Celebrate “Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey” with a John Currence Dinner at Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen

Oxford chef John Currence is cooking recipes Wednesday from his new book, including Pork Fat Beignets with Bourbon Caramel.

I’ll be toting my gorgeous copy of Oxford chef John Currence’s debut cookbook, “Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey: Recipes from my Three Favorite Food Groups and Then Some,” to Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen Wednesday evening, and so should you.

The James Beard Award-winning chef will sign books from 6 to 7 p.m., a prelude to dinner at the restaurant featuring dishes from the cookbook, published earlier this month.

Tickets to the event are $75 and include a signed copy of the fun-loving tome, whose contents are as charming and irreverent as its title. With 130 recipes, Currence showcases both his personality and cooking style, introducing each recipe with a story and pairing it with a favorite song. For instance, for the recipe Smoked Mushroom Tamales detailed below, Currence explains how tamales are “positively Mississippi” and suggests “Drunken Angel” by Lucinda Williams as a perfect musical match.

The book’s organization is equally appealing for wannabe cooks like me. First, Currence details basic recipes such as Creole seasoning and fresh herb vinaigrette. Next come 10 different chapters organized, not by type of food, but by cooking technique. For instance, chapters include “Stirring, Shaking & Muddling,” “Boiling & Simmering,” “Roasting & Braising,” and my two favorites, “Pickling & Canning” and a 20-page chapter on how to make condiments. (Look for Lemon-Pickled Honey Crisp Apples, Pickled Sweet Corn, Homemade “Duke’s” Mayonnaise, and Chimichurri, both smooth and rustic.)

Now back to that four-course frolic at Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen. Smoked beets with charred pecans and buttermilk goat cheese crema will start the meal, followed by NOLA oyster stew and barbecue shrimp with Creole cream cheese grits. Dessert will be pork fat beignets with bourbon caramel, a uniquely Currence spin on another New Orleans favorite.

For Memphis chefs Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman, Wednesday’s dinner reflects their long-standing admiration for the New Orleans native whose Oxford restaurant group now includes City Grocery, Snackbar, Lamar Lounge, Big Bad Breakfast, and Boure.

“Chef is someone we always have looked up to,” Hudman said. “He is always there for anything we ever need, no matter what we need.”

Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey” Book-signing and Dinner, Andrew Michael Italian Restaurant, Oct. 16, $75, (901-347-3569)


Smoked Mushroom Tamales

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons crushed black peppercorns

1 teaspoon ground cumin

4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter

2 tablespoons lard (see page 136)

¼ cup fresh goat cheese


Cornhusks, soaked for 30 minutes in warm water

To make the mushroom filling:

Combine all the mushrooms, the shallot, garlic, vinegar, 3 cups water, lime juice, cumin, salt, and pepper in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Let simmer for 4 minutes, then allow the mushrooms to cool in the liquid. Drain the mushrooms.

Prepare a stovetop smoker with the soaked wood chips and place on the stove over medium heat. As soon as the chips begin to smoke, place the mushroom mixture in the smoker and close the top tightly. Let them smoke for about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and continue to smoke, covered, for an additional 5 minutes.

Transfer the mushrooms to a food processor and pulse until they are finely chopped but not pureed. Set aside while making the tamale dough.

To make the tamale dough: Puree the corn kernels, onions, garlic and stock in a food processor until smooth.

In a stainless-steel bowl, combine the masa harina, sugar, salt, crushed peppercorns, and cumin. Add the cold butter and lard and cut in until the dough resembles cornmeal. Cut in the goat cheese. Stir in the corn mixture until there are no lumps.

To assemble: Lay a large piece of soaked cornhusk (about 3 by 5 inches) on a flat surface. In the center, place 5 tablespoons of tamale dough and spread into a rectangle about 2 by 4 inches. Make a line of mushroom filling (2 to 3 tablespoons) lengthwise down the center of the tamale dough. Grasp the long edge of one of the tamales and roll the tamale into a tube, encasing the filling with the dough. Fold the ends over on the seam and rest the tamale on top of the folded ends so its weight holds the tamale together. Place the rolled tamale in the perforated pan of a steamer setup. Repeat this process with the rest of the tamales. Place the perforated pan over a pan of simmering water, cover, and steam for 45 minutes. Remove from the steamer and serve immediately. Alternatively, they can be refrigerated, covered with plastic wrap, for up to 48 hours and then rewarmed in a 350°F oven for 10 minutes.


Serve these with 3 cups of Roasted Cherry Tomato Marinara (page 85), adding the zest and juice of 2 limes and 2 teaspoons toasted and crushed cumin seeds.


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