Raleigh food writer Fred Thompson’s latest cookbook is devoted not to the stars of the Southern plate, such as barbecue or fried chicken, but to the humble side dish.
“Fred Thompson’s Southern Sides,” which comes out this week from the University of North Carolina Press, explores the dishes that are often overlooked: greens, field peas, congealed salads and more.
One of the first misconceptions that Thompson wants to clear up about Southern sides is this: “Not everything has to be cooked in pork fat.”
Sure, his mother’s collard greens cooked in bacon fat is among the book’s 250 recipes, but so are his Umbrian spinach sautéed in olive oil, a broccoli and ricotta cornbread and a Mediterranean-influenced potato salad.
Writing the book, Thompson said, “became more of a personal journey for me.”
Thompson, whose family has deep roots in Johnston County, grew up in Greensboro. After graduating from N.C. State University, Thompson studied at the Culinary Institute of America and worked as a food stylist in New York. Beyond writing cookbooks, Thompson, who lives in North Raleigh, is publisher of Edible Piedmont magazine and writes the monthly “Weekend Gourmet” column in The News & Observer.
The recipes in Thompson’s 11th cookbook reflect where life has taken him – the down-home classics he learned from his grandmothers, mother and aunts to modern dishes influenced by well-respected Southern chefs. Thompson says chefs Ben Barker of the former Durham landmark restaurant, Magnolia Grill, and Frank Stitt of Highlands Bar and Grill in Birmingham, Ala., “enabled me to look at Southern ingredients in a different way.”
That means knowing when to reach for the bacon grease and when to leave it on the stove.
To see a printable version of the recipe, click on the recipe name below: