This is just the beginning of the story of James Briscione and Brooke Parkhurst, authors of the newly released Just Married and Cooking. Like a good fairy tale, it is a romantic story filled with a few “almosts” and “maybes” but rounded out with a lot of “sighs” and “dreams-that-came-true.” Even better, it is a fairy tale filled with food and culinary adventures—both local and far-flung.
Yes, James met Brooke at Camp Beckwith on Weeks Bay in Baldwin County, lo those many years ago. But it was not until Brooke was dining with her cousin at Highlands Bar & Grill a decade and a half later that they saw each other again. Her cousin mentioned that Frank Stitt had a chef from Pensacola working with him. Is it possible she knew him? The answer was, of course, “yes.”
Before leaving that night, he asked her to join him at the Saturday market in town, the ever-popular Pepper Place Market. Goaded on by her mother, Brooke gave in, said a “yes” of her own, and joined James in his produce selection excursion. By 10:30 a.m. they were enjoying margaritas at Guillermo Castro’s Cantina Restaurant and were well on their way to reconnecting.
Unfortunately, with Brooke due back at her job in New York and James still growing as a chef under Frank Stitt’s tutelage, their romance would have to be confined to weekend trips and long phone calls. Eventually, James would relocate to New York and accept a coveted position in Daniel Boulud’s kitchen. There was another “yes” when boy asked girl to marry him, and soon their fairy princess, daughter Parker Lee, was on the way. Their life together was one of cooking and eating, entertaining and traveling, taking notes all along the way.
Just Married and Cooking documents this whirlwind love affair in the form of recipes, tips and ideas. Divided into two parts—“Life As We Know It” and “New Traditions”—the book walks the uninitiated through the daunting tasks of setting up a kitchen of one’s own, hosting the perfect cocktail party and replicating a birthday trip to Paris. James and Brooke will walk you through searing and sautéing, shaking and stirring, planning and plating. He is a natural with food and instruction, and she has a way with the written word; both skill sets are evident on every page of this book. In fact, the pair currently work together to teach couples cooking classes at the Institute of Culinary Education and The Culinary Cooperative in New York City.
In a recent phone interview, James discussed the book and the fact that “it’s not just a newlyweds book. It’s OUR story. It captures what we cooked as we learned this new life together.” He adds that he can tell you exactly when and where they were for every recipe included in Just Married. Shot at a friend’s house at Alys Beach, the book is filled with all things fresh, seasonal and close to their Alabama hearts. I asked James how he and Brooke keep that Southern sense about them and pass it on to their daughter. He laughed as he said, “Parker wears a lot of smocked dresses, and we always have McEwen & Sons grits in the pantry.”
This Saturday, you can find James and Brooke revisiting one of their old haunts: Pepper Place. Following a 9 a.m. cooking demo by Guillermo Castro, the duo will conduct a demo of their own at 10 a.m., using items fresh from the market. James plans to offer tastes of an andouille and corn salad with grilled tomato and scallion vinaigrette.
At 1 p.m., you can catch them doing a “Sipand-See” at Bromberg’s Mountain Brook location. Enjoy a glass of champagne as you check out the bridal registry. Visit with the authors, get tips on getting the most out of your kitchen and maybe even learn how to live happily ever after. Just like in a fairy tale.
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 shallot, minced
1 cup sweet corn, cut from the cob or frozen kernels Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup okra, sliced
2 cups cooked butter beans, lima beans, or blackeyed peas, liquid reserved, or canned
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 ½ tablespoons chopped fresh dill ½ to 1 pound lobster, shrimp, crabmeat, and/or scallops, cooked and cut into bite-sized pieces (optional)
½ lemon, juiced Tabasco or other hot sauce
1) In a large sauté pan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat and add the shallot. Cook gently, without browning, for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the corn and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes, still over medium heat. If the pan seems dry, add ¼ cup water. Season well with salt and pepper.
2) Add the okra, butter beans, and 1 cup of the bean cooking liquid (you can make up the difference with water if you need to.) Bring this mixture to a simmer and cook until the okra is tender, about 3 minutes more.
To finish, stir in the tomatoes, dill, seafood, lemon juice, hot sauce, and remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Taste for seasoning and add salt, pepper, or more lemon as needed.
Excerpted from Just Married & Cooking: 200 Recipes for Living, Eating, and Entertaining Together. Copyright © 2011 by Brooke Parkhurst and James Briscione. Excerpted with permission by Scribner, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Christiana Roussel lives in Crestline and is a lover of all things food-related. You can follow her culinary musings online at ChristianasKitchen.com or on Facebook (ChristianasKitchen) or Twitter (Christiana40).