Suzi’s Blog

Cookbook Review: Smoke & Pickles by Edward Lee


“Do you have this book?” my friends asked. It was my birthday recently and I can be a tough person to buy a cookbook for. Suzen and I have a sprawling collection and we are graciously sent review copies from publishers far and wide. So, typically, if someone gives me a cookbook, I do already have it.

Not this one. I looked up from my piece of chocolate birthday cake, what else, and double checked the book cover again. Yes, I had meant to get this book, Smoke & Pickles, but it had escaped me. Now, a year later, here it was for me to survey.

Author Edward Lee begins each chapter with a couple of rice recipes — for reasons I’ll explain. But in Chapter One the first two big recipes are Orange Lamb-Liver Pate and Darkly Braised Lamb Shoulder. I knew, immediately, that this would prove to be an exceptional cookbook.

Edward Lee grew up in Brooklyn to Korean parents who worked very hard in the sweatshops of the Garment District in Manhattan. How hard? When they regularly worked the weekends, they brought Edward and his sister to the shop. The parents labored, the kids explored. At home, they ate rice. On these Manhattan weekends, they scoped out the city for food. Mom never made gyros, for example, but there gyros right on the block housing that sweat shop.

For Edward, it was impossible not to fall in love with food. He became a chef, and expanded his skills by cooking and eating his way through France. He would work, learn, take the money, have a great meal, and then begin all over again in another restaurant in another town. Where does someone like that end up? Louisville, Kentucky as the chef/owner of 610 Magnolia, where he has earned nationwide fame.

What happens when you take Asian background, add French training and then suspend the chef in the American South? There’s a lot of meat in this book: pork, beef, lamb. And there’s a great assembly of ingredients: American and Asian, subtle and spicy, pantry favorites and probably some items you’ll need to go shopping for.

Here’s the ingredient list for his mahogany colored Darkly Braised Lamb Shoulder:

  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Lamb shoulder roast
  • Canola oil
  • Chopped onions, carrots and celery
  • Garlic
  • Button mushrooms
  • Jalapeno pepper
  • Bourbon, ketchup and soy sauce
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Sorghum
  • Black bean paste
  • Bittersweet chocolate,
  • Chicken stock

I simply defy you to find another recipe using bourbon + soy sauce + jalapeno + sorghum + black bean paste + chocolate .Edward has traveled the world and in this recipe, and so many of his others, a sampling of the world is combined to create an experience that is hard to label. American? Asian? French? No, I think it is best to call these Lee-recipes, just masterful amalgams of the unexpected, the unanticipated.

I suppose the Asian influence from his childhood has the deepest penetration here. You see spices applied left-and-right while the sweet and the sour are carefully balanced. For your next Easter, you may want his Tarmarind-Strawberry Glazed Ham. Or you could serve his Cinnamon Honey Roast Leg of Lamb.

Or, you could ignore the calendar and tradition and just make one of these now.

Not up for ham or lamb? There’s the Braised Brisket with Bourbon-Peach Glaze.

Yes, bourbon does play a role in many of these recipes. Fortunately, Louisville is in Kentucky and bourbon — serious, dark and great bourbon — is always just a few steps away. I’ve already posted Edward’s Bourbon-Ginger Glazed Carrots that were the hit for our last Easter meal.

The typical recipe here will not overwhelm you too many flavors, but surely you are going to be flavor sated. Most of the recipes have that long list of ingredients, and you may find yourself in search of that bean paste or sorghum. Don’t compromise. Get everything the man says you need for his wonders. It’s not the time to shortchange yourself.

The book offers separate chapters for lamb, beef, poultry, pig and seafood. Plus, given that the man has kimchi in his genes, there is a serious chapter on pickles, one on veggies, and one called Bourbon and Bar Snacks. Ah, there’s one more chapter called Buttermilk and Karaoke. That’s where you’ll find the desserts, ones heavily influenced by the South. Desserts like his Whiskey Ginger Cake, where grated ginger, coconut milk, and buttermilk fashion the cake, while cream cheese, butter, lots of powdered sugar, and lots of whiskey form the frosting.

Yes, whiskey. He does not use bourbon in every dish. The man trained in France.

If you are close to Louisville, Kentucky, you want to experience 610 Magnolia, which advertises American cuisine with global influences. In the meantime, no matter where you live, you can experience Smoke & Pickles

Smoky Black Bean Bisque from My Perfect Pantry by Geoffrey Zakarian


In My Perfect Pantry, Geoffrey Zakarian uses simple pantry elements to forge wonderful, full flavored dishes. He has a list of 50 pantry ingredients that he employs in appetizers, side dishes, main courses and desserts. Here the simple ingredient is black beans.

Beans can have a bit of punch on their own, not heat but just deep flavor. Zakarian doubles down, though, and adds a canned chipotle pepper plus some of the adobo sauce. Goodness, when I first read this recipe I thought he said to add the whole can, not just one pepper. I was about to write this post with a big WARNING notice, but now I don’t have to. Of course, I understand how it goes with chipotles. You’re going to add more, aren’t you?

Zakarian comments that black beans “can hold and carry added flavors.” So here a classic matchup occurs: black beans with that chipotle and corn. Corn is now arriving in our markets. It’s early corn so it may not be as sweet as the frozen variety, which is perfectly dandy for this recipe.

The relative sweet and smoky notes here can be intensified if this bisque is pureed. Traditionally, a bisque is a creamy seafood-based dish but here the “bisque” label does denote smoothness, assuming you do puree to achieve a velvety texture. If you do puree in your blender, then pour through a sieve and try to eliminate any lingering chunks. You can save those little piece, put them back in the blender with a little water or reserved stock. Blend again, sieve again, and try to capture as much of the raw ingredients as possible.

This is a lively dish for your weekend. It makes for a full lunch or can be a very spicy introduction to your main course at dinner.

To see my earlier review of My Perfect Pantry, just click here!

Smoky Black Bean Bisque

Yield: serves 4-6


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup chopped carrot
  • ½ cup fresh or frozen corn kernels (if fresh, from about I ear of corn)
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, chopped, plus 2 tablespoons adobo sauce
  • 1 quart hot vegetable or chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • Fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish
  • Sour cream, for garnish


In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the carrot, corn, and onion and cook until the vegetables begin to soften, about 8 minutes. Season with salt.

Add the garlic, chili powder, and cumin and cook until the spices are fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the beans and chipotle and sauce and stir just to combine.

Pour in the stock and 1 cup water. Bring to a simmer and cook until thick and creamy, 35 to 40 minutes.

Stir in the lime juice and season with salt, if necessary. Puree the hot soup with a hand blender, if desired, or leave chunky. Serve in soup bowls with the cilantro and a dollop of sour cream.

Source: My Perfect Pantry by Geoffrey Zakarian [Clarkson Potter, 2014]

Photography Credit: Sara Remington


Asparagus in Cider Sauce from Edwardian Cooking by Larry Edwards


“You’ll like it,” my wife said. It was Season 3 of Downton Abbey and I had avoided Seasons 1 and 2. I watched one episode and was hooked. Suzen and I are, of course, intrigued by the food: the basement kitchen where it all begins, the main floor dining room where dish after dish arrives under domed silver serving dishes delivered by a tuxedoed staff.

This recipe comes from Edwardian Cooking: 80 Recipes Inspired by Downton Abbey’s Elegant Meals, a book title that says it all. If you want to replicate a Downton Abbey meal for your cooking club, then this is the book to guide you through the event.

I never think side dishes get enough attention. Well, after all, they are merely “sides,” right? That is the lovely thing about Edwardian Cooking. You learn not only the recipes but the “why” of the recipe. For Edwardian meals, sides were important elements to be integrated into the full meal.

For example, the acidity of the cider sauce here amplifies the flavor of a main course seafood dish. In fact, you will find this dish to be just ever so slightly acidic. The sauce itself, heavy with cream, is lovely, smooth, and grandly satisfying. If you want a vegetarian meal — but not a vegan one — this asparagus with some rice would be a complete success.

Author Larry Edwards notes that in England the growing season is short, but spring would always bring an abundance of wild asparagus. The wild versions are smaller and more tender, which satisfied the preference at the table to eat asparagus with fork alone — no need for cutting with a knife.

Today’s commercial asparagus is often larger and tougher, so Larry suggests peeling to achieve that desired tenderness. Suzen had ordered asparagus and we were lucky to get very early, slim stalks. Stalks so slim that I literally could not peel them. We just followed the recipe and found ourselves sitting down to a dish that we’ll prepare again and again.

It’s now a favorite at our house. If you say “I hate asparagus” you are about to have a dramatic change in your culinary preferences. This is a really lovely recipe. Easily prepared, this is a side dish with “main dish” impact on your palate.

To see a review of Edwardian Cooking, just click here!

Asparagus in Cider Sauce

Yield: serves 4


  • 1 pound asparagus, trimmed if necessary
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 teaspoons. flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ⅓ cup cider vinegar
  • ⅔ cup heavy cream
  • ¼ teaspoon lemon juice


In a large sauté pan, bring a few inches of water to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook 10 minutes or until tender, depending on the size. Drain the asparagus and set it aside. Discard the cooking liquid.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour, salt, black pepper, and nutmeg until well combined. This is what is referred to as a seasoned roux (thickener).

Whisk the cider vinegar and whipping cream into the saucepan and whisk until the sauce begins to simmer. Reduce the heat to low and cook 5 minutes.

Stir in the lemon juice.

Place the asparagus on a serving platter.

Drape the sauce over the asparagus and serve.

Source: Edwardian Cooking: 80 Recipes Inspired by Downton Abbey’s Elegant Meals by Larry Edwards [Arcade Publishing, 2013]

Photo Information: Canon T2i, 18-55mm Macro Lens, f/5.6, 1/20th second, ISO-500