Southern Grit by Kelsey Barnard Clark
A Christilisa Cookbook Review
Welcome to another #cookbookSunday y’all! This Sunday is all about my girl Kelsey Barnard Clark. If y’all didn’t know, she is the winner of Top Chef 16 and from my hometown of Dothan, Alabama. Her cookbook, Southern Grit, hits stores in August but you can preorder here or here*.
When I first started reading this cookbook, I felt right at home. She starts out talking about the items that should always be in your pantry, as well as, the chef’s tools you need in your kitchen. She even shows you what the different knife cuts are, as she does refer to them quite often throughout the cookbook. In true Southern fashion, she also has a section on canning (because you can’t call yourself Southern if you don’t know about canning).
The introduction section continues with hostess tips, keeping your house clean with or without toddlers running around, baking terms, and how to have a green thumb. It makes this cookbook more valuable, in my opinion, to include the information she has in the introduction. It definitely is a book I would have on my shelf and use in the kitchen.
Now, let’s get into the sections:
Happy Hour Bites and Sips- She starts out this section with one of my all-time favorite snacks, Boiled Peanuts! Who am I kidding? Boiled peanuts can be my breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If y’all didn’t know, Dothan is considered the peanut capital of the world so her cookbook would not be complete without a boiled peanut recipe. I teared up a little when she told the story of the “Boiled Peanut Man” at the corner of Ross Clark Circle and Main Street. We also used to frequent his stand as children. He was there rain or shine and had the best hot boiled peanuts. He also had the biggest peanuts, with some of the shells including 4 or 5 peanuts. He’s no longer with us but a replica peanut sits in his place.
As for the other recipes in this section, they are the perfect mix of Southern comfort and upscale. A few recipes I have had before due to my time in a professional kitchen at an interactive dining restaurant ( I was the occasional sous chef, Iron Chef competition chef, as well as, the Director of Sales, and office manager).
I think y’all will love to try the pantry plate of fried pickled okra, cheese straw crackers, pepper jelly, black-eyed pea hummus, and pimento cheese. I’m not a drinker so the Meyer Lemon Lemonade stands out for my non-drinkers but it’s the perfect drink to add a little liqa’ if you so choose.
Greens- This section has a lot of things that I’m not sure I would like or make. There are a few items that stand out though that I think would be a great addition to your kitchen table: black-eyes peas with greens and potlikker and fried cornbread, Conecuh collards and Alabama “spinach” dip, and pepper jelly Brussels sprouts; The quintessential Southern dishes that belong in your repertoire.
Potatoes, Grains, and Pasta- If you have ever had trouble making grits, this is the chapter for you. Kelsey graces us with not one, not two, but three different grits recipes. She also has what I like to call fancy Southern home cooking with the potlikker field pea risotto recipe.
Seafood- Even though I grew up on the “Gulf Coast” and live in New Orleans, I’m not a huge fan of seafood. I do know that if you like raw oysters, this section will make your day. Oh, and the West Indies crab salad looks so simple and freakin delicious.
Eggs and Poultry- To me, this section hits all the right Southern spots. It’s got the fried chicken, cast iron chicken, deviled egg variations, chicken wings, duck and quiche. The recipe that stands out to me though is the breakfast casserole. Kelsey talks about making this dish on Christmas morning and it just so happens that my little sister, Colie, made this dish last Christmas morning. We never ate breakfast on Christmas and had to wait until at least 1pm or 2pm to eat anything on Christmas morning. This recipe seems like the perfect addition to create a new Christmas tradition.
Pork and Beef- Most of the meat recipes I want to try come from this section ( I talk about them below). This section also has a venison chili that Chad’s dad would love to make. You will not be disappointed in the recipes but I will say that some of the recipes call for more steps than most homecooks are used to.
Breads and Pastries- I’m a baker so this section of course is my fav. The stories she shares for some of them, especially the red velvet cake, hit me in the feels. The story about how she came up with the key lime crunch for Top Chef is absolutely worth reading. Every recipe in this section is one y’all should try your hand at.
Recipes I Can't-Wait to Make
Cast-Iron Barbecue Chicken- Who doesn’t love dishes made in a cast-iron?
Roasted Chicken and Drippin Veggies- I plan to make this recipe this week with cornish hens. It looks and sounds so yummy. Not to mention, it is a one pan dish.
Skillet Baby Back Ribs with Szechuan Barbecue Sauce- Ribs I don’t have to do on the grill is always a win.
Cuban Braised Pork Butt- You know because my boo is Cuban.
KBC Country Fried Steak- I was shocked when I saw this recipe because we grew up with this dish. I never would have thought to call it country-fried steak. I can’t wait to incorporate my mom’s way of making this and Kelsey’s way.
Sorghum and Pecan Sweet Potatoes- Sweet potatoes and pecans just belong together. I typically stick to baked sweet potatoes or sweet potato pie but this recipe just might become my go to sweet potatoe recipe.
Smashed Crispy Potatoes- Chad (my boo) has made a version of this before so it joins the list, just to see if they come out as good as his.
Street Corn- Most street corn includes mayo, which I can not stand. Kelsey offers two versions, one with mayo for the skillet version and non-mayo for the grilled on the cob version. I feel like she made this recipe just for me.
Conecuh Collards and Alabama “Spinach” Dip- A dip made with collard greens is always a yes. This recipe calls for mayo but I think I would switch that to cream cheese.
Potlikker Field Pea Risotto- Like I said above, fancy Southern food. I love a fancy meal but the addition of the field peas, remind me of my grandmother’s kitchen. What a lovely combination of the things I love.
All the recipes in the bread and pastries section.
Overall, this cookbook gets 4.5 spatulas. Some of the recipes are a little more involved than I would like so I took .5 off. This cookbook will definitely help you tell more stories and create some incredible memories just like Kelsey has. Do buy and use this cookbook; it would be a shame to have it go to waste on your bookshelf.
*I am a bookshop affliate.