Review by New York Times Review
SEE America First. Or, better, Cook America First And cook at home. That's how chefs, food writers and publishers are reacting to the economy this year: with continuing exploration of American regionalism and a near-universal embrace of home cooking, even by chefs who are so modernist - the new preferred term for molecular gastronomy - that you might've assumed they didn't have home kitchens, or at least not stoves. Sixty years ago, a woman from Kansas with the urAmerican name Clementine Paddleford covered, by her own account, more than 800,000 miles by train, plane -she had a pilot's license - automobile, muleback and foot to document America's "regional cooking," a term, Molly O'Neill claims in the foreword to THE GREAT AMERICAN COOKBOOK (Rizzoli, $45), that Paddleford invented. A prolific columnist and food editor for The New York Herald Tribune, she wasn't as well known as her fellow Americana pioneer James Beard, partly because she didn't have a knack for cultivating celebrity and partly because an early bout of throat cancer meant that she had to manipulate a mechanical voice box in order to speak. But Paddleford loved and told the stories of others, and she sought out people and families who cooked the foods journalists and locavores still think we're discovering today. (Who knew that Long Island was long a cauliflower colossus?) Kelly Alexander, the judicious editor of this updated version of the original "How America Eats," reports on her struggles to reduce Paddleford's pie-crust recipes to one. But there are other recipes to try, many of them simple and local and right back in fashion. Traveling Paddleford's byways as they have for decades, Jane and Michael Stern, authors of the frequently updated "Roadfood," have usefully compiled the LEXICON OF REAL AMERICAN FOOD (Lyons Press, paper, $19.95), with idiosyncratically chosen entries like the "hot brown" sandwich and the Southern boardinghouse ritual of "round-table dining." The Sterns have always been culinary and cultural anthropologists, and the slightly ironic distance as well as the enthusiasm they bring to their subjects always makes them worth reading. For full-length stops on the trail, head south by southwest. Lisa Fain's HOMESICK TEXAN COOKBOOK (Hyperion, $29.99) has won converts for its author's voice: she is herself a New York City convert but wants to recreate her home state in her tiny kitchen. And so she makes Texas' salsas, tacos, carnitas, posole and enchiladas accessible, never shying from complexity but making them doable. (Well, she does admit that "the preparation of chickenfried steak is a violent, messy, and dangerous affair.") Just lay in plenty of lard, garlic, cumin and cilantro. More evocative of its region than strictly tied to it is A NEW TURN IN THE SOUTH: Southern Flavors Reinvented for Your Kitchen (Clarkson Potter, $35). Hugh Acheson is a cook who freely draws on his French training and Ottawa childhood to inform the food he found around his adopted home, Athens, Ga., where his two restaurants - Five and Ten, and the National - have won acclaim. His is a seductively simple sensibility that sent me to use long-grain rice in a pepper pilaf, which perfumed the house with bacon and garlic and was even better the next day, after the rice soaked up more of the jalapeño, smoked sweet red peppers and cider-spiked cooking liquid. Even those who embrace food-industry-chic gels and high-tech equipment are making eloquent pleas to return to simple home virtues. Ferran Adrià, who pioneered cutting-edge cuisine at his restaurant El Bulli, offers THE FAMILY MEAL: Home Cooking With Ferran Adrià (Phaidon, $29.95), a curious book with good intentions but puzzling execution. Each recipe is given in pictures with laconic instructions laid on top, like balloon captions in a cartoon. The instructions, perhaps written with translation into dozens of languages in mind, are so terse as to raise more questions than they answer. Still, you can learn to make caramel foam in a siphon. More instructively for inquisitive home cooks, Heston Blumenthal, proprietor of the Fat Duck, in Bray, England, and another international modernist celebrity, now gives US HESTON BLUMENTHAL AT HOME (Bloomsbury, $60). Despite the title, it's not really for domestic use, or at least not entirely, and the photographs, taken in the same antiseptic white kitchen and featuring only Blumenthal, are far from homey. But it is a cooking course that will show you how to make the building blocks of many of his dishes without the capital investment. (He does allow himself a chapter on sous-vide cookery which he thinks should and eventually will be ubiquitous in home kitchens.) Here he shares easily achievable techniques - for instance, "ice filtration" to clarify stocks, freezing them in blocks and melting them over a filter in the fridge, and long oven-browning of onions for a deep-flavored soup, with the bonus of the "amazing meaty effect" of adding star anise. And there are homelier tips (adding roasting juices to salad dressing) as well as some very simple recipes, like quickly seared sea bass with vanilla butter. But the book hasn't been converted for American cooks - it's all grams and Celsius, and nobody took out the Marmite consommé - and you do come across instructions like "Have your digital probe ready." The lavish photographs in John Besh's MY FAMILY TABLE: A Passionate Plea for Home Cooking (Andrews McMeel, $35) are the opposite of Blumenthal's, teeming with picturesque children and the telegenic father who cooks with them. Besh takes an opening shot at his modernist brethren: "So many of us chefs spend way too much of our time overmanipulating foods, attempting to turn them into things they inherently are not." Many of his recipes, written in his warm, natural voice, are easy. Yet some are more special-occasion than the title might imply. The most useful section provides the dishes his wife challenged him to create when he "made the mistake" of questioning her "about what she was feeding our children" on weeknights, when he's "almost never around." So he came up with some recipes kids will eat and distracted, time-pressed cooks can make: cauliflower mac and cheese, sloppy Joe sliders, tomato soup with grilled ham and cheese. (You'll want to stock pepper jelly, which he likes with almost everything.) These, and building-block recipes like a chicken fricassee open to endless variations and a roast chicken that can be reused throughout the week, are the ones family cooks will turn to. A chef's cookbook ideally brings the reader into the mind of a great chef and gives a home cook ideas he or she can incorporate into everyday life. Jean-Georges Vongerichten is a chef with an unerring, original sense of flavor, and where Adrià's book feels schematic and condescending, HOME COOKING WITH JEAN-GEORGES: My Favorite Simple Recipes (Clarkson Potter, $40), written with Genevieve Ko, feels schematic and heartfelt, incorporating influences from his Alsatian upbringing and Asian culinary training. It's more a book for the weekends he talks about in his introduction, but almost every recipe has ideas you may not have thought of: pork chops with a sauce of cherries boiled down with vinegar and port and mixed with mustard; lamb shanks with lots of garlic, Asian pear, lemon grass, ginger, soy sauce and chili. The French-trained chef who made the total transition to teaching home cooks is, of course, Jacques Pépin. He absorbed Paddleford's understanding of where American cooking was, and made it better. Along with Julia. Child, his frequent television partner, he has been the country's great cooking teacher. ESSENTIAL PEPIN (Houghton Mifflin, $40) showcases a lifetime's worth of his cooking, along with a searchable DVD that illustrates nearly 100 techniques that are needed for the more than 700 recipes - and no one teaches technique better. Though the base is French home cooking, this is an omnibus cooking encyclopedia. Barbara Kafka also distills a lifetime of cooking in THE INTOLERANT GOURMET: Glorious Food Without Gluten and Lactose (Artisan, $29.95). Several years ago, Kafka learned that the food sensitivities of her childhood had resurfaced, so she set out to rethink the full-flavored soups, roasts, braises and sauces she's been known for, coupling them with ingenious technical breakthroughs and workarounds. She includes the microwave, of course, but also supplies the key to perfect poached eggs, and tips related to the subject at hand: a trick for breading and frying involving rice bran; aformula for light and addictive waffles (the secret is coconut milk, and I've tasted them - I've known Kafka for years) and thickeners where you wouldn't think of them, like cornstarch in curried chicken salad. There's a tasting chart, by brand, of gluten-free pastas that will be worth the price for many people. But the challenge of cooking without milk and cream is far less familiar than doing without flour, and Kafka rises to that, too, in a book that's really a sophisticated general cookbook. Meat is the ingrethent of the moment, and butchers are the rock stars of the food world. The only surprise in WHOLE BEAST BUTCHERY: The Complete Visual Guide to Beef, Lamb, and Pork (Chronicle, $40) is that Ryan Farr, who has written this book with Brigit Binns, doesn't have tattoos - at least not ones we notice in the color photographs on every page, with minimal captions. It's all practice and no theory. If you're in a meat cooperative and getting quarters of whole animals, this will be useful. But going so far requires a certain level of commitment. "I encourage you to make a head roast," Farr writes. "It's a fun, ambitious and challenging project, because you have to take the whole face off the skull." The meat that cooks are obsessed with these days is pork. Treading ground that Fergus Henderson has already trod, Libbie Summers, a recipe developer for Paula Deen, takes a "pork for chicks" approach in THE WHOLE HOG COOKBOOK: Chops, Loin, Shoulder, Bacon, and All That Good Stuff (Rizzoli, $30), an aggressively pretty book supported by the Smithfield Hams people, which could give readers pause. But Summers, a hearty gal from hardy stock, gives recipes that will let you put pig into pretty much everything (pulled pork spring rolls, "porkovers") and includes instructive pictures that will help you, say, trim and tie a crown roast and render your own lard. Stephanie Pierson wants to knock pork off its pedestal, and THE BRISKET BOOK: A Love Story With Recipes (Andrews McMeel, $29.99) even has a flirtatious heifer on the cover. Pierson, a funny writer (and contributor to the food coverage at TheAtlantic.com), clears up the heifersteer distinction and many others, but mostly gives many recipes and techniques, going to the experts - a long day with Christopher Kimball for a perfectionist brisket - to help explain how "a flaccid four-pound, gray-brown piece of beef, shaped roughly like the state of Tennessee" can "inspire Proustian prose, evoke the deepest pleasure, create indelible memories." The answer, of course, is that everyone grew up eating it and it's easy to cook. "With some food," a friend of hers says, "there's a right way and a wrong way. With brisket there's only 'my way.'" Any meat-lover - and fish- and vegetable-lover -will learn from ALL ABOUT ROASTING: A New Approach to a Classic Art (Norton, $35) because the author, Molly Stevens, is such a careful teacher, as fans of her previous book, "All About Braising," already know. So she has new discoveries - that you don't need to rinse poultry (it might actually spread pathogens around, but more important, it just waterlogs the skin and meat) and that presalting is better at seasoning and tenderizing turkey than brining. She's also an imaginative cook and puts in homely touches, like using the roasting juices from ginger chicken as a sauce for elbow macaroni with tomatoes. Just when you're sure you don't need another Italian cookbook, Nancy Silverton comes out with the mozza COOKBOOK: Recipes From Los Angeles's Favorite Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria (Knopf, $35). She didn't think she wanted one either, but then she went into business with Mario Batali and discovered the excellent burraia in Los Angeles, and applied her breadmaking skills to pizza, treating its crust as carefully developed, long-risen bread and inspired not by Italy but by Chris Bianco, the Phoenix pizza legend. Matt Molina, her chef and collaborator on the book with Carolynn Carreño, studied in Batali's kitchens. Silverton's sophisticated savory-chef's palate and pastry chef's precision will make you go into the kitchen to relearn what you thought you knew about pasta and contorni. And every pizza nut will need her dough recipe, carefully calibrated for home kitchens. Lidia Bastianich and her daughter, Tanya Bastianich Manuali, visit a different Italy: the ethnic shops, bakeries and restaurants that introduced Italian food to America. LIDIA'S ITALY IN AMERICA (Knopf, $35), a companion book to a new PBS series, features her typically straightforward, doable recipes for better homemade versions of dishes like fried squid, sausage and peppers, chicken Tetrazzini and an elaborate eggplant parmigiana layered with spinach and based on the one at Roberto's, on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. This year brings two major books on Morocco, and, sorry to say, you should have both of them. Any serious cook needs every offering by Paula Wolfert, who has updated and rethought her landmark first book in THE FOOD OF MOROCCO (Ecco/HarperCollins, $45), compiling the dishes she has found and mastered in her 50 years of travel there. As the many adherents of her "Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking" will tell you, it's time to spurn enameled cast iron and coddle clay, for its ability to sequentially steam, brown and bake. And, of course, you have to get started on the preserved lemons that go into almost everything. The sumptuous full-color design and pretty travelogue photos belie the seriousness Wolfert brings to every recipe. In addition to being sold on tall tagines and, of course, remastering couscous, you'll also find showpiece dishes that don't rely on long-prepared components, like whole fish stuffed with a homemade almond paste made of fried almonds scented with cinnamon and orange flower water. Mourad Lahlou grew up in Marrakesh and craved the food of his country while in college in California, changing tracks from economics to restaurants. MOURAD: New Moroccan (Artisan, $40) is very much a California chef's book, with some of the same team that translated Thomas Keller's books for home cooks, led by Susie Heller, making his relatively complicated Moroccan-based but West Coast-influenced food practicable for home cooks. Like Keller, Lahlou is a fairly obsessive perfectionist who doesn't shy away from long lists of ingrethents and multi-step dishes. His book will be more immediately accessible for chefs, Wolfert's for home cooks and those who care about how the food is rooted in its culture. But the pair of them will make a fine gift - in a box, of course, with a clay pot. It's an odd phenomenon: modernist chefs who seek to reproduce the packaged industrial foods of their childhood. Such is the case with Christina Tosi, who has today's de rigueur appreciation of farmers - her father worked in the dairy division of the U.S.D.A. - but who spent months in the kitchen of MOMOFUKU MILK BAR (Clarkson Potter, $35) perfecting a cake batter that would mimic her favorite mix, Funfetti. Her signature creation is Cereal Milk, which is what you get after steeping oven-toasted cornflakes in milk and adding a bit of brown sugar. This and a buttery baked cornflake crunch serve as the basis and toppings for cookies that will win young fans - while her mixtures of salt and sweet, and her slightly newfangled use of milk powder and glucose will attract older ones. Lisa Yockelson hews to more classic territory in BAKING STYLE: Art, Craft, Recipes (Wiley, $45), a collection of cakes, cookies and breads that will gladden the heart of any baking enthusiast. It's an encyclopedic book from an author whose recipes really work. Every bread baker, home or pro, has been influenced, knowingly or unknowingly, by Carol Field's ITALIAN BAKER (Ten Speed Press, $35), which the author has now revised and retested. I'm perhaps improperly impartial because I'm quoted inside the back cover with enthusiastic praise of the first edition. But the technique of a long-risen, low-yeast bread started with Field, and she's still the master of that and biga, the "almost natural yeast" that's an easy and essential sourdough starter. It's also Field who introduced Americans to ciabatta and made bakers aware of the regional variety of focaccia. Finally, two books provide chapter-length lessons so right and so eloquent that I think of them as homilies (though their authors wouldn't be so presumptuous), teaching us the virtues Clementine Paddleford once celebrated: thrift, thoughtfulness and keeping meals on the table by constantly recycling what you've made in the days before. Tamar Adler is a young cook who went to work at Chez Panisse after opening her own small restaurant in Georgia. Her recipes in AN EVERLASTING MEAL: Cooking With Economy and Grace (Scribner, $25) for dishes like frittata made with leftover pasta, Thai fried rice and rice pudding grow from her essays in a lovely, only occasionally precious voice. Greg Atkinson has been a professional chef at Seattle's esteemed Canlis, a dad of two boys and a food reporter. He's a natural writer whose honesty in AT THE KITCHEN TABLE: The Craft of Cooking at Home (Sasquatch, paper, $17.95) about being thrilled and intimidated to meet foodworld celebs, about working to reproduce something he tasted and loved and about growing beyond the whole-food movement he joined as a youth is always engaging. Of starting a big, festive fish fry in honor of a woman he met near the end of her life, he says, "I felt that same easy, timeless kind of eternity I sensed that day." It's a sense we should all strive to feel in our own kitchens. Cooking Times SOME of the names that have graced the daily pages of The New York Times's Dining section are also appearing this season on bookstore shelves, mark BITTMAN'S KITCHEN EXPRESS (Simon & Schuster, $15) is a paperback edition of his collection of 404 "inspired seasonal dishes you can make in 20 minutes or less." And in COOK THIS NOW (Hyperion, $29.99) the Times food columnist Melissa Clark offers "120 easy and delectable dishes you can't wait to make." For THE FOOD52 COOKBOOK (Morrow/ HarperCollins, $35), Amanda Hesser teams with Merrill Stubbs to cull the best recipes home cooks have submitted to their Web site, Food52.com. Ed Levine's blog, SeriousEats.com, has inspired the recipes and food finds in SERIOUS EATS: A Comprehensive Guide to Making and Eating Delicious Food Wherever You Are (Clarkson Potter, paper, $27.99). And for the perfect finale, there's Patricia Wells's SIMPLY TRUFFLES: Recipes and Stories That Capture the Essence of the Black Diamond (Morrow/ HarperCollins, $27.99). Corby Kummer is a senior editor at The Atlantic. His most recent book is "The Pleasures of Slow Food."
Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [December 4, 2012]
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Veteran cookbook author, James Beard recipient, and New York Times food columnist, Clark presents readers with 120 recipes organized by season and month. With a candid opening essay on weekly trips to her local NYC farmers' market in the dead of winter-think frosty fingers, and ice-topped milk-Clark sets the course for this down-to-earth, realistic guide to cooking throughout the year, finding and highlighting seasonal gems in mains, side dishes, and desserts. Numbered steps guide home cooks through recipes ranging from the simple and quick- August's A Perfect Tomato Sandwich, June's Green Peach Salad with Lime and Basil, and March's Spicy Black Beans with Chorizo and Jalapenos-to simple and slow cooked-September's Braised Pork Ribs with Green Tomato, Orange, and Thyme, and November's Ham Bone, Greens and Been Soup. "What Else?" sections feature bulleted tips at the end of recipes such as how to turn a stew into a soup and substituting canned beans for dry, while "A Dish By Another Name" headers lead readers to easy recipe variations. Even with a multitude of cooking-by-season titles in the marketplace, the author's inspiring use of fresh ingredients and flexible attitude toward cooking make this a solid addition to any kitchen cookbook shelf. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review
New York Times food columnist Clark (In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite, 2011, etc.). More people are choosing local, organic food over mass-produced products, but knowing how to prepare each season's fresh offerings can be overwhelming. Clark takes the guesswork out of succulent, healthy cooking with 120 creative, easy-to-peruse recipes. The author divides recipes by season and individual month, with dishes that include starters, entrees, sides and desserts. Clark highlights a variety of fresh ingredients, including Tuscan kale, sweet potatoes and rhubarb. Alongside the recipes, the author adds personal anecdotes from her own family of picky eaters. Additional segments, such as "What Else?" and "A Dish by Another Name," offer advice, such as suggestions for substitutions if the dish is being prepared out of season or tips on how to tenderize free-range farmers' market chicken legs, which can be more muscular than sedentary, factory-raised meat. Among the highlights of the book: the winter-hearty Port Wine-Braised Oxtails or Short Ribs; the spring-like Green Poached Eggs with Spinach and Chives; summery Maple Blueberry Tea Cake with Maple Glaze; and the autumnal Stupendous Hummus, which urges the use of dried chickpeas instead of canned for a fuller flavor. Delicious multicultural dishes like Israeli Couscous and bonus recipes from the author's previous cookbook add additional variety. A pleasurable collection for cooks of all skill levels.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.