Review: Modern Hospitality by MasterChef Whitney Miller
The other day I caught an episode of Two Fat Ladies the quaint BBC cooking show hosted by corpulent culinarians Clarissa Dickson Wright and Jennifer Paterson. The particular episode I watched the ladies were waxing about how much they love the food of the American South. I couldn’t help but think Who wouldn’t?
The ladies decided to demonstrate some traditional Southern recipes for their British audience. They then went on to cook a menu that was anything but Southern. The Two Fat Ladies are adorable. . . except when they are butchering your native cuisine. That got me thinking Why is it UK’ers cannot get Southern food right?
I remember another Brit, Danny Boome, on his old show Rescue Chef for the Food Network showing up in Atlanta to help a young bride make a traditional Southern chicken dinner. Instead the menu consisted of chipotle-marinated chicken in a cornmeal batter, mango salsa, lemon-sour cream corn muffins, black beans and a raspberry tea cocktail with Prosecco. Innovative? Yes. Traditional? Hardly.
That’s why I was so happy when my review copy of Modern Hospitality – Simple Recipes with Southern Charm by MasterChef winner Whitney Miller arrived. Miller is from Poplarville, Mississippi which is not too far from my home in South Alabama. I went to college just 25 miles from Poplarville. I knew Whitney would get it right and I was not disappointed.
Modern Hospitality weaves recipes, tips on entertaining and wholesome narrative with effortless grace. There are plenty of color photos of both the food and Whitney’s famous smile. Where the MasterChef cookbook was a chrome-plated amalgamation of recipes from contestants and every judge not named Gordon this book is all Whitney. And, because I know you’re wondering, there is a foreword by Gordon Ramsay.
Whitney’s recipes strike a perfect balance between tradition and innovation. She takes indigenous ingredients and gives them a make over like in her Field Peas with Okra and Andouille Sausage – three great ingredients that are seldom put together. When Miller does her version of a tried and true recipe her twists are whimsical yet logical. Like her Jalapeño Cornbread. It is cornbread kicked up with corn kernals, cheddar cheese and fresh jalapeño.
When I say it is cornbread I mean it is real cornbread – there’s no flour and more importantly no sugar. You can play games with the fat in order to make it healthier or more luxurious but flour and sugar are two of my pet peeves. Well, the flour thing isn’t a peeve as much as it is a philosophical difference. It’s CORNbread not a baguette. The sugar, however, is non-negotiable. Cornbread should never, ever, under any circumstances be sweet. If you add sugar you don’t have cornbread; you have corn cake.
Here, let me show you what a real cornbread recipe looks like courtesy of Miss Whitney Miller.
- 2 cups fine ground cornmeal
- 1 TBL baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
- 1/2 cup fat-free milk
- 1/4 cup plus 1 1/2 TBL canola oil
- 1/2 cup corn kernals
- 3 TBL shredded cheddar cheese
- 2 TBL diced fresh jalapeño
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
- Mix the cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add the egg, buttermilk, fat-free milk, and 1/4 cup of the oil and stir until well combined. Mix in the corn, cheese, and jalapeños.
- Add the remaining 1 1/2 TBL oil to 9-inch cast-iron skillet. Rub the oil around to thoroughly coat the bottom and sides of the skillet. Heat in the oven for 6 minutes. Remove from the oven and pour in the batter.
- Bake until the crust is golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve hot.