Primed for pork
Hungry for that N'awlins cooking
Put own spin on porky dishes
Geniuses to win spot on menu, cash
Replicate unique gourmet pizza at home
By MICHELE KAYAL
Cookbooks these days often sport long taglines. But porkistas are refreshingly to-the-point. Three letters seem to suffice: "Pig," by James Villas (Wiley, 2010) and "Ham" by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2010).
"Pig" is nothing less than a poem of porcine devotion, an ode to the idea that if everything's better with bacon, everything else is better with anything hog-related.
A born-and-bred Southerner, the author offers a jowl-to-tail primer on the animal's parts and their uses, including 300 recipes.
Crisp yet yielding ham croquettes recall bygone menus of Southern country clubs, and baked double pork chops stuffed with oysters suggest a rare decadence. A whole chapter is devoted to barbecue, of course. And there's little regard for what your doctor might think of your meal: see deep-fried marinated pork nuggets.
For those of us unlucky enough to have been born outside pig heaven (the South), Villas offers recipes and explanations for dishes such as snert (pig and pea soup,) Dutch goose (whole roast pig belly,) and frogmore stew (no frogs involved).
And while some items may seem unappealing if you weren't raised with them — livermush and souse (hogs head cheese) among them — they reveal a southern culinary anthropology.
The similarly themed "Ham," by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough, takes a narrower approach to the animal, focusing only on the leg. That is, the ham.
Part memoir, part confessional, the book makes you wade through a little TMI (too much information) — co-author love spats, an erotic devotion to pork, that they toggle between Eudora Welty and porn sites — before offering up its recipes.
But once there, the authors proffer a humorous and sometimes snarky world tour of ham in all its forms.
Fresh ham — the chapter for which opens with a laugh-out-loud photo of some very, very fresh ham (that is, piglets) — can be roasted with cloves American-style, done up with orange flower water a la Morocco, or stewed with annatto seeds as in Peru.
The sections on dry cured ham take readers from Old World to New World with recipes from salty-sweet pasta with caramelized cauliflower and prosciutto to the southern breakfast staple of fried country ham steaks with red-eye gravy.
If the only ham you've ever known is the spiral-sliced stuff in the supermarket, you'll learn that it's wet-cured, or brined ham.
Sometimes called "city ham" or "picnic ham," the authors serve up appetizing preparations such as a ham-studded macaroni and cheese and sassy jambalaya croquettes.