The Bookshelf: The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern: Knockout Dishes with Down-Home Flavor
February 22, 2010
After winning the 2007 JBF Award for Cookbook of the Year for the Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook, Matt and Ted Lee have returned with Simple, Fresh, Southern: Knockout Dishes with Down-Home Flavor, a compilation of unfussy recipes for the busy cook. We invited the Lee Brothers to discuss their new title and Southern cuisine at last week's Beard on Books. When developing recipes for Simple, Fresh Southern, Matt and Ted found inspiration in their sprawling cookbook collection. Certain concepts emerged from serious meditation on a single ingredient, like buttermilk; others, like pimento cheese potato gratin and mint julep panna cotta, “hit like a thundercloud." Simple, Fresh Southern finds its balance between Southern food homage and the Lee brothers' own creativity. The discussion inevitably wandered toward boiled peanuts, a Southern staple that was ushered into the rest of the country through Matt and Ted's Lee Bros. Boiled Peanuts Catalogue. Sixteen years after the Catalogue's debut, Ted insists that boiled peanuts are finally having their moment, citing the pork fat–fried nuts that April Bloomfield serves in her restaurants. The brothers noted that this finger food is just the latest link in a chain of Southern food trends in New York City: 2007 saw an explosion of grits; 2008 gave us country ham; and fried chicken was all the rage in the summer of 2009. A curious audience member asked for the brothers’ favorite Southern food haunts in the five boroughs. Matt and Ted plugged Momofuku Ssäm Bar for its selection of country hams. For mouthwatering fried chicken, they trek to Charles’ Pan-Fried Chicken in Harlem or Roberta’s in Bushwick. They also dig the Southern breakfast at Egg in Williamsburg for a Southern breakfast and the shrimp and grits at the Red Head. Beyond New York, Ted gave a shout-out to Hugh Acheson at Five and Ten in Athens, GA. Acheson's innovative approach to Southern cooking has fathered dishes like roasted muscadine grapes with veal chops.