Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Around the Southern Table: Peppered Pork Roast with Blue Cheese Grits Recipe

Photo credit: Jennifer Davick
I got into the business of writing cookbooks because I truly love them. As a young girl, I would sit for hours flipping through and dog earring my mother's collection of Southern spiral bound church and community cookbooks. I would literally read them word for word, starting with the table of contents all the way through to the index, stopping every now and then to oogle at some overly staged, styled photo of a lime congealed salad or a coconut cream pie with whipped meringue that seemed to touch the top of the page. While most pre-pubescent girls were curled up in bed with Judy Blume, I was trying (unsuccessfully, I might add) to work my way through Larousse Gastronomique.

I was a weird kid, yet one thing has remained a constant all of these years (in addition to still being a bit on the strange side) and that's the childlike giddiness I feel when I crack open a brand spanking new cookbook, one that truly excites me. Enter author, food writer and resident Georgia gal Rebecca Lang's new book, "Southern Living Around the Southern Table: Coming home to comforting meals and treasured memories" (Oxmoor House, 2012).
Photo credit: Jennifer Davick
It goes without saying that the recipes in this book are of your swoonworthy Southern variety-- think Cat-Head Biscuits with Tomato Gravy, All Things Sweet Potato Casserole (made with gingersnap cookies), Country Ham and Cheese Biscuit Bread, Pecan Bourbon and Cane Syrup Ham (yup) and a Chocolate-Bourbon Pecan Pie that Lang describes as consisting of, "pecans suspended in a fudgy, bourbon-kissed filling". Um, yes please!

Yet, this is not your average recipes-only cookbook. There's a lot more going on here than simply tasty food since, as any good Southern cook knows, great recipes are meant to be shared with others. Herein is where the book offers so much more. In addition to first person tributes on Southern cooking and entertaining along with the joys of family and fellowship from a few of Lang's friends and fellow Southerners including model and actress Ali Landry, HGTV's Vern Yip, Olympic gymnast and Oklahoman Shannon Miller, and a lovely forward by Southern cookbook author and respected culinary expert, Nathalie Dupree, the book is also chock full of precious entertaining tidbits.

From a short lesson on the giving side of Southern hospitality and "how we do" where Lang shares, "It's not just about the food; it's in all we do. It's writing a sweet thank-you note on real paper to taking supper to a neighbor in need" to the right of passage of handing down table linens, china and glassware that so many of us display with pride (I have grandmother's collection that I treasure to this day), this is a cookbook that will ring true with you whether you're a Southerner by birth or simply one at heart.

Moreover, now that home cooks have officially entered the holiday party phase of the year, I can think of no better reference for recipes designed for entertaining the Southern way than Lang's Roasted Cornish Hens with Lemons and Creamy Grits, Peach-Glazed Duck Breasts or perhaps a Coffee-Crusted Standing Rib Roast. Maybe some Hummingbird Cake? Lang was generous enough to share her Peppered Pork Roast with Blue Cheese Grits recipe with me, which simply screams cool weather and would make an excellent addition to an elegant Christmas Eve dinner. Bone-in, center-cut pork gets a punch from a good amount of garlic, herbs and mustard before hitting the oven and meeting up with creamy, blue-cheesy stone-ground grits. What's not to like about this combo?

In the meantime, bust out those underused linens, polish the silver, grab yourself a big, fat glass of sweet tea and crack open Lang's cookbook for inspiration since there's plenty of Southern goodness to be found within its pages especially for us cookbook collectors who can't get enough of the good stuff.

Peppered Pork Roast with Blue Cheese Grits

From Southern Living "Around the Southern Table" by Rebecca Lang (Oxmoor House, 2012).

When it’s not cut into chops, the center-cut pork loin makes a mighty bone-in
roast and serves a crowd. Make it for company and save some for sandwiches
the next day.

5 large garlic cloves
1 (4.5-lb.) bone-in, center-cut pork loin roast, trimmed
1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. whole grain mustard
1 Tbsp. dried parsley flakes
11⁄2 tsp. coarsely ground pepper
3⁄4 tsp. dried thyme
1⁄2 tsp. salt
Blue Cheese Grits
Garnish: arugula

1. Preheat oven to 325°. Cut garlic into slivers. Cut 1⁄2-inch-deep slits in pork using a paring knife; insert garlic into slits. Place roast, fat side up, on a lightly greased rack in a roasting pan. Pat dry. Sprinkle top of roast with flour; pat lightly to adhere. Spread mustard over roast.

2. Combine parsley and next 3 ingredients. Generously coat roast with parsley mixture, patting to adhere.

3. Bake, uncovered, at 325° for 2 hours and 10 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion registers 145°. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes before slicing. Serve with Blue Cheese Grits. Garnish, if desired.

Makes: 10 to 12 servings Hands-on Time: 15 min.
Total Time: 3 hr., 20 min., including grits

Blue Cheese Grits

8 cups chicken broth
1 tsp. salt
2 cups uncooked stone-ground grits
5 oz. soft-ripened blue cheese, rind removed (such as Saga Classic
Soft-Ripened Blue-Veined Cheese)
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1. Bring broth and salt to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Stir in grits. Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring very often, 45 minutes or until smooth and creamy.

2. Reserve about one-fifth of the cheese. Slice the rest, and add, with butter, to the grits. Stir until both are melted. Just before serving, garnish with crumbles of the reserved cheese.

Makes: 12 servings Hands-on Time: 50 min. Total Time: 50 min.
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