FLAVORBOMB; a rogue guide to making everything taste better (Appetite by Random House, 2020, 262 pages, ISBN 978-0-525-61089-2 $35 CAD) is by Bob Blumer, best known here as The Surreal Gourmet, from his Food Network shows. He's also an eight-time Guinness World Record holder of note and advocate for food banks and food politics. Currently, he works out of LA, living under the D of the Hollywood sign. A "flavourbomb" is a dish that explodes with flavour and texture. This latest book, after six previously-acclaimed cookbooks, pretty well summarizes his cooking philosophy which he shares with us: such rules as making food taste good without playing by the rules. The first half is full of cooking advice in the form of tips, hacks, and techniques. Here we find his thoughts on caramelization, umami, olive oil, lemon juice, cured pork (including bacon), balsamic vinegar, garnishes, and more.
This primer starts with the flavour building blocks (salt levels, spicy heat, sweetness, acid balance, herbaceousness, and of course the lily family (garlic, shallots, et al), and then the importance of tasting all of your ingredients. And, of course, the necessity to taste and adjust as you cook. This section on adjustment is very important: very few home cooks seem to adjust for salt, sweet, acid, or spice levels. Probably because they do not know how or what to adjust. Well, Bob's your uncle here, he guides us through nicely. Memorize this section. The primer ends with discourses on techniques, such as using a chinois fine mesh sieve, food processor, deep fryer, BBQs, grills, knives, mandoline, microplanes, and cast iron pans. He's got material on toasting, roasting, crusting, braising, deglazing, reducing, emulsifying, sous vide, and pan-searing. And as a final note BEFORE passing us off to the food prep recipes: he adds "read the recipe", set up the mise en place, taste as you cook, and plate like an artist. And then, I guess, Bob REALLY is your uncle...
The second half has 75 step-by-step common sense recipes that use the strategies of part one. The base here is the simplicity of the dish, followed by the topping up with added flavours to make the final dish more tasty, and even addictive, such as umami. This section is arranged in menu order, from nibbles to soups, salads, mains, veggies, and desserts – with special side-trips for brunch dishes and the basic sauces and condiments. Needless to say, everything is full of flavour, right down to the last recipe in the book: rustic fried breadcrumbs. Typical are caramelized cauliflower florets, avocado and butter bean hummus, Japanese fried chicken, Thai coconut corn soup, rapido ravioli and pan-seared arctic char. Each prep comes with headed notes dealing with time, yield, advance work, and liquidity (accompanying beverage, eg. white wine, sherry, beer, or others). His instructions are full but do bear with him. There's also a glossary and a listing of key ingredients that can be used in many different ways. As Blumer says, "If you want to go deeper, I encourage you to let your fingers do the googling."
Quality/Price Rating: 95
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