One of my many, many dreams for the near future is to have a Southern food counter or truck or restaurant.
Though I've never even been to the South, I am enamoured by the food, ingredients and people. I can think of nothing more comforting than shrimp n' grits, a muffaletta sandwich (a specialty of New Orleans), fried chicken, collard greens and cornbread.
So when I heard about the brand new, just released Southern Living Off the Eaten Path by Morgan Murphy, I knew it would have to find a place amongst my very carefully selected cookbooks.
It's the subtitle after the colon that really got me - Favourite Southern Dives and 150 Recipes That Made Them Famous - and the fact that award-winning travel writer Murphy drove 15,000 miles in his 1959 Cadillac last summer and picked 75 places to include.
It is so jam-packed with photos, recipes and backstory, that it's more of an intimate scrapbook or personalized tour of the South than a mere cookbook. If I could somehow manage it, I'd like to do what Murphy did, and visit every single one of these places in one fell swoop. Now that's what I call a vacation!
And what is so surprising is that the recipes are not your average "dive" dishes. Krazy Kat's in Delaware for instance offers Vanilla-Cognac Brined Pork Tenderloin with a Gingersnap Jus! You'd better believe that's joining my regular rotation of dinners. And Lobster and Brie Mac and Cheese from Cabana in Nashville and Red Wine-Braised Short Ribs from The Local in Virginia? Ooh la la. I think I just found my dinner party menu items. And I've got to make the PCP Pie (Pineapple-Coconut-Pecan) from Ed & Kay's in Arkansas at the next do or potluck. Can you imagine the kinds of hoots and hollers that will get?
Of course the book is teaming with the kind of comfort food dishes that are famous in the South - Hush Puppies, Crawfish Pie, Beignets, Shrimp and Crab Etoufee, Sweet Potato Casserole, Chicken-Fried Steak with Country Gravy, Southern Fried Catfish, Pecan Pie, Cornbread, Candied Yams, Chiles Rellenos, Buttermilk Biscuits - and a heckuva lot more (My mouth filled with saliva as I wrote these. I'm heading into the kitchen to make some of these treasures as soon as I'm done here).
Go ahead and check out the preview here.
Thank you, Mr. Murphy, for bringing the South up here to me in the North via Southern Living Off the Beaten Path. I am so grateful to be surrounded by all of this great food made by great folks from these great places.
I hope you don't mind, I've gone ahead and doggeared the whole darn book.