Eric Wolfinger
An assortment of small flowers and delicate herbs, garnish for David Kinch’s garden velouté with mustard cream.
magnify Click image to view more.

Word-to-Table Cooking

Jim Poris - December 2013

Anyone bold and energetic enough to cook through the total output of this year’s chef-authors, à la Julie & Julia, will earn a summa cum laude in culinary education. But it may take a while to get through one of the richest cookbook years in memory. Jim Poris wades through the stacks.

Weighty. That’s what comes to mind right away when considering the physical mass, individually and in total, of this year’s class of cookbooks composed by working culinary pros. Nathan Myhrvold’s The Photography of Modernist Cuisine, his second follow-up to his 2011 multi­volume Modernist Cuisine, tips the scale at 12 pounds (5.4 kg). Its extra-large format requires a coffee table supported by sequoia stumps. Others are no featherweights either: Manresa: An Edible Reflection by David Kinch with Christine Muhlke—5 pounds (2.2 kg); Daniel: My French Cuisine by Daniel Boulud and Sylvie Bigar with essays by Bill Buford—5.5 pounds (2.6 kg); The Gramercy Tavern Cookbook by Michael Anthony with a history by Danny Meyer—4.5 pounds (2.2 kg); D.O.M.: Rediscovering Brazilian Ingredients by Alex Atala—4 pounds (1.8 kg); and Historic Heston by Heston Blumenthal—8 pounds (3.6 kg).

Weighty, too, because of the well-known and influential chefs who were published: in addition to the aforementioned chefs, there are books by René Redzepi, Daniel Patterson, Andy Ricker, Gabriel Rucker, Anne-Sophie Pic, Edward Lee, and Chad Robertson. And also: Anne Stiles Quatrano, Rick Mast and Michael Mast, Suzanne Goin, Alice Waters, Michael White, John Currence, Paul Liebrandt, Andrew Feinberg, and François Payard, among many others.

The real weight, though, sits between the pages. Even a quick flip through a few of these books reveals the tack to a more naturalistic cuisine intent on utilizing every conceivable part of plants, fungi, and seaweeds, cultivated and wild—and for proteins, more often seafood rather than meat—and then, through exacting techniques, heightening inherent flavors and textures in order to present an evocative taste snapshot of a given area. These chefs’ dishes are akin to the location services option on a smartphone—eat one and you know where you are. Many chefs today are reaching for the clarity of ocean and earth—usually called upon metaphorically but sometimes surprisingly tangible on the plate. Evidence of their effective, sensuous efforts are detailed throughout the recipes and photographs in many of these books, a sharp turn from the trompe l’oeil cuisine of the Spanish avant-garde that held sway for most of the aughts.

A mention, too, should be made of four engaging memoirs/recipe books by Norman Van Aken, Sanford D’Amato, Roy Choi, and Ivan Orkin. Taken together, their stories trace the historical arc of America’s gastronomic awakening and what it takes to gain profitable traction in contemporary professional kitchens. Read one, read them all: through them, chefs, you’ll recognize yourselves.

A Work in Progress: Journal, Recipes and Snapshots by René Redzepi (Phaidon)
Milk curds & winter cabbages · Scallop chips & spicy grains · Crispy reindeer moss, cep powder & crème fraîche · Eggs cooked tableside · Dessert of strawberries & chamomile · Sweet shrimp, sea urchins & sea succulents · Salted lamb breast & cucumber sauce · Ice cream of unripe juniper berries with rhubarb · Summer game & the forest floor · Slices of mahogany clam & leek · Boiled stone crab & seaweeds · Vintage blue carrots & warm sorrel juice · A light stew of broad beans & flowers · Fresh tender squid with whitecurrant broth · Crayfish & roasted head juices · Dried carrots with grass & hay flavours · Belle de Boskoop apples & caviar · Porridge of grains & smoked eel · Fillet of moose with red fruits · Oysters steamed in seawater with condiments · Aromatic birch syrup with milk & barley · Wild duck & autumn offerings · Oxtail & blueberries.

Coi: Stories and Recipes by Daniel Patterson (Phaidon)
Spot prawn, new onion, sorrel · Popcorn grits · Carrots roasted in coffee beans, mandarin, Roman mint · Pan-grilled matsutake, potato/pine needle puree, wood sorrel · Sautéed Monterey Bay abalone, escarole, sea lettuce/caper berry vinaigrette · Chicken & egg: poached scrambled egg, chicken jus infused with katsuobushi, radish, seaweed powder · Clam, bull kelp, wild fennel, Meyer lemon · Savory chanterelle porridge, pig’s foot, wood sorrel · Dungeness crab encased in its consommé, buttered crab broth, wild winter herbs · Aged duck breast cooked on the bone, sprouted wheatberries, radish, redwood tips · Celtuce, brown butter, burnt hay, tarragon, Comté · Earth and sea: tofu coagulated with seawater, cherry tomato, fresh seaweeds, Sylverleaf olive oil · Milk chocolate/soy, blueberry, baguette, cocoa praline.

Smoke & Pickles: Recipes and Stories From A New Southern Kitchen by Edward Lee (Artisan)
Rice bowl with lamb & aromatic tomato/yogurt gravy · Lime beef salad · Braised beef kalbi with edamame hummus · Braised brisket with Bourbon/peach glaze · Adobo-fried chicken & waffles · Pheasant & dumplings · Chicken & country ham pho · Chicken-fried pork steak with ramen crust & buttermilk/pepper gravy · Cola ham hocks with miso glaze · Country ham & oyster stuffing · Fried trout sandwiches with pear/ginger/cilantro slaw & spicy mayo · Red cabbage/bacon kimchi · Bourbon-pickled jalapeños · Pickled corn/bacon relish · Collards & kimchi · Creamed corn & mushroom congee · Asparagus & crab fritters · Whiskey/ginger cake with pear salad.

Manresa: An Edible Reflection by David Kinch with Christine Muhlke (Ten Speed Press)
25 tomatoes, pistachios & allium flowers · A delicate cioppino jelly with abalone, fennel, olive golden crumb · Lamb & vegetables roasted with summer savory “navarin” · Clams with beans, chamomile, brassicas & sorrels · Garden velouté with mustard cream · Sweet corn croquettes · A winter tidal pool · Elemental oyster · Shellfish in seawater · Abalone with pig’s feet, avocado & milk skin · Suckling kid goat confit with curds & whey · Apricot, fried rice, apricot pit sherbet · Black cod with tomato honey, garlic cloves, banana peppers · Rack of veal roasted in dandelion butter, spring onions with ocean persillade · Nasturtium macarons · Turnips & radishes, allspice tangelo with savory granola · Fava bean risotto · Smoked salmon roe in a black tea & dried tuna jelly · Pistachio parfait with cherry pit crumble, red wine meringue & cocoa nibs.

Daniel: My French Cuisine by Daniel Boulud & Sylvie Bigar with essays by Bill Buford (Grand Central Life & Style)
Spanish mackerel au vin blanc, poached, with carrot mousseline, lettuce-wrapped tartare with caviar · Langoustine & uni chaud-froid · Creamy spring garlic soup, petit gris (snail) beignets · Crayfish timbale, cockscombs, watercress velouté · Black truffle oeuf en cocotte · Dover sole ballotine à la polonaise · Striped bass in cilantro/tapioca pistou, artichokes, lemon croquettes · Peppered magret of duck, rhubarb variations · Scottish grouse farcie, poached quince, huckleberry · Vermont spring lamb, peas à la française · Wild hare à la royale · Veal kidney à la graisse, mustard seeds, black radish, butter lettuce · Slow-baked apple mille-feuille, confit honeycrisp ice cream · Ice wine sabayon, poached yellow peach, red currant · Chocolate/banana/hazelnut gâteau, lime confit, vanilla/lime sorbet · Contemporary chestnut Mont-Blanc · Turbot soufflé · Tête de veau en tortue · Chartreuse · Pot-au-feu.

The Gramercy Tavern Cookbook by Michael Anthony with a history by Danny Meyer (Clarkson Potter)
Egg crêpes with crab & carrots · Halibut & radishes in beet dashi · Chocolate pudding · Flounder with marinated cucumbers & yogurt sauce · Marinated arctic char & cucumber broth · Smoked tomato soup · Spinach fettucine with tomato & duck ragoût · Cauliflower with quinoa, prunes & peanuts · Lobster with fennel sauce & salsify · Braised lamb shoulder with broccoli puree · Peanut butter semifreddo with chocolate macarons · Ruby red shrimp with white beans & kale salsa verde · Slow-roasted pork shoulder with bacon broth & cornbread · German chocolate cake.

Historic Heston by Heston Blumenthal (Bloomsbury)
Compost (vegetables) · Alows of beef · Taffety tart · Quaking pudding · Powdered duck · Baked lemon suet · Hash of snails · Ragoo of pigs’ ears · Broth of lamb · Spiced pigeon · Roast scallops with cucumber ketchup · Tipsy cake.

D.O.M.: Rediscovering Brazilian Ingredients by Alex Atala (Phaidon)
Cupim (the hump of zebu cattle) with potato puree & pequi · Cured tenderloin with Brazil nut milk · Tambaqui ribs with tripe & sausage · Sardine with oyster mayonnaise · Scallops with coconut milk, aromatic pepper & crispy mango · Sea snail with wakame & tangerine foam · Ray fish with Brazilian butter, lemon thyme & smoked baroa potato · Heart of palm brandade with anchovies from Cantábrico · Fresh heart of palm with scallops · Guinea fowl with herb ravioli · Sweet potato with yerba mate béarnaise · Chilled beetroot cream, mandarin, priprioca & cold squid · Shrimp with tucupi · Sea urchin with bacuri · Brazil nut tart with whiskey ice cream, chocolate, curry, rocket & salt · Coconut apple with seaweed, turnip, radish & cumru vinaigrette.

Tartine: Book No. 3 by Chad Robertson (Chronicle Books)
Breads: Buckwheat with toasted groats & crème fraîche · Emmer/einkorn · Sprouted purple barley · Wheat/rye, caraway/coriander · Smoked sprouted rye · Sprouted emmer with maple & beer · René Bolvig’s rye · Koji porridge · Double fermented pumpernickel · Buckwheat/nori crispbreads · Salted chocolate/rye cookies · Barley/walnut/fig cookies · Buckwheat/hazelnut sablés · Buckwheat, bergamot & blood orange chiffon cake · Bohemian apple layer cake · Inverted spelt puff pastry dough.

Le Pigeon: Cooking at the Dirty Bird by Gabriel Rucker & Meredith Erickson with Lauren & Andrew Fortgang (Ten Speed Press)
Cedar-planked zucchini, chèvre, almonds · Lamb tongue fries, rosemary ketchup · Foie gras, eel pot-au-feu, pears, dumplings · Rabbit spanakopita, prosciutto, truffles · Fried razor clams, habañero buttermilk · Geoduck, portobello, yuzu · Parisian gnocchi, escargot, bone marrow · Anchovy-larded swordfish, fingerling potatoes, rosemary aïoli · Shrimp-crusted halibut, chervil · Pork, pretzel spaetzle, kraut slaw · Oxtail stew, deviled crab · Lamb shanks, BBQ beans · Radish vichyssoise, mussels, pesto · Carrot cake, raisins, pecans, chamomile ice cream.

More worthy words

The A.O.C. Cookbook by Suzanne Goin with wine notes by Caroline Styne (Alfred A. Knopf)
The Art of Simple Food II by Alice Waters (Artisan)
Balaboosta by Einat Admony, Joel Chasnoff & Dhale Pomes (Artisan)
Classico e Moderno by Michael White (Ballantine Books)
The Cocktail Lab by Tony Conigliaro (Ten Speed Press)
Collards & Carbonara: Southern Cooking, Italian Roots by Andrew Ticer & Michael Hudman (Baltz & Company)
The Complete Nose to Tail by Fergus Henderson (Harper Collins)
Cook it Raw by Alessandro Porcelli (Phaidon Press)
Cooking from the Heart by John Besh (Andrews McMeel)
Eating Italy by Jeff Michaud with David Joachim (Running Press)
Emeril’s Cooking with Power by Emeril Lagasse (William Morrow)
Family Table: Favorite Family Meals by Michael Romano & Karen Stabiner (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Fine French Desserts by Hubert Delorme, Vincent Boue & Didier Stephen (Rizzoli)
Flour, Too by Joanne Chang (Chronicle Books)
The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book by Emily Eisen & Melissa Eisen (Grand Central)
Franny’s: Simple, Seasonal, Italian by Andrew Feinberg, Francine Stephens & Melissa Clark (Artisan)
5 in 5: 5 Fresh Ingredients + 5 Minutes = 120 Fantastic Dinners by Michael Symon with Douglas Trattner (Clarkson Potter)
The French Kitchen by Michel Roux Jr. (Weiderfeld & Nicolson)
The Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant Cookbook by Sandy Ingber with Roy Finamore (Abrams)
Good Stock by Sanford D’Amato (Agate Midway)
I Love NY by Daniel Humm & Will Guidara (Ten Speed Press)
In the Charcuterie by Taylor Boetticher & Toponia Miller (Ten Speed Press)
Italian Grill by Mario Batali with Judith Sutton (Harper Collins)
Ivan Ramen: Love, Obsession, and Recipes from Tokyo’s Most Unlikely Noodle Joint by Ivan Orkin with Chris Ying (Ten Speed Press)
J’aime Paris: A Taste of Paris in 200 Culinary Destinations by Alain Ducasse (Abrams)
Japanese Soul Cooking: Ramen, Tonkatsu, Tempura, and More from the Streets and Kitchens of Tokyo and Beyond by Tadashi Ono & Harris Salat (Clarkson Potter)
Lark: Cooking Against the Grain by John Sundstrom (Community Supported Cookbooks)
L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food by Roy Choi with Tien Nguyen & Natasha Phan (Harper Collins, NYC)
Lidia’s Commonsense Italian Cooking by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich & Tanya Bastianich Manuali (Alfred A. Knopf)
Le Livre Blanc by Anne-Sophie Pic (Jacqui Small)
Mast Brothers Chocolate: A Family Cookbook by Rick Mast & Michael Mast (Little, Brown)
Memories of Gascony by Pierre Koffman & Timothy Shaw (Mitchell Beazley)
The Model Bakery Cookbook: 75 Favorite Recipes from the Beloved Napa Valley Bakery by Karen Mitchell & Sarah Mitchell Hansen with Rick Rodgers (Chronicle Books)
The New Midwestern Table by Amy Thielen (Artisan)
No Experience Necessary: The Culinary Odyssey of a Chef by Norman Van Aken (Taylor Trade Publishing)
Notes from the Larder by Nigel Slater (Ten Speed Press)
Old-School Comfort Food by Alex Guarnaschelli (Clarkson Potter)
One Good Dish by David Tanis (Artisan)
A Passion for Bread: Lessons from a Master Baker by Lionel Vatinet (Little, Brown)
Payard Desserts by François Payard with Tish Boyle (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
The Photography of Modernist Cuisine by Nathan Myhrvold & The Cooking Lab photography team (The Cooking Lab)
Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey by John Currence (Andrews McMeel)
Plum: Gratifying Vegan Dishes from Seattle’s Plum Restaurant by Makini Howell (Sasquatch Books)
Pok Pok by Andy Ricker with JJ Goode (Ten Speed Press)
Remington Camp Cooking by Charlie Palmer (Welcome Books)
Roberta’s Cookbook by Carlo Mirachi, Brandon Hoy, Chris Parachini & Katherine Wheelock (Clarkson Potter)
Robicelli’s: A Love Story, with Cupcakes: With 50 Decidedly Grown-Up Recipes by Allison & Matt Robicelli (Viking Studio)
The Scarpetta Cookbook by Scott Conant (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Small Bites Big Flavor: Simple, Savory, and Sophisticated Recipes for Entertaining by Eric Le Vine (Lyons Press)
Smoke: New Firewood Cooking by Tim Byres (Rizzoli)
Sorella by Emma Hearst & Sarah Krathen (Weldon Owen)
The Square: Sweet by Philip Howard (Absolute Press)
Summerland: Recipes for Celebrating with Southern Hospitality by Anne Stiles Quatrano (Rizzoli, NY)
Sweet: Inspired Ingredients, Unforgettable Desserts by Valerie Gordon (Artisan)
Tipsy Texan: Spirits and Cocktails from the Lone Star State by David Alan (Andrew McMeel)
To the Bone by Paul Liebrandt & Andrew Friedman (Clarkson Potter)
Toro Bravo: Stories. Recipes. No Bull. by John Gorham & Liz Crain (McSweeney’s)
Vedge by Rich Landau & Kate Jocoby (The Experiment)
Vegan Divas by Fernanda Capobianco (Harper Collins)
Vegetronic: Extreme Vegetable Cooking by Alexis Gauthier (Artisan)
World-Class Swedish Cooking by Björn Frantzén & Daniel Lindeberg (Skyhorse)