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.

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

Review: Todd-Michael St. Pierre’s The Southern Po’ Boy Cookbook

I absolutely love po’ boy sandwiches. That’s why I bought Todd-Michael St. Pierre’s The Southern Po’ Boy Cookbook. So I could sit here and drool over every great po’ boy, from the classic to the fancy Vieux Carré (pecan-crusted trout with a meunierè sauce). And, in between recipes I get to read interesting stories about the history of the po’ boy and it’s importance in New Orleans’ history. And of course, there’s a recipe for homemade po’ boy bread, an absolute must if, like me, you can’t find proper po’ boy bread where you live.

Every po’ boy in The Southern Po’ Boy Cookbook sounds insanely delicious. I’ve only begun my journey of making as many of them as I can, and I couldn’t be happier. Once you start making them you can’t stop, either. And make sure you keep your po’ boy real and get a bag of Zapp’s chips to go with it.

One of my favorite things about po’ boys is the remoulade sauce. You can find many variations on the usually mayonnaise-based sauce in and around New Orleans, and you’ll also find several variations in The Southern Po’ Boy Cookbook. I usually make a good-sized batch of remoulade and keep it on hand for other things, such as hamburgers or wraps.

The Southern Po’ Boy Cookbook rates high on my ‘Mater Rater, with the exception that I really, really wish it had more pictures so I could drool more. The pictures (and artwork) in the book are quite nice, though, so don’t let that minor point deter you from picking up a copy of this great cookbook.

'Mater RaterFor more of my reviews of cookbooks available for the Amazon Kindle readers, visit Kindle Thyme.

Review: Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison’s Smoke & Spice

If Kindle books had spines, my copy of Smoke & Spice would be worn out, torn, and used up. Cheryl and Bill Jamison’s book is one of those books that you must own if you have a smoker or grill. No matter if you are new at it or have been cooking for 30 years or own far too many grills like I do, you will learn something from this book and you’ll find yourself returning to it again and again.

Smoke & Spice covers everything you need for great grilling or smoking. Starting with dry rubs (I use the Southern Succor rub often) and marinades and the like, then covering various meats and ending with vegetarian dishes and appetizers (or as they are often called, cook’s snacks, since if you’re manning the grill, you’re the first to eat!). The book is also full of great anecdotes and hints and tips, but like me, you’ll find yourself bookmarking recipe after recipe. I have to admit, I also have a hardcopy of an older version of the book that has post-it notes hanging all over the place, along with annotation after annotation that I’ve made over the years.

Many of the recipes you’ll find in Smoke & Spice are great starting points for making your own variations. For example, the Southern Sop is a great mop for smoked pulled pork, but when I’m making pork on my Char-Broil Big Easy (which doesn’t infuse any smoke into the meat), I substitute smoked salt for regular salt to add a little smoke flavor. You can and will spend hours ‘tweaking’ the recipes to make them your own.

Smoke & Spice will up your game, from beginning to end, no matter what kind of grilling or smoking equipment you use. It is worth every penny and then some and is one of the most useful references there is.

Smoke & Spice scores high on the ‘Mater Rater scale.

'Mater RaterFor more of my reviews of cookbooks available for the Amazon Kindle readers, visit Kindle Thyme.

Review: Dave Anderson’s Famous Dave’s Barbecue Party Cookbook

The first few times I saw Famous Dave Anderson on TV he was competing on BBQ cooking shows. He didn’t always win, but he always made food that looked amazing and just as important, he always came across as genuinely nice. I thought what a welcome change from the sometimes-a-bit-too-much-over-the-top folks you see compete in food contests.

At the time there weren’t any Famous Dave’s restaurants near us. And in fact, I wasn’t particularly sold on the idea of chain BBQ, but when a restaurant finally opened in Indianapolis I went with an open mind and empty stomach. I came away thinking to myself “shame on me for thinking that some corporate chain couldn’t turn out BBQ just as good as our local joints”. And I came away thinking that I’d just had some of the best side dishes I’d ever had from anywhere, be it BBQ or fine dining.

Famous Dave’s Barbecue Party Cookbook is packed with great dishes, perfect for your next outdoor cookout. Don’t expect copycat recipes from the restaurant. Instead, you’ll find a wide range of recipes, from simple dipping sauces (the Cajun mustard is perfect for dipping chicken nuggets or just slather some on a hot dog bun) to a cooling avocado potato salad to Tex-Mex fajitas.

One thing I really, really enjoy about Famous Dave’s Barbecue Party Cookbook is that there’s nothing ‘weird’ in it. I have just about everything I need on-hand to make most of the recipes in the book. And although most of the dishes are ‘normal’, they are all super-flavorful versions of things you may have had before. Like cocktail weenies. Dave’s BBQ Smoky Porkies take them to a new level, adding pickles (yes!), bacon and cheese, served with a fantastic apricot BBQ sauce for dipping. Take that, ‘normal’ cocktail weenies!

Famous Dave’s Barbecue Party Cookbook is packed with tons and tons of recipes and a few great stories and tidbits and advice to boot. It’s well worth the price, and then some. I scored the book high on the ‘Mater Rater.

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

Review: John Besh’s Besh Big Easy 101 Home Cooked New Orleans Recipes

I can’t recall the first time I saw Chef John Besh on TV. Perhaps it was on Top Chef Master, or on his really, really great PBS show. Or maybe it was competing on The Next Iron Chef. But, it really doesn’t matter where it was, because the result was the same. I could tell instantly that Chef Besh was real. I could trust him. I could believe his stories. I could fall in love with his food. Nothing about the chef was over-the-top or staged. He was sincere about his passion for food, and that’s very, very important to me. I think that passion comes across in every dish. You know, like when your grandma says “this was made with love”. Same sort of thing.

So of course when Chef Besh’s new cookbook (his fourth so far), Besh Big Easy 101 Home Cooked New Orleans Recipes came out for the Kindle I grabbed up a digital copy, and like the dishes I’d end up making from the cookbook, I devoured ever word.

There are so many great recipes in Besh Big Easy 101 that I can’t even begin to describe them. Many are rooted in tradition. Recipes from friends or family or traditional recipes that you’d associate with the Gulf region. Most contain ingredients that I can find here in Indianapolis, so I don’t have to worry about the cookbook sitting on my shelf (or in my Kindle) gathering dust. I reference it often.

Each recipe starts out with a hint, or saying, or some relevant passage about the dish. Such as “whenever we’re lucky enough to have a crawfish boil, one of the added benefits is the potato salad that we make the next day from the small red potatoes that were boiled in all those delicious spices.”. You feel more connected to Chef Besh and his food, and hey, the tips are great too! Besh Big Easy 101 is a great read and a great reference.

Besh Big Easy 101 scores high on the ‘Mater Rater scale.

'Mater RaterFor more of my reviews of cookbooks available for the Amazon Kindle readers, visit Kindle Thyme.

Review: Vivian Howard’s Deep Run Roots

I have been watching A Chef’s Life on PBS since it first aired in 2013. It is a fantastic show centering around Chef Vivian Howard from Deep Run, North Carolina and her restaurants in Kinston, NC, Chef & the Farmer and the Boiler Room. But A Chef’s Life isn’t a cooking show, it’s a show about life in the south, life around food, and food history. It doesn’t matter to me how many times I’ve seen an episode, I always watch when it comes on. Che Howard’s book, Deep Run Roots, does the show justice and then some.

Reading Deep Rut Roots will making you feel just like I feel when I watch the show. You hang on every word. You can smell the food, taste it and feel it as Chef Howard talks about everything from grits to beets. You sense her unending desire to learn and stay connected to her food past.. You want to put Velveeta and crumbled Jimmy Dean sausage on rice as she did as a kid. You want to pick blueberries. You want to make squash and onions not because you’re a fan of squash, but because her mom made it. And you’ll flash back to your childhood as you read Chef Howard recall about how as a kid it was so hard to eat a watermelon while avoiding the seeds.

At the end of the book you’ll know Chef Howard better than you know most of the people in your life, and your head will be full of fantastic recipes and visions of food and places. And you’ll learn. A lot.

Deep Run Roots is full of over 200 recipes and stories to go with them. I found that the recipes aren’t intimidating nor are they complicated and they don’t contain items that are obscure. You’ll make the dishes in this book because they’re easy and they sound and are fantastic. I should say that I am biased. I lived in the south for over 10 years, and I love southern cooking. I’m biased for a reason though. It’s good food!

Deep Run Roots scores high on the ‘Mater Rater scale.

'Mater RaterFor more of my reviews of cookbooks available for the Amazon Kindle readers, visit Kindle Thyme.