Welcome to this year's Piglet Community Picks! Until the Piglet Tournament of Cookbooks kicks off in March, we'll be posting weekly reviews of the best new books you cooked from in 2018—written by you. To see other reviews, head here. And to catch up on the books that made it into the main tournament, look no further.
I won a copy of Turnip Greens & Tortillas by Eddie Hernandez on Instagram, right after it came out in April of last year. So when I saw the call for nominations for this year's Piglet Community Picks, I decided to suggest this book and spend some more time with it.
I enjoy books like Turnip Greens & Tortillas, which combine traditional Southern recipes with global cuisines of those who grew up elsewhere and moved to the South. This book represents a fusion of Mexican and Southern flavors; the author, Hernandez, was born in Monterrey, Mexico, and eventually settled in Atlanta, Georgia. My Two Souths, a previous Piglet winner, comes to mind as another favorite in this style.
Turnip Greens & Tortillas is filled with incredible photos to go with the interesting, inventive recipes. The recipes contain ingredients that are easy to find in most supermarkets, are generally affordable, and pack lots of flavor—my kind of book. And Eddie's story of how his signature style came to be, called "Baptism by Potlikker," was especially interesting to me.
For a Southern girl like me, there's nothing quite like greens of all sorts with potlikker in the mix, and some cornbread to soak it up. So Eddie's story was something I understood well, and immediately appealed to me. It goes a little something like this: When working at a Tex-Mex restaurant in Atlanta, Eddie was given a bag of turnip greens by one of his regular customers. But he didn't know how to cook them, and the greens went bad. After the customer brought them to him a second time that week, Eddie asked his boss how he cooked them.
Eddie then learned the basic Southern-style technique of cooking greens, understanding how to cook them well in a flavored stock, so that delicious "pot liquor" (or "potlikker") remained. After experimenting more with this method, he then decided to put a Mexican spin on the recipe, hearkening back to his roots and adding chile, tomato, and garlic to the dish. The restaurant started serving these spiced greens in little bowls, giving them away in the bar area. But people started to come back just for the greens, so they were officially added to the menu. A couple critics wrote positive reviews mentioning the greens, crowds started showing up for them—and as they say, the rest is history.
I decided to cook a whole meal from this book before writing my review. I knew I had to include Eddie's famous Turnip Greens—and wow, I'm glad I did. My family loved these greens served in bowls, and ate them with cornbread to soak up that delicious, spicy tomato broth. The recipe is actually more like a soup, packed with turnip greens, tomatoes, chicken broth, chiles, garlic, and butter. It's a recipe I'll definitely make again.
Other recipes I made to go with the greens were Deviled Eggs with Pimento Cheese and Spicy Bread and Butter Pickles. My mom always served deviled eggs when we had greens on the table, so I thought it was a natural fit. The Pimento Cheese sub-recipe that I made to prepare the eggs was a super-tasty version of the cheese dip I know and love, with dry-roasted jalapeños added in with the sweeter pimentos. The Spicy Bread and Butter Pickles were also easy to make, and absolutely delicious. What an interesting accompaniment to deviled eggs!
The final recipe I made for the meal was Buttermilk Fried Chicken with Green Chile–Horseradish Sauce. Since the dish uses chicken breast cutlets, instead of whole, bone-in chicken parts, the recipe cooks up in under ten minutes. You can marinate the chicken in buttermilk for at least two hours, and longer if you like, but the cooking part is extremely quick. Score! This was another hit with my family, crispy on the outside and super juicy and flavorful within.
I absolutely loved the Green Chile–Horseradish sauce that goes with the chicken, which has a vegetal flavor from the green chiles, spice from the horseradish, and a little complex surprise from the sweet pickle relish. My family wasn't a huge fan, but that meant more sauce for me. Next time, we'll try this chicken "Eddie's Way," as he suggests in little tips peppered throughout the book: with steamed or sautéed green beans or spinach, and of course, warm tortillas.
Turnip Greens & Tortillas is one of those books I might not have given a second glance, had it not found its way into my greedy, cookbook-loving hands. But I am so thankful it did. I have many more recipes marked to try, and plan on spending some more time delving into the deliciousness found inside.
"I cherish my cookbooks for their ability to transport me around the world in the span of a weeknight. Perhaps more alluring is that they introduce me to new people, illuminating the life infused in the food we eat. Eddie Hernandez has worn many hats, being a drummer, firefighter, mayor and a chef, and so he has many a story to tell. We feel the soul of each of his recipes, and with that can respect their present incarnations.
"With gentle guidance we learn how to pronounce words like bolillos (it’s "buh-lee-os"), we are encouraged by his assertion that we can’t possibly overwork the corn tortillas (since there is no gluten in corn), and we are endeared to Eddie as he recounts stories that brought him to the food he cooks today. Undeniably, the book was a joy to read and cook through." —Cheryl Hagopian
"For me, it comes down to the look and the cookability of a book. Balance that against the tone and accessibility, and you have the criteria that matter most, and Turnip Greens & Tortillas checks all the boxes. This is a book I’m already cooking from by heart. The recipes teach and empower you, and they’re perfect for your own evolutions and adaptations. I don’t think Eddie Hernandez would mind. Turnip Greens & Tortillas makes my life easier and more delightful and for that, I give it all the gold stars." —Mallory Murphy Viscardi
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