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About the Author
He is a founding partner of wildly popular winery, Arrington Vineyards, in Arrington, TN. He recently starred in a one-time special Steak Out with Kix Brooks that was picked up for a full series which premiered July 2015.
Read an Excerpt
Cookin' It With Kix
The Art of Celebrating and the Fun of Outdoor Cooking
By Kix Brooks, Tambi Lane
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2016 Kix Brooks
All rights reserved.
WHERE I COME FROM
Hello! I'm Kix Brooks, and yes, I'm the Brooks part of the country music duo Brooks & Dunn. I'm also the host of the nationally syndicated radio show American Country Countdown, the former host of Steak Out with Kix Brooks on the Cooking Channel, and a founding owner/partner of Arrington Vineyards outside of Nashville, Tennessee. I've lived in Tennessee for years now, but I was born and raised in Louisiana, and my family roots run deep there.
It's hard to describe what being from Louisiana means. Every state has an identity and its own culture, but I'm not sure any is more recognizable or more diverse than Louisiana's. Louisiana is known as the "Sportsman's Paradise," which suits us well, but who doesn't think about food and cooking when they think about Louisiana, especially New Orleans.
This might be a good time to explain the difference between Creole and Cajun cooking, as I understand it. Creole cooking is more prominent in the southern part of the state, and it especially shines through in the great restaurants of New Orleans, where this elegant treatment of classic Louisiana cooking becomes an art form in itself. I think most chefs would tell you that Cajun cooking comes from the more casual side of things, no less appetizing, but more from the backyard or boat dock, home kitchen, or duck camp. This book is my own hybrid collection of dishes inspired by the food of my homeland and actual family recipes. It's Cajun, it's Creole, it's Tex-Mex, it's Southern, and it's even Northern since my wife is from Massachusetts. There are some generations-old, hand-me-down dishes as well as some brand-new ideas that seem to fit right in there with the flavors I love.
I've certainly never claimed to be a chef or honestly even attempted to recreate most of the great meals I've had at fine New Orleans establishments like Commander's Palace or Antoine's. But meals I've had at those places have been inspiring, and once you get a taste, like most good things, you can't wait to do it again. And then on a good night I'm thinking, How hard can Bananas Foster be anyway? Let's catch something on fire!
I moved to Tennessee straight from New Orleans where I played at Tipitina's bar and the Old Absinthe House on Bourbon Street. My last run there was seventy-two nights in a row, and the culture, the food, and the all-around vibe are proudly tattooed on my soul forever. The older I get, the more the memories and the stories continue to simmer in my brain like a good gumbo. So, if something I say in here isn't exactly true, it's not because that's not how I remember it.
Throughout this cookbook I will be telling stories about growing up in Louisiana as well as telling tales about my adventures since that precious time of my youth. My stories will certainly include other people, namely my closest family members and my dearest friends. I'll be introducing you to those folks along the way. I'll tell you right now that it was my grandfather on my mother's side, Mr. Kleber Samuel Thompson, known as D-Daddy to his family, and my father, Leon Eric Brooks Jr., who taught me the most about cooking and appreciating food.
My dad and D-Daddy taught me how to do the things that all young boys in the South were expected to have some know-how about: how to catch and fry fish, how to grill up a steak, how to shuck oysters.
The most important thing that I learned from my father and grandfather, though, was that, no matter what your walk of life, the outdoors and sharing that outdoor time with your family was where life "found its own way." Adventure lives outdoors; nature is unpredictable, so of course, great stories are born there. For example, fishing isn't just about catching fish — a lot of things happen between loading that boat and sitting down at the dinner table. That's the inspiration behind this book.
Mike Leatherwood has been driving me around in a tour bus for more than twenty years; we've literally been millions of miles together. Mike lives on my farm now, and most of the time when he's not driving or riding a tractor, he is watching the RFD channel to check on the price of cattle, new cattle breeds, and breeding techniques.
But let me start at the beginning: One night we were driving along, and I asked Mike if he could have any kind of cattle, what kind would he want to own? He quickly responded that Beefmaster would be his breed of choice, so I said, "Well, let's get some!"
There began what has become a story of learning, hard work, trips around the country, supporting young people showing cattle, and most importantly raising high-end beef cattle.
There is a difference in the quality of meat you buy in the store and the beef that you get in a fine restaurant. Many times great restaurants have their own herds, but at the very least they are sourcing Prime beef. Generally speaking, USDA Choice beef is in your supermarket, and it's not bad, but it's not the same thing as USDA Prime. Bottom line is to always get the highest quality meat you can get, and your food will taste so much better.
There are cows that come from the giant stockyards, and then there are cattle that are raised on farms where they're taken care of and fed to make the best product before they're delivered to market. That's what Mike and I are doing raising Beefmaster cattle–trying to get the best product we can to take to market.
Being a proponent of farm-raised produce, I've also supported and admired families who encourage their children to get involved in 4-H and other agriculture programs that teach them about responsibility and what goes in to raising animals as well as the other foods that wind up on the dinner table.
I can remember looking through a tall pipe fence in Fort Worth, Texas, a couple of years ago, watching a group of young people show cattle. There was a cute little blonde-headed girl who wasn't half as tall as the big heifer she was leading around the ring; I had noticed her on a stool earlier in the day with soap and a hose washing this big cow, but I never dreamed she would actually be showing it. Anyway, it was touch and go in the ring now as to who was leading whom, but she had her jaw cocked, and she was making her way with a focused determination. I couldn't help but start pulling for her. There were probably twelve other young people in there with fine-looking animals, all doing their best, and I thought, What a great program.
It made me proud to realize how much good comes from this industry that people are not aware of. When they all lined up and the judges made their choice, my little blonde buddy won the blue ribbon. She was cool too; she didn't jump up and down and make the other contestants feel bad, but she smiled from ear to ear and gave her big heifer a hug. I felt my eyes well up at the thought of what it all meant. Later on she saw me and asked for an autograph, and I said, "Are you kidding me? You're the rock star here!" I still have her autograph on my sale program from that amazing day.
Raising cattle is yet another connection I have to this food thing, and I have several steak recipes to share if you'll just hang with me.
I've always liked wine. I was like every other Romeo in college; it seemed like a great way to act sophisticated when you had a date who seemed a little out of your league or when you just wanted to do something a little more special than a beer in a bar. I didn't really know much other than I liked it and that Mateus made a good candleholder.
As time went on, like most things that you take an interest in, I started to learn there was a lot more to this wine world than I had realized. I attended some nice dinners that had wine that tasted different from the wine I was used to. I had different wines with different foods during the same meal, and, wow, things were getting fun. Before I knew it, I was really paying attention to taste and to labels and, of course, to price tags.
But the truth is, you don't have to spend a fortune to learn about nice wines from all over the world, and the more I learned, the more I wanted to share my knowledge. Eventually I met some friends with the same passion for this wine thing, and we decided to create a world of our own right where we lived in Nashville where people could come and listen to music, enjoy a great view of the Harpeth Valley, and taste as many as eighteen different varieties of wine. It was one of the craziest leaps of faith I've ever taken, but we starting planting vines way back in 2002, and in 2007, after a lot of hard work, Arrington Vineyards was born. Thanks to the support of thousands of wine lovers from around the country, we are still going strong. My partner and winemaker Kip Summers helps me out throughout this book, offering you a few good wine-food pairing ideas.
COWRITER DONNA BRITT
I've been hosting American Country Countdown since 2006, and it was quite a learning process. I probably wouldn't have survived if the radio network hadn't had the good sense to bring in a great producer and writer. Her name is Donna Britt, and our friendship was almost immediate. Some people, you just know right away, are the kind of friends you want to take care of and keep forever. Donna didn't just know what she was doing, she was a good listener, and for people like me who love to hear themselves talk, that is very important.
If you're a "talker," you can learn a lot from a good listener, because if you are really given all the time you need to hear yourself, eventually you might actually figure out when to stop talking, and ultimately you might figure out the things that you don't really even need to say. Then, God forbid, you might start to pay attention to what someone else has to offer. Like my dad used to say, "Your transmitter works really good. You might want to try your receiver out some time!" Of course, I was too busy talking at the time to understand what he meant.
Thankfully as I got older and met interesting people like Donna, I did start to listen a little more, and I learned that Donna was really into cooking. She even hosted a local TV show about cooking. My engineer in the studio, Lonnie Napier, also liked to cook. All that led to many fun discussions about how cooking works in different parts of the country. We found a common bond that was outside of just trying to make a good radio show. When I decided to share more about the culture I came from and the food that went with it, Donna was the obvious choice to help me put it all together.
I knew she could help make my long-winded descriptions easy to understand. I also knew she would cook everything that would be written about in this book, so you can be assured this stuff actually works. I'm hoping, too, that some of the fun and heartfelt joy that we both experienced putting this book together will live on in the pages ahead. That's the point here: we ain't in surgery; this is supposed to be fun. You might burn something or realize it could use more of this or that, but have some fun doing it and remember eating it is the easy part.
You would expect me to say that I could never have done this without Donna, but the truth is I don't think I could have done this with anyone else. I'll be forever grateful to her for staying after me and making this happen.
FOOD IS A CELEBRATION!
When we think of New Year's and food, we think of red beans and rice or black-eyed peas; Valentine's Day is chocolate; Thanksgiving is turkey, and so on and so on for the civilized world, but where I come from, every day is based around a food party. We're not just cooking to eat; we're getting together to cook, and then we'll eat.
What are we having and where did it come from and how fresh is it are all part of the conversation and the fun food culture, which is not the same as what I consider being a foodie. It's not about some interesting lil' thing on your plate that you have to guess what it is and try and imagine the twenty amazing spices and flavors that are coming out of it; I've done that, and it's fascinating, and pairing those flavors with some amazing wine that complements them is a game in itself.
That's not what this book is about though; this book is about rolling up your sleeves, not worrying too much about anything except who you want to share the fun with, and if a recipe doesn't work like you want it to the first time you try it, you have a drink and try it again. If you don't like the way that wine tastes with your whatever, try this other wine. The fun is in the hang, smoking up the grill or the kitchen, and working your way to becoming a good cook. As far as that wine is concerned, I will give you some suggestions I don't think you'll mind trying.
The deal is, food doesn't have to be expensive, and it's not hard to cook it yourself. What you can do at home is a level of good times, storytelling, and a filling-up-the-plate experience you're just not going to get at a restaurant. You can do this! You might want to start with chapter 8, Libations, Cocktails, and Beverages; regardless, let's go.CHAPTER 2
(favorite recipes for fish fries, grilling out, and other big gatherings)
D-Daddy's Fried Fish (and Old-Fashioned Fish Fry) | 15 Classic Fried Fries | 17 Hushpuppies with Green Onions | 18 Barbecue Shrimp in the Shell | 19 Corn Grit Waffles | 21 Aunt Grace's Crawfish Etouffée | 23 Basic Rice | 24 Big Ol' Mess Jambalaya | 25 Grilled Oysters | 29 Lemon-Garlic Butter | 29 Oyster Slurpers with Mojito-Mignonette | 30 Shrimp Po' Boy | 33 Spicy Remoulade Sauce | 34 Revved-Up Brussels Sprouts Slaw | 35 Grilled and Smothered Strip Steak | 37 Reverse Seared Cowboy Cut Tomahawk Rib eye | 39 Honky-Tonk Tequila Steak | 43
No son ever loved a father more than I loved my old man. There's not enough room in this book to tell that whole story; it would take a lifetime. But I do have time to tell you that some of the best fun he and I ever shared was at our camp on Lake Bistineau outside of Shreveport, Louisiana.
That's where we had the original outdoor kitchen, which we called the Country Kitchen, and where I first learned how to set things on fire — I mean, cook!
The Country Kitchen was a concrete slab, probably twenty by thirty feet, with a roof over it. On that slab were half a dozen rocking chairs, a few tables for drinks and ashtrays, and a big square brick enclosure, about three feet high, maybe five feet long and four feet wide. Inside the enclosure was a grill with two holes cut in it for two large gas burners. This was our fish and tater cooker, turkey fryer, and, most importantly, our shrimp boiler (we'll get the shrimp boiling in chapter 4).
If you like to cook at all, make sure you can cook outside because that's what it's all about. With a simple roof to keep the sun and rain off and some kind of fire, you're good to go. I'm convinced that every house needs a good gas cooker, and I'm not talking about the grill where you cook steaks. I'm talking about a setup where you can have a big pot of hot oil or boiling water, because even if you're just boiling potatoes, it's more fun to cook in the great outdoors. I swear it tastes better.
Where I come from, folks do a lot of cooking and barbecuing and picnicking and tailgating outside. Honestly, I think that's why so many "wild" foods are so popular in Louisiana. Obviously, the seafood and wild game can be caught or bagged fresh, but even if you get it at the grocery store, cooking it outside is a great social activity. All that fresh air is good for you, too, despite how much grease you may be using to fry up your catch.
In this chapter we have everything from fried fish and raw oysters to big pots of jambalaya and etouffée to thick rib eye steaks. I warned you that I was going to give you some wine tips, and for me, the most fun way to do that is to tell a story. So here we go!
Not too long ago a group of friends and I were in New Orleans for a Tennessee Titans football game. We had the opportunity to have a meal at one of America's most outstanding restaurants, Galatoire's, a century-old fine-dining establishment on Bourbon Street. That evening's meal covered a lot of territory, so I thought it would make sense to take you through the wine to give you a real-life example of what to drink with what.
We first opened a nice, dry Burgundy, and it paired well with multiple courses that we knew were on the way: oysters, crab salad, and fish. Burgundies are made in the Burgundy region of eastern France. They are typically dry red wines made from pinot noir grapes and white wines made from chardonnay grapes.
Of course we were taking full advantage of French Quarter cooking, and since we hadn't had enough to eat yet, we finished the meal with an unbelievable filet mignon with a nice Bearnaise sauce. Red meat screams for red wine, and I tend to lean toward chewy cabs (cabernet sauvignons) or merlots.
Excerpted from Cookin' It With Kix by Kix Brooks, Tambi Lane. Copyright © 2016 Kix Brooks. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Where I Come From 1
Chapter 2 Cook Out! (favorite recipes for fish fries, grilling out, and other big gatherings) 9
Chapter 3 Cooking in the Woods (shore lunches, hole-in-the-ground fire cookery, and other after-the-hunt/ post-catch meals and snacks) 45
Chapter 4 Celebrate! with Food (spreads for all occasions from holiday meals to simple good-time get-togethers) 77
Chapter 5 Easy on the Sides (Kix's favorite, easy-to-make side dishes) 133
Chapter 6 A Little Kick (rubs, sauces, condiments … to make it all better) 161
Chapter 7 Sweets and Indulgences 173
Chapter 8 Libations, Cocktails, and Beverages 211