I scrutinize cookbooks like the Senate scrutinized Chuck Hagel’s financial records.
Anything from Ina Garten’s collection is an automatic keeper. If I’m ever so short on storage space that any of her books are in question, I’ll get rid of Emma’s crib and she can sleep in a drawer.
Of course I’m kidding. She could totally crawl out of a drawer. The bathtub would work much better.
But all other cookbooks need to pass test after test to gain immunity from the chopping block. My vetting process is simple: do I make dishes from the book in question enough to keep it? Or do I just peruse the pages, look at the pretty pictures, and say ‘I’ll make that someday,’ then put it back in its place like the cute little dress in the back of my closet that makes me look pregnant- am I saving it for a time when it will look cute to look pregnant when I’m not actually pregnant? Note- I didn’t even wear it when I was pregnant because it made me look pregnant-fat.
Clearly I need consistency in my vetting process.
One cookbook has a permanent spot on my counter, next to the gilded pages of St. Ina, the Contessa. It is the Tupelo Honey Cafe Cookbook.
I have made countless dishes from this book. My Ultimate Black Bean Burgers, Pecan Vinaigrette, and Creamy Maple-Mustard Dressing are the ones I’ve blogged about, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are so. many. more. My latest obsession? Sweet Potato-Coconut Bisque.
The word ‘bisque’ conjures up all kinds of wonderful images of a rich, creamy soup that coats the spoon and warms the soul. And coconut in a soup? Sign me up! Plus… as if you can’t get any better than a thick, creamy, coconut-scented soup… it’s painfully easy to make. WIN!
Warning: it’s a teensy bit on the sweeter side. There is a little bit of added sugar that totally works with the warm spices and naturally sweet coconut and sweet potato flavors, but it’s by no means going to feel like you are eating dessert- there is enough salt and pepper to complement the sweetness and make it a manly meal. Even the Booze Hound, sworn enemy of girly coconut soups, was in love.
We have a Tupelo Honey Cafe here in Knoxville, which is great… except that I so rarely go because I can make all of my favorite dishes at home without having to wait in the ridiculously long line where the only thing to do is look at their display cookbook and remind myself that I can make my favorites at home without having to wait in the ridiculously long line. But if you don’t have the cookbook, definitely make the trip there, wait in line, and buy the cookbook to read while you wait. (Or order it on the Internets if you live in Montana). You won’t be disappointed!! Both the restaurant and the cookbook capture the essence of this ‘New South Cuisine’ I love so much.
Mmmmm, now I’m thinking about my favorite Knoxville restaurants, which reminds me… it’s almost time for Top Chef Knoxville.
‘Whaaaaaat?’ you say? Top Chef Knoxville? Oh yeah, baby, good ol’ Knoxville is more than just crazy people who wear orange seersucker suits every Saturday in the fall and call off school because it looks like it might snow. I say it time and again- Knoxville has a great food scene. For every Cracker Barrel and Shoney’s, there are two places like Tupelo Honey Cafe and Knox Mason. And Chez Liberty. And the Brasserie. And Rouxbarb. I’m hungry.
Want to experience the best of the best? Put on your church clothes, get your hair did, and go to Top Chef Knoxville on Saturday, March 23rd. Fourteen chefs from some of the best restaurants in Knoxville (and some surprising others, as I learned last year) show off their A game in the form of an appetizer-sized entree and dessert. You vote for your faves, and there’s a winner. For those of you scoring at home, that’s 28 appetizer portions of food. Plus complimentary wine. You will be happy and full. And the proceeds benefit Knox Area Rescue Missions, so you are stuffing your face and helping the community at the same time. Is that not the best combo in the world?
So, let’s review. Don’t let your kid sleep in a drawer. Make Sweet Potato-Coconut Bisque. Consider making the Tupelo Honey Cafe Cookbook part of your permanent collection. Buy your tickets to Top Chef Knoxville and hang out with me (and my lovable sidekick, the Booze Hound) on March 23rd. Viva Knox-Vegas!
- 2 large sweet potatoes (actually yams, aka the ones with the orange flesh)
- 4-5 cups water
- 1 (14-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk
- 1 T brown sugar
- 1½ tsp pure maple syrup
- 1½ tsp honey
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- ¼ tsp pumpkin pie or apple pie spice
- ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- Dash of cayenne
- In a large Dutch oven, combine the sweet potatoes and 4-5 cups of water (all of the potato slices should almost be completely submerged in the water, but parts of the top slices won't be). Bring to a boil over high heat and boil for 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Reduce the heat to medium and, using a potato masher, mash the potatoes in the water. Add the coconut milk, brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, salt, spice, and black pepper. Simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes, or until it begins to thicken. If the soup is too runny at the point, you can simmer it partially covered to help thicken it up. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth, then season to taste with cayenne and serve.