The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook: Stories and Recipes for Southerners and Would-be Southerners

August 30, 2010 · Posted in Bestselling Cooking Books 

Product Description
You don’t have to be southern to cook southern. From the New York Times food writers who defended lard and demystified gumbo comes a collection of exceptional southern recipes for everyday cooks. The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook tells the story of the brothers’ culinary coming-of-age in Charleston—how they triumphed over their northern roots and learned to cook southern without a southern grandmother. Here are recipes for classics like Fried Chick… More >>

The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook: Stories and Recipes for Southerners and Would-be Southerners

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5 Responses to “The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook: Stories and Recipes for Southerners and Would-be Southerners”

  1. Melissa Dunn on August 31st, 2010 1:00 am

    The Lee Bros. Cookbook is really inspiring–it makes me want to take the day off and go crabbing, mix up a frosty pitcher of mint julips for my friends, or drink a whole glass of buttermilk (like my Grandpa used to do). It makes me–a New Yorker via Southern California–want to go to the South! Right now, this very minute. The recipes are welcoming, homey, conjure images of grandma’s kitchen (Grandma was from Chicago but made a mean fried chicken and biscuit). They are also elegant in their simplicity, in their respect for pure, fresh ingredients–and completely unpretentious. The book includes a long, affectionate mediation on grits (a much maligned delicious food): lemon grits, herb grits blue cheese grits!!! It is truly grit-tastic. Vegetarians who love Southern food–take heart–this book loves you: collards, okra,field peas, squash,jerusalem artichokes and ramps! The buttermilk lime dressing and pimento cheese sandwiches are killer. And of course, there is plenty of meat–things like hot-pepper roasted duck and fiery BBQ pork tenderloin, not to mention the classic–fried chicken.

    And something else that is great about this book–and really rare in a cookbook–is that it is a pleasure to read (don’t worry–there are also plenty of lovely pictures). I found myself curling up in bed with it in the evening to read all the text. The stories in the book are both historical–contextualizing the amazing variety of Southern food and the origins of regional favorites–as well as personal, quirky recollections about the connections between place, food, people and memory. This book has lots of unabashed red-hot food-love and heaps of heart and soul.
    Rating: 5 / 5

  2. B. Marold on August 31st, 2010 3:41 am

    `The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook’ by South Carolinian / New Yorkers, Matt Lee and Ted Lee weighs in at the top of my list for best `practical’ go to book for Southern cooking. That approbation is with the understanding that I have not finished looking yet, but this one is a strong early candidate. At the moment, the best competition is the far more general `James Beard’s American Cookery’.

    One may guess from the number of restaurateur’s endorsing blurbs on the back jacket that our two Southern gentlemen are not themselves restrauranteurs, and in direct competition with Bobby Flay, Mario Batali, and especially fellow southerner, Frank Stitt. The brothers Lee are actually the L. L. Bean for purveying southern cuisine staples, beginning with their dear boiled peanuts. Their `day job’ also happens to be culinary travel writers for many of the bigger names in New York culinary journalism such as `The New York Times’, `Travel + Leisure’, `Martha Stewart Living’, and `Food and Wine’. They also have an hour show on Martha Stewart’s Sirius Radio channel. Which is surprising, as there is no evidence of any reference to Ms. Martha in the acknowledgments, introduction, or index.

    Since these gentlemen are neither restaurateurs nor professional chefs in any capacity, and learned how to cook out of personal necessity, the title of the book reflecting a `personal’ cookbook is probably as accurate as one may hope. The book is composed exclusively of recipes the boys have cooked themselves, or cribbed from friends or relatives’ cooking. This source is broadened and made more professional by the fact that the recipes have been collected and edited for the last ten (10) to twelve (12) years with an eye to professional publication in these very same august publications.

    My overall impression of the book is that while our lads range pretty widely across `the old south’, from Virginia to southern Florida to Cajun country to the Ozarks, they stay true to traditions of those sources while still making all recipes doable in a modern American kitchen. This means that the very traditional Carolina barbecue will rival those done in a smoker, but no smoke is needed to cook their recipe. Of course, their center of gravity is in the Carolina low country, so most recipes are very similar to those from the same region, such as Paula Deen and Mrs. Wilkes of Savannah and James Villas (and mother). And, their book is a superior reference for practical Southern cooking than either of these three, due to a combination of authenticity, range, and variety of approaches to the same dish. I am surprised, however, at the appearance of some dishes such as chow-chow and hot bacon dressing which I have always associated with the Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine. But there they are! I guess pickled vegetables and bacon fat are pretty universal in American cookery.

    This last comment needs exegesis. For several recipes, the boys give us two different versions of a basic, important recipe, such as gumbo or braised collard greens. The first and more traditional recipe is the `Sunday’ version, requiring several hours to cook to a tee. The second version is the `Tuesday’ version which is much faster, but with a result which comes close to the longer result. I think it’s a minor point, but I find it interesting that the boys’ local farmers market opens on Tuesday, thus creating the best weekday to do recipes requiring fresh, traditional ingredients.

    Aside from range and `options’, the Lees also give us more elaborate recipes than Deen or Wilkes. They also give us a lot more `local color’ in sidebars on locations, ingredients, and the provenance of recipes. This is the basis of their subtitle that declares that the book has `Stories and Recipes for Southerners and would-be Southerners’. I must point out, however, that for in depth research on important southern dishes, the august Jim Villas’ articles on classic Southern dishes, especially in `Stalking the Green Fairy’ are superior essays on the issues regarding a certain basic dishes such as the pimento cheese spread and Brunswick stew.

    The thing which had me fall in love with this book is the emphasis the authors gave to auxiliary dishes and preparations such as beverages, relishes, spreads and dips, and appetizers. Just as in computer system design and virtually every other major human endeavor, the secret to great productivity is `modularity’, the ability to make preparations that will store well and serve in many different roles. One of the more useful aspects of the book are the little asides showing one how to make good use of various leftovers. One of my favorite discoveries in this book was a recipe for (country) ham pate, something my mother made for me when I was in grade school, and mysteriously stopped making when I got to college. One minor point on which someone more expert than I should take issue is the lumping together of American country hams and European cured hams such as Proscuitto. My hunch is that while there is some family resemblence between them, the differences are important as well. I believe they are not interchangeable in many recipes, certainly not in classic Italian recipes.

    Another valuable aside is the `What to Drink’ recommendation associated with all the `entrée’ recipes. This is not limited to wine, and it is certainly not limited to either European or California wines. It covers the entire range of potables from sweet iced tea to beer to sour mash whiskey.

    My favorite discovery is the recipe for the buttery bread, `Sally Lunn’, where the name is believed to be a corruption of the French `soleil et lune’. The bread is similar to brioche, but does not require the overnight rising of classic brioche. This means one can make a traditional buttery bread from start to finish in one day.

    In spite of the book’s heft, it should be equally at home by the armchair and in the kitchen.

    Rating: 5 / 5

  3. Griff on August 31st, 2010 5:58 am

    Writing and cooking have long flourished in the South, and both skills are on display in The Lee Brother’s Southern Cookbook. This is a mammoth production –589 pages and loads of color photos -with the heft of a physics textbook and the scope of an encyclopedia. The Lees’ style, however, is anything but burdensome. In and among their enormous selection of recipes they provide narration and storytelling that makes this work culinary literature. The Lees manage to cover most of the basics–from mint juleps to grits–while adding many fascinating dishes to the repertoire. In so doing, they often break old rules and invent others, calling recipes “suggestive architecture” that invites personalized attention. The brothers are rule breakers themselves, with no native roots or southern grandma to provide them with credentials: “The Lowcountry is where we learned to cook, the place we call home, and where, in 1980–exactly fourteen years before we tried peddling boiled peanuts in New York City–we first got turned on to regional food, when our parents left the Big Apple for Charleston, Yes, folks, we were born in New York.” No matter; here, nurture triumphs. The Lee brothers approach their subject with the zeal of converts, and their enthusiasm is magnified by their skill as writers, and years of experience as two of the leading food writers in the country.

    Some of the Lees’ recipes, like “Sunday Fried Chicken” may compel the reader immediately to the kitchen; others, like “Francisco’s Tractor-Disk Wok Venison” seem more apt for special occasions. The Lee’s variations on the southern theme are always interesting and carefully considered. You might not at first think a recipe for “Watermelon Sake” just the thing for a southern cookbook, but the Lee brothers point out that the Charleston area was once the center of American rice production, so why not celebrate the watermelon, southern history and the current availability of good sake all at the same time?

    Many cookbooks are helpful; a few are fun. This one is both. As southern cooking continues its renaissance, publication of this book will be seen as a watershed event. Buyers might want to make sure their copy is a first edition.
    Rating: 5 / 5

  4. Lynn Harnett on August 31st, 2010 8:50 am

    You don’t have to be Southern – after all the authors aren’t, not really – to love this book. From its paean to boiled peanuts to the primer on country hams (mold is good), the Lee brothers first book is a big fat gem of lively writing, good-natured chauvinism and unpretentious thoroughness.

    Native New Yorkers who spent their formative years in North Carolina and now divide their time between Charleston and New York (lugging their country ham in a stainless steel suitcase), the Lees demystify grits, okra, collard greens and the many varieties of field peas. They offer traditional specialties – Sunday Gumbo, Sunday Fried Chicken – and quicker streamlined versions – Tuesday Gumbo, Tuesday Fried Chicken.

    From Edisto River Oyster Shooters to French Squab Purloo and Kentucky Burgoo they celebrate regional specialties and pay homage to individual inspirations in dishes like Best Family Farm Corn-Bread Salad and Fish Stew Man’s Red Fish Stew.

    The well-organized recipes, loosely grouped by course, generally feed six and variations and leftover suggestions are offered where appropriate. Interspersed throughout are nuggets on sources (stone ground grits really do make a difference), techniques (washing and cutting collards) and ingredients (Jerusalem artichokes, growing okra) as well as stories about people and food they’ve met up with along the way.

    Food writers for the New York Times and mail order entrepreneurs, the Lees have hit the road running with this stellar book debut.

    — Portsmouth Herald
    Rating: 5 / 5

  5. southern mom on August 31st, 2010 10:25 am

    I really love this book. It’s classy, funny, yummy, cool. The food is traditional with a twist, like the lima bean pate with mint– wow. These guys are great. Our family loves the book so much, we’re cooking our total Thanksgiving dinner from these pages.
    Rating: 5 / 5

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