Book Review: Pig, King of the Southern Table

This past Christmas, Amy and Caroline gave me a fantastic new cookbook.  It’s a copy of the 2010 book by James Villas titled Pig:  King of the Southern Table.

Growing up in the Carolinas, I thought I pretty much knew everything about pork and barbecue.  Mr. Villas sure proved me wrong!

The book defines terms like fatback and streak o’lean, teaches you how to make South Carolina-style barbecue hash and explains in detail all of the various cuts of pig.

The recipes are divided into sections ranging from appetizers to casseroles, pies, barbecue, salads and breads.  Who knew there were so many different ways to cook pig.

Since Mr. Villas was born and raised in Charlotte, NC, the stories and opinions definitely take on a Southern viewpoint.  Any sensitive Yankees may want to have a shot of bacon-infused vodka before perusing the book.

I also enjoyed the historical porcine facts and pig-related quotes from celebrities that are scattered among the recipes.

The first pigs to enter the United States were 13 animals landed in 1539 near Tampa, Florida, by Hernando de Soto.

And a quote from Tom Wicker writing for the New York Times:

We North Carolinians, of course, know — we are not taught, we are born knowing — that barbecue consists of pork cooked over hickory coals and seasoned with vinegar and red pepper pods.

We decided to start with a straight-forward casserole on a Friday night.  Friday nights are traditionally casserole nights for our family since no one usually has the energy to cook up an elaborate meal.  Saturday nights are for the really involved meals.  We chose the Chicken, Sausage and Mushroom Supreme that Mr. Villas says was given to him by “an elegant lady in Macon, Georgia, known for the casseroles she serves routinely at fancy bridge parties, wedding receptions, weekend brunches and, of course, bereavement buffets”.

The recipe turned out great.  This cookbook will definitely occupy a prominent spot in our kitchen.

Chicken, Sausage and Mushroom Supreme:

Makes 4 to 6 Servings

One 3-pound chicken, cooked and meat diced

1 pound bulk pork sausage

One 6-ounce package Uncle Ben’s long grain and wild rice, cooked

One 10 3/4-ounce can cream of mushroom soup

One 6-ounce jar sliced mushrooms with juice

1.  Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Mix together the chicken meat, cooked sausage, cooked rice, cream of mushroom soup and mushrooms and their juice in a 2-quart backing dish or casserole and bake for 45 minutes.

3.  Serve hot directly from the casserole.

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