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Friday, October 3, 2014

* THE RESTAURANT/CELEBRITY COOKBOOK... one of the hottest trends in cookbooks. Actually, they've been around for many years, but never in such proliferation. They are automatic best sellers, since the book can be flogged at the restaurant or TV show and since the chef ends up being a celebrity somewhere, doing guest cooking or catering or even turning up on the Food Network. Most of these books will certainly appeal to fans of the chef and/or the restaurant and/or the media personality. Many of the recipes in these books actually come off the menus of the restaurants involved. Occasionally, there will be, in these books, special notes or preps, or recipes for items no longer on the menu. Stories or anecdotes will be related to the history of a dish. But because most of these books are American, they use only US volume measurements for the ingredients; sometimes there is a table of metric equivalents, but more often there is not. I'll try to point this out. The usual shtick is "favourite recipes made easy for everyday cooks". There is also PR copy on "demystifying ethnic ingredients". PR bumpf also includes much use of the magic phrase "mouth-watering recipes" as if that is what it takes to sell such a book. I keep hearing from readers, users, and other food writers that some restaurant recipes (not necessarily from these books) don't seem to work at home, but how could that be? The books all claim to be kitchen tested for the home, and many books identify the food researcher by name. Most books are loaded with tips, techniques, and advice, as well as gregarious stories about life in the restaurant world. Photos abound, usually of the chef bounding about. The celebrity books, with well-known chefs or entertainers, seem to have too much self-involvement and ego. And, of course, there are a lot of food photo shots, verging on gastroporn. There are endorsements from other celebrities in magnificent cases of logrolling. If resources are cited, they are usually American mail order firms, with websites. Some companies, though, will ship around the world, so don't ignore them altogether. Here's a rundown on the latest crop of such books –
17.PORK CHOP (Chronicle Books, 2014, 128 pages, ISBN 978-1-4521-1367-8, $22.95 US hard covers) is by Ray "Dr. BBQ" Lampe, a multiple cook-off champion who has made multiple appearances on TV and has written other outdoors books. He's also at Here he concentrates on pork chops, and the 60 preps include spicy pork chop lettuce wraps and pork chop noodle soup. Chops are a lower fat alternative to ribs, and can be prepared in much the same way, allowing time constraints for not drying out. Not everything is grilled: there are also recipes for breaded, fried, baked, jerked, stir-fried, slow-coked, sandwiches, and even in a salad. To be fair, some of the chops have been boned, so loins can be used too in those cases. The contents are arranged by classics, contemporaries, one-pots, "international" and something called "extreme" (pastrami pork chop, jalapeno pork chops, pig wings with spicy mustard dipping sauce, and pork chop-stuffed French toast. Great fun. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois and some metric measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
18.SUNDAY CASSEROLES (Chronicle Books, 2014, 176 pages, ISBN 978-1-4521-2120-8, $24.95 US paper covers) is by Betty Rosbottom, a food writer and PBS host. She's writing her way through Sunday – with Sunday Brunch, Sunday Roasts, and Sunday Soups (all published by Chronicle Books). There's some logrolling from Anne Willan. She meanders through the homes of New England, New Orleans, Singapore, Provence, and other places, scoping out preps for the American family and entertaining. Unfortunately, a lot of people (including my own kids) blanch at the word "casserole" – hey, they left home to avoid them, now they'll return? It'll take a lot of pressure and some tasty preps. Rosbottom supplies the preps – you've got to apply the pressure yourself. There's a usual primer and pantry section, and then the recipes start with poultry, meats, seafood, veggies, toppings (biscuit, potato, etc.), pasta casseroles, and then breakfast casseroles. All of these are mains and all of them are tasty. In addition to mac and cheese, there's mac and lobster, mac with peas and pancetta, and mac with smoked sausage. If you like olives, there's baked fish on spinach, Provencal daube, rigatoni and tomato sauce, and shrimp with tomatoes and artichokes under saffron croutons. A very good spread, nicely done in under 100 recipes. At the end, there is a menu listing for when to serve what casserole (crowds, feasts, holidays, one hour, longer times, economical, splurge-worthy, healthy, and freezable). Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois and mostly metric measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
19.BROCCOLI, LOVE & DARK CHOCOLATE (Whitecap Books, 2014, 304 pages, ISBN 978-1-77050-211-6, $29.95 CAN paper covers) is by Liz Pearson, RD, author of two other books dealing with healthy foods and diets. She was the nutrition columnist for Chatelaine and appears regularly on TV and radio. She comes with five log rolling endorsers. The bulk of the book is composed of bite-sized, science-based nutrition information on superfoods, dietary and food misconceptions, weight loss, and chocolate. She tackles alcohol, multivitamins, water, snacking, coffee, gluten-free diets, and what are known as "heartfelt life lessons". Certainly the writing style is upbeat. There are about 60 recipes, divided by course or ingredient, which are fully indexed, plus a nutrition index and a resource bibliography. Typical are quinoa salad with black beans, sweet potato fries, chili, arugula salad, and other family faves. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements. Quality/price rating: 86.
20.MEAT AND POTATOES; simple recipes that sizzle and sear (Clarkson Potter, 2014, 240 pages, ISBN 978-0-307-98524-8, $22.50 US soft covers) is by Rahm Fama, formerly the executive chef of The Lodge at Vail, now a corporate chef at US Foods, and TV host for the Food Network. He calls it chuckwagon cuisine, with mostly just a cast iron skillet for the guys. And it is based on his TV show. There are 52 meals here, one for each week of the year. He includes one-pot preps, sandwiches and other ideas for leftover meats. Try lamb parmesan with mint-tomato sauce (accompanied by orzo with chevre and stovetop ratatouille), or brick chicken with goat cheese and potato croquettes plus fava beans and oyster mushrooms, or even hefeweizen braised pork belly with brie mac and cheese plus cilantro-glazed carrots. Great stuff for during the week: there is nothing subtle here. There is also a short listing of resources. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 86.

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