Thursday, December 3, 2015

Cookbook Thursday goes Southern — 'Bourbon and Bacon' and 'The Southern Baker' will leave you hungry

            Oxmoor House, the publishing arm of the company that brings you Southern Living, has two cookbooks out this fall, both that make for perfect holiday gifts.  
            The name alone of the first one will grab you into pulling out your wallet: “Southern Living Bourbon and Bacon: The Ultimate Guide to the South’s Favorite Foods” by Morgan Murphy, a small but fun book that highlights two of the South’s most treasured culinary flavors.
“This is not a diet book,” Murphy insists in his publicity materials. In fact, on the book's first page is the following warning: "This book contains an improbable amount of drinking, smoking, and lard consumption." The calorie-rich book includes 140 recipes that use either bacon or bourbon — or both — in cocktails, appetizers, main courses, sides and desserts. In addition, the best-selling writer and TV personality (Murphy is the author of “Off the Eaten Path” and “Off the Eaten Path: Second Helpings”) offers his take on more than 75 of his favorite whiskeys, plus tours many of the South's top distilleries. Julian Van Winkle III of Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery and Allan Benton of Benton's Smoky Mountain Country Hams write the forewords. And since I'm more of a bourbon fan than bacon, I'm including a cocktail recipe below (but don't worry, it includes bacon).
            The book is divided into two parts, with the bourbon section spotlighting information on the spirit and cocktail, sauces, dressings and dessert recipes incorporating bourbon. The second part discusses the "wonder meat" of bacon with appetizers, sides, entrees and bacon-infused dessert recipes. 
            Moving on to desserts and savory baked goods, the writers of Southern Living offer “The Southern Baker: Sweet and Savory Treats to Share with Friends and Family,” from easy-to-make fluffy buttermilk biscuits (see recipe below) to cast iron skillet cornbread, all tested out in the Southern Living test kitchen.

Buttermilk Biscuits
From “The Southern Baker”
1⁄2 cup butter (1 stick), frozen
2 1⁄2 cups self-rising flour
1 cup chilled buttermilk
Parchment paper
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Directions: Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Grate frozen butter using large holes of a box grater. Toss together grated butter and flour in a medium bowl. Chill 10 minutes. Make a well in center of mixture. Add buttermilk, and stir 15 times. Dough will be sticky. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Lightly sprinkle flour over top of dough. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll dough into a 3⁄4-inch-thick rectangle (about 9 x 5 inches). Fold dough in half so short ends meet. Repeat rolling and folding process 4 more times. Roll dough to 1⁄2-inch thickness. Cut with a 21⁄2-inch floured round cutter, reshaping scraps and flouring as needed. Place dough rounds on a parchment paper-lined jelly-roll pan. Bake at 475 degrees for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Brush with melted butter.

The Dirty South
From “Southern Living Bourbon and Bacon”
1/4 cup (2 ounces) Angel’s Envy or Sazerac Rye Whiskey
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
1/4 teaspoon barbecue bitters
1 Benton’s bacon straw (recipe follows)
Directions: Combine first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker, fill shaker with ice. Cover with lid, and shake vigorously 30 seconds or until thoroughly chilled. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Rest Benton’s Bacon Straw on rim or place in glass.

Benton’s Bacon Straws
Soak 2-3 large wooden spoons in warm water 30 minutes. Drain. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wrap a slice of Benton’s Hickory-Smoked Country Bacon around each spoon; place on a rack or an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Let cool completely (15 minutes). Gently slide bacon off each spoon. Makes 2-3 straws.

Cheré Dastugue Coen is the author of 
“Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” She also writes Louisiana romances under the pen name of Cherie Claire, “A Cajun Dream” and “The Letter.” Write her at