including Latin flavors and the contributions of the Greeks (with a story of why there are so many Greeks in Tarpon Springs, Florida) and the relative recent arrival of a large population of Vietnamese along The Gulf Coast.
I am impressed with the depth of this book and the research that went into it. I look forward to cooking my way through this book, one recipe at a time. It will always make me smile. The recipes are clearly written with easy to follow instructions, but they avoid so much of the “recipe speak” of dispassionate works. I feel like Chef Willis is standing in the kitchen, reading the recipes to me as a friend when I read instructions that include helpful descriptors like “squish it in your hands.”
For anyone interesting in tasting the flavors of a forward, progressive South, this is the book for you. For those needing some anchors to the past, let me just assure you that it will all be good with this phrase: Oh, those biscuits!
An excellent addition to my shelf.