Jeff Harris
Add multiple slices of life, stir, and serve: a compilation of photographs from Charles Phan’s Vietnamese Home Cooking depicts scenes of Vietnamese culture and gastronomy. Styling by Charlotte Omnès.
magnify Click image to view more.

Story Time

Jim Poris / December 2012

Seems like chefs have a lot of ‘splainin’ to do. Why else would they expound on and on about their philosophy, their vision, their moments roughin’ and tumblin’ through nature’s byways fetchin’ fodder, or the virtues of their ceramicist, hunting dog, and whatever else is on their minds that they instantly want to be on yours as well. All this before a single recipe. These aren’t cookbooks anymore. They’re polemics. Sure, we’re editors here at Food Arts, and our stock in trade is recognizing a good story line (we hope). So we acknowledge that these days when apple pie—even one that photographically conjures up homespun mom in her apron—is really just apple pie, that cookbooks need a hook to hang a title on. And with so many hooks at play in the food world these days—from the hermit chefs of Scandinavia, to the DIY Brooklynistas homesteading in cities worldwide, to the genealogists getting in touch with their inner ethnicity, to the fantasists doling out equal measures of science and intricate food surgery, to chefs everywhere strolling through amber waves of grain—there are a lot of books vying for attention.

Attention caught! Taken one at time—say one every six months—they make for a good read. To a point. But just so you know, though, here’s a secret: A lot of the food in a lot of these books looks damn good. Bet it tastes even better. And that it’s a hoot to cook. Here’s a sampling from some of the eye-catchers, a number that could have been trebled had space allowed us to spell out all that ‘splainin’ going on.

SPQR: Modern Italian Food and Wine by Shelley Lindgren & Matt Accarrino with Kate Lehay (Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA) Crispy pig’s ears with pickled green tomatoes, jalapeño & radish • Braised oxtail in cabbage leaves with cranberry beans • Leg of lamb wrapped in lamb mousse & Swiss chard • Passatelli en brodo • Chopped chicken livers with wine gelatina, carrot marmellata & grilled bread • Blécs (buckwheat pasta) with suckling pig ragù & broccoli raab • Asparagus with lardo-wrapped rye dumplings, goat’s milk cheese & sprouting greens • Ricotta/quail egg ravioli with wild greens & fontina • Erbazzone torta with braised greens, prosciutto cotto & eggs • Fried quince pies with truffle honey & aged balsamic • Bone marrow sformato with stuffed baby artichokes • Chestnut-stuffed veal breast with orzotto • Tomato-braised abalone with farinata.

LudoBites: Recipes and Stories from the Pop-Up Restaurants of Ludo Lefebvre by Ludo Lefebvre with JJ Goode & Krissy Lefebvre (Ecco, NYC) White rice velouté, egg, mushrooms, Christmas tree oil • Black foie gras croque-monsieur, amaretto/cherry jam • Veal tartare, oysters, tonnato-style • Fried chicken in duck fat, piquillo ketchup • Bread soup, Gruyère marshmallows • Cod teriyaki, pil-pil potatoes, pink grapefruit • Fourme d’Ambert torte, red pears, honey/balsamic syrup • Orange “ravioli,” orange milk shake • rack of lamb, fresh goat’s milk cheese mousse, smoked eel, artichokes, potato mousseline, mint • Seared John Dory, saffron risotto, licorice, chanterelles • Squid pad Thai • Salmon, somen noodles, raw rainbow carrots • Boudin noir pudding, apples, fried onions • Duck, cherry sauce, spicy saucisse, beets, radish • Peach Melba vacherin, lavender Chantilly cream.

Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller & Sebastien Rouxel with Susie Heller, Matthew McDonald, Michael Ruhlman & Amy Vogler (Artisan, NYC) Better nutters • Florentines • Cinnamon/honey scones • Oh Ohs • Rhubarb tart • Spiced caramel chiboust with hazelnut streusel & peaches • Crêpe cake • Cherry/whipped cream doughnuts • TropéziennePithiviersAllumettes glacées • Lemon caramels • Nougat aux fruits • Peppermint patties.

Fäviken by Magnus Nilsson (Phaidon, London & NYC) Marrow & heart with grated turnip & turnip leaves • Lamb sweetbreads & chard • Black grouse in hay • Capercaillie & coniferous forest • Wild trout roe in a warm crust of dried pig’s blood • Raw blueshell mussel & wild pea pie • Vinegar matured in the burnt-out trunk of a spruce tree • Fermented paste of pulses (legumes) • Broth of autumn leaves • Mushrooms & raw peas • Grilled pine mushrooms, vinegar matured in the burnt-out trunk of a spruce tree • Crispy lichen seasoned with dried egg yolks & very slightly cold-smoked fish, lightly soured garlic cream • Pine bark cake • Grated red beets seasoned with raspberry vinegar, raspberry ice & jelly, yogurt.

Vietnamese Home Cooking by Charles Phan (Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA) Bún bò Hue (soup) • Hot & sour shrimp soup • Halibut vermicelli with dill & pineapple/anchovy sauce • Bánh bèo: rice cakes with mung beans & shrimp • Bánh cuón: rice crêpes with pork & mushrooms • Black cod with lily buds & dried shiitake mushrooms • Catfish clay pot • Yuba (bean curd sheet) dumplings with miso broth • Gulf shrimp with sing qua (squash) stir fry • Lemongrass chicken • Bo luc lac: shaking beef • Grilled five-spice chicken with tamarind sauce • Lacquered quail with Sichuan cucumber pickles.

Seamus Mullen’s Hero Food by Seamus Mullen and Dorothy Kalins (Andrews McMeel, Kansas City, MO) Eggs poached in olive oil • Verdina bean salad • Tolosa bean soup • Ajo blanco with sardine confit • Salbitxada • Anchovies & charred vegetables • Fork-crushed sweet potatoes with sobrassada & a fried egg • Pea tendrils a la Catalana • Squid with baby favas, mint & basil • Steamed corn with clams & bacon • Stone fruit gazpacho with scallops • Lightly cured summer bonito • Line-caught Atlantic cod with picada • Trout a la Navarra • Flatbreads of king oyster & shiitake mushrooms • Xató salad • Homemade lamb bacon with kale & an egg.

Susan Feniger’s Street Food by Susan Feniger with Kajsa Alger & Liz Lachman (Clarkson Potter, NYC) Ukrainian spinach dumplings with lemon marmalade & sour cream • Mung bean pancakes with Korean pork & kimchi • Tunisian chicken kebabs with currants & olives • Cactus relleno with corn & arbol salsa • Curried sweet potato pancakes • Uruguay chivito steak & fried egg sandwich • Trinidad duck & potato curry with plantains & green beans • Stuffed winter melon soup with vermicelli rice noodles • Sesame-crusted banana fritters with coconut kaya jam.

Gran Cocina Latina by Maricel E. Presilla (W. W. Norton, NYC) Guatemalan dried shrimp sauce • Ecuadorian whey hot pepper sauce • Bolivian peanut sauce • Colombian yuca & coconut torte • Yellow yam & plantain dumplings in tomato sauce with sesame • Costa Rican chayote, fresh corn & beef hash • Stewed quinoa with dried shrimp • Bahian black-eyed pea arrumadinho • Fried coconut rice with raisins from Cartagena • Garifuna rice & beans with coconut milk • Peruvian purple corn punch • Potatoes in huancaína sauce • Peruvian grilled beef heart kebabs “El Condorito” • Venezuelan corn empanadas with shredded beef, black beans & fresh cheese • Colombian tamales with potato & peanut hash • Chilean conger eel soup • Dried shrimp & nut cream • Brazilian salt cod & potato casserole • Central American sweet-&-sour chicken stew • Guinea hen braised with Puerto Rican recado • Pot-roasted stuffed eye of round Car­tagena style • Santiago de Cuba’s roasted pork marinated in garlicky allspice/cumin adobo • Young goat stew from northern Peru • Dominican red kidney bean/sweet potato cream • Venezuelan ripe plantain torte • Peruvian curled or rosette fritters.

Mugaritz: A Natural Science of Cooking by Andoni Luis Aduriz (Phaidon, London & NYC) Edible stones • Sheep’s milk curd seasoned with hay & toasted fern, pumpkin glazed in savory syrup • Crushed potatoes, broken eggs & vegetable coal, garlic “casein” dressing • Lamb’s feet glazed in a salted toffee of lactose & fresh cream • Tomato center impregnated with mastic resin & infused with its own stock • Crunch milk sheets with sweet beans, ice cream of citrus peel, orange blossom water & cumin • Roasted bonito from the Bay of Biscay over sea chamomile & coastal herbs • Tradition, ocean & land: braised Ibérico pork tails & pan-fried langoustines, reduced braising jus infused with jamón Ibérico • Fresh farm eggs broken over toasted chicken wings & nasturtium leaves • Honeyed fish stew accompanied with roasted bird skins & lemon scent • Heart of baby leeks roasted over vine shoots & dressed with mollusk juice, crushed citrus fruit • Baby green peppers & honey dust.

In Other Words...

Afield: A Chef’s Guide to Preparing and Cooking Wild Game and Fish by Jesse Griffiths (Welcome Books, NYC)
The Art of Cooking with Vegetables by Alain Passard (Frances Lincoln Limited Publishers, London)
Astrance: A Cook’s Book by Pascal Barbot, Christophe Rohat & Chihiro Masui (Hachette Livre, Paris)
Au Pied de Cochon: Sugar Shack by Martin Picard (Restaurant Au Pied de Cochon, Montreal)
Baked Elements: Our 10 Favorite Ingredients by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, NYC)
Baking Out Loud: Fun Desserts with Big Flavors by Hedy Goldsmith (Clarkson Potter, NYC)
Beginnings by Chris Cosentino (Olive Press, San Francisco)
Beyond the Bread Basket: Recipes for Appetizers, Main Courses, and Desserts by Eric Kayser (Flammarion, Paris)
Charred & Scruffed by Adam Perry Lang with Peter Kaminsky (Artisan, NYC)
Cindy’s Supper Club: Meals from Around the World to Share with Family and Friends by Cindy Pawlcyn (Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA)
The Complete Recipes by Paul Bocuse (Flammarion, Paris)
Cooking Off the Clock: Recipes from My Downtime by Elizabeth Falkner (Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA)
The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook: Sweetness in Seattle by Tom Douglas & Shelley Lance (William Morrow, NYC)
Eat with Your Hands by Zak Pelaccio (Ecco Press, NYC)
The Elements of Dessert by Francisco J. Migoya (Wiley, Hoboken, NJ)
Fire in My Belly: Real Cooking by Kevin Gillespie (Andrews McMeel Publishing, Kansas City, MO)
Flavor Exposed: 100 Global Recipes from Sweet to Salty, Earthy to Spicy by Angelo Sosa with Suzanne Lenzer (Kyle Books, London)
Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizzas by Ken Forkish (Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA)
The Foothills Cuisine of Blackberry Farm: Recipes and Wisdom from Our Artisans, Chefs, and Smoky Mountain Ancestors by Sam Beall & Marah Stets (Clarkson Potter, NYC)
Frontera: Margaritas, Guacamoles, and Snacks by Rick Bayless (W. W. Norton & Company, NYC)
A Girl and Her Pig by April Bloomfield (Ecco Press, NYC)
Hubert Keller’s Souvenirs: Stories & Recipes from My Life by Hubert Keller & Penelope Wisner (Andrews McMeel Publishing, Kansas City, MO)
Hugo Ortega’s Street Food of Mexico by Hugo Ortega with Ruben Ortega (Bright Sky Press, Houston)
Jerusalem by Yottam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi (Ten Speed Press, San Francisco)
The Latin Road Home: Savoring the Foods of Ecuador, Spain, Cuba, Mexico, and Peru by Jose Garces (Lake Isle Press, NYC)
Michael Symon’s Carnivore by Michael Symon with Douglas Trattner (Clarkson Potter, NYC)
Mike Isabella’s Crazy Good Italian: Big Flavors, Small Plates by Mike Isabella (Da Capo Lifelong Books, Cambridge, MA)
The Mile End Cookbook: Redefining Jewish Comfort Food from Hash to Hamantaschen by Noah Bernamoff & Rae Bernamoff (Clarkson Potter, NYC)
Modernist Cuisine at Home by Nathan Myhrvold with Maxime Bilet (The Cooking Lab, Seattle)
More from Macrina: New Favorites from Seattle’s Popular Neighborhood Bakery by Leslie Mackie (Sasquatch Books, Seattle)
My Key West Kitchen: Recipes and Stories by Norman Van Aken & Justin Van Aken (Kyle Books, London)
My Pizza by Jim Lahey (Clarkson Potter, NYC)
Nature by Alain Ducasse (Rizzoli, NYC)
New Complete Techniques by Jacques Pépin (Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, NYC)
Pierre Gagnaire: 175 Home Recipes with a Twist by Pierre Gagnaire (Flammarion, Paris)
The Preservation Kitchen by Paul Vivrant (Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA)
Preserving Wild Foods by Matthew Weingarten & Raquel Pelzel (Storey Publishing, North Adams, MA)
Saltie: A Cookbook by Caroline Fidanza, Anna Dunn, Rebecca Collerton & Elizabeth Schula (Chronicle Books, San Francisco)
The Salt Lick Cookbook: A Story of Land, Family, and Love by Scott Roberts and Jessica Dupuy (University of Texas Press, Austin, TX)
Salumi: The Craft of Italian Dry Curing by Michael Ruhlman & Brian Polcyn (W. W. Norton & Company, NYC)
Southern Comfort: A New Take on the Recipes We Grew Up With by Allison Vines-Rushing & Slade Rushing (Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA)
A Table at Le Cirque: Stories and Recipes from New York’s Most Legendary Restaurant by Sirio Maccioni & Pamela Fiori (Rizzoli, NYC)
Tacos, Tortas & Tamales: Flavors from the Griddles, Pots & Street-Side Kitchens of Mexico by Roberto Santibanez (Wiley, Hoboken, NJ)
This Is a Cookbook by Max & Eli Sussman (Olive Press, San Francisco)
When I Met Food: Living the American Restaurant Dream by Kathy Sidell (Bibliomotion, Boston)
Word of Mouth by Grant MacPherson with Yoda Beem, Kyle Mansfield & Bill Milne (Bill Milne Studios, NYC)