(Published in the latest issue of Chile Pepper Magazine).
Upcoming features: The Sandwich Spread (coming this September!)
Sing for Your Supper
By: Aurora Nessly
Recipes, Images, Lifestyle and Lore
By Zac Brown and Friends
(Ruffin Gillican, LLC; $32)
Summer is just around the bend. Daylight is lasting longer, evening festivities trail through the night and the world is opening up once more to the sweet smell of cut grass and the wafting scents of outdoor cooking. Its apt timing for the release of Southern Ground; recipes, images, lifestyle and Lore by the Zac Brown Band (winner of the best new artist Grammy in 2009). For those unfamiliar with the country singer and crew, imagine a mixture of Jimmy Buffet and Johnny Cash, accented by some soulful southern crooning. It’s feel good music that makes a long drive a little kinder and pairs nicely with a cold beer.
Heralding PBR, fried chicken, and good ol’ Southern values, this band sells an experience. You aren’t just tapping your foot to a catchy tune or raising a toast to a night well spent. An evening with the Zac Brown Band is more like an invitation to someone’s backyard barbecue; just a little more intimate with a lot more dished out. No stranger to hospitality, Zac Brown formerly owned a restaurant with his father called Zac’s Place that served as the bands home base. Now the band holds “eat and greets” where fans can sample Zac’s signature dishes pre-show. The cookbook is an extension of these recipes and a chance to take the experience into your own home. Band members boast “if you master every recipe in this book, then you will reach the heart of your guests straight through their stomachs.” Bold words, but said with the simple charm that fills these pages.
Recipes cover expected classics like Southern Fried Chicken, Your Mama’s Collard Greens, and Revival Peach Cobbler (reminiscent of Zac’s peach picking days with his Grandma in Georgia). Some unexpected delights were the baked Vidalia onions with morel butter and boursin-stuffed filet with roasted garlic mashed potatoes and shallot cabernet butter. The 27 recipes are printed on index cards that can easily be removed for cooking thus leaving the book as more of a keepsake.
Southern Ground’s ascetics evoke the look of a well-loved family scrapbook. Bound with a gray denim cover, meticulously adorned with graphics and illustrations and filled with evocative photographs depicting the lifestyle frequently referred to by the band, this book is beautifully designed. Vivid pictures capture the natural splendor of the Southern landscape, ranging from blooming dogwoods lining a dirt road to an image of the band sitting back and enjoying a campfire. Also included are poems, anecdotes, and reminiscences from the band members.
So if you’re up for the Zac Brown Band experience, pour yourself a Mason jar full of sweet tea, flip the CD to track six, and finish it off with a hearty helping of Louisiana hot sauce. The cookbook is available online at http://bit.ly/SGCookbook1, at the band’s shows or in Cracker Barrel stores nationwide.
Southern Black Eyed Pea Fritters
Yield: 4 (12 fritters) * Zest Factor: Mild
3 cups black eyed peas
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
4 scallions, sliced
3 tablespoons Louisiana hot sauce
4 ounces Monterey jack cheese, grated
3 cups vegetable shortening (for deep frying)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
½ cup milk
1 cup flour
In a large bowl, mash about half of the peas with a potato masher or fork until fairly smooth. Add the remaining peas and other ingredients and stir to combine. Heat shortening in a deep saucepan until the temperature reads 360˚. Using a tablespoon measure, drop pea mixture into heated shortening. Cook, turning occasionally, till golden brown (about 2 to 3 minutes).
Yield: 12 * Zest Factor: Mild
1 head of cabbage, ¼ inch dice
1 large green bell pepper, ¼ inch dice
8 green onions, ¼ inch dice
2 ripe tomatoes, ¼ inch dice (save 2 tablespoons for garnish)
1 tablespoon paprika, optional dusted garnish
(also makes a steak-dipping sauce)
2 cups Duke’s or Sauer’s mayonnaise
2 tablespoons hot horseradish
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
1 tablespoon sugar
1/3 cup white vinegar
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon fine-ground black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
In a medium bowl whisk together slaw dressing ingredients. In a large bowl, stir slaw ingredients together and pour half of the slaw dressing on top; you don’t want too much dressing. Keep in mind that as this slaw sits, the salt pulls the water from the vegetables and makes more of a liquid. Save some of the diced tomatoes to put on top of the slaw to garnish. You can also sprinkle the top of the salad with paprika.
Jalapeno Squash Casserole
Yield: 8 * Zest Factor: Medium
6 summer yellow squash, sliced
2 medium yellow onions, sliced
1 (8 ounce) can pickled, sliced jalapenos
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
3 eggs, whisked
2 pints heavy cream
salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 350˚. Grease a 2-quart casserole dish. In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine eggs, heavy cream, salt and pepper. Layer the squash, half the cheese, onion, egg mixture and jalapenos in the prepared casserole dish like you would a potato gratin. Top with the remaining cheese and wrap with foil. Bake for 45 minutes. Take off foil and bake until top is golden and bubbly.
Your Mama’s Collard Greens
Yield: 6 large servings * Zest Factor: Mild
½ stick unsalted butter
½ pound applewood-smoked bacon
2 medium Vidalia onions, diced
6 bunches collard greens, stems removed
1/3 cup white vinegar
1/3 pound dark brown sugar
4 tablespoons of your favorite hot sauce
1 cup chicken stock
salt and freshly ground pepper
In a large sauce pot, melt butter and then render bacon till crisp. Add onions once bacon has cooked halfway. Next, add collard greens to hot bacon-onion mixture. Braise till slightly wilted, about 15 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and cook for approximately 1 hour. Finish with salt and pepper to taste. Greens should be tender and not chewy. Serve and enjoy.