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Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-10-06
- Reviewer: Staff
The beautifully produced work at times has the feel of being two different books sewn together. And that’s not a bad thing. On one hand, celebrity master chef Batali comes through again with an inspired collection of appetizers, soups, main dishes, sandwiches, and desserts. Most of his more than 100 recipes, unsurprisingly, have an Italian spin. Standouts include a potato and salami cheesecake, black risotto with oysters and fennel, minestrone Genovese, and Batali’s grandmother’s fettuccine with sparerib sauce. Complementing Batali’s pieces are the sections written by Webster, an editor at the Washington Post and self-described “culinary adventurer.” He has traveled to 14 cities across the country, interviewing a chef, and that chef’s supplier, in each. The result is a highly entertaining behind-the scenes look at the business of small farming. In Nashville, chef Erik Anderson of the Catbird Seat and chicken farmer Karen Overton colorfully explain the 60-day trip her chicks take from hatchling to entrée, snacking on oyster shells from the restaurant and listening to the radio in their barn (NPR, of course). And in Tampa, Webster meets chef Greg Baker and his pork producer, Rebecca Krassnoski, who coaxes her hogs to their final reward not by wielding an electric prod but by proffering blueberry doughnuts. (Oct.)
Cooking: Cooking up great gifts
If your holiday hit list includes cookbooks, you’re in luck. Pick the right book for the lucky cook and serve it up!
With 26 restaurants, nine cookbooks and TV shows galore, Mario Batali is a cooking-scene icon. So, when he says, “Where chefs once ruled the waves, local small farmers are the new rock stars,” you’d better listen up. To prove his point that sourcing the best local ingredients is the real secret to creating great food, he and his buddy Jim Webster asked 14 chefs from coast to coast to point out their favorite farmers. You meet them in America—Farm to Table, accompanied by more than 100 recipes they inspired Batali to create, along with his always engaging, informative header notes. Grazie molto, Mario, for this gorgeous celebration of American farmers and food.
Weighing in at almost five pounds and including more than 600 recipes, Mexico: The Cookbook by Margarita Carrillo Arronte, a well-known chef/restaurateur in Mexico City, offers a grand tour of Mexico’s regional cuisines. Well, “grand tour” may not do it justice—it’s encyclopedic, an extravaganza, but it’s also fun and peppered with 200 tantalizing photographs. Arronte loves the food of her country and the rich, complex culture it represents, and she’s made sure that these recipes are muy auténtica. You’ll find everything from guacamole, chilaquiles and quesadillas to Tuna with Chipotle Crust and Chiles in Walnut Sauce sprinkled with pomegranate seeds, from the legendary Tres Leches Cake to sweet Strawberry Tamales and Candied Limes stuffed with Coconut. ¡Buen provecho!
Do hotshot chefs really cook at home? If their recipes are tempting and achievable by mere mortals, who cares? The dishes Marcus Samuelsson includes in Marcus Off Duty: Recipes I Cook at Home are super tempting and truly doable. Plus, they’re a marvelous mélange of the international flavors that have intrigued Samuelsson throughout his multinational cooking career, from Ethiopian (Doro Wat) Tostados and his Swedish grandmother’s Meatballs & Gravy to Orange-Curry Beef Stir-Fry and Harissa-Crusted Turkey. All these great dishes are presented in a sumptuous package with yummy photos.
TOP PICK IN COOKBOOKS
If you want Gabrielle Hamilton’s backstory, read her acclaimed memoir, Blood, Bones & Butter; if you want to cook some of her acclaimed recipes, read her debut cookbook, Prune, get into the kitchen and follow orders. There’s no introduction or header notes, but with the amped-up attitude you’d expect, Hamilton talks to you as if you were a line cook in her restaurant. Many of the more than 250 recipes have handwritten advice and admonishments, and all have the kind of detailed cooking and plating instructions you rarely, if ever, find in books for “civilians.” It’s a unique trip from bar snacks through lunch, dinner, brunch, desserts, cocktails and garbage or, better yet, repurposed rinds, skins and scraps. Prune is an unusual and unusually appealing cookbook.