Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Whole Hog Cookbook: A Delicious Review (and Recipe)

I personally own 6 stuffed pigs and a piggy bank which I painted with a diagram of the primal cuts of pork. I have always considered pigs to be some of my favorite animals, both since I find them adorable and seriously delicious. Libbie Summers shares this love affair with pigs. As Paula Deen's culinary producer (and a chef in her own right), she is releasing her first cookbook on September 13th entitled The Whole Hog Cookbook. This book ain't kosher, and I'm totally on board :) Libbie introduces the book with a story from her childhood and her grandmother's farm. She describes her youthful disregard for her grandmother's prized pigs by riding them like horses, and then realizes her wrong-doings. These animals deserve respect. Respect in life and in death. This is why she offers this cookbook to lovingly (and deliciously) utilize every last part of the pig, to pay the utmost respect to one of God's most flavorful creatures.

Most chapters begin with a "Pig Tale," an in depth introduction to the first recipe. I can honestly say that The Whole Hog Cookbook is filled with love. Love for pigs and all of their beautiful parts. Starting with the loin and then moving onto the Boston shoulder (or Boston butt), bacon, spare ribs, picnic shoulder, leg, and offal, and then finally a chapter entitled slices which shares pork-infused dessert recipes (these are mostly limited to the use of bacon or lard as pork ingredients). Each recipe features a heading which points out the primary pork cut that is used in the recipe, and every single pork ingredient is bolded as well. This is as pork-centric as a cookbook could get!

Aesthetically speaking, this cookbook is also one of the most funky, modern, and colorful I have come across in regard to the layout and illustrations. Full page photographs are interspersed with pages quartered and devoted to four photographs, and always in the cross-hairs is juicy, meaty pork. The photography setup for this book really allows for the sharing of illustrations of almost all of the dishes in the book. It makes the most of the picture pages, and even includes many photos of Libbie with a variety of pigs, and even Libbie's hands showing off some of her creations. The photography is professional, but playful. It mirrors Libbie's personality perfectly, and really captures how personal these recipes and stories are. They are down home and honest. They truly come not only from the farm, but from Libbie's heart.

Libbie's voice is also a great highlight of this cookbook. She has an incredible sense of humor and is very knowledgeable about the topic of pigs and pork. I don't know about you, but whenever I hear the words "Pork Chops and Applesauce" my mind immediately flashes back to an episode of the Brady Bunch. It is my #1 memory related to this dish and this phrase. Libbie Summers doesn't miss a beat. She refers to the exact same episode in her recipe introduction for Pork Chops and Applesauce. Although the book contains many classics such as this one, there are countless recipes that are new to me and probably to you as well. Mouthwatering creations along the likes of Prosciutto Pretzel Knots with Stout Mustard, Bacon Beignets with Lemon Thyme Curd, Sweet Tea-Brined Pork Roast with Lemon Mint Mashed Potatoes, Hot Pickled Pork Sandwiches with Cool Apple Slaw, and Country Ham and Buttermilk Biscuits with Clementine Prosecco Marmalade. Do I have your attention yet?

The book even contains "How To" guides for preparing a double rack of pork ribs for a crown roast, making green grass refrigerator pickles, wet-curing bacon, removing the pork rib membrane, making breakfast sausage, carving a fresh ham, preparing hot peppered pickled pig's feet, rendering leaf lard, and finally a very special "parting gift"... instructions for making the three little pigs out of marzipan. Oink oink. This book is too much fun!

Although Libbie does an excellent job highlighting pretty much everything there is to know about pigs and pork, including a great source guide in the back of the book, I was so excited to find out more. An interview was in order. Thanks to one of the publicity managers at Rizzoli, I was in touch with Libbie before I could say "deep fried bacon." Not only did she answer my questions, but we chatted on the phone for about half an hour about pork, her book, bread pudding, our respective jobs, and most importantly how much we LOVE cooking. She even shared with me a sacrifice she made that only the biggest cookbook lovers can understand. She slightly reduced the weight of the paper in the book (which even after the fact is incredible quality) just so she could add 10 more pages of love. I hope to meet my new Southern friend the next time she comes up north. I see lots of delicious eats in our future.

How long have you been a culinary producer for Paula Deen and how did that translate into writing your first cookbook?

Paula has been one of my clients for 3 years. I've been so blessed to work with a saucepan full of great clients. With Paula, I've been fortunate enough to style a few images in one of her books as well as worked on two of the delicious Deen Brothers books and two books from her fabulous cousin Johnnie Gabriel, so I was introduced to the true bones of doing a cookbook. The good the bad and the ugly...there's always something to learn and I've tried to be a sponge to it all. Paula was kind enough to write a wonderful foreword for me as well as taking a day out of her schedule to have a pig roast photo shoot. In the fast paced world she works in, this was a super big deal and for this, I'll be forever grateful.

Has this cookbook always been something you wanted to do? Other than your obvious love for pork, what inspired you to write it?

I LOVE cookbooks, and have been collecting them for years...It's a ridiculously delicious obsession and I don't even want to know how many I have. I actually make pieces of furniture out of them –to justify the purchases! Since part of what I do is write for a living, it was a natural progression for a book and I'm told that's the bonus people will get out of the book –the stories that make you laugh. The pig connection? That is all about my childhood. My grandparents had a small boutique farm in rural Missouri and some of my most colorful memories (grandma cussed, smoked and changed her hair color constantly) took place on that farm. Also, some of the best meals I've ever eaten were around that farmhouse table.

Why do some recipes call for Smithfield pork specifically while others don't?

The folks at Smithfield have been very supportive of my work and I've used their products when developing recipes for them in the past. This was my way of saying thank you for their support AND more importantly showing that using a cut of pork found in most grocery stores makes a great dish when the recipe is good!

Does using self rising flour make a difference for breading as opposed to all-purpose? (for example in the recipes for the tenderloin sandwich and the deep fried dills)

Self-rising flour is all about Paula Deen. When I started working with her, she taught me the difference in the crispiness on chicken when you dredged in self rising flour versus all-purpose. Why would I ever argue with the queen of Southern fried chicken, right! From that day on, I've only used self-rising flour when I "down home" fry! This tenderloin sandwich is so simple and so freakin' amazing. The Kick-Butt Ketchup... girl, you will think you died and went to Southern Fried Heaven.

Smoked shoulder roll is an unfamiliar cut to me (and I did study meatcutting in culinary school). Is this commonly found or should it be special ordered?

Okay Victoria, I definitely want you on my meat cutting team!! The smoked shoulder roll is really nothing fancy, but is full of flavor. It's a cured and smoked boneless eye of pork shoulder blade from the Boston shoulder retail cut. It's widely available, I just think most people don't know about it, so they don't look for it. I use it in three recipes in my book: Cuban Pork Roast, Midnight Pork Tamales and West African Pork Stew. All cook low and slow... I hope the Midnight Pork Tamale story makes you smile too!

A lot of mom and pop butcher shops seem to be disappearing in smaller cities and towns. Supermarkets are the common location for most people's meat purchases. For less common cuts of meat (or heritage pork) would it be best to order from online vendors? Or simply substitute what is available?

Of course, I would encourage sourcing out local heritage pork farmers and using local butchers, but sadly that is not always an option. In that case, I use ordering online as one option. Actually, my favorite pork farmer is Emile DeFelice in South Carolina at Caw Caw Creek farm. I order directly from him. Sometimes, the next best thing is a great pork chop from Piggly Wiggly! I'm not that kind of cook who is above buying a cut of pork from a local grocery store. Luckily, the recipes in my book are DE to the licious with either choice!

A charcuterie fashion show... the most beautiful kind :)

It was nearly impossible to narrow down a single recipe to start off with, but my very first impression of this book was from the first recipe, the Colossal Pork Tenderloin Sandwich. I knew that was where I should start my pork-filled journey. I'm pretty sure Libbie planned it this way. The pork tenderloin itself is prepared just like a chicken fried steak, so it's kind of like a chicken fried pork tenderloin :) It's sensational. Super duper tender pork with an amazingly flavorful and crisp crust. The ketchup is the best ketchup on Earth. For real. My ketchup-hating-friend couldn't stop eating it. I recommend making it for every ketchup requirement. I know all of you gardeners out there have millions of pounds of tomatoes at this point in the summer, so definitely don't let this ketchup recipe pass you by!

The mayo is super flavorful and definitely worth the extra effort to make yourself (and whisk by hand). I have had a love/hate relationship with making homemade mayo. This mayo came together perfectly! And when married with the ketchup, it takes on a life of its own. For breading the pork, I actually cut the seasoned flour ingredients all in half and still had plenty for breading my tenderloins, so use your judgement. I just hate wasting flour if I don't need to. We also opted for wheat buns instead of plain white buns, and our sandwiches were still super tasty. Next time I may actually toast the inside of the buns so they don't get as soggy with the massive amounts of ketchup and mayo that just beg to be poured atop this oh-so-colossal and delicious sandwich. Serve with plenty of napkins!

The Colossal Pork Tenderloin Sandwich

Colossal Pork Tenderloin Sandwich
Serves 4

Peanut oil for deep-frying
2 cups self-rising flour (I used all-purpose flour and added baking powder and salt to make it like self-rising flour)
1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus more for sprinkling
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
2 large eggs, beaten
1 lb. pork tenderloin, cut into 4 equal pieces
4 sandwich buns (the cheap kind)
Homemade Mayonnaise (recipe follows)
Butt-Kickin' Ketchup (recipe follows)

In a Dutch oven or deep skillet, heat at least 4 inches of peanut oil to 360 degrees F (I only used about 2 inches and it was still plenty of oil to fry these babies). Line a baking sheet with paper towels and set aside.

In a shallow baking dish whisk together the flour, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. In a separate shallow baking dish, put the beaten eggs.

Place one piece of tenderloin between two pieces of plastic wrap. Use a meat tenderizer, wooden mallet, or rolling pin to beat the tenderloin to 1/4-inch thick. Repeat with the remaining tenderloin pieces.

Dip one piece of tenderloin into the flour mixture to coat, and shake off any excess flour. Next, dip the lightly floured piece into the beaten egg and return it to the flour mixture. Slide the breaded tenderloin into the hot oil and fry for 4 to 6 minutes, turning, until it is golden brown. Remove to the prepared baking sheet to drain, and season with more salt and pepper. Continue cooking the remaining pieces of tenderloin until all are fried. Serve each tenderloin atop a hamburger bun (the meat should be larger than the bun), and spread with Homemade Mayonnaise and Butt-Kickin' Ketchup. Fries are optional.

Homemade Mayonnaise and Butt-Kickin' Ketchup

Homemade Mayonnaise
Yields 3/4 cup

2 large egg yolks
1 tsp. distilled white vinegar
2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp. dry mustard powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
3/4 cup vegetable oil

Combine the egg yolks, vinegar, lemon juice, mustard powder, cayenne, and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Whisk for 1 minute, or until the mixture is well combined and bright yellow in color. Add 1/4 cup of the oil a few drops at a time, whisking constantly. It's important not to rush this step, because the oil must be fully incorporated after each addition. This step will take about 5 minutes. Continuing to whisk fora bout 8 to 10 minutes more, gradually add the remaining 1/2 cup oil in a slow, steady stream until the mayonnaise begins to thicken and lighten in color. The mayonnaise will keep for 2 days, covered and refrigerated.

Butt-Kickin' Ketchup
Yields 1 1/2 cups

4 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
4 whole allspice berries
4 black peppercorns
2 lbs. tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, or more to taste
1/2 cup cider vinegar, or more to taste
1/3 cup light brown sugar, or more to taste
1 sweet onion, roughly chopped
1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, roughly chopped (I used about 1 T. chipotle sauce instead)
1 clove garlic, smashed

Make a spice bundle of the cloves, bay leaf, cinnamon, allspice, and peppercorns, using a cheesecloth.

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the tomatoes, salt, vinegar, brown sugar, onion, chipotle, garlic, and the spice bundle. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.

Remove the spice bundle and puree the sauce in a blender, covering the blender top with a towel, until the sauce is smooth. Strain the sauce through a fine-mesh sieve over the saucepan, pressing on the solids to get as much of the pulp and sauce through as you can. Return to low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until the ketchup begins to thicken. Season with more sugar, salt, or vinegar depending on your tastes. Let cool before serving (the ketchup with thicken as it cools). Butt-Kickin' Ketchup will keep, refrigerated, in a sealed jar, for up to 3 weeks.

*Disclaimer* I received no compensation to write this review other than a free copy of the book. My opinions are always my own.


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