Tupelo Honey Café with its mountain Southern dishes made its name in Asheville, N.C., branching out to other cities such as Knoxville, Chattanooga and Raleigh. Elizabeth Sims also teamed up with Chef Brian Sonoskus to produce a beautiful cookbook from the popular restaurant, “Tupelo Honey Cafe: Spirited Recipes from Asheville’s New South Kitchen.”
Sims and Sonoskus follow up with another gorgeous book, “Tupelo Honey Cafe: New Southern Flavors from the Blue Ridge Mountains.” Once again we’re treated to photos of mountain vistas, rustic Southern farms and food shots of recipes that range from lemongrass moonshine to Flat-Out Fantastic Flat Iron Steak au Poivre. There’s garlic, leek and Parmesan cornbread, cheesy grits soufflé, cornmeal-fried black-eyed peas and acorn squash stuffed with bacon bread pudding. Hungry yet? There’s even a few nods toward Louisiana, including the Big Easy Creamy Creole Crawfish with Cheesy Grits Cake Triangles.
I don’t know whether to try everything in this cookbook or head toward the nearest Tupelo Honey Café restaurant. Until I can get to North Carolina, I think I will start with the gumbo bell peppers stuffed with corn, peas, spinach and okra.
The cookbook retails for $29.99. For a gorgeous and innovative Southern cookbook, it’s one of the best bargains out there.
Maple Sweet Potato Bread Pudding
From “Tupelo Honey Cafe: New Southern Flavors from the Blue Ridge Mountains”
1 1/4 pounds small sweet potatoes, or 3 large sweet potatoes
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
1 cup maple syrup, plus additional for serving, warmed
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 (1 pound) loaf challah bread, cut into 1 1/2- to 2-inch cubes (12 packed cups)
Ice cream or whipped cream
Directions: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wrap the sweet potatoes in foil and bake until tender when pricked with a fork, 50 to 60 minutes. Carefully unwrap the foil and let them stand until they are cool enough to handle. Remove the skins and place the cooked sweet potatoes in a bowl. Mash coarsely using a potato masher. Lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until frothy. Whisk in the cream, milk, the 1 cup maple syrup, the brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Stir in the sweet potatoes. Add the bread cubes and stir to mix thoroughly. Let stand for 15 minutes for the bread to soak up the liquid, stirring occasionally. Butter a 9 by 13-inch baking dish. Pour the bread mixture into the dish, cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake until the pudding is set in the center, 50 minutes to an hour. Uncover the baking dish and cook until browned on top and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Serve warm, drizzled with the warm maple syrup and topped with ice cream or whipped cream.