Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Cooking: Hugh Acheson's A New Turn in the South

Posted By on Tue, Jan 3, 2012 at 9:40 AM

From Hugh Achesons A New Turn in the South
  • Pimento cheese with smoked paprika
  • Hugh Acheson's cookbook, A New Turn in the South, seems well positioned for those looking to cook more in the new year, full of (relatively) simple Southern-inspired flavors and ingredients. I was happy to receive the book as a holiday gift, and chose a few recipes to attack over the New Year's weekend. The book is filled with familiar dishes, often with a few subtle detours that make the recipes unique. Quirky little doodles and some lovely photography bring the recipes to life.

    For a lunch with friends, I chose to make deviled eggs and pimiento cheese - perfectly traditional Southern party food, and both benefiting here from the twist of Spanish smoked paprika. For dinner at home, I chose a Brussels sprouts salad and "pickled" shrimp - light and vibrant dishes to counteract all the eggs and cheese I knew I would be eating. All were easy to knock out, and all turned out great.

    The deviled eggs recipe includes some nice tips for how to get the eggs just right, including laying them on their sides for 12 hours before cooking so that the yolks are centered! Chef Acheson's approach is close to textbook, with the added depth of that smoked hot (as in spicy) paprika. The yolk filling is done in a food processor to get it extra smooth, and benefits from the kick of Dijon mustard and the acidity of fresh lemon juice. I personally can't do deviled eggs without some pickle relish, so I added in some Wickle's relish for some crunch and a touch of sweet and spicy. I could eat these endlessly, and they were gobbled up quickly by friends.

    For the pimento cheese, the only real twist is the use of the smoked paprika (sweet, this time, not hot). That, plus roasted red peppers and sharp white cheddar turns out an excellent result. The smoked paprika is used in a healthy amount, coloring the white cheddar cheese a nice burnt orange and giving it a meat-y undertone (the joy of smoke!). Wonderful with soft white bread, or crunchy crackers, or crisp celery, or straight from the spoon.

    Pickled shrimp, shaved Brussels sprouts salad
  • Pickled shrimp, shaved Brussels sprout salad
  • As for the two less traditional dishes I tackled, the Brussels sprouts salad was the most unique dish of the bunch, owing to the fact that the sprouts are used uncooked, thinly shaved. Raw and thin, the sprouts taste a bit more like shredded cabbage, though less crisp. Roasted pecans and a heaping amount of grated Pecorino Romano provide some rich counterpoints to the sprouts, and a good Dijon vinaigrette ties it all together.

    The "pickled" shrimp isn't really pickled - it's boiled quickly with some Old Bay then sits overnight in an olive oil-based marinade, no vinegar. The Old Bay definitely permeates the shrimp, though not in an overpowering way, and then thinly sliced onion, parsley, garlic and lemon juice kick in to make a really fresh and lively dish. The texture of the cold shrimp was perfect - it only took a few minutes out of the refrigerator for the olive oil marinade to warm from a cold thick paste into a thin coating. Great stuff.

    So, anyone else out there taking a turn at the recipes in A New Turn in the South? Let us know which dishes are hits (or if there are any misses).

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