Photographs by Peter Frank Edwards
The long-awaited first cookbook from an innovative James Beard Award-winning chef.
Sean Brock is the chef behind the game-changing restaurants Husk and McCrady’s, and his first book offers all of his inspired recipes. With a drive to preserve the heritage foods of the South, Brock cooks dishes that are ingredient-driven and reinterpret the flavors of his youth in Appalachia and his adopted hometown of Charleston. The recipes include all the comfort food (think food to eat at home) and high-end restaurant food (fancier dishes when there’s more time to cook) for which he has become so well-known. Brock’s interpretation of Southern favorites like Pickled Shrimp, Hoppin’ John, and Chocolate Alabama Stack Cake sit alongside recipes for Crispy Pig Ear Lettuce Wraps, Slow-Cooked Pork Shoulder with Tomato Gravy, and Baked Sea Island Red Peas. This is a very personal book, with headnotes that explain Brock’s background and give context to his food and essays in which he shares his admiration for the purveyors and ingredients he cherishes.
“Sean Brock is a national treasure, at once leading the charge to define new Southern cooking while carefully being one of the leading preservationists of true traditional, soulful Lowcountry flavors and techniques. His approach to the intersection of the old and the new is nothing short of MacArthur Prize-worthy and, most important, the recipes are deliciously easy to make, nearly intuitive poems to the very earth itself. This book instantly redefines the bridge between the ancient and the innovative and is nothing short of a gift of the magi.”
“Sean Brock has redefined what American food is. Heritage celebrates the narrative of Lowcountry cooking and tells a story that continues to inspire.”
-David Chang, chef/owner, Momofuku
“Sean Brock is one of the most important chefs in America. In looking back at the roots of our cuisine, while always also looking forward, he’s changing the face of American food in wonderful ways. Heritage will thrill, surprise, and delight as readers discover what a rich, glorious, and delicious culinary history we once had-and, thanks to chefs like Sean, will surely have again. He is an absolutely transformative figure. His food manages to amaze without ever being pretentious or inaccessible. You, too, can cook this stuff. And you should.”
“Sean Brock is a culinary explorer-gifted, passionate, creative. This captivating book reveals Sean’s unique brilliance for merging the essence of the past with the promise of the future. This is an electrifying work and to read it is to witness the advent of a new era in American cooking.”
-Frank Stitt, chef/owner and author of Frank Stitt’s Southern Table
“Sean is one of the most passionate, talented chefs I know. His food is inspiring, enlightening, and so damn delicious! In Heritage, he shows you the essence of who he is and why he has paved the way in putting the Lowcountry on the map.”
-April Bloomfield, chef and author of A Girl and Her Pig
“Brock resurrects lost flavors and varieties, and-since he’s a modernist as well-reinvigorates them with his own delicious style of cooking. Sean Brock is more than just a chef, and this is more than just a cookbook. It will leave you not only enriched, but enlightened.”
-Dan Barber, chef and author of The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food
“This book is the real deal: American food with a sense of place and history. Reading through it is rather like eating barbeque and drinking beer with Sean Brock; you know you’re in a good place.”
-Fergus Henderson, chef and author of The Complete Nose to Tail
“Sean Brock is one of the most thoughtful cooks I know, with the ability to take a deep understanding of the American South’s culinary history and express it in a way that is unmistakably personal, forward-thinking, and brilliant. Heritage is a must.”
-René Redzepi, chef/owner, Noma
“Few chefs express the soul of their culture through their cooking as well as Sean. This book is a joyful, radiant vision of the South, seen through the lens of history and illuminated by his imagination. The recipes and stories are a delicious reminder of the pleasure to be found in good ingredients, honest cooking, and staying close to home.”
-Daniel Patterson, chef and author of Coi
“Sean is a passionate and true culinary voice in the telling of the past, present, and the future of his beloved South. He has done an admirable job, and an important one, in spreading the gospel and raising the awareness of a great American regional cooking. You don’t have to be from the South to experience the authentic tastes, flavors, and stories using this book.”
-David Kinch, chef and author of Manresa
“This is the real thing. An honest book. A koan to Southern peoples and places. A humble roster of recipes, recollections, and farmer mash notes, from a country-boy-made-good. Start with muscadine and cucumber gazpacho. Move to rabbit stew with black pepper dumplings. Close with black walnut poundcake, drenched with chocolate gravy. You’re in the hands of a master.”
-John T. Edge, coeditor of The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook
Makes one 9-inch round loaf
My favorite ball cap, made by Billy Reid, has a patch on the front that reads “Make Cornbread, Not War.” I’m drawn to it because cornbread is a sacred thing in the South, almost a way of life. But cornbread, like barbeque, can be the subject of great debate among Southerners. Flour or no flour? Sugar or no sugar? Is there an egg involved? All are legitimate questions.
When we opened Husk, I knew that we had to serve cornbread. I also knew that there is a lot of bad cornbread out there in the restaurant world, usually cooked before service and reheated, or held in a warming drawer. I won’t touch that stuff because, yes, I am a cornbread snob. My cornbread has no flour and no sugar. It has the tang of good buttermilk and a little smoke from Allan Benton’s smokehouse bacon. You’ve got to cook the cornbread just before you want to eat it, in a black skillet, with plenty of smoking-hot grease. That is the secret to a golden, crunchy exterior. Use very high heat, so hot that the batter screeches as it hits the pan. It’s a deceptively simple process, but practice makes perfect, which may be why many Southerners make cornbread every single day.
4 ounces bacon, preferably Benton’s
2 cups cornmeal, preferably Anson Mills Antebellum Coarse Yellow Cornmeal
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1½ cups whole-milk buttermilk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Put a 9-inch cast-iron skillet in the oven to preheat for at least 10 minutes.
2. Run the bacon through a meat grinder or very finely mince it. Put the bacon in a skillet large enough to hold it in one layer and cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently so that it doesn’t burn, until the fat is rendered and the bits of bacon are crispy, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the bits of bacon to a paper towel to drain, reserving the fat. You need 5 tablespoons bacon fat for this recipe.
3. Combine the cornmeal, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and bits of bacon in a medium bowl. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat and combine the remaining 4 tablespoons fat, the buttermilk, and egg in a small bowl. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients just to combine; do not overmix.
4. Move the skillet from the oven to the stove, placing it over high heat. Add the reserved tablespoon of bacon fat and swirl to coat the skillet. Pour in the batter, distributing it evenly. It should sizzle.
5. Bake the cornbread for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve warm from the skillet.
Excerpted from Heritage by Sean Brock (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2014. Photographs by Peter Frank Edwards.