Two divergent influencesSouthern cooking and French cuisinecome together in Bon Appétit, Y'all, a modern Southern chef's passionate and utterly appealing homage to her culinary roots.
Espousing a simple-is-best philosophy, classically trained French chef and daughter and granddaughter of consummate Southern cooks, Virginia Willis uses the finest ingredients, concentrates on sound French technique, and lets the food shine in a style she calls "refined Southern cuisine." More than 200 approachable and delicious recipes are arranged by chapter into starters and nibbles; salads and slaws; eggs and dairy; meat, fowl, and fish main dishes; sides; biscuits and breads; soups and stews; desserts; and sauces and preserves.
Collected here are stylishly updated Southern and French classics (New Southern Chicken and Dumplings, Boeuf Bourgignonne), rib-sticking, old-timey favorites (Meme's Fried Okra, Angel Biscuits), and perfectly executed comfort food (Mama's Apple Pie, Fried Catfish Fingers with Country Rémoulade). Nearly 100 photographs bring to life both Virginia's food and the bounty of her native Georgia.
You'll also find a wealth of tips and techniques from a skilled and innovative teacher, and the stories of a Southern girl steeped to her core in the food, kitchen lore, and unconditional hospitality of her culinary forebears on both sides of the Atlantic. Bon Appétit, Y'all is Virginia's way of saying, "Welcome to my Southern kitchen. Pull up a chair." Once you have tasted her food, you'll want to stay a good long while.
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About the Author
Virginia Willis is a French-trained chef, television producer, food stylist, cooking teacher, and food writer. Formerly Martha Stewart Living's kitchen manager, she now makes her home in Atlanta, Georgia.THE AUTHOR SCOOP
Tell me a story that other people might not know about you.
People generally think I am a Southern lady, but I turn into a big old redneck at Atlanta Braves games
Have any good pet stories?
Our pets usually all have food names – we've had Butterbean and Peanut. Our cats are Earl Grey, Biscuit, and Smokey. Our recent rescue is a dog named Cricket. I wanted to name her Cracker, but that's somewhat of a derogatory term in the South, so we decided against it. We also have 3 chickens and since it's kind of country to have chickens in town, we named them Patsy, Tammy, and Loretty for the country music singers. (It's important to say Loretty, not Loretta, just like Doo called Loretta in A Coal Miner's Daughter.
I'm from Georgia; Bourbon and water.
Do you have a scar anywhere on your body? How did you get it?
I have more than one – the most interesting one is on my temple. We were fishing in the Gulf and a friend caught a sea catfish. Their barbs are poisonous, so he tried to flip the fish off the hook instead of touching the fish. Well, he did – right into my head. Since it was a head wound, it bled profusely. We were out on a little island and we had to get back to the dock to take me to the hospital. It was all fine, but could have been very serious. Another inch and I would have lost my eye. The funniest part is the doctor, of course, cleaned the wound, but a year later I found myself scratching the scar and a little piece of catfish barb came out!
What was your first job?
Making pizza @ Pizza Pronto. I also had to deliver pizza for a short period of time. Then once, I delivered a pizza in a sketchy area and a man followed me. I got back to the car, my heart beating, and he came up to the car and said, "I was worried about you; you don't need to come here by yourself. Go back to your store and tell your boss you won't do it." And, I did.
Read an Excerpt
Starters and Nibbles
Hors d'oeuvres whet the appetite but do not satiate; they are just a "little something" to begin a meal or to nibble on between meals.
In my grandmother's rural South, dainty bites and tea sandwiches would only appear at showers and weddings. This was mostly because there was no need to stimulate the appetite of hardworking farmers and field hands. But also, perhaps, it was that hors d'oeuvres just seemed to marry so naturally with a cocktail, that forbidden elixir of hell to small-town Protestants.
As I'm neither teetotaler nor field hand, I'm glad hors d'oeuvres have become part of the modern Southern table, where they can be as highbrow as a starter of Classic Crab Cakes (page 145) or as down-home as boiled peanuts.
Some Southern hors d'oeuvres, unfortunately, partake of the "trashy" element of Southern cooking that relies on processed foods. I'm here to tell you that a bag of little smokies, a bottle of ketchup, and a jar of grape jelly combined in a slow cooker, served with a box of toothpicks on the side, is not an hors d'oeuvre. I won't be sharing recipes for canned crescent rolls with fake crab or Vienna sausages and cubes of Velveeta speared with a pretzel stick. Nor will I advise you to put out a potato chip–crusted casserole to eat on small plates and call it an hors d'oeuvre.
Because they're not everyday fare, hors d'oeuvres made for a party can require a bit of additional planning and thought. All of the recipes in this chapter have tips on making ahead to help you juggle preparation and serving. And here are a few tips that will help you plan.
Judge how much you'll need. There's a fine balance between generously feeding your guests and wasting food. Remember that the greater the variety, the more likely people are to try at least one of everything. Also, the size of serving utensils and plates is important: the larger the serving utensil, the more your guests will take (and likely not finish).
Consider the time of day. Is it a lady's tea or an afternoon shower or anevening cocktail party? For a daytime event, I suggest five or six food choices, allowing for two pieces of each per guest. At night, their appetites are telling your guests that it is dinnertime, so you need to plan accordingly. As a rule of thumb, I serve a minimum of eight different hors d'oeuvres for an evening event, planning that guests will consume four or five pieces of each. If hors d'oeuvres are served preceding a sit-down dinner, prepare five or six different choices, counting on one or two of each per guest.
Decide the type of service. A stationary buffet is certainly easier for the host, but passing the nibbles allows guests to move about and socialize. A combination of both is an excellent solution. Use six-inch plates for a buffet, even a substantial one. Standing up, it is impossible to balance both a drink and a plate that's any larger.
Create a balanced menu. Choose some simple-to-prepare dishes, such as dips, and some that need only be set out on a platter, such as cheese boards and seasoned olives. Some of my favorite hors d'oeuvres require no recipe: I arrange a country ham on a board and slice it paper thin, heap spiced nuts in a bowl, and serve halved French Breakfast radishes to spread with sexy cultured butter and sprinkle with fleur de sel. A bountiful array of lightly steamed vegetable crudités makes an attractive, tasty, and fairly inexpensive "filler" at an hors d'oeuvres buffet. Steaming or blanching the vegetables, then shocking them (plunging them in ice water to stop the cooking and set color) improves their taste and brightens their appearance.
Crispy Fried Asparagus
Meme loved asparagus, which she called "asparagus salad," although there wasn't anything to preparing it other than opening the familiar shiny silver can. Even though I know the flavor of canned asparagus (really, there isn't any) cannot compare to freshly cooked, I enjoy that taste memory.
The ends of fresh asparagus can be tough and woody. I prefer to slice off the last inch or two of the stem instead of snapping it off where the spear breaks naturally. Not only is it more visually appealing when all the spears are exactly the same size, but they will also cook at the same rate.
As these are best fried at the last minute, I suggest you serve them as a first course at a small dinner, not as an hors d'oeuvre at a large party.
12 thick asparagus, ends trimmed
12 very thin slices prosciutto or country ham (about 8 ounces), halved
1/4 cup canola oil, for frying, plus more if needed
1 cup all-purpose flour, for dredging
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
1. Prepare an ice-water bath by filling a large bowl with ice and water. Line 2 large plates with paper towels.
2. To cook the asparagus, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the asparagus and boil just until tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Drain well in a colander and transfer to the ice bath to cool. Once cooled, place them on one of the towel-lined plates to drain and pat dry with additional paper towels.
3. To prepare the asparagus, wrap 1 piece of ham around each spear. Set aside on a plate. Heat the oil in a shallow skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering.
4. To dredge the spears, place the flour in a shallow bowl and season with salt and pepper. In a second shallow bowl, whisk the eggs. Roll the ham-wrapped asparagus in the flour, dip in the eggs, and transfer to the hot oil.
5. To cook the spears, fry them, in batches, turning to cook on all sides, until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to the second towel-lined plate to drain. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.
Making Ahead: The asparagus spears can be wrapped with ham and stored in an airtight container at least 24 hours ahead. You can also prepare them completely ahead and hold them at room temperature for up to 1 hour. When ready to serve, re-crisp them in a 450°F oven for about 5 minutes.
Table of Contents
Foreword by Nathalie Dupree | vii X Introduction | 1
chapter 1 Starters and Nibbles | 5
chapter 2 Salads and Slaws | 29
chapter 3 Eggs and Dairy | 57
chapter 4 Pork, Beef, and Lamb | 75
chapter 5 Gospel Birds and Game Birds | 97
chapter 6 Fish and Shellfish | 123
chapter 7 Grits, Rice, Pasta, and Potatoes | 151
chapter 8 Vegetables | 173
chapter 9 Biscuits, Rolls, and Breads | 201
chapter 10 Soups and Stews | 225
chapter 11 Desserts | 247
chapter 12 Sauces, Condiments, Jams, Jellies, and Preserves | 277
Sources | 301 X Acknowledgments | 302 X Index | 304