Cooking should make you happy

Published 12:04 am Saturday, June 20, 2015

Shown is cauliflower. | Connie Anderson/Star-News

Shown is cauliflower. | Connie Anderson/Star-News

While in Charleston I purchased Sean Brock’s cookbook called Heritage, which came out last year.

It was so good that I thought it deserved an article all its own.

If you cannot get fired up about Southern cooking after reading this book, nothing will move you!

As for Sean, he grew up in rural Virginia, and his roots there inspired his passion for exploring Southern foods and preserving and restoring heirloom ingredients. He is the executive chef and partner of three awarding winning restaurants, including McCrady’s and Husk in Charleston and Husk in Nashville.

He won the James Beard Award for Best Chef Southeast in 2010; he was nominated for Outstanding Chef in 2013 and 2014. He has been on Iron Chef America and has hosted two seasons of the Emmy Award winning Mind of a Chef.

He credits his love of food to his grandmother whom he lived with when his father died at the age of 39 and he was 11.

She had a huge garden and every square space of her basement was filled with preserved food.

She gave him a wok at the age of 13 and he watched the video that came with the wok over and over and then began watching cooking shows after that.

The recipes in “Heritage” range from simple dishes requiring little culinary skills to compound ones with complex techniques.

Brock believes that home cooks and professionals can move their cuisine forward by understanding the past and knowing where food comes from.

This book has a lot of South Carolina Low country influences, but it is a book about the South and all the things that helped a culture.

Brock has a manifesto at the beginning of his book and these are worth noting. I also believe these to be true.

• Cook with soul—but first, get to know your soul.

• Be proud of your roots, be proud of your home, be proud of your family and its culture. That’s your inspiration.

• Buy the best you can afford.

• Do as little as possible to an ingredient when it’s perfect and at its peak.

• You can never be too organized; a clean work space allows for a clean mind that can produce a clean plate of flavors.

• Listen to your tongue; it’s smart.

• Eat with your hands as much as possible.

• Never stop researching and seeking knowledge in the kitchen.

• Cooking should make you happy. If it starts making you angry, stop cooking and go to eat in a nice restaurant. Come back the next night and think about what went wrong and give it another shot.

There are great resources listed in the back of the book. I have already gotten two shipments from two of the sources.

I ordered more Benton’s Bacon (you cannot find bacon like this anywhere else) and the website is I cannot encourage you enough to try this bacon. The shipping is costly (almost as much as the bacon) but since I probably will not get to Madisonville, Tenn., any time soon I have to order it. Another source is Anson Mills. I ordered rice, beans, flour, benne seeds, and grits from them. Their website is I have a lot of cooking to do. I need to stay home!

One of my favorite recipes from Heritage: This is one you can do.

Roasted Cauliflower with Meyer Lemon and Brown Butter, Watercress, and Pink Peppercorns

Serves 6


1 large head cauliflower with a 1-inch stem (about 2 ½ pounds)

Kosher salt

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

½ cup canola oil

3 cups vegetable stock

½ cup heavy cream

Freshly ground black pepper

Brown Butter Sauce

8 ounces goat butter or substitute Irish Butter (Irish Gold) or Plugrá

Juice of ½ Meyer lemon

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley

1 bunch watercress, washed, patted dry, and tough stems removed

Grated zest of 1 Meyer lemon

1 tablespoon pink peppercorns

For the cauliflower: Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Remove the green leaves from the cauliflower but leave the stem intact. Press a small ring mold or round cookie cutter into the bottom of the stem so that the head of the cauliflower will stand upright. Generally sprinkle the cauliflower with salt. Heat the butter and oil in a large, deep ovenproof skillet over medium heat and stand the cauliflower up in the skillet. Cook, occasionally spooning the hot butter and oil mixture over the cauliflower, for about 20 minutes, or until the outside of the cauliflower is golden brown.

Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast the cauliflower for about 20 minutes, until fork tender. Remove the cauliflower from the oven and let stand for 20 minutes. Turn off the oven and open the door to cool it down.

Sauce: Heat the butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat, stirring, until it is a golden brown and starts to smell slightly nutty, about 8 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat, add the lemon juice, and stir to emulsify.

Return the skillet to the heat and reduce the heat to low. Add turmeric and parsley and cook for 1 minute to blend the flavors. Keep the sauce warm on the back of the stove.

Remove the cauliflower from the ring mold. Slice the cauliflower crosswise into ½-inch thick slices. Reserve the 6 center slices for serving. Chop the remaining slices and any scraps and reserve. Lay the cauliflower slices on the prepared baking sheet and place it in the still warm oven (with the door closed) while you finish the dish.

Put the peelings from the stem and the reserved scraps in a small saucepan, add enough vegetable stock to cover and bring to a simmer. Add the cream and stir to combine. Transfer the mixture to a blender and blend on high to a very smooth puree, about 7 minutes. Season with salt and white pepper.

To Complete: Make a pool of cauliflower puree in the center of each of six warm plates. Place a cauliflower slice on top of the puree on each plate and top with a small mound of watercress. Garnish with the slices of stem. Spoon the sauce on the cauliflower and sprinkle with the lemon zest and pink peppercorns.