James Beard Award-winning New Orleans Chef Donald Link has said, “This region is part of my DNA in a way that you can’t explain to someone who wasn’t raised here, but every Southerner knows exactly what I’m talking about.”
After flipping through the pages of his newest book, Down South: Bourbon, Pork, Gulf Shrimp & Second Helpings of Everything (Clarkson Potter, 2014), that well-established sense of Southern nostalgia is piqued.
In Down South, the Herbsaint chef and owner of various Crescent City restaurants takes readers on a culinary tour of the South and paints a vivid picture of the locales he’s visited and the dishes he encountered along the way.
Drawing inspiration from places like Loxley, Alabama, Memphis, Tennessee, and as far south as Uruguay, Donald shares personal meals that feature locally driven fare and makes sophisticated use of traditional ingredients. The book features an array of recipes, including cocktails, seafood, barbecue, and sweets. There are even ideas for the often-ignored, but wildly flavorful, “lesser cuts” of fish and livestock.
Down South is peppered with helpful tips and tricks to get the most out of an experience, whether during the process of cooking or entertaining guests. His stories will resonate with those who have lived in the South and provide creative encouragement for everyone else. This recipe for Watermelon Gazpacho with Crabmeat is a great introduction to Donald’s work.
- 4 cups chopped tomato
- 4 cups chopped watermelon
- ½ fennel bulb, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
- ½ small onion, finely chopped (about ½ cup)
- ⅓ cup plus 1 tablespoon seeded minced jalapeño, divided
- ¼ cup loosely packed torn fresh mint
- ¼ cup loosely packed torn fresh basil
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- Zest and juice of 2 limes
- 10 mint leaves, thinly sliced
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- Pinch of sugar
- 1½ pounds jumbo lump crabmeat, picked free of shells
- In the work bowl of a blender, working in two batches, combine tomato, watermelon, fennel, onion, ⅓ cup jalapeño, mint, basil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and olive oil. Blend on low to combine, and then raise the speed to medium for a few pulses. (The mixture should be evenly combined, but still chunky.) Taste, and add more salt and lemon, as desired. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine mayonnaise, lime zest and juice, remaining 1 tablespoon jalapeño, sliced mint, red pepper, sugar, and salt to taste. Add crabmeat, and gently toss. To serve, divide tomato mixture among bowls. Top with crabmeat mixture among bowls, and finish with a drizzle of olive oil.