Paris Cookbook Fair: Pulled Pork with BBQ Sauce Saturday, Feb 23 2013 


Paris Cookbook Fair 2013

Bonjour! Sending out a quick post from the Paris Cookbook Fair, Festival du Livre Culinaire from Le Carosel du Louvre. There are so many amazing, beautiful books from all over the world – France, the UK, South America, Israel, New Zealand — all over! I was thrilled to be asked to do a cooking demonstration. Of course, I knew I wanted to share my style of cooking, a blend of French and Southern — but with an extra special nod towards my Southern roots. So, I put it out on Twitter to ask folks what I should make…..

chicken 1 copy

Fried Chicken at the Louvre?

You will laugh at the reply from the Twitterverse!

chicken tweet copy

So, I didn’t. The last thing I want is an international incident over Fried Chicken. Although I am convinced that if the Mona Lisa could taste my fried chicken she’d have a full blown grin instead of her quirky little smile.

Southern Living saw the conversation and decided they had to write about it on their Daily South blog — “No, Virginia, You Can’t Fry in the Louvre.” Funny, right!?

Instead, I chose to make Pulled Pork Tenderloin with Georgia BBQ Sauce paired with Heirloom Stoneground Grits and Greens topped with Cole Slaw in a Mustard Vinaigrette. I actually brought My Southern Pantry® grits from home. I’m delighted to say that everyone loved it. It was a real blast.

I’m off to go see some beautiful food photography from the award-winning, international photographer Nancy Bundt. She’s absolutely phenomenal. I love her work. Later tonight, two people very important to me, Lisa Ekus and Anne Willan are receiving Gourmand Awards. More soon!

Bon Appétit Y’all!




Pulled Pork Tenderloin with Georgia Barbecue Sauce
Serves 4 to 6

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 small very finely chopped onion
2 1/2 cups ketchup
2 cups white vinegar
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cupDijon mustard
2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
Juice of 2 lemons (about 1/4 cup)
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 (1-pound) pork tenderloin
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and simmer until soft and melted, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the ketchup, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, brown sugar, lemon juice, and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and cook until flavors have smoothed and mellowed, about 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with heavy-duty aluminum foil.

Meanwhile, to prepare the pork, trim off the fat and silver skin: insert the tip of a sharp boning knife just under the silver skin about 1/2 inch from the edge of the meat where the silver skin begins. Keep the knife closer to the membrane than the meat, and pulling up slightly with the knife, slide the knife along the length of the meat to remove a strip of the membrane. Repeat until no silver skin remains. Season the pork with salt and pepper.

To sear the pork, in a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Sear the tenderloin until well browned on all sides, 5 to 7 minutes.

Remove from the heat and place lengthwise on the prepared baking sheet. Top with about 1 cup of the barbecue sauce and roll to fully coat. Fold the foil over the top of the meat and pinch the ends of the foil to seal well. Bake until very tender, 30 to 45 minutes.

Remove from the oven and transfer the pork to a large bowl. Discard the cooking juices remaining in the foil. Using 2 forks, shred the pork tenderloin into strips. Add barbecue sauce to taste, about 1 cup. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve on the split buns with the remaining 1/4 cup of sauce on the side.

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, Thanks so much.

Copyright © 2013 Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc.


Cooking the Book: Art & Design Perspective Tuesday, Nov 1 2011 

6 daube action sequence

Wow. What a crazy couple of weeks. One week this month I was in Atlanta, Memphis, NYC, Austin, and New Orleans in 7 days! The response to the book has been just amazing. 

Some of the most common comments are in regards to how pretty the book is and the beautiful photography. 

A few weeks ago I gave my perspective on behind the scenes at the photo shoot. So, I thought I’d ask Betsy Stromberg, Ten Speed Press book designer and art director her thoughts, as well. 

Betsy directs photo shoots for cookbooks and designs books in the categories of health, business, parenting, humor, sustainability, gardening, and food.

She worked on Basic to Brilliant, Y’all (Ten Speed Press, September 2011) and also designed Bon Appétit, Y’all (Ten Speed Press, May 2008).  

I think she makes beautiful books!  

She originally shared her thoughts on the photo shoot on The Recipe Club blog. I wanted to share what she wrote and give folks a sneak peak in behind the scenes. 

But, before you read up on what’s that’s like, please check out a few pieces about the book and my travels. I was a guest on Martha Stewart TV and we had a great time. 

I generally post pictures and stories on Facebook and Twitter, too. You can also keep up with events in your area. 

“Mama’s Reading List” 

WATCH: The Martha Stewart Show: Peanut-Crusted Chicken Fingers

WATCH: The Martha Stewart Show: Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Apples and Bacon

AJC Food and More Blog Post

The Austin Chronicle

Atlanta Magazine 

Thanks so much to everyone for their tremendous support! It’s been a lot of fun traveling, meeting people, and teaching classes. I hope to see you soon!

Bon Appetit, Y’all!

Cookbook Photo Shoot: The Art Director Perspective 

by Betsy Stromberg

As an Art Director at Ten Speed Press, I have attended dozens of photo shoots, and each of them has been different. The goal of a cookbook shoot is to produce appealing and engaging photography that meets the approval of both author and publisher. This can be a tricky task, however, because each photo shoot involves a multitude of people: photographers, food and prop stylists, art directors, editors, and authors. In the case of the Basic to Brilliant, Y’all photo shoot, each person involved shared similar design sensibilities, and we were fortunate that our personalities meshed effortlessly.

I traveled from San Francisco, California to Charleston, South Carolina for the weeklong photo shoot to meet author  Virginia Willis, the brilliant photographer and food blogger Helene Dujardin (, and Virginia’s creative team of stylists. Angie Mosier hauled carloads of vintage and modern props all the way from Georgia, and Gena Berry masterfully managed a kitchen chock full of groceries and culinary interns, producing mouthwatering smells that wafted upstairs to the studio.

The studio offered beautiful natural light. Despite it being the middle of February, we enjoyed spring-like weather all week. The brightness of the room required us to use “The Cloak of Darkness” (as Virginia dubbed it) to properly review images on Helene’s laptop computer. Snapping pictures of people as they sat draped under the cloak never got old.

3 Cloak of Darkness

The Beef Daube Provinçal proved to be one of the more entertaining shots of the week. Virginia wanted to illustrate the Brilliant version of the Daube in which the baking pot is sealed with dough, “ensuring every last flavorful drop stays in the dish.”

7 daube hero

Virginia’s mother, Jenny (Mama), had arrived earlier that morning for a behind-the-scenes look at the shoot, and Virginia quickly put her to work helping bounce light onto the Daube. We prepared our angles and lighting thoroughly so Helene could capture Virginia breaking the cooked dough off the pot, as well as the whisps of steam that escaped when the pot was opened. The resulting sequence of photos became some of our favorite shots of the week.

5 daube mom helping

With Mama on set, we caught a glimpse of the roots of her daughter’s passion for cooking and food, which reach deep into their family history. Virginia’s culinary path started as a three year old in her grandmother’s country kitchen, continued through teenage years spent in the kitchen with Mama, and has progressed well beyond. Virginia’s enthusiasm for her family and her work inspired me during the shoot, and that inspiration stayed with me throughout the rest of the project.

On set together, Virginia and Mama discussed the Old-Fashioned Lemon Meringue Pie: there was too much meringue on the pie for Mama’s taste. But, it was too late–the pie was already baked, sliced, and ready to be shot! Despite Mama’s concern, the pie turned out beautifully (and deliciously, I might add).

8 VA mom and pie

After a wonderful week in sunny Charleston, with my stomach full of tasty treats, I hopped on a plane back to the foggy Bay Area. But not before I took one last look under the cloak of darkness.

9 betsy at B2B shoot



Southerners are fond of pickles, but we’re not alone. There’s been an enormous resurgence of canning and “putting up” across the country. In French cooking, the term à la grecque refers to vegetables, most often mushrooms, lightly pickled in a seasoned mixture of oil, lemon juice, and water, and served cold. In this recipe I’ve combined a basic American-style refrigerator pickle made with vinegar and spices, and the French version made with lemon and oil.

Pickled vegetables are a traditional accompaniment to cured meats. The vinegary impertinence of the pungent pickle cuts the fat of the meat; the richness of the meat mellows the piquancy of the vegetables. Serve these quick pickles with pork terrine, or pick up some country ham, pâté de campagne, salumi, or saucisson sec at a local gourmet market.

2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon allspice berries
¾ cup dry white wine
½ cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup water
Freshly grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup pure olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces small white button mushrooms, stems trimmed
8 ounces small cremini mushrooms, stems trimmed
8 ounces haricot verts or young tender green beans, ends trimmed
1/2 cauliflower, cut into florets
8 ounces small tender okra, ends trimmed
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Combine the coriander seeds, mustard seeds, and allspice berries in a piece of cheesecloth. Place in a very large pot with the wine, vinegar, water, lemon zest, lemon juice, and olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

Add the mushrooms and vegetables, stirring to combine. Cover the pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat, gently shaking the pan a few times during the first few minutes of cooking. Simmer gently, covered, until the vegetables are just tender, about 8 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, remove the mushrooms and vegetables from the pot to a bowl. Set aside. Increase the heat under the liquid to high. Bring to a boil, uncovered, and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat. Pour the reduced liquid into a bowl over a bowl of ice. Stir until cool. Once cooled, pour over the vegetables. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper.

(Food Photos by Helen Dujardin. Happy Snaps by Betsy Stromberg.)

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, Thanks so much.

Bon Appétit, Y’all in Paris! Fried Chicken, Grits & Greens, and Biscuits Friday, Mar 4 2011 

Bon Appétit, Y'all!

I’m in Paris at the Paris Cookbook Fair — and, that would be Paris, France, not Paris, Texas! It’s been crazy. I’ve been interviewed by Japanese television and there are so many different cultures represented I feel like I am at some sort of culinary United Nations.

Yesterday I did a demonstration in the International Kitchen — and I got all sorts of Southern on everyone. I prepared Fried Chicken topped with Country Ham, Grits and Greens, and finished things off with Buttermilk Biscuits!

It’s been so amazing. I am thrilled to be here. First thing yesterday morning I went to purchase my ingredients. I was practically skipping. Then, I went into the kitchen and got to work.There were some students from Le Cordon Bleu helping me. Made me smile to think about what those young students may have ahead of them. I remember how excited I was to be in France cooking for the first time. And, you know what, I was just that happy all over again.

Cooking up some Grits

Kale and collards are no where to be found, so I used arugula for the greens. Seemed to make sense and they tasted great. Silly me forgot My Southern Pantry cornmeal and grits, but the jambon de montaigne was pretty close to Allen Benton’s unsmoked country ham!

Patty Cake, Patty cake

The ingredients are a little different. I didn’t tote any White Lily over and I used a fermented milk instead of the delicious buttermilk from Johnston Family Farm.

Poulet Frite avec Jambon Montaigne (Fried Chicken topped with Country Ham)

The truth of the matter is that simple country cooking is pretty much simple country cooking all over the world. We served samples and the response was great. I was floating on cloud 9!

Happy Chef Grrl

I wasn’t the only one happy yesterday. The awards were last night. Congratulations to Denise Vivaldo, Dorie Greenspan, and all the other winners!

Here are the recipes from my demo. I’m posting pictures all week so follow me on Facebook, too!

Bon Appétit, Y’all!

Fried Chicken Breasts with Country Ham
Serves 4 to 6

4 to 6 (8-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
16 to 24 tarragon leaves, plus more for garnish
8 to 12 paper-thin slices country ham, prosciutto, or Serrano ham (about 6 to 8 ounces total)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil, plus more if needed
1/2 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup chicken stock or low-fat, reduced-sodium chicken broth
Coarse salt

To prepare the cutlets, place a chicken breast between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and pound to slightly over 1/4 inch thick. Repeat with the remaining chicken. Place 4 fresh sage leaves on each cutlet; top with 1 or 2 slices of ham and press lightly to adhere. Place on a baking sheet and refrigerate to set, at least 10 minutes.

Place the flour in a shallow dish and season with pepper (no salt is necessary because of the salty ham). To cook the cutlets, heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Working with 2 pieces at a time, dredge both sides of the chicken in flour, then shake off the excess flour—the chicken should be lightly dusted. Without crowding, add 2 pieces of chicken to the skillet, ham side down first, and saute for 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a warm platter and cover loosely with aluminum foil. Repeat with the remaining chicken, adding more oil if necessary.

To make the sauce, pour off any excess oil from the skillet. Return the skillet to the heat. Add the wine and Marsala and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, scraping up any browned bits. Add the stock and increase the heat to high. Cook until the sauce is reduced and slightly thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Spoon the sauce over the chicken, and serve.

Grits & Greens
Serves 4 to 6

You could simply stir the raw arugula into the greens, but it is more flavorful to take just a few moments and saute the greens with the garlic.

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 onion, preferably Vidalia, grated
2 cups whole milk
2 cups water
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup stone-ground or coarse-ground grits
Tangle of Winter Greens (see below)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (about 3 ounces)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until transparent, about 2 minutes.
Add the milk, water, and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Whisk in the grits, decrease the heat to low, and simmer, whisking occasionally, until the grits are creamy and thick, 45 to 60 minutes. Stir in the cooked Tangle of Greens, butter, cheese, parsley, and chives. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper.

Tangle of Winter Greens
Serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons canola oil
3 medium cloves garlic, mashed into a paste (see sidebar)
1 16 ounce box arugula
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper 

In a skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and greens; season with salt and pepper. Cook until the greens are bright green and slightly wilted, 3 to 4 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper.

Buttermilk Biscuits
Makes about 20 biscuits

2 cups  White Lily or other Southern all-purpose flour , or cake flour (not self-rising), more for rolling out
1 tablespoon  baking powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
4 tablespoons  (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits and chilled
3/4 to 1 cup  buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 500°F. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal. Pour in the buttermilk, and gently mix until just combined.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead lightly, using the heel of your hand to compress and push the dough away from you, then fold it back over itself. Give the dough a small turn and repeat 8 or so times. (It’s not yeast bread; you want to just barely activate the gluten, not overwork it.) Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough out 1/2 inch thick. Cut out rounds of dough with a 1 1/2-inch round cutter dipped in flour; press the cutter straight down without twisting so the biscuits will rise evenly when baked.

Place the biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet about 1-inch apart. Bake until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool just slightly. Serve warm.

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, Thanks so much.

Spicy (or Maybe Not So Much?) Pork Shoulder Results Sunday, Jul 11 2010 

Last weekend, just before the holiday, I gave a call out on Facebook, Twitter, and in this blog asking for folks to participate in a recipe test for Spicy Pulled Pork Shoulder.

WOW. I was overwhelmed with the response! So many people responded. Thank you so much! I was blown away.

The results were overwhelmingly positive. Lots of grade A, grade B+ were bestowed. I don’t think we had the first C.

Of course, the funny thing about asking so many people to do this at once were the difference in comments. One tester commented, “It was delicious, but not spicy at all” and suggested I rename it “Savory Pork Shoulder” and to the opposite end of the spectrum was a very apologetic, “I really thought it was really too spicy.”

Part of my job has always been recipe testing. My first “job” as apprentice involved recipe testing for Nathalie Dupree . I’ve written about learning how to recipe test from Anne Willan and as TV Test Kitchen Director for Martha Stewart I was ultimately responsible for all the food on the show, and believe you me I made sure those recipes worked before Martha made them on set.

Recipes aren’t meant to be a ball and chain, but when actually testing a recipe to write it so the whole wide world can follow it and duplicate it without difficulty, instructions must be followed to the letter, that’s my approach and how I learned to do it over the years. When I test recipes for articles and books, I test and test eliminating variables and try to be as detailed as possible so instructions are clear. If I hire people to help me and assist me, that’s the attention to detail I expect.

My name is on the cover of that book.

Sometimes people try a recipe from book and the recipe fails. The cook thinks he or she has done something wrong, when the truth of the matter is the less-than-honest writer hadn’t really tested the recipe. That’s the wildcard of using recipes off the internet. The internet is only as good as the source.

There’s always going to be some differences in recipe testing. Pots differ, BTUs for stovetop power differ, some ovens aren’t properly calibrated. My medium tomato might be a little larger than your medium tomato, but for the most part a professional recipe tester tries to eliminate those nuances.

Some folks took the time to fill out the test sheet, including Katherine, Scott, Jane, and Heather. Wow! I was so impressed by the level of detail. Really cool experiment, you know. It was pretty much out of my control, which, um, sometimes, um, I struggle with.

Well, a good many of the “tests” that came in didn’t actually follow the recipe.


But, you know what? I loved it! Woo-hoo! Freedom!!

I got SO many great ideas and garnered so much great information by NOT following the recipe the way it was written! By doing exactly what I DON’T do!

One tester ran out of Worcestershire sauce and used Picka Pepper, instead. Many, many people tried it on a low and slow grill or Big Green Egg, a cooking method I have still yet to try. Someone from South Georgia used a fresh ham (from the back leg) instead of a shoulder (from the front leg). We had beer used instead of bourbon, muscavado sugar instead of dark brown, and ketchup instead of whole tomatoes. I got a note from Lance who’s testing it today in the UK, I can’t wait to see what he says!

Some folks, like Otis from Columbus, clearly thought it needed more bourbon. Or maybe he needed more bourbon… that wasn’t clear in his notes… well, maybe there’s my answer.

At the end of the day, I learned a lot. This was my first foray into rampant, unbridled, lawless recipe testing. It was enough to make me blush.

I can be a bit hemmed up with things sometimes, so it was good for me to stretch my boundaries and try something new, too.

Of course, I’m taking all those comments, suggestions, observations and writing out another recipe and testing it again.

I just can’t help myself.

Bon Appétit, Y’all!

PS Here is the original Spicy Pulled Pork Shoulder that was posted last weekend, just in case anyone wants to give it a try!

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