By Wendell Brock
After residing in Europe for many years, Ohio native Jennifer Brulé must have felt a bit like a foreigner when she returned to the states in 2010. Two of her children had never even lived in America when the family re-settled in North Carolina.
But living abroad helped the food writer see the commonalities in cuisines. The Polenta e Gorgonzola she had in Switzerland’s Italian region was “nothing more than Italian cheese grits,” she writes in her book. The method was the same; only the ingredients had changed.
With that knowledge at her fingertips, “Learn to Cook 25 Southern Classics Ways” is intended to serve as teaching manual. Once readers master her Southern standards, they can try updated (i.e., “healthier”) versions, then dig into her “international” twists using global flavors. As Brulé points out, her international recipes are not copies of classics but her original spins on foreign dishes.
She begins, naturally, with Classic Southern Fried Chicken (marinated in buttermilk and a bit of hot sauce). She then gives the iconic dish a modern makeover via Crispy Oven-Fried Chicken and international flair via Spicy Baked Piri Piri Wings.
Cole slaw is transformed from a creamy, mayonnaise-dressed classic … to a crunchy oil-and-vinegar version with dill ... to a Mexican version with lime juice, cilantro, jalapeno and other bright flavors.
I admire this little book and think it would be a perfect gift for the people who frequently tell me they love Southern food but have no idea how to cook a basic pot of collards or a pan of cornbread. Once they master the classics with a little help from Brulé, the world is their oyster, so to speak, be it fried, baked or pepped up with exotic flavors.
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