My Top Four Cookbooks of the Past Year (and the dishes I crave the most)

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My love for cookbooks outweighs my love of well, regular books. This was not always so.

At least, if you walk into my room…that’s what you’ll see. And I’m sure once I move in to my new place, you will see them up front. Easy access. Arranged in no particular order. Probably on my night stand. In the kitchen. And on my coffee table.

I will probably have a few Cook’s Illustrated and the latest Lucky Peach magazine in the open air as well. Yes, I am a doofus.

I revisit cookbooks like most of you do with The Giver, and the Catcher and the Rye or Mere Christianity. I suppose that’s what they’re for. They are tools. Only, they have changed over the years. At least from what I used to remember about cookbooks.

If you look in some of my mom’s cabinets, you will find cookbooks from church. Usually a congregation compiles some of their favorite recipes from dinner on the grounds, or pot lucks and ice cream socials. “This is Rev. Waller’s favorite pecan pie..”

so on, and so forth.

Of course, there are the classics.
Rambauer’s “Joy of Cooking”.
Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”.
Getting a little older,
“Larousse Gastronomique”
and Auguste Escoffier’s “Guide to Modern Cookery”

Since food, and food culture are taking off in the states, there have been a lot of beauties to come off the shelves and into my admiring arms. I admit, I study them like textbooks. Only, these days, they can read like a good narrative. Each recipe gets an explanation, which I like. I enjoy diving into the minds of cooks, not just for the secrets in their dishes, but for the chord it strikes deep in their memory.

I’ve acquired many of them since diving deep into the culinary world, but there are four in particular that I’ve bought this past year that are of importance to me. Also note, many of these were not published in the past year, just the ones I’ve hit hard. **If this is boring, you can probably head straight down to the closing, and call it a day**

Joe Beef 1_Credit Tourisme Montreal, Pierre-Luc Dufour

 

The Art of Living According to Joe Beef: A Cookbook of Sorts
I love chefs David McMillan and Frederic Morin of Montreal.
I believe all industry professionals should own this book. The recipes are outrageous and decadent. Their story, and the early days of Joe Beef are enlightening as a person who wants their own place some day. They are kings of hospitality. They are hopeless romantics, collectors of vintage dining ware and stories, and strive to be excellent dining companions. I hope that one day, I will make it up there.
Dish I dream about: Lievre a la royale

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The Zuni Cafe Cookbook
I feel like if I would have met and/or worked for Judy Rogers, I would have fallen in love. She recently passed away, but the last time I was in San Francisco, I popped in here for a few small plates and a couple of very strong cocktails. It was nothing short of perfect, as the memory of my time still makes me feel all tingly. It’s a staple in the SF dining scene, as classic as it is relevant. Oysters. Fries. Roast chicken. It’s just too much. A warm and inviting homage to bay area cuisine, and fine, simple but exquisite cookery.
Dish I dream about: Zuni roast chicken and bread salad / oysters from the raw bar

CKNliver

A Girl and Her Pig
April Bloomfield. Swoon. Women chefs are more intimidating to me than male chefs. I’ve worked for both and I can say they all work really, really hard. But, this isn’t as much about her being a woman, than it is her love for cooking. I’ve listened to her talk about cooking, and I’ve watched her cook. She loves eating. She’s hard on her cooks and is particular about getting a dish right. She makes me want to cook better. Her food is just sexy as hell, which in my eyes, makes her just as much. It’s satisfying, rich, and thoughtful. Her passion is addicting, and I hope that someday, I’ll still have the love that she carries for her food, cooks, farmers and purveyors.
Dish I dream about: chicken livers on toast / also: lemon caper dressing

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Le Pigeon: Cooking at the Dirty Bird
Gabriel Rucker and his team are champs. Gah, I know. I know. I suppose I had to make an homage to Portland. There were a lot of incredible cookbooks that have recently come out of Portland. I had the chance to eat there just once, for an anniversary. It’s one of those dinners that a poor couple saves up for and knows they’re going to get $150 tab and be perfectly okay with it. (Like we did.) The atmosphere is dark and candlelit. Open kitchen, beautiful service and the food is rich and sexy, as is the wine they pair so closely. This cookbook is so fun to look at. Beautiful plates, and really just a great story about a chef finding his sweet spot. It’s encouraging to see the community of cooks in a city and how they all found their niches, eventually. Le Pigeon is a shining example of people who always aim to use the best, and who cook beautiful, authentic, really fun food.
Dish I dream about: beef cheek bourguignon, pommes puree and glazed carrots

If I haven’t already made you insanely hungry for your lunch hour, then I must insist you acquire these and have fun with them. Everyone has the right to good food, not just the elite. It might take some time to get where you want to go, but these dishes weren’t built in a day. They take a lifetime, really. They build upon one another, just as we do.

So, I must ask, what is your favorite cookbook and what dish do you crave the most??

 

Channeling my Inner Julia

Food, Story

This coming up week marks the 100th birthday of Julia Child.

I can’t say that I grew up watching her shows. I remember seeing a much older Julia Child. Hunched over, sort of poking and stirring hamburger meat in a pan over a two-burner electric stove.

I grew up watching Justin Wilson and Paul Prudhomme. They were on local television because well, they were local. I’ve talked about both of these guys before. Also the “Frugal Gourmet” — does anyone remember that guy? I think he got arrested for something unfortunate.

I watched a ton of Emeril Live! and had always dreamed to sit at one of those studio tables where the folks got to try his food. It seemed so decadent. He did it so fast! Not gonna lie, Emeril is the man. The dude employs 1,000s of people and is a hard ass. But this post really isn’t about Emeril, either.

Hannah and I watched “Julie and Julia” when it came out. We snuck in McDonald’s because we were in a hurry and didn’t have time to eat. It was perfect. I know, I know. Sort of a dramatic story with not-so-good-in-real-life ending.

As most people can concur, I love Julia’s spirit. Her ability to think on her feet and to be fiercely involved with food and cooking. She had the daunting task of translating French cooking into English. Not only into English, but trying to get Americans to cook French. You still really can’t get many people to cook this stuff, but I love it.

I rented old videos and watched. I especially love the videos of her and Jacques Pepin cooking together. He’s so solidly French. Cooks with gas heat and has remarkable knife skills — Julia on the other hand stays steady on her electric burner and makes me nervous as she brings the knife down upon a jumbled pile of onions. I wouldn’t dare question the direction of her mind.

So tonight, I — in a last minute decision after a grueling morning at work — decided to make beef bourguignon. It’s not all of Julia’s recipe, but it was a dish they say she loved. That and Coq-au-vin. And things with butter. Which is real food, by the way.

She was an advocate for real food. She brought to my attention, as well as Pepin, the importance of pairing food and drink (wine, in this case.)

She made it. Lots of times imperfectly, but with tons of grace for herself and others. I hope to channel my inner Julia as I dive into this world of food and technique and timing.

Happy Birthday Miss.

Thanks for all the work you put in and for fearlessly leading us into those kitchens with boning knives and as always, a little humility.