Review: Quick-Fix Southern

Quick-Fix Southern: Homemade Hospitality in 30 Minutes or LessQuick-Fix Southern: Homemade Hospitality in 30 Minutes or Less 
by Rebecca Lang

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Quick Fix Southern / 9781449401108

At time of writing this review, I'm the only negative voice in a sea of 5-star reviews -- maybe I didn't receive the same book as the other reviewers, but this cookbook was something of a disappointment for me.

First of all, I have something of a rating rule for cookbooks: there has to be a picture for almost every recipe or it can't be a 5-star book for me. If there are no pictures for any of the final products, then the book is 3-star or lower, right off the bat. Is this a fair rule? It essentially means that if Jesus and Gandhi collaborate on a cookbook entitled "World Peace Through Heavenly Cuisine" or something, but they don't include pictures, it won't be getting more than a 3-star rating from me. But I'm okay with that, because for me personally, I need pictures in order to understand (a) whether or not I want to make the dish in the first place and (b) how I can tell when my finished dish is correct. That's just how I roll.

So right off the bat, I have a concern with this cookbook that some readers won't share: there are no pictures in here of any finished recipes. Oh, there are pictures in the book -- monochrome snapshots of the ingredients -- but none of the recipes. For instance, the "Eggs In A Basket" recipe which is eggs and toast has a picture of...eggs. In a basket. The BLTVA Sandwiches recipe has a picture of a single piece of bacon. And so on. If you're the sort of cook who eats with their eyes -- for instance, if you're looking at this book because of the luscious biscuits on the cover -- then this will bother you; if you're not, then that's fine, too. (Maybe the lack of pictures in my version stems from the fact that I was reviewing an ARC... but then the Amazon "Look Inside This Book" feature doesn't show any pictures either.)

The biggest problem with putting out a cookbook these days is trying to distinguish your book from everyone else's -- or, worse, from the plethora of free online recipes. A lot of cooks try to justify the price of the cookbook by including either gorgeous photography (to shine in contrast to the home-photography of most online recipe sites), a personal touch (little stories and vignettes to humanize the recipes), or scientific discussions to help the reader understand the cooking process more thoroughly. "Quick-Fix Southern" takes the second route of little stories and vignettes, but I wish it had taken the first and third options instead. There's not a lot of material here to help understand WHY the recipes work and how to modify them to suit your tastes.

For instance, the pot roast recipe on page 112 is fairly straightforward: brown the meat on both sides and throw it in a crock pot with wine and onions. However, there's no science here, only a recipe to follow from heart, and I find that disappointing. What if you don't want to use the wine or the onions? What will you lose besides those tastes -- will the removal of those elements affect the texture of the meat? If so, how will the meat be affected, and what can the cook substitute in order to retain the texture of the meal while still keeping flexibility on the table? In a day and age where everyone and their dog has food allergies, it's frustrating for me to read recipes that give no explanation, no alterations, and no real understanding of the science involved -- if you don't know what each element is doing, you can't intelligently experiment. Not that every cookbook has to be a science tome, but if all you're giving is a rote recipe, how are you going to distinguish yourself from every other cookbook out there?

The tagline of this book is "homemade hospitality in 30 minutes or less", but I do not really understand why that was slapped on the book because it isn't true. Most of the entree recipes take hours to cook and marinate -- very few of them seem to clock in at under the 30 minute mark for the entire prep from beginning to end. The multi-hour cooking time recipes are at least contained in crock pots, but even these require a couple of factors that someone looking for "30 minute meals" may not have to offer: (1) the slow cooked recipes often require ingredients to be added along the way at certain intervals, so you'd better be working from home on these days, and (2) the slow cooked recipes usually require extensive planning ahead (brown the meat, cut the onions, throw it all in the pot, etc.), so these aren't precisely "get home, get a meal put together" recipes.

A final word about the organization of this book: it seems unfinished. Some of the recipes have little headers like "Serves 8" or "Makes 6" or "Marinating Time: 4 Hours" or "Baking Time: 45 Minutes" or "Chilling Time: 1 Hour", but these headers aren't used on every recipe and there's never really an indication of "from start to finish, about how long can this reasonably be expect to take?" (There's also not any of the fancy "nutritional information" boxes that I'm coming to like in a lot of the newer books on the market.) I'm also rather astonished to realize -- looking back over my notes -- that this book doesn't seem to have a dedicated bread section. I'm puzzled as to which recipe corresponds to those gorgeous biscuits on the cover -- they don't seem to be Sweet Potato Biscuits on page 20 (sweet potato biscuits would have darker color than those, right?) but they're too well rounded and cut to be the Drop Biscuits on page 23. For these to be apparently the only biscuit recipes in a dedicated southern cookbook makes me a little sad somehow.

I like to provide recipe lists with my cookbook reviews since people usually ask in the comments, so here's what this book includes:

Three-Cheese Grits 13
Peach Yogurt Parfait 14
Soft Buttermilk Waffles 15
Baby Vidalia Frittata 16
Plantation Scrambled Eggs 17
Slow-Cooking Stone-Ground Grits 18
Eggs in a Basket 19
Sweet Potato Biscuits 20
Wild Mushroom Quiche 22
Drop Biscuits 23
Tupelo Orange Smoothie 24
Lemony Figs with Lavender 25

Spiked Lemonade 29
Lime Mint Julep 30
Magnolia Mimosas 31
Classic Sweet Tea 33 (with Mint Variation)
Peach Daiquiris 34
Key Lime Martini 34
Watermelon Margaritas 35
Blackberry Bubbly 36
Strawberry Kiss 36
Herbed Bloody Mary 37

Slow Cooker Boiled Peanuts 41
Jalapeno Deviled Eggs 42
Spring Vegetables with Lemon Herb Dip 43
Watermelon and Feta on a Stick 44
Benne Seed Shrimp 46
Pepper Jelly Tarts 47
Spiced Pecans 48
Baked Brie with Fig Preserves and Pecans 49
Blue Cheese and Bacon Popcorn 50
Smoked Trout Spread 51

Classic Pimento Cheese 55
White Pimento Cheese 56
Chipotle Pimento Cheese 57
Tomato and Black Bean Salsa 58
Quick Icebox Pickles 60
Peach Salsa 61
Marinated Roasted Peppers 62
Texas Caviar 63
Honeyed Tomatoes and Ricotta 64
Pickled Wild Shrimp 66
Pickled Okra and Ham Wheels 67
Appalachian Trail Mix 68
Chewy Granola Bars 69

Sweet Onion Slaw 73
Bacon Vinaigrette with Salad Greens 74
Red Potato Salad 75
Baby Spinach Salad with Blueberry and Lime Vinaigrette 76
Dilled Cucumber Soup 78
Real Tomato Soup 79
Fast Brunswick Stew 80
Chilled Strawberry Peach Soup 81
Little Beet Salad 83
Herbed Tomato Sandwiches 84
Tarragon Chicken Tea Sandwiches 85
Egg Salad 86
BLTVA Sandwiches 87

Short-Cut Barbecue 91
Ribeyes with Bourbon Pecan Butter 92
Dressed-Up Oysters 93
Skirt Steak with Vidalia Onion Chimichurri 94
Mustard and Sage Pork Tenderloin 96
Stuffed and Baked Chicken 97
Blackened Catfish 98
Pecan-Crusted Racks of Lamb 99
Brown Butter and Pecan Trout 100
Oyster Dressing 101
Mama's Baked Beans 102
Grilled Vidalias 103

Soft Catfish Tacos 107
Green Beans and Red Potatoes 108
Oats and Bacon Meat Loaf 109
Spicy Mustard Greens 110
Slow Cooker Pot Roast 112
Quail Skillet 113
Southern Pesto with Pasta 114
Divine Chicken and Dumplings 115
Roasted Acorn Squash 116
Sausage, Vidalias, and Tomatoes 118
Fresh Corn and Tomatoes 119

Petite Chicken and Wild Rice Casseroles 123
Double Cheese Macaroni and Cheese 124
Chicken Spinach Burritos 125
Herbed Squash Casserole 126
Christmas Morning Souffle 128
Chicken Boudine 129
Mozzarella Corn Spoon Bread 130
Spinach and Vidalia Souffle 131
Country Ham and Swiss Casserole 132
Warm Curried Fruit 134
Shrimp and Grits Bake 135

Boiled Shrimp with Old Bay Sauce 139
Roasted Tomatoes and Parmesan Grits 140
Shrimp and Roasted Red Pepper Quesadillas 141
Fried Green Tomatoes 142
Mini Buffalo Burgers 144
Butter Bean and Bacon Hummus 145
Tomato Panzanella 146
Okra Fritters 147
Stuffed Corn Bread 148
Little Crab Cakes 149
Asparagus Bundles with Bacon 150
Tomato Biscuit Pie 151

Benne Seed Sugar Cookies 155
Lazy Girl Berry Cobbler 156
Grilled Brown Sugar Peaches 158
Ambrosia and White Chocolate Trifle 159
Blueberry Peach Float 160
Easy Ice Cream 161 (with 3 Variations--Blueberry, Peach, Strawberry)
Double Chocolate Scoop Pie 162
Real Fast Pralines 163
Upside-Down Chess Pies 164
Mini Key Lime Tarts 165

NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book provided through NetGalley.

~ Ana Mardoll

View all my reviews


Post a Comment