Wednesday, October 9, 2013

PICKLES, PIGS & WHISKEY by John Currence

Cleverly titled, entertainingly written Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey holds 130 Southern-inspired recipes from James Beard Award winning chef John Currence.  There’s a smile on every page.  No one describes recipes in quite the way Currence does - they’re not only laced with humor but  step-by-step detailed and include lengths of freeze times.  Can’t remember when reading a cookbook was so much fun.

However, to the matter at hand in a cookbook - the recipes, all Southern-inspired, of course, are different and delicious.  They are organized by technique including Slathering, Pickling/Canning, and Brining/Smoking.  Currence’s take on Southern food traditions is both playful and serious.  For instance he assures us that “Pork belly is a magical thing when handled the right way.”  He trims a good deal of the surface fat away to accomodate the general public.  This trimming results in more pure protein in the finished dish.  Currence is also quick to name his favorite ingredients and in the event they’re not available to the readers offers alternatives.  Such as with the pork belly he sings the praises of Steen’s Syrup Mill but offers good quality unsulfured molasses or fresh honey as substitutes.

Now, you know any fellow who lists “Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey” as his three favorite food groups enjoys cooking and he wants us to enjoy it, too.  To that end each recipe is paired with songs “to heighten the cooking experience.”  All of these songs are available through Spotify.

While it would be impossible to choose a favorite from among the 130 recipes for this reader the Pork Fat Beignets with Bourbon Caramel would top anyone’s list.  Of course, there’s also Peach Rice Pudding Brulee with Brandy Chantilly Cream.  I’m putting Currence’s restaurants in Mississippi on my bucket list!


- Gail Cooke

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