What’s not to like about southern cuisine? It is a unique form of cultural expression defining the characteristic of a beloved American region. It is central to the region’s image, its personality, and its character.
“The South” is actually a collection of regions. Each place is defined by its food as well as its terroir. Its southern mountain regions generally include the Appalachians, Alleghenies, Blue Ridge, and the Ozarks. The Upland South is made up of hill-country farms, the tobacco business, and textile mills. The Deep South is a place where cotton grows, warm Gulf Coast breezes soothe and Florida beaches go on forever. Other areas include Cajun Louisiana, the Kentucky bluegrass, the Mississippi Delta, and the Piney Woods.
Southern dishes are as varied as the regions that make up the South. Charles Reagan Wilson, Kelly Gene Cook Sr. Chair of History and Professor of Southern Studies writes, “Barbecue provides a classic example. All Southern regions can affirm the importance of this gift of the hog. North Carolinians cook it so long that it falls apart, and they insist on serving it shredded on hamburger buns. South-central Kentucky restaurants often serve slices of pork shoulder as barbecue, with bones in, dipped in sauce, and accompanied by white bread. Texans barbecue sausage links. Sometimes barbecue is not even pork. Those same Texans barbecue beef brisket in tribute to the cows that have been a part of their way of life for so long, and some Kentuckians feast on mutton barbecue.”
Southern cooks have always drawn upon the fusion of cultures that created the South as we know it today. Some of those cultures include Native American, European, and African cultures. Enter a new twist on this mix…Ms. Whitney Miller. In her new cookbook New Southern Table , she brings together her own gastronomic influences such as being the first winner of Master Chef, her international culinary travel experiences and of course her own southern roots. She blends all that with a plan to lighten up classic dishes without losing flavor and finding ways to bring exotic international dishes to the table with a dash of southern flair. For this Southern California reviewer, she hits all the right spices and combinations creating a cookbook worth the price of admission ($26.99 Hardback / $12.99 Kindle).
Speaking of spices – there’s a really cool two-page My Southern Pantry primer at the front of the book. One of the ingredients that may have you doing a head spin or two is Sriracha hot chili sauce. As I just said, this is my kind of fiesty cuisine. What a great present this cookbook would make tied up with a bottle of Sriracha. Just sayin’.
The book is beautifully illustrated and peppered throughout with comments by the author. The recipes will likely be a challenge for new cooks…but no pain, no gain. Experienced cooks should be able to breeze right through the ingredients and preparation required. The key is to read through the entire recipe first, organize your ingredients then jump right in.
Southern recipes featured in this cookbook that may surprise you for their ingredient profile include:
Collard Greens- Wrapped Pork Loin (recipe below) / Page 165
Olive Oil Biscuits / Page 5
Griddled Blueberry Muffins / Page 10
Southern “Fried” Pecans / Page 59
Szechuan Chicken wings with Cilantro Yogurt Dip / Page 71
Cornmeal Tarts Page / 107
Mississippi Banh Mi / Page 11
Mississippi Fried Chicken / 208
Ready to get your southern groove on? Enjoy this recipe compliments of author Whitney Miller.
Collard Greens–Wrapped Pork Loin
Recipe taken from Whitney Miller’s New Southern Table by Whitney Miller
Copyright © 2015 by Whitney Miller.
Used by permission of Thomas Nelson.
This dish makes for a great family supper with leftovers for Southern Carnitas (page 156) or Pulled Pork Nachos (page 66). Because it’s cooked in the slow cooker and wrapped in collard greens, the pork loin stays moist and tender. And the greens are perfectly cooked too.
3 teaspoons fine sea salt
2 teaspoons smoked salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
Leaves from 8 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 (4- to 4 1/2-pound) pork loin
5 large collard green leaves, washed and stems removed
1 small yellow onion, sliced
1/2 cup all-natural apple juice
1 cup water
In a small bowl mix together the salt, smoked salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and thyme.
Trim the fat from the pork loin. Cut the pork into halves. Rub the spice mixture over the 2 pieces of pork.
Line the bottom and sides of a 6-quart slow cooker with 4 of the collard green leaves. Place the pork on top of the leaves. Spread the onion slices on top of the pork in an even layer. Pour the apple juice and water into the bottom of the slow cooker. Top with the last collard green leaf, cover, and cook on low for 6 to 6 1⁄2 hours, until fork tender.
To serve, transfer the pork and collard greens to a serving platter. Slice the pork or use 2 forks to pull the meat apart. Spoon some of the cooking liquid over the pork. Pour the remaining cooking liquid in a gravy boat and serve on the side.
2 Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Note: Wrapping the pork in collard green leaves helps prevent the lean meat from drying out. The collards also lend flavor to the cooking liquid, which becomes what we call a “potlikker” in the South.