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Saturday, December 30, 2017

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 –
CHEESE (Quadrille Publishing, 2017, 256 pages, ISBN 978-1-84949-966
-8 $24.99 USD hardbound) is by Michel Roux, who has held three Michelin
stars for over 30 years (The Waterside Inn at Bray UK). He's had many
awards including OBE, and has been a TV personality. He's authored five
other books for Quadrille, selling 2.5 million copies. Here he delves into
cheese. It also includes about 100 preps for canapes, soups. Starters,
snacks, salads, fish and meat dishes, pasta, rice and veggies, plus
desserts. He's got some new classics, such as
pear/Roquefort/honey/almonds pizza, halloumi with roasted peppers, phyllo
wrapped feta and watermelon, and more. The recipes encourage
substitution so that you can use whatever cheese you have around, within
reason. It is arranged by course, not by cheese, beginning with a
cheeseboard. Apart from quality classifications, there are few categories for
cooking: fresh cheese, soft cheeses, hard cheeses, and blue cheeses.
Flavoured cheeses are on the rise, those with the addition of spices, herbs,
dried fruit, and smoked cheeses. They need to be examined before actual
cooking and melted integration. The book could have been improved if it
also used avoirdupois in the recipes, or at least had a conversion chart.
Quality/price rating: 90.
HOME GROWN (Artisan, 2017, 342 pages, ISBN 978-1-57965-674-4 $35
USD hardbound) is by Matt Jennings, formerly of Farmstead in Providence
RI, opened Townsman in Boston in 2015. He's co-founder of the Northern
Chef Alliance and has collaborated with numerous Canadian chefs such as
Rob Gentile of Bar Buca in Toronto. It's a book of New England cuisine,
updated through his contemporary feel for reworking the classics. Basically,
he renovates the meat-heavy boiled dinners and the cream-laden chowders.
He uses more molasses and cider and maple syrup for sweetening. And he
includes Quebecois food such as tortiere pie, but with seafood. Along the
way, he explains why he updates in a sort of memoir type retelling of his
path to New England cuisine roots. Log rollers include Batali ("simple,
approachable, and delicious recipes") and Boulud ("inspired compilation"
among eight or so others. It's arranged by terroir: dairy, ocean, farm,
garden/orchard, and forest, with typical dishes such as fish stew, clam
cakes, cider donuts, fried pike, and pan-roasted venison. The book could
have been improved if it also used metric in the recipes for international
sales. But it does have metric conversion charts. Quality/price rating: 88
SHEET PAN SUPPERS MEATLESS (Workman Publishing, 2017, 250
pages, ISBN 978-0-7611-8993-0 $16.95 USD paperbound) is by Raquel
Pelzel, a food editor and test kitchen director who has authored over 20
cookbooks, and has been a TV judge for Food Network shows. Here she 
concentrates on vegetarian/vegan and gluten-free sheet pan meals – 100 of
them straight out of the oven. It's another cooking treat for the millennials:
quick and easy yet nutritious. She's got the technique of cooking pasta in a
sheet pan, and then cooking soups and stews in a sheer pan, and then
making kale and veggie chips in a sheet pan, pot pies, veggie braises,
risottos, polenta, and of course both granola and desserts (pear galette,
dulce de leche pumpkin squares, and a vegan sticky toffee pudding. As she
says, sheet pan cooking is convenient, versatile and tasty. One for the
plant-based food lovers. Preparations have their ingredients listed in
avoirdupois measurements, but there are tables of metric equivalents.
Quality/price rating: 88.
SHEET PAN MAGIC (Quadrille Publishing, 2017, 160 pages, ISBN 978-1-
78713-048-7 $19.99 USD hardbound) is by Sue Quinn, an award-winning
food writer and author of several cookbooks. Here she looks at "one pan,
one meal, no fuss" dishes. The basic arrangement is by course: breakfast,
brunch, snacks, light bites, lunch, warm salads, dinner, and sweet things. It is
basically one-pot roasting, using a heavy 8 x 12 x 2 inch sheet pan.  And it is
a breeze to clean up: just soak it overnight. The preps are straightforward
enough, with roast pear and rhubarb compote; classic full English breakfast
(all in the one pan); ricotta-asparagus and mint tartlets; creamy baked leeks
with apple, theme and goat cheese;sea bass with stewed summer veggies;
orange and caraway slices with orange blossom glaze. Something for
everybody, 70 recipes in all. The book could have been improved if it also
used metric in the recipes, or at least had a metric conversion chart.
Quality/price rating: 87.


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