South Carolina’s European heritage dates back more than three centuries. Our Lowcountry cuisine, wine, politics and culture all owe a debt to the Europeans, and, in particular, the French, who first settled here and brought their tastes and traditions with them.
When longtime local restaurateur Heidi Vukov, owner of Croissants Bistro & Bakery in Myrtle Beach, pitched an idea for a French & European/Southern-fusion cookbook to large national publisher Gibbs Smith, they snatched it up in record time. The initial deal was struck within 24 hours of the publisher receiving a sample chapter and outline. The result is Bonjour, Y’all, a 150-page sensory delight, which is scheduled to release nationally on April 1.
In her first-ever cookbook, Vukov has tapped into what we think of as traditional Southern dishes, which share plenty in common with French and European cuisine. The rich culinary heritage of the Southeast continues to evolve, reinvent itself and surprise our palates with new creations, many of which are featured on the menu at Croissants, and now in 55 detailed recipes for the world to try. “Southern cuisine is popular all over the country,” said Vukov. “You can go to high-end restaurants in New York City and find Shrimp & Grits on the menu.”
From Dream to Reality
“It really all happened so fast,” said Vukov. “We were delighted, of course, but shocked, too. And they needed it turned around pretty quickly.” Vukov earned her place at the publisher’s table by being recognized as a South Carolina Restaurateur of the Year and for having her restaurant named as a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence recipient, among other accolades. For her first entrée into the book biz, Vukov enlisted the help of writer Sara Sobota, a locally-based Huffington Post blogger, Coastal Carolina University English Department faculty member and regular contributor to Grand Strand Magazine. Photographer Scott Smallin, another Grand Strand Magazine regular, took the stunning photographs, more than 100, that grace nearly every page of the hardcover book. “As far as we know this is the first nationally published cookbook from a Myrtle Beach restaurant,” said Vukov.
Covering everything from libations (courtesy of Dr. Gary Vukov, Heidi’s husband) through breads, starters, main course entrees, brunch, cookies, stocks and sauces, Bonjour, Y’all strives to be an entertainer’s one-stop resource and succeeds. Vukov’s 20-plus year reputation as a pastry chef and owner/operator of an evolving upscale, farm-to-table bistro made her a natural at the helm of such a challenging cookbook project.
Bob Cooper, senior editor with Gibbs Smith, said “the fusion between Southern and European cooking was a different angle,” and one that had a “lot of appeal.” Madge Baird, Gibbs Smith’s managing editor and part of the acquisitions team, spotted the potential the minute Vukov’s cookbook pitch hit her desk. “We do a lot of French interior design books, French cookbooks and a lot of Southern cookbooks, so was this was a perfect blend for us, and Heidi was the perfect partner. We’re very proud of her and of the cookbook. I think we hit the mark.”
Sobota writes in the book’s forward, “Croissants’ success combines the elegance and finesse of the French palate with the hospitality and warmth of the Southern kitchen.” Here’s some of what she was talking about.
Recipes for libations cover light and refreshing summer drinks, such as the Carolina Lemonade and the Watermelon Freeze, to the dessert-worthy Banana Cream Pie and Chocolate Martini.
Bread of Life
Noted pioneering French chef Julia Child is quoted as saying, “How can a nation be great if its bread tastes like Kleenex?” Fresh bread is the key to starting a meal, and Vukov’s detailed recipes should guide even a novice bread maker to the goal. You’ll find recipes for Middle Eastern Lavish, a utilitarian Flatbread, the Croissant’s signature French Bread, traditional Jewish Challah Bread and, reflecting Vukov’s own German heritage, Rye Bread.
Recipes for appetizers, called “Starters” in Bonjour, Y’all, are all designed to whet your appetite and prepare you and your guests for the meal to come. They include: Crab Cakes, Gruyere Puffs, She Crab Soup, salads and French Onion Soup, a favorite at Croissants since 1995.
The Main Course
“For Croissants, the essence of a seasonal menu is its fluidity,” state the authors. From fresh seafood catches to fresh goat cheese, from local shrimp to Bulls Bay clams to produce from the 79th Avenue farm stand, Bonjour, Y’all reflects and suggests responsible menu choices with the recipes to make them a centerpiece.
Of course a Shrimp & Grits recipe is front and center, featuring fried green tomatoes, andouille sausage, fresh local shrimp and grits only from Adluh Flour Mill in Columbia.
Scallops served atop a Southern corn, smoked bacon and shallot mixture takes 20 minutes to prepare and 25 minutes to cook, according to Bonjour, Y’all.
Pan Seared Grouper, Angry [spicy] Bulls Bay clams, Bistro Chicken and Peach Pork Tenderloin round out the main event.
Brunch, Cookies, Cakes and More
The brunch section of the cookbook features 10 recipes, almost all of which are served at the restaurant and combine sweet, savory and hearty ingredients to start your day or to enjoy as a midday nosh. They include: Smothered Grits, Bananas Foster French Toast, Monte Cristo [grilled sandwich] and several others.
Some patrons know Croissants primarily for its decadent dessert case. In Bonjour, Y’all, the formerly secret recipes for Croissants cakes, triple chocolate mousse, seven of its most popular cookies, and additional treats are there to salivate over and tempt the home cook.
Finally, the cookbook offers recipes for 13 jams, stocks, sauces and dressings, including Balsamic Reduction, Beef Demi-Glace, Classico Sauce, Mornay Sauce and Peach BBQ Sauce and others.
Mastery of even a small portion of these carefully selected, tried and tested recipes should make the home chef the toast of the town. Mixing the fresh flavors of Carolina sun-ripened produce, farm-fresh meats and cheeses, and a little Southern charm should make this cookbook a winner in any cook’s arsenal.
Bonjour, Y’all can be purchased at local bookstores (retail price $30), online and at Croissants Bistro & Bakery in Myrtle Beach. A book signing and wine tasting party is scheduled for 3–6 p.m. May 9 at Croissants, 3751 Grissom Parkway in Myrtle Beach.