Libbie Summers’s The Whole Hog Cookbook has been dubbed the quintessential “pork for chicks” cookbook. The author herself calls it an “ode to the pig.” Either way, the book is required reading for anyone interested in all things pork-centric, from Sweet Tea-Brined Pork Roast and Baked White Beans to The World’s Best BLT.
Growing up, Summers spent a lot of time on the Missouri farm of her grandparents; now she lives in Savannah where she is a honcho in Paula Deen’s TV kitchens. Clearly she knows her way around a pig and the book is an education. Summers provides mini-tutorials on everything from how to turn a double rack of ribs into a gorgeous crown roast to how to render leaf lard for uncommonly flaky piecrust.
Best of all, the recipes are not just addictive, they provide a perfect blueprint for the upcoming holidays. A festive cocktail party might include Bacon and Cheese Puffers (pictured above, recipe below) and a silky pate flavored with Tennessee whiskey. An elegant dinner might feature the aforementioned Crown Roast, while a sausage laden Apple Orchard Stew (pictured above) would make a lovely supper by the fire. Kick off Thanksgiving with Pumpkin Pie Pancakes; the turkey itself practically begs for Savory Mushroom and Bacon Bread Pudding with Warm Sage Butter. And then there are the stellar pies, including Blue Ribbon Apple and a sublime Dark Chocolate Ginger, courtesy of Summers’s mom.
Summers is a charming writer and inspired cook who got her start as a private chef on sailing yachts. We’re glad she got off the boat and renewed her interest in more earthly pleasures, chief among them the noble pig.
Bacon and Cheese Puffers
Yield: 12 to 15 puffers
1 cup milk
½ stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
Pinch of cayenne pepper
½ cup shredded Gruyere cheese
8 ounces bacon, cooked crisp and finely chopped
1 tablespoon fleur de sel or kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the milk, butter, and the ¼ teaspoon salt to a boil. When the butter has melted, remove from heat and add the flour all at once. Using a wooden spoon, beat the mixture vigorously until it forms a ball. Return to medium heat and continue stirring for 1 minute or until the mixture dries. Remove the mixture from the saucepan and spoon it into a food processor. Let cool for 5 minutes. After it has cooled slightly, process for a few seconds. Add the eggs and cayenne and process for another 15 seconds or until it is well combined. Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl and let cool for 10 minutes. Stir in the cheese and the bacon until they are just incorporated.
Scoop out 1 heaping tablespoon of the dough and push it off the spoon onto the prepared baking sheet with a second spoon (or use your finger). Repeat with remaining dough, spacing mounds 2 inches apart. Sprinkle the tops with fleur de sel. Bake for 30 minutes or until browned and crisped. Serve warm.
Photo Credit: © Chia Chong