Monday, November 17, 2014

Sheri Castle curates collection celebrating 50 years of Southern Living reader recipes

Chapel Hill cookbook writer and culinary teacher Sheri Castle will be the guest of Culinary Historians of Piedmont North Carolina (CHOPNC) at 7pm Wednesday at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill. The event is free and open to the public.

Until last month, Sheri Castle had one cookbook published under her name, the exceptional The New Southern Garden Cookbook. Those in the industry, however, recognize her deft editing, demanding recipe testing and, above all else, ability to share great stories in countless ghostwritten cookbooks – several of which have earned high praise for celebrity clients.

Today, as the author of the Southern Living Community Cookbook (Oxmoor House, $29.95), she is sharing the spotlight with dozens of home cooks – who have been featured in the popular magazine over the past 50 years but, for the most part, have lived outside of the glare of culinary fame. To accomplish this, she examined more than 46,000 published recipes to feature ones that not only reflect the best of Southern cooking, but which also exemplify the era in which they were published and the region they from which they came.

Dates are not included in the book, but one can guess with clues like use of a woman’s formal married name, as in the case of Mrs. Denver W. Anderson of Tennessee, who made fried hand pies with reconstituted dried apples that recalls the old timey applejacks recently featured on A Chef's Life. While technology changes were covered enthusiastically when gadgets were novelties, the book features few recipes that require a microwave or call upon a slow cooker. Likewise, none deploy the once ubiquitous dessert topping Dream Whip. Recipes from male contributors suggest more recent issues.

Delightfully illustrated in the manner of vintage cookbooks, Southern Living Community Cookbook celebrates all that is good and wholesome – and rich and decadent – about Southern home cooking.  It also includes a handful of recipes from well-known chefs, including local legends Bill Smith of Crooks Corner, Sara Foster of Foster’s Market, Amy Tornquist of Watts Grocery and Mildred Council of Mama Dip’s. It also features the most requested recipe in the history of Southern Living: Hummingbird Cake – a festive cream cheese-frosted layer cake with crushed pineapple, chopped pecans and mashed banana made famous by Mrs. L.H. Wiggins of Greensboro.

Sherri Castle
North Carolina is well represented in the collection, including the book’s first recipe, Spiced Pecans from Diane Butts of Boone. “That was pure coincidence,” says Castle. “My job was to pick delicious recipes that are reliable and reasonably easy to make.”

Except for its debut issue in February 1966, Castle says Southern Living has always featured reader recipes. Every recipe had to make it through the demands of Southern Living’s test kitchen before being accepted for publication.

Along with local community cookbooks – including those produced by churches and Junior Leagues as fundraisers – these publications empowered women as experts and wage earners at a time where few had jobs outside of the home.

“Some were what I could call heavy users, who mailed in recipes year after year,” Castle says. “I could tell where they moved over the years. There was one in particular, given the number of Air Force bases, that she moved because of deployments.”

Where ever they went, their Southern cooking traditions went with them. Southern Living’s reader recipes became a sort of touchstone for some who lived far from home. It’s a powerful notion, considering many of these recipes were submitted well before the advent of the internet.

“Mailing a recipe in was the social media of the day,” Castle says. “You couldn’t pin or post, but the intention was the same. They wrote the recipes in long hand and tucked them in an envelope. And they waited to find out if they made the cut.”

While Castle does not have any of her own recipes in the book, she wrote the introductory notes that give everything from deviled eggs and pimento cheese to butternut squash tortilla soup and bourbon slush their distinctive sense of place.

Castle has been gratified by the response of readers, who have found the recipes evocative of childhood or the aromas of a loved one’s kitchen.

“That’s exactly the reaction I hoped for,” she says. “It time travel. I hope everyone finds a recipe in there that provides a happy ‘aha moment’ for readers.”

Sweet Potato Pie with Rosemary Cornmeal Crust
From The Southern Living Community Cookbook: Celebrating Food and Fellowship in the American South. Copyright (c) 2014 by Oxmoor House. No reproductions or reprints allowed without express written consent from Oxmoor House. Recipe from the kitchen of Crystal Detamore-Rodman of Charlottesville, Virginia.

Makes 8 servings.

¾ cup all-purpose flour
                        @ Southern Living photo

½ cup plain white cornmeal
¼ cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
¼ tsp. salt
½ cup cold butter, cut into pieces
¼ cup very cold water

1½ lb. small, slender sweet potatoes
3 large eggs
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 cup evaporated milk
3 tbps. butter, melted
2 tsp. finely grated fresh orange zest
1 tbsp. fresh orange juice
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
1½ tsp. vanilla extract
  1. To prepare the crust, whisk together flour, cornmeal, powdered sugar, rosemary and salt in a medium bowl until well blended. Cut butter into flour mixture with a pastry blender until mixture is crumbly, with a few pieces of butter the size of small peas.
  2. Sprinkle cold water, 1 tbsp. at a time, over flour mixture, stirring with a fork until dry ingredients are moistened. Pour onto a work surface. Gather and form into a ball, then flatten into a disk. Wrap well in plastic wrap and will 30 minutes.
  3. Unwrap dough and roll between two sheets of lightly floured plastic wrap into a 12-inch round. Fit into a 9-inch pie plate. Fold edges under and crimp. Chill 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake crust at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, shielding edges with aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning. Cool completely on a wire rack (about 1 hour).
  5. To prepare the filling, place sweet potatoes on a baking skeet and bake at 400 degrees for 45 minute or until soft. Let stand 10 minutes. Cut potatoes in half lengthwise; scoop out pulp into a bowl. Mash pulp until smooth. Discard skins.
  6. Whisk together eggs and granulated sugar in a large bowl until well blended. Stir in milk, melted butter, orange zest, orange juice, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. Stir in sweet potato pulp. Pour mixture into crust.
  7. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake 20 to 25 minutes more or until center is set. Cool completely on a wire rack.
Note: If you don’t want to prepare a homemade crust, you can add cornmeal and fresh rosemary to a refrigerated crust. Substitute ½ (14.1-oz.) package refrigerated piece crust for cornmeal crust ingredients. Unroll onto lightly floured surface. Sprinkle with 1 tbsp. plain white cornmeal and 2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary. Lightly roll cornmeal and rosemary into crust. Fit into a 9-inch pie plate according to package directions. Fold edges under; crimp. Proceed as directed, beginning with Step 5.

No comments:

Post a Comment