Bon Appetit Y’All

Virginia Willis’s Bon Appetit, Y’All is a magical blend of Southern charm and French cuisine. Virginia compiles three generations of Southern recipes from her grandmother Meme, her mama, and herself (trained at culinary schools in France, Virginia’s recipes reflect traditional French cuisine in gratins, soufflés, confits, sprinklings of tarragon and pots de crème). Frequently, recipes will be paired with their counterparts; cheese straws are next to cheesy gougeres, pot roast and brisket cozy up to boeuf bourignonne, and fried chicken and gravy share court with tarragon chicken salad and coq au vin.

In addition to beef, pork, lamb and poultry, there are numerous seafood recipes for shrimp and grits, crawfish, gumbo, oysters and crab. The recipes call for seasonal ingredients whenever possible, and despite the meat-heavy connotations of Southern (and French) cuisine, there are numerous veggie-based dishes (cold salads, numerous preparations of okra, vegetable succotash, green beans, squash, smoky collard greens and more), particularly where tomatoes are concerned, that will take advantage of your garden or local farmer’s market.

The recipes are very clearly laid out, each with a formidable note regarding the origins of a certain recipe, oftentimes family reminiscences of her grandmother’s cooking and hand-me-down kitchen utensils (the fatback recipe was fascinating; essentially skillet-fried lard, this was served as a country dinner in the past). There are frequent sidebars containing useful information on ingredients and kitchen tools and techniques for a given recipe. Beautiful photographs capture the feel of the dishes, along with country artwork and luscious produce.

A wonderful taste of the South fused with French cuisine (shades of Julia, here), Bon Appetit, Y’All is sure to delight home cooks and cookbook collectors alike. The recipes are straightforward enough to be doable (the squeamish / accident-prone may want to skip the primer on cutting up a whole chicken, however), and the end results are well worth the time invested.

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