In B. Smith’s Southern Cooking A-Z, she explores the rich and diverse cuisines of the American South—from Cajun to creole, Soul food to “New Southern.” Laced with engaging anecdotes about culture and history, Smith’s recipes equal parts instructive and entertaining.
Hers isn’t a cookbook for elaborate dinner parties or calorie counters, but rather a guide for those unafraid to smoke a pig and toss back a few sliders. From Smith’s mouthwatering catfish fingers to her Jambalaya, her Kentucky Burgoo, and the entertaining stories she tells while teaching you her tricks, B. Smith’s Southern Cooking A-Z will show even the most skeptical reader why the Wall Street Journal has hailed her as “One of the most formidable rivals of Martha Stewart.”
Southern cooking both contemporary and traditional may be having its moment, and it gets a friendly cookbook treatment from a celebrated African-American lifestyle restaurateur. While Smith has authored two books on entertaining and operated her iconic B. Smith restaurants in New York; Washington, D.C.; and Long Island for years, she actually considers this her cookbook debut, which she says, was inspired by her desire to share her love of Southern food while giving it an update. Chapters follow traditional categories such as brunch, appetizers, meat and so on. Interspersing recipes with facts about their historical or personal origin, Smith introduces readers to the nuances of the region's cuisine, from Carolina low country's shrimp and grits to the Cajun maque choux of Louisiana. (For any readers who ever wanted to attempt turducken at home, Smith has a multipage explication.) The contemporary spin comes in the form of eggplant fries with tomato truffle ketchup, sweet potato salad with orange-maple dressing, and chocolate chip dessert sliders. Where possible, she has substituted healthier renditions, eliminating fatty meats or reducing sugar. Smith tops it off with a chapter devoted to beverages, including a number of interesting cocktails (pistachio margarita-tini and strawberry sangria with rose geranium), which, in keeping with her home-entertaining pedigree, will get the party started. Throughout, Smith remains an affable host, keeping the proceedings accessible and fun.