Written by John Currence. Brought to you by FoodandWine.com.
Mississippi chef John Currence was once infamous for his profligate eating habits. But now he makes low-fat versions of the Southern dishes he craves that are delicious enough to serve guests at a dinner party. Here, he tells how.
When pancreatitis hits, it’s like a phantom freight train, hard and with no warning. Trust me on this. I was a 44-year-old, pork-eating, whiskey-swilling chef in Oxford, Mississippi. I thought I was indestructible, but that belief came crashing down last summer, when I spent three weeks in a hospital bed, near death, as penance for my poor lifestyle.
As much as I knew about food, it turns out I didn’t know very much about nutrition. I was a grab-and-eat survivalist in the kitchens of my three restaurants, snatching anything that was close at hand: a big piece of roast chicken skin, a slice or two of bacon.
While I was still in the hospital, I also began imagining my first meal at home. I realized I could create a welcome-home menu from several dishes I’d lightened in my head. I’d even create a nectarine-and-plum crisp using whole-wheat flour in the subtly sweet streusel topping. When I finally got to have that dinner, with my wife, Bess, and several close friends, it couldn’t have been better or more satisfying. It wasn’t my grandmother’s fried chicken, but I know my grandmother would have been happy to eat it, anyway.
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