Healthier eating doesn't mean cutting comfort

Aug. 13, 2013 @ 12:45 PM

Weight loss is rarely an easy journey and celebrity chef Art Smith knows that first hand.
Smith, who rose to fame as Oprah's personal chef, judged on Food Network's "Iron Chef," competed on Bravo's "Top Chef Masters" and runs Atlanta’s acclaimed Southern Art and Bourbon Bar, once tipped the scales at 325 pounds.
Yet he managed — over the course of three years — to shed 120 pounds and manage his Type 2 diabetes. In his new book "Art Smith's Healthy Comfort: How America's Favorite Celebrity Chef Got It Together, Lost Weight, and Reclaimed His Health!" (HarperOne, $27.99) Smith shares his weight-loss story and the recipes that helped him stay on his healthier path.
Smith took the bull by the horns and hired a workout guru, Aaron "Az" Ferguson and lost 120 pounds; no easy task for a man who owns five restaurants and works with food, rich sometimes fatty food (think Southern-fried catfish), every day.
At that time, Smith took a close look at sugar: "I have come to the realization that refined sugar is one nasty villain," he writes, pointing out that Americans consume 66 pounds of sugar per person annually.
Throughout the book Smith sprinkles his thoughts on food issues, such as the fat types that he believes are good, like monounsaturated, and those that are bad: saturated and trans fats.
Smith's all about comfort food, food that comfortably and easily helped him lose 120 pounds. Even though Smith writes that: "I make no claims that the recipes on these pages will help you lose any specific number of pounds. Instead, they are full of healthful, whole foods and great flavors ..." he still concludes every recipe with complete nutrition information.
His recipes definitely have a chef's edge: Curried Pork Shoulder with Brown Rice and Mustard Greens or Pork Chops with Cilantro-Pumpkin Pesto provide a near complete meal. If time is your friend, these are worth the effort. Color pictures whet your appetite for and help guide you to perfect finishes of Smith's food. Though keep in mind that some ingredients — like dried hominy, ground chipotle powder, dried corn husks and precooked white cornmeal — may not, even though we live in the South, be easy to find.
Smith also shares plenty of vegetable-based recipes for main courses and side dishes, like pickled beets with goat cheese, fava bean, radish and corn salad and roasted cauliflower with pepperoncini.
If you're familiar with Smith's expert palate and hoping he created healthy, weight-losing desserts, this is not the book for you, since he brings just nine dessert recipes to this table. The desserts aren't sugar-free, but are low in sugar.
If you're looking for great-tasting food with a healthy Southern accent, and hoping to lose a few pounds, too, y'all may find Smith's book the right fit for you.
Try this recipe: I gave up fried chicken a long time ago, not because I didn't like it, but because of all the fat. Smith's version may not be fried, but his Southern roots and palate served him well when developing this "unfried" take on a deep-fried favorite.

Unfried Chicken with Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Chicken
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon Louisiana Hot sauce or another hot sauce
4 skinless and boneless chicken breasts cut in half
1 1/2cups multigrain or whole wheat panko bread crumbs
3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 1/2teaspoons onion powder
1 1/2teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika


Brussels sprouts
16 brussels sprouts, cut in half
1 1/2tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, quartered, for garnish


For the chicken: 

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, mix the buttermilk and hot sauce. Submerge the chicken pieces in the buttermilk and soak in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour but no more than 24 hours.
In a gallon-size plastic bag, combine the bread crumbs, parmesan, black pepper, cayenne, onion powder, garlic powder and paprika. Seal the bag and shake until well mixed.
Remove the chicken from the buttermilk and transfer directly to the bag with the breadcrumb mixture. Shake the bag until the chicken breasts are evenly coated with the bread crumbs. Remove the chicken breasts from the bag and lay flat on a nonstick baking sheet. Refrigerate uncovered for 30 minutes.
Bake the chicken 20-25 minutes or until just cooked through.

For the brussels sprouts: 

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Place brussels sprouts in a medium mixing bowl, toss with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread the brussels sprouts in a medium, ovenproof baking dish and roast 20 minutes or until caramelized and tender.
Divide chicken and brussels sprouts among four plates; squeeze lemon juice over the chicken. Serves four.
Nutrition values per serving: 427 calories (25.3 percent from fat), 12 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 45 g carbohydrates, 9 g fiber, 40 g protein, 79 mg cholesterol, 349 mg sodium.
"Art Smith's Healthy Comfort: How America's Favorite Celebrity Chef Got It Together, Lost Weight, and Reclaimed His Health!" (2013 HarperOne)

Don Mauer’s “Lean and Lovin’ It” column appears every other Wednesday. Don welcomes comments, suggestions and recipe makeover requests at leanwizard@aol.com.