Libbie Summers was raised on a farm, has cooked around the world, and is now the culinary producer and senior food editor for Paula Deen Enterprises. But don’t turn up your gourmet nose. As Deen writes in her introduction, Libbie “has style, and she ain’t bashful about showin’ it.”
In fact, one of the first things you may notice is the book’s art direction. Photos just this side of kodachrome bright are styled with vintage utensils and the ironically deployed frilly apron. You’ll also notice that Libbie Summers has personal style, and is lean and chic. If this is what eating pork can do, bring on the chops, loins, and trotters.
My copy is already fat-spattered and studded with flags marking what to cook next, though I don’t expect to use it as a dieting tool, especially since I started with Porkovers—popovers accessorized with bacon. What’s not to love, eggy, salty, and downright homey. They were a great accompaniment to Fiery Roasted Tomato Soup, which could hardly be simpler—roast the tomatoes, jalapeno, bacon and everything else, zoom it in a blender, and serve.
There are plenty of pork loin, bacon, shoulder, and leg recipes. For the adventurous, a chapter on offal includes an approachable Carbonara with Pancetta as well as scrapple, chitterlings, and cracklins. But the book is a well balanced collection. Besides tomato soup, recipes include Pan-Fried Brussels Sprouts Leaves, Setsuko’s Ham Fried Rice, Parsnip Prosciutto Tots, and Grilled Summer Corn Soup.
Summers’ how to sections will have you trussing a crown roast, trimming a rack of ribs, or making breakfast sausage. And when you’ve become a pork professional and supermarket bacon begins to taste anemic, you won’t need to build the neighborhood smokehouse. A four-day recipe for wet-cured bacon that involves a salty maple brine and four quiet days in the fridge can get you some authentic porkiness.
But back to style. You may want to cook from this book just because it is so much fun. Charming recipes like Buttery Potted Ham, tiny Scottish Quail Eggs, or Annie Mae’s Popcorn Balls, are the kind of recipes that make you feel good about sharing while showing off. And you can surprise and please with bacony desserts like Bacon Banana Cookies, a chocolate sheet cake frosted with Bacon Pecan Icing, or with delightful lagniappe of bright pink marzipan pigs.
Finally, the tucked in accompaniments are worth cooking on their own, like Moon Gate Bacon Jam laced with rum, the Molasses Bacon Butter that kisses the Pumpkin Pie Pancakes, or Sweet Cilantro Rice that sides a Cuban Pork roast sparkled with cumin and cider vinegar.
Bacon and style, two of life’s great pleasures.