Fox Business' Gerri Willis' Southern roots show: 'I'll do a lot of bacon'

Born in Spruce Pine, N.C., Fox Business Network anchor Gerri Willis ( "The Willis Report") -- who also appears on "Cashin' In," part of the "Cost of Freedom" Saturday morning business block on Fox News Channel -- doesn't believe that TV correspondents should subsist on lettuce leaves and mineral water.

"I break that rule all the time," she tells Zap2it. "I wouldn't say I'm a chef, but I love to cook, because I love to eat. It's all the same thing, right?"

As to what her specialties are, Willis says, "If you're a girl from the South, you do baked goods -- coconut cupcakes, angel food, all that kind of stuff. Now I don't do that much. I love making dinners for friends. I make all kinds of weird stuff.

"I made a Brazilian feijoada -- black beans and meat, with lots of spices. Yummy. I do a lot of soups for home. When I was a kid, we went to Washington, D.C., for the first time, and I had something called Senate bean soup ( *see below), which is just cannellini beans -- or navy beans, as we call them -- and a ham hock, right?

"So, I make a cannellini bean soup now -- all those flavors from the South, but done a little differently."

Many health experts are now concerned about the amount of fat present in traditional Southern cooking, but Willis doesn't always worry about that.

"When I made the feijoada," she says, "I used a ham hock. To tell you the truth, if you really want to know, we were so far down the road with fat on that dish -- whatever.

"But I'll do a lot of bacon. I'm trying to do a lot less bread now, so meat, just a leaner cut maybe. I don't mind doing meat at all. We also do a lot of fish, meat, even pork chops. I love a leg of lamb studded with rosemary, garlic -- yum- - maybe some fennel you've roasted alongside, like that."

As for what she's cooked recently, Willis recalls a dinner party menu: "I made a salmon, which I roasted. Then I took butter and mashed in garlic and mustard and tarragon and lemon juice, chilled that. When the salmon was done roasting, I put a dollop of that on top of the salmon, because you can't get enough yummy fat."

* So, what's Senate bean soup? According to the U.S. Senate website, it starts with two pounds of dried navy beans, rinsed with hot water and simmered with a pound and a half of smoked ham hocks in hot water for three hours in a covered pot, stirring occasionally. Then the hocks are removed, the meat diced and returned to the pot. An onion is lightly browned in a couple tablespoons of butter and added to the soup, which is brought to a boil and seasoned with salt and pepper.
Photo/Video credit: Fox Business Network