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New American Cooking: The South

New American Cooking: The South
An icy glass of lemonade sipped on the front porch, a platter of fried chicken shared among friends, a towering coconut layer cake cut into generous slices . . . these are the flavors that define the American South, an area renowned for its hospitality. Along with the old favorites, Southern cooks are creating some of the most exciting, innovative dishes in contemporary regional cuisine. Join Williams-Sonoma's coast-to-coast tour with The South, part of the New American Cooking series.

Author Ray Overton, an Atlanta-based chef, blends the love of his Southern heritage with his passion for teaching home cooks how to achieve the fullest flavors using fresh ingredients. He celebrates the South's abundant harvest—long-grain rice from South Carolina and fragrant peaches from Georgia, tart Key limes, sweet Vidalia onions and succulent Gulf oysters.

Along with a sprinkling of legend and lore, you'll read about the history and culture of the South—how geography and climate determined its larder, and how European immigrants, plantation life and the Civil War influenced Southern cooks. Sidebars highlight the history behind quintessentially Southern foods, from the famous aged hams of Smithfield, Virginia, to hot-pepper sauce, the fiery condiment that Southerners drizzle on everything from scrambled eggs to gumbo. Best of all, Overton offers more than 60 recipes deeply rooted in the region's tradition yet well suited to the modern kitchen and palate.

He demystifies Southern barbecue, a religion in itself, then daringly blends styles with his special recipe for pulled pork doused with mint julep sauce. Classic spoon bread, updated with the addition of sour cream and chives, is a delicious partner for country ham or fried chicken. You'll learn the secret ingredient to brewing smooth, sweet iced tea (revered as the "house wine of the South") and the proper way to mix frosty mint juleps, just right for slowly sipping through a straw.

Try crisp pecan catfish served with a chilled sauce made from banana peppers. Or cover your table with newspapers and invite friends over for an informal crawfish boil, Louisiana style. Accompanied with corn on the cob, new potatoes and ice-cold beer, this simple feast is just one of the many ways you can entertain with Southern ease and generosity. Fry light-as-air beignets, brew strong chicory coffee and you'll be transported to Café du Monde in New Orleans' lively French Quarter. Or indulge your sweet tooth with buttery-rich pecan pralines, raised to an art form in the Crescent City.

Beautifully photographed, the book features a detailed glossary with essential terms and ingredients, such as grits and pot likker. Whether you're hankering for Hoppin' John chowder or peaches Foster, The South offers all the recipes you'll need for a taste of this region's flavors, both old and new.

The South is available in Williams-Sonoma stores.