A few weeks ago, Tom and Cail went to a wedding in Atlanta. While there, they ate at Hugh Acheson's restaurant, Empire State South. I love when they visit new restaurants because Cail always sends me a barrage of texts, with pictures of menus and little notes like, "Holy Gawd. My pork loin was smothered in lardo."
About a week after their trip to Atlanta, I got a wonderful surprise in the mail: They sent me Acheson's new cookbook,
A New Turn in the South!
A New Turn in the South!
I immediately read it, cover to cover. Acheson is a great writer - so approachable and friendly - and he has a warm story to tell. The book is about food, but it's also about community and about his own family. It's a good book to read, even if you'll never cook a dish.
But I will cook a dish - a few dishes. Many of the recipes are quite home cook-friendly.
I started with the grilled mahi mahi with hot sauce beurre blanc - a meal simple enough for a weeknight. Since none of my local stores had mahi mahi in stock, I swapped that out for Chilean sea bass from Conrad's.
The fish itself is simple - rubbed with olive oil, seasoned with sea salt and grilled.
It's served over a salad of thinly sliced cucumber tossed with equal parts olive oil and lemon juice, salt and parsley:
If I made this again, I'd jack up the lemon juice and maybe add some rice vinegar to the marinade. It's a matter of taste - we tend to prefer cucumber salads with a little more acid.
The key to this whole meal, though, is the sauce:
That picture certainly doesn't do it justice. Acheson's combination of butter, cider vinegar and hot sauce is amazing and works beautifully with a firm white fish. I think it would be equally lovely with chicken. It's a great example of how down-home flavors (hot sauce, yeehaw!) can make magic with fancy French technique.
And really, when have hot sauce and butter steered anybody wrong?
Buy the book - really. But in the meantime, here's the recipe (paraphrased):
Hugh Acheson's Hot Sauce Beurre Blanc
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1/2 cup cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons Louisiana-style hot sauce (such as Texas Pete's; Acheson warns against using Tabasco, saying it's too hot)
- 1 stick of cold unsalted butter, cubed
1. In a 1-quart sauce pain, combine the shallot, vinegar and lemon juice. Over medium heat, reduce until there is only about 2 tablespoons of liquid.
2. Add the hot sauce (it'll seem like a lot!) and reduce to a low simmer.
3. Begin whisking in the cold butter, a cube at a time. This will take a while. Your arm may ache.
4. Once all the butter is incorporated, season with a pinch of salt - and you're ready.
If you need to keep the sauce warm while you finish other parts of the meal, place the pot in a water bath to do so.