Andrea LeTard’s Cooktales

food_cocoa_cola_baby_back_ribs-mag.jpg

I never cooked, ever," says Andrea LeTard, author of the recently released cookbook Andrea's Cooktales.

LeTard was well into her 20s and married when her grandmother gave her a collection of family recipes. It was spiral-bound with family pictures in the back.

In flipping through the book, LeTard was struck by something: "Recipes told stories," she says. And it sparked an interest in cooking.

The first recipe she tried was her grandmother's holiday ravioli, a favorite of LeTard's while growing up. She had no rolling pin in which to roll the handmade pasta. She used a wine bottle.

From there, she kept on cooking, starting her blog Andrea's Cooktales after friends begged her to start posting her recipes. LeTard calls her cookbook "next-generation Southern." Recipes include Fried Chicken and Corncakes (LeTard says fried chicken and waffles is her "death-row" dish; she eats fried chicken most weekends); Coffee Rubbed Filet; and Balsamic BBQ Meatballs. A few of her more creative dishes: Moon Pie banana pudding; a brilliant blue cocktail, Seersucker Punch; and Buffalo Hot Wing Hummus, a healthier alternative to actual hot wings.

Some of the recipes from the family's spiral cookbook wound up in Cooktales, says LeTard. But they've been rewritten with a twist, updated.

One thing that's not so updated about Cooktales, a pretty book in grays and pinks with great images by Nicole Cole, is the pink ribbon that is sewn in the spine as a place marker. LeTard says the reasoning behind the ribbon was that she and the book's publisher Susan Schadt were envisioning those using the book as a sort of journal, where recipes, thoughts, and memories are recorded.

There's also the "Splatter, Savor, Share" approach of the book. "Splatter, Savor, Share is kind of a sum up of what we want readers to do with the book: Feel free to splatter on it — getting messy in your kitchen actually cooking as much from the book as possible, savor the recipes in it and the heirloom family recipes you choose to add to it on the blank pages, and share it — pass it to family members and friends to also use and write in. I want this book to be a book used in a family for years to come," LeTard says.

"Cooktales," LeTard says, is a word she made up. "It's about storytelling from the kitchen and the dinner table," she writes in the book's intro. "It's memories around food that are meaningful and worth savoring."

There will be a booksigning and wine reception with appetizers Thursday, May 10th, 6 p.m., at Novel.

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Cocoa Cola Baby Back Ribs

4 servings

2 racks baby back ribs

4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

3 tablespoons light brown sugar

2 tablespoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons liquid smoke

2 teaspoons allspice

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 ½ cups regular cola

4 medium onions — roughly chopped into large pieces

1 cup good quality barbecue sauce

Rinse the ribs and pat dry with paper towels. In a small bowl, mix together the cocoa, brown sugar, salt, liquid smoke, allspice, paprika, and pepper. Rub the mixture onto the ribs and press to adhere. Cover the ribs and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Prep two baking pans by pouring ¾ cup of cola into each pan. Place the chopped onions over the cola and place the ribs on top of the onions. Cover the pan tightly with foil. Bake for 2 ½ to 3 hours, or until meat is tender and almost falling off the bone. I like my ribs to still have substance to them — not quite falling off the bone.

Using tongs, move the ribs to a baking sheet lined with foil. Strain the onions from the cola. Reserve ¼ cup of the cola and mix with the barbecue sauce. Brush a thick layer of the sauce onto the ribs. Put the ribs back in the oven for 20 minutes. Serve with the extra cola-barbecue sauce on the side.

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