I admit, I hadn’t heard of SouthernBite.com until I got the press release about blogger Stacey Little’s new book, the Southern Bite Cookbook. You see, I’m from the south–southeast Louisiana, point of fact–and I’ve never really had to hunt farther than my own bookcase (if even that far) for a little taste of home. But for fans of southern cooking who either didn’t grow up with it or maybe missed learning at the mother’s or grandmother’s elbows, sites like SouthernBite.com can be a fun and useful resource and offer a sense of community among the comments. Todd, who grew up in Nebraska but did have the good fortune to spend 10 years of his adult life in the same area of Louisiana from which I hail, is a good example of the latter and was quite excited to page through Little’s book for supper inspiration.
A good cookbook can be read like a novel, giving you insights into the life of the author or the regional culture the recipes draw from. Little does an excellent job of infusing the Southern Bite Cookbook with just those little touches. He talks about growing up in Alabama, the memories certain recipes always stir for him, and his food philosophy now that he’s the one cooking for friends and family. He’s forthright about the rigors of having a family and trying to get dinner on the table each evening and doesn’t apologize for his liberal use of convenience products. That said, the southern cooking I grew up with didn’t use nearly so much canned cream of something soup or ranch dressing mix, or at least not so often as this cross section of southern cuisine might lead one to believe.
In fact, that’s my only real complaint about the book–the preponderance of canned soups and dry soup mixes. Â But, just like anything else, you can easily find ways around those items and still be able to make many of the recipes in Little’s book. Here’s what we sampled:
Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes (p.96) and Slow Cooker Pulled Pork (p.70)
Chicken Bacon Ranch Mac and Cheese (p.37) and Spicy Black-Eyed Peas (p.116)
Grits & Grillades (p.46, featuring My Secret CheeseÂ Grits, p.47) and Fried Green Tomatoes (p.17)
Shrimp Creole (p.31)
Sweet and Sour Green Beans (p.88)
Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya (p.72)
Okra Fritters (p.80, shown with leftover Remoulade from the FGT)
The Okra Fritters are a great example of a quintessential southern food–fried okra–turned on its ear a bit and elevated to posh nibble over just another deep-fried side-dish. The components are simple and cooking doesn’t take long, either, with pan-frying being much easier to manage than setting up and dealing with a deep fryer (not to mention all those little bits of breaded okra flipping around). It was also super simple to translate into gluten-free cooking: instead of self-rising cornmeal and all-purpose (wheat) flour, I used regular corn meal and gluten-free Bisquick in their place. These sorts ofÂ simple substitutions are usually all that’s necessary to make southern classics into safe for the necessarily picky eaters. (And since lactose-free buttermilk is hard to come by, use the trick of adding a bit of white vinegar or lemon juice to your lactose-free milk and letting set for 5 minutes or so to get a near-perfect substitution!)
Overall we enjoyed the Southern Bite Cookbook and, at the very least, those Okra Fritters will likely be gracing our table again!
***I was provided a copy of the Southern Bite Cookbook for the purpose of review. No other compensation has been received and all opinions expressed are my own.***