Cooking Reviews, August 2012

starred review star Aidells, Bruce with Anne-Marie Ramo. The Great Meat Cookbook: Everything You Need to Know to Buy and Cook Today’s Meat. Houghton Harcourt. Oct. 2012. c.640p. photogs. index. ISBN 9780547241418. $40. COOKING

Changes in meat labeling and increased awareness of the shortcomings of industrial agriculture prompted Aidells (Bruce Aidells’ Complete Sausage Book: Recipes from America’s Premier Sausage Maker) to write a new guide to selecting and preparing beef, bison, pork, lamb, goat, and veal. This isn’t a revision of the author’s classic The Complete Meat Cookbook; while the heavily illustrated buying guides are similar, the recipes (e.g., Steak with Porcini-Shallot Sauce, Smoky Bison Cheeseburgers, Smoked Boston Butt) are new. VERDICT It’s refreshing to see a comprehensive meat bible among proliferating single-subject titles. A great reference for today’s meat lovers.

America’s Test Kitchen Editors & Guy Crosby (text) with Michael Newhouse & John Burgoyne (illus.). The Science of Good Cooking: Master 50 Simple Concepts to Enjoy a Lifetime of Success in the Kitchen, with 400 Recipes Engineered for Perfection. America’s Test Kitchen. Oct. 2012. c.504p. illus. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781933615981. $40. COOKING

Apart from grouping recipes by concept (e.g., “High Heat Develops Flavor,” “Fat Makes Eggs Tender,” and “Salting Vegetables Removes Liquids”) instead of by course, this cookbook largely resembles other America’s Test Kitchen titles, like The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook and The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. You’ll find Deviled Eggs, Beef Stroganoff, and Yeasted Waffles in all three, albeit with variation in instructions and ingredients. VERDICT A handy (if redundant) collection that synthesizes America’s Test Kitchen’s numerous kitchen experiments. For other takes on culinary science, try Shirley Corriher’s CookWise: The Secrets of Cooking Revealed and Alton Brown’s I’m Just Here for the Food: Food + Heat = Cooking. [Check out Neal Wyatt’s “RA Crossroads: What To Read After Modernist Cuisine” for more titles on food science.—Ed.]

Chesman, Andrea. The Pickled Pantry: From Apples to Zucchini, 150 Recipes for Pickles, Relishes, Chutneys & More. Storey. 2012. c.304p. illus. photogs. index. ISBN 9781603425629. pap. $19.95. COOKING

Prolific cookbook writer Chesman (Recipes from the Root Cellar: 270 Fresh Ways to Enjoy Winter Vegetables) covers multiple methods (e.g., fermenting, canning, refrigerating, freezing) for making small- and large-batch homemade pickles, from Napa Cabbage and Carrot Kimchi to Sweet-Tart Rhubarb Chutney. She features these pickles in dishes including Korean Bulgogi Tacos with Kimchi, Sweet Pickle Macaroni Salad, and German Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake. While some recipes appeared previously in Chesman’s 1983 Pickles & Relishes, they’ve been updated for today’s kitchens and tastes. VERDICT This all-purpose primer will please both novices and experts, especially those in search of a more traditional, less trendy approach.

Gillespie, Kevin & David Joachim. Fire in My Belly: Real Cooking. Andrews McMeel. Oct. 2012. c.356p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781449411435. $40. COOKING

Gillespie, co-owner and executive chef of the Woodfire Grill in Atlanta, was a finalist and fan favorite on Top Chef season six. His debut, written with food writer Joachim (The Food Substitutions Bible: More Than 6,500 Substitutions for Ingredients, Equipment, and Techniques), has informal chapters (e.g., “Foods You Thought You Hated,” “My Version of Southern Food,” and “When I Want to Eat Healthy”) that contain a balance of familiar and worldly favorites, from Haggis to Halibut en Papillote to Deep-Fried Candy Bars. Unfortunately, the book suffers from a disjointed design; constantly shifting colors, fonts, layouts, and images make this difficult to cook from and impossible to browse. VERDICT Top Chef fans will drive demand for this unconventional cookbook.

Keller, Hubert with Penelope Wisner. Hubert Keller’s Souvenirs: Stories & Recipes from My Life. Andrews McMeel. Oct. 2012. c.340p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781449411428. $50. COOKING

You may know Keller (Burger Bar: Build Your Own Ultimate Burgers) from his Michelin-starred restaurant Fleur de Lys in San Francisco or from Top Chef Masters Season 1, where he famously used a dorm-room shower to cool pasta. His international career—from his childhood in Alsace to the present—is the subject of this biographical cookbook (written with food writer Wisner), which includes classic and modern dishes, from Henri’s Bread Pudding (made with cherries and brioche) to an intricate Crab and Avocado Salad with Watermelon Gazpacho. VERDICT This inspiring cookbook will please readers who enjoy accounts of restaurant careers like Jacques Pepin’s The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen or Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg’s Becoming a Chef.

Lindgren, Shelly & others. SPQR: Modern Italian Food and Wine. Ten Speed: Crown Pub. Group. Oct. 2012. c.304p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781607740520. $35. COOKING

At San Francisco restaurant SPQR, executive chef Matthew Accarrino and wine director and co-owner Lindgren pair Italian-inspired cuisine with thoughtfully selected regional wines. With food writer Kate Leahy, they’ve organized sophisticated dishes—such as Fava Bean Agnolotti with Mashed Black Truffle and Chestnut-Stuffed Veal Breast with Orzotto—into chapters that provide an armchair-worthy look at Italian history, geography, and viticulture. This is a second collaboration for Lindgren and Leahy, whose debut, A16: Food + Wine, was IACP’s 2009 Cookbook of the Year. VERDICT While the recipes are for the pros (ready your thermal-immersion circulator), the excellent wine guide makes this a must for oenophiles.

Martin, Colette. Learning to Bake Allergen-Free: A Crash Course for Busy Parents on Baking Without Wheat, Gluten, Dairy, Eggs, Soy, or Nuts. The Experiment, dist. by Workman. 2012. c.304p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781615190539. pap. $19.95. COOKING

Breads, muffins, cookies, and cakes—treats often eliminated from restrictive diets—get the allergen-free treatment from Martin, who learned new ways to bake after her son was diagnosed with multiple food allergies. As readers bake through Coffee Cake with Streusel Topping, Millet Baguettes, and other recipes, they’ll learn from her advice on “How to Form Scones” and “Choosing Replacements for Eggs with Gluten-Free Baking Mixes.” Martin includes an overview of available flour blends, oils, sweeteners and other ingredients, as well as invaluable appendixes on troubleshooting problems and making substitutions. VERDICT Parents of children with food allergies will appreciate this practical book.

Nims, Cynthia. Salty Snacks: Make Your Own Chips, Crisps, Crackers, Pretzels, Dips, and Other Savory Bites. Ten Speed: Crown Pub. Group. Oct. 2012. c.168p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781607741824. pap. $16.99. COOKING

Continuing in the vein of Gourmet Game Night: Bite-Sized, Mess-Free Eating for Board-Game Parties, Bridge Clubs, Poker Nights, Book Groups, and More, food writer Nims (food editor, Seattle Magazine) offers 75 recipes for savory snacks ranging from easy (e.g., Salami Chips, Cheddar Ale Bread) to moderately laborious (e.g., Smoked Salmon with Ginger and Black Pepper, Olive Focaccia with Lemon). Upscale snacks are making a comeback, and Nims has included fashionable choices such as Kale Chips and gluten-free Cumin-Lentil Crackers. The book requires little special equipment, though a pasta roller helps. VERDICT Recommended for modern hosts and entertainers. For nostalgic or wholesome alternatives, try Lara Ferroni’s forthcoming Real Snacks: Make Your Favorite Childhood Treats Without All the Junk or Sally Sampson’s 100-Calorie Snack Cookbook.

starred review star Roberts, Adam. Secrets of the Best Chefs: Recipes, Techniques, and Tricks from America’s Best Cooks. Artisan: Workman. Sept. 2012. c.400p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781579654399. $27.95. COOKING

Since launching his blog, self-taught cook Roberts (The Amateur Gourmet: How to Shop, Chop, and Table Hop Like a Pro (Almost)) has become a full-time food writer. Here, he distills his experiences cooking alongside all-star chefs (e.g., Alice Waters, Michel Richard, Jose Andres) into 50 chapters, each comprising an essay, a “Kitchen Know-How” sidebar of tips, and three meticulously adapted and annotated recipes (e.g., Yogurt-Marinated Leg of Lamb, Pasta Fagioli, Lemon Semifreddo with Blackberries and Honey). VERDICT Finally, a chef cookbook that demonstrates sympathy for the novice! Highly recommended for home cooks who want to become less recipe-reliant.

Symon, Michael with Douglas Trattner. Michael Symon’s Carnivore: 120 Recipes for Meat Lovers. Clarkson Potter. Clarkson Potter: Crown Pub. Group. Oct. 2012. c.256p. photogs. index. ISBN 9780307951786. $35. COOKING

James Beard Award–winning chef Symon owns several acclaimed restaurants in the Midwest and is an Iron Chef of Food Network’s Iron Chef America. His second cookbook has meat-centric chapters (“Beef,” “Pork,” “Lamb and Goat,” “Poultry,” and “Game”) that contain shopping advice and suggested cooking methods for individual cuts. Complimentary sides including Tomato Salad with Red Onion and Dill are secondary to such globally influenced mains as Smoked Pork Butt with Habanero Glaze and Goat Ragu with Pappardelle. VERDICT Symon fans and readers who liked Rick Tramonto’s Steak with Friends will enjoy these hearty meat dishes. The recipes pose few shopping challenges, but they demand a sizable equipment inventory.