Victuals: A review and two recipes

Above, a photo that I snapped of the inside cover of Victuals the day it arrived at my doorstep– I wanted to share the beauty of this book the minute I saw it. 

Ronnie Lundy’s Victuals (pronounced “Vittles”) is a chronicle of a 4000+ mile journey through Appalachia, a story and a history told through food. It’s part cookbook, part edible atlas. It winds its way through Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky, and North Carolina, and pays homage to the traditions of Europe, West Africa, and the pre-colonial Americas that come together in the food of the Mountain South.  It’s a book filled with seasonal and regional recipes, but also a history of the land and the people of Appalachia. Victuals reflects a confluence of climate, culture, industry, and ethnic heritage. 

Personal history also plays a huge part in this book. Ronnie Lundy grew up in Appalachia. She vividly remembers her “summers up home” in Kentucky, and recipes like the swing shift steak come directly from her childhood.

There are recipes for every season. There are recipes for bright vegetable sides and hearty meat-centric suppers. There are recipes for sweet desserts and salty snacks alike. There’s a roasted root vegetable salad that comes dressed with bacon and orange soghum vinegar. Kale potato cakes, spring ramp pot roast, miner’s goulash, and a speckled butter bean cassoulet with rabbit confit. A simple skillet cornbread, a luscious buttermilk brown sugar pie, salty cheese nabs, and the sweet-and-savory banana pudding you’ll find below. There were also a few odd but delicious-sounding pickle recipes I put on my list for the spring– picked ramps and pickled green strawberries. 

The book is divided by key food groups and ingredients. Each section is devoted to a staple food– salt, corn, beans and apples, among others. The apple section is one of my favorites. It includes fried apples, cake, a sticky pudding, and a recipe for pork & kraut in cider gravy. 

To be honest, I had no idea the food of Appalachia was so varied. Staple foods pop up repeatedly, but there’s almost infinite variation in the preparation and addition of seasonal produce. And while this book digs deep into food traditions, the recipes are modern and fresh. 

rosti

Reprinted from Victuals. Copyright © 2016 by Ronni Lundy. Photographs copyright © 2016 by Johnny Autry. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.

I’ve been busy lately. There hasn’t been much cooking going on in my kitchen, beyond the bare minimum. And I’m a little sad to say I haven’t made any of the recipes in this gorgeous volume. 

But the beauty of this book is that it’s about more than just food. It’s about history, tradition, and comfort. It’s about the stories we tell with food. It’s a satisfying read, regardless of whether we’re cooking each recipe in our own kitchen or not.

Luckily the folks at Clarkson Potter were kind enough to let me excerpt photos and recipes directly from the book. Below are recipes for a sweet and savory banana pudding, potato rosti, and a special clabber sauce. If you have a little time on your hands, try them out yourself. 

You can find Victuals on Amazon, in bookstores, and directly from the publisher


FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.


 

Rösti
"The power of salt to season is nowhere clearer than when it graces hot, crisped potatoes. The best I’ve ever had were served to chef Edward Lee and me when we landed at The Hütte Swiss Restaurant after a roller-coaster ride down the two-lane-with-coal-trucks-roaring-by that leads into the tiny Swiss-Appalachian village of Helvetia, West Virginia. Giddy, we may have ordered everything on the lunch menu. All of it was good, but what we could not get enough of was the perfectly balanced crisp and tender, sublimely salted rösti." -- Lundy, Victuals
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Ingredients
  1. 2 pounds russet potatoes
  2. 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  3. Freshly ground black pepper
  4. 3 tablespoons bacon grease
  5. “Clabber,” Chive, and Caper Tater Sauce (recipe follows), for serving
Instructions
  1. Peel the potatoes and grate them on the large holes of a box grater. Lift a handful of grated potatoes and squeeze it over a bowl or the sink to drain off as much liquid as possible. Drop the squeezed potatoes into a bowl and continue until all the potatoes are squeezed.
  2. Sprinkle the salt over the potatoes and add black pepper to your taste. I like a lot, some like less. Toss to distribute the seasoning.
  3. Place a wide, heavy skillet over medium heat and melt the bacon grease in it. It should cover the bottom of the pan, about ⅛ inch deep. When it begins to shimmer, flick a piece of grated potato into the hot grease. If it sizzles instantly, add the rest of the potatoes, a spatula or spoonful at a time. Do this gently as you don’t want the grease to bounce and burn you.
  4. When all the potatoes are in the pan, use the back of the spatula to gently press down and form them into a compact round “cake.”
  5. Cook until the underside is a deep, crispy brown and the top potatoes are turning translucent; this takes 10 to 15 minutes. Keep an eye on the potatoes while they are cooking and turn the heat down to keep them from burning, if needed. Conversely, if the top potatoes are translucent but the bottom is not crisply brown, turn the heat up a bit to quickly darken it.
  6. Gently move a spatula underneath the potato cake and around the skillet to loosen it, and then lift the whole cake, turn it over, and slide it back into the pan. (If this seems awkward, you can remove the cake to a large plate, place another plate over the top, and, holding the plates together, invert them, flipping the cake over. Then slide the cake, uncooked side down, back into the pan.)
  7. Cook the second side for 7 to 10 minutes, until brown and crisped. Remove the rösti from the pan, let it drain briefly on paper towels, and then serve it immediately on a warmed platter. Pass the “Clabber,” Chive, and Caper Tater Sauce.
Notes
  1. Reprinted from Victuals. Copyright © 2016 by Ronni Lundy. Photographs copyright © 2016 by Johnny Autry. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.
Kitchen in the Hills http://www.kitcheninthehills.com/
“Clabber,” Chive, and Caper Tater Sauce
"Clabber milk was a common ingredient in the homes of folks who had a dairy cow. Fresh raw milk left out would naturally ferment and sour, creating a tasty and nourishing ingredient, similar to Greek yogurt. Clabber milk was frequently eaten for breakfast or as a snack with some sweetening and cinnamon sprinkled on top. It also was used as an ingredient in baking and in making sauces such as this one. If you favor raw milk, you can try to make your own clabber by leaving a bowl out on the counter, covered with cheesecloth. It’s universally recommended that you not use pasteurized milk because it will simply spoil. Clabbering is unpredictable, though, so I use plain whole-milk Greek-style yogurt to make this sauce. It’s great for potatoes of all kinds, from chips to rösti to Perfect Potato Salad. You can substitute ½ cup of buttermilk for the equivalent amount of yogurt to make a yummy buttermilk dressing for salads or chicken wings." -- Lundy, Victuals
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup plain whole-milk Greek-style yogurt
  2. ½ cup mayonnaise
  3. 3 tablespoons minced fresh chives
  4. 1 tablespoon minced brine-packed capers (try the Redbud Capers, page 000)
  5. 2 teaspoons juice from caper jar
  6. ½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  7. Salt
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, mix the yogurt, mayonnaise, chives, capers, caper juice, and vinegar together. Taste, and add salt according to how you are going to use the sauce (less if a dip for salty chips or on top of well-salted rösti, a bit more if dressing potato salad or a baked potato). It can be served immediately, but is best if covered and refrigerated for at least an hour ahead of time.
Notes
  1. Reprinted from Victuals. Copyright © 2016 by Ronni Lundy. Photographs copyright © 2016 by Johnny Autry. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.
Kitchen in the Hills http://www.kitcheninthehills.com/
The Shack’s Sweet and Savory Banana Pudding
"When Ian Boden set several small mason jars of his banana pudding in front of a group of us one night at his Staunton restaurant, The Shack, I picked up my spoon to have just one polite bite. It’s a mercy that after that first bite I didn’t convert that spoon into a weapon to fight everyone else at the table for every last jar. Luckily, Ian had a few more in the back. The hypnotizing goodness of this pudding lies in the earthy banana bread and the seesaw back and forth between its miso salty smack and the classic pudding sweet." -- Lundy, Victuals
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Pudding
  1. 4 egg yolks at room temperature
  2. ½ cup sugar
  3. Pinch of salt
  4. 4 cups heavy cream
  5. 1 packet (¼ ounce) powdered gelatin
  6. 2 whole vanilla beans, halved lengthwise
Banana Bread
  1. 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for greasing the pan
  2. 2 overly ripe bananas
  3. 3 ounces red miso paste
  4. 1 large egg
  5. ⅓ cup packed light brown sugar
  6. ⅔ cup all-purpose flour
  7. ⅓ cup buckwheat flour
  8. ½ teaspoon baking soda
Assembly
  1. 1 cup crushed vanilla wafers
  2. 4 bananas, peeled and sliced
Instructions
  1. Make the pudding: Whisk the egg yolks, sugar, and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside.
  2. Pour ¼ cup of the cream into a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cream and stir with a fork until incorporated. Let sit for 5 minutes.
  3. Pour the remaining 3¾ cups cream into a saucepan and whisk in the gelatin-cream mixture. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla beans into the cream. Heat over medium-low heat, bringing the cream to a point just under a simmer, whisking every so often to incorporate the gelatin.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and very slowly drizzle the cream into the egg mixture while whisking constantly. Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer set over a clean bowl, and transfer it to a refrigerator to chill. For the first hour, whisk the pudding every 15 minutes to incorporate any skin that forms on top. Then cover the pudding with plastic wrap after the last whisk, pressing the wrap directly onto the surface. Let chill for 3 hours. It will be about halfway set at that point.
  5. Make the banana bread: Preheat the oven to 300°F and lightly grease a 1-pound (8½ × 4½-inch) loaf pan with butter.
  6. Peel the bananas and place them in a blender along with the miso, egg, and brown sugar. Blend until the ingredients are combined and smooth.
  7. Mix both flours and the baking soda together in a large bowl. Gently stir the banana mixture into the flour until just incorporated, and then drizzle in the melted butter. Be careful not to overmix, as that would result in a less tender bread.
  8. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes. The bread is done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out moist but not wet. Turn out on a rack and allow to cool completely. Use your hands to break into coarse crumbs.
  9. Make the banana pudding: In either individual mason jars or a single large baking dish, arrange alternating layers of pudding, bread crumbs, bananas, and vanilla wafers, starting with pudding on the bottom and ending with wafers on the top. Be sure all the banana slices are completely covered by pudding to prevent browning. Refrigerate, covered, for 4 hours or overnight before serving, so that the pudding can finish setting.
Notes
  1. Reprinted from Victuals. Copyright © 2016 by Ronni Lundy. Photographs copyright © 2016 by Johnny Autry. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.
Kitchen in the Hills http://www.kitcheninthehills.com/

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