Cook the Book: 'Around the Southern Table'


After watching folks like Hugh Acheson and Sean Brock nail chef-testants for improper bowls of grits and plates of fried chicken in the last few seasons of Top Chef, it's safe to say that Southern food has hit the mainstream. Dishes (like grits) that were once viewed as the poor-man's version of polenta anywhere north of the Mason-Dixon line are now celebrated, reinterpreted, and chef-ified all over.

Sure, there are plenty of fried dishes in the Southern canon, but seasonal vegetables and local seafood also play a big part in the cuisine. More important than the food, however, is the act of gathering friends and family around a well-worn table for a generous meal. This is the driving force behind Southern Living Magazine's new cookbook, Around the Southern Table, in which contributing editor Rebecca Lang wields her Southern expertise with ease.

Like the magazine, Around the Southern Table has a quaint feel, as if the photographs were shot through the Instagram Nashville lens. The recipes are solid, well-tested Southern classics. There are plenty of fried and bacon-laced recipes—chicken, okra, and green tomatoes each take their turn in hot oil—but the rest of the book is made up of salads, pickles, preserves, and vegetable sides. It's a perfect guidebook for entertaining, everything from a raucous tailgate to an elegant holiday meal at home.

This week, we'll explore some good Southern eating, starting with Cat-Head Biscuits with Tomato Gravy, perfect for a leisurely brunch. Next we'll prepare a coastal feast featuring a Lowcountry Boil, Carolina Gold Rice Salad, and Spicy Coleslaw. We'll round out our time in Dixie with a sweetly elegant recipe for Pine Nut Blondies.

Win 'Around the Southern Table'

Thanks to the kind folks at Oxmoor House, we have five (5) copies of Around the Southern Table to give away this week. All you need to do to win is tell us about your favorite Southern dish--fried or otherwise--in the comments section below.