Way back in November, before all the Bad Stuff happened, I won a giveaway from Artisan Books! (You do subscribe to their e-newsletter, right?) The prize was a doozy: first, a signed copy of Sean Brock's amazing cookbook Heritage, which the New York Times Book Review called "the blue ribbon chef cookbook of the year, without a doubt." The back cover is plastered with glowing praise from the likes of Anthony Bourdain, Mario Batali, David Chang, and more.
The inscription with Brock's autograph is "Cook with soul," and that's also the first item in his manifesto, with an important expansion: "Cook with soul—but first, get to know your soul." And the second one directly addresses the title of the book: "Be proud of your roots, be proud of your home, be proud of your family and its culture. That's your inspiration." And this book is most definitely a reflection of Brock's Southern heritage.
Other items on his manifesto are "Do as little as possible to an ingredient when it's perfect and at its peak" and one of my faves, "Cook using your instincts. Cooking times are just guidelines."* The last item is "He who dies with the biggest pantry wins." And to that end, the rest of my haul from this giveaway was a gorgeous assortment of grains from Anson Mills, purveyors of "handmade mill goods from organic heirloom grain." Look at all this amazing stuff I got:
These will be perfect for trying Brock's recipes for Cracklin' Cornbread and Savory Benne Wafers. I'm also eyeing his Chicken Simply Roasted in a Skillet, Slow-Cooked Rib Eye with Potato Confit and Green Garlic-Parsley Butter, and Buttermilk Pie with Cornmeal Crust. Yum. Everything in this cookbook looks wonderful (thanks to gorgeous photography by Peter Frank Edwards).
I think it's time for me to get cooking....
*When I edit cookbooks, I always change sentences like "Sauté the onions for 15 minutes, or until golden brown" to "Sauté the onions until golden brown, about 15 minutes." To me, what I call the doneness cue (in this case, "golden brown") is the key. Depending on your onions and the fat you use, your pan and your stove, and your kitchen's ambient temperature that day, browning onions could take considerably less or more time than 15 minutes. I want home cooks to learn to trust their own judgment—if the onions are golden brown but it's been only 10 minutes, they're done; and if they're still not golden brown after 15 minutes, keep sautéing. There are exceptions, of course, but for the most part the timing is indeed just a guideline, as Brock says. And it's an important guideline—it helps you plan your time in the kitchen so that everything is done when you want it to be done, and it lets you know if you're way off on something—so I'm frequently nagging my authors with "About how long will that take?" if they provide only a doneness cue. But I also nag them to provide a doneness cue when they give only a time guideline—if, for instance, they say, "Bake for 35 to 45 minutes," how will we know when to take it out of the oven? Ah, "when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean."