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Rebecca Lang on Quick-Fix Southern Food and Hand Modeling

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Rebecca Lang is a writer and cooking instructor based in Athens, Georgia. She travels the country teaching classes at cooking schools (and also at such places as Williams-Sonoma, Whole Foods and Central Market), and appears regularly in cooking segments on the nationally syndicated show Daytime. She is also a contributing editor for both Southern Living and myrecipes.com, and writes a monthly "Girls' Night In" column for the latter.

Her third cookbook, Quick-Fix Southern, has just been published, and--as the subtitle promises--delivers "homemade hospitality in 30 minutes or less." On Wednesday March 16 (tonight!), Ms. Lang will teach a "Quick-Fix Southern" class at Central Market. As of this writing, a few seats are still available.

Eating Our Words: What prompted you to write a cookbook about "quick-fix" Southern food?

Rebecca Lang: I always write about what I have going on, and I just moved into that stage of my life, with children aged eighteen months and five years, where 5 p.m. is a terrible time of day during the week. But this book isn't only for people like me, working mothers who are 34 years old. Most people in the world have more things to do than they have time. We're constantly busy, but we still have to eat and we want to eat well.

EOW: In your new cookbook, is there a recipe that you think is so good and so foolproof that it would convince someone to buy the book?

RL: At heart I am a recipe developer, and there's not a recipe in my new cookbook that I wouldn't say that about. I think it's the kind of cookbook that could stay on the kitchen counter and get dirty and torn up. I think it's that good. But my go-to recipe on a really crazy day is the pot roast. [recipe included below]

EOW: Were there any recipes you wanted to include but couldn't find a way to cook in less than 30 minutes?

RL: I could not get fried chicken in the book. I couldn't fry it fast enough! You have to be hands-on when you're frying; you can't do other things. With all the recipes, I was very careful with the timing. I know that I prepare food more quickly than most, and I was very careful not to speed through things. I also had friends cook some of the recipes, like the casseroles.

EOW: Can Southern food be healthy?

RL: I think if you do it correctly, Southern food can be healthy. But I am a self-proclaimed not healthy person. I don't know that I would ever write a truly "healthy" cookbook because it's not me. Really, if you wanted to do low-fat or low-carb cooking, you wouldn't go Southern. Food needs to be something you're proud to serve your family. I think there's a way to cook Southern and cook healthy, but it may just be a coincidence.

EOW: Many people here believe that Houston, although it's the fourth-biggest city in the United States, doesn't get much respect for its culinary scene. I don't know if you know Houston well enough to comment, but to the extent that you do, what do you hear?

RL: I do read about Houston a fair amount and tear off articles, restaurant mentions, and so forth. But I'm probably looking at it a little biased: I'm doing the Food and Wine Week in the Woodlands this year and I may be paying more attention. But I do think it is more difficult for Houston, because it has so many other large cities in Texas to compete with. Here in Georgia, there's just Atlanta.

EOW: I read on your bio that you are also a food stylist and hand model. Any advice for aspiring hand models?

RL: Hand modeling just fell in my lap. I wouldn't even say that I have attractive hands. I'm like the substitute hand model, for when my friend who has beautiful hands can't make it. I will say that for television commercials, they always want a hand model who is a food person, so if you're chopping something you're doing it right. But if you're a good hand model you always wear gloves to protect your hands. Not me--one time I had to cancel a shoot because my hands were covered with poison ivy.

Lang's sure-fire recipe for slow-cooker pot roast follows on the next page.

From Quick-Fix Southern: Homemade Hospitality in 30 Minutes or Less by Rebecca Lang (Andrews McMeel Publishing)

Slow Cooker Pot Roast

Serves 6 Slow-cooking time: 6 hours

Filling a slow cooker with one of my favorite cuts of meat in the morning is the easiest way for me to have a big supper on a busy day. I add the vegetables two hours before the meat is done to prevent them from overcooking and becoming mushy.

  • 1 (2½-pound) boneless chuck roast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1½ tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 medium white onions
  • ¼ cup red wine
  • ½ pound baby carrots
  • ¾ pound baby new potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Sprinkle the roast on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat the vegetable oil over high heat in a large skillet. Brown the roast on both sides, about 5 minutes per side.

Cut the onions into 8 wedges each. Place the wedges in the bottom of a 6-quart slow cooker. Turn the heat off on the skillet. Remove the roast and place it on top of the onions in the slow cooker. Pour the red wine in the skillet and scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Pour the wine over the roast.

Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 4 hours.

Add the carrots and potatoes to the slow cooker. Cover and cook an additional 2 hours.

Remove the vegetables and meat from the slow cooker, reserving the drippings. Place on a serving platter and cover loosely.

To make the gravy, turn the slow cooker to high. Sift the flour into the drippings. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Strain if the gravy looks lumpy.

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