Review: Denise Gee’s Southern Appetizers

I’m a big fan of all flavors Southern. That’s why I picked up Denise Gee’s Southern Appetizers: 60 Delectables for Gracious Get-Togethers. Now, truth be told, I didn’t get the book thinking about tablescapes or entertaining a crowd. Me, I’m after the food. But, that being said, this book has a lot more than just recipes. There are tips for planning for parties and being the perfect host. The book is well-written, clear, easy to follow, and packed with fantastic photos.

From there we get into the food, starting with the easy-to-eat handheld dishes. There are recipes for all of the classics, such as deviled eggs and finger sandwiches. The fanciful cheese straws looked so great that I made them that day. They came out fantastically!

Next up are spreads, including, of course, a great version of pimento cheese, Anita’s favorite. From salsas, to dips, to great spreads for crackers, this section of the book has great recipes that really are not difficult to make at all. I bookmarked a good many of the pages in the spreads!

The next part of the book is a bit more serious. It’s the grab a plate, some utensils, and sit-down-and-eat section. There is lighter fare, such as salads, tarts and soups. But then there are also (my favorites) meaty dishes. Wings, riblets, brisket, and baked ham, for example. And the peppered beef tenderloin just makes me drool. It is on my short list of dishes to make, along with the crawfish beignets

Next up: the drinks. And lots of awesome drinks. The book covers everything you need to throw a party, and that means drinks too of course.

This brings us to the last chapter, party themes. Denise Gee does all the work for you, whether you want to throw a New Year’s Eve get-together, a Mardis Gras-themed event, or just having a casual tailgating party. Every recipe you need for the party is listed, all designed to work together in a cohesive theme.

All in all I was quite happy with Southern Appetizers: 60 Delectables for Gracious Get-Togethers. I found it easy to follow, with accessible recipes and with great photos. Many of the dishes make me think of a great Sunday brunches or get-togethers in the South. My only wish is that there were more pictures because they really were fantastic.

Southern Appetizers: 60 Delectables for Gracious Get-Togethers rates high on my ‘Mater Rater.


For more of my reviews of cookbooks available for the Amazon Kindle readers, visit Kindle Thyme.

Review: Richard Blais’ So Good: 100 Recipes from My Kitchen to Yours

It seemed like forever that I was on the library waiting list to get Richard Blais’ new cookbook, So Good: 100 Recipes from My Kitchen to Yours. I waited and waited for the email that said the book was finally available for downloading to my Kindle or reading on my PC’s Kindle Reader.

I like Chef Blais’s style. I’ve seen him on several cooking competition shows on TV. He is always cooking dishes that look fantastic and often use techniques (in particular, liquid nitrogen) that I have no experience with.

This book isn’t about restaurant dishes. It’s about dishes Chef Blais makes at home. Most of the recipes have a short list of ingredients and also a short list of instructions. Some are recipes you may have seen before, executed perfectly. Like BBQ shrimp. Nothing fancy, but good eats, and one of my favorite dishes of all time. Now, there are a few different recipes, that’s for sure (the barbecued lamb’s head carnitas with masa comes to mind) . And there are a few that have ingredients that might be hard to find if you aren’t near a good Asian market (Amazon to the rescue!). As Chef Blais says, he’s curious about techniques, equipment and ingredients. I share that curiosity, although certainly not on the level that he does. The beauty of food and cooking, for me, is that every day you wake up you can do something new, something different. Or you can do something old and familiar. Or both.

The commentary throughout the book is light, witty, funny and insightful. You don’t have to wade thru two pages of a story to get to the recipes, either. Not that I don’t appreciate a good story now and then. This isn’t that kind of book. It’s full of dishes Chef Blais makes during his time off. You feel like you’re there at his house with him and his family on a Saturday, getting ready to make a few Juicy Lucy burgers, and for desert, homemade banana splits (an absolutely amazing recipe, everything homemade).

I’ve already made an extensive list of the dishes I will be making from the book, beginning with chicken shawarma (Update: made this last weekend and it was fantastic!). Next up, a steak coated in blue cheese to mimic dry aging, then cooked in a hot skillet to onion rings. Yes, onion rings. Chef Blais takes his onion ring batter and places it into a whip cream canister. Dispensing the air-injected batter produces a super-light coating. What a brilliant idea. Brilliant. Another is the sweet-and-sour ham hocks with mustard greens. I recently smoked my own shanks (larger than hocks, but I substitute them for hocks all of the time) and cannot wait to make Chef Blais’s recipe.

The photos in So Good: 100 Recipes from My Kitchen to Yours are amazing. Now, me, I’m a big fan of food porn so I could’ve gone for a few more pictures, but the truth is you can’t eat pictures. What pictures there are are truly drool-worthy.


For more of my reviews of cookbooks available for the Amazon Kindle readers, visit Kindle Thyme.

Review: Ray Lampe’s Slow Fire: The Beginner’s Guide to Lip-Smacking Barbecue

Do not let the word ‘beginner’ deter you from reading Ray Lampe’s Slow Fire: The Beginner’s Guide to Lip-Smacking Barbecue. Whether you’re just contemplating low-and-slow cooking or you’ve been doing it for 30 years or more, this book is so full of great recipes and approaches that you’ll find yourself going back to it again and again. I do. I’m pretty sure that this book shattered my previous record for how many recipes I bookmarked.

The first chapter of Slow Fire concentrates on rubs and sauces. I made my own variation of Lampe’s Basic Rub #67 and it has now become my go-to rib and pork butt rub. You’ll find yourself doing the same thing. I recommend you make the rubs or sauces as Ray intended, then taste and add whatever you want to make them your own. Or you might find yourself making substitutions for something else you prefer. No matter what, the recipes in the book are fantastic starting points (and they are perfect they way they are too!).

The next chapter is all about ribs. Great ribs done tons of different ways. Including a fantastic Asian-inspired rib. Ribs are my favorite meat to smoke, and I’m always on the lookout for new variations. Slow Fire did not disappoint.

Next up, pork. Glorious pork. Butt, shoulder, chops, tenderloin, you name it. My rule when smoking pork: always make extra because it’s always good. Slow Fire has a great mix of recipes for pork.

Beef is next, including a great recipe for homemade pastrami, which is next on my to-do list. I make a cheater pastrami, which starts with an already brined brisket (corned beef). Slow Fire shows you how to make a real pastrami, beginning with a brisket.

The section on cooking poultry is next. It includes a recipe for Buffalo turkey wings, something I hadn’t even considered and will definitely make soon. You’ll find recipes for every part of a chicken (or turkey or game hen or duck) that you can want.

The book wraps up with recipes for miscellaneous dishes, like kielbasa or lamb, and a number of side dishes too, including some of the staples for a good barbecue, such as slaw or potato salad. All of the recipes are well-written, thought out and bulletproof. And good. Very good.

Ray Lampe’s Slow Fire: The Beginner’s Guide to Lip-Smacking Barbecue rates high on my ‘Mater Rater. My only complaints are I wish there were more pictures and maybe a few more recipes included, but what there is there is fantastic.


For more of my reviews of cookbooks available for the Amazon Kindle readers, visit Kindle Thyme.

Review: Haute Dogs – Recipes for Delicious Hot Dogs, Buns and Condiments

I was sooooo excited when I received a copy of Russell van Kraayenburg’s cookbook, Haute Dogs, for review*. I’m all about cooking up hot dogs, from the super-simple dog I can throw on at lunch, to a big, fancy dog that amazes all for dinner. It didn’t take me long to realize that this book has them all. And the photos? Oh my! They are just jump-off-the-page-into-your-mouth fantastic.

Haute Dogs - Recipes for Delicious Hot Dogs, Buns and CondimentsThe book starts with the history of the hot dog, and a really great section on cooking methods and rules-to-hot-dog-by.

Next you’ll find the heart (meat?) of the book: recipes for American Classic, Modern American, South and Central American, and European, African and Asian dogs. I found all the recipes to be detailed, easy-to-follow, and they all use ingredients I can actually find at my local grocery store.

There are also sections on making your own buns and batters, actual dogs, and condiments, sauces, and toppings (my favorite section).

I immediately jumped in and made the New York Style hot dog, and simple dog that packs a lot of great flavor thanks to onions that are sauteed in tomato paste. Add in some spicy mustard and kraut, and you have a great dog you can throw together in no time. Anita proclaimed it “absolutely fantastic”. Score!

Haute Dogs - Recipes for Delicious Hot Dogs, Buns and CondimentsI’m looking forward to making more of the recipes from this book, from the dogs to the relishes, to the homemade ketchup.

* The book was free, my review is free, and the thoughts are all mine. I gave Haute Dogs a high score using my ‘Mater Rater.

For more of my reviews of cookbooks available for the Amazon Kindle readers, visit Kindle Thyme.

Review: Susan Spicer’s Cookbook – Crescent City Cooking

Someday soon, we’ll go to New Orleans and eat at Bayona, Susan Spicer’s restaurant. She makes the kinds of foods I love – some traditional southern and some fusion. Until we go, though, we’ll enjoy some of the fantastic recipes found in Susan’s new (and first) cookbook, Crescent City Cooking.

Susan Spicer's Cookbook - Crescent City CookingThis cookbook is really fantastic. I’m not sure I’d call it just a cookbook, either. The pictures are works of art, the text and stories engrossing, and recipes… unbelievable.  The book is divided into several sections, ranging from appetizers to mains to cocktails. You’ll find more traditional southern items like spiced Cajun pecans or spicy shrimp with Tasso cream and green chile grit cakes (I just drooled). And you’ll find dishes that incorporate flavors from around the world, such as slow-scrambled eggs with potatoes, mushrooms and bacon or a sweet potato brioche. Just reading the recipe titles alone will make you hungry.

This cookbook is more than page after page of lists of ingredients and cooking steps. It reads well. You’ll truly enjoy Susan’s insights and comments on each dish. I am quite sure we will end up making every single item in this cookbook, all 170 or so of them.

I highly recommend this cookbook. Unlike some that you come across these days, this book is honest, with fantastic food. It is well worth the price.

Susan Spicer's Cookbook - Crescent City CookingPS: Susan will also inscribe the book, upon request, as she did ours.

I ranked Crescent City Cooking high on my ‘Mater Rater.

For more of my reviews of cookbooks available for the Amazon Kindle readers, visit Kindle Thyme.