In the intro to the new “Atlanta Chef’s Table: Extraordinary Recipes from the Big Peach” (Globe Pequot, $26.95), Buckhead-born author Kate Parham Kordsmeier recalls watching her parents getting dressed up to dine out at Pano’s & Paul’s and Nikolai’s Roof. She quips that they seemed to be the only good restaurants in Atlanta at the time.
But after moving to Athens for college at the University of Georgia, and stints in Los Angeles, Dallas, and Washington D.C., where she worked as a freelance food writer, Kordsmeier returned to Atlanta in 2013 to find a very different dining scene.
“When I finally came back, I was shocked and blown away by what was here,” Kordsmeier said. “One of the things that I loved about D.C. was the ethic diversity, so discovering Buford Highway was amazing and something I didn’t expect. Then there was the sheer number of restaurants in the city now. And most of the best ones were owned by chefs.”
“Atlanta Chef’s Table” includes more than 100 recipes. Beyond being a cookbook, it reads like a local guidebook, with Kordsmeier’s impressions of each of the 75 featured restaurants, the chefs, and the dishes to try.
“The first interview I did for the book was with Scott Serpas at Serpas Restaurant,” Kordsmeier remembered. “He’s just such a nice guy. But I had a hard time understanding him, because his New Orleans accent is so thick. His cooking has that heavy New Orleans accent, too.”
Serpas’ signature recipe for New Orleans-style flash-fried oysters shows up in the book.
“I think the oysters are a great example, with the Creole tartar sauce and pickled mirliton that he uses,” Kordsmeier said. “I really love this dish because of the contrast of textures and flavors. You’ve got the buttery oysters that are fried crispy, and then the pickled vegetables that are crunchy and add some tang. I just thought it was really well balanced.”
Speaking about choosing the recipes for the book, Kordsmeier said much of the process came down to her personal taste and preferences.
“Some of it was trying to find things that would be easy for home cooks to replicate,” she said. “But a lot of it was looking for a signature dish or thinking about what I wanted to eat. I think you can tell a lot about my taste, even though there are a lot of different kinds of restaurants represented in the book.”
Another recipe Kordsmeier included was spaghetti with crab and chilies from St. Cecilia in Buckhead.
“This is one of my favorite dishes that I tried when I went to St. Cecilia for the first time,” she said. “It’s one of those that’s just extraordinary in its simplicity. It’s just a couple of ingredients but it’s amazing how much flavor you can extract from those few things. And I think it kind of speaks to true Italian cooking, which is about high quality ingredients and simplicity at its best.”
Perhaps one of the most surprising recipes in the book is for a pecan pie from Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q, a restaurant better known for smoked meats than dessert.
“Pecan pie is such a quintessential Southern dessert,” Kordsmeier said. “So it made sense that Fox Bros. would have a killer recipe for it. They do what they do best, which is taking something basic and elevating it a little bit. It’s infused with a chocolate mixture and topped with cinnamon whipped cream. It’s a good, easy dessert and you’ll be everybody’s best friend if you serve it.”
These recipes from “Atlanta Chef’s Table: Extraordinary Recipes from the Big Peach” (Globe Pequot, $26.95) by Kate Parham Kordsmeier feature signature dishes from three of the city’s favorite restaurants.
St. Cecilia’s Spaghetti With Crab and Chilies
This super simple Italian-style recipe from St. Cecilia restaurant in Buckhead uses high-quality ingredients to create multiple layers of flavor.
1 pound dried spaghetti
2 tablespoons canola oil
5 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1 serrano chili, sliced thin
Pinch of chili flakes
1/2 cup white wine
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 pound fresh crab (jumbo lump preferred)
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
Torn Italian parsley leaves for garnish
Torn mint for garnish
Extra-virgin olive oil for garnish
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook spaghetti 2 minutes less than package instructions, gently stirring occasionally. Drain and set aside. Meanwhile, heat the canola oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, serrano, and chili flakes. Cook until garlic is slightly golden, about 10 seconds. Remove the pan from heat and add the wine. Return the pan to heat and continue cooking until the wine is reduced by half, about 30 seconds. Add the cooked pasta and toss gently to coat with the sauce. Add the butter, crab, and lemon juice and continue stirring until butter melts. Serve in a large, warm bowl or four separate bowls and garnish with the lemon zest, torn parsley and mint, and a drizzle of olive oil. Serves: 4
Per serving: 587 calories (percent of calories from fat, 19), 25 grams protein, 88 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 12 grams fat (3 grams saturated), 52 milligrams cholesterol, 177 milligrams sodium.
Fox Bros.’s Chocolate Pecan Pie With Cinnamon Whipped Cream
A twist on the Southern classic dessert from Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q is infused with a rich chocolate mixture and topped with cinnamon whipped cream.
For the pie dough:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup chilled club soda
For the chocolate mixture:
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the pie filling:
1 cup light corn syrup
2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
2 eggs, whisked
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon molasses
1/2 teaspoon salt
11/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
11/2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
4 cups pecan halves
To make the pie dough: Cut the butter into 1-inch cubes and place in the freezer for 15 to 30 minutes. Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine the flour, salt, and sugar and mix well. Incorporate the cold butter into the flour mixture, pressing the flour and butter between your fingers until the flour resembles coarse crumbs. Slowly add the club soda, mixing until the dough begins to come together. Press and flatten the dough, wrap it in plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
To make the chocolate mixture: Pour the chocolate chips into a large glass bowl and place over a pot of simmering water. As the chips begin to melt, stir in the cream, salt, and vanilla until combined and smooth. Set aside. To make the pie filling: In a bowl combine the corn syrup, melted butter, and whisked eggs, mixing well. Whisk in the brown sugar, granulated sugar, molasses, salt, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in 2 tablespoons water to make a slurry. Add the slurry to the egg mixture. Whisk in the chocolate mixture until thoroughly combined.
To assemble the pie: Preheat the oven to 375°F. Roll the dough out until it’s ¼-inch thick and roughly the size of a 9-inch pie pan. Place the dough into the pie pan, removing the excess around the edges. Place the pecan halves evenly into the shell. Pour the pie filling over the pecans and allow to settle for 5 minutes. Place the pie in the oven and bake until the center is set, about 55 to 60 minutes. Allow the pie to cool for at least 1 hour before serving. Garnish with Cinnamon Whipped Cream.
Cinnamon Whipped Cream
1 pint heavy cream
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
In a stand mixer, whisk heavy cream, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract, and cinnamon until incorporated and the cream holds a stiff peak.
Per serving: 1,077 calories (percent of calories from fat, 63), 11 grams protein, 92 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams fiber, 79 grams fat (29 grams saturated), 178 milligrams cholesterol, 365 milligrams sodium.
Serpas’ Flash-Fried Oysters
This signature New Orleans-style recipe from Serpas Restaurant creates a contrast of textures and flavors with pickled vegetables and Creole tartar sauce.
For the pickled mirliton:
1 mirliton (can substitute celery or jicama)
3 tablespoons diced red onion
1 Anaheim chili, seeded and sliced into thin rings
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
3 tablespoons white vinegar
5 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
For the Creole tartar sauce:
2 cups mayonnaise
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
Juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons Creole mustard
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons capers
Salt to taste
For the oysters:
11/2 cups corn flour
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoon cornstarch
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1 dozen shucked Gulf oysters
11/2 quarts canola oil for frying
To make pickled mirliton:
Boil 1 mirliton in a pot filled with water for 25 minutes. Peel and dice the cooked mirliton and add to a glass bowl. Add red onion, chili, garlic, white vinegar, and olive oil. Fold all ingredients together and season with salt and pepper to taste. Marinate for 4 hours. To make the Creole tartar sauce: Combine mayonnaise, red onion, lemon juice, Creole mustard, sugar, and capers in a nonreactive bowl. Whisk ingredients together and season with salt to taste.
To make the oysters: Mix the first seven ingredients (corn flour through salt) together in a large bowl. Dredge the oysters through the seasoned corn flour.
In a heavy-bottomed pot or deep fryer, heat the oil to 350°F. Carefully add the oysters to the hot oil and fry for 1 minute. Remove the oysters and place on paper towels to drain.
Arrange oysters on a plate and garnish with Creole tartar sauce and pickled mirliton.
Serves: 3 to 4
Per serving (based on 3): 1,523 calories (percent of calories from fat, 86), 8 grams protein, 48 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams fiber, 155 grams fat (20 grams saturated), 70 milligrams cholesterol, 1,728 milligrams sodium.