It takes a lot of chutzpah to name a cookbook “Mastering the Art of ….” After all, Julia Child pretty much has the rights to that phrase in perpetuity. But my old friend Nathalie Dupree has never been the shy type. And why should she be? Having done all of those 11 cookbooks and 300 TV cooking shows teaching the pleasures of biscuits, fried chicken and coconut cakes, if she hasn’t earned the right to call her new book (written with Cynthia Graubart) “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking,” who ever will?
This is a terrific sampling of all food Southern, albeit somewhat “New Southern.” So beside your gumbo and Country Captain, you’ll find peaches and figs wrapped in country ham, and roasted broccoli. You get an excellent primer on Southern biscuits as well as another adaptation of (New York baker) Jim Leahy’s no-knead bread.
But this “Mastering” is more than just another regional cookbook – you could think of it as a culinary primer with a pronounced Southern accent. Dupree is at heart a cooking teacher and the book is liberally sprinkled with bits and pieces of kitchen wisdom. And if you’re really interested in Southern cooking – beyond the practical aspects – there’s a tidy introduction to its history and range and a nice bibliography of notable Southern cookbooks.