Cookbook Review: What Can I Bring? by Elizabeth Heiskell

There’s surely something here for you in What Can I Bring? The subtitle explains it all: Southern Food for Any Occasion Life Serves Up. Author Elizabeth Heiskell grew up in the Mississippi Delta and has spent her life in the culinary world. You may have seen her on the Today show. If you live locally, you might have eaten a meal from her catering company, her passion for the past twenty-five years. With her husband Luke, she has a vegetable farm dedicated to growing the best possible ingredients treasured by high-end restaurants across the South.

And, now we have this important book which captures her imagination, her love of food and her superb recipe skills. The book is written with clarity and charm and it is beautifully photographed. The best way to understand this book is to take a tour, chapter by chapter with a preview of the exceptional ideas Elizabeth presents.

For Wednesday night at church, it is time for Potluck. Elizabeth’s key recipe here is Cola-Brown Sugar Ham with Jezabel Sauce. Now that ham is surely wonderful with the cola and brown sugar but it is the sauce that should catch your fancy. This sauce is a Southern staple, a wonderfully decadent assembly of apple jelly, orange marmalade, horseradish, and yellow mustard. Make this once and you’ll always have a jar in your fridge.

For parents with a new baby, the chapter Bringing Baby Home suggests a rich dish that will power those parents in their 7X24 schedule: Asparagus, Rainbow Pepper and Parmesan Egg Casserole.

If you are traveling, then Road Trip Roadies has comfort food for you. A wonderful recipe, one of Elizabeth’s favorites, is Fried Sugared Walnuts. Yes, fried. I asked Elizabeth about this recipe. Could it? Should I? What would it? “Just try it,” she laughed at me.

If you are headed out for a long weekend, then Weekend Getaway has excellent snacks for you. I’ll be posting her Shrimp and Corn Dip. Suzi and I have already made it twice and over thirty people have eaten it at our cooking school. And we’ve had thirty people ask for the recipe.

I asked Elizabeth what is the difference between a brownie and her Fudge Cake, she chuckled again. I was in New York City and she was in Raleigh on a book tour. “You make the cake, Brian,” she assured me, “and you’ll know the difference. I can’t tell you what it is, but you’ll know.” I am trying this cake tomorrow, and I’ll let you know the difference. Or maybe, I’ll just post the recipe and tell you, “You make the cake.”

If you are entertaining, the in Dinner with Friends Elizabeth wants you to have wonderful little touches to make your meal happily memorable. She suggests Basil and Lemon Honey and Tomato Jam as accompaniments. She has a Sausage and White Cheddar Pinwheels made with puff pastry that are succulent, gooey and unforgettable.

Do you have a husband or sons that tend to disappear on weekend days? They still need sustenance and in Boys Will Be Boys you’ll find perfect comfort food. There is a Bacon and Blue Cheese Dip that will make any man [or woman] smile. If you want elegance, there is the Cold Duck Dip, that includes celery, scallions and apricot chutney.

In Four Quarters and Food [aka Football], Elizabeth reveal how she has spent many Friday nights. You can have the joy of Bacon Jam [for deviled eggs] or just gorge on Mississippi Mud Brownies [pecans and marshmallows and chocolate frosting]

Feeling Under the Weather? You need comfort food, something like Chicken and Artichoke Casserole.

On the move? Well there’s the ultimate sandwich in Moving Day: Turkey, Brie and Apple Sandwich with Hot Mustard Sauce. Ah? That sauce, a Mississippi Delta classic. Sugar and eggs are cooked over a double boiler as you pour in a mixture of vinegar and mustard that has been maturing on the side for eight hours. No, you haven’t had anything like it, but Elizabeth believes you will never be without it again.

That’s What Can I Bring? In a nutshell: life changing. Southern cuisine has many surprises for us and Elizabeth gives you a sample here that is brilliantly fascinating. And oh, so good to eat.

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