Deep Run Roots - Vivian Howard

The South has a new Queen of cooking and her name is Vivian Howard. Vivian's eagerly anticipated debut cookbook, Deep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South is a celebration of Southern cuisine. Recently, the title snagged nominations in four different categories in the IACP awards and deservedly so.

Vivian Howard is the Peabody Award-Winning Co-creator of A Chef's Life and her award winning restaurant in Kingston, North Carolina - Chef and the Farmer - help to put that town on the map. When I first learned of this chef, I anxiously awaited the arrival of a cookbook - frequently searching Amazon. Some folks might call it cyber stalking - I prefer to think of it as a medical condition - exuberant pre-order syndrome. 

Deep Run Roots is 550 pages of greatness with nearly 200 recipes, full page photographs and an introduction entitled "Don't You Dare Skip this Introduction" and I didn't. Vivian is a story-teller and when delicious writing meets beautiful recipes, the result is simple perfection. The book is organized by twenty one ingredients that begin with Ground Corn and end with Muscadine Grapes. The recipe guide indexes the recipes by types Basics, Breakfast and Brunch, Breads and so forth. The last delineation of "taste like home" recipes is a half-page index of dishes that are Eastern North Carolina Traditions 

There are so many recipes in this book that speak to any lover of beautiful food that is done simply but done well. Squash and Pistachio Crumble, Triple-Decker Grape-Hull Pie, and Turnip Run-Ups in Parmesan Pot Liquor with Ricotta Cornmeal Dumplings and Tomato Jam are a few examples of the magic that is Vivian Howard. The recipes are written like a saunter through the dish and not a sprint. Cooking is not a chore - it is a process that should be enjoyed and appreciated as we create deliciousness to nurture our family and friends. Some of these recipes are lengthy in ingredients and sound chef-y but the chef assures us they aren't difficult to make and the results will be worthwhile.

To begin your journey to Vivian's world, start here with Warm Banana Pudding that screams comfort in a whispered Southern accent. This recipe is shared with the permission of the publisher, Little, Brown with the photograph being credited to the talented Rex Miller.

Be sure to head to our contest page to enter our giveaway for a copy of this amazing book.

Warm Banana Pudding
Makes a 3-quart pudding
 
BANANA PUDDING WAS WARM and sacred at my house. By far Mom's favorite dessert, she treated every covered-dish obligation as a chance to bake a banana pudding. We had a three-quart Pyrex we called the banana-pudding dish. It was deep with rounded sides, so Mom could stuff three good layers of Nilla Wafers between sliced bananas and pudding she had cooked on the stove. She topped it all with mounds of voluptuous meringue.

When the toasted spectacle came out of the oven, hot and fragrant, no matter where the pudding was going or when, Mom scooped a tiny portion into a coffee cup and ate it in a corner of the kitchen with her back to the family. The pudding at that point was jiggly, so she was able to slide all the elements back into place. No one ever knew the difference, I guess.
 
This is an ode to my mom's pudding, but different. Eat it warm if you can.
 
Banana Puree

5 or 6 ripe bananas
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
¼ cup 99 Bananas liqueur (optional)
 
Pudding and Meringue
1⅓ cups granulated sugar, divided
⅓ cup plus 1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 cups milk
3 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
8 large eggs,  separated
4 tablespoons butter
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
4 to 5 very ripe bananas, peeled and sliced into ¼ inch rounds
 
Sesame Wafers
Makes 36 wafers
 
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
⅔ cup sesame orbenne seeds, toasted
1 cup (2 sticks)butter at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 egg
1. teaspoons vanilla extract
 
Roast the bananas: Preheat your oven to 350°F. Place 5 or 6 peel-on bananas on a cookie sheet about 1 inch apart and rub them with 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. Slide the cookie sheet into the oven and roast for 15 to 20 minutes. The bananas will be extremely dark and soft to the touch. Let them cool enough to handle and transfer the banana flesh and any banana ooze to a food processor. Discard the skins. Add the 99 Bananas, if using, and blend till smooth. Set aside.
 
Make the wafers: Preheat your oven to 375°F. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sesame seeds. Set aside.
 
In a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, cream the butter and sugars till lightened in color and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the sesame oil, egg, and vanilla. Scraping down the sides as needed, eat on medium until everything is combined. Reduce the mixer to low and add the dry ingredients and beat until it just forms a dough. The dough will keep in the fridge for 3 days or in the freezer for 3 months.
Using a 1-ounce scoop or a tablespoon, portion out the cookies and roll them into balls. Position the balls 1 inch from one another on two greased cookie sheets.
Flatten each cookie to roughly ¼ of an inch thickness. Slide the cookie sheets into the two middle racks of your oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the cookies are caramel brown around the edges. Let them cool thoroughly before
assembling the pudding. 
 
Make the pudding: In a 4- to 6-quart saucepan, combine 1 cup of sugar along with the cornstarch, milk, heavy cream, and vanilla extract. Stirring constantly, bring it up to a simmer over medium heat until things thicken slightly. Make sure to slide your spatula around the lower edges of the pan periodically. These edges are the hottest part and they'll burn before you know it. Once the mixture has thickened slightly, remove the pan from the heat.
 
In a medium bowl whisk the yolks until they lighten a little in color. Slowly, a little at a time, whisk in roughly ¹/³ of the hot cream mixture. Pour the tempered yolks back into the saucepan and return that pan to medium heat. Stirring constantly, bring it up to a simmer and cook gently for two minutes. Look for it to thicken up even more. 
 
Remove the pudding from the heat and whisk in the butter. If you notice lots of lumps and bumps, strain the pudding through a fine-mesh sieve. If not, go ahead and stir in the roasted banana puree. 
 
Make the meringue: Bring your egg whites to room temperature and add them to a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk until they are frothy, and add the cream of tartar. Continue whisking until soft peaks form. Slowly add the remaining ¹/³ cup sugar and whisk on, till you have nice stiff peaks.
 
Assemble and bake the pudding: While both the cookies and the pudding can be made several days in advance, the meringue should be whipped up just before baking. I personally like to assemble this using warm pudding so that things have the chance to heat all the way through as the meringue bakes.  But that's not mandatory-just a suggestion per my mother, Scarlett.
 
Begin by spooning a thin layer of pudding on the bottom of your dish. Top that with a single layer of cookies followed by the sliced bananas. Top those with a little less than half of the remaining pudding followed by another round of cookies and bananas. Spread the last of the pudding on top of that layer and finish with the final round of cookies and bananas. Spoon the meringue on top of it all and feel good accentuating all its height and volume with your spatula. Bake the big pudding on the bottom rack of your oven for about 30 minutes or until the meringue is chestnut brown all over. Serve warm.

 

6 Comments

  • prvrbs31gal  on  2/11/2017 at 6:59 PM

    I'm all about the rice pudding, baby!

  • centraljersey  on  2/12/2017 at 7:43 PM

    Sounds intriguing: Pork shoulder steaks in red curry-braised watermelon

  • shannonstoney  on  2/13/2017 at 2:53 PM

    The sweet potato and turnip green casserole is really good.

  • hippiechick1955  on  2/18/2017 at 2:29 PM

    Oh my word, those ricotta cornmeal dumplings with tomato jam sound amazing and something I am going to have to try to make myself.

  • joyosity  on  2/22/2017 at 1:33 PM

    I can't wait to try the Asian inspired recipes!

  • AnneOther  on  3/13/2017 at 9:02 PM

    I'm all about Southern cooking and ingredients these days, and Deep Run Roots looks like a book that belongs in my kitchen.

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