Book review: South by Sean Brock

19 December 2019 by
Book review: South by Sean Brock

  • South by Sean Brock
  • Artisan, £21.92

Sean Brock is on a mission. He intends to be remembered for helping people all over the world recognise the food from the US southern state as one of the globe's most revered cuisines.

Born and raised in the southern Appalachian mountains of Virginia, he moved as a teenager to Charleston, South Carolina, to attend cooking school and immediately fell in love with the city and its food. Today, he is the chef-proprietor of the award-winning Husk restaurants, located across the southern cities of Charleston, Nashville, Greenville and Savannah.

In what is his second book, South (his first, Heritage, won the James Beard Award for Best American Cookbook 2015), Brock shares his favourite southern recipes, such as shrimp and grits, which are given a contemporary twist with roasted tomatoes, fennel and sausage.

The recipes include the staples that form the backbone of southern cuisines, from cornbread, of which there are five varieties, to fried chicken, a dish Brock is continually trying to perfect, with the current version featuring sage, ginger, smoked paprika, nutmeg and cardamom as the spice hits in the breadcrumb.

There is much that is unfamiliar to the British reader, be it the ingredients – ramps (a wild onion indigenous to the US), sorghum (a grain) and sheepshead (saltwater fish) among them – or a specific dish, such as shrimp and oyster purloo (a southern version of paella).

However, unavailable ingredients can be replaced with an alternative, and various branded products can be sourced online. For any establishment considering a themed menu, South is the perfect starting point for dishes Brock describes as "insanely delicious and nutritious". It also provides an introduction to a cuisine that features a host of regional differences – the southern US, after all, is equivalent in size to continental Europe.

Brock is then, maybe, on his way to ensuring southern food achieves recognition. The book has already received widespread acclaim across the US, including being named Best New Cookbook of Autumn 2019 by The New York Times.

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